Bhastrika, or bellows yogic breathing for healing from a cold

Even yogis get sick.  Yep, you read it here:  the end of the year is upon us and with it, the cold and dark months of the northern winter.  Now, admittedly here in Altea, the winters are not as rough as those of my native Canada.  But, the rhythm of life is just as hectic, if not more given the general disorganisation of the Iberian culture.  So, I have just spent a week on the sofa, sick as sick thing.  I thought I would share with you a pranayama technique called Bhastrika or bellows breathing.  It is a useful technique for clearing excess cold and damp from the body by nourishing the fire element.  So, watch the video and give it a try.  Any questions or doubts, leave a comment and I will get back to you.

On balance – Part II

In yesterday’s post, I hardly had time to get started.  Talking about the balancing act between prâna and apâna, I likened it to the accumulation and ridding of material things.  I wanted to finish the post by discussing the IN and the OUT of yoga practice.
Most of us arrive at a yoga practice carrying a lot of impressions (samskaras).  When used therapeutically, yoga helps us to unpick the essential from the superfluous.  Let’s use fear as an illustrative example.  A healthy amount of fear, or caution, is necessary.  Otherwise, we might try to fly off mountainsides, or jump into strangers’ cars at 4 in the morning.  But too much fear can stop us talking to interesting strangers at parties, travelling to unknown lands or otherwise enriching our human experience.  So, the continuous practice of yoga, especially challenging postures that elicit a certain amount of fear (say, backbends, breath retentions) allows us to watch our fear response, get to know it intimately and then, ultimately, control it at important moments.
So, yoga can be used to unpick the essential from the superfluous. When there is a dominance of prâna>apâna, there may be a tendency to flightiness, an abundance of ideas without the capacity to distinguish the good ones from the mediocre, and an inability to realise/materialise one’s own ideas.  Somatic manifestations like headaches, twitching eyelids, tooth grinding, jaw tensing, ear ringing, panicky breathing, neck and shoulder tension, pounding heart, tingling fingers and nervous habits like skin picking, smoking and nail biting are all related to prâna>apâna.  (please bear in mind that prâna and Prâna are two different things.  The lowercase version refers to the vayu that dominates the upper body.  Uppercase refers to the universal energy that sustains all Life.)  When prâna is in balance, our thoughts are fast but not fleeting, we have good recall and can crosslink ideas as well as exercise intuition.  When prâna is overactive, we are nervous, irritable and irascible.  When it is underactive, we are forgetful, fretful and worried.
Of course, we need adequate prâna to sustain life.  Likewise, we need adequate apâna, also.  Apâna dominates the digestive organs and pelvic region.  When it is out of balance, all manner of digestive troubles may ensue, as would varicose veins, swollen ankles, heel spoor and other foot disorders, cellulite or peau d’orange as well as general sluggishness or tiredness.  When apâna is strong, we are able to rid ourselves of waste material (urine, faeces) but don’t excrete too much (frequent urination, irritable bowel).  When it is weak, we may have flatulence, constipation, diverticules and pelvic prolapse.
Of course, should anyone out there reading this believe that yoga alone can cure any of the above named disorders, I have to do the responsible thing and state this this post is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose any medical problem.  Go to your doctor, FFS.  But, if they can’t put a name on what ails you, as often happens, ie: you don’t have a diagnosed and named pathology, then maybe some self-care in the form of yoga can prove helpful.
How to balance prâna and apâna?  Coming soon…but Krishnamacharya would probably say apanâsana and dvipâdapitam
Namaste and may you be filled with joy.  JSK.

Practical stuff for the pericardium

In my last post, I described the pericardium and offered some information about how it may be affected in breast cancer survivors.  Here are a few suggestions for sequences that could go into your own yoga sequence and help focus it on the diaphragm/pericardium

practical pericardium
practical pericardium

Yoga therapy for the pericardium

a grey and purple mandala
Harlequin Mandala

Radiation therapy (RT) has improved life expectancy for many cancer patients.   However, it is well known that RT has long-lasting side effects that can range from mild to severe. Breast cancer patients treated with RT are at risk of damage to any of the structures near to the breast.  This includes the heart, lungs, pericardium, skin, lymphatic vessels and nodes, and skeletal muscles.  Today we are going to talk about the pericardium, what it is, how it may be affected/damaged in yoga therapy students, and how we can present a hatha yoga class to benefit and rehabilitate the pericardium.

