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YD Goes to Yoga School Weeks 6-7: United We Headstand, Divided We Fall…and That’s OK!

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The past 2 weeks have been a blur! And that’s partially due to a potent cocktail of yoga yoga yoga, dog days of almost-fall weather, and the flu that put me flat on my back for 3 days earlier this week. No need to be alarmed! Just a little break from the rabbit race for some classic time-out asana. Hey it’s almost September, might as well get my “me” time in now eh? Though I could’ve done without a side of fever, nausea and body aches.

Aaanyways, a lot has transpired over the past 14 days, so I’m going to start with the recurring theme: When hitting a wall, just as little kids do when they fall down and in that brief moment are open to let fear and panic win, and the parent swiftly smiles and says ‘you’re OK, it’s OK!’ and suddenly everything’s fine, we too should prop ourselves up, dust ourselves off and tell ourselves it’s OK, it’s OK! Be the kid, but be the parent too. And we move on, because it really is OK, and falling, fear and taking a pause are all pieces of the same puzzle. Having the flu isn’t preferred but it’s a definite focus-shifter. When concentration on a part of the whole trumps a meditative awareness of the entire package something’s gonna give.

OR maybe BKS Iyengar said it better in his book Tree of Yoga:

Suppose you are doing a head-balance. What happens if you stretch your legs in order to get a good pose and let your neck muscles become loose, or if your elbows do not grip the floor, so the fear comes that you are falling or swaying from side to side? Because the strong muscles try to control the pose, the weak muscles give way. When doing the pose, therefore, you have to maintain a single stretch from the floor to the top without letting any part drop. When you are stretching the legs, you have to send an alarm signal to your arms: “I am stretching a leg, so don’t lose your attention!’ That is awareness. (pg. 41)

Why Mr. Iyengar, funny you should say that! We were just studying inversions and backbends in training. (satya: our fab teacher actually read this passage to us before kicking off hours of bending and inverting). When practicing or teaching asana like headstand, certain parts of the body need closer attention (say the shoulders, neck, the forearms pressing down, etc.), but it’s awareness of the whole that makes it happen. It’s amazing what those heavy weights called legs can do to keep you lifted! Know what else helps? Shedding those kleshas, particularly the hairy characters of raga (attachment), asmita (ego), and the everloving abhinivesha (clinging to bodily life, otherwise known as fear of death). Scared to flip your body upside down or bend it like a twizzler? That’s OK. Pause, collect all your puzzle pieces and continue working on how they all fit together.

Just like Eminem says, “I’m not afraid to take a headstand…”

Additional highlights: Last week we watched and discussed Yoga Unveiled, which I totally recommend for all you history buffs who want to sound like you know what you’re talking about at your next yoga potluck east west debate. The yoga therapy portion is worth your while too. (it’s expensive, maybe borrow from a friend).

And now a FUN exercise for you: write a list of poses that if faced with the choice of practicing them or having your toenails pulled off one at at time you’d seriously consider the latter. Then construct a home practice around them and give it a go for a month! Sounds like a good time right? Try it!

By the way, just like anything else, I’ve gotten used to this 4-5 hour-long yogathon format and time seems to zip along now. Even the Sunday hour of pranayama and meditation is getting breezy and I could totally go longer. Watch out NY, there’s a new mobile meditater in town.


YD yoga school updates should come pretty regularly on Sundays, at the wrap of each week. Disclosure: Training is with YogaWorks, NYC (I am not being paid to say that, Paula Lynch rocks).

Thanks to everyone who’s donated any amount. I could still really use the support. If you appreciate YD please consider a donation. Thank you!

EarlierYD Goes to Yoga School Week 5: Restorative! Meet Me Halfway, Or Sympathy for the Dentist

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