Posts Tagged ‘Teachers and Centers’

No stranger to controversy, Tara Stiles is at it again.  Many of you might recall the Slim, Calm, Sexy Debacle that took place not so long ago.   Yesterday, The New York Times profiled Ms. Stiles and effectively dubbed her a “rebel” yogini.

I won’t post the article here, but I will encourage you to go and read it.  In profiling Tara’s approach to yoga, the article seemed to expose a lot of issues and concerns than many people have been discussing lately about where yoga is headed these days.  In fact, the NYT profile seemed to make three very controversial points:  First, it established Tara’s approach to yoga as one that is completely different from most other styles of yoga — in other words, decidedly not elitist and exclusive.  Second, it introduced her so-called “user friendly” approach to yoga and essentially described it as an approach which proudly defies the customs and traditions of an ancient practice .  Third, it hinted at Tara’s lack of qualification in teaching yoga.

In short, the NYT profile has caused quite a shit storm in the yoga blogasphere.  To start, two very famous yogi bloggers, YogaDork and Linda Sama (who was profiled here on Yoga Tattuesday recently), were quoted as being two vocal Stiles critics.  But it also set off a frenzy of comments over at YogaDork’s blog.

Some take issue with Tara’s designation of yogis as snobby and elitist.  Some ask why call Tara’s style of practice yoga at all?  Other commenters get caught up in Tara’s refusal to answer questions about where she received her training, which she essentially calls useless (but, in the same breath discusses her own teacher training program for which she charges $2,500 a pop).

As for Tara, we know one thing’s for certain:  there ain’t no way she’s getting mixed up with those dirty little things called rules.  According to Tara, a life with rules is a “mind-set that limits people dramatically.”



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This week’s edition of Yoga Tattuesday comes all the way from Ireland!  That’s right, inked-up yogi and fellow Elephant Journal columnist, Tobye Hillier, was kind enough to share his yoga-inspired tattoo with us this week.  Here it is:

About his tattoo, Tobye says:

The tattoo was a long time coming! I always wanted a tattoo, but knew that it would have to mean something to me and would have to be something I’d be happy to have on me for all my life.  It’s called the “endless love knot” taken from the Buddhist endless knot “shrivatsa” which symbolises Samsara, the endless cycle of re-birth and death. In the tattoo, part of the knot is left out to create the shape of four hearts knotted together and for me it kinda symbolizes my love of yoga and the realisation that love binds us all together. Although Buddhist in origin, it has a celtic feel which sits well with me living in Ireland.  Have to give a heads up to Pat Fish at lucky fish art as I think the design was originally hers, although I have no clue how I came across it!

About his yoga practice, Tobye says:

I started practising in early 2006. Coming from an interest in Buddhism and wanting to exercise my brain as well as my body, as well as wanting a hobby, I decided to try yoga. I loved it so much that 6 months later I started teacher training in Karuna yoga, which is a style very much like Anusara.

Although he has been living in Ireland (a small seaside town call Greystones 20 miles south of Dublin, to be exact) for 16 years, Tobye is originally from England.  He is currently a full-time student studying print journalism, however, he teaches Karuna yoga and runs a yoga studio in Kilcoole, county Wicklow.  Of teaching yoga, Tobye  “likes to bend yoga to suit people and not the other way around.”  As I mentioned above, Tobye is a columnist for Elephant Journal.  You can read his EJ posts here, and visit his personal website here.

Thanks for sharing your tattoo with us, Tobye!

If you, or someone you love, has a yoga-inspired tattoo and would like to share it with the whole wide world, please complete the contact form on my Yoga Tattuesday Submissions page.  I look forward to seeing your yoga-inspired tattoos!

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photo credit: paul kitagaki, jr., sacramento bee


Yesterday’s edition of the Sacramento Bee profiled 50-year-old mountain climber Gabriel Amador, who, during his December 2003 attempt to summit New Zealand’s Mt. Tasman was caught in an avalanche that killed four climbers in his group.

Amador, one of only two survivors, spent a week in a coma after suffering from a broken neck, a fractured spine, two broken hips, brain swelling, and other injuries.

Despite two artificial hips, which makes the simple act of bending over to tie his shoes quite difficult, Amador has made an unbelievable recovery. He continues to be active hiking, skiing, biking, and in July of 2010 summited Stok Kangri, a 20,135 ft. Himalayan peak.

What does he credit a large part of his recovery to?

You got it.  Yoga.

“It’s just been phenomenal,” said Amador, a pension administrator in Roseville. “The biggest reminder of how it’s helped is every day, just putting my pants on. I can actually do that without holding on to anything for balance.

