Category: Back Bending Practices

Episode 23 – “Dancing in the Forest”

Guess what guys — I got out of the living room to film this one!  The view is WAY better… although I have to admit the picture of me really isn’t.  Whatever – you can hear me, you can see the shapes, and this flow was pretty great.  Lots of open-hearted shapes, continuous movement, opening up all over the place.

Since we’ve been doing pigeon for a couple of weeks in flows, I thought we might dig into some variations.  My teacher calls this “Queenie Pigeon,” as opposed to King Pigeon where you hold onto the bound foot with both hands from over your head and it’s kind of madness.  I’m still working on that one.  On my good side, I can get there for a second or so with a LOT of warm-up on a really good day.  So this practice won’t take us through that (but hey, if you have it and wanna work into it, be my guest man!)  BUT “Queenie” is still a great backbend and fun shape to work with and we’ll explore the steps leading up to it as well.

Make sure you’re really focusing on what’s going on in your body as you’re working into that pose.  Keep a lifted long spine to avoid pinching in the low back, and pay attention to the support from your thighs in your hips.  I really feel a lot better trying to wiggle into a longer spread of the legs and get my hips closer to the ground, but you might feel more supported by drawing the thighs into the hips.  Personally, that strategy leaves me feeling somewhat precariously balanced so I prefer getting down for more foundation.  If I’m making no sense at all feel free to comment and let me know “April, I have no idea what in the actual hell you are talking about.”

In fact, leave me comments anyways.  Like and share this with your friends, and enjoy the beautiful mountain views.  Follow me on Instagram @aprilkindarocks to see more from my trip to Mt Hood National Forest this past weekend. And keep looking forward to more field trips out of my living room over the next couple of weeks.

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-

April

 

 

 

Episode 21 – “You Are Enough”

“Hello, my name is April, and I do way too much.”

I’m really very willing to admit (despite what my loved ones say) that I do entirely too much.  As a result of this, I will also admit that I get really tired.  Over, and over, and over again, I will “admit” that I’m tired.

Has saying “I’m tired” ever given you more energy?  Yeah, me neither.  It’s that whole “hung by the tongue” thing… the more you say something, the more you make it true.

Then again, saying “I have lots of energy! I’m not tired at all!” has never actually made me feel less exhausted when exhausted is just the reality of the situation.  Really, it’s just lying.  The Yama of Satya (a commitment to truthfulness) doesn’t fall off the moral compass radar for the sake of fixing a bad attitude.

So what’s a yogi to do?  Touch our fingers and thumbs, close our eyes, and magically “Om” away fatigue and bad moods?  Nope.  That’s another fallacy.

What really does work is to focus on the truth.  And not the truth of being tired or having a bad day (we covered that).  Focus on bigger truths.  Big beautiful truths that are constant and unaffected by our attitude or how easy things are going.  Truths strong enough to support us and sweet enough to surrender to.

“I am loved.” “I am whole.” “I am enough.”

Because you are loved.  And you are enough.  And everything you do, as long as you are fully there with it, is enough.

Even if you can’t grab your hands behind your back and your leg.  Because we’re gonna try that in this video.  And I have a secret – it’s not all flexibility to be able to do it.  I have really long arms, so it’s easy for me, but if you have shorter arms, go grab a strap.  Just do, seriously.  Try to work beyond it if you’re close, inching your fingers closer on the strap, but seriously — don’t struggle just because you think this is something you should be able to do.  You should be able to enjoy your practice.  You do yoga because it makes you feel good right?  Put that ahead of your ego.

 

Watch the video! Do some yoga with me.  Lots of breathing and heart opening and acknowledging these incredible truths of love and enough-ness.  And then tell me all about how you liked it and what kind of neat stuff you wanna do next week, or what kind of neat stuff you wanna listen to.

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-

April

 

 

Episode 14 – “Strap Magic Dancing Adventure”

I love it when things just come together. You know, the times when things seem to come together by pure chance better than you probably could have planned it yourself?

I always welcome requests from my students, in case there’s something they’d like to see in future classes so that we can work on it together. I had a woman in one of my classes request some heart-opening work. She had been trying to open up for wheel and also loves dancer’s pose (I mean, it is pretty great – once we can grab on to that darn foot the pose practically opens itself up for you).

Wouldn’t you know it, when I went to take classes myself in the next few days, my teachers presented some really great information on backbends and a neat prop modification for Natarajasana (King Dancer). We explored the benefits of side-bending and spine-lengthening to increase range of motion – basically, get the shoulders nice and mobile, creating some space move around in. And, with the creative use of a strap turned flippy-floppy, connecting both arms into King Dancer suddenly becomes (possibly slightly more) possible. I mean, I’ve got some pretty hyper-mobile shoulders and orangutang long arms, but I’m still not quite there without some strap assistance.

