Scaling Back Teaching Yoga

scaling back teaching yoga

Recently I have come to the revelation that I simply do not have enough time during the day to get the things done that I want to get done. This includes my recently started landscaping business, my music and this blog. So I have decided to do a little bit of scaling back teaching yoga and my yoga instruction schedule.

I want to spend more making things like EDM tracks and working on beautiful landscapes. My creativity is something that I feel I have to cultivate actively. I want to spend more time making things like this vector image below that is now my site logo. I also haven’t gotten as much time as I’d prefer to practice yoga on my own.

Elliots world logo
Elliot’s new blog logo

As much as I love teaching yoga full-time, it is an enormous time and energy commitment to teach even one class a week. Right now, I am teaching 7. So, I have decided to cut back on how much yoga I instruct namely my Friday evening class in Auburn.

Lately, I have gotten very focused on quality. I am producing less EDM tracks and spending more time with the tracks that I release. FlyBy, my most recent dubstep track, is a result of this. I have also felt the desire to teach fewer classes for quite a while, so that I can get deeper into music and landscaping. The same has happened with my writing.

This is the LAST WEEK I will be teaching the 5PM FLOW @ EW Auburn on Fridays.

We have a new teacher coming in to take over Friday night. I am excited to free up my schedule for more time to DJ and Landscape. Although scaling back teaching yoga is not easy; I am conflicted about it. However, I do think that the East Wind Auburn Community will be very happy with the new teacher. She will be an excellent addition to the studio.

Teaching Yoga is still my passion

Hopefully, I will continue to teach yoga for the rest of my life. But I don’t want to limit myself while I am young and able to do more physically. And let’s be honest, yoga is not the most lucrative endeavor on planet Earth. To survive comfortably as a yoga teacher, I need multiple jobs. That’s why I started landscaping.

Why I Love Landscaping

Back when I first started teaching yoga, I remember getting very discouraged with the state of the world. Most of my frustration stemmed from changes in the climate and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. Landscaping seemed like a good way to create change in this area, and still does. I enjoy choosing plants that will thrive in environments. I try to create miniature sanctuaries for life within the yards that I design. Ideally, all the plants work in unison to support each other. The design and plant selection aspects of landscaping are my favorite!

I missed yoga today (10/24) because I was supposed to be working in the Bay Area

on a big landscaping project. I might have to work on it this Friday(10/26) instead, so if you are planning on coming to my classes on Friday this week, there may be a sub (they will be great, promise!). I don’t like getting subs, but it is unavoidable as I work on this job that requires a good amount of traveling.

Sorry to my students for scaling back yoga teaching, I hope you all understand why!

New Year and New Resolution for the Future

new year fireworks

2018 Happy New Year

New Year of Music, the Eros Album, and Getting into Playing Live Shows

I am working hard this new year on an album/Live show experience that will be a couple of years in the making. The music itself is forming pretty quickly, but will require a bunch of visual work to bring to life the world that I am creating. Also, Ableton is releasing a new version of Live soon in the new year. That should make my creativity spike in February or March.

There is going to be a story line behind it that I have been working on for a few months. I have written some great beats and even have a few near complete tracks. But I want to ensure that the tracks are all cohesive, so I am making sure to design sounds that I use across various tracks. This is my first concept album, so get stoked.

New Year Yoga and Ashtanga

Living in America and practicing lots of yoga at the same time is a difficult endeavor. Right now, I am getting ready for the New Year rush. The studio is going to be packed with awesomeness soon! When you throw teaching on top of that and a second job because teaching isn’t enough by itself, you have just enough to make someone completely exhausted.

I still practice yoga every day, but not for 2 hours or more, which is how I’d like to. First thing in the morning! But I still take a day or two off each week. I love just waking up early to the practice and breathing. And I’ve really started to miss India. There is something really special about going over there to learn yoga from the people who have experienced it as a part of tradition.

I have my first Ashtanga Workshop on February 3rd, so get ready! I am going have people sign-up beforehand and give out lots of information before we get started with the primary series.

