Yes, Yoga Is a Cardio Workout

To all the haters who say “yoga isn’t a cardio workout” or “I don’t burn enough calories at yoga,” we’ve got news for you. One of our favorite healthy living blogs, Well + Good, has just shared a study which states that if you practice a fast-paced flow, “it can be just as good for your heart as your average HIIT workout.” Specifically, “those who flowed faster burned an average of 48 more calories during the session, compared to those who were on a 12-seconds-per-pose pace.”

So what are you waiting for? Come sweat it out and burn it off! 

For more information check out the full article on Well+Good here, or read more about why we go hot at sweat

 

Teacher Spotlight: Zara Gardner

Where are you from originally? I grew up in South Dakota, but lived in Minneapolis Minnesota for years.  
 
What brought you to LA? My husband was invited to join a studio in LA.  We had been wanting to move to California for so long.  We were so excited for the opportunity.
 
How did you get into yoga? I was skating competitively and wanted to work my body and mind a different way.  I had taken yoga in high school and remembered that I liked it so I started to work it into my routine.
 
How long have you been practicing yoga? My first class was 18 years ago, but I became more dedicated about 10 years ago. 
 
What is your favorite thing about yoga? It has taught me strength of mind as well as body.  Like so many, I entered yoga through the door marked physical, but the mental benefits have been so profound. I look at the world completely differently now.  I have deeper peace and satisfaction.
 
How did you decide you wanted to teach? I wanted to share yoga with everyone in the world! I wanted everyone to enjoy the benefits I was enjoying.  I imagine if more people can love their bodies and lives on a deeper level, the whole world benefits from that joy.
 
Where did you do your teacher training? In Minneapolis I participated in multiple Life Power Yoga teacher trainings with many teachers. I also lead teacher trainings which helps to keep expanding knowledge and growth.  
 
How long have you been teaching? 4 years 
 
If you weren’t a yoga instructor what would you be?  Teaching yoga is the best,  but I would love to have someone pay me to ride motorcycles or sing in a band as well.
 
Do you do  any other forms of exercise? I love roller skating, biking, hiking, running and barre classes. I have an on and off relationship with snowboarding and weights.   
 
Do you have any other healthy habits or tips that you want to share? Being vegan feels really good in my body and heart.   If that feels extreme, I would say don’t feel like it has to be all or nothing.  Every time you eat a plant based meal it makes a positive difference.  It’s okay if you are not looking to commit 100%. You probably already love many foods that are free of animal products.  Just do what feels right for your body.
 
What do you like most about teaching at sweat? The community is really special.  The students and teachers are so strong and enthusiastic. Everybody is so welcoming.  It is so cool to see people having so much fun when they are at Sweat.   I have been to so many studios in the LA area and the Sweat community really stands out and is extra awesome!
 
What is one thing you can’t leave home without?   1 thing?! I usually have so much stuff with me. My cellphone is #1 though.
 
What book are you currently reading? Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
 
What is a quote you live by? Be excellent to each other!  (it’s from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure). 

Teacher Spotlight: Layna Dakin

Where are you from originally? Boston
 
What brought you to LA? The weather, the beach, and a boy…
 
How did you get into yoga? My big brother took me to a Baptiste hot yoga class in Boston, I was totally hooked. I had no idea what a “full body workout” really meant until that day.
 
How long have you been practicing yoga? 16 years
 
What is your favorite thing about yoga? Mindfulness. Whether I’m meditating, breathing, moving, or reading the sutras; yoga has the quality to connect you.
 
How did you decide you wanted to teach? I had already been teaching step aerobics and kickboxing when I found yoga, so it was a natural progression.
 
Where did you do your teacher training? My two most influential trainings were Baron Baptiste (300hr) and Annie Carpenter (300hr), however I am continuously taking more each year. I find it pivotal to stay motivated and inspired to take at the very least a workshop every year.
 
How long have you been teaching? Fitness 17 years, yoga 14 years
 
11401391_1118464091501737_8214251458131428889_n
 
If you weren’t a yoga instructor what would you be? A psychologist or kinesiologist.
 
Do you do  any other forms of exercise? Of course!!!!! Bodies crave change and new experiences. You know what they say, “too much of anything.” I life weights, jog, run the stairs, bike, swim, hike, and pole dance. I try to for at least one random thing a week.
 
