In this 3 hour workshop we’ll spend the first half doing supported yoga postures to prepare ourselves to focus and relax the body before going deeper into breath work. In the second half of the workshop we’ll focus on supine and seated pranayama breathing exercises.
Pranayama is the fourth branch of yoga. Prana means breath or vital energy. On subtle levels prana represents the energy responsible for life. “Ayama” means control or restraint. We’ll explore the breath’s potential to deepen our capacity for a settled mind.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
156 East 7th Ave (Just west of Main St.)
Early bird price: $35 (until Dec 3)
Regular price: $40
In researching material for posts in honour of Black History Month, I came across the intriguing idea that the birthplace of yoga was not India, but Africa. The popular understanding is that yoga asana dates back at least 5,000 years and was practiced by ancient Indian ascetics. But some say its earliest documentation is actually 10,000 years ago, depicted on temple walls in Egypt.
Adherents often refer to ancient Egypt as Kemet and the practice of yoga in this lineage Kemetic yoga. It’s also known as Smai Tawi. One of these proponents is yoga teacher and founder of the Afrikan Yoga Foundation, Pablo Imani, who teaches that yoga disseminated from Egypt to India. The Afrikan Yoga website associated with him serves as a virtual hub to the African yoga community and includes videos, teacher profiles, upcoming events, and heaps of other information about Egyptian yoga.
Pablo is not alone in this conviction. I found YogaSkills School of Kemetic Yoga advertising 200-hour teacher training courses in Atlanta, Chicago, Jamaica and South Africa. I also found a blog post by one Sehu Khepera Ankh which offers and insightful explanation of what Kemetic yoga is.
During this year’s Black History Month, McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) and Montreal’s Alkemy yoga studio presented a workshop “about the African history and roots of yoga.” Alkemy offers three Kemetic yoga classes a week. One testimonal refers to Kemetic yoga as a distinct style of yoga.
During my research, I came across an illuminating post by Amara Miller, who is a yogi and sociologist PhD student at UC Davis. She’s writing her dissertation on the evolution and popularization of modern yoga after WWII in the United States. In her post, she discusses the myth that yoga as we know it was born in India at least 5,000 years ago.
Mark Singleton discusses this myth at length in his book Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice, revealing that what many think of as an ancient lineage is a relatively recent phenom consisting of practices heavily influenced by and borrowed from gymnastics and other practices of the last 100 years.
Amara then states that it is just as surely a myth that yoga originated in Ancient Egypt. She says the belief in African yogic origins is based on hieroglyphics and ancient Egyptian art that portray people in poses that are typically seen in modern day yoga classes.
So that’s it, I thought. The purported African origins of yoga have been soundly rebuked. …Then I read the comments below the article, where Kemetic yoga practitioners and researchers rebutted. Amara had said that this African origin myth was born very recently — in 1994 by Dr. Muata Ashby, who authored several books on the topic. My research indicates that this isn’t true. There was a Kemetic yoga movement afoot at least as far back as the 70s, and commenters pointed out this factual error.
Further discussion in the comments, which Amara participated in, yielded a more insightful conclusion: there may well have been bodily spiritual practices in ancient Egypt that were akin to today’s yoga postures, though no causality may exist.
One respondent suggested it was like martial arts. They exist, and have existed, in many cultures around the world, though there is no single lineage that has given birth to all of them. Spirituality is an almost universal phenomenon. The insights of mind-body union may well have been recognized independently in Egypt and India. There’s no need and probably little possibility of finding a definitive single origin to these practices.
To answer the title question is to wade into the evidence much more deeply. For now, I present a very intriguing subject and I’ll present my findings in a future blog post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!
5) Supported Savasana/Supported Salamba Matsyasana is a lovely pose for days you don’t have the energy for anything. Place a bolster across your mat at the base of your shoulder blades. Alternatively, you can use blocks as in this picture:
The head support is a good idea, if you’re stiff in your upper back. You can go deeper by gradually lessening the height. If you’re more open in your back and chest, you can work towards no height under your head, and even deepening the pose by raising the height of the support under your thoracic.
Benefits: This pose does wonders for mood, breathing and opening the upper chest and spine. It also alleviates stress, migraines, insomnia and fatigue, and enhances recovery from serious and chronic illnesses.
So now you have 5 wonderful poses that are easy to do, take very little time, and make a huge difference in how you feel. Next time you find yourself feeling too tired to do yoga, you know that there are still a number of poses you can do that fit your energy level.
