Thursday, December 30, 2010

Downward Dog Days: Yoga/Pilates for Cyclists Sampler Workshop

SIGN UP for this workshop here or if you can't abide Facebook, here.

Caught mid Warrior II on Arizona Desert Camp 2010, where I taught a
daily Yoga for Cyclists class.  See a shot clip.
By cyclists, for cyclists ... I'm going to be doing a workshop in January in collaboration with Pilates teacher and cyclist Karin Fantus. For the yogaphobic and pilates-curious, it's a little back-to-back intro for newbies that demonstrates flexibility techniques (yoga), resistence techniques (pilates) and core strength (both).

Karin Fantus with a client in her pilates studio
Details below. It's sponsored by the New York Cycle Club, which is always coming up with fun and interesting ideas for its members - the last one was a group visit to the Bespoke Handmade Bicycles Show at MAD.

You can sign up on my Facebook Event page, which will simply help organize responses and let you post questions and comments

... or, if you can't access that for some reason, there's a PayPal button at the end of the blurb below ...

NYCC January Special Event Two Mondays: January 10 & 17, 2011. 6:30-8:30pm
[limited space available]

Location: The Breathing Project, Inc. 15 W. 26th Street (between 5th/6th) 10th floor New York, NY 100 NYCC presents: Stretch it. Flex it. Bend it. Feel stronger.

What’s your plan for staying strong and flexible in the off season? NYCC is sponsoring a special Sampler Session of YOGA+PILATES for cyclists, by cyclists.

Sixty-something Colin Freestone demonstrates a
great shoulder opener for we hunched-over cyclists
More about Colin:
This is an opportunity to experience two of the most popular and beneficial fitness methods for cyclists in one easy, introductory session: Vinyasa yoga, and Pilates 45 mins each. Taught by two certified instructors and NYCC members Absolute beginners encouraged! Learn some useful techniques to greatly improve your cycling, and hopefully you'll want to make it a regular part of your fitness program:

  • Become aware of the breath and its importance to centeredness on the bike, beyond gulping and wheezing as you try to keep up with the pack 
  • Develop core stability to stay upright when riding through potholes, and if someone crosses your wheel 
  • Become way more flexible to both "counter the crunch" of hunching over your bars, and get more "aero" = go faster! 
  • Know how it feels to NOT HURT on and off the bike and how to keep it that way, with some quick home-exercises, and exercises you can do on the bike. 

Dates: Two Monday sessions: January 10, January 17. You're encouraged to take both – the second session will be a progression and include new material

Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm – be on time!

What you’ll need to bring - Loose clothing, A small towel, water

$30 for both sessions, $20 single session - available if space allows. Limited to 10 participants to ensure individual attention.

The Instructors


Karin teaches how to become stronger and more flexible as we age. Clients come to her with joint issues (ankle/knee/hip/shoulder/back/neck, etc.), which get better as she teaches them how to use their bodies better.

Karin's done PILATES for about 20 years, and been teaching since 2002. She runs a her own, fully-equipped PILATES studio, and teaches at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. Once-upon-a-time, Karin was a TV news producer for the major networks and nationally-syndicated shows.

Karin is one of the few Pilates instructors also certified to teach M.E.L.T. (Myofascial Energetic Length Technique). It's a self-help treatment, to release deep-rooted tension throughout the body.

For more years than she cares to mention, Karin's been an avid road cyclist, riding ultra-distance events (Paris-Brest-Paris 1991 & 1999), and crewing for them (Race Across America 1987 & 2003). After 150,000+ miles of cycling, she attributes her healthy knees, back and hips to PILATES. Karin on LinkedIn:

LYNETTE CHIANG (aka Galfromdownunder) - YOGA INSTRUCTOR:
Lynette is a certified Vinyasa yoga teacher and has practiced yoga, ballet and meditation for 20 years. While being a "more fun than fast" cyclist, she believes yoga has helped her stick on the wheels of clients "Coach" Fred Matheny and RAAM/PAC Tour legend Lon Haldeman. Her most recent wheel-sticking feat being 22 mp/h for 10 miles - on a 16-inch wheel bike.

She toured the world solo and self-supported for five years, authored a New York Times reviewed book, "The Handsomest Man in Cuba : a bicycle escapade", created bicycle adventure films about Route66 and Peru, and was the Customer Evangelist for Bike Friday for 9 years where she taught Yoga for Cyclists at PACTOUR's annual training camp.

Currently she teaches yoga to private clients, as well as at Chelsea Recreation Center and the Hudson Guild Community Center, where she hosted an inspiring presentation by NYCC / 5BBC "super seniors":
Lynette's Yoga Webpage:
On Facebook:

NYCC will provide some lite bites at the end of the program So join your friends, bring some of you own and make some new ones at The Breathing Project, Inc. for YOGA+PILATES

We’ll have fun. We always do. Hal Eskenazi, NYCC Director of Special Events


1. We would love you do it via th Facebook Event Page:

*but* if you're Facebook-phobic ...