More focus on Quality of Experience

Both in music and in yoga I try to focus on the experience of the person that has signed up for the time period and making their time as enjoyable possible. I am trying to do that while working on giving individuals attention and affirmation as often as I can. I also try to help people to understand the difficulty of what they are trying to do, but in the new year I will simply be continuing to work on connecting with individuals.

A YouTube Channel in the new year

My biggest New Years Resolution is to start a YouTube channel where I can share what I know about yoga. I  think that my knowledge will be super useful to people of all ages! Also, I have a lot of killer abdominal exercises.. I will be carving out a section of my website for this as well, so expect some changes soon.

Music everyday in 2018 is a given. I am recommitting to my daily yoga practice. And finally I want to try to post a blog article every day of 2018.

Happy New Year Everyone! Let me know about your resolutions/goals are!

Journal Update: Finding ways to Create

Updates from the Thunderdome

This is going to be more of a personal update, I’m may just be probably almost about to go on a rant.

This week someone grabbed my phone from the back of the yoga studio I instruct at and trashed my phone. They didn’t even sell it or anything. Just ruined it. What a waste of an amazing piece of technology, humph.

So now I am blessed to have no phone enslavements and am just doing my best to simply continue onward. It’s just kind of disheartening to feel like my space was dishonored and some idiot who can’t even properly steal things trashed my stuff. I even think I know the person that stole the phone and I’m just disappointed in the whole situation. What a fucking waste of time! Nothing is more useless than some of these entitled, poor americans who feel like they deserve things and aren’t willing to work hard for anything.

The NFL is a great equivalent to this. What the fuck are those players doing? I don’t even think they really know what they are fighting for/against. I really feel like it is far more of an anti-establishment movement than an anti-cop movement. I mean, Obama is far more of a reason that minorities in this country are suffering than cops are; he basically tried to enslave the citizens of American to the corporate government allied banks. Worst president since Regan imho, and that is completely nuts, considering the Bushes were in office. The American media are huge liars, in so many aspects. What a bunch of idiots. But it’s probably this way simply because the banks & government own them. Watching the news has become so toxic, they literally just lie and embellish the entire time. So I only watch HBO now. WOOHOO WESTWORLD IS AMAZING!!! (just started yesterday) and I just watch a tiny, itsy bit of netflix here and there.

So here I am just spending all of my time creating yoga classes and music and writing and painting as much as I can, but I have also picked up some work trimming in GV to pay the bills. But now I have to figure out this whole phone thing, because I use it for all my music in yoga classes and I have been wanting/preparing to start a youtube channel for about 3 months so I need to camera. So yeah, money money money. BOO. I hate money :/

Always Working Hard on Yoga Instruction

I am still teaching 7 yoga classes a week, at East Wind Yoga in Auburn and Roseville and am constantly improving my delivery of cues and my dialogue. I am passionate, it is a calling, I love working with the yogis more than anything else. I am breaking through barriers, learning how to connect on deeper levels, and am teaching people how to use, honor, and appreciate their bodies as they learn to use them sustainably. I feel like it is part of what I am meant to do here. Maintaining my own practice while I teach is the most difficult part of this, but I am making it work. I could use another trip to India, honestly. The space that I had to practice there last time was nothing short of blissful.

I am writing a book that I am really excited about and am going to turn it into a beginner youtube tutorial series. It’s called, “Practice Yoga” and will be 25 chapter, or 25 days of practice. The idea is to “work up” to the final day, which is an advanced adaptation of the intermediate series of Ashtanga. I will also start a workshop for the primary series pretty soon here. Definitely excited for those things.

Exposing ‘the E.T.’ and the HAZE Album

Right now I am trying to use twitter and not getting any traction. Music is hard to submit to others because it is so unique and I really feel like people don’t give new, unique music a chance from people who are completely unknown.

I’m not playing any shows right now, which makes it kind of rough for me cause I spent the vast majority of my free time (whenever I’m not teaching yoga) to make music. I just wanna dance with the partiers!

