Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday Morning

Yesterday I spent getting my thoughts together for the Immersion and also packing for Park City. Inspired by my trip to Denver with Meg where we cooked kicharee everyday in our hotel room, I am taking a veritable kitchen cabinet with me to Park City- I got my Ayurvedic spices together, rinsed and dried my dal, measured my rice, my ghee, my tea, gathered all my supplements and then packed my clothes. I decided not to pack my mini rice cooker since the condo I am staying in has a fully equipped kitchen and my bag was already getting quite full. Anyway- maintaining a wholesome diet when travelling makes a huge difference- body, mind and spirit just stay more in tune and aligned.

It is weird because for so many years travelling was this "excuse" to indulge in food and/or behaviors that I knew were not good for me. What has happened in the last few years is that I so love my regime of self-care that I find I am looking for ways to "Stay on the program" rather than excuses to go off of it. Something in the last few years has really shifted for me and it relates to the self-love theme. Eating a certain way, maintaining a meditation and pranayama practice and so on are really acts of love. Going off the program is not a reward. Why would I reward myself with things that do not uplift me? Makes no logical sense at all but for years that was my orientation to my practice.

And like I said earlier the dynamic has shifted for me over the years. Somewhere along the line I just wanted different things for myself. I stopped liking the feeling of being altered with alcohol, full with unhealthy food, strung out from not being centered, wired from too much coffee and so on. It is not that I am rigid or anything about what I eat and how I manage myself when I travel because that is just the other side of the same coin. One my be fluid to deal with a live of travel. But now I think- wow, eating healthily and practicing while on the road is worth my time and attention and planning because I AM WORTH MY TIME, ATTENTION AND PLANNING. I am worth caring for. I am worth tending to. I am worth a life of Practice. So this shift makes all the difference in the world.

Recent studies have shown that we only have so much will power we can ever use. So, for instance, if you resist the candy bar at 5:00pm through some great effort of will then your will for the day is shot and you will not be able to resist the dessert tray when it comes along around 7pm. (Or whatever the thing is for you.) The only real way that we can integrate new patterns is by allowing what it is that we want to change and cultivating that change through our practices and intentions like by making moderate choices within those things that we might try to staunch out with will power. For instance, one ounce of chocolate is one thing. A huge candy bar is another. An occasional ice cream cone is not making anyone fat and so on.

Obviously it is not just about food but our other practices as well. I remember one time someone said to me when I was going on vacation, "Oh it will be so great- you can take time off from doing any yoga and just relax." I remember the notion being absurd to me. I mean, I can barely relax with yoga in my life. The only way I could relax without it would be with a sedative! And why would I stop doing something that I love because I was on vacation? To me, vacation is "Oh thank God, I have more time to practice!" (And then there is the whole notion that I am so much nicer with asana in my life and really, I do this for others as much as myself!)

So anyway- I have half a suitcase full of ways to take care of myself on the trip- not to mention making kicharee in a hotel room saves a ton of money!! My friend Sundari and I have a dinner date on Monday after we first arrive and then she will take me to the store that night for veggies, milk and so on. Sundari is an awesome woman and a long-time certified teacher who I am trying to convince to move to Austin. Well, that is only part of the story but anyway- she is without a home town right now and I said, "Texas is really fun and we need more certified teachers to help all these people get certified and implement my plan of world domination." She also likes Vancouver a lot so all you Canadians, I will put a plug in for that also!

Anyhoo- it is the final weekend of our Immersion, which is really thrilling. We have a good strong asana practice to look forward to today and then from 3-6 Craig will talk to us about Yoga Anatomy and whatever else he feel inspired to share about. I can't wait.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Morning

So- I love teaching my Thursday night classes and last night was really no different. We worked with back bends at 4:30 and wow- we just really needed more time. We got into dwi pada viparita dandasana with the head up and chest to the wall quite nicely. That has really come along. I remember the first time I introduced that in class that it was really hard for people. And almost everyone in the room does it now without a lot of problems.

So, now that we have that, we need to work with the classic form of that pose which is the head down and the legs out straight and together. This variation asks for a lot more bend in the upper middle back and also the skill in the legs to keep the pain out of the sacrum is very essential. And we just needed more time to work through the challenges that arise with the classic form. And it would have been helpful to have some intermediate steps from head up and chest to the wall to the full pose. So now I have some ideas of what we need to do over the summer to get the skills built up so that this pose is a regular part of our repertoire. The thing is once you have the head down variation sorted out then headstand drop overs are easier and you can start to work on going from dwi pada viparita dandasana back to headstand. (Have you noticed the theme here? Get this one thing- now do this. Oh and now that you can do this, let's work on something even harder. Oh great, you can do that, well, try this.) Also the place in the back that bends in the classic form is a place that has to bend for the advanced back bends like eka pada raja kapotasana and even for scorpion so leaving it unattended is just not the way to go.

Here is the longer sequence that yesterday's class is pulled from. This one is much longer than what we did in class yesterday but would be great for a two-hour home practice. Or maybe for the Immersion this weekend....

