Friday, August 31, 2007


1. one who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another. An active adherent, as of a movement or a philosophy of the original followers of Jesus
Synonyms- adherent, cohort, follower, supporter
From Latin discipulus, pupil, from discere, to learn
I was talking about studentship in Tuesday afternoon's class, and at some point I stumbled into using the word discipleship interchangeably with studentship. On Wednesday, a student from class called me to say that he had found the word "disciple" objectionable. Now, I certainly was sorry that he found the word problematic. I really was. However, I explained to him that with 30 people in a room it impossible to insure that everyone in any given class will find what I say palatable at all times. So I apologized that it bothered him but that I certainly could not promise him that I wouldn't use the word again.

Because I love this word. I know I will use it again and again because I believe discipleship is at the heart of what we are doing in yoga. Now, I am certainly aware that the word is fraught with Christian connotations and for many that is not a positive thing. But for many practicing Christians in the world, it most certainly is. And stepping off that the Christian thing altogether, what does it mean to be a disciple, to be a follower of a teaching in the context of yoga?

From John Friend in the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual:
"Yoga is a discipline of aligning with the pulsation and flow of Nature. It is a discipleship to the flow of God's love and will. It is the skillful practice of creating banks around a pool of internal energy in order to make a river of consciousness that flows back into the ocean of Supreme Bliss. Through this spiritual practice, individual beings reawaken to their true unbounded nature."

Obviously this is a very personal thing and I believe its expression has many different ways of manifesting. But in an Anusara Yoga class, the teaching that a "disciple" is following (regardless of religion) is a teaching that says, "The Nature of Reality is Essentially Good. Each one of us is part of that Intrinsic Goodness. As you discover that Greatness within yourself, you will naturally be called to serve It in yourself and others."

It is not so much that we are out to convert anyone to some strange religion or to go against their chosen faith or anything like that. (Just imagine the tent revival though, for a minute, if you will. Some charismatic person at the front of the tent would be waving their hands enthusiastically telling you that "You are great!" and "Believe in yourself" and "Life is an expression of God's radiant creative potential and so your life is, by its very nature, a blessed wonderful thing!' Pretty scary stuff, right? Kinda sounds like an Anusara Yoga class, now that I think about it! But I digress.)

The thing is, that to me I have no real interest in Samadhi, Salvation or even Liberation. What I have interest in is discipleship. Somehow I found, or I was found by, a Teacher, a Teaching, a community and a set of practices that I love. That have lifted me out of darkness and have evoked in me a feeling of resonance with something Real. So I am interested in that. That feeling of lining up that happens inside me, that feeling of Recognition that I experience time again through the many practices of yoga.

To me, being a disciple is one of the highest expressions of gratitude one can have for these teachings that are so life-changing. To be a disciple and a "follower" is not such a weird, scary or strange thing to me. A disciple, in this context, is one who follows their heart for these Ultimate Truths are said to be seated there, in that Kingdom of Heaven that is within each of us.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back to School

So it is back to school week here in the Sell family household. Kelly started school on Monday. (After a 12-year absence, he finally returned to school full-time yesterday, which is a very big deal around here, if you know what I mean.) So it seems like an appropriate theme for classes this week is studentship.

And on that theme, I heard a great story the other day from the Chandogya Upanishad, I believe.

There once was a great guru who had a son, we will call Johnny. And while Johnny showed great potential, he was a bit cocky and quite unfit for The Teaching. So Guru Dad sent Johnny away to study with another teacher, (Non-Dad Guru) to prepare him more thoroughly. (Even in those days it was hard to for children to believe that their parents knew anything!) Johnny lived with Non-Dad Guru for seven years. They studied great texts, practices great rituals and yogas, and pondered profound esoteric secrets together. After seven years John returned home to his father.

Guru Dad quizzed Johnny on what he had learned and Johnny answered all of the questions correctly. But Guru Dad realized that while Johnny's knowledge had certainly increased, he was no more humble or fit for receiving The Teaching than he was before he had left. Finally, Guru Dad asked his son, hoping to stump him, "Did you learn the one thing that if you understand, will answer all other questions?"

Johnny: "Huh?"

Guru Dad:"Go bring me a seed from a Banyan tree."

So Johnny goes to get a Banyan seed, muttering some obscenities under his breath and cursing the day he was born into a family where his Dad is supposed to be some kind of Guru. But I digress. He searches high and low, eventually finds the seed and returns with it in hands. Now, the Banyan Tree is a very large tree but it has a very small seed. It is hard to even believe that such a big tree has such a little seed.

