40 Days….

Melindas Vinyasa Yoga Teaching Schedule  (Equinox Fitness Clubs)

Columbus Circle:
Tuesdays, Vinyasa Level 2 6:30-7:45pm
Stretch, Relax and Release, Tuesdays 8-8:30pm
Thursdays, Vinyasa Yoga 7-8am 
Sundays, Power Vinyasa 9:15-10:15am
Wednesdays, Vinyasa Level 2/3  7:30-8:30pm
East 54th Street:
Thursdays, Power Vinyasa 6-7:15pm
Please come to any class and be my guest if you are not a member!  I will be away for the month of June, so I hope to see you before then!  
Hello everyone!  I have not updated my blog in a very long time.  It seems that being busy in graduate school hypothesis testing for statistical significance and learning theories of psychotherapy while teaching yoga, personal training clients, being in a relationship, spending time with friends and trying not get swallowed by an ever growing pile of mail is quite the task!  Well, that changes today!  Not the ever growing pile of mail, that is a life-journey.  No, I mean the semester ended for me yesterday, and with that I am just 42 credits shy of being Dr. Abbott!  42 credits sounds like a good healthy amount, and it is.  It is also less than 90 credits, which is where I was 3 years ago when I started graduate school, only intending to get a Masters Degree.  Life is so amazing!  And now I am here…Its like the yoga pose you SWORE you could NEVER do!  Until the day you effortlessly arrive in it, and the feeling of bliss is like no other.  When we create a path for ourselves and we venture closer and closer to our destination, although its not always clear when we will arrive, we learn so much along the way that the destination seems like only one aspect of the journey.  Its the road itself that adds to who we are.  For example, I SWORE I did not like Regression Analysis…until I actually used it!  And now I love it!  Well, love is a strong word.  Lets say I don’t hate it.  And I see how useful it can be, and how ubiquitous it is!  Interesting…
I have several new classes!  This is exciting because I absolutely love teaching!  I get the most profound feeling of elation and satisfaction as soon as the class settles into savasana…its like the entire room goes into another level of consciousness and time slows down just enough to let the magic of the present moment find its way into all the darkest corners.  Imagine being able to partake in that feeling as part of my job!  What a life!  I am very fortunate. 
I dont really have a theme for this blog entry.  I titled it “40 days” because I have a Kundalini Meditation that I plan to do, and when I start I must do it for 40 days.  Some of you recall that I attempted this back in September, when I got back from Greece.  I got through about 8 days…not as easy as it sounds!  Imagine starting anything new!  The Kundalini yogis will tell you it takes 40 days to make a habit.  I do so want to cultivate a meditation habit in my life, I do!  What stops me?  Oh, just about anything.  “11 minutes?  Thats forever!!”…OR, “I will start first thing tomorrow!(everyday I say that)”…OR  “Ok, ok ok, hmmmm…just 11 minutes right?  Ok, I will see when I can fit that in…on the train?  Does that count?”  OR, just plain “I forgot! I am supposed to start my 40 days Sat Kriya, I know and I forgot!”…Please tell me you can relate!  One day my blog entry will be about me completing my 40 days!  And what it took for me to get through it. 
In June I head to Costa Rica for a month long 300 hour Jivamukti Yoga teacher training.  I am beyond excited!  
Check out my facebook page, where I posted a “Teacher Spotlight” photo of me.  All thanks to Gerard Calvo for supporting my career! 

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we recieve that heals us. ” M. Hobart Mowrer (1966)

“Things do not change.  We change.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

See you in class!!!!


Riding the Yogi Bicycle…

Sub Schedule:

Saturday March 10th 2012: Equinox Soho, 9:30-11am. 19th and Broadway, 11:30-1pm.

Sunday March 11th 2012: Equinox Columbus Circle, 5:30-7pm

Hi readers! My teaching schedule has expanded!  This is wonderful.  I shall celebrate, however, one of the updates to my schedule is a 15 min earlier start to my Sunday morning Power Vinyasa class, so the celebration shall be measured:)

My new class schedule, all at Equinox Fitness, various locations…

Sundays, Columbus Circle,  9:15-10:15am Power Vinyasa (new time)

Tuesdays, Columbus Circle, 6:30-7:45pm Level 2 Vinyasa

Wednesdays, Soho, 7:30-8:30pm, Level 2/3 Vinyasa

Thursdays, 54th Street and 2nd Ave, 6:00-7:15, Power Vinyasa (new class!)

I am so thrilled to be teaching 3 nights per week!  Please come to any classes, and be my guest if you are not a member.

Ride the Yogi Bicycle…where did that idea come from?  Those words were spoken from the mouth of a very gifted yoga teacher downtown at Yoga Vida, a small-ish Yoga studio in the NYU neighborhood.  I took class from a woman named Kyle, whose teachings included the above phrased “ride the yogi bicycle”…and for some reason, even though the class was over 2 months ago, I have kept that phrase in my head, along with a super soothing image of me leisurely sailing by on a bicycle, the wind in my hair and a song in my heart.  Really!

