shaking up your yoga practice

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We asked Leslie Kaminoff to give us a preview of what we will learn when he visits August 27/28. One of our teachers and one of our students had questions he graciously answered.

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Recently a student wrote to me with some questions about a daily yoga practice, weight loss and resistance. Following are my answers, I thought you might like to hear them as well.
 Question #1: What are “transformational results”. Not to sound shallow or too focused on my goal, but you’ve known me for almost a year and are aware that I am very driven by my weight loss goals. I have lost X pounds and am focused enough to lose X more. How can a daily practice assist in finishing out the home stretch of achieving my goal? Up until now, I’ve resisted seeing The Yoga as a method for weight loss. Recently, when I dropped down to doing yoga only 1 day a week, I noticed that my results began to slow down. With that being said, I’ve been practicing daily and am feeling stronger than I’ve ever felt. I’d like to overcome my resistance.
Answer #1: I can only speak for myself and what I have seen in others. Transformational results of a DAILY yoga practice (5-7 days a week) include a calm and focused mind; a strong and flexible body without pain and injury; healing of old injuries and imbalances in the body; weight loss through large muscle growth and more importantly through the intense impact yoga has on the Endocrine System; control of your nervous system and through that your auto-immune system; balance and stability of the body and mind to carry us through life challenges and into old age. It is the ONLY exercise known that HEALS injuries rather than causes them. Every yoga practice every day makes me a better person. When I practice regularly I don’t have to struggle to eat well, I just want to. I never weigh myself or worry about my weight because my body and my practice tell me where I’m supposed to be. The journey keeps changing and I keep growing, there is no “there” to get to, there is only the road, day in, and day out, The Yoga, and life.
Question #2: Since starting a daily practice, it has felt too strenuous to add in my additional morning weight lifting routine. I find my body to be quite sore in the morning and find I need the recovery time so that I can get back to my mat by the afternoon. Can a daily practice replace weight training? Does this “count” as resistance work? Can I continue to grow my muscles and tone without actually throwing around a 35# kettle bell as I have been?
Answer #2: When your body is sore, you have worked your muscles. Recovery time leads to strength and resilience, overworking the muscles to injury. Kettle bells are among the most injury prone sports, causing extreme stress on the joints which are already compromised by carrying extra weight, and by weight loss. The changes happening in your body require alignment and form to keep you safe as your skeleton adjusts to your new size. Resistance means working your muscles against one another, or against something else, pulling something heavy toward you, or pushing something heavy away from you. Think of warrior one. With your legs, you are pushing the Earth away from you. The Earth is VERY heavy, though of course, it is your body weight you are actually pushing, optimally half of it in each leg. Plank, push the earth away. Triangle, as you hold your body up against the force of gravity your side muscles work to keep you from collapsing toward the Earth. You can FEEL this power in your soreness the following day.
Question #3: If I wanted to supplement an additional type of exercise into my daily routine, would it be better to focus more on cardio? For instance, I’m used to getting up at 5AM; jumping on the treadmill for 10 minutes for a cardio warm-up and then doing a 10 minute kettle bell routine where I work/lift for 45 seconds and rest for 15. Even though it’s only 10 minutes, the kettle bell routine is quite strenuous and I’m finding I don’t really have the stamina to do it in the morning if I’m still feeling soreness from yoga. I’m concerned about over working and being non-productive in that way.
Answer #3: My own preference is to go outside when I am not at yoga. I enjoy getting out into the air to walk. I don’t run anymore but many yogis do if their knees, hips and backs are not injured. I imagine if I had known about the benefits of yoga when I was a long distance runner I would be still be running today because yoga would have balanced out the muscles I used to propel my body forward for hours at a time. The injuries we inflict on ourselves in other practices can be healed or avoided with yoga. Yoga is COMPLETE. A 60-90 minute daily practice is all the exercise the human form needs. A complete yoga practice works ALL the systems of the body. Endocrine, muscular, circulatory, digestive, skeletal, reproductive, respiratory, nervous, all of them. If you want/need extra movement, build a 10-20 minute flow into your morning routine. If you weigh 150 pounds plank to staff will work your arms, shoulders, chest, back, abs/core and legs. Take increasing numbers of Sun A/B with perfect form and build a minute practice you can come back to with ease. This will serve you well on busy days when you can’t make it to the studio as well. Change it up sometimes with poses you don’t always get to do at the studio. My own morning outside the room practice, I am working on arm balances. I want to do handstand. I practice every day. If my unstable shoulder is not able to do it, I still get stronger and stronger and learn about my body every time I try.
Finally, you asked about “resistance” in another way, resistance to ideas about what yoga will do, what parts of it you will do, what it’s for in your life. Resistance is a NORMAL part of all big changes and every long journey is filled with moments of doubt, anger, frustration. I often feel deep resistance to a teacher, a pose, a modification. The mind wants to do things as it always has, because it requires less effort initially than the change. Trust yourself, keep coming to your mat, listen to your teachers. We have no agenda for you, we are simply sharing what we’ve learned, and that is that when I GIVE myself to the practice, my life changes in ways I could never have expected.
Peace my yoga friend, I will see you on the road,