“Really, I’m not supposed to be bending more than 90 degrees. My doctor tells me that. But he also tells me, every time I see him, ‘I can’t stop you from doing what you love doing, but just be careful.’ ”

Part of that care is taking up yoga to improve his limberness.

It seems that Amador’s yoga class, a hot yoga class taught by veteran teacher Ping Yu, is filled with students recovering from physical and mental maladies.

Indeed, at one recent class Amador attended, several students came for help with assorted maladies. John Padrick of Fair Oaks is recovering from lower-back surgery. Jeff DeGroot of Citrus Heights is trying to avoid back surgery after he injured three disks several years ago.

Meanwhile, Julie Flora, a junior at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, said yoga has cured her insomnia, and real estate agent Nancy Knuth and nurse practitioner Holly Kirkland said the practices help them cope with stress.

Ms. Yu has admitted that Amador might be her most difficult project.

Hips are arguably the key to the balance and flexibility needed for yoga – throughout the two-hour workout, Yu repeatedly admonished students to “open your hips” – but the metal in Amador is anything but supple.

When he started attending yoga classes 10 months ago on the advice of a friend, Amador said he felt rigid and found it nearly impossible to follow Yu’s admonition to let his body “flow.” With diligence, Amador strengthened and elongated the muscles, tendons and fascia around his hips enough to nail nearly every pretzel-like pose Yu could throw at him.

For Amador, like many students of yoga, just getting a hang of the breath is a big challenge.

“Ever since the accident, I’ve just been fighting my body the whole time,” he said. “Yoga’s helped me to just relax. When you breathe, it’s amazing how much more you can do. She reminds everyone to keep breathing. When I’m grunting, I’m not breathing.”

And Yu, a slight, lithe woman who looks more 38 than 58, is not afraid to call Amador on it. She admits she was a little intimidated when she learned of Amador’s mountain-climbing exploits, but she knew she could help him acquire the grace and balance to go with his well- cultivated leg and cardiovascular strength.

“You can tell he’s very competitive,” she said. “So babying him is not going to work. You need to challenge him to bring it out. When I first saw him, I thought, ‘This guy doesn’t breathe.’ I go, ‘Come on!’ I put my fingers on his belly and say, ‘Give me some movement.’

“I say, ‘That’s not real breathing; that’s survival breathing. Bring it from deep.’ We go over this issue every time.”

That’s something Amador is likely to work on for a long time. Even though he’s back reaching summits, flexibility and breathing are mountains still to conquer.

“She’s right, you know,” he said. “When I surrender my body, everything just goes and flows.”

Yet another example of the healing power of yoga!


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I haven’t read Claire Dederer’s memoir Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses, just yet.  But it is on my list.  I’ve been following the reviews, though, which have ranged from the positive (The Seattle Times called it “absorbing” calling Dederer’s voice “unusually genuine” and filled with “ubiquitous wit and honesty”) to the downright harsh (Rowan Pelling from The Telegraph declared that reading Poser solidified his New Year’s resolution: never to try yoga!)

Here’s the review from my hometown paper, The Los Angeles Times, written by Judith Lewis Mernit:

“Going to yoga was part of my goodness project,” writes Claire Dederer in her memoir, “Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses.” In the liberal Seattle community where she begins that project, it’s also the thing to do: Doctor, neighbors, even a homeless guy tell her to get on the mat, in part to heal a bad back after having a baby.

But goodness as it turns out is elusive and not terribly interesting for the same reason most books about yoga are unreadable: No one wants to hear about how good you are. We want to hear about how you tried to be good and fell short. And by doing just that, “Poser” achieves something rare: It’s a contemporary book about yoga that doesn’t leave you squirming, suspect or bored.

A significant part of “Poser’s” readability comes from Dederer’s willingness to own up to trivial but self-exposing details — how her belly went soft after two cesareans, how she struggled not to resent her husband’s expansive writing career, how one night she denied her two children a peek at the falling snow because “I didn’t want to deal with their joy.” She frames each testimonial with a yoga pose: She convinced herself she was too weak to do chaturanga, the slow descent from push-up to the floor, just as she had believed her marriage “was too fragile to hold up to the rigors of the truth.” Hanumanasana, or splits, represents Dederer and her family’s return from a two-year sojourn in Boulder, Colo., and the “feeling of energy, and connection, and difficulty and joy as I leaped over mountains toward my old life.”

The yoga analogies aren’t all airtight: There’s something reckless about Dederer having shoehorned a reverie about foehn winds — those hot breezes that rip down mountain slopes — into a chapter named for seated forward bend, which is perhaps the least windy of all yoga’s asanas. But the fact is, foehns are fun to read about, and so is Dederer’s over-examined life: “Poser” is the output of a curious, vivid mind, one that opens every box and asks questions about its contents. Sometimes the answers are confounding. Often they’re maddeningly simple.

