Monday, January 9, 2012

Weekend Ashtanga Workshop

This weekend I was lucky enough to take a full workshop with Daylene Christensen at Miami Life Center in Miami Beach, FL. Daylene is one of my favorite teachers and also a student of Kino MacGregor. 
Day One:  Vinyasa Counts- For anyone who has ever taken an Ashtanga yoga class or even a yoga class for that matter knows how important breath is. This workshop focused on how the vinyasas are linked with a specific breath and Sanskrit count such as Ekam, Dve, Trini, etc.; while postures (asanas) are counted in English counts.  Daylene pointed out that this is the heart of Ashtanga. It is one of the most important things and one of the hardest. The purpose of mastering this is to stop thinking during practice and just let it be movements. Daylene pointed out that you should have these counts memorized so you do not have to question anything you’re doing and get confused and caught up on something during your practice. She also explained that this is a very difficult thing to master and she clearly stated it is “utopia yoga”, but it is very important for students to know these counts and how important they really are.
         This was a huge eye opener for me personally considering I, just like many others I am sure, went into yoga to clear my mind and focus on my breath. Of course once faced with my practice I realized how difficult this really is, and began to worry about a million other things during my practice. Are my feet lined up properly? Are my shoulders where they should be? Am I tucking my tailbone in? Am I sucking my lower belly in? Of course I would try to maintain my breath through all of this, but it is very difficult. That is why Daylene pointed out for people just beginning obviously they will be focusing on other things, but to have this in your mind as a goal one day if very important and something to strive towards.
Day Two: Jumping, Lifting, Floating, Flying- This was the workshop everyone really wanted to learn and perfect. This workshop was based around jumping through and jumping back. For me, I have taken numerous strength elements classes with Daylene and understand how difficult this really is. But this is Daylene’s signature move. Daylene is known for being extremely strong, but also being an extremely graceful practitioner. Therefore, everyone would like to jump through and back like Daylene. Let me add, she is also known for lifting you up mid-way through jump backs just so your feet don’t drop on your mat, because that is one thing that really drives her crazy! She would rather see you slide through then literally “jump” back.
         During this workshop Daylene focused a lot on opening your hips and legs. We did a lot of forward folds to help open us up. She pointed out that one of the main problems with people jumping back is that they cannot get their legs close enough to their chest to tuck themselves into a little ball. Therefore, all the hip and leg openers were done to help us tuck ourselves into a little ball. This of course was torture for almost everyone.
         Secondly, Daylene pointed out how important strength is.  Now for me personally, this is my most difficult problem. Daylene explained this is a problem with most people because in jumping back you go from straight arms, to bent arms. Along with this movement you must also “seesaw” your body. What she means by this is you must replace where your bottom half was with your top half, which requires lifting your bottom (a very heavy part in your body) off the ground and lifting it up, all with bent arms. Just trying to explain this alone, is difficult for me! Let alone the actual action of doing it! And while doing this seesawing action, one must also have a rounded back.
         As for jumping through it is much easier, but still requires a lot of strength. Most people can jump through with cross legs but never making it through with both legs straight. This is where I am having issues. And once again it is all due to strength. One must get one leg through and then the second leg through and hold themselves up with straight legs. This, Daylene explained, is difficult to most people due to strength and tight hips. Jumping back and through is something I have accepted will come with time and patience.
 Day Three: Backbends and Inversions- The last day of the workshop was my favorite and the one I was looking most forward to. Backbending is something that I find so crucial in avoiding any back problems in life. Daylene once again started us with hip openers. She explained how tight hips could be a large problem with getting into backbends and in order to do backbends you must be able to do the opposite, forward folds (which require your hips and hamstrings to be open).
         After another tedious afternoon of stretching, Daylene had us do upward dog to prove it is the first backbend you do during the Ashtanga practice. She showed us how people do this incorrectly and it can cause major injury and agony during your practice. She explained you do around 100 upward dogs during the Ashtanga Primary Series and after doing a few wrong you can be exhausted and in a lot of pain. By doing them properly will only help you move along easier and give you a deeper backbend. Along with upward dog she had us do Purvottanasana to show another time backbends come into play in the series. Once again this is something a lot of people do wrong and cause themselves a lot of pain and agony.
         This all leads to the major part of backbending (and the two asanas from before), keeping your legs and arms strong while keeping your back relaxed. Daylene compared it to your body being like a hammock. Your legs and arms should be the poles, while your back in the actual hammock. Once again, you see the arm strength. She explained how the whole goal of backbending is to detach your upper body from your lower (Obviously not literally, but creating that gap). Creating that gap requires you to tuck your tailbone in. For me, this is very difficult considering my tailbone is always out and I have a huge arch in my back.
         Daylene also had us relax on our backs and feel our stomachs to see where we were breathing from. She said it is very common she sees people breathing in backbends very heavily and into their stomachs. While moving onto half bridge and backbends, she showed us how gravity must suck our lower belly in and it is essential for us to breathe in and out of our chest.
         She had us use props such as blocks and straps to try to get into a proper backbend. She explained how many people cannot get their arms out straight, and when they think they are straight, their elbows are rotating outward, which is incorrect. She had us work with partners while one partner tried to do backbends properly and the other “kept them honest”. The partner backbending had to put two blocks up against the wall and do their backbends off of those, with their head in the middle of the two blocks. The point was to get into the backbend and then bend your arms and your partner would tell you if your elbows were facing outward. Almost everyone’s were. This is something very, very difficult to fix because you never even notice you are doing it. I am extremely thankful for Daylene pointing this out.
         Lastly, we went over inversions a little bit and how important it is to be on your shoulders during shoulder stands and closing asanas. Daylene explained how your shoulders will look 3 ways during your practice. 1. Relaxed 2. Rotating in with the upper back arched (preparing for headstand) 3. Shoulder blades touching each other and shoulders brought back. For shoulder stands you want your shoulders to be doing number 3. The importance of knowing how your shoulders must be is to prevent neck injury. This goes for every one of the closing postures. Daylene ended the workshop with a very important note. She explained, so many people are focused on trying to get into a more difficult asana that they forget to focus on “easier” asanas such as Trikonasana or Utthita Parshvakonasana. But each asana is just as important; the “easier” asanas are what will help you get into the harder ones. If you forget to focus on them and work just as hard on them, certain parts of your body may then become tight and prevent you from doing more difficult postures later on.
Here are some clips of Daylene demonstrating:

