Yoga and Burning Man

I taught yoga at Burning man again this year. 4 classes. Why would I work during my time off some people asked me. Well first of all it’s a pleasure to give back to that amazing community, not only through my camp who was offering many different activities (Pepperland is a great camp, check it out next year!) but also, by giving my personnal touch. I was super lucky to teach in two big legit camps:  Heebeegeebees and Red lightning. Such a treat.

Teaching at Burning Man, (and probably in yoga festival too) is an amazing opportunity to share your energy with people who are fully opened to receive. They are not running in between work and and supermarket, they are in the present moment. Fully commited to their practice. It’s a differrent experience.

Back home I teach in small studios, so when I taught my first class at Red Lightning in a huge space with a microphone and in front of 100 students, I had goosebumps, and I could feel this energy shared by all of us, it was so different, so empowering. And when at the end, people come to thank you and to tell you the class was amazing and how they feel great, you just want to stay in that moment forever.

Can’t wait for next year.

Namaste

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A glimpse on a yama: Aparigraha

I’m starting here a serie on the yoga sutras, with one of my two favorites yama: Aparigraha.

Yoga sutra 2-39 : aparigrahasthairye janma kathanta sambodhah

Freedom from wanting unlocks the real purpose of existence.

It would be smart to stop trying to possess something desperatly. In a society

That is based on consumption, most of us believe that things can make us

Happy. This way of life prevents us to live in the present moment and prevent

us to seek the true source of happiness. Aparigraha doesn’t necessarly means

possessing stuff it could also be fame or even may be mastering a hard asana.

In my practice I’ve learned the hard way to let go if I can’t do a specific asana. I

remember I was obsessed with visvamitrasana and tried so much that I ended

up hurting myself. (ahimsa anyone ?), now I know how to let go. I don’t hold a

handstand more than 2 seconds ? it’s ok I will try another day, and may be it

will never happen in this life but does it really matter ? Is it a real source of

happiness ? We tend to complicate our lives with things we don’t really need,

and we suffer with the loss or lack of something. B !K !S Iyengar wrote : « By

the observance of aparigraha, the yogi makes his life as simple as possible and

trains his mind not to feel the loss or the lack of anything. Then everything he

really needs will come to him by itself at the proper time. » I live in a country

) where rich people comes to live in for security and tax reason, I

witness people with a lot of possession, are they happier ? Not at all ! They

focus (we all do) on what they don’t have (yet..) and forget about all they have.

Being grateful for what we already have and not suffer for all the thing we

don’t have is the fist step to happiness ! Keep it simple!

Ubuntu and yoga

The concept of Unbuntu is often resumed by the words : « i am because we

are » Yoga means yoke which can be translated by many words like, connection  

or union. Those two philosophical concepts have similarities but some  

differences as well. 

Similarities : Yoga teaches us compassion and compassion is definitely a major 

point of Ubuntu. In the yoga sutras Patanjali explains the concept of ahimsa,  

non harming other people or purself, in Ubuntu if you harm someone else it’s  

like harming yourself. You have to get rid of your ego to embrace ubuntu and  

yoga clearly helps you with that, ego tends to diminish and connectivity rises. In            

yoga we have to look at when ego limits our possibility. , ego is neutral. Ego is  

simply a sense of “self” or personality, the thoughts and reactions of a mind  

shaped by experiences, preferences, habits, and fantasies. As humans, we  

share this phenomenon, and ego-identification creates boundaties hat keep us 

separate from each other as well as from recognizing 

the pure gold of our own true nature. As we learn to recognize the  

mental patterns and defenses that Patanjali describes, we become 

more comfortable in the role of witness. We gain perspective that allows us to  

detach from the ego self. I would say here that somehow, yoga gives the tool to 

accomplish ubuntu. Also the idea of karma, what we give is what we receive 

it can be related to ubuntu but lay be in a more global level as it includes the  

idea of reincarnation. 

Differences :  

Ubuntu is a concept that is only philosophical in a way, yoga covers more field,  

than that. Yoga takes care of the body too, so we can have an healthy mind in  

an healthy body. Yoga has also a spiritual dimension, it helps controlling an  

individual’s mind, body and soul. I am a soul, a spirit, living in a body. The idea 

of Ubuntu is that we depend on human connection, i don’t think it’s  

totally true in yoga. Some yogi tends to love being isolated to meditate 

and try to attain enlightment. The connection we talk about in yoga is more  

the connection between mind body and soul, which will lead to a control of the  

ego and that’s where yoga and ubuntu have the same ideas. 

A must read for yoga teachers, or devoted practicionners

Spirituality

  • The Bhagavad gita
  • The yoga sutras (Patanjali)
  • The Upanishads

Practice

  • Light on Yoga (B.K.S Iyengar)
  • The heart of yoga (T.K.V Desikachar)
  • Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha (Satyananda Saraswati)
  • Yin yoga: Outline of a quiet practice (Paul Grilley)
  • Jivamukti yoga: practice for liberating body and soul (Sharon Gannon)
  • Yoga mind body and spirit (Donna Farhi)
  • Dancing the body of light (Dona Holleman)

Anatomy

  • The key muscles of Hatha yoga (Ray long)
  • The key poses of Hatha yoga (Ray Long)
  • Anatomy for vinyasa flow and standing poses (Ray long)
  • Yoga anatomy (Leslie Kaminoff)

 

Enjoy your reading; Namaste.

