Monday, December 31, 2007

From Lisa's Camera

Pigeon Droppings

Tabatha in Urdhva Danurasana- (Do we all remember when Tabtha could not push herself up off the ground without help? I do and it was not that long ago- now look at her, just rockin' this pose. Love the practice. Love the method. Be the pose, Tabatha...) Visvamitrasana.
Me and Mandy.

Mike, still in kukkutasana... Really, he held this forever while looking quite at peace... Anne, not looking so peaceful, however....
Faceplant. We can all relate.
However, totally redeemed by this eka pada koundinyasana...
Kapinjalasana warm up.
Me, flirting with hubby.

Tabatha working toward mayurasana.

Up against the wall...

Lisa, Mandy and Christina. (me, looking very short.)
Mike and Susan. (Susan who made the delicious quinoa and also the fancy cookies, of which Kelly comandeered the leftovers and we are not- so- slowly eating...)Those who lived to tell the tale....

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pics First

Well, here are some pictures from today. I think I got one of everyone but Caroline, Sheldon and Susan. Kelly, who has always been the group photographer on such occasions actually practiced throughout the whole thing (and pulled down some awesome moves, by the way!) which meant that he wasn't looking for an excuse to get out of practicing (like taking pictures) and so we were not on top of everyone getting included. OOPS. Hopefully when Lisa sends me her pictures, she got one or two of SCaroline, Susan and/or Sheldon. Anyway, I will write more tomorrow. Mostly, it was a really fun time. Thanks to everyone who made it today. We must do it again sometime. Also you will notice that Lisa is featured a lot. That is because she was in the ARM BALANCING ZONE today.

Tabatha Slaughter in eka pada raja kapotasana
Tabatha in sirsasana.
Tabatha Halfman in janu sirsasana.
Zoe, Wild Thing.

Mandy, Hummingbird.
MIke, looking quite comfortable in kukkutasana.
Stan in the mist.
Lisa, dwi pada koundinyasana.

Jeremiah, eka hasta bhujasana.
Kelly, loooking handsome. (Although he wants to make sure that people know that he is in a bad ass arm balance even though you cannot tell from this face shot.)
Kim, Vasisthasana.
Christina warming up during the arm balancing section for the backbbends to come later.
Lisa, eka hasta bhujasana.

Jeremiah, astavakrasana. (Brochure shot.)
Christina. Warmed up. Scorpion.

Eye of the Tiger, the Back Story

Or part of the Back Story anyway...

So I was in The Woodlands recently practicing with John Friend and he started the Saturday practice by talking about fire and cultivating one's fire and will. He was saying that if we really want to make progress- in any domain- we need to cultivate fire and will. He was urging us to use the practice to help us amnifest our intentions and to bring meaning to all of our actions. He said whoever brings the most focus, who brings the most meaning to their actions will make the most progress. He then said that this is why he wrote the sequence for Eye of the Tiger. It was to help himself and others cultivate will. Sure it is a strong physical practice but it more about mental focus and determination when you get right down to it.

So, I was "brought up" in Anusara Yoga by a woman name Desiree Rumbaugh. For my first two years in the method, she was my primary teacher. I was introduced to the Eye of the Tiger by her. At her studio they practice a three-hour sequence called The Practice three times a week. (Or they did when I was around. She no longer really teaches at her studio she is on the road so much but anyway, perhaps the tradition continues. I am not sure.) Anyway, The Practice is divided into a Backbend Day and A Forward Bend/Inversion day. When those two sequences are combined, it is the Eye of the Tiger. Also, when an Advanced Intensive used to be coming up, John would email all of us who were going to go with the Eye of the Tiger sequence and pretty much say, "I expect you all to be able to do this. Get in shape."

So when I moved to Austin people kept telling me they had done the Eye of the Tiger. I even saw flyers for 2 1/2 hour workshops called Eye of the Tiger at YogaYoga. Me, being the mouthy, opinionated yoga teacher I am, kept saying, "If it wasn't 4-6 hours long, you did not do the Eye of the Tiger, you just did a full-spectrum practice." But many of us have been working up to it, getting together to do 3-hour practices (Gaze of the Tabby, Glance of the Ocelot, etc.)and building up to more and more advanced poses together.

