Yoga Nidra Workshop

It was both the coolest and absolute worst experience I’ve ever had.

First of all, I probably shouldn’t have done another yoga class before this one. However, to argue the other side, the physical practice is supposed to prepare you for your meditation in savasana… Yoga Bodies

Karen, instructor from Virtua Center for Health Fitness, held a workshop on Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is guided meditation that has the power to transform, heal, and rejuvenate you. It’s about being relaxed–but not asleep–and aware of all your levels, or koshas. The body’s koshas are the physical body, energetic body, emotional body, wisdom/witness body, and the bliss body. The bliss body is when you have that “Aha” moment, you’re fully relaxed and aware. She said to not only try to keep your body still but to still your mind with the help of your “third eye.” The three “eyes” are intellect, instinct, and intuition. Be mindful.

Supported SavasanaKaren started the class explaining a little bit about Yoga Nidra and then asked us to lay in our backs in savasana. She said to make ourselves comfortable enough to lie still the entire time. We needed to be comfortable to help relaxation. So, I propped myself up with pillows and blankets to try to get as comfortable as I could. Because of my lower pain injury and inverted hips, I had to really adjust the way I was laying.

She then played soft music and spoke slowly, calmly into the room. She read off a script for the order of the class. At first, I was a little fidgety, but I had bursts of comfort where I could relax. In these moments, I was really concentrating on her voice. She was calling out parts of your body to feel–without moving. It was a really cool experience. She said “feel your heel” and immediately I would feel my heel more than the rest of my body. Then she had that feeling travel through all the toes and up the leg. It was as if an aura was flowing through my body. I pictured it in my head as a green aura around my heel traveling throughout my body (I mentioned this to Karen at the end of class and she said it was really great that I saw a specific color. However, she wasn’t sure what it meant).

me doing yoga 7

Me at the workshop

Unfortunately, my bursts of comfort were far too brief. Mere minutes after my green aura experience, I was super uncomfortable could not lie still. AT. ALL. I was shifting all of my supports and could not concentrate on anything except being uncomfortable. Then I started thinking about everything I wanted to do. I needed to blog and write about this experience. This stressed me out. So, about 1/4 the way through the class, I was so aggravated and stressed that my eyes started welling up. I tried to calm my breath and relax–again I had a few short bursts of calmness before the anxiety set in again–but I couldn’t do it. So, at the end of the class my friends Rachel and Matt sleepily looked at me and said “Wow, that was awesome. I’m so relaxed.” At this point is where the tears spilled over and I replied “this was the worst experience I’ve ever had.” It was torture because all I wanted to do was relax right along with them.

It seemed that the majority of the people there absolutely loved it. I think my body was too stressed out/full of anxiety, so I couldn’t relax. However, I do truly feel that I could–eventually–relax and take deeper part in it. Once I am a little less busy and stressed, I plan to take full part in this. Maybe it will help me control my reactions to stress a little more–sort of like mindfulness.

So, you guys decide what you’d like to do! Here is a short 15 minute version of Yoga Nidra for your to try:

 

No Longer A Skeptic

Ken and MeJust recently, I brought my fiance, Ken, to yoga class with me–which I have been trying to get him to for months. For those of you who don’t know Ken, he is a man’s man. He loves sports–I mean all sports–and thought yoga was something for girls to do. (Funnily enough, yoga started out as something for men only to do.) So, of course, we had to go on a run together before the class and then use yoga as his “stretch” afterwards because simply doing yoga “would not be enough of a workout” for this man.

Oh how wrong he was…

At first, Ken was very skeptical of yoga. He thought it was stretching and chanting, meaning I had to drag him there. I explained to him that wasn’t the case. I said to him that I get a really good workout–and stretch–from yoga. I think he would really enjoy it as a cross training to his normal exercise routine.

So, off we went! We went to Yogi Power Yoga studio since they have the heaters; he thought he would sweat more–which we definitely did.

The instructor started the class saying “Let’s take a deep cleansing breath and let it out with OM.” Everyone took a deep breath in and chanted, sort of sang, OM three times. Immediately, Ken looked at me with a “What the hell did you just bring me to” look. I did my best to suppress the girlish giggles from escaping my mouth. I mouthed to him this doesn’t happen the whole class. He didn’t believe me.

yoga triangle poseAs the class progresses, the instructor calls out names of the poses and Ken is doing pretty well. As Ken sets up for Downward Facing Dog, the instructor comes over to him. She quietly asks if this is his first class. He nods. She said, “Wonderful!” Then, she corrected his dog slightly. She explained that he needed to shift forward so his shoulders were right above his wrists and that he should press more into his fingertips. After that minor fix, things started falling into place with him. He was doing a great job! The instructor only came over to him one more time to adjust his Triangle Pose–which she also slightly adjusted for me. That, I think, made him feel more confident. I’ve been taking a lot of classes, and I still needed adjusting sometimes, too. He even did a little better than I did with some of the balance poses!

