More on Katonah Yoga's Breathing practice is available on Abbie's blog at Katonahyoganyc.com. Here she moves through the glands; (Hands on knees)Endocrine system, adrenals, to the spleen/pancreas,
In the morning I can grab a cup of coffee and then meditate silently for 20 minutes or so before the anxiety of the day begins and time starts to speed up. One of the best ways to take a break and recharge is with 15 minutes of Pranayama. Here Abbie Galvin discusses the glands of the body using automobile metaphors in such an engaging way that you become completely engaged in the practice. A more in depth explanation of Pranayama is available on Abbie's blog on the Katonah Yoga website.
I practice a form of yoga (Katonah Yoga), whose teachers follow the Taoist belief that people follow different patterns because of the influences permanently imprinted upon them at birth. The philosophy is that patterns are repeated in your physiology and psychology, and that through yoga you can change yourself by finding new patterns that give you better function.
The theory is that in yoga you should move towards archetypal poses with the goal of becoming perfectly balance, and that this process will bring you joy and ultimately bliss. It is through the physical practice that you discover where you fit in the universe. It is a process of struggle rather than a static goal in which you constantly orient yourself towards the archetypical pose by facing and overcoming the influences of your personal experience.
The theory is that it is easier to change your body than your mind and that once you change your physical body the mind will follow. "The goal is to have the capacity to fill your self with joy”. Abbie Galvin (http://bit.ly/ULTZRX) says, “Everybody’s goal is to have a body that is a well functioning container that can hold the elixir of life The goal is to have the structure so that you can now ask yourself how good can my life be? How well can I live?”
I was reminded recently while reading the novel 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, that in a sense we are all fighting against our own patterns, habits, and defects in order to find a better way to live.
Life is not like math or water: it doesn’t flow in one direction. We all struggle through our own patterns and our own pain to write a story that gives us "meaning."
In 1Q84, one of the characters,Tengo, says:
“'Math is beautiful because it's predictable and totally logical. Math is like water. It has a lot of difficult theories, of course, but its basic logic is very simple. Just as water flows from high to low over the shortest possible distance, figures can only flow in one direction. You just have to keep your eye on them for the route to reveal itself. That’s all it takes. You don’t have to do a thing. Just concentrate your attention and keep your eyes open, and the figures make everything clear to you. In this whole, wide world, the only thing that treats me so kindly is math.”
“Real life is different than math. Things in life don't necessarily flow over the shortest possible route. For me, math is — how should I put it? — math is all too natural. It's like beautiful scenery. It's just there. There's no need to exchange it with anything else. That's why, when I'm doing math, I sometimes feel I'm turning transparent. And that can be scary. ... When I'm writing a story, I use words to transform the surrounding scene into something more natural for me. In other words, I reconstruct it. That way, I can confirm without a doubt that this person known as 'me'”
In yoga as in real life is not like water or math; you have to be conscious to write your own story. You have fight against your natural propensities and habits that keep you from living your own life, to find your true or "second" nature. By practicing yoga you can fight to make your life more like water or math so that it flows in a direction that makes you full and brings you joy.
This week in Abbie Galvin's class we did a sequence which began by going from a seated forward bend to a bent legged plow to a forward bend and repeating the sequence over and over. As you repeat the sequence you build momentum. In the forward bend and the plow the goal is to fold yourself in half so that you make contact: chest to thighs, armpits to knees, hands to feet etc.. Your arms fit tightly along the sides of your body. The goal of the practice is to fold your self so that you make contact. Once you fit yourself (you can fold your body in half) you can find the place in the universe where you fit because that is what your are designed for.
Finally, once you have built momentum by going back and forth, you flip from the plow to Virasana (hero's pose). Virasana is a seated pose in which you are kneeling with your thighs perpendicular to the floor and your knees touching. It is a pose that is often used for Pranayama (a breathing practice) and meditation.
While I was in the flip I felt completely free as though I was flying. There was no fear. Unlike the moment before trying to flip my legs up the wall into an inversion or diving into a pool of water when I am overwhelmed with fear I was completely present.
The following day watching the Olympic swimming trials on TV I realized that the flip I had completed on the yoga mat was a "swimmer's flip". My friend Peter who is a swimmer said "Good for you! Now do it in the water!" He is right.
When I started my yoga practice years ago, I lusted after the lotus pose, convinced that the man I was dating would fall in love with me. So impressed, he might even pay attention to me and listen to my deep thoughts about life. As I toiled - as I do - I glanced over (a lot) at my then-boyfriend and saw how effortlessly he slid into the pose, closing his eyes and disappearing into his own reveries, lost to me. He introduced me to all things spiritual, poetic, and esoteric. I was his student, eager for wisdom, insight, and affection. My pursuit of this apparently elevated being's affection fueled my efforts to shove myself into lotus. Instead of leaving me in the throes of knee pain, I would one day join him in his depths and share his experience of enlightenment.
