WRITING

 

"What a Tough Moment in Yoga Practice taught me about the Next Four Years"

ELEPHANT JOURNAL ARTICLE ON THE BENEFITS OF CHALLENGE AND IT'S POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS

“The purpose of yoga is awareness, not perfected poses, beliefs, or any kind of attainment. Awareness from moment to moment requires quiet strength, flexibility, and balance. A good yoga practice develops exactly these characteristics.” ~ Jim Gaudette

Let’s be honest, for many of us, this has been an appalling year.

Stupefying.

It has left us unsure of how to see hope or positivity.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was teaching a tough sequence in yoga class, and I felt a change in my perspective take place. I had an insight into what we can do to find authentic support and a powerful outlook.

At last, I started to rally.

In yoga, there are times when we are called upon to find our strength, flexibility and balance. The challenge is not just physical but mental—for we need the determination to build strength, the awareness to be open to new directions, and the patience to repeatedly try to balance.

As we bear with our obstacles, it will allow us to know ourselves better and to develop deeper emotional and physical skills and resilience.

After the challenge is over, we will find ourselves more centered, more efficient, more relaxed, more effective and incredibly capable of doing the work that needs to be done.

We are at the beginning of a four-year challenge.

It will take determination, awareness and patience. It will require daily practice. It will call on us to use and develop our skills now more than ever.

During this time, we will become strong, flexible and balanced. Strong enough to face daily oppression without allowing it to create bitterness or resentment. Flexible enough to find a way to release our arguments in order to hear, connect and possibly guide opposition to a place of understanding. Balanced enough to neither fill our lives with negativity nor to numb our feelings to get by. Rather, we will allow ourselves to spend more time doing the things that empower, nourish and bring us to equilibrium.

Let now be the rise of the warrior within. 

Let love, compassion and equality for all people be our message. Let us come together in our communities and practice what it means to show up for each other.

We cannot be silent, but instead we must speak up, speak out and tell the stories that humanize us and allow people to see that we each have many dimensions.

Be visible, breathe and take action to create the world we want to live in, as well as foundations for our future.

Now is the time for all of us to know—beyond doubt and in every single moment—that we are not alone. We are incredible. And not only do we belong here, but we make the world a more diverse, fascinating and brilliant place.

~

“The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.” 
~ Chögyam Trungpa

~

Author: David Vendetti

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren


"HAPPY, HEALTHY HIPS"

A post-op ode to a balanced hip practice for Spirit Life Magazine

“If you make the string too tight it will break. If you make the string too loose it will not play.” –Buddha

As I sit in bed sipping tea and some ice packs after my first of two hip surgeries, it seems like the perfect time to write down my thoughts on yoga and its loving relationship with our sweet and powerful hips. 

Dr. Mininder Kocher of Boston Children’s Hospital – is one of the best in his field and I count myself very lucky to have him as my surgeon. After reviewing my MRI, he concluded that I have a cam-type deformity with impingement, mild fracturing and labral tearing on both sides (FAI). This means that the neck of my femur is too thick and the rim of the acetabulum (hip socket) protrudes too far, causing these two places to connect when they shouldn’t. This has created a grinding of the bone, tearing the rubber ring around the femoral head. Needless to say, I have been adapting to pain for years. 

Dr. Kocher has assured me that my condition is congenital (a birth defect) and not due to the years of wear from gymnastics, ballet, and yoga practice. If anything, those practices helped me maintain strength and stability over the last few years despite the fact that both of my hips were falling apart. I can’t say I am totally sure this is true but he suggested that whether working at a desk or running a marathon at this age with this body the result would have been the same.

I am here to share with you today three of the most important discoveries in my last 24 years of yoga practice that have helped mitigate the pain from my hip injuries and maintain my balance, strength, and range of motion. 

1. Stability is key.  

Stability in the hips comes from strong glutes, a supple and powerful core and a full range of motion. 

STRONG GLUTES

Getting your glutes to work is easy with poses like Warrior III, table top with leg extension, bridge with hip pulses and side plank. The important thing is not to compress when you are tightening. For example, in bridge pose you can engage your glutes in a way that compresses your lower back, or you can use the hamstrings to engage the glutes in a way that lengthens the lower back and makes space. Space making is everything! 

Many yogis will tell you not to tighten your glutes in general. But have you ever tried  to climb a flight of stairs without tightening your glutes? We definitely need these muscles to stand upright and move through space. 

Now keep in mind that one size does not fit all. Everyone is unique and needs to practice differently. In Warrior II, you may know people who are sticking their hips out behind them (anterior tilt) – they need to lengthen the torso and activate the glutes to bring them under. Others will tuck the pelvis under (posterior tilt) – those people need to relax the glutes and lift the chest.

As a practitioner, it’s important to know what your basic posture is and then adjust your practice accordingly. Some people are too flexible and their work is to strengthen and stabilize, while others are already incredibly stable and strong but need to work on their flexibility to bring alignment.

A SUPPLE AND POWERFUL CORE

The second strengthener is the abdominals but to make sure you strengthen while pulling the navel in and up to alleviate compression on the lumbar spine. Without a strong core, some of your poses will end up straining the low back. With smart support your spine will be long and resilient. 

The easiest way to strengthen the core is to place a block between the legs and hands behind the head. Curl the hips up 10 times gently and then lift the upper body 10 times gently…repeat three times. If you do your ab work with both or one foot on the floor it is much safer for the back and easier to create a concavity in the belly. There are so many easy and fun core exercises that tone and support like forearm plank with knee to elbow or even breathing exercises like Kapalabhati and Nauli.

Note: You may have seen many people using Boat Pose (Navasana) for core work; however, this pose is mostly a hip flexor strengthener and many people are uncomfortable sitting on their tailbone. In fact, when I was in India for 5 months practicing Ashtanga, I had a huge bruise on my tailbone from this pose. 

A FULL RANGE OF MOTION

What do we mean when we say hip openers? Most of us think of Pigeon Pose or foot-behind-the-head, but that is only one angle of our complex and amazing hips. The question we have to ask ourselves is what do we want our physical posture to be when class is over? The hope is that we walk taller, breathe deeper and are more open and stronger in the body. 

2. Creating space is crucial.

Learn to lengthen out of the joint and not bear down or grind. Hyper-flexibility and hyper-mobility should not be the goal for anyone. Too often I see practitioners compressing the low back rather than creating space, I see the head of the femur pushing too far forward or grinding to far back in the hip. To take your body into an extreme position and then move it even a little is like taking a twig, bending it in half and then twisting. 

Try instead to be conservative. Go slowly, practice daily, with great awareness and your body will share its secrets. 

3. The order in which you open the body is important.

Remember that the sequence of poses is often as important as the poses themselves. For a hip class above the waist, you will need a twist, forward fold, side bend, and backbend. For below the waist, you will want a hamstring, groin, quad and IT band stretch. I like to end with quads and IT band to lift the front of the body and set the leg on straight. 

If you were to end class with a forward fold, you would stand afterwards with a hint of forward fold. Likewise, if you were to end with a backbend, you would leave class with remnants of a backbend.  Of the two I prefer the backbend as most of us are working to counter a hunched “working at the computer” posture.

In conclusion the process of yoga includes more than just the physical – it is an amazing journey not only into the body, but also the mind and spirit. I hope that all yoga classes learn to integrate a clear foundation in anatomy with intelligent alignment, light hands-on adjustments, and ever-evolving flows to heal the body. I try to teach students to cultivate a deep passion for self-examination and light-hearted exploration. I encourage them to drop everything in order to find out that when we hold on to nothing, what is left is all we truly need.