- MY WHAT-HOW-WHY-WHO APPROACH TO TEACHING | Body of Knoweldge™ Blog October 27, 2018
I want to tell you about the what-how-why-who approach and how I use it to understand the content I share as a teacher. I’ll boil it down this what-how-why-who approach into three parts:
1. Techniques – I need to know what to teach and how.
2. Concepts – I need to know the bigger picture behind why I teach these concepts.
3. Territory – I need to understand the material my teaching affects, like the human body in general, or its relevance to the unique individuals and communities I share it with. This is the who.
Let me give you an example using content I specifically teach – teacher trainings, anatomy & biomechanics workshops and movement classes and workshops.
These are the skills – the what – I impart to my students and how I impart them. For teacher training, this might include helping a teacher refine an unclear cue in bridge pose. For teaching movement it might include how to transition from one position in space to another, like going from constructive rest to bridge pose by way of hip extension instead of spinal extension. Techniques are actionable and applied specifically. They are also the easiest to learn initially. You can simply observe someone apply a technique and ... Learn more
- Muscular Tension Deserves Better PR | Body of Knowledge™ Blog September 16, 2018
Tension needs a better PR firm. It gets a bad rap in yogaland. There’s an awful lot of talk about getting rid of it like holy socks, or releasing it like animals at the zoo, or letting it go like Chinese lanterns.
It seems like we’re always running away from tension, or running to yoga to free ourselves from it.
But what do we actually mean when we talk about tension?
Do we mean anxious, mental tension?
Do we mean anxious, mental tension? In this case, I agree, maybe we don’t want that. And yoga can certainly help alleviate anxious, tension by teaching us tools to self-regulate.
In this case, I agree, maybe we don’t want anxious, mental tension. And yoga can certainly help by teaching us tools to self-regulate.
But there’s an awful lot of talk about ‘softening’ muscles, too, which makes me think that maybe what we think we’re trying to get rid of a lot of the time is muscular tension.
Now, I’m not suggesting that decreasing muscular tension is always a bad thing. I’m just asking what we mean when we say we’re doing it and if it’s always what we should be going for.
And then consider this: would it be okay to encourage ... Learn more
- I Used to Be in Pain A lot | Yoga with Resistance Bands | Body of Knowledge™ Blog August 20, 2018
Teaching yoga asana is a tough job. A newer teacher, I learned this the hard way. Three big shifts lead me to experience chronic pain.
1. My practice was no longer entirely my own.
Once I became a teacher, my students and my classes were always in the back of my head. I could no longer appreciate my time on the mat the same way.
This was cool, on one hand. My practice gained meaning. It became an experience I got to share with my students.
Thinking more while practicing had minuses, too. It felt difficult to be totally present. Time on my mat took a sharp turn toward content creation, and away from self-care. While my students benefited from my practice during this time, my body didn’t in the way that it had used to.
2. The cognitive overload of learning to teach made me unaware of myself while teaching.
While getting my chops as a new teacher, I relied on practicing while teaching, sometimes for most of the class. This was how I found my words and developed a sense of timing. I’m a kinesthetic learner which means I learn best by doing.
Teaching in this way, however, meant my attention was torn. I would, for example, ... Learn more
- ARE MORE FLEXIBLE HIPS THE ANSWER? | Yoga with Resistance Bands | Body of Knowledge™ Blog August 15, 2018
Stability and flexibility are not the same.
Nor are they entirely separate variables.
A majority of people who try yoga for the first time do so to get more flexible. They’re on the right track! Yoga is highly effective for increasing people’s flexibility.
Flexibility is the absolution range of motion available to you at our joints.
It’s how far you can bend (or get bent.)
But is increasing flexibility even good for us? I think we might be a little confused on this point.
I suspect we associate (or mis-associate) flexibility with bodily health and well-being. Like maybe if our bodies are more flexible, our minds will become so, too. Or maybe our aches and pains stem from our body’s inability to yield in all the ways we want it to physically, mentally and emotionally.