Child's Pose
Down Dog
trikonasana 2X
parsvakonasana 2X
parsvottansana, Backbend stage only
vira 1
prasarita padottanasana 2X
urdhva mukha svasana 3X
shalabasana 3X
danurasana 3X
parsva danurasana 2X
urdhva danurasana 6X
dwi pada viparita dandasana 3X
supta baddha konasana
adho mukha swastikasana
parsva adho mukha swastikasana
baradvajasana 3X
pascimottanasana, legs wide 2X
setu bandasana, sacrum on block
padanhastasana in setu bandasana
chatush padasana
ardha halasana

So anyway, the4:30 class worked super hard and I ruined my streak of getting out of class semi-on time and fell back into my pattern of a dysfunctional relationship with Matt the 6:00 Ashtanga teacher. (Matt, a very nice guy, pretends not to mind that I run late, I pretend not to notice that he really does mind. I make promises to change and then I don't. I continue my poor behavior and he continues not to confront me on it. See- very dysfunctional. )

The 6:00 class was nice and full although now that Caroline no longer works the front desk I have to tell Laura that my classes are never full- I will find room for whoever shows up. She turned people away last night and I ran into one of the people she turned away in the hallway who told me that she had been told she could not come in. So I looked at Laura and I said, "We have plenty of room." She said, "You have over 21 people in there" to which I replied, "I have put 33 in here before. " So anyway, in my book we were far from full.

We worked on kidney loop and pelvic loop and applying them to twists. (revolved child's pose, parivritta parsvakonasana, maricyasana 3) It was a fun class and people made lots of progress throughout the class. Anne made her Maricyasana 3 clasp on one side (her New Years resolution pose). Jeremiah came to observe. (What a student-he takes the 4:30 class, then observed the 6:00 and then he stayed to teach his own class at 7:15. )

Child's Pose
Down Dog
utkatasana 3X
Crescent pose
Crescent pose in the front plane
revolved childs pose 3X
Vira One
revolved parsvakonasana
setu bandhasana
revolved parsvakonasana
maricyasana 3 2X

We worked with the theme of Purna in both class, which conclude our six-week session on The Six Attributes of the Absolute. Purna is perfection or fullness and points us to that part of ourselves that lacks nothing. Rather than perfection being a lack of fault, in this model, perfection is the fullness of Essence. At the Highest Level, that is the nature of the Absolute. It is Full. It is Perfect. It lacks nothing. And like all the other attributes, this Fullness gets cloaked and hidden and so that by the time we are in bodies and in lives, we perceive that we are in need of things to complete us- (food, clothes, jobs, excitement, etc. you name it.) This cloaking actually creates longing within us because we perceive lack and so then we long to return to Fullness and therefore we WANT.

The cool thing to me is that as we pull on the thread of the longing and its many faces we can see that what we are really longing for (in my opinion) is a life of dignity, a true experience of our Fullness and the many manifestations of embodied Love. So anyway- hopefully yoga practice helps us glimpse a little of that Fullness, a little of the Beauty that lacks nothing and that lives within us as us.

Karuna, Jen, Kelly, Anne, Mark, Katherine, Susan, Mandy, Jesse, and Meg all double -dipped. Oh and Katherine brought eggs. $4/doz for organic fresh eggs. Can't beat it.

Okay- so enough for today. Off to walk the dogs.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wednesday night

I had a nice and relaxing day. It started at 7 with an online chat about Vedanta with Carols Pomeda and our study group. I have gotten a little behind on this section of studies and so I was not super prepared for the Q &A this morning although I found it interesting and Carlos brilliant, as always.

Anne came down after that for a practice We practiced this excellent sequence from Geeta Iyengar which was a ton of deep forward bends like malasana and kurmasana that worked their way through to some awesome-feeling back bends. It is one of those fabulous sequences that gets you to the poses in an unusual manner. I just love that. I probably would never teach it because it is so different and the intricate linking that makes it so fabulous requires way more time and attention than what we can do in a general class in 1.25 hours but I love this sequence for my practice. In fact, I love any back bend sequence that does not require I run through a big sweaty thing to get ready. I love to prepare for back bends in ways that keep me mellow. I am not looking at the paper that the sequence is written on right now but it went something like this:

Child's pose
childs pose
childs pose
kurmasana 6 X
dwi hasta bhujasana
dwi hasta bhujasana
down dog
sirsasana 2
sirsasana 2
ustrasana 2X
purvottanasana 3X
urdhva danurasana 2X
chatush padasana 2X
urdhva danurasana 3X
dwi pada viparita dandasana 2X
Down dog
parsva uttanasana
adho mukha swastikasana and parsva
viparita karani

It was great fun. We both loved it. Well, the effects anyway. All that malasana right off the bat is reasonably grueling. Let's just tell the truth about that!

Then we had lunch- pasta primavera with our Greenlings organic veggies. YUM! Kelly and I swam in the river once our meal settled and then we both did some work. He had studying and I had things to get ready to go for the weekend and the week after. I teach all weekend and then get on a plane on Monday morning to spend a week in Park City, Utah for a Yoga Therapy training with John. Can't wait.

Then we had dinner- I made cucumber soup- fresh organic cucumbers and the local milk which is so damn good I cannot even describe it. Yummy. Kelly made some bread to go with it and then I had a nice long chat with Mom and Dad. A great day all in all. It really felt like summer.

More tomorrow. Back bends at 4:30 and something not-back bends at 6:00! Fun, fun.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Message

Mandy wrote such a thoughtful response to my last post that I figured I might at least post some musings on the topic of Teaching Heart Themes and Philosophy. So if you did not read my post yesterday or if you did not read Mandy's comment, you might want to as it is "The Back Story."

