Harmonize

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Harmonize

Greetings Everyone!

Anyone who has ever attended one of my public classes and heard me try to mimic Lionel Richie’s “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” during a particularly intense hip opening pose knows quite well that I am not a very good singer. In fact, I didn’t make the cut in the 6th grade Glee Club tryouts because I had a really hard time singing the harmony part. Every time the choir conductor walked near me, I’d get nervous and my voice would decay into the melody part instead of staying with the notes I’d been given. How is this in any way related to yoga? If you stick with the practice long enough, you realize that it has more to do with music than physical exercise. You engage the rhythm of the breath and you harmonize the limbs in order to unleash a particular melody in the spine that, ironically enough, produces a sublime silence in the mind. And the best part of this musical endeavor is that it is so primal, so natural that it belongs to all of us human beings and cannot possibly result in expulsion from a choral group, or even from American Idol.

Check out our newest release, Harmonize, and you will be able to hear inside yourself this universal song that I am attempting to describe. As elementary as the poses might first appear, each one offers you an opportunity to coordinate the actions of your legs in order to elongate the sides of your waist. Level 1 students will find greater stability in standards like Triangle Pose and Side Angle Pose, while Level 2 and 3 students will uncover new layers of subtlety and richness in these same shapes. The basic technique and intent remains the same: make one of your legs Paul Simon and the other one Art Garfunkel and your lower back will end up feeling groovy. Just remember to slow down and not move to fast; you’ve got to make the moment last. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,

Geoffrey

Apres Holiday Yoga

Greetings Everyone!

We spent a good bit of time in early December filming a new video series called Holiday Yoga, which is a set of self-care practices that were intended to help us all through the busy-ness of the holiday run. Ironically enough, I got too busy during the holidays to actually release these videos. So I guess that makes me some sort of a hypocrite, or maybe just a procrastinator. But while I failed to share these stress-reducing strategies with you, I certainly practiced each of them on my own, and this produced a few key insights worth relaying. First, while I ordinarily like to practice an hour of yoga each day, it was reaffirming to only do 20-minute routines here and there. Reaffirming because one of the core beliefs of MYTG is that quality and frequency matter more than duration. Meaning that yoga is more effective when done more consciously and consistently rather than infrequently and with high intensity. Second, it’s hard to give fully and effectively if one hasn’t first received. Received enough sleep, nourishment, rest, etc. That might sound terribly obvious, but sometimes we overlook obvious truths. So, could we turn that into an easily memorizable MYTG aphorism for future reference? Something like, the ability to share originates with self-care? I’m open to less corny renditions of that sentiment; feel free to write back if you can think of something better. And finally, the last thing that I realized through this whole episode was that Holiday Yoga might actually be better suited to early January because so many of us are feeling like we need a holiday from the holidays!

In any case, I hope that you enjoy these offerings and that they serve you no matter where you happen to be stationed and no matter what type of condition you’re in. Holiday Yoga #1 is a well-rounded practice that will re-energize your body/mind. Holiday Yoga #2 is a centering practice that uses the support of a wall to help refine your alignment. Holiday Yoga #3 is one of my personal favorite heart-opening routines, which was designed to create buoyancy in your chest and lightness to your being. And Holiday Yoga #4 features the ultimate in restoration. It’s literally just one decadent restorative pose that soothes the nervous system and smoothes the breath. String them all together or try them a la carte and you will be reminded of the state of well-being that is always available to us when we come back home to our body and breath.

Take care,

Geoffrey

Ode to Self-Care

Greetings Everyone!

Anyone who has been to one of my public classes in the past few years has no doubt heard me reference the Catholic humanitarian, Dorothy Day. As a young girl growing up in Oakland, she witnessed the city of San Francisco catch fire during the 1906 earthquake and saw boatloads of people fleeing across the bay in search of refuge and medical aid. To her astonishment, all of the adults on the Oakland side knew exactly how to respond to the situation by spontaneously and generously providing food, water, shelter, and care. Out of this experience she asked herself a beautiful and poignant question that shaped the trajectory of her life’s work — ‘If we know innately how to treat each other in times of crisis, why can’t we live this way all the time?’ I have often wondered the same thing myself, and it seems to come up each year around the holiday time. ‘If we know how to treat each other with kindness and generosity during the holidays, we don’t we treat each other like that all the time?’ More recently, I’ve been pondering the question of why we seem to be able to extend tenderness toward animals, children, or people in need, but often times we fail to be able to extend that quality of tenderness toward ourselves. And this last question seems to be how the yoga practice keeps calling us back, not to selfishness but to a type of Self-fullness, Self-relevance, and Self-belonging. We simply must remember to include ourselves on the list of those who deserve care, and though it may not initially be easy to do so, the net result will be a greater capacity to serve all of humanity.