What is the pericardium?

The pericardium is “a fibrous sac that attaches to the central tendon of the diaphragm and fuses with the adventitia of the great vessels superiorly.”  The great vessels are the large blood vessels that carry blood to a from the heart.  The adventitia is the outermost layer of the wall of a blood vessel.  So, the pericardium is:

  • A fibrous sac (two-walled, in fact, with fluid in the space between).
  • Attached to the central tendon of the diaphragm (the main muscle of breathing).
  • Fused with the outermost walls of the big blood vessels of the heart.

What does the pericardium do?

The pericardium has four functions.

  • It protects the heart from infections,
  • It protects the heart from knocks and jolts (this due to the fluid in the space between the two sacs),
  • It lubricates the heart and
  • It prevents excessive swelling of the heart in the case of a sudden increase in blood volume, which is usually associated with other illnesses or problems with sodium levels in the blood.

Unsurprisingly, given its roles, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the pericardium is also referred to as the heart protector.  The pericardium meridian runs down the inner arms, between the two tendons of the inner forearm, crosses the palm and then runs along the middle finger, terminating at its tip.  Anyone who has treated secondary lymphoedema of breast cancer will observe that the affected areas coincide spectacularly with the pericardium meridian…

What happens to the pericardium during cancer treatment?

Fibrosis is the thickening and scarring of connective tissue usually as a result of injury.  The injury in this case is a radiation burn. Bear in mind that there are diseases that cause a primary fibrosis (cystic fibrosis, for example).  We are not talking about yoga therapy for such diseases here, although some of the underlying theory may be applicable.  We are discussing yoga therapy for breast cancer patients who may have pericardium fibrosis caused by RT.  This would be a secondary fibrosis, just at the lymphoedema seen in breast cancer patients is secondary to lymph node excision or what have you.
RT has a tendency to burn the surrounding tissue as well as the tumour.  The pericardium is already defined as a “fibrous sac” and the fibrosity that can develop as a result of radiation burns is our main concern here.  Bear in mind that different RT techniques will have greater or lesser probability of damaging the pericardium.  I observe that women with deep tumours often have RT tattoos on the other side of the chest, meaning that at least one ray had to cross the chest the get to the tumour.  Shudder.  Indeed, this article (from 2010) says that 20% of oncology patients who have had RT in the chest develop constrictive pericarditis.  This is called “radiation-induced constrictive pericarditis.” Constrictive pericarditis is a medical condition characterized by a thickened, fibrotic pericardium, limiting the hearts ability to function normally.
Let’s also take a moment to recall that chemotherapy often damages the heart.

Yoga poses for the pericardium.

Spinal extensions, backbends, outwards arm rotations, held inhales, arm raises with inhales and basically anything that stretches the chest and moves the diaphragm will be therapeutic for the pericardium.  However, as usual, there are limitations and contraindications that must be considered.  A glance at this page is useful in that it demonstrates a number of poses that quite frankly could not be used in the classes that I give.
Firstly, recall that fibrosis is not reversible.  It can be improved and loosened, but under normal circumstances, it is chronic.  I mention this to help you pace your program and not expect miracles.  I also warn strongly that overwork and tears are not desirable.  So, work within your students’ limits.
Referring back to the last page I mentioned, the “puppy dog pose” could be modified to a cat-cow sequence, breathing out with rounding the back and in when arching.  Another typical viniyoga sequence is moving slowly between cat pose and child’s pose.

cat-child's pose sequence
cat-child’s pose sequence

Another typical sequence is alternating between standing on the tiptoes with the arms reaching up (keep to shoulder height in some cases, elbows may also need to bend, ideal is palms facing at the top) and a half-squat with a spinal twist.  If you alternate sides and breathe in when you go up and out when you go down, you get a really nice loosening effect in the mid-trunk without really running risk of injury.
twist utkatasana - tiptoes sequence
twist utkatasana – tiptoes sequence

What can be interesting is using breath retentions to increase the lung volume and mobilise the intercostal and the serratus anterior muscles.  Next week I will post a sequence that I use and love.  Right now, I have to go.  It’s been a long post and I think that I have communicated what I set out to.
To yog is to live.  Keep at it!!!

