Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day Three

We had a day of classes with Patricia which was so great. Apart from the fantastic back bending practice and feedback I got from Patricia in my practice- (lift your lower abdomen more (Pelvic loop) bring the side ribs back/don't exploit the mobility at T-12 (kidney loop) and lift your top chest more (inner body bright/shoulder loop)) she also gave me another great lesson. It was toward the end of a fabulous back bending practice that is too extensive to try to capture at this time in the day and I was demonstrating a variation on dwi pada viparita dandasana. She said "Okay, urdhva danurasana."

I said, "Just go up?" (Mostly because she was not always having us come to the top of our heads and I was not sure which way she wanted me to enter the pose.)

Patricia said, "There is no such thing as just."

It took me a little while to grok her point. She repeated it. And I have thought about it all day. There is no "just go up" ideally. There is only skillful action, mindfulness in motion. By that point in the practice, for me to say "just" was a huge missing of the point. By that time she had generously assisted me and everyone in the class in many poses and in pointing out our blind spots and so I had plenty of things to keep in mind even on the way up to urdhva danurasana. No just. Great lesson. On the mat. Off the mat.

After class we had lunch and then our hiking team reconvened for another hike. We took a different route today, which was Timothy's suggestion. We lost the trail for quite some time but got to a great view and took some fun pictures. Rachel introduced Timothy and Anne to the scent of the Ponderosa Pine (butterscotch) so the that explains the tree-hugging snapshots.

Anne- The Hills are Alive with the sound of Annzy-- (AH-AH-AH-AH.....)

Timothy, Old Hippie at Old Hippie Lane.
Old Hippie on a mountain top.

Rachel, seeking a Higher Perspective.
The sisters.
We bushwhacked through a lot of tall grasses with hitch-hikers of various kinds and so we sotpped to clean out our shoes. Here is Anne tending to hers.

Here is Rachel. Here is Timothy.

Rachel, demonstrating the tree-sniff... Timothy, following her lead.
Anne, tree-sniffing to see for herself. (Or smell for herself, more accurately.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

So it is Day Two here at The Feathered Pipe Ranch. The retreat has really been great. The general overview is that there are about 50 people here from all over the states. The group has been ssplit into two groups (Affectionately called "the big kids" -those who can do 5 minute sirsasana, 5 minute sarvangasana and who can push to urdhva danurasana with straight arms unassisted and "the little kids"- those who cannot do those things.) So Patricia and John take turns teaching the big kids and the little kids. So yesterday we had morning asana class and afternoon pranayama class with Patricia and today we had morning asana and afternoon pranayama with John. They are both really excellent in their own way.(In case you are wondering, we are in the big kids group.)

This morning's class was simple in many ways and yet that was part of what was so exquisite about it. It was a good solid Iyengar Yoga standing pose class with long holds, lots of details that left our legs feeling like jello. Yet throughout, my chest kept getting lighter and lighter and my mind more and more expansive. Get the legs to work, and wow- good things happen.

After a snack, me, Rachel, Anne and Timothy went for a hike again. We did the same hour long walk we did yesterday. We had a good time and laughed a lot. I made friends with Timothy on the very first night we were here. He is funny, sarcastic, insightful and loads of fun. (Sound like someone else we all know and love?) He is also a writer and so we have had some fun talking about writing. He wrote this really great book called Yoga As Medicine. Buy it. Read it. Tell everyone about it. (I am talking to him about coming to Ausitn for a talk or workshop. That would be fun, huh?) He was a doctor for ten years and ha since left practicing medicine (He told me is "downwardly mobile") and so he has a great perspective and ideas on medicine, health and the problems with our current paradigm of health care. Patricia was his first yoga teacher. Timothy said, "Every ten years or so she starts a new group of beginners and ten years ago, I was in one of those groups. And I stayed with it and the class progressed."

Then we had lunch and then we went for a swim and canoe adventure in the lake and then it was time for pranayama class, which was fantastic.

I am having a really super time and learning a lot. I am feeling a sense of ease and freedom that I usually do not expereince in Iyengar Yoga environments. Some of it I think is because Patricia and John are great teachers who are not grinding some ax or out to prove anything and the mood of being on retreat is a bit softer. Also I think I just decided to be myself and not be so worried about "getting in trouble" or "looking good" or particiapting in the endless varities of manifestations on the theme of my personal neurosis. It is really fantastic to just be a friend to myself as I am and not try to be someone different.

Scenes from the day--

Randy Just at breakfast drinking his coconut water. Randy has a great studio in Dallas.