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I am a resistant yoga student.

So are you.

We all are. It’s just part of the process.
I might be just a little more resistant than you though. My first hot yoga class was a nightmare. I remember hating the teacher, resisting everything she said, and being angry afterward, for years. Yoga takes us on a journey to ourselves. It was through noticing my resistance in yoga, that I realized I am this way everywhere. I want things to be the way I want them to be, and when they are not, I fight and struggle against what’s happening. I impose my will on it. I resist.

Even today, more than 10 years into my journey as a yoga teacher and 15 years as a student, I walk into class EVERY day and meet my resistance. The teacher calls a pose I don’t like or sequences in a way that challenges my skill or my ideas about sequencing, the pose is longer, or shorter, than I think it should be, s/he says something I find confusing or frustrating, and I’m instantly resistant.

It takes a concentrated effort to 1st, recognize my resistance rather than blame the teacher, the yoga, or the process, and 2nd, step onto my mat and do the poses anyway. My mantra: be a student Annie, be in your practice, stay out of the teacher’s business. My work on my mat is my business. How the class unfolds is the teacher’s business.

After many years of practice, with many great yoga teachers shining a light on it for me, I recognize the ways I resist:

Drinking water

Wiping sweat

Fixing my clothes/mat/blocks/stuff

Fixing other people’s poses – either in my head or for real

Doing a pose I prefer

Taking rest (when I don’t really need to rest)

Spacing out/checking out


Arriving late/leaving early/checking the time

There are more, but you get the idea. As my practice progresses my awareness grows. I invite you to bring an awareness to your next few practices. Where do you resist what the teacher offers you? Not poses or expressions you CAN’T do, but poses or expressions you don’t want to do. The yoga has powerful benefits when done correctly. These benefits go beyond the physical. Becoming less resistant in my yoga practice has led to being less resistant in other places. The possibilities that have opened up have been life changing. I wonder what you’ll discover when you meet your resistance?



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Yoga Riot (33 of 47)


we put 2 blocks next to every mat at yogaRIOT because we want you to use them.

if you need them.

but how do you know if you need a block, or two?

use them to help make the pose

more powerful

more grounded

more balanced

more aligned

blocks are not cheating, blocks are tools. use them all the time. use them well.

when you use your block (or the floor) stay lifted through your core, balancing on your fingertips. keep from dumping weight into your wrist like this to keep your wrist safe.


instead place your hand like this


notice in this series as the student goes from no block to blocks how her pose opens and lifts


here weight is forward in the knee and the toes, chest is pointed down, back foot is low, neck is tweaked


here weight is all over the foot, joints are stacked, lines are straight up and down and back and front, her chest is lifted and open, her neck long

this happens because the blocks gives the standing hamstring room, allowing the top leg to lift higher and straighter, the chest and shoulder can open more, creating stability and strength.

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