Child's pose modifications for Yoga Therapy for Breast Cancer

We usually think of child’s pose, sometimes known as bheki, as a relaxation pose.  It figures in yin yoga and restorative sequences and is generally used as a counter-pose after more strenuous work.  However, what seems an easy pose actually represents certain challenges to the breast cancer patient.  
Firstly, the classic arm positions in child’s pose – arms alongside the legs or extended and next to the ears – can be challenging for these students.  To lay the arms alongside the legs suggests that the person is low enough into the pose (ie:  backside is sitting on the heels) so that the upper arm is on the floor.  My ladies aren’t all able to do this.  Also, anyone with serratus-flap reconstruction is going to find the required rounding of the shoulders hard on the affected side.  The extend the arms taxes both serratus anterior and trapezius.  There are some people who just can’t lift the extended arm that high.  This calls for a modification!  Read on…
The ankles can present a problem in ladies of a certain age.   If there is undue strain on the front of the ankles, the pose becomes unstable.  A simple solution is the prop the ankles on a tubular prop, or simply roll up the end of your mat and use that.
If there is a bit of belly – and let’s face it, with all the cortisone administered in chemo, most students arrive a bit on the heavy side – we need to make room for it.  Simply separating the legs helps the body settle comfortably into the deep forward bend.
In people who carry neck tension – and most mastectomized and reconstructed ladies do – you will see that the cervical curve persists in this pose.  Do your best to bring attention to the dorsal zone, instructing students to separate the shoulder blades on the inhale. Tell students to pull the chin down towards the sternum.  (For those who are comfortable on the pose, you can suggest a little breath retention after each exhale.)

Arm Modifications

Take the arms out to the side, just above shoulder height, with the elbows bent.  Keep a slight pressure between the forearms and  the floor.  Splay the fingers and keep a slight pressure on the fingertips.  Keep awareness at the fingertips.

Child's pose for breast cancer rehab
Child’s Pose- modified for breast cancer yogis

Into joint – healing the shoulders

The shoulder joint is the joint in the human body with the greatest range of motion. To keep the shoulder joint stable, we have the wonderful rotator cuff, a group of small muscles below the armpit and shoulderblade.  Sadly, these little muscles are ofter under-developed, leaving the shoulder unsupported and prone to pain and dislocation.  This little sequence is very healing for shoulders.  I learned it from Claude Maréchal, the head of the Viniyoga lineage in Europe. But, the shoulder-drop to the floor with the arms at vertical is pure Rachel…my little contribution to the sequence to make it more healing…Try to do this six times, twice a day.

Into Joint - healing the shoulders
Into Joint – healing the shoulders


Earlier, I published a description of the yoga pose dvipada-pitâm.  Here are the photos to accompany that post.  Please refer to the description.  Please note:  keep the chin tucked in, make sure hands and feet are firmly on the floor.  Don’t pull the feet in towards the buttocks with your hands.  Let the natural flexibility of your leg joints determine the distance between bum and heel.

(breathe out) dvipada-pitâm

(breathe in) dvipada-pitâm

The Post: published articles

Dear readers,

Please find here the articles I have published in The Post, a fine, free tabloid found on the lovely Costa Blanca.    The first three articles, published in the summer of 2013, describe in detail some important fundamental poses in the Viniyoga system of hatha yoga.    Here, I have simply copied them inline, without the lovely photos (by my friend Pepe Zaragozí) accompanying the originals.

Apanasana:A powerfully simple pose

Hatha yoga is a very good ally in the struggle against lower back pain (LBP). LBP is one of the main reasons people visit the Doctor’s office. Although in some cases surgery might be the only option, for most people a good program of spinal care and yoga would keep them pain-free and mobile. Stretching, freeing, loosening and unbinding muscles, ligaments and tendons, yoga gently eases aches and pains, realigning our bodies and calming our minds.

Apanasana is a basic yoga pose that is very easy to learn and may help reduce LBP. It is a full spinal and gluteal stretch, a contraction of the abdomen and compression of the abdominal cavity.

Most of us know that weak abdominal muscles and protruding bellies contribute significantly to lower back pain. The internal organs push out the weak abs, rocking the pelvis forward. With the pelvis tipped forward this way, the hip flexors shorten and pull on the lower back, making it curve even more and causing pain.

