End of Year Ritual & Journaling Exercise

Hi! I’m trying a new experiment: an audio-blog post! Believe it or not, it takes me ages to write weekly posts in two languages. So I’ve decided to try out recording this post. What do you think?

Here’s a recap of my suggestion for a year-end ritual. You can answer these questions in your journal or say out loud with your friends in front of the fireplace. It’s a great way to learn from each other’s experiences. Here’s the 5 steps I cover in detail in the recoding.

Step 1 – What was good?

Step 2 – What was difficult?

Step 3 – What did you learn?

Step 4 – Give thanks.

Step 5 – Set an intention for the new year.

Rolfing from the teacher’s perspective: an interview with Aline Newton

Aline Newton Rolfer CertificadaWhen I discovered that Aline Newton was visiting Barcelona, I was elated! Aline is a well-known Rolfer in our professional community. She taught Foundations of Bodywork at the Rolf Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and has published a number of articles for Rolfers and clients. It turns out that the husband of a colleague from Centre Cos is friends with Aline’s husband. (What are the chances?) Anyways, our mutual connection organized a meeting and this is the result of that serendipitous encounter.

In the following conversation, Aline tells us what defines and determines posture. She also explains how posture is linked to our search for security and tells us how we can change it by paying attention to our sensations. Finally, Aline reveals what still fascinates her about being a Rolfer after 30 years of practice. 

I’d like to start off with something you said in a recent article in Rolf Lines. You say that posture is something “everyone thinks of as seen from the outside and then tries to change it from there.” Can you explain that further?

For most people, the word ‘posture’ conjures up images of soldiers standing at attention, or children marching around a room balancing a book on their heads. Maybe it is due to the great number of images we are exposed to, we tend to experience ourselves as if in a picture -a body-image- instead of our actual sensations, perceptions, the feelings that are happening right now. Unfortunately if we start from a body image, a way we are imagining ourselves to be, and then try to change that, we have little hope of finding an easier way of being. Instead, we are likely to just impose another set of stresses on the stresses that are already there. That’s what Dr. Ida P. Rolf, the originator of Rolfing, called “ a balance of stresses.”

What is what is posture?

If we set aside the images and try to get back to the experience, posture becomes much more interesting.

For a lay person, we think of posture as the way we hold ourselves. We slouch, we try to look good etc. And it’s true that there is an important expressive dimension to posture. But Dr. Rolf pointed out to us that what we call posture is also the way we meet gravity each moment.

A lot of it has to do with how subconsciously we keep ourselves from falling down, literally. Each of us has to find a way to stay in balance in gravity while also walking, talking, living. In this sense posture is a reflection of our our favorite or most familiar strategies to accomplish this important task. By strategies I mean the way we hold tensions in certain muscles. Not falling down is also a kind of metaphor for what lets us feel safe, for our strategy of self-protection. Each of us has our most familiar ways of doing this.

Therefore our habitual tension is our way of feeling safe in gravity?

Yes, we find safety in the familiar way we do things—though there are often unintended consequences. That’s what usually brings people in to see us: the habit begins to get uncomfortable, with tension or pain in shoulder, necks, knees etc.

We also call these habitual tensions ‘pre-movement’ in that they are how we prepare for a movement. In other words, they happen before you actually do the movement. Hubert Godard has a nice way of putting it: there is the prémovement du matin, in the sense that it is the set of tensions you put on just getting up in the morning, the tensions you call ‘myself.” Those stay with you throughout the day. In this sense, posture is an “attitude,” a mood, a feeling, what we normally think of as a state of mind. But it is a state of body-in-gravity, too. There is also premovement we would call ‘dynamic’ which is the strategy you use before you get into motion, start walking etc.–the way you keep your balance in gravity.

You can really understand this process in yoga: before tree pose, let’s say, you have to make sure you don’t fall over, or that your head stays upright, etc. Your feet are taking in the ground a certain way, you shift your weight by releasing something and tightening something else etc. But of course, your brain does this for you based on previous experience. And this is where you can best use your sensory/perceptual skills to make a change—right there under your feet, or in the way your eyes receive the light, or the way you put your attention on the space behind you.

How will shifting my attention to my sensations change my posture?

Usually we think of good posture as something we DO-holding our shoulders back, or pushing out our chest. This is what we have been taught: trying to be good means to use effort. Though well intended, trying to hold an idea of good posture through muscular effort just leads to more contraction; it means getting in the way of easy movement instead of supporting it. So we have to find a different way. Really good posture comes through a different path. It happens when we tune into our perception and sensation: how the ground feels to me right now, sensing where we are putting the weight through our feet (more in front, more in back, more on one foot or the other, more on the inside edge or the outside edge of the foot—there is so much going on moment to moment with this all important contact!). As we feel what is actually happening at this moment, the sensations also change. That change in sensations is the consequence of releasing certain muscles, but indirectly. Our focus stays on paying attention to our places of contact with the ground, while the very smart brain figures out the ‘doing’ part.

