Thursday, July 30, 2009

I am enjoying my morning cup of chai out on the patio since we have wonderful cloud cover this morning keeping the heat at bay for a while. (Have I mentioned that it is really hot here right now? It is really hot here right now. Very hot. So hot. Damn hot. )

I taught Focus on Form at Castle Hill Fitness yesterday at 9:30 which was a very interesting class for a lot of reasons. We worked on back bending prep with the chair and also using the chair to assist pushing up in urdhva danurasana and we worked the shoulder principles very strongly as preparation. What I found so interesting was that people asked really intelligent questions during the class. For instance people asked me, "When I do that one action you are describing, this other thing happens that I am not so sure is good. What is up with that?" (paraphrasing here- like I said, they were intelligent questions!)

So it was really fantastic to get the questions because it told me that the group was really doing what I asked for and was really processing the information through their mind and body and the questions made for a very organic movement into deeper and deeper refinements which is way better than just throwing alignment instructions at people who could care less about them! (kidding. sort of.) It was fantastic- we covered the 5 principles of the shoulders, we got into some interesting work for carrying angles and a lesson in the kidney loop and everyone was able to push up to urdhva danurasana from the chair so that was also very exciting.

Kelly and I ate lunch, I did some work headed back to Castle Hill to practice and then to Breath and Body and Bodhi Yoga for evening classes. I was pretty tired yesterday but with each class once I got into it, the energy of the class took over and I enjoyed myself a lot.

I am spending some time ironing out my 2010 schedule and I have received some invitations for the year that I am really excited about. Lots of new places and opportunities and also some repeat visits places, so that is cool. My schedule is by no means full but it is definitely filling and at least I know I have a job in 2010. (Phew.)

All right then, marching onward. I have a weekend off this weekend which I am really looking forward to. Kelly and I may go to San Marcos for some time on the river in the kayaks. That always makes me happy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Morning

I spent a lot of the morning on the phone with some interpersonal situations yesterday but I did get a chance to go to the pool and enjoy some water and sunshine. I love swimming in the summer. Maybe because Growing up summertime always meant swimming and so there is something so fun and childlike to me about going to the pool. (Plus the water is good for the fire.)

Kelly and I ate lunch together and then I worked on m 2010 calendar which is filling up a bit with personal and professional plans which are pretty fun to look forward to. Also, we made plans for a trip to Oregon over Labor Day so we can visit his family and some of our friends. I haven't been back to Oregon in almost 10 years so I am pretty excited about it. I mostly want to get up in the mountains which is my favorite thing to do there.

In the afternoon I met up with Gioconda. She has been away on a bike trip for two weeks and is back in town and so she and I did a practice together before we each went our separate ways to teach our evening classes. It was great to have a practice buddy because she helped with get my heels in kapotasana. I am pretty close by myself but at the very last, help is helpful! Great to visit and catch up also.

Let's see- traffic was insane last night due to some suicidal maniac on the road and the SWAT team and so forth which stopped traffic on Mopac for like 2 hours. I manage to get to Bodhi Yoga for class although I was a few minutes late. The Beginners now have learned Surya Namaskar A, Surya Namaskar B, crescent, utkatasana, vira 1, anjanyeasana, parsvakonasana, trikonasana, succirandrasana, windshield wipers, and supta padangusthasana. They are really doing well. It is a very fun class to teach.

Anne sent me a mandalasana sequence they did in Peggy's class yesterday and so I may work with that this afternoon before I teach in the evening. Other than that, I have lots of office work and writing to catch up on.

That is kind of the newsy update for the day. Other things are percolating around but on the whole, I particularly full of inspiration this morning. I feel mellow, well-rested and kind of happy, but not exactly inspired.

I do find myself thinking a lot about my upcoming trip to Tuscon. I am really looking forward to seeing Darren and Brownwin and the whole Tucson gang as well as meeting all of the Immersion participants. The week long format is just so profound and intense and anytime I reflect on last year's Immersion there, I am just kind of in awe.