2. Sign up with PayPal here (it's perfectly safe, I use this button all the time):

Yoga/Pilates Class

Monday, October 4, 2010

Downward Dog Days: Sivananda Kirtans (Chants) - a sampler

For those who've never experienced a Kirtan (call and response) chant beyond encountering a bunch of Hari Krishnas in the street, here's a little sampler. 

I recorded this during one of the Sivananda Vedanta NYC's 8pm Wednesday Satsangs, comprising half hour meditation, half hour chanting, half hour lecture. Yes, you will indeed hear Hare Krishna sung, but you are far from being "converted" against your will. Rather, the chanting is infectious, and wonderful way to free that inner singing voice that unites us all. Have a listen, rock yourself along to one of the Satsangs, and see you at my Tuesday yoga class, where we do just a little of this to get things going!

I wrote about some of my chanting and meditation excursions a while ago, including Sivananda.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Downward Dog Days in NYC: Putting a new Spin on Yoga

Is my face red ... SPINNING instructor Anthony Musemici says you don't need a long and winding road to get a pretty decent hill, interval, sprint, and endurance training  on a bike.

... now add a bit of yoga to the mix and what do you get? SpinYoga! A perfectly Peaceful Warrior pose at the free  Chelsea Piers "Yoga On the Pier" classes, Aug 2010.
I just completed a 9 hour Spinning Instructor Orientation at New York Sports Clubs.

Now, what is a seasoned cyclist like the Galfromdownunder doing riding a bike that doesn't go anywhere? As one participant confessed in the pre-course stairwell speeches ('cos you get fitter riding the stairs than the elevator): "I was a bit cynical about it all until I tried it."

Ah yes, one winter in NYC where biking through a bunch of snow isn't appealing, and I discovered, thanks to a two-month intro membership at the Equinox gym down the road and some guest passes from the stunning Chelsea Piers across the road, what a really decent workout this genre of indoor fitness gives you. You can raise your heart rate remarkably quickly just by, uh, turning a red knob. Want a 5% hill? Reach down and turn the knob. Want to careen down the other side? Turn it the other way. If the mountain doesn't come to Mohammed ...

Why, you can even DRAFT on a stationary bike. Take a look at SPINNING instructor Anthony Musemici showing you how it's done ...

I enrolled in this course because I hope to teach what one could loosely term "SpinYoga".  I had originally approached the friendly John Boyd, Head of Fitness at Chelsea Piers, to offer the Yoga for Cyclists class I formulated and taught at PACTOUR Arizona Desert Camp. After all, the most used bike highway in the country, the Hudson Guild Bike Path, zips right past the massive Chelsea Piers complex, right?

 He instead mentioned something about "yoga spin" and a lightbulb went on. Much encouraged by him to just "go for it" - because it's wonderful to have the chance to learn new things - I enrolled in the very heavily booked class.

My idea is to teach a 30 mins spinning workout on the bike, then 30 min yoga session. A compact, 1-hour, all-in-one aerobic, flexibility and strength interlude for the stressed out, time-compressed, ADHD city slicker. Perfect for the time ... of which there isn't a lot (You can make more money, you can't make more time).

But what about the third leg in the trinity of fitness - weight and resistance training? I personally believe that yoga poses involving lifting your body weight are ample for the average person just wanting to maintain a kind of functional, all-round fitness - "using it, not losing it." Like Chaturanga (plank/pushup pose) in all its variations, Peacock pose and other arm balances and so forth. And of course, let's not forget shoulder shrugs using a couple of shopping bags with cans of tomatoes, and other exercises I captured in this video of orthopedic surgeon Dr Chris Dangles on Route 66:

Speaking of Route 66, that expedition was of course led by Race Across America legend and PACTOUR founder Lon Haldeman, who I worked with for many years in my capacity as the Bike Friday Customer Evangelist.

And get this ... it turns out the SPINNING empire was founded by a Johnny G, who invented the training regime so he could bone up for ... Race Across America! Read this pretty decent bio of Johnny G here.

Just like a wheel, so many spokes radiating from a common center, all connected in the same circle!

I popped up to investigate the handful of bikes in the Chelsea Rec center where I volunteer teach yoga, where I'll hatch my class ...

John my Galfromdownunder Yoga Facebook page to stay in touch.

Galfromdownunder Yoga Page

This is how you'll feel after: but you can't! You gotta get up and go back to work!  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gal Yoga: Saluting the Hoboken Sun with Chelsea Piers Free Yoga

Photos by the Galfromdownunder - mid downdog! 

Is yoga better outdoors or indoors? Beach or park? Ashram or gym?

I've generally preferred indoors, finding the outdoors a bit of a distraction.  But think of the advantages: better dissipation of neighboring sweat, no one bumping into you, and the chance to gaze up at the sky and watch clouds in that boundless blue sky slide by - something we rarely do when we become "grownups" grafted to swivel chairs and tempurpedic mattresses.