Do you have any other healthy habits or tips that you want to share? Well, it’s not rocket science. How you look and feel is 80% diet. Eating well is mandatory. Also, having a positive outlook on life changes everything. I know its such a yogi statement. Be willing to practice acceptance and non attachment with every experience. It’s no good to hold on to past resentments, traumas and stories. Practicing yoga is a great way to begin releasing.
 
What do you like most about teaching at sweat? The freedom to let the students discover their own way. It can be a challenge to let your students leave the proverbial “nest” as teacher we feel responsible for every little movement and want to micro manage and hold their hand through every step of the way. I can’t tell you hoe much of a great practice it is to trust that they know beat and can figure it out.
 
What is one thing you can’t leave home without? Chapstick
 
What book are you currently reading? Harry Potter for like the 50th time.. it never gets old.
 
What is a quote you live by? “You live your truth by sharing it” -Baptiste
 
What more Layna? You can find her below!
 

Teacher Spotlight: Paige Rene

Where are you from originally? Phoenix, AZ

What brought you to LA? The beach Duh! That and Yancy Schwartz =)

How did you get into yoga? As every good yoga story starts, after hitting rock bottom. After being in and out of treatment center my teenage years and early 20’s for an eating disorder and prescription drug abuse, yoga was the only thing that made sense to me and stuck.

How long have you been practicing yoga? 4 years

What is your favorite thing about yoga? The community

How did you decide you wanted to teach? I never really made a conscious decision to teach, it was a natural next step in my evolution as a yogi, to share what I had learned.

Where did you do your teacher training? The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts in Tempe, AZ.

How long have you been teaching? 3.5 years

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.26.59 PM

If you weren’t a yoga instructor what would you be? Lost

Do you do any other forms of exercise? Indoor rock climbing (bouldering) and any and all activities that can be done by the beach!

Do you have any other healthy habits or tips that you want to share? Cut sugar out of your diet, sugar and carbs those things are evil.

What do you like most about teaching at Sweat? The freedom

What is one thing you can’t leave home without? Sergio (my dog)

What book are you currently reading? Walking the Tiger by Peter Levine

What is a quote you live by? “You only need 3 things in life to be happy; 1. Someone to love 2. Something to do 3. Something to look forward to” -Buddha

Want More Paige? You can find her below!

Website

Instagram

Class Schedule

It's Getting Hot(ter) In Here!

abs11

Have you been sweating more then usual? Don’t worry its not you, it’s our new infrared heating system that has been making things extra steamy. Infrared heat is different because it heats peoples bodies directly, not just the air around them. Because of this the room won’t feel that much hotter but you will sweat a lot more then usual and also get all the great benefits of infrared heat. Below are some of our favorite benefits.

DETOXIFICATION

Sweating is the body’s safe and natural way to heal & stay healthy. Far infrared heat benefits the body by heating it directly causing a rise in core temperature resulting in a deep, detoxifying sweat at the cellular level, where toxins reside. 

RELAXATION

Unlike typical forced air dry heat, infrared is a gentle, soothing and therapeutic heat that promotes relaxation and improved sleep. Infrared heat helps you relax while receiving an invigorating deep tissue sweat, leaving you fully refreshed after each sweat.

LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE

Infrared het induces a deep sweat to make the heart pump faster, which in turn increases blood flow, lowers blood pressure and helps circulation. Scientific evidence shows that being exposed to infrared heat a couple times a week lowers blood pressure.

PAIN RELEIF

Infrared heat penetrates tissue, joints, and muscles to relieve anything from minor aches and pains to chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. Pain management professionals incorporate infrared heat therapy into treatment plans to decrease pain and muscle spasms and to speed up recovery time. 

SKIN PURIFICATION

Infrared sauna technology can help purify your skin by eliminating toxins from your pores and increasing circulation, resulting in clearer, softer, and healthier-looking skin.

WEIGHT-LOSS

The heat generated by an infrared sauna will cause your core temperature to increase, which can also lead to an increased heart rate. When your body has to work harder to lower your core temperature or keep up with an increased heart rate, your body will burn more calories. Add that to our butt-kicking practice and you will see the pounds melt away.

 

 

Teacher Spotlight: Yancy Schwartz

Yancy

Where are you from originally? NYC, born and raised

What brought you to LA? Came to LA to runaway from winter and as a change of pace and scenery.

What got you into yoga? Got into yoga to help me be a better skateboarder and a girl in my life at the time helped me delve deeper, she was a teacher.

How long have you been practicing yoga? Since 2007, not to long.

What is your favorite thing about yoga? The inner silence / peace of mind.