Recently, I was talking to a friend on the phone and he said something like, "Wow, you must be getting excited about Desiree's visit." It was funny because at that time I had a visit to Salt Lake City to teach, a weekend immersion here, an week-long immersion in Tucson, a another weekend locally, a visit to the Houston area to teach and now a trip to Oregon all before she comes. So, sure, I am excited, and I told him that, but there are so many other exciting things going on between now and then that its hardly at the top of the list.

HOWEVER- if you want to come to the workshop, send in your registration and let me know you are coming. She is a talented and inspiring teacher and it will be a really amazing opportunity to connect with everyone who is practicing Anusara Yoga in Austin. It seems like its been a while since we have all been together in that way. And, really, thanks to everyone who has already registered. I know it is going to be a great weekend. And she and I have already looked at 2010 and she won't be coming here next year so if you are on the fence, don't wait!

Have a great day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Morning

The Immersion ended up on a very high note with my class theme being "lila" or play. And while we worked on some refinements we also worked in some variations of vasisthasana, taking apart the "mechanics of floating" from down dog to uttanasana and at the end we played with handstand drop overs and urdhva danurasana to handstand emphasizing the shoulder work from the floating and we ended the class with some flying dogs which was fun and kind of silly. It was a nice, upbeat way to end the day because we had a long philosophical discussion about the first 5 tattvas to kick the afternoon off.

One thing I love about Immersions is that every Immersion is different because every group is different and because I am growing and changing and so every time I present the information my understanding of it has changed in some way. So while I am presenting the same curriculum each time, the very real difference from group to group and within myself makes it a very fluid, dynamic and unique process to facilitate. I really am pretty in love with the Immersion process.

okay- well, I am excited for the day- I am going to get out for a walk before its to hot and then do a practice this afternoon before teaching the Beginning Series at Bodhi tonight.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Morning

It has been a great weekend so far at the Immersion. We had a big day yesterday. I had planned on teaching a strong asana class and when I made a refinement early in class, someone said, "Should we do that even if have a hamstring injury?" And then several people "came out" about their hamstring issues which I did not know about. And so we spent the first hour and half of class on yoga therapy for hamstring issues since very little in the sequence I had planned was appropriate for cranky hamstrings. Then we did part of the asana practice I had planned and we finished with some introductory seated pranayama.

It was a really interesting process in a lot of ways. I think understanding Anusara Yoga requires a radical shift in perspective from many approaches to yoga. On the one hand we are a very strong practice that incorporates advanced asana and all kinds of crazy variations. On the other hand we are a super precise therapy for both the body and the heart. And we are everything in between as well. And while a teacher, in the average class, is endeavoring to "get everyone into classic form of the pose" we also want people to be in the stage of that pose that is appropriate for them given their capacity.

For instance- As I was teaching a partner exercise for parivritta trikonasana and talking about turning the head up, someone asked, "Do we have to turn our head up?"

And I asked, "Well, why not?"

The person replied, "Vertigo and neck injuries."

So I gave a long discourse on how it comes back to the always-appropriate-answer of "it depends." As practitioners I think we should know what the full pose is and how to work towards it. I think, as we are doing that, we should explore the range of alignment tools we have to see if we can overcome the limitation- in this case, neck pain in the pose and/or vertigo (both in this case would be aided by good shoulder principles) and if we cannot solve the problem through those kinds of adjustments then absolutely, we enjoy a modified form of the pose. We never "have to do a pose" at the expense of our own well-being on any level. That is not the spirit of the game at all. But where along the continuum of any pose we practice on any given day really just depends.

And for me, I never figured a lot of that out on my own. When I was in pain, I asked for help and my teachers helped me re-work my postures and deal with my dysfunctional habits in the poses so I could find relief. And sometimes it is better to walk around the problem and avoid the pose for a while and other times, we need to march right up to the problem and work through it directly. It just depends.

The Immersion group is very strong, capable, respectful and dedicated. Many of the participants are teachers and most folks in the room have been practicing for quite some time and they are really a pleasure to teach. We are into pretty deep work very early into the process which speaks to the receptivity and commitment people have brought to the training. It is cool.

All right, time to prep for class.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Morning

Well, let's see...

