Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I got home from teaching, ate a big bowl of miso soup and now I am checking my email and doing "blog rounds" before going to bed. I thought classes went well this afternoon. I had a fun time at any rate. It was so great to see so many of the regular gang in attendance, many of who came to the Eye of the Tiger. So we got to comare notes on soreness. And also there are some "new regulars" in both classes which is great. I love to see some new people committing to the classes with regularity.

The thing about Anusara Yoga is that it really takes a regular commitment to really begin to see what the whole thing is about. Every class is kind of different. You may not get a "workout" every time and you may not learn something new every time either. But over a period of time, when a student invests in the the process of practicing the principles, amazing things happen on so many levels. It is a really exciting thing. I have watched it long enough to know that when someone really gets their arm bones back and gets shoulder loop activated, their upper back is going to change, their backbends will deepen. When Inner and outer spiral becomes a regular part of someone's life, their hamstrings lengthen, their hips open and deep forward bends become less of a big deal. But more fun than seeing all of that come along, is watching how people's lives begin to get a kind of texture to them where a sense of the magical comes alive and a palpable sense of community and support becomes an ever-present reality.

And of course these things happen in other methods but since this is a place for me to wax philosophic about Ansuara Yoga and my current love affair with it, there you have it!

This week is brought to you by the Fire Element. Fire as it moves from gross to subtle moved through qualities like determination, will power and on towards spiritual illumination, tejas. Right? Fire gives us light and heat. Too much, well, blazing inferno. Too little and we are cold and in the dark. Like that.

So at 4:30 we did a good basic flow with lots of one-legged balancing poses using a lot of determination (muscle energy) to feed the illumination (inner body bright). And at 6:00 we worked on urdhva danurasana and dwi pada viparita dandasana, two of the four pillars of back bending according to Mr. Iyengar. So George talked about the Four Pillars of and Advanced Back Bend Practice this weekend. They are: Urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana, kapotasana and mandalasana.

It is so great to think about because these poses are often skipped in the pursuit of fancier advanced back bends like the eka pada raja kapotasana backbends and natarajasana. But as I am thinking about these bends I can see that if you have the capacity to work in these poses, the other advanced poses will follow quite readily. (Yes, I can see that Ole' BKS might be on to something here... ) So anyway, we are going to work on these four pillars in our advanced classes.

First, we need to be pretty proficient at urdhva danurasana, which most people really are and drop backs (which most are not) and also dwi pada (which many are) and headstand drop overs (which many are not) and then it is really just a short walk over to mandalsana from there. Kapotasana, I think is harder but we should easily be there by spring providing that this little post doesn't frighten people away and I have to start building with a new group. ("Hello, my name is Christina. Thank you for coming. I used to have a lot of advanced students but then I scared them away by talking about the Four Pillars of Back Bending. Please come back. I will be nicer to you than I was to them.. " Can't you just imagine it?!) Anyway, just sharing the vision, folks. (The vision of the back bends, mind you. Not the vision of me alone in class begging people not to be afraid. ) One little step at a time. (Or in grouping of 5 and 10 back bends at a time like tonight!)

And for Rusty (my favorite ashtanga practitioner next to Chris Kitteridge in B.C.) (Rusty, that should not make you feel bad, because I have practically moved in with Chris and his wife from all my visits up there so until you wake up at 4 am to drive me to the airport in the snow, you will just have to be content with being my second favorite. Most favorite here locally, though!), I am going to practice sorting some things out about Maricyasana D. He promises me hoards of visiting Ashtangi's if I can offer any insight about how to make that clasp!! So, now that I can clasp in a, b and c myself, I might as well quit writing that pose off as impossible. It may take two or three years but well, what else am I doing? (Any genetic engineers out there who know how we might all grow longer arms? I think that might be easier than actually learning the pose correctly!)

All right. Enough already. Svetha, Hannah and Kelly were the double dippers tonight. Alice wins a prize for getting hubby Steve back to class after last Thursday night. So even though I missed her exuberance at 6:00, she and hubby being there at 4:30 more than made up for it. Also, Mark and Hannah are back from their travels so it was fun to have them in class again. Anyway, I could go on- like the four Katherines in the flow class- Kathy, Cat, Katherine and Katie. Strange day. But mostly, like I said earlier, it was just great to see everyone.

Until next time. Carry on.


Jeremiah Wallace said...

I kept having that song in my head today by Bloodhound Gang-"The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. We don't need no water let the Mô+%$)*%*&^ burn, burn M&%^$)(§⌂, burn."

Christina Sell said...

OH yes...I remember that song. A new theme song for us, perhaps?

whatnot said...

since you have so many blogs to read, lemme make a suggestion: create an account at bloglines.com --it will let you add the urls of your favorite blogs, then you only have to check one place for updates (and now you know my secret for keeping up with all this stuff without being glued to the computer).

See you thursday!

Christina Sell said...

Ari- I need you to come over sometime and teach me all of these neat little tricks- like how to use Flikr, how to make this "blog central" and I am sure there are some other things you could help me with! (Although I have no intention of ever learning to text message, but that is a whole blog entry in an of itself.)

Interestingly enough, I am a very fumbling participant in the world of technology. There is this small set of things I seem able to accomplish and then I hear about something else and get a bit panicked. Maybe you are my answer.


Leanne said...

Can't wait for Chris to read this one-his face will light up no doubt.

Comment on the Marichiasana D- I clasped in D the other day and it was so easy that I thought "Oops! I went and did B again!" NO- I was actually in D- and it felt good. These are things that were different that day:
1.I had not backbended much that week and my erector spinae were softer than usual.

2.I had also been really working on pavrita parsvakonasana with the hands in anjali mudra ( my students call it anjalina jolie!) and really deepening the twist with the lengthening and moving from the back body and pulling one side of the ribs back as I twist from the other.
3. The last thing is that my stomach was very, very empty.

