Hashtagging My Actual Yoga

I’ve been prepping my Portland workshops at yogaRIOT this weekend (there’s still room so come join me if you’re in the area!), which will conclude Sunday afternoon with “Better Backbends Through Breathing.” One of the slides in my presentation is a 1983 photo of me in Ustrasana (Camel Pose). It got me wondering what the 25-year-old version of my body would look like alongside my 58-year-old 2016 Camel Pose. So, I asked Lydia to take a photo of me on the mat in our living room so she could combine them in a single visual.

Seeing the resulting image got me thinking about all the old photos I have of me doing asana, and how they would compare to my present-day versions. I’ve also been thinking for a while about how difficult it is to visually depict how yoga practice shows up in off-the-mat situations, because so often, it’s a very internal process that does not make for a particularly interesting photo-op.

Uniting these two musings, I will henceforth supplement my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds with images tagged #MyActualYoga.  You are welcome to use the hashtag as well if you have interesting before/after asana images to share, or if you can find a visual way to represent how yoga shows up in your daily life.  You can see examples of both in this post.

Let’s put something different on Instagram yoga feeds! It may not be pretty, but it will be real.

Camel Pose 1983-2016Switching Hands

A theme for 2016: Asanas Don’t Have Alignment!

We are fresh back from Yoga Journal Live’s first event of 2016 – an annual gathering at the beautiful San Francisco Hyatt Embarcadero.  The students in my classes – and especially in my full-day Monday immersion were very receptive, engaged and enthusiastic about a major theme for 2016: Asanas Don’t Have Alignment – People Have Alignment.

Between now and March, I am teaching four weekend workshops that will “re-imagine alignment” from this provocative perspective, along with my other breath-centered topics:

February 13-14 we will be at Longwave Yoga in Wilmington, North Carolina, and the following weekend, February 20-21 will find us at Evenflow Yoga in Red Bank, New Jersey.

March 5-6 brings us to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for a visit to the Om My Yoga Academy, and our much anticipated return visit with our friends at the InsideOut Fitness Co-op in Winter Haven Florida will be March 18-20.  If you or anyone you know is in the vicinity of these upcoming events we’d love to see you there!

To whet your appetite, I’ve attached below a classic excerpt from my anatomy course in which I share a few pointers about how to choose your priorities in building the foundations of alignment for any asana.

Breath Education Myth #3 — "Habitual Breath-Holding is Harmless"

Excitement is growing here at The Breathing Project for our upcoming symposium Breath Education: Art, Science & Soul on the weekend of October 24-25.  We anticipate a sell-out, so sign up soon if you want to attend!

For our third installment of breath myth-busting, we hear from presenters Lynn Martin and Jessica Wolf – two of the country’s most experienced breath educators – who weigh in on the subject of breath-holding.

MYTH: “habitual breath-holding is harmless.”

Lynn Martin
Jessica Wolf

There is nothing positive to be said about habitual breath-holding. It is often an involuntary response to a moment of anxiety or stress. Many of us hold our breaths when we are trying to think of the best verbal response to a challenge, or the correct answer to a question that has been posed. But there is no perceivable benefit to doing that. If one needs a pause to think before speaking, it would be more productive to continue the flow of air into and out of the lungs while pondering the situation, thereby increasing the possibility of oxygen renewal to the brain.

Breath-holding interrupts the synergy and organization of the neuro-musculo-skeletal coordination that keeps the breathing process moving freely and fluidly. Breath-holding brings the diaphragm and all of the respiratory muscles to a sudden halt. It builds up unnecessary pressure in the thorax and in the throat, also interfering with the potential oscillation of the vocal folds as they prepare for the next spoken utterance.

Our teacher, Carl Stough, coached competing swimmers not to hold the breath while swimming under water. He suggested that the swimmer should first inhale and then extend the exhalation phase for the duration of time that the head is submerged, surface for the next inhalation, then exhale again under water, thus keeping the continuity of breathing movement.

…and now, "you were here* : the video!"

My last post about honesty in yoga credentialing has gone a bit viral. It was natural then, to discuss it in last Wednesday’s post-Yoga Anatomy, on camera Q&A.

What emerged was a rather interesting exploration of my views on how we train people, and what it takes to really absorb the kinds of things we teach in yoga trainings.