In the subtle anatomy of yoga, there is a dominant downward running energy and a dominant upward rising energy. Apana is the downward facing energy. It runs from the navel down to the tips of the toes. It governs elimination, reproduction and the rooting, terrestrial facets of life. Apanasana derives its names from the energy apana. It is the posture (asana) that actuates directly on the downward energy current (apana). Combining this gentle movement with the precise breathing technique of lengthening and counting the breath changes the direction of the flow of apana, sending it upwards.

When it flows upwards, apana nourishes our nervous system, giving us vitality, vigour and zest for life.

Observe carefully any limitations you might have including herniated disks or difficulty rising from the floor. If this is the case, you may wish to try practising on your bed. Do not undertake any physical activity without consulting a professional first. But also, don’t worry. This is a very safe pose, reclining, head neutral, feet raised.

Use a yoga mat or folded boiled-wool blanket to cushion your back. Lying face-up on the floor, legs bent, feet flat on the floor, parallel and hip-width apart, heels near the buttocks. Extend the neck and lower the chin to make a double-chin. Keep the neck straight throughout.

Breathe in. Breathing out, lift the feet off the floor, bringing the knees to the chest. Place the palms of the hands on the knees. Breathe in. Breathing out, pull the knees gently in towards the chest. Breathing in, move the knees back and away from the chest. Breathe out and rock the knees back in. Breathe in and rock them away. Repeat. Take note: the movement is small. Don’t straighten the legs on the inhale. The elbows flex and extend, but the knees mostly don’t. Repeat this movement for 6-8 breaths, three times per day and you will almost certainly reduce lower back pain (LBP). Practice 6-8 breaths in apanasana three times per day, for one month. If you wish you keep a diary of your experiment, you may find it informative. I welcome any feedback on your practice. Keep it up!

Dvipada-pitam: The two-legged table.

Strength and alignment is the name of the game to avoid lower back pain (LBP). LBP is all too often cause for a doctor’s visit, but can be managed without drugs or surgery.

Abdominal muscle tone is important to spine health. The rectus abdomus “six pack” at the front contains the internal organs, preventing them from pulling us forward into a permanent sagging arch. The obliques and transverse abdominals complete the famous “core muscles” that stabilize the mid-section of the human body.

Dvipada-pitam, with apanâsana, which we examined last month, represents the culmination of the work of modern yoga master Krishnamacharya. Crucially when practising yoga, we mustn’t lose sight of the objective of yoga: to canalize and control the body’s subtle energy, prana. These two poses help concentrate prana in the body’s core, making it available for higher purposes. Whether one ascribes to this point of view is an entirely personal matter. Yoga grants its benefits to all who practice, regardless of their investment in its philosophical underpinnings.

Variants of dvipada-pitam are found most modern body toning systems, but especially in Pilates. They may use props like balls and rings to increase the intensity of the pose, but the outcome is the same.

With proper alignment, this pose engages the abdominal muscles, the muscles of the dorsal and lumbar spine, the hip flexors, the leg adductors and the feet and ankles. It is a very complete pose. There is compression of the throat and extension of the neck, as well as an inversion, as the heart raises above the brain. Thus, be careful if you suffer from glaucoma or dizziness. Please consult a professional before beginning any exercise program.

Lie on your back, arms at your sides, palms down. Bend the knees and place the feet parallel and hip-width apart on the floor. The heels are near the buttocks, but not touching. Don’t pull the feet nearer – allow your natural knee and hip flexion to determine the foot placement. Stretch the neck directing the chin towards the collarbone. Relax the jaw, placing the tongue on the soft palate. Inhale, lift the buttocks, hips and back up off the floor. Exhale, lower slowly, “one vertebrae at a time”, rocking the pelvis and trying to get whole spine on the floor. Repeat six times. Variants include raising the arms behind the head on the inhale, taking breaths in the static pose, lowering the body whilst leaving the arms behind, moving one arm at a time and varying the separation of the feet. Be very aware of the feet – keep the toes on the floor! Also, if you have a very curved neck, use a prop behind the head.

Twisting and turningwhat your car can tell you about your body.

The yoga of daily life is about observing ourselves in our daily actions and deciding if we are fulfilling our true capabilities.

The car, constant in modern life, can tell us many things about our body’s health. We must twist to get into and out of cars. To shoulder-check, we turn the head some 80º. This might be the only time we regularly move our bodies in the “transverse” plane. Our limited daily lives tend to “move” in the forward direction only, progressively limiting our range of motion.

lf you notice that twisting and turning in the car is limited or painful, you will have to make a decision – to live with or without pain. Awareness is the first step – what you choose to do with the information is the interesting part. Do you ignore the pain? Accept it as inevitable? Take a pill? Or, care for your body?