For a few months I have been starting a youtube channel for ‘the E.T.’, and soon I will start live streaming out to all of my followers from my production sessions. I’m also considering making some sound design and mixing tutorials, which could be a really cool addition to what ‘the E.T.’ can bring to fans.

Oh and make sure you check out my HyperDrive music video, I think it’s the best one yet.

Letting go of what isn’t necessary

There’s no point in stressing out over my phone. At least something worse didn’t happen, but it is so damn annoying to have to spend my time on that, when I have so many other projects that I am working on. Oh yeah, I’m also finishing another painting! This one is super cool ūüėÄ

Lessons in Confidence and the Immediate Future

Right now, I am in the grind. Simply trying to get better at everything that I do, from teaching yoga, to writing music, to this blog, to creating new media for people to digest. I want to be able to offer the highest quality of service (because that is what I value) and want to be able to deliver before I start taking major leaps of faith, i.e. my first show as ‘the E.T.’.

When I step on stage, I want to have full confidence in my ability to deliver my message. If the audience doesn’t like it or appreciate it or whatever, that’s fine, but I want to appreciate it. Otherwise, what is the point? So I’m letting my confidence build and build as my skill level rises and can’t wait to see where all of these amazing projects take me.

Thanks for reading, happy Monday everybody! Tomorrow night’s yoga class is going to be fun, the class is going to be one of the most challenging ever!!

 

 

Teaching Yoga as an Outlet for Creativity

istockphotoyogastockphoto

Teaching with Passion

Over the past few months I have fallen into a new depth of relationship with teaching yoga. It is kind of parallel to my production of music in that I feel that my ability to express myself becomes more and more robust. All of the mediums I have at my disposal, including this website, are going to help me to connect in the world in a way that is so cool! I really enjoy being able to share all this stuff.

I’ve settled into 8 classes a week as a slight downgrade from the 9 I was teaching a couple months ago. A pace that I am glad to slow into because I need to continue my own yoga practice! It is a continual endeavor and honestly, I still like practicing my own yoga more than teaching. But that gaps gets smaller and smaller with time. I love the way that people take their time at the end of my class and the things that people say to me are so incredible sometimes. One of my students was telling my that he’s had tons of firsts in my class and that makes me stoked! It’s easy to get in your head about yoga and I try to involve the inner dialogue as little as possible. Feel that shit yo.

Evolution within communities

Anyways, I can’t believe how East Wind continues to create waves in the community and there are tons of people starting to sign up for classes and you can feel the community growing. The newer teachers are a big part of that and I’m super excited to teach alongside them. Obviously Scott, Tess, and Julie ¬†hold down the fort, but its really nice to have some additional support to truly believe in and practice with. Ben and I have been friends for a while and I’m really supportive of him teaching yoga because the dude is a natural guru. Same with Francesca (also new to EW), I’m actually a little bit jealous about how well she connects with her squad. Anyways, both of them are going to be great teachers for me, once I get back into practicing in a studio. I just don’t want to practice anything but different ways to get into handstands right now, for some reason. Obviously that means that normal studio yoga classes aren’t quite “doin’ it” for me. It’s just me being an introvert.

Moving onto new things

Oh yeah, and Buck opened a new studio! Buck has always been a great teacher to me and I’m super excited to see how he evolves while doing his own thing. MomentOM is the name lol. I actually think that exact name was already taken by a studio in Pennsylvania ha. But shit man, he had like 60 people in that room in his Instagram post doing bicycles, it was nuts!!

Right now, I just want to be in my cave of yoga. practicing by myself, observing how the cogs of my mind reel and churn and do what they do. I need to spend the time alone, simply to post-process the amount of stuff that I am dealing with while creating all of this art. I want to stay as balanced as possible for this teaching yoga thing. Also, all that EDM music! Album on the way! (It might be called Galactic, or something like that..)

Also also, I am working on the free downloads of yoga classes. Hang in there. I might buy some software tonight to help, I want it to be working tomorrow.

