Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These aren’t just the five stages of grief - they’re also the five stages of practicing through a yoga injury. Depending on the injury, it can feel like the same thing sometimes.
If you practice yoga for any length of time, it’s likely that you’ll have an injury sooner or later. Regardless of whether the injury occurred during your asana practice, the recovery period can be frustrating, scary, slow, and a range of other experiences and emotions. Ultimately, though, your practice can support your recovery if you modify appropriately, and the ability to adapt and maintain your practice through challenges and hard times is one of the most important mental disciplines in (and benefits of!) Ashtanga.
The factors underlying injury can be incredibly complex, and they vary from person to person. Ashtanga yoga is not inherently dangerous, but it’s also not 100% safe. It’s a physical activity that...
Ever wonder how to keep your feet parallel in backbends? The key is to ground your legs more strongly.
Props such as block and pads, or even the wall, can be helpful in helping you work your edge and maintain weight in your feet. The more you are able to control the backbend from start to finish the better.
Watch this video to learn more.
For more on backbends try my FREE online course. You can sign up here for 4 backbend videos delivered to your inbox.
Or try the full length video course Build a Better Backbend here!
It’s been a tough year for Ashtanga.
2017 ended with the realization that Pattabhi Jois abused his position of power and sexually assaulted numerous female students over many years. Naturally, this has a ripple effect throughout the community leaving numerous students doubting the lineage.
What makes matters worse is a lack of acknowledgement from senior teachers and Sharath Jois at KPJAYI itself. This lack of acknowledgement is damaging to the victims themselves, but also detrimental to the global Ashtanga community. I realize I cannot possibly have all the pieces of the puzzle to know what might inhibit any one person from speaking - I was not there, so who am I to say? I’ll hold back judgment and continue to respect the senior teachers for paving the way for the new generation of yogis.
There have been other smaller incidents as well — one of which being Sharath Jois’s removal of several senior teachers from the official list of those approved by the...
As if life isn’t hectic enough – here comes the holiday hoopla. Extended family, holiday shopping, holiday parties, drinking, brunches and lunches, baking, cooking and decorating. You are going to need your practice more than ever over the next month – but how do you maintain your practice when the holidays are getting the best of you? Here are my tips for keeping your practice alive during the season of merrymaking.
Give yourself a break! Practice compassion with yourself this holiday season. If you’ve been indulging in too much food and spirits, let your binds go. If you are feeling jacked up from the holiday stress, don’t push your backbends. Now is the time of year to focus on showing up – you can fine tune all the details in the new year. So send yourself heaps of love. Don’t judge your practice – remember if you practiced, it was good – it’s really that simple.
Do your best to stick with the morning...
Modern Ashtanga tradition holds that students should only have one teacher. In my experience this has been a generally accepted rule and even a bit of a taboo subject.
Ashtanga culture emphasizes the student-teacher relationship The Sanskrit word paramparā, which denotes a lineage between student and teacher, is widely understood amongst practitioners. Who you practice with has become a badge of honor.
I asked Richard Freeman about this on a recent retreat and he pointed out to me that the very first words of the opening mantra, “vande gurunam” denotes plurality that is more than one guru. It loosely translate to “I bow to the two lotus feet of the Gurus,” suggesting that historically multiple gurus were common.
The word lineage denotes a narrow line, but true cultural heritage looks more like a family tree with many branches. If we look down the line, we might only see one teacher, but behind that teacher stands many others.
For the majority of my Ashtanga...
If I had to choose just three things in the yoga realm that I am grateful for this year, these would be the ones!
I really don’t know how to describe in words how I felt when Tim got sick back in June. I wasn't expecting it – I don't know if anyone really was. Of course I never want to see anyone suffer, but knowing that Tim was suffering was unbearably hard. Friends and family would call during that time to chit-chat and ask me how he was doing. Which was always followed by, How is everything else going? But for me, it didn't feel like there was anything else here. It's practice, family, work, community… what else was there?
Of course this was impermanent, like everything is. But I do feel incredibly grateful to have him back. I know I'm not the only one in the shala who experienced the auspicious disappearance of nagging body aches and injuries on Tim's return.
The truth is, I'm grateful for all my teachers. We as a community are lucky to have such...
We’ve all been there – If I could just X, then I would have Y. If I could finish second series, I’d be satisfied with my practice. If I get that promotion, I’ll be stable financially. If I find a partner, I’ll have everything I want. All I want is to be stronger, more flexible, pregnant, successful, rich, less busy, skinny, strong, enlightened, or whatever in order to be happier. We all do this with everything: work; personal life; health; even our spiritual practices.
Here’s the thing, though: You’re already at the place that you’re trying to get to - you are there. We all are, in fact. Whenever you reach your current idea of where you’re trying to get to, you’ll always find another “there” in its place.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t have goals, but rather saying to be happy where you are and what you’re doing now. Let wherever you are now be...
Transitions are without a doubt one of the most challenging parts of a yoga practice. They build heat in the body, which helps us to bend; more importantly, though, transitions build strength and discipline.
Transitions put our skills into action. The vinyasas of the Ashtanga yoga system keep us invested in every action that we do from start to finish, which keeps our minds focused throughout the duration of our practice – deliberate transitions maintain the thread of intentionality from one asana to the next.
For some students, transitions will be the most physically difficult part of a yoga practice – be skillful in your attempts, and remember: it's not about the endpoint, but the action.
Blocks are also a fantastic tool to develop strength for jump-backs and jump-throughs. Watch the video and give it a try!
So do I practice every single day? What if I don’t feel well?
This is actually such a common question that I wrote an entire blog on it, called When to Practice and When to Rest. And there are plenty of times when you should rest — like if you have a fever or an acute injury. But there are also plenty of times when you’ll probably feel like resting but should actually still practice, like when you are sore or tired.
Do you do anything other than yoga for exercise? (Or some variation of this.)
I always tell students to do what they love. Whether that’s climbing, surfing, riding, hiking, playing football, or staying out late dancing and drinking – by all means, do it. But just remember, like with anything in life, there are tradeoffs and what you do off the mat will have its effects on your practice. It’s important to remember this, and to be realistic about it. Pursuing other athletic endeavors might make you feel tight in certain places, or...
This post was co-written with Cory Bryant.
What if I told you that there was one single most important pose in your practice? I know, I know – that probably seems to contradict everything I’ve said up to this point, but it doesn’t and it’s the truth. And it’s the pose that probably gets the least attention of all, from yogis and teachers alike. Have you guessed it yet? That’s right – beloved, relaxing śavāsana. As the last post in this series, I want to address a crucial part of the practice that we really don’t talk about enough: Rest.
I mostly wanted to address the importance of taking rest as the last blog post in this series because it is so easily skipped or rushed over. We finish our practices and are so eager to rush to coffee, breakfast, work, or just “to get on with our day” that we forget to put the same thought and intentionality into śavāsana that we put into the rest of our practices.
Śavāsana might look like...