Hello! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Kirstin Pinit. I’m an artist, a student of yoga and Ayurveda, and a Yoga Health Coach. I’ve joined the Santosha staff as the writer-in-residence, and am excited to be here to share yoga wisdom and happenings with the Santosha community.
September was the third anniversary of the start of my Yoga Teacher Training (TT) at Santosha. Since a new cohort of teachers in training have just begun their TT journey, I thought I’d make my first post a reflection on what I learned from studying at Santosha and with dina.
Teach What You Are Learning
I remember the first day of TT and dina said we would be teaching right away. I felt the anxiety rise in my body, my mouth got a little dry. Gulp. Teach? But, I’m a student! I’m here to learn!
Turns out that yes, yoga teachers must teach, and teach we did. We got into a circle and took turns teaching the next step of the sun salutation. Then we began teaching single poses. Soon we could teach a little sequence, and eventually, we taught whole classes. Teaching was not always easy, but I never felt unprepared or unsupported. There is so much wisdom in the experience of “teach what you are learning.”
When you teach you:
Whether you are a TT student, or you are acquiring new skills or knowledge in other areas of your life, find ways to teach it, and see how your learning becomes deeper and more vibrant.
Freedom Through Surrender
I am enchanted by yoga vocabulary and the pronunciation of Sanskrit words. One of my favorites of the Niyamas is Isvara Pranidhana. Once I figured out how to say it, it rolled around in my head, and eventually found its way down to my heart.
Isvara Pranidhana is to surrender to the divine, relinquish the ego, and open up to our higher purpose. This was an important teaching for me, for as I was finishing my teacher training, I was also starting a new job. My work became so consuming that my yoga practice all but disappeared. Can you imagine spending 20+ hours a week doing yoga, and then suddenly … not doing even a few hours a month?
My infidelity to yoga made me feel guilty, ashamed, and sad. This did not help me to reclaim my practice! Eventually, I allowed myself to surrender my ego’s expectations for my yoga practice, which lightened the burden I was feeling. In time, I began to practice again. I surrendered further to my higher purpose, and radically changed my work so that I could live in closer alignment to my dharma. This took years not months, and I continue to surrender over and over to keep taking the next step on my path to knowing my true self.
Yoga is Always Here
When my practice is strong, yoga is strong. But when I am out of sync with getting to class or practicing at home, yoga is also strong. Yoga is always here.
When I first started practicing yoga - maybe fifteen years ago - all I knew were the poses. My yoga was tangible: I went to class, followed the leader, rested in Savasana, and went on my way. My yoga practice at this time was building my self confidence and body awareness. Over time, I was exposed to all eight limbs of yoga - so much more than asana! Yoga is a way of life, a guide for living fully and freely. Now my yoga practice builds on that self confidence and body awareness to help me find deeper levels of spiritual awareness and glimpses of non-identification and freedom and joy.
Learning yoga on the mat is a portal to understanding the fullness of yoga - the ethic of non-harming; our accountability to moral behavior and cultivating divine consciousness, nonattachment, and focus; our duty to the practice and refinement of concentration; our path to complete absorption - Samadhi. It has been important for me to find out that asana is not the only portal, and that my time in meditation is yoga. My time with my family or community is yoga. My time in nature is yoga. Yoga is always here.
Learning, Teaching - What’s the Difference?
True teachers are always learning, and earnest students are willing to share what they know. This relationship of giving and receiving is what makes a strong community. Santosha is a place for students and teachers to be together in supportive community where we practice all eight limbs of yoga and support our collective journey toward oneness.
To the new TT class, and to all students - this is a welcoming place for you to learn and grow. May you find moments of clarity, grace, and love within this community.
This or something better.
Author: Kirstin Pinit
Kirstin is Santosha’s writer-in-residence. She is an artist, a student of yoga, Ayurveda, and massage therapy, and she is a Yoga Health Coach. Kirstin practices and teaches the habits of yogis - dinacharya. This is the Ayurvedic practice of daily habits that are essential for leading a vibrant, healthy, creative life. Find out about her upcoming courses and collaborations at kirstinpinit.com
A couple of weeks ago, yogis from around Portland and Beaverton filled the studio to learn how to take better care of their knees and how to reduce the pain they are living and practicing with on a daily basis. We had yogis from our advanced Power Vinyasa classes and yogis from Senior Yoga, because frankly, knee pain can happen to all of us. Here's a few things we learned on what to do about it.