Today, we are going to do the Eye of the Tiger. The schedule goes about like this:
15 minutes- Sun salutations
15 minutes- Handstand and pinca mayurasana
10 minutes- headstand (In the Real Sequence this is a 30 minute section complete with all of the sirsasana cycle. But very few of the people coming practice long inversions regularly, so I am cutting this portion down to 10 minutes.)
50 minutes- standing poses
15 minutes- hip openers
10 minutes- abdominals
30 minutes- arm balances
45 -60 minutes- backbends
45-60 minutes- forward bends
15 minutes- shoulderstand (In the Real Sequence this is a 30 minutes section complete with all of the sarvangasana cycle. See above.)
10 minutes- meditation
15 minutes- savasana

So that is about 4 hours or so. It would be six if we added the full inversions and cycles. Also the list of Backbends is pretty extreme and as a group, we cannot go through all of them either, so that shaves some time. (For instance he says 10-25 urdhva danurasanas and that is just one of the things on the list. He pretty much lists every backbend in Light on Yoga!)

Then- we get to eat. And I hope everyone is bringing some real food because we are going to be hungry! Anyway- I am very excited about today. It has always been a kind of tradition for me to practice a lot of yoga this weekend. Desiree used to have intensives on this weekend, then I started having them in Prescott, last year we had one here and now this year we are doing the Eye of the Tiger.

So, hopefully each one of us can use the strong practice like John suggested- to cultivate the will necessary to bring our deepest dreams and intentions to life this year.I hope that those of you in far away places are doing something fun and meaningful as well.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Good Morning

Well, since I did not teach last night I was sleepy earlier and I got to bed earlier which means I woke up earlier. So after my morning pranayama, mantra, meditation and puja practice I am sitting down with a cup of tea with milk and honey to write a blog entry. The house is quiet. Kelly and the pets are still sleeping. Well, all the pets but Izzy the Cat who think she needs to be on my lap, on my computer or in my arms at all times. When I go to the bathroom, she thinks she needs to be in my lap then also. (I know, TMI) But really, I am just rying to impress upon you all the relational nature of this cat. Of course, when there are strangers in the house, she hides under the covers until they leave or until they have been here for 3 days and she has to come up for air and food. True story.

Yesterday was a great day. Kelly and I walked the dogs, went grocery shopping, Anne and I did some yoga and then I wrote all afternoon. My new year's resolution is to finish a book project I have had in my mind for several years. I have started it several times and been unable to really get some momentum going with it. So the other day I was talking to Kelly about it and I realized it is now more painful to not write it then the sacrifices are that will be involved to actually get it done. Not writing had begun to plague me and since I hate to be plagued, and ending it is entirely within my power, I have resolved to "get'er done".

So I talked with my editor from Yoga From the Inside Out, my beloved mentor Regina Ryan, who agreed to be my conscience. She and I have monthly dates to check in and for me to "hand in my work" and she has agreed to support me a long the way so that if I lose momentum she will remind me of how clear I am about this now. Regina is the perfect woman for the job. She was a cloistered nun for 20 years, spent some time with the Rajneesh community as a sanyasin and has been a long time student of my spiritual teacher. She was a teacher of mine in college and so she is kind of an authority figure for me- like I want to do a good job for her because I respect her so much and I do not want her to think I am lame, but she is also very nice so I am not scared of her, and at the same time she knows bullshit when she hears it and she isn't afraid to call someone (me, in this case) on it if they are making excuses or being lazy. (And she knows how to make long sentences like that actually make sense and follow grammatical rules without losing my "voice" in the properness of things.) Like I said, perfect for the job.

So, no I will not tell you what it is about. (Of course, it is about yoga.) Please do not even ask because then we are going to have those awkward silences where I have to, in a nice way, tell you that I do not want to tell you and when it comes down to it, tact often fails me in such circumstances. So then I will end up seeming bitchy and hurting your feelings and then I will feel bad and so will you.