BE the change….

The past week has been intense emotionally for a lot of people in the world and for myself including in my personal life. It makes me wonder: Why the hell most of human beings don’t take warnings seriously?

Let’s take an example with the Earth, many many studies, and many changes we actually can observe in the weather, show us that global warming is on its way with all its terrible consequences; And what the majority of humans are doing about it? Nothing. They just hope for the best. That’s what human beings do best. Am I the only person who’s annoyed, to say the least, by this kind of attitude?

Are we still those kids that you warn constantly: “be cautious with your toys otherwise they will end up broken…” and they still act like you say nothing and then the toy is broken and then they are sad about it? wtf people?

We can say the same thing about how people treats each other, they don’t care about hurting their feelings, they don’t listen when you warn them and then when you take some actions, they’re like: “omg I don’t understand, I was hoping everything will be fine and it’s not”.

Warnings are a serious matter people. Be aware of your surroundings, be aware of what people tells you, be aware of what scientists tell you, and just don’t sit there hoping for the best! I always wondered, is that arrogance? “I know better, global warming is an urban legend and there won’t be any consequences anyway”, is that a problem of understanding? “when my mom says my toy will be broken, what does she mean exactly?” is it because people are numb? “I live on a beautiful pink cloud, everything looks so pretty I can’t hear you, global what?”

The famous quote says: “BE the change you want to see in the world”, it doesn’t say think in a positive way about that change that will happen while you sit there doing nothing!!!

May be something to think about on this beautiful day?
  

The benefits of chair yoga

People who don’t practice have two different kind of ideas about yoga:

Those who think that we stay in Padmasana and meditate for hours, and those who think that we spend our days with the feet behind the head standing on one hand. But there are so many options between those two  ideas, and one of those options is practicing yoga sitting on a chair.

In fact, if you think about it, not everyone can practice standing, for many different reasons. The chair becomes a yoga prop, it becomes the yoga mat. This kind of practice is not only (as you could think) for the elder people, it’s also for people with health issues, or people that can’t use their legs for some reasons, but also for people at the office that don’t have the time, neither the space for a more traditional practice. By practicing on a chair they can still relax, release the tensions, and move their body. It’s beneficial for the body and the mind.

1. Benefits on the body

Practicing on a chair allows to modify a lot of traditionnal postures by making them more accessible for any kind of people/bodies. There are many postures you can do seated, a lot of twist that allows you to stretch your back and massage your internal organs, some hip openers, shoulder openers… There is also the possiblity of using the chair as a support for a standing posture, such as triangle pose or tree pose for example. Some people with balance issues might find it very helpful. 

In fact, this practice benefits to every part of the body, it allows a better bloodstream, improves balance in a significative way, detoxifies the body, ameliorates the posture and the flexibility. Moving makes the mucles more active so they get stronger, and we can say the same about the bones too.

But the body is not the only one that benefits from this practice:

2. Benefits on the mind

The simple fact of moving a little,  can give a person whith a disability or a health isuue,  new hopes, and a better self esteem. Simple things like a better balance or a bigger range of movements, even the releasing of tensions, allow inner peace. Someone stressed by a long day at the office can easily make this observation. Like in a more traditionnal yoga practice, the relation between the body and the mind is better, even the spiritual aspect of yoga can be shared. The practitioner learns how to breath in a better way too. All of this increase the well being and can even offer a better health.

Chair yoga is definitely an amazing option that should be more offered.

Stay tuned for other thoughts about my experience as a yoga teacher! Namaste.

 picture courtesy of JLC 

Weird alignment cues, how to deal with them.

Recently I went to a class for the first time, the teacher had a really great energy, and I couldn’t wait to get started. All was going well but suddenly she told us in a standing posture, that we had to put all the weight on our heels. I was surprised (it was not Utkatasana), so I asked her if what I understood was correct, and she confirmed. I tried to apply it but it didn’t feel right for my body, specially for my knees and my pelvis.

After a while, we were supposed to do chair pose and she told us to arch our back, and I was in shock because I’ve always learned the opposite. In every single class I took as a student I was asked not to arch my back in chair pose. No need to say that’s what I teach too. It felt so wrong for my back, and my pelvis, I had to fake it. And I started to lose confidence in the teacher, and lost interest in the class. I faked it until the end. But, the good side of it: I was super careful, listening more to my body and not to what she was saying, so I still had a good and different experience.

When I went home, I made some research and couldn’t find something about weight on the heels, or arching the back in chair pose, so I asked one of my teacher about it, and just like me he was really really surprised and thought it was weird if not wrong. So I asked him what to do in that case? When you go to a class where the teacher makes you do alignments that don’t seem right? And what if you don’t do them and the teacher insists and come to adjust you?