How did you decide you wanted to teach? It was kinda decided for me. The owner of Yoga to the People asked me to.

Where did you do your teacher training? I trained at Yoga to the People for my 200 hr and 500hr with Sri Dharma Mitra and I did a 50 hr Rocket training at Asta Yoga in SF.  I’ve had a lot of great teachers along the way, I’m always learning and doing lots of self study.

How long have you been teaching? Since 2008

unnamed

If you weren’t a yoga instructor what would you be? I’d probably be at a skate shop or working with skateboarding or in the art field somewhere somehow.

Do you do any other forms of exercise? I don’t do any other exercise. I skateboard a lot but I don’t consider that exercise.

Do you have any other healthy habits or tips that you want to share? Keep your stomach 1/2 full when you eat, 1/4 water the other 1/4 air. Room to digest. Yogic diet.

What’s one thing you cant leave home without? I can’t leave home with out my skateboard, I feel naked without it.

What book are you currently reading?

I don’t read much but the last book I read was “Self Knowledge: Atmabodha” by Swami Nikhilananda. Game changer.

What do you like most about teaching at sweat? The freedom within the the frameworks. Their are so many possibilities and room to explore and play, it’s like an asana jam in a flow.

Want More Yancy? You can find him below!

Website

Instagram

Class Schedule

Teacher Spotlight: Ivorie Jenkins

ivorie_j

Where are you from originally? Chi Town

What brought you to LA? I was living and working in Vegas and ready for a change. The choice was either return to the grind in NYC or give the West Coast a try. A voice saying, “head West young (wo)man…head West” took over. I listened.

What got you into yoga? Mandatory Bikram Yoga class once a week by the rehearsal director of a dance company I danced for in Dallas, TX. I started it, then hated it, then became obsessed. I did Bikram Yoga for 5 years until trying other styles of Yoga!

How long have you been practicing yoga? Since 2005. 10 years!

What is your favorite thing about yoga? That it’s practice not perfection. That it’s a journey not a destination. Helps me to accept who I am, what I am, what I have, as of today so I don’t get caught up in all I DON’T have…all I am NOT.

How did you decide you wanted to teach? This guy named Rumi told me to “let the beauty of what you love be what you do!” When you find a good thing you share it.

Where did you do your teacher training? 200hr Hot Yoga training with VegasHot and 300+ hours with Annie Carpenter at Exhale.

How long have you been teaching? 5 years.

Ivorie_0812

If you weren’t a yoga instructor what would you be? If I could be anything in the world it would be a world class singer! A la Whitney Houston or Celine Dion! Unfortunately, my singing sounds something like a cat in a dryer! Maybe in my next lifetime…

Do you do any other forms of exercise? Lately it’s been Yoga only. For the past 15 years, I’ve danced professionally for my exercise in addition to dance classes, Pilates, Gyrotonics, Physical Therapy training sessions, and late nights on the dance floor at the club. My body needed a break! My workouts now include more mental training including studying, reading meditation and Pranyama.

Do you have any other healthy habits or tips that you want to share? “Eat breakfast like a king. Lunch like a prince. Dinner like a pauper.” I don’t always follow the “dinner like a pauper” advice 😉  but I rarely skimp on breakfast.  If I do have to skimp on breakfast, I eat a major lunch. This helped to regulate my metabolism.

What’s one thing you cant leave home without? My damn cell phone!

What book are you currently reading? Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

What do you like most about teaching at sweat? Sweat is a very unique and special Yoga studio. I love our diversity of teachers and our facilities are unparalleled. I mean how good does our studio smell!!! And the owner really pushes our boundaries as instructors to inspire and motivate our students to be be better versions of themselves. One of my favorite things about teaching at Sweat is offering students the space make their own choices about their own bodies. Freedom exits when you have choices. At Sweat we give students so much leeway. So many choices. So much freedom. As teachers we are the facilitators but the students are the experts. I like reminding students of this.

Want more Ivorie? You can find her below!

Class Schedule

Instagram

You Are What You Yoga

I saw an image recently of a big bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables, which had the following caption:

You Are What You Eat

So Don’t Be Fast, Cheap, Easy, or Fake

Pretty wise advice that gets right to the point in a clever way, and it got me thinking: The same thing applies when we step onto our yoga mats!

You Are What You Yoga

So slow down, don’t cheat yourself, take it easy, and stand in your truth.