The thing about teaching Anusara Yoga is that there is no one way to do it although there are certainly guidelines and there are certainly things that are not Anusara Yoga. As far as a theme goes, as long as it boils down to the two main reasons we practice Anusara Yoga then you are golden. (What are the two reasons? Repeat after me- CHIT know the self and ANANDA delight in that knowledge.) So you can start in the Universal domain with things like the tattvas and end up in the personal domain with taking your thighs back or loving yourself or mindfulness. Or you can start in the personal and end up in the Universal. Really- either way is fine. Part of what we want to do as teachers is to be skillful about navigating these domains and tying them together in ways that are meaningful as well as practical. But the field is really wide open. After all when John was in Seattle this year, his theme was Game Day. (It was Super Bowl weekend.) But everyone who was there said it was some of his most brilliant, Highest teaching ever. (Of course. he is the master at this. After all, this is his method!)

I personally think that it is a terrible trend in our method that we have so much heavy duty philosophy being taught in classes and workshops that people think they have to go get a doctorate just to teach Anusara Yoga. Even worse is that are students are starting to feel like they need a doctorate just to take our classes! However, I personally prefer to teach from a Universal theme more often than a personal theme and I actually prefer to take classes that are taught from there in general. But that is Christina Sell- not Anusara Yoga. Interview another teacher and they might say that they prefer to teach from the personal. Again, there is no one way. Personal style is part of the fun of it.

And part of my experiment with the weekend in Calgary was developing a broader range of personal style. One of the reasons I actually got started teaching from the Universal more often is because when I first started teaching themes all those years ago, I actually had people argue with me or want to have a discussion about it rather than just listen. My students in the room would actually pipe up and say, "Well, I really do not see it that way" or "to me acceptance is more like this" and so on. So much of how I saw yoga and how it related to me personally did not make sense so I found that it was actually easier for me to teach "this is what the philosophy says" as opposed to "this is what Christina Sell believes" . It just went better. (There is more I could write about why all this "group sharing" happened but well, my point being is that out of this experience, grew a personal style.)

Also, as a kind of recovering cynic, I never really "bought" the whole rhetoric of Anusara Yoga until I learned that it had deep philosophical roots. It just put my BS hackles up being told "its all good" and "Open Your Heart" and so on. But once I saw that the happy, heart-based language and all that was really a philosophy made simple and accessible, I relaxed. When I was shown the way that our method is a philosophy embodied, then I was intrigued because now it wasn't New Age drivel, it was the embodiment of the dharma. For instance Melting the Heart is not just some kind of nice sentiment- it is actually a meditation technique where we allow the fire of consciousness that resides in the heart to melt away our crystallized beliefs, ignorances and so on. (Paul Mueller Ortega referred to this process a lot in his talks on the Shiva Sutras in Denver. He was more elegant about his description than me, however!)

The other thing is that I started teaching yoga after being a psychotherapist for years and really, at that time I did not want to deal in much of anything very psychological.

My point is- all kinds of things determine our personal style. Also- there is the fact that there is a shakti, a power, in simple words when they are backed by a personal knowledge of the philosophy and with deep personal practice and inquiry. This is why Game Day could kick ass as a theme because it wasn't just a simple message to John, it carried a kind of potency because it was contextualized so deeply in the Universal and in his relationship to what he was saying.

And this is part of another point and that is that we have to look at teaching The Anusara Yoga Message and our own personal message over a long period of time and within the context of our own practice. I mean really- it is an investment on both ends-the teacher's and the student's. Our method simply cannot be understood overnight and its elegant integration cannot be experienced, perceived, etc. quickly. So, why feel like we have to convey all of it in one class? There is no way. A public asana class is a forum for getting people moving, teaching the poses, teaching the alignment methodology and doing that with a heart-based or philosophically-based theme that connects people to their intrinsic goodness.

Now the other thing is that public classes vary a lot situation to situation. Teaching at YogaYoga for instance, in 1.25 hour segments with a lot of new people every time lends itself to one kind of teaching and therefore one kind of expression of Anusara Yoga. And teaching the same group of students over a long period of time in an Anusara Yoga studio lends itself to a different kind of teaching. For instance all of the alignment I teach in an Immersion I learned in classes from Des and in workshops from John - not from an Immersion. But now we have Immersions for that. So the thing is-- it just depends as to what forum is best for what. (But this is another long story as this issue is arising at the level of curriculum development and I am on that committee.)

Now on a side note--and be ready for this in Teacher Training because I am very opinionated on this- I never, ever, ever in a million years assume that a beginner is not interested in philosophy or about the deeper aspects of the practice. I never assume that because someone is new to asana that they do not have an inner life, that they have not contemplated the meaning of life and that they are not interested in learning about our philosophy. One of my biggest pet peeves is when some teacher meets me for the first time and they assume that I have little self- awareness or self-knowledge or experience just because they have not been there to witness it. So we really just have no idea what our students are bringing to the experience.

Now- the more I write about this (and believe me I could keep writing about all that is involved with teaching Ansuara Yoga) I realize that the thing is -- and this, I think, was the point of Mandy's comment and my post yesterday- really, all we are ever teaching is who we are and what we are learning. That is what I think Des was getting at, what I am thinking about these days and what Mandy was musing about. I think the "message in the message" is the message.

My personal opinion is that if our own personal message doesn't at least resonate with the content and context of the Anusara Yoga message, then we should probably teach another method. And if both our personal message and the Anusara Yoga message doesn't match up with our teaching presentation because of our own shortcomings and personal weaknesses, then we should really shore up our behavior. (Like for me-if teaching self-love is my thing I cannot be a super-critical, harsh and pissed off person or teacher all the time because that would be working against my intention for myself personally and also as a teacher.) But lucky for me, the practice and teachings and guidance of Anusara Yoga has been a huge help in this journey of self-love. No conflict there.