Enjoy!  If you’d like to join the discussion, please leave a comment.

Yoga Therapy Summit, part two

Yoga Therapy Summit's full panel: (standing) Larry Payne, event keynote John Kepner, Leslie Kaminoff; (seated) Kate Holcombe, Gary Kraftsow, Richard Miller, Sonia Nelson

A few weeks ago I wrote about a wonderful event where I was presenting a weekend workshop on The Knot of Brahma – Emotional Suppression as the Source of Common Pain Syndromes in Rapid City, SD.

The Yoga Therapy Summit was hosted by Surya Chandra Yoga Sanga and lovingly organized by JJ Gormley-Etchells and her great team. It provided a wonderful, intimate opportunity for some of T.K.V. Desikachar’s senior teachers to gather in one place, share memories, stories and teachings from the Krishnamacharya lineage.

[portfolio_slideshow id=1336]

You can learn more about my fellow presenters at their sites:

For more photos view the rest here (you can check out our visit to Utah, too).

David Hykes this Wednesday and Saturday at The Breathing Project

We are privileged to welcome back the amazing David Hykes to The Breathing Project in New York City for two programs this week. As always, I give my highest recommendation to these, or any other programs with this modern master of Harmonics and sound.

On Wednesday, June 6th, David will be taking over my evening class time to lead “Essential Harmony and the Spirit of Awakening.” This session integrates the universal sacred music called Harmonic Chant with sound yoga, mantra, breath and sensory awareness practices, movement, and healing harmonization.
On Saturday, June 9th: David will conduct a “Harmonic Meeting,” combining a concert program, awareness practices, and participatory group Harmonic Chant.

Each session is $35. Click here to register

"Yoga Anatomy" available from Amazon!

The long wait is finally over! e-Sutra has been inactive for the past 2 months due to the final work on my new book “Yoga Anatomy” published by Human Kinetics. It is currently at the printer, and will be available in 3 weeks.

I will post some exclusive previews of the book’s content in the next day or two, as well as an invitation to the NYC book release party, so stay tuned!

Pre-orders are already moving quite briskly, and it is already the #11 Yoga book on Amazon. If you would like to support e-Sutra, use this link to pre-order your copy from Amazon now!

Upcoming Toronto Teachers’ Workshop with Leslie Kaminoff

How to Practice and Teach Individualized, Breath-Centered Yoga in Group Settings

This is a new workshop that I’ve designed especially for my first-ever scheduled visit to Toronto. It promises to be a rich and rewarding learning experience for all of us.

Date: March 30 – April 1, 2007
Time: Friday: 7:15 to 9:15pm
Saturday: 9:30am to 5:00pm
Sunday: 9:30am to 4:00pm

Location: The Yoga Lounge TORONTO

Workshop Description
Breath is life. Breathing brings energy into the body. Breathing is also one of the main ways the body releases toxins. Breathing is essential to all asana practice. In this workshop we will explore asana from the perspective of breath awareness and breath repatterning with an emphasis on how to practice or teach these skills in group settings. All levels of yoga students and yoga teachers will be able to deepen their practice and teaching.

Our weekend includes:

  • Sessions that will be devoted to cultivating increased breath and body awareness. We will emphasize the development of observation skills, both of oneself and others.
  • Practice sessions interspersed with periods of individual focus and partner work, and how to apply the insights gained to group classes.
  • We will discuss the anatomical, philosophical and spiritual basis for Yoga and breath work.
  • We will also explore how to creatively use sound to deepen breath and body awareness.

Register

Is gender really an issue at SYTAR?

In my opinion gender, per se, is not the real issue here. The type of genitalia a person possesses is about as relevant to their value as a presenter as whether they have an innie or an outie belly button. Many males have a distinctly “feminine” perspective, and vice versa, and this was in ample evidence in the SYTAR presentations.

I think it’s important to not get caught up in the masculine vs. feminine argument either. It’s very easy to put these labels on differing perspectives, and tie those labels to whatever axe we feel needs grinding. It’s ultimately a polarizing view that takes us away from each other, and away from Yoga – which after all, is about integration and seeing beyond the obvious.

