“Yoga Asana @ The Knee Joint” workshop

with Jaki Nett, an excellent teacher at IYISF.  It was the first time ever for me to be at this studio/Institute and a bit surprised that  – it’s so close to Nihonmachi, I had no idea – it’s been in the Japantown neighborhood all these years.  I was just interested in the topic of this workshop which took me there. I did not know anything about the teacher but the topic is what I was drawn to – figured, if it’s at IYISF, I can’t go wrong. But nice discoveries are made… when you seek out what interests you:  (1) a superb teacher; (2) well equipped studio -wall ropes, ceiling ropes, chairs, all props are abundant; (3) positive but calming vibe; (4) nearby, a nice Thai restaurant for dinner:) (5) walking distance to Japantown where there is my favorite bookstore, Kinokuniya.

I loved this style – or should I say that it’s not really a “style” of yoga as late BKS Iyengar probably did not start teaching as a “brand”.. It’s beyond branding – it’s this masterful and innovative teacher’s archive of lifework. I had so loved the teachings by Judith H. Lasator (lyrical, philosophical,   and so much attention to details) and Richard Rosen (brainy and quirky funny) so it would be natural that I would be gravitated back to their school of yoga, even though initially Iyengar classes tended for me to be way too stiff, serious, dogmatic and militant … almost patronizing – not at your eye-level,  in tone BUT NOT this teacher.  She’s warm, welcoming, and knowledgeable and skillful in imparting her knowledge.  That comes from her self-knowing and confidence founded on real life long experiences living yoga.  I was most impressed with the fact that she videotapes her own lecture she said, because she reviews them and uses them to improve – there’s that humility too while being self-assured – THAT, is so inspiring that she never stops trying to better herself in the art of teaching.

It’s kind of like asana “clinic” when you go to these workshops.  It’s not the “fun” flow class with the curated “playlist” – no, not at all – nor is it the Zen mindfulness practice for stress management, reboot and balance … there’s no bounce, vibrancy and a pop of a spark – rather, in this school, yoga is a serious discipline and quite methodical and much about alignment and bodywork – thus – highly recommended for those who like to take the time to get into a pose and then hold the poses to perfect them. Then… repeat. To develop as their literature says “strength, stamina, concentration, coordination, flexibility and more”.

Jaki Nett made the class joyful while keeping it challenging and very informative. There’s no fancy powerpoint or handouts but we were invited to take photos of the picture presentation she posted on the front – yes, all about that joint – KNEE ! which she carefully went over.   The anatomy and the movements of the knee as it relates to our yoga practice were thoroughly discussed and issues addressed.

Learned so much that reinforced the yoga therapy TT  module where Baxter Bell, MD went over yoga for sports medicine working with PT’s . It was just fine without any curated playlist as it’s more a “school” than a practice space.  Music and the frills are not needed when the void is filled with your own focus and detailed anatomical and alignment reminders given by a senior/veteran, highly experienced teacher.  This was a 3 hour workshop but I am so curious about her regular classes – does she impart knowledge in regular “practice” classes as well or is it just to practice in a group setting … If her class resembles her workshop, then, that class is a class I’d want to come back for more !

The following asanas were experimented with attention to the workings of the knees and how to protect them in each of these poses and how they relate to the concept of “open & close chain” – the concept that all joints are connected to illicit healthy alignment and how one is to approach the asana to avoid torching a joint  or tearing a ligament, ending up with injuries.  When your knees are so weakened that they cannot go into full flexion, there’s no need to berate your own body temple – TLC then yoga to enhance body intelligence and practice with injury prevention always in mind :

  • Vajrasana
  • Virasana
  • Svastikasana
  • Padasana
  • Tadasana
  • Dadasana
  • Vibrabhdrasana
  • Janu Sirsasana
  • Agnistambhasana

Stress Test

How do you invite your deep regenerative breath?  How do you invite that breath of Joy? How do you cultivate equanimity when there’s mixed bag of various emotions that does not serve you to make positive choices?

If it’s a heartfelt invitation, it’s got to come from the … Heart – Recalling the lovely tea  –  a beautiful tea gathering to celebrate many things but mainly host’s partner regaining his health enough to travel to some exotic land to bring back all these delicacies …to share … rose petals on the honeyed rim of tea cups; specially aromatic tea both herbal and black  … Seems like only couple of months ago, he was hospitalized fighting for his life BUT today, after the proper care, he is a picture of glowing health surrounded by loving family.  Bad things happen; good things happen; sometimes it seems like series of bad things and there’s darkness BUT … not losing faith that better days will come again. Let’s be heart-strong than head-strong when we engage in self-care.

I can think of handful of people in the 30-60 range in the last few years – all seemingly vibrant people with similar scary life changing moments of failings.  Usually dehydrated and during a run or some unsuitable workout or … striving too much with little regularity.  Just listen to your breath and notice your breath pattern. Let that inform you.

This is not to scare anyone to say one should become sedentary and never be “out of breath” or not challenge ourselves – no, quite the opposite, we need to exercise to strengthen and work up a light sweat (perspiration is a wonderful way to detox our pores and flush out our overall system – just drink alkaline water infused with electrolytes and eat mineral rich foods) on regular basis and investing the time and effort in the kind of exercise that’s wise; that’s suitable for the condition that day, that time.  Hard workout is fun; we love the endorphins released especially for those who cannot sit still.  Intensity works for some. But not for others.  Or not during certain days and times of the day …

Essential to always round out the exercise and balance with an off-set, what’s called a more “YIN”, cool down, stretches and mindfulness; to really bring down the heart rate into the state of OMMMMM.  It’s been shown scientifically that practice of Pranayama (breath awareness/control/regulation) is one powerful tool to improve cardiac function, de-fog and increase clarity, reverse negative mindset to transport us to that sparkled place of distilled consciousness, quieting the fluctuations and agitations of the mind …as yoga is defined by Patanjali in Yoga Sutras, a bible for every serious yoga student.  It affects our nervous system and our heart health, ultimately creating new neural pathways, improving our neuroplasticity.  Its’ not an anecdotal but an evidence based practice is what I came to learn.  Feel better; feel lighter. Find bliss:) For real.

