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Yoga Journal USA - May 2018

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PHOTOS BY CHRIS DOUGHERTY
Kat Fowler
on innovation in yoga
NYC yoga teacher Kat Fowler shares her perspective on where yoga is headed, her hope for the future,
and her tool for motivating her practice. Watch the full interview at yogajournal.com/katfowler
We’re at an amazing intersection of western medical knowledge and ancient eastern
practices. The more therapeutic and anatomical sides of yoga are becoming known because there are so many
people in the medical field that have seen the benefits of the practice with their patients. We’re lucky to have
medical professionals that want to devote time and research into incorporating yoga with western medicine.
As a teacher of movement you should be educated in the body, and that wasn’t always required.
I don’t think you need to be a doctor to teach yoga; that’s not our job. But I do think it’s extremely helpful to be
knowledgeable about physiology and anatomy when working with students.
Essential oils help you get “into the zone” to practice. I typically like Peppermint towards the
beginning of practice and Lavender towards the end. Over time, you begin to associate the scent with the
feeling of your practice. On those moments when you might not be in the mood to practice every day, the smell
of essential oils will get you there – “Oh, I remember how good I feel when I do this.”
I love using Nature’s Truth® essential oils because their oils are 100%
pure. I use essential oils topically quite a bit, their Focus Roll-On is great because
it’s already mixed with a base oil. It’s comforting to know that what’s going on my
body is what I see on the label. My new love is their mist product. I walk into the
studio and I can refresh the space with the Lavender Mist. Muscle Ease™ Mist is also
perfect for after practice because it has this nice cooling effect on your muscles,
like my shoulders and neck.
My hope for yoga is that it becomes more integrated into daily
life. With the popularity of yoga continuing to grow, ideally it will become more
and more integrated within medical and school systems. College in particular is a
great environment for yoga to spread. College students are at an age where people
are thinking for themselves and making choices about how they want to live their
lives. One day we’ll see yoga programs as mandatory in hospitals and schools.
C ON T E N T S
May 2018
features
32
Just Add
Crystals
Start working with these
six minerals—infused with
influential energy—and
watch your world light up.
By Devi Brown
40
The Dark Side
of Meditation
Contemplative practices
can unearth painful
memories and unease.
Here’s what you need
to know to avoid being
blindsided.
By Jessica Downey
72
The Ultimate
Guide to
Adjustments
By Jen Murphy
72
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
/ 2 / M AY 2018
JEFF NELSON
Senior teachers offer
perspective on hands-on
and hands-off assists and
trauma-informed yoga.
Plus, eight transformative
self-assists.
CONTENTS
M AY 2 0 1 8
22
24 49
19
49
live well
practice well
19 The Must List
49 The Sutra
Use these new props and you’ll never
go back to an unsupported practice.
Get a taste of the third chapter of
this sacred text—on progressing and
manifestation.
22 Teacher’s Table
Align Your Flow founder Natasha Rizopoulos turns a simple salad gourmet.
24 Wisdom
Sally Kempton offers seven core yogic
teachings to help you navigate change.
in every issue
67
53 Yogapedia
Alison West, director of the Yoga Union
Backcare & Scoliosis Center, teaches
moving from Dandasana to Urdhva
Mukha Svanasana.
61 Biomechanics
Get expert analysis on the physical
impacts of jumping back to Plank Pose
and Chaturanga Dandasana.
8
The Conversation
12
Dharma Talk
67 Home Practice
87
Living Well/Classifieds
87
Yoga Pages
88
Reflection
Yoga Vida teacher Kat Fowler delivers
a sequence of power poses for boosting
your confidence.
YOGA JOURN A L . CO M
/ 4 / M AY 2018
on the cover
67
16 poses for strong legs
53
A sequence to lift your mood
61
Anatomy for safe vinyasa
72
The ultimate guide to assists:
New advice for teachers & students
19, 72
Transform your practice with these
innovative props and poses
40 Expert tips to improve your
meditation experience
cover credits Erika Halweil in Utthita Trikonasana
(Extended Triangle Pose), variation; photographed
by Chris Fanning. Stylist: Sarah Parlow;
hair/makeup: Elisa Flowers/Bernstein & Andriulli;
top: Free People; bottoms: K-Deer
THE MINDFUL NUT
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YOGA J OURNA L . CO M
/ 6 / M AY 2018
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THE CONVERSATION
W I T H TA S H A E I C H E N S E H E R , B R A N D D I R E C T O R
Erika
Halweil
»
I started practicing vinyasa yoga
as a teenager. The style at that time,
in the early to mid-90s, was a vigorous,
breath-oriented form of vinyasa. Most
classes varied in their approach and
offered a wide range of asana. You never
knew what was coming. I had a teacher
back then who told me that yoga practice is a workshop for our lives; since
we don’t know what’s coming next in
life, we shouldn’t know what’s coming
next in our practice.
I later studied with as many different
teachers from as many different
traditions as I could. I wanted to
learn everything and then find ways
to incorporate those lessons into my
own teaching. Twelve years into my
practice, I landed on Ashtanga Yoga.
By the time I got there, I had all of this
amazing experiential information from
which I could draw. I already had a
relatively open and strong body, and
I had begun cultivating a relationship
to my breath. The funny part was that
my initial resistance to embracing
Ashtanga was due to the idea of a set
sequence. And yet, what I discovered—
continued on page 10
PHOTO: CHRIS FANNING; HAIR/MAKEUP: ELISA FLOWERS/BERNSTEIN & ANDRIULLI; CLOTHING: MODEL’S OWN
YJ’s cover model ponders
Ashtanga Yoga, modern-day
vinyasa, and how to navigate
the commercial yoga craze.
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ACROBATIC GYMNAST
THE CONVERSATION
W I T H TA S H A E I C H E N S E H E R , B R A N D D I R E C T O R
When I told my parents,
in 1998, that I was going
to be a yoga teacher, my
father said, “I think that’s
a bad idea; yoga has already
peaked.” Twenty years later,
we’re still laughing about
that conversation.
continued from page 8
almost immediately—was
that you can do the exact same
practice every day, and yet it
seems totally different and new;
it’s somehow both familiar
and unfamiliar. I realized
that’s actually more like daily
life than free-form vinyasa.
Every day I wake up, shower,
practice, eat, work, care for my
family, sleep, etc. Most days are
the same on paper, but at the
same time, each one is brand
new and completely different.
My practice determined
my life trajectory. I started
teaching before I graduated
college. I’ve never had any
other career, and I’ve never
needed to supplement this
career with any other work.
When I told my parents, in
1998, that I was going to be
a yoga teacher, my father said,
“I think that’s a bad idea; yoga
has already peaked.” Twenty
YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
years later, we’re still laughing
about that conversation.
In the age of corporate
everything, when profit is
more important than product,
we must all be wary. I tell my
students that now, more than
ever, it has fallen on them
(the seekers) to work hard to
make sure they understand the
intention and the true message
of yoga. Yoga is a complete
system, and when practiced
sincerely, without interruption,
over a long period of time, the
result is an improved quality of life. If practices, such
as pranayama or the study of
yogic philosophy, are removed
from the balanced whole, it
can lead to a state of imbalance
rather than peace. Read Erika’s Dharma Talk
on tapas and the importance
of practice on page 12.
/ 10 / M AY 2018
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DHARMA TALK
The art of discipline
Finding Ashtanga
Yoga helped teacher
Erika Halweil tap the
power of tapas and
a daily practice.
practice—began to shift in my late
20s. When I was 29 years old, going
through a painful divorce, I was
forced to make a new home for myself and my 18-month-old daughter
(our home was in foreclosure, as
I was one of the many affected by
the big mortgage crisis of 2008).
I no longer felt supported by my
daily asana and pranayama practices. For the first time, my senses
seemed clouded and dulled. Instead
of coming to the mat care- and painfree, I found myself overwhelmed
by the activity in my mind and the
discouragement in my heart—and
I was distracted by an unfamiliar
fatigue and achiness.
Fortunately, fate guided me right
back to my mat. I had already been
teaching yoga for nearly a decade at
this point, and I had been exposed
to Ashtanga Yoga on several occasions. But after I had been strongly
influenced against it by one of my
most beloved teachers, I had reacted
to it with aversion and judgment.
Yet, at this particular moment in
my life, this practice felt like home.
I appreciated the quiet. I was
soothed by the even rhythm. I felt
supported by the detailed structure.
In this system, you use your
breath to link postures in a precise
order, and you use your gaze to rest
your attention in a specific place.
With daily practice, I realized very
quickly that asana practice is not
so much about the various postures
that come and go, but rather how
continued on page 14
YOGA JOURN A L . CO M
/ 12 / M AY 2018
OEKKA.K/SHUTTERSTOCK
THE GENERALLY EFFORTLESS
RHYTHM of my life—and my yoga
DHARMA TALK
continued from page 12
we utilize our even, continuous
breathing and steady gaze to stay
engaged in action and sustain focus. When we practice in this way,
we can more productively greet
the mild anxiety that often comes
up when we try new and challenging things—ultimately learning
how to observe and respond rather
than judge and react.
Of course, this is easier said
than done. Our bodies can distract
us with aches, pains, and cravings;
our breath can be shallow, erratic,
and labored. And our minds are
usually wild with thoughts—
jumping all over the place—and
often riddled with fear. How can
you simply drop into the practice
and steady your breath and mind,
regardless of how you are feeling
or what has happened that day?
When my inability to focus
and my tendency toward distraction became too profound, I realized that I needed to get out of
my head. Instead of following the
movement of my mind, I directed
my attention to my senses.
In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali
explains that the key to mental
purification is tapas—disciplined
effort, which produces a cleansing
heat. When one’s mind and body
are purified through tapas, the
heart is free to shine.
Tapas is our willingness to use
body, breath, and mind to begin
an ungluing process—to make
a sacrificial fire of ourselves. This
fire can be uncomfortable, so
tapas also refers to the ability to
cultivate and sustain the capacity
for the hard work that helps us
overcome challenges and setbacks. One of the ways yoga helps
us practice this discipline and
create the friction and subsequent
heat required for change is by giving our senses something to focus
on so they don’t run wild and tear
our minds apart.
Asana (relating to our sense
of touch) are designed to soften
us and help us release fear, pain,
and doubt. In this system, we are
continued on page 16
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
/ 14 / M AY 2018
CHRIS FANNING
Erika Halweil
Tapas is our
willingness
to use body,
breath, and
mind to begin
an ungluing
process—
to make
a sacrificial
fire of
ourselves.
From
beginning
to
end
support
all
the
way
through.
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DHARMA TALK
continued from page 14
2018
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encouraged to remain still, without fidgeting, for the length of the posture. This
resistance to fidgeting requires thought
and continuous effort and creates heat.
We breathe through the nose, with
sound, into the entirety of the rib cage,
chest, and back, while the mouth remains
closed. This structured, even breathing
(relating to our sense of sound, smell, and
taste) also requires thought and effort
and adds to the fire we are building. The
breath is a constant reminder that things
come and things go, and resistance to
this is futile.
Our sense of sight in yoga is supported and strengthened by the gaze. We are
encouraged to rest our eyes softly, in one
place, to help focus the mind. As we help
our sense organs to focus, we burn away
distraction and become more sensible
and more sensitive. This has an effect on
our relationship with the world. We begin
to cultivate discernment that will help
further our spiritual pursuits through
better choices.
It was the clear structure of the
Ashtanga practice; the explicit, immediate goal of cultivating deep, purifying
heat; and clear instruction to consciously
direct all of my senses to being present
that was most liberating as I dealt with
the challenges of my late 20s.
The heat that I cultivated brought a
youthful suppleness to my body. All of the
details and support allowed for freedom
from the heaviness of my mind. The relief
I received on the mat allowed for an
effortless return to my enjoyment of
sacred texts, pranayama, chanting, and
meditation practices. Very soon thereafter, as is always the way, the dark clouds
passed, and I was left with a deeper
understanding of why we take the time
to practice each day—to make ourselves
ever more receptive to the divine gifts all
around and within us. October 2018
Tra u m a S e n s i t i ve
Hampton . GA
Erika Halweil is a yoga teacher in
New York. Learn more about her at
erikahalweilyoga.com.
Visit us at www.yogafaith.org/YJ
or TEXT 253-299-4306
for more information!
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
/ 16 / M AY 2018
Burning away
distraction
and becoming
more sensible
and more
sensitive
has an effect
on our
relationship
with the
world.
THE FUTURE OF YOGA
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L IV E
well
the
Must List
Innovative props and gear to support your yoga practice.
4
1
2
FROM LEFT: COURTESY OF SMITH OPTICS; COURTESY OF HIDRATE;
COURTESY OF AMIR ZAKI @UNDER_FULL_MOON_LIGHT; STARK PHOTOGRAPHY
3
1 SWEETER SUNNIES
Smith Lowdown Focus
Sensors embedded in the
nose pads and temples
of these shades measure
your brain waves. Data is
sent to an app that helps
you track when your mind
achieves a state of calm,
ultimately helping you to
drop in faster over time
($349, smithoptics.com).
2 HIGH-TECH
HYDRATION
Hidrate Spark 2.0
Need a reminder to stay
replenished? This bottle
tracks your water intake
and glows when you need
more. It also syncs with fitness trackers, helping
remind you to drink when
you’re on the move ($55,
hidratespark.com).
MAY 2018
3 ASSIST THYSELF
Cotton Infinity Strap
4 BACKLESS BEAUTY
Yogi Chair
Say goodbye to metal
buckles that come undone
and dig at your skin. This
yoga belt, designed in the
shape of an infinity symbol, can be used in place
of a regular strap when
practicing most poses
($21, infinitystrap.com).