It is not a personal thing that I do not want to tell you. In fact, those of you in my classes will read the book (At least, I hope you will read it. I assume by this point in things you all realize you are obligated to at least buy a copy)and go, "Oh, this is just everything she always talks about." But the thing is that I have found if I spend too much time talking about the content of my writing, I lose the impulse to actually write. The creative energy gets spent in the discussion and the part of me "plagued to write" gets enough relief that it no longer "must write" because it has talked. And while the conversation is scintillating, inspiring and so forth, after a year, no book was written. Lots of nice chats transpired, but no book. And this is the Year of the Book. So don't ask.

So- my agenda for the day is a lot like yesterday. Walk the dogs, practice some gentle asana and write. ("Gentle asana?" you think. Does Christina even know what gentle asana actually is??) I say gentle because tomorrow is The Eye of the Tiger and I want to be ready to really go for it. In such cases, gentle for me usually means that I work on my hips. Really, if they are open, everything goes better. Every category of poses benefits from the hips being open. So I will save my arm strength, save my leg strength, do my inversions, spend a lot of time with weight on my legs to get my femurs to root and practice a hip opening sequence.

Then after lunch, I will sit, hunched over a keyboard and write. Ah, a day of ecstasy. It doesn't get much better than that, if you are me. Have a good one yourself.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Last night of the marathon

So last night was the last night of the Thursday night yoga marathon. On the new schedule I will just teach the 4:30 and the 6:00 class, thus saving my sanity and allowing me to take two-step lessons. (A two-fold reason for the change.) Last night was really fun, though.

The advanced class was nice and full and with lots of new faces. I talked about "momentum for resolve." I had planned to work on headstand dropovers but since so many people were new, we worked up to dwi pada viparita dandasana instead. Hopefully the new people will get on board with the long-time students, make the same kind of commitment to the class and 2008 will be be, in the words of my friend Darren Rhodes, "Radical Expansion".

The 6:00 class was fun walk in the park toward vasisthasana. Let's say it was a meandering, funny, sometimes painful walk through a park with a few hills and barking dogs! People really worked hard, paid great attention in "Come watch-asana" so I felt like it was both a good practice and a great learning opportunity.

One thing that was fun about the 6:00 class is that we had a brand new person in there, which to me is so exciting. Think about it- it is a great practice- how exciting is it when someone takes it up and wants to learn. Such a thrill. (although, it was a kind of hard class for a first class, but, oh well...)

In the 7: 30 class we worked on lotus pose and balancing Inner and outer spiral. I had asked Kelly what he would talk about if he was teaching a class and he said, "Balance in stressful times." So we worked on balanced action and opening the hips, so as to help balance the nervous system as well.

Anne, Kelly, Tabatha, Ari, Mike and Susan all double-dipped at 4:30 and at 6:00. Jesse and Meg doubled dipped at 6:00 and 7:30. I even told the etymology of "double-dipping" at 6:00. One of my very best friends is a woman named Laura Freshman. She now lives in Denver but we know each other from Prescott, Arizona. She used to come to a 9-10:30 class I taught and then stay for the 11- 12:30 class that followed. When she stayed, she called it "double- dipping". So- now her legacy lives on here in Austin in the many dedicated folks who take two classes in a row. Actually, it is a great thing to do because an hour and fifteen minute class is not very long but combined, well, you get a very nice, long practice! (And in general, I do keep the double dippers in mind so if you get backbends at 4:30, in general, you won't see them at 6:00, etc.)

Okay then- Have a great day. Not much is on my agenda other than a dog walk, a long practice and hopefully, some time writing. Love.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Scenes of Christmas

Mom and Dad outside the church on Christmas Eve.

The inside of the The Lavonia United Methodist church on Christmas Eve. A view from the balcony. My Father Christmas

Mom and Anne
Mom, Christmas Morning.

Dad, in his Keep Austin Weird hat.Mom, with a longhorn.

