Sunday, November 22, 2009


As planned, I practised with Erich Schiffmann's Beginning Yoga video this morning (digital download from iHanuman). It was full of awesome! As a teacher, I'm filled with admiration for Erich's ability to convey extremely subtle body movements in a clear and logical way.

This video is perfect for a beginner yoga student. The emphasis is on moving slowly, breathing and feeling the poses. There were a few spots that I would have liked to see more alignment info (like the positioning of the feet in bridge pose, for example), but that's not really Erich's style; he's flexible. He encourages movement of the Drishte (gaze-point) in postures: “Look up and then look down”. One of his favourite cues is “Wriggle as necessary”. The focus is on finding the right 'feeling' in each pose and finding a place that enjoyable.

I was especially interested in the shoulder series. The shoulder series as conveyed on the video is light years away from what is described in the book. There's so much more to it. Erich's instructions and demonstration added a 'wow' factor to every single part of the series. I'll need to watch this one again and take notes. Obviously, I was hoping this would ease some of the pain in my shoulder and upper back and it worked. I felt better afterward.

I really appreciated his reminders to relax the shoulders. This morning, I realised that I've been routinely tensing my shoulders in Prasarita Padottanasana A. I'm sometimes a bit mechanical in my Astanga practice. I need to be more aware of my shoulders as I'm moving through poses.

In terms of the postures in the video, there was nothing very 'new' - the poses were pretty standard. But in saying that, I really wonder about the reach of Erich's general influence on yoga in the US and Canada. Teachers learn from teachers who learn from teachers. I kept getting this déjà vu. Much of what I was hearing sounded vaguely familiar, like I had heard it different contexts. The thread of knowledge creates a tapestry...

My favourite Erich Schiffmann pet phrase: “Enjoy this part”

This morning, this really had me thinking. It's like an invitation to pause, to take everything in, so find ease in whatever 'part' is going on at the moment. It's a valuable practice for taking yoga off the mat and into life. I'm still mentally chewing on it.

Okay, enough philosophising. It's time for my new regular Sunday feature:

The Internet Asks

The keywords were a bit sparse this week. I had to dig around a little bit to find some fun stuff. Here's a few of the search terms that led people to my blog:

astanga daily body tiredness
Well, yes! In fact, it's kind of a theme here in Astanga blogland. I can provide references if you like. There are many to be had!

red unitard
Okay, how cool is it that this person was looking around for 'red unitard', inexplicably ended up on an Astanga yoga blog (they were probably all: "What the hell?!"), yet found exactly what they were looking for. Amazing!

headstand, yoga and regrowth of teeth
Oh. Wow. I'm SO sorry. I don't know what to tell you - that's rough. And unfortunately, I don't think they'll grow back.


Flo said...

I really enjoyed Erich's book. I've yet to try his dvds though. After reading this post it makes me want to give it a go.
We had to read his book for teacher training and he is very very descriptive and juicy with each pose.

Kaivalya said...

The sequence itself is very basic on this video, but the cues are really interesting and worthy of study if you're training to be a teacher. He's a good one, and a great one to emulate.

Also, I find as my practice gets more 'advanced' I kind of forget what a basic practice 'feels' like. It's a good reminder to slow things down in my Hatha classes. Many of my students are brand new to yoga and are still learning to feel at home in their bodies.