Imagine waking up with the rising sun and experiencing the essence of this most auspicious time of day. The Sun Salutation, traditionally done in the morning, raises one’s consciousness by awakening the mind, body, and senses. The 12 postures in the series effectively stretch, strengthen, and massage all of the joints, muscles, and internal organs […]
Here, find insights, teachings, and explorations into all things yoga.
In this edition of Ask the Expert, Kripalu Yoga teacher, Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, and senior faculty member Janna Delgado answers your questions about the practice of yoga, exercises for the feet, and yoga-class etiquette.
When coming into Upward Facing Dog, how should I be utilizing my leg and abdominal muscles? Also, can you describe where my shoulders and arms should be in reference to my neck and head?
The leg muscles provide the power for the pose, so they should be engaged and active. The strength of the legs also supports the spine and protects the lower back. The knees are lifted and the toes are pointed, with the tops of the feet pressing firmly down into the floor. Maintain an internal rotation of the upper legs—the outer thighs should roll toward the floor in order to broaden the sacrum and prevent compression of the low back.
Core engagement is the other safeguard for the low back. You want to lift the perineum up, and draw the solar plexus in and up. The sacrum and tailbone lengthen down toward the heels, and the buttocks are soft, not clenched. This helps distribute the arc of the back bend evenly throughout the upper, middle, and lower back.
Yoga for the People—All 500,000 of them
Yoga is getting bigger—literally. The quarterly conferences run by Yoga Journal have grown considerably over the last decade, with the more popular teachers leading packed classes in giant ballrooms. Now in its third year, yoga and music festival Wanderlust runs four sold-out summer weekends throughout the country, attracting tens of thousands of people to group classes led by Seane Corn, Rodney Yee, and others. A few weeks ago, 500,000 Manhattan yogis gathered to celebrate the summer solstice in the middle of Times Square. And coming up, the GLBL Yoga Project, set for August 16, will turn Central Park into a giant yoga studio, with 15,000 yogis practicing to live music.
There are great advantages to practicing yoga in a large group, says Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga. “A yoga practice is called sangha, which means ‘community coming together,’” he says. “And there’s no doubt that our personal, spiritual, and individual growth is quickened when we have a community of like-minded souls reflecting back to us, with honesty, who we are.” Group experiences, says Devarshi—who recently returned from teaching at the Wanderlust Festival in Stratton, Vermont—can be especially conducive to forming an energy that’s much bigger than what we experience on our own. He points to the musician MC Yogi’s performances at Wanderlust. “His songs brought people together singing, screaming, moving,” he says. “It was so inspiring, I was sobbing.”
Most people I know who are really into yoga, meditation, and living a more conscious life are pretty moderate in their TV watching. It’s not that we don’t enjoy an entertainment escape now and then, it’s just that mindlessly consuming lots of TV can feel… icky. Like eating too much cake, it’s kind of antithetical to being in touch with your body, mind, and spirit. Which is why it’s so counterintuitively interesting to see yoga popping up more and more on TV, which these days also means online. Now, instead of just using it to numb out, we can actually harness this medium to move, breathe, and explore our practice. Though nothing compares to an actual, supportive teacher who knows your name and hamstrings, it’s a pretty brilliant innovation for the modern yogi. Weather- and time-related excuses be gone! Here’s a collection of next-best classes when the studio is out of reach.
Julie Sorichetti, the first Yoga Ed.TM trainer in Canada, has successfully delivered the Yoga Ed. curriculum and Tools for Teachers program to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association, the Ontario Database for Daily Physical Activity, and the Ministry of Education’s Registry of Bullying Prevention Programs. A mother of three, Julie is a child and youth worker as well as a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher and DansKinetics instructor.
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A My mission is to see that all children have the tools and resources to help them through any situation.
Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
A When I was 20, I was a child and youth worker in a group home outside my hometown in Canada. I would see the in-house doctors prescribe medication for all these young people, who were constantly questioning their diagnoses and prescriptions. I found myself questioning this as well. I felt there had to be more than medication to help kids, youth, and also adults. It was around that time that I found myself in a yoga class. Yoga wasn’t a prescription, it was a solution.
Sometimes in our yoga practice we strive so hard to “get it right”—mastering our alignment, coordinating our breath, focusing our attention—that we stifle our inner energy (prana). Meditation in motion, or, spontaneous posture flow, is a hallmark of the Kripalu Yoga approach. In this practice, the inner wisdom of prana is allowed to guide the body, as opposed to the will of the mind. By surrendering rather than striving, prana can flow freely throughout the body, allowing movement to become spontaneous and un-choreographed. Ready to try it on your own?
At the end of your next yoga practice, close your eyes for a minute. Take some long, slow, deep breaths to get in touch with prana. Then respond to what your body is asking you to do. Allow your mind to step aside so the breath can orchestrate the movement of your body. As prana begins to move, your mind can relax into witnessing and your movement may evolve into meditation in motion.
Yoga, ultimately, is so much more than Downward-Facing Dog. Rather, it’s a process, the way in which we engage with life, with our experiences, both on and off the mat. Yoga teaches us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and with the mystery of life. It offers us a map to help us get on the path of living our lives to the fullest, and finding the leader within—the inner voice that guides us into discovering who we really are.
The yoga of living asks fundamental questions such as:
What kind of world do I want to live in?
How can I create my own existence?
How do I say yes to my life?
I’m allergic to spiritual texts; one sutra and I’m prone to wild swelling of the nap gland. But as someone who’s practiced yoga for 20 years and is a certified Kripalu Yoga instructor, I’ve managed to cram the 10 yamas and niyamas (yogic do’s and don’ts) into my head. I aim, loosely, to practice them. Mostly, this is not a hardship. For example, ahimsa, or non-violence, means taking a breath when I want to say something cutting and offering compassion instead. Bramacharya, moderation, means eating three, and not 20, double-chocolate organic Newman O’s. Satya, truthfulness, translates as being upfront in my relationships. One that kicks my yogic booty, though, is aparigraha, non-possessiveness. Or as I like to call it: non-shopping.
I’m not sure if this is because I grew up in New York City as a double-Aries only child who wants what she wants NOW, or what, but I do like to shop. I’m not proud of it—you’ll never see me with a “Born to Shop” bumper sticker—but I like pretty stuff. I like looking for it, buying it, and wearing it. Usually, it’s clothing that brings me those temporary bursts of shopper’s delight, but I get a similar rush from buying a notebook, hair tie, or a mug with a spiritual message like, “Trust the Process.” Judging by the compliments I get from my fellow yogis on my sparkly TOMS, Lulu hoodies, and Sayta lotus earrings, I’m not alone in the paradox of wanting stuff that reminds me to give back and let go.