All right, enough already. Obviously I could go on like this for hours and hours and while this is not a complete commentary on all that I think about teaching Anusara Yoga, it is enough for now. Thanks for stopping by.

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?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Off to Calgary

We had a really fun night of classes last night. Lots of people were at that advanced class which was really fun and I just kept being so impressed by how good everyone is getting. We did lots of opening in the hips, lots of hugging the midline and lots of fun arm balancing poses. It is so cool to see how far people are coming with their practices who have been coming to that class and to the Immersion all year.

The 6:00 class had a lot of new faces in it so I kept things more basic but the very col thing was how good all the students were. They paid attention, worked hard and really applied themselves to learning and improving their poses. It was a real pleasure to teach.

Susan, Tabatha, Anne, Kelly, Jen, Mark, Ari, and Karuna all double dipped.

I worked with the themes last night of Spanda- mostly in relationship to Being and Becoming. We have two aspects of yoga we are always balancing. One is the idea that we are already just fine how we are and we are hopefully learning to accept ourselves as we are (Being) and the idea that we are also growing and expanding and moving toward greater potential. (Becoming) I love thinking about this and holding these two ideas in mind. Yoga is a game of Both And not Either Or. More could be said on this but I have to go to the airport.

I am off to Calgary for the weekend. I think this is is the fifth or sixth year I have gone to teach up in Calgary. I am looking forward to seeing everyone and to hanging out with Kathy and Newton who are my hosts there. I amnot taking acomputer so I will catch this blog up on Monday when I get back.

Don't forget- we have a Memorial Day pracitice scheduled from 12-3 - if you can make it, please come!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I had a most excellent forward being practice yesterday which completely unwound any lingering tension and soreness from our back bending day of fun. I just love forward bends. I love the way my hips open, my spine lets go, my nervous system slows and my mind clears. Just love it.

Many years ago, before I practiced Anusara Yoga, I went up to my teacher at the time and described to him a certain psychological dynamic I was dealing with in my life at the time. He looked at me and said, "Do more forward bends." So anyway, that was almost ten years ago and I really shifted my practice then.

Obviously, Anusara Yoga is the land of back bending and our group practices get focused that way and I certainly love rousing back bend practices- I really do. But in general I practice seated forward bends at least 3-4 times for every back bending practice I do. Really, they actually makeup the bulk of my practice. Lots of time in forward bends throughout the week means that whenever I want to do anything else- like back bends, deeper hip work, standing poses, arm balances, etc.- then I am ready; preparing my hips seems to prepare the rest of me nicely.

I also got some work done on my book project and sent off to my editor, my toenails painted and some errands done. Kelly was in school all day and so I had some nice time to work on my projects and to be by myself which I really enjoyed.

So that is on my agenda today as well, after a dog walk and tonight we have classes here in San Marcos. It is the last class before we are closed for Summer Break.

Well, there are other things I could write about that are kind of simmering inside me but this is about all that has bubbled up to the surface for sharing at this point. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A bit sore

Well, I am bit sore from our lovely little practice yesterday. Anne, Jeff, Mark, Hannah, Mandy, Jeremiah, Chelsea and myself all got together for 3 hours of back bends and the fun that leads up to them. We spent a lot of time working on handstand to urdhva danurasana to standing to dropping back to urdhva danurasana to handstand which was fun. (Otherwise known as viparita chakrasana)Then we did make our foray into the EPRK poses which went really well for everyone. I was pretty impressed with the way everyone's practice is really coming along. It is very inspiring to see. I did have a camera in there to take some pictures but I never got around to it- we were just pretty involved throughout.

And I must say that I think we hit a very lovely blend of work and play. We had some talking but it never felt to me like the social aspect overtook the practice aspect and it never felt like we were so rigid on not talking that it was tense or unnatural. One thing I just hate is when in group practices there is not enough focus so when it is over I do not have that "I just practiced" feeling of being cleaned out, at rest within myself and unwound. And I hate when people do not keep themselves in check in such circumstances so that it falls to me to manage the space in that way which is not how I want to spend my "time off."

Anyway, this was not a problem at all yesterday- we had a perfect blend of focus and frolic and from what I could tell, people got good help from one another and everyone seemed to have fun. I know I did.

More or less our sequence (But do not write me saying "what do you mean by that" as I hate answering those kind of emails. If you do not know the Sanskrit for something, LOOK IT UP!!! )

Adho Mukha Virasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Surya Namaskar (10 minutes)
lunge (rooting back leg for this whole series)
eprk prep
twisted lunge
lunge with back leg in ardha bhekasana
eprk prep with back leg in ardha bhekasana
twisted lunge with back leg in ardha bhekasana
prasarita paddotanasana
parsvottasana, classic form
parsvottansasana, hands in gomukhasana
Virabhdrasana One
eka pada supta virasana series
supta padangusthasana series
padmasana "no hands" practice (Leaning back on forearms)
ardha baddha padmottasana
ardha padmasana press handstands to padmasana in handstand
press handstand
paryankasana with block under upper back
paryankasana with block at the tailbone
Supta virasana
Pinca backbends at wall
urdhva danurasana over chair with bolster
urdhva danurasana - chest to the wall
urdhva danurasana- feet on chair
viparita chakrasana
drop backs
eprk series
parsva uttanasana
jathara partivartanasana
uppavista konasana
parsva uppavista konasana
ardha halasana with bolster

Okay- enjoy! And if you want to come down this coming Monday from 12-3 we will be practicing again. Chances are more back bends, but who knows. I might also be good to work on the leg-behind-the- head stuff. Perhaps some of both. I am in a period of obsession with viparita charaksana, one-armed drop backs, one -legged drop backs and headstand dropovers back to sirsasana. These are the things John has had me demonstrate lately that I have not nailed in the demo to my satisfaction (Or his, frankly.)