I’m speaking from my own experience and the perceptions I had when I was a little newer to yoga. I was convinced, for example, that all I needed to do was ‘open my hips’ and I’d see an improvement in my life, my relationships, my moods. I remember teachers implying as much, suggesting to the class that we were doing pigeon pose to release emotions. As a newer teacher, I learned to ... Learn more
- PRACTICE AND ALL MAY STILL NOT COME | Body of Knowledge™ Blog June 15, 2018
Yogaland platitudes like, “Practice and all is coming” are really comfy words to live by, but what do they actually mean? Personally, I find them problematic because I think they bypass the importance of critical thinking and questioning what we’re learning, practicing and teaching. Is it enough to just keep practicing? Doesn’t it matter what and how we paractice, too? Platitudes lull us into a type of submissive conformity.
Practice (or doing something a lot and with total dedication, even) is not the only determinant of how ‘easy’ something will feel over time, whether it’s right for you, or whether you’ll be able to to do it at all. This is especially the case when it comes to poses that demand extreme end range of motion from your joints. A lot of the asanas fit this description, like rotated side angle pose (see video below), lotus pose, slowly piking up into handstand, and splits pose. Even something as seemingly simple as getting your hips to your heels in child’s pose can evade the most ‘advanced’ practitioner depending on their body shape.
Bone length, proportion and shape, joint structure and soft tissue morphology vary widely from student to student. This variation matters in our relative ability and facility ... Learn more
- ON BECOMING AN EMPOWERED EDUCATOR | Body of Knowledge™ Blog June 12, 2018
It starts with your practice…
I know I say it a lot, but the Yoga Tune Up® Level 1 changed my teaching. I think it’s important to add that I was ready for my teaching to change.
It was 2013, and I had been teaching classes for 6 years and leading 200hr Teacher Trainings for 3. I was in some pain here and there – mostly my SI joints and neck. I was a little bored, too. The asanas weren’t exactly cutting it for me physically or creatively. It’s extremely difficult for me to teach subject matter that I don’t totally believe in. Students can smell lack of enthusiasm from a mile away.
One day at the old YogaWorks Union Square studio, I saw a poster for the YTU L1. I was particularly drawn to the therapy ball component of this training. I had been using tennis balls to help myself temporarily relieve intermittent neck pain. Like my SI joint pain, this neck discomfort reared its ugly head for days at a time every month or two. It left me feeling really uncomfortable and confused. How was I teaching ‘a healing art’ but also in regular pain? I felt like a failure and a fraud.
It was this mindset, more ... Learn more
- FROM IMITATION TO INNOVATION | Body of Knowledge™ Blog May 23, 2018
When I was a 200hr trainee, my trainers taught me that on the path to learning to teach, there are three stages: imitation, integration, and innovation.
Yoga teachers learn to teach in the beginning mostly by imitating their teachers and following ‘the rules’ of the method. This makes sense. According to pedagogical scholars, the apprenticeship model is one of the best ways to learn.
As a 200hr trainee, I remember keeping a ‘cue dictionary’ of my favorite ways my teachers cued actions or movements in the poses. I memorized cues form my dictionary to repeat to my own students. It worked. I amassed a rather large and sophisticated teaching lexicon early on in my yoga teaching career. I learned the language of teaching yoga the way that small children learn to speak – by repeating (almost word for word sometimes) what my teachers communicated to me. Like learning the language of teaching yoga, new teachers learn techniques by imitation, often before they fully understand the theory behind what they’re imitating. Ideally, while this is happening, new teachers are reminded that it is always their responsibility to question what they are learning and to know that their teachers are fallible. Unfortunately, depending on the program or teacher, this is not always the case. Depending on the nature ... Learn more
- THE ACTUAL MEANING OF VINYASA | Ep. 17 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog April 17, 2018
This past weekend in the YogaWorks 200hr teacher training I’m leading we talked about the meaning of Vinyasa and how this Sanskrit word doesn’t actually translate how many think it does. Vinyasa doesn’t mean ‘flow’ or ‘moving on the breath’ or ‘chaturanga, up-dog, down-dog.’