Actual Yoga is neither masculine nor feminine, and I believe the only relevant distinction in this discussion is Yoga vs. non-yoga.

Regardless of their gender, or “masculine/feminine” perspectives, if someone is willing to discard or minimize the essence of what makes Yoga unique, special and effective – i.e.: RELATEDNESS – they are (in my view) taking us outside the field of Yoga. If it were me choosing, a prospective presenter’s ideas on this issue would be the primary determining factor in the selection process.

This, more than anything else, is what I found questionable about a few of the presenters at SYTAR. What are we to think of a teacher who’s focus is on what we should do as a profession to make ourselves acceptable or credible in the eyes of the rest of the world, and who utters not a word about honoring and protecting the very thing that makes our work unique: the student/educator relationship? I found this “relatedness” theme also largely missing from the research design and presentations, mostly because it was one of the variables that they had to “control” for in order to make the studies reproducible.

I’ve always said that anyone who’s opinion really matters has long since been convinced of Yoga’s efficacy in a wide range of therapeutic applications (by anyone, I mean upwards of 15 million members of the general public in the USA). Who are we still trying to prove this to? Doctors? Hospitals? The government? Insurance companies? Some honest inquiry into the real motive behind these research studies could yield some enlightening answers.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t do research into the effectiveness of Yoga; I just think we can find ways of designing better studies that tell us something we don’t already know. For example, I’d love to see a study that INCLUDES the student/teacher relationship as a central element. Here’s a study: given identical sequences to teach, does an experienced teacher get better outcomes than a novice teacher? If anyone wants to do this study, I’d be happy to help, because I’d really like to know the results – even if they challenge my basic assumptions about teacher training.

As always, please feel free to share what you think….

Responses to "Gender Politics" Post

Here are three responses to the “Gender Politics” post from last month. They are from Janice Gates, Nischala Joy Devi, and Scott (he apparently doesn’t use a surname).

Click the title link above, or “Read More!” below to see the responses.

Janice Gates said…

Greetings Megan and All,

I am so glad this topic is being addressed here. I recently completed a book that was born from my own frustration around the underacknowledged contribution that women are making in the field of yoga (Yogini, the Power of Women in Yoga). As someone who has done extensive research on the role of women in the history of yoga as well as the role they are playing in the evolution of yoga today, I was acutely aware of how easy it is to default to our deepest conditioning – with the men in more prominent roles defining the field and discussing the future of the profession with the women in more ´supporting´roles. As Vice President of the board of IAYT, I regret that I had not insisted more vocally that women be more prominently represented at the symposium. The positive side of this is that the gender imbalance has highlighted some issues that I feel are now ripe for discussion. Additionally, the board and everyone involved in next years programming are wide awake to this issue (from my own input as well as that of many attending) and it is being addressed as we speak.

Some questions I have been reflecting on that may inspire some collective self-inquiry:

1. What is the role of lineage and empowerment from the teacher/guru in becoming a yoga teacher or yoga therapist?

I find this question particularly relevant as the teachings of yoga we are most familiar with in the West today,while not gender specific themselves, have primarily been passed through male lineages for centuries and are now being spread – widely – through women. Most of these women come from an extremeley different culture and life experience than that out of which the yoga teachings arose. Bringing this topic forward for discussion could both acknowldge the value of, and simultaneously demystify, what may sometimes be held up as he ultimate teaching credential.

2. What are the experiences, qualities, skills and expertise that women are bringing to the field of yoga therapy that have yet to be acknowledged or defined?

At the symposium, Nischala Devi so beautifully pointed out that even if we have the highest standards for yoga therapists, and teachers have extensively studied the yoga texts, intuition and compassion are essential components in the student-teacher relationship. These qualities are not gender specific, yet they are often considered feminine, or soft, and not given equal weight in relation to intellectual knowledge.

3. And, lastly, in this evolving field of yoga therapy – which was described several times by presenters as the process of becoming aware of negative patterns that no longer serve us and transforming them into more positive ways of being – how can we, as a community, men and women together, become free of the conditiong that no longer serves us and realize our collective potential as a profession?

