Monday, May 26, 2008

Home Again

It is very nice to be home again and what a welcome home I had today with a very fun group practice- Me, Kelly, Mark, Hannah, Paul, Chelsea, Jill, Dave, Tabatha, Alice, Jesse, Jeremiah, Mandy, Caroline and Larissa were all in attendance. We had a rockin' time with arm balances and back bends. We once again had the optimal balance of frolic and focus and people are really making progress on eka pada raja kapotasana and its variations. The only thing disappointing was that we took a few pictures and they did not record on the camera so we have no visual proof of the experience! I did have a lovely savasana with Sprirt that was captured on film however.
I got home from Calgary around midnight and we slept in and had a leisurely morning before the practice. Calgary was great. I love teaching there- Kathy is such a great host and she is such a good teacher that her students are really a pleasure to teach. They are attentive and willing to work hard yet not so addicted to always working that they are not interested in details and philosophy. Kathy has been teaching yoga in Calgary for so long and many of her students have been with her for over 15 years so they are a tight group who are very dedicated to the practice, to one another and to her as their teacher. That is always very inspiring to me on my visits there.

When Desiree and I were on our way to Denver together she and I got to talking about the message behind the message. Like sure, we travel around or we teach our students at home and there is the Anusara Yoga message we are giving but she asked me what I thought my message was within that. It was a great question and I have really been thinking about it a lot because I found that it was hard for me to put it into words. For the last few years I have actually been so focused on the Anusara Yoga message itself that I haven't paid a lot of attention to what I personally teach within that structure and more importantly what I personally want to be teaching within that structure. (Because truth be told we are always teaching something so best that we be as conscious about is as possible!)

So I have been thinking about it and the more I thought the more it came to me that this whole thing is about self-love and that is what I want to be teaching. I happen to think that a disciplined life of yoga practice, meditation and health-oriented pursuits and so on is the biggest act of love we can give ourselves. I really do. I also think occasionally giving ourselves a firm talking to when we are believing our own BS is an act of love. And within these acts of love there are multiple layers of opportunities to act with great self-regard and compassion to ourselves. Like yes, yoga practice is an act of love but if we are totally critical of ourselves while we are doing it then is it really? And then we set our intention so deep and so high sometimes that we are going to fall short along the way and so we must be loving about our shortcomings, our failures, our weakness, and also learn to love , accept and stand tall in our great and mighty strengths and acts of heroism.

So since this has been on mind a lot I decided that I would work with that as a theme all weekend long. Instead of bringing a text with me to use as a "theme springboard" and talking about philosophy and so on, I thought- why not go out on a limb and just give this message of self-love a try? Anyway, I think it went well. After all, what good is all kinds of fancy yoga philosophy if at the end of the day we are not kinder to ourselves, if we do not accept ourselves a little more deeply and if we cannot extend ourselves to others a bit more fully? Really to me, that is what yoga is all about. Enlightenment, who knows? I certainly do not know much about that when you get right down to it. Most days, I am not thinking about it, if you want to know the truth. But self-love, that is immediately useful and important and really, I do not want to live a day without it guiding my actions.

So- on to make dinner. We have some yummy vegetables to cook up in ghee and to ejoy with rice. Yippee, Yummy. Delicious. And a healthy dinner is an act of self-love. See how it goes?


mandy said...

I love this post.

I think that you had mentioned what Des asked you in a previous blog. Since then I have been really exploring what it is that I'm most skilled and comfortable teaching. What my message is.....

It's is just comforting to hear that there is more than just the Anusara Message. That there is a more personal message that can be taught within the system. Really at this point teaching from my experience is less about the nature of realtiy and more about how to live a mindful exsitence.

I have a lot more to say about this and would love for this to be an open discussion between myself, you, and other teachers.
I hope we can get into some of this during Teacher Training. Because I think that we all have lots of questions as to what consitutes an Anusara Yoga class when you are presenting more personal information. I also believe that a personal message can always tie back to the Anusara message....but does it have to be tied back in that same class or more when the students and teacher are ready to share that idea and information. I'm rambling a bit now but if we are teaching studentship then making the students ready before hitting them over the head with ideas like Spanda and the tattvas would seem more effective. Like get them aware of their bodies and mental and spirtual landscapes first and then start to introduce all the ideas that help explain what it happening.

It just seems like the public class should be more simple and then we have trainings like Immersions and Teacher Training to go deeper. Otherwise it can seem like an uphill battle trying to squeze it in a public class forum. But self-love and being mindful we can do effectively with real results.

Okay that was my two or three cents.

Dale said...

Since I'm not an Anusara teacher, I have freedom to consider an uber-paradigm tht might differ somewhat from John's. What I am thinking today is not much different from the Anusara gestalt, but I like the way I seasoned it :-). I think practice is about:

1) Fearless, nondelusional self-awareness.
2) Unconditional self-acceptance.
3) Setting an intention that benefits myself and others in realistic ways.
4) Using yoga and other practices in an effective way to further my intention. Building a practice that uses accurate self-awareness to understand where I am today, unconditionally accepts me today as I am today (anything else is madness, no?), and lovingly, strongly, gently, beautifully, playfully, shamelessly uses the practice never to harm, but always to benefit.

The practice must never use the student, or the student come to believe that the pracice is anything other than a tool - a magnificent, beautiful, possibly Divinely-given tool - but just a tool. We should teach that the all-important principle behind what we do is to create beauty and goodness, and lessen disharmony and strife.

I believe that we should teach that there are no gold stars for "getting" a pose - but oh, the beauty of the work that the pose allows! No benefit to flexibility or strength or skill per se - these things are also only tools. And yes, we enjoy working toward these things, and hese things are beautiful. But they are only temporal, passing beauties.

Our yoga should be big enough to embrace the mentally or physically disabled, the infirm, the weak or inflexible, as well as the young fit yogis who can make pretty yoga.

My best student is a 63 year old woman with pronounced scoliosis and other issues. She is relatively weak (although she can whip most of the 50 yr olds I know :-), inflexible, and her wrists do not work all that well. It takes her a long time to recover from exercise. Why is she my best student? She listens, she thinks. She understands herself clearly and deeply. She accepts herself totally, and is ok with who she is. She is a fierce warrior with a gentle heart, who slays without mercy the meaningless boasts of this world, yet is gentle with her body and honors her spirit. She will never do a handstand (at least not without some serious props), but the idea that that is a problem never occurs to her. Her heart-opening is profound, but her scoliosis makes it look scrunched up to the casual observer. Her strength in down dog is awesome, even though she cannot hold the pose for long. Her yoga inspires me and humbles me. Her practice is more advanced than mine in many many ways, and it is an honor to be her teacher.

So sorry for the rant, but your post & Mandy's reply really inspired me. Probably shouldn't let part-time mystics post replies....