In his book, The Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar breaks down the roots of the word Vinyasa within the phrase vinyasa krama.
“Krama is the step, nyasa means “to place” and the prefix vi- translates as “in a special way.” The concept of vinyasa krama tells us that it is not enough to simply take a step: that step needs to take us in the right direction and be made in the right way.”
If I put Desikichar’s ideas into my own words, for me this concept of vinyasa krama is to make the process the goal.
When I make the process the goal, I pay attention to my day to day experience to observe whether or not the steps I’m taking and how I’m taking them are moving me in the right direction. At the same time, though, in noticing my experience as I move toward my goals, I ask myself, “is this really what I want?” More importantly, is it what I need? During the ... Learn more
- CARRIER PIGEON TO EXTERNALLY LOAD YOUR OUTER HIPS | EP. 16 | BODY OF KNOWLEGE™ VLOG April 17, 2018
Pigeon pose is one of the most popular ‘hip opening’ postures that yoga students love to hang out in. Meanwhile, it’s unclear given all that we know and are still learning about stretching whether more flexibility gained through exploring passive range of motion (aka hanging out in a stretch) is even useful.
At the same time, in a yoga room where our equipment is often limited to blankets, belts and blocks, it can be challenging to configure poses in a way that makes the pose more active so that we can build strength alongside our flexibility. Enter Carrier Pigeon! I’ve changed the orientation of the legs for a more 90/90 arrangement and added a rolled blanket at the end of the long levers of the arms thereby exponentially increasing the load that the blanket provides for challenging the hips, but also the muscles of the back. In this way, we can use a pigeon-esque shape to train flexibility and strength – combined abilities which many are now referring to as mobility. Think of mobility as flexibility with motor control or flexibility that you have active control over. Big bonus!
- BYE BYE YOGA BUTT, HI(GH) BRIDGE WITH RESISTANCE!| EP. 15 | BODY OF KNOWLEDGE™ VLOG February 10, 2018
Progressive overload refers to the deliberate, gradual increase in stress placed on the body in order to facilitate an adaptive process by which your tissues change structurally and functionally to be able to meet the demands of greater and greater loads.
In order for this adaptation to take place, loads must be adequate and consistent. If you are a yogi and/or are hypermobile you may have suffered from symptoms colloquially known as ‘yoga butt’ a nagging feeling of pain directly at the sit bone. This symptom may be the result of hamstring tendinopathy – degradation of the hamstring tendons in the form of micro-tears. Passive stretching will not this sit(bone)uation better. If fact, it may be what caused it.
In a practice like yoga asana, the hamstrings are often subjected consistently to low tensile loads, as in passive stretching. These low tensile loads are not adequate enough to result in the laying down of more collagen for increased density and strength of the hamstring tendons. This doesn’t mean passively stretching the hamstrings is wrong or bad. It simply means that it is an incomplete or inadequate ‘load diet’ for facilitating their musculoskeletal health. This video offers a few ways in which you ... Learn more
- Is Yin Yoga Bad for You? | Ep. 14 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog January 28, 2018
The following was a conversation between a Yin yoga teacher and I during a Body of Knowledge™️ biomechanics workshop about soft tissues, hypermobility and stretching. In it, she asked how to reconcile her new understanding of passive stretching and hypermobility with her existing understanding of the aim of Yin yoga.