ANYHOO-- On another note I talked to my editor yesterday who said the editing on my manuscript is going faster than she had anticipated and so she thinks it can be done in time to get to John in time for the Estes Park release. We shall see. There are a lot of factors involved, many of which are out of my control at this point. More on this as the saga continues.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


So- I had another fun day at home yesterday. Kelly and I made yummy veggie sandwiches for lunch and splurged by eating them with some fantastic Kettle Chips and Ginger Brews. (I know, pretty radical- potato chips and ginger ale! We are pretty wild here in the Sell household.)

Then we walked downtown where there was a Western Swing Festival going on which was kind of fun to see and to listen to. I restrained myself from buying a very nice turquoise necklace that I wanted. (I mean really, ANOTHER necklace?!) It was a really mellow scene with some pretty impressive musicians.

Then I did a long yoga practice while Kelly went on a bike ride.

At the end of my practice, when he returned from riding, Kelly came into the studio to work on his handstand and pinca mayurasana. He does this a few times a week, partly as shoulder therapy for his separated shoulder and also because he got frustrated with not being able to do these poses in class. So anyway- he did a free-balancing pinca mayurasana for the first time yesterday- just kicked up to it without ever touching the wall. It won't be long now before he doesn't even use the wall as a safety net. That was cool to see. And he even balanced a bit in handstand.

One of the things that I have learned in Anusara Yoga and why I love teaching yoga is that I get as excited to see someone else "get something" as I am when I can do something new. I just love it. It always thrills me. (I know, I know, I know, perhaps "thrill" seems like a strong word for such a thing but really, it's the little things that do it for me...) But this is the whole thing about yoga that is fantastic. Through the body we really get to make the unknown known to us in an obvious and immediate way. We use the means that we "know" (our body and our principles) to take us into the unknown (like how in the world to balance in pinca). Then with devoted practice over a long period of time the unknown becomes known to us. We glimpse larger domains of Possiblity.

And so while balancing in pinca mayurasana is an obvious and relatively mundane example, the implications are really huge. Given the teaching of the Tantra, the body is a microcosm of the Absolute. The invitation of self-knowledge and self-study (through asana, relationship, meditation, self-observation, etc.) is that we become more known to our selves and from this knowledge we enter into Self-Knowledge and Self-Study. How many times have you heard some concept or ideal or principle explained and thought to yourself -" Oh, that is just like in yoga when we....(Fill in the blank)." Happens to me all the time. We begin to navigate between domains more skillfully.

My friend DK and I were talking at the Certified Teacher's Gathering and he said that to him the whole thing is about mastery. He told me that if you master one subject, then you realize that the principles of mastery apply to all subjects. He was a professional surfer and he has an exquisite understanding of yoga- not because of his study and practice of yoga (although he has that for sure) but because of his time spent mastering surfing. (DK is an awesome guy and I invited him to come to Darren's workshop since he and Darren are friends so maybe you will meet him then. Oh yes, a commercial- sign up for Darren's workshop. It's gonna be great.)

So anyway- we are not just doing yoga is my point. We are learning principles of mastery through yoga. All right then. More later.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Saturday Morning

I had a most excellent day yesterday. I luxuriated in actually having an unscheduled day. I did all my morning practices, walked the dogs, caught up on some computer work, puttered a bit (A technical term for wandering around, cleaning a few things, organizing a shelf, fixing my hair, petting a cat, eating a piece of chocolate, checking email, paying a bill, etc. all in no particular order and without being required to bring anything to completion) and did a rockin' asana practice in the late afternoon before making a fantastic dinner of roasted cauliflower and green beans over rice. I did a practice very similar to the Thursday nights advanced class but extended to take 2 1/2 hours rather than the 1 1/4 hours of the Standard YogaYoga class. It was so great to have a nice open window of time to practice. I am dreaming about a two hour advanced class somewhere, sometime. Hmmm.

But in the meantime, several of you asked me if I was going to be doing any group practices during the summer and it just so happens that on Monday from 12-3 Mark and Hannah are planning to come and practice here with me so if your schedule is free, consider yourself welcome and invited. (Talking is certainly allowed but really, let's not just chat- I really want it to be a practice environment, not a social environment. Obviously, a little overlap is just fine but there is a line so don't come if you are unsure about where that line is or uninterested in respecting it!!) As far as money goes, I will just put out a bowl by the Ganesh puja and you can drop an offering into that bowl. If you are totally broke and can only afford the gas to get here and maybe one extra dollar, just drop a dollar in the bowl. Anyway, be ready for back bends. I will plan a sequence and I will certainly be available to help but it is also a time I plan to practice. Drop me an email if you plan to come.