Last Thursday, lying flat on my back on Pier 64 with a piece of foam between me and the concrete, I felt strangely exhilarated.

The occasion? The free every-other-Thursday yoga class offered by Chelsea Piers Fitness Center, the massive complex just over yonder. And yes, it really is on Pier 64.

Hint: to locate the cross street, subtract 40 from the Pier number and you get 24th Street.

The instructor, Paolo, was possessed of a delightful South African/British/Spanish something else accent that sounded pleasing even through a megaphone. With a full hour and a half to burn, from 6.30-8.00pm, there was plenty of time to start off very gently and take everything very slowly.

Did anyone not want to be touched? He made sure to ask, and yes, I've had that first-time experience of having someone jump out of their skin when I approached them to adjust and they weren't expecting it ... always ask, and best when they are in a warm-up child's pose, so they can raise their hand anonymously to others.

We started out facing the river, a little challenging in the early evening summer heat, and I admit I had to put sunglasses on. Alternatively, one could do it Kundalini style - eyes closed for the entire class!

Paolo remarked how the 70-somethings in his senior class were able to stand on one leg longer than he, a great sign that Chelsea Piers is for all yogis great and small, the young, the old and the restless. I've been to several classes on its lustrous, high-gloss polyurethane floors, floors that make you feel like a star just to tread on them. And being a gym, I guess, the classes are refreshingly inclusive and low on "yogatude".  Then again, in NYC, you can find as little or as much 'tude as you want - it's all good.

Every time I attend a yoga class I learn something new that I can take back to my own students. For me, it's the subtle, fine-tuning remarks here and there that make a teacher great,  and Paolo offered several.

Above is John Boyd, head honcho of the Fitness Center programming. I'd approached John asking if he'd like a Yoga for Cyclists class on the schedule and learned that Spin Yoga was a new offering many gyms were considering. Although I'd ridden a bike for living, it hadn't occurred to me to combine the two  - and in my case seems like a natural progression. So as a result, I'm taking the Spin Instructor orientation in August as another string to add to my bow. Why the hell not!

I confess I got these shots by interrupting my downdogging to snap them upside down, then rotated them.  I made a little video too, but somehow failed to capture the passing parade of ferries, pleasurecraft with on-board swinging BBQ's, rowing teams, skywriting planes, helicopters ... all part of the Manhattan-flavored, OM-like setting.

See you in my 'tude-free Tuesday class at Chelsea Recreation Center. (I'm too geeky to have 'tude), and come roll out your mat next to mine at the next Chelsea Piers class on Pier 64.

Chelsea Piers Free Thursday Yoga (Aug/Sep) : 

More cheap or free (though I can't guarantee 'tude-free) yoga classes

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gal Yoga: The Charlie's Angel Stretch

At the risk of being pacifistically (is that a word?) incorrect, I discovered a really good stretch I hadn't come across in my training or any classes to date, which I've called the "Charlie's Angel Stretch".

The term "Charlie's Angels Hands" refers to the hands clasped with forefingers pointed like a ... gun. I got that  nugget from my teacher trainer and anatomy nurse,  Joschi Schwarz.

It's a tremendous stretch involving several muscle groups. But which? Over to Joschi ...

Congrats! I hope you're having a lot of fun teaching! Answer to your question is:

  • obliques
  • quadratus lumborum (smaller muscle in the lower back), 
  • latissimus dorsi (because arms are over your head)
  • rhomboid (shoulderblades are pulled away from each other), and pretty good for the 
  • erector spinae
  • infraspinatus
  • teres major and minor. 
  • Gluteus medius I guess plays more of an activator here.

    Great pose to create space for the hips (lumbosacral fascia).
Blue skies!

This stretch is on page 214 of the book "Hatha Yoga Illustrated", a no-frills, super-clean book of yoga poses that might have been designed by engineers, the presentation is so clinical and methodical. It's probably why a yoga teacher might like it - chakras and woo-woo aside, what you really need to teach is simplicity and structure.

I've been teaching this in my Senior and Easy Yoga classes on Tuesdays. The book demonstrates it with feet together, which does give you a more intense stretch.  I've photographed myself doing it with feet slightly spread, for those who might find feet-together a bit hard to balance. Here goes ...


1. Inhale and sweep hands up.  Clasp them together as if pointing a gun to the sky.

2. Exhale as you swivel your upper body UP and THEN over to the right, keeping the lower half of the body from hips down facing the front.

"Step away from that incense!"

You may want to micro bend the right or even both knees to take pressure off them.

You should feel quite a stretch at your left hip - the glute medius and obliques on that side are really waking up!

For those with a bit of a twingy back, this will feel like a relief - your spine and hip are open up and making some much-needed space. Well, that's how it feels to me.

Inhale then ...