Yesterday was fun. I was a little worried about the 4-class day but it was just fine. Maybe because the classes were so different- flow at 9:30, Iyengar at 12, Anusara at 4:30 and group practice at 6:30. All in all, a fun day and the classes were all well- attended which makes teaching so much easier, generally speaking.

The group practice was really fun for me. We have been doing longer holds and more start and stop in there and last night we flowed a lot more than we have been. It felt good to me at the end of the day to move and not be so technical and still we got into some fun backbends. However, after a long flow with lots of vinyasa it can be hard to have the energy for lots of pushing up to urdhva danurasana and so forth. So really, I didn't really push the group last night at that point.

It is an interesting thing to consider though- how you prepare your body and at what cost to your strength, stamina and energy. So while flow can get a nice overall warmness and opening happening for people and the movement is fun and creative and enjoyable, it can also take most of their strength and stamina to just get through the sequences which can leave little left to apply to the more advanced poses. Neither is right or wrong, it is just a consideration of what approach yields what outcome. In general for me, its not a big problem since I am pretty strong and have good stamina. But usually I can get my open at deeper levels not in flow but with more a focused intense approach aimed directly where I need it for the peak pose I have in mind. But last night I did a few fun scorpion poses after all that flow- both in handstand and in pinca so that was great pose. That pose was a "pose-lust" pose for me for so long that I still just love to practice it and visit it. I am really going to miss that group practice in the fall.

I am finally going to unpack from last weekends trip this morning and put my laundry away and organize my desk. Things have been piling up all week as I have been pretty on-the-go.

It is an Immersion weekend this weekend which is really great. Weekend #2 of the new cycle and I am looking forward to really diving into things a bit deeper this weekend. We have a lot of people out of town from the group and a few people joining us so that will be a certain kind of twist to consider.

All right, onward.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Morning

Well, its Thursday Morning. A big day of teaching is on deck for me- I am subbing for Gioconda at Castle Hill at 9:30 and for Gillian at Castle Hill at noon and then I have my own class this afternoon at Castle Hill at 4:30 and then the group practice at Breath and Body at 6:30. So, teaching yoga is such a weird thing because while teaching 4 classes does not necessarily take 8 hours like a full work day does for "normal people" I find that kind of schedule a pretty tiring thing. This is the time of year where not just students are out of town but when lots of teachers are on trips as well and so the need for help with subs is high. I in fact, am cashing in on the same kind of favors when I am in Tucson in a few weeks. I will be out August 4th-11th and so all my classes during that time will be subbed.

It has been a full week of yoga yoga yoga. I have been quite pleased with the response to my "online mentoring group"query. In fact, the response from people far and wide was so great that it may make more sense to just do the whole thing online and not have the group meet locally at all. The local folks can just join with everyone on an online group. We will see. I have to work out the technology of it and also consult with Mr. Friend. I am compiling lists of interested folks and I will keep everyone clued into the details.

Speaking of consulting with Mr. Friend, I had a great conference with him about my manuscript and have to clear a bit of time this week to work some of his suggestions into my writing. He and I talked a lot about the differences between leading yoga classes and teaching yoga classes and about various strategies for helping aspiring certified teachers really see the difference between the two. It is a topic I am passionate about. Somehow, I made my way into yoga under the guidance of really good teachers during a time when yoga wasn't as popular and widely accessible as it is now.

Those teachers didn't "make suggestions" or provide tons of "options" or "choice" in the classroom. They taught classes and did not lead practices. (And also there were like 2 classes a week not every day so the idea was the other 5 days you practiced on your own. Now there are yoga studios on every corner and classes at almost every hour of the day!) Anyway, these teachers educated me about the different poses and their forms, the actions needed to make the poses come alive as well as the other related poses that were preparatory- the mastery of which opened the door to whatever pose we were working on that day. I never had a teacher who didn't have x-ray vision of a sort or who I felt like I knew more than. When my knee, shoulder, back, etc. hurt in a pose, my teachers knew what to tell me to do to help it and when I was inattentive and some part of my pose had drooped, sagged or been forgotten, they quickly called my mind back to the task at hand.

