Downward Dog Days NYC: Now a certified yoga teacher

Fun and games with partner yoga - teacher Michael Kersten shows me a basic Cir du Soleil move

Pictured above: Spring 2009 graduates. Spot the Galfromdownunder doing the easy pose - Navasana.

Three grueling months are finally done and dusted - I'm now a 200-hour certified Vinyasa yoga teacher, according to the certificate that now sits on top of a pile of books including anatomy, The Bhagavad Gita, the Sutras, and a very thick training manual from Joschi Yoga Institute, NYC.

No longer can I make half-baked Downward Facing Dogs with my knees on the ground begging like Fido. Why didn't anyone ever correct me in the past? There's nothing like a formalized course to set you straight on misconceptions you might have had for years.

The course was big on anatomy, as Joschi, the head yogi, is a certified authority in that subject, along with psychology, dance, and other related fields. He and business partner Monika run a tight ship; there's no woo-woo laxness about the course. You invested hard earned money into educating yourself, they make sure you stand in Tadasana and deliver. They showed us that a knowledge of anatomy is really valuable in a movement-based yoga style such as Vinyasa - all those rotator cuff injuries might be avoided if you knew how vulnerable the shoulder really is - just four little muscles that guide the ball and socket around like a golf ball on a tee ... and twingy backs might be helped if you simply sucked your tummy in and your tail under "like a panini". Especially "when waiting on the platform of the subway" says Joschi. And roll those shoulders BACK!

Testing out my Yoga for Cyclists class in Georgia - more pictures of this.
Comment from Sharon Sussman, retired orthopedic surgeon and one of my Bike Friday customers: Right under "roll those shoulders BACK" was a photo of your cyclist class with a profile of someone who was definitely not rolling them back (the guy in the white shirt) and I realized that right there is a big issue for cyclists. Almost everyone except very upright tourists, mountain bikers and 'bent riders ride in a forward-folded position with their necks extended. Shoulders back, chin level is the antidote for that.

Despite my job as a card-carrying Customer Evangelist where I speak in front of crowds for a crust, I experienced an interesting form of stage fright when it came to the earlier teaching exercises. Meticulously (overprepared) sequences seemed to clean evaporate from my head when under the spotlight. This reminds us how important it is to "break up the concrete" and stick one's neck (keeping it in line with the spine) outside one's comfort zone. "It takes a while to find your rhythm and flow," said Randi Zinn, a brilliant young teacher who inspired me to get certified in the first place. "Get up, dust off, start over." Like, "before yoga course, chop wood, carry water. After yoga course, chop wood, carry water" - except I'll upgrade my Wal*Mart axe and bucket. I shall persevere "like a king on a throne with a broken heart," as Sutras teacher Michael Kersten instructed us. Yes, you're treated to many useful, spiritual gems too.

My focus will be teaching vinyasa yoga to beginners and cyclists. Non-cyclists will benefit also - my studies reveal that so many of our activities are done in a 1-dimensional, front-to-back plane - walking, hiking, swimming, typing, driving, eating pasta, hitting the HD TV remote control, extreme knitting - probably because our eyes are on the front of our heads. It's all closed-shoulder, closed hip movement. We don't often crab sideways - dancers or skaters are blessed with that whole body extension and flexion. 1-D movement leads to misalignment, as I showed ad nauseum in my Andy Pruitt Bike Fit multimedia. I hope my class will be a beneficial complement to a spin class.

Cycling is on the increase - and as we get older and stiffer we need to stay flexible. Flexible body, flexible mind ... most of my customers are 55 and over, because most people can ride a small wheeled bike - til the day you pedal into that last great rest stop in the sky. See my unfettered opinion on people who are marginalized by society.

Stand by ... in a good Tadasana, of course!

A fun interlude - teacher Sarah Coleman shows us some partner yoga - better than marriage counselling.


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