Archive for the ‘Archive’ Category

Yoga and Alexander technique, workshop report

Friday, November 11th, 2016

WORKSHOPI ran a 3 hour workshop recently on ‘Yoga and the Alexander technique’. It was an introductory workshop aimed at people who had some yoga experience and wanted to find out more about the Alexander technique.

There were 5 people who came to the workshop from different backgrounds. Some were teaching yoga, others did yoga on an occasional basis.

Head / spine relationship

I decided to focus on head / spine integration as a way of integrating Alexander technique into yoga. It was an exploration of head leading the movement and the rest of the body following.

We did some very nice explorations of head neck where we did it in 3s, one person a head, another a neck and another a body. Then we tried to figure out how that person would move if their necks were totally relaxed. Or how they would move if their bodies were desperately trying to be a good yogi.

We did some very simple sun salutations seeing what came about when we allowed our heads to lead and our whole bodies to follow. There were lots of experiments, letting go of some perfect outcome.

We did some work in pairs during the sun salutation in finding a more neutral pelvis and tail. I used Robyn Avalon’s idea of finding a dinosaur tail rather than a dog tail (pelvis forward, tail tucked in) or a duck tail (pelvis back, tail pushing out). I gave the students some ideas about letting the pelvis float relative to the head of the femurs – most of the people I work with tend to lock their pelvis down on their legs. It was interesting for me that there was one person in the workshop who was already letting their pelvis float on their femurs, but was doing it too much. It was a good reminder that images and cues are always individual, what works for one doesn’t work for another.

We ended the asana practice with a supported restorative twist.

Alexander and yoga in everyday life

Then we did a section where everyone thought about something that was tricky for them in daily life. I used an idea from Jeremy Chance of asking people to think through their normal day and pick something. I also said that if they wanted to work on a yoga pose, that was really good too.

We had someone who wanted to work on trying to print out from a photocopier and talk to a colleague at the same time. We had someone who wanted to practice running, so we all got on our warm weather gear and took a walk outside. We had someone who wanted to work on how to put bolsters underneath the student’s legs in svasana to support them without feeling rushed or stressed. We had someone who wanted to practice her tai chi warms ups and someone who wanted to get to standing from sitting on the ground while carrying her toddler.

Each one needed something a little different and it was great for me to work individually with people. With most people in this class, the problem wasn’t their head / spine relationship but the fact they were so preoccupied with the activity they were doing that they had lost contact with their body. Just asking some people to think of themselves as a whole person in that situation seemed to really help bring everyone back into themselves. Often their head / spine relationship would just correct itself without any other help from me.

At the end, everyone was smiling and I felt great. When I asked them what they were going to take away from the class, the answers were, whole body, whole person moving, the idea that our jaws are separate from our heads.

Here’s a comment from one of the participants on the course:

I  enjoyed very much the workshop on Saturday the 5th, thank you. I got a lot out of it, you came across many points that were complete new to me, I keep thinking about them and try to remember and use them into everyday activities.

Alexander technique workshop, Celia Jurdant-Davis, April 9/10 2016

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

Celia Jurdant-DavisThere’s a great workshop in London on the weekend of 9/10 of April 2016 on diverse themes as connecting with touch, with the breath, with dance. Lead by singer, dancer and Alexander teacher trainer Celia Jurdant-Davis, it promises to be something a little different.

I’ve been part of the Alexander teacher training program managed by Celia and she is a great teacher who brings more than just bodywork skills to her teaching.

Here’s something from the workshop description:
The art of connecting. Truthfully, heart-fully. Exploring mutual touch.
Widening your repertoire of touch to connect to different kinds of people with different needs.
Expanding your own experience and use of directions (intention). Using this experience to touch people’s minds, thought patterns, emotions and lives.
Finding a shortcut and learning to touch people’s hearts.
Using your tools… to let go of them!Finding poise rather than posture.
Learning to appreciate vulnerability, getting comfy with emotions and truthfulness.
Everyone can dance. Be a dancer. ( …and tweak on your definition of dancer).
I will show you an range of possibilities on how to work with groups.
Breath: Emotion/Empathy. Playing with breathing patterns.
As a singer I have been fascinated by the moments “it” sings from me. We all speak. We all breath. Breath is the expression of beingness par excellence. The forgetting and remembering of the air leads to the core of personal development.What happens when you don’t just say or sing words, but your words sing and speak you?
And here too… I believe everyone can sing. Be a singer. (…and change your definition of singer).

