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December 2nd, 2010

When Yoga Hurts Instead Of Heals

By Jill Miller, ERYT, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

Pain, numbness, tingling? Do any of these describe the feelings you have when you come out of an asana? Please heed these warnings! Not all yoga poses are safe for all people. Just follow expert yoga teacher Patricia Sullivan’s story in the October 2010 issue of Yoga Journal. She painfully details a journey of denial in which her headstand caused (yes caused) crippling nerve pain that eventually culminated in her falling asleep at the wheel and driving off the road into a lagoon. At last she had a doctor examine her and they found “ extensive damage, including a reversed cervical curve, disk degeneration, and bony deposits that were partially blocking nerve outlets.” By her own admission, “my longing to excel both in my asana practice and as an asana teacher, had led me to ignore my body’s signals and cries for relief.”

Asana Addictions

Patricia had to relearn how to use her entire body and come to terms with her mind, heart and ego. Headstand’s benefits were so powerful, that they seemed to outweigh the daily pain she suffered. Like an addict “jonesing” for a hit of headstand….she could not see past the negatives it wrought on her body. But until she literally “bottomed out” in the lagoon, she was unwilling to give up her “monkey.”

She is definitely not alone in this journey, I have been “addicted” to poses that damaged my body. A love of “drop backs” into the wheel pose from standing upright destabilized one of my spinal vertebrae 6 years ago. I happily NEVER do them any more. Before I had destabilized my back, I could not imagine practicing without finishing up with my coveted “drop-backs.” How ironic that the “drop backs” CAUSED my back to drop!

In surveying my last Yoga Tune Up® Teacher trainees, several raised their hands when I asked the question, has Yoga hurt you? Two of them admitted that constant ringing in their ears has been caused by excessive time spent in shoulderstand and plow poses. They rationalized the EXACT same way as Patricia…the “benefits” outweighed the “negative effects.” Another admits that despite constant sciatic pain, he cannot give up doing long held forward bends.

What are we doing to ourselves if yoga hurts?

With yoga’s enormous popularity, more injuries are occurring more than ever. If we hope to enjoy a pain-free lifelong practice, then we must take some precautions. All teachers and practitioners must educate themselves about what the poses are doing physically to a body. So many “traditional” poses cause extreme joint torque, shearing and weakening of soft tissues, and their effects need to be understood through a biomechanical lens. As yoga teachers, we need to responsibly analyze the positional peculiarities on a student-by student basis and be truthful with our students if we feel a pose is inappropriate for them. As a student, we need to listen to our body’s signals and not push past a point that continues to give us unresolved pain. We need to take an honest look at the poses that still cause pain while we are in them, and reach out to professionals who can help us to understand what we are actually doing to ourselves.

WHAT TO DO IF YOGA HURTS
1) Admit you are in pain
2) Seek out a health care professional, get the x-rays or MRI if needed!
3) Follow the health care professionals protocol
4) Seek out a qualified Yoga Therapist (www.iayt.org)
5) Listen carefully to your body as you build a new practice, and refrain from doing any pose that your body is not prepared for.

Patricia has completely revamped her approach to headstand. Yes she does still practice headstand, but she has created multiple variations where her head never touches the ground (see YJ issue). BRAVO!

What will you do?

December 1st, 2010

#Practice Reflection

Another year draws to a close – a time to reflect on friends and family, goals and feats, fingers and feet. View our mats as mirrors that invite us to shift, stretch and fly. When you look back on this year, who do you see? Who has helped you become you in 2010? As we move into 2011, Manduka asks you to #practice reflection.

We invite you to celebrate those who have helped shape your year - returning the kindness to the person who brought you where you are today. On our Facebook and Twitter pages, tell us who your #practice reflects and what this person has inspired in you. If your nominee is also on Facebook or Twitter, tag their name in your post. At the end of the month, we'll randomly select ten of your nominees and thank them for their contributions to your year with a free Manduka kit including an eKO Mat, Mat Sling and Stainless Steel Water Bottle to make 2011 a beautiful year for yoga.

For each of the first 100 nominations we receive, Manduka will donate $10 to charity: water. 1 in 8 people live without access to safe, clean drinking water, putting them at risk for dehydration, disease and limiting their ability to rise from poverty. Bad water kills more people than any form of violence, but together we can change that. It takes just $20 to give one person clean water for 20 years, and Manduka is on a mission to hydrate a whole village! Find out more, or donate directly, at mycharitywater.org/manduka

Head over to Facebook.com/MandukaYoga. Start practicing reflection to make for a radiant 2011.

November 18th, 2010

How's Your Love Life?

