Sunday, October 26, 2008


I realized I have been so busy I have not really checked in here. The weekend has been pretty full of the Southwest Yoga Conference. I taught there Friday afternoon which was a really lovely class. Most of the people attending my session had already done 4 hours of vinyasa yoga and so they were pretty wiped out by the time I got them. I kept it more mellow and instructional and it went quite well. It was really a respectful, easy-to-teach group. I was very pleased.

I came into town yesterday for Johnny's class which was fun. Also got a chance to sit in on some other sessions, hang out for a while with my friend Craig, and we had lunch with Laura and Raghurai which was fantastic. I ran into Michelle Acebo in her full Jivamukti regalia-- she was assisting David Life and Sharon Gannon and she was glowing. All in all, it was a really fun, mellow scene. And I got some cute clothes, which, as we know, is definitely a fun thing for Christina!

We had a scheduling confusion regarding my sessions today. I made plane reservation based on my contract which said I would be teaching at 10:30 in the morning. Then I looked online at the marketing info and it said I was teaching 2:30-4:30. And bummer because my tickets are 3:30. Anyway, it cost $1000 to change it so they are cancelling my class and reassigning my people. I was disappointed as it was a really fun thing to part of and I was really looking forward to teaching there.

Kelly and I are off to San Fransisco this week. We have some plans for some personal time together which we really need. I may or may not write much this week. It all just kind of depends how the week shapes up. Anne is teaching all my YY classes but the flow class on Thursday so check the YY schedule for that sub. And Hannah is filling in for me at 7th Street. Make sure to check that out because she will be back form Teacher Training with John and will probably be very inspired.

Okay then... Have a great day.

More soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Morning

I am drinking a delicious cup of chai that I just made, checking email, updating my Facebook page and now settling in to update my blog. Yesterday was a fantastic day. I managed to get a little work done and a good forward bend practice before heading up to Austin for my Seventh Street class. I have decided to keep teaching on Wendesday nights at 7th Street (at least through the end of the year) so I am really excited about that. I really love teaching there- the studio is beautiful, the students are super attentive and hard working and the whole scene is just very enjoyable for me. I am scheming a bit about Tuesdays and Thursdays for the new year but I have come to no firm conclusions yet. When I know, you will know.

So speaking of 7th Street Yoga, last night we worked with the theme of Inner Strength and Core Strength. I taught a standing pose flow with lots of one-legged balancing poses and lots of work to stablizes the torso with kidney loop and pelvic loop. We ended with a headstand and shoulderstand variation. It was a really great class, I thought and many people came up and told me that they enjoyed it.

I had the idea about core strength because when I was sitting in meditation yesterday I felt this magnetic rod of strength all the way through the center of my posture. I was like- "Wow! THE MIDLINE is a place of unwarvering strength." I literally felt myself anchored deeply and supported along my central axis in a tangible way while I sat. It felt as though I couldn't have gotten up even if I had wanted to. (As a side note, I am not the type of meditator who has visions, phenomena and so forth. I am the type of meditatior who sits with what arises--usually my chattering mind- and on most days eventually feels a sense of quiet that resides underneath the thoughts and so forth. So this was pretty unusual for me.)

Anyway, it also related to the idea I wrote about yesterday of staying anchored to practice no matter what is happening in our inner nad outer lives. The midline, that is, whatever we place in the center, whatever lives at the "very heart of the matter" for each of us, whatever it is that we choose to revolve around, etc. has the potential to be a source of unwavering strength. I find that my practices themselves are a real place of strength because my ideas, opinions and beliefs are pretty changing. My direct experience and understanding of certain truths actually changes and grows but I have been practicing asana and sitting in meditation for a long time- longer than I have believed any one thing, that is for sure. I am not suggesting this is how it is for anyone else, just how I see it for me today.

So, speaking of today, I am planning a strong asana practice (I am out of The Tent and ready to rock out a bit) and I need to finalize the flyer for Carlos Pomeda's visit to The San Marcos School of Yoga. Then I head into Austin for a therapy appointment, my classes at Westgate and a meeting afterwards with the Team Leaders for John's upcoming visit. All in all it looks like a pretty fun day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday Morning

Well, we had a lot of fun last night in Austin, didn't we? Can you say HIP OPENING? I had several emails yesterday from sisters in the Red Tent wanting to come to class but not wanting to do strenuous back bends and inversions. Being that I am also in the Red Tent this week, I felt somewhat inclined to shift the class focus toward a menstrual-compatible plan.

