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 ...

BOOMA! 50+ YOGA
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 ...
http://www.galfromdownunder.com/yoga