There is no end to the things in life that can make us happy.  For me, yoga is one of those things.  Its funny, because sometimes we forget why we love these things so much.  We could list all the benefits of yoga, and all the ways that it has enriched our life, but that can start to sound very info-mercial-ish, inauthentic, robotic and rehearsed.  Sometimes we need to have experiential references to bring our love for yoga into a fuller context again. Example to follow…

Often in the fitness and wellness field, because the issues of health, strength, body composition and nutrition are so complex, there seem to be a never ending array of options out there, each one touted as the “newest”  “hottest” (stress on new) fitness craze, the idea being that this one, above all others, will be the one that finally solves this problem of complexity. This one above all others will envelop strength, flexibility, simplicity and efficiency in a neat, ready-to-use, often very attractive package.  Done!  Right?  Well, maybe.  And at the same time, perhaps not…. a bit cryptic I know.  I am not going to name any of these “newest-hottest-all-you-ever-need” crazes by name.  Lets just say there is one in particular that I was exposed to recently that looked very familiar.  Very familiar indeed!  What did it look like?  I bet you can guess.  It starts with a Y and rhymes with Toga.  hee hee…It also looked like alot of other things, but since this is a Yoga blog I will stick to that.

Why was this striking?  After all, lots of things in fitness, and in life, borrow from their predecessors, sometimes with permission and sometimes without.  Lots of “newest” things are those ideas built on the shoulders of those that came before.  In fact, where would we be without the inspiration of what has come before?  I suppose for me what was useful and enlightening about this experience of learning  a new set of movements was noticing what was missing  – for me – at least.  What was missing was breath.  Yes the movements were eerily similar to yoga asanas, I mean, similar as in carbon copy – but they couldn’t be called Yoga, because there was no breath!  And I found myself wondering, “well, that’s cool, but when do I breath?  Where is the inhale, and where is the exhale?  Do I just make it up?”  And I didn’t ask, for fear of being the “Yoga freak” who is always turning everything fitness into a derivation of Yoga.  I think I managed to do that anyway!

Why is the practice of Yoga different?  I would argue that asana practice has a higher intention and loftier goal than traditional forms of exercise done in the gym.  The forms may be similar, even identical, but without breath, without meditation, without the focus of the mind and body on the present moment, without the link between the body, mind and breath, there is no growth on a deeper level.  We remain the same as when we started.  We may have made some changes to our physical body. And these changes are not to be overlooked.  I question how sustainable these changes can be if we are not using consciousness and attention to breath while we are implementing these changes, as life is often times overwhelming and complicated, tossing us into a whirlwind where we lose our most basic of faculties, our breath.  We look up and we are stressed, we feel frustration, anger, fear, and worst of all, we feel lost.  What brings us back?  Our breath.  We take a deep breath, maybe we rest, drift into sleep, talk it out.  That is, we use our breath as we exhale and express ourselves, we unite body and mind and the disconnect fades, the anxiety dissipates and we find ourselves again.

I normally write lengthy posts about the science of breath, the physiological mechanism of the autonomic nervous system and the subsequent relaxation response.  Today I am not doing that. I have to teach in 2 hours!

And I am going to need to find my breath first:)

See you in class!

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we recieve that heals us. ” M. Hobart Mowrer (1966)

“Things do not change.  We change.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This entry was posted on March 3, 2012. 2 Comments

Happy New Year!!! Yoga Article, My Response… Take That!!!

Melindas Yoga Teaching Schedule (as of January 16th, 2012):  All at Equinox Fitness clubs in Manhattan

Vinyasa Yoga Level 2:  Columbus Circle, Tuesdays, 6:30-7:45 pm

Vinyasa Yoga Level 2/3: Soho, Wednesdays 7:30-8:30 pm

Power Vinyasa: Columbus Circle, Sundays 9:30-10:30am

Come to class!  You will be glad you did 🙂 This past week has had many a yogi in quite the uproar  due to one very prickly article published in the NY Times Magazine.   This article discusses some very tragic and unfortunate injuries suffered by various yoga practitioners, as a way of showcasing what is claimed to be the inherent dangers of yoga, especially the way yoga is taught and practiced here in the west, perhaps even as specifically as here in NYC, where a plethora of yoga studios, gurus, styles, variations, levels and deviations of yoga can be found.

We do have a tremendous amount of variety here in NYC when it comes to which kind of Yoga we practice, under whose guidance we receive our teaching, and to what extent we incorporate any traditional yogic philosophy.  This is all reflective of the demand for yoga and yoga-esque exercise here in this population.  I take issue with many of the assertions presented in the article, the first being from a personal trainer/physiological standpoint.  This perspective, as I have been in the fitness field for over ten years, has taught me that there is almost no injury, aside from a full contact/blunt force trauma that is not precipitated by a series of warning signs issued by several systems in the body.  One such system is the nervous system, which too large to comment on here, serves to deliver messages of pain and discomfort, with symptoms like swelling, inflammation and dysfunction so that we will know to take some time to investigate what might be troubling us.  The problem, as opposed to being an inherent problem with yoga as a discipline, is that most people do not listen to these warning signs until it is too late.  These soft tissue injuries are a result of many years of chronic instability in the joints, or chronic shortening of the muscles and connective tissue, or any imbalance thereof which forces the body to redirect  energy towards establishing balance, often resulting in pain or dysfunction when we try to make these muscles or connective tissue systems perform.  Many soft tissue injuries, when left unchecked, develop into uncomfortable and painful swelling around a joint or joint complex, which then, when placed under undue stress and/or chronic and/or excessive shortening/over-activation, can trigger a series of painful and potentially debilitating consequences.