The traditional Iyengar
Yoga chair gets an
upgrade with a cushioned
seat, nonslip handle,
and sleek new look
thanks to vinyasa yoga
teacher Allison Matt
($70, yogichair.com).
/ 19 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
THE MUST LIST
LIVE WELL
From our
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5 SEATED-POSE
SUPPORT Earth to
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6 MULTIPURPOSE
PROP Clever Yoga
Balance Pad 7 SOOTHING TUNES
Solu N.O.W. Tone
Therapy System
Secure this machinewashable linen wrap
around your legs
during seated meditation or restorative
poses for gentle hugging pressure that’ll
keep you comfortable
($47 USD, $60 CAD
earthtoethers.com).
Standing on this rubber
pad challenges your
core during balance
poses; slide it under
your knees for extra
support or place it in
front of you during arm
balances to cushion
any tumbles ($34,
cleveryoga.com).
These speakers play pure
sine-wave tones (similar
to meditation bells) with
sequences that vary—so
your brain won’t predict,
or attach to, the music
as you meditate ($149,
nowbysolu.com).
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YO GA JO U R NA L . CO M
/ 20 / M AY 2018
FROM TOP: JAMIE MUNRO OF WHISPER MEDIA; GRATEFUL GORDONS;
COURTESY OF JADE MOEDE
7
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 22 / M AY 2018
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WISDOM
LIVE WELL
Nav igate change
w ith grace
These seven core yogic teachings can support you
through radical life shifts and times of uncertainty. continued on page 26
By Sally Kempton
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
you start practicing yoga and meditation,
you invite major changes into your life.
Those changes start from within: Maybe
your practice alters the way you define
personal integrity; maybe it unleashes
a deep longing in your heart or shows you
truths you’ve been hiding from yourself.
Soon, these inner shifts seep into
your external life. They make you question the way you do things and nudge
you to live life differently. You may
notice that your practice has triggered
a mysterious process that I call “karmic
acceleration.” In other words, having
a yoga practice tends to speed up the
way your relationships and life scenarios
play out. So instead of putting up with
an unhappy relationship or an unsatisfying job for, say, 10 years, you may find
yourself bulldozing through it in two.
And not because you’re flaky.
Most of us who practice yoga will,
at some point, find ourselves facing internally motivated choices that can radically
alter our lives. That’s when we need to
learn how to bring our practice off the
mat so it can help us birth the emerging
self that change promises to bring forth—
and support us as we work through the
fear and confusion that change can bring.
I think of all this as I listen to Rita,
the 37-year-old owner of a yoga studio
in Pennsylvania, who has been contemplating divorce for nearly five years. Her
18-year marriage has long felt emotionally dead. She and her husband rarely
spend time together, and when they do,
they tend to argue over issues big and
small. Part of the problem is that their
lives don’t match: She’s a dedicated yogi
and environmentalist; he thinks spiritual
practice is a big yawn and that climate
change is unproven. It’s been years since
/ 24 / M AY 2018
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WISDOM
LIVE WELL
Our 100th!
continued from page 24
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YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 26 / M AY 2018
they’ve talked about anything other than
household matters and their teenage
daughter. Yet to break up the marriage
would be to end life as she knows it. After
nearly 15 years out of the mainstream job
market, Rita is not sure how she would
cope financially, much less run her yoga
studio without her husband’s support.
Then, of course, there is her daughter’s well-being to consider. So although
her gut has been telling her she needs to
create a different life, Rita is seized with
terror when she thinks about what it
would mean to get divorced. And so she
puts it off.
I am a veteran of several radical lifescenario changes, so it’s not hard for me
to imagine how she feels. In my mid-20s,
I ended an unhappy marriage; in my late
20s, I left a perfectly satisfactory journalism career and my family and friends to
live in a spiritual community; 30 years
later, I felt called to leave that community, move across the country, and begin
an entirely new life.
In two of those situations, it took
me several years to take the plunge. I
wanted to be sure I was doing the right
thing. And let’s face it, life change is
scary, especially when other people’s
lives are involved and you don’t know
what is waiting on the other side. Even
contemplating a divorce, a career change,
or a cross-country move can bring up
core survival fears, which may surface in
many ways: as health issues, nightmares,
escapist behaviors such as overeating,
lingering indecision, or a counterphobic
tendency to leap out of the situation
without a plan—just to get the whole
thing over with.
Believe it or not, these core survival
fears rise up even when the radical life
change is positive. Stress studies show
that life-enhancing events, like getting
married, starting a new job, or finally
getting a longed-for opportunity, are
often just as stressful as negative ones
(think of a bride breaking down in tears
before her wedding, or of the young man
who dropped out of a prestigious graduate program at Columbia because he
missed his life in San Francisco).
Remember that letting go—
moment by moment—can itself
be the inner key to navigating
positive and radical change.
In other words, change can be
scary, even when you’ve initiated it
yourself. What if people get hurt? How
will you live with yourself if your choice
turns out to be a disaster? Do you have
the skills to deal with the confusion and
chaos of the process? These questions
paralyze Rita, and they’re the kinds
of questions that will sometimes keep
us lingering in stagnant or painful situations until an outside force makes
the move for us.
Yoga—in its widest sense—can give
us the strength and insight we need
to navigate the most radical forms of
change. Equally as important as the
practices of yoga are some of yoga’s
basic (and highly applicable) teachings—the recognition that we affect
the exterior by working on the interior,
that behind the diversity of life lies
a fundamental oneness, that real
strength is found in stillness, and that
our true Self is not the shifting, fearful,
egoic person that it sometimes seems
to be.
One test of your yoga practice is
how well it serves you during a time
of big change. Yogic teachings won’t
necessarily keep you from feeling
scared, overwhelmed, or confused. But
they can rise up within you like a wise
friend to guide you through those feelings so that you don’t get lost in them.
They can even help you avoid getting
mired in indecision or jumping impulsively without thinking things through.
Over the years, I’ve formed the habit
of turning inward during times of transition and confusion and asking for
a helpful teaching. Much of the time,
the same teachings come up again and
again. Below, I offer you seven core
yogic instructions that will help you
navigate radical change.
Build A Deeper
Practice
1 Know that change is inevitable
The Buddhist Doctrine of Impermanence, annica, tells us that change is
inevitable, continuous, and unavoidable. Everything changes. Just realizing
that fact can protect you from turning
to that most disempowering of reactions to change: “Why me?”
What the Buddhists call impermanence, a Tantric yogi would ascribe to
the ever-changing nature of shakti—
the intrinsic, dynamic power at the
heart of life. Shakti is the cosmic, divine
feminine energy that continually brings
things into manifest being, keeps them
going for a while, then dissolves them.
Every moment, every enterprise, every
cell, is part of this flow of creation,
sustenance, and dissolution. This
flow is happening on a macrocosmic
level—as the flow of seasons, tides,
and cultures—and on a microcosmic
level, through the various shifts in your
physical states, the ups and downs of
your life, and the flow of thoughts and
emotions in your mind. If you understand the divine nature of the process
of change, it becomes easier to greet
change with honor, surrender to it,
and even partner with it as you continue on your path.
2 View the change as an initiation
In traditional societies, every phase of
life was regarded as an initiation into
a new way of being and was marked
with a ceremony that often asked the
initiates to step into the unknown in
some way, whether it was observing a
prayer vigil, spending the night in dark-
MAY 2017
/ 27 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
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WISDOM
LIVE WELL
ness, or answering questions that tested
their skills. Nowadays, we don’t always
do a ceremony, but we still undergo initiations. Changing careers, moving to a new
city, and deciding to go back to school are
all initiatory experiences because they
ask you to step outside your habits, test
your skills, and, for a time, inhabit the
unknown. Each of these changes will subtly, or even dramatically, redefine you.
You won’t be quite the same person after
you step out of the old situation and
into the new. The change itself, if you
go through it consciously, is the doorway
into the next stage of growth—one that
propels you into a deeper relationship
with yourself and the world.
An example: Twenty-four-year-old
Frances accepted a job offer to teach
English in Seoul, South Korea, then
freaked out when she got there, overwhelmed by loneliness and culture shock.
What persuaded her to stay was recognizing the ways in which being a foreigner
freed her from old self-descriptions and
helped her find a new way of being herself.
Similarly, when your life is changing,
consider the ways in which the change will
expand you, teach you about yourself, and
show you both your limits and your capacity to move beyond them. The more you
can accept this as an initiation process,
the easier it will be to discover the gifts
of change.
3 Meditate through uncertainty
The deep uncertainty that arises during
processes of change is perhaps the most
daunting part of the experience. Why?
Because a true process of change will involve surprises, reversals, false starts, and
periods of coming to a dead halt. In these
moments, you’re likely to experience fear,
anxiety, anger, irritability, sadness, grief,
and the physical and psychological contraction that often goes along with feeling
uncertain and unclear. Your gut tightens,
and your mind begins spinning one of your
victim stories: your worst-case-scenario
story, your “I just don’t have what it takes”
story, or your “I’ll never get what I need”
story. And your next move is nearly always
some form of escape. You turn on the TV, or
eat something, or call a friend to complain.
But the real antidote to the discomfort
of uncertainty is to move into it rather
than away from it. You connect to the
way the discomfort feels in your body.
You let yourself feel it. You let go of the
story that inevitably accompanies feelings
of discomfort. And you just stay present
with yourself and with your feelings, without resistance or expectation. The more
you can be present with uncertainty, the
more you can let the change process take
place naturally and effectively.
It’s much easier to stay steady through
a life-changing process when you have
a meditation practice, because meditation teaches you how to keep going back
into your center—the core awareness that
is your contact point with the Self and
aligns your individual consciousness with
the heart of the universe. Your meditation
practice can be as simple as attending to
the breath or repeating a mantra, or as
subtle as tuning in to the awareness that
knows what you’re thinking, or as physically centering as breathing into your heart.
The important thing is that it connects
you to your innate sense of being—to the
Presence inside you.
4 Uncover your truest desire
Self-inquiry, or atma vichara, is the core
yogic process for navigating change. It’s
a simple but effective process of asking
yourself core questions such as, “What is
my true desire in this situation?” or “What
outcome would be the best for everyone?”
As answers surface, write them down.
Next, sit for a moment in meditation,
One of the positive byproducts
of making a life change is the
opportunity it gives you to
practice vairagya, or letting go.
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 28 / M AY 2018
following your breath, until you feel a
sense of connection to Presence. Say to
yourself, “May my deeper Self, the teacher
inside me, tell me what is the right thing
to do.” Then ask yourself the self-inquiry
questions again, and write down whatever
responses come up, even if some of them
seem irrelevant.
Now, look at what you’ve written,
and look for common threads that give
you a sense of what your deeper Self wants
for you. Getting in touch with your deepest, truest desires will help you organize
the entire change process.
5 Set a strong intention
The next step is to make a sankalpa—
a clearly articulated, affirmative statement about what you intend to do. When
you make a true sankalpa, you call on
the power of your personal will and align
it with the cosmic will. If you have gone
through the self-inquiry process and have
a sense of what your true desire is, you
should be able to make a sankalpa that is
in line with your truest wish. The deeper
the alignment between your core desire
and your intention, the more likely you are
to successfully initiate a change that supports that alignment.
That said, it’s important to recognize
that your sankalpa will change according
to the time and circumstance. At one point,
the sankalpa may be, “I have a job that
I love and that allows me to spend time
with my children.” At another time it may
be, “I am skillfully creating steppingstones
to finding a new home.” At another time
it may be, “I am healing my body and
my spirit.”
Notice that each of these sankalpas is
stated in the present tense. That’s because
a sankalpa is not merely a wish or even
a statement of purpose. It’s an articulation
of direction that brings your goal into the
present moment. What gives a sankalpa
its strength is that it assumes that the
outcome you intend to manifest is not
just certain but has already occurred.
6 Take action, one step at a time
The very heart of the practice of yoga
is abhyasa—steady effort in the direction
you want to go. So when you are initiating
a life change, consider the steps you need
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continued from page 28
to take to make it happen using the technique of self-inquiry. Rita, for example,
has to consider steppingstones to a different life. She asks herself, “Where will
I live? Who will be my friends and support
group? How will we help our daughter
cope with the changes? What other sources
of income do I have besides the studio?
How will I pay the studio rent if my husband can’t or won’t?” Thinking through
her options and the possibilities helps her
settle her fears and devise a plan, even
though she doesn’t have all the answers
to her questions yet.
Once you’ve thought things through,
it’s crucial to take action. Effective abhyasa,
in the yoga of life change, is to take things
one step at a time so you avoid feeling
overwhelmed. Consider Rita’s plan for
gaining financial independence from
her husband. Her first step is to increase
her workload with private yoga clients.
Her second step is to take a course in conflict resolution, an area in which she has
worked in the past. These actions will give
her the sense of financial stability and the
confidence to begin talking to her husband
about a divorce. Like Rita, as you take your
first small steps, you’ll usually find that
each step leads to another and that opportunities begin to show up in response.
7 Practice letting go
One of the positive byproducts of making
a life change, from a yogic perspective, is
the opportunity that it gives you to practice
vairagya, which is usually translated as
“detachment,” or letting go. That means
letting go of the past; letting go of the
way that things used to be; letting go of
your fear, your grief, your old relationship,
your old job.
But you don’t want to let go in a “hard”
way, forcing yourself to be a samurai of
change. Instead, let yourself grieve the
losses or feel the anxiety. Then breathe out
and imagine that whatever you’re holding
onto is flowing out with your breath. Offer
MAKE WAVES
WITH YOUR YOGA PRACTICE
it to the universe with a prayer—something
simple like, “I offer this change and everything associated with it. May the results be
of benefit to all beings.” You do this again
and again, until you experience the feeling
of freedom that comes with real vairagya.