A 4:30, the hatha class worked a lot on inner and outer spiral in terms of hip opening toward ardha padmasana, arsha matsyendrasana 2 and a simhasana variation. That was good times. About 12 people double-dipped and walked down the hall with me to the advanced class at 6:00 for more fun with eka pada raja kapotasana hip openers the culminated in a pretty good expression of the full eka pada raja kapotasana backbend. Now you may be thinking to yourself, "she said on menstrual day, no strenuous back bending." And this is true, I did say that but we didn't do a strong back bending warm up that would have strained the abdomen. Mostly we prepared the hips and quads and then the upper back in pretty safe-for-menstruating way. No urdva danurasanas, no camels, no big standing poses like Vira One held for 2 minutes like we often do!

Since our Immersion group is making a foray into the Sutras of Patanjali, I have them on my mind a lot these days. So I talked a lot about being established in practice for my themes. At 4:30 we worked with the idea that practice is defined in the Sutras as being constant, long-standing and done with devotion. At 6:00 I talked about how in the yamas each one fo those injunctions is followed with a "promise" or boon that comes to the practitioner when they are established in the practice. For instance, when established in ahimsa, all others abandon hostility in our presence. When established in truth, all our words come into manifestation. When established in non-stealing, precious jewels come. In asana, when the foundation is established and rooted actively, we can rise up. So, like that.

This is a big deal deal for me right now as I have over the past few months been dealing with some personal issues and I am finding that even though I am in a bid of a void in terms of my inner life- falling into the abyss, so to speak, I have an anchor in my practices. So it is not always that yoga makes us happier per se. My experience is that life has ups and downs and if we can maintain a thread of practice through it all then we are established in certain principles of truth no matter what is happening, no matter how we may feel, no matter what psychological demons we are up against and so forth. Abandon practice in rough times and we are just adrift in the sea.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I had a great plan for my day yesterday that involved and accupuncture appointment, Matt's Ashtanga Class and Peggy's Advnaced Iyengar Yoga Class but I woke up and found myself in The Tent and so I changed my asana plans considerably. I still went for accupuncture, then had lunch with Kelly and then did a little shopping and ame home to lay on bolsters and organize my closets. (My version of the Red Tent involves nesting.)

I have very few profound things to write about today so I thought I would use this to give a few commercials for some up and coming fun events.

This weekend is the Southwest Yoga Conference right here in Austin, Texas. I am teaching two classes there. On Friday from 2:30-4:30 I am teaching an all-levels back bending class called The Shrine of the Heart. (also our own Craig Williams will be giving a talk on Saturday about the Cave of the Heart which will be a great philosophical and support for this asana practice. He is presenting at 10:30-12:30 on Saturday at the conference.) On Sunday I am teaching a rockin' inversions and arm balancing class called Inside Out and Upside Down from 2:30-4:30. So join me for this weekend. It promises to be a great time.

John Friend is coming to Town November 14-16th! He is going to be teaching asana on Saturday and Sunday and he is going to give a talk and have a kirtan with Dave Stringer on Friday night. Those details are getting finalized but reserve the date in your mind so that you can be part of the fun.

Carlos Pomeda is coming to The San Marcos School of Yoga December 6-7. Plan on a full weekend of teaching on The Bhagavad Gita. He will teach both morning and afternoon sessions and I will offer an asana practice on the breaks (for a donation) so we can move and integrate the teachings into our bodies. The Gita is considered a fundamental text and is crucial for understanding the history of yogic philosophy and practice. This is going to be a great weekend. Those of you who have been in the Immersion with me have gotten a chance to watch Carlos on video but he is even better live. Please join us for that. Registration details to come ASAP. (Plus rumor has it that Craig is going to teach a Gita course in '09 at YY and also Douglas Brooks' book on the Gita is coming out in '09 and so wow, think of the depth of knowledge you can get in the next year on this text alone!)

Also, don't forget that the first week of December in Tucson is Immersion 2 with me and Darren. This Immerison is perfect for anyone who has done PArt 1 and for anyone who wants to take a week to go deeper into asana and philsiphy. Darren and I are emphasizing asana in our Immersions and are dedicated to helping people make leaps and strides in their asana practice in one week. Come and play with us. It is going to be fantastic. Plus that Immersion includes a weekend with Paul Muller-Ortega which will be mind-blowing.

In 2009 I am offering an Immerison and Teacher Training program in Corpus Christi, Texas. This 200-hour program meets the standards for Yoga Alliance and all classroom hours count toward Anusara Yoga certification. The dates are outlined in the workshop column to the right and if you call or email Michelle she can get you more information and answer questions. We have 18-hour weekends planned with visits from Craig for Yoga Therapy, Mantra and Ayurveda and perhaps from Manorama for Sanskrit Studies. Yippee and Yahoo. Perfect for new and experienced teachers.

All right, more later. The commercial break is over.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Immersion Weekend

It was an Immersion Weekend again here in Austin. We are in the first weekend of the second section of the course. I started Saturday's session off with a pop quiz to see how much of the material I had covered in the first session actually "stuck". From what I could tell there wasn't the recall I had hoped for but I am not positive because when we went to review the material we got off on a discussion about tantra and "Is Anusara Yoga really tantra and if it isn't, then why do we say it is, and if it is, then isn't it kind of freaky to be associated with a branch of yogic practice that has people copulating in graveyards and so forth?"

