Amazing gift for yoga students

Not sure how I came across this yoga channel, but WOW! I love it. There’s something about this woman that shines through that will make her a superstar if she doesn’t lose track of that innocence and willingness to share. I’m talking about Dashama and her yoga/lifestyle videos that she posts on YouTube.

Here is one of her postings showing how to perform a handstand.

I am so motivated to perform this handstand right now! The level of detail she goes into when instructing is great. After seeing this video the first time, I started following her advice of ‘locking down the lats’ when performing the Vasisthasasa (Side Plank Pose) and I actually found that I could perform this – difficult – move for more than just a couple seconds. When I don’t ‘lock down the lats’, I end up with a sore shoulder in no time at all.

Here’s another one she put up a couple years ago.

She absolutely makes this look easy! I also love the fact that she’s introduced me to moves that are, well, not all that standard for the typical yoga class. A double warrior, I’m looking forward to my next workout.
She’s so animated and clearly unconcerned. It’s like she just puts it all out there with confidence knowing that she is what she is.

Here’s another that I’m going to add to my practice.

Dang. What a hold on the standing splits. That is truly inspiring. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do that forward bend like she does.

I’m hoping that one of these days I’ll get to practice with her. Maybe if I stick with it long enough, our paths will cross and I’ll be able to show her that she taught me how to do a handstand!


Dave’s Yoga Goals

Yoga is a selfless selfish act. It is a self improvement activity that not only improves your own moment of now, but it also positively affects others. It’s self manifested self improvement that overflows into that which is part of your environment. All that you touch, say and think is influenced by yoga and, at the same time, that which you feel is enhanced.

The selfless part is what flows through you into your environment. Ultimately, it is anything that you create. That selflessness is experienced in every word that you choose to speak and every way in which you choose to resonate in your environment. It is your interaction in life. It is that action that actually makes you feel good about the choices that you make.

The selfish side of things is what you get in return; enhanced feelings. The subtle things in life go from being overlooked and invisible to noticed and experienced. Things that you might have been numb to before, become pronounced and energetically influencing after practicing yoga for a while. The insensitivities that we build up to things like ‘curse words’ or ‘vulgar actions’ are no longer tolerated. The act of yoga aligns the self with the intentions of the self so as to amplify your own vibration to the point where you can feel the harmony and discord of other people and things that enter your perception.

I have been open to yoga for as long as I can remember. The problem was that I never made time for it. In January, nearly a year and a half ago, I committed to giving yoga enough time that I could say “I do yoga” with some reasonable level of belief. I started with an open mind and approached class like every good student should – I accepted being the student.

I took nearly nine months of practice to get to the point where I no longer hurt after the hour workout. I can’t remember how many days my butt hurt for hours, but that is mostly behind me now. At about a year, I finally started to feel my body giving in to the postures. It was at that time that I started to really feel good about my practice.

It was at about that year threshold that I really started to notice those new sensitivities referenced above. I am looking forward to seeing what the next year will bring.

Now, before stating my goals, I have to share a little inspiration with you. A few months ago, one of my yoga instructors took a month to attend a yoga seminar. She mentioned Ana Forrest as if everyone knew who she is. I didn’t. What’s a yoga seminar? After that class, the instructor wrote down the name and gave it to me. A few minutes later, I Googled the name and found this:

I watched the entire six and ½ minutes amazed. Upon completion, I promptly clicked on part two:

That, I have to say, is a bit beyond what I’d even imagined for a goal. That is a lifestyle with no time for blogging! Lol…

The simple truth is that a few years ago, I had a view office at work that overlooked a main thoroughfare and everyday, without exception, an old man walked the sidewalk. He always wore a gray hooded sweatshirt regardless of the weather yet he could hardly walk. I’m sure we’ve all seen the old man that struggles to get out of his chair and then, when he walks, he takes little steps while struggling to keep his balance? This guy that walked the sidewalk, not only took little steps, but his spine was warped and disfigured from age. The primary inspiration for me to start yoga was watching that guy struggle to walk the street every day. The best part about it; he was doing it. The worst part about it; I was sitting tensed up at the computer watching him work out his issues.

So, I vow to not be like that. I will have good posture. I will be able to move my hips and walk. I will not have a hard time getting out of a chair as I age. Rather, I will breathe. I will garden. I will be active. I will enjoy the time that I’ve worked so hard for.  🙂

So, to keep it simple:


  • Perform a balanced handstand for at least 15 seconds

Pretty sure everyone knows what this means. To get there, I’m going to have to be able to do a few more pushups. Lol…

  • Sit Yogi Style

Here is a Half Lotus pose, but I’d like to actually do the full pose. I remember being able to sit that way for a short while as a kid. As I try today, I like the way it straightens out my back. Breathing is a bit easier too.