By Jeanne Heileman

When I first found yoga, I was just out of college and in an acting conservatory that used a lot of physical training to get us out of our heads and learn to use our body. We were often taught that our bodies were our tools, so we needed to know how to use them. I fell in love with my yoga class, for it was the one class where I wasn’t judged on how good I performed, or if I looked the part and was cast appropriately, or anything. I was allowed to be, to breathe, and to receive, instead of “do.” I truly fell in love.

Like any new relationship, I had to have my “love” in my life wherever I went. That meant with me in London, in Chicago, in Colorado, in Phoenix, anywhere and everywhere. If there wasn’t a specific class for me to connect with my “love,” I then instinctively did yoga on my own in my room. I was working on the relationship with my “love” and reaping the benefits. This relationship supported me through many good and bad boyfriends, changes that lead to stepping away from acting and going to graduate school, choosing not to marry the boy that I and everyone thought I would, to move back to Los Angeles, to leave a path of working in a field that never felt like a right fit, and towards the path of taking a yoga teacher training and becoming a yoga teacher.

They say that love ripens over time, and I gotta tell you, it really is true. After 11 years of being in love with yoga, I finally decided to take a teacher training and immediately found myself becoming a full time teacher. Love has a way of changing our world in more ways than we could ever imagine. My relationship with yoga became even deeper because I now knew so much more about yoga than I ever did simply by taking classes. I got to know more about each aspect of my “love” through the poses, the sequencing, the history, the philosophy; I was ravenous for more information. I could easily spend every waking moment with my “love,” and still learn more. The relationship that I had with yoga at this point was so much deeper than when we were in the honeymoon period, and I was so fulfilled.

After years of teaching almost every day, blended with a devoted practice every day, I found myself – gasp! – sometimes kinda sick of yoga. I never could admit it; who can admit that they don’t want to be with their most devoted “love?” Yet I longed for a conversation about something else – even finance would be interesting to me because it was different. So, after about five years of teaching constantly, I started to wonder what else was out in the world. Like someone who doubts their commitment to a spouse and starts meeting other nice people, I started to wonder what else is out there? It was around that time that amazing teachers started to cross my path, to bring new insights into my “love” and help me grow even deeper in love with my “love.” While honoring many (see my website, I list those who truly have made a significant impact), I must admit that Rod Stryker is the one who really helped me see that there was more to yoga than just the poses. Wow, so much more. It’s like saying there is more to a relationship than just sex and good times together.

I started to get to know my “love” and play and work with my “love” in so many ways that very, very few teachers in my community either know about or share. It’s as if I went to a relationship therapist, (a good one), with my “love” and we were in therapy for years. My practice deepened on so many levels, I discovered levels I never knew existed, and it (finally) started to show in my teaching. I naturally wanted to reach out and teach workshops on this material, to help others get more out of their “love” and deepen their relationships so that they could be as happy, too.

This bliss has continued for years. And every few years I still get that phase where I don’t like yoga. I want a break. Can I break up with yoga? What I’ve learned is that I get to give myself some space, without breaking up. I get to take a spinning class, or I get to sit on the couch and watch a movie instead of be on my mat. I get a specific amount of time to be away from my “love.” By giving myself this space, it always brings me back to my “love” with a renewed sense of appreciation and value.

My relationship to yoga has taught me so much about relationships in general. For one, a really, really good relationship is one that comes from the gift of time, and during that time, you may not like your beloved. Also, like deep relationships, I now see more inside my “love” than the on outside. It has taught me that I can love someone in my life, and not like them today, but not stop loving them. I feel more welcoming to those in my life, with less judgment and rules on how to behave. It has taught me that I can love my own self, while not liking certain behaviors in the moment, and not stop loving myself.

My devotion to my yoga is one that won’t ever stop. We made that commitment in 1985, but now I’ve learned that it will probably change instead of stay the same. What I used to do on my mat 25 years ago is different than what I do on my mat now. I’m absolutely fascinated with how I sequence my practice and play on my mat now, although I thought I had everything down years and years ago. This teaches me to not hold on to what I’m doing now, but be open to how things will change on my mat in another 25 years. I’ll still be on it, and I know it will be different, but I have a feeling that I will be so tickled with those discoveries, as much as now.

So, when someone asks me about my love life, I now answer that it’s absolutely great, and getting better each day!

November 9th, 2010

Each One, Teach One...

By Garth Hewitt

In the beginning of October, I recently started co-leading a 200hr Teacher Training program for Pure Yoga Studio with another Los Angeles based Yoga Teacher, Ashley Turner. The Pure Yoga Teacher Training program was created by Alanna Kaivalya.