So that was a long discussion, to say the least. I really think that Anusara Yoga philosphy is informed by Tantra and has its historical roots in those traditions but we are a unique and modern-day expression of certain (not all) tantric ideals here in the west within a pubic yoga system's (as opposed to an ashram or religion, etc.) context. WHEW! That is a string of distinctions to keep in mind but it boils down to:

1. We, in Ansuara Yoga are, in general, not Hindu, not East Indian, although we may be-- we are from all walks of life, religions and ethnicities who are practicing yoga but this style originated in America by an American who taught it mostly to Americans. (now we are world wide, but originally...)

2. We live in America in 2008, not India in 1008.

3. Anusara Yoga classes are opened to the general public and embrace all walks of life and hope not to isolate or scare anyone way who might benefit from our practice. AND we are dedicated to representing WITHOUT FAIL that yoga is a spiritual art, not simply an exercise regime.

4. Anusara Yoga philosophy, which has its historical influences in Kashmir Shaivism and the Shri Vidya tradition of South India, is both a synthesis of traditions and its own unique thing. Our use of the word Tantra is not limited to just what the word meant historically and although it may share some of those traits, it may not share all of them and it certainly will not be applied exactly the same way given the differences in cultural milieu.

5. One does not have to agree with all tenets of this philosophy (Or all aspects of the historical influences) to study said philosophies and to practice the asana and to teach Anusara Yoga with integrity.

After the review we did a ROCKIN' asana practice with arm balances woven in throughout the standing poses and forward bends. We finsished the day with pranayama.

On Sunday we got started with asana right away. We worked more on arm balances and went to backbends focusing the whole practice on intelligent work in the legs and balanced action. We worked our way to eka pada urdhva danurasana which went very well.

After asana and a long break we spent wome time with an intro to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, a video and a discussion. Next weekend we will do more with that so if you were not in class, then please get a copy of the Sutras and read the first two chapters before we meet again. Do not worry about understanding everything just get a sense of the flavor and the structure and flow of the thing.

OH and I will get a flyer out about this soon but make sure you reserve the date of the first wekend in December-- Carlos Pomeda is coming to teach at the San Marcos School of Yoga. More details to come soon. ell your friends, your family, your studnets- I want to pack the house!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bossy Yoga Teachers

I was in a meeting yesterday about some yoga business and one of the women in the meeting joked about how bossy people get attracted to teaching Anusara Yoga. She was kind of joking and good-heartedly teasing but you know, the thing is, that we do not call this "being bossy." We call it "taking the seat of the teacher." I explained to her that our certification standards actually require that the teacher be clearly in charge of the classroom. Not only is the certified teacher supposed to know all the right things to say about getting into and out of the poses, but they are supposed to make sure that their students are actually doing it. If all the right things came out of my mouth but none of my students were translating my instructions into their bodies, I would "fail the test." For instance, it is not enough for us as certified teachers to say, "Now everyone take your arm bones back." We are expected to look around, make sure people are doing it, help those who are not and we do not move forward until the first instruction is implemented well because all subsequent instructions are dependent on the groundwork being laid properly. I guess this is being bossy but I do not really look at it this way.

I got to thinking about who my first yoga teachers were. They were brilliant, long-time practitioners who, by the time I met them, had practiced yoga longer than I had been alive. They were so knowledgeable and so experienced that they really did know way more about my yoga than I did. I wanted nothing more from them but to be "bossed around" because their bossing me around yielded such fantastic results. Even to this day, I go to teachers who will tell me what to do based on the fact that they do know more than me. Never once, have I known more about my shoulder injury than John Friend. Never once has my own insight exceeded his about any pose. I am happy to be bossed around because he is, in that context, The Boss.

Douglas Brooks talks about this aspect of the teacher student relationship as deference. He suggests we make a conscious distinction between deference and submission. We can defer to someone, by choice, who knows more than us. This whole thing of "you know what is right for you" in terms of asana is a slippery slope, in my opinion. In the ultimate sense, that is true. We are our own teachers. But our ability to access the deepest wisdom within is contingent on many factors such as seeing ourselves clearly, understanding the vision of said task, having a true understanding of the pitfalls challenges and delusions that arise along the journey, etc.

So in terms of the average asana class we do need to be clear about whether we are not deferring because that person does not know more than us or if we are not deferring because we are unwilling for someone "to be the boss of us" for an hour. Allowing good teachers to be the boss of us can take years of our learning curve. It is just an expedient way to go. For instance, if I want to learn how to do a deep back bend, I am going to ask someone who can do it. I am going to rely on their testimony because they have travelled the path before me. Too often I hear people teach things in yoga that they cannot do and their information is only half the story because they have only made half of the journey.

