Student Question: I loved the rope sequence you taught in class. Is there a way I can practice it at home without a rope wall?

 Yes! The video below provides detailed instructions on how to use your door as a rope wall for standing poses!
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Student question: With my busy schedule, I only have twenty minutes to practice each day. Is there anything you can suggest?

I thought about this question while I was in India.  During a Q&A session, Abhijata talked about how we have to touch the standing poses, in our practice, everyday.  Standing poses are the foundation for all other asanas. However, it is important to create a well-rounded practice that incorporates different categories of asana (i.e. forward bending, back-bending, inversions, twists.)
To help you in your practice, I have attached Iyengar yoga sequences from the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States (IYNAUS) and a 20 minute yoga sequence created by Carolyn Belko of the Iyengar Yoga Center of North County, CA.
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Sequence for Janu Sirasana

Sequence for Janu Sirasana indicating one or two linking actions for each asana.

  • TadasanaLift and spread the front of the chest, lift up through the side ribs. (vertical extention)
  • Urdhva Hastasana Roll the outer upper arms toward the inner arms. Draw the shoulders down away from the ears and in toward the spine. Lift up through the sides of the trunk.
  • Vrksasana – (bent leg action) Lengthen the inner groin to the inner knee and draw the outer knee back into the outer hip (looping action). (arm torso action) Roll the outer upper arms toward the inner arms.  Draw the shoulders down away from the ears and in toward the spine. Lift up through the sides of the trunk. (vertical extention)
  • Parighasana bent leg – (bent leg action) Lengthen the inner groin to the inner knee and draw the outer knee back into the outer hip (looping action)
  • Virabhadrasana II into Utthita Parsvakonasana (bent leg action) Lengthen the inner groin to the inner knee and draw the outer knee back into the outer hip (looping action).    
  • Adho mukha svanasana Roll the inner upper arms to the outer arms. Draw the shoulders down away from the ears and in toward the spine. Lift up through the sides of the trunk.
  • Parsvottanasana – concave – Draw the chest forward, extend through the sides of the body, lift and spread the front of the chest.
  • Parsvottanasana – go down – keeping the actions of Parsvottanasana concave, keeping length in the sides of the body and front body as you move down.
  • Padangusthasana Pull up through the arms. Draw the body down keeping the length in the sides of the body.
  • Baddha konasanaLengthen the inner groin to the inner knee and draw the outer knee back into the outer hip (looping action). Roll the inner legs to the outer legs.
  • Upavistha KonasanaExtend through the heels.  Press the thighs firmly down, draw the knee caps up.

In Janu Sirsasana students tend to shorten the front body, round the back, and lift the shoulders up by the ears instead of drawing down and into the back.  Tadasana, Urdhva Hastasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Parsvottanasana, Padangusthasana teach the student to lengthen the sides of the body evenly (vertical extention), lift and spread the front of the chest and draw the shoulders down and into the back.  Vrksasana, Parighasana, Virabadrasana II, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Baddha konasana, Upavistha konasana teach the action of the legs.janu-sirsasana


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The Power of Practice

power of practice

This photo was posted on Facebook by Heather O’Hara.  This is a photo of her grandmother before and after she started practicing yoga. The photos were taken less than one year apart.  Her teacher is Rachel Jesien, a Certified Yoga Instructor specializing in Alignment, Backcare & Scoliosis in NYC.

I do not know Rachel, but based on the results shown in the photo she must be a wonderful teacher.  However, it is important to note that these results could never have been achieved without the dedication and commitment of the student.

   No matter how incredible the teacher, if the student doesn’t practice, the student doesn’t change.  

Heather’s grandmother did not take a lesson from Rachel and go home to wait for her next lesson.  She took what she learned and practiced.  In Sanskrit the word for practice is Abhyasa.  It translates to, ‘persistent, consistent effort, practiced over a long period of time’.  It does not mean practice when we find time for it. It does not mean wait until you attend your next yoga class. It is a fiercely focused commitment necessary to create a change.  That’s the kind of practice it took to make this change.  A change clearly seen in the photo above.  We can all learn from Heather’s grandmother.

“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”
BKS Iyengar 
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Yoga teachers are human

I am sometimes made uncomfortable by how I am perceived by my students. I am not a perfect being. I am flawed. I am human.

I have observed my teachers made uncomfortable by a student’s idolization. Yes, we practice and we teach yoga but we are not more enlightened than the masses. It just means we are working on it.

Here is an excerpt from Central Mass Yoga & Wellness’s recent blog. It resonated with me today.
Your yoga teacher has car trouble.
Your yoga teacher has kids.
Your yoga teacher has good days and bad.
Your yoga teacher skips practice sometimes.
Your yoga teacher forgets what leg you are on.
Your yoga teacher goes to the grocery store.

In the age of Yoga Journal and other publications which glorify flashy poses, it is easy to think yoga teachers come fully formed out of the womb in scorpion pose (Vrschikasana). What these magazines and even the honored position of teacher at the front of the room don’t show, are the years of practice it took to get to a pose.