This leaves me to wonder:  are some people using yoga as a vehicle to understand their own body on a deeper level, but because of unfortunate timing and perhaps misguided ambition, stumbled across an potentially dormant injury and triggered it with an unnecessarily aggressive approach?  When we look at who it is that might be most attracted to yoga and what it claims to achieve:  sense of relaxation and calm, renewed energy and mental focus, connection to a practice designed to facilitate meditation and ultimately bliss – who comes to mind?  The person who already has all that figured out already?  No!  Of course not.  It is the seekers of that peace, those who venture towards something they cannot usually define or articulate in words, but something instead that they feel on a intangibly yet deeply experienced level.

What is missing from this type of yoga practitioner is one of life’s most treasured gifts, yet sometimes most difficult to attain:  patience, humility and above all, honesty.  This type of practitioner so deeply desires to feel better, to transcend fear and self imposed limitation, to stop their pain and finally begin to feel some relief from the constant ruminations of their mind.  The example in the article  – about the yoga teacher involved in a photo shoot who tore a hamstring (I think it was a hamstring) -could she have said no at some point?  Could she have kept her muscles warm and prevented the tear?  How long have those ligaments/muscles/soft tissue been overstretched or made to perform extreme ranges of motion and mobility without proper warm-up protocols?  Perhaps she triggered something that was just about ready to go, and some benign action like bending over to tie her shoe or scoop up a toddler or cute dog might have had the same result.  Well,we were not there but I suspect that as opposed to yoga being the culprit there was some hubris, some pressure to perform and some re-structuring of priorities in that particular context.  How about the young man sitting in virasana for 6 hours for whatever length of time?  Could he possibly be compulsive with his behavior?  Are we to believe that every other part of his life is in complete and total balance and yoga was the one thing that he took to an extreme, because yoga is inherently dangerous?  Nonsense!  And this is not to force judgement upon anyone!  I myself have been injured many times!  But it was not the fault of yoga, marital arts, modern dance, running outside or any of the other activities that I partake in or have explored.  It was a combination of my abnormally loose ligaments making my body structurally prone to certain injuries, and my pride in taking on too much too soon, wanting to please, prioritizing something other than my best interest, like  – oh, I don’t know, someone else’s best interests!  I could discuss this all day!  I wont  -dont worry 🙂

I will leave you with the assurance that I continue to teach with the health, safety and well being of my students at the top of my list.  For anyone who has been injured by yoga, I urge you to examine your approach and see if changes you can make to your own practice can make the difference, rather than a blanket abandonment of what can otherwise be tremendously healing and life changing . Learn to  listen, the body has wisdom and it speaks, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes in a loud shriek.  What is it telling you?

See you in class!

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we recieve that heals us. ” M. Hobart Mowrer (1966)

“Things do not change.  We change.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Twist, turn, open, aaahhhh….

Hello readers!  Hello Yogis! Hello world…Wednesday December 28th, 2011

Melinda’s Teaching Schedule Winter 2012 PLUS Christmas/New Years Holiday Week 2011 (please scroll down)

Equinox Columbus Circle – Sundays, 9:30-10:30am Power Vinyasa,

Tuesdays 6:30-7:45pm, Level 2 Vinyasa

Equinox Soho (new class!) – Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30pm, Level 2/3 Vinyasa

Please come to one, two or all 3 classes!  I can always have a guest if you are not a member.

December 26-Jan 1st 2012: 

Tuesday December 27th, 6:30pm Columbus Circle

Wednesday December 28th Soho: NO CLASS

Friday December 30th: Soho, 12:30-1:30pm

Saturday December 31st: 74th and 2nd Avenue, 10:30-11:45am

Sunday January 1st: Columbus Circle  11:30am-1:00pm

Please come to any/all classes!  And Happy Holidays!  This post is not new but seems to still be fitting for any holiday season, so enjoy! In 2012 I will be adding vinyasa sequences to my posts so be sure to check those out!

We are pretty much in the thick of it by now, meaning, its winter time here in NYC and the tourists are taking over!  We miss the carefree, leisurely approach the sweet warm breeze would suggest, we miss the laid back smile and easy going feel of concerts outdoors, picnics, long weekends and flip flops.  But for whatever our reasons, we live here, in the land of seasonal change, and so we dive into winter, knowing we get to experience some different stimulation…some of us are traveling for holidays, some of us have resumed usual work hours, some of us have taken on new projects.  One thing is to be certain, these can be stressful times for all of us.

And what does stress have to do with yoga?  And how does yoga help stress?  Does yoga even help stress, or that just a catch phrase used by yoga folk to get you in the front door and then boom!  your’re hooked?  Well, not exactly…although us yoga folk have been known to list all the myriad of benefits offered via yoga in the hopes that a new practitioner might start to feel just a little better, a little looser, smile a little easier and laugh a little more often.   I have been researching stress for a while now, having recieved a masters degree in Health Education this past May.  Along my way in school I was fortunate enough to have read some of the literature dealing with stress, stressors and what we call the “stress response”  of the body and mind.  I will expose you to some of these ideas, and then see how they are linked to our yoga practice. Some will seem familiar, most will seem logical and hopefully all will serve to validate how and why stress can be such a tricky subject to navigate and manage with a semblance of control.

One of the first and most familair interpretations of the stress response is the “fight or flight” response, observed when lab animals where subjected to extreme conditions, there by producing what came to be termed “stress”.  These animals were seen to respond with either of two extreme reactions: “fight”, becoming confrontational, territorial, hostile or aggressive, or “flight”, becoming withdrawn,shutdown, and /or  incapable of sustaining their normal patterns/habits.