Another fun thing that Kelly and I are enjoying lately is called Greenling Organic Produce Delivery. Check it out. Every week, they deliver organic produce to your doorstep. We personally get the local box, which is a box full of fresh, organic, locally grown produce. They even throw in a recipe which uses one or two of the ingredients in the box. This is where we got the recipe for the roasted cauliflower although I substituted ghee for the butter and a few other changes but yummy! Also, I get them to bring me whole milk from a local dairy that they carry and it is night and day better than the mass-produced Organic Milk I have been getting at HEB or Central Market. Kelly gets local eggs (Until we can figure out how to Katherine's every week, that is!)

At one time in my life I would not enjoyed a kind of luck -of- the- draw basket of produce but right now I find this part very fun. It is like a big surprise and then helps me not get stuck in a food rut. This helpful because when your diet boils down to rice and vegetables 90% of the time, variety is a bit more difficult to make happen! Most of their baskets and things, however you can customize to your preferences and so on so they do cater to the need/desire/habit of "getting exactly what you want".

I particularly love not going to the store to shop. I am home so little that I actually love things being brought directly to my doorstep these days- mail order yoga clothes from Prana's pro-deal (Which if you do not know about you should-- go to and then do a search for "prodeal" and then fill it out and if you are a yoga teacher then you get a big big big savings!), Netflix, now food. Delightful. Anyway, enough of the Greenling commercial, other than to say that they are super nice with very good customer service on top of it.

Off to walk the dogs. Love.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday Night

We had super fun classes in Austin tonight. At 4:30 we had a rousing back bend class with lots of work with the chairs and a foray into scorpion pose. Everyone worked really hard and lots of people went quite deep into their back bends. We had just enough people for the number of chairs in the room so I decided to just go for it and build the class around chair work. It wasn't anything that should be on certification video, necessarily, but the work with chairs, when you really figure out how to utilize them is so powerful. I have done so much of it to work my way into the advanced back bends.

At 6:00 we worked toward hanumanasana, which was its own kind of intensity. I used a sequence that rotated through a quad stretch, a hip stretch, a hamstring stretch, and a twist all the way to hanumanasana by the end. Lots people got down to the floor and almost everyone was deeper than usual.

Katherine, Susan, Kelly, Anne and Mark all double-dipped.

So, during the workshop with Des, someone hit Lisa's car. She told Lisa she did not see anything on the car but if Lisa needed to talk with her about it I would know how to get a hold of her. Lisa found a dent and the thing is we do not know who actually hit her car! Lisa described her to me but it sounded like everyone who was there- fit, petite, dark hair, in yoga clothes, etc.) So if you are reading this and you remember hitting a red car, please email me so that I can put you in touch with Lisa.

Okay- so that is about it for now. I am looking forward to some time off and to a major scorpion pose practice of my own. That and some time on the river. Yippee.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wednesday Night

I had a few days off which has been really lovely. I definitely needed some time to let down a bit and just get grounded again from all of the travel I have been doing this spring. I actually cancelled my trip to Bozeman this weekend so I could stay home and settle in a bit. Also I have been "in the tent" which is great because I really need to rest so I have been luxuriating in restorative practice and feeling the deep rest that comes with honoring that cycle. It is just so perfect to really give myself that time to rest, restore and be "off the demand" in a certain way. (My demand mostly...I am a bit of a task master!)

So we had classes down in San Marcos tonight. Both classes were a bit smaller than usual but they both went really well. We worked a lot of hip opening in both classes. Kelly and I decided that we will close The School for Summer Vacation. I will miss seeing everyone over the summer although I will enjoy the time off and getting to have dinner a bit earlier. I realized I have been teaching almost every night and weekend for two years and it is a very rare thing that I actually get to eat dinner with Kelly at a normal time! Once we know what the fall holds for both me and Kelly we can decide on a schedule.

Okay then- tomorrow I have a full day. I am excited for a good strong practice (after all this resting!) and to teach my Thursday night classes. More soon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Scenes from Des

Going back a few days in time again to the workshop with Des. here are some pictures to re-connect to the luv.....
Des and Dale... Charly Pivert, Austin's Anusara Yoga Pioneer
Des, making Jessies day...

Kelly, rockin' out ardha bhekasana...
Liz B, yoga mama...
Alice, having a good time as always...
Ana tittibasana 1st time ever...
All good things come to an end!

Katherine revolving her heart to heaven..
Tabatha and Katherine
Lisa and Svetha
Lisa and Tabatha
Lisa and me and Des

Anzy pooh and CT
Jeremiah and Ari Love-festing
Hannah and Mandy
Meg making Jessie's day. (jessie had a good day!)
Jeremiah and Mandy

Okay then- I have others but this captures the mood. Love ya.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday Morning

We had the Immersion all weekend and all I can say is "Wow, this is not the same group that we started with!" (True, we are slightly reduced in numbers, but that is not what I am talking about. ) Everybody's practices have just gone to a new level. I could not believe my eyes throughout the weekend. Not only have we had a breakthroughs with basic poses like chataranga and bhujangasana but the work in back bends like urdhva dnaurasana and drop backs, arm balances and inversions was truly inspiring. I eman our whole front row was rockin' out in visvamitrasana yesterday like it was no big deal. (Okay, that is a slight exaggeration- they were working really hard! But doing it!)

Not only that but the everyone's studentship and understanding of the method and its philosophies has really taken a leap. I mean really, you just trot yourself over to watch a demo like you really want to learn! (Kidding. But truly, I never had to ask "Please, please, please come watch." How cool is that?) And when I listened and watched to the way you were all able to help one another in the partner work I was aware that people are really integrating the knowledge and are able to share it. So cool.