Also also also, Yoga Tuesday nights at East Wind in Roseville are about to be off the chain! I’ve really tuned in my playlists lately #DJ

Well, of too spend my day off making music, first I’m gona run with a homie. Here’s to livin’ the dream!! <3

 

Teaching Yoga Full-Time (Stepping in)

Teaching Yoga Full-Time Elliot's Crow Pose in Mysore Palace

Teaching Yoga Full-Time in California

is simultaneously the most rewarding and challenging experience of my life. I’ve had people walk out in the middle of class and ask for their money back. I’ve had people come up to me after class completely blown back by what I taught that day. I’ve also had people that I could tell didn’t enjoy my class or felt that something was missing in it, but don’t mention anything. I think a lot of people have really enjoyed themselves in my class, but think about the spectrum of reactions to different forms of art and you start to get a general idea of the types of response my yoga teaching gets.

At the end of the day, I realize that my class is valuable and that my particular subjective take on yoga is simply one subjective view; but that also gives me a lot of room to create my art. That is why I feel comfortable teaching yoga full-time; I’ve practiced enough to feel as though I should be a guide for others. I draw upon multiple teachers, a journey through India and into Southeast Asia, a journey through China, and my junior year of studying in Paris to create something that I consider invaluable; expressions of peace, love, and life. My yoga is definitely unique and constantly evolving. But, at the end of the day, letting go of “my yoga” is just as important as anyone else letting go of their ego while practicing yoga.

Full-Time Yoga Teaching

Over the last two weeks I have pushed myself pretty hard. I’ve taught 9 classes in 5 days and 10 classes in a four-day weekend, which is quite a bit. I’m also working other jobs to make ends meet, so after this last week I have been exhausted. I’m aching to create music, but yoga is taking priority right now, which I like. I enjoy sacrificing one form of art for another. And it’s nice to have an excuse to practice extra yoga.

Make no mistake, yoga teachers are absolutely undervalued by our society. I blame a lot of this on the overly religious assholes out there like the evangelical ministers who prey of people’s weak beliefs in god to make money (check out this episode of “Last Week Tonight“, its great!) and other types of people who try to make spirituality into a profitable enterprise at the cost of their consumers. We are considered more or less exercise coaches that might have some experiences with meditation and spirituality. But in reality, there is a ton of sacrifice that goes into teaching yoga full-time that the majority of Yogins never see. Every class takes more effort than the time in the studio and many times it is at least an¬†extra hour of work (not including driving). But at the end of a class, the reward of¬†having happy people around you far outweighs the costs of what it took to teach yoga that day.

Making Ends Meet

I have recently added a Friday night Yin class to my schedule at East Wind Yoga in Auburn, CA and that means I will be teaching 5 classes each week, not including substituting for other teachers, which I do as often as I can. It’s about enough to pay rent and eat extremely minimally, so I have to find other work on the side, tutoring, doing odd-jobs, and most recently I’ve started driving for Lyft, though it’s not an everyday opportunity for me. This site is just getting close to breaking even, though it’s not very expensive because I do most development myself.

So it’s pretty hard to make a living wage as simply a yoga teacher. I think it will be possible in the future, but right now it’s not. That means I don’t get to spend all of my time on my art, which is a shame, but I have high hopes that yoga will become more respected in the near future. Plus, who knows, I’ll probably open my own studio eventually. First, I want to become a better teacher and build-up to sustaining myself by teaching yoga. Music will always be happening as long as I have extra time to spend learning and creating in front of my computer. Music has become a single pointed obsession, perhaps even more than when I first started practicing yoga. It’s as if I’ve found something I’ve wanted to do my entire life, except I’m 26 and have graduated from college and neither yoga nor music were things that I studied or cared about then. I’ve always loved music, but began making music when I was 24 after I downloaded a trial of Ableton Live. I played clarinet in third grade and it made me despise music, honestly. I feel like I found my passions a little too late in the game.

But alas, always in my mind there is hope and self-confidence and I will pursue what I feel called to do, which right now means teaching yoga on a full-time schedule and doing work on the side. Ramping up more and more to create sustenance for myself, then using what I can to fuel my musical and artistic endeavors. Obviously, writing will be a large part of this as well, and I’m just finishing a new painting. I’m also going to put out a podcast on Sundays with my friend Kyle, but we haven’t quite gotten started on that yet so don’t hold your breathe. Honestly, I just want to create all kinds of things over the next 60 years or so until I have to stop because I’m an old man or dead. It’s all about the future generations and creating for them. The youngsters and the kids.

