Yin Yoga & Meditation

This year the club where I teach has a new inclement weather policy. We follow the public school system, so if there is a 2-hour delay or cancellation, my Yin Yoga & Meditation class is cancelled. Last year I swear it snowed every Tuesday night because Kallisti practice was cancelled and only a handful of brave souls would brave the roads for Yin on Wednesday morning. Hopefully we'll have better luck this year! But if not, it's super easy to do a yin practice at home, so I made a little video to help you out.

Yin yoga is a passive practice of long holds that allows you time to explore sensation and learn to relax more deeply. Yin also targets the fascia (connective tissue) by gently stressing it. This improves circulation and creates lasting improvements in flexibility.

In this video, we'll do cat-tail stretch and butterfly. I love cat-tail because it's a hip flexor/quad stretch, back bend, and twist all in one pose. Add a forward fold and you've got a well-rounded practice, and it only takes ten minutes. We'll wrap up with a supported savanna where you can hang out as long as you like. Enjoy!

Yoga Practice for SI Joint Happiness

By far the the most popular search queries that bring people to my page are about yoga and sacroiliac (SI) joint injuries.  I've written about this before, but to recap: the SI joint is the place where the sacrum meets the pelvis at the base of the spine.  This joint doesn't naturally have a ton of mobility— it's designed to slide up and down a bit, but it can get pulled out of place and stuck on one side, causing pain on one side of the low back.

I believe that injuries to the SI joint are so common in yoga practitioners because people who are naturally flexible are drawn to yoga, and when they start doing yoga, they enjoy working towards even more outrageous flexibility, without necessarily doing due diligence to balance this flexibility with strength.  I've also had my SI tweaked out by an instructor with an overzealous adjustment in a twist. Ow.

I designed a practice to bring deeper awareness to the low back and hips, create stability around the SI joint and gently address any misalignments there.  The practice is in two parts, so you can do the whole thing together or use the practices separately.

SI dysfunction can have many causes and may point to misalignments elsewhere along the length of the spine, so these poses and sequences may or may not work for you.  Do only what feels good to you and feel free to change or skip things that aren't working.  And of course, I recommend if you're suffering from pain, to seek advice from a medical professional and/or a trusted body worker.  So now that the disclaimer is out of the way, on to the videos!

Part one is a great way to open a longer yoga practice.  It brings awareness to the area around the sacrum, gently wakes up some core strength, including the psoas, and also engages the glutes, both of which tend to be weak in those with SI dysfunction.

Part two is a great way to close a yoga practice, especially if you've just done a yin practice or a bunch of hip openers or twists.  This sequence will stabilize the sacrum by working the muscles around the hips.

Enjoy!  Please let me know if you have questions or if you have any other things that have helped in your recovery from SI injury.

Wrangling iTunes to make your life easier: Yoga Edition

A few years back, I wrote a blog post about wrangling iTunes.  It's geared towards belly dancers, but I use a similar process for making yoga playlists.

In our Life Power Vinyasa format, we use music to complement the theme of the class, to bring the energy up or down, and to facilitate flow-on-your own parts of the practice.  It's an important piece of the class, so as a teacher, it can be rather time consuming to gather playlists, but it doesn't have to be a nightmare.

This is how I do it.

The Prep Work

Step one: Listen to music.  I'm also a dancer, and I've always just loved listening to music, so this part is easy for me.  If you're not big into music, maybe keep a notebook or use an app like Shazam to "tag" music you hear on the radio so you can make note of music that strikes you.  Listen to the radio. Use Pandora to find new music similar to what you like.  Ask friends what's new.  I'm into EDM right now so I love KCRW's Metropolis and Pretty Light's The Hot Sh*t for finding new jams.  This system will work even if you're not into weird electronic music.  Yogitunes is a great resource for yoga music, as is the New World Kirtan Podcast.

Play music during your own asana practice.  Use what you like.  Think about how the music makes you feel, what the energy level is like, and that will help you figure out what will work where in class.  

Step two: If you haven't already, buy some music.  I have a subscription to Rdio, which gives me access to a huge library of music to listen to. Lots of people like Spotify, which is the same sort of thing.  When I find albums I like on Rdio, I buy them. Musicians are artists trying to get by, too.  Buy music and load it into iTunes.

Step three:  Fix your metadata.  Make sure the artist, track names, genre, etc. are correct and useful to you.  This will make your life easier, I swear, and thinking about fixing it later when you have 10,000+ songs in your library will make you want to cry.

Step four: Rate your music.  Are you going to use songs you don't like in class? No.  If you have a gigantic library, this will make things you love easier to find.

Playlist Making

You could use the tagging method from the previous post to make smart playlists for various categories like "yin" "freeform" or "savasana" but since the more recent versions of iTunes have interfaces that put the focus on albums rather than playlists, I use smart playlists less, and instead drag and drop songs to make new playlists.  I'll sometimes go back and tag songs afterwards so they'll land in a smart playlist for later reference, and I can fish them out later and recycle them in new playlists.

The plus (+) sign at the bottom left corner is the button to make a new playlist.  Click on that and you'll get this great view with albums on the left and your new playlist on the right.  There's several ways to add to a playlist, which is a little cumbersome, but is OK once you get used to it.

You can drag and drop songs from albums, artists, genres, etc. into your new playlist on the right side of the screen.  Click on these screenshots for a larger view, if needed.

Drag and drop songs to the new playlist.

If you click the "Playlists" tab, it will take you back to the playlists view (shown below) and you lose the magic sidebar thing.  Don't freak out. You can get it back by clicking on the "Add to..." button on the upper right.  It only took me months to figure that one out.

Playlists view.

You can copy songs from one playlist to another by dragging and dropping.

Add songs from other playlists.

You can also drag and drop songs when you're listening or browsing by dragging a song or songs to the right side of the screen.  The playlists sidebar will magically slide out and you can add songs that way.

Drag and drop from browsing.

Fine Tuning

Once you have all your songs, check that they flow well together.  You don't have to listen to the whole thing, necessarily, but skip to the last few seconds of one track to see if it transitions smoothly to the next one.  iTunes will tell you how long your playlist is, which is helpful.  Also think about the pace of your class, so that you're not rocking out too hard in quiet parts of class or dragging the energy down with your chill music when you're trying to pick up the pace through a flow.  Make notes after class so you can revise your list.

Here's a Fatty Beats Vinyasa playlist and a Summer Vinyasa playlist on Rdio.  You can listen to them there, but you'll have to download the tracks if you want them for yourself.

Hope that helps! Feel free to share your tips or ask questions, and I'll do what I can to help!