I flatter myself that I enjoyed Dederer’s book so thoroughly because we have so much in common — I too had a feminist-influenced mother who defected from married life in the 1970s; I share her suspicion of American yogis who suddenly embrace all things Eastern. I’ve also followed her same rough yoga path — from discovery (when the poses deliver “a dossier of information you’re not sure you really want”) to goal-seeking (I will get this leg behind my head if it kills me!) to the humble acceptance that yoga makes fools of goal-seekers (“The longer I do yoga, the worse I get at it,” Dederer admits. Oh, yes.).

But factually speaking, many other women will locate themselves in Dederer’s words much more precisely than I do, and people who never do yoga will too. The illusion of commiseration here is really just a triumph of truth-telling, of a writer having the courage to confront her limits and sit, uncritically, in the messy present. Like a yoga pose, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be exquisite.

When I initially heard about Dededer’s book, I thought, ugh! This is just the latest edition of gimmicky chick-lit riding the Eat, Pray, Love wave. The arrival of this book officially signals that yoga has  become the vehicle for delivering the latest hackneyed story of self-discovery and near mid-life crises.  While Dederer very well may be riding the EPL wave, I somehow think Dederer seems to have more to offer than Gilbert did…But I’ll save the rest of my thinking and sharing until after I read it.

I’ll let you know what I think.  Anyone out there read it yet?

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This weekend, I’ve been in Chicago with my family and it has been great.  While the weather in Los Angeles is preferable to the weather in Chicago (Holy Patanjali, I forgot how cold it is here!), there are certain things I miss about it.  One of those things is the Chicago yoga culture.  Man, oh man, do I miss it! Remember that scene in “So, I Married An Axe Murderer” where the Mike Meyers character goes home to visit his family and his father (also played by Mike Meyers) shows him the Scottish Hall of Fame gracing the wall of the staircase?  Well, for the sake of appreciating what I can have only in small doses, here is my Chicago Yoga Hall of Fame, or ten Chicago yoga studios, entities, yogis, and yoginis, that are super cool:

courtesy of yoyoga.com

10.  Joan Budilovsky:  The author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga” (and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Meditation” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Massage”). Yep, she’s a Chicagoan.  And a neat lady.

9.  Yoga at Millenium Park:  During the only months where the weather is suitable for outdoor activity (June through September…although that’s arguable), the park district offers free yoga in Millenium Park.  Who knows? Maybe you’ll get to listen to rehearsals from the symphony while you’re practicing?

8. Namaste Charter School: Check out the above video about Namaste Charter School on CNN’s Anderson 360!

7. Great Yoga Studios:  There are so many fantastic yoga studios around Chicago.  Several of them will get special attention in this post.  But I needed a separate post to name just a few of the others such as: Yoga Now, Nature Yoga, Sweet Pea (dedicated to prenatal yoga), and YogaView.  Those are just a few, but there are a million more.

6.  Home of Great Yogi Bloggers (and Teachers):  Like Linda Sama-Karl and Brooks Hall!!

5.  Yoga Chicago:  I am, without fail, always at least 15 minutes early to every single yoga class I attend.  One of my favorite rituals when I lived in Chicago was getting to class early to sit in the lobby and read the free bi-monthly publication called Yoga Chicago.  It is such a fantastic publication.  I love it so much that when my mom comes to visit me in L.A., she brings as many copies as she can reasonably fit into her suitcase.  I could read it online…but, surprisingly, I like my periodicals to be in paper form.

4. Gabriel Halpern:  An Iyengar yoga legend, his yoga studio Yoga Circle has been open for more than 25 years.

3. Moksha Yoga Center:  This is the first yoga studio I ever studied at.  My two teachers from this studio, Kim Wilcox and Rich Logan, continue to be my favorite yoga teachers ever.  If you are ever in Chicago and you are looking for a good class, I would start at Moksha, with one of Kim or Rich’s classes.  Just.  Awesome.

2.  Temple of Kriya Yoga:  The yoga studio where I went to teacher training (so did #10, by the by).  It is a phenomenal place.

1.  My best yoga buddies: Amy (my sister), Juicy (my soul sister), and Dewbird (my mom, pictured above).  It is so important to have yoga buddies, and when we’re all back in Chicago, our favorite thing to do is go to class. I really miss my yoga buds.

All right, Chicago yogis…which ones did I miss???

