Monday, October 20, 2014

A Definition

One year ago: no yoga for months. Last class in 2013 kicked my butt.  
One month ago: started learning the Ashtanga intermediate series on asana days
One week ago: started independent drop-backs and standing with one leg behind the head.

Bheemashakti yoga is such a different approach to movement. I expect I'll keep changing how I describe it as I learn more and experience it for myself, and also as the methods and the faculty and teachers evolve. The first few months I tried to explain to some coworkers what it was, the confused explanation came out as: "It's like strength training. We do sets and reps based on yoga asanas." No interest.

Bheemashakti categorizes the asanas into 7 categories or "dimensions". There are basic exercises for every category to increase flexibility and strength together using repetitive movements and a certain kind of breathing. After one has a firm physical foundation, the student transitions into asana practice and has an infinite variety of asana-specific exercises to choose from.

The all-levels class is a totally different format from any yoga class.  All-levels classes focus on the leg dimension. Those totally new to physical practice do "pre-foundational" versions on the floor; others do "foundational" ones on a barre. You can see Jonathan do them here. Sometimes the faculty will throw in some sun salutations or a dose of the Ashtanga primary series, but oftentimes it is a purely Dimensional practice.

What draws me to this method is that it takes each student from where they are to a stronger, more flexible place in an efficient manner. It is infinitely adaptable in this way: I started as flexible and as strong as limp spaghetti; well, maybe slightly stale spaghetti. I was challenged but not flattened by my first class; I am still challenged in the all-levels classes even though I am also in all of the advanced classes.

It is also completely transparent. A student can easily look around the room and see how one goes from "simple stretching" on the floor to standing splits because everyone is doing a version of the exercise tailored to their strength and bendy-ness.

As the curriculum currently cycles through all seven dimensions every week, no facet of one's practice is left behind.

Jonathan's teaching is compassionate and thoroughly educated; there is a continuity of a teacher's care to inform my practice in a way that I have never had. Each week I go to a new level.

I want to tell the sun and the moon and the world about this method. I want to tell everyone about how I was so weak and stiff in some places, weak and floppy in others and now my body is once more the finely tuned instrument it was when I was a martial artist. One does NOT have to stew on a plateau for months or years before seeing progress in the physical practice. One can move forwards and grow with CORRECT practice.

I am so grateful. 

(Deep TV voice-over) Bheemashakti yoga: cultivate your yoga practice and watch it flower!

1. Bheemashakti:
2. Kapalabati Breathing:
3. Kriya:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jump Backs!

Yoga Log: Jump Backs!

One year ago : Doing no yoga or exercise. Last yoga class was early 2013 and kicked my butt.  

There is a series of movements in yoga named "the Sun Salutation". Actually, there are several series, and different yoga teachers would put their own flavor on it and really confuse the heck out me with it. Over that last year, the Bheemashakti classes have become more of a mix of dimensional and asana practice, and we've been doing the Ashtanga yoga version of the sun salutations, named Surya Namaskara A and B.

Thankfully, they are the same poses every time. A is: you stand; you reach up; you bend forward and touch your toes-ish; you rise up a bit to half-bent; bend again; get into a push-up position; lower down near the floor; arch your front body up; lower your head and stick your hips/bottom up; get up to the top of your mat and touch toes again; rise up to standing again. The trick is how to transition from one pose to another. See a pro do it: Kino.

One transition is from touching your toes to the push-up/plank pose. Some people get there by stepping one foot out back there, then the other, then full leg extension to plank. I started there years ago. On better days I could stick one leg all the way back to plank, then the other. If one is stronger, you can do a cute hop back to plank. If you are awesome, you can lift from touching your toes to a handstand and lower down into plank.

Years ago, I tried to hop, and got a few centimeters back if I could get off the ground at all. Mostly not off the ground at all. Lovely yogis and yoginis on their their first days can jump back. It requires some arm strength, core strength, and leg strength. I had little arm, no core, and some leg strength. Therefore, have been glued to the ground, doing my step back to plank dutifully.

