Curves Ahead- A Liz Doyle workshop

I had the opportunity to attend Liz Doyle’s “Curves Ahead- Navigating the Twists & Bends of the Spine” workshop at Terra Yoga on November 12. Terra Yoga, located in downtown Issaquah, has a beautiful studio with hardwood floors, a wall of mirrors, and large windows for great natural light.

I was looking forward to taking Liz Doyle‘s workshop. Thanks to a tail bone injury many years ago, I have some low back pain and a compressed spine. Backbends have always been a concern of mine, so I knew this workshop would be very informative.

Liz started with a discussion about the spine, using a skeletal model for reference. She talked about what muscles to stabilize while in a backbend (from strengthening your legs to tucking your tail bone to avoid injury).

The class was small, allowing for more intimacy and one-on-one adjustments. Liz encouraged questions and feedback throughout. The ladies in class were a lot of fun, cracking jokes. I really enjoyed the light-hearted atmosphere.

After the spinal discussion, we moved into some warm up stretches, twists, and muscle strengtheners. Liz showed us how the muscles worked in each pose to help with backbending. Seeing how to rotate the shoulders correctly was very helpful.

Liz reminded us that backbends are not just about spinal flexibility, but also open, strong shoulders and hips. She talked a lot about opening up the joints to get the full range of motion.

I enjoy yoga teachers who bring their vast knowledge of anatomy into their classes. There’s definitely less chance of injury if you understand how and where your body is supposed to be in each pose.

When Liz explained each asana, it was easy to understand. She demonstrated how not to do the pose, then showed us the correct way. We were able to see the difference in where the muscles were and how they moved. She then had us try both ways so that we could understand how our muscles were working.

We took all we learned in the first part of the workshop, then moved into the backbending asanas. I know there were many “A-ha!” moments in class when we realized we’d been practicing an asana incorrectly and now had the tools to better understand each pose.

I had a great time during the workshop and learned a lot. I look forward to taking another of Liz’s great workshops in the future! 🙂

Namaste,

Colleen

Wanderlust- Yoga in the City

This summer, Wanderlust Festival (yoga & music festival held each year in Lake Tahoe and Vermont) decided to share the love and host some separate “Yoga in the City” events. Wanderlust is a multiple day event but Yoga in the City was held on 1 day for a few hours (just a taste). Seattle was the last Yoga in the City stop this summer, on August 4. The event was free and took place in Space Needle Park at Seattle Center. It was a beautiful sunny day (possibly the nicest day we’ve had this summer so far) and there were hundreds of people in attendance. The event was sponsored by Smartwater, so I got a free yoga mat (good thing since my old mat was just about dead) and free water. Before and after the yoga, we had music by DJ Karl Injex. Gina Skene and Kristi Summers from Shakti Vinyasa taught a 90-min Baptiste Power Vinyasa class while Michel & Russ from Be Luminous Yoga demonstrated the poses. Normally I’m not a fan of Baptiste Power Yoga, since I like a little more variety in my practice, but I know a lot of people love it- and learn the sequences. Gina and Kristi moved among the crowd while they taught. They gave us options to go into inversions and arm balances if we wanted. I was excited that I got to practice my new favorite combo- wild thing to full wheel. The class consisted of a lot of held poses, warriors, sun salutations, and chaturanga. We also got to attempt partner handstands (this was really difficult to do since most of us hadn’t tried to do handstand without a wall). I practiced on the grass since my mat moved around too much. I felt really good and strong after class, even though my knee was bothering me. The sun and grass were bliss! I hope they hold Wanderlust Yoga in the City in Seattle again next year!  🙂

Namaste,

Colleen

Sun Sal-u-thon

On July 23, I participated in the Samarya Center’s 4th annual Sun Sal-u-thon, an event to raise funds for their community programs. The Sun Sal-u-thon was a 4 hour event with the opportunity to do up to 150 sun salutations. There was live music and free food as well. The event was held outdoors (in the sun!!) at Cal Anderson Park. They had irrigated the ground the night before so it was damp and there were little dirt pellets, which made it hard to practice on. I didn’t bring my mat (oops!) since I usually prefer to practice on the grass.

They broke the event down into groups of 25 sun salutations with a break in between. There was a different teacher for each group of 25. You could come and go, doing as many (or as few) sun salutations as you wanted. I was only able to stay for 50 sun salutations.