Really though, the coolest thing about exploring this special request, was how much it worked with what my own body and spirit are in synch with right now. I’ve been focused so much on the hips with my psoas trauma (which, by the way, has been totally under control lately! Yay!) that I’ve been neglecting some of my favorite heart-opening poses. Like wheel. Seriously, I love wheel. I urdhva dhanurasana everywhere. I once got cut off at a bar on my first drink because I just couldn’t help myself but do it over the table.  Some bartenders just don’t have a sense of humor or appreciation for the unusual (but here’s to those who do).

Also, I just finished “The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up” and I just can’t sing the praises of that system loudly enough. By removing all of the things that weren’t bringing me joy in my home and my space, I’ve been surrounded now by all of the things that do bring me joy and I’m feeling pretty… well… joyful!

I want you to picture now a happy toddler rushing out into something that makes them joyful. You know, arms spread, chest about 5 minutes ahead of the rest of the body towards their destination… moving with total abandon. That’s how I’m feeling these days, and isn’t it a beautiful thing to feel like that? So free, so open? Heck yea, it feels awesome.

So let’s open up together. Click on the video below and do this practice with me. Then, leave me some comments and let me know what you think. Oh, and if you wanna make a request for next week’s practice, let me know that, too!

Cheers, yo!
-*- Namaste -*-
April

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode 9 – “Meet Me in the Field”

Standing among Mountains

“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in this grass,
the world is too full to talk about.”

–Rumi

 

This quote came to me from my teacher at (as these things tend to) just the time I needed to hear it.  Reflecting on my issues with commitments (relationships, jobs, even difficult yoga postures) the idea of seeking such a field has been truly enlightening as to how to work through these issues.  I’ve done some self-study to determine I’m situationally claustrophobic.  Once a situation becomes familiar or rote, I begin to panic that I will be stuck there indefinitely.  I crave change, challenge, movement — and that’s a pretty good thing, since we know life never does truly stay stagnant.

The idea of being present in a field has been very helpful to me.  It’s an image that helps me feel set outside of expectations and “supposed-tos” in a way that is so very freeing and yet centering at the same time.  I can be in a place (metaphorically speaking) where I am neither trapped nor floating about aimlessly.  I can be in the field, and live my life very much present in that field, and still enjoy all of the continuation of life in that field — the blowing breeze, the changing clouds.

This is helping me to stay in challenging poses longer, too.  This idea that it’s best to make a situation a process rather than a stagnant thing is challenging me to keep developing in arm balances and inversions past the point of “ok I got that one” to “maybe I can keep evolving in this shape, staying longer because it doesn’t get boring the more present I am in the execution of this pose”.  Pretty neat stuff.

The dharma this week is pretty good on this concept (by the way you can catch just the dharma below the main video if that’s all you wanna watch, it’s got a cue for meditation as well).  Then the movement explores that idea of being truly present, and also works out the upper back and shoulders to prepare for some really interesting play with props.  I recommend getting a nice stack of big books or an aerobics step if you don’t have a couple of yoga blocks around the house.  I also recommend plastering a big ol’ smile on your face right from the get-go because we’re gonna have a great time once you go ahead and hit “play”.

Cheers, yo!

-*- Namaste -*-

April

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~*~*~*~*~*~   Full practice  ~*~*~*~*~*~

 

~*~*~*~*~*~   Dharma Talk  ~*~*~*~*~*~

 

~*~*~*~*~*~   Dolphin with props   ~*~*~*~*~*~

 

~*~*~*~*~*~  Wheel with props   ~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Episode 7 – “Burning Candles, Lips and Buildings”

Happy Birthday to me! Also Happy Birthday to my roommate and bestie, Lex ^.^  We’re going to the park by the river this weekend because it is supposed to be 80* and sunny (in Portland! I know, right?) and I get to wear a bikini on my birthday which I’m pretty sure has never happened.

It’s little things like that — sunshine and a park and a bikini — that really make me happy.  I don’t need a huge fancy get-away, grand fancy parties or an epic adventure.  True joy is found in the smaller things, the “life” moments that pop up in between.

Since my roommate and I share a birthday, she has been talking for the past year about planning some giant destination vacation for us to celebrate together.  She had spent some time on Costa Rica and wanted to return with me for “a good two weeks or so”.

