Yang Yoga Practice for SI joint dysfunction


As I have mentioned previously in this blog, I’ve had chronic issues with my sacroiliac joint.  When I had my most recent flare up, I couldn’t manage on my own and went to a physical therapist, and I also saw a yoga therapist/structural integration therapist (AKA Rolfer).  One of the things I learned that I had suspected for quite some time is that I am more flexible than I am strong.  My yoga therapist recommended that I avoid yin yoga and hot yoga.  Guess what kind of yoga I teach?  Oops.  I had to dramatically change how I practice and how I teach.  I still teach both hot vinyasa and yin, but I am a lot more careful about it.  I avoid demonstrating complex or advanced poses and I no longer hold poses with my students when I teach my yin classes.  Is it kind of a drag? Yes.  But as this article articulates beautifully, the goal is balance in asana practice, not the most flexibility ever.  It’s become more important in my yoga classes, especially for people new to yoga, to teach them to create more functional movement patterns. Often that means limiting range of motion and doing “easier” variations of poses so that there is no way to cheat your way into making the shape of a pose without using the muscles I want you to learn to use.  I’m sneaky like that.

I still recommend my yin practice for SI issues, and I find the forward folding to backward bending sequence helpful for adjusting any misalignments.  One of the funny things about my SI issues is that my IT band and glutes would be really tight feeling so pigeon-family poses feel awesome on my tweaked out side.  But I learned from my PT that the tension was those muscles hanging on for dear life and not really operating in a functional way.  I had to retrain those deep core musces to work properly.  It’s still OK for me to do those super-satisfying yin style poses but they must balanced with strengthening excercises, otherwise there’s no way the sacrum is going to stay where it’s supposed to be. 

Here’s a complementary therapeutic “yang” practice that is a mashup of physical therapy, viniyoga, and pilates that I’ve found helpful for stabilizing the SI joint.  I might do this after a short yin practice or before dancing when I know my sacrum and low back is likely to take a beating.  I also will use a sampling of these poses and variations before a vinyasa practice to wake up the psoas and other deep core muscles so they will support me throughout a vigorous practice.  Like many injuries and conditions, one solution isn’t going to work for everyone.  This is just what has worked for me.  Hope you find some things in here that work for you, too.

Therapeutic Yang Yoga(ish) Sequence for SI Joint Happiness

  • Apanasana: Startign on your back.  With hands on knees, exhale knees to chest, inhale knees press away.  8 times.
  • Hip Flexor Thing: Keep hugging one knee to chest.   Inhale free leg extends straight and low an inch from the floor.  Exhale leg reaches straight and high.  Inhale straight and low.  Exhale knee to chest.  5 times on each side.
  • Heel Taps: Knees over hips, shins parallel to floor.  Inhale tap heel to floor.  Exhale back to starting position.  20 times, alternating legs.
  • Supine Marching: Knees over hips, shins parallel to floor. Inhale, extend one leg straight and low an inch from the floor.  Exhale back to starting position.  20 times, alternating legs.
  • Apanasana: 8 times.
  • One Leg Bridge Lifts:  Feet on floor close to hips.  Hug one knee to chest.  On inhale, press other foot into floor and lift hips.  Hold 5 seconds and lower on the exhale.  5 times on each side.
  • Viminasana:  On belly, hands close to lower ribs.  Inhale lift chest and lift legs, spreading legs wide.  Exhale lower halfway and squeeze knees together.  Inhale lift and legs wide again.  Exhale squeeze legs and lower all the way down.  Note: Squeeze your inner thighs like your going to crack a walnut! Fierce! Make sure your knees rotate to face towards the floor as you lower back down.
  • Chakravakasana: From hands and knees.  On exhale, pull in your low belly and press your hips back TOWARDS your heels but don’t go all the way back.  Inhale back to hands and knees, lifting chest.  Viminiasana is super stabilizing for the sacrum, so we don’t want to wreck any nice adjustment that happened by pulling it out of alignment again for the satisfaction of pressing all the way back to child’s pose.
  • Clamshell:  Lie on your side, knees bent. Inhale, lift top knee up without tilting your hips.  Err on the side of keeping it small and stabilize your core.  Exhale lower. 30 times each side.
  • Bridge Lifts:  On your back, heels close to hips, feet parallel.  On inhale, press into feet and lift hips, low back, upper back.  Exhale, lower upper back, lower back, hips down.  Try to isolate each part of spine as much as possible.  Four times, then widen feet about two inches.  Repeat two more times, widening feet a little each time.
  • Apanasana: 8 times.
  • Supta Baddha Konasana:  On your back, heels close to hips, let knees fall open.  Take 5-10 breaths to close them again.  5 times.
  • Supported Savasana: Bolster or blanket under knees for at least five minutes.

Yogini Travel Essentials, Continued

Are your hitting the road for the holidays?  Here is another installment of my Travel Essentials.  Go back and read part one if you missed it!

