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Alternative Sun Salutations

Alternate Sun Salutations variation with very little weight-bearing on the wrists, no chatturanga, and elements I think are lacking in most yoga classes (natural movement, pulling, work to encourage scapular stability, etc...). Flow this sequence as shown a couple of times then go though the sequence slower holding each shape 3-5 breaths. Because it is a flow, I din't get to tell you to engage your hamstrings as you forward fold. Especially if you are very mobile like I am. I was inspired to make this from watching Trina Altman's "creative sun salutations" video which you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pjaf...

The disclaimer at the beginning is something I wish someone had told me when I first began doing yoga. Instead, all my teachers told me to do yoga every day. Here it is in case you missed it. Disclaimer: This is a yoga video but please don’t only include yoga in your movement diet. I can’t in good faith say “#yogaeverydamnday” when I know that’s what caused me injury. Do other types of movement: deadlifts, hamstring curls, pull ups, dance, hike, walk, run, climb, etc… It’s ok to do yoga everyday! But do other stuff. For more info on varying your movement diet and the issues that can come with repetitive movement follow Katy Bowman, Alex Auder, Trina Altman, Jules Mitchell, Giulia Pline, Ariana Rabinovich, Diane Bruni, Kathryn Bruni, and Diana Zotos to name a few.

A quick interview I did with Boston Yoga

Here's a direct link to the article or you can read the gist of it below:

We caught up with Rebecca for a quick chat as she prepares to make her way to Hyannis this weekend…

wind up… how do you wind up, prepare for the week ahead?

I have most of Sunday off and I use it to prepare the class I will teach for the week. At first, writer’s block  sets in and I can’t imagine coming up with yet another class that feels relevant and authentic to what’s interesting to me. After moving around, looking at some books, and returning to my journal notes from classes I’ve taken throughout the week, I always end up creating something.  It feels like I’ve written my personal essay/diary entry for the week. Once I have my class prepared, I feel ready for the week to come.

and, when you need to exhale, what’s your other direction?

Watering my plants. Looking out my window.  Lying on my floor.

favorite high-powered snack?

pistachios and cherries

what three things are you never without?

1. Essential oil – always handy on the subway. 2. Comfortable shoes  (wide toe box, flexible sole, no heel, minimal support) – not the cutest look. 3. My journal –  I jot down notes about things in the body/mind that interest me. I document the genius things I’ve heard other teachers say or things I’d like to explore more.

the sound of music… you have room for 5 tracks on your playlist, they are?                                       Given the choice, I’d go for podcasts instead of songs these days. I spend a lot of time walking around the city from client to studio to client and podcasts truly have changed the way I teach.  I feel I’m getting free continuing education from around the world. Here are my top 5 podcasts: Embodied Philosophy, Yoga & Beyond, Liberated Body,  Katy Says w/Katy Bowman, and Yoga Meditation and Contemplation with Swami J

could you repeat that? one cue that you regularly share with your students, and the story behind it… “Breathe into your low back ribs.” I’m interested in exploring the natural kyphotic curve of the thoracic spine. It’s a very subtle cue and not  meant to be an invitation to hunch and collapse in the chest. I wouldn’t want to give it to someone who is already overly kyphotic in their thoracic or someone who sits slumped at a desk all day. This all started when I took an excellent training called PhysioYogaGlobaltaught by physical therapists. I learned that many yoga teachers and long time yogis are beginning to flatten out and reverse their thoracic curve of the spine. At first it was hard for me to hear this cue because it feels so good to lie in supported fish. And I thought we needed to sit up taller and open our hearts in a very controlled way. But they were right. I would look around at my fellow teachers and serious practitioners only to see many flattened and sometimes reversed thoracic curves. We need the kyphotic curve for healthy lung function and shock absorption, among other things. To teach this, I have my students roll up a long thin blanket and place it horizontally on their mat. I have them lie down on their belly, forehead to the floor, so that the blanket is pressing into their low front ribs which helps to enhance the thoracic curve. While in this restorative posture I have them “breath into the low back ribs”. It feels healing to me, like each breath is like pouring medicine and life into that space that tends to be rigid and compressed after spending so much time trying have a tall barrel-chested “yoga posture”.

what one book have you most often give as a gift? 

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers

bliss pose?

belly savasana

finish the sentence? i’d like to teach the world to…

Stop living in a world of false dichotomies. I wish the world would move away from a tempting and overly simplistic black or white rhetoric.  Judith Hanson Lasater has said that her favorite way to describe life is ‘bittersweet.’ I agree with her.  To me, life is not sugary sweet happiness on one hand or utter misery on the other. Both of these extremes coexist.  In my happiness there are shades of sorrow, and in my pain there is beauty.