3. Exhale as you circle the gun down to the floor.

From here you can do a number of things, like Prasarita Padottanasana* (wide-stance-forward bend) and all it's variations, but perhaps wait til you've done the other side.

* Sanskrit interlude:
Prasarita = spread
pada = foot
ut = intense
tan = stretch

4. Inhale as you continue in the same direction to sweep the hands overhead.
5. Exhale as you reach-bend to the other side.

You can try coming into the side stretch from the floor (leaving out step 4 above), notice how different that feels - perhaps not quite as satisfying a stretch.

That's it! Try it during the day, anytime you get that twingy feeling - sitting in an office chair for hours will do it. It really feels great and is a good prep for Trikonasana and even Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose),  parivrtta = to turn around,  revolve, trikona = triangle

Someone at work who had been moving boxes of stuff mentioned he had a stiff back, so we did this in the storeroom. Instant relief, he said.

The book features it as part of an interesting routine called Moon Salutation II.

See you all Tuesday!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Easy Yoga class now ultra FREE: ShapeUpNYC

My Booma! Yoga is now being re-monikered to Easy Yoga. Yep, rather than "say it straight, then say it great" I'm going for "say it straight, then say it straighter."

I discovered last night that newbies and seniors are pretty close in their requirements ...

Apparently Doris, the Chelsea Parks and Rec mover and shaker, had spent the week strong-arming everyone able to bend at the waist to come to my class.

Bless her. I arrived to find the room already full, including the four kidz who stumbled in last week.

Most had never done yoga;  a handful had done "this much" - picture a raised thumb and forefinger pressed together.

Ages ranged from around 20, to an 83 year young gal who was game to try everything.

After teaching them a short dog and a simplified Vinyasa involving a short dog and a rock back to child's pose, the room was visibly sweating - who needs hot yoga?

"Never thought yoga was so hard!" cried a really athletic looking young man who had probably never had the occasion to stretch his hamstrings longer than necessary to press the accelerator or open lats beyond raising a beer.

I like to get students put their hands lightly on their hips to make a decent tuning of Warrior I, squaring the hips - pretend your elbows are two ears sticking out the side of your head - they should face the front, not the corner.

I also showed them how to fold the mat to keep it clean:

Fold in half like a book, the side that was facing up now on the inside. Fold in half than half again. Voila, the side that was on the floor is nowhere touching the inside.

See you in class - bend it or mend it!

Gal on Yoga

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Extreme Yoga: What you won't be learning in my class

My mother loves to send along intriguing things ... in this case, a clipping from the newspaper of yogis in India:

Last time she greeted me at the airport with an for poledancing.

While you can practice and practice and get more flexible, the kind of hyperflexibility in this photo is largely genetic. I've never been able to easily do back bends - Joschi told me that small people with small bones can experience a lack of room between vertebrae to enable the spine to bend - it's all a bit tight.

But keeping these images in mind does give you something to aim for and who knows?

See you Tuesday 6-7pm 5th Floor at the Chelsea Rec Center!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Booma Yoga: The babies, not the boomers!

Do these look like 50+ boomers to you? Nope.

My Booma! Yoga class is getting off to a slow start at the Chelsea Parks and Rec Center - and today's monsoon-like rain didn't help. Meanwhile downstairs, the aerobics class was packed and in full swing. What gives?

I suspect it is partly little flyer the center prepared.

* The time slot is 6-7pm, which  suits me and younger folk, but not seniors.

* The poster says 50+, which suits seniors, but not younger folk.

So it's keeping both groups away.

I'm going to ask them if they can tweak it to ...

All ages welcome

No wait, let's K.I.S.S. that goodbye and make it EASY YOGA.

Because it's a class that will suit newbies AND seniors.

I waited a while, not really minding that no-one was turning up - I am offering my time as a service, and the commitment to do so is as much a part of my contribution as teaching the class itself. Besides I can always catch up on some Barackberrying.

Enter Doris, one of the the three center managers. She popped by to see who I was doing, went away, and then apparently strong-armed the above four eager young things in the elevator on their way to their aerobics class. Thank you Doris!

None of the four had done yoga before.

They were shocked at the shortness of their hamstrings - a simple "short dog" (down dog with a shorter stance to enable heels to reach the ground more easily) proved to be a real challenge.

They were visibly sweating after a few sun salutations. Perfect! Despite the rise in popularity of yoga, it's still an activity that you "arrive" at, usually when you get persuaded of its benefits by someone else, or you notice one day an alarming stiffness from years of failing to stretch.

I explained to them that stretching is as necessary as aerobic and weight bearing activity - the three go hand in hand.

Did they like the class?

YES! If they were just humoring me, I don't mind either. We'll see if they show up next week ...

Gal Yoga page

Friday, May 14, 2010

Super Senior Cyclists @ Hudson Guild Community Center

It's the end of the first week of my post-Bike Friday life, and I yet I still find myself subconsciously doing things one could call "work related".