And the funny thing is that most of the people I work with mentoring in Anusara Yoga are not bossy enough. A huge part of honing one's self as an Anusara Yoga teacher is eliminating words and phrases from our language like "if you want to", "if you can", see if you can", "if it feels right to you," "maybe add some tailbone" and so forth. In fact when I taught in front of John he suggested that I could be even more direct and he said I do not need to say "please". (And I am a pretty direct teacher, so give that some thought.)

One thing that I heard that BKS Iyengar said was that "When a student is in my class I want to control their mind for the whole time they are under my supervision." He didn't mean this as a control-freak thing or some "I have to boss people around because I am so insecure that I cannot deal with not being in charge". He meant it that if he was in charge of their minds, then he could direct their attention to the highest state of yoga and away from their smaller personality concerns. He could, for the time people were in his care, give them a break from themselves. That is all.

Now, I am not interested here in the argument about how "yoga is a time to come and do your own thing and just have your own time for yourself" and all that. I am not disagreeing with that approach to yoga. All I am saying is that is not an Anusara Yoga class. People come to our classes sometimes and wish we said less or which we just left people alone and that is just not our way. So the people who enjoy Anusara Yoga the most are the people who really want to come to learn how to improve and who can, for an hour or so, defer to some one's expertise. And the beauty of it all is that there are a lot of classes out there where the teacher will let you do your own thing and not get in your world at all so if you want that they are easy to find. But it is not really our way. I made the kind of progress I did in my practice because someone helped me and corrected me and showed me how I could break through my preconceived limits and false barriers. And it took more than a little bossing around!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the rant continues

From my email this morning about yesterday's post:

There are not many teachers of Anusara Yoga at Yoga Yoga.....I can only think of a handful. Anyways I've never heard any of them be disrespectful of other traditions in the classroom. I of course have not been to all their classes....But I am astonished and surprised, when I think of who teaches Anusara Yoga , that they would purposefully call out Ashtangi's and "shame" them.... I find it so very hard to believe that any of our teachers would "shame" anyone who comes into their class. If this is really happening, to the degree of intensity that you write, then I feel so sad. What I love about Yoga Yoga is our variety of styles with a strong thread of community. I'm just wondering if myself and other YY Anusara teachers enthusiasm for the system is sometimes mistaken for demanding conversion.

To be clear, my rant was in response to conversations I had on the road, not locally. I had several conversations with Ashtanga Yoga practitioners while I was on the road that really blew me away. Locally, YY fosters a lot of cross-pollination (another story, for another time!) and alot of respect across traditions.

Also I do want to be clear that if an Ashtanga practitioner comes to my class, I expect them to be my student for that class and to want to learn from me and to be willing to do it "my way" while they are in my class. I am not interested in catering to their expectation that what I am offering must fit into their format, etc. But that is another rant. (Like one time I had a student come to class and pretty much claim "it is not real yoga without 5 surya namaskar A's and 5 surya namaskar B's and the efficacy of the practice is destroyed with a demo" etc. But that is just one person's ignorance and not representative of the overall culture of YogaYoga (Or Ashtanga for that matter) which is really one of the most cohesive, cross-pollinated studios I have ever been part of.)

I also agree that the whole issue of "right" is a big thing and that there are typically several "right"answers. (See comments from yesterday where this got started.) Even for finite things like the body. For instance how Iyengar Yogi's go after opening the hips and how Anusara Yogi's go after opening the hips is both similar and different. Both agree that the femur needs to root and the groins need to descend and the femur needs to turn strongly from its set position. That is an agreement on the finite aspect of things- on the task at hand. But they disagree on means. How one actually does that, in what order and also about how they describe it is a bit different. And I think they are both right. There is more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. More than one right way to open the hips and get the finite job done.

Really, it is a big issue. The other thing to keep in mind is that sometimes alignment methods criticize breath-based methods for not aligning the body optimally. And alignment based methods get criticized for not emphasizing the breath and so forth. Both systems agree that the task at hand is to culture the consciousness through the means of the body and through the practice of asana. They just disagree on the primary technology of said culturing. A system like Ashtanga emphasizes a kind of "absorption with the breath, gaze and movement" to get after the mind and a system like Iyengar Yoga emphasizes "bringing the consciousness into the body through precise, skillful actions of penetration." And so forth. Each method does what it is setting out to do brilliantly. Both methods arrive at a "Culturing of the Being" brilliantly. They can both be right.

