Weekly Inspiration and Class Schedule

“Do you know what it means to learn?  When you are really learning you are learning throughout your life and there is no one special teacher to learn from.  Then everything teaches you:  a dead leaf, a bird in flight, a smell, a tear, the rich and the poor, those who are crying, the smile of a woman, the haughtiness of a man.  You learn from everything, therefore there is no guide, no philosopher, no guru.  Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.”

– Krishnamurti

Let life be your teacher.

 

 

 

Here’s my schedule of drop-in classes for the week:

  • Yin Yoga – Monday Night @7:30, California Yoga Center on Cowper in Palo Alto.
  • Slow Flow – Tuesday or Friday Morning @9:00, California Yoga Center in Palo Alto
  • Hatha for All Levels – Wednesday Night @6:15, Prajna, El Camino Real, Belmont

And for those of a certain demographic:

Take a look at the website for details on all these classes and more.


This Week: Opening the Heart

“We are all here for a single purpose:  to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better.  We can do this through losing as well as through winning, by having and by not having, by succeeding or by failing.  All we need to do is show up openhearted for class.”

The quote is from Rachel Remen’s book Kitchen Table Wisdom and it will be our theme for classes this week.  It’s a laid back week for me.  Classes at Avenidas are on break until July 9th and my class at Prajna Yoga and Healing Arts is taking a break on July 4th, but you can still join me for some heart opening practice at California Yoga Center, where I’ll be teaching the following classes:

 Yin:  Monday 2nd July from 7:30-9 PM
Slow Flow:  Tuesday 3rd July and Friday 6th July from 9-10 AM

See you there!


Summer Class Updates

If you’ve been to my classes you’ll know that I love to “hang out” in the asana. 

I don’t believe in rushing, I don’t turn yoga into aerobic exercise, and the thought of practicing yoga in order to build a better backside is loathsome to me. 

So if you enjoy exploring the shape of a pose, feeling how the energy shifts as you change your alignment; if you enjoy testing your strength and flexibility while dialing down the stress – then I’m your guide.  My classes begin with two minutes of quiet reflection/meditation and end with savasana.

Seasons change and so does my teaching schedule. At least a little bit.

Here’s a summer update:

California Yoga Center

The Monday Evening Donation-Based Yin Class continues to meet from 7:30 to 9:00 PM at the Palo Alto Studio.  All equipment is provided.  Some understanding of Yin is helpful (you can find that here) but not necessary.  There is no class on Monday 30 July.

My Tuesday and Friday Iyengar-inspired Slow Flow meet from 9:00 to 10:00 AM at the Palo Alto Studio.  Please bring a yoga mat.  These class are Level I/II. $15 drop-in.  The class on Friday 27 July will be taught by Terry Lesser.  The class on Tuesday 31 July will be taught by Lisa Brill Robinson.

Prajna Yoga and Healing Arts

My Hatha Yoga Class meets on Wednesday from 6:15-7:30.  Please bring a yoga mat. There is no class on 4 July. The class on 25 July will be taught by Yiwen.

Avenidas

Registration for Summer Session, which begins on Monday 9 July, is still open.  I teach two classes at the senior center:  Monday at 1:00 and Friday at 10:30.  We’ll have seven class meetings over eight weeks, with no class on Friday 27 July or Monday 30 July. 

For further details on any of these classes check my website.


Beware the YINJURY!

I couldn’t ignore the truth.  My hip was sore.  Real sore.  It was wince-inducing sore.  And while I limped in denial I began to hear stories similar to mine:  a recurring shoulder pain that increased after Yin practice; a wonky knee that ached the next day; a lower back that refused another forward fold.  All injuries reported by Yin Yoga students.

I refused to believe my beloved Yin was to blame.  It just had to be something else.  Yet, listening to these my students describe the course of events that led to their discomfort and considering my overstretched hip flexor with an objective mind the truth was obvious:  we had YINJURIES – the Yin equivalent to falling asleep in the tanning bed.  Sigh.

For a time the science of flexibility seemed to be changing like the wind.  When I trained as a sports massage therapist long held static stretches were all the rage.  Now the trend leans toward fast dynamic stretching.  I’m confused.  If science supports short and sharp stretches where does Yin fit in?  Does it hurt more than it helps?