You know, back in August, on the first day of our Immersion I mentioned something about what an amazing thing it is to commit to a process like an Immersion and that we would be build something together over the year. I remember a few nods but that this little speech not making too much of an impact on the group. I knew from experience what we were all getting into but no one else really did! This is the third group I have taken through a 100-hour training like this and I have come to understand its patterns and dynamics the more that I do it. It is an Immersion and in some ways in the middle you are kind of dunked under water and you cannot always see what is happening. Many times people want to quit. Many people do along the way. (And sometimes they need to withdraw for good reasons that cannot be helped; just life calls them to serve in different arenas, etc.) But when you start to get to the end you can really see the benefits. You start to surface and you gain perspective on the process you have been in. I love this phase. That's what this weekend felt like to me. Surfacing and transformed.

Sure this is more to learn. Sure not every aspect of the syllabus is mastered. But wow, think about where we have come together! Think where you have come within yourself. Really, how inspiring.

So- for me, I am going to enjoy a few days home and "off duty" to catch up on some things. I have decided to let go of my classes on Tuesday evenings in Austin. Lori has a fabulous teacher in mind for that class. And The San Marcos School of Yoga will be closed for Summer Break after this session. So during the summer, I will only be teaching locally on Thursday afternoons and evenings at YogaYoga South. I do have some ideas cooking about some group practices so that we can keep our momentum up over the summer.

So this week, I am NOT teaching Tuesday night. I AM teaching on Wednesday in San Marcos. And I AM teaching on Thursday in Austin. Come and play.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Been a while

The Austin Gang pictured with Des. (Note the snazzy T-shirt so many are sporting!)

So I haven't written in a long time. One reason is because while Des was here there was just not time. We had an excellent visit. I loved the workshop, I loved hanging out with her again- it has been several years since she and I really spent a lot of time together and I loved just being with the folks in the Austin Kula (and the extended Kula that came to the workshop). The weather was great, the venue worked great (other than the parking) and the yoga was fantastic. I have some pictures but they are not on this computer.

I got a lot personally out of watching Desiree teach again. Certain things about her teaching style I had forgotten about and other things she has developed and honed since I have studied with her years ago. One thing I love (and that I had forgotten about) is that she is uncompromising about how hard it is to change, and that so often the nature of change is messy and full of grunting and groaning and so on. I tend to hide that aspect of things from students and fool myself into thinking I can spare people from the work that is required. I loved that she did not candy coat that part of things.

Also Des asked me on our way to Denver what I thought my teaching message was. It was really great to consider this more consciously. A lot of what I focus on is representing the Anusara Yoga method skillfully but it was great to consider a deeper level of why that is important to me. And most of what that comes down to the more I have thought about it is that this method and the practices I do like asana, meditation, pranayama, japa, study, dietary choices, etc. are just the most exquisite ways to bring self-love to life. Really that is the thing to me- this life is one that is so ultimately self-honoring and yield a life that is the one I want to live.

So in an early paragraph I mentioned that I have pictures from the weekend but on a different computer, which leads me to another reason why I have not written in a while. On Saturday night after the workshop I dropped my laptop and the screen cracked. So I did not take a computer with me to Denver where I have been the last week. That meant I got quite behind on my email and certainly behind on this blog.

The Gathering was really great. Paul Muller Ortega- one of the most intense men I have met in a while- taught over 4 hours of each day on the Shiva Sutras. They were Very High Teachings, much of which went right over my head! But one thing I do trust in such circumstances is that even if the intellectual is going over my head, other aspects can be going straight into my heart still the same. That is how I felt about it. After a certain point I just knew that I could trust a transmission that was going on and I didn't have to worry about the linear teaching, etc. Anyway, he is going to be teaching at Estes Park Grand Gathering so do not miss that.

The Gathering was busy for me- We had 6-7 hours of classes every day and then I had a ton of committee meetings- Ethics, Certification Assessment, Teacher Training Curriculum, a sub-committee meeting, a meeting with one of my mentees and so it was a super busy time. All of it I enjoyed and having the opportunity to serve on those committees is fantastic because you work not just with John but with some very bright lights in the Anusara Yoga community so it is a great chance to learn and to grow.

There is more to say about all of that but it is time to get some things done before the Immersion today. Have a good one.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Morning

Good Morning! Here with a cup of tea following my morning rituals and practices and scheming about how best to use this little window of time to prepare everything for the afternoon and weekend. We are going to have one big party this weekend with Des here. I am very excited. I am really thinking how perfect it is that she is here and how I am so excited for my students here in Austin to meet my first Anusara Yoga teacher. What a cool thing that is. She has been such a big influence on my personal practice, my life of teaching and my involvement with Anusara Yoga. I am just thrilled that she is here to share herself, her unique and dynamic approach to Anusara Yoga and to meet everyone here. The timing could not be more perfect.

Last night's classes were really fun. Everyone in attendance was really in top form, which was so fun to see. People were really listening and taking in the lessons and executing really lovely poses- not to mention laughing a lot so the classes were great on so many levels. The 4:30 class was hip opening/twisting/arm balancing/forward bending-ish. It was great because Pammy is back from Anatomy Class, Lisa was back from being sick, Jesse was off from work, Jeremiah is back from teaching a class that conflicted (and he is now on the schedule for 7:30 hatha at South), Susan was back from her three week tour in England, Anzy was there (and sweating), Mike and Susan journeyed from Round Rock and Tabatha made it even though she was not certain it would even be possible and Katherine made it bearing eggs. (She is now in the chicken business-- yummy ethical eggs for those of you who eat eggs. Kelly had some this morning and pronounced them "super tasty".) Anyway, it was kind of like that gang was reassembled.