Anyway- my point is that while the climate of yoga practice and teaching has changed and yoga is so widely accessible and practiced by so many in various situations and circumstances, in Anusara Yoga we still have a standard of teaching people yoga over and above leading people through yoga. (Of course, if the students are well-trained and can execute good alignment and are familiar with the forms then certainly it is not not Anusara Yoga to lead a great practice-based class. Someone asked me that recently- if you can teach Anusara Yoga in flow. I said "I can teach it, but rarely have I found someone who can really learn it that way. However, if a group of students were all in a room, in flow, in good alignment, following instructions and when quizzed knew the forms, the UPA's and the philosophy, then sure, you are teaching Anusara Yoga. But I digress.)

When mentoring and training aspiring certification candidates, I hear people say a lot that they are afraid to really ask their students for as much as I am suggesting. I get that. Instruction over suggestion is not always well received if someone is not used to it! No one wants to scare someone away or to blow them out of the water or in anyway upset someone they are trying to help. But I keep thinking that the reason I do Anusara Yoga is that Desiree and then John got so in my personal yoga world and then showed me how to get better. Much better.

Obviously, this leads us to a consideration on "Teachable Moments" and how we might begin to know that student is ready to be "taught" and not "led" and that idea leads us down the road into a whole discussion on skillful means- the teacher's and the students.

Recently, in a short, text-based mentoring session John gave me the other day, he reminded me to wait for the student to be ready and to respond to the questions that are asked over and above what I may think needs to happen. And we dialogued a bit- (via text)- about the kind of listening and observation needed to assess that. I think that is why it takes so long to become a certified teacher. The first thing we get concerned about is our part of the teaching formula- developing the themes, learning and articulating the movements with the breath, talking people in and out of poses efficiently and so forth. And there are so many balls that the teacher has to juggle in teaching Anusara Yoga that it takes a while to get the presentation down. But the video is assessed on those skills and also on how the students in the room are executing the teacher's instructions. Honestly, it can take many years to get a group of people to really do that. Anusara Yoga is a commitment between teacher and student to learn and grow together. That was is so cool and so transformational about it. We climb the mountain together.

An Iyengar Yoga teacher told me once that at the upper levels of their certification process, you are being tested on teaching the advanced poses on their syllabus and you have to bring your own students to the assessment. You are not just demonstrating your knowledge of the advanced poses but you have to come with proof that you helped a group of students do those poses! See how linked we are in this?

Paul Muller Ortega often gives a teaching about the grace in the learning process. He reminds us that while we, as student's, are held in the grace of the teacher, the teacher is held in the grace of the student. It is a lovely thing to consider, I think.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Morning

We had a great night at Bodhi last night for night #2 with the Beginning Series. We built on the basics of surya namaskar that we covered on night#1, added Vira 1, prasarita padasana, parsvakonasana (stage 1) and we refined uttanasana. The group is very fun, very willing and very receptive. Also cool was that Valerie came with a pen and paper and took notes throughout the class and used the session as teacher training for herself. She told me after class how great it was to be part of the beginning series- it reminded her of the magic of learning the method and also having just completed 50 hours of TT, she said it was great see the principles of teaching applied to the first lessons of yoga. I had Kelly on stage as my model and demonstrator throughout the class so that was great because while I made adjustments and conducted the class, he could be a six-foot tall image of what I was describing. I think it worked well.

Kelly and I went out for pizza afterwards, had a great talk and then came home and went to bed. All in all, a fun night.

I have some phone conversations on deck today in the late morning then practice and then 4:30 at Castle Hill and 6:30 at Breath and Body. Like I mentioned in my blog a few days ago I am considering changing that 4:30 class from a level 2-4 class to a level 2-3 class so that it will be more appropriate for more people. Starting in August, I am not going to teach the 4:30 Breath and Body Yoga class but in September I will add a 6:00 Level 2/3 class at Castle Hill. Oh, and the Thursday night group practice will become a class from 6:30-8 and will no longer be a group practice.

Those are the main changes on deck right now. As it is right now, I am working way too much (24 days straight this month!) and not having nearly enough R&R so I am really scheming about how best to maximize the time I spend teaching. And while my energy is bountiful, it is not boundless and so I am going to be paring some things down throughout the fall and into the new year.