The event started with 10 minutes of Laughing Yoga (LOGA) with Andrew Whitver. I’ve been practicing LOGA pretty regularly for the past 2.5 years and love it!! Who doesn’t enjoy laughing? 🙂

Then Molly Lannon-Kelly led us through 25 basic sun salutations. She encouraged everyone to do what they wanted (more modifications or amping it up). This was great except she didn’t give examples of what to do. There was a mini concert break after Molly’s set (20 minutes long). The music was fun but I thought the break was too long. I lost a bit of my motivation from sitting too long. Kristin Tucker led us through the 2nd set of 25 sun salutations. This set was very similar to Molly’s. Kristin did get a little confused a few times and messed up the last few sets of sun salutations. Overall, I was rather disappointed in the whole event, though I did enjoy being outside and practicing in the sun.

Namaste,

Colleen

Standup Paddleboard Yoga

I was feeling a bit adventurous when I purchased the LivingSocial deal for 3 standup paddleboard yoga classes with WASUP Yoga. I’ve been interested in trying standup paddleboarding but was too chicken. So, of course, when I signed up to do yoga on a paddleboard, I was really nervous. I figured I would be a mess. I mean my balance isn’t always the greatest (my attempt at surfing was a joke!). I thought I’d fall in for sure. So it was with much trepidation that I showed up for my first standup paddleboard yoga class 2 weeks ago. There were 6 of us and only 1 person had taken the class before, so I felt a little better.

Our instructor, Brian Charlton, was great though. He gave us a demonstration beforehand on how to hold the paddle and where to stand on the board (where to keep our center of gravity in relation to the board). Then we were off into the water. We started paddleboarding on our knees and stood up as we felt comfortable. I felt relatively stable (amazingly!) but seemed to be going super slow. I had to keep reminding myself to not grip my toes (much harder to balance that way!) and to keep my legs wide. When we got out to our practice spot on the water, we tied our boards to a line so they wouldn’t drift off. The yoga class itself lasted  roughly one hour (it went by so fast!). The day was cool, overcast, and slightly drizzly (typical Seattle).

We did some cat/cows, downdog, warrior with the back knee down (he called it our Captain Morgan pose- lol!), pigeon, some binds, reverse warrior where we touched our back hand to the board. This really tested my balance! When we went into lunge with our hands on our hips, then lifted our back knee, I fell out of it and had to put my hands back on the board. I also felt wobbly when we attempted standing splits. Brian was very encouraging. Savasana was very quiet and peaceful, just lying on the board, rocking on the water.

The board moving so much during practice really forced me to stay present and focus on that particular pose and breathing into it. I felt really great after and was super-excited that I didn’t fall into the water!

The second time I went, Hasna Atry was the instructor. It was a beautiful sunny day this time- yay! The water was choppier and it was a little harder to hear. Though I like Hasna, I found Brian’s explanations more helpful when trying to balance on the board. We also had a reporter from the Seattle Times there filming the class. Hasna had us do more balancey, challenging poses than Brian did. I managed to get into wheel pose without falling off the board! Woo hoo! I was quite proud of myself! Savasana was especially nice, with the sun on my face and my hands dipped in the cool water. I’m looking forward to going again, hopefully soon! It’s quite addicting! 🙂

Namaste,

Colleen

Yoga for Hope 2011

Jennifer Isaacson, Dora Gyarmati, Steve Gold, JL Chiemingo, Cosetta Romani

On July 9th, I participated in the 3rd annual Yoga for Hope event, at Seattle Center. Yoga for Hope benefits City of Hope (a comprehensive cancer care center). Local teachers Jenniferlyn Chiemingo, Dora Gyarmati, Jennifer Isaacson, and Cosetta Romani taught at this years event (all 4 are returning teachers from last year). We enjoyed live music from Steve Gold and his band, Stoned on Shiva, while we practiced. I dedicated my practice to my Aunt Noreen, who is battling colon cancer. There were roughly 400 yogis in attendance, raising over $40,000 for City of Hope!

We started off lying on our backs, before Jenniferlyn Chiemingo led us through some basic sun salutations. Dora Gyarmati amped it up with some core work and held warrior poses. We also transitioned between numerous balancing poses on each side. One funny thing I remember was going into Extended hand-to-Big Toe pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) and Sean, practicing to my right, holding my foot up for me. As soon as he let go though, I lost my balance. Lol!

Jennifer Isaacson flowed with backbends, heart openers, and hip openers (including mermaid pose, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). We also did a lot of twists. Cosetta Romani loosened us up with some dancing and movement. Fun! She had us chant along with Steve Gold as we practiced our bridge and wheel poses. She let us do our own yoga for several minutes- whatever our body needed. Then we headed into a relaxing shavasana.

