Wednesday, July 20, 2011

teaching is humbling

Yet, why are there so many pompous teachers out there?  The teachers I most admire are the ones who change their opinion, who aren't afraid to look at an exercise from many different angles and who understand that what makes us unique instructors is what we bring to the work because we did not invent this stuff.  Someone taught each teacher out there.  Still, I see many teachers who act as though they have some intellectual claim to "Contrology".

Teaching Pilates to me is a living, breathing organism.  We all should have the same goal - to align, strengthen and assist in uniform development of a client's body.  There are many ways to get to a strong uniformly developed client who is happy with their progress, not just mine, not just yours.

I am constantly refining my teaching skills, including attuning my tone of voice, selecting intentional wording, knowing the work/having felt the work in my body many times over and over (and not being afraid to admit that I only know what I know, what I have felt in the body I inhabit and that there is so much more to be learned - I will never be wise, I will never be done), making sure each spinal plane (flexion, extension, rotation and side bending) gets some time, and challenging all of my students with varying degrees of health and fitness.  It certainly is a lot of multi-tasking.  And I think I've come a long way by being open to my mistakes - the not worrying about being perfect has really helped me.  I, in fact, learn more when I mess up.

It is already challenging enough to proceed with confidence in doing all of this, we really should be uplifting one another more, rather than the constant petty judging.  I believe other teachers also are constantly refining their skills and I like that they challenge my thinking and have other ideas about the repertoire we were left with.  I think the world would be a dull, uninhabitable place if each teacher did things the same way.  I want to give props to all my teachers, the ones I resonated with and the ones I didn't.  I learned something from EVERY teacher and every experience.  I hope I remain open to each new student, each class I take, each class I teach and all the teachers I get the joy of hearing be it live and in person around the studio(s) or in this wild internet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the pelvic floor aka dry running

So...why care about the pelvic floor?  I mean who ever really even considers their pelvic floor?  Maybe when pregnant, or when you get an SI joint dianosis, or when you get the whim to do some Kegels.  The pelvic floor is what holds your insides in AND well, your body fluids, too.  That sure makes me care about mine.  Plus, finding your pelvic floor engagement will help you have a deeper, fuller abdominal connection with TA (transversus abdomini - the spanx muscle - the flatbelly muscle).

Runners are WAY more likely to have prolapse and let's face it some incontinence issues.  So female runners really should care about their pelvic floor.  Plus running with core strength really assists in better breathing, posture and keeping a safe lower back.

My favorite pelvic floor spa day is power yoga!  When you are holding those bandhas in purposefully, you are not only focusing your mind, but strengthening your core!  When I started yoga, I deprived myself the goodness of p floor connection - I simply ignored those cues to pull my pfloor in.  Please learn from my mistake and add your pelvic floor into your yoga and your running.

How do you find the pelvic floor?  Nobody wants to admit that the kegel is elusive and how do you know if you are doing it correctly?  I often see people bear down when I cue the pelvic floor which is no bueno!

Before we me a favor.  Pull your low belly in.  Notice what you feel.  On a scale of 1 to 5 note how strong it feels.  Okay, here we go...pelvic floor school.

You have probably heard the cue to stop the flow of pee midstream.  That really helps!  But here are a few other ways if that one doesn't resonate with you.  This list is by no means comprehensive, so comment if you aren't feeling any of these.

1.  In seated or prone observe your sit bones as they rest.  Relax.  Breathe, feel your sit bones.  Try to draw them together.  Feel that little zip "down there"?

2.  Suck your thumb.  No really.  Try it - it's the suckling response from infancy that connects your guts fully!  How cool is that?

3.  On all fours/quadruped try to neutral your pelvis.  Tuck and arch a few times until you feel as though your pelvis is flat.  Notice your tailbone.  Now without moving your pelvis or hips (or ribs!!) zip your tailbone toward your pubic bone.  Remember, nothing moves except a "down there" contraction.

