Friday, December 05, 2014

Observations From the Mat 2: "Gentle" Yoga and its Rock Star Teacher

Sunday Afternoon "Gentle" Yoga 
I place the quotation marks around the word gentle in the heading because the latest teacher, Aviv, after successfully auditioning for the class teaching a restorative set of asanas moved into more advanced postures when my fitness club’s group exercise (GX) manager stopped attending. It didn’t matter to the group since all the members who enjoyed the easy-does-it format had left when a rotating set of not-so-gentle yoga teachers filled in while the GX manager searched for a replacement. By the time Aviv showed up the only members that remained where open to a more advance routine. 

If Aviv needed to audition for the members it would have been a smashing success. The attendants for what was a modest class size exploded--and the newer students where all female. This shouldn't be a surprise--this is yoga, remember. But it seemed strange that a new teacher would suddenly draw such a large crowd of students. It became clear just how popular he was when a substitute arrived one Sunday afternoon and some of the students started asking the sub if Aviv was coming back. Geez, it sounded pathetic.

Is Aviv attractive, you might ask. Meh, I would say he has charisma, but looks aren't his strong suit. Since, generally speaking, a woman seems to to have the ability to see beyond a man's physical shortcomings and focus more on his sense of humor and and personality, I would imagine it is his charm that pulls them in and keeps them, besides his skill as a teacher. Aviv is very different in method than Amanda and Lee--the first two teachers in this class, since I started. I believed they stayed true to the class' name. Aviv teaches what I believe to be a straight hatha yoga class.

Keeping the fact that there is not much gentleness in this Gentle Yoga class, I can't help, but find certain things funny about Aviv's practice. The only gentle part is his voice. He offers modifications to each asana he leads us in, but so do my other teachers--that is standard operating procedure for a yoga teacher.

I suppress a laugh when he does these advanced postures because I have been taking this class for over two years with teachers who always considered the stiffest, most out-of-shape people first. But not Aviv! He leads us in Hero's Pose (hard for a few people), to a Hero Pose with a back bend (half the class try and quit), Hero Pose with a complete back bend--head on the mat (only a few can do). Then he pops back up into Hero Pose again and leans
Crane Posture
back a little and lifts knees (only a few can do that). Now, he flips his feet over so he is stretching the soles of his feet. (You hear gowns throughout the studio; most people follow him but, like me, they can't handle the pressure and are leaning forward). Then he moves his arms forward, lifting his feet up and goes into Crane (See Number 8 here!). I am relieved that I am not the only Gentle Yoga student who is laughing at this point. He finishes with touching his head to the floor and shows all of his admiring fans the preparation of a hand-stand inversion. Jolly good for you, Aviv! You can do something the 60 year-old overweight lady next to me cannot!

Before I finish the post, I need to make something crystal clean--just in case the impossible happens and someone besides yours truly reads this and just so happens to go to my health club and is considering going to the Sunday Gentle Yoga class: This is an excellent class! I have progressed enough that I no longer need a beginners class. It's just that I can't help laughing at the improper labeling. In fact, I dread the day Aviv leaves and someone takes over who will be more like Amanda and Lee. On that day I just might drop this class and try taking Robert's ninety-minute Power Yoga class on Monday nights. In the meantime, I'll continue taking this excellent class and giggle at Aviv's "Hey, look at me" show.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A Beginner's Guide to Pranayama

Breathing is at the heart of yoga and pranayama from

A Beginner's Guide to Pranayama

Monday, December 01, 2014

How you can tell if someone does CrossFit

This is pretty mean of me--call it bad karma--but some of these images and videos are hilarious:

How you can tell if someone does CrossFit

From Elephant Journal.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yoga Accomplishments and Challanges

Since I started practicing yoga over two years ago I have seen many improvement in my practice:
  • My Downward-Facing Dog has greatly improved; my heels are closer to the floor. Even better: Heather, my Vinyasa teacher tells me my Down Dog is one of the postures she has noticed that has significantly improved.
  • My Easy pose is much better. Specifically my back is not as rounded while sitting, though I still need a cushion or a blanket to sit on. This is something I notice all the time because, before I attended physical therapy and yoga, I was not aware that I had this problem.
  • Forward Fold. When I started yoga I could not even get my finger tips to touch the floor. Now my fingers touch in the beginning of a practice and most of my hands are touching by the end of each practice.
  • Tree pose. I still cannot balance on one foot, but I am getting better!
  • Other postures. I am sure I have improved on nearly all my postures, but the above are the ones I and my teachers have noticed the most as improving.
I am very lazy and almost never practice at home. This is a big problem in my practice. I read somewhere that for the most part, the postures you hate the most are the ones you should working on often. There's some truth to this for me; I don't like these postures because I either cannot do them/do them very well or they are uncomfortable. Here are the postures I want to practice at home, and some of them I do not like to strike:

  • Tree pose. Yes I have improved on this one, but I am still far from holding the posture for more than a few seconds.
  • Boat pose. I hate it and cannot hold it for very long, nor can I balance the posture very well.
  • Hero pose and advanced modifications: I'm too fat to feel comfortable doing this, but I can do it. I feel for my fellow students who have to stand on their knees when the rest of us are in the posture. Reclining Hero pose I cannot do and would like to; also Hero pose with my toes facing forward--stretching my soles of my feet under the pressure of my body (Sorry I don't know the name, but I call it Torture!).

Finally, not a Hatha Yoga posture, but Meditation. I have started on this and I hope to continue.

Thursday, November 27, 2014