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September 17 2023-Being a Student and Learning-Navasana-Zucchini Fritters

This past week I had an amazing experience, I was a yoga student. Before I continue, I should clarify, we are all always students which is why we call what we do a practice. We practice our yoga on and off the mat, always finding small ways to incorporate this work into our everyday life. When I say I was a student, I mean I

Yoga Teacher Training Graduation

at Rockbriar Farm!

went to yoga classes as a student (at Shepherd’s Run). IT WAS AMAZING. I had forgotten how transformational being immersed in a class so much that you stop actively thinking, focus completely on the breath and the movement, and give yourself over to the practice completely. I took two classes and realized how healthy it was for me personally (mentally, physically) and how motivational taking other teachers’ classes is for my own teaching. When I practice alone in the studio, I can achieve letting go and energy, but I do not get the encouragement or coaching that comes from another instructor. Understand that I LOVE teaching, it makes me smile every time I step on the mat to practice with one student or twenty. When I am teaching, however, my focus is on the sequencing, guiding, and coaching and I am not inwardly focused, and I certainly do not “let go”. Taking classes helps rejuvenate my excitement for both my personal practice and the teaching.

At the beginning of this, I mentioned that we are all always yoga students because what we do is a practice. Really, all of life could be thought of as one big class that we are students in, always learning. When something goes wrong or something challenging happens, we can feel angry, disappointed, or sad. I have had my share of bumps in the road and have tried to adopt the philosophy that every experience is a learning opportunity. If we continue to experience the same negative occurrence, then perhaps we should examine that (we are not learning the “lesson”), but normal life incidents can teach us about humility, kindness (as well as anger management skills). Remember what Don Miguel Ruiz said in the Four Agreements, Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” The learning can be about the human experience or it can be a new skill, a fun fact or even about a new place to go to dinner!

I suggest we focus this week on approaching our yoga practice and our life as one big opportunity to learn. This week let’s meditate on the power of learning and end each day by having gratitude for some small new tidbit that you picked up.

Our Practice – Learning Something New About Navasana – Boat Pose

This past week some of the students in the basic yoga series were asking about pain in the hips and legs when practicing navasana. I have always considered navasana (boat pose) for its core strengthening properties. As I researched and tried some variations to pinpoint why they were feeling it in their legs and hips, I learned that likely, the hip flexor muscles were being over worked. Remember, when one muscle group feels the pose more than the others, it is usually compensating for the weaker muscles picking up the slack. Two things to do before practicing boat pose: stretch the hip flexors and engage the core. Remember, by turning on the core first it ensures that it is actively working.

There are ways to modify this stress on the hip flexors such as bending the knees a bit more and some other options. When we practice the pose with our legs straighter, the rectus femoris is working simultaneously to straighten the knees and to flex the hips. It is overloaded. Because it crosses multiple joints it can become insufficient to do all that we are asking it to do, and cramps. Some other options:

  • Practice boat pose starting with the feet on the floor. We still engage the core, and when ready just lift the feet off the floor but with the feet below the knees.

  • Gradually remove the hands from your thighs when you feel the abdominals “winning” over the hip flexors. This will happen as you improve your abdominal control.

  • Begin to straighten one or both knees, maintaining activation in the abdominals by thinking about keeping the lower back flat

Below are links to two articles that discuss this phenomenon and offer ways to modify to alleviate that cramping/overload. Let me know what you think.

And I like this article in Yoga Journal that sums it all up simply.

Meditation – On Learning

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Nurturing with Food – Zucchini Patties

When you are inundated with zucchini and looking for inspiration beyond zucchini bread, this is a delicious side dish. They are reminiscent of the potato pancakes that my father and my mother-in-law made and, like the potato version, pair well with sour cream or apple sauce. Super easy to make!

See you on the mat!


Julia Anne

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