4.  Now pull your pelvic floor in and THEN pull your lower belly.  Now give it a 1 - 5 rating.  See?  It's no joke!

My yoga grandmother (my yoga teacher's teacher) says feeling mula bandha (the pelvic floor) engage is like a butterfly landing on a flower.  Yep that means if you squish your shoulders or your face or make any tense big movement, you haven't got your pelvic floor engaged properly.  It should feel like a nice, kindly lil muscle pull.  As you deepen your pelvic floor experience it will feel stronger, but still, never like you are bearing down or working hard.  (Tip:  look at your low belly when you pull your pelvic floor - if it poufs out, you are bearing down, not drawing up and inside you)

I leave you with this to ponder - just in case you still aren't sure you care about the Pfloor...  I caught an episode of Oprah with the sexpert where she said not only should you be able to pull your P floor up but also back and from right to left.  Ooooh, spiraling pelvic floor movement.  That's freaking cool.  So is not leaking when you run, not having lower back pain, not sneezin and peein, and being able to fully connect with your core.
I woke up this morning feeling really old.  Physically.  This is rare for me, but less rare since I had my daughter.   I would have preferred to lounge around the ole bed this morning, sipping coffee and waking up slowly or to do some Pilates or stretches.  But, the only time I get to run on a Thursday is before my husband leaves for work.  So, I dragged my sorry ass out of bed, irritated also, that I only had a half hour to run.  I have been hoping to start getting more distance runs in, but there are some practicality issues - mostly due to breastfeeding.  I keep telling myself only three months more and I will have my body back and can get up at the ass crack of dawn and run as much as I please - plus it will not be in the 90's at 7am, either.

Ok, back to this morning.  I zombily jumped into my running gear and had a great albeit short run.  I felt really creaky at first, my knees were grouching, the attachment of my medial hamstring seems to be a little pulled, but the gloriosity of the blue-blue sky, the for once cool filled me with overwhelming gratitude.  And off I went.  I ran fast for my geriatric-loping self.  It was wonderful.

When I get tired, I visualize my hamstrings as big chunky muscles who must reach longer and work harder.  It helps every single time to keep my body moving and energized.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

While I have not been busy blogging, I have been busy getting my strength back.  I've begun running again which feels great and may I mention the amazing way running shoes have progressed in the last few years that I have not been a runner?  As always, following my yoga and Pilates workouts, but I've newly found the TRX.  We have it at the studio, so I figured I better take a few workshops and start poking around.  I got really excited at all the yoga possiblities TRX has.  For instance jumpbacks and especially jumping from into crow/crane and side crow/crane.  All sorts of balance and lunge things spring to mind.

I've been thinking of this blog and where my passions lie - as in what do I really want to share with you?  I heard this wild statistic recently that 1 in 4 women over 40 have issues with incontinence.  I'm sure this is true.  I love teaching women to find and strengthen their pelvic floor.  I guess it's the punk rocker in me, loving to talk about the thing that is supposed to be so quiet.  Well screw that, I want my peers to be able to sneeze and cough with confidence.  I'm also a great lover of the plank exercise and all its glorious variations.  This will probably be a mish mosh of practical ways to build strength.  My biggest passion is assisting the willing to unite and give mastery to mind over body.  I just love it.

Working with bodies is a great joy and I'm grateful every day for my amazing clients so willing to go there.  Every so often clients will give me the greatest gift of saying they heard something I had said in their mind and applied it to a workout or life.  On the off chance I could impart some of the wisdom of my teachers and mentors, I visualize this blog as a place to share videos - how to do sneaky workouts in the grocery store, how to breathe in the car so you don't go bonkers in traffic, how to find your pelvic floor, how to do a plank that will impress your friends and neighbors (well, but only if you are given the opportunity, because unnecessary planking is just boasting, really), a proper "sit up", how to breathe to whittle your waist, etc.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I rarely do the work of yoga now that my life is getting back to normal.  I am questioning everything.  I'm less present.  I'm soft when I should be strong and overpowering when I should liquify.  When I do "get the opportunity" to do yoga, I am easily distracted, as I was in the beginning.  One year ago, I could take a yoga practice in a fully packed class and never once lift my gaze to another soul's mat, rarely break bandhas or ujjayi.  But now, I mourn that loss.  And yesterday, I decided that I've been making excuses.  If yoga is what I need to get sane, then it should be first priority in my life, right?  No excuses.

