Here is a 90 minute playlist from my personal practice. You can find it directly on iTunes here.
Here is a 90 minute playlist from my personal practice. You can find it directly on iTunes here.
A 90 minute practice. If you have iTunes you can click on this link and just play the list.
A couple of months ago, I was asked to be the “entertainment” portion of a party here in Okinawa. And I have to say, I was a little concerned that they wanted me to do some sort of weird circus type demonstration. Luckily, that’s not what they were looking for…and actually wanted me to lead them through a brief yoga practice in the middle of their party. Okay, I thought…seems realistic. Unfortunately, I’ve been teaching yoga long enough to know that a real yoga class with a bunch of non-yogis in civilian attire (read: no yoga clothes) might be a serious snooze fest (not booze fest). Boring.
Beer Yoga Anyone?
I have been seeing some posts on Facebook lately and actually an article in Men’s Health about a woman in Germany who started a new trend in yoga called Bier Yoga. They are yogis that sweat through a regular asana practice, but gently sip on yummy craft beer throughout their practice. It still resembles the practice of yoga, but with a contemplative taste component. I think we all know about the yoga and wine tastings, and the yoga and beer tastings on the rise in the US. But this latest thing of actually drinking during the yoga class is a little new. So, I though ‘why not’ and figured that I would give it a go and try it out on the Japanese crowd. They always seem eager for physical comedy.
So, I think I may have taken it up a notch and turned a yoga class into a serious drinking game. Not far off from your basic beer pong. I know, I know…this is yoga blasphemy and promotes an unhealthy lifestyle, blah, blah, blah. But is it really? If I recall correctly, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. All things in moderation. I could go on.
I’m happy to be myself and break some yogi stereotypes and not take life too seriously. Honestly, I can’t remember having that much fun teaching a yoga class. Ever. Sure, I enjoy teaching yoga and get a lot of personal satisfaction and joy out of my profession…but this was all out pure FUN. The energy level was high and the mood was infectious. Everyone had smiles on their faces for the whole 30 minutes. And it was honest fun.
So, I want to share this awesome experience with my fellow teachers and tell you what the heck I did in this class. Because it’s really a stretch (no pun intended) from what a real yoga class is. Let me say that again: this isn’t a real yoga class. It merely resembles the shapes of the poses.
You’ve been warned: kanpai yoga takes a party attitude, so if that’s not your style, stick to the real yoga followed by booze tasting thing.
This is what I did:
1. Start the class with a hearty “kanpai”! (cheers in Japanese)- clank cans with your neighbor and drink.
2. Warrior 1 – both hands hold the beer up high. A high “kanpai” (and drink).
3. Warrior 2 – hold the beer in the hand reaching back and kanpai your neighbors, behind your back and in front. Drink, pass the beer to the hand in the front.
4. Extended Side Angle – with the beer in your hand that has the elbow on your knee, try to take a sip without spilling. Grab the beer with the free hand and hold your beer high – and Kanpai! (drink)
5. Triangle pose – traditional triangle pose, with the beer in the hand reaching upward. This is actually a challenge to not spill, you have to keep your eyes up on the can.
6. Goddess pose – hold your beer high and …you guessed it kanpai! (drink)
—–Repeat in this sequence on the other side ——–
Moving on to partner poses with beers!
6. Chair pose (back to back) – blind kanpai up high! (drink)
7. Partner Warrior 3 – kanpai! (drink)
8. Side Extended Hand to foot pose – partners hold each other’s leg while giving a high kanpai. (drink)
9. Partner Boat pose – hold hands, and kanpai with the other! (drink)
And for the grand finale…I had a contest I call “Tadasana to Savasana”. This is really fun, especially after all of that drinking. LOL. You might have noticed that a lot of the participants in this Kanpai Yoga class were drinking Red Bull (not beer) as they sponsored the event.
Tadasana to Savasana Rules
1. Balance a can of beverage of your choice on your forehead.
2. You have one minute to make it from Tadasana (mountain pose) to savasana (corpse pose) and back up to Tadasana again.
3. If your hands touch the can, you must start over.
4. Whoever makes it the farthest in the challenge is the winner!
I hear conversations that revolve around this issue all of the time. Students tend to be very strict about who they like and who they don’t like. What most students don’t understand is ‘why’ they like or don’t like a particular teacher. You see, when you’re a student, it’s pretty much black and white, yes or no, like or don’t like. If you’re already a teacher or studying to become one, you might understand what it is that you like about your favorite teacher or teachers. After you’ve been teaching for a while, you begin to deconstruct the personalities, the years of experience, the styles of yoga, the philosophies that people follow, personal motivations, and the charisma that certain people have. And don’t forget word of mouth.
Personality. Seems simple enough, right? Not really. What does this teacher look like? How do they dress, smell, groom themselves, and speak? Yes, this is actually important. As human beings, we tend to gravitate towards people that are like us in some way. Look for qualities that you have in common or aspire to have. Don’t choose an instructor that gets on your nerves or you won’t stick with it for very long.
Years of experience. By this, I mean years of practicing yoga. The best teachers are those that have been walking the walk for many years. Long enough to feel like they can honestly contribute something educational based on their own personal experience. If someone has been practicing for only a year, they have barely scratched the surface of what yoga truly means as a discipline and there is no possible way they have experienced the deeper benefits of yoga. Yoga is very slow medicine. If you are going to teach it, one would hope that you have practiced it long enough to actually experience it for yourself. That being said, there is a student for every teacher, and I firmly believe that. For teachers that are green in the practice, there will likely be students that are ready for just that much information and nothing more.
