Sunday, September 30, 2007

Immersion This Weekend

We began a new Immersion Series in Austin this weekend at the Northwest studio. It was another fantastic weekend with another great group. In the afternoon session we read from the Teacher Training Manual about John Friends's vision of the Anusara Yoga community. There is a line that says, "The community is close knit like a family but has the looseness of a merry band of bohemian artists." The group smiled when this was read and I asked everyone, "So, are you guys in the right place?"

As we were reading, I was reflecting on how accurately his vision described our group here in Austin. From the Anusara-inspired teachers, to both Immersion groups and including all of the people coming regularly to classes, Anusara Yoga is growing with a vital enthusiasm that is absolutely inspiring. I had a strong feeling of being in the right place and a gratitude for Anusara Yoga and the great company we are keeping.

The theme for the weekend was Open to Grace, the first principle of Anusara Yoga. One of the best things about being an Anusara Yoga teacher is that you get to spend your days talking about things like Grace, the nature of the Divine, and the truths that reside in the heart of each of us. And you get to wear sweat pants while you do it! (I mean really, what a cool job.)

A fun thing for me this weekend was that Kelly attended both sessions. Kelly has a beautiful asana practice (even though he claims he isn't very good and doesn't care enough about it to really make a lot of progress. I think he just compares himself to me who is obsessed with yoga and this has distorted his view of things. Really, he is very good. ) and having him part of the weekend and part of my Anusara Yoga family was a real treat.

Another highlight was watching the Carlos Pomeda video. I have watched that video so many times and I just never get tired of his humor and inspiring presentation of the History of Yoga. (A shameless promotion here--Carlos will be teaching at my studio in November. This is not to be missed. He will teach 3 philosophy sessions and Charly Pivert and I will be offering yoga classes. Asana and philosophy, all weekend long. Definitely, you should be there. Check it out on my website: )

And while not exactly a highlight, more like an ongoing pleasure, it was so fun to watch everyone practice, learn and help one another. Everyone worked really hard and we refined so many postures and laid the foundation for deeper explorations into the other principles of alignment. Next weekend we are together we are going to clarify the Primary and Secondary Flow of Energy (Muscle and Organic Energy and the Loops) and I promise we will do something other than back bends!

Ari took pics and here is the link:

Enjoy! (Thanks Ari!)

Thanks again to everyone for a great weekend. Please stay in touch.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Week In Review

It is Friday morning. After my yoga marathon last night I cam home ate a bite and Kelly and I went to Cheatem Street Warehouse to hear one of our favorite local bands, Texas Renegade. So even though I only sipped on water, we got home late, smelling like ashtrays and it was way past my bedtime by the time I showered and got to bed. So I am off to a bit of a late start this morning but enjoying a leisurely approach to my "day off" with a cup of fabulous green tea from our favorite tea importers The Swan Sisters.

(As side note, when Kelly and I owned a coffee shop we served these teas there. They are really some of the finest teas in China, imported by these really awesome, beautiful young women, the Swanson sisters-aka The Swan Sisters. You can visit our old coffee shop at and even buy tea there!

Last week Dr. Phillips told me about a line in one of the early Upanishads that describes a being, about the size of the thumb, located in the cave of the heart that is always doing puja, or worship. I asked him to send me the verse and he sent me some notes from his current book project.

"At the very end of the "Story'' , we find an image which recurs throughout Vedanta which is iconized in the chakric psychology of Tantra as the individual soul: "Thumbsize'' seated in a "secret cave'' (another Upanishadic symbol) located behind the heart chakra there is a conscious being who survives death. The inner self is a conscious being , thumbsize, forever dwelling in the heart of creatures. It is to be extracted from the body patiently, with diligence, like the cane shaft from the reed. The bright, the immortal, it should be known. The bright, the immortal, it should be known.

From the spiritual autobiography of the Siddha yogin, Swami Muktananda (1908) "I would have a new movement in the heart, in which an egg-shaped ball of radiance would come into view. This is the vision of the radiant, thumb-sized being, who is described as follows in the Katha Upanishad. The inner soul always dwells in the heart of all men as a thumb-sized being.''

