I first learned yoga poses from a book in 1997. I didn't have a lot of money and the book explained the sequence of Ashtanga yoga poses and so I thought "why bother with yoga classes?"
Each day I'd read a couple of poses, try to do them from memory, check to see if I'd done them correctly and then move on to the next set of poses.
As a beginner the Ashtanga yoga sequence was ideal because I could practice the series of poses without having to worry about what to do next. The sequence told me what to do. When I'd memorized the sequence I know longer needed the book.
Later on I started going to classes and I realized that I had a lot of room for improvement. But even so I was off to a good start.
Two years after I first started doing yoga, I took a teacher training course and learned how to vary and play with the Ashtanga sequence of yoga poses. All of these variations started with sun salutations as a warm up and ended with some variation of the finishing sequence as a cool down.
I then got interested in learning the second series of ashtanga poses. I learned mainly from David Swenson's book. And the stuff that looked too difficult I left out.
Later on after a motorcycle accident injured my knee a teacher suggested that I focus on the primary series. Looking back I believe that I should have carried on with what I was doing. I was exploring my body through yoga and an injury provides an excellent opportunity to explore.
Despite that my knee healed anyway. (I never went to a doctor about it, never got x-rays. There were times were I wondered if it would heal or if I was beyond repair. It was very frustrating to be walking along and then all of a sudden my knee would pop out of place, like the ligaments were too lose. And so I'd play with tension to try and wiggle it back into place again.)
I continued to teach and was told that as a teacher I made Ashtanga yoga interesting even though it was the series of poses. I found ways to play within and explore the body while doing the same poses over and over again. Despite that I couldn't imagine teaching the same sequence for the rest of my life.
It was about that time I met with Andrey Lappa. I'd heard some stories about his class and so was a little bit scared. But fate intervened. One of the studios I worked at was having him over to teach a guest class. Thinking the owner was crazy I took the class anyway and was amazed enough to want to take his teacher training.
I then learned a method for teaching and doing yoga that freed me totally from the Ashtanga framework. No more sun salutations, no more wondering about when I need a counterpose or whether I was harming the body or benefitting it.
Instead I had a framework for a totally free style of yoga practice but one that was still meaningful. It was like he gave me a road map. You are going from Toronto to Vancouver. You can choose how to get there. I could use any of the roads on the map, or I could fly if I chose. That's the level of freedom Andreys course helped me to aspire to.
It made it a lot easier teaching private yoga classes to clients of limited flexibility. Finally I could develop a yoga program to suit their needs rather than trying to get them to fit into the Ashtanga mold.
What I later realized was that he'd given me the tools to teach myself. Among those tools was the dance of shiva, which is a master level practice in how to break things down meaningfully and maximize potential and flow.
However, I still wasn't flexible despite years of doing yoga. Or at least not as flexible as I wanted to be. I later moved to Taiwan (I'd gone bankrupt and didn't know what to do with myself. At the time Taiwan was the only thing that "felt" right. Plus I was also interested in Tai Ji and Chinese calligraphy.) I taught English for my first year while continuing to teach yoga. Then I got back into teaching yoga full time.
For the next five or six years my focus was on increasing flexibility. I tried relaxed stretching but found it slow and ineffective (and painful) so then I began to play with activating and relaxing muscles while I stretched. I figured out the stretching mehtods that worked for me. And then I began to work on strength again.
I still do relaxed stretching but it is only one of the ways that I choose to stretch.
The interesting about focusing on flexibility was that I became mentally "flacid." Adding the strength element I began to get more focused more intentful. I also feel that for myself, focusing on flexibiity first was helpful. Generally whenever I do a yoga practice I normally focus on flexiblity first and then strength, or work on ways to combine them.
As I was in Taiwan I continued my studies of tai ji even taking part in a couple of competitions. I also began mixing Tai ji with yoga. I learned how to become more soft and sensitive and applied that same sensitivity and softness to doing yoga.
I also began to work on posture.
I learned how to better feel my body and control it and that is something that can be applied to anything.
And now I write this web site.
Like a yoga pose, sensational yoga poses is a work in progress. I'm working on updating outmoded material while still continuing to add new content. Hopefully even the outmoded material is still helpful. (Steps towards perfection.)
To make poses easier to find quickly I've created four yoga indexes with pictures and direct links to most of the yoga postures in this site.
The first index includes standing yoga postures grouped into symmetric, asymetric forward facing, asymetric sideways (lateral) poses and balancing on one leg yoga poses.
The second index focuses on seated yoga postures divided as follows:
The next index focuses on belly down and kneeling yoga postures:
The next yoga index section focuses on balancing and inverted yoga postures.
Among other things sensational yoga poses is a reference or dictionary of yoga poses. I've included yoga poses I'm familiar with and tried to describe them so that you can learn them. This may be handy if you have already been practicing yoga for a while or are a teacher. Tips and tricks to make doing these yoga poses or working towards them easier.
Ideally the links below make it easy to find the yoga poses that you are looking for (assuming that I've written about them. If I haven't, then use the contact form to ask me a question about a yoga pose and I'll create a page for that pose if I have the necessary experience.)
I'd say that right now my real expertise is flexibility and strength.
These are techniques, stretches and exercises that I use to help me get more flexible and increase strength while using the body intelligently.
An important element for both strength and flexibility is muscle control. Muscle control isn't just about contracting muscle. It's about learning to feel our muscles and how to learn to contract or relax consciously.
So that muslces are easier to understand and use effectively it can be helpful to rename muscles. Muscle anatomy gives suggestions on how and why.
But more than using intelligent naming, Muscle Anatomy is the basis for muscle control. When you know where your muscles are located you then have a guide for directing your awareness so that your muscles are easier to control.
