Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kathy Cooper, Practice 4...staying open while getting stronger

Kathy has been really focusing her adjustments with me on opening my shoulders. This has been demonstrated in bound poses, downward dog, and parasarita padotanasana C particularly. At the same time I'm striving to strengthen my shoulders and upper arms with bakasana and reforming my bad alignment issues in up/down dog and chaturanga...not to mention working on those adjustive skills at chiropractic school. All of this focus on strengthening and opening really plays the opposites. The dance around the point, isn't that yoga...the balance between shiva and shakti? At any rate, this continues to help open up the tension at the root of my neck and help those muscles finally let go after months of being in spasm. As I approach my last Kathy Cooper practice on Friday evening I am realizing that this month has done much to intensify my practice. My practices are sweatier, more energetic, and much, much more focused whether this teacher is there or not. Even though I haven't added any new postures, my understanding and curiosity has grown for each in my practice. I find that my practice times are expanding to longer sessions. A point about this practice of Ashtanga yoga and how it has changed me since I picked it up in January. At my first day Casey mentioned that this practice teaches you to align yourself with the natural cycles in the world around you. He mentioned that this isn't something you force yourself into, it just happens and asked me to just observe if that was true for me. It's becoming very true from the simple waking with the sun and getting sleepy as it sets to noticing diet and balance changes with the moon cycle. Who knew?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kathy Cooper Practice 3: Standing on my own two feet

Today I realized that I don't use my feet as much as I should. My arches are constantly collapsing all over the place and my balance on my feet is terrible! Today's practice was about standing firmly on my feet. Kathy seemed able to align my body in such a way in many of the standing poses that I had to firmly plant my feet in order to hold myself up. I am reminded of the fact that Jill would always point out that the bhandas are energetic directions, not a particular muscular contraction. I was certainly engaging uddiana bhanda and even moola bhanda in my standing series. This paid off in the standing balances...however, by that point I had been SO active in my feet that from ankles to foot to root of the toes, they were getting quite tired. In an unrelated point, I'm healing myself through yoga. My elbows have become a pain in my neck, quite literally. I have developed extreme tension in my levator scapulae and posterior scalenes. No amount of chiropractic manipulation or soft tissue work seems to have worked for months. But guess what, it was pointed out to me recently that my elbows hyper-extend consistently through my practice. Down and up dogs are big culprits here. I'm not using my musculature to hold myself up here, instead I rely on the bony supports and/or my ligaments. Clearly, without correction, this could become a problem in the elbow joint. However, it also puts me in a position where my shoulders close in on the front side of my body. Sitting all day in lecture does nothing but enforce now my natural posture is with my shoulders in front of my body with my palms facing back. Since I started consciously putting a slight bend in my elbows during practice I've noticed and ability to pull the shoulders back during lecture. This new way of practice is strengthening muscles that I couldn't ever figure out before. My utkatasana has improved because I can really access the neccessary inward-spiraling of the arms as I'm developing the strength/flexiblity to move that way. And today I realized that when I continue the slight bend in the elbow theme while in bridge, it opens up all the tight spots in my neck. Bridge is so powerfully important at this point in my life, that I'm temporarily dropping ALL practice of upward-facing bow. I just don't get the same, very necessary, benefit from that. This experience is just sitting here to reinforce that what we might view as the 'easy version' is really something all it's never let go of those 'simple' asanas; they are more powerful than you might first realize.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kathy Cooper Experience, Practice 2: finding the space in asana

My second Kathy Cooper practice this month was Monday evening. The bus was right on schedule that day and I for once arrived on time! On days I'm lucky like that I get to enjoy the chant. She slowed it down a bit, which I liked a lot. This was a good practice for me. My mind was calm and focused for the majority of the practice despite the full room or the plant that I encountered with my fingertips. I continue to be impressed with the information that Kathy can convey verbally and physically. She can find space in not only the 'complex' asanas, but for some reason, she found a ton of space in my triangle that I didn't know I had access too. Mostly what I learned this practice is how to rest within each asana. I used to say quite often in my classes that the point of asana practice is to see if you can breathe complete, smooth breaths in each asana. However, after this practice I would add to that: can you find ease and expansion in each asana too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Kathy Cooper: Practice 1; OR Yoga-the good, the bad, and the 'it doesn't resonate'

This month at my yoga studio, Kathy Cooper is teaching. I plan to blog about the five classes I'm signed up for with her throughout the 'Kathy Cooper Experience'. Tuesdays I practice twice, once at our school's yoga club (new teacher every week) and again at the studio. Yoga club is a unique yoga experience, as we have a smattering of teachers picked and handed down quarter to quarter. This week we had what I must say was flat-out BAD yoga. How do you know bad yoga? When the teacher unrolls their mat and forgets to teach to the students completely. This 'teacher' proceeded to 'teach' a (potentially harmful in my opinion) series of asana that she did not describe 'what part goes where', give them the correct names, and barely gave breath cues. The worst part perhaps was when from revolved extended side angle we were instructed to 'now exhale and fall into my favorite pose and try not to pull your hamstrings'. That was the only instruction...and the pose after I turned to look at her was Hanumanasana completely folded forward! This was bad yoga, in my opinion. After class, she was proud to announce that she had no teacher training...and it showed. Yoga club does offered a varied experience, but not all of it is bad yoga. For example, one teacher came, who clearly understood the point, but was very nontraditional, mixing many calisthenics with asana, but matched it all with breath and was able to teach a lot of philosophy. I like my yoga with a heavy dose of tradition, so he didn't resonate...but he had some good yoga going. GOOD YOGA happened much later in the day at the sweet Mysore studio. This was my first practice with Kathy Cooper. As soon as I entered the studio it was heavy with breath. There was no need for the heater tonight because the place was warm with prana flowing everywhere. A great way to start practice is to arrive to a packed energetic studio. I received two adjustments from Kathy that were super informative. Like Jill Manning, she knows each asana like it were her dearest, oldest friend. Both adjustments came with pointers and small movement that opened up things in a big way. The first in downward dog amped up the energy, the second in Marichyasana C gave me so much more room for breath. As I was preparing to leave she came over to say good-bye and there was something so Manorma-like about the way she interacts with you...and if you know Manorma, maybe you know that feeling that I can't describe in any other way. Good yoga, that resonates with you leaves you feeling light and springy...and makes the world a more beautiful place. I hope that motivates everyone to find the good yoga that works for them no matter what it is and run with it.