Instead of trying to dominate the body with the will, this approach leads to living in partnership with ourselves as organisms and with our environment. Personally, this is the quality I want to cultivate; this is the attitude I want to be “practicing.”

How did you discover Rolfing?

I was lucky to be introduced to Rolfing as a child, through having family friends who were Ida Rolf’s grandchildren. I didn’t actually get Rolfed until I was in college studying psychology. I was amazed by my own experience of Rolfing, the kind of change in behavior and feelings that happened without doing it through talking and my usual notion of ‘mind.’

One of the major influences in your work is Hubert Godard. How has he changed your understanding of Rolfing?

Hubert’s point of view includes movement and perception and a sense of being part of the environment instead of just a bag of skin or fascia. Fascia gets in trouble when it is constantly being loaded in a particular way. Along with accidents and genetic factors, the major influence here is our habitual pre-movements. For instance, our tense shoulders are doing a job all day long, trying to hold us up, or fighting for every breath. If they are working hard all day, the fascial and muscular tissue is not getting the release it needs to stay healthy. The beautiful biped has evolved to move in such a way that we have the possibility of alternatingly contracting and releasing, varying the pressures through the tissue all day long. That’s what well-organized breathing and walking help with. And our practices, yoga, tai chi etc. give us ways to re-tune ourselves, like a guitar. We all have natural preferences that lead to going out of tune when ‘played,’ and these different practices are ways of counter-acting the results of our preferences. But for us as humans, it is to keep our plasticity, our capacity to start from a new place instead of the same old place.

How would you define Rolfing in terms of benefits?

Besides healing aches and pains and making us more efficient movers etc, Rolfing and movement work have the potential to help us find our wholeness and our capacity to feel safe in an ever-changing world.

What do you most like about this work?

This November 2014 marks 30 years since I was certified as a Rolfer. What I like most about this work is that it is always new, with each person I meet in my practice. Recently I was invited to a symposium at MIT that was comparing musical composition with improvisation. Improvisers certainly have to practice, but their art is in bringing that skill to a meeting with the moment to create something fresh. That is my experience working with people as a Rolfer, and it is a great joy.

***Check out Alines’ blog, her published articles and her courses***


Aline Newton is an Advanced Certified Rolfer, in practice for 30 years. She holds her BA from Johns Hopkins University and her MA in Education from the University of Toronto. She served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the International Rolf Institute from 1994-1999. She has also been on the faculty of the Foundations Program of the Rolf Institute. Since 1990 she has studied extensively with Hubert Godard, and became a Rolf Movement Practitioner in 1996. She practices, teaches and lectures in Cambridge, MA.

10 Gift ideas for yogis

10 gif ideas for yogis

The month of December always seems to fly by. It seems as though time speeds up and then, suddenly, it’s Christmas! The last couple of years I’ve been caught off guard and ended up doing my shopping last-minute. What a hassle! The shops are crammed with impatient stressed-out people, I was no exception!

This time, I’ve learned from my mistakes and got myself organized ahead of time. I’ve even complied a list of idea which I hope will help you get through your holiday shopping with more ease. What follows is a list of suggested books, props and accessories for yoga and wellbeing. If you’d like to add your own suggestions, please share them here! I’d love to hear ‘em.


 

1. The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary

UnknownIn these the sutras, or aphorisms, the ancient sage Patanjali, defines yoga and draws a map of the inner landscape that is revealed through the practice. It is one of my favorite texts, it is exceptional for its beauty and mystery. I particularly like Chip Hartranft’s translation because the language is simple and relatable, which isn’t easy given the complexity of this text. This version has a buddhist tone  is great for contemplating your experience of the practice. You can find this book in Librería Té Quiero in Barcelona’s Grácia neighborhood. 

If you’d rather read in Catalan, Marion Costa from Yogaia yoga studio recommends Yogasutra by Òscar Pujol. Mariona worked in editing for over 15 years before becoming a yoga teacher. Here’s her review of Pujol’s book: 

La publicació del Yogasutra traduïts i editats per Òscar Pujol, amb una introducció també seva, és una gran notícia per tots els lectors en català. Óscar Pujol ha viscut 22 anys a l’Índia, es llicencià en filologia sànscrita a Benarés on es va doctorar, és autor de nombroses traduccions, articles i assaigs i ha redactat el Diccionari sànscrit-català, al llarg de 12 anys. Ha estat director de programes educatius a La Casa Àsia de Barcelona i director de l’Institut Cervantes de Nova Delhi (2007-12).

