Reflections at the surf

Having taught yin yoga and gentle flow and hatha/vinyasa or some hybrid for over 7 years, the practice keeps unfolding to become more and more interesting for me.  More I learn, more I realize that it’s not about picking out couple of yoga poses you’d like and holding them for 2-5 minutes with a soundless timer on your waist (though a helpful tool!):

Anyone can teach Yin Yoga

but TO TEACH IT WELL is very very difficult.

-Norman Blair

apparently this London based teacher said something to that affect & that it is, I’d have to agree.   It’s a bit challenging to teach a class that’s not muscle strengthening based (although I put them in to feel the contrasting effect to sharpen one’s awareness) as I love movements such as dance. Yes, rather ironically, yin for some, can get quite … intense and thus, challenging.  It’s calibrating movement vs. stillness and … we can’t let the movement lead.  It’s almost about getting out of the patterns and habits. It’s yoga for flexibility – flexibility for the body for sure and for the mind too – to be truly flexible is to be less dogmatic, less stubborn, less stuck.  The practice is nuanced.  What begins to really matter is our language and the subtle honing in that energy we try to release, loosen and ripple into one’s own flow.  Then, like a chemical reaction, this nuanced ripple affect from one to another may yield what you call a vibe.

Then … we hold that space of safety and non-judgement.  It’s not even about empathy and compassion – all those good things we want to cultivate but first – it’s that white canvass, the blank vision board to start off. Each time.

When we slow down to sharpen our awareness and proprioception, it’s quite … challenging.  Case in point, have your broken out in sweat, where beads of perspiration form on your forehead and …  then, feel the heart rate race when you approach a certain movement with SLOOOOW methodical yet, dynamic movements?  We are not exercising in cardio-mode, but the pulse starts racing and the heart starts pounding in slow motion… really feeling the resistance or the gradual burn ….the controlled power exertion can be quite taxing.  It’s … intense.

Then, there’s the slow pace of the progression of the class … where we can’t really “wing” it or “fake” it because we can’t ignore the diverse needs of each unique student. Whereas with the vinyasa flow class, it’s easier to just go with the thrust of what’s already scripted and insist on that practice.  There’s a blueprint and it’s a lovely dance.

In a corporate lunchtime vinyasa flow class, I was a little surprised to get the comment from a student that my yoga reminded him of martial arts !!????  And had I done any in the past.  Honestly, not really although maybe it’s the Samurai blood line in me that manifests in the warrior series. Haha –  Or the fact that I have been wanting to study with the founder of yin yoga who … actually is a martial arts master.  I did train in Shao-Lin Kung Ku (for fun) awhile back and so maybe that’s coming back … there’s a sequence that’s quite vinyasa – those fluid movements and holds that are quite challenging. Beads of perspiration will foam on our foreheads and nose-tops – that kind of intensity.

I draw a hypothesis that yoga traveled from India, Eastward and the “physical” aspect of the practice merged or blended with various forms of martial arts already practiced by the spiritual class (monks or village elders) of wherever region.   I then hypothesize that the “spiritual” teachings of yoga that traveled Eastward to rest of Asia became the various sects of religion (namely, Buddhism) and the physical aspects most mainstream is familiar with, branched to martial arts.  Maybe. Today’s Modern yoga that traveled to the West was much later with artists, thinkers, Bohemians and hippies visiting India OR learned from the Indian sages on a missionary tours to the West.  Then that fitness model of “yoga” gets re-exported to the places like Japan.  Even back to India the Motherland itself – so ironic.  What a broad brushstroke of a hypothesis, right?

Probably should read the actual history from the real scholars like Georg Feuerstein and Mark Singleton and …

It’s interesting to see the threads and webs and the whole fabric of this practice all connected over time and space and places.  It’s a wholesome practice if we learn to integrate and balance the yin and the yang:)

Requests for LONGER HOLDS?  Fearful of those beginners who turn deaf ears to their own internal voices all jumbled in that busy monkey mind … I speak not from a perspective of someone above or better or superior, but as a humble wanderlust who has traveled the same path.  You kind of want it longer … but how is that good for us?  Mindful that everyone’s bone structure – the joints, and the angular curves may be different, taking care – but going longer …

As Bernie Clark mentions his version of Yin is a “PG” rated as in Paul Grilley, lol, its noted there are so many different styles within the so called Yin yoga.  I am not a believer of staying in the pose for way too long unless I really know the quirks and needs of your body at a deeper level.  For some, deep forward fold is to be feared if there’s something weird going on with your lower back …or if you are emotionally depleted, etc. –  so let’s get to know your own body and mind first with series of explorations – do some yang – before intensifying while really “enjoying” the process to get there there.  Whatever the billing may be to market this practice, it’s not … a spa.

It’s a beautiful self-care protocol with beads of meditation threaded in on the strand of pearls likened gems.  Namaste.

Mossbrae Waterfall … Mt. Shasta … visited some years ago. When I awakened.






Yoga Mats – what’s what?

I am sure there are many blog posts and articles written up on this very subject as there are yoga mat brands.  That’s exactly the reason why an in-depth review not directly sponsored by the maker is such a valuable resource.

As a yoga teacher and/or practitioner, do you not get an inquiry as to what you use or what you would recommend?  I sometimes do.  This review I link would have been so helpful when asked such question. Sure, when I was starting out, I just got the lower priced and prettiest I can find at any store that sells them, but then, we start caring about the yoga mat when that mat does not really do the job.  Yes, we start caring about the “quality”, especially when that first yoga mat starts spotting, fading, cracking, peeling – just generally not holding up nor does it provide the support or the grip you need. The mat selection should really be driven by the style of yoga one practices and the frequency of use as well. So reminded of these pointers,  walking in with my eco-biodegradable thick recycled mat into a Iyengar yoga studio.  The mat that works so well for morning vinyasa and evening yin flow, in Iyengar studio did not work so well.  In fact, reprimanded by the teacher (that’s their style !) in traditional Iyengar class where they want to use a very thin pliable flappy mats, for example to hurl over yoga chairs for those supported inversions.

Here is that link by Consumer Advocates  !  Is your favorite mat on the list?  Are there a mat brand you had never heard of ?  As we can’t individually try each of these mats, it’s so wonderful that those at Consumers’ Advocates’ researchers spent 250 hours to review 60 mats and broke it down for us based on our budget and needs. Thank goodness !

Thank goodness for those yogis who care at Consumers Advocates as the kind of mats that support your practice does matter – it’s not just a superfluous thing as much as your running shoes are not for that marathon, or even just a quick run around the block.

On the path

It’s fun to pay attention to all the sight sounds and smell … there are so many tiny wild flowers I did not know the names of … usually unnoticed when jogging or yogaing. Kind of like texting while driving I’m resisting at all costs – no longer multitasking- it’s one singular activity at a time – after the hike I will probably pop into a yoga studio or a hot Japanese bath or … both. Nothing like yoga and hot water bathing after “forest bathing”:)

Then reminiscing of tea cakes this teacher had served with green tea on Friday … just what I need to reboot after a hike like this.

Matcha & Tea Cakes with auspicious red and white sweet bean paste fillings.

M-san is a Tea Master with a flair for making delicate cakes … Every zen meditation should be followed or be preceded by this treat:)  A Wishful Thinking …