Mom with her 45-pound lap dog.
We had a really good trip. A bit of travel hell on the way home that I figure Anne wrote about on her blog. More soon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Homeward Bound

Anne and I are up early. We are going to pack up and then go for a hike before heading back home. It has been a great, very relaxing visit. More later.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Desperate for Desperate

"Hello my name is Christina. I am powerless over Desperate Housewives." (all together now, HI CHRISTINA...)

Okay, now this is the true yoga confession of all times- I am addicted to Desperate Housewives. And I blame my father. Clearly it is his fault. Okay, I am kind of kidding. Well, not really. I have never watched that show before he showed it to me on this visit. In fact, I am not a big TV watcher in general (I am not someone who "doesn't watch TV" on matters of principle. Far from it- In fact, I have very few principles and wouldn't waste the few I actually do have on something like watching TV. But I am someone who just doesn't watch a lot of TV. )

So on our first night here Anne and I watched the pilot and then the first episode with Mom and Dad. (Interesting that Mom was there but I blame Dad, isn't it? See the glimpse you are all getting into our family of origin?!!) So the first night, I found the show charming. But charming became something else entirely last night when we watched like 4 episodes! And with each one I was like, "just one more", really believing what turned out to be a bold, outright lie. Four - count them- four episoides later, after 11 pm, we dragged ourselves away from the TV, calculating how many more episodes we were actually in possession of and would they last throughout our visist. (Mom and Dad get it from Netflix and they only get three discs at a time. So given our rate of "use", the lag time due to delivery from Netflix, our supplier, the Christmas Holiday where there will be no mail delivery, and so on, we are approaching a scaricity problem by well, tomorrow. We are considering going to the video store and renting the rest of the season.)

Okay- so that is the report from the wilds of Georgia. Lest you think that all we did was watch TV yesterday, we actually hiked through the woods, at lunch, went shopping, bought groceries, pracitced an awesome forward bending/twisting/padmasana sequence, I made dinner and so, at least so far my "addiction" hasn't really interfered with the rest of my life. (I think they call this rationalization and justification, don' they?)

Anwyay- Mom and Dad are at church, Anne and I are going to go hiking before lunch.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Namaste Ya'll

So I had the yoga marathon last night which was fun. In fact, I used "fun and enjoyment" as my theme for the evening. Isn't it cool to think that our enjoyment is simply a microcosmic reflection of the Divine's enjoyment? Love that. Sometimes hard to remember in the thick of things, like last night's hip openers at 6:00, but, well, no one said it was going to be easy to be microcosmic deities!

Thanks to everyone who came to practice in the midst of the holiday madness. Classes were a bit smaller than usual but so well attended by so many familiar, fun-loving practitioners that it really made my day. Plus I got flowers, a gift ceritifcate, beautiful cards, smiles and hugs, and well-wishes galore. (Pam- I even wore the necklace you gave me for Christmas but you were not in class!!! See what it has come to? I used to thank the double-dippers by name and now I am naming names on those who are MIA. Kidding. I know you are slammed right now.)

So then Anne and I went to grab a bite to eat at Whole Foods where I ran into my friend Joe Malina. Joe lives in Austin but he and I met in Arizona years ago and were even engaged to be married for a period of time. (That is another story, however.) He and his wife just had a baby and so we got to catch up on fun things like that. Plus he is one of the funniest people I know so the three of laughed hysterically for a good 20 minutes while we ate.

Anne and I got up this morning at 5:30 to set out for Georgia. As far as holiday travel, it was pretty uneventful although the traffic on the road outside of Atlanta was downright epic. We got here around 6:30 EST and sat down to a great bowl of Balck bean soup that Mom had made. After dinner Annd and I came down to the guest house (My parents have two houses. The guest house is a 900 square foot house a few doors down from them where we stay when we come. It is very cute.) to get settled in. I unpacked, happily discovered that I can grab a wireless connection from the neighbor next door, and I am having some tea, deciding whether I am going to take a bath and go to bed or if I am going to go back up and hang out with Mom and Dad. Bed is looking likely- I can hardly keep my eyes open.

