How to build a foundation – while building a foundation.

construction-yogaThese images were forwarded to me this morning by Ti Mahoney Blair, one of our fabulous homework coaches at yogaanatomy.net.

Ti’s message:  “I could not help but share my glee when I saw these guys this morning. I missed the sun salutes while I was running for my camera. But you get the idea….:)”

The visual pretty much speaks for itself, and I’m sure most fans of asana practice will have the same warm fuzzy reaction as us.

I’m guessing the guy on the left standing by the pallet loader (and using it to stabilize his dancer’s pose) is the “teacher.”

I would have loved to see them utilize some more of their native yoga props – I’m sure there must be some awesome bricks and sandbags lying around.  Maybe a hardhat headstand…?

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A simple question with a complex answer

A student in my online Yoga Anatomy Course asked a simple question in reference to a lesson about the muscular action of the diaphragm. My response is a good example of how studying basic kinesiology can help us understand that muscle relationships  are always contextual and complex.

The question was: “The fibers of the diaphragm are oriented vertically,  do the fibers contract on the inhale or the exhale?”

Here’s my answer:

Well, the simple answer is “on the inhale.”

Problem is, there’s no such thing as “the” inhale. Every inhale (and exhale for that matter) places a unique demand on the body’s musculature – depending on what movement we’re doing, what position we are in relative to gravity, and what our intentions are (among many other factors).

Mechanically, inhaling is the act of increasing  volume in the thoracic cavity through muscular action.  The key muscle involved in that action is the diaphragm, and a concentric action shortens the distance between its lower and upper attachments, thereby increasing all three dimensions of thoracic volume.

But, the diaphragm can also be actively contracting during an exhale when an eccentric action allows its attachments to move away from each other in a controlled way (think of doing a very slow curling sit-up as you exhale).

Even more confusing is the fact that the diaphragm can be relaxed and relatively passive during both inhaling and exhaling – as in Kapalabhati.

These are just the basics of how complex an answer to that question could be.

So, for now, let’s just go with “on the inhale.”

This is the kind of fun stuff we get to geek out about in my anatomy courses.

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My teacher is gone…the sequel

TKV Desikachar
TKV Desikachar

As promised, here’s some more context to the situation surrounding last week’s post about Desikachar’s dementia, and the aftermath.

First of all, as I stated in the article, the primary reason I decided to go public was pure-self interest.  What no one could have known (except my partner and editor Lydia Mann),  was that as soon as I completed writing the piece, a full-blown, on-my-knees-to-get-out-of-bed, can’t-stand-up-straight, ice-pick-to-the-back-of-my-pelvis back spasm straight out of Dr. Sarno’s book…disappeared without a trace. Damned if Sarno wasn’t right when he claimed that suppressed rage can lay you low with pain – and last week I had 5 years of it being triggered by the news of Iyengar’s imminent demise.

I guess I was also extra mad that Iyengar’s students had a chance to mourn him and his accomplishments, and I was still in this limbo state of hidden grief since 2009 with no end in sight.

So, I’m very happy that so many people from around the world and within our tradition have thanked me for saying what I said…but I really didn’t do it for them – or anyone else. As I said in the piece:

“It’s been unhealthy for me to carry this silent burden of loss and anger for so long. I share this in the hope of a healing that will keep the beauty of Desikachar’s teachings from being tinged with pain every time I mention his name.”

So far, my lower back agrees that we’re on the right track. And, last weekend, back at my original Yoga home – the Sivananda Ashram, I taught a workshop and spoke of my teacher with nothing but love for him and the teachings.

Secondly, what’s also been very interesting and moving is how many folks out there are dealing with the dementia of a loved one – either now or in the recent past. I guess I shouldn’t find it surprising, but it really wasn’t in the front of my mind when I wrote the piece.

So, I seem to have tapped into a deep well of common grief – not just for Desikachar – but all of those we have lost, or are in the process of losing.  If you have your own story to tell, or anything else you’d like to contribute to the conversation, please feel free to leave a reply below.  I will read everything and respond when appropriate.

Thanks,
Leslie

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A return to being an anatomy student

What a privilege it’s been to spend this week back in the anatomy lab with the singular Gil Hedley and 35 outstanding, talented, accomplished fellow Somanauts.

Lydia and I came in on the third and final week of Gil’s unprecedented marathon teaching event during which he is recording on video and photographing never-before seen dissective technique and perspective for his upcoming “Atlas of Integral Anatomy.”

I always learn an enormous amount while spending time with Gil and the amazing people who show up in his lab.  This is my sixth time since 1997, but several participants and assistants have done far more than I.

Yesterday I had to leave early to teach my Yoga Anatomy course at The Breathing Project. Switching from student to teacher mode proved to be very energizing for me and I was jazzed to teach my own material in a way I haven’t been for quite a while.

Thank you, Gil.  And thank you especially to the essential generosity of the 8 donors whose forms grace our tables in the lab.  Please consider donating your body to science. I can tell you from personal experience as a student honored with access to such generosity, it’s a profound gift to your fellow man.