Check out our newest releases, Everyday Yoga #3 and #4. These are beautiful sequences of poses and alignment actions that I try to work on every day to care for my back. Everyday Yoga #3 focuses on the optimal alignment of the sacrum, or “sacred bone,” in a wide variety of poses. While Everyday Yoga #4 explores the relationship between strengthening the backs of the legs in order to lengthen the front of the spine. Both practices are a boon for low-grade, everyday back pain. Both practices will improve your capacity to breathe in the fragrance and fullness of life. Both will lay the foundation for you to navigate the mayhem of the holiday season with inner space and grace. Hope you enjoy!

Yoga for Healthy Hands

Greetings Everyone!

“The hand is the cutting edge of the mind” is one of the many classic lines uttered by Jacob Bronowski in his classic work, The Ascent of Man. Over the course of human history, the hands have been the primary instruments that our imaginative minds have used for shaping our environment and for expressing ourselves creatively. The hands are also one of the main ways that we relate to each other, either by ‘giving someone a hand’ through a round of applause or by shaking hands during a greeting. Yet, it feels like our 21st century hands are more adept at relating to phones and keyboards than they are to actual human beings. And when we put ourselves in some of the simplest, most recognizable yoga poses, we quickly realize that our hands are impaired and unconscious in the way that they relate to the ground. Telltale signs of this deficiency? Compression in the wrists, pain in the elbows, instability in the shoulders, and excess tension in the neck. That’s why we created our new series, Yoga for Healthy Hands 1 and 2! Each of these videos details the proper alignment and actions of the hands in key poses where the hands are responsible for bearing at least some of the weight of the rest of the body. Have you secretly never really liked Downward Dog? These videos are for you. Do you spend at least 10 minutes each day on a computer? These videos are for you. Have you suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome? These videos are for you. Do you want to feel free in your wrists and elbows and light in your chest and neck? These videos are for you. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Everyday Yoga

Greetings Everyone!

As a dedicated fan of the New Orleans Saints, I thoroughly enjoyed watching our inimitable quarterback, Drew Brees, break the NFL record for all-time passing yards last Monday night. But I also have to admit that I couldn’t help feeling a little perplexed and depressed by the thousands of fans who were watching the game at the Superdome through their phone. I thought the whole point of watching a live sporting event was to experience it in all of its immediacy, intimacy, and vibrancy. So it just strikes me as really odd that many of the people who were there seemed more interested in the recording of the event than in the actual participation of the event. It felt like the same lunacy as someone eating the menu at a restaurant instead of their meal. We have become a culture that covets symbols and recordings over the realities that they are intended to represent. And this is why yoga is so important for our day and age. We are in desperate need of practices that reconnect us to the present moment so that we can once more experience life directly rather than virtually.

The obvious irony in my writing all of this is that I am advocating instructional yoga videos, accessed through the internet, as a means of healing this neurosis. Yet I firmly believe that our programs are useful tools for bringing you back to yourself, to what we might call embodied presence. To the extent that you lack embodied presence, you will need external validations such as Facebook likes in order to know that you were there. Let’s stop the madness right now by feeling our feet on the ground and noticing our breath… Can you spare a few more minutes? Great! Check out our newest releases, Everyday Yoga #1 and #2. Each of these videos presents simple pose sequences, alignment exercises, and breathing techniques that I try to work on each day. Remember our mantra that frequency and quality mater more than duration. So even though the practices are fairly short, when done consistently and mindfully they are portals into presence. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,

Expand

Greetings Everyone!

Today marks the 13 year anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, and it was during this same week, only a year ago, that we were all watching the devastation that Hurricane Harvey had just wreaked on the city of Houston. In the aftermath of both of these events, we have heard so many accounts of what people did wrong — from the incompetence of governmental leaders, to the discriminatory actions of police officers, to the negligence of average citizens overlooking the needy in their efforts to flee — that they overshadow all of the stories that demonstrate what people did right. For instance, I feel enheartened and inspired by the members of “the Cajun Navy,” who rushed over from western Louisiana to Houston with their boats in order to help rescue folks who were stranded in their homes. And it seems to me that in our uber-polarized society, we need to acknowledge and highlight instances where people’s actions stem from an instinctive sense of shared humanity. So what’s preventing us from seeing our commonalities on a regular basis? What if we treated each other with dignity, respect, and belonging all the time instead of reserving that behavior to times of crisis?

From the Hatha yoga perspective, the head is the part of the body that divides and categorizes one’s experience of life while the heart region connects and synthesizes it. And so if our intention is to regain vision of our basic human unity, then it is a postural imperative to elevate the heart above the head. This is one of my favorite effects of a yoga practice that emphasizes inverted backbends: the poses make me feel as though my heart is expanding and my head is shrinking, energetically of course. I know that those regions aren’t actually changing in size, but the inner sensation is undeniable. And the attitude that accompanies this sensation is somehow more tender, patient, and kind than my habitual orientation.

If any of that sounds interesting to you, then I’d like to invite you to try a few practices from our extensive vault. Filmed back in 2014, the Full Circumference Chest Opening Series features asana sequences that are designed to expand your heart area in all directions. You will feel lighter and more open on all levels of your being. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Lighten Up

Greetings Everyone!