The next idea of stress expanded upon fight or flight to include a stage known as burnout, or fatigue.  This idea comes from a coping model where we experience the stressor, but instead of either fight or flight, we find a way to accomodate the stress, but for a limited time.  This time frame will be different for everyone.  Eventually we will reach the stage where we cannot tolerate the stress anymore, and we will reach burnout – at this point we will be more or less forced towards a fight or flight response.

The last idea of stress deals with the subtleties of stress, specifically the subjective interpretation  of a stressful event. This idea focuses on whether or not we perceive any particular situation as stressful or not. If indeed we deem it to be stressful for us, we also subjectively determine whether we are going to address the event itself, address how we feel about the event, and/or address whether or not we have the resources required to handle the event.  Once we have determined what merits our attention, we proceed to rely on our coping skills – these are general behavioral patterns that we have learned to rely on to alleviate or distract us from our stress.  These coping skills are sometimes productive and healthy, and sometimes destructive and less healthy.  This is where the practice of yoga comes into the picture…

When we are under chronic stress, we often times find ourselves feeling “tight” – this is the result of muscles contracting or shortening because that is how muscles respond to stress.  If we don’t do something to lengthen our muscles, we develop pain, either mild or severe, either localized or widespread.  All of us have felt this when we know are are overdue for a massage or a vacation.  In yoga class we feel this in several ways.  I often cue my students to “relax your shoulders, un-clench your jaw, un-squint your eyes…”.  These cues serve as a reminder to pay attention to the parts of us that might be on auto pilot.  How else does yoga help alleviate stress?  In yoga class we are asked and encouraged to think of one specific thing:  the current asana we are performing. We might be asked to think about how it feels, how we can deepen it, or to modify it for pain or discomfort.  The one thing we are not asked to do is make endless lists of things to do and get done, of things we wish we could do or not do, or the things we wish we were doing instead of what we are doing…in short, we are asked to focus primarily on the present moment, and secondarily of how we feel in that particular moment.  At the same time we are asked to breathe deeply and let our thoughts stay focused on our posture, our practice, our breath.  Once we are able to integrate that level of conscious thinking, we can release stress, because for many of us stress is the opposite phenonema – having multiple things to think about and take care of at the same time.  This is how yoga helps mediate the stress response.  Shivasana is the culmination of all this, where we allow the breath to deepen, the body to slow down and for the stillness and tranquility to engulf us, just long enough that we emerge less frantic, pressured, squeezed than when we came in.

I hope you enjoyed reading about stress, its modern day interpretations and some ways to handle it.  See you in class!

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we recieve that heals us. ” M. Hobart Mowrer (1966)

“Things do not change.  We change.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This entry was posted on October 18, 2011. 2 Comments

Yoga Peach!

New Schedule!!!!  Tuesdays 6:30-7:45pm, Level 2 Vinyasa Yoga.  Sundays 9:30-10:30am Power Vinyasa. Starts now!!!! (September 26th).  The above classes are taught at Equinox, Columbus Circle location.

Starting October 19th!!!  New Class!!!!!  Wednesdays, 7:30-8:30pm, Level 2/3 Vinyasa Yoga.  Equinox Soho location.

Please come to any class that suits your schedule, and if you need to be my guest just let me know, I would be happy to have you!

This blog entry is devoted to Yoga Peach, another yoga blog out there.  Let me tell you my yoga peach story.  At first I was thinking, most likely as you are, “what is a yoga peach?”  Well, to be quite honest, I am not entirely sure.  I came across the phrase yoga peach because someone with that screen name or screen persona left a lovely comment on this very blog, indicating that she would like to feature one of my photos on her website, Yogapeach.com.  So, like any good internet-savvy (kind of) person, I googled it and found that a yoga peach is a way of describing a way of being, an outlook on life that reflects the wonderful qualities of things we love and enjoy, in this case, peaches.  For this particular yoga peach, she feels an affinity towards the wonderful juiciness, sweetness, extraordinary color, taste, texture and nourishment found in nature, and ascribes those qualities towards her view of yoga, yoga practice, and in turn life as a gift from nature.  At least, thats what I got from it:)  Check it out yourself on http://www.yogapeach.com

So many of you know that I am not the most computer/technology/”new thing” savvy person out there, and believe me, I realize that as long as I cling to that part of myself I will never be savvy in this arena.  I am ok with this.  For now, suffice to say that I usually picture the computer and internet specifically as having such extraordinary powers as to be only accessible because there is a small man inside the computer, connecting all the wires, delivering the mail, deciphering the codes, etc. Now just to be 100% clear, I don’t really think this, but it helps me to imagine that there is some sort of human element involved in all this technological exchange, lest I get disheartened by the thought of a machine run existence which I am admittedly a consistent participant in.  So – enter yoga peach…as I read this comment by a stranger, someone showing interest in the content of my blog, I contacted her, we exchanged, and poof!  There was my picture as “featured image of the day” on her blog.  This is the magic of technology!  This is what people talk about when they speak of “so-and-so read my blog and…”  I mean, really?  Does that happen?  Yes!  It does!

As you can see from the beginning of this post, I have been fortunate enough to be teaching two new/old classes starting on October.  I say new/old because neither of them is new for me really…the Sunday 9:30am class is just another incarnation of my previous Sunday morning class, except starting 30 min later and with a bit more kick to it:)  The Wednesday night Soho class is a fortunate, bitter sweet take over for my dear teacher Derek Beres, whose absence will be felt not just by me but by many dedicated yogis all over NYC.  All in all I can say for certainty that number one, if that little man is running around inside the computer, he is working overtime and I thank him from the bottom of my heart.  Number two, the wonders of communication, community and generosity of strangers never ceases to amaze me – does it matter what medium it occupies?