Don’t be fast. You have the rest of your day to ride in the fast lane. Why not let the time you spend practicing yoga be all about decelerating? Slow down; take your time on your mat. The slower your breath, the deeper your practice. Don’t be in a rush to get into the poses. Instead, take the time to set up proper alignment first. Try stopping after each sun salutation to take a few breaths and savor it rather than rushing off to the next one.

Don’t be cheap. Be generous. Be generous with your breath and your energy, sharing it with the other people you practice with if you go to a yoga class. If you are practicing at home, don’t skip the time for savasana. Don’t cheat yourself out of a minute on your yoga mat by letting your thoughts drift to your to-do list. Stay present and grounded. Don’t be cheap in rewarding yourself; give yourself the gift of the time to reconnect with your spirit, fully present.

Don’t be easy. B.K.S. Iyengar would say that once you think you know everything there is to know about a yoga pose, that is when you stop practicing yoga. I think what he was trying to teach is don’t take the easy road. Always find new ways to challenge yourself on the yoga mat, new ways to explore the pose, to notice your body and your breath, to quiet your mind. I have done thousands of downward dogs, to the point where this pose should be easy, or even boring, but I’ll never get tired of the thrill of getting my heels a little closer to the floor, marveling at how far I’ve come on my yoga journey.

Do not aim low; you will miss the mark. Aim high, and you will be on a threshold of bliss.”

B.K.S. IyengarLight on Life

Don’t be fake. Your yoga practice should belong to you, not the person next to you. Stop trying to stack up to some picture you have in your mind of what a flexible yogi should look like. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes, and please don’t try to force yourself into doing so! Honor yourself. Stand tall in your truth. And be ok with modifying a pose to fit your body, or taking a resting pose when you need to take a break.

You are what you yoga, so slow down, be generous, keep growing on your journey, and be true to yourself.

——————–

Editor’s note: This is another amazing guest post from Maria Santoferraro, E-RYT.  Maria is first and foremost a student of yoga and hails from the beautiful shores of Lake Erie, Ohio. A former marketing executive with a ‘Crackberry’ addiction, she now enjoys spending her time teaching yoga on the beach, leading “I Am Love” yoga retreats around the world, creating cool yoga workshops and meditation videos for HangTen Meditation. Go from stressed out to blissed out on her blog The Daily Downward DogTwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Join Maria this coming April for Beach Yoga Bliss in Aruba, a yoga, meditation, and SUPYoga retreat on Eagle Beach at Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa or her I Am Love Yoga Retreat in Santorini, Greece.

 

Find Time to Sweat Once a Day

We would love to share our gratitude to Armen of packyourmat.com for visiting our studio, and offering
his sincere (and quite lovely) thoughts regarding his experience.

Please take a moment to read his words, and enjoy a few images as well.

http://packyourmat.com/2015/03/25/find-time-to-sweat-once-a-day/

“I really urge you to check out this gem (both Jacqueline and the studio) in SaMo on 7th and Arizona.  You will not only get an excellent sweat yoga experience, as class ends with a pleasant surprise, which will no longer be a surprise for you as of the next sentence. The experience involves lavender scented iced towels, which you’re invited to put on your eyes during Savasana (final rest).” 

Thanks again, Armen! And of course, namaste.

 

Five Myths of Alignment in Yoga

 

Five Myths of Alignment in Yoga

– by Jonny Kest

We hear the term “alignment” all the time in yoga class, but what, exactly, does it mean?  Here are five misconceptions about alignment that still need straightening out.

Merriam-Webster says that “to align” means ‘to place in a straight line or correct relative positions.’  And it seems like a harmless enough term – indeed, it sounds a lot like what many yoga teachers actually do: they line up the arms and legs and torsos and necks until their students’ postures (asanas) look “correct.”

So what could be wrong with “alignment” as a concept?  It’s just a word, after all – no more or less weighted than any used to define the hard-to-capture practice of performing yogic postures for health, well-being, and self transformation.  Unfortunately, the way many students – and even some teachers – interpret this concept; it can sometimes wind up doing more harm than good.

Below are the five most common misconceptions about yogic alignment – and some suggestions on how you can reframe the concept for yourself – and make your practice more joyful, effective, sensual and satisfying.

MYTH #1:

You were born with perfect symmetrical alignment but through behavior and environmental conditions, you lost it.

This is one of the most common misconceptions in yoga: we used to have perfect symmetry, and if we hadn’t injured ourselves, or succumbed to the conveniences and comforts of modern life, perfect alignment and flexibility would come naturally and a more ‘advanced’ yoga practice would be within our grasp. In other words, we only have ourselves to blame for any limitations in our yoga practice.