Travel Essentials:

Wool. I’m a knitter so I already have a healthy appreciation for wool.  When we went to Yosemite this summer, my husband I bought a whole bunch of lightweight merino for hiking because it is great for regulating your temperature as it's both breathable and warm.  It’s resistant to stinkiness, is easy to wash and dries quickly.  By far, my favorite brand is Icebreaker because the fabric is rugged enough for hiking but stylish enough for general wear.  I also picked up the Villa Dress in red, which is now my official travel dress.

One wrap to rule them all.  I’m still on the search for this thing.  In the meantime, I’ve had my eye on the Lucy Om-Azing scarf, and will bring a wool or cotton shawl depending on the weather.

Nikon J-1 I love this camera.  We are apparently Nikon people, because we also have a D-7000.  The D-7000 takes amazing photos, but when we were hiking, it was a little too heavy and bulky to deal with carrying and pulling in and out of the pack. I have no problem keeping the J-1 over my shoulder and ready while hiking, and as a result took way more photos with that on our big hike at Yosemite.  It’s also small enough to stash in my purse.  It takes great photos and video and is easy to use.  The little 10mm pancake lens would be even more compact for travel.  I know a lot of people use their phone to take photos, and I do too, but I like the control and quality a “real” camera offers.

Here’s a photo hubs took with J-1.  I’m modeling a Smartwool top here:


See the rest of our Yosemite photos on Flickr.

Travel Self-Care and Beautification:

Water.  Drink a lot of it, especially if you're flying!

Emergen-C & Tea.  Emergen-C is great for an energy and immune-system boost when my system is stressed from travel.  Add it to all that water your drinking on the plane.  And yeah, I BYOT and will also buy teabags when I get to my destination.  I live in hope that someday properly brewed cup of tea will be as easy to obtain as coffee.

Rinse Skin Stick. Lotions take up precious space in the 3-1-1 bag.  This product is genius.  It’s a solid that comes in a tube that looks like a glue stick that softens when you rub it on your skin.  Awesome.  It’s really moisturizing, and especially great for chapped hands, but not at all greasy or sticky.  The scents are pleasant and not too strong, and it also comes in an unscented version.

Red Lipstick.  Red lipstick instantly makes me feel more dressed up and glamorous.  Buxom Big & Healthy in Barcelona or Lipstick Queen Sinner in Red will do the trick.   See also big sunglasses.

Meditation to-Go:

Do I really need to tell you that you can meditate anywhere?  Still, there are some things to make it  easier, because traveling is stressful, yo.  

Podcasts and Jams. I make sure I load up my pod with episodes of the New World Kirtan Podcast and talks by Erich Schiffmann. Erich's also got an iphone app!  The Ambiance app is also great for drowning out unpleasant noise so to make it easier get some rest.

Mala beads. I hate to admit it, but in spite of the fact that I'm a seasoned traveler, I can also be a nervous one.  It can be really calming to have a go round the mala beads and focusing on the exhales to chill out and get grounded.

Safe travels if you're hitting the road this holiday season!  Share your travel tips with me, too!

Listen and Respond

Last weekend I went to a training where one of the classes was a vinyasa class that was intended to be practiced with the eyes closed.  Yes, the whole time!  This seemed interesting and cool in theory, but within the first ten minutes or so into the practice, just doing a gentle warm up and starting some 1/2 sun salutes was enough to trigger a vertigo episode.  Full on room spinning dizziness.  I took a rest in child's pose and after a few minutes, I tried to join back in the sun salutations.  I thought maybe if I kept my eyes open I could at least continue doing the practice, but no.  I was already completely disoriented and nauseous.  It simply wasn't possible.  So, I really had no choice but to lay on my back with my eyes open, staring at the ceiling, waiting for my world to stop spinning.   It was a bummer because I was doing a teacher training.  I was in a roomful of teachers, and even though their eyes were closed, i couldn't help but worry if I would be judged for bailing on the class.  Would the instructor think I was a wuss? A bad student? A bad teacher?  I had already established that I couldn't move through the practice, but I did have a choice about the reactions that came up.  I could stew about it and let the anxiety keep building up, or I could accept the situation and make the most of it.  The theme of the class was all about connecting to love.  I could do that laying on my mat, and eventually sitting up in meditation.  I ended up having a really practice (and eventually recovered from the vertigo episode).

Many yoga teachers will say "listen to your body" but it's not always clear what that means.  It's not just the listening, it's the responding intelligently to what you discover.  If you start experiencing pain, or even have a hint of "maybe I shouldn't be doing this..." that is only the first step.  You have the choice to continue or to change what you're doing.  This is hugely empowering!  The more sensitive you can become to your body's signals and deeper inspiration, you might have a glimmer of an idea that can make your practice feel not merely pain-free but more lively and satisfying to you.  This is what makes me a bit of a punk in other people's yoga classes when I try something and realize it's not working for me.  I go rogue!  Not everyone likes this, but I love seeing this in my own classes.  You have my permission to go nuts!  Change what you're doing. Rest.  Do the thing that will make you feel most awesome.  Then try doing that outside of yoga class, too.