The most amusing experience was watching him try to be “manly” with some poses–like not putting knees down for Chaturanga, even though I could tell it was difficult for him. Other poses, he tried and simply looked laughingly at me saying, “There’s no way I can do that”–but he always tried it!

At the end of the class, we laid in savasana. Ken looked around like “what are we doing?” I smiled and replied, “Nothing.” After savasana, we ended the class with another OM. At this, Ken sort of rolled his eyes again. I laughed. When the chant was complete, we bowed and I asked him what he thought. He said, “We should never run before again…” I gave him the “I told you so” look and rolled my eyes to the heavens. At this point the instructor came over and told him he did a great job for his first class and asked if he would be returning. He said, “Absolutely, I haven’t sweat or felt my heart rate this high in a long time!”

Ken thoroughly enjoyed the work-out and has even come back to the studio with me another time. He–in so many words–admitting that he was wrong; yoga really is a great work-out!

Who doesn’t love Starbucks?: Fieldnotes Experience

I love Starbucks more than ever!*

TRANSCRIPTIONS

Starbucks Jottings pg 1

Starbucks Jottings pg 1

The two women were coming from yoga class at yogi power yoga (there email is yogipoweryoga@gmail in case I had additional questions).

Their names were Shannon and Piera. Shannon is a former accountant and Piera is a former lawyer. They both said yoga changed their lives. Both women gave up their jobs once they really found yoga. Opening a studio was Piera’s dream and her husband encouraged her to follow her dream. Yogi Power Yoga is Piera’s studio!

 

Starbucks Jottings pg 2

Starbucks Jottings pg 2

I asked the the women if they had any tips for me as I am just starting my yoga practice. They said that yoga is really all about knowing your body. You need to know when you can challenge and push your body and listen to when it needs rest. Rest a lot as you’re first starting out.  It’s ok to rest and it’s ok to modify anything necessary. Also they said the more that you practice yoga—as in how often—the more you notice changes in your body.

I mentioned to them that I need to modify a lot of things. I said I don’t look like everyone else and that I don’t have the “perfect yoga body.” said yoga is about you; don’t worry what everyone else looks like. Everyone does poses differently because their bodies are different. There is no perfect yoga body. Anyone can do it. Piera even said “I do some yoga poses better than really skinny girls.” Some days you can do a lot with your body and others you can’t. You have to make sure you know your breath and feel how your body feels/reacts. They mentioned what you eat affects your yoga practice.

Starbucks Jottings pg 3

Starbucks Jottings pg 3

They mentioned that you can tell how certain foods affect your body. Piera began to tell a story to Shannon and I about her first ever yoga class. She said she farted during class. She said she was in law school at the time and never wanted to go back. Finally, however, she did go back She and Shannon both said farting is completely normal in yoga classes.

Next I asked them about the classes offered at their studio. There is not specific “hot yoga” that is more of a slang term. However, they practice Baptise style that keeps the studio around 80 dregrees. They welcome all levels of yogis and teach vinyasa classes and power yoga classes (more about strength). I mentioned I have done vinyasa before but not power. I asked if they were very different. They said there are mostly similar poses then a few different poses. They said there are different yoga discourses for different types of yoga, but some things are constant throughout all yoga.

SCENE

I was sitting in Starbucks writing my midterm for my graduate class with my friend Christina. We were helping and encouraging each other. About halfway through the midterm, two women sat down at the table adjacent to us. I heard them say things like “down dog” and “handstand” among others. Christina and I made eye contact and I mouth to her, “Oh my God! I think they are talking about yoga!” We eavesdropped on their conversation a little bit more, and Christina encouraged me to go over and talk to them. Being the outgoing type of person I am, I thought, “Why not?!”

I walked over to the table (a mere two steps) and said, “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation a little bit. Are you two talking about yoga?”

The two women were in comfortable clothing. One was brunette and the other blonde. The brunette had on yoga pants, a black tank top, and a grey zip up hoodie. The blonde had on a white t-shirt and black yoga pants. They both had their hair in a messy bun and looked like they just finished a sweaty workout. They both held their coffee cups, looked at each other and smiled. “Yes,” one of them replied. “Are you a yogi?”