  • Perform the splits

I’m sure everyone knows this pose, but I’m going with a simple version! Something like this. Nothing complex or I won’t have anything to work towards next year.

  • Perform bird of paradise

Here is a picture. Right now, I’m a ball of shakes as I try to straighten my leg.

  • Comfortably perform the dancer’s pose

Here is one of my instructors (Georgina See the fifth picture down) performing the pose. She makes it look easy.

  • Comfortably Ujjayi breathe throughout a standard practice.

This one might take a little more explaining. The Wikipedia states:

Ujjayi breathing is a breath technique employed in a variety of Hindu and Taoist Yoga practices. In relation to Hindu Yoga, it is sometimes called “the ocean breath”. Unlike some other forms of pranayama, the ujjayi breath is typically done in association with asana practice.

Ujjayi is a diaphragmatic breath, which first fills the lower belly (activating the first and second chakras), rises to the lower rib cage (the third and fourth chakras), and finally moves into the upper chest and throat. The technique is very similar to the three-part Tu-Na breathing found in Taoist Qi Gong practice.

Inhalation and exhalation are both done through the nose. The “ocean sound” is created by moving the glottis as air passes in and out. As the throat passage is narrowed so, too, is the airway, the passage of air through which creates a “rushing” sound. The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm, the strengthening of which is, in part, the purpose of ujjayi. The inhalations and exhalations are equal in duration, and are controlled in a manner that causes no distress to the practitioner.

I’m just now starting to be able to breathe this way. I guess if I keep working on it, I’ll get better. Practice makes perfect – right?

That pretty much sums up the physical side of things. What’s more important to me is the spiritual goals. With this in mind, I’ve got goals that go beyond the physical.

Spiritually (during practice)

  • Regularly experience Hu

A couple times now my yoga has taken me to the point where the Hu sound has filled the room. Both times, at the moment of recognition, my awareness cancelled my sensitivity. I’d like to experience that more often – not the cancellation, but the Hu!

  • Be one hundred percent present

For the most part my mind doesn’t wander during class. It’s just went the action and instruction stops. That’s when my mind wonders. I’m going to save that wondering time for before and after class.

  • Give in; no emotional resistance

If I have to cry, I will. If I have to laugh, I will. It’s about the moment and the transformation.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more ideas that I’ll want to express as goals and there’s nothing stopping me from posting those as the thoughts come up. Don’t you just love blogs?

Thanks for letting me share these thoughts with you in this public setting. Keep in mind that if I can do it, you most likely can too!

Share some happy thoughts and make them count!

What makes a good yoga instructor?

I guess it hasn’t been all that long since I started practicing yoga at FlowYoga in Redmond, but the days of not being able to touch my toes are long gone. I can hold my own in the crow pose, but still find some of the bends a little over the top!  That’s ok for I’ve always got tomorrow to give it another go.

Being a student for more than a year now has introduced me to the styles of a few different instructors, and I have to say that there are particular attributes that seem to stand out from the better instructors. Yet, better, is a relative term so I’d like to outline what I mean in a little more detail.

Yoga instructor characteristics that enhance the students experience.

Share within your personal space as if you’re hugging your students

Understanding your personal space is one thing, but opening yourself up and using that energy in your instruction makes for a great yoga instructor. The instructors that are not afraid to let students into their personal space when they are open and venerable allow for the yoga experience to go beyond the physical and into the emotional aspects of the practice.

This is different than simply approaching a student and making corrections in their posture. Any instructor can suggest a longer stance, or a lengthening, or some other alignment while still protecting their own personal space. But when this is done when the instructor’s personal space engulfs the student, the experience is felt in a very deep way.

What I’m talking about is probably more closely aligned with giving someone a hug. When you hug someone, the intent is to consciously open your personal space. When you do, who you are in the inside flows though and is felt in the emotional level of the receiver.

During yoga, when the physical body is pushed to the limit, the barriers, that people build in order to isolate themselves from the emotional effects of others, are softened. This is the exact time when emotional energies have the greatest impact. This is where a really good instructor can enhance a student’s yoga experience by consciously using the personal space to help release emotional blockages or enhance the flow of emotional energy.