The truth, however, is that we are born asymmetrical: one leg is longer, one arm is stronger; the liver is off to one side, while the heart is skewed toward the other side and the right lung is larger than the left. And, of course, everyone writes with a dominant hand, sees more clearly through a dominant eye, and kicks more forcefully with a dominant foot. However, we do not go to bed off balance and we do not feel out of alignment just because we brushed our teeth with our right hand and did not switch to our left half way through.

Certainly, life experiences, mood and behavior affect the tone of your muscles and your physical posture for both good and ill. But winning the genetic lottery of inheritance plays a far bigger role in determining alignment, flexibility, and our capacity for performing the most acrobatic or extreme yoga postures than most practitioners believe. Some children are able to touch their feet to their head behind their backs virtually from birth; others will never be able to. Some rank beginners wander into a yoga class and pull off a deep backbend pose like upward bow (full wheel) on their first day, while some lifetime yogis simply cannot.

When you realize everybody’s alignment is unique, your yoga practice shifts. You stop seeing the poses as idealized linear shapes that you try to achieve, but as tools for learning and moving towards a deeper level of self-understanding and acceptance. Rather than making corrections, you start making more energetic connections. You no longer use your body to get into a pose, but instead use the pose to get into your body.

MYTH #2:

There is a perfect posture waiting to be mastered.

Throw all this natural misalignment and asymmetry into a yoga pose and it becomes clear that ‘perfection’, in human form, is an illusion. In every yogi, in every asana, bone eventually comes into contact with bone, and no yoga teacher in the world – no amount of chanting, visualization, or deep breathing – will get you any deeper. At that point, whether or not you’ve achieved an asana worthy of the cover of next month’s issue of the Yoga Journal is determined almost entirely by the shape of your bones, your genetics.

The best any of us can do is create an individual interpretation of each pose – our own expression of the asana, like a musician’s take on a well-known song. Yo Yo Ma may play “Ode to Joy” in a way few can match, but your nine year-old niece’s interpretation of the same song might bring tears to your eyes because of her commitment, enthusiasm and generosity of spirit. We can find lots to appreciate in both versions.

MYTH #3:

When you’re not in proper alignment you will ultimately hurt or injure yourself.

When you’re talking about the interrelated parts of a machine, the term “alignment” makes perfect sense. Aligning your tires, for example, prevents accidents, prolongs the life of the tires, and makes your car function better.

Many yoga teachers make the same claim about the human body, however, often using the very same language: Our bodies are like machines, they suggest; they work better and last longer when all the separate pieces are properly aligned. Well, do they? In a sense, we’ll never know. Perfect, mechanical alignment doesn’t happen in the body – any body. Bodies are not constructed in straight lines but in curves: blood vessels snake languorously through the body, and bones and teeth contact one another on surfaces that are invariably convex or concave. Try standing relaxed with your feet together – as in mountain pose – and close your eyes. What do you notice? Even mountain pose is a balancing posture requiring countless tiny, moment-to-moment adjustments among many opposing asymmetrical forces.

A 1994 study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that 82% of people experiencing no low-back pain actually showed signs of disc bulges and herniations. The point? The vast majority of us go through life quite happily and comfortably ‘misaligned’ – as literal embodiments of the Japanese term “wabi sabi’ – beautifully imperfect.

Injuries do occur in yoga classes, mostly in the soft tissue of the knees, ankles, shoulders, and lower back. But it’s unlikely that they result from ‘imperfect’ alignment, which varies widely from one body to another. More likely, these injuries occur because people ignore the signals their bodies are sending them about what is safe and what is not safe for them – and may not ever be – and instead try to push themselves to achieve an idealized version of an asana that their body is not ready to perform.

MYTH #4:

When we practice poses with proper alignment, energy flows freely throughout the body.

Many practitioners believe that when you perform a pose with perfect alignment, something semi-magical happens: Energy (prana) effortlessly flows through your torso and extremities. Your nervous system lights up like a Christmas tree. All obstacles to the flow of energy are entirely removed.

In practice, the opposite is true: you go into a pose in order to create an obstacle to the flow of prana. Stretch a muscle, twist your spine, or bend a joint near its end range, and blood and lymph inevitably have a harder time circulating. All you have to do is spend a few minutes in virtually any pose to prove the point: no matter how perfectly aligned your outer form appears, certain areas of your body eventually become numb.

Come out of the pose, however, and prana gushes into your extremities like water through an unkinked hose.

