Friday, May 2, 2014

Notes for My Students

Welcome to yoga at Lothlorien!  I'm honored that you have decided to study with me.  It's great to have you in my class and I hope you get a lot out of it.  Yoga has so much to offer and it can really change your life.  But, just coming to class once a week is not going to do that.  The actual purpose of the class is merely to give you the information you need in order to do your own yoga at home, hopefully on a daily basis.  Not because you feel obligated, as if yoga is yet another thing you "should" do, but because it gives you pleasure.  Yes, that's right - yoga is supposed to feel good!  Yoga is the experience of your intimate connection with Life.  So I want you to learn things in class which you enjoy, which you can then do at home, in your own time and in your own way, and go deeper with it and experience the bliss which will inevitably result if you are willing to devote just a few minutes a day (a minimum of 7 minutes is recommended).

Here are the basic principles of classical hatha yoga, which is all about the breath, as taught by the teacher of all the modern teachers, Krishnamacharya, which have been too often overlooked in modern yoga with its emphasis on gymnastics.  As Mark Whitwell has so kindly reminded us:

1.  The asana (posture) exists for the breath - not the other way around!
2.  The breath starts and ends each movement.
3.  We inhale from above, receptive, and exhale from below, strength.
4.  Asana creates bandha (cooperation of muscle groups) which serves the breath.
5.  Asana allows for pranayama from which meditation arises.

To do yoga at home, you don't have to memorize what we did in class.  Just pick a few asanas which you especially enjoy.  If you can't remember the sequence, don't worry.  All you have to do is keep this principle in mind:  Balancing of opposites.  Extension (backward bend) is balanced by flexion (forward bend).  Right is balanced by left, so do both sides of asymmetrical poses.  You can put together your own sequence of asanas that works for you.  If you can't think of any asanas, go to this website which shows hundreds of them.  You can experiment with these.  Some of them are quite advanced and tricky, so be very careful and always listen to your body and remember, the postures exist for the breath!  Yoga is not a gymnastics competition.  It's not about trying to look good, it's about how the posture makes you feel as you experience the intimate union of body and breath.

Practice the ujjayi breath I showed you in class.  It will make your yoga much deeper and more effective.  If you need a review of how to do this, go to Heart of Yoga and click on "Principles of Personal Practice Part 1."  You can also see the asanas in this and other instructional videos on this site.

In the public classes at City Arts Cooperative we won't really address bandha and pranayama very much.  If you want to explore these on a deeper level, please make an appointment for a private session at Lothlorien.

Now, enjoy your yoga!  Namaste.

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