Another example of this, from Iyengar Yoga Land and Gabriella Gubilarro when she was teaching in Austin. She was teaching back bends and someone went into a forward bend mid-practice. She stopped the class and gave a lovely teaching about how, in Iyengar Yoga, they do not do that. They are trying to do back bends without heating the body and repeatedly bending forward and backwards heats the body. She compared it to other methods who use forward and back bending throughout their practice for the sole purpose of heating the body. (think Ashtanga, think Bikram.) I thought this was brilliant. I mean you can debate all day whether or not the body should get heated or not, but her basic stance was that it should not and she was using finite, skillful means to move in integrity with said vision. In Ashtanga, they believe the heat is the purificatory means and so they are moving forward (and backwards!) skillfully to that end. In Anusara Yoga we think sometimes one should heat and sometimes one should not- that it depends!

Anusara actually adds a different component to the whole formula because we actually see our yogic task as not simply stilling the mind but "knowing the self and expressing the knowledge". We are actually endeavoring to celebrate and express through the medium of the body, not simply to still the mind. And while our philosophies agree that one way to know the self is through a still mind, they also teach us that another equally valid way to know the self is through its disturbances. Another way to know the self is in relationship to others. And so on.

So my rant from yesterday is not really as much a debate about methods, as much as it was an impassioned plea for teachers to keep psychology in mind when we teach. It is kind of teacher training piece, really. How often do new Anusara Yoga teachers ask me "how do you get people to want to learn the alignment?" Invariably new Anusara Yoga teachers are teaching alignment with an emphasis on "this is the right way" or "do it this way or you will get hurt." My point is that for people who care about doing something the "right way" this will work, but not for the rebels and free-thinkers in the room.

For those people already injured or injured previously, the threat of injury will work, but not for the people with high pain thresholds, or who are young and have never been hurt, or for people who do not expect to live without pain.

My point is you can also inspire people to use the UPA's by showing them how the alignment takes you deeper into poses and how it can help you advance your practice. (This will not work if you, as a teacher, have not advanced your own practice in this way, however, so get to work on the level 2 and 3 syllabus if you haven't!) And it will not work with people who have no interest in advanced postures. For instance don't tell the average 68-year old student new to yoga that if they can really get a good shoulder loop, they can do a drop back. That will not typically inspire them! (I learned this the hard way, by the way.) Talk to them about having a strong back, facing the future with resiliency, dignity and an open heart.

My point is however, that something will inspire each person in the room and it will not always be the things that inspire us. If we are not getting results from our students- if they are not moving closer and closer to optimal alignment in our classes-- maybe it is partly because we have not found the right thing to inspire them. (And they have to meet us half way of course. It is not all up to us by any means.)

okay, another long entry and I have inspired myself to want to go practice yet again. I like it all- the flow, the breath, the precision, the tricks, the basics, the celebration, the introspection. The joy of it goes on and on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Personal Day

I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized I have been "on duty" for 21 days straight. "Well," I thought to myself, "that explains a lot- the fatigue, the crankiness, the general feeling of overwhelm. Perhaps a day off is in order. Maybe Anne will teach for you on Tuesday night." (She did say "yes" and now I am looking at a day to myself stretching out before me in a luxurious way. Oh, joy. Oh, delight of delights. I will be at 7th street tomorrow night and at YY on Thursday night, refreshed, clear and ready to rock. Count on it.)

Yesterday was a day off of sorts. I went to Austin and took Matt's noon Ashtanga class which was fantastic. I almost didn't go because I was so tired and I thought, Maybe Ashtanga will further fatigue me but I went ahead with my plan to go to class and it was the perfect thing to do. The mood was mellow and soft yet my practice was so deep and revitalizing. I got into poses with ease and Matt gave me some wonderful assists and a great pointer about jumping through from dandasana to chataranga and from adho mukha svanasana to dandasana.

Being in the T-rex club (having short arms, that is) I usually compensate on those jump through's by coming up on my ridge tops. I was able yesterday to break from that strategy going from adho mukha svanasana to dandasana. After class Matt gave me some pointers to apply in reverse. The whole thing is really in the angle of the upper body and the height in the hips. I did it several times and now I know more about "how" and so "hope is out of the equation." How fun.

The other thing I discovered in practice yesterday is how to make urdhva danurasana workable in the Ashtanga Vinyasa sequence. Normally, my back bends in that sequence feel lousy because after all the forward bending and chataranga's my upper back isn't opened sufficiently to get a good upper back back bend like I am used to. So- yesterday I used all the work we have been doing lately to keep the legs active and to stabilize the position of the pelvis on the way up and lo and behold--FREEDOM. Makes sense. After all that forward bending one must release the psoas before the thoracic spine is going to open up. So my new strategy is to stop asking for the usual upper back back bend, get my legs to root more dynamically and go from there.

It was a glorious practice and I left refreshed, not fatigued. In fact, I barely broke a sweat- just a nice layer of moisture over my skin. Ashtanga was really the perfect thing to do yesterday.