This video contains part of my answer. I teach anatomy and biomechanics primarily as a means to teach a mindset that resists dogmatic thinking like ‘Yin is good for you’ or ‘Yin is bad for you.’ The truth is, it always depends. Statements like ‘Yin is good or bad for you’ beg for context like, who is practicing, how often are they practicing, what is Yin yoga, who is teaching the class, what are they teaching and many more questions. There are questions that can be answered. There are questions that cannot. And there are questions that need to become better questions. I love them all. As a teacher, my aim is to create an environment in which all students, regardless of their beliefs and current level of knowledge, feel safe to share their thoughts and questions and to practice thinking critically amongst others. This environment involves questions and more questions, ... Learn more
- Monster Walks for Hip and SI Joint Stability | Ep. 13 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog November 28, 2017
In this episode of the Body of Knowledge™ video blog I share a wonderfully simple and potent exercise called Monster Walks! All you need is a stretchy band and some space to walk around like the spawn of a land crab and benevolent zombie! Cute!
In an effort to strengthen the muscles of the lateral hip compartment, the benefits of adding external resistance are numerous. Especially if you suspect you’ve overdone passive hip stretching, or in general you are on the hyper-mobile side of the spectrum, and need to build strength to stabilize your SI joints and hips.
Monster Walks strengthens the gluteus medius muscle primarily – a super important muscle for hip and knee stability. It also helps to strengthen the piriformis muscle, one of a few muscles that crosses the sacroilliac joint in a horizontal orientation and whose relative strength contributes to force closure of the SI joint. Force closure is a biomechanics term that refers to the different forces, like muscle force, that contribute to holding your SI joints together.
If you have a loosey goosey SI joint or overstretched ligaments and a general feeling of discomfort in the buttock and lower back region, this exercise may bolster your strength ... Learn more
- 360° Hip Strength and Coordination with Static Circumduction! | Ep. 12 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog October 7, 2017
Instead of doing passive stretching to alleviate your ‘hip tightness’ try doing exercises that stabilize your hips. Static Circumduction is one of my signature moves that I love teaching to help prep the hips for better reflexive strength and coordination.
Additionally, this exercise enhances hip joint centration by helping to balance the stabilizing tension all around the hip joint so that the muscles of the hip are better capable of holding the the head of the femur bone in a more centered and stable place within the hip socket.
If you have groin pain, an unstable sacroilliac joint or constantly clicking hips, you might benefit from less passive hip stretching and more active hip strengthening like Static Circumduction. For more WHY behind the benefits of strengthening the hips over passively stretching them, check out Body of Knowledge™ episode 11 which touches on the concept of ‘tightness’ – namely, what it is and what it isn’t.
- What to Do about ‘Tightness’? | Ep. 11 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog October 7, 2017
The sensation of tightness or muscle tension is a sensation that yoga students frequently explore through passive stretching in order to alleviate ‘tightness’ that they feel around their shoulders, hips, or back. Is passive stretching the best solution for tightness?
In this video, I explain a little bit more about this feeling – what it is and what it isn’t and introduce a shift in perspective on what to do about chronic feelings of muscle tension. In the next episode, episode 12, I introduce a challenging hip-stabilizing exercise that I call Static Circumduction, an exercise that presents one possible strategy for working with hip ‘tightness’ that may be more effective than passive stretching.
- Osteokinematics vs. Arthokinematics | Ep. 10 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog August 22, 2017
Joint movement can be described in 2 main ways. Osteokinematic movement is the movement of your body parts and it’s clearly visible to the naked eye. Arthrokinematic movement is movement that happens inside your joint capsules and cannot be seen.
Your joint surfaces slide, spin and roll across each other. This permits your bones to move through space. Impediments to healthy arthrokinematic movement limits osteokinematic movement. That, or movement happens at the expense of soft tissues and results in wear and tear.
- Stretching : Rigidity vs. Extensibility | Ep. 9 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog May 29, 2017
In this episode, I touch on the biomechanics of stretching and explore some of most important soft tissue properties to know about – rigidity and extensibility. These properties, and their relationship to flexibility and mobility, are extra important to understand if you are interested in a sustainable yoga practice that keeps your body functionally healthy for years to come.
- Active Range in Sliding Lunge | Ep. 8 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog May 29, 2017
In this episode we’ll take a look at a common yoga pose, low lunge, or anjaneyasana. We’ll look specifically at two ways that you can practice this pose. One way is more of a passive approach that biases and exploits flexibility, while the other way is more active and seeks to increase strength and coordination within the deeper ranges of motion it dynamically explores.