I said, “This is awesome. Hi, I’m Emily. I’m actually starting to study and research yoga; do you mind if I talk to you guys a little bit?”

They said sure. So, I pulled up a chair at the end of their table and began asking them questions.

They sat across from each other, so I sat at the end of the table. I asked them their names. Their names were Shannon and Piera. Shannon is a former accountant and Piera is a former lawyer. They both said yoga changed their lives. Both women gave up their jobs once they really found yoga. Piera said she really connected with yoga and was hating all the stress of being a lawyer. Opening a studio was Piera’s dream and her husband encouraged her to follow her dream. Yogi Power Yoga is Piera’s studio!

“That’s fantastic!” I replied. “Do you have any tips for a newbie?”

They said that yoga is really all about knowing your body. You need to know when you can challenge and push your body and listen to when it needs rest. Rest a lot as you’re first starting out.  It’s ok to rest and it’s ok to modify anything necessary. Also they said the more that you practice yoga—as in how often—the more you notice changes in your body.

I mentioned to them that I need to modify a lot of things. I said I don’t look like everyone else and that I don’t have the “perfect yoga body.” They rolled their eyes and looked at each other briefly. They said yoga is about you; don’t worry what everyone else looks like. Everyone does poses differently because their bodies are different. There is no perfect yoga body. Anyone can do it. Piera even said “I do some yoga poses better than really skinny girls.” This made us all laugh.

Shannon said that some days you can do a lot with your body and others you can’t. You have to make sure you know your breath and feel how your body feels/reacts. They even mentioned what you eat affects your yoga practice.

They said that you can tell how certain foods affect your body.

I mentioned that I totally understood because after Mexican one night, I shouldn’t have done yoga. They both laughed and said they understood me.

Piera looked at Shannon and said “I don’t think I ever told you this before” and began to tell a story to Shannon and I about her first ever yoga class.

She said she was in law school at the time and needed some relaxing. Her and a friend decided to try it out. Piera said that it was a terrible experience because she farted during the beginning of class. She was so embarrassed. She wanted to leave but knew she had to finish the class. She said she never wanted to go back.

However, she did finally go back—years later—and was always glad she did. She and Shannon both said farting is completely normal in yoga classes because of the twists and bends you’re doing to your body.

We all had a laugh over the story and I asked them a little about their studio—specifically location and what classes were offered. She said it was right down the street.

They mentioned there is not specific “hot yoga” class; that is more of a slang term. However, they practice Baptise style that keeps the studio around 80 dregrees (which to me sounds like hot yoga!). They welcome all levels of yogis and teach vinyasa classes and power yoga classes (more about strength). I mentioned I have done vinyasa before but not power. I asked if they were very different. They said there are mostly similar poses then a few different poses. They said there are different yoga discourses for different types of yoga, but some things are constant throughout all yoga.

We ended our conversation with them talking to me a little more about the studio. I said, “I am a little worried about the ‘warm’ studio.”

They said to just come try it out and gave me their website to look up class times. Piera said she would let me try the first class for free (which I did do. The following Saturday and loved it). I said thank you to them both and walked back over to my seat where Christina smiled at me.

Quickly, I got out my fieldnotes notebook and jotted down everything I possibly could. As they left Starbucks they said, “Bye, Emily! It was nice meeting you!” and “Hope to see you in the studio!”

REFLECTION

Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes states, “There are no hard and fast rules about whether to make jottings and if so, when and how to do so. But with time spent in a setting and by benefitting from trial and error, a field researcher may evolve a distinctive set of practices to fit writing jottings to the contours and constraints of that setting” (35). Let me tell you, I 100% agree! After trial and error I figured out what fits for me: right after the experience, sit down and WRITE! I jotted down notes from my conversation at Starbucks. This time I actually mean jotted!  When I was doing my Bookstore Jottings, I tried to write down every little detail in complete sentences and wrote write in front of people because I felt I needed to jot down everything that they were saying as not to miss anything. Here, at the Starbucks, I was more confident interviewing them and felt like we were friendly with each other immediately. After talking with them, I quickly opened my fieldnotes notebook and felt amazingly confident writing my notes. It is something I accomplished on my own, and I am proud.  I definitely see an improvement from last time to this because I did not write all complete sentences or write while I was talking to them. To create my scenes, I made sure to refer to the “Description” section in Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes—pages 57-74. This really helped me to differentiate between the transcriptions to the descriptive part.