You can purchse this book in Yogaia´s shop.


2. Om Shree Om

yoga para niños om shree omThis lovely book is freshly pressed: it just hit the shelves last week. Author Christine McArdle has spent the las 10 plus years training yoga teachers to teach children’s yoga. Her new book started off as a manual and has grown as a guidebook for all yoga teachers and parents. It is the result of years of personal evolution and exploration. I’ve been following Christine on Facebook for years and it is easy to sense her enthusiasm for her work and her love for children and their wellbeing. Her children’s yoga teacher training is known to be exceptional.


3. Trail gude to the body (5th edition)

trail guide to the body 5th editionFor those interested in deepening their understanding of anatomy Trail Guide to the Body is an invaluable tool. It’s meant for massage therapists and bodyworkers, though I think most yogis can benefit from it as well. 

The illustrations in the TGB are clear and copious. In addition, the book includes amazing online tools and resources for students. I use it frequently as a resource in my anatomy classes and I highly recommend it to my students. 


4. Ashtanga yoga gift certificate

pazzifica ashtanga yoga

I spend most of my mornings here at Pazzifica ashtanga yoga, in the heart of Grácia. Pazzifica offers a variety of gift certificates and introductory courses to get you started with the traditional ashtanga yoga practice. See you there!


 

5. BackMitra®

backmitraSince I tried the backmitra just over a week ago, I use it every day. Seriously, I love it!! It is easy to use for a deliciously restorative practice especially if you use these free online classes. The BackMitra makes for a great gift because anybody can use. I find it particularly satisfying after spending lots of time in front of the computer. For more info check out their official website or, if you’re a local, contact Marta Puig at zonaioga@gmail.com.


 

6. No-slip toe socks

no-slip yoga toe socksThis great idea came from Gemma in response to my facebook post. What a great idea! Just in time for the cold. I’ve got a pair of these socks and I love them: first, because it feels really good to spread my toes and second, because they don’t slip at all. You can buy them online or, if you’re a local, through Yogaia though you’ll have to wait for them to restock. 


 

7. Yoga Bags by Nina

yoga bag by ninaI love the mapamundi yoga bag, it’s both gorgeous and practical. The double shoulder strap is perfect if you commute by bicycle: way more comfortable that a single-strap bag. 

The design is by the talented Nina Adams who is very active in our Barcelona yoga teacher community. This year Nina launched her online shop where you can purcase her beautifully handcrafted yoga bags and totes.


 

8. Organic moisturizing cream

lacréme barcelonaThese fantastic moisturizing creams by LaCréme are an excellent holiday gift. Hand-crafted by Irene García whose motto is: “Pamper your body, nourish your soul.” Her products are sure to do just that, they are made from 100″ organic and vegan ingredients and her own special blend of scented oils.  

Also, Irene uses kinesiology (muscle testing) to assess which one of her creams is best suited for your skin type. You can meet Irene in person and try out her skin care line next weekend at Centre Cos


 

9. Spirelli

spirelliYogis love to eat lots of veggies, the more the better. This handy gadget will turn zucchinis, carrot, and cucumber into long thick spagetti. Yum! 

It’s very handy and works just like a pencil sharpener. I’ve got one that I use almost every day to jazz up my salads. If you like preparing more elaborate plates you can try out this one. Bon apetit!


 

10. You are the best gift!

túIt’s easy to get caught up in the holiday rush and lose perspective of what is most valuable. In the end, the best giftof all is YOU. In a years’ time it’s likely most people will have forgotten what you gave them, though they will definitely remember the time you spent together. 

Your joyful presence and shiny smile are the best gifts you can offer. And they’re free! To be your very best, take good care: sleep well and take some time in the morning to start off the day well.  

***If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it 🙂 Till next week!***

Recap of Last Saturday’s BackMitra® Event

marta puig en centre cos

Last Saturday’s BackMitra event had a great turnout, even though the weather outside was rainy and gray, we filled up Centre Cos. I love to bring together people I know from different environments and connecting in person. I got to spend time with people I haven’t seen in ages as well as new ones. It was a nice get together.

The BackMitra®, Wow!

I’ve been wanting to try it out ever since Marta told me about it’s amazing benefits. Mitra means “friend” and it’s certainly become my friend. My bAck, and especially my shoulders, love the BAckMitra. It’s a rigid foam rectangle that you lay on as you perform slow movements with your arms and legs.The practice that you do with it is restaurative, gentle and nice.