At first, I didn’t pay much attention to Steve Gold’s music, not because it wasn’t good, but because I tend to tune out the music during yoga practice and concentrate on my breath. Most of the time, the soundtrack compliments the practice instead of distracting me. As Yoga for Hope continued, I heard Steve Gold playing off of and interacting with the teachers, which was pretty cool! I’ve never practiced to live music before and it was a neat experience! Steve Gold’s music definitely complimented the practice!

I’ve been blessed to be able to attend all three Yoga for Hope events and this year’s was by far my favorite! It was an amazing, freeing experience, under the warm sun! The teachers all brought their own style and creativity to the yoga. It was inspiring. I felt blissed out afterwards (the best kind of high)! I think I practically floated out of there. Gratitude for being a part of such an amazing event and yoga community! It was so good to see and practice with some of my yogi peeps! Looking forward to Yoga for Hope 2012!

See some video footage here and here.

Namaste,

Colleen

Yoga Behind Bars @ Greenlake

I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for outdoor yoga in the sunshine sometime this summer!! I seem to have the worst luck with that! Oh well! At least I got to go, even if it was grey, overcast, and cool.

I went to Greenlake, Sunday, July 3rd, for a yoga class to benefit Yoga Behind Bars. Our teacher was Natalie Smith, Yoga Behind Bars Executive Director and volunteer teacher. Yoga Behind Bars is a non-profit organization that “brings yoga and meditation classes to incarcerated youth and adults in WA State as well as those at risk of entering the criminal justice system.” Yoga Behind Bars doesn’t believe in the illusion that people behind bars are somehow separate, even though society has written them off.

We practiced yoga on our mats, in a circle. I had a lumpy spot of ground under my mat, which was kind of distracting. It’s definitely harder to practice on a mat on top of the grass! We had a great turnout- 19 people- and raised $125! Since Greenlake is arguably the busiest park in Seattle, I expected a lot of noise and other distractions, but it wasn’t too bad.

We did a lot of warmups and stretches. We used socks as straps, like they do when teaching in prison (inmates aren’t allowed to have straps). Natalie taught an all levels hatha class, moving back and forth from the center of the circle to her mat in the circle. We did some sun salutations and a couple of standing poses, then partner inversions. A lot of people used a tree, but my partner and I just used our mats. Lots of fun! That was easily my favorite part of the whole class! 🙂

We did more stretches, a twist, bridge, supta baddha konasana (one of her faves), then savasana. Class seemed to go by very quickly.

After class, Natalie thanked us for “making an investment in a different way of seeing the world”, guided by our heart not our mind and thoughts. Yoga Behind Bars will be offering yoga classes at Greenlake every Sunday through August, from 10-11:15. There will be a different teacher every week. Meet on the grass by the Community Center.

Namaste,

Colleen

Outdoor Yoga Benefit for Treehouse

On June 30, I attended an outdoor yoga class at Gasworks Park. The class, part of a summer series, was a benefit for Treehouse (a program for foster kids). Troy Aylesworth and Britnie O’Farrell (of Sun Yoga) led the class. Sun Yoga’s mission (from the flyer handout): Promote yoga as a practical and effective tool for positive change. Create and support community focused yoga programs. Develop yoga-oriented programs to facilitate personal change.

Oddly enough, I’d never been to Gasworks Park, so I was excited to go. The park is the site of a former gasification plant and is located on the shore of Lake Union. We set up our mats on the brick, facing the water. Aveda was there, giving free aromatherapy neck and back chair massages. Nice! The weather was a little cool, going back and forth between sunny and cloudy, with wind.

Troy taught an all-levels power vinyasa class, while Britnie demonstrated and assisted. It was slow and juicy power vinyasa. We held the poses for several breaths and slowly built tapas/heat from within. Troy talked about noticing the shifts in our attention and how it affected our breath or pose. He asked us to walk around inside our body, noticing our thoughts, as well as any physical pain or discomfort, and concentrate our breath there (using our breath as the guide). We did a series of sun salutations (I know I was hoping the sun would stay out!!)

There was a bootcamp class near us and a couple of times we heard cheering, like we were doing a good chair pose- lol! Other than that, the only real distractions were the  sea planes flying overhead, so Troy had to talk loudly to be heard. Troy was friendly and personable. He poked fun at himself during class for forgetting which side or pose we were on.

I enjoyed the class and was a little bummed that we ended early due to the wind chill. Troy and Britnie will be teaching these benefit classes every other week at different parks throughout the city.

Namaste,

Colleen

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