Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sharath says 'asana is just the beginning'

I posted about Sharath's conference this week in Mysore over at Other than pushing practitioners to take on the yamas and niyamas as part of their yoga practice (asana is not the end, but the beginning), Sharath describes yoga like an ocean, which looks completely different on the surface and beneath. Check it out on


So I am experimenting with WordPress for a new blog dedicated to Ashtanga yoga, The name (with an alternative, but legit spelling) refers to the breath used in the practice. The idea is to build a site that focuses deeply on Ashtanga, taps into the Ashtanga bloggers out there and serves as a way to find Ashtanga resources wherever you are. It's very much an early experiment, so ideas and contributions are welcome.... See you there...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

NY Times and Fear-Mongering

Via my Twitter pal Claudia, a new articles from the Daily Bandha: Co-activating the Gluts and Abs in Chaturanga Dandasana: Ray and Chris don't even mention the hated NY Times article on the dangers of yoga, but they slap Times writer William Broad hard:

Sociopathic corporations and individuals often resort to this form of asatya when they realize that they lack the ability to compete fairly or are afraid that someone else will gain power; they fear losing control or influence over others, mainly for monetary gain. Consequently, the fear monger acts out of fear and heads down the slippery slope of asatya. For example, they might exaggerate or fabricate scientific data to cast a false light onto something or someone they fear. Ironically, in the process, they often succeed in exposing and encouraging their own fears. An entity exposed for abusing its position of trust by deliberately misleading others will lose that position. That’s how the spiritually bankrupt become, simply, bankrupt.
That should be clear enough. Contrast this to the Kareem quote on the benefits of practice.
"I believe that yoga is one of the reasons that I was able to play as long and as healthy as I did… Yoga is somewhat hard to quantify in terms of benefits because you see them in all the injuries you don't get… For me, I noticed improvement in my posture—that was key for me because I had been having lower back problems... After I started doing yoga positions—asanas—all that changed. My health greatly improved overall."
I also like this quote from "Amy" in the Times comments:
I am appreciative that this article brings potential yoga asana injuries to our attention and reminds us that yoga is not about competition. However, I am appalled by the lack of research and comparative studies as well as the sensationalism and the misleading photos . In a former life, I worked for the flagship news show of a major network and, although, often the research did not reach the TV screen, it was always there to back it up. In a print article of this length there is the space, and certainly there must be the editorial support (NYTimes, really?), to include supporting data. I now teach nonfiction writing and I am considering using this article as an example of what not to do.

As an avid runner and Nordic skier, as well as small time farmer, I am grateful to the benefits that yoga asana practice has recently brought to my sport and work stressed body. As a mother of three teens running my own business, yoga brings calm, focus, and a positive attitude to each day I practice. My intention is to heal, not to damage, body and mind. I would be very interested in knowing how I can prevent yoga injury from a well researched, data supported, and multi-source paper.

Bringing this all back home, literally, I am visiting my dad who has been in hospital/rehab for a month. My mom asked me if yoga is dangerous, as she heard on the radio. Didn't remember any details as to how its dangerous or who said it was. But was concerned. My dad is hospitalized in large part as a result of a sedentary, meat-eating life, but yoga is dangerous... Context is ironic.

I gave her my rap: Advanced poses that your body has not been prepared for is dangerous, not listening to your body is dangerous, not having a teacher is dangerous, being competitive is stupid, not understanding it is a practice of self-awareness is risky, etc...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

McYoga Sutras: Would you like a chip on your shoulder with that?

I don't know Laura Riggs, but I bet she is fun to have a drink with. Actually I am surprised she is not from L.A., but in fact she's from Denver. Anyway, she has a chip on her shoulder about corporatized yoga and a biting wit. Here are her McYoga Sutras, Chapter 1, which I am going to reprint below. But check out her bio: I wonder where she worked.
Laura started practicing yoga roughly ten years ago and began teaching five years ago. She left a successful career in advertising to teach yoga full-time because she decided it would be totally rad to pretend she was 21 again. She managed two large studios for the past two years, led many teacher trainings, and enjoyed having her soul sucked out of her. Now that the LSD in the Kool-Aid they had her drink before work each day has worn off, she is relieved to be rid of a company that believes first in money and second in “speaking your truth” — so long as it agrees with “our truth” because “our truth” can kick “your truth’s” ass! She does admit there are days that she still checks the studio’s yoga schedule and experiences flashbacks – only to be grateful she no longer has to manage the severely undereducated teachers trying their best to fulfill the studio’s mandate to “Bring the Sexy Back” to yoga. Last time she checked herself, before she wrecked herself, yoga was never sexy to begin with…..
Part 1: Self Absorption