The location and cost can be found here

Beyond technique: When it all comes together.

 

Yoga and the spine, workshop 11th July 2015

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

I am running a drop in workshop on Saturday 11th July, 10am to 1pm. Cost is £25.

Click here to apply for the class.
Our spines and our breath are intertwined. Often the first sign of problems in our spines is the lack natural breath movement in part of the spine. Just getting the breath moving in the spine can offer us a chance to get in touch with our natural strength and flexibility without having to do complex or difficult asana. It also offers us a way of establishing a perceptual baseline, a neutral starting place in our yogic adventures of movement, meditation and stretching.

When the breath is able to move freely in the spine, there is a natural connection with the earth which allows weight moving into our feet to rebound freely through the spine, creating length and ease in movement.

We’ll be taking those ideas into exploring our natural ability to flex,extend, side bend and rotate our spine to see how that can expand our life experience. We will take a look to see how simple self-help can help maintain and improve the health of this essential centre in our bodies.

We will be doing some simple vinyasas (flowing sequences) and asana as part of the class

Yoga and working out

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

grim-fitnessLast year (2014), I bought an online fitness course from a personal trainer who seemed very interesting. He happens to be pretty smart, is very good at doing research and putting the results together in a very interesting way. After reading it, I asked for my money back.

There’s a very simple reason. His course contains lots of information about diet, about gym routines. It is also pretty good on over coming personal blockages and what he calls invisible scripts (the beliefs that hold us back) so it’s not just ‘do 10 press ups because I say so’.

Yet it misses 3 really important things

Everyone is different. Having taught yoga now for 6 years and made some mistakes along the way, I can see that most of my mistakes were around assuming that everyone was the same, or if not the same then similar within a certain variation. Let’s take a simple example. I was taught that if someone showed up to my class with a forward head (a head that is displaced forward and down) then back bends are the answer. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that back bends didn’t work for quite a number of people. The reason? Those people had engaged and then frozen their muscles in all sorts of different sequences. So some people needed to do rotations. Some needed to do side bend or rotations. Some needed to learn to let go and give up their distorted sense of neutral and when they did that, the problem corrected itself. So, now I’m interested in teaching an approach where people work out what’s going on and then I can help them put together ideas for sorting out the problem.

Distorted ideas about the body. I’ve found that most of my students have a faulty sense of where parts of their body are and the relationship between them. It is as though they had come to the class with a t shirt that was too tight and they had put it on back to front convinced that this was the only size and orientation that worked. Another example. Earlier last year I had a chap who came to the class and could barely bend to reach his toes. That sort of problem is usually blamed on tight hamstrings at the back of the legs. In his case, he also had a faulty sense of his hips joints. Actually, it wasn’t so much faulty as missing all together. He could not feel his own hip joints. Some of that was lack of knowledge but some of it was probably tied up with his identity too.  The pelvis and the hip joints are intimately connected with our sexuality, our gender identity and our expressiveness. I was able to help him start that exploration and I suspect he will need to continue that type of exploration for a few years still. It’s tricky to get this idea across even when I’m working hands on with a student. I’m not sure if it’s possible to do it via an online course, even if it was mentioned (which it wasn’t)

Pleasure. I can’t tell you how many trainers, yoga teachers, pilates instructors miss this one completely. Take downward dog. If you do a search for downward dog in yoga journal it will list 10 benefits of doing the pose. Not one of them is related to pleasure in any way. I’ve almost never heard some one from the fitness industry say “I do x because I find it pleasurable”. Yet it is one of the biggest motivators in any fitness program. If you can figure out how to make the particular weight bearing movement pleasurable, then you will want  to repeat it. It’s not easy, mostly because of the ‘no pain no gain’ attitude which is endemic in the fitness world. But it is possible and it continually amazes me how much it transforms my fitness when I find a way to make it pleasant. I’ve found that pleasantness only comes about as a result of really being present. The moment my mind drifts off somewhere else, something else starts to happen because I’m doing the movement in a habitual way.

