2010

Erich Schiffmann Workshop

My first teacher, Chris Furtak, loved teaching all styles of yoga. She would spend a month and teach us what we would learn if we would go and study with Baron Baptiste, Rodney Yee, Anna Forrest, John Friend, or Erich Schiffmann among others. She would teach how they taught, the differences they have, and poses/ series they liked among other themes. Over the years I have had wonderful opportinities to study with many of these teachers, somtimes for just a few hours, but sometimes for an entire weekend. Erich Schiffmann never seemed to be where I was going. I found Shiva Rae, David Life, and Sharron Gannon but never Erich. I bought his book, devoured it and loaned it to many people, but had never met him.

About a month ago I got an email from Alison, of Harmony Yoga in Spokane, asking if I could spread word out about an Erich workshop held there. Immediatly I wanted to go, but didn't think I should take time off from work and the studio. I sent an email out to some other teachers and became jealous when they replied they were going. Then something happened. Events changed. It became easy to see that I should go. So I did.

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Erich taught about meditation, finding your pose, and free from yoga. These are all things I am going to take with me into classes I teach. In each two and a half hour class he spent at least 45 minutes teaching meditation and answering questions, it really inspired me. I can not even scratch the surface here, but will do my best over the coming weeks.

From an asana (posture) standpoint, there is a whole new world of hip openers; Hip Yoga is about to get more interesting (don't worry, these will show up in other classes). He compared asana to musical notes. When you learn about music, you learn the scales, the basics; when you learn postures you learn where hands and feet land. Trikanasana (triangle pose) is taught differently between Iyengar, Yin, Anusara, and Ashtanga, however they are all correct. Some days you feel like a more strict Iyengar version, sometimes a more relaxed Yin variation. Each day can be different. Each pose can be different.

When Erich teaches classes, they tend to be about 10 minutes of meditation, 30 of lead asana, 20 of free form, savasana, and if time is left, a few more minutes of mediation. I always try to start a class by asking what you want to do, sometimes everyone speaks up, and this give me a conundrum. Do I try to fit it all in and not hit somethings enough? Or do I omit a posture that someone needs? Enter free form. Erich turns on music and lets you go. Do what you want/need. It is fun. I will try and do this more in classes, however, it is fairly advanced, so not every class will include it.

Stay-cation Yoga Retreat

Update: This retreat has been canceled.

Well we currently have no plans to head to Panama or Thailand for a yoga retreat, but why not have a little retreat right here in Missoula?

From Monday, September 13th through Friday, September 17th we will meet at the studio from 8:00 - 10:00am. We will work on lots of things, some we do every class, some we don't. Each day we ate going to have a different focus, from hips to headstands, meditation, pranayama, and of course have an extended savasana.

This is a very unique opportunity to challenge yourself, learn more, and deepen your yoga practice. $80 if you
register by September 11th, $90 after, or drop in to any of the classes for $20.

Ayur-Yoga Workshop

On Friday, July 16th, we were blessed to have a visiting Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga teacher Julie Jivanti visit us at Inner Harmony Yoga.
Juliet currently practices at the Ayurvedic Health Center in Bellingham, Washington. During her visit, she took Ayurvedic consultations and led a two and a half hour Ayur-Yoga workshop on Friday morning.

I was able to attend the Ayur-Yoga workshop and the wealth of knowledge Juliet had was amazing. Ayurveda is an very vast ocean of information that includes everything from Astrology to Yoga. On
Juliet's website, she has a thorough and concise description of Ayurveda, you should read even if you know a bit about the science, as well as brief explanation of the three Doshas. During the workshop, she talked a lot about all three Doshas, defining them further and helping us understand our personal makeup. We are not just one of the three Doshas, but a combination, unique to our self.
Personally I think my Dosha is about 60% Kapha, 30% PItta, and 10% Vata. There are tests to find your Dosha online, (or here, or here) these are fun, but to truly know, you must have your pulse read by a practitioner. Also the practitioner can do a much better job of using and adjusting personal questions instead of a three-choice internet poll.

Learning from her, I am able to taylor a class better for the students who show up, time of day, or month. For instance, an intense backbending class will feel amazing in the middle of February, when we are energetically dragged down with the weather, however this style of class is too draining for the hot summer months. During the summer, we should practice balance and forward bending postures to cool and calm ourselves from the inside.

We are looking forward to Juliet's next visit in late August. If you would like to learn more, IHY will be hosting a public talk soon, we will keep you posted.

108 Sun Salutes

Chris Furtak, my first yoga teacher, announced in class one day we were going to do 108 Sun Salutations on the Winter Solstice. "That's a ridiculous idea," I thought, I had been taking her classes for about a year and a half. The next class I attended she mentioned it again, and in the next class, and the next and next. . . The solstice was approaching and there was that voice inside my head that said, "Why not, it's only 90(ish) minutes. I don't have anything better planned." So I jumped. I did it. All 108. And I lived. I even went to a yoga class the next day. I even did a 108 again, on the Vernal Equinox, and the next five times she led them. Most recently, I was at the Yoga Fitness Center with Thad Haas on New Year's Day, my first 108 in a few years, but I lived through it each time, and will again.

