Notes from Maui
And other interesting comments from Nancy
Since I am here in Maui from December 1 – 21, I thought I would send back some notes and comments from Nancy—some of the comments are taken from various workshops of hers I have attended as well.
Yoga-As you get older it gets even better ~Nancy Gilgoff
Age is only a barrier to practicing if that’s the thought in your mind. (Nancy is currently working on making a video of a group of Ashtangi’s over 50 years old doing practice.)
Why does it matter what you look like in a pose? What really matters are you breathing loud and steady?
Listen to your body in the pose; allow the body to overcome the mind.
NO GOALS IN POSES
The Ashtanga practice does not like long flowery cues—this practice is meant to be hands on adjustments, so you feel the pose—and engage the mind less.
BREATHE WITH SOUND
Breathing too slow engages the mind and does not use enough bandhas or abdominal support, breathing too fast aggravates vata and the nervous system—if you are a slow breather make sure you are feeling rib cage movement—if not you are not engaging enough in the breath.
Once you know Primary Series you should be able to go from Surya Namaskar to Setu Bandhasana in about one hour—this rule will help you set a good breathing pace.
Regarding rest pose
This share is from one of my Maui friends, as he was lecturing Alexis on not allowing me enough time in rest pose (she sits in a corner in the yoga studio while I do practice—as soon as I lay down for rest she is tapping on my shoulder for me to get up so we can start our Maui day . . . but now the rest of the time she is in school while we are here so I can rest as long as I like . . .):
Rest pose is like clicking save after you just spent 1-1/2 hours working on a document on your computer. Not having enough time in rest would be equivalent to losing an hour and half of work you just did!
Ashtanga Yoga works internally, Iyengar yoga works externally.
Ashtanga Yoga works intensely to make the body healthy to get to the path of meditation and prayer quicker.
Your “spot” in yoga class
I love how Nancy breaks the net of most concepts in yoga . . . we have all heard lectures of how we should not get “attached” to our spot in the yoga studio . . . however in class the other day Nancy blurts out “I wish you all would just stay in the same place so I know where you are!” Here in Maui there are so many of us that come for a few weeks to a few months so there is always someone leaving or coming for a period of time—how much easier it is for Nancy to scan over the classroom and see us in “our spots” and know who needs what and where they are 🙂
Follow the cue in a led class
Part of the surrender is surrendering to the teacher’s count. In a led class, you are surrendering to the teacher’s count. The teacher may notice you need more time in a pose or more breath in a pose; you need to trust in your teacher. Also, part of being in class is the group energy, moving with the group increases this energy. Self practice, on the other hand should tick along at a consistent rhythm with the breath. Go to the point in the pose where you are not struggling, and breathe into the pose with a steady rhythmic breath, same for vinyasas—keep a nice steady breath into and out of the poses as well. If a certain pose challenges you, your breath may be faster (this is OK—just keep both the inhales and exhales the same length) as you progress in the pose, you will notice you will want to take slower breaths.
Care more about your breath than where you are in a posture!
It is more important to keep your breath than to get into a posture! When you encounter a posture you are tight in and you start to struggle with it—you may lose your breath, when this happens three other issues arise:
- You hold your breath, you have the highest risk of injury when you hold your breath
- Struggling to get into a posture creates more tension in the body! Staying with the breath will open the body in a safer and more efficient manner
- When you lose the rhythm of your breath the mind becomes more engaged and you get frustrated! Following the breath takes the frustration out of “having” a posture or not! Everyone can breathe 🙂
Of course we need to pay attention to form and alignment—so you get your body in the correct alignment for your body, go to the point of comfortable stretching sensation, and breathe!
The breath we do in this practice is the same breath you do when you sleep, in Ashtanga it is called loud breathing or ujjayi breathing, you do want to breathe with this breath. The loud breath will allow you to hear (as well as feel) your breath so you can better control it, it also engages the diaphragm which is your most efficient breathing muscle thus making you less likely to use accessory muscles, this style of breathing also helps us connect with the bandhas support and it deepens our breath.
However if you are struggling with making the ujjayi sound, do not let this frustrate you either. Instead simply breathe through your nose (both inhale and exhale) and match your movements to your breath.