Lastly, I’m not convinced that fitness is something that lends itself that well to online courses. My experience is that the biggest break throughs I’ve had to do with my body and fitness have come about through working hands on with a teacher. I’ve found that online material is useful for reinforcing or clarifying ideas that I already know to some extent. I’ve yet to find online material that radically alters my relationship with my body.

Yoga and the art of doing nothing

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

nothing-permission

 

Idea borrowed from fluentself.

Download and use when needed!

Bruce Fertman, The Art of Touch, 25/26 Oct 2014

Monday, September 1st, 2014

bruce_teachingAs part of my ongoing training, I’m doing the Alexander Alliance training. The head teacher there, Bruce Fertman is coming to London on 25/26th October to lead a workshop of ‘The Art of Touch’

 

 

I’ve found Bruce’s teaching to be highly subtle and yet simple enough to take into my every day life and teaching.

This article gives a good idea of how he works http://peacefulbodyschool.com/2014/07/07/the-gift-given/

If you are a yoga teacher interested the art of adjustment or the art of guided touch, Bruce’s workshop will help.

Check out this link
http://www.centreforembodiedwisdom.com/event/art-touch/

Alexander technique workshop Saturday 11th Jan 2014

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

dec-typhoon_btAlexander Technique, Introductory Workshop by Hilary King.

Saturday 11 January, 11:30am to 1.30pm.

Newington Green Unitarian Church N16

Move freely & easily – enhance your wellbeing for DEC Phillipines Appeal

Hilary King is an Alexander teacher with 25 years of teaching experience. She was also a professional ballet dancer with Sadlers Well Opera ballet for a number of years before becoming an Alexander teacher. She has a wealth of experience in the technique and her lessons are always full of interesting ideas about movement. Well worth a visit if you’ve time this Saturday.

£20 Donation

Further Info: www.hilaryking.net

December 2013 Manor House, Finsbury Park Yoga

Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Setting up a restorative pose

Setting up a restorative pose

Another year nearly done and yogaground has now done twenty 6 week class series. Every time I give a class series, I give some thought as to better ways of doing it.

For 2014, it is my intention to support you in taking the lessons I give into your own level. What does this mean in practice? It means that I’m running mixed ability classes where you can do the poses at your own pace and ability.

Over the years I’ve noticed that all classes are mixed ability in terms of yoga experience. Many of the beginner classes have students who have done yoga or something similar before. Some of the intermediate classes have people who have a little experience but more accurately could be labeled beginners. For you to do the asana, you need to explore the same principles of breath, support of the earth and responsiveness. The more experience you have of these principles, the deeper the exploration – but – they are the same whether you are beginner or advanced.

This year, I’ve done Judith Lasater’s restorative yoga teacher training. I’ve already introduced some of the poses into my normal classes. Restorative yoga uses props to do a series of supported poses. The idea is that the poses will fully support your body so that you can begin to learn how to meditate. The focus is on learning how to open to the present moment rather than stretching or core strength work.

After 30 years of being a student of the Alexander technique I’ve begun training as a teacher. My classes are already influenced by the Alexander work and I’m really having a good time taking the technique to a deeper level. My training is with Bruce Fertman, an Alexander teacher of over 40 years experience. He writes some great blogs at http://peacefulbodyschool.com/

6 week class series starting Thursday 9th January at 7.30pm

Some of the topics that I will be covering:

  • The breath of life: how breathing supports us and our movement.
  • The spine, the interplay and relationship to the legs and arms. The relationship between the ground and our spine in standing via our lower back, hips, knees and ankles.
  • Yoga philosophy and why it matters when all you want to do is be a bit more relaxed.
  • The yoga asanas (postures) and how they can help you walk easier, sit comfortably and relax when you sleep.

Cost of the class series is £50 for 6 weeks.

Click here to apply for the class series

5 things I’ve stopped doing as a more experienced teacher

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

yoga_studio

I’ve been teaching for about 5 years now and there are some things I do differently.

I’m not necessarily a better teacher than 5 years ago, although I hope that I am.

As my practice evolves, so does my thinking about teaching.