It’ll take a few more weeks to get truly comfortable in an apartment by myself, cooking a lot, driving, etc, but I am definitely happy where I am. I get to ride my bike to teach two yoga classes today, which will be a blast in less-than-crowded streets of Sacramento! I really enjoy cities, especially after spending a lot of time in Paris when I was 20. Moving back to Sacramento is really a cool feeling, now it’s as if I am trying to affect and support the people who I grew up with in the place that I am from. It feel right, whatever the fuck that means.

Following Passion

I am sure that I will be happy over the next few weeks, for the pure joy of following things I love to do. Struggling makes me feel alive, I’ll always¬†want a little bit of discomfort. I guess what is right feels good to me at this point, which means I am at least somewhat aligned with whatever it is that I am supposed to be doing here. Onwards and upwards I guess!

 

 

Yoga Practice: How to Start Now

Free 1 Hour Flow Yoga Class

You’re Starting a Yoga Practice

But first, what the heck is Yoga?

Yoga is simple. It is paying attention to your breath and posture for set periods of time.

Unfortunately, our world has over-complicated it with sexuality, superficiality, and our schedules for our selves. Yoga studios are some of the most interesting phenomenon in the past thirty years, in my opinion. The people who do yoga are not yoga. We are called yogis for a reason. We grasp for yoga with our yoga practice. Even the supposed gurus are not yoga. They too must practice yoga to understand. Yoga is too simple for anyone to claim. Practicing yoga is about your BODY right now, your BREATH, and your MIND,¬†right now. It’s about how your life-force energy¬†is flowing through your body. It’s about the essence of life.

You can start yoga right now. You don’t need a teacher. You don’t need me. You don’t need a yoga studio. You don’t need fancy pants or a fancy yoga mat. You only need your self.

Now, you might ask yourself; ‘well, if it is so simple, then why have I never done it before?’ The only answer that I have to that questions is that you don’t know what you know. Again, it’s simple.

Your First Breaths

Yoga is about awareness of your breath. To start, you have to put your body into a comfortable position. Understand that the idea is to allow the body to stay in positions (they call them asanas in yoga, which translates directly to posture) for certain periods of time, so keep it reasonable. If it feels like too much, it probably is too much. The real guide is your breath; if you lose your connection with your breath, lower the intensity of the posture for your body until your breath is flowing strongly through your nose again.

That’s right, you are going to breathe through your nose for an entire 1:30 minutes eventually. If you practice and put some time into it. Simplicity is beautiful, isn’t it?

See, what you probably don’t realize is that your breath flows more efficiently through your nose, at least in terms of oxygenating your blood. When you sprint and run, you are mostly trying to expel carbon dioxide which is why exhaling through your mouth feels so good. We can do this sometimes in yoga as well. But it is important to understand how powerful the force of your breath is to bring life back into your body. This is what we are doing in yoga, breathing life and energy back into worn joints so that they can regenerate. We are simultaneously lengthening and strengthening our muscles with our breath, going back and forth like steel being smelted on an anvil to strengthen ourselves for the world around us. Our bones, ligaments, and joints become powerful machinations of efficiency when a yoga practice has been well-honed. Everything flows easier, especially in your circulatory and digestive system.

Moving Beyond Breath

Now you are ready to start. Close your eyes and begin to breathe exclusively through your nose. It might be useful to take a few exaggerated exhales through your mouth to start, then shift all of the respiratory flow into the nose. If this is difficult, then spend some time during your day trying to breath through your nose; the more time you spent trying, the easier it will get.

Your body should be comfortable, so you can focus. The idea behind a yoga practice is regeneration, healing, and awareness, so bring your mind into a peaceful place where you can focus completely on your breath. Your breath is a healing force; your breath is also linked to your consciousness in ways that we do not fully understand.