When Johnny hands Guru Dad the seed, Guru Dad crushes the seed and says, "What do you see now?"

Johnny replies, "Nothing."

Guru Dad, smiling, the way only a guru can or perhaps the way only a Father who is about to make an excellent point can, says, "Exactly. You are that. You are that Nothing out of which all life is created. This is the secret knowledge that answers all other questions. Understand this and you understand the universe."

And of course, BAM!, like a lightening bolt, Johnny awakens and understands the nature of Reality and so forth.

So certainly the story is a teaching about The nature of Reality according to the Upanishadic traditions. We are Nothing. We are that essential Nothing that is also somehow everything. But the other teaching here is that Guru Dad knew this all along. He could have told it to Johnny seven years ago. But Guru Dad also knew that his son was not ready to receive that teaching. He had to be humbled. So he sent him to learn, he made him study, he then made him find that seed and so on.

So it is also a story that teaches us that in order to receive the teaching we must be fertile soil. We must be ready to learn. Ahdikara is a Sanskrit word that means studentship. It is made up of two parts: adhi - to make and kara-ready. Adhikara is making oneself ready to learn. It is that aspect of studentship that implies we have passed the test, cleared the bar, become fertile soil and are now ready to take instruction. We are ready to go back to school.

The cool thing about practicing yoga is that every time we practice we can cultivate this fertile soil within ourselves. Each pose is waiting to teach us, each breath is inviting us into studentship, each moment is a teaching. The open, receptivity that the story is pointing to is the first principle of Anusara Yoga, Open To Grace.

Opening to Grace reminds us that we are not ultimately in charge, that we are essentially students of this Great Nothing, of this great Nothing which is also somehow Everything. And in wanting to study and align with that Force, the only right relationship to assume is one of humility, eagerness and receptivity.

So- that's this weeks game plan. Today's 4:30 flow class gets a little bit of everything and the 6:00 advanced class tonight back bends! Depending on who comes we are going to learn headstand dropovers. Yahoo. We shall see....

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another great week

I woke up early this morning feeling very happy and dare I say, content? It is hard to know exactly as I am not by nature, the content type. But I think this is a glimpse at what it must be like. Even yesterday when I was asked what I wanted from my practice ,(which is another story all together) I couldn't really say. I am really happy with what my practice is bringing me right now. I am even pleased with what I am bringing to my practice. I am not so much in a state of wanting more from it nor an I in the mood to demand much more of myself right now. My practice is so rich and full as it is. It is just brimming with learning on and off my mat, with great company that I am finding so inspiring, lots of laughter and the slow, steady opening within my body, mind and heart.

I had another great week teaching and connecting with all my yoga students and friends. Anne and I spent some time together yesterday and she came to visit Anusara Yoga Land in the evening. For those of you who do not know my sister, Anne, she is among other things, a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher. (She is also a philosophy professor, a lover of good food and drink, she is funny, smart, humble, an avid student, she is loyal which makes her a great friend and confidante and as Jeri noted on Anne's blog she is also strongly committed to caffeine in the form of high quality coffee. (Except in India where this standard lapsed and became subsumed by the exploration of cold,frothy, frappe-type coffee drinks. It was hot- you could not blame her.)So occasionally I go with her to visit Iyengar Yoga Land (IYL) (Sometimes, like for a month we even go all the way to India to visit IYL) And occasionally, she comes with me to Anusara Yoga Land.

So Thursday nights at YogaYoga have been really fun these last few weeks. I get to teach my 6:00 hatha class in the little room, which is my favorite room in all of YogaYoga to teach in. I love everyone being so close together because, for one thing, it makes my energy management as a teacher so much easier- I do not have to project myself into such a big space. Also, I can see everyone so well, make adjustments more easily and the feeling of us all "being in this together" is just inescapable. Last week we had 30 folks in the room; this week 27! (Maybe it was something I said to those three people...hmmmm...)

One of my first impressions of learning Anusara Yoga was how much fun it was. I remember commenting on that to Desiree and she said, "You know, people can work just as hard when they are laughing and enjoying themselves as they can in a very strict environment." So-obviously there is a balance with it, but consistenyl it becomes obvious to me that the very serious, austere yoga practitioner is just not that happy in our classes. After all, we laugh, tell jokes, make fun of ourselves and see enjoying one another as an essential part of our path in Anusara Yoga. So, if you do not want to play in your practice, best to steer clear of that little room at south studio at 6pm on Thursdays.

