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  971 NW Spruce Ave Ste 101, Corvallis, OR  |  541-224-6566  |  My Account  |

4:55 pm

“I really like hands-on adjustments”

 by Lisa Wells
Last Tuesday, I had a new student in class.  I asked, as I always do, “Is there anything you’d like me to know about your body?”  I’ve honed this phrase over the years to acknowledge my desire to help students while not sounding like a medical practitioner.  This student told me about a few physical issues, and then said “I really like hands-on adjustments.  And please tell me when my alignment is off.” 

I had to tell the student that I rarely make hands-on adjustments when teaching group yoga classes.  I don’t often correct alignment unless it is clear to me that I can bring more comfort and ease, sukha, to a pose. The truth is, the more I’ve learned the less I know about what any yoga pose should ‘look like.’  Given the wide variety of the human form, the wide variety of injuries, the wide variety of arthritis and auto-immune disorders, PTSD and other ailments that clients bring to class with them, it feels hazardous to impose a form on a body if I can’t be in dialog with the person that I am working with.  I want the student to articulate what any adjustment feels like. I need the student to feel comfortable saying ‘stop’ if I am pushing them into a range of motion that feels painful or injurious. That kind of dialog is possible only in one-on-one or small group settings.  

In private sessions with clients, I do all kinds of hands-on adjustments. I use a variety of hands-on techniques, from my therapeutic yoga training to Ki-Hara Resistance Stretches or the Trauma Releasing Exercises to help my students be more comfortable in their bodies. And, they can tell me how they feel as we work together. We reduce the risk of injury with dialog.  We find new ease and a reduction of pain through exploring movement together. It’s a very exciting process.   And it is a very intimate process.  

I am more interested in what a pose or movement feels like than what it looks like. If we choose to follow Patanjali’s teachings, one of the primary tools of yoga is dharana, focused attention.  Dharana is one of my primary teaching goals: focused attention on the body and the breath.  The pose may or may not look like a pose in a book, my classes are likely to include all kinds of movements or shapes that don’t look anything like what we’ve come to know as the traditional postures. And, I invite my students to pay attention as they move in and through poses. I invite students to notice how the poses feel in their bodies and to adjust the pose based on sensation and awareness.

I imagine the yoga poses were originally discovered by a similar curiosity.  Yogis exploring motion and awareness. Yogis exploring how to move energy and emotion in their bodies to ultimately find mental focus and stillness.   The ancient yogis were not particularly interested in a yoga butt or most of our modern yoga goals. There was no instagram or facebook to post selfies or to feed their egos over advanced pose achievement.  Rather, the poses helped them find their way into deeper meditation.  The poses helped them to focus their minds toward the ultimate goal of achieving Samadhi, full meditative absorption in big Self beyond this temporal body.

Returning to my point, I cannot keep track of the nuances of all the bodies in a group classroom. Maybe other teachers can, but that is beyond my skill set. I cannot engage in real dialog with a single student I’m adjusting when there are 20 other students in the room to tend to. It is also difficult for a student to speak their needs or boundaries around touch when being witnessed by a room full of acquaintances or strangers.   As such, the possibility of my injuring you with an adjustment is just too high.  I’m not willing to take that risk.  

The human form is beautiful.  The human body comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and with a wide variety of injuries and health issues. There is no particular shape a pose should look like. My hope is that the poses and movements of yoga help you feel alive, reduce your pain, and help you be present in this amazing moment.  Maybe, with enough attention to the details of the pose, we’ll begin to find our way into meditative absorption. We might begin to taste Samadhi.

So, the take-home message here is, if you really like hands-on adjustments, see me for private instruction. We can do some good work together!

5:00 pm

Yoga Inspiration for Difficult Times

By Lisa Wells

One of the oldest meanings of yoga is to yoke, but not to yoke just anything, yoga refers to yoking a wild horse to a chariot. The human mind was observed to behave like a wild horse, liable to start and jump at any whim.  Patanjali, who wrote the yoga sutras some 2000 years ago says that yoga is attained through practice and imperturbability.  In other words the wild horse of the mind can be trained to best benefit if we practice daily, remain steadfast and focused, and do not allow life’s irritations to divert us from our goals. 

In the Bhagavad Gita, a mythologic text contemporary to the Yoga Sutras, Krishna says that yoga is selfless action. Krishna tells Arjuna, the hero of the epic, that he must show up on the battlefield of life and act, do his dharma, his calling, and let go of the fruits of his actions.  In a simple modern colloquialism: “do the footwork and let go of the result.”  Krishna is a god incarnate, Arjuna is a warrior.  Krishna does not tell Arjuna to go into the forest and pray. He does not tell Arjuna to turn the other cheek or wash the feet of his enemies.  He says, and I summarize, “You are a warrior, it is your calling to fight a righteous battle, you must show up and fight the battle before you.  You may not win, but you may not turn away.”  

So what will I do in this time of turmoil?  I will take the lessons of yoga and I will show up for my life.  I will practice meditation and yoga postures and movement.  I will stay strong and healthy so that I may arrive on the battlefield of my life prepared for what is put in front of me.  I will do the footwork and let go of the outcome of my actions.

In daily life, this looks like my mundane daily meditation.  I sit in my garden lean-to every morning rain or shine for 30 minutes to an hour.  Later in the day I will move my body through yoga postures, dance, bike riding, weight lifting.  I will will enjoy the moment of life that I am in. I will support those in need and I will step forward to defend the harassed and abused. I will minimize my participation in consumer culture and I will conserve resources.  I will boycott companies that perpetuate abuse on the planet or other humans.  I will write letters. I will call politicians and business people who have the power to protect both native people and the planet.  

I plan to be leaving to join the Standing Rock Water Protectors within the next couple of weeks.  I am called to show up in support of those standing up on the battlefield of indigenous rights, the rights of the environment and the planet.  I intend to be willing to put my body where my heart is and to show up where I am needed and can make a difference.  If you would like to support Standing Rock and have North Dakota-winter-reliable resources to gift to the Standing Rock Protectors (sub-zero shelter, propane stoves, solar panels, oak or ash firewood, financial donations) please feel free to contact me. Or offer your donations to the Native American Longhouse at OSU or directly to the Water Protectors online.  

Finally, I will keep these words of @sonofbaldwin in the forefront of my mind : “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”