This also beings me to a small rant I have about Anusara Yoga teachers out there I have been hearing about who shame Ashtanga practitioners who come to their classes. I have been hearing about this with alarming frequency lately in fact, all over the country. All I want to say about that, is that if someone comes to your Ansuara Yoga class from another method, stop trying to convert them to Anusara Yoga by criticizing their method of practice and stop trying to demand they convert solely to practice Anusara Yoga. Just show them how our principles can make them better at what they want to do. We really welcome everyone, we really do. We do not need everyone to "sign up" 100%. We really can endeavor to help people as much as we can relative to their level of interest.

Now having said that, if someone is not doing what we are saying we cannot be of help so we do need to educate people in "our way" in order to help them. But, for instance, there should be no conflict for us as teachers or for our students that someone wants to come to Anusara Yoga twice a week just to learn how to keep themselves safer in Ashtanga or to learn how to do some of the tricks that are in the second and third series. We are really good at breaking all of that stuff down which is hard to do in the average Asthanga practice. Plus, our sequencing methods can open certain poses a little faster than the sequencing of Ashtanga. Then you take the opening back to Ashtanga, and voila- breakthroughs abound.

Also, I love going to Iyengar classes for the same reason. They break things down so far that I gain even more clarity from them about our method and the UPA's. Then with that clarity and precision from "going slow" I can go back to Anusara's more medium-paced practice and be better and stronger and more skillful. I have never watched a demo in an Iyengar class and been unable to hang their details on our framework. Always, I am like- "Oh right, that is a subtle aspect of Inner Spiral." Or "Oh wow, organic energy." etc.

Yoga traditions have always had lots of collaboration and influence on one another. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. A lot of the seemingly separate yoga traditions are actually distinctions that have been applied after the fact. Historically, the Buddhists were talking with the Hindus and the Jains and there was lots of cross pollination and synthesis and so forth. (You can see this very clearly in Patanjali's sutras when he talks about maitri, karuna, upekshanam and mudita) And when the Tantric traditions were emerging they were not calling themselves tantrikas. The academics came along after the fact and assigned that designation to the schools who had certain similar characteristics in their approach. And so on.

I have actually begun to wonder if our zeal to be so exclusive has to do with a Christian "only one God, only one way" kind of cultural bias. We tend, it seems to me, as Western practitioners to be either fundamental zealots-- loyal to and defending one way-- or rebelling from any one method and combining things with no discrimination and commitment to tradition. (Obviously, this is a generalization that may or may not apply to the members of my very educated, discerning and skillful readership. Really, this is not a personal indictment, just a thought based on some conversations I have been having out there in the world of teaching yoga on the road.)

Now, having said all of that, I do believe that if you really want to learn something, a period of Immersion into it can be helpful. When I really wanted to learn Anusara Yoga, I dedicated myself to it very whole-heartedly and exclusively. Once I became really anchored in its practices and principles I branched back out. I avoided a lot of confusion this way and I also learned fist hand of Anusara Yoga's efficacy's and shortcomings. And, for instance, while I love visiting Ashtanga Vinyasa Land, I am under no delusion that I really understand it because I am not really committed to it. I am visitor- an enthusiastic guest- who enjoys the sharing in the love of practice, the rigor, the consistency and so forth of people who practice in that style.

I could go on but enough already. My sincere wish is that we, as people who love Anusara Yoga, are not, in our enthusiasm for "our way" creating environments that are closed to people who do not want to drink the kool aid. I mean, really, if someone ever feels like they have to hide who they really are in our classes (For instance, they feel like they have to pretend they have a primary allegiance with our style when they really do not or they feel like they have to pretend to believe in Shiva rather than Jesus and so on) then we are creating a less-than-optimal atmosphere.

And one more impassioned plea to Anusara Yoga teachers everywhere. Stop telling the Ashtanga Vinyasa people that if they do not do it "our way" they are going to injure themselves. (Really. I mean it. Stop it.) Committed, dedicated Ashtanga Yoga practitioners have the highest pain threshold of any group of practitioners out there. Look at their practice! You tell them they might get hurt if they do it "wrong" and they are like, "Whatever... I can take it, you wimpy person who cannot even do 108 chataranga jump through's! What the hell do you know?" (I am smiling here and teasing us all- so relax!) But really, do consider changing your tactics. Show the Ashtanga Yoga practitioner how the UPA's can advance their practice and how alignment will not slow them down but will actually take them further over time and "take hope out of the equation." Show them how it is worth the investment.

Okay, enough said- off to practice.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On my way home

The workshop went so well. We had a strong arm balancing class this morning which was really fun. People did really well and made lots of improvements on the poses and learned some new ways to approach these challenging postures. I have more I could say aboutthe day but I am pretty darn tired nw. I am looking forward to seeing my own house and sleeping in my own bed for a while. No more trips until Thanksgiving. (Well, maybe one to Arizona, but not to teach.)