1.1 Now begins the study and practice of McYoga

1.2 McYoga is merely for physical fitness and a means of manifesting money

1.3 The goal of McYoga is never spiritual, period, this is called self absorption

1.4 McYoga’s purpose is to teach the practitioner how to achieve self absorption and that self-identity is an illusion to be overcome.

1.5 At other times, when one is not self absorbed, the follower appears to take on the form of five modifications to conjure the mentality within the McYoga clique

1.6 These five modifications manifest as misconception, gossip, detachment, narcissism, and allegiance

1.7 Misconception is an illusionary knowledge that attending a McYoga studio will help the practitioner live an extraordinary life

1.8 Gossip is the spread of false rumors about those who are “off our path” to standardization of the physical practice

1.9 The practitioner will partake in smoking various plants from the earth to become firmly rooted in complete detachment from reality in order to enjoy attending mind-numbing raves, aka “yoga festivals”

1.10 Narcissism is achieved when the practitioner realizes detachment from others will leave one completely fixated on his/her self

1.11 Allegiance is complete when the practitioner swears loyalty to McYoga as their sole provider of all forms of physical fitness and spends their income on a monthly membership, worthless trainings, mediocre lifestyle programs, and investing in future McYoga locations

1.12 These personality modifications will be mastered through practice and aversion

1.13 McYoga makes it easy to practice 2-3 times daily now that we have 50+ locations open in the US (and another 50 slated to open this year)

1.14 Aversion is realized when one believes that they because they subscribe to McYoga, they have somehow become a better person, all the while behaving like an egomaniacal, judgmental prick

1.15 From that practice, obstacles to successful aversion begin to disappear

1.16 These obstacles are awareness, wise knowledge, empathy, humility, wise action, and honor

1.17 Accompanying these obstacles are frustration, amnesia, judgments, restlessness, disease and injury

1.18 In order to prevent these obstacles from arising, one should habituate themselves in the teaching of McYoga

1.19 By cultivating attitudes of indifference toward suffering, denial toward truth, indulgence toward vice, and anger toward others, the obstacles can be lessened

1.20 Another way to McYoga is the mastery of ignorance

1.21 Without reflection, ignorance is bliss

1.22 Without reflection, the practitioner remains in a state of ignorance to varying degrees

1.23 McYoga is born through the repression of awareness and all individuality is lost

Jane Austin at YJ conference

An old friend of North Bay Yoga (and twin to Sebastopol's No. 1 Ashtanga student/teacher Ann Austin), Jane Austin is teaching two classes at the Yoga Journal conference this weekend: Teaching Yoga to Pregnant Women and a free community class, Yoga and the True Core. Here's the true core write-up:

What is the "true core," and how do you find it? When we slow down, tune in, and listen, we have an opportunity to access this deeper place. We'll dive deep within the well of ourselves to explore our "true core"--a place that can be strong yet fluid, toned yet supple. Flowing with movement and breath, this fun and fluid practice will help connect you to your true core. Expect standing postures, core toning, and hip openers.

Lots of other awesome classes at the conference (full schedule here); of course, some people (ahem) think it's all a bit overpriced.

YogaWoman screening Jan. 28 in Sebastopol

Everyone in the North Bay is excited for the upcoming screening of the YogaWoman movie. I'm excited to have my law office (and the blog, and Yoga in Graton) be a sponsor. Here's the info from Cheryl. Please re-FB, tweet, email, etc. ... Hello and Happy New Year fellow yogis and friends:

I’m excited to announce that YOGAWOMAN (the movie, will have its North Bay premier in Sebastopol on September 28, 2012, at the Sebastopol Community Center Annex. YOGAWOMAN is a groundbreaking feature film about the powerful impact of yoga on women’s health, fitness, emotional well-being, and personal growth. See the trailer at This is a unique opportunity to bring the North Bay yogis and “those that can’t touch their toes” together to share an evening and enjoy this wonderful movie.