Lotus would deliver me, and make me a legit yogi instead of a homesick college freshman calling home eight days a week.
Alone in my dorm room, I stuffed myself into the pose. I then greased my arms with Vaseline and rammed them through the stubborn gap between my legs, proving I could have perfect posture and be free of diseases. What more could anyone ask of me? I spent every night mastering this feat. One day on the way to weekly yoga class he introduced me to macrobiotic food, explaining that it was a must if I were going to be with him. I wanted to crave soba noodles and have my skin turn grey from this macro diet just like all the skinny girls in class. One weekend, we went to Kripalu for chanting with the Hari Krishnas. I cringed when he couldn't carry a tune, and he embarrassed me by singing louder than everyone else. I come from a family of great singers and good manners; I would be mortified if I sounded like that, but in that moment nothing commanded my attention more than the urgent spiritual work I had to do. I had no idea that the lotus, while worth aspiring to, comes as a result of the achievement of many other postures. All I wanted was to perform my new stunt. But alas, my hopeful audience of one was swallowed whole by the sitar music, and I lost track of him altogether after the first half hour when he'd sidled up to the guru, leaving me in the back with all the other losers, the ones without the right outfit, Sanskrit name, or shaved head. So there I was, going after a lotus for which I had no map and after a man who I pursued with an equally misguided technique. Hours later, I ended up not where I had hoped to be, showing off my lotus to Mr. Macrobiotic, but on a grassy slope near his car so he wouldn't leave without me. And as I sat and waited I had nothing to do but take full measure of this man, The Hari Krishnas, myself, and my greasy lotus. We drove home in silence and the following week he dumped me for a waitress at the Broome Street Bar. So she got him but I got my Lotus.
40 years later I sent my nephew Julian to share Passover with old friends. He reported to me afterwards that he met a man there who captivated him all night. When I hounded Julian for details, he reported that Mr. Macro was fat, twice divorced, and complained to him about his sciatica. If only he still had his lotus.
As much as my lotus ordeal humiliated me and left me hankering for its nectar, it launched my young self on a path to developing an inner life. And as I am prone to beat a dead horse, I stayed with the lotus, even though I didn't have the twelve other poses that should be mastered before it. I had no technique to make my lotus possible. So instead of hog-tying myself, per usual, I began to read Freud, EF Schummacher, and Rob Pirsig, and was soon comforted by the Buddhists, the Hindus, and the Egyptians, who corroborated my need for a solid lotus. These ancients considered the lotus flower a representation of our longing for spiritual enlightenment. The Egyptian Book of the Dead is said to include spells that are able to transform a person into a lotus, thus allowing for resurrection and personal renewal. As myths hold truth, this mythic idea beckoned me. When my hips gave way, and I solidly felt the seat underneath me, this manifested my own renewal. I felt that I had become the lotus. The Hindus describe the flower that emerges out of muddy waters, un-spoilt and pure each morning, as the emblem of possibility for personal transformation. But as students who are developing technique we want to embody it, become it, not just represent it. Of all the yoga postures, the lotus demands the most rigorous technique. And just like every other archetype, it is ours to embody if we come to class, stay on the mat, participate, measure up, develop good boundaries, and fight the depth of our unconscious propensities. It's a life's work. The reason we modern practitioners want to embody the archetype of a lotus, is that we are using our bodies as a conduit to change our lives. The value of a lotus pose is to guarantee that we won't unravel. And as it is my propensity to harp, if your body doesn't unravel, neither will you.When a lotus is measured well, the legs are folded so that they are bound with a central bolt. Your hips, knees, and ankles are cross-referenced so that your pelvis is tied together. Much like a pair of shoelaces, criss-crossed to tie a good knot so that your shoes won't fall off, a lotus bind ties up your pelvis so your hips don't come apart.
Lotus provides a way to tone up your kidneys by building the pelvic floor. A lotus will hold you together. It adds fluency to the hips, demanding a form that flushes energy through ankles, knees, and hip joints, much like a closed electrical circuit functions. And, while at first one fights for the proper form of the bind, the real benefit is the flow, the energy, the currency that moves through your body all bound up. Real freedom is found in confinement. A good lotus will help you address your metabolism (thyroid), flush your toilets (kidneys), adjust your vision (liver), open your windows (lungs), and refine your speech (heart). A pose like lotus is difficult at first ("at first" could mean years) because it demands a certain amount of pliancy in the joints and a measured process of origami pleating in order to fold one's legs in that pretzel-like bind, instead of stuffing yourself in and mistaking a squish for a good fit. Once we've slid in, the lotus makes other poses easier. A headstand or shoulder stand with legs in lotus gives those poses with no folds a surge of power. A cobra with legs in lotus opens the front of your pelvis, yielding a richer backbend and a fuller arch from intestines to lungs. A twist sets up a double helix, flushing kidneys much like squeezing a sponge. In a lotus, the same twist sets up a curve that is exponentially delicious.