I asked anatomist and philosopher Gil Hedley, circular strength training coach Michael Rook and personal trainer Steven Rice their opinion.

Gil offered this:

Virtually anything can be harmful or helpful.  That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to how you are feeling when you are doing something.  I’m no scientist, but I’ve overstretched and endured the consequences, and I’ve also relished the feeling of stretching and moving and enjoyed the benefits.  I personally believe that most anything you do over and over again represents a rut eventually, and like to change things up a bit myself.  While a practice is expanding you and your horizons, enjoy it.  When it becomes a tedium or mere repetition to satisfy a habit, move on.

There have been moments in my Yin practice when I’ve taken the poses almost ‘by rote’ – without thinking.  Without feeling.  Perhaps when we lose our mindfulness in the practice we open the door to injury?

Michael, who attended Paul Grilley Yin Teacher Training with me a few years ago, was frank in his opinion:

To be honest, I’m not surprised to hear about this.  The science is relatively clear that stretching before resistance training (some of my students attend Yin and then lift weights the following day) can harm performance and lead to injury.  Even more so before using kettle bells, I would say.  Personally, I don’t hold stretches for more than a minute (and it depends on the stretch).  There’s also a lot of deep flexion in many Yin poses that can play havoc with the lower back (if you’re posteriorly rotated).  Ultimately, all practices need to be tailored to the individual.

That sounds like obvious advice, but how often do teachers really attempt to do that?  In a large class that’s virtually impossible.  While it’s the instructor’s responsibility to guide the class safely, does it really come down to the individual listening to their body?

Michael then referred me to Charles Poliquin’s Blog and the Gymnastics Bodies website.

Finally, local trainer Steve “Mr. Science” Rice gave me this to chew on:

My understanding is that the ligaments should not be stretched as that will lead to joint laxity, and they don’t recover from that.  However it is also possible for the ligaments and capsule to get a bit glued together and need a bit of loosening.

Tendons of course are attached to muscles so I don’t know if they can be stretched separately.  A stretch will affect the tissue most willing to lengthen which is likely the muscle, and the length of a muscle is determined first of all by the brain. 

Traditional static stretching, like holding a yoga pose, has become depreciated in the sports world because it has been shown to decrease performance.  Current thinking emphasizes dynamic warm-up and mobility work.  End ROM (range of motion) positions are moved into and out of under control so the entire neuromuscular chain is engaged.  For example, instead of hanging in a forward bend with gravity pulling you down, walk and on each step do a high kick.  My stretches last no more than one or two seconds.

And then, just to inject a bit of controversy, Steven wrote:

Incidentally, Poliquin is a smart guy and leading fitness authority but also controversial in his interpretation of research.

So there you have it.  Static stretching out.  Dynamic stretching in.

Not so fast.  I love Yin not only for how it feels in my body but for how it soothes my spirit.  There’s no way I’m trading those five-minute dragonflies for some high kicks!  But here’s what I might do:

Offer my body more support in poses that are challenging for me.

  • Hold some poses for less time.
  • Avoid weight training for 24 hours after a Yin practice (I can assure you that won’t be a problem).
  • And then, more than anything, I’m going to listen.

Fitness trends emerge and fade, theories behind the science of flexibility change, our bodies cycle through movements that feel good and movements that don’t.

It seems that the only thing we can do is listen.


So You Just Got Your Yoga Teaching Certificate…NOW What Do You Do?

When you boiled it all down, the question my friend wanted an answer to was this:

“What do I do now?”

Deepa and I began Avalon Art and Yoga Center’s teacher training course in September 2011.  Six months and almost $3,000 dollars later we had a beautiful piece of paper to show the world that we were yoga teachers.

Hold up.  Actually, what we had was a piece of paper that said we’d completed the program.  The Avalon Teacher Training program is an intense and comprehensive six months of study.  It was worth my time and my money.  But when it was over, did the world have twenty-eight more yoga teachers?  I’m not sure.

It’s one thing to learn the techniques of teaching and another to know how to touch a student with words that describe the impact of a yoga practice or to provide support that make her feel safe.  Knowing how to instill confidence, knowing how to adjust a posture, knowing how to set the tone in the studio – it takes time and experience to develop those skills.  It takes an instinct that I’m not certain can be taught.  It’s a bit like learning that red and blue make purple.  Knowing how the color wheel works does not make you an artist.  And completing a teacher-training program does not make you a teacher.