To really make this effective, the instructor must be open at the time of merging. In other words, it is of no use to enter someone’s personal space if you’re going to keep the standard blocks up and active. Picture Mr. Spock approaching a student to make a correction. Sure, you can technically do this, but the experience is far from satisfying.

Thus, one trait of a really good yoga instructor is someone that makes themselves just a venerable as the students – yet knows that when they enter the student’s personal space they will be enhancing the student’s yoga experience in non-physical ways.

Make eye contact

As simple and difficult this task is, making eye contact shows attentiveness, openness and truthfulness. Every effort should be made to engage in this process and encourage the energy that it inspires.

Tell the student where he’s going

Yoga in a class setting is a process of shared energy. When the class performs in a synchronous fashion, the energy in the room becomes harmonious. It’s the instructors responsibility to direct the student into the correct postures through the correct sequence of moves. Setting the intention for a single move before any movement has occurred offers the opportunity to move the class in unison.

For instance, for down dog, the sequence “Lift your right leg towards the ceiling inhale, move your leg forward exhaling, drop your left heel down and inhale into warrior one” is harder to follow than “prepare for warrior one, inhale your right leg towards the ceiling, exhale your right foot forward, drop your left heel and inhale into your warrior.” Anyone that has done a warrior pose knows the basic sequence of moves, thus, if they know where they are going, they will get there with the breathing instructions from the master yogi.

Prepare the student for longer sequences

This same preparation holds for longer sequences. If you’re going to warm up with a Sun Salutation A, let it be known ahead of time so the students are not guessing exactly what will unfold and then follow the individual instructions that take you through the transitions.

It’s probably more important to prep the student, or set expectations, for more strenuous movements. For instance, if the sequence will involve three warriors, two side angles, a standing splits and three different folds all stressing the same key muscles, the instructor should set the sequence expectations ahead of time so that the student can make better decisions regarding alternative moves in the early part of the sequence. The idea is to lead through the strenuous sections to a relief pose that the student knows is coming. Someone will always work harder when they know when the rest is coming.

Prep movements with breathing

Breathing is where strength and art is found. Leading with “Inhale your arms out and up” works better than “arms out and up inhaling” or, “prepare to finish the sequence, inhale deeply… now exhale your feet forward …” which places the focus on moving in harmony with the breath.

Demonstrate where it’s visibly obvious

When demonstrating a new move or expressing the art in an existing move, it’s important to make yourself visible so the aspects of the move can be seen clearly. If the move is asymmetrical, demonstrate the movement once facing one direction and then when it’s actually performed by the class face the other direction. This way, body placements that might have been out of view the first time, are in view the second time.

More importantly, if you want to demonstrate a move to a specific individual, setup in their line of vision. For instance, if they are in down dog, lineup beside and slightly behind the person so that they can see as they make their next movements. Keep in mind that if they are going to open to the left, you should be on the left side so as they open, you’re straight in their view.


Words can get lost in translation, drowned out in music or simply spaced, but when you touch the muscles that should be worked there is absolutely no misunderstanding what is intended. This is also an easy way to confirm the student is following directions and performing the move adequately.

Be sensitive to all skill levels

It’s easy to be sensitive to the skill level of a beginning student. It’s more difficult to drive an advanced student. If the more advanced options are not provided during a standard practice, the experienced student may feel that the instructor has tailored the session towards advancing beginners rather than advancing everyone. Driving the advanced students will also provide motivation for the beginning students as they see the more advanced poses in action.

If it’s intimidating to instruct another instructor, especially if they have a skill set that is more practiced then the instructors, the instructor should step out of the demonstration instruction form of teaching into the assistance instruction technique. Guide the advanced student through the moves while they are under your close inspection to ensure that they follow instructions. Use touch to drive full participation.

Encourage an Om

Never skip the Om. Ever. And always balance out the class. If everyone faces forward, the instructor faces the class. If everyone faces each other, the instructor completes the circle. Encourage full participation for it helps set intention for the practice.

In a perfect world, all yoga classes would have perfect instructors. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way and you don’t normally see students giving feedback with regards to what they like. I know that if I were instructing, I would keep this list of items top on my list to make sure that the students experience as much as they can in that hour they practice. Yet, more importantly, if I don’t provide this level of sensitivity, someone else will and the student will find that other teacher.

So far, it seems that most teachers don’t have these characteristics, or, they have never been asked to express them so they are hard to find. My door is open to a teacher of this caliber, thus this blog entry to place my wishes in writing.

May your practice be filled with instruction as outlined above.