Whenever my friend Shannon can’t sleep because too many thoughts are barreling through her mind, she calls it “riding the A train.” She’ll text me at 3 a.m., “I’m on the A train again.” Of course, I get the message because I’m awake, too. My type A personality and business responsibilities are battling it out with my dire need for some mental stillness and rest.
Fortunately, I have a snooze-inducing ally in yoga, and when I get up and do the following sequence, miracles happen. In about 10 minutes, I’m back in bed, shifted toward sleep in a natural, easy way that no pill can provide.
Student: Jill, what do you actually do for your personal yoga practice?
Me: I practice what I teach.
Student: You mean you don’t do anything else? Spinning? Or running? Or Zumba? I mean, how do you get your arms to look like that?
Me: I don’t mean to sound cryptic … but I practice what I teach.
It’s true. I have been practicing yoga and multiple movement arts since I was 11 years old, and the yoga practice I teach in the classroom (I began teaching part-time at age 19 at The Omega Institute) has evolved and changed with me through the past two decades. The work I share in my classes, workshops, conferences and videos all resonates with my own discoveries in my personal “jungle gym” of a practice.
Yoga students often wonder, “Why do we use Sanskrit terms when learning the poses? Is it important? Do we have to learn it?” I can relate because I once asked similar questions.
Few things outrage me more than bad posture. I get really bent out of shape when I see people who are literally bent out of shape. It is so simple to improve your posture, and it is totally free and requires no gym membership.
Here are some Don’ts:
1. Don’t lean into one hip and cock it off to one side.
2. Don’t slump your spine like a willow tree.
3. Don’t emulate the posture of Paris Hilton.
Here are some Do’s:
1. Stand up straight.
2. Point your toes forward.
3. Have some respect for your own structure.
Okay, good, glad I got that off my chest.
Going VERY deep into Uttanasana, a.k.a. Standing Forward Bend
Have you ever wondered what your yoga teacher means when she instructs you to “go deeper into the pose?” What exactly does this cue mean? Let’s say you’ve been holding the pose for a while, and are already shaking and trembling. Then instead of calling out a new pose, your teacher calls out “drop deeper into the pose!” You summon the courage to try it … but you aren’t exactly sure how, or what component of the pose needs further deepening.
As a teacher and a teacher trainer with more than 25 years of experience, I have seen my fair share of confused yoga students interpreting this cue in myriad ways:
No matter what
No matter where
It’s always home
If love is there.
I grew up with this quote hanging on our kitchen wall. As a little girl, I admired the fine needlework (yes, I grew up in Kansas) rather than the actual message embedded in the thread. As I’ve grown in life and with my yoga practice, I’ve come to fully understand the power behind this simple message. Home and comfort reside in the small things, and love is magically woven into every crevice of our lives when we learn to let go of the story we’re telling ourselves and open our eyes.
I have been teaching yoga for 17 years, and one of the most frequent complaints I hear from students and yogaphobes alike is that they don’t have enough time for practice, so they avoid it altogether.
Avoiding a regular practice of stretching will never get you the healing benefits that come with the work. Even if you only do one pose a day, you will make a huge difference in your body, brain and well-being.
Peep into any of the thousands of yoga classes across the globe and you will find that students are donning more than just yoga outfits. In addition to the latest leggings and tank tops by Zobha, Gaiam and Alo, you’ll also find students of every age, both male and female, sporting a different kind of accessory. These, however, are not made from lycra, mala beads or precious metals, but rather from an overzealous nervous system.
Glance around the room after the teacher calls out “Twisted Half Moon” (Pavritta Ardha Chandrasana) and you’ll see students with arms akimbo, clenched toes, fingers curled and faces contorted beyond recognition. These students are “accessorizing” their poses with parts of their body that don’t actually need to be involved.
Is your yoga practice getting a little stale? Maybe you’ve been going to the same class at the same time each week for the past year. Or perhaps you use a video — the same video — every day. If you’re finding yourself a tad uninspired to get on your mat, you might be suffering from yoga block. And I don’t mean a yoga block “prop,” although if you’re really in a rut then your practice may need a little propping up!
This year, after 15 years of yoga practice and transforming my body, I found myself hitting a plateau. Though my practice regularly involves power moves like jumping forward into Crow Pose and holding Warrior Pose for a long time, my muscle tone seemed to be stuck on autopilot: never decreasing, but never really going to that next level, either.