Yoga Belly Blog

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How I Found My Backbend: Behind the Scenes of a Private Lesson, Part III

November 2, 2011 / Aaron

Remember those picture puzzles you saw as a kid? Where you look at two copies of the same picture, but you have to find the six differences? Okay, let's do that again, with these bad boys:



Don't cheat! Take a minute to really look, and see if you can find anything. Don't cheat...










Okay, what did you see? Because before my private lesson with Edna, I just saw my feet: flat on the ground in the first picture, and then up on my tippy toes for the second one. I would work on backbends and home, or look sideways in the mirror at the studio, and it all looked the same to me.

Kids, this is why you need a private lesson. Don't get me wrong, instructors have adjusted my backbends before, and they'd say things like, "make a C with your spine," "don't put too much pressure on your low back," etc, and I made a very concerted effort to listen and tune in to my body. And when they'd come over and pull up on my ribs, I'd definitely feel the difference, but not long enough for my muscles to remember the sensation. I'd flounder around afterwards, trying to recapture that elusive feeling, more or less to no avail. Then in Jeff's class I realized I was doing things COMPLETELY wrong and I realized I needed some extra guidance. The spine is a very precious, delicate thing, I didn't want to mess around with it.

So, I had another private lesson with the fabulous Edna Barr. In my opinion, the three best things about private lessons with her are:

1) Concentrated effort on your particular practice: your challenges, your whims, your body.

2) Professional explanation and unparalleled attention. If she explains something and I don't get it, she'll explain it again a different way, until it "clicks."

3) The full body massage.

We spent an hour working together, of course starting with headstand and handstand, warming up with some vinyasas (which still give me grief, oy vey), and when I was warm enough to sweat we moved into backbends.

For the record, PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, you really need someone who knows what they're doing to spot you, backbends feel amazing and wonderful but it's also not hard to overdo it and injure yourself. Not worth it! Approach your favorite instructor, one who really "gets" you, and don't go hurting yourself.

We started with bridge, then moved into full wheel, and I learned to rock back and forth to get more into my upper back. After every pose, Edna would work over my back with a delicious massage, it felt amazing. Finally, I got up into headstand (yes, headstand), and she helped guide me back into what might just have been the deepest backbend of my life. Y'all, my ELBOWS were on the ground, I could hardly breathe, and then when she told me to lift up my head, I was like, "What?" I don't know about you, but when I'm in a pose like that, I hardly know my own name, I'm concentrating so hard just on breathing through the pose and not passing out that any verbal instruction is just totally wasted on me.

Edna knows this, and took pictures to help me. At first, she took a picture of my bad habits: the way I dumped into my lumbar spine, and kept my shoulders over my hands. After some coaching, she got me into a backbend that felt very different: there was significantly more action in my upper back, my shoulders crept towards my elbows, and the bend was so deep there was no way I could keep my feet flat on the floor (give me a few years!). The photos really helped me visualize the difference in my backbends, and it was so helpful to be able to scroll back and forth, rather than crane my neck to the side and try to see in a mirror, huffing and puffing and too "in the zone" to understand anything.

So! That's the latest update in the Adventures of Tristen. I can't believe we went from HEADSTAND to a backbend, I just can't wrap my brain around that. But yes, it happened, and I think it happened a lot sooner than it would have because of the private, personalized guidance of a capable, thoughtful, and loving instructor.

Thank you so much to Edna, and all the amazing instructors at Yoga Belly! You ALL are fabulous!

Another Upcoming Yoga Event

November 1, 2011 / Aaron


Good morning lovelies,

Hope you all had a wonderful Halloween / Dia de los Muertos, and are enjoying the weather that is finally starting to feel like fall. I am reveling in the joy and soreness of another private lesson with Edna, which I'll post about later, it was a game changer. There are so many little things to remember in yoga, and though they seem little, they feel pretty significant when you actually dial everything down. But, more on that later, my calves are still twitching.

Anyway, if you're going to be around this weekend, check out the Vibhasana yoga conference put on by Almaden Yoga... looks pretty cool!

For those of you looking for a little more adventure a little further from home, Edna still has two spots left on her Kauai Yoga Retreat... there will be lots of yoga, meditation, outdoor excursions (snorkeling, hiking, beach combing!) and... wait for it... a PRIVATE CHEF. Yes, please! If you're interested, sign up online or talk to her after class.




Happy Monday

October 31, 2011 / Aaron

... and Happy Halloween!


Yoga Dogs? Whaaaaaat...