In my experience, just remembering
to let go—moment by moment—can by
itself be the inner key to navigating positive
and radical change. In fact, if all you
learn from your change process is a little
bit of letting go, you’ll have received one
of the great gifts of change—and you’ll be
one giant leap closer to living the life of
your dreams. Story originally published in October 2011.
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YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
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Learn more at sallykempton.com.
/ 30 / M AY 2018
JUST
ADD
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
/ 32 / M AY 2018
We could all use a little
magic in our lives. That’s
why YJ is having a love
affair with crystals—
beautiful objects infused
with the earth’s healing
energy. Not a believer?
Read on to learn more
about their secret powers.
Story by Devi Brown
Photography by Jennifer Olson
CRYSTALS HAVE THE AMAZING
ABILITY to help connect us with the
energy of the universe. They were formed
in the earth’s surface millions (or even
billions) of years ago, typically during
periods of change—and like everything
else in this world, they retain the vibrations of the planet. Energy and wisdom
from the beginning of existence resides
inside each mineral. We’re able to harness
that energy for ourselves by wearing
crystals, holding them, placing them in
our homes, and even carrying them with
us. Their energy can aid us in transforming ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Humans have been drawn to
crystals for thousands of years. Kings
and queens used them for protection,
shamans use them for healing, watchmakers use quartz to tell time, and scientists use them in microchips.
If you feel drawn to a crystal, it’s likely
one you can utilize in your life. When
you find the right minerals for you, their
energy will work in harmony with yours
to enhance your life and reveal things
that have been previously out of reach.
On the following pages, you’ll find a few
crystals to get you started.
MAY 2018
/ 33 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
Find deep
healing with
KYANITE OFFERS POWERFUL EMOTIONAL HEALING through
self-examination and intuitive guidance. It helps to create energy
bridges that allow us to cross over painful emotions that have
kept us stagnant and stuck. On a subtle level, working with this
crystal helps cut through patterns of self-destruction, negative
self-talk, and emotional masochism. Kyanite also supports
perseverance, fairness, and discernment. It is great for the brain
and the throat. For this reason, it is especially good for singers
and those in leadership positions.
COLOR Sky blue with a translucent pearly sheen.
HOW TO USE IT Keep kyanite with you as jewelry or a touchstone
when speaking publicly or leading group activities. For lucid
dreaming, sleep with kyanite under your pillow. Meditate with
it to experience yin-yang balance. Kyanite cannot contain or
accumulate negative energy, so this is one of the few minerals
that never needs cleansing and can be used to charge other
crystals in your collection—simply by placing them together.
Release bad
habits with
THE NAME AMETHYST STEMS FROM the ancient Greek word amethystos, which translates as “not intoxicated.” For centuries, this
crystal has represented self-control and sobriety. Known to help
people overcome unhealthy habits, amethyst works its magic by
uncovering the deeper-rooted issues that initially led to addiction, and it aids in understanding and releasing them.
When using this mineral, expect to have many aha moments,
as it creates a free-flowing pathway between you and the divine
energy of the universe. Amethyst surrounds us with a light of protection as it encourages spiritual exploration and self-discovery.
It can also help us overcome fears, access wisdom, and defend
against stress and negative energy while you find supportive and
stable environments in which to grow, strengthen your immune
system, and bring balance to the brain and nervous system.
COLOR Light violet to deep mauve.
HOW TO USE IT Wear amethyst jewelry as protection against
addictive behavior. Place it in your home for stability and
support. Meditate with amethyst to unveil unseen motives and
reasoning behind certain behaviors. Place a piece of amethyst
under your pillow to help with insomnia, and rub a tumbled
or polished pieced on your forehead to dissipate headaches.
MAY 2018
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Balance
with
CLEAR QUARTZ HELPS BALANCE ENERGY, enhance focus, and bring clarity to its user. This
is a simplifier crystal, which means that it will amplify any energy or intention it is around and
connects with. For this reason, you can use it in conjunction with other minerals in your collection
as a meditation tool. Clear quartz stimulates the body—especially the nervous system. It supports
hair and fingernail growth and is thought to be a master healer, useful for healing many types
of ailments. In addition, it can help soothe pain from injury, burns, and severe headaches.
COLOR Colorless; can be cloudy or glasslike.
HOW TO USE IT If you’re working, keep it prominently displayed on your desk or in your office to
stimulate clear thinking, focus, and clarity. Since clear quartz is an energy purifier, it can be beneficial
to place it in high-traffic areas, like an entryway or living room. Meditating with clear quartz can help
you access higher realms of spirituality because of its ability to clear energy pathways. It opens up
the spirit to higher guidance. Though clear quartz does not store negative energy because it is an
amplifier crystal and a powerful conduit of energy, it is important to charge and cleanse it regularly.
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
/ 36 / M AY 2018
Crystal care
Because crystals are conduits of
energy and intention, it is important
to cleanse your new finds to rid them
of any previous intent.
1 SOAK Add ½ tsp of sea salt to every
cup of alkaline water in a glass bowl and
stir. Add your crystal, making sure it is submerged. Close your eyes and, with your
hands hovering over the bowl, set the
intention for the salted water to remove any
negative energy from the crystals. Let your
crystal soak overnight, remove, then rinse.
2 SMUDGE Hold the crystal in your
hand and light a bundle of sage or palo
santo wood until it smolders. Wave the
smoke back and forth over the crystals.
Then extinguish the embers.
3 SOUND OFF Place your crystal close
to a singing bowl and lightly strike it three
times. Then glide the mallet around the
outer rim of the bowl repeatedly.
4 RECHARGE Leave your crystal in the
sun all day or overnight in the moonlight
if it hasn’t reconnected to the earth in a
long time.
CRYSTAL CART Find your perfect mineral on
Elena Brower’s new website sacredsimple.com
for out-of-this-world earthly specimens. These
responsibly sourced gemstones and crystals
range from $30—$13,500.
BLUE LACE AGATE CAN HELP with communicating spiritual ideas. This crystal helps enhance
mental function and encourages deep spiritual understanding and growth. Its calming and balancing
energy soothes overactive minds and imaginations, so it’s often recommended for children who have
trouble falling asleep and telling the truth. In general, agates have been thought to operate at a slower
vibrational frequency than other crystals. In this case, slower does not mean less powerful. Agate energy
is extremely strengthening, and it can provide lasting and firm vibrations. Its flow of even energy can help
bring harmony to the minds of busy parents and households. It’s a great gift for new moms and dads!
And connection to the throat chakra makes its physical healing properties especially beneficial for healing
laryngitis, sore throats, and speech problems.
COLOR A mix of pale sky-blue and white with a banded appearance.
HOW TO USE IT Because of its mild vibration, place this crystal in any part of your home that can benefit
from a calming and gentle energy. When placed under your pillow at night, blue lace agate acts as a calming
agent for an overstimulated mind. Meditate with this stone to help manifest new methods of growth and
expression. Wear it around your neck, as a choker, to accelerate healing for any throat ailments.
MAY 2018
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Attune
with
Access
vitality with
CARNELIAN IS A STONE OF ACTION and vibrant
passion, most often used for accelerated healing
and increased vitality. It brings with it a powerful
vibration of sexual energy and bold action. This
crystal is all about getting your body and mind
moving with a surge of vital energy so that you can
heal yourself on a physical level and accomplish
your goals on a mental one. Carnelian is great for
metabolism, vitamin absorption, regeneration of
tissues, thyroid issues, and cleansing the blood.
It can also be extremely helpful in detoxing from
alcohol and drug use. Because of its strong ability
to bring the energy of acceleration into your life,
carnelian has been known to help in areas of love
as well, and it can be used as a tool for reigniting
passion and romance. It uses its fire energy to bring
passion to the spaces it is in, revitalizing sexual
energy, pleasure, and courage. Carnelian also helps
fight fatigue, laziness, apathy, and depression. It
can also be used for protection against envy, jealousy,
and negative emotions.
COLOR Fiery red-orange with a vibrant glow.
HOW TO USE IT Ancient Greeks and Romans
wore this stone as a form of protection against sin.
Place it near your front door for protection and a
welcoming of abundance. Keep a small piece with
you for accelerated healing when feeling ill. If you’re
looking to add passion in the bedroom, keep it near
the bed during intimacy—though be careful to
remove it before falling asleep because carnelian’s
powerful energy can interrupt slumber. Meditate
with this mineral to help break through limiting
thoughts and bring your intentions to fruition.
Awaken
with
SHIVA LINGAM REPRESENTS INNER TRANSFORMATION and kundalini awakening (a major shift in
energy and consciousness). Shiva lingam is all about reaching heightened levels mentally, spiritually,
and sexually. Over the centuries, it has been thought to hold ancient knowledge of the universe and
enlightened consciousness. For that reason, it is often used during sacred rituals and has been an object
of worship by different communities over time. For centuries, this mineral has been worshiped as a tool
to create enhanced sexual ability and as a fertility aid. It can also be useful for menopause, impotence,
and sexual imbalances. Shiva lingam is a very sacred stone for those who practice Hinduism; its name
is derived from the Hindu god Shiva.
COLOR Khaki gray with dark-brown stripes and swirls.
HOW TO USE IT Utilize shiva lingam in the bedroom, displayed on the nightstand, or on a table facing
the bed. When meditating with this crystal, expect to experience transformative levels of meditation. YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
/ 38 / M AY 2018
Mix it up
Thousands of years ago, healers and beauticians
used crystals as part of their beauty regimens,
as cures for ailments, and for manifesting desires.
They would crush up stones into powders for the
skin and steep crystals in water to make what are
known today as “essences.” Crystal essences can be
applied topically as part of a skin-care routine, ingested as a drink, added to a bath, or used as room spray.
Just like the minerals themselves, each essence has
a specific vibrational energy. By using an essence,
you allow the healing properties of the crystal it’s
made from to work on you from the inside out.
THE RULES
Use a base: water is for drinking essences and oil is
for topical ones.
Use clean, polished stones so you don’t leave any
debris in your essence.
Some crystals have toxic properties, so research
carefully (the stones we list here are safe to use).
Don’t mix more than two different types of crystals.
THE RECIPE
Step 1 Fill a sterilized glass vessel with 16 oz of water
or carrier oil (grape seed, jojoba, or coconut).
Step 2 Gently place crystals into the liquid with a
wooden spoon.
Step 3 Set your intention for the essence (for example,
“Help me open my heart to emotional healing”).
Step 4 Place the glass vessel and its contents in direct
sunlight or moonlight (7 hours for water-based
essences, 24 hours for oil-based essences).
Step 5 Remove crystals with a wooden spoon.
Step 6 Fill a glass dropper or spray bottle with the
essence and either use it immediately or store it in the
refrigerator (water-based essences are good for a few
days, while oil-based ones have a longer shelf life).
POTENT COMBINATIONS
Essence for emotional healing Amethyst and kyanite
Essence for balance Clear quartz and blue lace agate
Essence for vital energy Carnelian and shiva lingam
Devi Brown is an American radio and television personality.
She is the author of Crystal Bliss: Attract Love, Feed Your
Spirit, Manifest Your Dreams (Adams Media, 2017), and the
founder of Karma Bliss, a retail and lifestyle brand specializing in tools designed to kick-start your self-discovery journey.
See more at devibrown.com or karmabliss.com.
Excerpted from Crystal Bliss: Attract Love. Feed Your Spirit. Manifest Your
Dreams by Devi Brown. Copyright © 2017 Adams Media, a division of Simon
and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
MAY 20 18
/ 39 / YO GA JO U R NA L . CO M
The
DARK
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
/ 40 / M AY 2018
SIDE
of
MEDITATION
Meditation is often portrayed as a cure-all for mental, emotional, and
physical well-being. But it is also capable of unearthing painful memories
and general unease, which can be frightening or unnerving, especially
if you’re caught off guard. What do you need to know to avoid being
blindsided by meditation′s potential negative effects? Start here.
Story by Jessica Downey // Photography by Jeff Nelson
MAY 2018
/ 41 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
the ordeal ended in 2014,
Jane Miller * was haunted
by her stalker, a man she
had initially befriended,
but who then tormented
her and threatened her
life. The nightmare was
tumultuous for Miller
and her husband, and the
cloud of sadness, shame,
fear, and anxiety had a
devastating effect on her
life. She fought the urge
to stay in bed all day.
Blinds closed and curtains
drawn, she kept even the
tiniest sliver of sunlight
from penetrating her
fortress. She only left her
house for necessities.
* Name has been changed for privacy.
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
Miller’s psychiatrist diagnosed her with post-traumatic
stress and depressive disorders.
Her therapist recommended that
alongside regular therapy sessions she take a 12-week mindfulness meditation class to help
her reclaim her life. Knowing she
needed to do something to find
peace of mind, she signed up and
started the class full of hope.
Yet when she sat on her mat
for the first time as the teacher
began the class, her anxiety rose
to the surface. She started sweating. Her heart began to race, and
she was gripped by debilitating
fear. “When class started that
/ 42 / M AY 2018
first day, a lot of negative selftalk flooded in. I closed my eyes,
and silent tears started streaming down my face—and they
wouldn’t stop. I felt so afraid;
I didn’t want to open my eyes,”
Miller recalls. “I was having a
micro-flashback. It would tug at
me, saying, ‘Remember this happened,’ or, ‘Remember, you did
this.’ I didn’t have the necessary
tools to work through traumatic
flashbacks at that point.”