108 is a very daunting number. When you start the mind is nervous, "Can I do it?" After ten or so the mind is relaxed, "This is easy." Once you reach the mid twenties, the mind goes the other way, "Why am I here? This makes no sense." You go on. Once you reach a certain point, maybe around 45, the next 40 go by in a blur, the mind lets go. Sure the body begins to tire, and you adjust your flow accordingly, maybe taking less of a backbend, or skipping the pushup all together, but once you reach 90, the end is in sight. You regain lost strength. The breath carries you. Then you are done. 108. Do a twist, a happy baby, and then settle into the best Savasana of your life.

Whenever I mention 108 sun salutes, people always ask, "Why 108?" The number 108 is very auspicious. It appears in temples from India to Japan to Cambodia. It appears in astrology- the distance the earth is from the sun is 108 times the sun's diameter. It appears in pop-culture- the Oceanic 6 spent 108 days on the island in the TV show 'Lost.' It is the name of a band, an airport, a hospital and an Italian artist. But my favorite reason- it is said mortals have 108 sins, desires, delusions, and lies we tell. For each sun salute you do, one sin is peeled away, like the layers of an onion. After completion you feel pure, maybe that is why you are able to rest so peacefully.

Remember, you don't have to do all 108. You can rest for one, ten or thirty. Maybe set a goal of resting every third one. You can always stay in downward facing dog, or child pose while your neighbor completes one, then join in again. Remember, it is only 90(ish) minutes, it is by donation, and we will provide tea and fruit after, so what do you have to lose?

Backward Yoga

Backbends are my favorite set of postures, there are so many variations, but basically anytime you are opening the heart, you are doing a backbend. Over the course of this series we will start with the basics of backbending, building the foundation to bring strength into the back body and flexibility to the front body.

In our daily life, we often allow the front body to carry and support the back body leading to caved chests, rounded backs, our gaze focused down, and our internal organs to be compressed. Our body is not designed for this posture. The skeleton does not provide support in the front body, there are no bones in the stomach to provide the support. There is, however, our spine in the back body. The spine is designed to carry our weight, to allow our heart to lift, our gaze to look out, and give our organs room to function.

Driving and sitting at a computer are two of the toughest things on our bodies. These two things cave in our front body, making the muscles of the front body shorter and tighter; at the same time our backs round and shoulder blades split apart causing our back bodies to weaken. Over time our lungs and heart get cramped with less room to function freely. Backbends counteract this compression by stretching out our front bodies and strengthening our back bodies. We give our lungs an opportunity to work fully and we give our back body the strength to stand tall and support the front body.

Back bends are also a great natural energy booster. They massage kidneys and adrenal glands, open our hearts and give oxygen to our organs. As we stretch our front bodies, we stimulate blood circulation which will assist just about every body process and improve every system of the body. It will improve the transport of nourishment, the elimination of toxins, and the function of the heart, liver, kidneys and immune system. The lungs stretch and open, allowing a bigger breath and more oxygen to our blood.

All are welcome to this series; beginners encouraged.

Hip Yoga

My goal with Hip Yoga is to offer a more restoritive version of my Vinyasa classes. We will do sun salutes and various standing poses to build heat and warm up the hips, then move into deep stretches for the hips. As the muscles warm, they become pliable, allowing us to get deeper into the stretch.

There are many muscles that we will focus on, and they are all interconnected. These muscles anchor themselves to the ribcage, vertebrae, pelvis and femurs. With so many different attachment points, it is easy to understand as these muscles shorten and grow rigid, you can have discomfort manifest in many ways. Let's take, for example, the iliopsoas, or psoas. It inserts at the top of the femur, runs through the pelvis and attaches on the T12 and L1 vertebrae, the small of the back. It's primary function is to lift the knee, it is our hiking muscle. Do you ever suffer back pain after a long hike, run, or walk? It could be the psoas pulling on the spine. After all, which bone is going to give- a vertebra or a femur? By stretching this muscle out, we can release it and prevent strain being put on our lower back. By the way, as mentioned earlier, the attachment point of the psoas is the T12, the same vertebra where our ribs begin, and our diaphragm attaches to those ribs. Ever have a tight back and have issues taking a complete breathe? See how it is all connected? There are many more examples that we will get into in class.

With so many muscles interconnected in the hips and low back stretching them is an easy way to ease low back pain from sitting, running and just living our daily life. A lot of the postures we will do are great 'everyday' stretches, things you can take away and do on your own.

Positive Thinking and Meditation: This Valentine's Day, Take Yourself on a Blind Date

When the surface of a pond is calm, we can see to the bottom very clearly. However, even in the pristine waters of Montana,  this is quite a challenge when the surface is agitated by waves. In the same way, when the mind is still, we feel a different type of happiness, we can see the "self", this is a big part of yoga. We can get to this state of in-the-moment contentment  by concentrating the mind externally, or internally.

Generally, in our modern lives we have been hard wired to focus the mind externally on objects. When the mind is fully concentrated, time passes unnoticed. This can happen when we are watching an entire season of a TV show on DVD, or when our job though boring, is tedious enough to require all of our concentration.  Time is just a modification of the mind, all happiness achieved through the mind is temporary and fleeting; it is limited by nature, thus we clutch desperately to temporal things that make us feel good.


When the mind is focused in meditation however, there is no time! To achieve that state of lasting happiness and absolute peace, we must first know how to calm the mind. By turning the mind's concentration inward, upon the self, we can deepen that experience of perfect concentration. This feeling of peace and happiness can also lead us to a more open heart, I challenge you this month to give yourself and your loved one, perhaps as a valentines gift, 10 minutes a day to sit, breathe, and let the waves dissipate so you can see to the bottom of the pond.

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