Since May is National Bike Month, I came up with the idea of giving the seniors at the Hudson Guild - where I volunteer teach yoga - a little thrill by riding it around their lunchroom.

"Great idea!" said Yehudit Moch, the activities director, tasked with the tireless work of coming up with programs to keep seniors active and engaged. "Let's called it Folding Bike Fun, and do it at 12.45pm, towards the end of lunch, before they disperse."

For disperse they do - the attention span is short, and hearing and vision loss doesn't help.

The night before the demo I had this last minute idea to invite some local senior cycling friends to the show. Four names came immediately to mind: Tod Moore (72), a bicycle tour guide who rides every year in France; Jesse Brown (70), former president of the local bike club; Grace Lichtenstein (69), journalist, and Dolores McKeough (68), a cross country bicycle adventurette.

All but Grace were Bike Friday owners, and all were retired. All four were experienced, long distance bicycle adventurers, but get this ... not in some distant past youth, but right now, in the best years of their lives.

Would they be able to make it around noon, for a complimentary $2.50 senior meal ($1.25 if you're over 60), and to share their story?

I was amazed when all four responded, and then utterly blown away when they actually showed up.

Tod with his tikit, Jesse in full lycra on his Pocket Rocket Pro, Dolores on her Bianchi and Grace on her commuter bike, just fresh from a business meeting in Midtown.

We all tucked into a meal of baked fish and couscous, discussing the sad state of senior centers - group by group, they are being closed, starting with the smaller ones that don't serve meals. The Hudson Guild serves 150 meals a day, to members who come from as far as Queens, so it may be last on the list.

Tod dismissed the somewhat austere surroundings, noting that "It's a way for people to get together, when old age can be so isolating."

Indeed, I sat next to a 83-year old gent last week from Colombia - a carpenter, who lives in 1 room, and whose sons in Las Vegas have not contacted him for years. He thanked me for talking to him. "I often try to talk to people but they turn away," he said, revealing as much about the difficulty of aging in a world where we worship a youth we all lose.

12.46pm. Yikes! People were already starting to filter off to other activities - hurry, hurry ...
I went and grabbed Guild social worker Cheryl who gave us a nice introduction - winging it admirably without any briefing about folding bikes.

Jesse explained how the bicycling is great for your joints, as it's not weight bearing. He did some impressive slow and right turns in the space to the impressed murmurs of all present, and in his lycra-suited body of a man 2/3rds of his age, looked like Major Taylor reborn.

"You can get your leg over it," said Tod in his rich, professional radio-announcer voice. He straddled the tikit, adding that "getting your leg over a regular bike gets harder each year." Tod revealed he is a polio survivor, but who would know ...

Dolores demonstrated the low stepover point with her Bianchi, the bike she rides "when she hallucinates she is younger than she is." She's rode 3100 miles cross country San Diego to Florida, fully loaded and camping, "difficult, but not difficult enough. I've signed up for a 4300 miler - on my Bike Friday, puling 40 lbs of gear and camping." Awed applause.

Grace, another 4000-mile cross country adventurette, apologized for being the only oldie sans foldie, but showed how her commuter steed was rigged up to take the papers she'd ferried from a business meeting just prior. 

All four of these super seniors related their ongoing cross county and country touring experience,  filling the room with a real sense of "when over-the-hill means, nice passing you young, man."

"Enough about me, what about you?" said Dolores to the slowly thinning group. "I like walking too. Start walking a little, and then you can walk more. Start biking 2 miles, and you will soon bike more." Or words to that effect.

A couple of energetic seniors rolled up for a test ride and a sit. "It's a lot lighter than my clunker!" said one. "And it's PINK!"

Vincente, the centers' oldest member at 96, boogied up to us in his pink ruffled shirt, pointy shoes and gold chains. Ask him and he will produce his card that says "DOB, 1914, Ecuador".  He teaches salsa, and is always dragging me up when I go on there. When I leave I try to get other senior women to dance with him.

"NO! I'm not dancing with that old guy!" is the frequent and ironic reply.

Another sprightly, 73 year young Chinese women talked of climbing Mr Ranier.  Her advice? "Keep moving, be optimistic, keep sharing what you have in everyday life to be physically fit."

I maybe be newly unemployed, but strangely, I feel fully engaged.

Lynette Chiang is looking for work where ideally, she can continue to "be change you want to see." Check out her credentials here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Downward Dog Days in NYC: Tuesday is my Yoga teaching day

Tuesday has become my day of double yoga volunteering.

Chelsea Recreation Center

Today I taught my first BOOMA! Yoga class at the Chelsea Recreation Center, 6-7pm.

BOOMA! is what I wanted to call it, for want of a less ageist word than "senior" or "50+".

But when I arrived at the center,  sure enough, a flyer stuck above the counter simply said "Senior Yoga Tuesday 6pm". The staff told me it was a bit of an oversight and they'd try and correct it. 