Therapeutically, it is THE practice of healing the heart in a pill-less form we all have in our inner medicine cabinet  – the CALM, the BALANCE, we can cultivate with training – so there’s the interval pumping up to a spiked HR and then, settling back down, slowing down the heart rate, the pulse and … lowering the blood pressure so there’s less stagnation – both for the blood flowing through our arteries and veins as well as the fluids flowing in our lymphatic system.  To reconnect with that deliciously juicy deep state of knowing.  Also I would observe and heed and HONOR the life transitions and not live in denials – at mid-life there’s that rumored, what some seem to call “midlife crisis” – that realization that the days are numbered and one wants to relive youth by sometimes going to the extreme… I think, though, there’s another peaceful path – by pre-midlife -30/40, it’s time for better self-care: maybe there’s heart palpitations, vertigo, extreme fatigue, panic attacks from anxiety, just plain anxieties or maybe PTDS having undergone some trauma … it’s not that uncommon and we can be open about it  – some form of manifestations we are grateful to witness  … because we will take care to look into it rather than ignore:  perhaps a stress test with EKG could ascertain one’s heart health … Yet some, being in a rat race, cannot take the time out or choosing not to take time out in favor of pseudo-self-care.  We thank our body when it acts up – let’s heed those messages and consult the medical profession if not for anything but for peace of mind. It’s really a waste of time to lament how one used to be able to do this or that – putting on years is not about one loss after another but rather, one ray of hope and one gem of wisdom after another.

So yes, I practice vinyasa flow as an exercise for the most part but … gravitate to the more spiritual quieter gentler yoga practice that helps one (me:) to really tune in and listen to (my) one’s body … better. And this sets the tone for the rest of the day or evening … or give you a mid-day break to re-center so we/I can be responsive but not reactive; kind not annoyed or irritated – when we are patient with ourselves, we can be patient with others too.  Many of us are so connected outwardly and care so much about the external affairs but forget to connect with our own deep inner yearnings and desires.  In this over revved world, we need to get the internal affairs in order. There’s no need to ignore or suppress the inner needs that manifests in variety of ways.  It’s up to us to have some self-awareness; to allow the stream of consciousness to be really that – streams that flow and flourish.  Not to live in fear but to live consciously this NOW.

I don’t have any answers but as a student of Yoga Therapy, I do recall my Heart Health Module in my Yoga Therapy training … Key ideas I can share through yoga are on:

Heart Rate Variability – HRV relates to ANS – our nervous system – NS Balance

Rest – Exercise Balance: Yin/Yang Balance relates to the above … Moderate exercise, stretching and restoration … remember, Yang exercise mostly to strengthen – muscles strengthen with dynamic repetitive motions; fascia/connective tissues and joints heal and rejuvenate with longer gentle but increasing deeper stretch and holds. 

Stress Management: is critical to keep those healthy vital signs in check, including ideal weight gain/loss and maintenance.  



Subbed a rather cozy class – My mind wondered as I had sacrificed something else dear to me to cover for a teammate  – Is it a cozy class regularly to begin with or do students stay away when they hear “sub” to misunderstand that a class led by a sub is somehow less in quality?  If that’s the case, you might be wrong.  Granted, when I go all the way out to the City for a certain teacher’s class and if that all the sudden became a sub’s class, I may want to make a u-turn and just not attend.  When I travel a distance to fight traffic and worry about parking to get to a class, I am going because of that teacher … to me, a yoga class is not all the same and replaceable – it really matters and depends on who teaches it. For me, it’s to really learn. Or to be inspired.

But – sometimes, I am wrong.  Sometimes, as my friend mentioned – he really likes a class covered by a sub for exposure to a new refreshing methods and teaching style.  I too actually prefer that the sub not copy or mimic the regular teacher – that’s so boring. Besides, it’s better to be that authentic self to bring what’s uniquely your own from your own journey of learning and attaining.  Be a breath of fresh air and be totally different while sticking to the menu/style set forth – that would be ideal but perhaps that’s because I am attending a class not for a routine practice which I have at home but for something that I cannot get from my own routine practice.  That might be a different intention than from a student who is there for that “routine” practice not for any inspirations.

To be honest, sometimes, the sub may be more experienced with way more training and skills under her/his belt, just covering as a favor so … don’t miss your rare opportunity colored by prejudice unfounded on truth.  Check who the sub is, his/her credentials, experience level and … go for it… try the class and see.   Obviously, if the sub turns out to be a trainee or someone very green, or someone who does not put out with care anything deemed not “owned” by her/him, then, maybe your prejudice is well founded so save the trip and wait for the return of the regular teacher. Yet, sometimes you might be pleasantly surprised by a very capable sub.

Anyway … it’s a waste of my precious time to just be that routine to “babysit” a class if students are too inflexible, rigid and fixated on a routine of sameness – yawn – but if they are open to new perspectives, a shift, a petit-transformation, then, it’s well worth my time to cover.

A student – a young lady with not a flaw to her body-line who had rushed in harried – when leaving said :  with a smile and evident relief, “I had such a stressful day today.  This was just what I needed.  Thank you.”  Those words made it all worthwhile.  It’s about getting out of our own way and … showing up.