Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meet the teacher: Simone Selby

1. Please describe the style of yoga you teach.
I teach a back rehabilitation class that is based on a combination of physiotherapy, Pilates and hatha yoga. The 10-week program addresses a different part of the body each week, e.g. neck and shoulders, sacro-iliac and lumbar spine, abdominals and sides. Each class works on decompressing the vertebral collumn, pelvic floor and deep core muscle strengthening, as these are the basics of alleviating back and neck problems.

2. Why did these disciplines appeal to you initially?
Pilates appealed to me as I liked its emphasis on decompression of the spine and peripheral joints. It also specifically strengthens the core muscles of the spine and abdomen. The latest research into chronic spinal pain shows that the Pilates method helps alleviate pain.

3. Why did you decide to become a teacher?
After suffering 20 years of headaches that resolved following a 10-week Pilates program, I felt a moral obligation to the community to share and teach the pilates method. I have been a practicing physiotherapist for 23 years and am also an acupuncturist. I incorporate education about why problems and blockages occur in the body into the pilates class, so that the students understand how and why the exercises can help them

4. How long have you been teaching, and where have you taught before now/where else are you teaching now?
I have been teaching in the Mosman area for 10 years at various studios. I currently teach Monday and Thursday mornings at Mosman Yoga Co-op and Tuesday evenings in Castlecrag.

5. How does teaching fit into your own practice - has it become part of your practice, has it changed your practice?
I have my own acupuncture clinic and physiotherapy practice in Castlecrag. The knowledge I have gained from teaching Pilates over the last 10 years has influenced my work in that all my clients learn to manage and alleviate a lot of their symptoms using exercise programs on their own. It is wonderful to give people the skills to help themselves.

6. If someone is new to yoga or Pilates, what would you tell them to encourage them to begin practising?
I would encourage all ages shapes and sizes to try the pilates method, especially if they have a history of pain. The classes actually show and teach you how to change postural habits and strengthen the hidden muscles of the core. The classes are challenging in that you are learning to use and connect to muscles that you have never used before, but at the same time the class is relaxing and calming due to the nature of the exercises. The class is not aerobic or jarring, rather flowing, strengthening and centering.

7. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
I currently have spaces available in the Monday and Thursday classes in Mosman. Students need to bring a Pilates ball to the Thursday class. I am happy to answer any further questions over the phone on 0421 369 643.

The perfect pair

When I first started practising yoga, many moons ago, I was young and shy and mortified at the idea of having to work with a partner in yoga class. Each time my teacher, Judy Krupp, would ask us to work in pairs, I'd inwardly cringe and then just try to make the best of it. After a few years had passed I started to appreciate that working with a partner opens up a completely different way to practise asana: one is both supported and challenged. It's a form of work that can't be achieved solo, even using props (although the ropes used in classic Iyengar practice come close). When one works with a partner, the partner can, within reason, push a little bit, pull back a little bit, and generally make the experience new. The asana you practice with a partner is a new posture, in a lot of ways.

Heavy rain has fallen on Sydney over the last few days, and we also had a full moon over the weekend. It's always wise to take the environment, weather and lunar cycle into account when planning classes, as we are all affected by these things, whether we want to believe that or not. So for my class this week I decided that a grounding, earthy practice with a little bit of heat would be best - grounding and earthy because of the moon and a bit of heat to steam off and squelch out the water.

For the first time ever, I decided to give over a large portion of the class to partner work (usually I'll only ask students to work one or two postures at a time in pairs). My theory was that the partnering would provide the grounding/earthing by providing strength. To prepare for this work we played around with core strength using props so that the bodies were used to the idea of a support structure; then real, live humans took the place of the props.

The results were surprising. I had expected that, after the initial heat of the warm-up work and the core strength work, the partner practice would be slower, even a bit heavier, more tamasic. We moved slowly, for sure, but everyone got very, very warm. The partnering seemed to encourage openness in bodies (and tongues, occasionally - I had to use my schoolmarm voice in order to be heard) that translated into heat flowing out of everyone and into the room; it was a rajasic practice. Even with the windows open, it was steamy. And then they all got really tired - almost exhausted - even though we hadn't done that many postures.

The whole class was a reminder that we are fundamentally energy beings, and that the behaviour of that energy can't necessarily be predicted. I like to use the phrase 'opening the gates' when talking about what asanas can do, and it seemed that in the class the partnering helped fling open gates that had perhaps been rusted shut for a while. It was really exciting to see - exciting to feel the living energy in the room. And it's definitely encouraged me to incorporate more partner work in class in future.

To my wonderful students who came along to play, sweat and laugh - thank you. I hope you all slept really, really well.

- Sophie Hamley