I dont have much to add for this post in terms of yoga asanas, breathe techniques, meditation mantras or anatomical alignment updates.  All I can say is that I am extraordinarily pleased with the wonders of life, and this for me always includes yoga on some level.  I hope it does for you as well.  See you in class!

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we receive that heals us.”  (O. Hobart Mowrer, 1966)

“Things do not change.  We change.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This entry was posted on September 27, 2011. 2 Comments

Kundalini on Kythera :)

Current schedule:  Vinyasa Yoga, Level 2, Equinox Columbus Circle, Tuesdays 6:30pm (ongoing). Subbing:  for Derek, Vinysasa Basics and  Level 2/3, Equinox Soho, Wednesday September 14th, 6:30 and  7:30pm.

Hello!  Happy week after Labor Day weekend to you. I hope you all enjoyed some time off and were able to avoid major damage/destruction during both the earthquake and hurricane that passed through New York City during the last few weeks of August.  I was fortunate enough to have missed the hurricane, as I was very far away, in Athens Greece, awaiting a flight to a small, unspoiled Greek island in the Mediterranean named Kythera.  It is by far one of the most beautiful, serene, peaceful places I have ever been in my life. I was lucky enough to have visited this same island last year for a Kundalini Yoga retreat, led by the folks at Semperviva Yoga, based in Vancouver, BC.  I knew this was a place I wanted to return to again, if only to re-live the beauty and tranquility another time.

This year I returned for an official Kundalini teacher training course, consisting of 35 hours of both hands on class-taking/yoga practice time, exposure to Kundalini philosophy, history and culture, along with chances to teach and reflect deeply on our own personal yoga practice.  The environment was so incredibly suited for self reflection, there was almost no way I could come back from this trip the same person I was when I left. Suffice to say this trip changed me, changed my yoga practice, and opened my world in such a magical and inspiring way I am driven to attempt to explain it.  Words fall short in describing some of the most wonderful experiences in life, when your heart opens and your spirit lifts, yet I insist on sharing my experience with you as best I can.

Some of what I learned was the difference between thinking, doing and feeling. Why are these things different?  Why should we think one thing, feel another thing, and still, do something entirely different?  This is how we have been trained, to mask how we really feel, to cover our true nature in fear, insecurity, perfectionism, judgement, negative emotions or other means by which to separate ourselves from others, and ultimately from ourselves.  When we come to a place where we are honest with ourselves, when we really listen to what is inside, we can integrate and really act how we think and feel.  How liberating!  But wait, how does one get to this place?  I would not claim to know the answer to this, but I think meditation and yoga practice is one way.  When we meditate, we become still and quiet.  In this space, our demons come out, and we are in a position to sit with ourselves and really begin to understand the forces within that keep us from freely expressing who and what we are, which is a vehicle of love, compassion and service. What are these demons?  Judgement?  Fear?  Is it old pain, or new pain, or something of a blurred mix of new/old/not-sure-when pain?  For me it is all of these things.  One main demon of mine is doubt. The voice I hear most loudly when I sit to meditate, and I am new to having a consistent meditation practice (and I am a yoga teacher!), the voice I hear most loudly is doubt, the mirror image of fear.  This is the voice telling me all the things I cannot do, how difficult it will be, why I cannot surmount the difficulty, and why it is better to not even try.

Why change when you can stay the same?  Well, because change allows us to grow and growth brings things into our lives that we need, on a fundamental level.  Growth, ironically, ultimately brings the security we crave.  When we grow and begin to glow with the light of self love, love for others and compassion, we attract the things we want – whether it be a better job, a meaningful relationship, our passion for our family or our ability to give the best of ourselves in whatever we are involved in.

This teacher training was all about growth for me.  I am not a Kundalini Yoga instructor, I am not even a Kundalini Yoga practitioner. For years I have been teaching, practicing and studying Vinyasa yoga, with sprinklings of Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Iyengar Yoga.  In order to fully appreciate another form of yoga, I had to humble myself to learn a new form of teaching, a new language of spiritual development, a new path for my yogic practice.  As with anything that is special to us, a new format or teacher can feel threatening and have the opposite effect, making us cling even harder to what we know. Clinging and defending will have the opposite effect, closing you off to what is possible.  When you make space, things come. When you become empty, you leave room to be full.  I cannot go into the entire methodology of Kundalini Yoga in this post, there is tremendous research out there to demonstrate how it has changed peoples lives and put them on a path to growth and spiritual fulfillment.  I am just happy to have been part of it, if even just for a week.

In order to receive  my certificate from this teacher training, I have to complete 40 days of meditating first thing in the morning, followed by a cold (ish) shower. The meditation should last for at least 11 minutes. I have done it 2 consecutive days so far. I am so proud of myself!  I always wanted a consistent meditation practice, and now I am forging that path. I remind myself of what power there can be in stillness.  I feel myself manifesting the things I want and becoming more and more the person I would like to be.  I am not there yet, but hey, maybe I’ll just have to hop over to Kythera again next year 🙂  There are worse ways to discover what you want in life:)

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we receive that heals us.”  (O. Hobart Mowrer, 1966)

“Things do not change.  We change.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Bird of Paradise Week

Housekeeping for week of July 18th-24th:  Subbing at 92nd street Equinox, Sunday July 24th and 31st, 5:30pm Level 1/2 Vinyasa class.  This class will be a bit less strenuous in comparison to my Tuesday night level 2 class. This particular class has fantastic energy and a lovely assortment of local yogis.  It is without a doubt one of my favorites to sub.  Please come!  And be my guest if you are not a member.