Honestly, I know I should reflect here on what I need to improve on, but I think it went perfectly. This was the best thing I had done so far. After this scene, I even took fieldnotes when I went there on Saturday (see my post on Hot Vinyasa Yoga for more information on that). Taking notes after that yoga class made me feel even more of an ethnographer because I kept thinking in the back of my mind about class and not fully immersing myself into the class. “Ethnographers, for example, have become skilled at activities they are seeking to understand…or, in good faith, have joined churches or religious groups…on the grounds that by becoming members, they gain fuller insight and understanding into these groups and their activities” (Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes 3). I did this. I took the yoga class! However, “even with extensive participation, the ethnographer never becomes a member in the same sense that those who are “naturally” in the setting are members” (Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes 5). I took the class, but wasn’t yet a “yogi.” I was thinking “how can I relate this to my research!” This was something I struggled to overcome, but now I truly do enjoy yoga on my own as well as think about my assignments for school!

 

 

 

 

 

*I thought I actually wrote this post a long time ago, but when I looked for it on my blog, it was nowhere to be found! Sorry it’s so late! 🙂

Post-Interview (In-Person)

Mind Full or Mindful

Here is a challenge. While reading this post, try to embrace mindfulness. Try to concentrate only on this post and nothing else. Not how uncomfortable your sitting, not what you’re going to eat for dinner, or how behind you are on your work. If you can do this, you can just begin to understand this little aspect of yoga. Try to be mindful not mind full.

After her gentle yoga class, Karen Carraro, from Virtua Center for Health Fitness in Washington Township, sat down with me in the cafe area. The cafe was closing in an hour so it was fairly empty. We chose an empty table for four and sat down adjacent to each other. I took out my notebook and a pencil. She said, “So where would you like to start?”

I asked her to tell me a little about herself and her getting started in yoga. She explained that she started her yoga a little differently. She actually got into mindfulness first. Karen experienced a death in her family and turned to mindfulness to help cope. Her former career was highly involved with researching. So, she took to what she knew and researched. Karen realized she needed to strengthen her emotional capacity. While practicing mindfulness, she realized she really struggled to sit still.

MINDFULNESS

 

So, she decided to try yoga. Karen explained that doing the physical movements of yoga and ending in the final rest helped her to be more aware of her body, breath, and mind. After her first class, she said she slept so well. Karen decided she wanted to research and learn more. She wanted to become certified in yoga. She studied in Kripalu (which I spelled Kurpalo in my jottings), which is near Albany. She lived there while getting certified.

She went on to explain things like the different sutras (rules/guidelines for yoga), the asanas (postures that prepare you for meditation), linages of yoga (different interpretations of original yoga practice, and much more. She definitely focused a little on Eastern vs. Western practices of yoga and how they differ. She also gave me a lot of great additional readings and places to further practice my yoga.

All in all, I thought the interview went very well. There is however, one major thing I would have changed. I wish I hadn’t taken out my notebook. I was so worried about writing everything down (especially since she uses a lot of yoga discourse–which is difficult to spell/remember–when she speaks). However, I think this took away from the interview because she was looking down at what I was writing the whole time instead of making it flow in a dyadic, conversational way (Post Modern Interviewing).

Please take a look at my fieldnotes jottings during the interview…I think you may agree I might have done better if I waited until after!!

jottings 1 jottings 2jottings 3

jottings 4

jottings 5 jottings 6

 

 

 

Post-Interview (Online)

I would like to preface this post with a big thank you to Anna Guest-Jelley of @CurvyYoga. She was super willing to answer questions and got them back to me in a, much appreciated, timely fashion. Also, I will be continuing to read her fantastic tweets and blog posts. Thank you, Anna!

We decided email would be the easiest way to contact each other. My expectation was to create questions that had multiple parts to guide the interviewee a little. Also, I included the “why,” “if so,” etc. to make sure the interviewee knew to please elaborate upon the questions. I thought that I would be able to get some good direct quotes from using email and it would be convenient for both interviewee and interviewer to complete or review questions on their own time. Well, I never thought I would say this, but I agree with Post Modern Interviewing–email was not the best approach.

This is not to say I thought the interview went poorly. I believe the interview went well overall; however it could have been better if we did it in a different media. I felt that the questions were not answered the way I thought they would. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I feel if we did it in a different way, follow up questions could have been more easily done. I was looking for a little more elaboration as well, which Post Modern Interviewing said was difficult to do through email.