Despite the frightening episode, Miller returned to the class
the following week hoping to
experience the kind of healing
and sense of calm she thought
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F
For many months after
meditating would provide.
The environment and the feeling of anonymity mostly felt
safe. Yet each time she closed
her eyes and listened to her
mind and body, she’d quickly
become ensconced in a traumatic episode, burrowed in
a cocoon of shame. “I wasn’t
ready to allow myself to heal,”
she says. “I felt like I didn’t
deserve to. I’d start to feel vulnerable, like the class knew my
story, even though they didn’t.
It was very hard to even make
eye contact with people after
the class had ended,” she says.
“I would roll up my mat quickly,
make myself as small as possible, and leave.”
Class after class for 12 weeks,
Miller fought her way through
each meditation. Desperate for
an outlet that would help her
heal, she stuck with it and even
tried other classes on offer, such
as restorative yoga. To her surprise, she was never approached
by her meditation teacher, and
the potential for these kinds of
emotional responses during
meditation was never addressed
in any way. “In yoga class, we
were offered modifications for
physical limitations or if something didn’t feel good. But in
MAY 2018
meditation class, there was no
recognition of potential mental
limitation or injury,” she says.
Ultimately, Miller was glad
she finished the class, because
it led to her finding the mantra
she’d eventually use on a regular
basis: May I find ease; May
I be well; May I be healthy;
May I be happy; May I live in
lovingkindness. Yet Miller
wishes she had been forewarned
that trauma survivors can experience flashbacks, dissociation,
and even retraumatization during and after meditation—an
awareness that may have helped
her feel less afraid during those
/ 43 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
initial meditation sessions.
“An anonymous questionnaire
at the start of class asking,
‘What are you here for?’ may
have been helpful,” she says.
Despite meditation’s everincreasing popularity, warnings
about the practice’s more difficult moments are rarely issued.
Over the past decade, meditation has grown in popularity
in the West, first at a steady
pace and then at a sprint. For
a society that’s overcaffeinated
and overstimulated, mired in
60-hour workweeks, and juggling too many proverbial balls,
meditation practices are often
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 44 / M AY 2018
talked about collectively as
a panacea for so many of the
things that ail us. It promises
to increase focus, productivity,
and self-awareness while
decreasing stress and anxiety.
But that’s not the whole story.
Miller’s experience is not
an anomaly, says Anna Kress,
a clinical psychologist in Princeton, New Jersey, who teaches
meditation techniques to her
clients. She warns that we need
to be more cognizant that there
is a much broader range of
responses to meditation than
most people are aware of.
Willoughby Britton, PhD,
assistant professor of psychiatry
and human behavior at Brown
University agrees, noting that
the potential negative effects
of meditation—including fear,
panic, hallucinations, mania,
loss of motivation and memory,
and depersonalization—can
be distressing at best and
debilitating at worst. David A.
Treleaven, PhD, author of the
new book Trauma-Sensitive
Mindfulness: Practices for Safe
and Transformative Healing,
says this potency meditation
holds cannot be understated
or underestimated by teachers
or practitioners. “Meditation is
a practice that can elicit challenging or adverse responses,”
he says. “While many people
benefit from meditation, some
won’t.” When Britton first
encountered some of the negative effects of meditation, she
realized that part of the problem
was lack of information and
overemphasis on benefits.
“In 2006, when I was doing
my residency, I worked at an
in-patient psychiatric hospital,
and there were two people who
were hospitalized after a 10-day
retreat at a meditation center
nearby,” she says. “It reminded
me that meditation can be serious, and that someone should
study [that side of it].”
The power
of meditation
Studies regularly published
in scientific journals tout
meditation’s vast capabilities—
including its positive effects
on conditions such as irritable
bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia,
and PTSD—and its promise to
help us cope with all-time-high
levels of stress, depression, anxiety, phobias, and other mentalhealth issues. As a result, we’ve
seen an increase in popularity
of mobile meditation apps like
Headspace, Simple Habit,
and Insight Timer, which offer
guided practices. There’s also
been a surge in boutique and
franchise meditation studios,
“The cultural pressure
to meditate is very high
right now, but not every
meditative experience is
a positive one.”
ANNA KRESS, PSYD
“Even experienced meditators can have a
negative experience and will need to find
resources outside of meditation to process
whatever arises in a healthy and healing way.”
ANNA KRESS, PSYD
like MNDFL on the East
Coast and Unplug Meditation on the West Coast, and
now meditation retreats are
commonly accepted as vacation options or corporate
getaways. “The cultural
pressure to meditate is very
high right now,” says Kress.
“But not every meditative
experience is a positive one.”
During her residency,
when Britton began en-
countering anecdotes
of meditation’s negative
effects, she looked for scientific research to explain
what she was hearing—and
came up short. “I started
informally asking teachers
about the kinds of issues
and responses they’d seen
and encountered,” she says.
When she realized negative reactions to meditation
were prevalent, Britton
decided to formally study
it. “It was clear that a lot
of people knew about these
potential effects and weren’t
really talking about it.”
She believes one of the
reasons the darker side of
meditation is being, well,
kept in the dark is financial.
“Mindfulness is a multibillion-dollar industry,”
she says. “One of the teachers I interviewed for my
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
/ 46 / M AY 2018
research actually said, ‘This
isn’t good advertising.’”
Plus, says Britton, many
people feel a lot of shame
about negative meditation
experiences, which speaks
to the overhyped advertising
that meditation is good for
everything. It’s often portrayed that “if you have problems meditating, then you’re
a super loser because it’s the
best thing ever,” she says.
When darkness falls
Britton set out to investigate
meditation-related experiences,
specifically those that were
described as challenging, difficult, distressing, functionally
impairing, or requiring additional support. Her study, published in the Public Library of
Science One journal last spring,
looked at nearly 100 interviews
with meditation teachers,
experts, and practitioners of
Western Buddhist practices—
including Theravada, Zen, and
Tibetan traditions—many of
whom reported challenging
meditation experiences.
The majority (88 percent)
of the meditators in the study
reported that these experiences
had an impact on their lives
beyond their meditation sessions. A whopping 73 percent
indicated moderate to severe
impairment (meditating
prompted a reaction or result
that kept them from living
their normal, daily lives),
17 percent reported feeling suicidal, and another 17 percent
required inpatient hospitalization for psychosis.
Though anyone can experience a negative effect of meditation, trauma survivors can
be particularly susceptible,
says Kress. “The first reason
is that trauma survivors usually
avoid distressing memories
or feelings associated with the
trauma—and meditation often
involves leaning toward our
internal experiences, which
includes difficult thoughts and
sensations,” she says. The second reason is that trauma may
prompt feelings of shame “that
can make it difficult to access
self-compassion,” she says.
“Sometimes in meditation,
it is the first time someone is
asked to direct loving feelings
toward themselves. This can be
a very difficult thing to do, and
it can result in feeling emotionally overwhelmed.”
This kind of leaning in
toward difficult emotions can
prompt tough stuff to come
up for anyone, not just trauma
survivors, says Britton. Adding
to the complexity is that it’s
difficult to predict who might
experience a negative response.
Britton’s study identified more
than 50 types of negative experiences, which means the vast
array and scope of what can
come up can make it hard for
teachers and practitioners to
know what’s normal, as well as
when someone may need additional support during or after
meditating.
Finding the support
you may need
One of Treleaven’s major
goals in writing TraumaSensitive Mindfulness was
to provide teachers and practitioners with some basic scaffolding to understand what
to look for so they are better
equipped to offer modifications to a meditation practice.
Kress says that there are a
handful of important signs for
teachers to look for that indicate a meditation student may
be having a traumatic reaction. The common ones
include prolonged crying,
which may be silent but
uncontrollable; shortness of
breath; trembling; clenched
fists; skin turning red or pale;
and excessive sweating.
“Giving people who have
experienced trauma a sense
of choice is very important,”
says Kress. “What that means
is they get to choose when,
how, and where they want
to turn toward pain and when
they want to get distance from
it. I let people know that if
MAY 2018
they want to leave their eyes
open, that’s fine, or if they need
to take a break, that’s fine, too.”
Britton adds that these kinds
of modifications are important
for teachers to know and
offer—to help cover the disconnect that exists between practitioners who are being told
meditation can be utilized for
mental-health reasons and the
negative responses they may
experience.
“People are expecting
meditation to be like a mentalhealth treatment, but the people who are operating most
of the classes aren’t typically
trained in mental health.
That’s something that we,
as a field, need to figure out,”
says Britton, adding that most
people don’t know what types
of practices will benefit which
ailments or goals.
For example, someone
looking to use meditation
to help alleviate work-related
stress would likely want to
pursue a very different kind
of practice than someone
who is facing residual trauma
from a sexual assault.
To that end, Brown
University recently opened
a Mindfulness Center, to help
figure out how the reported
effects of mindfulness on
health are actually working.
One big focus of the center
is consumer advocacy and
helping people who are interested in meditation find the
right kind of program.
But even though meditation may not always feel
good, that doesn’t mean you
shouldn’t meditate, says Kress.
“Even experienced meditators
can have a negative meditative
experience and will need to
find resources outside of meditation to process whatever
arises in a healthy and healing
way,” she says. For some people,
/ 47 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
a 10-minute guided meditation
on an app is perfect; for others,
learning meditation and mindfulness skills with a therapist
is more appropriate.
As more diluted and tangential versions of meditation
continue to arise, it’s important for practitioners, especially beginners, to remember
that the practice has a long
history in which students
learned from a teacher—
a highly trained meditation
master who provided guidance. In its purest form,
meditation was grounded in
religious, spiritual, and philosophical purposes, not solely
as a means of finding relaxation and inner peace.
“These days, we often
just want to feel better, but
we don’t have a sense of what
we’re trying to achieve,” says
Britton. “We also throw the
term ‘mindfulness’ at everything. Oftentimes, people
start meditating and they’re
not necessarily clear whether
the practice they’ve chosen
is really the best match for
the goal that they have.”
For Miller, that’s the kind
of cautionary advice that may
have helped her avoid being
blindsided by the resurgence
of her trauma and pain. It may
not have spared her from the
emotions that surfaced, but
she says she would have been
more prepared.
Still, she’s grateful for
the meditation class, despite
the tough stuff it churned up.
“It took a while for me to trust
the process,” says Miller. “But
when I did, it was a feeling of
the sun coming up, where
I found this calmness.” Jessica Downey is
a writer in Philadelphia.
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PRACTICE
well
Embodying
the sutra
As interpreted
by Alison West
WHEN I FIRST READ
THE YOGA SUTRA
samyama [simultaneous
concentration, meditation, and
realization] on the navel, the yogi
acquires perfect knowledge of the
disposition of the human body.”
EVGENIA SAVINA/STOCKSY
“ By
YOGA SUTRA 3.30, * TRANSLATED BY B.K.S. IYENGAR
thirty years ago, Vibhuti Pada (the chapter
on manifestation)
stirred my interest
with its reference
to samyama, which
can be loosely translated as “integration.”
Patanjali writes that
samyama is the simultaneous expression
of the last three limbs
of Ashtanga Yoga—
dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi
(realization)—it’s a
total absorption into
the object of meditation in order to
* Also listed as Yoga Sutra 3.29
MAY 2018
/ 49 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
EMBODYING THE SUTRA
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experience profound shifts in awareness.
I found some aspects of this chapter
almost lighthearted and amusing at
first. Some of the superhuman powers
achieved through samyama, such as
shrinking yourself into a minute size or
becoming extra heavy, seemed the stuff
of Marvel Comics. But as I reread it over
the years, I began to see this chapter in
a new light. The samyamas are expressions of deep realizations that are part
of a continuum of understanding.
In this sutra, the power or practice
Patanjali describes is “samyama on the
navel.” This concentrated meditation on
your midsection opens the door to a vital
understanding of your body’s constituent parts and subtle-energy channels
(nadis). Your manipura (navel) chakra
is the originating point of 72,000 nadis,
making it a particularly potent region.
This exalted practice even has a
counterpart in ancient Greece, where
navel-gazing, or omphaloskepsis (omphalo = navel; skepsis = inquiry), was
considered an appropriate mode of
philosophical pursuit. In fact, four
Roman statues depicting men standing
in a circle with their hands on their hips
looking down at their bellies is preserved
at the Louvre. The difference is that the
Greek version is a symbolic, philosophical gazing, while the yogic version is
a complete absorption into the subtle
center itself.
While I have not yet achieved samyama by concentrating on my navel, I’ve
felt the commanding energetic presence
of my navel center as I’ve experimented
with this practice. You can start by simply staring at your bellybutton and then
closing your eyes, continuing to visualize
it. As you center on the site of your
former umbilical cord, you’ll begin to
experience a type of listening that frees
your mind from overthinking and
allows the grace of samyama to begin.
This may result in your point of focus
shifting deeper toward your spine on its
own accord and opening your awareness
to a new field of energy.
If you find the concept of samyama
on the navel confusing, you can get a taste
of samyama in other ways. Just observe
how asana and pranayama can sometimes seem to stop time. Your thoughts
become more spacious and you can catch
a glimpse of the almost ungraspable now
(presence)—the goal of a yoga practice.
You may also become acutely aware of
the musculoskeletal aspect of each asana
as you stretch, release, and strengthen.
You may understand, for the first time,
how your feet connect to and affect your
spine—or how postures affect breathing,
which in turn affects your mind—and
vice versa. These are the types of
realizations that precede samyama.
While the suggestion of “perfect
knowledge of the disposition of the
human body” may elude us, we can gain
insight into our own bodies and minds
by attending to the physical, mental, and
energetic aspects of yoga. All experiences
and understandings are colored by what
you bring to them, and thus it is likely
that you’ll have a different journey with
this sutra.