- Stretching: Mobility vs. Flexibility | Ep. 7 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog May 29, 2017
A majority of people who try yoga for the first time do so because they want to get more flexible. One of yoga’s benefits is that it is a highly effective practice for increasing range of motion. But why do we want to increase range of motion at our joints and is it as important to our musculoskeletal health as we think it is? This episode explore some of the language used around stretching – namely the terms flexibility, mobility and stability.
- Chaturanga-Less Sun Salute – A Silent Tutorial | Ep. 6 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog January 19, 2017
Enjoy my latest Body of Knowledge™ video blog – a Chaturanga-Less Sun Salute! Joint centration is the ideal balance between the muscles that mobilize and stabilize as well as the agonists and antagonists of a joint. Centration implies that all the muscles that surround the joint have balanced their tension in order to hold the bony surfaces of the joint together for maximum surface contact.
Winging of the scapula is when one particular side of the scapula angles toward the rib cage while the other angles away. This natural movement of the shoulder blades becomes problematic in loaded positions and it is notoriously difficult to avoid in chaturanga. Over-time poorly executed (or perfectly executed but excessively practiced) chaturangas can lead to imbalance and injury. There are so many ways to craft a ‘moving meditation’ without chaturanga. Here is one idea. Enjoy and go make up some more! P.S. if you watch closely, you’ll see me fight to avoid scapular winging in some of these transitions.
- Bone Rhythms : Self-Adjust Back Leg in Triangle | Ep. 5 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog January 19, 2017
In episode 5 of the Body of Knowledge™ video blog, we apply knowledge of bone rhythms (learned in episode 3) by using a belt around the back thigh in order to more clearly sense pelvic and spinal rotation in triangle pose.
- Bone Rhythms, Part 3 | Ep. 4 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog September 6, 2016
Take your body out from between ‘two panes of glass’ and stop squaring your curved pelvis in triangle pose. In part 3 of the Bone Rhythms Trilogy, this Body of Knowledge™ vlog raises your awareness of the action and position of rotation at your hip joints in triangle – specifically how pelvic position is important for avoiding repetitive stress injuries to the connective tissues of your front hip and knee.
- Bone Rhythms : Self-Adjust Front Hip in Triange | Ep. 3 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog August 10, 2016
I sometimes call triangle pose Bermuda Triangle because proprioception, sense of direction, and the ability to hold oneself up muscularly instead of collapsing into joint tissues all seem to mysteriously disappear in this shape. In this Body of Knowledge™ vlog post, I show a simple self-adjustment to tactilely clarify movement from the hip joints & work more core stability in the pose. I learned this many years ago and it still proves very useful!
- Bone Rhythms, Part 2 | Ep. 2 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog August 1, 2016
In part 2 of the bone rhythms trilogy, we take a look at triangle pose and how knowledge of coupled movements can clarify what you feel and see happening in this sneakily complex posture. We discuss two different approaches to triangle pose and how to couple or uncouple (that is the question!) movements between the thigh, pelvis and low back.
- Bone Rhythms, Part 1 | Ep. 1 | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog July 6, 2016
This is the first Body of Knowledge™ video blog about bone rhythms of the thigh, pelvis and low back. In this video we take a look at a squat and fetal position to understand femoropelvic and lumbopelvic rhythms. Bone rhythms (or coupled movements) are great to know about for anticipating how some patterns of human movement need to be reorganized in scenarios like squats.
Learn when and why it’s best to uncouple femorpelvic and lumbopelvic rhythms – specifically when the low back would benefit from greater support from the muscles of the hips.
- Introduction | Body of Knowledge™ Vlog July 5, 2016
In this blog intro, I share my intention for the Body of Knowledge™ video blog. Namely, it is to share with you some of the questions I love to wrestle with as a student of what I teach – movement, anatomy, biomechanics and the courage to remain curious.