Working 2 Walk

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Yoga Report

Posted by katewillette on April 14, 2008

We have the woman who taught Matthew Sanford , author of Waking.  There are a number of peopel in chairs here.  Okay, I need to say that it feels amazing not to have a slide show up.  I am sick of slide shows. Ahem.

Jo is (like every yoga-doing woman I know) clearly in great shape, as is her adult daughter, who’s standing by to help with the program today.  There’s a little girl (maybe 5 years old) who has been riding around in a tiny wheelchair.  Right now she’s sprawled on a purple yoga mat next to her brother with her legs splayed awkwardly.

Jo says that yoga is not actually about the physical aspect that everybody thinks they understand.  In fact, the 2 main things are nonviolence and truth . . . followed by the postures.  All these things go together, and it’s important to think while doing the postures of doing them nonviolently and with honesty to your own self.  She’s saying all this while leaning her upper body against a wall facing the group with her feet together, legs straight about a foot from the wall.  She says that you must have a burning desire to do this, and that she believes instilling this desire is what she does best.

She met Matt Sanford 17 years ago.  It’s hard, she says, to know the amount of time they actually spent together working on the simplest things done with the body in alignment — a ridiculous, unbelievable amount of time.  What happens is you start out trying so hard to do just 3 or 4 poses with good alignment, very slowly, very carefully, and never giving up.  The teaching she was doing with him was exactly the same as the teaching with her other students.  After a while he started coming into her regular classes.

It was, she says, simple . . . but long.  Today she’s going to show us the 4 poses that he did very diligently for over a year.

Question:  What about other yoga practices, different from the kind you teach?  Ah, there are lots of kinds–everything from very gentle to hot yoga to blended with other things.  Her kind is called Iyengar, after a 90-year-old teacher who has been doing it since he was 14 years old.  She admits that she’s “biased” toward it, because she’s been doing it since the late 70’s.

AB woman asks if anything we’re going to do will require her to get on her knees . . . Jo says no, not today–but if she needed to do that she could with good instruction, lots of padding.

Question: What did this do for Matt?  The first thing he noticed was the way he could transfer . . . a small piece of a sticky mat became something he carried around everywhere.  His general balance got so much better, and he got a lifted look and feeling . . . his head and shoulder alignment was much better.  He started getting sensation to the lowest part of his spine, maybe after about a year.  This helped him a lot; he says that he learned yoga from the inside, and then it spread to the outside.  (I think this means that he visualized his bones and joints doing what they needed to do to achieve alignment instead of trying to make his muscles obey.)

This guy had two SCI’s and he’s a T4 complete.

Jo says that the simple, truthful aspects — am I really in alignment?  Should I move to another pose when I’m not really in alignment?–these were things she learned from him.

She invites everybody to take off their shoes.  If they’re comfortable.

Everyone is sitting on their mats, cross-legged with towels under their butts.  The movements in yoga are done better on an exhalation than on an inhalation.  Why?  Because if you exhale, you’re just bound to inhale, but if you hold your breath, you’ll eventually pass out.

There are supposedly more than 4 million yoga poses . . . she points around the room and says that the way everyone is sitting constitutes a bunch of variations on a theme.  She has them cross their legs the other way.  She gets behind one guy and helps him straighten his bag.  A young Asian guy just got down out of a power chair . . . a helper took off his boots.

Now everyone puts their palms together, prayer-style while sitting with legs crossed.  Straighten the legs, she says, and they all do.   Keeping backs straight, they use belts (like gait belts) wrapped around the legs where neded to keep the legs straight and together.  When they’re all sorted out, she reminds them all to sit up again.  People are laughing at themselves . . . Jo goes to the front of the room and gets tehir attention again.  The pose they’re in now, sitting up straight with legs together straight up in front of them.  Arms are just behind them with elbows slightly bent.  Butt bones are touching the floor.  The sense of direction is up.  This pose relates to the basic standing pose . . . in the sense that it aligns the hips and the back in the same way.

She tells the little girl that she’s beautiful.  “Thank you.”

There’s a woman kneeling tall behind the guy from the power chair, keeping him upright while Jo’s daughter works with him to beat the tone in his feet so they can point at the ceiling.  They put a rolled up mat between his knees so that he can have some stability with his legs out straight and strapped in that position.

Next is a pose with the knees out and bare soles of feet touching one another.  More laughter . . . she says it’s more important to be in the position where you can sit up straight than to be able to hold your toes with your chest caved in and your shoulders curved.  Your feet should be lined up, and you should put towels or whatever you need to have your alignment be correct.

Really important when you come out of this pose to take one leg out at a time, very gently stretching them, then slowly lie back and bring both knees to the chest.  The little girl is giggling at the sight of her mom, who is really not as good at this as she is.  Women walk around the room helping those who need it to get to this position.  Then they all (more or less) roll to the side and get back to sitting position with legs crossed or straight in front of them.  They hold their arms straight out and then (if possible) slowly lift them.

One of the helper women is sitting close behind a disabled woman, giving her balance while she lifts both arms all the way up.  (For some reason I am emotional watching this . . . memories of rehab, trying so hard to help, feeling with my own body how hard certain things were.)  Now they lower their arms and then lift them again, this time with their palms in.  “Bring them up, hold them for a second, bring them down.”

Put your awareness on the center of the palm of your hand and keep your thought there while moving the hands straight out and thinking of moving that awareness all the way to your finger tips.  When you bring your arms down, don’t bring everything else down . . . it’s as if you have to lift your sides to keep them from falling.

Now the Asian guy has a woman on each side getting his arms out, plus another kneeling behind.  He’s in the same position as everyone else in the room . . .

They do the cobra, and the child’s pose, They stretch their backs again by lying on them and the little girl glances at her mom and says, “You gotta do it too!”  Now a wide-open legged pose with arms outstretched, palms down.  People are working with her, in spite of clonus and tone and wobbly trunk muscles.  Sometimes they look at her with ironic expressions when she gives them an instruction, but they’re so game.

It’s fascinating that this is even possible.  Here’s a link to information about Matt Sanford and yoga for people with SCI ~

She’s showing us how to get ready to breathe.  🙂  You get a rolled up towel placed under your neck so that you’re in a comfortable position, with the head neutral and supported under the neck.  Put a few rolled up mats under your knees, ah.  Arms at your sides, fingers relaxed and open.  She dims the lights and asks everyone to relax . . . the shoulders, arms, eyebrows, eyes.  Let gravity hold you and take you.  Become broad.  Eyes, cheekbones, ears, mouth . . . lips touching lightly, tongue relaxed.

She’s leading them through a breathing exercise which would sound  if I spelled it out on this screen.  What you should picture is the darkened room with all these people completely chill on their backs and a slim blonde woman moving around the front, gently reminding them to relax.  Normal inhale, slightly exhale.  Back to normal breathing.  The pattern is a couple of normal breaths, then one with a normal inhale and slightly longer exhale, back to normal . .. then the other way, slightly longer inhale with normal exhale, then a couple of normal.

Someone just snored, very sweet and soft . . .

She goes right on, and now they’re doing extra on both the inhale and the exhale . . . only one or two, then back to normal.  It’s perfectly quiet.

One Response to “Yoga Report”

  1. Barbarra Mace said

    Here is the link to Jo Zukovich’s web site:

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