Marta is an eccelent guide. Her level of professionalism and experience shows in her rythm and timing as well as in her clear explaination of the excercises. I also praticulary liked her Mexican accent (she lived in Mexico for a number of years and picked up the accent) becasue they add extra sweetness to ehr instructions, like for example “relaja las manitas.” (“Relax your little hands,” awww!).

marta puig

We started off by laying down on the mitra with our spine right on top of it. Marta invited us to let go of tensions in our back ans shoulders by focusing on our breath. Afterwards, we made some slow movements with our arms to stretch the muscles between our shoulder blades. The best part of all was when I removed the bacnMitra from underneath my back and lay down on the floor. I could feel my shoulder blades nice and wide, my back flat on the ground. It was amazing!

In this video you will learn how to position the mitra under your spine and how to use your breathing just like we did in class. If you purchased a backmitra on saturday this video is perfect to preactice at home.

I personally loved the experience and the results. I felt thatI could release deeptension in my bahck and especially right between my shoulderblades. Today I returned to my regular practice and could feel my shoulder more open, especially in backbends and heart opening poses. It feels as if my arms were longer and my chest were broader.

The other yogis loved it too. A few of us purchased several, for ourselves, our oyuga students and friends. The excercises you do with this prop are accesible to anyone, that is why they also make such great gifts. (Speaking of gifts, next week’s post is all about gift ideas for yogis 🙂 ).

Links

Here you’ll find a set of 3 easy excercises to practice with the BackMitra. And here is a link to a video guided classes that are very easy to follow. My friend Gloria and I tried out all 3 of them and liked them a lot. They’re so easy to follow and the benefits are immediately noticeable. Enjoy your home practice!!

Immersion in Yoga and Anatomy 2014

It’s funny how even though you may have seen some anatomy images upteenth times, when it comes to relating t to a human body it all changes. Where are those rhomboid muscles located, exactly? and how large is the lower end of the trapezius muscle? A great way to put it all together is to draw the muscles directly onto the body of another person. This is what we did last friday in the yoga and anatomy immersion that I co-teach with Claudio San Martin. 

inmersión de anatomía aplicada

The topic of this particular class was shoulder opening postures in yoga. We studied the different muscles that make up the shoulder girdle as well as their actions in different asanas. Then I suggested we play a game: divide into teams and draw the muscles on one of our team-mates. It was really fun! First we painted the deltoids, rhomboids and  traps on our models, then we compared the shape and size of the muscles from person to person. 

anatomía aplicada con Julia Zatta

We even discovered that with our muscles painted on we look and feel stronger 😉 What do you think?

This coming friday will be our last class of the immersion; the hours and weeks have flown by. Thank you so much Claudio  for bringing me along on this journey and thank you to all of you who have participated!! You’re an amazing group and your energy has been wonderful: open, fun and dedicated to learning. See you all soon!!

inmersión con claudio

Yoga workshop with Greg Nardi en Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga

greg nardi en barcelona

What a great weekend! I attended a 3 day yoga workshop with Greg Nardi hosted my my teacher Paz Muñoz.

It’s interesting how having a new set of eyes watching you practice suddenly wakes you up! I found myself putting in my best effort; what was routine on Thursday was fresh and exciting on Friday. Practicing with a lot of people in the room is also pretty cool (or should I say warm?) especially in winter. The energy of the group carries you and it’s easier to concentrate. 

It was also nice to have time to spend with my classmates after practice. Mysore style is a curious practice. You don’t really get a chance to chat with your classmates, even though you see them on the mat every day. This is because each person moves through their sequence at their own pace; we start and finish at different times and then we rush off to work. It’s nice to have this extra time to connect and spend time together. 

Impressions

Greg has a lovely energy and embodies some great qualities for a teacher: he is focused, precise and gentle. Here are some words he spoke that resonated with me:

Yoga is not something that we do, yoga is something we experience. 

I like hearing this because it reminds me that the achievements of yoga aren’t something you can measure from the outside. They are not directly related with the physical abilities of the practitioner, but reside in the individual experience. The asana practice is a tool to experience yoga or “union” for ourselves.

We keep the yoga tradition alive through the student-teacher relationship and through the daily exploration on the mat. 

This sentence resonates with me because I like to think of yoga as alive; this is why it can’t be reduced just to a set of exercises and techniques. To preserve its integrity yoga is passed on from person to person, from teacher to student. This relationship is as fascinating as it is complex… Besides this one has the responsibility to cultivate yoga for themselves, on their mat.  A friend of mine says: “if you forget about it [yoga] it will forget you.”

Yoga gives us more will, more strength to make better choices.

..to act with integrity, according to our values.

**Follow Greg and Paz on Facebook

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