In Anusara Yoga, John Friend describes an Optimal Blueprint. From the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training manual: "This Optimal Blueprint is the master design for the body's optimal alignment and health. It represents the ideal spatial pattern of the body in any position. For every possible position that the energetic and physical bodies can assume, there is a specific alignment where circulation of vital energy (prana), blood, and other internal fluids have an optimally healthy flow...When the outer body is aligned with the Optimal Blueprint, the body senses this. The connective tissue becomes stronger, more resilient, and increases in flexibility while the internal circulation, including prana, increases."

The image of the thumbsize being in the heart who is always doing puja is like the Optimal Blueprint in terms of our life of prayer and devotion. When we practice yoga, when we endeavor to fuse the practice of asana with the language of the heart and the celebration of the spirit, we are simply aligning with a state of worship that is already within us. Being devotional, bringing a sense of prayer to these forms isn't about adopting a holier-than-thou affect or about adding anything extraneous to the practice, it is about aligning ourselves with something that already exists within us and consciously extracting this essential being, like the cane from the reed and like the sweetness from the cane.

So really, even in these earlier texts of the Upanishads we see the seed of Tantra planted. We see the seeds of the philosophy that later comes along and instructs practitioners that all of life is a manifestation of the Divine and to recognize all situations as places to encounter this Divinity. Essentially the tantrika, would seek to align themselves with this inner puja, this inner worship and Remembrance, and weave that Recognition consciously into all aspects of life.

So I worked with this theme in my classes this week. I was travelling home on Monday so our Monday night classes were cancelled in San Marcos. The Tuesday 4:30 flow class was a foray into some backbending after a strong standing pose sequence. That class is starting to have some regular attendance but is always a great chance for me to meet new folks.

The Tuesday 6:00 advanced class continues to be such a fun class with people coming regularly and with a sense of adventure. We kept with the theme and with the backbends this week. The back story about Tuesday night's class: A few weeks ago one of my occasional visitors from Ashtanga Vinyasa Land asked for some help learning how to stand up from urdhva danurasana. I said, "let's do it in two weeks," which was Tuesday night. Even though he and his friend were not there, I went ahead with the plan. Lots of hard work, laughter and partner assisting later we were planting the seeds of how to come up and how to keep the heart leading the way, no matter what is happening!

The San Marcos School of Yoga was back in action on Wednesay night with the ever-dynamic levels 1&2 class, which is beginning to feel more like a level 3 class, if you know what I mean. We worked on standing poses, particularly parivritta trikonasana and a supported version of setu bandha on blocks. The beginning class finally filled out and even ended with an impromptu discussion of Tantric philosophy, which was fun.

Thursday nights' yoga marathon began with the 4:30 Advanced class enjoying (?) a rousing foray into padmasana and simhasana, much of which was inspired by one of Geeta's classes from the summer. We also worked on dropping over from sarvangasana to setubandhasana, so that was fun. The 6:00 class worked on shoulder principles, standing poses and urdhva danurasana. It was great to see so many people new to my classes, just get on board with the instructions and deepen their poses. Quite excellent work, sense of humor and studentship in that class. And the 7:30 class went to new lengths to put new lengths in their hamstrings with lots of urdhva prasarita eka padasana at the wall and other crowd-pleasing hamstring stretches and hip openers.

Bravo to both Anne and Tabatha for TRIPLE DIPPING on Thursday night. I hope you ladies can still walk today! Thanks to everyone who came to class this week. Hopefully, the repetition of alignment principles and the ongoing reminders to return to the place of prayer within us will help each one of us to glimpse our truest nature throughout our seemingly mundane endeavors.

Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pics from Vancouver

Okay- here are some of the pictures from the weekend. Enjoy!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Vancouver, British Columbia

What a weekend!

Thanks to everyone who helped host the workshop and to everyone who attended. I can hardly believe that we had over 60 students from all over BC in the room, laughing and practicing so beautifully while exploring the principles of Anusara Yoga.

We started our weekend with a Teacher's Class on Friday Afternoon and began to scratch the surface of the Universal Principles of Alignment as they apply to therapeutic issues such as foot pain, knee pain and hip alignment. We ran out of time before diving into the sciatic and shoulder issues but the basic gist of yoga therapy in Anusara Yoga is Correct Action is Corrective. We want to figure out how to create optimal alignment, in a weight bearing position with no pain. So by balancing those three main elements we can assist students in creating a therapeutic outcome in asana.