Anne at breakfast.
Rachel at breakfast.
Timothy, at breakfast.
Anne, in vasisthasana at the lookout on our walk.
Anne, deciding whether or not navasana is a good idea or not on those rocks.
Rachel and Timothy on the hike.
Timothy, up close and personal...

Getting the canoe in the water...
Emptying the water out of the canoe...
This was a row boat we were going to take out but it had a hole. That is what I am pointing to.
The lawn. The view from the lake.
My back and a fly that landed there.
Rachel out on the water. Me, practicing mud flap girl.
Me and Anne on the water.
This was a joke shot because I was pulling us onto the shore and Anne was impressed by "The Flex." I think I look ridiculous but Anne is making me post this. Okay then- more to come. Dinner is soon and then we have Timothy's talk about his book to go to.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Day One

Here we are in "slumber party mode" in our room last night. This is Anne cracking up and so is Rachel in the bed next to her. And this is me.

Anne and I shopping in the Shanti boutique.
Our new friend Timothy.
Timothy "posed" for out walk.
Rachel at the lookout on our walk around the property.
So - more to come- off to afternoon class. This morning was fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Scorpion Pose

So my friend Valerie in Friendswood asked me for some suggestions about using a chair to work toward scorpion pose. She wants to teach it tomorrow in her advnaced class. So since I find this sort of thing difficult to describe in an email, I decided to practice toward that pose today and then I had Kelly take some pictures of me in my practice. And while what follows is not the only way to do scorpion pose on a chair but here are some key actions to incorporate and some ideas for how one might do it. (There are other really good ways. This is from what I did today.)

Very Important:

1. MELT YOUR HEART-You cannot, cannot, cannot underestimate the amount of "melt" needed for this pose.

2. Activate Inner Spiral in conjunction with a massive organic energy though your legs and out through the balls of your big toes to open your upper back even more and get length through your spine.

When I practice this pose I spend my opening poses working opening my upper back and I pretty much turn the standing poses into back bends with massive tailbone anchoring down into the legs. Many times I use the added assistance of placing my top hand behind my head to really push back, using my upper palette to help open up the stiff part of my upper back. Add in lots of thigh stretching, hip opening and a long supta virasana, paryankasana and paryankasana with a block in my upper back.
Then you are into some of the fun stuff:

Here the chair is right at the base of my shoulder blades and I am descending in the groins while scooping my tailbone. Here the chair is initially placed in the middle of my shoulder blades and then I drag back until it is at the base of the shoulder blades and it creates a big shoulder loop. This is position #1 for the hands:
This is position #2 for the hands:
This is position #3 for the hands:
This is a great prep for opening the chest and practicing the work for the legs. Here I am charging my arms toward the wall while taking my thoracic spine way in while at the same time Inner Spiralling while taking my tailbone in and extending into the wall with my legs:
Here we begin using the chair. Here in the first stage I am bringing my chest into the middle of the room, just like I did in the previous pose. (Note the external linking, those of you in the TT.)
Same here only now my feet are on the chair seat. (There is an intermediate stage where your toes are not hooked but your feet would just be on the chair seat which is no small task to accomplish.)
With my toes hooked, I am trying to melt more and then I lifted my heard and voila, there are my toes and the chair. Scorpion with the assistance of the chair.
Okay Valerie (And anyone else who dares) there you go. I hope they enjoy it.

Next blog installment will be from Montana, if there is wireless there. Have a good week.

So excited So Bummed

Okay- so we had a massive rainstorm yesterday and I thought to myself, "Christina you should probably leave a little early this afternoon to get to Austin safely." So I leave my house at 3:30 which would give me a full hour to get to YogaYoga South. And really it only takes me 35 minutes on a good day so this is PLENTY of time, I think. Except for a wreck. Evidently there was a wreck on the highway, right at the Onion Creek exit. Northbound Highway 35 had been closed for 2 1/2 hours. And then at some point,they opened up one lane of traffic. The traffic was backed up all the way to Kyle.

To give you an idea- I take exit 204 off the highway in San Marcos and it took me 2 full hours to get to exit 220. So that is 8 miles an hour. Actually it was worse than that because it took me 1 1/2 hours to go from mile marker 217 to exit 220, at which point I am still almost 20 miles from YY South! There was no way I was going to make either of my classes last night. Lucky for me Anne was there and so she could pinch hit. Also J-Man was there, Alice was there and so I knew someone capable, competent and inspiring would teach it. (And on the upside, like Anne said, my classes are planned for the week I get back!)