Bird of Paradise week is over, which comes as a huge relief to the majority of my students. This week we worked on some serious hip openers culminating in a grand assortment of pigeon pose variations.  The post about this past week is on its way! If you missed Bird of Paradise week check out the details below:)

This week in class I decided to go with a theme. The theme for this week has been Bird of Paradise Week, both regular and revolved. Sanskrit: Svarga Dvidasana and Parvivrtta Svarga Dvidasana.  There was no particular reason for this theme other than to take advantage of the warm weather and explore some poses that require a generous amount of hip mobility, which is facilitated by the heat.  Below is a picture of the actual bird of paradise flower.  It is one of the most beautiful and inspiring forms of nature.   As I prepared the sequence for the class, I focused on three things: hip mobility, shoulder mobility and stance leg stability. These are the three most important elements to consider when attempting to perform either regular Bird of Paradise or the more challenging Revolved Bird of Paradise. Bird-of-paradise Flower Continue reading

This entry was posted on July 14, 2011. 2 Comments

Smarter than yesterday…

Good morning!  Housekeeping:  teaching today July 1st, 19th and Broadway Equinox, 1pm.  Teaching Monday July 4th 10am Soho, 1:15pm, Columbus Circle.  All Vinyasa, all Equinox.  All good!  Please come and if you would like to be my guest just let me know:)  I would be happy to have you!

This coming weekend we are celebrating July 4th, which for many of us is a great 3 day, or 4 day, or (super lucky folks) a 5 day weekend away from work or school and time to be with family, friends, neighbors, etc. But this July 4th maybe we can take a deeper look into the concept of freedom, what it means to be free, and how this relates or can potentially relate to our yoga practice.

For some of us, this past Friday June 24th was a highly significant day in history.  The New York State Legislature passed the Marriage Equality Act , shortly after which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law, becoming the 6th state and 7th jurisdiction in the United States to legalize same-sex marriage.  What was striking about the process as it unfolded in New York State, and particularly that Friday evening, is that we who watched it were witness to several highly courageous and significant statements. These statements were not coming from long time gay rights activists or those in the Senate hallways holding rainbow flags, amid the throngs of protesters who had been there for weeks indulging in their right to assemble.  No, these bold and inspiring statements were made by Republican senators who were formerly opposed to gay marriage, who this Friday changed their stance and by doing so, allowed their voices to have a tremendously positive impact on the future of civil rights in this country.

One of these senators, and I cannot remember if it was Stephen Saland or Mark Grisanti – forgive me – said that he realized on a fundamental level, that is it possible to be smarter today than you were yesterday.  This has stuck with me all week, as I find that as long as we are open to the learning process, we are always capable to becoming smarter, wiser, more fully connected and engaged with ourselves, our work, our relationships and our community.  When we allow this process to happen, we can see through concrete evidence via the political process displayed by the NY State Senate, that change is possible, even when the odds are against it, even when the choices require bravery, strength, depth of character and a true level of honesty about who we are, and what kind of person we would like to be.  

I have been practicing yoga since 1995. For years, perhaps, oh I’d say the past 7 or 8 years,  I struggled with – and presently still struggle with – doing a forearm stand (Pincha Mayurasana). You can see from the picture to the right that doing “fancy” or inverted postures is not entirely out of my range, but for some reason forearm stand has always eluded me.  I don’t have a picture of myself doing it because literally I cannot hold it for more than 2 seconds.  I happen to have a lot of mobility in my spine, which makes me prone to hyper-extending my back, especially in a pose like forearm stand, where precision and execution are crucial to obtaining and maintaining balance.  Forearm stand, as with any balance, requires that we maintain our center of gravity over our base of support.  The base of support in forearm stand are the forearms and elbows, while the center of gravity, for women the hips, for men the upper body, ascends over and upside down on top of the forearms.  How do we stabilize the center of gravity?  We use the muscles of the abdominal wall to stabilize the pelvis, and the muscles of the shoulder girdle to stabilize the upper body.  My struggle to stabilize has not deterred me from practicing my forearm stand regularly.  I typically fall or flip forward almost every time.  Then I get back up to try again, or attempt the other side. Sometimes I audibly sigh…

And then….

I did it!  Last night, in Derek’s class at Pure Yoga, I did a forearm stand and held it for 5 breaths.  I did not do a victory dance, as this would have not only been widely inappropriate, but also would have undermined what I knew deep down.  This was not some incredible turn of fortune, or some freak act of nature.  This was something I always had the capacity to do. The fact that I was able to do it after years of practice, patience and the occasional bout of frustration was just a reminder that yes, sometimes things seem tough and out of our reach.  Sometimes we need courage, strength and determination to get something accomplished.  But if that something is important to us, we will stay the course, find our focus, find our breath, and when the time comes, we will be ready to shine.  Wouldn’t you know that on the second side I was not able to hold it?  I flipped over, as usual, and Derek and I shared a laugh about it, as we both know its a game of inches, a process of trial and error, and the mere act of trying and falling is always better than not trying at all:)

Celebrate our collective freedom this weekend.  We have all grown as a society by witnessing the inspiring acts of a few brave senators who made a controversial choice and stepped out of their comfort zone on behalf of what they knew was the right thing to do.  It is possible to be smarter today than yesterday.  It is possible to accomplish something that for years has been out of your reach.  It is possible to embrace your freedom, take a risk, and be rewarded for your bravery, your faith in yourself and your willingness to listen to the voice in your head that says Go For It!  Whatever is your version of either forearm stand or voting for Same-Sex Marriage, embrace the challenge, feel the fear, open to the possibility and enjoy the ride.  Freedom!  It is a beautiful gift , residing within the heart and mind.  Unlock yours and see where the liberation takes you!  See you in class!