Two woman who'd spotted the flyers came looking for my class - one from the Dominican Republic and the other from Mexico. Que bueno! Yet another opportunity para practicar mi Espanol!

The 5th floor art room is a nice space for yoga - one of those rooms with smooth blond wood floors. If I narrow my eyes I might almost hallucinate I'm in the sumptuous studios at Equinox, where the membership is 20 times more expensive, and if you can afford it, you love it. But this is the "everysoul" gym, just $75 bucks a year or $10 for seniors - including a giant indoor pool - and in a recession, there's something comforting in affordability.

I plugged my Blackberry Pearl MP3 Player into my little portable speaker, cued up Deva Premal and began the class with my two students, both of whom had never done yoga before. In this case, it's a process of asking if there are any injuries, physical limitations like high blood pressure (no head below heart moves), and then watching little by little for what people CAN do, being careful not to overextend them. 

We were soon joined by Lisa Brooks, the Activities Head.  She was very grateful for my gifting time to the Rec Center.

"People aren't able to afford even the modest yearly membership in this recession, so we had to cut paid classes, and bring on a volunteer program," she said.

The good news is, with thousands of yoga teachers graduating each downdogging moment, they probably won't be short of teachers ... 

In my case, I'm enjoying both being of service, and getting good teaching practice. The 200-hour training is "just the start," said my teacher Monika of Joschi Yoga Insititute. Like the path to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice....

Hudson Guild Senior Center

And so to the other class I teach on Tuesdays. I moved it from 1-2pm to 11-12am, as the very substantial $2.50 senior lunch is served at the center between 1 and 2 - and we all know how a full stomach jives with down-dogging - NOT!

I attract between 2 and 7 students at the moment. A lovely Chinese family who live in the housing projects at the back of the center have become regulars. There's grandma, mother, a young carer, and Samuel, who is in a wheelchair. 

Samuel is a great sport. He put his arms up in Uttanasana but dropped them immediately. His wife explained that he needed to hold them up just a little longer in Chinese, but to no avail. We tried it three times. Good on him for even showing up! He was injured when falling while stepping out of a bus a few years ago. "Terrible," said his wife. But he smiles a lot and he comes to yoga.  I've a special set of exercise for people in wheelchairs. 

Another milestone was getting my first regular male student, George, pictured below right. Perhaps because I got put the words "Yoga for MEN and women" on the flyer with the "and women" in smaller letters. 

"My sister is really into yoga, so I wanted to try it. I LIKE IT!" he said enthusiastically. 

Sciatica appears to be a common complaint with my students, for which the famous "million dollar roll" -  as my chiropractor cousin calls it "because chirporactors make a million bucks out of it every year" - is a great exercise.

Lie on your side, upper knee bent, lower leg straight, Now reach up and over with the top arm twisting the upper half of the body in the opposite direction to the lower. Let gravity do the work - don't force. Imagine yourself like those wooden mannekin dolls artists use for sketching - the upper half of you swiveling independently from the lower.

Next week we'll see if we can progress to the floor - and convince these folks NOT to wear jeans to class ...

Galfromdownunder on Yoga

Monday, May 3, 2010

Come on down (dog) ... BOOMA! Yoga taught by me.

I'm now teaching yoga Tuesdays 6-7pm, starting May 4, Chelsea Rec Center, 25th and 9th NYC. Best thing ... it's free to members, and membership is a recession suppression super deal - $75/year, $10/year for seniors - pools, access to all sister centers etc.

I was asked if I would teach a senior class, since their needs are underserved a world where we worship the youth we all lose ...

Since I already teach at Hudson Guild Senior Center, I'm aiming this class at Fit 50+. 

And I've called it BOOMA! YOGA to be less ageist.

(f-o-g-i-s did cross my mind but I'll wait til I'm 50 before I dare float that one).

So don't expect any serious pretzel moves, but feel perfectly free to upstage me, as Colin Freestone, one of my customers, is doing in this picture. Colin's a long time yogi who offers yoga to cyclists on the trips he leads to Indonesia.

So yes! Cyclists welcome - in which case bring on the pretzels or you might find yourself looking like this.

I was certified in 2009, which is just the start. Although I've had taught various cycling groups since then, this is my first regular gig. It is not a paid position, so by coming along, you'll not only helping me build my teaching practice, you'll help and keep underfunded centers like this alive for people who can't afford the fancier gyms.

Please pass on to any couch potatoes with flexible remote control arms - we need to get cracking on the other arm, right?

Read more about what you might expect in my class ...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Downward Dog Days In Arizona: Desert Camp 2010 Done and dusted!

Bike Friday Desert Camp 2010 is done and dusted. Check out the full montymedia. I should say "done and frosted" - for the first time in my 7 years of attending this camp, the weather was chilly and ominous, threatening to force us jointly and severally into the luxe sag wagon. Which of course we did - the tour leaders scooped us up in the van as we struggled along in amazing Scott-in-the-Antarctic headwinds.  Just look at this sky ...