Peace,
Janice Gates

author of Yogini, The Power of Women in Yoga
———————–

Nischala Joy Devi said…

Dear Leslie, Sisters and Brothers in Yoga,

Wow! What a spectacular wave this conference is making throughout the Yoga and Medical world. Thank you to the visionaries who organized and brought this to fruition and for the presenters who are carrying the concepts to the next level of understanding.

So many wonderful and inspiring letters and comments are being given on how to carry Yoga therapy into the 21st century.

I do however; want to address what is now being called the “Gender Balance”. It seems that a very vital and important issue is once again being shuffled into the broad bin of “Women needing to have their voices heard” or even feminism.

The reason the Gender Balance is so tipped is because traditionally the women healing from a heart and intuitive perspective were honored as the healers. When the scientific right brained thinking emerged it was overshadowed.

As we can see this issue is much greater than how many women presented at the conference, that imbalance was only the symptom. A great paradigm shift is happening in many phases of our lives and health care is calling out among them. Having trained and worked in Modern Medicine most of my adult life, when I embraced Yoga some 30 years ago I wove the two together in what seems like a healing balance.

Modern medicine has it’s apparent strengths, and obvious weaknesses. It’s weakness is that it sees people as only bodies and often only parts of the body. It is allopathic (against disease) oriented. It does not look at or acknowledge that we are anything but bodies.

Yoga therapy differs as it acknowledges that each individual houses the divine spirit and when it is given honor healing power emerges. Trying to bridge these very different concepts is a task that takes great skill. That skill comes from outside learning but more from our own inner practices.

Having been a Yoga Therapist and researcher in the Lifestyle Heart Trial (Dean Ornish Program) our first trial demonstrated the efficacy of using Yoga as a modality for Reversing Heart Disease. This was proven to be dramatically effective. Nothing in modern medicine had the potency to reverse cardio-vascular disease. I was laughed at and teased for invoking “unscientific practices” to invoke love, intuition and compassion. In the end that is what patients reported that encouraged the “true healing”.

Our second study the Multi Centered Lifestyle Heart Trial, was done in order to see if, we, the modality specialists, could train others to do this work with the same effects. It was also proven as the first trial. This is what we as, Yoga Teachers, are doing in training each other to guide patients to heal themselves.

What became clear to me during the two trials was the difference between objective and subjective findings. Objective findings are delivered through concrete measurements and testing. Subjective findings are the ones that are reported by the individual as the initiation of the healing. Only measured by the individual perception.

When we consider the panels and discussion for the next symposium and what to teach as Yoga therapy both the objective and subjective are necessary. The subjective part is what has been missing and is the essence of the paradigm shift. The heart and the head must be considered and honored; otherwise we are just folding the great and ancient tradition of Yoga into another arm of Allopathic Medicine.

It is time to unite all parts of us, the spiritual, mental, emotion and physical through using all the tools we now have, whether ancient or modern, to bring balance.

I am honored to be part of such a great shift and part of such a noble organization as IAYT.

With you in joy, love and healing, Nischala Joy Devi

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Scott said…

Dear All,

A great discussion here, and on such a wonderful topic.

I cannot agree enough on the need for a return to the feminine aspects of Yoga, especially in Therapy. Having thankfully been gifted an adjustment in perspective of late, I can see what Megan and others are expressing here, to me we all seem to be expressing the same truth in different ways.

I would say that we should be careful how to proceed in this matter though – it may be insntinctive to rush in and try to ch
ange things to “the way they ought to be”, but this is simply a masculine approach to a masculine problem. In doing so you may entrench those who have not yet received the wisdom of the power of a more feminine approach, or at the very least shift your own actions from being sourced in feminine power back to the masculine approach i.e. you may become that which you dislike.

I personally favour the Ghandi approach of “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Let the conference organisers have their speakers on their podiums – remembering, of course, not to judge those speakers themselves as they may have nothing to do with the preceived imbalance.

Do your work, do it the way you know it should be done, the way your heart is telling you. Be kind and compassionate, and help people to remember how to heal. Let those who mistake intellect for Yoga work through their own path, and maybe, eventually, they will see the error of their ways (if in fact it even is an error, rather than simply a process) and your example will give them guidance to a better way. That’s what happened to me, and if I can make the shift please be assured it is possible for anyone to be influenced in this way 😉

Love and light,

Scott
www.exploreyoga.co.uk