Another area of interest to me is balance and as such it gets its own little section (yoga balance poses). This is one of the main starting points for building awareness and control. Imagine that with balance you feel and control your relationship with the earth. You can then apply that same awareness and responsiveness to all the relationships within your body. Or you can go the other way.
I've even written a book about balance. It's called Balance Basics and it's a step-by-step guide to understanding balance and experiencing it.
Note that a special sub group of balancing yoga poses is yoga inversions.
Arm balances can be a little less scary than full inversions, however flexiblity may be a limiting factor. Inversions can be made less scary by first learning to use a wall for support. You don't even have to worry about balance to begin with. You can simply get used to being upside down.
One way to improve balance is through posture awareness. This can be separated from balance and worked on separtely and then the two can be added together.
Both balance exercises and posture practice are ways to improve body awareness, which means being able to sense our body and how it relates to what is around it.
Another interest of mine is anatomy.
A while ago, (twenty years ago or so) I bought a series of books by burne hogarth called draning dyanamic anatomy. He taught a canon for drawing the ideal human body without requiring a model. I applied some of his lessons to doing my own anatomy sketches. (I still haven't gotten comfortable with the feet, hands and head!) And it's also a very similiar concept to what andrey lappa taught me with respect to developing a creative yoga practice.
This section is in some need of rewriting but even so you may find it helpful. My notion of yoga anatomy (an-atomic yoga) is to focus on anatomy that you can feel or consciously control. These are anatomic elements that you can isolate in your body. You can practice feeling them and controlling them. You can then use that same awareness and responsiveness within the context of an actual yoga pose.
Principles for yoga are the things that I use for any yoga pose. What makes a yoga pose a yoga pose? These principles may help.
For beginners, where do you start? Standing poses are a good way to develop some basic body awareness. These standing yoga poses are specifically for beginners.
You could also experiment with this beginners yoga workout I designed for a friend.
I should also mention the meridian and meridian stretching section. This is something that I learned after Andrey Lappa and it can make for a more meaningful exploration of the body. Understanding the meridians (and how they connect and inter relate) can make it easier to sequence yoga poses meaningfully. The chakras can also be used as a guide to sequencing yoga postures.
One of my special interests has been in figuring out meridian chakra correlations.
For people who want yoga workouts for flexibility, or strength, or just a balanced workout, then the yoga workouts section is for you.
Use the contact form to find out about custom designed yoga workouts.
All the pictures are either of me or by me. I set my camera to take bursts of 10 shots. And then I pick the shots that ideally show you what you can be trying to do. For poses that I just can't get into quick enough, I use video and then take out the frames that I need.
By the way, I love drinking coffee. If you like, you can support my coffee habit by checking out my pdf's. And any feedback, especially if this site has helped you in any way, is also welcomed.
Yoga Anatomy Notes, using upper and middle trapezius to avoid shoulder impingement.
Standing hamstring stretches differ from seated stretches. If flexibility is limited start with standing poses, it is easier to use gravity to assist the stretch.
Three variations of crow pose and tips for balancing in this arm balancing yoga pose.
Yoga twists: passive and assisted twists for the ribcage, thoracic spine and lumbar spine. Twists can be made slightly easier if you understand some basic anatomy of the spine. You can then apply this understanding to both seated and standing twists and even prone twists as well as twisting positions that include a bind.
The three yoga bandhas can affect the si joint, hip stability, spine, psoas, breath and posture.
Basic yoga poses: standing, sitting, arm balances, binds, twists, inversions, back bending, front bends.
Kneeling and prone yoga poses index: kneeling, semi-kneeling, kneeling reclined and belly down poses.
The balance poses index: balancing on one leg, inverted and semi-inverted poses, arm balances, balancing cat pose and side plank.
Balancing one one foot symmetric/asymmetric forward facing and lateral standing yoga poses index.
Reclining and seated yoga poses index: cross legged, half-hero, lotus, marichyasana, foot behind the head,
Yoga Poses for abs involve either/or stabilizing and mobilizing the midsection, which can mean fixing the ribcage relative to the pelvis or moving it relative to the pelvis.
If you are having a hard time breathing then one possible solution is to focus on moving your spine and ribcage and not focus at all on your breath. Instead make your movements smooth and slow so that your breathing becomes smooth and slow.
Learn to control and differentiate the muscles of the pelvic diaphragm, including the pc muscle. These muscles can have an affect on the Sacroiliac and hip joint and may be useful in back bending yoga postures.
Until Mar 30, Get my newest ebook FAT Shoulder Stretches (And Shoulder Awareness Exercises) for $2.00. Available in PDF, Mobi and EPub formats.
In the following set of shoulder stretching exercises, gravity is used to drive the stretch. This can make it easier to relax and focus on feeling your shoulders (and relaxing them) so that you get a more effective stretch.
New in yoga notes, stretching the biceps. This is for people who have difficulty straightening the elbows because of tight biceps.
This is the first yoga routine I've done in a video format. The class is about an hour long and includes exercises and poses for increasing pressure awareness, stability and mobility.
This is a step-by-step introduction to bound headstand. It shows how to set up neck and shoulders and how to get comfortable being upside down in the pose otherwise known as sirsasana by using a wall to start with.
Body awareness tips: Yoga can be a balance between expansion and contraction and the control of tension and relaxation for optimum sensing and responding so that we can find and maintain ideal relationships within our body and between ourselves and the world around us.
Here's a new video on bending forwards while standing on one leg. I talk about how to activate the obturator internus while doing this pose and how this may affect forward bending in other standing poses.
My own interest in activating this muscle is to prevent hip pain and to help my hip muscles (and leg muscles) activate effectively. It may actually help the fibers of the gluteus maximus that connect to the sacrotuberous ligamentto activate by adding tension to that ligament.