After the Teacher's Class we had a Friday night class called Open to Grace. Saturday morning we worked on Arm Balances and Standing Poses in a class called Effort and Surrender. Saturday Afternoon we explored Embodying the Yoga Sutras dove into a lot of the details of the Universal Principles of Alignment with lots of demos and partner work. And the grand finale on Sunday was a rollicking back bending class with entitled The Shrine of the Heart.

Vancouver is a beautiful, vibrant city that is devoted to health, well-being and natural living. There are great restaurants and cafes everywhere, lovely boutiques and beautiful scenery. On every corner are people outfitted for some fun outdoor pursuit enjoying themselves and one another.

That spirit of vibrant health and life-affirming attitude was represented in our workshop this weekend. There were so many radiant people in one place, all dedicating themselves to the principles of Anusara Yoga. And the principles are are so much more than loops and spirals. Ultimately that technology is just a means by which we align ourselves with deep virtues of the heart and remind ourselves that we are part of something that is profoundly Good.

We took lots of pictures and so as soon as Shelley gets them to me I will post them. Once again, thanks to everyone who made it such a great weekend.

And it sounds like the Anusara Yogi's here in Austin kept the love alive with an awesome group practice. Way to go!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bozeman, Home, Austin

I spent the weekend teaching in Bozeman, Montana at Trimurti Ashram. I go up there several times a year to teach a group of my friends there who are students of Purna Steinitz, who is a student of my Teacher, Lee Lozowick. The ashram is beautiful, simple, surrounded by big open sky, mountains and all day long deer come and nibble on the lawn and bald eagles circle the property.

And even better than the scenery, is the company. The ashram residents are some of the most open, hard working and hospitable people I know. It is always inspiring for me to be there and participate in morning meditation, meals, and dharma talks in addition to teaching yoga. I usually come home inspired to practice from being steeped in their passionate commitment to the Teaching.

I got off the plane on Monday afternoon in time to practice some inversions and hip openers before Monday night classes at The San Marcos School of Yoga. It is always fun to teach there and I love just walking across my driveway, walking in and seeing everyone there ready to practice yoga.

Today I slept in a little, did my meditation and puja, ate breakfast and then Kelly and I walked the dogs. I practiced yoga, went kayaking and then ate lunch. Then I taught a private and two classes in Austin. It was so fun to see everyone in classes. Both classes are starting to have some regular attendees and I just love getting to know people better and to see people get to know one another as well. (AND--the double dipping! Jeremiah, Genevieve, Pamela... Way to go guys!)

Today I decided to teach about balancing softness and vulnerability with the strength. The first principle of Anusara Yoga is Open To Grace and is a reminder that each of us need to soften and be vulnerable enough to ask for help from the Great Source in our practice. It requires a certain vulnerability to even acknowledge that we cannot do it all alone. And from that soft vulnerability we get to work and create strength with Muscle Energy. The ongoing opening of the body and heart in practice continues on like that in a dynamic balanced relationship. Even when we are working hard, we can still cultivate softness- in our face, in our attitude toward ourselves and others, and in the place within us that connects us to our deepest selves and to one another.

This weekend I go to Vancouver to teach. I will leave on Thursday so unfortunately, no yoga marathon for me this Thursday. I am so excited to see everyone up there and my host organized a great wekeend so I will get to meet a lot of new folks which I am really looking forward to.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Yoga Marathon

Thursday nights are kind of a Yoga Marathon for me. I teach Advanced at South at 4:30, then Hatha at 6:00 and 7:30. It was a fun night. All evening I worked with theme of inner strength and the aspect of strength that builds the heroes' nature. Just as "vira" means heroic, the aspect of strength that is the strength of our true nature, or our inner strength is called "virya". Same root- vir, right?

Anyway,one of my very regular, dedicated students had asked to do more core strengthening work in classes. So I obliged the request with some abdominal toning exercise but also with a rap about inner strength, the most essential type of core strength. Hopefully, yoga is making us strong at the True Core, not just the midsection of the body. Also, technically, any of the muscles lying close to the core, closest to the bone, are the core muscles. So core strengthening is not just abdominal work but is about strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the body. Think about how many micro movements are working to keep us standing on one leg. All of that is strengthening core muscles. And hopefully, all of that is strengthening our resolve, our will, our connection to our deepest truth. Like that.

The advanced class was kind of a wild class with lots of strength building exercises and arm balances. The energy was high and, for the most part, people seemed to be having fun. (Although one person left early... are you okay, Venus???)