I taught a morning yoga class each morning and in the afternoon on 2 occasions. It was quite an eye opener to note very fit cyclists struggling with even basic flexibility - which makes me even more determined to develop my cyclists' yoga class ...

I held the class form 7-7.30am, which provided time to do little more than a warm up and some standing poses. On a couple of days I offered a 1 hour class in the afternoon.

The routine included lots of vinyasas (knees/chest/chin to make it easy), and lots of twists:

  • Ujayi (ocean or "Darth Vader") breathing
  • Cat/Cow
  • Downward Dog tuning (short dog)
  • Threading the needle (first twist)
  • Sun salutations 
  • Twists with feet in Tadasana (mountain pose)
  • Warrior I - Humble Warrior (the best!) - Forward bending (Parsvottasana)
  • Warrior II - Peaceful Warrior - Extended Side Angle 
  • Pigeon
  • Seated twists
  • Dolphin pose (resembles riding position on a road bike)
  • Tree pose - Yogi toe lock Warrior III
  • Janu Sirasana (seated forward bends)
  • Bridge pose (a great antidote to the crouched riding position)
-- to name the main ones.

 There wasn't much time to get beyond this in the half hour sessions, but I hope the twists, hip and shoulder openings and vinyasas were sufficient to get people warmed up - in fact, people were visibly sweating at the end of it.
    I noticed a stunning lack of flexibility in some of the fittest riders. Cyclists tend to not stretch enough, and when they do it's the usual hamstring and quad bend with one foot on a park bench. Yoga twists and bends involve the entire body. 

    Rob English, HPV champ and co-designer of the Bike Friday tikit, puts it like this: "The more flexible you are the faster you will go." He should know! 

    Glenn attempts a Dancer's post. Give the man a tutu! 

    Gal on Yoga

    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Yoga: Thank you Glenn Martin and!

    Namaste! Today I received 6 yoga blocks and 6 blankets thanks to the kind donation by Bike Friday Customer Glenn Martin (pictured mid-Vasisthasana on Arizona Camp 2010) and a kind price break by (As I said in my last yoga post, the ex-studio mats were donated by Laughing Lotus and my training was by Joschi Yoga Institute).

    It's gratifying to know that a dot com with a word like "direct" in it still has some human intervention to do special things for special people. Thank you Yoga Direct. The special people I'm referring to are the seniors at the Hudson Guild Community Center where I am volunteering a weekly yoga class.

    So far I've done 2 classes. Abilities range from belly dancers to someone in a wheelchair. It's really making me think about what really works for different bodily limitations. A lady with problematic feet could not do Downdog. We did Navasana (boat poses) instead - like a Down Dog upside down - no pressure on her feet at all.
    I always ask if they have blood pressure problems - in which case the head must be kept above the heart.
    No one seems to report that issue.

    The blankets and blocks help elevate the spine above the thighs to encourage people's backs to be straighter. There is a noticeable roundedness in shoulders and upper back.

    I observed the excellent Thursday Chair Yoga class, too. There's a lot you can do with a chair! But I want my class to be the bridge between a Vinyasa mat class and a Chair yoga class. Something in between to aspire to.

    I also have some sequences for Samuel, who is in a wheelchair - if ever he turns up.

    I teach at 1pm every Wednesday in the Guild Gallery, 119 9th Ave, Chelsea, NYC. I'll be in Arizona and Eugene March 5-23. I hope this doesn't make people forget! Things take time and patience to

     Gal on Yoga

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Helping NY Seniors: A little bit of yoga and one hot, cooked meal a day

    "Lynette, tell them about your yoga class. LYNETTE'S GOING TO TELL YOU ABOUT YOGA!"

    Yehudit is gathering people around one of the giant round tables in the cavernous community dining room. Some people aren't moving, so I won't get their attention. Most are already walking out the door. There's at least two generations of a Chinese family with a translator in front of me. Someone asks if I can speak Spanish.

    "Sufficiente para sobrevivir," I answer.

    I start to describe some simple movements and talk about Ujayi or "Darth Vadar" breathing.

    "Slower," says Yehudit as we raise our arms above our heads.

    I announce that we will be doing standing yoga in my class. I catch a glimpse of a Chinese gentleman in a wheelchair just as Yehudit says, "what about people who can't stand?"

    "We'll be doing sitting postures as well," I say.

    Thus began my induction to volunteering yoga at the Hudson Guild Senior Community Center.

    For the past couple of years I've often walked past a recessed doorway with letters, darkened with street grit, saying COMMUNITY CENTER. The entrance is set back beneath a large, public housing block called the Fulton Houses, named after the artist and steamboat engineer Robert Fulton, and colloquially known as "The Projects".

    Above:  Lunchtime at the Hudson Guild Senior Center - a much needed meal for some residents who come from as far as Queens.

