• When Science and Yoga Collide – Celebrating the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11

    Date: 2014.07.22 | Category: Uncategorized | Response: 0

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    Photo Credit: The Onion

    Before embarking on a career teaching yoga, I was an earth science teacher. The most exciting topic for me to teach was astronomy. I never had the opportunity to learn much about it when I was a kid, so I relished the last quarter of the school year when I got to teach astronomy. For me, teaching about the history of space exploration was the most exciting thing ever – showing kids who were born in the year 1998 footage of Apollo 11 is fun. They have no idea how significant an event it was in human history. First of all, they all think we take space shuttles to the moon on a regular basis. They have no clue about the timeline of space exploration, and how we went from the first airplane flight to the first person in space in less than 60 years, and that only 8 years after that we put a man on the moon.

    I grew up in the 1980s, when the Space Shuttle program was still relatively new and exciting and shuttle launches were televised because they were new and different. Kids today…they think space travel is no big deal. They either don’t know about the wonder that is the International Space Station, or they don’t care.

    I was driving to yoga on Wednesday, July 16, listening to NHPR, and the topic of discussion was the upcoming 45th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. I was thinking “Damn, I miss teaching science!” and then I had a flash of brilliance – Sunday was July 20th, and I was teaching my Sunday night Hatha class. I immediately decided that I had to design my entire sequence and theme around the Apollo 11 mission – asanas, playlist, reading – it was all going to be about the moon.

    Right off the bat I had a collection of songs for the playlist – Space Oddity (of course), Major Tom (Coming Home), Walking on the Moon, Ashes to Ashes (it mentions Major Tom), Rocket Man, Man on the Moon. I set about compiling a list of songs that I felt related to space exploration.

    It was trickier to sequence this playlist – I like to build my playlists so that each song smoothly transitions into the next. That was tough with the assortment of songs that I had assembled. Then I had to find enough songs to fill a 75 minute class. I also wanted some sound bites from JFK’s speeches, and wanted to close with Neil Armstrong’s famous words.

    I sequenced the class using two different moon salutations (Chandra Namaskara). I was originally going to make standing half moon pose (Ardha Chandrasana) be my apex pose, and then it hit me….I had to make my apex pose Eagle (Garudasana). Get it? Eagle? As in, The Eagle has landed?

    I never cease to amaze myself.

    Here’s my playlist – a blend of mostly 70s and 80s hits, with a few others mixed in. The Debussy piece is beautiful soothing classical piano, perfect for savasana.

    Fun facts: Space Oddity by David Bowie was recorded on June 20, 1969, just one month before Apollo 11 landed on the moon, but was not played by the BBC until after the astronauts returned to earth.

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    The sequence of asanas flow nicely – great hip and shoulder opening sequence. Honestly, this would suffice as a regular Vinyasa Flow class. I teach Hatha, and it was a stretch to use this with my students, as it was more challenging than what they are usually used to. We did 2 of the first set of Chandra Namaskara, then did two of the second set (first set opening up to the right, second to the left).

    Moon Theme Yoga Sequence

    Balasana; Table, Cat/Cow, Cat/Seal, Adho Mukha Svanasana
    Surya Namaskara A (3 half, 2 full)
    Chandra Namaskara A: Tadasana – inhale arms up, exhale fold

    • Step left foot back into anjaneyasana, drop knee, arms up into crescent lunge
    • Exhale hands to forehead, heart, plant on mat, step back to Adho Mukha Svanasana
    • Inhale to table, exhale to balasana
    • Inhale rise to knees, arms overhead, exhale to praying child
    • Inhale forward to Urdva Muka Svanasana, exhale to Adho Mukha Svanasana
    • Step left foot forward, drop back knee, inhale to crescent lunge
    • Exhale lower hands to brow, heart center, plant on mat, step forward and fold into uttanasana, inhale to rise, exhale hands to heart center

    Chandra Namaskara B: Inhale arms up, arch right, center, left, center (Indudalasana)

    • Open to 5 pointed star, then to Goddess (Utkata Konasana), 5 pointed star
    • Rotate feet to right, Uttita Trikonasna, inhale exhale arm down to Parsvottanasana (intense side stretch/pyramid pose)
    • Drop back knee and rise to crescent lunge (Anjaneyasana), rotate to side lunge (Skandasana)
    • Lower to garland squat, rotate to side lung other side, rotate to Anjaneyasana other side
    • Lift back knee to Parsvottanasana other side, Uttita Trikonasana, rise to 5 pointed star, sink to Goddess, rise, step feet together
    • Inhale arms overhead, arch left, center, right, center, REPEAT TO LEFT

    Step Back to Virabhadrasana 2, Reverse Warrior, Side Angle, Goddess w/ Eagle Arms
    Repeat Virabhadrasana 2/Reverse Warrior/Side Angle/Goddess w/ Eagle Arms OTHER SIDE
    Garudasana
    Balasana, Baddha konasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana
    One legged forward bend (both sides); Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
    Bridge, Supported Bridge
    Savasana