Daily Archives: March 28, 2008

Yoga, Snow, and More Yoga

Today begins tour of duty number 7 of 10 (unless, of course, we’re going to get a snow day tonight. More on that later). I’m not overly confident that I know all the muscles of the hip and thigh, but at this point I think I know as much as I’m going to. I’ll bring my book with me this evening (if we have class) and cram before the test. I feel far more confident going into this test than I have so far – I like posting lessons; I find that I learn best what I teach – but it’s still an awful lot of information that I may or may not actually use in my practice.

The last few muscles that I need to go over are the piriformus muscle (which is the little guy that’s responsible for most cases of sciatica), the sartorius muscle (which is the longest muscle in our bodies – I did not know that before I took this class) and the gracilis muscle. I’m supposed to know the iliopsoas and a bunch of others, too, by my brain is full…

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The gracilis is one of five of the adductor group of the inner thigh and is the only adductor that crosses the knee. The gracilis flexes and medially rotates the flexed knee.

The sartorius muscle stretches from the anterior superior iliac spine to the medial knee. It’s the muscle that helps us put one foot on the other knee – its name refers to its ability to bring the thigh and leg into the position a tailor would use when sewing (sartor is Latin for tailor – so sayeth my Trail Guide to the Body, Third Edition).

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The piriformis is one of the “deep six” hip muscles that allow for lateral rotation of the hip (you can see it in the first image on the right hand side). Because all of the other lateral rotators lie under the sciatic nerve, it’s the piriformis, when over-tight, that puts pressure on that nerve and causes such discomfort.

Now, on to the snow. Yes, it’s snowing again in Chili’s neighborhood. We’re expecting anywhere from 3-7 inches before it’s all over. I’m pretty sure we’ve got no money left in the plowing budget as evidenced by this photo of my street (taken from a dead stop – no, I wasn’t driving and taking pictures at the same time).

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When I dropped Beanie off at school today (I had to speak to someone in the office, so we decided to skip the bus and go in together), nearly everyone in the place was amazed that there wasn’t at least a 2 hour delay – the roads really are awful and I’ve been hearing the sounds of sirens off and on since around six this morning. I’m really not looking foward to picking my way to the health club to teach my 10:15 yoga class later this morning.

It does make for some cute pictures, though – observe; Beanie trying to work a shovel that’s literally taller than she is:

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It makes me a little sad, though – I feel like we went one step forward and two steps back. I’ve been looking forward to our tree being covered in frothy white blossoms, not frosty white flakes:

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Finally, I attended a yoga class yesterday at Local U. My boss had asked me to take the class; she wanted to get my opinion of the man she’d hired to replace me when my TCC classes started up again. Let’s call him Steve.

I was not impressed.

For starters, Steve is VERY hands-on. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make a LOT of people profoundly uncomfortable. We don’t live in a society where touching is generally accepted, and to have a complete stranger come up and put his hands on you can be really unnerving; Mike found this out the hard way – it totally freaked him out; I’m actually surprised he stayed for the whole session (I went to him after class to ask if he was okay). My suggestion to Steve would be to ASK participants if they don’t mind being touched and not wait until a participant tells you not to touch them, as Mike had to do. I have everyone close their eyes (so no one feels singled out) and ask who wouldn’t mind being touched rather than who DOESN’T want it (I prefer to accentuate the “yes” rather than the “no”). I take my count, then ask people to put their hands down and open their eyes. Only THEN do I even THINK about adjusting someone, and even THEN I am very cautious about how I approach them. I felt that Steve’s approach was jarring and intrusive and bordered on rude.

He came to me in bridge pose, for example, and essentially grabbed my hips while suggesting, in a way that didn’t make me feel very honored, that I wasn’t doing enough in the pose. I got that feeling from him a lot, and I don’t think it was just me being sensitive – he actually said “I can’t feel you pushing against me, Chili, you need to work a little harder in this pose.” I’m sorry, but I’m NOT down with that. If I were a beginner or someone who was unsure about myself or my abilities in class, I’d never come back.

I got a cyst removed from my forehead on Tuesday, right? I’ve got four stitches in my head and am still in a fair bit of pain. Being in downward facing positions is uncomfortable for me. I told Steve this when I introduced myself before the class began, but he repeatedly singled me out – by name – and told me to “relax your neck.” Relaxing my neck would have put my head in a downward orientation, and it felt as though my brains were going to fall out onto the mat in that position. It finally got to the point where I actually had to tell him, “Steve, I’m taking care of an injury – I’m not going to do downward facing poses today,” It took that to get him to back off.

He didn’t offer any kind of modifications for any of the movements. I’ve found that it’s important to give a lot of different options for different body types and abilities, but Steve didn’t make that accommodation. I wished to put my hands together under my body in bridge, and he actually told me not to – I felt scolded. I personally believe that the point of yoga class is to find one’s own expression of the pose, whatever that happens to be today – it could be different tomorrow. I offer a lot of different suggestions – even different poses that work the same muscles in different ways – but none of those options was offered.

All in all, I didn’t feel that it was a very welcoming session. I’m pretty sure it would have scared off anyone new to yoga – the poses weren’t HARD, but they were held for what even I considered a long time, and, like I said, there were no modifications. While Steve’s voice is lovely and soothing, he didn’t give off a very accepting or welcoming energy. He didn’t use music in the class, either, which I think might make some people uncomfortable; a lot of people feel awkward in silence. I think that Steve would be GREAT in a studio setting, where the participants are expecting the sort of class he led; I think they expect something very different in a fitness environment.

As I was thinking of my assessment of Steve’s class, it’s made me much more sensitive to how I teach. I know I’m not perfect, but I walk into class each and every time with the mindful intention of making everyone feel welcomed and capable and comfortable. I hope like crazy that I never come off the way Steve did, and I’m going to be even more careful going forward to make sure that I don’t inadvertently put someone off. It’s too easy to scare people away, and I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s bad experience with yoga.

Happy Friday, Everyone!

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