Susan Currie

Susan Currie is Managing Editor at BOSTON YOGA. In addition to curating peace of mind, balance and fulfillment here and for LA YOGA magazine, Susan continues to document those lyrical moments of everyday life with both camera and keyboard. Her photographs have been exhibited at the Yawkey Cancer Center at Mass General Hospital in Boston, at the Photoplace Gallery in Middlebury, Vermont and most recently at the Touch Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

 

Beyond her contributions with LA YOGA and BOSTON YOGA, Susan’s words and images have been featured in the Boston Globe, Elephant Journal, Yogi Times, the Huffington Post, Spirit of St. Bart’s and on the cover of the book Moving into Meditation (Shambala) by Anne Cushman. Susan is also the creator of the Daily Inhale and an RYT 200 registered yoga instructor. She unpacks her various professional experiences through creative workshops she leads throughout the country. She is the author of Once Divided (Shanti Arts 2016), a blend of visual and verse.

http://susancurriecreative.com

 

rebecca ketchumComment

Congrats to the Crane Yoga School Graduates!

 The five women in  Crane Yoga School  reinvigorated my love for teaching. Each week, we met for about 8 hours of hard work, laughter, philosophizing, and camaraderie.  In they end, they taught well curated, humble, nurturing, and healing classes like pro's. I can't wait for them to go into the yoga world and teach. We were lucky enough to have a killer adjunct faculty this year with Nikki Villela, Lauren Haythe, Ali Cramer, Erin Dudley, Margherita Tisato, Hira Lesea, and Lindsay Ashmun. I thank each and every one of them for helping steer the Crane Yoga School ship.    
  
 
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   John O'Donohue said, "Though the human body is born complete in one moment, the birth of the human heart is an    ongoing process. It is being birthed in every experience of your life. Everything that happens to you has the potential to deepen you. It brings to birth within you new territories of the heart." The experience of leading a training "birthed within" me new territories of my heart. I didn’t know I could love teaching so much. These women were focused, humble, intelligent, radiant. And I was lucky to be able to absorb some of their light as we studied together. 

The five women in Crane Yoga School reinvigorated my love for teaching. Each week, we met for about 8 hours of hard work, laughter, philosophizing, and camaraderie.  In they end, they taught well curated, humble, nurturing, and healing classes like pro's. I can't wait for them to go into the yoga world and teach. We were lucky enough to have a killer adjunct faculty this year with Nikki Villela, Lauren Haythe, Ali Cramer, Erin Dudley, Margherita Tisato, Hira Lesea, and Lindsay Ashmun. I thank each and every one of them for helping steer the Crane Yoga School ship. 

John O'Donohue said, "Though the human body is born complete in one moment, the birth of the human heart is an ongoing process. It is being birthed in every experience of your life. Everything that happens to you has the potential to deepen you. It brings to birth within you new territories of the heart." The experience of leading a training "birthed within" me new territories of my heart. I didn’t know I could love teaching so much. These women were focused, humble, intelligent, radiant. And I was lucky to be able to absorb some of their light as we studied together. 

Broaden the shoulder blades in Adho Mukha Svanasana

After class tonight someone asked me what I meant by broadening the tops of the shoulder blades apart. Here's a vid to illustrate the action and how it frees the neck. If you don't have a stellar adjustment from Chris Roberti to help you, try energetically pulling the hands apart on your mat. Ignore my hyperextended elbows and splayed pinkies, please.

Leg Swings for days

Channeling my college dance days here... Exhale drop knees to the right and swing the left leg and arm across the body inhale pass through center. Exhale drop to the left and so on. Go with gravity. Let go of effort and control of the body and give in to momentum (hidden life lesson!). Think of it as a pendulum swing with the greatest velocity reached at the bottom of the swing. It is a beautiful way to hydrate the hip and shoulder joints and turn off the thinking mind. Typically you would keep the swinging leg's big toe connected to the earth but it doesn't quite work with a non-slippery surface or yoga mat so I broke the rules and did it free floating and it felt good. I could do these for hours and hours. 

Restorative Sidebend

Open the seams of the side body over 3 blocks (you might need more or less depending on your proportions) stacked and a pillow/bolster on top. Play with the arms. You can't see it but my bottom knee is down on a blanket and the top leg is extended. Imagine someone is pulling your top foot away from you. A wave of energy flowed up and down the side of my body and it was Magnificent. I stayed here about 2.5 nearly psychedelic minutes.

Shine light into the ribs...

Exhale as you side bend. Inhale back to center. Keep the legs and pelvis as stable as possible. Imagine the sun is shining directly into the outer seam of your left ribs when you side bend right and vice versa. Do this over and over again. I like to start very slowly then move faster and faster- almost like a kundalini kriya. 

Don't sit all day. Don't stand all day. Change positions (like Aaliyah said).

I love this excerpt directly from Katy Bowman's blog Nutritious Movement:

"So, we’ve got a situation where sitting constantly is creating disease and standing constantly is creating disease. Do you see the theme? Although the research and media are going to probably miss the boat on this one, the problem isn’t the sitting (or the standing, for that matter), but the constant and continuous use of a single position.

