Experience the healing power of Ayurveda as we tap into its divine wisdom storehouse to transform our Yoga, up-level our health and live with more purpose, power, clarity and bliss at this transformational course with Yogini + Ayurveda Specialist Insiya Rasiwala-Finn.
In my past two decades of teaching yoga, I’ve seen a lot of evolution in the yoga world. I’ve loved watching new poses come into the mix, some borrowed from creative minds and some from other disciplines such as circus school. I never thought I would be interested in a one arm hand stand for example. I thought, “this is just flashy,” but then I realized the challenge kept me fresh and gave me something to progress towards. I am no longer a naysayer and practice this and other “new school” yoga moves almost every day.
That said, having just taught one month of intensive Blissology Yoga Teacher Training course focusing on the ins an outs of yoga alignment, I am recommitted to making people realize my stance on yoga progression. I strongly believe that advanced yoga needs to be viewed not just as flashy, challenging poses, preferably done on the edges of cliffs or waterfalls; nay, advanced yoga lies also in being able to do so called “basic” poses with precision, breath and presence. This needs to remain the foundation of yoga.
One afternoon during the YTT, I wanted to run our Yoga Foundations course so the students could see how to explain so called “simple poses” like upward dog or chaturanga to beginners. It become clear that this work was not just for beginners. Even people who had been practicing yoga for decades loved going back to basics and learning how to do them well. It was a joy to spend whole afternoons looking at what muscles need to turn on to make these poses feel light yet stable to explore what the feet, pelvis and hands do in the pose with a fine brush instead of in broad brush strokes. There is a whole world of detail that isn’t boring but outright exciting in this work. There needs to be a resurgence of this type of study in modern yoga.
Over the years, as thousands of more yoga teachers pour into the incredibly competitive global yoga market, there is more and more emphasis to find something fresh and exciting in the practice. This means that teachers will step up their sequencing game, make killer playlists, and throw lots of challenging poses into the mix.
To really do yoga with precision, you need to make people aware of what they are doing by plugging into their bodily feedback loops and slowing the tempo down. In way too many yoga classes I’ve observed, the tempo seems to be speeding up as this is what creates sweat which is an easy sell in our body conscious culture.
Imagine trying to play jazz before mastering the scales. This is an analogy for what I see in the modern yoga culture.
I believe that we need to spend more time ingraining a solid alignment foundation in yogis; and as experienced yoga teachers it is our responsibility to the next generation (of yogis) that we do so.
I always remind our graduating teachers that every yoga instructor is trying to strike a balance between detail and flow—and it’s a tricky balance. If you concentrate on the details of the poses, often the classes loses flow and become a clinic or workshop.
Yet, there is a third option. When we slow the pace down just a little and create an experience of harmony between mind, body and breath, concentrating on precise yoga can lead to the state of mind we all love called “flow.”
This means we need to let people know why they are doing the poses, what the benefits are, how they should feel in the pose and let their internal experience guide the poses.
It’s the opposite to being guided from the “outside in” and feeling like every pose needs to fit a perfect photo. This is where we progress to in our month long YTT.
There is a lot of room still for inspiring playlists, creative sequencing, philosophical themes and even options for advanced poses for those who want to go there in the class. Let’s walk before we run though. Alignment is and should be the foundation for all yoga, beginner or advanced. After all, cultivating a strong practice of alignment will help our bodies to continue to practice our yoga as we age, with more freedom and no injuries.
Here in the States, April is National Poetry Month. I love it for the inspiration to re-visit my favorite poems, the encouragement to discover new ones, and the excuse to share them in my yoga classes.
There’s such a beautiful parallel between poetry and yoga. One of the things that Eoin said during my teacher training that stayed with me is that teaching yoga is like poetry: the idea is to encourage people to slow down and feel.
When I read a poem, I feel a difference in my approach compared to my more typical tendency to skim. My time in law school with its endless required reading of case law made me a champion skimmer. And if I’m not careful, I find that skimming skill transforming into habit. Maybe it’s the same for many of us. How often do we skim the news, our email, our Facebook feeds, just trying to sift through and determine what really requires our attention?
This is where poetry is so good for me. It forces me not to skim. What would be the point of skimming a poem, after all? So much of the pleasure of reading a poem is appreciating each word, noticing how it relates to the next, much like our poses and movements flow together on our mats.
I love the way poet Naomi Shihab Nye explains it, in her lovely 2016 interview on the podcast On Being:
“…when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.”
And at its best, isn’t that also what a yoga/meditation practice does? It provides us the same opportunity to get quiet, to savor, to make some space to notice how we feel. And like a poem, our practice is most powerful when we allow it to evoke feeling, emotion.
Shihab Nye, again, says it beautifully:
“…and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space. And you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently.”
More and more I notice our collective need for this space, and I see that the enemy of it is “skimming.” When we rush—whether through texts and images on a screen, or through movements on our mat—we’re not letting ourselves slow down and feel. With poetry as my remedy, I’m committing to skim less, and savor more.
I’d love for you to join me. Let’s make more space for poetry, for practice, for presence.
It seems only appropriate to share a poem to close. It’s so hard to choose just one of my favorites, but this one echoes a lot of Blissology principles for me. It’s from fellow Oregonian William Stafford:
Why I Am Happy
Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens
I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.
And I know where it is.
By Victoria Williams, Blissology 200-hr YTT
Check out Victoria’s teacher profile to learn more.
Ayurveda—India’s ancient wisdom science of longevity—categorizes us as unique individuals, each stepping into life with our own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual blueprint.
This blueprint, or prakriti in Sanskrit, arises from Ayurveda’s universal life-creating elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. These elements combine to form specific bio-energies called doshas, existing within us as well as in the world at large. Earth and water create the heavy Kapha dosha, from fire and water emerges fiery Pitta, and from air and space we get light and excitable Vata.
It is our unique ratio of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha that gives us recognizable characteristics, traits, and quirks. For example, earthy Kapha people have bigger bones and tend toward calm solidity, athletic Pitta people exhibit competitiveness and passion, while Vata people tend toward thinner frames, as well as a quick, creative, scattered mind.
Our work in life, according to Ayurveda, is to understand our doshic blueprint so that we can choose activities, food, and a lifestyle that balance, rather than amplify, our doshas.
Understanding our doshas is also key to getting the most benefits from our yoga practice. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class and emerged feeling a little out of it—you may have felt irritable and over-heated; or perhaps too scattered and spacey, or too mellow and melancholy—it is possible that your yoga practice is not supporting your doshas.
Here is a short guide to poses that will help to balance your doshas for maximum health and happiness…
Read the rest of the article on elephant journal.
A superflow is a joyous movement practice that pulls from yoga, tai chi, and surfing.
This powerful yet calming trinity intentionally mimics the rhythm of nature and flow of the oceans, opening you to a higher state of bliss in both body and mind.
Here are five beneficial surf-inspired movements:
- Tai Chi for centering
- Lay back flow
- Surf burpees
- Surf burpees with slash
- Round house
On a physical level, these practices increase agility, coordination, and strength; mentally they evoke positive energy and clarity. Yogis will find these flows more circular and less confined to a grid than a traditional yoga practice. Fitness enthusiasts will love the physical challenge and creativity within each sequence. Expect a whole new level of mind-body harmony.
And if you want to dive deeper into the superflow practice, join me in Tofino in September/October for a Superflow: the Fluid Body advanced module course!