We reviewed some principles of headstand in the 6:00 class and several people got up in headstand for the first time which was a real thrill. Susan and Tabatha came to 4:30 for a warm up and finished the evening with the 6:00 class. I call this "double dipping", a term coined by my best friend and yoga friend, Laura Freshman, who I know from Arizona but who now lives in Denver.

We had a really small group at 7:30 who were super attentive, engaged and funny. We worked on shoulder principles, ustrasana and up dog. Jesse double-dipped, having already attended the 6:00 class and Anne, the Yoga Animal, was on her third dip, having practiced with the 4:30 and the 6:00 class.

I am off this weekend to teach in Bozeman, Montana. I love going up there. The scenery is stellar, the group I work with is tops and it is always a rejuvenating, clarifying place to be. Plus I looked at the weather and it is like high 70's in the day and mid 40's at night right now. So that will be a treat.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Heroes of the Heart

Last nights' classes I dedicated to the hero in each of us in honor of September 11. We honored the heroes that gave their lives on that day, the heroes who have carried on in the aftermath of the tragedy and even the many ways each of us are called to large and small acts of heroism on a daily basis in the natural course of life.

Six years ago on September 11 I was at Inner Harmony Retreat Center in Utah with John Friend. I remember at breakfast on September 11, John Epert, the retreat owner, came out onto the deck where we are all eating looking quite upset. He made an announcement about the attacks and a huge hush came over the whole group. It was the combination of shock, awe, fear, anger that I think was common to many people on that day.

There were about 45 of us on that retreat (That was in the days when you could study with John, for week with 50 people. Now his workshop are always 100+!) and many of the group, including Krishna Das, who was there leading kirtan every night, were New Yorkers. There are lots of things I remember about that week but one that really stands out is all of the back bends. We did six hours of asana each day and out of the 12 different asana classes that week, only 2 of them were forward bending classes. I think John didn't want anyone going too far inward that week as we were already fighting such deep feelings of sadness and grief.

So,we bended back and back and back and we dedicated every practice to creating beauty to affirming life and to making choices based not on fear and anger but on the deeper Truth of Life that Grace is ever-present, even in times of tragedy and heartbreak.

So my theme was Heroism. The Sanskrit word for hero is Vira. (Virasana, Virabhadrasana, etc.) "To be Vira is to be heroic of heart, generous of spirit and committed to your own deepest intentions. In Sanskrit, to be "Vira" is to be passionate about the truth and to be motivated by the inner voice that speaks directly from within." (from Professor Douglas Brooks)So in the flow class we did lots of Virabhadrasana variations and in the advanced class they made heroic efforts in a pretty intense back bending extravaganza, based on a sequence I learned in Pune this summer. That advanced class has been so much fun lately with new people coming and lots of people who are committing to coming regularly, which is really the only way to learn advanced postures. (My humble and correct opinion.)

So there it is, the theme for the week. May each one of us live a life of the heart and be blessed with the heroic strength necessary to walk the path we have chosen with integrity and passion.

Time for me to ge to my mat. Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It Is Going To Be Great

As a teacher I have developed a not-so-subtle brainwashing technique. Several times throughout class, particularly in the middle of demonstrating difficult poses or challenging instructions, I tell my students, "it is going to be great." So, the idea is if we look for what is great, we will be more likely to find what is great.

So last night was the first class of the Fall Session at The San Marcos School of Yoga. I thought it was going to be great. I said it was going to be great. I am reporting this morning that it was, indeed, great. I loved having so many returning students in class and also meeting some new folks who are new to The School. The Level 2 class began the foray into inverted postures with ardha halasana (Half plough posture done with a chair) and the Level One class, in addition, to reviewing the challenging work of trikonasana stepped into the one-legged balancing poses with Ardha Chandrasana (half moon pose). And because we doubled our class offering this fall, we had a smaller class size, which many people said they enjoyed.

I personally have a great time teaching in that room and teaching a course that has a group of people who have signed up for a series of classes. Having a series means that I can teach the class sequentially and we can really build a body of knowledge and practice together in a methodical, logical way. I decided to organize my yoga school this way, after years of having a studio that was run the opposite way, where people just dropped into any class according to their schedule. And while I am aware that asking people to a session of classes up front is harder for the student and less convenient, I am convinced that in the long run it is the best way to learn yoga. Otherwise, as a teacher one is always having to skip the basics or always having to repeat the basics. And as a student it is harder to understand the grand order behind the practice and our method.