    Enroute to Chelsea Market I never thought to investigate until I googled the development online. I was looking for ways to put my Yoga certification into practise, and would often look up at these buildings, wondering if I could offer a class to the residents within. Yoga is an expensive activity in NYC - at $15-$18 a class, and with donation-only classes few and far between it's probably low on the list or priorities for even middle income people. This is where I felt I could be of service.

    Venturing past those doors I discovered a fully functioning activity center run by the non-profit Hudson Guild, a 100-year old organization part funded by the city's program for the Aging, part by donations. The Guild serves over 100 free lunches to age 55+ seniors every day, and meals on wheels to a hundred more.

    "Some come from as far as Queens", said Larry, a former travel trade publications writer who volunteers his time as a creative writing teacher. He contributes to a slate of activities offered each day - computers, crafts, tai chi, short trips and $2  theater tickets.

    "The idea is to keep people engaged," says Group Services Manager Yehudit Moch, in an environment, as the literature says, of "dignity and respect".

    Centers like this came about when, a few years ago, a survey revealed many seniors were starving, "eating dog food," said Larry. As a result, funding was set aside to create centers where seniors could at least get one square meal a day.

    Left: Yehudit takes to the floor during lunch, dressed in her Chinese New Year outfit, serenaded by the Guild's singing group.

    The menu itself is quite eclectic - a blue photocopied sheet lays out the month's offerings, ranging from Cajun fish to Asian stir fry, "each served with fresh fruit, juice and whole wheat bread."

    "I'm the only volunteer that eats here every day," says Yehudit, tucking into the special Chinese New Year dish she organized especially for the occasion - complete with red envelopes containing a coupon for a free additional meal.

    "I believe it's important to be seen to eat the food, so people know it's worthy of consumption."

    Apparently the execution is not consistent, but it's balanced, solid and most of all, available. Citizens over 60 get the meal for free, 55+ are asked to donate a nominal $1 or so. She then took to the floor to tango with Robert, an actor, to the Casiotone vibes of the Singing Group.

    "Not everyone likes our singing group," she whispered. But there they were, belting it out and refreshingly, not caring who didn't care for it.

    The center is unquestionably modest. Reminiscent of a school, it has fluorescent cinderblock hallways and chipped painted doors with missing hooks and handles - a parallel universe to the luxe condos like the Caledonia around the corner, boasting a runway-sized lobby with sweeping sofas illuminated by groovy olde worlde Edison lightbulbs.

    As I fumbled for the non-existent lock on the restroom door, I found myself wishing that the community would come in and sheetrock, paint, carpet, tile to make it the kind of place we'd all like to think was our reward for paying our taxes and making it this far in life.

    While this is designated a "low income" center, other centers in the city are "middle income" or NORC, "Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities". That is, a specific apartment building, or a street of old single family homes, where residents have stayed and simply aged. The needs at these centers are different, says Yehudit. Low income seniors need food, middle income seniors may need services and meals on wheels. But everyone needs engagement, and to feel they belong.

    I have no idea how successful I will be with my seniors yoga class, but I will start teaching at 1pm on Wednesday. It's not an ideal slot, being right after lunch, but Yehudit tells me new ideas must be introduced in the moment, when people are standing in front of you. They must be constantly reminded and encouraged, in a world where we worship a youth we all lose. For the past 10 years, my inspiration has been these people - Bike Friday Super Seniors - I want to bring a little of that energy to these people.

    I am thrilled that Laughing Lotus (where, as a low-income resident by New York standards I've been taking community yoga classes), has jumped at my solicitation for used yoga mats - the senior center has none. Lotus' daily community class, where donations are given to a worthy cause, has been my inspiration.

    I will now try to raise some funds to get blocks and blankets - if it's uncomfortable for young, able bodied people to touch the floor and pad their sit bones, you can imagine what it's like for seniors. Should you wish to donate, you can use PayPal to send it to galfromdownunder at gmail dot com. I will acknowledge your contribution here, and display a running total.

    Thank you Laughing Lotus, and thank you Joschi Body Bodega for my Yoga teacher training - for the first time in a long time, I feel I have a way to be of service.


    I'M BLOWN AWAY! This just in from Laughing Lotus Yoga Center, Chelsea, NYC:
    Morning Lynette! We'd love to donate 12 mats for your group. How kind of you to donate your time and energy for them. I usually bundle 10 mats with a strap and suggest a car to pick them. Do you have a car? If not, I can bundle 6 together that can be carried ... Best, Joy

    Should you wish to donate to help me buy blankets and yoga blocks for the senior center, you can use PayPal to send it to galfromdownunder at gmail dot com. I'll gratefully acknowledge your contribution here, and keep a running total to keep everyone informed. I'm purposely keeping this request low key - I know that should you wish to donate, you will have read and appreciated this story.

    Feb 18, 2010: Thank you Glenn Martin who donated $100. I'm on the phone to for 8 blocks and 2 blankets.

    The Gal on Yoga 

    The Gal's Yoga Blog