I did get some great statements from her that I will definitely be incorporating into my article! Also, I learned a little more about “Curvy Yoga.” Anna is the founder of Curvy Yoga and author of Permission to Curve. She explains in the interview that she believes yoga is something for everyone. It doesn’t matter what you look like–there is NO perfect yoga body. You cannot compare yourself to anyone, just enjoy your own practice. I also loved that she mentioned swimming as another fitness exercise she includes and explained how it was similar to yoga (movement coordinated with breath). I thought it was very interesting because it’s not the first time I heard this. A few other yoga instructors had mentioned swimming as something they additionally practice. Coincidence? I think not. 🙂

Below is a copy of the transcript between Anna and I through email. I think you will be able to tell the lack of elaboration I was looking for along with some really great, unexpected, responses. Also, I made sure to follow up email her with a few additional questions (not shown). If I had the chance to do this interview all over again, I would. I think Anna has a lot more to offer and we’ve only just scraped the surface!

Yoga Interview Questions:

  • Please tell me a little about yourself. For example: interests/hobbies, profession, etc.

I’m a yoga teacher and writer. I teach what I call Curvy Yoga, which is body positive yoga for people of all shapes and sizes. I’m also a puppies’ mama to two silly dogs.

 

  • Tell me about what inspired you to get involved in yoga.

 

I started practicing yoga because I had chronic migraines and I was looking for any way to help with pain management or reduction. That did help, but what kept me there is what I wasn’t expecting to find – body acceptance.

 

  • Based on my research, it seems yoga has been “westernized” to concentrate on the fitness benefits of yoga.  Do you feel your yoga practice is more “westernized”: concentrating more on the fitness aspects of yoga, “easternized”: concentrating on freeing your mind and connecting to your body, or a mix of both? Please elaborate.

 

Yoga is rooted in an in-depth foundation called the Eight Limbs of Yoga. This is composed of many different parts, only one of which is yoga asana, or poses. I see my practice as being part of that tradition, where poses are only one part of the practice.

 

  • If you work-out in other areas of fitness, do you include yoga in your work-out routines? If so, which aspects do you most commonly include?

 

The benefits of a yoga practice, including flexibility and breath, are beneficial for many other forms of movement. I’m a big fan of swimming, which always feels yogic to me because of how it requires mindfulness and syncing breath and movement.

 

  • To outsiders, yoga is often stereotypically seen as a lot of chanting and stretching. Do you feel your yoga practice breaks these stereotypes? If so, please elaborate.

 

I do my best to teach in a way that meets the needs of the students in front of me. So for example, if I’m with a group of beginners, I’m going to use accessible language and pose options.

 

  • A lot of your blog posts and tweets explain a bit about “curvy yoga.” Most people think you need the stereotypical skinny, flexible body to do yoga. Can you explain the benefits of every type of person doing yoga?

 

Yoga is a way to connect with and move your own body. Those benefits, which can show up in so many parts of your life, are available for and applicable to people of all shapes and sizes.

 

  • Who or what do you feel influences or motivates your practice the most?

 

All the incredible people who are practicing yoga in a way that works for their uniquely awesome body motivates and inspires me!

 

  • Do you practice mindfulness or meditation? If yes, please describe your practice of it.

 

I practice meditation more days than not; I typically practice in the morning, but it depends on the day. I see mindfulness as a more moment-to-moment practice, so it’s something I try to infuse in my everyday life – noticing my surroundings, focusing on one thing at a time, paying attention to what’s going on in my body, etc.

 

  • What do you find are the biggest challenges or obstacles in yoga?

 

I think it’s a challenge to get started for many people, who might think their body isn’t the type that’s okay for yoga – whether that’s about size, shape, age, flexibility, ability, etc. From there, the biggest challenge is often staying with it.

 

  • What do you find to be the most difficult posture in yoga? Why?

 

The most difficult pose is whatever one you have a story about not being able to do. There’s a difference between what might not be available to you physically and what your mind tells you you can’t do. The good news is that yoga is a process that can help you discern that line and meet your body’s needs with kindness.

End Transcript.

After the interview with Anna, I realized, “WOW! I need to research some more about Curvy Yoga.” So, I checked out YouTube to see if she posts any interviews on there. SHE DOES! She posts answers to questions from many of her readers.  I discovered Curvy Yoga has now wide spread throughout the country–and even a little internationally!

Here is a video that I believe really expresses some elements of Curvy Yoga and encourages EVERYONE to get out on the mat to try yoga!

This Yogi’s Improvement

T-Rex Hates Chaturanga... so did I.

T-Rex Hates Chaturanga… so did I.

It’s truly amazing how much time flies.

I started my yoga research in February and have been taking approximately 2-3 yoga classes a week since then; it’s now April! I feel like I have learned so much about this culture I never truly understood. Now, I am not saying I know everything there is to know about yoga–no one could possibly. It’s such an extensive topic. It’s like a huge tree with a million things branching from the topic. However, I do know a LOT more than I did when I just started out. I have felt myself get better and better with each class. Not only have I learned a lot of the discourse and asanas, but I have seen my practice improve from a mere three months. Yoga is used in many different ways: for managing stress/anxiety, form of physical therapy, stretching, working out–the list is infinite.

