news + musings

Updates, special classes, guest teaching and musings

the power of paddling

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Hi there!

I recently returned to DC from visiting family in Nashville, where I went stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) for the first time. It was easier in some ways than I imagined – I am very proud to report that I did not fall into the Cumberland River – and harder in others – I could feel my feet getting sore from the wobbling and shifting involved in staying upright as boats went by, and I’m someone who does a whole lot on ankle warm ups and footwork in my yoga practice! But by the end of my rental, I was more fluidly getting down from standing to kneeling to lying down to bask in the sun to back up again, and more confident in the mechanics of paddling.

When the SUP yoga craze hit a few years ago, I was solidly anti. I felt the same way about yoga with goats, beer, kittens, etc. Not what I need! I thought. I find balancing and focusing in ‘regular’ yoga hard enough, thanksverymuch!

While I don’t think you’ll see me leading classes with furry animals (as much as I love them) or on the water anytime soon, my thinking about the many ways we practice and what we might need to keep our practice fresh has evolved. I've learned more about how our bodies often feel tighter in areas where we are weaker, and how we can often sense our body in space better when we're holding an object. So if 'regular' yoga is feeling challenging, we might need to practice movements that involve external resistance, like a paddle, a weight, or yes, even a kitten. While I’ve never taken a SUP yoga class, I can see how the pulling movements involved in paddling out on a board can balance the pushing that a classical yoga practice emphasizes. And while I live in a pet-free home, I can see how having a dynamic creature (other than ourselves) on our mats can be playful and not so serious...maybe some of us need that, especially when the world around us feels scary.

But for those of us who don’t live close to the water, there are ways to bring a whole lot of pulling movements into our yoga practice and life. Did you know I’m teaching a new workshop this weekend on this very topic at Blue Heron Wellness in Silver Spring?! {Sign up here – we gather at 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 18.} We’ll use stretchy resistance bands (aka therabands), a few optional partner exercises, and some blanket-sliding movements to wake up muscles that have been hiding out in our upper back, shoulders and legs. Just like a yoga class, I’ll be encouraging you to balance effort with ease, and you’ll see lots of familiar poses – but you’ll get to practice them in ways that are challenging and fun. So it’ll be like SUP yoga + goat yoga, but in the security and comfort of an actual yoga studio, and without smelling like the Potomac or a goat :)

Due to the demands of grad school, it’s unlikely that I’ll teach more workshops until December 2018 (if that), so I hope you can make it, or you can join me on Wednesday nights at Circle Yoga in Chevy Chase – where therabands have been making very regular appearances in class, to the delight of all involved. Scholarships are available.

Benefits of learning new pulling possibilities in poses:

  • Your brain lights up when your body learns novel movement. In terms of sensation, it’s like tasting magical candy, but without a sugar rush/cavities, and with the nutrient density of kale.
  • You’ll practice efficient and hilarious ways to clean wood/tile/linoleum floors.
  • Did I mention that giving your shoulders and hamstrings more pulling actions might increase your range of motion/feel really great in your body/allow you to do more fancy “pushing” things like this here titthibasana (firefly pose)? Well, now you know.
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When life pushes and pulls us in different directions, may we have all we need to stay grounded.

All love,

emily