Whether seated or practicing asana,
pay attention to your navel without forcing an outcome. Listen. Do it again. Stay
open to new experiences. Take your time.
Let the beauty of Vibhuti Pada unfold. TRY AN ENERGIZING PRACTICE
from Alison West on page 53.
You’ll begin to experience a
type of listening that frees your
mind from overthinking.
YOGA J OURNA L . CO M
/ 50 / M AY 2018
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YOGAPEDIA
P R AC T I C E W E L L
How to move from
Dandasana to
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
By Alison West
Dandasana
Danda = Staff or rod · Asana = Pose
Staff Pose
BENEFITS Strengthens your back, hip flexors,
and quadriceps; allows for lift and expansion in the
top of your chest.
INSTRUCTION
1 Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front
of you. Flex your feet slightly, and keep a long,
neutral spine. Visualize your torso as a firm staff.
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2 Bend your elbows, dome your hands, and
press the tops of your fingers into the floor next
to your hips. (If you don’t have wrist issues and
your arms are long enough, press your palms
flat on the floor and straighten your arms.)
3 Firm your thighs as if hugging your femurs
(thigh bones). Take your inner thighs down,
lightly drawing your legs into your hip sockets
DON’T round your back or stick
out your chin, which will restrict
your breathing and can strain
your lower back.
to bring your pelvis vertical and support your
lower abdomen. Reach out through your lower
legs, and spread the balls of your feet.
4 Lengthen your spine without hardening your
abdomen or impeding your breath. It helps to
imagine that you’re a leafy plant whose leaves
are growing out from your tailbone to the sides
of your pelvis, from your lower spine out to the
sides of your rib cage, from your heart out to
your collarbones, and from the base of your neck
out to the base of your skull.
5 Anchor your inner shoulder blades against
your back, and draw the bottoms down
without pinching them together. Gently roll the
tops of your arms out to broaden your chest.
6 Breathe fully and freely for 5 breaths.
DON’T overarch your back or push your
chest out, which will overwork your hip
flexors and put pressure on your sacroiliac
joint (which joins bone at the base of your
spine with your pelvis ).
OUR PRO Alison West is the director of Yoga Union and the Yoga Union Backcare & Scoliosis Center in New York City where she leads yoga teacher trainings,
a Backcare and Scoliosis Certification Program, and a Slings and Ropes Certification Program. She also holds a PhD in art history from New York University. Transitioning from sculpture to the human form has led her to 35 years of practice and teaching. Learn more at yogaunion.com.
MAY 2018
/ 53 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
YOGAPEDIA
P R AC T I C E W E L L
Modify Dandasana if necessary to find safe alignment in your body.
If you have tight hamstrings or
have to round your back to keep
your legs straight …
If your lower back tires easily …
TRY holding a sandbag above your head, which will create resis-
TRY sitting on blocks, blankets, or a bolster at a height that allows
you to maintain a small curve in your lower back (natural lumbar
lordosis). Tighten a belt around your feet (just above your heels)
and the middle of your pelvis. As you press your feet into the
belt, it should hold your pelvis upright, reducing strain on your
lower back and hip flexors. Press your palms into the props and
straighten your arms (bend your elbows if your shoulders shrug).
tance for your spine and arms to press against while anchoring
your sitting bones. Place a second sandbag on your lower shins,
which will help ground the lower end of the pose, giving your hip
flexors and lower back more leverage with less effort. (Do not take
your shoulders down your back when your arms are up! It can
compress nerves and tissues in your shoulders and add tension
to your lower back.) You can also place a belt around your waist
to help lift the full circumference of your trunk.
Asana is life
If you don’t feel a lift in your spine
and chest, or if you have wrist pain …
TRY placing two blocks slightly behind you on a slope by resting
them on other blocks. Bend your elbows, and press your palms
into the bottom of the slanted blocks with your fingertips pointing toward the floor. Having the blocks behind you allows you to
generate more forward momentum to lift and support your lower
back and trunk.
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
Exploring the similarities and differences between
two seemingly opposite poses, such as
Dandasana and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
(Upward-Facing Dog), can lead to a fuller understanding of what each one has to offer and how
they can balance each other. (Similar shoulder
placements and actions give rise to a bright and
beautiful chest in both poses.) The same can be
practiced in daily life. When you observe the similarities and differences between yourself and others,
you learn from these observations and may find
unexpected commonalities. Wherever friction
remains, think of how you practice a difficult asana,
and apply that level of mindfulness. If you pause
and observe with patient kindness, you may find the
necessary modification, compassion, and action to
eventually bring understanding and ease.
/ 54 / M AY 2018
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YOGAPEDIA
P R AC T I C E W E L L
Strengthen your arms and core in
these prep poses for Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.
DHANURASANA
Bow Pose, variation
BENEFITS Expands your chest and allows
you to experience the upper actions of
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (the final pose).
INSTRUCTION Place the mouth of your rib
cage (the opening of your lower ribs) on a
bolster, bend your knees, and reach back
to clasp the outsides of both ankles. Press
your feet away from you to help expand
your chest. Imagine that you’re zipping up your pubic bone to support your lower
abdomen and lumbar spine, which could otherwise collapse under the force of gravity
and exertion. (Avoid tucking your tailbone.) Hold for 5 breaths.
DANDASANA TO PURVOTTANASANA
A
Staff Pose to Upward Plank Pose
BENEFITS Warms your body and strengthens your
torso, arms, and hip flexors; simulates the floating
aspect of the final pose
Coobie
®
Seamless Bras
INSTRUCTION This dynamic two-pose vinyasa is best
done while wearing socks on a slippery floor—or with
washcloths under your feet to assist sliding. (Do not do
this vinyasa if you have wrist issues, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, disc bulges, a herniation, or are
pregnant.) Sit on the floor with a long, neutral spine and
your legs straight in front of you. Stack two blocks on
each side of your hips (you can also try it without blocks,
but the backs of your upper arms will need to work
much harder to support your torso). Press your palms
down firmly into the blocks. Straighten your arms to lift
your hips off the floor into a modified Dandasana. Start
to swing your hips back and forth, increasing momentum and range. Slowly lift your hips higher in both
flexion and extension according to your strength and
ability. As you pass through Dandasana, begin pulling
the bottoms of your shoulder blades together, lift your
chest, and push back behind you with your hands—all
while pulling in toward you with your feet to lift your
hips up and away for Purvottanasana. Exhale as your
hips swing back, and inhale as you lift up into Purvottanasana. As you increase your endurance, transition
from A to C (see right) up to 20 times. If you become
short of breath, pause to rest.
C
LEARN MORE! Join Alison West for the six-week online course Yoga for
Back Health. She’ll help you improve your posture, identify common back problems,
and prevent pain and strain. Sign up at yogajournal.com/yogaforbackhealth.
YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
/ 56 / M AY 2018
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For the little
readers in
your life
YOGAPEDIA
P R AC T I C E W E L L
Experience a surge of energy as you move
step by step into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Urdhva = Upward · Mukha = Face · Svana = Dog · Asana = Pose
Upward-Facing Dog Pose
BENEFITS Energizes the front line of your body; lifts your spirits;
strengthens your hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, upper back, abdominals,
hip flexors, and quadriceps.
INSTRUCTION
1 Begin in Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward-Facing Dog Pose), which
is a counterpose to Urdhva Mukha
Svanasana. Keep the front of your body
long and your chest lifted. Move the
tops of your thighs back, firming the
fronts of your legs. Avoid gripping the
front of your ribs (pulling them toward
one another and toward your pelvis)
which will flex your spine. Keep your
head in line with your spine.
2 Move forward into Plank Pose
by reaching through the crown of
your head without rounding your back
or moving through a wave. Instead,
maintain a line from the crown of your
head to your sitting bones, as though
a thread is pulling you forward while
your heels resist back. Keep your legs
firm and straight.
3 Reaching farther forward through
a board book
the crown of your head, begin to draw
your chest forward through your arms.
Roll your shoulders open and pull them
down your back as you move the sides
of your waist forward. Imagine that
you’re drawing a ping-pong ball deep
into your lower abdomen from just
above your pubic bone, which will help
support your lumbar spine.
Stretch back through your toes
as though pushing the floor away
from you. This is a good place to stop
if your back has reached its end range
of motion, which may present as
a pinching sensation in your lower
back or a hyperextension of your
wrists. Put your knees down if you
need to take stress off your back.
YO GA JO U R NA L . CO M
/ 58 / M AY 2018
STAY SAFE
4 Roll over your toes while your hips are low (or
put your knees down, point your toes, and then
straighten your knees again). Press your outer ankles
in to avoid sickling your feet. Move your chest forward as though it were lifted by a wind at your back—
with your legs tethering your upper body like the
string of a mighty kite.
Press down through your hands while lifting the
front of your chest, being careful not to press so much
that you start to round your upper back, nor so little
that you sag between your shoulders. Take the bottom of your shoulder blades straight down as you did
in Dandasana, pressing your hands away from one
other against the resistance of the mat. These actions
will help you open and lift your chest with ease. Try
focusing on pressing your index fingers and thumbs
down to help lift the front of your chest.
Keep your head level and your gaze straight
ahead, until you know how to look up without collapsing your shoulders and lower back. Eventually, you
can lift your face to the sky, creating a full stretch of
your front body from your toes to your chin. Meanwhile, this is a safe and elegant way to enjoy the
pose. Stay here for 5–20 slow breaths.
To come out, reverse this sequence, rolling
over your toes while your hips are low (or putting
your knees down and flexing your feet). Release
your back in a long Adho Mukha Svanasana. MAY 2018
URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA, VARIATION For a longer exploration
of this pose with less effort but many of the same benefits, practice
it with your lower thighs on a bolster (to support your hips) and your
hands on blocks (to lessen the backbend)—you may need more height
for the blocks if you’re using a larger bolster. Start by kneeling behind
the bolster, placing your palms on the blocks. Move into Plank Pose,
and reach your chest forward between your arms. Rest your legs on
the bolster, either rolling over your toes or turning your feet over (once
your legs are resting). Externally rotate your shoulders while internally
rotating your lower arms. Explore pressing your hands away from each
other as you take the bottom tips of your shoulders straight down
(as you did in Dandasana) to broaden and lift your chest. / 59 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
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BIOMECHANICS
P R AC T I C E W E L L
Can you safely
jump back to plank?
PHOTOS: RICK CUMMINGS; MODEL: ROBYN CAPOBIANCO; HAIR/MAKEUP: BETH WALKER; WARDROBE: LULULEMON
Here’s what science tells us.
By Robyn Capobianco, PhD, and Jana Montgomery, PhD
AT SOME POINT, most yogis
will be cautioned during Sun
Salutations or vinyasas to “never
jump back to Plank Pose—only
to Chaturanga Dandasana (FourLimbed Staff Pose). But this warning doesn’t exist in the fitness world,
where jumping back to Plank is
part of one of the most popular
bodyweight exercises: the burpee.
This basic exercise is simple—
start standing; jump straight up;
bend forward, and place your hands
on the ground; jump back to Plank,
then hop your feet to your hands,
and repeat. Sound familiar? Eliminate the initial vertical jump, add
a backbend (Cobra or UpwardFacing Dog) and Down Dog, and
you have a classic Sun Salutation.
According to Mark Singleton’s
book Yoga Body, it was Tirumalai
Krishnamacharya—the grandfather
of Western yoga—who borrowed
the jumpback to Chaturanga from
Western gymnastics in the 1930s
while he was developing the system
that became Ashtanga Yoga. With
most modern forms of vinyasa and
Power Yoga springing from the
Ashtanga lineage, jumping back
to Chaturanga became widespread
and is now included in most vigorous yoga classes in the West.
But given the shoulder and wrist
injuries that are emerging lately,
it seems like a good idea to revisit
a few commonly circulated misconceptions about the biomechanics
of the transition.
First, let’s look at one myth
you’ve likely heard: Jumping
to Plank is jarring on your joints,
forcing your wrists, elbows, and
shoulders to absorb shock that
would otherwise be dispersed by
MAY 2018
/ 61 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
bending the elbows into Chaturanga.
This misconception seems to be
based on the false premise that
because Plank Pose is a bonestacked position, the ligaments
and tendons within your wrists,
elbows, and shoulders must absorb
more impact on the landing than
they would in Chaturanga.
However, a 2011 study in
the Journal of Bodywork and
Movement Therapies showed that
the muscles around your wrists,
elbows, and shoulders have to
produce more torque (a rotational
force) in the Chaturanga position
(with bent arms) than in Plank Pose
(with straight arms). This finding
also holds true for jumping back
to these poses. Think about it:
When you jump back to Plank,
your shoulders stay stacked above
your wrists, and your elbows stay
BIOMECHANICS
P R AC T I C E W E L L
Anatomy of a Jumpback
Wondering what muscles are activated when you
jump back to Chaturanga or Plank Pose? Here they are.
RHOMBOIDS
TRAPEZIUS
SCAPULA
SERRATUS
ANTERIOR
PECTORALIS
MAJOR
PECTORALIS
MINOR
SUPRASPINATUS
DELTOID
DELTOID
INFRASPINATUS
TERES MINOR
TERES MAJOR
LATISSIMUS
DORSI
BICEPS
TRICEPS
WRIST
EXTENSORS
WRIST
FLEXORS
RECTUS
ABDOMINIS
ERECTOR
SPINAE
INTERNAL
OBLIQUES
ILLUSTRATIONS: MICHELE GRAHAM
EXTERNAL
OBLIQUES
relatively extended or straight,
which means the muscles
around your elbows don’t need
to produce as much torque as
they would for a Chaturanga
landing. Instead, the larger
(and in most bodies, stronger)
muscles around your shoulders
and back control the movement, which makes you less
susceptible to injury in your
shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
Another misconception
about landing in Plank Pose is
that the bone-stacked position
leads to ligament strain. Strain
is simply a change in length
from an original state—a.k.a.
a stretch. So, when you stretch
your body, you experience
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
strain, which means strain itself
is not synonymous with injury.