Well, I managed to write a bit on the plane today and I am reading a great book about Cleopatra. (I love good historical fiction.) So- that's the very mundane update for today. More as the week goes on.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Afternoon in Austin

After a lovely morning dog walk and yoga practice Kelly and I ate a bowl of soup and headed into Austin to meet Anne there. We went to look at the Omni Hotel as a possible venue for John's visit here and then we went to REI, Book People and Whole Foods. (YUM- gelato!) After that Anne and I went to Westgate for the 4:30 flow class while Kelly walked the dogs at Town Lake. (Yes, the pups got to come to Austin for the afternoon. They were so excited to be included.) At 6:00Kelly came to Westgate for the advanced class and then we all went to dinner and Central Market.

We worked on deep hip openers at 4:30 and almost everyone in the room did lotus at the end which was great to see. At 6:00 we worked on backbends and drop-backs to urdhva danurasana from standing. It went pretty well. No panic attacks, no one fell on their head. All in all a grand success! Anne, Susan and Jeremiah all double-dipped. (Although I swear when I asked in the 4:30 class who was staying for both classes more people raised their hands! Nothing like those deep hip openers to make you change your mind, huh?)

Another highlight was a delicious box of organic chocolates that Ann gave me for Christmas. I brought it into Central Market with me and we all had some for dessert. Kelly and I each had two pieces. Anne exhibited yogic restraint and had only one. (Those of you interested in the differences between Classical Yoga and Tantra - there it is... Kidding.)

Actually, to me that is the biggest of all difference between Iyengar Yoga and Anusara Yoga. (This questions has come up a lot lately. Lots of people ak me, lots of people ask Anne and she tells me about it.) To me the difference isn't in the alignment and all of that. (In terms of alignment, I think the methods agree completely on all points except on how to open the hips in the externally rotated positions. Like in Anusara Yoga we emphasize inner spiral in external rotation and in an Iyengar class you would not be told in baddha konasana to roll your thighs in. Well, I have never been told that and when I asked Anne, she said she has never been told that either. I have most definitely been told to roll them out strongly. We do that too in Anusara Yoga just after the strong inner spiral and maintaining the strong inner spiral.)

So the real difference is one of context. One of philosophy. The reasons why you practice and also what one's yogic aims are. Everything follows from there. Teaching methods, emphasis on broad strokes of alignment v. very detailed instructions, calming the mind v. moving with shakti, praising the student v. not praising the student, looking for the good v. looking for what is not happening well, etc. All those things are content. The biggest difference in my opinion (and since it is my blog I am not striving for political correctness here) is context.

In Classical Yoga, which informs Iyengar Yoga, there is a greater emphasis on Self-effort and on self-cultivation. In Anusara Yoga, the yogic aim is to align with grace in such a way that the transmission of grace cultivates you. Think about the Yoga Sutras. God is hardly mentioned, nor is Grace at the forefront of the discussion. The yogi is told about an 8-limbed path and the obstacles along the way. It is a path of cultivating oneself so that they become able to perceive the stainless purity of the soul.

And in texts like the Kularnava Tantra which informs Anusara Yoga, the whole path is one that is said to be impossible without grace, without the blessing of the guru. Certainly they point to discipline and self-cultivation quite clearly but the emphasis is on "shaktipat" a "descent of grace that makes you able (anugraha) to experience its blessings.

I talked to John about this last weekend. I told him this story about being in India and Geeta Iyengar was helping everyone refine their seated posture and was talking about how realization of the self would be impossible without refined posture. She said, "Don't think that God will just come to you in your meditation just because you ask him to! " (Now I think that what she was trying to impress upon us was that by sitting well and lifting the chest and aligning the structure our prana would move better and therefore the direct experience of samadhi would be more likely because we had "set the stage")

But when I heard this I was so sad for her. Because for me, God has done just that and more. Literally, my direct experience is that the miraculous has happened and continues to happen simply because I ask. Now, I am not saying that I have "Stilled the mindstuff" which is really what she is teaching being that her yoga is is informed by The Yoga Sutras. No my monkey mind is definitely not stilled. Not by a long shot. But I have experienced the miraculous, I have experienced God coming to me because I asked Him to. Repeatedly.