The reality is I taught for many years before becoming a certified teacher. Instead of certification, I studied informally.  I read books and attended classes.  I asked questions.  I practiced.  I was a student for ten years before I began teaching.  I’m not suggesting the path to teaching I chose is better or even desirable.  There were holes in my “home study” yoga education I had a craving to fill.   What I’m trying to point out is that there are different paths, and maybe this push to collect certificates and to study with the flashiest Pop Star Yoga Idol (and after this past year we certainly know how quickly and how far yoga idols can fall) is blinding us to the truth that being a compassionate, effective and capable teacher takes more than a file cabinet of certificates.

So how important is that piece of paper?  I’m happy that after eighteen years I have certificates not only from Avalon but also from Paul Grilley’s Yin Teacher Training.  I could have continued to be a fine teacher without them, but they represent opportunity. They open doors.  If you choose – and for what it’s worth – your new certificate allows you to register with Yoga Alliance (which I’ve done).

But I’m through with formal training for the time being.  I’m happy to return to reading, talking with fellow teachers, attending classes in my neighborhood.  I’m happy to focus on my students and my teaching.

So how did I answer Deepa as she tried to decide what to do next?

I told her to take a step back.  I told her to find her teaching voice.

Your yoga voice – how you speak to students, the vocabulary you use to describe asana or pranyama or mudras or bandhas – it can’t be taught.  You have to find it and the only way to find it is to teach.

When you find your authentic voice as a teacher, that’s when you’ll begin to teach your truth.  And when you are teaching your truth you’ll know that the path you chose – the path that brought you here – it was the right one.

ps….Some people, by the way, are born to teach.  They’re naturals.  Deepa is one of them.  From mid-July she’ll be teaching at Downtown Yoga Shala in San Jose, California mornings and Friday evenings.  

As for me, I continue to teach my truth at California Yoga Center, Avenidas in Palo Alto and Prajna Yoga and Healing Arts in Belmont, California.  I also teach for Feinberg Medical Group and privately.


And Now, a Quick Word from Our Sponsor: January Classes

I thought it was time for me to remind everyone where I teach, how to register and what to expect.  Currently I teach in two studios:  California Yoga Center and Avenidas Senior Center.  I work privately with individuals or small groups in the home and am also available to teach introductory classes and workshops at your school or office.

California Yoga Center

One of the first yoga studios on the Peninsula – and where so many of us were first introduced to yoga – CYC has locations in Palo Alto and Mountain View.   My classes are at 541 Cowper Street in Palo Alto between University Avenue and Hamilton.  I teach three classes at CYC.  They are on going.  Two are Iyengar-influenced “slow flow” style classes and the third is a Yin class taught in the Paul Grilley tradition.  If you’re still looking for a last minute gift you can purchase Gift Certificates for individual or a series of classes.  More information about purchasing gift certificates can be found on the CYC website.

Here’s what to expect from a class with Mimm:

Yin Yoga – Mondays 7:30 to 9:00 PM

Yin is a donation-based class.  Please pay what you can afford up to $17 (the regular drop-in fee).

The long-held stretches characteristic of Yin Yoga help to recover and maintain a full range of movement and flexibility in the joints and connective tissue.  The work is challenging but profoundly relaxing. While Yin should not be confused with Restorative style yoga on more than one occasion students have told me, “I have the best night’s sleep on Yin nights!”

I keep the studio very dark.  Soft futons and bolsters, blankets and pillows are used for support.  Sometimes I’ll use music to help set a tone.

Verbal instruction is kept to a minimum.  Nevertheless, enough suggestions and options are offered to create an environment that feels comfortable and safe.

All the work takes place on the floor and poses are held between 2 and 6 minutes.  For more information regarding Yin Yoga look here.

Iyengar-influenced Hatha and Slow Flow – Tuesdays or Fridays from 9:00 to 10:00 AM

The drop-in fee for these classes is $15.  A 4-week series is available for $52.  An 8-week series is available for $104.  Classes do not have to be taken consecutively and there is no expiration date (this applies to my classes only.  Other CYC instructors may have different policies).