Several people from great distances expressed interest in the mentoring group I am starting in September and so I am scheming with my technical yogi friend (Pammy, that is you!) about how we might make a group like that accessible through the magic of technology. As soon as I know, you will know, but if that sounds interesting to those of you who do not live locally, drop me a line ( and I can put you on a contact list as I get the details worked out. I know, I just said was going to be paring things down...sigh... oh well... maybe I should call this blog "the trials and tribulations of the pitta nature...." (I tried to imbed the link but for some reason that function is not working but for what that means, go here:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Morning

I got home from SLC around 9:30 last night and I am here enjoying a cup of tea and catching up on my blog, some email and few other mundane tasks as the day gets underway. Leslie, my most wonderful host, wrote a great commentary on the workshop on her blog if you want some information from a participant's perspective.

I feel great about the weekend. There was a solid group of very avid and sincere students assembled who really went for it and seemed to be game for just about anything I threw their way. I taught a lot of refinements and a lot of technique because the group was already so schooled in the basics. Also I find my mind more on the fine details these days than on the broad strokes. Of course this has pros and cons with a new group but in a group like this with so many people already educated in the method and with good instruction and practice under their belt it was very appropriate.

Friday night we worked on hips, Saturday morning we worked on standing poses, twists and arm balances, back bends and inversions on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday we put it all together with "creative vinyasa, visvamitrasana and some good seated work. While we talked about all of the UPA's the weekend was really brought to the group by the magic of Inner and Outer Spiral.

I know from experience that it is not always possible for students to attend the entire weekend of a workshop. In fact this is the downside of a workshop coming to your own hometown. We tend to fit in a session or two in the midst of all of our other duties and obligations which remain the same. (Whereas if you travel out of town for a workshop, the only thing you are doing is the yoga workshop so of course you do the whole thing.) Anyway, I believe that some is better than none and I am always glad when people come to whatever they can. However as a teacher, I think of the weekend as a entire process, as a journey.

In fact, that was our theme for the weekend. Leslie suggested it when we were planning the workshop and I found I loved the metaphor and it really worked well throughout the weekend. So one thing I enjoy about a weekend journey is getting to link instructions through 4 or 5 sessions and having 10-15 classroom hours to explore the connections between the poses and to really play with how the poses relate to one another. Those links really came together in Sunday's class and I think the final class really demonstrated how the skill-building technical work fits into the creative expression of flow and into the more advanced postures we practice in Anusara Yoga.

All right- today I get to meet Juan to talk for a bit about my fall schedule at Castle Hill, Anne for a practice and then I teach the Beginners out at Bodhi Yoga. This morning I am going to get unpacked, do some laundry and hopefully go swimming. This morning, after all, is my weekend.

Just a reminder- We have instructor group practice at Castle Hill this Wednesday from 2-4. This week the featured style is Power Vinyasa and Desirae Pierce will lead the session. We will wrap up around 3:45 due to her schedule but that is plenty of time to explore Power Vinyasa. Remember cost is $10 and that gets split between Castle Hill, the teacher and a charity. We have no class on August 12 but when we meet again on the 4th Wednesday of August Devon will lead and Iyengar Yoga practice.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Morning

Just a brief entry before heading out to Salt Lake City, Utah for the weekend.

Yesterday was a full day. I subbed for Gioconda yesterday morning at Castle Hill. That went reasonably well. Several people told me it was challenging which I found intriguing because I have been to her class and it is not easy. And I made every effort to keep the class on the soft side! (That was me being mellow!So go figure.) Her students are very nice and they have such a lovely rapport with one another and they were welcoming and repsectful and truly a pleasure to be with. I also really liked the natural light of the upstairs Lotus Room at Castle Hill.

I think for me flow is a very hard kind of yoga to teach in a way consistent with "how it is generally taught." (ie: in a way that students like and enjoy!) Maybe because I did almost no flow practice- other than Asthanga Vinyasa- until my asana practice was advanced and I was reasonably proficient. So by the time I started practicing flow I could do a lot and could practice very hard and I knew a lot about alignment. So I seem unable to teach flow that is basic and comes across to the student as moderate. (Ah well... I have other talents....sigh.)

