Watch this video to learn how to simultaneously stretch and tone your entire core. The underlying poses for this exercise include adho muhka svanasana (downward facing dog) and plank pose. You will need one folded up yoga blanket to assist you in this excercise. Practice this exercise on a smooth surface, like a wood floor. Begin with three sets of five repetitions. Work your way up to ten repetitions. Rest in balasana (child's pose) in between sets. _LFoOJMmTKU
Tuesday, 07 June 2011
CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNER OF THE COSTANZA YOGA CHALLANGE!
"Whenever I am upset at work and think that i have a hard job, or don't get paid enough, I think about the fact that at least I have a job! I have health insurance, a way to pay my rent and feed myself... I remind myself that i'm actually LUCKY and it usually puts me back into a good place emotionally :) little daily reminders to myself that life is GOOD and I appreciate it."
Saturday, 04 June 2011
*(Click "Watch on YouTube" if you click on this video and it doesn't start right away)
Whether he was aware of it or not, good ole’ George Costanza from NBC's hit sit-com Seinfeld seeminly understood what it meant to bring things into balance…at least it appears he understood. In episode 22 of the show’s fifth season, it hit me!!!! Geroge Costanza was practicing yoga without even realizing it. During the episode, George proclaims that as of this very moment he will do the exact opposite of every initial instinct he has ever had because these instincts never led George to accomplish his desired goals. Therefore, doing the exact opposite must be the right thing to do. DISCLAIMER*** George Costanza took his “yoga practice” to the extreme in this example. I’m not endorsing stringent adherence to George Costanza’s advice nor do I think that heeding to George’s Hollywood generated recommendation will suddenly usher you into an era of finally becoming that advanced yoga practitioner you always dreamt of becoming nor will it propel you into a state of enlightenment. But it's certainly an interesting modern world comparision (is 1994 still considered modern?) with respect to yoga philosophy. Watch the above clip—it’s hilarious.
Perhaps George Costanza was wiser than we gave him credit for becuase at least in this one episode George apprears to grasp the idea of pratipaksa bhavanam, an idea discussed in Sutra 33, Book II of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Let me try to summerize the idea of pratipaksa bhavanam in the most succinct way I can. Here goes... Because our thoughts give rise to our emotional state, when disturbed by a negative thought one should replace this thought with the opposite thought. Pratipaksa bhavanam is the discipline of first recognizing the negative thought pattern as counterproductive and then replacing that thought with the opposite (positive) thought. Practicing pratipaksa bhavanam allows one to cultivate the opposing attitude and in doing so, brings the psyche and the consciousness into a more balanced state. At the heart of the matter, this balanced and blissful state is precisely what yoga is all about. Mastery of physical asana is totally unnecessary in order to be successful at cultivating the opposing attitude and therefore achieving a balanced emotional state.
Wednesday, 01 June 2011
It’s no wonder that George Balanchine, the father of ballet in America as we know it, was such a stickler for tendus. Balanchine believed that if a dancer could execute a perfect tendu, then no step or combination of steps is unattainable. A battement tendu is a French word meaning to “stretch” or to “extend” and is a fundamental step in the classical ballet vocabulary where the foot is fully stretched so as to continue the line of the extended leg. Every time the foot leaves the ground, it has to be pointed!!! This is the 1st commandment of classical ballet! Otherwise, let's just face it...it's bad ballet. Tendus are the basis of all jumps, turns and all the seemingly effortless footwork seen in ballet. It can take years to perfect the tendu; in fact if you ask most highly trained professional dancers if they consider their tendus to be perfect they will undoubtedly reply: “Far from!”
Tendus are to ballet as tadasana is to yoga. The most fundamental asana in yoga is tadasana a.k.a. Mountain Pose. As the name suggests, the energy of this asana is strong and unbreakable like a mountain. In tadasana the feet are either together or slightly apart, the arms down with the palms at the sides of the body and the chest is lifted. It is important to keep the gaze soft by directing it at the tip of the nose to maintain the undisturbed energy generated by this asana. Tadasana is the blueprint for all postures in yoga because in tadasana the body is at its optimal alignment with the neck positioned over the shoulders, the shoulders stacked over the hips, the hips aligned over the knees and the knees positioned over the ankles. There's even weight distributed between the mounds of the big and little toes and the inner and outer heels. In tadasana the spine is maximally extended and not torqued. When the spine is elongated it allows for prana to flow through the body uninterrupted. When all the anatomical puzzle pieces fit together like this moving freely from one position to the next becomes second nature. The need to push, strain or overexert disappears and the risk for injury greatly diminishes. Additionally, when we successfully find this sense of ease in our yoga practice we can begin to pay less attention to the physicality of our movements and tap into their energetic quality. When this happens, many find it mentally soothing and therefore quite liberating.
