All Posts from September, 2010

Pigeon, and pigeon, and one more pigeon please

September 28th, 2010 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | No Comments »

It is rare that we focus on one pose in class, at least consciously. Since many of the classes at Bernal are flow classes, each pose does lead to another and many poses may be part of each other (I can’t think of a good example of this right now but you know what I mean). This past Saturday however, Debbie Zambetti had us focus on Kapotasana (pigeon pose), a pose that is a favorite to many. I remember one of my first pigeons years ago. Opening my hip like that felt absolutely amazing and, looking back, I am sure I could have used a few adjustments. When you take a class to focus on the various components of one asana, it offers a chance to really get to know the pose and get a sense of what feels right. It also offers a chance to see where you tend to go in a pose and how immediately you tend to fall into patterns. In class, we did three pigeons and almost everytime, I leaned down to place my head on the floor but Debbie’s direction was to open up the chest, be a proud pigeon, get a back bend in there. It was on the third one that we got to go down and get into the pose in the way we’re normally accustomed to. It was wonderful but having had the previous variations made the pose that much richer. Each asana is so complex, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to spend each class, for a week, going through some of the key poses: a whole class on Parsvakonasana (extended side angle), a whole class on Uttanasana (forward bend), and maybe even one on Shivasana (corpse pose).

Why do we come to yoga?

September 28th, 2010 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

It’s an important question. Why do we come? With all the things we can do with our time, why this? That question is raised every time I walk into the studio, why am I here and what do I intend to do with my time in this class? Some of you may be saying, wait, you spoke about this a few postings ago when speaking about devotion. But this is slightly different. This isn’t about what are we devoted to, it’s about why we are devoted to yoga. For me personally, it’s not about getting more physical. It’s about using the physicality of yoga to free some part of myself, to look closer at the things that challenge me, to gain a better understanding of why I want to get out of a pose, to see how I might criticize myself when I can’t get into tree pose or wonder if my shirt could be cuter in class (yes, I actually do think about that). I come to yoga to get free from that which constrains me and somehow these poses do that. They are freeing in some way. They open up something inside and let it out. They show me how breath, that simple, consistent action, the marker of life, is the path to going deeper. Notice how when you breathe, you break boundaries. That’s why I come. But why do you come? I think the more you realize and stay focused on that, the closer you can get to getting there and ultimately achieving it, whatever it may be.

The days are shorter, the poses longer, it’s time to slow down

September 28th, 2010 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

For the first time yesterday, after an evening class, I noticed how the days are getting shorter. It was dark in the studio, well almost dark, and while the air was wondrously warm outside, the planets and stars were peaking out just a little bit earlier. In that stillness, Shivasana, the quiet brought on by the light, I was reminded once again of the vital importance of slowing down. Slowing down does not necessarily mean doing less, it just means being aware of what it is you are doing. Slowing down means that when you’re in Tricanasana, you’re not thinking about what is coming next. Slowing down means breathing. Slowing down means taking a seat.

Yesterday in class, Stephanie spoke about how asana means “pose” but it also means “seat”. So when we’re in an asana, we’re actually taking a seat, slowing down into a position, albeit sometimes quite an uncomfortable position. So it would behoove us to take each asana one by one, seat by seat, almost as if we’re sitting down for a brief conversation, one with our bodies, about how something feels, where we can go further, what direction we can take.

The light, the seasons and the air is asking us to take it easy, slow down, and pay closer attention. Yoga affords us the opportunity to do just that…

Less is more

September 15th, 2010 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I live in San Francisco so I try to take advantage of many of the things this city offers: affordable acupuncture, yoga, walks in the park, meditation classes. A few weeks ago, my meditation teacher spoke about how preoccupied we have become with being busy, with having full schedules, with running around and how, in certain ways, busy has become part of our identity. Yoga is a way to slow down a bit but even on the mat, we tend to want to get a lot in. Sadly, in the process, we sometimes lose some quality and, particularly with asanas, it’s important to remain focused and not rush.

In the last two posts, I have explored the minutiae of some of our most common poses. Yesterday, when thinking about what I wanted to write, I was in Trikonasana and even there, I was thinking about rolling my upper thigh out, straightening my arms, keeping my back leg active, grounding my front foot, breathing, looking at one spot, breathing and I thought how great it would be to just focus on that one pose, again and again and again. Rather than try and get through a whole bunch of poses, why not focus on one or two or three and do them well.

Yoga is practice. There is a lot to it but practice is key. We must do things again and again to get our muscles to remember the poses. The more muscle memory we build, the more fluid asanas become and then practice has that flow.

So less IS more. You don’t have to get in a load of asanas to practice, you just have to slow down, breathe and do what works for you, and do it well. There is nothing to prove on the mat, it’s a time to just be with the breath and the body, fully, from our toes to our tailbones to the crown of our heads.

What’s up with Downward Facing Dog?

September 3rd, 2010 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Downward Facing Dog, aka Down Dog, aka Adho Mukha Svanasana, must be one of the most ubiquitous poses in yoga classes across the world. While I have not practiced all the styles of yoga, I can’t think of one class in which Adho Mukha Svanasana wasn’t a constant. You start class with it, well at least fairly early on, you use it in between asanas as a way to rest and, for those that practice Surya Namaskara based classes (that’s sun salutation and no, I don’t know these by heart, the magic of the internet is helping me remember the Sanskrit words), it is part of each one of these. And yet, every time, even after hundreds of Adho Mukha Svanasanas, I still find myself adjusting and wondering, am I doing this right? Sometimes I think an entire class should just be dedicated to Adho Mukha Svanasana. It brings deeper meaning to the song, the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone, the hip bone’s connected to the…you get the gist.

So what is it about Adho Mukha Svanasana that keeps it so interesting. Well, for one, there are lots of body parts to be paying attention to. While the asana may look like an upside down V, the subtle changes in the body make it much more powerful and specified then that. What are those subtleties? The hardest one for me is keeping those shoulders open when you’re down. That means literally feeling the top of your arms unfurl like a new leaf opening up on a palm. Really get those shoulders open and away from the ears.

The other subtle but potent adjustment is having your thighs role out, as if someone is placing their palms on your inner thighs and rolling out the flesh and muscle. But no need for someone else, you can do it yourself. Get those thighs out.  And at the same time, get that butt in the air. One effective way of doing this is bending the knees, sticking your but up high, and then straightening the legs. One more thing, really feel the stability of the hands as the index finger and thumb remain stable and grounding. At the same time, you shouldn’t be leaning too much into the hands. There should be and equal balance of sorts of the hands stretching forwards and down and the feet stretching backwards and down. Then allow the head to fall properly, comfortably and deeply in between the arms.Wow, that’s a lot to remember!

OK, so what do we have. We have hands firmly placed on the mat, index finger and thumb secure and stable, long outstretched arms with the shoulders rolling out, head resting between the arms as you gently look at one place with a sense of concentration, back straight, butt high, then legs down, thighs turned outwards, feet parallel, heels reaching for the ground. And then, of course, breathe. And breathe. And breathe.