Tag Archives: Erich Schiffmann

West coast teacher, hybrid style that draws on many influences, making the end product his onw.

Yoga hones the brain through movement (and stillness)

The British neu­ro­sci­en­tist Daniel Wolpert spoke at a TED con­fer­ence two years ago about The Real Rea­son for the Brain. He calls him­self a “move­ment chauvinist.”

Con­tinue read­ing

Shoulder routines

Alan Lit­tle asks me for my secret sauce for loos­en­ing up my shoul­ders: see his com­ments. He even gives his own his own exam­ple. My rou­tines are not rocket sci­ence, much more reme­dial. I am still wak­ing up to my body, prob­a­bly for the first time in my life, after decades of misuse.

The premise that got me started is that I don’t do any­thing fancy — just do it every­day, along with my med­i­ta­tion and pranayama prac­tice. These are rou­tines that are equiv­a­lent to office yoga — stuff that you can do to relieve ten­sion from sit­ting at a desk all day.

  • The upper torso part of Cow Face pose or Gomukhasana — I have to use a strap to reach between my hands.
  • I do a sim­ple pec­toral stretch, usu­ally press­ing my arm against the wall, and the reverse that by pulling an arm across my chest.
  • The clasped hands behind the back of prasarita padot­tanasana (wide-​​legged stand­ing for­ward bend). I do this sev­eral times a day, loos­en­ing my shoul­ders and forc­ing my hands down as far as they will go and then lift­ing my arms out away from my body. This has done won­ders for my mobil­ity of my shoul­der blades.

I’ve found two good books with shoul­der rou­tines: Erich Schiff­mann also has eight shoul­der stretches, some with a strap, in his book Yoga: The Spirit And Prac­tice Of Mov­ing Into Still­ness. I can do only five of them. Miriam Austin in Cool Yoga Tricks has a whole sec­tion on loos­en­ing up the shoulders.

I still can’t do the top half of Garu­dasana or Eagle pose. My arms and hands sim­ply will not intertwine.

Post­script: here are some other ideas for office yoga: the Uni­ver­sity of Alberta has some detailed instruc­tion with draw­ings in Word for­mat. Easy Desk­top Yoga has a free video down­load. Cyndi Lee gives advice in Yoga Jour­nal. And then you have My Daily Yoga, which has some fun graphics.

Taking one step back — and "not trying too hard"

I wanted to make some things clear about the blog and web­site. The rea­son that I’m writ­ing it is not because I have any spe­cial knowl­edge about yoga, pranayama, med­i­ta­tion or life, except for what I have expe­ri­enced within my body’s skin. I am writ­ing about it because yoga (under­stood in the broad­est sense) is the most impor­tant thing hap­pen­ing in my life. I am writ­ing about it with all the con­tra­dic­tions and incom­plete vision of a novice.

Erich Schiff­mann wrote in Yoga: The Spirit and Prac­tice of Mov­ing into Still­ness:

Yoga is a sophis­ti­cated sys­tem or achiev­ing radi­ant phys­i­cal health, superb men­tal clar­ity and there­fore peace of mind, as well as spir­i­tual nsight, knowl­edge and understanding.

When I started fool­ing around with yoga late last year, I played a trick on myself. I told myself that yoga should be easy and I didn’t have to “try hard.” Instead of fol­low­ing my DVD rou­tine, I switched to doing a much less phys­i­cally demand­ing audio CD rou­tine. When I stopped try­ing hard and began lis­ten­ing to my body, rather than keep­ing pace with Rod­ney Yee, I began to have glimpses of what Schiff­mann is writ­ing about. I had a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence with med­i­ta­tion — I stopped “try­ing hard” and relaxed into a deeply refresh­ing rest­ful­ness of mind. I said, “Wow — I’ve got to get me some more of this.”

In this whole process, I’ve never really had a “moment of con­ver­sion.” It’s been a grad­ual change in which I’ve learned not to “try too hard” and take myself too seri­ously. If I did, I wouldn’t be out on a mat in a stu­dio expos­ing my pearly white legs and my extra gut that cuts off my breath in halasana. I just tell myself that Bud­dha had a few extra pounds him­self, if you judge from some of the stat­ues. I know that I could get a lot more out of my classes if I did not try to keep pace with the oth­ers. That’s one of the rea­sons why I like Sam Dworkis’s advice: The Oper­a­tive Word of Yoga Must Be: Toward :

Because the word yoga can be loosely defined as union and bal­ance and because the human body can never be per­fectly bal­anced, then an appro­pri­ate yoga prac­tice can only move a per­son toward bal­ance of body, mind, breath, and spirit.

Of course, the coda to this tan­gent is that if you don’t chal­lenge your­self — what Schiff­mann calls “find­ing your edge” — you’re not going grow in your prac­tice. It just seems that know­ing my own psy­cho­log­i­cal makeup, my most risky behav­ior when I overex­ert myself and don’t lis­ten closely enough to my body.