October 28, 2011 / Aaron


Happy Friday lovelies!

My Daily Dose of Humble Pie:

October 26, 2011 / Aaron

... this time, involves backbends. Apparently I've been doing them COMPLETELY WRONG. Yoga, you humble me yet again.


Thought For Your Tuesday:

October 25, 2011 / Aaron


... especially in yoga. Especially when Edna has you kundalini-ing so hard you fling your barrette AND your hair tie at the wall in front of you, and you just keep breathing through it anyway (because what the hell else are you going to do), and when the longest minute of your life is finally (somehow) over, you look like you just came out of a mosh pit.

You just can't take yourself too seriously around here, kids.

How I Met My Hamstrings: Behind the Scenes of a Private Yoga Lesson (And Why You Should Probably Get One): Part II

October 20, 2011 / Aaron



Spoiler alert: I originally tried to keep the instructor's identity secret, so that I wouldn't bias anyone for or against said instructor and you'd all be free to connect privately with the instructor who speaks to you, knows your practice, etc. But, then I realized that, to write about my experience honestly, I had to describe the instructor's approach fully, and that would give it all away. The second I wrote "diamond in the sky" you'd all get it, so whatever: it's Edna.

So yeah. After "warming up" (I won't lie, I was way beyond warm, and already feeling the burn), we moved into sun salutations. All I did was stand up straight at the top of my mat, and Edna simply observed me: in her professional, caring, non-judgmental way.

"Hmm," she remarked, "Your ankles are different."

I looked down at my feet. They looked pretty similar to me, but what do I know. Then she gently pointed to the humped bones of my ankles, one of which seemed to "stick out" a little more than the other. Weird. Here I've had these ankles for 27 years and I've never noticed, but she had picked up on it after only a few minutes.

"Oh well," she said, "Everyone's a little different, and it shouldn't stop you."


We started to flow through some sun salutations, and my down-dog got worked over like nobody's business. Apparently, I took it a little too literally when someone described it to me as a "resting pose." I just kinda stuck my butt up in the air, pressed through my heels until I could feel my calves sing a little, and rolled my shoulders back. I did make an effort to spread my fingers and ground through my hands, and I was pretty proud of myself for remembering to take my yoga so seriously.


The first thing Edna did was to place her hands firmly in the center of my upper back, and apply smooth pressure to straighten out my spine. She turned my mat perpendicular to the mirror, and said, "Watch this. Don't look up until I tell you." After straightening my spine, she stood up and rotated my pelvis out and up, so the tops of my hipbones were angled toward my shoulders, rather than straight down at the floor. Then, she got behind me, wrapped her hands around my thighs, and pulled back. I felt my heels inch incrementally closer to the ground, I felt the balls of my feet ground more firmly below me, I felt my spine lengthen and tailbone pointing up.

"Now look," she said. I turned my head to the mirror and saw myself, sweating and red, but in the shape of a nearly perfect upside-down V. Damn, I've never looked so good!

She let go of my legs and I shifted subtly forward, not quite the perfect V I had been a moment ago.

"Uh oh," Edna said, "what happened?" I shrugged and she came back around, tapped the tops of my quads. "Engage here," she said.

I tried. Nothing happened.

She tapped my thighs again and said, "Right here. Make this hard."

I tried, but remained squishy. Edna furrowed her brows and told me to come out of the pose and stand up. I did, and she knocked lightly on my quads until, finally, they tightened, then she said, "There! That's it! I knew you were stronger than that," and told me to get back down into my DD and keep those thighs as flexed as they had been when I was standing up.

And what do you know, I found my hamstrings.

Somehow, I had spent months listening to this same instructor tell me to do all these things: lift my chest, ground through my hands and feet, and engage my inner thighs, but only now, after being painstakingly molded and tweaked into position, did I get it. So this is down dog. Well, hello there.

Upcoming Retreat: November in Hawaii with Edna

October 19, 2011 / Aaron

Good morning lovelies,

For those of you who haven't yet had the chance to bear-hug our yoga-mama, Edna's back! Yaaaaay! And, because apparently she can't function without getting on an airplane every few weeks, she's hosting an aMAzing looking retreat next month. Rumor has it there are still a few spots open, so get it while the gettin's good... a week of yoga, meditation, a private chef, snorkeling and beach adventures... yes, please!

If you're interested, holler at your girl or send her an email at



October 18, 2011 / Aaron

... it feels SO GOOD to do yoga for three days in a row. Seriously, people. Just do it.


Monday Manifesto

October 17, 2011 / Aaron