But I was really excited about teaching (As I mentioned yesterday morning) so I was really bummed to miss my classes and I was looking forward to seeing everybody. I had two fabulous sequences planned and I am getting ready to be gone for a week so I was looking forward to being there. Funny, though, is that my theme for the night was concealment and revelation and so I kept laughing (Well, sort of laughing...I must admit that sitting in traffic that long challenges even my sense of humor, which is saying something since I laugh at most things...) that "Well the road is certainly concealed."

At any rate- sorry guys. I tried. And I would have much rather been teaching then sitting in a rainstorm at a dead standstill on the highway for 2 1/2 hours. That is for sure.

Now on a positive note - I am going to resume teaching on Tuesday nights in Austin in the fall. I think the 4:30 and 6:00 at Westgate which I gave up for the summer but Lori is so kindly giving me back. (Or some other classes at that same time that she is going to give me to teach. Stay tuned for those details to come as the YY scheduling machine irons out the nitty gritty of the fall schedule.)

Until then though, I think those of us not going to Mandy's class up north we should start meeting for the Tuesday night sweat fest with Matt at the South Studio. That is what I am going to do until September when I teach again on Tuesdays. Think about it- 4:30 flow and/or 6:00 Ashtanga and/or a bite to eat at Central Market while I wait for Kelly to get out of class... Sounds like a fun plan, huh? (And then by the time I am teaching again everyone's arms are going to be so buff from all that chataranga. Either buff or blown out but we can work with either! That is the genius of our method!)

Anyway, I won't be there this week (Although feel free to get it started without me) but the week I get home I will be there with bells on- and very little clothing. (I mean really, it is hot in that room.) Although I am thinking- maybe there would be less slipping with longer pants on... These are the questions we ask.

Have a great day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Had a most excellent day yesterday that really felt like summer vacation. I met Pam for an afternoon of frolicking at her club. We did some asana in a very swanky little yoga/pilates studio and then hung out by the pool and then join the other 8-year olds for the water slide. We were instructed by the girls to "try the open one first since it was less scary." We did as we were told and then moved up to the covered slide. Which, yes, was scarier but much more fun. I think Pam and I went down the slide almost 10 times- each time as fun as the last.

I spent some time on email this morning with my friend Elena Brower who has a great studio in New York called ViraYoga. She and I are planning a retreat to Hawaii or Panama in February 2010. (Back to my previously mentioned plan of teaching with my favorite people when possible.) So if you want to go to some beautiful island somewhere with two beautiful Anusara Yoga teachers (I mean really, Elena is stunning, check out her press on her site. Can you say SUPERMODEL? All together now, SUPER- MODEL.) She also happens to be a super person, a super teacher, a super practitioner, and a super mother. I love her. So, one of the first two weeks in February 2010- exact dates and places TBD.

Kelly and I had planned to make a day trip down to Corpus Christi to meet Michelle for some surfing lessons and playing at the beach. But this plan was put in motion before Hurricane Dolly was a reality. So that kind of put a damper on the surfing plan. Anne and I leave on Saturday for Feathered Pipe. I am very excited about it. (So I am teaching tonight but next Thursday Jeremiah will teach at 4:30 and Alice will teach at 6:00. ) I did spend some time deciding what to bring to wear- do I go for the full Iyengar uniform- bloomers, short-sleeved shirts that can be tucked in or prana shorts and modest tank tops, or the full cute matching prana outfits that will attract undue attention to me as someone who does not really belong... After a lot of thought, I am going with the middle option- prana shorts (cuter than bloomers but not bell bottoms or too trendy) and modest, yet stylish shirts and tanks. (Funny, the things I think about but that is another story.)

The other thing that is going to be fun about this retreat is that my friend Rachel Peters (who now runs Prescott Yoga) is meeting me and Anne in Montana for the retreat. I love hanging out with Rachel and so it is an added bonus to have her coming with us. Plus it will be her first foray into Iyengar Yoga Land, which will be fun to be part of. And starting with Patrica and John, well, that is starting pretty close to the top. Rachel is a great yogi so she will be fine.

Tonight is class in Austin, which is going to be great. With my reduced schedule of classes I really look forward to teaching. And now off to practice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tuesday Night Sweatfest

So Anne, Chelsea and me went to Matt's 4:30 Flow Class and his 6:00 Ashtanga class. I had a lot of fun, worked up a nice sweat and really enjoyed just being in a class, following along and not being in charge of anything. Lovely. Absolutely lovely. I think Matt is a great teacher- he worked people hard without killing anyone, he was encouraging, non-threatening and he is obviously dedicated to helping his students improve and take care of themselves.