I am present at six am on a Saturday ready to roll the mat out.

When I was pregnant  I unfriended nearly everyone on my facebook page that was a yoga teacher or who frequently posted about yoga.  It was a relief, I realized.  It relieved the yoga pressure.  You see, lately I've been feeling a funny unsettling way about yoga.

Say you stumbled across a gorgeous, scenic cliff overlooking a glorious river with a perfect balance of shade and sunlight.  It was a long agonizing time getting to this particular spot - you got banged up making it to that place...but oh! it was serene, you could think there, you could NOT think there.  Perhaps you found your lost little overstimulated self up there:  quiet, expansive, tiny.  One morning, you came across a couple here in your very spot.  How nice that other people enjoy this glorious view, you nod and feel a strong union with humanity.  Perhaps a few days passed, weeks, months and soon, it's become so crowded with fellow shelter seekers and oh yes, they've brought their iPhones, iPads, expensive hiking gear, they're texting and talking waaaay too loud.

This is how I've been feeling about yoga.  Yeah, I know that non-attachment means that one should be cleverly unattached the the masses toting showy yoga mats and designer yoga "outfits" and rockstar yoga teacher mentality.  It means I should be unattached to the place that heals me and take with me instead that which heals me.  It has seemed to me for a long time, people are clutching at yoga poses, yoga property, and the desire to have a "yoga butt".  And how dare I begrudge them for it?  Because even though we all come to the practice for our own reasons, ultimately the path stands.  The path is so good that yes, it has every right to be crowded.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

effort & grace

For as many translations of the Yoga Sutras as there are, there are variations of the wording sukha and stira. I resonate with effort and grace. Other translations include hard & soft, steady & comfortable, strength & get the idea.

When I came to yoga, I was a weakened bookworm. I enjoyed the stretching and hated the effort. I put up with all those horrific downward facing dogs in order to get to the delicious stretches. After going through a rigorous Pilates Certification process, I threw myself into my practice - attacking chaturanga dandasana, not feeling fulfilled unless I glistened in a layer of my own toxins, striving toward my checklist of perfect (yet contrived) anatomical grace.

In my yoga teacher training, I learned to circle back to that softness I once cherished. When had I become so rigid and goal driven in my practice, I wondered...and in my life as well? I began to work toward a balance of effort and grace. What a challenge!

The real work of yoga: realizing that the way you lay it down on the mat is symbolic of your life at large. So, sipping in my greater picture - I knew I had some changes to make. All the perseverance, muscular strength and, well, goal oriented thinking I had been submerged in --and to be fair needed to be thoroughly committed to in order to make it through my Pilates Teacher training-- had made me rigid in my thinking. I had become critical, judgmental and found it hard to understand why others didn't follow simple rules of etiquette (read: MY way of thinking).

Yoga was about to undo all of this. What a nice little capsule of a sentence. Like wow, I can just take my yoga pill and be balanced. Yoga, life, it is all hard work!

I began to notice that I was not the only one struggling with this particular judgy-ness, over-hard issue. As I look around the Fitness Industry, particularly the Pilates realm in which I teach- I found a compulsive drive to perfection.

This makes me sad now that I have a daughter. I don't want to see her get banged around by perfectionist thinking. I don't want her to have to grow up thinking that it's an either or world. How on earth can one instill both sukha and stira in a world of extremes? I don't really know the answer but I can take a stab that it involves the hard work of softening into motherhood.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'm starting to feel like myself again! (cue the singing cherubs) Is it the fact that my back is healthy again and I can exercise? Or that I'm starting to crave my usual healthy foods? I even dare say I've started to lose some of those darn 12 pounds left behind since the baby. Maybe it is due to the fact that my daughter is able to play independently on fleeting occasions and no longer needs to nurse 12 hours a day. In other words, I feel like the yoga ninja!

I'm still trying to figure out the focus of this blog. Most likely I will talk about the things I am passionate about: no-fuss fitness, being present, eating mindfully, & people who take themselves too seriously.