At 6 we had another rockin' class working toward mermaid pose with lots of quadriceps work and lots of hip opening. It was so great because I actually did not have to teach cobra!! the whole room was in good form on that one from the very beginning. How awesome is that??? Oh it really is the little things! We laughed a ton in this class. One really cool thing is that Marie was there. Who is Marie, you ask? Marie is an Anusara Yoga teacher from LA who trained there with a friend of mine named Ross Rayburn. So she has joined the YogaYoga staff. Keep your eyes out for her on the sub schedule and then with her own class soon.

Like I shared in class, my plan for "world domination" is really coming along. Well, actually, this is John's plan (and I am but one of his minions)but I have this vision of Austin, TX as hub of Anusara Yoga practice, teaching and training. Like every studio in town with a super great certified Anusara Yoga teacher teaching to full classes of enthusiastic practitioners. A few months ago there was all of this local discontent that got reported back to me and certain people were complaining about the growth of Anusara Yoga in Austin. Now that to me is just ridiculous. We have this incredible method, some of the most inspiring teachings ever and people were nervous "that it was getting too big". I just do not get that mentality at all. I mean, I do not think we should force growth but we are on a ride that has at its very nature a philosophy of EXPANSION. (Spanda and the play of opposites exists in an overall context of Expansion...) Grace, by its nature is Expansive (just like the Universe Itself, remember?) and so when we align with Grace skillfully, that is what happens! Expansion. It is so cool.

I think about all that has happened in the method since I got involved and now John is in Europe and Asia and all over the Globe. When I was in the Anusara Yoga headquarters, he had little pins in every place around the world where he had taught Anusara Yoga. (World Domination, remember?) So anyway, Marie is here so we have one person here to help spread the good word. What fun!

Anne, Susan and Mike, Katherine, and Pammy all double dipped. Yippee.

See you tonight if you are coming to Des. If not, keep the faith, hold the vision!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I organized one of our kitchen cabinets this morning while I drank my tea. Now I have to get ready to go to the dentist to have my crown replaced. I had had the temporary on for two weeks and I am really ready to chew on both sides of my mouth again!

I had a god time teaching last night in San Marcos. The Level 2/3 class learned a nifty way to practice handstand involving a block in the upper back and which led to some breakthroughs for several folks in the room. Chelsea even balanced on her own for a few breaths which was exciting. Stacy pushed up to urdhva danurasana all by herself for the first time ever, with a little help from the strap around her arms but she did it twice without my help. Yippee. So it was a fun night with props helping people glimpse the poses with more clarity.

When I was in Costa Rica with John someone raised their hand and started their question to him saying, "I know you do not like us to use props but...."(I cannot even remember what the question was anymore.) Me and another certified teacher, Sundari, looked at each other and said, "He totally uses props. " And then we caught John's eye and said, "You totally use props." And then John said, "I have no problems with props at all. In fact I love props- what makes you think we do not use props in Anusara Yoga?"

There is a lot of things like that in Anusara Yoga right now. Certain guideline John is putting down on paper read like "Use props when necessary" and then are becoming translated as "Do not use props." Or "Use demos sparingly and only when necessary" has become synonymous with "Do no more than one demo per class and not on your video." "Start the class with something dynamic and in coordination with the breath" has become interpreted as "The only way to start a class is with sun salutations." I could go on.

Take the demo thing, for instance. John says we should not do too many demos because they can slow a class down. So when I first moved to Texas and when I am teaching where people are unfamiliar with the method, I used a ton of demonstrations. I asked John about it, knowing that I was representing the method to people interested in learning to teach and I wanted to model "our way" as pristinely as possible. He said, "Well, Christina, you have an inspiring practice and so demonstration will be a very effective tool in your case and you will probably have to use a lot of them until people understand our method." And with every one of these "teaching myths" that I was describing, that is the answer-- "our way" is just good teaching.

The thing is you just cannot put down an exhaustive list of do's and don'ts that encompass all of what makes up good yoga teaching. It is impossible to do. John Friend teaches effective yoga classes all the time that break his own "rules." We all do, at times.There are so many variables and considerations and factors as to what is effective and the thing is while we have conventions we use in Ansuara Yoga guidelines, we are not defined by them. And good teaching for us is not defined in that way only. There is kind of this underlying priority of - Did the class/sequence/exercise/variation/etc. work? Did it clarify, educate and enlighten and take people to a deeper recognition of the body, the mind, the heart and the grand purposes of yoga? Having said that, we do have "a way." But the "ways and means" ares within the context I just described, not the other way around.

Anyhoo- I could go on about this but really, the only way to enter this grey area is through experience, personal practice, and ongoing reflection. No amount of teacher training and so forth can cover all of the bases and clarify these things appropriately. It take time and personal effort to assimilate and sort out- to find the consistencies and the inconsistencies and to integrate and become not only proficient at it but skillful. And while elements of "good teaching" can be written down and outlined, it is more like art- you know it when you see it. And personal tastes vary.

The Level 1 and 2 class made their first foray into vasisthasana and it went well. Their parsvakonasana and trikonasana were textbook in their form so that was awesome. Such progress. More on that another time but it is a testimony to the consistent work that group has been doing.

Okay- off to the dentist.