INTEGRATION (CORE CURRICULUM-FALL 2018)

OCTOBER 1ST-NOVEMBER 13TH 2018: CURRICULUM ON THE PHYSICAL CORE AND THE CORE TEACHINGS OF YOGA

If you regularly come to my public classes, you’ve likely participated in the following meditation technique. ⠀
In stillness, without trying to control the breath, we witness the body breathing and try to become aware of the breath as it spontaneously arises in the body. The moment before inhale and the moment before exhale may hold a subtle vibrant sensation always available but just out of sight from our attention. ⠀

We apply similar logic to connecting to the core. Moving in an intentional way and without trying to “control” the core but notice how the core responds to changes in the angling of the body or specific demands we ask of it in our asana practice. 

I find this helps us connect to the intelligence of the core and see how subtly it responds situationally without trying to squeeze our guts or lift our pelvic floor. Certainly, just like in breathing techniques we can control and shape the core, but it’s not as if we stop breathing if we’re not controlling the breath. Similarly with the core, Every time we sneeze or laugh or walk or get up and down out of bed we “use our core.” It only takes having abdominal surgery to make you supremely conscious of this every moment of the day! 

In lieu of you having to go through that, we’re going to practice with witness consciousness to notice the core as it spontaneously responds to changes in movement in the body. 

Why?⠀
If I had a nickel for every time a student told me they didn’t have a core or didn’t have core muscles, I’d have way more professional grade photos on my IG feed. ⠀
You don’t have to do a million sit-ups to find your core or draw your navel to your spine every time you move to “strengthen the core.”⠀
Your core is incredibly intelligent and responsive. You in fact do have a strong core already. No seriously! It’s valuable to step back from one core technique and integrate to the core as it supports your structure all the time.

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WEEK 1: Witness the Core

PHILOSOPHICAL UNDERPINNING: Witness Consciousness (Bhagavad Gita)

The yoga tradition is quite old especially from a philosophical sense. The tradition is also diverse so rather than describe yoga philosophy, it can be valuable to consider yoga’s philosophies. There is diversion of thought on the nature of God and Reality.
Yet one recurring Theme unites many lineages. ⠀ 
YOU.
⠀ 
Whether referred to as Atman, True Nature, or the Soul, the texts refer to inner Wholeness as inevitable. Each of us, born of human form, possesses inherent Wisdom, Radiance, Completeness. It is through birth, choices, and survival in this world that we layer on judgement, doubt, and anxiety that blind us to the ever present glow of infinity threaded through our bones. ⠀ 
Many of the yogic practices are external but each is in service to remembering Wholeness. ⠀ 
In this way the yoga journey is and always will be an inner quest. ⠀ 
This first week of the core is in service to that truth. Just as we forget our light, we lack trust in the inherent intelligence of our core. That not enough-ness comes up a lot when introduced to “core work.” The truth is you already have an intelligent and strong core. This week we connect to INTEGRATE with the inner wisdom your body already possess. In this perhaps, we can also seek a glimpse at the Core of Our Self. Whole. Perfect. Radiant. ⠀ 
As the Gita says, “The Self cannot be pierced by weapons or burned by fire…It is everlasting and infinite, standing on the motionless foundations of eternity. The Self is unmanifested, beyond all thought, beyond all change. Knowing this, you should not grieve.”

ASANA SEQUENCE HIGHLIGHTS

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RECLINED CORE INTEGRATION TECHNIQUES:

STANDING CORE INTEGRATION IN MOUNTAIN POSE

CORE INTEGRATION WORK IN HANDSTAND

WEEK 2: SPINAL FLEXION, FRONT BODY INTEGRATION, BAKASANA

PHILOSOPHICAL UNDERPINNING: YOGA IS SKILL IN ACTION (Bhagavad Gita)
Yoga is Skill in Action.

I didn’t make that up.
It’s in the Bhagavad Gita.

As I’ve said in class and mentioned in a post earlier this week. Some things we ask the body to do require skill and sometimes building skill takes time and creative play.
It’s entirely reasonable along the course of that journey to get frustrated or to think very highly of yourself for being able to do the thing.
Each of these conflates self-worth and the goal of the practice into an external reality.
It’s valuable to both become more physically skillful but also more skillful in observation of the NEXT STEP.
So what? You got frustrated. Ok, what did you do next?
Did you give up?
Did you throw shade at the person next to you who can do the pose ‘effortlessly?’
Or did you work where you’re at and say ok, here we are today?
If you pressed from crow to handstand,
Ok sure congratulations. You’re allowed to be excited about that.
But what did you do next?
Puff your chest up and strut around your mat for all to see?
Think less of the person next to you who is shaking in the pose?
Or just move on to the next thing?

Yoga is not about ‘the pose’ but let’s face it. It’s pretty fun to ‘do the pose’ especially if it’s a cool arm balance.
Let the pose be a mirror and try to pay attention to what it’s trying to teach you about you.

ASANA SEQUENCE HIGHLIGHTS: BAKASANA PREP

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WEEK 3: SIDE BODY INTEGRATION TWISTS & SIDE BENDS

PHILOSOPHICAL UNDERPINNIG: REVERANT EXPERIMENTATION (Hatha Yoga Pradipika)

“Yoga succeeds by these six: enthusiasm, openness, courage, knowledge of the truth, determination, and solitude.” -HYP ⠀
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says some other wild stuff. Mudras that cure leprosy and generally all ailments but the tone of the text I think is positive and affirming even in modern times. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you check it out if for nothing else historical context. ⠀
There’s this thing we do in modern yoga where we chastize ancient practices, texts, or language as “unscientific” or just utter nonsense. 
Least we forget the yogis of that time didn’t have MRI or X-ray machines. They used their own bodies as scientific tools of discovery interfacing with what we know of now as the scientific method. Questioning, Hypothesizing, Experimenting, Observing, and drawing their own conclusions based on what they discovered. It’s quite marvelous really that our modern technology is catching up to show some of the physical and mental benefits of their methods. ⠀
Yogis have always been working with the technology of their time to care for the body and understand the nature of the mind and observable reality.
We have drug stores and tiny super computers in our pockets. It’s reasonable and practical to take cold medicine when you get sick instead of doing ancient Kriyas. ⠀
We don’t have to criticize the past or fear the future. 
We can wholeheartedly embrace the tools of disciplined practice to innovate our methods keeping sight of that overachieving mission of yoga. ⠀
To unearth the deepest, truest part of your nature. 
To ponder the cosmos and our place within it. 
To liberate ourselves from conditioned existence. ⠀
It’s a big task! 
We’re not at the end. 
Study the past and experiment with curiosity all aspects of your yoga practice.

ASANA SEQUENCE HIGHLIGHTS: ACTIVE, DYNAMIC TWISTS

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WEEK 4: BACKBODY INTEGRATION

PHILOSOPHICAL UNDERPINNING: Strong back, soft front (Shanti Mantra from The Upanishads)

Community Connection, Integrity and Leading with Vulnerability

OM Sahana Vavatu
Sahanau Bhunaktu
Saha Viryam Karavavahai
Tejasvi Navaditamastu
Ma Vidvishavahai
OM Shanti Shanti Shantihi

May both of us together be protected.
May both of us together be nourished.
May we work together with great energy to spread the light of understanding without limits.
May we never grow to hate one another or fall into the trap of cultish attitudes.
OM Peace Peace Peace

ASANA SEQUENCE HIGHLIGHTS: ACTIVE POSTERIOR CHAIN STRENGTH

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Melissa McLaughlinComment