Every sport, activity or art has its building blocks; but in my experience the building blocks of yoga often compliment those of ballet and in doing so provide me, “the ballerina,” a more comprehensive understanding of my body and a greater sense of physical awareness and mental clarity.
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
"EVERY STRUGGLE IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH." --Mia Togo
Saturday, 14 May 2011
Intimidation, laziness, lack of time and a lack of understanding of yoga’s benefits often keep non-yogis from entering the studio. But a closer examination of these qualities will reveal that they don’t only affect you with respect to yoga but they most likely also affect more familiar areas of your life. Ever been afraid to start something new? Why? Is it fear of being judged? Ever skipped out on going for that walk, run or swim that you’ve been intending to use to jumpstart your fitness routine? These qualities become so intuitive that we perceive to be our identity; they become our samskaras. It is possible to peel away those mental and physical layers of ourselves that we aren’t so content with.
When I first started practicing yoga I approached my practice with the sole intention of mastering those crazy poses you see in magazines because I thought that’s what yoga is all about. The more I practiced physically, the more my practice evolved in an energetic and spiritual way. The more I mastered the physical aspect of yoga, the less concerned with it I became. Yes, I did master many of the advanced asanas, but it suddenly wasn’t so important to me anymore. It was something deeper and much more personal than that. My yoga practice is a channel through which I am able to establish a genuine relationship with myself. When I am dancing or writing or going about other daily activities I lose sight of me, myself and my intentions because I perform these activities for the sake of something or someone else. Yoga is a pallet cleanser. After a long hard day yoga can make me feel better and forget my day. In the morning when I often awake I feel sore and stiff, but after 20 minutes on my mat, I feel energized and physically malleable. Yoga is whatever you want it to be whenever you want it. Yoga, like an old friend, is a practice that’s always there for you when you need. Simply taking a moment to close your eyes and count your breath is an act of yoga.
When yoga becomes a daily part of your life and not necessarily just the physical aspect, you begin radiating the fulfillment you experience out into the world. Others will notice and you will have the desire on your own accord to go out into the world and share the gift of yoga with as many people as you can…and thus the circle of yoga continues.
Friday, 06 May 2011
When you enjoy crossing paths with a fit, toned and generally pleasant individual it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he or she practices yoga. Surely by now most people understand the physical and mental benefits of yoga. Yoga is perfectly accessible to even the laziest and unmotivated of persons. I’ve heard more than my fair share of misconceptions about yoga, but they are simply that: misconceptions. Regardless of whether you to practice for an hour, thirty minutes or even five minutes a day, the bottom line remains: you will undoubtedly reap the many wonderful benefits yoga has to offer.
In this post-post modern era of instant gratification it’s hard to commit to practicing yoga for an hour every day; but, lucky for us overworked, overstressed and under nurtured creatures there is no wrong way to practice yoga. Yoga is unique because it’s a system of movement in which the asanas can be modified not only to fit the individual yogi’s needs and goals, but it’s also a system of movement in which the asanas can be manipulated to target multiple areas of the body simultaneously. The efficiency of yoga as a system of exercise is unmistakable. The asanas don’t need to be overly complex or arranged in any particular order per se. For example, practicing five rounds of Surya Namaskar A followed by five rounds of Surya Namaskar B (a.k.a. Sun Salutations) while integrating the breath into each movement every morning equates to a legitimate yoga practice. It is what I like to call a “moving meditation” because it increases the heart rate, tones the entire core and upper body all while generating and maintaining mental equanimity through the incorporation of breath. Another great example of maximizing the efficiency of your asana practice is practicing utkatasana, a.k.a. chair pose while squeezing a block with your hands. Utkatasana is already quite challenging. It strengthens the legs and core and when squeezing a block overhead in between your palms you instantly layer on another dimension: Mr. and Mrs. Triceps. In addition to maximizing the efficency out of your yoga practice, modifying postures like this keeps your practice fresh and interesting. Hold this pose for ten ujjayi breaths. I challenge you to reply to this post if you don’t feel anything. Get your yoga on!