...As many anthropologists know, the way we move is mostly a result of our cultural inheritances and has very little to go with genetics. Clothing, terrain, temperature, gender, class, and fear are only a few of the many factors that affect how we adjust our joints when sitting and standing. Gordon W. Hewes reported on about 100 resting postures of the world, and I have posted this image from the study so you can see, perhaps, why our Western joint health and metabolism (which is dependent on muscle length) is the poorest in the world.

So, we need to think bigger. There is more than just sitting and standing. Create ten different options of each! If you have a standing work station, stand a few different ways every hour. When you sit, sit a few different ways every hour. Open your mind and open your joints! When you get home, stay out of your chairs and try out a lot of these Worldly Options. (Note: If you don’t have a spear, a broom may work…) Circle the ones you can’t maintain for longer than five minutes and make a note to practice that posture at the beginning and the end of an exercise session. And, parents, don’t insist that kids sit in the same fashion as us stiffer folks and allow them to explore other options. And, join them! They can teach you something about natural movement.

Also, if you do spend a yoga/stretching class cycling through10 or so of these postures, know that while this cycle is a good thing, getting back into the sitting position the other 6-10 hours of the day reduces your health just the same. Adjust the way you sit, as often as possible for a real, deep, and cellular change."

I Rarely Teach Shoulder Stand

Read this article from the folks at SMARTer bodies. I don't often teach shoulder stand either. When I do, it's highly propped. All of the information here is solid but I could definitely do without the snark which I think is meant to be funny. It's not funny to me and I think it pushes away the very people who should consider removing shoulder stand from their practice. Anyway, read it.

Hyper-mobility Syndrome

Read this article by Bernadette Birny. As a hyper flexible person, I understand wanting to sink into poses - it used to feel oh so good. Now, I have become a hyper conservative on the mat and I rarely do full expressions of poses. My body feels much better, especially my joints. Yoga teachers, let's try to help the hypermobile resist sinking into their joints before injury occurs. Provide boundaries for students.

Please watch this video with the wise and inclusive Maty Ezraty. She's able to navigate the complex world of yoga without shutting anyone out regardless of age, athletic ability, gender, etc. This is a must watch for all yoga teachers regardless of their style. 

Thumb to Hips Twisted Lunge Tips

Another "thumb to hip crease" video for the series. In a high lunge twist, hook the thumb into the hip crease of the leg that is forward. Pull the hip crease back as you draw the chest forward. Keep the back leg straight and hug the thighs towards your midline. Stack your front knee over the front ankle. Twist at the waist not your hips. For those of you jonesing for a dose of Chris Roberti, his beautiful posture is an exciting feature of this clip.‪#‎thumbstohipsseries‬ ‪#‎yoga‬ ‪#‎twist‬

Thumbs to Hips Forward Fold (Uttanasana) Tips

This feels oh so good. Another variation on the "thumb to hip crease" theme. Many people fold forward at the waist which leads to compression & back pain. Instead, on an inhale, place the thumbs in the hip creases and vigorously pull them back. In opposition, reach the lungs forward to elongate the spine. Exhale, fold over your legs from the hip creases. Give another tug of the hip creases up to the ceiling once you're in the fold to help lift the ASIS (fronts of hip points) off the thighs. Flexy people, don't dump the belly towards the floor on your way into the fold. Keep weight evenly distributed in fronts & backs of feet rather than loading the weight in the heels. If you can't fold with out hunching your back, bend your knees. Prioritize length in the spine NOT your hamstrings. Also, try not to be distracted by my gorgeous husband in the background.

Thumb to Hip Crease Pyramid Pose - Tutorial

A student asked me what I meant by "thumb to hip crease" to help draw the front hip back in parsvottonasana (pyramid). Here's a quick tutorial video. it's one of the best feelings in the world. It helps bring traction and length to the spine to free up the lungs. With the left leg forward, inhale draw the left hip back as you elongate the spine by moving the heart and lungs forward. Keep the spine long as you bring right kidney toward the left shin and fold toward your left leg. I hope this video helps more than the sometimes insane "yoga speak" that we teachers assume everyone understands. #donthunchuseblocks #parsvottonasana

Louis C.K. and why we have back pain...

Why do we experience so much back pain? Which emotions are tied to specific back pain? I was randomly watching an episode of Louie, and was stunned (and pleasantly surprised) to see an enlightening scene about our spine. 

In said episode, Louie hurts his back and goes to the doctor who says something like the following: "There's nothing we can do. The spine was designed for horizontal movement but humans made it vertical. However, it's not designed to be vertical and hold all of that weight. So, the discs bulge and slip and swell. It'll take another 20,000 years for it to adapt to being upright. It's an engineering mis-design. We were given a clothesline and we're using it as a flagpole."

Pre- and Post-Exercise Stretching: Pros and Cons

If you're interested in "stretching", read this article by Thomas Myers. I've been thinking a lot about "stretching" lately. There is so much conflicting information out there. While this article does not give any easy answers, he does bring up some interesting points.  "Islands of supreme tension within the ocean of availability" is the best phrase in the piece...