Well, he said don’t do it, and if they insist tell them that you understand what they say but that today your body is not in the mood for it, so you’re gonna do a little bit differently.

My point is it’s gonna happened some day, you will step in a class where some cues won’t feel right for your body. Just listen to it. Be aware of what your body tells you (not only in yoga), and follow the path that seems correct to you. Even the best teacher in the world can make some mistake. We all are human after all.

Namaste.

The Dharma Yoga wheel, my favorite yoga prop!

Last year, while I was doing my teacher training, the Dharma yoga wheel started to be everywhere on Instagram. I wanted to buy it bur thought it was a little expensive (almost a 100$ for a piece of PVC). One day one of the teacher I follow posted a discount code and I decided to buy it. 3 weeks later the wheel was there.

The wheel is a very nice prop to open your back. I’m doing a few exercises with it at the end of my practice almost every day. The only thing that upset me, is that you have to pay (again!!) to be able to download from the website a few pictures showing you what you can do with it. It seems that they wanted to make the more money as possible with it and in the yoga world this kind of attitude always disappoints me.

Luckily now you have the choice and many other brands came up with the same idea. Because except for the money aspect of it, this really is a great prop. Even for back pain you can massage yourself by rolling your back on the wheel. I even take it to the beach and use it to rest my back on it while I’m doing dolphin watching!

If you were hesitating, I strongly suggest you google it and find the one that suits you best, because it will take your practice to another level, and if you are a teacher, your students will appreciate the tool!

Stay tuned! Namaste.

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Sweating is good for your health!

As some of you know I’m a yoga teacher in Europe, but I’m doing all my training in the US, and one of the big difference between those two cultures in terms of practicing yoga  is the perspiration. When I’m in LA every classes I go to are given in a slightly heated room :usually around 28° Celsius ( it’s not Bikram or hot yoga), and people sweat. Oh yes they do! Even myself who I thought I wasn’t the sweating type, well, when I’m out of those classes, I look like I’m just stepping out of a shower. At first I didn’t like it, I was struggling a little, but then I realise I was a little bit more flexible, and that after a while my skin was glowing (in a good way). Even my best friend who came with me once told me that my skin was way more radiant when I was in LA than home, and the usual cold I use to have every witer simply disappeared.

Where I live and teach there are a lot of different people from all over Europe and Russia, and I don’t know if it’s because they used to live in the cold, or may be they just think sweating is dirty, or may be they don’t want to mess up their make-up, but they always ask for turning the AC on. I always disagree and explain them why. But when I attend classes as a student and someone open the window in winter or turn the AC on, I realize that my muscles are tighter, and I feel like I could hurt myself easily by going deeper in some asanas, and I don’t enjoy the class as much because it’s harder to let go in those conditions.

So let’s talk about the good effects of sweating:

1. SWEATING IS GOOD FOR YOUR SKIN

When you sweat your pores open and release the dirt that’s inside of them. I don’t make up this, ask your dermatologist! Just wash your face after, and your skin will be cleaner than ever.

2. SWEATING DETOXIFIES THE BODY

It flushes the body of substances of alcohol, cholesterol and salt. A study in 2011 found many toxic elements seems to be excreted throught sweat.

3. SWEATING MAKES YOU HAPPIER

Some research has suggested that: “temperature-sensitive neural circuits to specific regions in the brain exist and may play a significant role in controlling mood.”

4. SWEATING PREVENTS COLDS AND OTHER ILLNESS OR INFECTIONS

Some studies suggest that “human perspiration contains a naturally occuring antimicrobial peptide called dermicidin, which has been proven to fight tuberculosis germs and other dangerous pathogens, and viruses, bacteria and funghi.” The natural antibiotic is naturally activated in salty, slightly acidic sweat.

5.SWEATING LOWERS KIDNEY STONE RISK

Some research from the University of Washington found that exercise in the heat makes you sweat out salt and hepls to retain calcium in your bones rather than having them go into the kidneys and urine where stones form. Plus sweating makes you want to drink more which helps in that process too.

6. SWEATING HELPS REDUCE PAIN OFF SORE MUSCLES.

This is because of the production of endorphins that are natural painkillers.

And finally last but not least:

7. PRACTICING IN THE HEAT MAKES YOUR MUSCLES MORE FLEXIBLE WHICH CAN PREVENT INJURIES

Heat warms up the muscles, that makes your body stretch more easily, and can help you prevent injuries such as pulled muscles.

I’m not saying you should practice in a heated room if you don’t want to, what I’m trying to say here, is that practicing yoga in a room not heated is fine, but the benefits of the internal heat created by the yoga practice and the breathing, should not be interrupted by the opening of a window or turning the AC on, IT IS HEALTHY TO WEAT, IT’S NOT DIRTY. Not only it has many many benefits you should consider, but it’s nothing that you can’t get rid off  with a simple shower.

Namaste detoxified sweaty readers 😜 , stay tuned for new reflexions inspired by my yoga practice!