I am sure there were other dynamics in place but these seemed to be some of the key ones.

And if you were here we would be driving you home in the snow again...brrr. We are very excited up here to see John this weekend- nothing like a quick hit of Shakti from you or him to re-inspire the practice!

Love you!
Leanne :>)

Leanne said...

Chris here -
Just back from 6:30 mysore practice - read your blog - yes, face appropriately lit now. Thank you 'Stina.
Have a wonderful day.

Leanne said...

Chris wrote that not me- just to be clear- I let him borrow my password.

Christina Sell said...

Got it.

whatnot said...

*resists urge to make suggestive joke about "hands in angelina jolie"*

austinlisam said...

Christina, I hereby promise to stay the course through my fear of the fire of backbends. Love,

Dale said...

Yes, I definitely benefitted most from Anusara when i was studying the practice every day. And I understand and agree with what you are saying about the opening of the body. But in my case, what I found even more amazing than my physical progress was my understanding of the practice.

It was very difficult for me to internalize the Universal Principles of Alignment (not that I claim mastery :-), because I am a very verbal and visual person. We have to teach the Principles in words, in drawings, and in showing them working in our body. I remember But the Principles are not verbal, & they are not visual (feel free to correct any of this, btw, since you are the Master here :-).

Every day, Liz or Charlie would try to explain what Inner Spiral felt like, how to engage it, how much to engage it, in what order to engage it vs the other actions.

I spent countless hours studying John's Teacher manual and Doung's anatomical drawings. On many occasions, I literally went through every yoga pose i knew, & read or figured out how the Principles applied to every pose.

Might as well try to tell a baby bird how to fly !!! Because nobody can energise inner spiral for you - you have to find it for yourself. Of course, there were many exercises to help me find it, and many helpful words and drawings (esp Doug's book) to help me understand it verbally, and often Liz would work to show me the action by manually moving my body the way that it would move when inner spiral was working. And all of this was a finger pointing at the moon. i mean, I could have used AutoCAD to make a 3-D moving model of inner spiral, but I wasn't really able to _do_ inner spiral.

And then, during the 50th or 200th practice - some golden practice featuring that particular action - BANG - I got it. I made the leap from words and visual concepts to activating the right muscles in the right way to achieve the actual gross and subtle actions of inner spiral.

And that golden practice comes in a lot fewer calendar days when you are being taught 5 or 6 days a week as opposed to 2 or 3 :-).

And i didn't just get inner spiral and suddenly leap into an amazing uttanasana (can I get a Sanskrit spell-checker?), so it isn't that so many classes made me gain strength & flexibility at a much faster rate, because if it did, I'd be freaking Charles Atlas by now, instead of a 50 year old potato in bloomers :-).

So now, in addition to the mental and visual model of inner spiral that I have, I can also _feel_ inner spiral, and feel when the hip or shoulder joint is in balance (or not) - I have made the cognitive leap from thinking it to feeling it. I am now looking at the moon.

And the moon is no longer separate from me, but is now the Beloved. Of course, I still am not one with the Beloved, but with each embrace, I understand her more, and i feel her more clearly :-).


Another thing that I especially treasure from that time was the sense of kula that I grew to understand. It was very similar to the fellowship and sense of family that I have experienced in close-knit small groups in good churches. I think that does have alot to do with the philosophical basis of Anusara. Some classes foster the mutual respect of athletes, and some the camaraderie of warriors, and others the familiarity of those who nap together, and some have the delicious savor of those who dance together with passionate fervor, all of which are delightful experiences and relationships :-). But Anusara is the most worshipful form of yoga that I have experienced. It is the kula of lovers of the beloved, and I have felt more love and acceptance in this kula than in any other gathering.

ok, enough about that :-).


BACKBENDS!!!!!!! I love rock n roll, so put another dime in the JukeBox, baby!!

Kapotanasana is one of my fav poses. It is a real challenge for me to move the bend up my spine into my heart. It is funny - most of the time I get to do full pigeon is in an advanced flow or 2nd series class, & the teacher want to help me get "deeper" into the pose by moving my hands further up my legs from my toes to my heels, & I try to explain that for me, deeper isn't bending more overall - deeper for me is moving the bend up the spine.

But of you think that was funny, I'll write some time aout explainin g to a Certified Ashtanga teacher that I really didn't care if I _ever_ go the bind in some pose - i had more important work to do in the pose. Funny story, and an Ashtanga teacher with a depth of wisdom that shocked me (my bad).

So, sometime I would like to work with you on coming up from Wheel to standing & coming up from Kapotanasana to kneeling. For some reason, getting back up seems to harder than going down :-). Guess I'll have to get back into classes on a regular basis. . .


ok, which mandalasana are you talking about? The link is broken & I find at least 3 flavors, from a simple lunge to eka pada raja kapotanasana with the front leg in a lunge (eprk 3?) to upper body in headstand 1 & walk the legs around in a circle - which has to be the most bizarre asana ever :-).


Finally, a koan for your explorations to increase your computer skills - "try something."

Christina Sell said...

upper body in headstand, walking the legs around and around. VERY FUN.

Rusty said...


I am not very adept at navigating the blogisphere. Just saw your incredibly nice comment about being your second favorite ashtangi. I would have been thrilled to crack the top 25. Your classes have been a blessed complement to my ashtanga practice. Look forward to getting more of my "hard headed" ashtanga compadres to give you a try.

Was talking to my sister in Conneticut yesterday and she mentioned a teacher in her neighborhood named Mitchell Bleier.

Checked his website and turns out he's a highly credentialed Anusara teacher. Do you know him?

Best!! Rusty