Sunday, 24 April 2011
Why do you think you experience suffering? Unsatisfied with your job? Boyfriend? Maybe you’re in physical pain and you can’t bend over to tie your shoes without pulling your back out. Actually, suffering results from none of the above. With the universe being in a constant state of flux things happen constantly. Suffering occurs when we identify with whatever is going on whether it be past, present or future. The dialogue goes something like this: “Why can’t I get a job? I feel useless. Therefore I’m suffering.” Notice the ascription of the “me” or “I” to the feeling of being useless. In yoga, this self-ascribed prophecy, if you will, is called ahamkara. Ahamkara is the automated tendency for us to construct a “me” out of each and every single component of our inner experience. You never say “oh well, there is some uselessness,” instead you say “I feel useless.” Feelings become thoughts and the thoughts we think become our reality. If you can find a way to interrupt the consistent signal between “me” and the things going on around you, including feelings you experience you begin to unveil some of what we yogis call avidya. Vidya is Sandskrit for knowledge or wisdom and the prefix a suggests a lack thereof. Avidya is ignorance, but even more so avidya is a misperception. Mistaking the pure for the impure, the permanent for the impermanent, the necessary from the unnecessary are all forms of avidya.
Sunday, 10 April 2011
If you practice yoga regularly then you’ve probably noticed the emphasis on the spine. Most asanas and class sequences are designed in such a way that elongation of the spine takes priority. For example, in dandasna the sit bones are rooting down into the mat, the legs extend out in front of you and the hands touch the ground just outside the hips. Many people cannot sit comfortably with an erect spine and with their legs extended, much less fold forward to reach their toes because of tight hamstrings. Many people also find it hard to press their palms down to the ground in dandasana because their spine is curved. If this is the case, a modification is made to the pose by placing a blanket or a two or even a block underneath the pelvis to “raise” the floor. Immediately, the practitioner experiences relief and ease in the low back and hips and is able to reach their hands down to the ground because the spine is now straight. Another great example of spinal elongation is adho mukha svanasana a.k.a. downward facing dog where the hands root into the mat, the hips lift up and back, the inner thighs revolve away from each other and the heels spin out slightly and lengthen towards the mat. In adho mukha svanasana you use the strength of your legs and feet to help pull as much weight out of your hands as possible while stamping the palms down into the ground. This opposition creates massive elongation of the spine which is why downward facing dog pose feels so good and is often used as a “resting” pose or a “home base” position as you move through a yoga practice.
Thursday, 17 March 2011
So it seems that all of the different modes of movement I am currently involved in are converging. Perhaps the commonalities between ballet, yoga and Gyrotonics® were always there, but now I am approaching each with an astute awareness I never had during my earlier years. Yoga literally translates as "union" "to yoke," or "the bringing together of opposites." In ballet technique for example, you must press down into the floor with your foot (or feet) in order to get up onto your toe(s) or in order to achieve that perfect jump. I’m now learning Gyrotonics® works along the same principle: opposition. Even in physics we learn that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. For example, if you stretch your torso laterally to the left, as in a side bend, you would want to avoid thrusting your torso to the left. Thrusting or jerking in order to execute a movement does not serve you at all. In fact, doing so causes more harm because you compress and shorten the left side of the waist. Compression is never good for our joints. Lateral movement occurs in the coronal plane, or frontal plane. Simply put, the coronal plane refers to any sort of side-to-side movement. Rotation of the spine also employs the oppositional movement principle. Rotation occurs in the transverse plane or horizontal plane. Twists are an easy way to understand the transverse plane of movement. When you twist you rotate around the axis of your own spine.
YOGI TIDBITS TO TRY:
EXPERIENCE YOUR FULL CORONA: Reach your right arm out to the right and take it overhead so that your right tricep rolls forward and the palm of your right hand begins to turn towards the wall behind you. Inhale deeply as you do this. As you exhale start bending over to the left keeping your left waist as long as possible and complete the movement by taking your right arm overhead. What you just did here is create more space along both sides of your waist before stretching laterally to one side. Notice if stretching in this manner allows you a more satisfying experience. We could use a little more...space, the final frontier.
TWIST TRANSVERSELY: Sit up as tall as you can in a chair or on a bench. Separate your feel a little wider than your hip's distance and point the toes out slightly (about 45 degrees). Allow the hands to rest on the thighs. Make sure you feel both of your sitting bones rooting evenly into the chair. The more you hone your attention on the rooting of your sitbones here, the more extension you will get through your spine. Here again is the principle of opposition. This should be an easy-seated position. Inhale deeply and imagine both sides of your waist elongating. Keep your left hand on your left thigh and as you begin to exhale slowly twist over to the right letting your right hand glide out towards the right knee. As you deepen your exhale your twist will naturally deepen on its own. Now, as much as you are twisting to the right, imagine a gentle hand on your left ribcage and press your left waist into that imaginary hand. There it is again...our friend, Mr. Opposition.
