I recently got reaquainted with Jim Bennitt, a yoga teacher based in Chicago. Both Jim and myself have studied with Andrey Lappa and taken his teacher training.
|Jim Bennitt is doing (from top to bottom) the yoga poses called: Kandasana, Gherandasana, Mayurasana, Vasisthasana and Natarajasana|
NK: Hi Jim, I seemed to recall that you wrestled at some point in your life? Do you think your wrestling experience helped deepen your body awareness and hence your ability to do yoga? What about when you adjust people in yoga postures (assuming you do hands on adjustments?
Jim Bennittt: I did wrestle in from the age of 12 to 20. Once I began getting serious about yoga (practicing 3 times a week) my practice began to advance quickly because of the discipline and body awareness I gained through wrestling.
At that time I began working as a massage therapist. The anatomy training we received in school gave me a big advantage once I began teaching. Also, I felt very comfortable adjusting students because of my time spent as a therapist.
NK: I read on your website that you don't focus on alignment. What do you focus on?
Jim Bennitt: As far as alignment goes, I wouldn't say I don't focus on it. I actually do, it's just not my ONLY focus. The breath gets as much attention as does meditation.
NK: You took Andrei Lappa's teacher training in Ukraine and you don't speak ukrainian. what did you hope to get and what did you end up learning? Do you still use any of what you learned from Andrei in your yoga classes today?
JB: I do still use some of what I learned from Andre. My classes and practice don't resemble his too much, but I definitely picked up some powerful techniques and ideas.
NK: When you teach your classes do you do the poses with your students or do you instruct with vocal instructions only?
JB: I do not practice with the class very often. I can't see what's going on in the class and I lose a sense of pratyahara in my own practice which I believe is very important. Also, lots of teachers injure themselves when they demonstrate in class.
NK: How do you define pratyahara?
Jim Bennit: Focusing INSIDE the body and mind. Feeling the circulation increase in the abdomen, hips etc. Visualizing objects Inside the mind during meditation.
NK: How does you own personal practice different from classes that you teach. (I remember when Priya yoga was still around you said your practice differed alot from what you taught. Is the same true today?
Jim Bennitt: My practice is different then the classes I teach. I do some techniques that most people would consider very intense. To me they are not because of the amount of practice I have done.
Most students need more preparation.
Also, I test certain techniques and sequences quite a bit before I teach them so I know there effect.
Sometimes my studio is like my lab and I'm conducting experiments.
NK: I get the sense that you have practiced a lot (and continue to do so) in order to have gotten to where you are now. What are some of the techniques that you practice that others would consider "intense?" What do you experience when you do them?
JB: I guess the techniques (besides the obvious advanced postures) is long breath retentions in certain mudras (like maha mudra).
If you rush into them, they can really freak out the nervous system and they also raise the blood pressure temporarily.
As a result of practicing these techniques, I get a nice balance of building up energy while creating a certain mental stability.
NK: What can you tell me about tantric vinyasa yoga?
JB: What Tantric Vinyasa Yoga really boils down to is a skillful use of energy. Through an intelligent yoga practice, you should build energy, not deplete yourself of it.
In Tantric Vinyasa, we don't stop there. We can actually increase the circulation of energy (prana) in certain areas of the body to get a desired result.
Choosing appropriate postures, breathing and meditation techniques is the key.
NK: You also run a teacher training program. What are the most important things that you hope to teach your teacher trainees?
JB: The teacher training at TeJas teaches students how to do this in an effective way. Also, the training is really a mentorship. We share our experiences and what we have learned on a pretty personal level. We are really there for the students.
NK: Thanks alot Jim.
To find out more about Tantric Viniyasa yoga or for a schedule of when and where Jim teaches check out jimbennitt.com.
p.s. If you want to take a yoga holiday, Jim is running a yoga retreat in Aruba from Mar 17 to 24 (2012). Yoga Holidays are a great way to relax and meet new people. And I reckon you'd learn a lot from Jim.
The seated get up is a way of getting into the one legged squat from a seated position. Even if you aren't interested in one leg squats this video does include tips on stabilizing the knees (at about the 5 minute mark.) Usual muscle activations for knee stability might include the quads, the hamstrings or any of the glutes. This looks at another set of muscles all together. If you like the video or find it helpful, please do share it! Thanks!
Some tips for learning how to do deep squats (without weight). The first tip is on how to stay balanced while squatting.
How do you learn the body weight safely? How do you work towards this pose even if you aren't sure if you are capable of doing it.
Basic yoga poses: standing, sitting, arm balances, binds, twists, inversions, back bending, front bends.
Scapular stabilization becomes a little bit harder when working agains the weight of the body. It can be easier to learn if you gradually increase the amount of body weight the scapular stabilizer muscles are working againsts..
Some hip flexor strengthening exercises.
These yoga poses can be used as arm strengthening exercises.
Turn yoga poses into leg strengthening exercises using floor pressing actions, leverage and friction.
One way of finding and fixing hip problems is to do standing hip strengthening exercises while balancing on one leg.
Knee anatomy for yoga teachers looks at the bones and muscles that comprise the back of the knee in simple terms.
Working towards a kneeling quadriceps stretch you first need to be able to kneel. If you have difficulty kneeling, you may find it helps to activate your quadriceps.
When doing quadriceps stretching it may help to activate and then relax your quadriceps in these standing, lunging, pigeon and supine yoga pose variations.
Some exercises and yoga poses for working towards a lying quadriceps stretch one leg at a time.
What are the benefits of the Dance of Shiva? Arm strength and balance, learning to learn and improving creativity.
This yoga routine video is designed to help you strengthen your arms and legs via the use of friction and pressure. It also teaches you how to become more aware of your body.
The transverse abdominis muscle can be broken down into three parts. Transverse abdominal exercises can thus affect the SI Joint, lumbar spine and the lower portion of the ribcage.
To improve the resiliency of your knees it can help to exercise them in a variety of positions. The following yoga poses can be used as knee strengthening exercises. The trick is to activate your knees while doing them.
Learn to consciously control your quads and hip flexors with Conscious Muscle Control: Quads and Superficial Hip Flexors. This downloadable video course teaches you how to feel and activate your quadriceps (the vastus muscles) as well as the rectus femoris, tensor fascae latae and sartorius muscles.
For any calf stretch you have to bend your ankle forwards to stretch the soleus and/or gastrocnemius. How you bend the ankle forwards can make the stretch more or less effective.
Yoga for flexibility with stretches for the hips, quads, hamstrings, glutes, psoas, shoulders and arms. These yoga stretches are designed to improve flexiblity.