Now, I’m all about travel but I’m usually a bang-it-out-in-a-weekend kind of traveller.  I have a hard time leaving work behind for too long.  Admittedly, I’m a bit of a workaholic, but in my defense, my job is awesome.  So as the time drew nearer and it was clear we didn’t have the time or resources to plan 2 weeks so far away, we started to throw around a week in Mexico, then a weekend in Vegas or LA, and that became a weekend at her sister’s in Eugene which evolved into an overnight on the coast.  Now here we are heading to the park, and we’ve adjusted to be totally happy with this decision as well.  Sometimes it’s fun to just dream up an adventure – even if it turns out to be in your own backyard.  You know, making the most of the hand you’ve been dealt and all that jazz.

Even though the changes to our travel plans didn’t phase me, I had to practice a lot of letting-go with some other things over the past few days and those things ended up turning out pretty well. That blister from the breakfast spatula is healing up pretty well (I was making a vegan omelette and I’m pretty blond, stuck the spatula in my mouth… Never heard of a vegan omelette?  You need to follow me on Pinterest!).  It’s also my second birthday/mother’s day (they’re always right next to each other) without my mom.  She was supposed to come out this year but got tied up with work.  Even better than her visiting for a day or two, now my parents are bringing me back to Detroit to spend a long weekend in the middle of summer as a birthday present!  More days, more loved ones, and have you been to Michigan in the summer?  It’s awesome!  And my parents have a boat, I totally miss being out on the water.  I’m a pretty lucky girl.

I also have to be honest, it was really hard for me to film this episode.  I did so much subbing this week that I was pretty burned out and not really feeling into it.  I almost gave up halfway through and just posted a stock episode I had saved up for such an occasion.  If it hadn’t been my birthday this week and I wanted to geek out on that, I would have just stopped.  I’m glad I didn’t – I started to get on a roll eventually and ended up getting this whole thing filmed and edited in 2.5 hours. That’s pretty good for how new I am to this still, and I’m fairly pleased with myself!

Wanna do something awesome for my birthday? Click here to leave a comment on the YouTube channel, and subscribe while you’re there so that you get updates about future episodes.  I’m still working on shorter sections of episodes, there might even be an update on this page soon to break this one up — stay tuned!

Cheers, yo!
-*- Namaste -*-

–April

Episode 5 – “Sangha of an Open Heart”

Community is rad.  The desire to connect with other people is strong within all of us, even if the level and style of connection we desire varies between us.  In Sanskrit we call this “Sangha”.

I moved to Portland, Oregon about 2 years ago from the area of Detroit, Michigan where I had spent the first 27 years of my life and had found myself a part of a wonderful community.  I had friends I’d grown up with, I’d only ever really practiced yoga at my home studio where I was trained as a teacher, and I was really close with my family.  I came to Portland knowing pretty much no one – no friends, no yoga sangha, no ties to the community.  It was hard, but I was really happy because I was living an adventure in a fun new place where I saw a lot of great opportunities beginning to present themselves to me.

However, there was one really big problem I was having.  I had eczema on my hands for years with varying degrees of severity that had now gotten so bad I often couldn’t practice yoga (sometimes couldn’t perform basic daily self-care tasks).  At one point it blew up all over the soles of my feet as well so I could barely walk.  I’m a really active person, so this was really hard for me to deal with — oh, and I was in terrible pain all the time.

The two most common explanations for the cause of eczema breakouts are allergies and stress.  So, I locked down on my food allergies and went hard-core to make sure I wasn’t eating anything that didn’t agree with me.

Stress? What stress?  I had plenty of money saved to get me through a few months of unemployment while I figured out new studios to teach at (which was already going well) and spend all my time basking in the west coast sunshine, taking dance classes and exploring my new world.  The world was my oyster.

Turns out, the problem was that it was a different oyster.  Hell, a different ocean.  I’d spent all my life with deeply rooted connections to the people in my community, and here I was in a new city with only seedling connections (if any at all).

This my "I have normal skin on my hands and I'm super happy about that" face

This my “I have normal skin on my hands and I’m super happy about that” face

I’m a pretty science-y person; logical, fact-based in my beliefs.  So I’ll concede that there’s probably a lotmore we don’t know about eczema and what my issue was, but I’ll tell you what– I stopped eating my allergens for weeks with little to no improvement, until something pretty awesome happened. I found my sangha.  I started working with some really great studios, started making friends, found my teacher Audra (whom I now have the good fortune of teaching with at her studio Love Hive Yoga) and even found a sangha in dance with PDX Dance Collective.  It’s been almost 2 years now and my skin has been great.  Check it out! >>>>>>>>>

I’ve got more to say about connection and community and how much these things can benefit us in the video.  Check it out, connect and do some yoga with me!  After all, Yoga is the “Great Union”, the joining together.  Even if you’re only practicing at home by yourself, yoga is an opportunity to connect with the self.  And, when we are deeply connected with our own selves, thats when we are best able to connect with others.