Simple and gentle yoga exercises can help restore range of motion. Note:
Breath and movement are always co-ordinated in hatha yoga. If you have any injuries, consult a professional before attempting new exercises.

Dvipada-pitam means “the two-legged table” in Sanskrit. This pose is prominent in the system of yoga I use, Viniyoga. Lying on the back, with the arms by the sides, palms down, bend the knees and place the feet on the floor , hip-width apart. Breathe in and life the hips and lower back off the floor. Breathe out and slowly lower down, rolling the pelvis. Repeat six times.

Jathara parivritti is the sanskrit name for the lying twist. There are variations in the pose which include changing the position of one or both legs, or using props, or varying the breath. Exhale to lower the legs to the floor and inhale to bring them back to centre. Go down and up, alternating left and right, 6 times on either side , breathing each time you move. In the 6th movement, stay in the pose for 6 breaths, before inhaling to come back to centre.

Apanasana completes the set. Breathing out, lift the feet off the floor, knees to chest. Separate the legs to accommodate the belly. Place palms on the knees. Inhale. Exhaling, pull the knees gently in towards the chest. Inhale, push the knees away from the chest. Exhale, and rock the knees back in. The movement is small. The elbows flex and straighten, but the knees mostly don’t. Don’t straighten the legs on the inhale. Maintain the distance between the knees. Repeat 6 times. Perform this simple sequence twice a day for a week, then take to the open roads, twisting and turning!

El método y la meta

Ayer, tuve el placer de dar una clase en una Jornada de Bienestar y Salud, en Dénia.  Habían unos 20 personas.  Entre ellos, algunos novatos, y algunos que ya practican hatha yoga.
Es curioso como los que ya practican yoga piden casi siempre clases y posturas avanzadas.  De un lado, lo puedo entender, este deseo de reproducir las posturas tipo espaghettis que nos venden en las revistas de yoga. En un momento dado, yo también tenía muchas ganas de hacer el Escorpión.  Incluso, me caí de cabeza intentando bajarme las piernas desde sirshasana (el escorpión no se toma desde sirshasana…pero como era bastante neofita y sin profe, bueno…)
Pero luego, encontré el Viniyoga y, estudiando con asiduidad, llegué a entender que las posturas no son el fin de la práctica del yoga.  El fin es tranquilizarnos la mente para encontrar la felicidad.
La posturas forman parte de método del yoga.  La paz mental es la meta. Importante no confundir el método por la meta.
En Yoga Sutras Libro II, el sábio Patanjali describe el camino del yoga.  Consiste en ocho partes, ó miembros.  Las primeras cinco – yama, niyama, âsana, pranayâma y pratyahara – son el método.  Es la receta para preparar la mente para la medtación.  El sabio cierre el segundo libro con pratyahara, el retiro de los sentidos.  Parafraseando, Patanjali dice:

Bueno, alumnos, ahora que, a través de nuestros buen comportamientos hacia los demás y hacía nosotros mismos (yama, niyama), a través de la práctica contínua y al largo plazo de las posturas y respiraciones (âsana, pranayama), habeis llegado al momento para sentaros, retirar vuestra atención del entorno (pratyahara) y contemplar.

Patanjali continua en Yoga Sutras Libro III describiendo el camino del yogi. Ahora, abordamos la contemplación meditativa.  Dharana, dhyana, samadhi….concentración, meditación, liberación.  Estos tres son la meta del yoga,  Tambíen forman parte del camino, pero son realmente los frutos de la práctica.  Repito:  importante no confundir le método por la meta.