I am ready to get back home but have a fair amount of time to wait in the ariport. I have been entertaining myself with Facebook- finding all kinds of High School friends on there which is kind of amusing. It is a veritable Chapel Hill High School reunion there. Kind of fun stuff.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Saturday in Mississippi

I am in Hattiesburg, Mississippi teaching at my friend Tammy Brahan's awesome yoga studio. Tammy is such a great lady. I taught in Hattiesburg over a year ago and she and I had never met but she had read my book and invited me to teach here. We became fast friends, staying up too late at night and talking about life, yoga, relationships and authentic living. As soon as we saw each other this time, it was the same- like no time had passed, we jumped into the thick of "all that is going on." It is cool to have connections like this. For me they are at the heart of what Anusara Yoga has given me.

So, it may be obvious, but I have not written a lot because I have been in a bit of a whirlwind. I got home on Wednesday and taught that night and then Thursday was full of laundry, packing, a therapy appointment, my classes at Westgate, and an organizational meeting regarding Juan Amigo's upcoming visit. WOW. (Jesse, Alice, Brigitte, me and Kelly were all there and so that is we became the chair people of the committee. Stay tuned, because they are in charge of further reorganizing all of us and soliciting specific help from you all!)

Then on Friday at 6:30am I left for the airport to fly to Mississippi. Class went well last night. I am working all weekend with the "Building a Temple of the Body the Theme." So we began last night with foundations and working with basics of Inner and Outer Spiral to make a solid foundation in the hips. (yes, those of you following the method I could have worked with Open to Grace and Set the Foundation and I did that also but I really wanted to do a good hip opening class and so Inner and Outer Spiral was a must.)

This morning's class will be a basic standing pose class headed towards introductory back bends. I think this afternoon we get into inversions and forward bends. Like many workshops the group is mixed level and mixed in experience. Lots of folks there attend classes regularly at Tammy's studio and lots do not. So, like always, I endeavor to teach to the middle- while giving some advances options and some modifications. Always fun. Always challenging.

Also, tonight is a potluck, which is always a fun cultural experience in the Deep South. For instance, who knew cornbread could be made into salad? Not me. But last year someone brought cornbread salad, which is, I was told, a very common Mississippi dish and supposedly quite tasty. I did not sample it due to the bacon bits involved but in general, bacon bits, if you eat them, do make most things taste good and I do like cornbread. (For me, though, hot with butter and honey is the way to eat it. YUM)

I think I am going to have to do a whole potluck entry sometime. Like in Tucson, lots of vegan and raw food options abound. I bet you could use a potluck as a kind of Rorschach analysis of the group or local kula... (What does this say about the potluck we had in San Marcos where all we had were cookies? Or about our recent potluck competition that got started on the blog?)

Well, I just do not have the time to dive into that further. I must bathe and get ready to teach.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dropping Back, Moving Forward

We finished the last morning of the Immersion with a rousing back bend class taught by me and Darren in tag-team style, alternating back and forth teaching pose to pose for the first half of class. Even though the group was really tired, they rallied their energy and really went for it. The afternoon was a potpourri of yoga philosophy, inversion practice, review and sharing. It was a very inspiring day. I loved seeing how every one's asana practice had progressed and even more thrilling than that was to see how deeply into their hearts everyone had gone. It was a really strong week of transformation for us all. I love the week-long Immersion format. It is my favorite format officially. A week can really change your life.

Me and Darren with a few opening remarks...
Using the head to open the heart...
Terry, dropping back...

Kat, dropping back...

Tanya, dropping back...
Lori, going back... Alone! Lori at the beginning of the week had set this as a year-long goal for herself. Well, she bent time and did it on the last day. We had other first time dropper backers also- Kat and Amanda...(Catherine, you are next. It is time.)

Amanda, with help...

Amanda, on her own...
Catherine and Dana...
Catherine and Amanda...

I got home to Austin around 2:00, Kelly and I Went for lunch at Whole Foods and then a walk around Town Lake. Then I taught my class at 7th Street Yoga and we went out for Samosas at the Clay Pit. Yum! I was pretty darn tired by the time we got home and so after putting in some laundry we went to bed.

Okay then, off to practice now before my afternoon in Austin.

Monday, October 6, 2008

More Immersion Photos

Here are a few (well, more than a few pictures) from the week. (Thanks, Catherine. Lots of these are from her camera.) Okay well, lots could be said about the day today but I am a bit too tired to put words to it all. It has beena very ful week. I cannotbeleive tomorrow is our lsat day together. It is amazing how far everyone has come and how cohesive the group has become. It has been a really inspiring week.

Scenes from practice...

Rooting the femurs back... The utanasana lesson...

Rachel in ustrasana.... Kat, getting an experiential answer to her very timely question of "how do I activate my back leg in janu sirsasana?"

Darren steping in to point out kidney loop in eka pada rajakapotasana prep...
Amanda, full natrajrasana with a little help... Melt MORE, Miriam...