The advanced classes were great this week also. I am committed to really helping the people who come to that class move beyond the "Advanced Hatha is a flow class with a handstand thrown in" mentality so we are going to be diving into the deep hip openers, arm balances and back bends beyond urdhva danurasana. (That is if you all keep coming back because we have to build these things over time!) The thing about advanced postures is that they are built from the basic postures. So once you understand the basic postures, once you understand the alignment that informs the basic postures, then approaching the advanced poses becomes way less mysterious and whole lot of- you got it- FUN!

So- that's it for this morning. I am going to the river to kayak with Kelly before enjoying the rest of my "day off". Tomorrow I am teaching arm balances and inversions at NorthWest. Check it out- Please come if you can. If they tell you it is sold out, please come anyway. I rarely believe in "sold out"- I will make space for you. All levels are welcome so long as you have an open to learning and playing, will acknowledge your limits, are willing to laugh at yourself. (However if you have a shoulder injury or something like that, these are not the best classes for you.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

John Friend

I got an email from John Friend this morning telling me how awesome his summer has been. He included this picture of himself in Scotland on the Solstice. So there he is folks, our fearless leader, dancing a jig in his full Scottish regalia! (Talk about bhoga meeting yoga!)

My sister came down to practice today and she said, "You know Labor Day is coming up- perhaps you should have a Labor Day yoga celebration here in San Marcos." I thought to myself, "I am not sure if everyone is un-sore enough to consider it right now..." but I said, "Yeah, I will put it out there and see if people want to get together."

So- is anyone out there interested in a Labor Day practice, potluck and or river plunge? Let me know if the idea appeals to you and I will go further or not. Hope your day is awesome. Love to all.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back in the Saddle

Well, last weekend I started teaching with the Immersion and it has been a fantastic week "back in the saddle." First the Immersion, then Tuesday night classes in Austin, the Anniversary practice party on Wednesday, and public classes on Thursday in Austin. Thursday night's 6pm hatha class was a real thrill. I think I counted close to 30 people in the small room at YY South. (For those of you reading from somewhere else, the room comfortably holds 12, is crowded at 15 and is considered full at 18. But Caroline at the front desk knows my opinion that no room is ever really at capacity and never turn anyone away!!

The obvious theme for a night like that is "the kula" of course. And so the room , packed with beautiful people doing great yoga with one another was the embodiment of Patanjalis' Yoga Sutra #1: Now we come together to practice yoga. And just as yoga increases our capacity to love, to live and to endure, we increased the capacity of that little room in the name of loving, living and yes, enduring a little discomfort!

Today I had the opportunity to take class with Senior Iyengar teacher, George Purvis. He was at my friend Devon's studio. I first met George close to seven or eight yeas ago in Austin when he was teaching here. As always, the class was full of great information, lots of work and George's sense of humor and passion. And because of Anne's dual citizenship, she was there so we got to hang out a little in class. (Well, actually there was very little hanging out in that class but it was nice to see her. )

So I took class from 9-11:30 and then at 12-2:30 and again at 4-6:30 I got to teach two classes on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. One class was lecture-based and one was asana-based. Both classes were really great. I met some new people, got a chance to see some familiar faces and spent the day thinking deep thoughts- samadhi, philosophy, practice, detachment, and the role of fun in yoga.

So- traditionally, fun or bhoga is seen as the opposite of yoga and as an obstacle to overcome on the Path. But in the Kularnava Tantra there is the greatest verse that reads:

In Sanskrit:
2.23. yogI cen na eva bhogI syAg bhogI cen na eva yogavit
bhoga-yogAtmakaM kaulaM tasmAt sarvA^tmakaM (*sarvAdhkikaM) priye
2.24. bhogo yogAyate sAkSAt pAtakaM sukRtAyate
mokSAyate ca saMsAraH kula-dharme kule^s,vari

In English:
If a yogin, then not at all could one enjoy the world. If enjoying the world, then not at all could one be skilled in yoga. The Kula is of the nature of enjoyment and yoga. Therefore, dear one, it is universal.

If one follows the Way of the Kula, O Lord of the Family, enjoyment becomes yoga immediately, misbehaviour becomes the good deed, and transmigratory existence is liberation.

DOES IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT? DOES IT??? Not in my world. That is the whole tantric turn right there in a nutshell. Those two verses contain the whole teaching of Anusara Yoga in some ways. Enjoyment becomes yoga. (Dr. Phillips said it would read kind of like "bhoga yogas" if yoga was a verb.) Anyway, the thing is that when we are properly aligned our enjoyment is a means of praise and worship. Obviously this is not an "anything goes" statement but a reminder that all things are useful for sadhana, all things can be made holy and that heaven is here, now.