So- it is all a grand experiment so we shall see. At any rate, time for me to practice, eat lunch, teach a private and then two classes in Austin this evening. The advanced class this week is a back bending night, which is always fun! And since it is a back bending week in my personal practice, I will be "warmed up" for the class. YAHOO.

Sunday, September 9, 2007



Here are some pictures from the immersion this weekend. We had a great time this weekend, diving into the nuts and bolts of the Primary Flows of Energy and the Loops and the basics of Tantric philosophy. Everybody was so receptive and enthusiasitically engaged with the learning process. It was such a joy to be with everybody.

Enjoy the pics and please in touch!

Classes at the San Marcos School of Yoga begin tomorrow night. After a long summer away from one another, I am really excited about seeing everyone again and starting a new year together. There are just so many fun things going on right now!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


So Jesse started a vicious rumor on the YYTT07 chat group that he has never seen a class so close to mutiny as my advanced class last night. And the whole time I thought those people were having FUN!

Here is what we practiced. I call it "How the standing poses can teach us arm balances:
Adho Mukha Virasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Surya Namaskar A 3X
Prasarita Paddotanasana
Parsva Sirsasana
Parsvaikapada Sirsasana
Ardha Chandrasana
Parivritta parsvakonasana
Eka pda koundinyasana 1
Urdhva prasarita eka padasana
utthita hasta padangusthasana
eka pada koundinyasana 2
Setu banhdasana

Everyone did so well and gave such excellent effort it was a joy to watch. I even had some visitors who were "slumming" from Ashtanga Yoga Land so that was fun. (Please do not be offended- I am teasing myself on that one, not the Ashtangi's.) Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practitioners are so strong and disciplined they are always great fun to teach and to have in class.

What was also very cool was to see how Suki and Kristen (who were YYTT students last year and in my classes a lot) were just busting out the arm balances like they were no big deal. I remember when they were just learning them. And so watching Pamela and Jesse (and others)begin to put the pieces together was fun for me because I know that if they keep with it, the arm balances will soon become no big deal at all to them.

After class Pamela said that when you first see those poses you think to yourself, "No way." Then you begin to glimpse them and you start to think that maybe they are possible after all. And then one day, you are actually doing what you thought was impossible only a few short months ago. Pamela had a totally solid eka pada koundinyasana last night, when just the day before in San Marcos it was a little shaky.

So there it is. The trajectory of learning. From "No way", to "maybe", to "look at me!" And the cool thing is not the pose itself. It is that fact that mastering the advanced postures can help each one of us realize that we can, through skillful effort and long-standing practice, grow stronger, more capable, and more masterful in our lives. Practicing what seems to be impossible can help us face what seems to be impossible off our mats. From the mundane tasks of endurance to the more heroic feats of life's many challenging circumstances.

So- standing poses teach us arm balances and arm balances teach us how to live more fully. Something like that. So, please do not mutiny- keep coming to that class and keep attempting the impossible until you find yourself shocked at yourself and your own ability.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor of Love

Okay here are the pics from today....Enjoy!

We had a most excellent time together practicing and eating. We had to abandon the river festivities due to the weather being not-so-cooperative. (Who wants to float in 72-degree water when it is raining? Not me. Not really any of us. )
After a brief celebration for the recent YYTT graduates we had another rockin' practice together. Really, this way of getting together and practicing is one of may favorite things about Anusara Yoga. We take all kinds of time in classes and workshops to learn and to study the method and then we can just get together and practice. We help each other out, we celebrate the things others can do, to laugh and make merry while making the world a bit more beautiful with these artful forms called asanas.
I hope everyone enjoyed the show. As I reviewed the pics and posted them I have been reflecting on how awesome everyone is and how fabulous it is to teach and practice yoga. Thank you again for sharing the journey with me. It is a blessing to be together.
For those of you just getting started teaching yoga, my deepest wish for you is that you find the practice of sharing these teachings with others to be as uplifting, inspiring and transformational as I have. This "job" is a dream come true in so many ways and on so many levels.
A few of you suggested making this practice a monthly event. Anyone around on Sunday October 21? That is a day that would work for me. Any takers? Any time preferences?