Two Yoginis

A journey of yoga, friendship, and transformation


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Old Coaches Can Surely Tell

There is so much to say about the lessons I learned from my Grandpa Jim. He was a vibrant, loving grandfather, who I am grateful I had the chance to know. He was the head the Chafey family, who successfully raised seven children, and was happily married to his beloved, my Grandma Joan. My grandpa passed away last September at ninety-three; peacefully, at home, and on his own terms. Saturday morning, I woke up and immediately thought of him. I have been processing his loss and allowing myself to mourn through my practice on the yoga mat.

Hiking in San Diego remembering Grandpa

Hiking in San Diego remembering Grandpa

A few weeks ago, Ali wrote about our first session with Jonathan FitzGordan. Jonathan was introduced to the group as our anatomy teacher. After getting to know Jonathan, I would also call him a “walking” expert and a role model for teaching. Last night, at teacher training, he taught us another way to open up the body and release emotional and physical pain.

Throughout this session, Jonathan repeatedly mentioned (a tactic he encouraged us to do) the psoas major muscle and its importance to all yoga poses. As we learned in our first session, the psoas major holds trauma and stress in the body. Jonathan suggested that we could feel a great release from certain psoas-focused exercises and from proper alignment when standing and walking.

Another statement Jonathan repeated (read: teaching tactic in action) was that we did not have to believe anything he was saying. With excitement, he encouraged each of us to learn by experimenting and discerning whether an idea resonated with us. Then and only then would be able to trust him and his teachings. Each time he gave us a new piece of information or asked us to try a physical pose, I would decide if I believed what he was saying. Each time, I did feel the effect, and, therefore, trust Jonathan as an expert.

We practiced a small round of a psoas release called constructive rest position. This position is meant to allow the psoas and back body muscles release and let go. Something about this experience, brought up the memory of my Grandpa Jim, another great teacher. I woke up with an overwhelming feeling of sadness and happiness mixed together. I could feel my sorrow release, physically and emotionally.

My Grandpa taught me that there is always a solution. He could fix anything, and left me with the knowing that there is always a way. He loved to travel. He loved to observe people and places. For my college graduation, he bought me a set of luggage. I think of him every time I go to check that bag and head off on an adventure. Most of all, my Grandpa taught me that family and sharing love is most important and when there are bumps in the road and you fall down, get back up and try again. What I love about repetition is that the words become ingrained in the mind. At any moment, I can close my eyes and hear my grandfathers voice: “thank you for the love we share together.”

One of Grandpa's many hat's

One of Grandpa’s many hat’s

Coaching the Ballgame by Jim Chafey, Sr., March 2011

Just keep on swinging,
No matter your age.
Life’s joys will stay with you.
You’re at the top of the gauge.

When the fast-balls come at you,
Don’t step out of the box.
Just swing even harder,
Hit the ball right over the rocks.

Sometimes the game may be very easy,
Sometimes it may be hard, that is true,
But, just keep right on swinging,
And the win may come to you.

There is joy to be found in every game,
And each player can search for that joy.
All the coaches cannot do it for you,
Then, you self-learn that your game is quite real, not a toy.

In time, the coaching grows silent,
For your games are playing quite well,
And now there are new young games,
The formerly coached are now coaching young winners.
Old coaches can surely tell.


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Stick Out Your Butt

As part of our 200 hour teacher training, we have had two illuminating anatomy sessions with Jonathan FitzGordon, an expert on alignment of the human body. Jonathan’s specific focus is to understand optimal muscular and structural alignment during basic, fundamental activities, like standing and walking.

During our first session, Jonathan announced that nearly all humans (ourselves included) stand with our skeletal structure completely out of whack. Most of us have our pelvis tucked, our hips jutting forward, and our shoulders pulling back, all which leads to a tight butt (in a bad way). This misaligned posture forces our muscles to do all kinds of jobs they weren’t designed to do.

Your tucked pelvis - Image Credit: blog.corewalking.com

Correct alignment (left), your tucked pelvis (right) – image credit: blog.corewalking.com

After breaking this news to us, Jonathan asked us to stand up in “Tadasana” or “Mountain Pose,” after which he walked around the room giving us corrections to move our shoulders, hips, and ankles into one vertical line, creating the ideal standing alignment:

[Dryly and with a New York accent] “Stick your butt out. Release your butt. Give your butt a room of its own. Relax your shoulders. Lean forward a little. Deepen your hip creases. Let your rib cage slouch forward. Bend your knees a little. Turn off your butt.”

As I attempted to release my butt (it sounds easier than it really is), I felt myself sway slightly from side to side and front and back, to balance out my newly aligned body. Different muscles in my lower body kicked on and off, on and off, on and off, until, finally, I felt a couple of them turn off completely. It was tremendously strange to shut down such strong lower body muscles, while, simultaneously, feeling a new sense of groundedness in my bones. For maybe the first time ever, my muscles and bones were doing the jobs they were meant to do.

During that first session, Jonathan also introduced us to a muscle I had never heard of before: a hip flexor called the psoas (pronounced SO-AS). Apparently, the psoas is the only muscle that connects the legs to the spine (read: very important). Because the psoas has a natural contraction response during a trauma (like, let’s say, a car accident), the psoas is understood to hold that trauma in the physical body.

The psoas - image credit: blog.corewalking.com

The psoas – image credit: blog.corewalking.com

When I got home, I became aware that a profound shift had taken place in my body. Something (or maybe a few things) had let go that had been gripping for a long, long time (maybe forever). The release was both euphoric and intense. I woke up the next day to a different body than the one I had the day before. I may never be totally sure what was hiding in my psoas, but, the truth is, it doesn’t really matter.

Our physical bodies are the vehicle in which we travel through life. When we experience trauma (literal or emotional), one of our primary response is physical. As a result, we may trap the experience in the body in the form of tense muscles, joints, tissue or ligaments. Over time, tension leads to imbalance, which may later lead to pain. Thus, improperly maintained, our bodies become the sum of our difficult experiences.

When we practice yoga, we facilitate opening in and alignment of the physical body that frees trapped energy and emotions from these experiences. This process is not necessarily pleasant while you’re in the middle of it, but ultimately makes you feel profoundly better than you did before. You may find that when you let go physically, you let go emotionally, as well. When you cycle this stagnant energy out of your body, a new sense of wellbeing arises in its place.

A lot of people practice yoga to look better, but do not realize the profound healing power of yoga to feel better. If you are willing to give it a chance, you might find that having a dramatically better experience of life is as simple as sticking out your butt.

To learn more about Jonathan FitzGordon’s CoreWalking method, visit: http://corewalking.com/