So John and I talked about this as the underlying principle of Anusara Yoga. We are a shaktipat tradition, not a tradition of self-cultivation. We are not necessarily trying to still the mind, although if that did happen along the way that would be great also. We are trying to line ourselves up in such a way that we experience the presence of the Divine in all things and at all times. And the underlying principle is that we cannot do that ourselves. We must rely not only on our efforts but on the assistance of the Divine. Like that.

So I love both methods (and I actually find them so complimentary that I think it is weird how people try to put them at odds with one another) but I am philosophically more at home with Anusara Yoga. Literally, with my life story I would have been dead if I had to wait to "get it right" before God came to help me. Truly. I am not exaggerating- read it in the book- that is where I was headed. So the idea "that perfection is required" is just counter my direct experience. Plus I am not really interested one bit in samadhi. The Yogic Confession Extraordinaire. What, not samadhi? Nope. Not at all. What I am interested in is discipleship. In living a life that is dedicated to a prayerful, grateful remembrance of Grace, my Teacher and my Heart. I am intersted in the Miraculous.)

But back to the original discussion. Context. Not content. To me that is where the differences are. I do love the Iyengar emphasis on practice and discipline because you cannot line up with grace without it. The pull of the habitual self is just too strong most of the time. Anyway- I could go on but well, there is a whole book to be written about this!

Off to practice asana.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Night

We had fun classes at the San Marcos School of Yoga tonight. Tonight was the last Monday night of this 8-week session. The 5:30 class did a lot of work with shoulder loop and practiced vasisthasana, pidgeon prep variations, ustrasana, some twists and shoudlerstand. The 7:00 classe did supta padangusthasana variations, ardha bhekasana, virasana, triangmukaipada pascimottanasana, krouncasana and viparita karani. I worked with the theme of the Guru tonight. GU- means darkness and -RU means Light. So the guru is that which brings light to darkness. In a very practical way, the guru function comes alive when we practice and bring the light of awareness into places within our body that are dark or unaware. In that way we become our own guru when we practice; we become one who dispels darkness.

So- Anyway- more on this as the week continues.

I had a great day. After the morning routine of puja and breakfast, we walked the dogs, I pracitced asana and then ate a yummy soup that Kelly made. After lunch I wrote until time to teach this evening. All in all, it was a very mellow and productive day.

Tomorrow I go look at venue for Juan Amigo's workshop in 2008. I hope we can have that cinched up soon. Then, all you local folks, get ready for the committees...lots to do!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pictures from Practice

Me and John.

Peter Goodman- Man of Shakti. (what a glow.)

John in Wild Thing.
I told John I would post this next one on my site and say that this is the new direction of Anusara Yoga. (Lots of sprawling over chairs.) He laughed and said, "Yes, we will be making the move to restoratives this year!" Actually, this then went to dwipada viparita dandasa over the chair, which then became scorpion prep with the chair and then eventually full scorpion for me!

Becky and John Feeling the Love.
Charly, Paige and Julian.
John and Becky- one arm cobra assist. You guys are going to love this. I had forgotten about it but we will have to do it at Eye of the Tiger. Me helping Peter.John helping Larissa free her back in bhujangasana. (move from the inner body more...)
It was a fun day. I had the delusion that since we did backbends yesterday we would be forward bending today. But then John set the theme for today's practice as "cultivating fire" and I began to think that forward bends were going to be hours away. They were. We had a lot of fun, got into some deep stuff and then I drove home.
Other than a speeding ticket in Martindale, it was perfect day. (I blame the backbends. "Uh, Officer, if you had done three hours of backbends with John Friend you would be going 68 in a 55 yourself." Well, I didn't try it but I was in such a good mood I didn't even get pissed off when I got stopped.)

All right then folks, have a great day.