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For this Yoga Tattuesday, I bring to you the tattoo of Sarah Kohl of Columbia, Missouri:  Here’s a neat photo of Sarah and her ink:

And here’s a full photo of her tattoo, which appears on the inside of her left forearm:

Sarah’s tattoo reads: “Om Namah Shivaya”, which is a mantra you’ve probably heard in yoga class. Here’s why Sarah said she was drawn to this particular mantra:

Om Namah Shivaya has been my mantra for quite some time.  The sound of all 7 chakras in alignment giving us courage to honor all that we are capable of becoming is such a beautiful thing – it speaks to my soul!  I knew that I wanted it on my body for the rest of my life.  I chose to put it on the inside of my forearm so that I see it when I reach for something.  It reminds me to make good choices.  It reminds me to reach out to others.  It reminds me to reach for what I believe, to grab life with gusto, to be all that I am capable of being.  I see it when my heart is leading my head in arm balances and inversions, when I’m destroying obstacles in Virabhadrasana 2, and other asanas, but I always see it when I’m finding myself being totally present on and off the mat.

Sarah currently lives in Colombia, Missouri, where she is a yoga teacher and manager of Yoga Sol.  She also writes a yoga blog called Sarahsana, which I love.  Sarah’s yoga story is also pretty awesome:

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for nearly half of my life.  I remember being a tiny little girl, 3 or so, and turning on PBS to watch Sesame Street. I almost always turned it on a little too early, so I watched the last few minutes of Lilias Yoga and was amazed.  I wasn’t sure what she was doing, but I loved it and I wanted some of it.  It took me until I was about 19, however, to ever give it a go.  I had entered college and got caught up in the workout craze, but honestly, I wasn’t crazy about it.  I needed something that strengthened me from the inside out, that empowered me, that encouraged and enriched me, that built a spiritual skeleton, not just a muscular one.  At 19 years old, I started my yoga journey.  I found hope, peace, inspiration, healing, love, joy, courage, curiosity, spirit, connection, prana, breath, and life on the mat and haven’t looked back.  It’s been a 15 year love affair and I fall more deeply in love every day.

Thanks for sharing your tattoo with us, Sarah! And for sharing your beautiful yoga story!

If you, or someone you love, has a yoga-inspired tattoo and would like to share it with the whole wide world, please follow the instructions below:

How to participate:

1) Please email me photo of your tattoo: My email address is: yogabird03@gmail.com.

2) Along with the photo, please also include your name, where you’re from, what you do, etc. Be sure to include your blog, your website, etc. (if you have one), so that I can link to it in the post.

3) Please also include any information about how you started practicing yoga.

4) And most importantly, tell me why you chose your yoga-inspired tattoo!

I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing your ink!

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In an article for Men’s Fitness magazine, Blake Griffin, a player for the L.A. Clippers, shows guys how to improve their basketball game with a little yoga.

First up, what Blake describes as half moon pose…using basketballs instead of blocks.  While the guy in the photo is actually demonstrating what looks like revolved half moon, and not half moon pose, kudos to him for doing a difficult pose while balancing on a round surface.

Next up, downward facing dog…

And finally, my personal favorite…extended side angle post…again, with a basketball.

No doubt Griffin learned these techniques from Kent Katich, who is on the payroll of the L.A. Clippers and has been described as “The Yoga Guru of the NBA”.  In an interview with ihoops.com, Katich explains his use of yoga in training basketball players:

With the exception of Abdul-Jabbar, yoga largely has been ignored in basketball due to its stereotype of being for women or the spiritual. Katich is changing that, and when asked how yoga can help basketball players, he doesn’t hesitate.

“Because of the running and the jumping, (basketball players) have a tendency to have tight glutes, and their IT bands–the muscle that runs on the sides from your knee up to your hip–that quad area can be tight,” Katich said. “Basketball players also have a tendency to roll their ankles a lot. Repetitive spraining of the ankle starts to harden the muscle that’s around the ankle.

“Getting these guys barefoot is an accomplishment, because they start having to work with these smaller muscles they never deal with because their ankles are always taped and they’re wearing shoes. You’re able to start to identify some of the deficiencies and imbalances that come with overload of certain workouts.

Katich explains that he has made modifications in his yoga program for basketball players:

Katich has made his yoga classes basketball-friendly, eliminating all the stereotypes that might drive players away. Instead of world music in the background, for example, Katich’s studio often has hip-hop artists like 2Pac or Kanye West playing. In addition, traditional yoga blocks used with certain poses are replaced by basketballs. Really, whatever it takes to make the modern athlete more comfortable in unfamiliar territory.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about yoga and competitive sports. Any athletes out there who can tell us how yoga has improved their sports performance? Does yoga improve your tennis game? Your marathon training? Football?  If so, tell us how! We’d love to hear from you!

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