Classroom Yoga

TreeInClassroomThere were many opportunities to share yoga in Zurich– I led five classs during my week there! One of the most interesting experiences was an invitation from my friend Mirjam who teaches English conversation to a group of 20 female students. Mirjam and I created a lesson plan for a 50 minute class that included:

1. General questions to the students and self introduction, why I practice and teach yoga (5 minutes)

2. Class practices tree pose on both sides, I only gave basic instruction (5 minutes)

3. Class discusses their experience in pairs (2 minutes)

4. Group discussion of tree pose, what did you find easy or difficult? Talked about concept of dristi (gaze); breath, balance, difference between right and left sides, etc. (15 minutes)

5. Class practices tree and eagle poses with more cues from our discussion points (5 minutes)

6. Students break into groups to plan other questions they have for me (3 minutes)

7. Spend the rest of the class discussing everything from meditation to life in the US (15 minutes)

The students also made great analogies between yoga and life such as remembering to breath during yoga is like remembering to breathe when putting on makeup! I really had a phenomenal time with these students who really seemed interested in yoga asana and the practice.
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Three basic poses that make your hips feel awesome

HalfMoon

Around Day 5 of the 10-day Vipassana course, my old hamstring/hip injury began sending me little love notes. When I first got this injury (from yoga, of course!) I stopped doing yoga for a few months. This time when the pain came back (from sitting so much!) I craved yoga and certain postures I knew would help stretch out those parts of my body.

We were not to practice yoga or do any exercise besides walking during the meditation course. Therefore, I put a lot of thought behind the three poses I choose to do occasionally in secret or discretely when pain was really uncomfortable.

Before, I wouldn’t have associated these asanas as helping my hip and upper thigh stretch. The beauty of yoga and asana is there is always something new to be discovered!

The key for all three poses is to make sure the hips are perfectly square to feel a deep stretch. Next time you’re in these poses bring awareness to your hips and feel them opening!

1.     Triangle:

This one I practiced against a wall for some leverage and to not worry about balance so much and put more focus on my hips. I found that by pushing my butt against the wall I could get a good stretch in both hips, especially the back hip.

2.     Crescent Lunge:

This one was amazing to me. By really squaring off the hips and pressing into the back toes (super straight back leg!) I got an amazing stretch throughout the hip attached to the back leg.

3.     Half Moon:

OH how good this felt when I consciously inwardly rotated the standing leg. First concentrate to find balance and stack your hips, then work on a deep inward rotation of the standing leg!

What I learned about Yoga through Vipassana

Throughout the meditation course I found many similarities between meditation and yoga:

1. Work, Practice:

You wont see results (mental or physical) if you don’t, period. Roll out your mat, find a quiet place to focus on your breath, do it when you don’t want to. You’ll never regret it.

2. Patience, Persistence:

Yoga, meditation, and life…so many things can seem too hard, too impossible. You’re ready to quit before starting. Don’t. Keep up the work, you will see results—and the funny thing is you have no idea what they will be for you.

3. This too shall change: Impermanence:

In our meditation practice we were instructed to experience sensations in our bodies and not react to them. When we observed these sensations, we realize they eventually pass away or another sensation crops up taking our awareness off the first sensation. The same is true with our yoga practice, we may struggle with Pose A but it’s always followed by Pose B, followed by Pose C, etc. In our practice and our life, change is the only constant. It’s helpful to intellectually know this but to understand it we must experience the sensation and then let it go.

Yoga, unlike meditation, is a physical practice. One should experience sensations during yoga but determining when and how to react to them is up to us as individuals. Some sensations in yoga should be reacted to (like intense pain!).

4. Gross to Subtle:

I first heard this terminology from Peg of Ashtanga Dispatch during teacher training. It was refreshing to come back to the concept when practicing Vipassana, which focuses on narrowing body sensations from the gross (feeling hot/cold or the touch of your clothes) to the subtle (which for me feels like prana). Thankfully because of my yoga practice, I was able to connect with these subtle sensations quickly—the hard part was not reacting to them!

5. Mind over Matter:

The asana isn’t the hardest part—whether it’s a yoga pose or sitting for meditation. The physical body’s work is easier than training your mind to overcome the voices craving more of one sensation or degrading our ability which prevents us to discover new edges in our practice. When we can overcome our egos we can deepen our practice, automatically improving our lives off the mat.