Styles of yoga. Last time I checked, there were over 100 different names/styles of yoga out there. Granted, some of them are similar, but so many names and confusing none the less. There are probably about 8 major styles of yoga. Each of these major types of yoga most certainly lends itself to different personality types. If you go to a yoga class and the class if filled with people that you would never in a million years socialize with, try another style. It’s like shopping in the wrong clothing store. Just try another one.
Personal Motivation. What got your favorite teacher into yoga in the first place? Did they decide that yoga is a multi million dollar industry and they want to cash in on it? (let’s hope not) Or did they survive some sort of life altering event and were ‘saved’ by yoga? I say that this is the stuff that makes motivational yoga teachers. People that survived something horrible and scary, and found their way back to health through yoga. These are the gems of yoga. The true healers. They healed themselves, and now they want to teach you how to heal yourself. Go find them, you won’t be disappointed. They may not outwardly post it on their website, but it’s a great conversation starter.
Philosophy. Believe it or not, yogis don’t alway agree with each other what what is ‘the yogic way’ and what isn’t. Some are strict vegans, while others choose humanely raised meat, while others didn’t know they were supposed to care about those sorts of things. Some get up at 4am for their practice, others sleep in and practice when they have time, while others use their teaching time as their practice. Some will seem more pushy on their moral values and insist that yogic spirituality is the best, only to be elitist and exclusionary. Some believe that we are ‘all one’ and that whatever you do one person is actually inflicting the same harm or harmony on all of us as a collective consciousness. And still others will just parrot what the latest article told them, not actually what they’ve experienced themselves. Yes, that’s a thing. People do this. They don’t want their potential students to know that they have not yet achieved the highest level of liberation. Not sure why, because most of us never will in this lifetime. Not as long as we have an iPhone with 20 or more apps in our pocket and minimal self-discipline.
Charisma. I’ve seen teachers get by on this alone. It amazes me every time I see it. An average yoga teacher with a big fat dose of charisma and a pretty face will go far in the yoga industry. It’s true. We can’t change our social and cultural programming very easily. Some of the hidden gems of yoga that know their stuff inside and out aren’t as popular as some of those with more magnetic personality. It’s a tough business out there.
How do you assess your teacher or potential teacher? Read their biography on their website and so your research to find out if you’ve got the real McCoy or a fake. You’ll be happier that you did. In this world of digital information, it’s easy to get swept up in Facebook Ads, pretty Instagram pictures and cool double speed videos. I’ve discovered that social media doesn’t actually equal a one for one credit in terms of quality of teacher and number of likes. Maybe those viral posts are because the teacher has a lot of time to crack the social media code…while the good ones are busy teaching students with their heart and soul.
Final thoughts. 1) Find someone who has been practicing for a considerable amount of time. Their teaching will be authentic and based on their own experience, not something they were told. 2) Make sure they are trained properly and teach a style of yoga that you like. 3) Find someone who is authentic. That is, someone who has had time to absorb what they’ve learned and have been practicing long enough to share it with you. If you take a class and the teacher doesn’t seem like ‘your type’, go find another teacher. There are a million of them.
Whatever motivates you to attend a yoga class is good thing, no matter what. If you decide after one class that you don’t like yoga or you didn’t particularly enjoy the experience …then maybe you would like a different instructor or a different style. Look through the bios and find someone that resonates with you. A little bit of research will go a long way. Keep searching until you find something you like. You might be surprised at how different the classes and teachers can be.
Down dog (adho mukha svanasana) is one of those transition poses that you will see several times in a vinyasa style yoga class. It’s a challenging pose for beginners until strength is built which takes time. Until it becomes relatively easy, most people come across the following issues: 1) sore wrists, 2) tired shoulders, and 3) tight hamstrings. I’ve outlined some basic solutions below.
Problem #1: Sore Wrists
If you find that your wrists get tired or start to hurt during class, chances are you are not distributing the weight throughout your whole hand.
1. Spread fingers w-i-d-e
2. Press through the knuckles of your fingers and the base of the finger joints.
3. Point the index fingers straight ahead, or align your hands so that the inner elbows have a slight upward rotation. (This isn’t 100% true for everyone, depending on the shape of your joints and bones…but is true for a large percentage.)
Problem #2: Tired Shoulders
If your shoulders are getting tired, you may be off in your alignment and not engaging the area below the navel.
1. First check the alignment of your hands and see if you can bring more space into the shoulders and neck by pointing the index fingers straight ahead which rotates the inner arms/elbows upward.
2. Aim for a straight line from your wrists to your hips. If this means bending the knees because of tight hamstrings or calves, that’s perfectly okay. It will take some pressure off of the shoulder girdle as a whole.
* When the arms are bearing weight, the shoulder joint will experience more freedom and actually getting that straight line form the wrists to the hips is more achievable in down dog as opposed to raising the arms over head without bearing weight.
3. Engage the lower belly by drawing the area below your navel back toward the spine. On each exhale, contract this area and lift the pelvis up and back. You will feel lighter in the pose as the focus is taken off of the upper body and the strength gets distributed toward the center of the body. It’s just physics.
Problem #3: Tight Hamstrings and Calves
If you feel like it’s your legs that are holding you back due to highness in the hips, hamstrings, or calves, give yourself the gift of time and practice patience.
1. Do most of your forward bending and down dogs throughout the practice with slightly bent knees. Allow the nervous system some time (weeks or months) to adjust to your yoga practice by keeping the knees slightly bent. Once the nerves begin to adjust to the movements, proprioception of the poses changes over time. Your mind has to be able to easily know the feeling of the shape of the pose without discomfort for there to be real comfort in holding the pose. Re-read that last sentence.
2. Use your exhale to imagine a release in the back of the legs.
3. Gently reach for the mat through your heels.
4. Do not overstretch the hamstrings throughout your practice, as it will lead back to tightness and sore muscles the next day. Overstretching is a “1-step forward, 2-steps back” kind of thing.