By focusing on your breath, you can give your entire attention to your body. Inner space is vast, but don’t be overwhelmed; you will have as much time to explore this space as you choose to create for yourself. A yoga practice can last a lifetime if practiced responsibly.

The Ujjayi Pranayama Technique

You are already breathing through your nose, so the first and hardest part of this technique is already accomplished. Start to pay attention to the way air is flowing in the back of your throat. Can you restrict your throat muscles slightly to slow down the flow of air? It should start to sound more and more like a wave, or the raspy sound of the ocean. Once you have spent a significant amount of time with the Ujjayi breathing technique, you will be able to variate and change the intensity of the breath with your postures in the yoga practice. With more intense poses will come more intense breath, necessarily to keep your body sustained in the position.

Equal inhales and exhales that are unceasing and complete will rejuvenate your body over 90 minutes, even if you are lying still on the floor. The breath is your yoga practice. The Ujjayi breath is powerful; there is also no reason to limit its use to the yoga room. In stressful life situations, breathing techniques can help to keep you connected with your body and grounded in your thoughts.

The Breath will Guide your Yoga Practice

Your connection with your breath and the Ujjayi technique is the most vital aspect of the yoga practice. It is what allows the subconscious mind to integrate your thoughts and conscious feelings, soothes your bodily systems, and relaxes the central nervous system. If the pose gets too intense for the breath, lower the intensity of the posture in your body.

When you are finished practicing, you lie down to rest with your back on the floor and your head on the floor. The idea is to let your body sit completely still on the floor for about 5-15 minutes, depending on how long your practice was. This is time where you let your breathing return to its normal state in a natural and easy way.

That’s all you need to start practicing yoga, or to start an official “yoga practice”. Don’t listen to anyone that says you need anything because all of the props that exist are made to make the practice more comfortable. You are set and ready to go.

The ONLY Rule: Enjoy Yourself!

If it’s not fun, then what’s the point of a yoga practice?

You are ready to start your home yoga practice now. Remember to do what you love!

Closing your eyes always feels great. The magic starts to happen when you really start to let go of everything outside of your body and focus your attention completely inwards.

 

Here are a few more articles, in case you want to look at some additional information or more great resources:

References:

The Ultimate Reference: BKS Iyengar’s: Light on Yoga

  1. Yoga International
  2. Yoga Basics
  3. Gaiam
  4. MindBody Green
  5. Yoganonymous
  6. About Health

 

 

5 Reasons I Don’t Practice Ashtanga Everyday

http://ashtangayogaathens.com/2014/08/healing-injuries-with-ashtanga-yoga/

I still practice Ashtanga.

Just not every day. I practiced every day while I was in India up until 3 months ago and when I began to travel. However, I stopped practicing every day and have gone back to a more diverse practice of general Hatha poses. But there are some major reasons why I stopped practicing Ashtanga every day and starting practicing it more like twice a week. You should know them

  1. Muscle mechanics –¬†Muscles are designed to handle unforeseen obstacles, in fact they perform extremely well in a diverse landscape and require different types of movements than only the poses of the primary series to functioning optimally. We are not meant to walk on treadmills, we are meant to climb hills and rocks, ice and mountains. There are fundamental movements that are missing from Pattabhi Jois‘ method, originally prescribed by Krishnamacharya. Low lunges, certain types of sitting, abdominal exercises, and back lengthening are all missing from Krishnamacharya’s sequences, likely because they were as necessary in the lifestyles of young Indians at the time. With modern science, especially in the fields of anatomy and physiology, we can structure other exercises to compliment the poses of the primary series to make our practice of the old method more efficient.
  2. Injuries – It’s easy to get injured while practicing Ashtanga, especially while practicing every day. Some studies have posted numbers as high as 60% of people who practice Ashtanga get injured and I would be willing to bet a lot of the injuries are knees, ankles, and toes. When you practice the same routine every single day it is easy to become somewhat mindless in the practice and to allow things to move on autopilot. This is not necessarily very good for your muscles either because they get used to the same movements and over time try to create shortcuts. Muscle confusion is a good remedy for this.
  3. Sense of Progress РAshtanga give the practitioner a false sense of progress every day. You become efficient and masterful at certain asanas while forgetting others and focusing on a non-existent path in Ashtanga. The path is the same whether you practice Ashtanga or not and being able to perform yoga poses should only lead to a sense of internal triumph, rather than comparative progress. Where is yoga taking you anyways?
  4. Time –¬†Yoga is a huge time commitment. Ashtanga is oftentimes an even bigger one, with full sequencing and the need to warm up and prepare mentally. I like to take 2 hours to practice Ashtanga, it gives me plenty of time for headstand and the closing sequences and I don’t feel rushed. Did I mentioned I spent 10 breaths in a lot of poses?
  5. Variation is beautiful РWhy practice only one style of yoga? We are born into an age with seemingly limitless traditions and styles to draw from, we should take advantage of this. Incredibly skilled teachers also seem to be popping out like daisies so take advantage while you can!