And not to worry if you don't have your lotus yet. If you are sitting at a right angle, on your perineum, in your hip joints, in the center of your sphere, you will never need Vaseline.
As we write this post, photographer Anja Humljan has exactly seven minutes left to gather funds on Kickstarter for her project "Urban Yoga." She needn't hustle though, because she's already reached her goal; in fact, she's $1,524 past her $...
Of the patients reporting holding the side plank pose for an average of 1.5 minutes a day on average, patients had a 32% reduction in their primary spinal curve. While surgical studies show 59% improvement yoga has no side effects. What would happen if the patients practiced yoga for 5 minutes a day?
I had so much trouble understanding what the point is in going to yoga class when I have flat feet. I mean if there really is a pattern that repeats itself and my true nature is to be "flat "why bother? Why not just stay home sitting in Virasana?
Then I found myself reciting the lyrics from an REM song called '"The Great Beyond' in order to explain to my daughter why she has to study for her Learner's Permit if she wants to learn how to drive. I told her you don't have to study the materials. but you have to have a learner's permit to enroll in Driver's Ed. It's your choice.It's like the lyrics to this song:
"I'm pushing an elephant up the stairs I'm tossing up punch lines that were never there Over my shoulder a piano falls Crashing to the ground
I'm breaking through I'm bending spoons I'm keeping flowers in full bloom I'm looking for answers from the great beyond"
I told her "I see the words and your quandary as sort of the great Yin and Yang of life." There are no easy answers...
And so Abbie Galvin explains: " Flat feet DO change, just as everything else does. The potential to change the wave of your feet and the arches of your body is your potential to change so that you can override your first nature, your genes, your deepest habits, to become the person you want to be. Your feet are always getting pressure from walking and supporting you. They take time... just like everything in life. Your feet have flattened over time and don't change overnight. it takes the repetition of re-educating them. And remember, your body is organic, and not rigid. and everything organic is living tissue: it moves, it is pliant, it has a pattern, and it can be manipulated, reformed, and renovated."
So maybe sometimes it is like pushing an elephant up the stairs, and sometimes a piano may crash," but then you "bend spoons and keep the flowers in bloom."Over time who knows maybe those flat feet will sprout some wings.
New York Times (blog) Ask Well: Does Yoga Build Strength? New York Times (blog) In general, the few available experiments involving yoga suggest that it leads to measurable but limited and patchy strength gains.
This is such an intelligent comment gsfrnklnMiami I will grant that my own experiences are anecdotal and without scientific rigor, but I find that the Iyengar yoga classes that I attend are extremely demanding. What these studies cited seem to miss is that the effects of yoga build up over time, and while it certainly improves overall health, it is not intended as exercise, which is a much more limited endeavor. Yoga is an active form of meditation, and its most important effects are mental and personal. In addition, most of the serious yoga practitioners I know have a daily practice as well as attending classes. If you ask these practitioners if yoga builds strength, I have no doubt they will say yes, and their practice will demonstrate that. However, they will also likely tell you that the strength built is essentially a side-effect of yoga. Yoga brings intelligence and awareness to the body in a way that wasn't there before. It's not just about how many pounds you can lift or how far you can run. I don't know whether it is possible to design a study to measure how yoga has affected the lives of the people who practice it. But, in the absence of such a study, I suggest people who are interested should study with a qualified teacher and see what happens. Aug. 8, 2014 at 10:25 p.m.
Many yoga students are appalled when asked to start a yoga class in a pigeon pose.
You may have learned t that before setting up any yoga pose, you should “warm up” with 108 chatarungas, sun salutations or with a good stretch. At Katonah Yoga, we work in the bones and the joints, the structure of the body. The best way to warm up your body is to fold. A pigeon pose establishes your ground of being.
Your ground of being starts from ground zero; the perineum making contact, plugging in and finding the ground. Your legs are the pillars of your perineum.Your right foot is the male root. Your left foot is the female root. Your perineum is like the third foot which is you; the integration of your male and female aspects, your personal ground.