Date: Saturday, September 28, 2012

Local: Sebastopol Community Center Annex, 390 Morris Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472, 707-823-1511

Time: Pre-Screening Reception 6:30 (doors open at 6:15), Movie 7:45 (doors open at 7:30)

Donations and proceeds from this event will support The Ceres Project. The Ceres Project operates through an integrated model that gives teens experiences of growing and preparing healthy food which is then distributed to those facing cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Last year Ceres delivered a gazillion meals (well almost, 28,500) to 255 client families in crisis. Their goal next year is 45,000 and we can help.

You can Participate and Contribute. Here’s how……………

1. Come and enjoy the movie (it’s free!), bring your good juju and meet your fellow yogi friends, neighbors and community. And, bring some extra cash for the raffle and to donate to The Ceres Project.

2. Join us for the Pre-Screening Reception. Meet with some of the movie’s cast and director and hang out with your friends. Hobnob just like the stars do. This reception will be catered by the Ceres Project with yummy, healthy nibbles, wine and beverages. Go to to get your ticket ($25). There is a limited amount of tickets so please do it soon.

3. Become a sponsor. This is a great opportunity for those that have a product or service to share or for those that want to offer a bit more.

Warrior 1 - $100. Benefits: 2 tickets to pre-screening reception, listing in movie guide and table for marketing materials.

Warrior 2 - $50. Benefits: 1 ticket to pre-screening reception, listing in movie guide and table for marketing materials

Contact Cheryl Thomas for more info at or mail your check to Cheryl Thomas, P. O. Box 2611, Sebastopol, CA 95473.

4. Donate a product or service for our raffle or gift give-away. This is perfect for yoga instructors and studios that want to offer free or introductory classes. Maybe you have a coupon for 20% off of your service or product.

5. Get the word out. Forward this email or copy and paste it to your email list. There is more information at or We have postcards to distribute and posters to hang. Have ideas? Let us know (

6. Volunteer. Yes, we can use your expertise or extra set of hands. We are also looking for a awesome projector to show the film.

Meet and hang with your friends, create community, contribute to an important non-profit and enjoy a ground-breaking movie. This is for all of us. Really. See you on the 28th!!

With much love and gratitude!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tim Miller teaches primary and secondary series at Mt. Shasta, July28-Aug 4 and Aug 5-11. Lemme know if you want to go (rkoman at gmail dot com). Tim says:

"I've been leading yoga retreats in Mt. Shasta for the last fifteen years and can say, without hesitation, that it is one of the most spiritually powerful places on Earth. For me it's the best two weeks of the year!" - Tim Miller

Experience two yoga classes daily with one of the world's most experienced yoga teachers. Morning sessions offer a blend of guided and Mysore style classes. Afternoon sessions will focus on sutra study, pranayama, therapeutics and chanting. Regular practice and a reasonable proficiency at Ashtanga yoga is required.

Each day Tim will lead a hike to explore the natural beauty of the surrounding area. We will visit waterfalls, pristine mountain lakes, and wildflower strewn alpine meadows. Accommodations are in two charming Inns in historic McCloud, CA (The McCloud Guest House and The McCloud River Mercantile) and include communal vegetarian meals in a relaxed setting providing a true "family" experience. This is a uniquely restorative, inspirational and fun filled yoga retreat!.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Getting your arms long enough for Lolasana lift

In my Intro to Ashtanga class (Sundays at 4-5:45 at the Stone Creek Zen Center - check out the schedule on, we were discussing the problem of one's arms apparently not being long enough to lift off the ground. Of course the problem isn't arm length, it's hip and ab strength. One solution of course is blocks to lengthen the arms, but as Maria Villella shows in this clip, pulling the legs into the chest provides more than enough space for the arms. ... but of course developing the strength and length to do that takes work...

A few Facebook comments on the 'dangerous yoga' article

Thanks to the amazing Kino MacGregor for posting a Facebook link to my post on the by-now infamous (and it just came out today) New York Times article, Can Yoga Wreck Your Body?, basically a hit piece on the rapid expansion of yoga, or perhaps just a call for yoga students and teachers to take the practice more seriously .

There were a few comments on Kino's Facebook post, which I repost here.