Monday, December 5, 2011


For most people December means time for Christmas! For everyone in Miami.. it means Art Basel. Art Basel is an event that takes place from Dec 1-4. Artists from all around the world come together and show their art in different art galleries and hotels all around Miami. But the biggest exhibit is the convention center where some of the most well known artists sell and show their pieces. It is a very difficult event to go to but lucky for me I was able to attend last year. It is definitely something everyone needs to see once. This year I avoided the convention center. It is amazing seeing pieces by Andy Warhol and Picasso but the overall crowd are rich snobs who I do not like to interact with. Instead I attended YogArt at the Loews Hotel and art galleries in the Design District. Both were fabulous. 
Trevor Hall at YogArt

Miguel Paredes

My favorite, Underbelly Project


Saturday, December 3, 2011


My recent trip to the Bahamas was exactly what I needed. A little time with some island life. Although the Bahamas is extremely similar to Miami (tourists everywhere) it was nice to see the attitudes of the people who live there. They are truly humble people who enjoy their lifestyle. While there, I also was able to partake in a Sivananda yoga class at an Ashram. I had to take a little boat to get over to the retreat at 830am which made the start of my day already beautiful. The class took place on a little deck right on the beach. It was beautiful. Sivananda is very different from what I typically practice (Ashtanga) but it was nice to try something new. The energy and the scenery made it all worth it. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

tree of souls

“I was a warrior who dreamed he could bring peace. Sooner or later though, you always have to wake up.”-Jake Sully, Avatar
This morning I planned on going to an early, much needed Mysore class, but instead I found myself watching 2hours of Avatar. I know the movie is an all time favorite with most people around the world, but I feel as though I see too much of the symbolism in it. I see how much their world really relates to what is happening with the environment now in our real life. We have land that was once loved by tribes and worshiped, and has been completely destroyed by settlers who are now our government. The environment and nature has never mattered to them, it has always been about growing bigger and better. Unlike the tribes, most people do not view nature and the universe as something present, real and bigger than us. Thousands of years ago people lived off of it, and now we don't have enough to even recognize. More and more decimates everyday and the only pieces we have left to hold on to will probably be gone soon enough. 
The tree of souls in Avatar was the ultimate universe. It was the only thing left that could save them. It was all of nature put together in one. It was their last resort of where to turn when things went wrong. When I visit fairchild tropical garden and see this tree above, it reminds me of the same feeling. The same idea that this may be one of the last pieces of nature to hold onto. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Fishing Industry

Recently in my Marine Biology class, I watched a documentary The End of the Line. This showed the current issues in the fishing industry.

The documentary The End of the Line explained the devastating effects of overfishing all around the world. It shows how the main cause is by improvement in technology and high demand of fish from humans. One man in the movie stated, “fish have no chance of escaping due to the amount of technology these boats now have.” Basically the whole fishing industry has come down to companies making millions for ridding off species of fish. Not only are they ridding off species such as tuna, salmon, and shrimp but they are also “bycatching” species such as sharks, dolphins, and horsefish. This is a huge problem because as explained in the movie, it is a race to catch the last fish.

            Being a vegetarian, I have always understood the impact human’s have on the fishing and meat industries. The only explanation for any of these issues is due to human consumption. I had watched numerous movies on the meat factories around the world, but never had I watched anything on the fishing industry because as someone who loves the ocean it hits too close to home. The movie gave me more of an understanding of how crucial it is for people to be educated in the matter of over fishing and how it is all happening because fish is in high demand. More than ever, people are consuming more meat and more fish, therefore it only makes sense that these companies are going to try to mass produce no matter what the consequences are.
            Although, animal cruelty is a devastating issue in the meat and fishing industries, what is even worse is the impact it is having on our environment and on our bodies. Due to fish being in high demand, they also create fish farms, which are basically no longer real fish. They are pumped with hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals beyond the human mind. Considering we are the first generation consuming these chemicals, they have no idea how it will affect us or our children in the long-run. We are merely test subjects. If we do not become informed as soon as possible and stop these industries, ecosystems will collapse. Anyone who can imagine a world with no fish, and accept that, and believe the environment will still run on its natural course, needs a serious reality check and become educated. This all starts with the politicians putting an end to this, which means it starts with us, making sure we vote for the right people, and speak up. There is still time to save our planet. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

the world we live in

What kind of world do we live in when 
"reality" show actors make more money than Doctors? 
What kind of world do we live in when 
athletes make more than teachers; than professors? 
What kind of world do we live in when 
a being thinks it's okay to intentionally hurt another a being? 
What kind of world do we live in when 
individual people think they are actually bigger than the world? 
What kind of world when
billions of dollars are spent on war and ruining the lives of others? 
When money (an idea) is what life (an experience) is based on. 
Such common knowledge should be attained,
how to live life, 
but others can not accept it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TED Less Stuff, more happiness

With the end of the 24 things challenge, this video does the trick and sums it all up.