Monthly Archives: October 2014

Breath of Joy

I’m home sick today with the evil flu that’s been going around, so I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite practices for boosting energy and lifting mood- this is wonderful if you’re in a funk or you need to shake off a negative thought or experience. Also a wonderful practice for first thing in the morning, or anytime there are cobwebs in your brain you want to break through.

When we fill the lungs completely with air, it signals to our nervous system that everything is ok, that we can relax. The implications of this are huge. Blood pressure is lowered, digestive function improved, the effects of anxiety are greatly alleviated. So much of our well-being is linked to the way we breathe, and this practice can be a good way to re-set the pattern.

Breath of joy is a simple pairing of breath with movement that anyone can do. However, those with balance issues, low blood pressure, glaucoma or migraines should exercise caution and consider remaining upright during the exhalation. If you start to feel light-headed during the practice, pause for a few moments and breathe normally.

Stand with the feet hip-width apart, the knees slightly bent and the arms resting comfortably by the sides. Inhale and exhale fully to begin. Take a small sip of air through the nose with the lips closed, bringing the arms up to shoulder height. Take another small sip in through the nose and spread the arms wide out to the sides. Take a final sip to fill the lungs completely while bringing the arms overhead. Exhale fully, bending at the waist and allowing the arms to swing back, or remaining upright if there are any of the aforementioned issues at play. Repeat this as many times as feels good for up to ten rounds, then return to standing, letting the arms swing until they naturally come to stillness. Close your eyes and enjoy the results of this invigorating practice!

On Teaching Beginners

I had the wonderful opportunity this week to teach another teacher’s class- a group of level one beginners who mostly started practicing yoga with her in January. I found myself uncharacteristically nervous, worried at the prospect of this group of newer students accustomed to the teaching style of someone else maybe finding my way different and less enjoyable, of planning a class that was either too easy (boring) or too difficult (frustrating), of not being as awesome as their usual teacher (who is also a teacher of mine and someone I admire).

In the end, I’m not sure if I succeeded in what I wanted, which was to give these people a nice, juicy release, to help them get into their hips and maybe into their lungs and hearts a bit, too. But I sure learned a lot.

For some reason most of the folks who come to my classes (I teach a mixed-level class which I tweak according to who shows up) are people with some kind of regular practice, which is both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful in the sense that I have the opportunity to lead them deeper into places that are familiar to them; they are familiar with the language I’m speaking even if they aren’t fluent. But the thing about teaching intermediate or advanced students as opposed to beginners is that it’s easy. I don’t have to really get into the nitty gritty of most poses to lead the class through them, they know where their feet and their hands should be and if I remind them to slide their shoulder blades down their backs, they know how that should feel.

But nothing shows you just what you aren’t saying like teaching a class of beginners. If you omit some detail in the cuing of a pose, the students simply don’t do it. And you have to find a way to describe the action you’re leading them through in plain English! I had a friend once tell me that the one time he tried yoga, his teacher couldn’t tell him exactly what she meant when she asked the class to engage their arms. He never went to another yoga class again! The pressure is very real, the prospect of turning people off of what I believe is something we all need in our lives, the practice of taking time to introspect, to move our bodies, to breathe. Sharing this is the reason I wanted to become a yoga teacher in the first place.

So I chose my words carefully. A couple times I caught a little tremor in my voice as I asked the class to fire up the muscles of the legs from ankle to knee, knee to hip, over and over again. I felt silly repeating myself but I said things again and again until they did them. And at the end, most of the class was smiling and I was only shaking a little bit.

I’ll just have to know I did my best, and let go. And maybe teach a level one class in the new year.

Namaste,

Hope

Oh, hi there.

Welcome to the brand new and shiny Hope Yoga blog- your source for finding out all you need to know about my yoga classes and maybe the scattered thought or two about things body, mind and spirit. Stay tuned for lots more fun!