  • Philippine Yogi yoga teachers are not adequately educated in the risks and appropriate modifications.
    Friday at 6:58am · · 2
  • Lisa Cohen Phillippine...your statement is a broad generalization and not true...what IS true is that SOME teachers are not adequately educated when it comes to modifications and risks. I'm grateful for teacher training from the REAL deal...and I have learned to teach and practice from a non-ego-driven place that puts form over depth EVERY time... I also encourage my students to LISTEN to THEIR body...that their inner voice is more important than my outer one. And ANY activity has risks...especially when done from a place of ego...cyclists, runners, walkers, and most dangerous: COUCH POTATO-ers! They have the most risk of real, LONGTERM injuries...
    Friday at 7:14am · · 2
  • Chris Guzik If I were to rank what I think the culprits are that create risk for students practicing yoga, I would actually put lacking teacher competency in third place: first, I think the common led class format is problematic as it does not afford the opportunity for teachers to work one on one with students. This creates problem number two: students are not knowledgeable or aware enough to make their own determinations about modifications or backing off until it's two late. So we have led classes where students try to do what other students are doing before they are ready and injuries result - some of which do not surface until long after the class is over or as a result of repetitions over a long period of time. The Mysore method of transmission in Ashtanga addresses this issue, but that is not the norm in the average yoga studio.
    Friday at 7:29am · · 5
  • Philippine Yogi whats good about the article is that it challenges the business of yoga and how could it be made better.
    Friday at 7:50am · · 1
  • Jennifer Deacon We have forgotten how to walk the edge of the sword.....most people seem to fall off rather than have awareness and balance.
    Friday at 9:08am · · 1
  • Bill Leonard As practitioners we need to be reminded that 'strength' comes from ability to honor our own limitations. A majority of yoga injuries stem from ignoring the warning signs the body gives us, we must strengthen the intuition to listen within?
    Friday at 10:33am · · 2

Friday, January 6, 2012

More crazy yoga harm

In this article, Jill Miller relates Patricia Sullivan's story in yoga journal (Sullivan was one of my teachers through Piedmont Yoga Studio) about falling asleep at the wheel as the result of nerve damages caused by headstands!
She painfully details a journey of denial in which her headstand caused (yes, caused) crippling nerve pain that eventually culminated in her falling asleep at the wheel and driving off the road into a lagoon. At last Patricia had a doctor examine her and they found “extensive damage, including a reversed cervical curve, disk degeneration, and bony deposits that were partially blocking nerve outlets.” By her own admission, “my longing to excel both in my asana practice and as an asana teacher had led me to ignore my body’s signals and cries for relief.”
Wow - attachment is powerful.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Is yoga too dangerous for a weekly class?

This Sunday, the Times will publish a radical article, How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body. It largely features New York teacher Glen Black, who is very concerned about people doing advanced yoga poses, including headstand, and creating long-term health risks.
Black has come to believe that “the vast majority of people” should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.

Not just students but celebrated teachers too, Black said, injure themselves in droves because most have underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable. Instead of doing yoga, “they need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition,” he said, to strengthen weak parts of the body. “Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.”

Woah! What?

Mostly the article features some pretty strange cases, like:

  • A guy who "would sit upright on his heels in a kneeling position known as vajrasana for hours a day, chanting for world peace. Soon he was experiencing difficulty walking, running and climbing stairs." Diagnosis: He deadened a branch of the sciatic nerve with all that sitting.
  • A woman was doing uhrdva danurasana prep (head balanced on the floor before pushing up) and suffered "no sensation on the right side of her body; her left arm and leg responded poorly to her commands. Her eyes kept glancing involuntarily to the left. And the left side of her face showed a contracted pupil, a drooping upper eyelid and a rising lower lid — a cluster of symptoms known as Horner’s syndrome."
  • A regular yoga practitioner suffered bruises up and down his neck and neck trauma, apparently from following Iyengar's prescription to "stretch the neck maximally against the floor."
On a more mundane level, Dr. Roger Cole, a Iyengar yoga teacher, emphasizes using blankets in shoulder stand (dangers of doing an unmodified shoulder stand: muscle strains, overstretched ligaments and cervical-disk injuries) and Timothy McCall, a physician who is the medical editor of Yoga Journal, "called the headstand too dangerous for general yoga classes" (risks: thoracic outlet syndrome, degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine, and retinal tears). Do you think the fears are overblown? Or do you think yoga teachers are not adequately educated in the risks and appropriate modifications? If you're a teacher, does this article give you pause?