July 2007


I had the opportunity to get to a Bikram class last week in Montreal while I was in town to see The Police.  I loved the teacher and I’m sorry to say I didn’t get her name. 

The last time I had a Bikram opportunity, the teacher was like a drill sargeant, I felt sorry for the newbie that she yelled at.  But the Montreal teacher managed to challenge us but also be gentle.  She was respectful of the newbies in the class saying for Standing Head to Knee Pose, “if this is your first time you’re going to hold the posture right here” with foot in hand above the floor. 

I find Bikram teachers talk non-stop which means I inevitably zone, but because this woman was teaching in English and French I had to really focus when it was in English to make sure I got the instruction I needed.  Then I zoned when she switched to French because I understand about zero of it.  I never did learn the words for ‘rabbit’ and ‘camel’ let alone anything useful to yoga instruction.

But what I liked best about her teaching is that she encouraged us to enjoy the spaces between the standing postures.  She told us to avoid the urge to wipe sweat, scratch and fidget.  She asked us to just pause and breath.

It was a great way to deal with being overheated, which I find makes me feel edgey and fidgety and then clausterphobic.  It’s like my body thinks it can wiggle away from the heat.  But that’s just resistance talking right?  It was so much better to just stand and breath.  Just suck in the heat.  I felt calmer and cooler. 

We get can get so busy between poses.  It’s like we want to avoid the subtlety of what’s really going on inside.  I love how there are times between Sun Salutations in my own classes where it seems like the whole class finds something to get busy with.  They adjust clothing, blow their nose, play with their hair, line up their mat more perfectly with their neighbour.  Not that any of those things are inherently bad.  It *is* best to avoid having the snot flow when you’re doing Sun Salutations.  And in my Bikram class I did wipe the brow sweat every so often because I knew salt in the eyes was *really* going to harsh my buzz.  It’s just another thing to be aware of.

It reminded me of how they do it in Kripalu too.  The languaging is different, but same effect.  In Kripalu you pause after a strenuous standing pose and literally soak up the effects.  Notice where the energy moving.  Feel the flow of prana.  Soak up the bliss. 

And in Bikram they take it a step further so that you actually enjoy a 20 second Savasana between each of the mat poses.  I originally thought it was to keep you from passing out after an hour of that heat.  Now I’m seeing it probably helps the energy flow and kickstarts the detox process between the twists and sit-ups.  But whatever the reason is, it was delicious and calming. 

It reminds me of how little we focus inward and how powerful it is when we do.

 

I love Chair pose (Ardha Utkatasana) and have been playing around with Half Chair.  Chair is challenging enough, but in Half Chair, you let your upper body sink down until your chest is against your legs, arms in Warrior 1 position.   So it’s a good strengthener for your legs, butt and upper back.  Here’s a flow to try:

Warrior 1 – right foot forward.  Hold all poses for 3-5 good breaths.  Then bring your weight onto your right foot, arms stay in the same position for,

Warrior 3 – Then bring your back foot down and take a couple breaths in,

Forward Bend – after holding this one, stay in the pose and bring your feet to hip width distance, insides of your feet should be parallel and let your hips sink down for,

Chair – after holding, let your torso sink forward until your chest rests on your legs for,

Half Chair – After holding let your hips sink down for a squat, knees forward.  Wrap your left arm around your knees, place your right on the floor twisting your right shoulder back for, 

Twisted Squat – Then come into,

Downdog for a couple breaths and repeat on the other side.

Although there are some good strengtheners in this one, I find the Forward Bend, Twisted Squat and Downdog breaks keep it from feeling too intense.  Let me know what you think!

I recently discovered Upside Down Carl’s blog and besides loving his name, I love the idea of doing a reclining cow face pose! Thank you Upside Down Carl! I have some one-class-a-week guys in one of my classes who are not fans of the deep hip stretches. I try to stick to stretches that are adjustable so that they don’t spend time grimacing when they should be relaxing. But Cow Face Pose isn’t easily adjustable. 

If your hips are uber-tight and you’re in anything  resembling the pose, it feels like your hip bones are coming apart. Not real pleasant. So I make it a ‘sometimes’ pose.  I try to stick with hip stretches that are more modifiable so they can at least breath while holding them.

Reclining Cow Face is gentle because your hips aren’t taking the weight of your upper body into the stretch, and it’s more easily adjustable.  I like how Upside Down Carl eases into it with the intial stretches (ones my classes are already familiar with).  I love it, and I will try it at this week’s Tight-Hipped Man class.      

 

I came home from work yesterday, knelt down and asked Gussie, my three-year-old, for a kiss. He said “I kiss your eye”.  And he did.

Then he said “I kiss your leg”, and he got down and kissed my thigh.

And then he stand “I kiss your bum” so I stood up and he planted one on my butt.

Yup, that’s how I know I’m loved :-)   

What is it about strong abs, everyone wants them.  I get requests in my classes for ab strengtheners all the time.  Here are some recent ones I’ve been playing around with:

- Come into a Goddess Legs, or a plie position.  Holding the blocks between your hands again, arms parallel to the floor, twist slowly from side to side.  Keep it controlled by doing it with your breath - exhale into the twist and inhale back.  Fold over into Wide Leg Forward Bend for a rest, and then do another set.

- In plank position, or Dolphin (on your elbows and forearms) let one hipbone drop a few inches toward the ground and then the other.  Do the hippy hippy shake a few times until you feel it.

-  Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the mat.  Clasp your hands and steeple your fingers.  Twist, dropping your hands to one side, letting your opposite shoulder come off the mat.  Your hands may drop to the mat if your spine comfortably twists that far.  And then twist to the other side, going back and forth slowly.  2) If you want to do more, hold a block between your hands and do the twists with your feet a few inches off the floor.  Now you won’t be able to twist as far, but it will take much more control to do the twist.

- And a good one to alternate with the previous is this one I saw in a recend Self magazine.  Lie on your back with your elbows under you.  Your elbows should be at right angles, under your shoulders.  Then lift your hips up off the ground so that your body is in a line.  You can hold here and breath or alternate lifting one foot of the ground and then the other. 

Enjoy!