Rowan Cheerleading Days :)

Rowan Cheerleading Days 🙂

You may have thought, “how can she tell she is getting ‘better and better with each class’?”

Well…I was a cheerleader for Rowan University during my undergraduate study and we were preparing for a major national competition when I received a lower back injury. Since then, my lower back has given me problems. Sometimes I will simply be walking or turning to face someone in my chair and it gets stuck in place or twinges then throbs. Trying to work out has always been an issue.

 

During my first yoga class, I had to modify the postures A LOT! My biggest problem was with chaturanga. I was unable to get the proper flow from plank to low plank to cobra or up dog to downward dog:

Each time I tried to do this flow, my back would twinge, and I would feel pain–even when I am keeping my body in proper alignment. This is NOT a good thing. Originally I thought, “Well…guess I won’t be doing this very much.” Only problem with that is that it’s a major component of every yoga class I’d taken.

Now, however, I can flow through chaturanga without any pain–as long as I concentrate on my body and keeping my alignment correct. All of the yoga postures have strengthened my back to where I rarely feel back pain in my day-to-day life. I am still very careful while working out and make sure that I go into child’s pose whenever I need that additional counter stretch in my back:

Example of what Child's Pose Asana looks like.

Example of what Child’s Pose Asana looks like.

So, not only has my reading sources research shown that yoga can help improve lower back pain, but I have felt it first hand! I have even seen an improvement in my balance and core strength. Talk about a wonderful improvement; got to love yoga 🙂

Namaste.

 

Looking with Lindsey: Yoga Breakdown & Poses

I’m not sure how many of you are aware of the concept of “Lookings,” but this has been the part of my research that I am most excited about. According to author, Alexandra Horowitz, “Lookings” are “aimed to knock [oneself] awake” (7) by having people walk you through a space and explain to you what they see. Essentially, you are seeing a space in a new way–how they see it. Horowitz believes, “…for some, the way they see the world is part of their very constitution, as with a child, a blind person, or a dog” (8). You could learn different things by seeing it through another’s eyes–every person has their own perspective. Please check out this video to see a little of what I’m talking about:

 

My original idea after reading On Looking was to have a yoga instructor–an expert in the yoga culture–walk me through a yoga studio and show me around. Ironically enough, I discovered a yoga studio was simply flooring and walls. The only other things you bring like your mat, blocks, towel…etc. So, that idea was out. On Saturday morning, yogi power yoga instructor, Lindsey, conducted a “looking” with me. At the studio last week, I discussed it a little bit with her. She said she would be happy to walk me through some yoga poses and answer any questions. So, that’s what the plan is. I was excited because I wanted to ask her to show me what muscles are engaged during which asanas.

I met Lindsey after her first Saturday morning yoga class and before the one I usually go to. I rolled out my mat and she said, “Ok, let’s do your–looking!” So she sat down next to me on the floor, and I explained to her a little more about lookings. Once we were ready to start, I asked her,

“Could you walk me through some poses? Please, explain to me what muscles are engaged in each pose?”

She replied, “Uh,” with a little laugh “all of them.”

“Crap.” I thought to myself. If every muscle is engaged then what will I do.

Thankfully, Lindsey knew what to do. She said “let me start by walking you through a typical yoga class; then, you can see during class (after our meeting) what I mean.”

She began explaining to me that there is a certain order to yoga classes. It’s not just let’s do this pose or let’s do this one! There is a structure behind it.

First, yogis need to get their heart rate up. Sun salutations Sun Salutationsare done first to open up the chest area, get blood to start flowing, and kick-start your heart rate. I asked her if that is the swan dives and downward dogs? She laughed and said “Yes, you can always tell a person is new from their downward dog.” I was intrigued, so I asked how.

She explained that many people, when beginning, either put all their weight on their wrists, are too high on their toes, their back isn’t rounded up enough, or their feet too close to their hands. As she went through each of those bad forms of downward dog, she modeled the bad examples for me. She said sometimes they think it’s like a plank and try to be tough and hold up their plank. Downward dog is a resting position. Then she showed me how to correct each of those problems. She said muscles people don’t utilize in their down dog–and should–are the finger muscles. You should press weight into your finger tips instead of leaning on your wrists. If their up too high on their toes, they need a simple reminder to press down with their heels–even if their heels aren’t touching the ground, try to get them there. If their back isn’t rounded enough, they are probably not keeping their stomach tight. So, to fix that, they need to pull their belly button yoga poses downward doginto their back…or simply tuck their head in between their upper arms. If their feet are too close to their hands, there is a very simple solution, ask them to go into a plank. From the plank, they should push up into their down dog. Moving from plank to down dog, their hands and feet should stay in the same place.