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we receive that heals us.”  O. Hobart Mowrer, 1966.

“Things do not change.  We change.”  Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

Continue reading

The L Word…

Housekeeping!: subbing Vinyasa Yoga this Friday 6/24 at two NYC Equinox locations: Columbus Circle at 7am, and again in Brooklyn Heights at 1pm.  I am also subbing July 1st at 1pm, 19th Street, as well as two classes July 4th, 10am in Soho and again 1:15pm at Columbus Circle.

Hello and Happy Summer! On Tuesday, June 14th,  class at Equinox Columbus Circle (6:30pm) was so much fun! There was so much work going on, everyone breathing deeply, working to get themselves into their asanas, it was truly inspiring. Anyone who teaches anything for a living understands one of the most undisputed, simple pleasures in life that is when a student says “Thank you”.

I have two “thank you” stories to tell in today’s blog post. Originally I was going to write about where we store our emotions in our bodies, and how that may help to explain areas of tightness as well as deepen our understanding of some of the fear we may encounter when attempting (or not attempting) to open those places, to expose that tightness, to work through some very well (or not so well) hidden pockets of anxiety, depression, sadness, grief, anger or other expression of emotional experience. I started to research this topic, and came upon two important discoveries. The first, and most important, is that the phenomenon of storing emotions in the body is a highly individual process that is different for everyone. It is common to think that we have all experienced tightness “stored”  in our upper neck and shoulders, most often based on stress. Here is what usually happens: either we hunch our shoulders as a result of spending long hours in front of the computer, which stresses us, which makes us hunch our shoulders more, or we are already stressed as we sit to the computer (computer being literal, or as a metaphor for “blank” = enter any stressful activity here).  Because we are preoccupied with our stress we succumb to some very faulty movement patterns that result in us having a rounded spine, compressed lumbar and cervical spine, maybe even headaches or migraines.  Couple this with the potential to spend long hours behind the wheel or otherwise commuting,  taking care of children or elderly parents, or just generally attempting to keep current with our ultra fast paced society and you have a perfect recipe for postural, structural and physiological disaster, i.e., a veritable warehouse of emotions “stored”…somewhere.

The second discovery was that this topic is so very vast and broad I will need more time, more research and more consultations with experts of various sorts in order to write a concise blog post about it.  Stay tuned:)

Instead, I have two stories to tell about two real people, who shall remain nameless and faceless.  These two folks serve to illustrate a beautiful point about the magic of yoga and its trans-formative power.  But why the “L” word Melinda?, you ask?  Read on…

My first story involves a student I will call “L”.  L is a young woman whose huge smile and sweet voice add to her already charming demeanor.  L came to class  bit early, so we chatted for a few minutes.  L was telling me about some of the amazing benefits of yoga she has experienced lately. She has been trying to lose weight, and has already lost a significant amount of weight(awesome!) She says yoga is the thing that has really helped her feel strong, toned, and more in touch with her body. Prior to coming to yoga, L didn’t see herself as a yogi. She said to me “I’m big, I’m black, I don’t do yoga!”  As we chuckled, mostly because of course she was very much in the here and now about to do yoga, but also because when we look back at some of our limiting beliefs about ourselves, which usually are contained within statements like “I’m too blank, blank, and blank (young, old, small, big, poor, rich, not good-enough, etc, fill in the blanks for yourself) to do that!”, we can see how silly it can be to box ourselves in to what we cant do, instead of opening ourselves up to what we might be able to do…

L took class,  L sweated in revolved half moon, in triangle, in modified chataranga, in standing bow pose, in high lunge, in low lunge…well, in just about every pose she practiced, L put her heart and soul into it, and out came the sweat, the fear, the trepidation. In place of fear and doubt were confidence, curiosity, questions, experiments, explorations and joy. Real true joy that comes when we say “I’m blank, blank and blank, and I do yoga! ” L finished her practice beaming like a ray of sunshine, and promptly gave me a huge hug and told me all about the stuff she never thought she would do, but that she did!  How about that….

The second story involves another student I will call S.  S had only taken my class once before, as I mentioned I took over for another teacher in a new time slot. S is a very advanced student who was happy with her practice led by the previous teacher.  Needless to say, sometimes when another instructor comes in and takes over, it can be jarring, or disappointing, especially if you feel that the quality of your practice might change, or things you have always had the opportunity to work on are no longer offered in class.  S poured through her practice like someone with laser sharp focus and intense amounts of dignity, integrity and attention to breath, form and flow.  As we moved through our sequence, I had no idea this was a person who might have been anxious about a new teacher, or who may have been questioning whether my class was going to be the right fit for her – all of which is completely natural and easy to understand given the circumstances.  We saw each other after class, and as she thanked me (there it is again, that wonderful offering of gratitude in two words), she also mentioned that she felt transformed.  Now, I play it cool like the rest of us…don’t stress when I see a celebrity, try not to call or text immediately after a great date, etc…but inside my head I was thinking “did she just say transformed????  that’s huge!  Omg:)”. 