In the beginning, there was Iyengar.  At least for me.  I loved the attention to alignment, the emphasis on safety and the slow, careful pace as we moved from one pose to another.  But things change.

I still love my Iyengar roots, but I also love moving with my breath from one shape to another.  We move at a pace that allows time to settle into the pose and to explore how it feels in the body.  I provide options for anyone not ready to take on the more challenging standing poses.

Both of these classes are Level I/II – suitable for beginning and intermediate students.

California Yoga Center has everything you need for a safe practice:  bolsters, straps, pillows, and blocks.  It’s recommended that you bring your own “sticky” mat.

Avenidas Center

It’s a misnomer to call Avenidas a “senior” center.  Yes, you have to be over the age of fifty to enroll in classes – but what’s a number?  Pre-registration is required, but you can enroll online or drop by the front desk at 450 Bryant Street (cross street University Avenue).  Classes are held in 10-week blocks.  Our winter session begins the week of January 9th, 2012.  There is no drop-in but anyone is welcome to visit and try out my yoga classes before enrolling.  The price for a ten-week session is $60 for Avenidas members and $70 for non-members.  Where are you going to find a one-hour class for $6.00 anywhere on the Peninsula?

I have three classes at Avenidas:

  • Mondays from 1:00-2:00
  • Fridays from 10:30 to 11:30
  • Fridays from 11:45 to 12:45

Because of student demographics these classes tend to lean toward the introductory level but everyone is encouraged to deepen into the work as their bodies allow.  Some students have had years of yoga experience and will have a more full expression of the pose we’re working in.  Others who are new to yoga are given modifications that help awaken the body.

All three classes begin with floor warm-ups, followed by a carefully planned standing sequence and then finishing with seated work and relaxation.  Because of the nature of my classes at Avenidas, it’s suggested that students be able to safely lower and then rise from the floor.  That being said, chairs are available to assist.

Unfortunately, equipment is limited at Avenidas. We have soft exercise mats but I recommend you bring a sticky mat and two bath towels that can be folded into mini-bolsters.  A strap is also handy – this can be a yoga strap or, if you’re on a budget, a man’s tie or belt.  Yoga blocks are helpful, too.

Individual Study

If you are recovering from illness or injury then I recommend two or three sessions of individual study.  Together we can see where you’re at in terms of strength and flexibility.  We can build a program that will support recovery instead of setting it back.

Some clients, of course, simply enjoy how individualized attention deepens their practice. You’ll discover the body responds to the work easily when hands on adjustments and personalized modifications are part of the program.


Start Where You Are: More Adventures in Meditation

Since beginning the teacher training program at Avalon Yoga Studio in Palo Alto last September I’ve heard this phrase repeated again and again:  start where you are.

Start where you are is simple level-headed advice that we should remember when we’re beginning anything new, whether it’s the yoga we’ve always wanted to try, the novel we’ve wanted to write or the song we’ve wanted to learn on our guitar.

Don’t argue, don’t procrastinate and don’t wait for conditions to be perfect.  Start where you are.

The advice is particularly useful when contemplating a meditation practice.  Do you want to meditateStart where you are.

Read this blog back far enough and you’ll find a post about my two weeks of Yin Training in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Paul and Suzee Grilley the summer of 2009.  We began each morning with thirty minutes of meditation.  I was determined to continue the practice once I returned home.

It didn’t happen.

I used every excuse imaginable from being too tired to crawl out of bed to convincing myself I’d practice later in the day but of course I never did.

Why?  Because I felt fraudulent.  No one gave me a list of instructions (and we know how I like my lists).  I didn’t understand the steps. I couldn’t possibly be meditating correctly. And so I didn’t meditate at all.

The truth is, there are no list of instructions, no easy steps.  And there’s very little you can do short of strapping on headphones and cranking Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit to eleven that would ruin the experience.

Because we start where we are.  We find five minutes and we sit still.  And then we find ten minutes to sit still and to listen to the breath.  Soon we’re sitting for twenty minutes and the breath may become a mantra.  Or not.

There are plenty of books that offer techniques.  I’m reading one now, Eknath Easwaran’s Passage Meditation. The book is a basic primer the offers suggestions and teaches the reader why meditation is life enhancing.