As an added bonus the A/C was broken at the south studio and so it was nice and hot. (Again the sweat helps with so many poses and then hinders others so it is a pretty good trade off.) Even Anne was dripping in sweat. And lucky for us we had a camera to prove it. See how dripping wet her hair is. Also note the post-Ashtanga-glow. (Sweaty flow is good for kapha.)
One thing that Matt said in his flow class that I really loved is that there are three categories of yoga practitioner. If you look at the yoga practice like a camp fire, there are the people who never get close enough to the fire to benefit from its warmth or light. There are some people who get close up and can enjoy the fire- its warmth and light. And then there are people who keep sticking their hand in the flames, getting burnt and expecting each time for it to be different. I love this analogy. Obviously we want to be the second type of practitioner. Close up, engaged and involved. Nice metaphor.
Anyway- just checking in. I slept in later than usual today and have a fair amount to check of my list before heading to Austin to meet Pammy at the club.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Well Good Morning

Kelly and I are up and finishing breakfast. Kelly is ranting about things he is reading in the newspaper and I am catching up on email and perusing this very cute site for greyhound lovers that has some super cute picture of greyhounds and some really sweet stories.

I went on a bike ride yesterday morning while it was still sort of cool. That was very fun. Then I did a nice long yoga practice to help un-do all the tightness that riding a bike often creates for me. (Can you say quad stretches and upper back back bends?) Kelly was at school in Austin all day so I enjoyed the time to catch up on some work, putter around the house and make some phone calls. I also watched a few videos that I have had on my desk a while.

I was so impressed by Carol Wray's video (from the White Rock, BC gang- those of you who were in Park City for the therapy training with John will remember Carol because she was my beautiful demo for the reverse Vira 2 during the class I taught there.) She filmed the fifth session of her beginning series and it was so great to see a video with someone really teaching her students rather than a choreographed yoga performance. Her presence was great, she was genuinely interested in her students and she really helped them improve. LOVED IT.

Lauren (Also from White Rock) gave me a few snippets of her teaching to watch. (She had lots of technical difficulties- not with her class but with the camera!) Lauren's enthusiasm and love for the practice of yoga is so infectious. She has so much passion and commitment and a genuine desire to serve and even in the first few minutes of her opening talk that came shining through. I know she was probably a bit nervous but I loved how "herself" she was still able to be even on a video. So fun.

It was great to watch those videos right after completing a TT here because I realized that the process really does work. These two women are not the same teachers they were when they first started the immersion and then the teacher training. It is so cool to see how they have worked with the principles of teaching and through their dedication and practice have blossomed into great representatives of the method. I was very inspired. (And I must say a bit proud!)

Today I am going to hang with Genevieve for a little while and then go to yoga with Anne. (Anyone want to join us for Matt's flow class (4:30)or his Ashtanga class at South (6:00)? This summer, since I have a little extra time, I am trying to get to some more public classes in all different traditions and with different teachers. So anyway, that's my agenda for the day.

And now, off to walk my fabulous dogs before the heat sets in.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day Three




Valerie Ana
Dawn Tia
I think the only folks I am missing in these pics is Pam and Jen. Sorry, ladies. I can't believe I didn't take one of either of you. (Of course, you both were featured prominently yesterday.)
We really had another great day. We spent the morning reviewing some more things for beginning yoga and then made a foray into gentle yoga. We had a fabulous potluck lunch together with an impromptu dance party. (Well, not quite a dance party but if there had been a karaoke machine I am sure Pamela would have got something going!) We spent the afternoon returning to the basic templates that John gives in the teacher manual and then applying some of our sequencing concepts to that. I think it all came together nicely and people have a lot to work with.
I ended the day with a question about what people learned. I reflected on one of the major things I learned (again) is how much I enjoy teaching teacher training and how much I love teaching yoga. There really is so much to it and to doing it well- there is knowing the poses, knowing the method, working with different people's psychology (and my own!), enjoying the students and getting to know people on and off the mat, the different variables concerning where and when we teach and so on... Really, it is never dull and for me that is a great thing. No matter how "good" you get there is always a challenge because it is a dynamic endeavor. No matter how popular you are there will always be people who do not like you and/or your classes. So it is a great for boosting and humbling the ego. And because it is Anusara Yoga the best part is we are asked to remind each other and ourselves about great topics of the heart and spirit and stay tuned into the domain of grace no matter how we feel and no matter what is going on for us personally. I love that.
And if we are lucky and if we do our job right we help people along the way. We get to make the world a better place one pose at a time even if just for a brief moment when we help someone learn to go beyond their preconceived notions of themselves and their abilities, when they glimpse something good within themselves, and when yoga comes alive in the choices we make. What a job. It is truly beyond my wildest imaginings for myself.
Thanks to eveyone who came this weekend and made it such an inspirational experience!