It is a great consideration for me this week when I had so much fun with my practice, with my teaching and reconnecting with students and friends after being away. It has just been such a fun week.

I got to see Jenny Dawson today and she asked how it was to be back and I mentioned how thrilling it has been to be here and to feel so at home. Kelly and I moved here a year ago and to look around at the fullness of my yoga family here is so amazing. I am so filled with gratitude and happiness for the Austin Kula. In just one year. Really- its a miracle.

So-I made excellent curried vegetables tonight and I am now sipping on some tea as I write. Thanks for tuning in, please comment when you can. I am off to visit Mandy's blog now. Oh also, Anne has a new blog- Go visit.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Click On the Picture

Hi everybody- FYI- If the picture seems small, just click on it and it will come up nice and big for your viewing pleasure. Love to all- Christina

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Pics

Anniversary Party

Okay-- here are some of the many fabulous pics from the anniversary party. We had such a fun time. I so enjoyed being with everyone and practicing together. I will have to look at the calendar and see when we can make up an occasion to do it again!

This morning in practice I shared a little about meeting Desiree Rumbaugh back in 1999. I didn't share the rest of the story. After the first class I took with Des I started going to her studio as much as I could because I was so smitten with Anusara. She lived 2 1/2 hours away from me, so several Fridays a month I would get up super early and drive to her studio for her 9:00 and 11:30 classes. (By the way- her first class was an advanced class from 9-11 and the second class was a beginning class from 11:30-1. I took both classes religiously for several years. I learned more about how to teach Anusara Yoga from her beginning level classes than from any advanced class or any teacher training I have ever been to. I share that because I am always asked about Teacher Training and about how to teach beginners. I want to go on record that the best teacher training you can give yourself is to go to a good teacher's class and be a student of their teaching while they are in action. Just my opinion, but it is my blog after all!)

So back to the story- Desiree, in the first few months was always talking about John Friend and how I needed to meet him.

Turns out he was scheduled to come and teach an inteneive at her studio in February 2000. (Here is another cool thing- the first time I worked with him there were 40 people in the room. Now you never see him with under 150.) A few weeks before the intensive she called me and said, "Someone dropped out of the workshop. Is there any way you can come? It will cost $400."

I didn't hesitate. I said, "Of course."

Now at this time, I had just quit a very stressful job and my husband and I had no money. In fact, when I looked in the checkbook after my phone calle with Des, we actually had only $400 in our account. Kelly, without pause, said, "You should go. This is important."

I do not think that either of us knew exactly how important it actually would turn out to be. Everything changed for me after I spent a week with John Friend and began to really pratice the principles of Anusara Yoga. (So much so that I even wrote a book about it!)

Years later I asked Des, "How long was the waiting list for that workshop?" She smiled and said, "You have no idea."

So- I practice Ansuara Yoga in a lot ways because of her. The week with John Friend (that had been sold out for close to a year that she let me into) put me on this path. How awesome is that? So again, I want to honor her, I want to thank John Friend and the power of Grace that worked through him to bring us Anusara Yoga and the power of Grace that keeps bringing all of us together in this great practice of yoga. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

Blessings. Enjoy the pics. Stay in touch.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bring Food

The Ansuara Yoga Ten-Year Anniversary Practice will be from 11-2 Wednesday August 15. I will make carrot cake. Brigitte thought it would be a good idea to actually have some real food. Amanda said she would make quiche. Jeremiah promised not to cook but to bring something yummy that he bought from someone who actually can cook. What will you bring? (It seems that we may just keep our theme from the Immersion alive- Snacking and Yoga. )

Okay- if you can stay after practice for a potluck, please bring something to share. If you can only stay for the practice, then come and practice. If you only want to come for the food, that is fine, too. The more the merrier.

Also, it is a great and wonderful thing to swim in the San Marcos River and it is only a few blocks from The San Marcos School of Yoga. Bring swimsuit and towel and dive in!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Immersion Photos

Hello Everyone!
Sometimes I sit and think about teaching yoga and just how lucky I am to have such a cool job. Tonight is one of those nights. Thinking over the weekend, I am filled with such gratitude for the opportunity to teach Anusara Yoga and for the group of people who assembled for the first weekend of the Immersions at YogaYoga. I had such a great time this weekend. We have such an incredible group-- full of shiny, beautiful people and practitioners.
What a fun year this is going to be...

So Kelly took lots of pics. Here are some of them. He said he will come back next time and take more. Enjoy. (And yes, Laura, I think we should clear away the plunder for the brochure shots!) Thanks again, everyone, for a super weekend. Please stay in touch.