Think of a yoga posture, then, as a constraint for the flow of prana – a crimp in the energetic hose – and think of a yoga class as a series of challenges for your capacity to remain equanimous even when obstacles are present. Can you keep breathing, extending your awareness, activating your hands, feet, fingers and toes, even when you start to tire, even when your muscles are shaking a little, even when you really want to come out of the pose? A yoga class is a pranic ‘obstacle course’ which you can eventually learn to negotiate with more and more ease and mastery. Learning the subtle art of keeping calm and balanced even in the face of difficulty is a powerful lesson – and one with profound implications outside the yoga studio as well.

MYTH #5:

There are universal principles of alignment that are good for every body.

Don’t let your front knee travel in front of your toes in lunging poses or you’ll hurt your knee! How many times have you heard this? Probably enough so that you carefully avoid it – never realizing that both knees travel in front of your toes in any yoga squat. Whoever came up with this rule clearly never noticed, either.

Another common one: Keep your elbows close to your body in chaturanga dandasana (yoga push-up) or you’ll hurt your shoulders!

For some people, that’s true. But depending on the architecture of the shoulder joint, the elbows-in position can also cause more inflammation and pain than an elbows-out position.

The natural asymmetry and variation of the human body makes it very tough to come up with universal rules that always apply to every body, all the time. Ask five yoga teachers for a detailed description of how to perform triangle pose (trikonasana) and you’ll get five subtly different answers. Inevitably, each responds based on a backlog of experience, which they’ve found to be effective for themselves and perhaps their students as well. But no description will always work perfectly for every-‘body’, no matter how eloquent or perceptive the teacher: It’s why there are a couple dozen different common styles of hatha yoga, and over 5,000 yoga studios in the US alone. Every teacher has insight and inspiration, and every teacher has blind spots.

Those of us who practice and teach yoga are like the blind men in the fable who describe the elephant in a different way depending on which part of the animal they’re touching. None of us are wrong, exactly – indeed, all of us have a firm grasp on some part of the truth. But no single teacher can wrap his or her arms around the whole practice, or perceive the whole truth within each and every student.

In a sense that’s what makes yoga an exciting and dynamic art, and not a finite, fully-graspable science – it’s an expression of an individual in space and time, not a playing out of a set of principles which are inherently limited and predictable.

In truth, the human body itself is the most effective and perceptive teacher in the yoga room – and the best yoga teachers themselves understand that. Their teaching is as much inside-out as it is outside-in: they guide their students towards the awareness of sensations associated with each asana more often than they stage a pose for students to copy. The most masterful yoga teachers, therefore, aren’t necessarily the ones who can achieve the most impressive-looking yoga poses but the ones who can speak the language of sensation most clearly and vividly: Feel your chest opening towards the floor and notice your hamstrings lengthening in downward dog; sense your upper arms near your ears in warrior one and observe your top hip rotating backward in triangle pose. Approached like this, any inappropriate competitiveness or overreaching dissipates, and a class becomes a simple, joyful and sensual exploration rather than a “posture race.”

Many high-profile master teachers from disciplines like voice, music and movement long ago recognized the effectiveness of this kind of teaching – with across-the-board impressive results. In his book The Use and Training of the Human Voice, the late Arthur Lessac compares the phonation of each letter to the playing of an instrument in an orchestra, complete with instructions on the feelings that occur while you ‘play’ each one – and almost nothing about how each is supposed to sound. Similarly, Australian musician Neil Moore, founder of a method for music instruction called “Simply Music”, doesn’t even start to teach music theory or reading notes at all until a student has been playing for almost a year, instead teaching piano by breaking down songs into easily repeatable physical images and patterns. And teachers of the Feldenkrais Method take a wholly inside-out approach to movement re-education, verbally guiding students through increasingly complex and challenging movements, using precise details on how each movement feels, never telling or showing students what action or physical pattern they are trying to master until they have discovered it entirely for themselves.

It’s a rare but invaluable yoga teacher who can pull this off, but the best ones put you so “in your body” that even a challenging yoga sequence can become as joyful and expressive as a jazz improv: loose but controlled, disciplined but fully in the moment. Students who experience this feeling – either by working with a great teacher or by discovering it on their own – will not only have a juicier time practicing, but will experience tremendous growth as well. It’s the great, paradoxical lesson of yoga, and one that most of us need to learn again and again: that it is only when we let go of our ambition to improve, and silence the insistent voices that urge us towards some illusionary plane of perfection, that real transformation actually occurs.