 

These were all things I would never have know by looking at someone in downward dog; it was fascinating!

 

After talking about this and other sun salutations, she mentioned the remaining flow of the yoga class into lunges/squats–a standing section, balancing (aka my worst nightmare), a twisting section to “wring out” your center and flex the spine, and finally–if there is time–a back bend series to really open the chest before the meditative ending in shavasana. All of the different aspects of the class are all done to prepare you for final portion–meditation.

After she explained a few other poses to me she mentioned micro movements. Lindsey explained that there are so many micro movements you can do to engage certain muscles more than others in your asanas. For example, she had me get into warrior 2. From warrior 2, I placed my right elbow on my right knee and put my left arm into the air, palm out. Then she said, “Now, turn your pinky finger towards your face.” WHAT A DIFFERENCE! It was such a minor movement, but I could feel my forearm engaged through my shoulder and my left side. It was great.

My Warrior Two Asana

My Warrior Two Asana

Then, during her class, I made sure I paid attention to everything she mentioned in the Looking. She even had to adjust 2 people’s down dogs! It was an absolutely fantastic Looking. Thank you, Lindsey for all of your help!

My Downward Facing Dog Asana

My Downward Facing Dog Asana

 

My Upward Facing Dog

My Upward Facing Dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love, Light, Namaste 🙂

Looking Jottings:

My fieldnotes jottings during Looking with Lindsey

My fieldnotes jottings during Looking with Lindsey

Pre-Interview (In-Person)

Wednesday, after her gentle yoga class, I will be interviewing Karen from Virtua Center for Health Fitness in the cafe of the fitness center. She is the yoga instructor there–the same instructor mentioned in a former post of mine for my first yoga class. Karen was formerly a major researcher before taking on yoga. So, during her initial yoga studies, she channeled those researching skills to help her practice. Since I have been going to the class almost every week, I feel we will be very comfortable talking to each other. Post Modern Interviewing states, “interviewee…becomes a comember of a communicative partnership.” I fully believe that we will be able to do that because not only have I been taking her classes, but I have also taken other classes and extensively researched yoga–as much as one can in a short amount of time. I also feel, because of my research, the interview can be conducted with the “reflexive dyadic” method. I will be able to share my own experiences with her to relate to her information. Also, I feel a conversational tone is essential in conducting an in-person interview. I have had small conversations with basic questions before or after class with her already, so I feel this will be beneficial. I don’t think I will be going to the interview with specific questions because I want the interview to flow more like a conversation. I have topics in mind, of course–especially the Eastern vs Western practices of yoga. 

*Side note: Karen is also hosting a yoga workshop on Monday discussing the benefits of practicing meditation/mindfulness in your yoga practice to improve your every day life.

Pre-Interview (Online)

I have the pleasure of interviewing Anna, a yoga instructor and blogger (@CurvyYoga), that I came in contact with via Twitter. I have been reading–and many of you may have seen me retweeting–her posts because they are so inspiring. I think I have narrowed down my article topic to breaking yoga’s stereotypes. One of those stereotypes is that you need the perfect, skinny, and flexible body.  Anna is a Curvy Yoga Instructor and I can’t wait to hear what she has to say. I will be conducting the interview via email due to busy schedules (me with class and her recently running a Curvy Yoga workshop). According to Postmodern Interviewing,  email is not often the best approach because providing emphasis and elaboration on questions is difficult–which is why I plan to include the “why” factor and follow-up questions. Post Modern Interviewing also said it can depend on the interviewee’s writing skills. Luckily, Anna is a writer; so, I truly think this will could be a beneficial way to interview. Also, I have already mentioned to her about doing follow-up questions on topics. Wednesday I am finalizing and sending out my questions to her; I’m excited to see what she has to say!

 

List of possible questions I will be emailing Anna (@CurvyYoga)

List of possible questions I will be emailing Anna (@CurvyYoga)

Drilling Down through the Sources

Drilling down through the sources was a very interesting process especially because I felt there was interconnectedness not only between the three articles, but from my additional practical and textual research as well. I chose one of the sources I found, “Yoga…for Stress Management…” by Manoj Sharma. This article is composed entirely from prior case study sources; it reviews all the studies of yoga being used as an approach to manage stress between January 2011 and May 2013. The purpose questions for the article are:

“Has yoga been found to be efficacious in alleviating stress in otherwise healthy individuals since the 2011 review? Is there sufficient data available to draw conclusions regarding the efficacy of yoga in stress management? What are the methodological limitations of the present research studies and how can these be addressed in future research? What are the common outcome measures measured by studies and which ones are more important for future studies?” (2013).