A few summers ago my wife and I attempted to introduce our children to the joys of hiking in the Rocky Mountains. Despite all of our efforts to point out the beauty of the wildflowers, the fresh smell of the alpine trees, and the lovely murmurs of the streams, the only thing that the kids seemed to be experiencing was the effort of walking uphill. “I’m tired. Are we there yet? My legs hurt. Are we there yet? It’s hard to breathe. Are we there yet?” Fed up with the complaining, I decided to hoist my oldest son onto my shoulders and carry him, but I didn’t last long. It was as though his resistant, negative attitude made him weigh as much as an NFL lineman. So we decided to stop in the shade and eat some peanut M&Ms. Just then a pack of kids came hiking up the trail behind us, and they were singing and laughing. Turns out that each one had cancer, yet you wouldn’t have guessed it judging by the enthusiasm and radiant energy that they exuded. After a brief conversation, and feeling inspired by the impression that these kids had made upon our family, we decided to saddle up and continue our hike. My son and I agreed that I would carry him another hundred yards up a steep stretch before he would resume hiking by himself. But wouldn’t you know it? This time when I went to hoist him on my shoulders, he felt significantly lighter. Despite being 10 peanut M&Ms heavier, he felt like a kid again instead of an NFL lineman. That’s when I realized quite clearly that one’s attitude influences one’s physical state, sometimes to an astonishing degree.

The old time yogis were some of the first people on record to figure out that if attitude affects posture, posture can in turn affect attitude. It goes both ways. Check out this week’s newest release, Recharge #10, and you can experiment with this theory in the laboratory of your own body/mind. After being led through a brief warm up, you will follow a sequence of seated twisting postures that all take place in a chair. Don’t be deterred by the use of a prop! The twists are deep yet accessible, and they will leave your lower back feeling delectably light. Then sit quietly with yourself for a few moments and observe your thought patterns. Do you notice any correlation between the way you feel physically and your current outlook on life?… Hope you enjoy!

Take care,

Geoffrey

Inner Freedom

Greetings Everyone!

It’s no real surprise that this sentiment surfaces every year around the 4th of July, but one of the things for which I am most grateful to yoga is the sublime sense of internal freedom that it bestows. By freedom, I mean fluidity, spaciousness, and authenticity. No matter where I happen to be stationed or what the outer circumstances of my life are presenting, I cherish the opportunity that yoga provides for me to become un-stuck, inwardly expansive, and more closely aligned with what I consider to be the core of my being. Obviously we need a fair amount of external freedoms in order to even be able to turn our attention to the inner landscape, but it seems to me that the inner dimension is a neglected one in our culture, and therefore one that we all have a certain yearning to explore.

Check out our newest releases and you’ll have an embodied taste of what I’m trying to describe. In Kidney Cleanse I’ll teach you a fabulous sequence of poses that will free you from the shackles of poor postural habits that can adversely affect your body’s key filtration system. You will feel both calm and energized in less than 20 minutes. Then in Moving Toward Stillness, Brooke LeBourgeois will show you her favorite recipe for accessing internal silence in a mere 10 minutes. This practice is very beginner-friendly, featuring a series of gentle stretches for the lower back and shoulders and a breathing technique for focusing the mind. Each of these videos is not suggesting “an ideal position” that you should cling to in order to be healthy or “an ideal state of stillness” that you should strive to sustain; rather, each one is inviting you to remember conditions of consonance that are your birthright to revisit as needed. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,

Geoffrey

Recharge Encore

Greetings Everyone!

I was discussing the current state of affairs in the yoga world with a fellow studio owner from San Francisco recently, and she was expressing the challenges of keeping her business afloat in an environment where corporate yoga powerhouses are buying up smaller studios to magnify their brand and maximize their profits. Apparently one of the teachers at her studio had told her that this phenomenon was not such a bad thing because at least these monopolists were “keeping yoga relevant.” My friend pondered the logic of this statement and then rebutted, “Actually, it’s stress that is keeping yoga relevant in today’s world.”

Alignment-based yoga is a reliable antidote to stress because of the way it preserves the integrity of the spine and therefore pacifies the central nervous system. Many of us warehouse our stress in the neck and shoulders, and so I am thrilled to announce that our three new releases all address this tendency. In Recharge #7, you will revisit a classic MYTG sequence for re-balancing the shoulder girdle and softening the muscles of the neck, then you will calm and focus your mind through the practice of nadi shodhana, also known as alternate nostril breathing. In Recharge #8, which was originally titled “Head and Shoulders Below the Rest,” you will be guided through the essential actions for safely practicing inverted poses. And finally, in Recharge #9 you will move through a hip-opening/forward-bending sequence that culminates in an admittedly bizarre looking pose that nevertheless relaxes the neck. Of course if you have a lavish whole hour to focus on your wellness, then try practicing all three of these videos in the order presented. Your body-mind will feel calm, alert, centered, and present. Hope you enjoy!