The knee is a hinge joint that moves front to back and has a little bit of side to side movement. The knee works in conjunction with the ankle, feet, and hip to move the leg around in every which way an asana, or life, can take you.
Rolling, Rolling, Rolling, Get the Body Rolling! Oh my!
After reviewing the bony landmarks of the body, Nina immediately got people to work rolling out the major players that work with and around the knee: gluteus muscles, Deep 6 rotators, tensor fascia, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the calves. Nina explained the importance of "fluffing" the muscles and connective tissue, the fascia. Using the Yoga Tune Up® balls can make all the difference because they have the grip and grab to move the fascia around plus they are small enough to get into the smaller areas, such as the gully between the tail bone and the pelvic bone where you access your Deep 6 rotators.
Fluffing your muscles...
As Nina shared, muscles like the hamstrings can become pretty flattened or tacked down because of how much we sit. When the hamstrings are tight and tacked down, they start to pull. And where do they pull? The hamstrings pull on the knee which can result in knee pain. Check out this video of Nina showing how to move your leg around with a ball between the back of the thigh and the chair to get into all of the hamstrings and attachments. It hurts so good!
How do you fluff? By rolling out the muscles listed above and then moving the ball down to the lower part of the leg and practicing different moves such as shin rolling, foot rolling, and the calf mash. The calf mash is when you keep both of the Yoga Tune Up balls toted in their mesh bag, you place your calf on top of the balls on top of a block and you roll the toted balls up and down the length of your gastroc muscle. (see photo above).
Sometimes the knee pain can come from the inside of the thigh, when the knee cap isn't tracking correctly. Perhaps the knee cap is puling to one side, or the quadriceps aren't able to release the knee cap down. Try placing one ball on either side of a block in between the knees. Breathe and compress the thighs towards each other and then try moving them around, rotating one thigh at a time in and out. (see photo below).
Nina comes up with fun and interesting names of moves to get the body moving through exercises and stretches that will balance out all the major players involved in knee health. She used humor and funny pop culture examples (e.g. Shakira's hips, twerking) to help people picture what their body should be doing in a certain move.
A few moves we used to train the leg muscles to navigate and tone in the right way:
- Imaginary Gas Pedals (with or without a ball under your thigh)
- Quad Stretch
- Hip Hinge (with a back leg raise, similar to Warrior III, to engage the gluteal muscles and the psoas.
Check Up on Your Knees
Stand where you can see your lower half in the reflection of a mirror, with the pant leg up above the knees (or wear shorts). Come into Tree Pose vrksasana on one side. Once you've found your balance, bring your gaze to the knee cap of your standing leg. Is it pulled up? Is the quadricep drawing your knee cap up? Try to relax the quadriceps and release the knee cap down. This is an important test to see how well your knee and surrounding muscles are functioning together. The knee cap should not be lifted. Then, test the other side.
If you missed the Yoga Tune Up® workshop with Nina to learn about Pain Free Knees, you can always set up a private yoga session with her or sign up for the next workshop she'll offer in the fall.
Be kind to you! Be kind to your knees!
More information on Nina and her work can be found at www.yogapitzel.com
YOGA CURBS WEIGHT GAIN
Stretching yourself thin? By Selene Yeager (article from Prevention Magazine)
The average American adult gains a pounds a year. New research suggests that yoga may help stave off that middle-age spread. A survey that tracked weight gain in 15,500 adults from age 45-55 revealed that the normal-weight-people who practiced yoga at least 30 minutes a week for 4 of those years gained 3 fewer pounds (9.5 versus 12.6) than those who didn't. Even better, overweight yogis lost 5 pounds over the decade, while their non-yoga-practicing peers gained an additional 14.
"Yoga may not be a big calorie burner, but it helps you become more aware of your body, so you're more sensitive to feeling full from overeating" says lead researcher and yoga practitioner Alan R. Kristal, DrPH, of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "Yoga also relieves stress, so you may be less likely to mindlessly stuff yourself."