At 4:30, for the Level 2-4 class, I had planned a deep hip opening class with some fantastic refinements of inner spiral to get us deeper into the inner groins and while there was a nice group that came, only 3 of them were people who had ever come to that class. So while I offered much of the same class I had planned, it really got me thinking about changing that class from Level 2-4 to Level 2-3 since in order for me to teach a 75-minute advanced-level class safely and effectively, I have to have a group that is regular and consistent. Without that kind of continuity it is just dangerous, ineffective and disjointed-and worst of all, the student doesn't even get the glimpse of how the details fit into a larger scheme of the practice. So I am entertaining that change for the fall schedule. I will keep you posted.

My 6:30 practice at Breath and Body was amazing. (for me, at least!) Again, we were few in number but I taught- like I have been teaching all week- some of the work that John passed along to me last weekend. I cannot believe the ease and opening those refinements are creating for me in my back bends. Kapotasana came easy, urdhva danurasana was smooth and this morning I am hardly sore although I was in some of the deepest back bends I have been in in a while. And we planted a lot of seeds to draw upon in the future for scorpion. So fun.

okay- gotta pack and head to the airport. Salt Lake City here I come. Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Good morning

Good morning!

Well, I started writing yesterday morning and then the day got started with email business, a long call with email tech support and so forth and I couldn't finish the entry so now it is Thursday morning. As usual, it has been a busy few days.

On Tuesday, I spent a little time at the pool, ate lunch and then I did my practice at Castle Hill from 1-3 and met Kim for a private at 3 and then taught my 4:30 class. We worked on backbends and applied the shoulder principles and refinements John gave me to urdhva danurasana and to eka pada rajakapotasana 2. We do not work on that a lot as it requires tremendous opening in the front groins and a lot more balance that eka pada rajakapotasana 1 so it was great to visit it. We used the chairs and that helps. A lot of regular folks were missing so the people who came who are new to that class did not get a gentle hello. Oh well. Its a moving stream. There is only so much you can do to keep a class moving along and still help people join in in a way that is welcoming. Sigh. I do try but I wonder sometimes....

I went up to Breath and Body for the 6:30 class and we worked on variety of postures to build cores strength and some hip work to do padmasana. Several folks in the class sat in lotus for the first time and so that was fun.

Anyway, that was Tuesday.

Wednesday morning I taught Focus on Form and we worked on a few of the twist principles and our peak pose was parivirtta trikonasana. We spent a lot of time refining its component parts and folks made a lot of progress in it which was fun to see. I did my practice from 2-4 at Castle Hill and then made my way up to Breath and Body to teach at 4:30. We worked on getting the outer shoulder blades firmly anchored on the back and practiced sorting out some refinements with urdhva danurasana. It went well. I taught a very similar class at Bodhi at 7:30.

So- that's the outer news. I think the inner news is not quite fit to print. I am, however, evaluating my local teaching schedule for the fall. Since my travel schedule picks back up considerably, I will scale back a few ongoing public classes. And I am planning to offer a Teacher Training and Mentoring group. One thing that I have been aware of (and scheming about how to address) is how best to help those students who have completed an Immersion and Teacher Training prepare for Anusara-Inspired status. Students report to me that they do not really know "what is next" for them.

And on one level, there is no "next." There is just continuing to do the same things- study, practice, go to class, practice, teach, practice- with deeper insight, greater clarity and more profound commitment because by now things are pretty repetitious and your learning curve may have slowed and that can be frustrating. But on another level, it can be really helpful to have support and to have assistance during this integration and "taking the basics to a new level" phase.

I am reminded of a story one of my mentors in Anusara Yoga told me. We were all at a TT with John and on a break some students were grumbling to her about how "it's all the same thing as he taught last year." She told me she told them, "That is because on one level, it is all the same thing. But if you were actually doing everything you have already been taught you would be certified by now. So it is not so much whether you know the information but about how well you are implementing it."

Along simlar lines, I remember going to a weekend of TT in Iyengar Yoga with Anne and the Senior Teachers there said the same thing. They said, "Really as yoga teachers all we really do is demonstrate, observe, correct, adjust and describe. But we get better and better at doing those basic things and more capable at applying those basic skills to more challenging situations and harder poses."