And there are groups you can join.  A friend of mine and I recently dropped in on a local Daoist Meditation Group.  And you know what?  The Daoist technique was deeply different to my personal practice.  Does that mean I’m wrong?  Of course not.  And neither are they.

We start where we are.  We find our way.  We choose our path. And there is no wrong.  We start where we are.


Autumn Teaching Schedule

I love this time of year.  Summer is winding down and the last few weeks of August are rolling by slow and lazy.  Kids are anticipating the start of the new school year and so am I.

I’ve had a wonderful summer full of hikes, a trip to Point Reyes and a weekend with friends outside of Reno.  I’m ending my summer with four days at Asilomar for the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research (SYTAR).  I’ve never been to Asilomar nor have I attended a SYTAR conference and I’m excited to be doing both.

The following weekend teacher training begins at Avalon Yoga Studio.  Although I’ve been teaching for almost twenty years I’ve decided to complete this six-month teacher training to add to my knowledge of yoga and to fill any gaps in my education.  I’m looking forward to the new vocabulary one gains with learning.

Of course a girl has to pay the rent and so while all this is going on I’ll still be teaching my usual schedule.  I hope you’ll join me.

California Yoga Center:

With the exception of the Monday night Yin class, which is a fantastic practice for anyone, my classes at California Yoga Center are considered Level I/II – most suitable for beginners and continuing beginners:

  • Monday evenings from 7:30 to 8:45 – Yin Yoga
  • Tuesday mornings from 9:00 to 10:00 – Iyengar Influenced Slow Flow
  • Friday mornings from 9:00 to 10:00 – Iyengar Influenced Slow Flow

You can find more information about these classes on my website or here.

Avenidas Senior Center:

As long as you are over the age of fifty you may register for classes at Avenidas.  The space is basic and we don’t have the same amenities as a yoga studio but you can’t beat the price.  You can find out more about Avenidas here.

  • Monday afternoons from 1:00 to 2:00 – Beginning Yoga
  • Tuesday afternoons from 5:00 to 6:00 – Improved Beginner
  • Friday mornings from 10:30 to 11:30 – Beginning Yoga
  • Friday mornings from 11:45 to 12:45 – Improved Beginner

I am also happy to work with you on a one to one basis from the comfort of your home.  This is a good choice if you’re recovering from illness or injury, new to yoga or simply can’t find the time to travel to and from the yoga studio.  Working one to one gives us the opportunity to design a program specific to your needs and goals.


The Healing Power of Yoga. Any Yoga.

I taught my first Yin Basics Workshop yesterday at the California Yoga Center, my home studio.  One hour of theory followed by an hour of practice.  Nine beautiful yogis joined me.

Teaching a workshop requires a different skill set to teaching a class.  I felt challenged by the task of explaining the theory and practice of Yin in sixty minutes and then further challenged by the questions raised by students coupled with my self-doubt.

It was a great afternoon.

And yet, this morning I’m convinced that despite the training I’ve completed, the workshops I’ve attended and the books I’ve read I really know nothing about Yoga.  After thirty years of practice, my knowledge only scratches the surface of everything there is to know about how Yoga affects the body on a spiritual and cellular level.

It was a wake-up call.

Meanwhile, labels are beginning to irk me.  I’m beginning to get the feeling that we’re all making it up as we go along.

During our workshop the question that is always asked was asked yet again:  What is the difference between Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga?  I tried to answer by explaining my experience with the restorative class I attended two weeks ago (read about it here).  The student asking the question – who is a yogi for whom I have great admiration – replied:  “That wasn’t restorative.  In my restorative classes we do eight to ten poses in an hour and hold them like we’re holding them today.”

And yet, at the end of my Restorative Yoga experience two weeks ago, I felt restored.  So who’s to say it wasn’t restorative yoga?  And maybe what she’s calling Restorative is really Yin?  And does it really, really matter?

The truth is I want to feel restored at the end of any yoga practice.  I want to feel connected.  Grounded.  Free of doubt and fear.  I want to feel my blood moving and warm, living muscle tissue.  I want to experience an ease of movement in my body, my spirit and my soul – as though I’ve come home to something I longed for.

That’s how yoga heals.