And so, after two profound experiences of witnessing personal transformation, I thought of the title to this post..the L word.  What is the L word?  Love!  Of course.  It is love that is the driving force behind any transformation, behind any inkling we get to try something out of our comfort zone, any urging we get to take ourselves out of our box of what we think we can and cannot do, and into that beautifully vast abyss that is the world of what is limitless inside of us.  Love for self, love for yoga, love for new things, love for that rush of “feel good” that springs inside us when we look the fear monster in the eye and say Not Today.  This is what yoga can do for us.  Transform.  Love.  Power.

See you in class!

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we receive that heals us.”  O. Hobart Mowrer, 1966.

“Things do not change.  We change.”  Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

Hot!…Out there, isn’t it?

More pictures like this one can be found in the post entitled "Real Women do Yoga". All previous posts can be found be scrolling through the list to your right.

Housekeeping!  Subbing this Wednesday June 8th for Derek Beres, Equinox Soho:  Basics, 6:30-7:30pm, Level 2/3 7:30-8:45.  I can have one non-member guest:)

Holy hot!  Its getting very warm outside here in NYC, and that can mean several things.  You, like myself, may have just run out to get an assortment of cooling technology, in an effort to secure a good nights sleep in the wake of oppressive humidity.  You, like myself, may have also run out to upgrade your wardrobe to “what will work for both ridiculously hot, humid, sticky outside as well as freezing cold air conditioned inside”  clothes…and you may also, like myself, find that your schedule has opened up a bit and there are more opportunities than ever to maximize the fun days of summer that lie ahead.

One thing that I have always really enjoyed about the summer time is how deep I can get into some of the more challenging yoga poses I stumble across in my practice.  This is because muscles, joints and connective tissue respond very well to heat.  With heat there tends to be an increase in the elasticity of these structures in the body.  There are two forms of heat we can refer to.  One is external heat, not generated by us, but heat all the same.  This is akin to standing on the train platform waiting forever...and all of a sudden you are sweating.  Did you exert yourself?  Not necessarily, just your body is cooling itself off with sweat.  Then there is internal heat we create as a result of moving the body against gravity.  This is the kind of heat we create after a few rounds of sun salutations and perhaps some breath of fire.  This kind of heat is very useful to us in yoga practice.  This is also why it is recommended that one both inhale and exhale through the nose during asana practice:  this keeps the air warm, and limits the amount of hot air we can let escape.

Most people have a significant amount of tightness in their hips.  I know this through years of observation as both a personal trainer and yoga teacher. I also speak for myself:  I am fairly flexible and my hips always feel like they could use a stretch.  We use our hips for so much: walking, standing, sitting, biking, running, bending down, getting up, you name it and there is probably a degree of hip flexion or extension involved.  This is a good thing, as the hips were designed to be used in a variety of functions.  The hips become problematic when we use them more than we stretch them, or when we don’t stretch them at all (yikes!).

Lets look at a low lunge:

Low Lunge 'Anjaneyasana" Variation

Here we see that the left hip flexor is being stretched while the right one is flexed.  This is fine, knowing that we always do both sides in yoga practice. But imagine that either both hips are always flexed, as in sitting at a desk, on a plane, in a car, or otherwise, or that you run, bike or recreate with some sort of discrepancy in strength between your right and left side.  All sorts of compensatory movements and adjustments would take place in order for the body to regain balance as a whole. I digress a bit here but the point is that low lunge is a great hip flexor stretch and should always be done bi-laterally, or on both sides.

When stretching the hips, it can  be helpful to understand where your “neutral” is for your pelvis.  This is why at the beginning of most Vinyasa classes there are plenty of chances to discover this.  Often times we stand in Tadasana, or Mountain pose, to get a sense of balance and neutrality in the major joints and muscles.  In order for your pelvis to be neutral, stand with your hands on your waist and reach down towards your hips to feel for the highest and most bony prominence.  This is called your ASIS – (anterior superior illiac spine – sounds fancy but really just your hip bone in the front).  If your ASIS had light bulbs coming out of them ( which for MOST of us is not the case, hee hee…)  those light bulbs would be facing straight ahead. In other words, if your pelvis is out of alignment, the ASIS will in most cases point down, and less often will be pointing up or be tilted higher on one side than another.  As we create heat for the body and engage in a mindful practice of sun salutations, Warrior I and II, Lizard and Hanumanasana (split) pose, we can increase the range of our ASIS, by lengthening our psoas (hip flexor) and imagining our ASIS is pointing straight ahead as well as being level right to left.

Often we cannot get as deep as we need to, because the hips are not only highly used in our daily life, but they are a veritable warehouse of emotional buildup, so to speak.  Now I am really drifting off to an entirely different topic, that of the phenomena of storing emotions in various places in the body…Next week!  Suffice to say if you are one to loathe sharing emotions, or have a tendency to accommodate so that others may be happy at your expense, you just might have some tight hips, and releasing them may be a matter of going deep on both a physical and deeply rooted emotional level.  This requires bravery, compassion, empathy for yourself and for others, and patience.  Patience most of all, because we resist change, we fear change, we fear the unknown and the unseen.  But liberation is not something to take lightly.  Embrace the heat and go deep into your practice.  There is something amazing waiting for you on the other side of that journey.

“It is the truth we ourselves speak rather than the treatment we receive that heals us.”  O. Hobart Mowrer, 1966

“Things do not change.  We change.”  Henry David Thoreau, Walden