Pure Yoga is a large studio that originated in Asia. It has now expanded to America with two locations in New York and plans to expand Nationwide. Pure Yoga has partnered with Equinox Fitness Club and this Teacher Training program is being hosted at Equinox Fitness Club in Century City and South Bay, California, as well as in several other regions around the country.

We are 4 weeks into the 10 week program, and it has been an incredible journey so far. We meet with the 17 Trainees on Friday evenings and most of Saturday and Sunday. We have a really amazing group. We have a few Teachers who are assisting us in the program and we've brought in guest Teacher Trainers from New York as well.

This past weekend our Anatomy Module was led by Maura Barclay from fellow Manduka Ambassador, Jill Miller's, Yoga Tune Up program. It was a pretty great weekend! I've been in a lot of Anatomy Training's in
the past and this was one of the best I've ever seen. So far the Training has been very intense. This is my first time leading a Teacher Training program and it definitely requires more of you than leading public classes or working with private clients. The time and energy commitments are huge, but well worth it.

On Sunday nights, after the Training is finished I am usually pretty exhausted, but it's so inspiring though. The work is very fulfilling and I like the challenge. I like being pushed out of my circle of comfort. It's been wonderful to see the students in the program grow and to work with them at such a deep level has been great.

They are having breakthroughs that probably wouldn't be happening if they were just attending regular public classes. The program is designed to really push them and challenge them. They are really being forced to move out of their own comfort zones and we are doing our best to hold the space for them. They are learning so much about themselves and this experience will probably change their lives, whether they go on to become yoga teachers or not. That's the amazing thing about yoga. It has an impact on every area of your life. It's not just what you are doing on your yoga mat. Maybe it starts out that way for a lot of people but eventually the practice really starts to transform who you are, or who you thought you were.

This is a really well-rounded Training program. Pure Yoga's intention is to honor all different styles of yoga. This 200hr program draws mainly from the Iyengar and Ashtanga traditions but is all about inclusion instead of exclusion. One of the things that attracted me to the program is the amount of teaching the Trainees actually get to do. It's incredible. We have them teaching to each other right from the first day of the program and that's exciting. Pretty much everything they learn from us we then ask them to teach to each other.

This is to prepare them to stand in front of a class and connect with their students, especially if they decide to go on to become teachers. We(the trainers) had all been involved in other Teacher Training Programs in the past that we felt didn't offer the students many opportunities to teach, and this was something we wanted to do differently with this program. After four weeks of training with them teaching something new every day, I'm convinced this is essential to a program of this kind.

In order to teach something you really have to understand it. You have to know what you are talking about to effectively communicate to your students. There's no better way for us to help our Trainees see their blindspots than to have them get on their feet and teach what they have just learned and then to receive feedback from each other. I think it's been an incredible journey for Ashley and I as well as for the Trainees. I
think we are being challenged as much as they are to dig a little deeper into our own practice and into our own ability to communicate what we know. It's been a pretty incredible experience, and I'm looking forward to the next 6 weeks of the program. After that, I will probably be looking forward to a week off!

August 15th, 2010

We Are Family

By Eka Ekong

In the Spring of 2010, eighteen amazing yoga teachers dedicated their time, their energies and their hearts to show not only their love of yoga, but also their love of Manduka. I was lucky enough to be a fly on the wall (or on a yoga mat). James Wvinner was the photographer, and to see the world through his eyes was truly a delight. Kasey Luber recorded the day’s activities with humor and honesty.

In the morning, Charlie Samos, Susan Sterlace, and Melanie Lora Meltzer were the first to appear. We chatted about new products. They warmed up their bodies in the cold studio, and then and got on some eKo lites. I was lucky enough to watch them playfully practice on their mats, and share in the happiness and ease they had with each other. Throughout the day, more Ambassadors arrived and gleefully jumped on the Manduka Mats: Caleb Asch, Travis Eliot, Kishan Shah, Brock and Krista Cahill, Kia Miller, Annmarie Solo, Jill Miller, Simon Park, Sara Ivanhoe, Ashley Turner, Brynn Rybacek, Jessie Schein, Elise Gulan, and Stella V. Wilkins. Everyone was excited to see each other and they greeted one another like a loved one who had been away from home for too long. Some brought their own Manduka mats, which they spoke about like a badge of honor, and with a level of reverence that shared their gratitude for their mat of choice.

There were lots of hugs, laughter, eating, and we talked about life, love, yoga, and everything in between. It was incredible to be in the company of so many gracious yogis, who are extremely dedicated to their practices, and to the elevation of the human spirit. We may not look the same, talk alike, or see life with the same eyes, but all of our paths have led us to this practice, and to Manduka. We are each connected by yoga, but also by the mat beneath our feet, and it easily felt like I was home, with family…