Am I preaching? I hope not. I find this so inspiring. Any of us who teach know that some of our best classes are when we stay close to the basics, when we remain close to the bone, so to speak, and when we allow the simplicity of our approach to carry the depth of the message.

Anyway- long story short, if you have made it this far into the entry... I am going to offer a 12-week course starting in September designed to help people in this phase of the process and to provide support, assistance and follow-up after the big deluge of study and practice that is the Immersion Year. If you are interested, please send me an email ( and I will put your name on the list to get the details out to you as soon as they become available. Given the very limitations I have in my time and energy, this will be the best way (and the main way) I will be able to provide mentoring assistance this year. This way I can have one conversation with 10 people rather than 10 conversations, 1 person at a time. I am pretty excited about it.

Okay, I am subbing Vinyasa for Gioconda this morning. That should be fun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Beginning Yoga at Bodhi Bee Caves

Well, I am very inspired by my Beginning Yoga Series last night at Bodhi Bee Caves. There were 28 folks there, most of whom have never done any yoga at all. It was pretty amazing to see the diversity among the group and to have the opportunity to introduce so many people to a practice that can be so sustaining and transformational. The students were enthusiastic, fun and very open. It was such a great lesson in Beginner's Mind. Because the students have not had any experience being taught in any other way or any experience of approaching the poses in a different way, they did exactly what I said and I had very little adjustments to make the whole evening. It was so cool.

And because this is a Beginning Yoga course that is designed to prepare people to participate in classes at Bodhi Yoga not a Beginning Yoga course designed to prepare people to participate in Anusara Yoga classes, I am mostly teaching a basic set of poses that people will be likely to encounter in the average vinyasa class. Last night we worked with the basics of surya namaskar and moving with the breath. I taught them the Anusara Yoga invocation, uyjayi pranayama and the component parts of surya namaskar- anjali mudra, urdhva namaskarasana, uttanasana, plank, modified chataranga, shalabasana, down dog and lunges. They also learned crescent pose, utkatasana and succirandrasana. Next week we will review that and add new poses on. It will be amazing in 4 weeks. It always is.

And can you believe it? I showed them how to lower down to a modified chataranga and where I wanted the shoulders to be and they got it on the first try. On the second try of utkatasana every single person had their arms straight overhead. Same with crescent pose. It really got me thinking a lot about the power of habit and the power of preconceived ideas and the true meaning of Beginner's Mind. Really, it can be very hard as a student to hear through our habits and hear through "this is the way I have always done it" and approach the poses we have practiced for years with the same fresh enthusiasm that a new student has. And seeing Beginner's Mind in action was great.

And when you are a really beginner you get Beginner's Mind for free. It is your state. And those of us who have been going at this for a while have to cultivate Beginner's Mind and that is something really different. I remember Senior Iyengar teacher, Manouso Manos, used to say that he felt like his greatest strength as a student was his ability to be present in each moment to what his teacher was teaching then and there as opposed to what he taught last year. He said he saw so many people come to Mr. Iyengar and try to show Mr. Iyengar what they knew rather than endeavor to learn from him in the moment like a beginner.

All right. I have some things to do and then I am at Castle Hill at 4:30 and Breath and Body at 6:30. Come if you can!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Evening

I am so inspired by the weekend- there were so many great things... First the trip to The Woodlands and then the Teacher Training and this morning my class at The Love Yoga Coop was fantastic. Lauran Janes and her crew did such a good job organizing an event for Yoga Bear. Yoga Bear is an organization that offers yoga classes to cancer survivors. It is an amazing organization that provides and amazing service. In class I asked how many people in the room knew a cancer survivor and I was amazed at the numbers. It is a disease that really affects so many people.

I remember one time talking to George Purvis who is a Texas Iyengar Yoga practitioner and Senior Teacher who had a bout with cancer. He said that he wanted to write the president of the United Sates and say that he should forget about the war on terrorism and fight the war on cancer because it is stealth, comes calling when you least expect it and scares the shit out of you. (okay, George is very polite and he may not have used that word exactly but his point was that the realities of cancer are as scary- or more so- than the terrorism and more immediate for most people. And he is a passionate supporter and participant of the Livestrong events.