 

 

  1. I’ve stopped thinking of a successful class as one where I download as much information as is humanly possible into my students. My students have busy lives and are already over loaded with information. And if they need information, they can download that from 1000s of sites on yoga, meditation, anatomy etc. Part of my role is to simplify, to reflect on what the student needs and to to give them the information
  2. I’ve stopped giving my students information and then hoping that they’ll figure out how to integrate that. Now I think about giving information and giving it space to breath, to allowing it to land
  3. I’ve stopped thinking of information as something I say. Now I think of it as multi dimensional, it can be the sensation of your feet on the ground, your back on the mat, a touch by my hands, even the colours and shapes in the room.
  4. I’ve stopped adjusting my students with my hands and then hoping they’ll figure out what it is I’ve just done. Now, I still guide with my hands, only at this time I’ll also talk about what I’ve noticed and what other options I’m suggesting. And then I’ll often repeat it
  5. I’ve stopped thinking of teaching as only happening when I’m talking. I’m learning to value silence as a way of letting everything settle.

 

Yoga and flat feet 2

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

feetI wrote an article (see link at bottom) on flat feet a couple of years ago. I wanted to write an update to that article as some things have moved on.

 

 

 

I still think that our feet are much more complex and dynamic than common ways of looking at feet allow. I’ve found that any stiffness or collapse in my response to the earth seems to immediately affect my sense of comfort in my feet. As I release my muscles through an intention to let yoga be an unfolding process, rather than a static plan, then my feet have gradually changed shape. I still have flat feet, but some how I have a sense of the ground being a little rounder under my feet, little freer and lighter than they used to be.

In the last 2 years I’ve had more of a chance to observe how my students are in their feet and I sometime assist other teachers in their classes. A common habit I’ve noticed in some yoga people is very tight toes. I’ve seen some fellow teachers and students either lift their toes off the ground or dig in just before they move. I’ve also seen some students with a very exaggerated splaying open of their toes.  Both habits are often very sneaky ones. They appear just before movement and it’s a case of blink and you’ll miss it. Often these little habits are a sign that students have mentally moved into the pose before their body has, a dropping out of the moment. When I’m working with these students I’m not interested in correcting them so much as asking them to incorporate awareness of their feet into the whole movement. I ask them “would you be willing to allow your feet to rest quietly on the earth so that the earth will support your whole movement?”.

I’m more aware of how the bones in my feet and legs transmit my body weight into the earth and how the rebound happens from the earth. I used to think of this exchange of weight releasing into the earth and the flow rebounding upwards as a straight line. Now, intuitively, I feel shapes more in terms of curves and spirals. It’s an intuitive understanding at the moment, the more formal understanding will emerge later.

I’ve found a very good animation on youtube which shows the mobility of the ankle and foot in 3D from different angles. The screen shots below are taken from that animation. I’ve found it very helpful to direct my foot by imagining a line from the front of my ankle through to the back of my heel. I direct that line to move towards the outside of my foot and this seems to produce and untwisting and unclenching of my shins right up through to my head.

foot-angle-3 foot-angle-2

There are still some common bits of advice which I hear on a regular basis which don’t really help me. One is to “press the base of your big toe into the ground”. It’s often given in preparation for the standing poses. In a foot with normal arches, this probably has the effect of activating and stabilizing the foot. Having a non-standard foot (and who really has a ‘standard’ foot anyway?), this just makes me feel tense. My experience is that I’m already pressing too much weight into the base of my big toe. I’m currently experimenting with a variation which takes account of the weight supporting areas of our feet. These are: the base of the big toe, the base of the little toe and the heel.

I’m letting myself be aware of my contact with the ground through the base of my big toe, the base of my little toe and my heel. Just bringing presence and awareness to these areas bring them back to life. Then, without losing the upflow from the earth or my awareness of my heel and base of my little toe, I gently press the base of my big toe into the ground. Working with the constraints of maintaining awareness of other points of contact seems to really help an activation with presence. It helps to avoid the over activation/under activation that can sometimes happen.

It’ll be interesting to review this topic in another 2 years. What will be the same and what will have changed?

Yoga and flat feet (June 2011)

feet2