The article—thankfully—presents  a chart showing all the outcomes of different case studies’ findings. This helped give me a clear understanding of the article followed by the discussion and conclusion sections where lingering questions were answered. All the different cases are meshed into this article trying to conclude if yoga truly does help stress relief. The conclusion was that 12 of 17 studies had positive results.  Conclusion states, “yoga is a promising modality for stress management. All practitioners teaching stress management should teach yoga as one of the approaches to stress reduction” (2013). A few of the findings were specifically mentioned in the article; one study on Bikram yoga held more significance—plus one of the yoga studios I’ve been attended practices this particular style—where the study demonstrates “positive changes in stress-related outcomes” (2013).

This is a chart from "Yoga as an Alternative and Complementary Approach for Stress Management: A Systematic Review" showing some of the study results between 2011-2013

This is a chart from “Yoga as an Alternative and Complementary Approach for Stress Management: A Systematic Review” showing some of the study results between 2011-2013

This made me dive deeper into that article, “An Examination….of an 8-Week Bikram Yoga Program…” by Hewett, Ransdell, Gao, Petlichkoff, and Lucas. This article was a specific case study, explained thoroughly, which “assesses changes in levels of mindfulness, perceived stress, and physical fitness after participation in an 8-week Bikram yoga program” (2011). “Mindfulness is defined as the attention to and awareness of mind and body, accepting moment-to-moment experiences without judgement, and being present in a given moment” (2011). This article seemingly focuses on the “mindfulness” aspect of the results—which excited me because one of my scheduled “Lookings” is on mindfulness—since that is where the most significant increase was seen:

“The significant negative correlation…between mindfulness and perceived stress in the current study allows for further insight into how we can better regulate our reactions to unavoidable stressful events when we cultivate our inherent ability to be mindful. The findings from this study suggest that Bikram yoga might provide the necessary tools to cultivate mindfulness in stressful situations, which in turn decreases perceived stress” (2011).

This chart is from "An Examination of the Effectiveness of an 8-Week Bikram Yoga Program on Mindfulness, Percieved Stress, and Physical Fitness" showing the changes in mindfulness, perceived stress, and physical fitness in the study.

This chart is from “An Examination of the Effectiveness of an 8-Week Bikram Yoga Program on Mindfulness, Percieved Stress, and Physical Fitness” showing the changes in mindfulness, perceived stress, and physical fitness in the study.

This explains yoga can help our minds connect with our bodies showing us how we can tap into our reactions to stress. Fight or flight is not always right! This helps you realize/control your different reactions to stress. The article that this one directly talks about is a study by Hart and Tracy (2008) showing how the 2011 study is similarly based on the 2008 study.

This brings my drill down to the core, my third source: “Yoga as Steadiness Training” by Hart and Tracy. “The purpose of this study was to provide the first controlled description of the effects of short-term Bikram yoga practice on the strength and steadiness of proximal muscles…” (2008). This was, as they admitted, the first study of this field—therefore thoroughly explaining Bikram yoga, poses, and other yoga elements—which has since become very popular (as you can tell from the above mentioned).  The authors explore the ideas of Bikram yoga in relation to improving strength, steadiness, and balance; yoga does this through emphasizing all your smaller muscles—which I can attest to because during/after my first few yoga classes, muscles I didn’t realize I had were sore!

This is an example of the 26 yoga postures (asanas) that are used in Bikram yoga. Picture from "Yoga as Steadiness Training:  Effects on Motor Variability in Young Adults"

This is an example of the 26 yoga postures (asanas) that are used in Bikram yoga. Picture from “Yoga as Steadiness Training: Effects on Motor Variability in Young Adults”

These scholarly articles are all interconnected.  They all talk about using yoga and/or meditation for managing stress. Oddly enough, I wish I’d started reading the 2008 article first and moving backwards because of how well each article fed off the other. It wasn’t until I read 2011 that I fully understood what 2013 explained, and the 2008 article was basically the starting point for further research. It was interesting to see that the 2008 article did not have very high results but as the articles grew in years, so did their positive results. 2011 had a few higher results; finally, 2013 had so many studies that the results were substantially higher. These articles really flowed like a conversation between multiple researchers because each article truly stemmed from one to the other.