Karen, pinca mayurasana demo Darren, pointing out "reverse kidney and pelvic loops"
Darren, pointing out "With loops flowing the optimal way"
Jane, loving (sort of) baddha konasana... Mark, with a break through baddha konasana. He started with his knees way higher than his hips and then voila- apply the principles and see the magic happen.

Scott, kandasana-- this is a very subtle hip opener...
me, ustrasana demo... me, working with Amanda in sarvangasana
Now for the scenes from the potluck-- We had a potluck Sunday night. We all agreed it was one of the best yoga potlucks ever. I personally think it hard to beat the Prescott Yoga potlucks we used to have at Prescott Coffee Roasters. (Back me up on this one, Prescott readers...) They were the best ever- but that is a ridiculously high standard to set so for all practical purposes of comparison, this one ranked right up there. People brought real food and lots of it was homemade and super tasty vegan faire. Yum.

The group...

Amanda and Scott

Matt on the crystal bed... Johnny...
Me, eating a fantastic curry...

Darren with a full belly of yummy food...

Miriam, Lori, James..
More soon!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Notes from Day 3

So we had another good day at the Immersion.

I began the day with short talk about the 3 A's of Ansuara Yoga and how they also apply to three basic personality types that practice yoga. In Anusara Yoga we have 3 primary components that exist in each pose and every class. They are called the 3 A's - Attitude, Alignment and Action. Attitude is "Why" we practice. The deep mood we bring to practice, the energy that fuels our efforts and gives meaning to our endeavor. Alignment is the knowledge of 'how" to practice. We may want to align with Grace but if we do not how grace functions and how we might best function in relationship to Grace then we are going to be without some very important information. Action is, as the name implies, the doing of the thing in a skillful, balanced way.

From my own experience as a yoga teacher for over 10 years, I have realized that there are also 3 basic types of people who practice yoga. I call them the poet/mystics, the engineers and the athletes. The poet/mystics are the ones who want to chant more than do chataranga, who love it when you read Rumi or Hafiz poetry in class and are content to do just about anything you ask so long as there is a lot of pranayama, meditation and savasana included.

The engineers are the ones who also ask questions about 'The right way" and "exactly what muscles we are using" and "what is the angle of the leg precisely" and "where does my head go in this pose" and "what is the degree of torque I apply in my twist" and so forth. They do not mind starting and stopping, they love demos, anatomy lessons and they always write down the sequences and the links from the pose to pose.

The athletes could care less about Rumi, hate to watch demos and just want to do the yoga and wish we would stop talking already because it is interrupting their flow. They like to move and will figure out how later- maybe. Tell an athlete that if they do not watch the demo they might get hurt they will tell you, "I can handle the pain, let's get on with it." They are energetic, vital and disciplined types.

Darren taught the morning asana class which was a rousing introduction to Inner and Outer Spiral. He set the class up with a very inspiring talk about transformation and wanting change and wanting progress through asana. That is one thing I love about hanging out with Darren is that his love for asana and for the asana practice- not as a way to just stay the same, but as a way to transform and grow- is so palpable. It is very inspiring to be around.

In class Darren worked a lot with the human pez dispenser teaching tool and taught a lot of the class with the block between people's legs for feedback and increasing awareness.

After lunch we started with some questions and Terry asked if the 3 types of people who practice yoga might relate to the elements. Which led me into an impromptu discussion of the three gunas, the three doshas and how they relate to the the three A's, the nature of the Absolute and the 3 personality types I outlined. Then I led a forward bending, hip opening class to continue the Inner and Outer Spiral work. People worked so hard and so diligently throughout the day. It was so great to see people really working tangibly with the 3 A's and really nudging up against their limits.

Bronwin came and sang to the group during their much needed savasana. All in all a great day.

Darren, Bronwin and I met my friend James for dinner which was great. James is a great Anusara Yoga teacher who lives in Tucson and was a student and friend of mine for years in Prescott. I love him a lot and it was great to hang out a bit.

On the way home from that I got totally lost. My cell phone was dead, I had no street address of Darren's house, no phone number for anyone, there are very few pay phones any more so finding a pay phone was hard. When I finally did, the number for Darren had a full voice mail and so that was futile. I was at a Barrio market making the call when the police showed up and I realized the place had actually been broken into and so that was a little disconcerting in the midst of it all. Anyway it took me 3 hours to get home and it really sucked. As I was driving around in circles and getting increasingly frustrated and tired, I got more and more upset and then had a total hysterical breakdown. After I stopped sobbing I actually did feel a lot better so maybe I just needed a good, cleansing cry. Who knows.

Anyway- Kelly helped me contact Darren and then Bronwin came and picked me up and then we all had a cup of tea and went to bed. I slept like a rock.

All right then- back at it. Day 4 today.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Scenes from Day Two

More details to come. I ahve run out of time to write this morning. But we had a great day looking at the Primary Flows of Energy and tlaking about Spanda!