Injury occurs when you
stretch your tissues beyond
their capacity to bounce back.
For example, when you bend
your elbows into Chaturanga,
the ligaments and tendons
crossing the joint have to
stretch. Ligaments and tendons
/ 62 / M AY 2018
only undergo strain when
a joint is flexed or hyperextended—not when bones are
stacked. In Plank Pose, the
ligaments and tendons crossing
the elbow joint don’t change
lengths—which means they
aren’t strained.
Finally, you’ve also likely
continued on page 64
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BIOMECHANICS
P R AC T I C E W E L L
The jumpback
Four versions
to Chaturanga
of neutral
vs. Plank
We tested the ground force reaction—the force the ground exerts on a
body in contact with it—of both jumping back to Plank Pose and Chaturanga.
Our key findings below indicate that there is not much difference between
jumping back to Plank Pose or Chaturanga when you look at the combination
of ground reaction force and center of gravity.
LEGEND
TORQUE
Jumping back to Chaturanga resulted in a ground reaction
force at the upper body that was 10 pounds more than that
of jumping back to Plank (which amounts to 7 percent of
the model’s body weight).
CENTER
OF GRAVITY
GROUND
REACTION
FORCE
GROUND
REACTION
FORCE
continued from page 62
heard the myth that jumping
back to Plank Pose is harder on
your lower back than landing
in Chaturanga. It’s true that if
your core isn’t engaged when
jumping back to either Plank
or Chaturanga, your lower
back can sag. This, in turn, can
compress the facet joints—the
points of articulation between
the vertebrae that allow your
spine to flex and extend—and
lead to bone degeneration
if done repeatedly over time.
On the flip side, if your back
is over-rounded on either landing, your abdominal muscles
can create too much torque on
your vertebrae, which can lead
to compression in the discs,
resulting in injury. Prevent
either scenario by jumping
back to either pose with an
engaged core, which will keep
your spine neutral.
Enter the
biomechanics lab
When we weren’t able to find
scientific research examining
the biomechanical differences
between both transitions, we
headed to the Applied Biomechanics Lab at the University
of Colorado, Boulder, to investi-
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
gate. The lab has a 10-camera
motion-capture system and
special plates that record
ground reaction force—the
force the ground exerts onto the
body in reaction to body weight
exerting force onto the ground.
We placed sensors on a
yogi’s hands and lower back
as reference points to determine where the center of gravity moved during these two
transitions. The verdict: Peak
vertical ground reaction force—
the highest ground reaction
force in the vertical direction—
was equal for both transitions
(about 1.5 times body weight).
/ 64 / M AY 2018
That means neither landing
can actually be classified as
more jarring.
In fact, the peak vertical
ground reaction force in both
jumpbacks was closer to that
of walking (1.3 times body
weight) than running (2.5
times body weight). That
means that with the required
strength and proper form,
jumping back to either Plank
Pose or Chaturanga produces
only a slightly higher impact
on the body than walking.
Next, we did some followup testing to measure the
ground reaction forces on the
So which
jumpbacks should
you practice?
Now that you understand the biomechanics of both jumpbacks, you can
make informed choices about the best
transition for addressing your needs
and goals—and, if you’re a teacher,
those of your students. Here are some
recommended guidelines:
Though jumping back to Plank was
easier on the shoulders and wrists, it was
slightly harder on the feet by about 8 additional pounds of ground reaction force—
5 percent of the model’s body weight.
Step back to Plank and lower through
Chaturanga to the ground … if you’re
looking for the option with the least
potential for injury. It’s a great choice
for beginners and yogis with sensitive
wrists, elbows, shoulders, lower backs,
or poor foot mobility.
Jump back to Plank … if you can hold
Plank Pose with good form (upper back
muscles engaged and no sagging in your
lower back) without pain and you want
to introduce an additional challenge.
Just be sure to keep this movement safe
by jumping back to Plank Pose with your
core, arms, and shoulders engaged
and your arms relatively straight.
CENTER
OF GRAVITY
GROUND
REACTION
FORCE
subject’s hands and feet separately during both transitions.
As it turns out, jumping back to
Chaturanga resulted in a ground
reaction force at the upper body
that was 10 pounds more than
jumping back to Plank (7 percent
of the model’s body weight). Yet
the reverse was true when jumping back to Plank: It was easier
on the shoulders and wrists,
but slightly harder on the feet—
about additional eight pounds of
ground reaction force (5 percent
of the model’s body weight).
Perhaps our most important
finding was that the center of
gravity stayed closer to the hips in
the jumpback to Plank and
moved about four inches closer
to the head in the jumpback to
Chaturanga. That means, when
combined with ground reaction
force, more body weight has to
be supported by the arms in the
jumpback to Chaturanga, which
increases the amount of torque
your shoulders, elbows, and wrists
must produce in order to land and
maintain safe joint positioning in
Chaturanga. The more muscular
force required, the more opportunity for injury—particularly at the
joints if the muscles around them
can’t produce enough force to
land or hold Chaturanga. MAY 2018
Jump back to Chaturanga … if you
can hold the pose with good form
(with your upper back muscles engaged,
no sagging in your low back or belly,
and your shoulders in line with your
elbows) and can also successfully jump
back to Plank and lower from Plank to
Chaturanga without pain. When you
practice this, keep your core and shoulders engaged—and stop if you feel
any pain or discomfort in your joints.
OUR PROS Author and model
Robyn Capobianco, PhD, is a yogi whose curiosity
about the science of yoga led her to a doctoral program in
neurophysiology. She brings more than 20 years of yogic
study, practice, and teaching to her scientific research on
the neural control of movement. Her research aims to fundamentally alter the way yoga teachers teach—and provide
the scientific foundation that she feels is missing from the
yoga community. Learn more at drrobyncapo.com.
Jana Montgomery, PhD, is a lifelong learner and athlete.
Her passion for science and sports led her to pursue her
PhD in the biomechanics of human movement.
Her research specializes in understanding how external
forces or equipment affect the way people move—specifically adaptive equipment and technology. Learn more
at activeinnovationslab.com.
/ 65 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
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HOME PRACTICE
P R AC T I C E W E L L
A home practice to
Boost your
confidence
By Kat Fowler
I WAS 18—AND COMPLETELY unsure
PHOTOS: PAUL MILLER; MODEL: KAT FOWLER; HAIR/MAKEUP AND STYLING: EMILY CHOI;
CLOTHING: TOP: TITIKA ACTIVE COUTURE; BOTTOMS: ONZIE
of myself—when I first started practicing
yoga. I was insecure about who I was and
where my life was going, and I never felt
like I was enough. This manifested as
poor posture: rounded shoulders and
a downward gaze—a stance I held in
a subconscious attempt to hide myself.
Gradually, my yoga practice revealed
that being timid and fearful negatively
affected the way I carried myself. Luckily,
both practicing and teaching yoga has
taught me how to make changes to my
posture that not only radically shifted how
I moved, but also transformed how I felt
and presented myself to others. Over the
years, I’ve worked on shifting my shy posture into one that’s more powerful—with
my shoulders drawn back and my heart
shining forward.
I designed the following sequence
to help you access more freedom in your
shoulders, chest, and spine. When you
practice these postures, notice if you feel
a sense of courageousness within. Ideally,
this practice will empower you to show up
with more confidence and bravery in your
own life, too.
1 BALASANA Child’s Pose, variation
Start with your knees slightly wider than
your rib cage with your big toes touching.
Let your sacrum relax toward your heels,
and stretch your arms forward with your
palms facing up. After a few breaths, interlace
your fingers and wrap your triceps under
and down to create space in your shoulders
and neck. With your elbows rooted to the
mat, reach your knuckles back toward the
nape of your neck. Stay here for 1–2 minutes.
2 ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA 3 DOWN DOG VARIATION
4 ANJANEYASANA Low Lunge
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Inhale, extending your right leg toward the
ceiling. As you exhale, bring your right knee
to touch your nose, rounding your spine.
Then, return to Down Dog Split. As you
exhale, shift forward and bring your right
knee to touch the top of your left arm.
Inhale to sweep your leg up; then exhale,
and bring your knee to the top of your right
arm. Inhale to return to Down Dog Split.
Come to Downward-Facing Dog Pose,
then repeat on the other side.
Step your right foot forward between
your hands, making sure your front knee
is directly above your ankle. Release your
back knee and foot to the ground, and
square your hips to face forward. On an
inhalation, raise your arms toward the
ceiling, palms facing one another; on
an exhalation, softly draw your lower
abdomen in and up. You should feel a
lifting sensation in this pose. Hold for 5
deep breaths, then return to DownwardFacing Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Come forward to Tabletop with your wrists
under your shoulders and your knees under
your hips. Spread your fingers wide, then
tuck your toes under, pressing your legs up
and back to Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
Make sure your feet are hip-width apart,
and press your thighbones backward. As
you inhale, imagine filling up your back with
your breath; as you exhale, think of letting
your belly hollow out while drawing the front
of your rib cage in toward your spine. Stay
here for 5 breaths.
MAY 2018
/ 67 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
HOME PRACTICE
P R AC T I C E W E L L
5 URDHVA MUKHA SVANASANA
6 UTTHITA TRIKONASANA Extended Triangle Pose
Upward-Facing Dog Pose
Step your right foot forward between your hands. Ground
your back heel down at a 45-degree angle, and rise up to
Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I). On an exhalation, open your hips
to come into Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II). On an inhalation,
straighten your front leg, and reach forward as much as possible—
drawing your abdomen in while slightly tipping your pelvis forward.
Exhale, and release your right hand down to the middle of your
shin. Reach your left hand skyward. Stay here for 5 breaths, then
rise back up to standing, and repeat on the other side.
From Down Dog, shift forward to Plank Pose on an inhalation.
Make sure your wrists are above your shoulders and your heels
are pressing toward the back of your mat. On an exhalation, shift
forward, draw in your abdomen, and lower about halfway down
for Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose). From here,
extend your arms, and allow your hips to lower. Roll onto the tops
of your feet. Feel your rib cage move forward and up as you lift and
open your chest; feel your shoulder blades move down your back
toward one another. Take 2–3 breaths here. On an exhalation, roll
over your toes and press back to Downward-Facing Dog.
9 UTTHAN PRISTHASANA Lizard Pose, variation
10 DOLPHIN POSE
On an inhalation, reach your right leg up into Down Dog Split,
then exhale to step your right foot to the outside of your right hand.
Release your back knee to the mat. Turn your right foot slightly
to the right, and roll onto the outer edge of your foot. Stay here,
or reach your right arm up and then back, twisting your torso.
You might even grab your left foot and draw your heel in toward
your left sitting bone. Hold here for 5 breaths, then gently release
your back foot. Walk both hands back beneath your shoulders,
tuck your back toes under, and step back to Down Dog. Repeat
on the other side.
From Down Dog, come down to your hands and knees; then
place your forearms on the ground, parallel, with your elbows
beneath your shoulders. Press your palms firmly into your mat,
tuck your toes under, and press your hips up and back to extend
your legs. To emphasize the opening of your upper back and
shoulders, continuously press your chest back toward your thighs
while relaxing your head down toward the floor. It’s OK if your
heels don’t reach the ground; the naturally occurring shortened
angle of your hips in this posture will be more difficult on your
hamstrings. Stay here for 5–8 breaths, then rest in Child’s Pose—
this time with your knees together and your arms reaching back
(which rests your shoulders).
YOGA JOURNA L . CO M
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7 HIGH LUNGE, VARIATION
8 VASISTHASANA Side Plank Pose
From Down Dog, step your right foot between your hands to Low
Lunge. Using the strength of your legs on an inhalation, rise up
to a High Lunge, reaching your arms overhead. As you inhale,
find length in your spine, and bring your hands together in Anjali
Mudra (Salutation Seal) at your heart; as you exhale, rotate your
entire torso to hook your left elbow to the outside of your right
thigh. Press your palms firmly against one another to rotate your
rib cage skyward until your thumbs meet the center of your chest.
You may even gaze above your top right shoulder. Stay here for
5 breaths, then return to Down Dog.
On an inhalation, step back to Plank Pose, bringing your feet
together to touch. On an exhalation, shift your weight to your
left hand. Flex both feet, balancing on the outer edge of your
left foot. Inhale, and extend your right arm skyward, directly
above your shoulder. To deepen the pose, extend your top
arm toward the front of the room with your palm facing down,
creating a bow-like shape with your body. Take 5 breaths here,
then return to Down Dog.
11 SETU BANDHA SARVANGASANA Bridge Pose
12 URDHVA DHANURASANA Roll up and sit on your heels. Swing your legs around so they face
the front of your mat, then lie down on your back. Bend your knees,
plant your feet hip-width apart, and walk your heels in close to your
butt. Walk your shoulders away from your ears to create a long neck.
As you inhale, press into your feet to lift your hips, hugging your
inner thighs toward one another. On an exhalation, walk your arms
toward one another and clasp your hands underneath your back.
On your next inhalation, fully press your hips up toward the ceiling,
and lengthen your tailbone toward your knees. Hold here for
5 even breaths. Then, unclasp your hands, and roll your spine
down to the mat.