The perineum for women is located between the pubis and anus – it’s the opening of the vagina. The perineum for men is between the coccyx and the genitals. The lower body, your pelvis, is your stability. You can think of your lower body as the foundation of a building or the root of a plant. Your lower bodyt sets up a pattern that all future growth follows. By making contact with your perineum on a surface (the ground) you which you substantiate yourself.
If you were a radio, you would ground your wires in order to move your current (energy). You have to plug in the radio (lower body) before using the dial (the upper body) or setting up the antenna (your head). If you want to change the structureof your body, you can’t build the penthouse without building the foundation first. You have to estblish your ground by descending into your depths in order to ascending to your heights. Why try to turn the radio on before you have plugged it in?
Grounding the lower body in a pigeon pose allows you to orient your selfin time and space. If you set yourself up like a clock then the perineum is the center, the pubis is 12:00, the coccyx is 6:00, the right hip is 3:00 and the left hip is 9:00. By orienting your lower body within a wide circumference, you can find weightlessness in your upper bodies; which is how you get the “yummies “out of the pose.
A pigeon struts around in a backbend, a body lifting off and taking flight. A backbend is the pubis, navel and sternum coming forward and up. Yourfront body is your potential. Your back body is the past. In order to move forward in life, to take flight, you have sets up your memories (the back) to support the future (the front). You don’t change yourself by manipulating the past, or by bending back. Your front body substantiated by your lower body moves you forward into the future.
Therapeutic and spiritual work is often counterintuitive. If we knew how to change ourselves, how to have full lungs, a voluminous heart anda liver that filters, we would have have changed already. We would all be well adjusted, and we wouldn’t need yoga. Realtransformation comes from knowing your own blind spots, opening up a field of awareness that is unknown to you and making choices that contradict your habits. In this way you, the student, become the person who benefits from the poses rather than the poses conforming to whatever already suits you.
By learning the formal practice, you gains an awareness of the personal propensities that keep you from living consciously. Thus to start a practice in a pigeon we emulate the pigeon, a bottom feeding bird, by substantiating our roots. This enables us to embody the avian natureof the pigeon in order to rise above ourselves so that eventually we can all dwell in the field of the imagination, which is the purpose of the pactice.r
In Katonah Yoga, props are used to serve as formal boundaries rather than personal effort. Supported poses afford a moment of peace, engaging in the art of being rather than doing. Scaffolding with blocks, chairs, or poles allows you to let go of your unconscious investment in habit and instead provide a supportive way to inform the body. Your structure is supported for a determined length of time facilitating the body's flow of internal energy. Blankets help give you a ground of being in a pigeon pose so that you can move forward into a back bend and get off of yourself rather than blocks that jack you up. Read more about Katonah Yoga on Abbie Galvin’s blog
Baseball is a macho sport.Baseball players are bred on toughness, broken in with age-old training techniques that their hardscrabble forefathers cobble into a broad, manly category called, among other things,...
Iyengar and the Invention of Yoga The New Yorker In contemporary yoga classes, teachers often speak of Patanjali's “Yoga Sutras,” a philosophical text compiled around two thousand years ago, as the wellspring of the practice.
Iyengar describes yoga as a “timeless pragmatic science evolved over thousands of years dealing with the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being of man as a whole,” He knew from experience the dangers of forcing oneself into poses prematurely, and he set about developing a slower, more anatomically precise type of yoga, using props like blocks and blankets to help students find correct alignment
From Katonahyoga.com "1 Nov 2013Nevine Michaan & Abbie Galvin When we take a yoga class, we are offered an opportunity to engage with others. Techniques are taught, shared, and practiced within the group. A w...
The magic is in Katonah yoga’s inclusive method in which everyone can learn the practice is to learn the folding and unfolding. You have to learn to fold in and out of each pose as if practicing origami.
Katonah Yoga’s methodology involves a practice of moving into each yoga posture in a specific manner. You learn to fold and unfold from one pose to the next similar to the origami art of paper folding. Each fold has to be correct before you can add another fold. You unfold in order to move to a different variation of the pose. In each pose you have to be in the middle of yourself and not over use one piece of your body.
Unlike the photos the poses are not static. You are constantly reorienting and moving yourself to the middle. You have to be stable to make a fold. To the extent that you cannot find the correct measure in class you learn to use the props to move towards the archetypal poses shown in the photos.
The community is that everyone has their foibles but is learning to get rid of their personal habits that don’t serve them. If you are very flexible and go too deep you can use blocks to create a boundary. If you are very stiff and can’t fold forward or back you can use blankets to give you height. In class you learn to find the right measure and what you need to do learn the form that gives you better function. You learn how to follow a compass and move your body in the right direction.
The goal is to move towards the archetypal poses. You have to learn the technique by practicing over and over, and repeating the patterns until they become your second nature.
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