Yoga at Awaken Wellness

On December 1st, there are two opportunities to do some yoga and meditating with me!

$5 Community Yoga

Padmasana 2.jpg

Saturday, December 1st


Only $5, Register Online!

Awaken Wellness, Columbia, MD

This class was born from a desire to reach out to our community and support them in living extraordinary and healthy lives! This community yoga class is designed to offer you an opportunity to experience the benefits of yoga and meditation for a very low cost, with exceptionally experienced yoga teachers. The yoga class will be held at Awaken Wellness yoga studio— where you can practice yoga in a safe, clean, quiet and nurturing environment. Need an idea for a fun date, or a healthy family activity? Or would you like to experience a personal awakening of your body and mind to a new possibility of health? This is it!

All levels of fitness are welcome. No previous yoga experience necessary. All yoga equipment is provided.

Yoga and Meditation Workshop


Connect deeply to the core of your being and to the world around you

Saturday, December 1st


$25, Register Online!

Awaken Wellness, Columbia, MD

The complementary practices of yoga and meditation can help you live a more inspired life and experience peace and wellness. Practicing yoga as moving meditation will teach you how to listen to your body and respond accordingly. Learning meditation techniques will connect you more deeply to the core of your being and to the world around you.

In this workshop, we'll explore a variety of meditation techniques, so that you can identify a practice that will be beneficial to you.  We'll practice an asana sequence that will help you prepare your body and mind for seated meditation, as well as explore freeform asana born out of our meditation practice.  Lots of fun that can inspire a new perspective on life!

Teacher Training with Erich Schiffmann


I recently got back from LA where I spent  10 days at Exhale in Venice Beach doing Teacher Training with Erich Schiffmann.  When I did my first Yoga Teacher Training in 2008, Erich Schiffmann’s book, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, was on our reading list.  I immediately connected with the clear, easygoing tone and elegant explanations of all the basic asanas. 

I finally had the opportunity to take a workshop with Erich at Yogaville in June summer of 2009, and knew I had found my teacher.  My yoga teacher training was an excellent program and learned a lot, but in many ways, it was at odds with what my own experience of yoga was like.  There are so many RULES! Haha!  I remember one of my fellow teacher training colleagues had brought her copy of Erich’s books for her to sign, and next to one of the poses she had written “NO!!!” In big letters because we were told that we should never ever teach that pose.  I always did a lot of practice at home between classes and it was easy and fun.  No rules.  It was really empowering to me at the time to learn from Erich that doing yoga your own way is a totally valid, and in fact, meaningful way to practice.

Erich Schiffmann teaches what he calls Freedom Style yoga.  It’s a practice that is based in meditation where the asana practice culminates in an intuitive practice.  The idea is that meditation gets you in touch with universal wisdom, so you are living and making decisions in a more inspired way.

I remember that first workshop, I had so many questions... most of them started with “HOW...?”  Eventually I figured out the answer to most any question I would want to ask Erich is some version of: “Meditate.”  Easy, right?

Meditation and yoga are techniques to investigate the Truth.  By meditating, learning how to practice asanas guided be meditation, it is possible to experience peace, love, goodness, God.  To realize that we are spiritual beings in a physical world.  This is a beautiful, life-affirming philosophy, made all the more beautiful because it is true.  The “yoking” that happens in yoga is not joining to something new, it is waking up to the fact that we were never separate from the Divine. Ever.  I experience this in my own practice, and it is such a powerful thing that I want to be better at sharing it with my students, which is what brought me to Erich Schiffmann’s Teacher Training. 

The focus of the training was three-fold:

  • Meditation.  Always meditation.  This is the primary practice.
  • How to practice in a creative way. This included learning and teaching back some of Erich’s asana sequences, as well as freeform sessions where we practiced on our own and took notes about what happened.
  • Teaching.  This is the bulk of most other teacher trainings... sequencing, adjustments, practicing teaching.  We did do some of this, too.  I would be happy to give you the Awesome Savasana Adjustment of Awesome, for example.

Two days, Erich’s wife, Leslie, who was a nurse and is a Viniyoga teacher, came in and gave some perspective on therapeutics and teaching beginners.


Erich has been a student of yoga legends BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikar, Krishnamurti, Joel Kramer and Vanda Scaravelli.  He’s been on the yoga scene for so long, he predates the recent trend where you get a certificate for showing up for any kind of thing.  So our class made a certificate for him since he never got one before.  What is amazing about Erich is that while it’s indisputable that he is a yoga master, he is humble, generous, loving, and tons of fun to be around.  In short, he’s a gem, and I feel so fortunate to have him as a teacher.

If this sounds interesting and exciting to you, please make sure you go to ErichSchiffmann.com.  Remember that part I said about Erich being generous?  He records audio of all of his classes and you can download them.  Many are available to listen to for free, but I recommend you sign up for the indigo membership because you get unlimited access to everything, including special full-length videos!  It's awesome and totally worth it.