Upward Bow Pose or Wheel Pose
MAY 2018
Repeat poses 7–8 on the other side, then move through
a vinyasa or into Down Dog.
With your feet hip-width apart, heels close to your butt, place
your palms down with your fingertips touching your shoulders.
Hug your elbows in toward one another. Then on an inhalation,
press into your hands and feet simultaneously to lift yourself
up, resting the crown of your head on your mat. On your next
exhalation, fully extend your arms, this time lifting the crown of your
head off the floor. Take 5 deep breaths here, and at the bottom of
your last exhalation, slowly tuck your chin to your chest and lower
yourself back down to your mat. Note: If Wheel Pose isn’t part of
your practice at this time, repeat Bridge Pose.
/ 69 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
HOME PRACTICE
P R AC T I C E W E L L
13 JATHARA PARIVARTANASANA 14 BADDHA KONASANA Bound Angle Pose
Revolved Abdomen Pose
Rock yourself up to a seated position, and bring the soles of
your feet together with your knees spread apart. Sit up tall, hold
your feet with your hands, and rock your weight into the fronts
of your sitting bones (so that your pelvis tips forward slightly).
On an inhalation, lengthen your spine and lift your chest; on
an exhalation, gently fold forward over your legs. Stay here for
1–2 minutes, then return to a seated position on an inhalation.
Take your feet off the mat by bringing your knees directly above
your hips. Place your hands on your kneecaps and start to make
gentle circles (with your knees together) in one direction 5–10 times.
When you’re done, bring your knees back to center above your
hips, and place your arms in a cactus shape on your mat with your
elbows bent. Lift your hips and move them 1–2 inches to the left,
then allow your knees to gently fall to your right, keeping them level
with your hips. Stay here for 1 minute, then repeat on the other side.
Once you’re finished, gently hug your knees into your chest.
15 MATSYASANA Fish Pose, variation
16 SAVASANA Corpse Pose
Place two yoga blocks about 6 inches apart at the back of your mat.
Put the block that’s closest to the back edge of your mat at its highest
height and the one that’s closer to you at medium height. Lie back
onto the blocks with your legs in constructive rest (feet hip-distance
apart, knees touching). Stay here for 2–3 minutes; slowly roll to one
side, remove your blocks, and roll onto your back.
As you rest on your back, breathe naturally. Place your arms by your
sides, palms facing up (which rests the shoulders), and allow your
feet to splay apart. Close your eyes, and direct your attention inward.
Observe where you feel warmth and energy freely flowing through
your body. Observe the natural ease in your breath from all of the
newfound space created in your chest and rib cage. Notice any emotions that come to the surface after opening your front body—and
your heart. Breathe into the newfound space in your heart, filling
yourself up with your own loving energy. Rest here for 5–7 minutes,
or until you feel completely relaxed. OUR PRO Teacher and model Kat Fowler is a yoga and meditation teacher and mentor in New York City. She teaches
classes and leads trainings in Manhattan at Yoga Vida and online. For more information, visit katfowleryoga.com.
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 70 / M AY 2018
P R OM OT I O N
In our mission to bring yoga to children with
autism, and resources and support to their
caregivers, we partnered with Jade Yoga and
Ashrams for Autism. In the Yoga Journal-exclusive
video series, Sharon Manner, founder of Ashrams
for Autism, leads caregivers through four
gentle flows, and Dr. Marc Rosenbaum, founder
of Education for Excellence, provides lecturebased tools on coping with worry, fostering
acceptance and building positive communication.
LEARN MORE & WATCH THE VIDEOS AT
YOGAJOURNAL.COM/YOGA-FOR-AUTISM
THE
ULTIMATE
GUIDE TO
ADJUSTM
YOGA JOURNAL.C O M
/ 72 / D E CE M BE R 2017
HAIR/MAKEUP: BETH WALKER; CLOTHING: MODELS' OWN
ENTS
More teachers are taking a
hands-off approach to assists—
and more students are wondering where the line is between
helpful and inappropriate. Here,
master teachers share their
thinking on this touchy debate
and offer expert advice to help
keep everyone safe.
Story by Jen Murphy // Photography by Jeff Nelson
DE C E MBE R 2017
/ 73 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
»
YOGA TEACHER CORAL BROWN says she’s proba-
bly performed thousands of hands-on assists on
students over the past 20 years. When she traveled
with her teacher, Shiva Rea, her role was to provide
energetic alignment-based assists—meaning she
helped students move into a deeper embodiment
of twists, forward folds, backbends, and more.
“To my knowledge, I never hurt anyone,” says
Brown. “But looking back, I fully own that there
is a danger, and potential for injury, in assisting.”
When she sustained a hamstring tear after a
teacher gave her a deep assist, Brown says she realized that some assists can be too much—and she
shifted her views on hands-on adjustments. “Rather
than use an assist to practically do the pose for the
student, I now use a guiding touch to teach students
how to embody the pose on their own,” she says.
Like Brown, many other teachers are rethinking their use of hands-on adjustments in public yoga classes, which are feeling scarier than ever
for both teachers and students. After all, we live
in an increasingly litigious society, and the #metoo
movement has brought a heightened awareness to
power dynamics. Vinyasa yoga teacher Jason Crandell says this is one reason why he started giving
fewer manual adjustments. “It’s natural to crave the
affection of the person in charge, and that can lead
to big problems,” he says. “In my mind, that was a
reason to be more reserved in how I interact with
my students.”
Crandell says he’s also hearing a growing number of stories from students who’ve experienced
injuries after intense manual adjustments, which
he believes is a result of many teachers being radically undertrained to perform them. “We have
fetishized range of motion through outlets like
Instagram, often at the expense of the quality and
integrity of a pose,” he says. “As teachers, we need
to stop thinking about hands-on assists as a way
to push students more deeply into a pose.”
ParaYoga founder Rod Stryker agrees, adding
that manual adjustments may not be as helpful as
they are made out to be. “Well-informed, deep
hands-on adjustments—done skillfully—can feel
good, but they’re not necessarily productive to the
student in the larger sense or meaning of practice,”
he says. “In fact, I’ve noticed students grow
dependent on teachers who do a lot of hands-on
adjustments, and they can even become emotionally reliant on being adjusted.” If a student’s safety
is compromised in a pose, Stryker will perform a
manual adjustment. Otherwise, he focuses on
verbal and visual cues.
Whether you’re a teacher craving more information on how to navigate hands-on adjustments or
a student wondering what’s appropriate, use the
following guide to help chart this tricky territory.
10
RULES
OF HANDS-ON
ADJUSTMENTS
If you’re a yoga teacher, hands-on adjustments can still be an important tool to help students correct poor alignment and ease into their
fullest expression of a pose. “Sometimes, no matter how many times
or how many different ways you verbally explain a posture or action,
it’s just not as effective as a good physical adjustment,” says veteran
teacher Maty Ezraty. Here, yoga teachers around the country share
their rules for hands-on adjustments. And if you’re not a teacher, these
guidelines will help you understand what’s appropriate—and what’s
not—in public yoga classes.
1
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
get
consent.
Sounds obvious, but keep in mind
that some people may not give an
honest answer when asked if they
want an assist, says Gina Caputo,
founder of the Colorado School of
Yoga. “Give students a chance to
express their consent—or not—prior
to the time you’d like to give the
assist, and preferably with some
privacy or in writing,” she says. For
example, you might ask students
to raise an arm in the air during
the first Child’s Pose if they want
to be adjusted, says Sarah Silvas,
co-owner of Earth Yoga in Boulder,
Colorado, and associate director
for equity compliance at Naropa
University. “Using language that
allows students to opt in rather than
opt out creates an atmosphere of
inclusivity,” she says.
/ 74 / M AY 2018
two
ALLOW STUDENTS
TO OPT OUT AT ANY
POINT DURING CLASS.
Students may feel comfortable being adjusted in
one pose but not another.
They may feel safe at the
start of class, but anxious
toward the end. Shannon
Paige, co-owner of Earth
Yoga, gives her students
a tool they can use throughout class to convey their
feelings discreetly. “Turn
the card one way to signal
you’re open to touch, and
turn it the other way to signal you do not want to be
touched,” she says. “This
way, you can change your
mind throughout class.”
4
3
Be gracious if a student says no to an adjustment.
READ ANY
RESISTANCE.
If you place your hands on a student and they say “stop” or “no,” don’t get offended.
“I am completely happy when a student tells me to back off,” says Mary Taylor,
a longtime Ashtanga Yoga teacher. “I make it clear to my students, in a very positive
way, that it is perfectly fine to say no. Then, after class, I might talk to them to try
to get a better understanding of why.”
A teacher’s hands
should be highly
sensitive throughout
a hands-on assist,
says Chrissy Carter,
a lead teacher trainer
for YogaWorks. “If
you feel resistance
of any kind, whether
it’s physical or energetic, ask yourself
if the adjustment is
necessary or relevant in that moment,
and don’t be afraid
to walk away.”
MAKE YOUR PRESENCE KNOWN
BEFORE YOU APPROACH A STUDENT.
No one likes to be startled—especially a yoga practitioner who is deep in concentration. If you are going
to perform a hands-on adjustment, let the student
know where you are in relation to them, and never
approach from behind. “I always stay in the student’s
line of sight,” says Silvas. “If their gaze is down, I put
a foot near them or give the class a verbal cue so
they know where I am in relation to them, and that
my intention is to give an adjustment.”
A little goes
a long way.
If you want a student to be more engaged in an action, try simply
touching the area that needs attention. For example, in Adho
Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose), tap the outer upper
arms to help a student realize her upper arm bones could be more
externally rotated, instead of rotating them yourself, says Sarah Ezrin,
a teacher at YogaWorks. Unlike a more involved adjustment where the
teacher makes the action happen for the student, tapping or pointing
in this way brings awareness to a muscle that may be sleepy.
9
Ask for feedback
in the moment.
Students may hesitate to speak up when
you’re giving them a hands-on adjustment.
So, ask questions throughout the assist. This
way, you aren’t guessing how they are feeling.
“I always say, ‘How does that feel?’ or ‘Is that
OK?’ when using my hands, to reassure the
student that it’s OK to speak up,” says Taylor.
eight
7
FIVE
6
Rather than viewing hands-on adjustments as a means to help a student go
deeper into a pose, think about it as an
effective way to help a student find integration and stabilization, or to back out
of a pose if they have a lot of mobility,
says Carter. “If I see students going too
far into a Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend, for example, I will use my
hands to help them back out of the
bend,” she says. “This can really help
them protect their hamstrings and find
more stability in the pelvis.”
KNOW EXACTLY WHAT NEEDS
ADJUSTING. Don’t know what you need
to address? Then stay away, says Carter.
“Only approach a student and put your
hands on her if you know exactly where
your hands are going to go and what
they’re going to do.” Tiffany Cruikshank,
founder of Yoga Medicine, agrees, adding
that if you feel uncertain or nervous, your
students will pick up on that vibe. “Go into a
hands-on assist with confidence,” she says.
“Your touch should be firm. Light, floaty
hands can give a student mixed messages.”
By verbally explaining what you are doing throughout a
hands-on adjustment, you put your students at ease
while also educating them. “I only use my hands when
there is an opportunity to teach a student’s body how to
do the pose so they can later replicate it correctly on
their own,” says Crandell. “Using my hands or their hands
as a point of contact, in conjunction with my verbal cues,
makes my students active participants in the process.”
MAY 2018
/ 75 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
Use adjustments
to help a student
back off.
10
PAIR TOUCH
WITH
EXCELLENT
CUES.
kinds of self-adjustments are particularly great for
kinesthetic learners who do well with touch.
While physical adjustments are a very direct way to
correct your students’ alignment and help them find
more opening or release in a posture, they’re also
a very personal experience. And because it’s downright impossible to know all of your students’ personal, cultural, and other boundaries when it comes
to touch (not to mention the physical limitations that
can potentially make your touch injurious), a number
of teachers are taking a hands-off approach to adjustments in asana classes. Here, top yoga teachers
share their go-to noncontact strategies.
Use hand gestures. Even the clearest verbal cues
can be confusing for new practitioners, or anyone
trying a new pose. If you see that a student isn’t
following your words, demonstrate the pose and
then use your hands to mimic the actions you
are cueing. “I often look like an airline flight attendant when motioning desired actions in class,” says
Ezrin. For example, you might point to a student’s
front knee if you see it tracking inward in Virabhadrasana I or II (Warrior Pose I or II), and motion
that you want her to move it outward.
Have your students use their own hands. Getting
familiar with our bodies’ imbalances and quirks
can better inform our practice. “When I first started
practicing Iyengar Yoga, the cues were so precise
and detailed that I literally didn’t know how to
do or feel them. So I started to take my hands
to my own body to understand the engagement
and alignment,” says Crandell. By cueing a student
to wrap her fingers around her lower ribs and gently twist her torso open in Utthita Parsvakonasana
(Extended Side Angle Pose), for example, or to
place her hands on her sacrum to check if her hips
are level in Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle
Pose), you actually prompt your student to experience the feel of your cues, says Crandell. These
Pull out the props. Blocks, blankets, straps, and
other props can help students get into optimal
alignment and give them proprioceptive feedback,
which allows them to find different ways to create
muscular engagement. For example, if a student
hyperextends her front leg in Extended Triangle
Pose, you might place a strap behind her calf and
gently pull it forward, asking her to push back into
the strap to help her unlock the knee joint. (Don't
do this assist if the student has an unrepaired or
unhealed ACL tear.) “Yes, you can do this with
your hands—but the strap allows you to stand
back a bit and observe how the assist is working,
or not working, for the student,” says Angela Clark,
cofounder of Mala Yoga in Brooklyn, New York.