A few days ago, I was feeling pretty good. I have been practicing the Bheemashakti yoga method for about 11 months now. I decided to try to hop back. And...I hopped all the way back! And again! I did it for the whole class! No one noticed, but I was thrilled.

(Deep, cheesy tv voice-over) A little progress, every day: the Bheemashakti way.

This post was written and published oct 2014. Edited to remove typos.

1. Bheemashakti website:
2. Bheemashakti video on Handstand dimension exercises on YouTube:

Monday, October 06, 2014

Yoga Log: Fun at Chi Kwan Tae Kwon Do

Yesterday, at my father's martial arts school, I did a run through of basic leg exercises as we had done daily in the yoga teacher training, and also some leg expansion. The preschooler jumped up on me during a lot of it; good thing it was a flexible day!

1. Warm up arm swings
2. Leg
- pre-foundational 1 leg out, 3 sets
- pre-foundational 2 legs out, 2 sets
- foundational on the wall, side, 3 sets
- foundational on the wall, front, 3 sets
- balancing, 3 sets
- side splits relaxing 3 sets
- side splits with kriya 3 sets
- front splits 1 set

Out of time. That took about 1.5 hrs, going relatively slowly since I hadn't been practicing as regularly. I had a great time doing the sets, though, because I felt very flexible and strong. My balancing leg sets (the exercise looks somewhere between Durvasasana and Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) were much improved, with me able to balance with one foot above my head, supported by both hands. Maybe soon that leg will start to go behind my shoulder!


Bheemashakti yoga: A video with a demo of the leg exercises at the end.
Chi Kwan Tae Kwon Do: the martial arts school site

Please note this was written in August 2014; published October 2014.

Simple Living: Mason Jars

Mason jars are a fun part of my life right now. We used to have tumblers in several sizes, several shapes, and they were generally annoying in their diversity. They never lined up properly, and we were really only using the largest sizes. They've been replaced with 8 oz and 16 oz Mason jars, and I am completely smug every time they line up in neat ranks on the shelf. I am also smug when I line them up full of quick pickles in the refrigerator, or when I fill one up with my daily coffee, put the lid on, and toss it in my purse. I estimate that I've substituted them for a whole row of travel coffee cups, small plastic containers for refrigerator pickles, ramekins for individual-sized desserts, and travel soup/lunch containers.

This afternoon, I saw these beautiful, hand-blown, delicate glass tumblers. I admired them: I love blue; I love hand-blown glass; I wouldn't trade my jars for those for the world. I am done with buying daily glassware and occasion glassware, and the fact that I NEVER have to buy them again was marvelously freeing.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Laghu Vajrasana

September personal challenge: Laghu Vajrasana

Here's a picture of a pose I love, but don't practice very often. Called laghu vajrasana, start from kneeling, grab your leg somewhere from ankle to back of knee, and lean back. In Bheemashakti, we go slowly in and out of the pose; we do not stay for the standard 5 breaths.

I love it because in this variation it is a deep backbend. Since the Bheemashakti version is dynamic, I try to go back and forth very slowly, developing strength and control.

When I first started doing this exercise this spring, I started with 7 reps, and felt very sore at the lateral sides of my thighs for two weeks. I gradually increased to sets of 10 reps, doing one to 3 sets. To do that many, I would go back until my head was 4-6 inches away from the ground. I stopped doing this exercise in May: I was working heavily and doing the yoga teacher training.

My current goal for September is to do as many reps of this pose as the day of the month: one on Sept 1st, two on the 2nd, etc. I plan to go all the way to brushing my head on the floor. If I have the time and energy, I will also do the foundational backbend exercises we were doing daily during teacher training as these will help my dropbacks. I might also work towards brushing my head on my feet instead of on the floor for a deeper backbend. Wish me luck!