NJ Somanauts

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I love Austin. Y’all.

Leslie loves teaching Yoga Yoga students!

This is the fourth year I’ve taught for Yoga Yoga in Austin as part of the great teacher training program run by Lori Johnson. She and director of special events, Laura Forsyth, have made sure I’ve been getting socialized around town each year and now I realize I just love this place. It helps that it’s 70 degrees when it’s below freezing in NYC, and it helps that there is great barbeque all over town, every meal has been delicious and reasonably priced and tequila is a beverage of choice.

I also love the studio. Yoga Yoga has a bunch of locations and I get to teach in this big, beautiful room at their Westgate venue (high ceilings mean I can throw my teaching toys all the way to the back of the room) and light from two walls of windows reminds me of my home studio, The Breathing Project. The room is full of experienced teachers and those in training asking pointed questions.

Teaching teachers is so satisfying. Here’s a taste of what we’re covering today: Bandhas and ujjayi is over-taught. From the first moment you ask someone to coordinate their breath with a long, slow movement, they’ve already started to use ujjayi. Bandha is just not that complicated.

Next…

I hope to meet more of you on the road. Next up, Sadie Nardini and me at Maya Tulum.

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Tired of the cold? Me too!

ugh NYC in the snow - it ain't pretty

I’m so ready for Tulum.

Here’s the deal: My good friend Sadie Nardini and I will be teaching together for a whole week. There will be classes with each of us catering to all levels and interests, plus the chance to explore the Mayan world of unspoiled beaches, peaceful lagoons and ancient pyramids. (No, I didn’t write that copy but it makes me drool.)

Pricing (see accommodations page) includes your cabana, meals, yoga program and the unlimited ocean at your doorstep. Like this…

glorious white sand beach at Maya Tulum

I hope you’ll join me. Questions? contact Laura Forsyth who knows everything and will also be there.

MT1

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HEY! my Tulum retreat early registration deadline has been extended

Early registration extended! Register by Dec. 7 for $200 off.

April 5-12, 2014 I’ll be teaching along with Sadie Nardini during a weeklong all-inclusive (lodging, meals, yoga and staff tips) retreat at the beautiful Maya Tulum.

Join us for daily yoga, world class spa treatments, excursions (explore the Mayan Ruins, the Bio Reserve or snorkel in the cenotes) and Temezcal (traditional Mayan Sweat Lodge).

The early registration deadline has been extended (it had been December 1 but because it fell on a holiday weekend, we’re honoring the early registration prices for another week) so get in by December 7th and you’ll still get $200 off.

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Fall tour recap, part 2: why I love interaction with students

I traveled a lot this fall: Utah; South Dakota; Boston; Asheville and Charlotte, NC; Vancouver, BC, Toronto, ONT; as well as teaching some local workshops. It’s been great, but I can’t say I’m sorry for a little downtime.

Boston's Back Bay Yoga teacher trainees
Boston’s Back Bay Yoga teacher trainees, October 2013

Right now I’m in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving holiday celebrations and recalling the great group I worked with during a 25 hour teacher training at Back Bay Yoga in Boston.

At this workshop someone asked me how long I thought Yoga has been in the world – which gave me the opportunity to consolidate some thoughts I’ve had about Yoga and its place in human society. I don’t think anyone could know exactly when Yoga started, but I am pretty sure when it couldn’t have been happening: before our forebears had the use of fire, around 400,000 years ago.

Yogic pursuits probably started with people sitting around a fire. Which meant they weren’t spending all their waking hours and energy chasing food, or being chased as food. Fire permitted our ancestors to fend off predators and put down roots. It helped allowed us to have homes, as opposed to being hunter-gatherers.

Considering the enormous power that fire imparted to mankind, it’s understandable that it was worshiped as a divine force – both externally and internally. It’s no coincidence that the Rg Veda begins with an invocation to Agni.

This is why I love the interaction with students in workshops – you never know what someone will ask, and I never know how I’ll answer until the moment arises.

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Early reg deadline in two weeks! Join Leslie’s Walking Workshop in Maya Tulum

Join Leslie April 5-12 in Maya Tulum, Mexico

You know those footprints in the sand? They can provide a great deal of information about your relationship to the earth. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to study with Leslie in an intimate intensive. He’ll help you get grounded and guide you while you explore pathways through all the arches in your feet and through the rest of your body.

Don’t miss the early registration deadline! Participants who place a deposit (only $395) by December 1 save $200 and those who pay in full by December 1 save $300.

Read more at oneyogacollective.com or contact Laura for more information.

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Come on vacation with me!

L&K-Tulum-

If you’ve been reading these posts for a while you know I love to travel, love to teach and love a good party. I hope you’ll join me – along with Sadie Nardini and some of our closest friends – when we’ll get to do all those things at once!

We’ll be teaching at Maya Tulum during a weeklong retreat April 5-12, 2014. It’s not too soon to plan your next vacation, and it’s starting to fill up, so check it out:

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