Thursday, 10 February 2011
To follow up on yesterday's rant discussing mediocrity amongst yoga instructors I'm so pleased that the recommendation from my Los Angeles based mentor Annie Carpenter was a fantastic one! I went to the same Yoga Tree in San Francisco located in the Mission District on Valencia Street and was blown away by the dynamic, heartfelt and precise instruction of Les Leventhal. What a difference a day makes... even if you come to the same place. It’s quite possible that the instructor from the all-level vinyasa class from yesterday (who will continue to remain nameless) is the one bad egg from the dozen. I did a bit of chit chatting with Les after class, giving him a big hello from Annie. Les mentioned that I wasn't the only ballet dancer in his class on this particular evening. I didn’t really think anything of it until I went into the ladies room to change when I thought I caught a glimpse of Muriel Maffre standing right in front of me. Indeed it was her! How small the world is! Ms. Maffre taught my professional ballet class at LINES the day before. Ms. Maffre was one of my idols growing up. This woman is incredible to say the least. Ms. Maffre is a talking and walking piece of art. She is tall, long and more refined than Loius XIV at one of his ballet de cours. I approached Ms. Maffre and like a retard asked if it was really her. I expressed my awe and then she left.
This whole experience left me with a deep sense of gratitude and an understanding that we are all connected in this world. Despite what city you live in, what yoga studio you frequent, there’s a ripple effect that results from all of our conscious and unconscious actions. This experience serves as a reminder that there is indeed something much larger than our human minds are equipped to comprehend...something vibrational if you will…something that joins all us eggs into one cardboard container.
Saturday, 15 January 2011
Hello All and Happy New Year! My deepest apologies for the extended interlude between posts recently. A lot has happened in the last few weeks. For starters I relocated to a new city. I'll now spew my thoughts and experiences on anything and everything related to the movement arts from the heady metropolis we all know and love: San Francisco. Now that I'm settled I can say that I’ve never seen a more eclectic population so densely packed into a single metro area. People are nice here! Unlike Los Angeles, people actually make eye contact with you on the street and some even go so far as saying "hello!" The vibe is charming and inviting. Needless to say, the yoga scene here is off the hook! I went to my first yoga class at Yoga Tree yesterday. I was excited to practice in my new city. I randomly selected a mixed-level vinyasa class that worked with my schedule and arrived just in the nick of time. AHHHHHHH the ambiance of revered space! This sacred space creates a safe and nurturing environment spanning across the board to 99.9% of yoga studios. This sacred space is what determines my bias towards a community practice in a studio versus a home practice.
Friday, 14 January 2011
Let the video speak for itself:
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Last but certainly never least, this is the fifth and final installment of the series What’s Your Dosha? All this talk about dosha and ayurveda is just that…talk. Now ‘tis the season to act! First, you need to discover your own personal doshic constitution, so take the doshic quiz to find out. Once you know what your dominant dosha or doshas are (unless you are the fortunate few who are tri-doshic) you can determine the nature of your constitutional imbalance.
Remember the eight-limbed path, it’s gonna come in handy here. The two most accessible tools are asana and pranayama. The way a yogi practices directly affects their dosha. The postures, the duration of holding those postures and breath techniques are key to practicing the appropriate asana for your constitutional type. Here are some tips for practicing for your type:
Thursday, 02 December 2010
Natarajasana or King Dancer’s Pose is probably one of my favorite poses in yoga and it shouldn’t be surprising why. For those of you who are just tuning into www.soyouthinkyoucanyoga.com, let me reintroduce myself. I am Susy Vishmid, ballerina extraordinaire and yogi galore. How’s that for self love? “Nata” is Sanskrit for actor, dancer, mime, “Raja” translates into king and “asana,” being the third limb of the eight limed yogic path, translates into posture or pose.
Thursday, 04 November 2010
Should I be happy that the media is finally catching up with the ill effects of our pocket-sized technologies or offended that it took them this long probe the issue? According to today’s five o’clock news, there’s a growing movement among LA restaurants to ban cell phone use while dining. FINALLY! A Zagat poll found that 67% of people surveyed are annoyed by one-sided conversations while they dine. Those surveyed reported that one-sided conversations are more distracting and often louder than the more vintage face to face type of interaction. What does this say about our society and more importantly what in the hell does this have to do with yoga?! EVERYTHING! Facebooking, Tweeting and texting are awesome and addicting. But being plugged in all the time is tiring. These technologies congealed into an adult umbilical cord. It’s a trivial connection. A band-aid on a boo boo. Cut the cord and we die. The fear of being sans cell phone in hand makes us feel disconnected. Face to face interaction has been replaced with the plethora of digitalism.
