In order to access the full range of adjustments offered in our instructional videos we recommend purchasing the basic props listed below. You can click on any of the items to be taken to that product at Yoga Accessories but you can order from anywhere you prefer (we don’t get a sales commission!).
In our Level 1 programs, you will receive detailed information about how to build a strong, trustworthy foundation. Your attention will be directed to the most obvious features of the poses so that you will have a clear sense of structure and orientation. Additionally, you will receive helpful hints on how to avoid the most common alignment mistakes that could eventually lead to injury. Demonstrations of how to use props will enable students to practice safely at their own frontier without compromising the integrity of their joints. These classes are designed for students with little or no yoga experience, but they are also useful for seasoned practitioners who want a refresher on the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the poses.
In our Level 2 programs, you will build upon the foundation that you’ve established in level 1 and begin linking poses together by following the natural rhythms of the breath. While a basic knowledge of the essential poses is assumed, detailed instructions and modifications are offered so that you can still practice safely and effectively. You will refine your foundation, and at the same time you will be introduced to backbending, frontbending, twisting, and inverted postures that demand more strength, flexibility, and mindfulness. The use of props will enable you to practice in a way that feels challenging but not overwhelming.
In our Level 3 programs, you will practice the unmodified versions of many different types of poses while being reminded not to abandon your foundation or sacrifice the integrity of your alignment. Your stamina will be challenged as you move more fluidly from pose to pose and as you hold poses for specified amounts of time. Sometimes you will be asked to move courageously toward deeper backbends, twists, forward bends, inversions, or arm balances. And other times you will be challenged to deepen the integration of your mind, body, and breath in familiar poses by practicing them with increased subtlety. Obviously it is assumed that you are quite familiar with yoga’s key principles, but in accord with our approach, you will still be led through the practice in a detailed and easy-to-follow manner.
From the yogic perspective, strength is far more than the mere development of certain muscles groups. Strength is a function of alignment and coordination. It is the alignment of bones with respect to each other and with respect to gravity that enables a body to generate maximal force. And it is the coordination between various muscle groups that determines efficiency of movement and optimizes power. The famous quote from the Tao te Ching says, “Whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life.” While this might sound peculiar to Western ears, we all know intuitively that strength without suppleness is a recipe for muscle tears and immobility. Therefore, the strength that we aim to cultivate in our My YogaToGo programs can be characterized by firmness without rigidity. Strength is internal integrity and stability.
Strength has nothing to do with the way muscles look, especially according to aesthetic tastes that are dictated by fitness commercials. We strengthen ourselves to feel inwardly steady and secure. And this is increasingly important in our culture where disempowerment runs rampant due to the fact that many people are sedentary and feel disconnected from the end product or even meaning of their work. The practice of yoga restores an individual’s vital strength.
It is amusing that the word “energy” carries such flimsy connotations in the mind of the average person. At least as it pertains to the human body, energy sounds vague, unquantifiable, or even implausible to our scientific sensibilities. And yet even people entrenched in pop culture, such as football announcers for instance, will talk freely about a player’s “energy” or even the palpable “energy” of a stadium. We all know what we mean by energy, but the definition eludes us.
From the yogic perspective, energy is not necessarily something that one needs to extract from outside sources. It is already present inside one’s body and freely available in the atmosphere and ground surrounding one’s body. What’s really needed in order for us to feel vibrant is not ingesting energy from caffeinated beverages but rather a means of harnessing, channeling, and absorbing the energy that we already have. In practical terms this means skillfully activating the arms and legs and opening ourselves to freer, fuller breathing. We are essentially trying to free up stagnant energy.
It is astounding how energized you can feel when you stop indulging your analytical mind and start experiencing the sturdiness of your feet or the broadness of your rib cage. Equally astounding is how energized you feel when you temporarily relinquish your habits of defensiveness and instead orient yourself toward openness. In yoga we learn to re-appropriate energy in the body. In this way we are able to reinstate our enthusiasm for life and show up for what truly makes us happy.
Even if we’ve never been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, most of us have been told at some point in our lives that we need to focus. Sometimes we rebel against this sort of reprimand and become disinterested; other times we take it so literally that we scrunch up our eyes and tighten our teeth so as to prevent any distracting information from entering the field of our awareness. Surely neither response is sustainable. If we become disinterested, we are nagged by the feeling that we are floating adrift at sea and life seems devoid of meaning. Conversely, if we become overly focused in the exclusive sense, we are nagged by the feeling that we are missing out on life’s wonder and richness.
The yoga practice teaches us to focus in an entirely different way than most of us learned growing up. We don’t pay attention because true focus doesn’t cost anything. We freely give our attention to whatever is pertinent in the here and now. The genius of the poses is that they draw our attention to ever-changing physical sensations. We train ourselves to observe those sensations so that we can make subtle, intuitive shifts that bring specific areas of the body into a more harmonious alignment. We also train ourselves to “zoom out” with our awareness and view ourselves in relation to our environment or to observe the entirety of the body. In this way we find ourselves dwelling more wholeheartedly in the present moment while continually expanding our perspective.
It might seem far-fetched that this type of focus could be experienced by standing on one foot for prolonged periods or even by balancing in the middle of the room during headstand. But pretty soon it occurs to you that the way you are doing yoga is exactly the same way that you do everything else. And when you are able to experiment with different ways of being in your body, then that in turn influences the way you do everything else. Focus eases anxiety and restores contentment.