Each teacher, no matter how advanced or fresh off the YTT farm, started at square one for their body. They each had a first time on the mat in which they no doubt thought there was no way their body would ever do x, y and z. We all found our way to yoga through a different avenue but make no mistake, once we found the road, we too had to practice and still do. We each have our difficult, easy and trigger poses. We struggle with tightness in our body, unusual shape, short arms and the like, but we practice….. No one of us is above or separate from practice. Practice is all we have, there is no finish line.. ”

Thank you CY&W.


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One should not overstretch or understretch

“One should not overstretch or understretch.  If one thing is overstretched, something else gets understretched.  If overstretching comes from a swollen ego, then understretching results from a lack of confidence.” BKS Iyengar

 “The challenge of yoga is to go beyond our limits – within reason.  We continually expand the frame of the mind by using the canvas of the body.  It is as if you were to stretch a canvas more and create a larger surface for a painting.  But we must respect the present form of our body.  If we pull too fast or too much at once we will we will rip the canvas.  If the practice of today damages the practice of tomorrow it is not correct practice.” BKS Iyengar

These are quotes I keep in mind when I practice.

BKS Iyengar, Logan Airport Boston 2005

I purchased “Light on Life” in 2005 when Guruji came to Boston for his ‘Light on Life” tour.  During this time my practice was very different.  I had to keep my ego in check and not blast past my limits. I had to work on finding the intelligence of the pose and remind myself that the beauty in the asana is not the advanced variation of the pose, but the journey it takes to get there.

Now, as I grow older I have to make an effort not to understretch.  Not to practice mechanically, to reach toward my limitations and dance along, and a little beyond those limits.  The challenge is stretching the canvas without tearing it.  I have to work through my injuries safely, but at the same time I have to work harder to get stronger.

My work is to reignite the joy of playing with stretching the canvas, to find the balance between overstretching or understretching and creating a larger surface for painting my asanas.

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Sweat is 99% Water, 1% Natural Stuff and 0% Toxins

So twist and do so knowing that you are helping create movement in your internal organs, but in NO WAY are they “wrung out.”  That is not possible and if that happens to you or inside of you please go to a hospital, because you are going to die.

Source: Sweat is 99% Water, 1% Natural Stuff and 0% Toxins

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In Mumbai, a Catholic priest-yogi attacks Western propaganda against yoga

father joe

Father Joseph Pereira, who teaches Iyengar yoga around the world, believes its opponents are extremist ‘God addicts’.

Is yoga incompatible with Christianity? Conservative Christians in Europe and the US have been posing this question with growing fervour in the past few months, accusing India’s biggest export to the West of propagating Hinduism and leading Christians down the path of evil.  ….Read more

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Question of the Month: Do you practice yoga on mountains or are they just yoga selfies? What is the significance of the poses you post?

If I am at the top of a mountain with my husband or a friend, the photos are mostly yoga selfies.  When I am alone on a summit, there is a practice and each pose relates to how I feel about reaching a particular peak.

epud katahdinThere are many photos of me practicing Eka pada Urdhva dhanurasana (one-footed upward bow pose).  I practice this and other backbends on summits, when I am elated and feeling successful.  They are a celebration, a way for me to embrace the feeling that anything is possible.  I also discovered, while practicing this pose on Mount Eisenhower, that it obliterates my asthma symptoms giving me a burst of energy and the ability to breathe bowing hanumanmore easily.

I practice Hanumanasana (Monkey pose) and bowing Hanuman when my brain is filled with doubt and I need to find the confidence and determination to move on. The story of Hanuman (The Hindu Monkey God) 

warrior iii precipiceWarrior poses, in particular Warrior III, make me feel powerful.  They provide the strength to continue when life’s problems follow me onto the mountains; things that can’t be fixed, that have no solution, but you have to endure.  Warrior poses help you overcome fear.  I practiced Warrior III at the start of the Precipice Trail and at the top; winning that day’s battle over my fear of heights.

ut magallowyUtthita Trikonasana (Triangle pose) and Vrksasana (Tree pose) help relieve (at least for me) hot flashes by creating space in the body.  Hiking with a pack curls you forward, making you small, bringing on frequent flushes of hot flashes. These poses treecreate a counterbalance of expansion reducing the flashes.

I discovered another benefit while practicing them on Mount Magalloway.    Opening your body wide, taking as much space as possible, brings about a wonderful feeling of freedom and lightness.

happinessUrdhva hastasana  (Upward  hands pose) is pure exuberance.  Almost everyone has practiced this pose, most without even knowing it.  Watch people during a fast moving soccer or football game when a team has scored; they jump up with their arms held high – you can feel their excitement.  It’s an all-encompassing feeling of joy.  A focus on the present moment.  An understanding that in this moment, the world is a magnificent place and nothing else matters. I experienced this on Imp.  It was a hike where so many of life’s little obstacles tried to get in the way of me hiking this mountain.  I was just so excited to be there, on that beautiful little mountain sitting crawfordpeak.

Sometimes I don’t practice yoga poses, I just sit.  I sit and take in all of the beauty, in silence.  I let it wash over and through me.

Alone on a mountain, I let the heart tell me what to practice.  It always leads me in the right direction.

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Why I hate Practicing Iyengar Yoga

An interesting perspective on Iyengar Yoga written by a Vinyasa yoga lover.

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