Restful Yoga

Would you like a webinar on Yoga for Rest(ful Sleep), a toolkit of  practices for invoking your most spacious being? Leave a comment below and I’ll let you know when it’s scheduled and I’ll draw the name of one person to receive the webinar as my gift.

negative space

negative space

My students inspire me and show me where to go. Right after Christmas, one of the newer additions to our class asked specifically about bedtime routines. I occasionally draw out a 20 minute practice of poses we’ve covered during a series of classes to facilitate home practice, which is my passion. Plus I love to draw. She’d been practicing a series of standing poses I’d provided early on for strengthening and alignment in the hours before bed. “Should I be doing something different?”

Of course her question contained its answer, as they often (always?) do. The general answer is that it depends: how does it feel to you? Does it help you wind down? Does it lead to restful sleep? Does it make you feel alive? She was asking because it was too activating for her to do these poses before bedtime ~ as it would be for me, as well. But I know people who love a rockin yoga practice before bed and feel like it wrings them out. Choose your explanation theory – doshas, type A vs B, Meridian theory, toxins… they come to the same thing: we all have different wiring from infinitely and infinitesimally different experiences , so we are the real experts about how things affect us.  Her answer was yes, you should do what gives you the result you want. So we discussed that.

And yesterday I taught a more restorative yoga class than usual, really a mini-workshop for the new year. What she had asked for was a new 20 minute guide, one built for rest. My life was asking me for this, too, so creating the class was a gift for both of us. For me and for many I meet, the most difficult but supportive quality I can provide is rest. So Jaime’s request echoed one from my own being. She asked for knowledge I both had and needed and in doing so was a great care taker for herself and a blessing to me.

The class was a mini-course in triggering the parasympathetic nervous system (the “relaxation response”) and included Moon Salutations, Bumble Bee breath, supported standing forward bends, spinal rocking, supine pigeon and more traditional restorative poses to close out, such as supine cobblers pose, prone supported twist and supported child’s pose. Class stretched for two hours, though we could easily have gone three or even four, and the light bulb moments were plentiful and warming.

One of the reasons I teach in cross-disciplinary locations (such as Oriental Medical Arts in Albuquerque) and no longer teach at gyms and studios very often is an emphasis that I perceive (which perhaps says more about me) on streamlining, dividing and focusing on effort at the expense of rest. Yoga is a practice of learning how to contain and thrive among opposing forces – abhyasa and vairagya (effort and release), up and down, in and out, expand and contract, etc. I love the ability to take a class out and discuss the judicious use and non-use of the vigorous techniques we usually train with. I love the ability of my students to ask for what they want and need. And I love this exploration of opposing forces that is yoga practice.

Does DIYoga mean I don’t need a teacher?

DIYoga – or Do it (yourself) Yoga – is my take on the home practice of yoga. I’ve practiced indoors, outdoors, in the desert, under

A yoga class.

A yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

trees, in the snow at 20 below and in August desert heat. I’ve practiced through chronic pain, before and after hip replacement surgery, through miscarriage and on many crazy blissful days. I’ve been dedicated to teachers, I’ve gone without teachers, I’ve dabbled in styles and am a repeat subscriber to yoga video websites.

There’s no way you can do ALL of that with a teacher. Unless, maybe, you’re Julia Roberts. I’m guessing she can tote a yoga teacher around with her. But even if you could retain a teacher to be by your side through thick and thin – another person, that is – what would you be missing?

You’d be missing the moments that make us all uncomfortable: the quiet moments between poses or before you get started when you are wholly and utterly naked to yourself (figuratively). You’d be missing the opportunity to do what you keep thinking of doing in class: hold that pose a little longer, or follow it with that awesome pose your body is just calling for… but the teacher has another (also awesome) thing in mind, so you go there. You’d be missing out on listening to the wisdom of your own body.

So, do you need a teacher? ABSOLUTELY. Several. Ideally you find an in person teacher near where you live and work and you visit them regularly. Until you’ve internalized their kindness. And then keep going. But even if you have this (and many people in less populous places don’t – I know, hard to believe in the yoga saturated world, 2012), the authentic teacher is your own deepest instinct and wisdom combined. Instinct is a reminder of your already beautiful being; wisdom is the accumulation of experience peeling back the layers over that light. You need occasional substitute teachers to remind you that the teacher really is within, and that the kindness and wisdom you appreciate in “your” teacher isn’t patented by them. And sometimes you just need to shake it up.

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Do you need a yoga teacher?

So DIY your yoga! Bring your practice home and discover your practice. Yoga is about inclusion, so it’s not “either-or.” But remember that your teacher isn’t yoga. You have to find that yourself.

Workshops!

Going to Yoga workshops is one of my dearest pleasures. I use them as rewards, treats, carrots and sometimes just fun. That’s why I’m excited to announce the first of this year’s YogaEveryDay workshops, my chance to share a concentrated yoga experience with you!

Intro to Yoga on Saturday 31 January will focus on basics. Like a parent who secretly favors one child, my favorite classes to teach are the “Level 1”, “Basic” or “Beginner.” This Workshop will be an afternoon to learn or return to basics of alignment, breath, strength & opennes. Affordable, Supportive & Fun – Join Now!

Partner Yoga on Saturday 21 February: we’ll provide a safe, open, light environment for practicing yoga poses in unique, supportive combinations that will open and enlighten your heart and connections. Join Now!