I also do other forms of exercises, like running, and climbing, hiking, and generally spend a lot of time outside. You should switch it up every once in a while, your body will love you for it!

 

See a few more articles about Ashtanga here:

  1. Is Ashtanga Dangerous?
  2. Injury Rates in 2008 (fishy…)
  3. Elephant Journal Drama
  4. Daily Ashtangi
  5. Ashtanga Injuries

The True Meaning of Yoga

yoga_dancer's_pose

Yoga provides exercises and experiences that allow you to experience life more fully and vitally. This means that the breathing exercises, stretches, calisthenics, abdominals, standing poses, back-bend, inversion, spinal twists, and hip-openers that you do during a yoga class are pretty useless by themselves. The idea is that they free you up inside to be present to everyday life and can therefore appreciate everything a little bit more and make you healthier to enjoy them. I think this is why looking at pictures of people doing yoga can feel so hollow, there is so much going on in that simple picture and you can’t really see the after effects of what the yoga is doing.

A human being performing an asana, or a positive postural alignment of their body is an incredible thing, if simply because the human being is alive and functioning in the compromised position, especially if they are doing ujjayi breathing. When you start to combine muscular stretches and skeletal alignments to focused the consciousness of that human in asana, postures can assist their body in realigning, strengthening, increasing flexibility and endurance. Yoga does this by innervating muscles that may not normally be flexed or contracted and distributing weight evenly among muscle groups while inversions provide your circulatory system with some much-needed filtration and release from gravity’s constant pressure. Yoga can help your body to recover from intense exercise and to stay young by keeping the fluid systems functioning properly.

Yoga is much more than an ancient Indian philosophy because it has evolved alongside American culture in today’s world, even if it is very romanticized in much of the western world’s culture of yoga studios, classes, teachers, etc. It is a part of the West’s culture now in a way that people really do appreciate and take advantage of in a good way. It is also a part of Hinduism and may be very old in India.

From science we have learned that the biggest benefits of yoga are usually the stress releases. Yoga is a powerful tool for mental and physical sensitivity, meaning that it gives you a good idea of how functional parts of your body are and how much endurance you have. It is especially useful in aligning nerves, which is why lots of people with sciatica find relief in yoga. We are just beginning to explore the effects of exercises such as headstand, shoulderstand, back-bends like camel pose, reclined hero pose, wheel pose, bow pose are all extremely powerful postures that science still has a lot to learn about. But it seems to have huge effects on nearly every system in the body because of the controlled levels of stress input and release and overall stimulation and fitness of the body’s muscular systems.

Yoga becomes an aspect of appreciating life. Sometimes yoga may come and go and I really think everyone experiences a little of this from time to time and that it isn’t a big deal. Sometimes life is just good and we are very happy and yoga can be in the background for a while, especially if everything is really good. But yoga is something that doesn’t really leave you. When you stand up straight, when you stretch your back while standing in line, the yoga is still a part of how you do things if you internalize it. The #yogaeverydamnday hashtag is kind of¬†funny because I don’t think anyone does yoga 365 times a year. Even¬†Ashtangis are supposed take the full moon of every month off.