4) If it isn’t already, Viparita Karani will become a heavenly staple in your yoga practice for those times when you’ve been run off your feet and your legs and feet are swollen and sore. Getting the blood rushing out of them and new blood flowing in will remove the pain and reinvigorate you in about 10 minutes. One of the best things about this pose is that you get to do it lying down. At its most basic, It also requires nothing more than a wall and a bed or the floor, so you can do it without needing any yoga equipment.
The image above is from Eve Johnson’s yoga blog, myfiveminuteyoga.com, which is a fantabulous resource for many more ideas for yoga poses you can add to your repertoire. Eve is using a bolster, which is a common way to do the pose, but even without a bolster, you’ll feel how amazing this pose is if you hold it for at least 10 minutes.
Benefits: Regulates blood pressure; helps treat ear and eye ailments as well as stress-related headaches; relieves asthma, bronchitis and throat infections; alleviates arthritis and cervical spondylosis; relieves indigestion, diarrhea and nausea; prevents varicose veins.
4) Baddhakonasana lends itself very well to a lazy day because it’s partially active and involves sitting in a comfortable position. But don’t be fooled — there’s a lot of good happening in this pose. And who doesn’t want lots of benefits without a lot of work?
The work you want to be doing in this pose is elongating evenly through the side body, pressing the soles of your feet together, and attempting to move your thighs lower to the ground. To start you need to sit on enough height for your knees to be lower than your hips and have a downward tendency. You can facilitate this downward movement by resting or gently pressing your hands down against your knees. If you’re quite open, you may need no height at all. Five minutes in this pose is excellent.
In this quiet place, you have a great opportunity to become more spacious and meditative by focusing on your breathing. If you like, you can take longer, slower deep breaths to increase your vibrance and tranquility.
Benefits: Good for kidney and prostate health, helps treat urinary tract disorders, reduces sciatic pain, prevents hernias, helps the reproductive system, corrects irregular menstruation, reduces testicular pain and vaginal irritation.
3) Paschimottanasana is a wonderful pose for when you have all the time in the world, because it allows you to really deepen into it slowly and gently to an extent you aren’t likely to have time for in class.
Be sure to extend towards the computer or television you’re watching as you fold forward. If you can reach your toes, grab them to help pull you a bit deeper. If you’re very flexible and can grab the wrist of your opposite hand over the soles of your feet, then you can do this for the same effect. If you can’t reach your feet, then use a strap around the soles of your feet.
This is how the pose will look if you’re stiff:
Your pose will look more like this if you’re quite open:
This pose is much more about how much extension you get from your sacrum to the crown of your head than about how close you can get your forehead to your knees. The downward motion comes from the space and softness you create by extending forward maximally, not from simply pushing your head down to your legs, which can hurt you.
Benefits: Rests and massages the heart; soothes the adrenal glands; tones the kidneys, bladder and pancreas; activates a sluggish liver; improves the digestive system; helps treat impotence; stimulates the reproductive system.
2) Gomukhasana is a great pose you can do just about anywhere. If you have the space and the inclination, you can sit in the full pose. If not, you can just do the arms while standing in Tadasana (Tadasana Gomukhasana). If you can’t clasp your hands together, hold a belt in your top hand and grasp it with your lower hand, gradually working your way up the belt to your final pose. The tendency in this pose is to shorten your side body, typically on the side of your lower hand. Correct this by bringing even length into both sides of your body by rooting both feet into the floor (sitting bones, if sitting), and lengthening upwards.
Feeling bleh, but don’t feel like twisting yourself into a figure 8? Fear not…there’s a lot you can do while pretty much sitting on your derriere. Here are 5 easy ways to get your yoga in without feeling like you’re doing yoga.
1) This one Yoga on 7th teacher Eve Johnson calls TV yoga, because you can literally do this while sitting on the couch watching the tube. How easy is that?
Interlace your fingers between the toes of your opposite foot (left hand to right foot or right hand to left foot). Try to get the webbing of your fingers right into the webbing of your toes for a deep lock. This will probably not be possible at first, but that’s the goal. Don’t force it, though. If you can’t get that deep, aim for the next knuckle up. If you can only get the tips of your fingers in between your toes, for example, then aim for your first knuckles. Check out Eve’s post for an image and deets: myfiveminuteyoga.com/1569/interpenetrate-your-fingers-and-toes-five-minute-yoga-challenge/
Benefits: Better balance, more aliveness and intelligence in the feet, a feeling of rootedness both on and off the mat, a healthy boost of endorphins.