So, a few things I talked about in the video…

OMG LIVING YOGA! It’s this totally rad group of people who have this operation here in Portland that brings trauma informed yoga into underserved areas of the community — prisons, rehab centers, children in at-risk environments.   These people volunteer their time to bring those experiencing trauma a resource to pursue healing and connect more positively with their world through practicing yoga.  Has yoga changed your life?  Help change someone else’s too by checking out their website and FaceBook and seeing how you can offer your support.

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Oh!  And all those books I used…

Here’s a little note about each, as well as a link to buy the book on Amazon.  But also, you should check out your local library system because libraries are amazeballs.  I am often finding such great stuff that I’ll return it half-way through and buy the book to finish it so I can share it with others.  Yay, books!

Books Books Books

Books Books Books

“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell
This is where the story of Roseto is from, but there’s also a lot of really interesting discussion of how environment prepares for (or hinders) success.  I keep bringing up points from it in classes and I’m not even finished yet – never been so excited to read about hostile takeover law practices and air traffic control.

“Hey Nostradamus!” by Douglas Coupland
Poignant look at the lives of members of a community where a school shooting takes place – the day of, and continuing to many years after the fact.  I thought Coupland did a really nice job making the perspective of the characters vivid and understandable.

“Boy 21” by Matthew Quick
Haven’t actually started this one yet but it’s by the same guy that wrote “The Silver Lining Playbook”.  That one didn’t really grab me but I’ve read most of his other stuff and I really like the way his characters learn to embrace their vulnerability and humanity.  “Love May Fail” is actually one of my favorites.

“Anarchy Evolution” by Greg Graffin and Steve Olson
I don’t know how I’ve been a fan of Bad Religion for most of my life without knowing that the lead singer is also a biology professor and has written several books about science and his naturalist philosophy.  Griffin makes some really interesting points about how important it is to interact positively with our world and proposes that our point to being “here” may be to do our part to make “here” better.

“Great Tales of Horror” by H.P. Lovecraft
Jam-packed anthology of creative, totally messed up (in an awesome way) short stories from the dark mind of one of Horror’s great masters.  Re-Animator, anyone?  Cthulhu?

“Edgar Allen Poe: Selected Works”
Another anthology from a true master of macabre literature.  As I’ve mentioned before in a previous episode, one of my favorite Poe works is “The Tell Tale Heart”.  Oh and my favorite Simpsons episode is the first Treehouse of Horror where they did “The Raven.”  I was already a bookworm obsessed with spooky stuff back then.

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Good grief, you’re still reading this?  Holy crap dude, thanks!  Hope you enjoyed the video and all of my ramblings here.  If you wanna do something else really cool you could comment on YouTube and maybe even subscribe to the channel.  Then maybe share this with your friends?  You know, involve that sangha in the magic of yoga!

Thanks for being a part of this sangha here with me 🙂

~~~Cheers, yo!

xoxo

April

Episode 2 – “The Tell-Tale Heart of Gratitude”

Yeah, about that whole “weekly” thing… As it tends to, “life” happened to get in the way of my good intentions.  I was so stoked about the first episode that I ended up filming again really early in the week.  I was so into it I was almost late to leave to teach a class — oops!  But then I got busy and didn’t get a chance to start editing until later in the week.  Then there was work being done on my house (read – lots of hammering and drilling) and therefore I couldn’t film again because apparently my computer ran out of adequate space and decided to compress the video file down to a rather unattractive blurriness. (By the way, just had to retype “blurriness” a few times to test spellcheck because I couldn’t believe that was right, even though it was the way I typed it the first time.)  Then, the next week I got sick, and couldn’t talk without interrupting every few words with a pretty righteous cough.

This is my "too much life is happening to me right now and I kind of need it to stop for a moment" face.

This is my “too much life is happening to me right now and I kind of need it to stop for a moment” face.

So, here we are, a few weeks later before Episode 2.  On the bright side, I’m even more motivated than before to do some extra filming coming up here so I can have some back-up stuff and we can keep on having new episodes even when life does all of its “happening” all over me.  Because, you know, it tends to do that.

Check out the video below to join me in a smiling meditation, re-wire brain patterns to avoid complaining and its negative effects, and discuss my preference in quintessential romantic literature, even using that very literature to revolve some neat poses.  Also, I realize I say it’s about 30 minutes in the beginning and this clearly runs way longer.  But, I also said “give or take” and basically didn’t feel like compromising the sweet intro with some stupid edit that doesn’t mention that I basically “gave” an extra 13 minutes here.  So you’re welcome.

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