¿Y, de estos que te demandan las posturas avanzadas? Bueno, en el contexto de una clase general y grupal, no las vamos a abordar.  Y punto.  Iguál en una clase avanzada ó MasterClass se podría trabajar equilibrios avanzados.  Con la preparación y actitud adecuadas son perfectamente asequibles.
Pero,¿como una profe puede satisfacer a la necesidad de esa gente de profundizar en su práctica?  Porque, en su esencia, cuando te piden posturas avanzadas, lo que realmente te estan pidiendo es profundizar en su práctica.  “He llegado a tal punto, me encuentro bien, por donde voy ahora?”  Puede ser impaciencia (ojo!).  Pero, puede ser la sed de él que busque pidiendo limosna.  “Por favor, enseñame el camino que me lleva desde la miseria hacía la paz”, te imploran.
El Viniyoga dispone de muchas herramientas para esa gente. Nosotros los viniyoguis abordamos la respiración con una lucidez y coherencia que no se encuentra en otros lineajes (admito que no conzco de primera mano el método Iyengar.  Lo aprecio como un método muy sano y coherente.  Igual allí también dan a la respiración la importancia que merezca…).  Las técnicas respiratorias son nuestras semillas.  Vamos plantando semillas en las cabezas de estos yoguis sedientos.  De que colores serán sus flores?
Como profes de Viniyoga, sabemos muy bien poner pautas respiratorias a posturas sencillas, dandolas el enfoque mental completo y absorbiente tán característico de una buena práctica de hatha yoga.  Pausas (krama), retenciones (kumbhaka), y ritmos.  Bandhas (cierres musculares), mudras (apretones), dristi (la mirada) y bhavana (enfoques mentales).  Todas estas cosas aportan una dmiensión energética a la práctica, saciando a la más hambriente mente.  Cuando las inquietudes mentales se suavizan, entonces, el alumno está prácticando yoga de verdad.  Hemos relizado la meta, empleando las herramientas del método.
Sencillo, ¿no?
The guru is in you.  Let us yog.

My personal yog: To thine own Self be true

My personal practice has been suffering of late.  Time, but also boredom, has kept me off the mat.  Granted, I have been practising a lot of yoga of daily life, being aware, present, joyful, honest and patient.  Well, most of the time.
Then I read this article, about how to be an inspiring yoga teacher, in which the author says:

When you give yourself permission to abandon the rules, to listen and truly explore and celebrate your body through the shapes and then share what you discover with your students, the movement becomes medicine. My partner and Laughing Lotus co-founder, Jasmine Tarkeshi, always says that to be a good teacher you’ve got to be a soul scientist. You truly must go into a laboratory and investigate your sacred self through your body, every single day.

Heck yeah!  I need to remember that sometimes.
The system I know and teach is called Viniyoga.  The central tenet of this system is “the yoga adapts to the person, not the person to the yoga”.  It is a system that can be considered the peak of Krishnamacharya’s life’s work and investigation.  I believe wholeheartedly in that core message and have iron faith in my teacher, Carmen, and my lineage (Krishnamacharya -> TKV Desikachar -> Claude Maréchal -> Christina S. de Ynestrillas -> Carmen Sánchez Segura).  And yet, and yet…lately something hadn’t been quite right.
I embarked on the second phase of my teacher training, the “Post-Formation” last autumn.  The format was different than the first part (once every two months, a residential weekend away) but the content built solidly on the earlier teachings.  Perhaps a bit too solidly…more sutras?  more posture analysis? etc…Boredom has always been my bugbear, so I knew I need not heed that little voice inside saying “something new…something new…go and find something new…”
What was putting me off?  Boredom, yes.  But more than anything,  a distinct lack of joy was bringing the whole tone down.  I felt the need to knuckle down for the seminars rather than blossom out.  In the meantime, I had enjoyed the wonders of Stretch Therapy and the deep relaxation of Yin Yoga.
I began to doubt…was Viniyoga too limited?  Are the postural compensations too often, too indulgent, not challenging enough?  Why is it that those who practice Viniyoga seem to do so for a very long time without ever developing the stunning and deep flexibility that other lineages develop?  Why do my teachers, who evidently know a lot about yoga and have practised for years not seem to smile, not seem joyful (with the exception of Claude) ?  The questions rolled round my head and I found no answers.
The second, then the third seminars dragged on.  One of the group dropped out.  Doubt, head-scratching, the decision to stay.
Then, I read this article and realised something both simple and profound. Having completed the teacher training, having practised solidly since 1999, I had earned the right to innovate, create, both in my personal practice and in my classes.  Of course, I had always done this, I know that I am creative when it comes to sequencing, bhavanas, important details.  But, still, I limited myself.
I think I will grant myself a little more leeway from now on, find out how Viniyoga adapts to Rachel, not Rachel to Viniyoga. 
I still believe that the training I am pursuing is the highest quality teaching I can receive here and now.  It is I who needs to transform.  OM.  May you find your own path, too.  The Guru is in you.