Thursday, 07 October 2010
My apologies to all of you out there for the lack of posts over the last few days, but life can be a real pain in the tushi sometimes. But you know what can remedy the daily burdens we experience? Doing a twist! Even saying the word ‘TWIST’ is kinda fun. Twists are so great because they not only feel good on the spine but they also rejuvenate, literally. Think about it. You are twisting yourself like a sponge while eliminating the toxins and impurities that can accumulate within the body. Twists have physical and emotional benefits. When we twist the body along its vertical axis (the spine) our breath is compromised, yet this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The fact that breathing becomes more difficult while doing a twisting pose like adha matsyendrasana concentrates our attention on the breath, which requires our mind to focus. Stress begins to melt away. Utilizing rhythmic breath techniques like ujjai pranayama during a twist is important because the diaphragm is constricted. The breath then becomes the nucleus around which the mind rests. Using rhythmic or concentrated breath techniques while doing the twist teaches the practitioner how to utilize his or her lungs in the most comprehensive way. Twists, or any other yoga posture for that matter, are simply metaphors for life’s burdens. When we are stressed out our bodies can feel all knotted up. Understanding how to properly access the breath during a twist can induce a transcendental feeling of calmness.
Thursday, 30 September 2010
So often we ignore what we can’t see. How many of us make an effort to see our legs, much less stretch them on a daily basis? Unless you are a competitive athlete or professional dancer you probably don’t pay much attention to your stems. How many of us love to go shoe shopping? I would bet that most of you love it (or at least secretly love it and don’t want to admit it). The shoes we wear everyday constrict our feet and for about 90% of our day we don’t feel the soles of our feet sprawl out on the earth beneath us like our cavemen ancestors used to.
Click Read More For Susy's Vloga (Video Blog Yoga) Demo!
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
I was talking to a fellow dancer the other day who lamented to me about how out of shape she is because she didn’t do anything for two weeks…well, aside from some yoga. A local studio had a special going on for ten classes for $10, a great deal, so, my friend, let’s call her Nikki, decided to try it. During the class Nikki found it difficult to focus because she didn’t know what she was suppose to be doing and noticed herself continuously looked around to see what was going on in the room. Anytime you throw someone into an unfamiliar situation he or she will feel a little anxious. But throwing a professional ballet dancer into a yoga class doesn’t seem like an unfamiliar situation—or does it? Dancers are in “performance mode” most of the time with their head and therefore their drishti (gaze) consistently directed outward. The very goal of ballet or any type of other professional dance is to EXpress to IMpress. Ballet positions are designed with an aesthetic purpose to create an impression whereas yoga asanas (postures) are designed to create physical space and when married with the breath mental liberation.
I see two types of responses towards yoga (ballet dancers included) and they are “it’s so easy, slow, or boring,” or its “way too hard, overwhelming and intimidating.” Dancers are so used to being told what to do all the time that when they enter an environment where they can literally “just be in the pose” without having to meet any sort of expectation their knee jerk reaction is to freak out and search for a way to control the situation.
I still don’t understand why yoga hasn’t hit the ballet world in a similar way that Pilates has. I’ve done a lot of Pilates in my life and definitely see the value in it. I understand why dancers turn to Pilates as a modality for cross-training/injury prevention but it is a linear modality when compared to yoga. By linear I mean the dancer works the same way each time on the various machines and other Pilates contraptions. Even in a Pilates mat class the sequence of exercises doesn’t usually change, so you always know what to expect and which direction the class is going. Most of the time, Pilates is done one on one with a certified instructor so more often than not a conversation ensues. This can be very distracting. On the other hand, yoga is a multi-dimensional modality. Yoga is certainly a physical practice but it’s also a mental and emotional practice. The most significant difference between the two modalities is that yoga employs the breath, which bridges the gap between the physical world and the mental world—an attractive and even necessary quality for any professional dancer or high performance athlete.
The good news is that I’m starting to see a lot of ballet dancers using yoga asanas like adho mukha svanasana a.k.a. downward facing dog to warm up before class. Yoga’s slow yet steady infiltration into the ballet world is apparent. As more dancers discover its treasures I’ll be at the barre doing my plies admiring all the wagging doggy tails and extra legs in the room.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Thursday, 09 September 2010