Yoga doesn’t have to be something very formal, we don’t even really know much about the origins of what we practice now. Its not super religious, or ultra sacred, or anything more than what you want to make of it. You can practice in small quantities by yourself at home to really get things moving for your body in terms of flexibility and mobility. Teachers are good for more advanced things like inversions, breathing exercises, or advanced arm balances and advising you on how to advance in your practice. But its also something you can learn on your own and that can provide stability or whatever you may need it to be.

Krishna Pattabhi Jois

k pattabhi jois

Krishna Pattabhi Jois is the founder of the Ashtanga style of yoga and one of the most influential yoga teachers to have brought yoga to the west through the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India. I studied there in January 2015.

Jois was born on a full moon in 1915 in Kowshika in southern India. His father was a member of the Brahmin caste and Jois was taught rituals and Sanskrit from the age of 5. When he was 12 he attended a demonstration from Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and became his student the following day. Jois never told his family that he was practicing yoga, but would wake up early, practice, then go to school.

When Jois was 15 he ran away from home to head to Mysore to study Sanskrit. 2 years later, he was reunited with Krishnamacharya in Mysore when the older teacher came to heal the Maharaja of a sickness that no one else could cure. He would accompany Krishnamacharya in demonstrations at the established palace shala and continued to teach the yoga sequence that he learned from Krishnamacharya, the Ashtanga yoga method and continued to study under Krishnamacharya until 1953. He also claimed to be BKS Iyengar’s guru, which Iyengar refuted.

Jois married at 18 and in 1948 moved to Lakshmipuram (a beautiful suburb of Mysore) where they had three children: Saraswathi (who I studied with in Mysore), Manju, and Ramesh. Jois was a professor at the Sanskrit college, but eventually left to teach yoga full-time. In 1964,¬†a Belgian¬†named Andr√© Van Lysebeth¬†wrote a text called “j’apprends le Yoga” (I taught myself yoga) and this is what started the spread of yoga to the West. Students from all over the world would come to study with Jois including Richard Freeman, Chuck Miller, David Life, Larry Schutlz, Bryan Kest, Gwyneth Paltrow, and even Sting. Many of these people would bring yoga into the west in their own forms of the Ashtanga yoga practice.

Eventually Jois moved from his 8 person shala in Lakshmipuram to a larger shala in Gokulam, which is where I studied with Saraswathi Jois. He wrote several books and died of natural causes on May 9th, 2009 at age 93.

Jois will forever have a footprint on the world of yoga; indeed many practitioners continue to study with his grandson Sharath Jois and daughter Saraswathi at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Gokulam.

Many have claimed that Jois was inappropriate with his adjustments, but this could have been a result of major cultural differences between the cultural standards of the US and Jois’ traditional upbringing. However, it is confirmed that Jois injured several students with his adjustments, including one woman who he broke both meniscus’.

The Ashtanga method is well known for its high rate of injury, most likely due to its optimization around the Indian body type, from which there are quite large deviations, especially in the west. One survey put the rate of injury rate at 62% for Ashtanga practitioners, however, Bikram Yoga and Iyengar Yoga have both had serious backlash from the media for causing injury. Iyengar’s students also incurred injuries such as one student who wrote a letter to William J Broad for his book,¬†The Science of Yoga:¬†“One of the saddest and most thoughtful letters came from an elderly man who studied with Iyengar in India for 16 years. His list of personal injuries included torn ligaments, damaged vertebrae, slipped disks, deformed knees and ruptured blood vessels in his brain.”¬†Bikram, in particular, has been known to cause large amounts of injury and the founder himself has two rape charges against him. It is undoubtable that the competitive spirit of yoga in the west contributes to this high rate of injury and lack of respect for the body’s limitations.

Pattabhi Jois helped to spread yoga to the west as one of the pioneers of the exercise. His memory will be forever remembered by the tradition he began and the students whose lives he changed with his spiritual practice of the Ashtanga method and philosophical Hindu and Sanskrit doctrines accompanying the physical yoga that he taught.