VASANTY/SHUTTERSTOCK
Hands-off assists
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 76 / M AY 2018
8
Transformational
self-assists &
how to do them
VIRABHADRASANA I Warrior Pose I
The goal To find more
space between your front
thigh and the hip point of
your front leg.
MODEL: STEPH SCHWARTZ; HAIR/MAKEUP: BETH WALKER; CLOTHING: MODEL'S OWN
To do Place a block just
below your front kneecap
and push it into the wall
with your shin.
The benefit This will stabilize your pelvis, helping
lift the front hip point away
from your front thigh bone,
says Creaturo.
IF YOU USE PROPS INNOVATIVELY, you can give
yourself the same kind of adjustment at home
that you’d get in class. Think of props as your own
personal assistants. Here, Carrie Owerko, a senior
intermediate Iyengar teacher in New York City, and
Angela Clark and Steph Creaturo, founders of Mala
Yoga in Brooklyn, share some of their favorite ideas
for using props to give yourself an adjustment.
VIRABHADRASANA II
Warrior Pose II
The goal To figure out the
correct hip position, without
sinking too deeply into your
hips.
To do Practice this pose
with your front thigh resting
on the seat of a yoga chair
(you can add other props if
you need more height).
The benefit Support from
the chair will help press the
outer edge of your back foot
down into the mat, which
creates a solid foundation for
the strong muscular action
of lifting up through the legs
and engaging the glutes, says
Clark. It also takes out a lot
of activation from the front
leg’s quadriceps so that the
student can access other
muscle groups like the glutes.
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 78 / M AY 2018
PASASANA Noose Pose
The goal To twist more deeply.
To do Place a yoga block 3 feet or so from the wall, and with your feet together,
place your heels on the block. Then, bend your knees deeply to come into a squat.
Place your right hand to the wall, and root through your heels. On an inhalation,
raise your left arm; on an exhalation, place your left elbow or forearm on your outer
right knee. Elongate your spine, spread your right sternum and collarbone toward
the wall, and drop your right shoulder blade.
The benefit Not only does this help practitioners twist more deeply, but it’s also
a great way to stretch the plantar fascia (which runs through the soles of your feet)
and Achilles tendons (at the backs of your ankles), says Clark.
MAY 2018
/ 79 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
VRKSASANA Tree Pose
The goal To stabilize
your pelvis and find
greater strength in
your standing-leg hip.
To do Place a block
between a knee and
the wall, and work
to isolate the external rotation of your
thigh at the hip joint,
clamping the block
to the wall. Engage
the muscles of your
standing leg’s hip.
The benefit This
work will allow practitioners to hold the
pose longer, says
Clark.
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 80 / M AY 2018
SALABHASANA
Locust Pose
The goal To increase awareness
in your upper back and shoulders—
and relieve the excess tension
that tends to accumulate there.
To do Take a long yoga belt
and make a small loop for your
feet. Press your legs down into
the floor and engage your leg
muscles, hips, buttocks, and lower
abdomen, pressing your pubic
bone down toward the floor. Bend
your elbows, and walk your hands
up the strap as you lift your chest
and upper back away from the
floor. Roll your shoulders back
and down, away from your ears.
Let the lift of your chest precede
the lift of your head.
The benefit Students often
report feelings of spaciousness
after doing this, says Owerko.
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MAY 2018
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ARDHA CHANDRASANA Half Moon Pose
The goal To align your shoulders and back body.
To do Face a wall and place your bottom hand on a
chair to facilitate a deeper opening in the torso. Slowly
walk the fingertips of your top hand up the wall. Actively
press your fingertips into the wall and chair to better
understand where your shoulders are in space, so you
can make adjustments from there.
The benefit The feedback from the chair and wall helps
you to lengthen the underside of your torso and stack
your upper torso above your lower torso, says Creaturo.
It also helps stabilize the hip of your standing leg.
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 82 / M AY 2018
Can’t touch this
What to know when working with students who’ve experienced trauma.
TOUCH CAN BE PARTICULARLY CHALLENGING. In fact, it can
be so triggering that most experts recommend yoga teachers
assume all of their students have experienced trauma—to
avoid setting off unpleasant memories, feelings, and more.
“Sometimes you can recognize signs of trauma, like if a student looks shaky or disoriented, but in most cases it’s not going to be obvious,” says Hala Khouri, cofounder of Off the Mat,
Into the World and a leader in trauma-informed yoga teacher
trainings. Plus, trauma is so complicated that what works for
one trauma survivor doesn’t necessarily work for another, says
Alexis Marbach, a yoga teacher and a member of the Breathe
Network, an organization that connects survivors of sexual violence with trauma-informed, holistic healing-arts practitioners.
“It would be so much easier to say always do this or always do
that, but we have to be more nimble in the way we approach
recommendations for working with trauma survivors.”
COURTESY OF YOGA FLIPCHIP
So what can you do as a teacher?
“It’s the responsibility of the teacher and studio owner to create a safe and open space and empower students to opt out
of touch during a class,” says Khouri. It can often be difficult
for a student, particularly one with trauma, to tell a teacher
they don’t want to be touched, she explains. “They may worry
about hurting the teacher’s feelings. Or they may feel they
need to share personal details about their trauma.” And new
students often don’t know that they don’t have to be touched,
and so they allow the teacher to touch them, thinking that’s
just the way yoga is, adds Khouri. “If we say to students ‘Just
tell me if you don’t want to be assisted’ and then people struggle to speak up for any reason and then feel triggered, upset,
or get a bad assist, the response from the teacher is usually
‘You should have said no,’” says Marbach. “Which is one of the
classic responses that sexual assault survivors hear from
MAY 2018
ments, we can’t perpetuate the cycle of victim blaming
or reinforce the message that the victim is responsible.”
A potential solution: “Studios should have signs on
the door to remind students that they don’t have to be
touched, similar to how there are signs reminding students not to interrupt Savasana,” says Khouri. In addition,
“the teacher should make it clear that there is no obligation to explain why you don’t want touch in class.”
Being nimble in your approach, so that you can adjust
to the needs of individual students, also includes reflecting on your assisting approach, adds Marbach. Ask yourself: Why do I assist? What do I gain from it? What does
the student gain from it? How do I make decisions about
when to assist? How do I know if a student has benefited
from an assist? She generally advocates for a hands-off
approach, for several reasons. “By creating a class without physical assists, we model for students that there is
no one way, no one path for befriending and moving the
body,” she says. “Many teachers feel the need to ‘fix’ their
students with assists, but when we release attachment to
the need or desire to physically correct and adjust, we are
able to stay in the present moment with the whole class,
not just the one student we are touching. We are able to
let go of our ego and how it colors our view of our role in
the class. We are there to provide a healing framework,
not to impose a standard of what an asana practice
should look like.”
Marbach adds: “Yoga is a way for us to get back into
ourselves, to listen in and not only acknowledge, but respond to the needs of the physical and emotional bodies.
Physical assists can send a signal that we need an external person to help us figure out our own bodies. There
are already too many messages that we need to go outside to find our way in.”
YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
EKA PADA RAJAKAPOTASANA One-Legged King Pigeon Pose
The goal To get deeper into both shoulders and hips.
To do Kneel in front of a chair. Place one ankle or lower leg
against the front of the chair seat, and step your other foot forward to come into an upright lunge. Reach one arm backward,
extending it from the shoulder as you eternally rotate your
upper arm. Once you have positioned your hand on the chair,
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
with your palm facing up, lift your elbow and chest. Then take
your head back and reach your opposite arm to the chair as
well. If possible, walk your hands farther down the chair. Maintain stability in your pelvic region as you lift through your sides.
Then, take your head back to (or toward) your back foot.
The benefit This variation helps maintain stability in
the pelvic region and an upward lift through your sides,
says Owerko.
/ 84 / M AY 2018
PARIVRTTA JANU SIRSASANA Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose
The goal To help root the extended leg and lengthen the sides.
To do Place a blanket over the top of your extended leg. Position the top of
a folding chair into the very top of that thigh, near your hip. The weight of the
chair will help the top of your leg to settle toward the floor. Hold the legs of
the chair with both hands, then externally rotate your bottom arm and bring
it forward to hold the front leg of the chair. Reach your top arm overhead to
hold the back leg of the chair. As you fold over your right leg, the chair will
help lengthen and traction the sides of your trunk—away from your hips and
toward your the foot or your extended leg. Once you lower the chair close to
your straight leg, tilt the front portion of the chair down to touch the floor. Let
go of the chair momentarily so that you can place a block on the seat of the
chair to support your head. Take hold of the chair legs once again. Pull the top
of the chair deeper into your right hip as you lengthen both sides of your trunk
and roll your chest and head up toward the ceiling.
The benefit The traction created by the chair will help practitioners feel
grounded and expansive in this pose, says Owerko. MAY 2018
/ 85 / YO GA J O U R NA L . CO M
OUR PROS Author Jen Murphy is
a writer, editor, and yogi in Boulder,
Colorado. Model Steph Schwartz is a
yoga teacher in Boulder, Colorado, who
discovered Ashtanga Yoga in 1999 while
training for ultramarathons. Schwartz
believes the use of props in class
empowers students. “Props can help
students support the breath, build confidence, and evolve their edge,” she says.
Learn more at mandalamonkey.com.
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REFLECTION
Learning
to love
ON NEW YEAR’S DAY, I opened a dusty journal. The
last entry was dated two years prior: January 1, 2016.
I’d branded different sections: Love. Work. Health.
Under each, I listed my desires for those parts of my
life. The dreams I’d described under “Love” were honest. My desires for work were filled with sky-high
expectations. Much of what I wanted to accomplish
that year was beyond my control.
I’d opened this journal to do a similar exercise, but
before I put pen to paper, my brain rolled through the
timeline of what I’d experienced in the past two years—
everything that had led me here, to this place where,
for the first time, I feel like the most real version of me.
We’ll get back to this, but first, a little background.
I was just a kid when I started yoga. By the time
I finished college, my practice had evolved into fullblown devotion. On any given afternoon, you could
find me Sun Saluting in the Ashtanga room between
teaching classes. I was a junkie for the practice, and
I threw myself so deeply into it that I eventually
burned out and suffered multiple injuries.
My passion was gone. Aside from dynamic
moments of connection with my students, I felt numb.
So I altered my path. I took a break from my practice,
explored some of the lessons it had revealed, and came
back feeling more in tune to my voice and who I was.
My love story is quite parallel. I was a young woman
who desperately wanted love. Because of that, I found
myself caught in a pattern: meet handsome person
who shows me kindness, fall madly in love, paint
perfect future together, then quickly watch my projected dreams crumble. Rinse and repeat. Each time,
I survived off the leftover breadcrumbs of affection.
After one particularly bad cycle, I met a man who
was the complete opposite of anyone I’d dated. He
checked few of the boxes I had traditionally looked for
in a partner, but I convinced myself this was genius.
After all, the partners I’d chosen before had failed me.
I told myself I had finally matured, evolved, and now
understood what a real relationship was. Love and
marriage isn’t a fairy tale—it’s a union between two
adults who want to share a foundation, I thought.
So I let go of my belief in magical romance, convinced
I was emotionally evolving.
The truth is, the passion wasn’t there. But, hey, longterm passion isn’t real, right? Sure, our aspirations were
polar opposites, but he was the yang to my yin! And
during our first year of marriage, I kept telling myself
something I’d often heard: “Well, they do say the first
year of marriage is the hardest…”
The realization that I wasn’t happy hit me a mere
year into my marriage, after I met someone who totally
flipped my world upside down. This person made me
take a long, hard look at myself and the relationship
I had grown numb in. Growing up, I had loved the story
of Snow White—the idea that true love’s kiss could pull
someone back from even the deepest slumber. I had
buried that story, and I wanted it back. So I closed my
eyes and let myself fall off that precipice. And when
I landed, I didn’t fall into pieces—I fell into me.
I filed for divorce.
I experienced the most challenging year of my life
while falling in love in a way I had only dreamed of.
And this is where yoga comes back into play. Yoga
has resuscitated me, again and again. I have broken my
body only to recover through mindful diligence. I have
lost my passion only to step back and reassess what
truly mattered to me. I have let go of what I imagined
other people wanted to see in me to discover what
I wanted from—and for—myself. I allowed myself
to choose what felt right without fear of rejection.
I closed my journal, freshly inscribed with my
newest intentions, and took a sip of my coffee,
pondering what I’d write next—what else I want this
next year to hold. Then I looked at the amazing woman
sitting next to me, doing the same, and smiled.
Kathryn Budig is a yoga teacher, author, and founder
of Aim True Yoga. Learn more at kathrynbudig.com
YOGA JOURNAL Issue 301 (ISSN 0191-0965, USPS 116-050), established in 1975, is published nine times a year (February, March, April, May, June, August, September, November, December)
by Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc., an Active Interest Media company. The known office of publication is 5720 Flatiron Parkway, Boulder, CO 80301. Annual Subscription: U.S. $21.95; Canada $33.95;
overseas $43.95. Single copies U.S. $5.99; Canada $6.99. Agreement number 40063731 assigned by Canada Post. Periodicals Postage Paid at Boulder, CO, and at additional mailing offices.
POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Yoga Journal, P.O. Box 420235, Palm Coast, FL 32142-0235.
YOGA JOURNAL . CO M
/ 88 / M AY 2018
ILLUSTRATION: ABIGAIL BIEGERT;
INSPIRED BY JAMES GOLDCROWN’S MURAL IN VENICE, CALIFORNIA
By Kathryn Budig
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