The class was so awesome- everyone was so into what I was teaching, was working so hard and really receptive and fun to be with. I could not have asked for a better teaching environment. It was so inspiring to be with so many new and familiar people all in the same room. I taught a lot of the refinements of shoulder principles John helped me with in The Woodlands and just from my time with him I felt really clear and really inspired.

The Teacher Training continued in the same vein. We added a few folks today and it was just a pleasure to help people go to a new level in their teaching and to solidify their approach and their skills. I was so very pleased to watch their progress. Teacher Training always inspires me to be a better teacher also so I left the class feeling really on fire about the great challenge and opportunity it is to teach Anusara Yoga. We are not a method for everyone and we are not cultivating a teaching style that everyone will jive with but when we are good we are just so so good and I was re-infused with my own passion for going from good to great.

Then I came home, Anne and Jeff came over for dinner and we had a great time pouring over some of the books John loaned me from his Iyengar Yoga archives. What fun!

All right- Beginning Yoga starts tomorrow night at Bodhi Yoga! Its not to late to sign up!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Teacher Training

I had a most excellent trip to The Woodlands yesterday. I drove over during the late morning and aside from missing a turn which would have cut an hour off my drive, everything went well.

I arrived in the office in time to sit in on a meeting and enjoy a birthday ice cream cake. After the office day was done me, John and Christy went to Woodlands Yoga and did a great practice. I have been having some aches in my elbow and John spent a lot of time helping me refine and apply the shoulder principles to bring some relief to my elbow. It was great. I loved every moment of it- I learned a ton of refinements and fine tuning details and my elbow is 75% better from when I went. Crazy- who would have thought that handstand, pinca, down dog, urdhva danurasasana and scorpion would be elbow therapy? Well, of course, I knew that after all, our therapy formula is optimal alignment, in weight bearing positions with no pain. And truly, the handstand work and the 10 urdhva danurasanas did the most to clear it.

John is so brilliant with Yoga Therapy and I love the intensity he pours into it. What a blessing it was for me to get his help. After that we went to dinner and stayed up late looking through pictures of his early practice years in Iyengar Yoga and swapping fun stories. It was fantastic. Really, he was such a bad ass. Okay, he still is a total bad ass- just in a different way now.

Here is The Man at Command Center.

I drove home this morning and made it back in plenty of time for the Teacher Training. We spent the whole afternoon diving into the subject of observation, demonstration and verbal adjustments. It was great. The group was very receptive and open and it was a very enjoyable way to spend the afternoon. Like I wrote yesterday, this is some of my favorite subject matter in yoga teaching.

I was disappointed that so many people from our recent Teacher Training group were unable to make it this weekend for various reasons. Some people were sick, some had family situations and some were just MIA. I had been looking forward to reconnecting with everyone because it seems like we had been scattered to the wind since I left YogaYoga. But alas, the timing was not right yet for a reunion.

Anyway, its a mellow night at home and hopefully an early bed time. Oh, and episode of Star Trek which always relaxes me! Ah...Picard....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Morning

Okay- well, yesterday's afternoon classes were unusually small. I think there was a record low attendance in the 4:30 Castle Hill class and at the 6:30 Group Practice but what was cool is that the 5 folks who came at 4:30 all were in good spirits and knew each other and so we had a really fun time. Christina was in "joking casual mode" rather than "professional presentation mode." We took a nice leisurely stroll through some deep hip opening work to lotus and to full simhasana. Particularly fun for me was that Sabia came because she does not come regularly to that class. (Backstory: Many months ago she came to workshop I taught at Breath and Body where we worked on lotus pose and in that session I helped her into what I think for her was a fairly deep ardha padmasana.) So yesterday in class I looked at her ardha padmasana and it was so good that I went over and helped her into full lotus. Here she is in her full lotus glory as if it was no big deal whatsoever!

The 4:30 hour is a hard hour I think in the summer. The heat is full outside and energy tends to be low so I have been focusing a lot on inversions and on deeper hip opening work in there. Even in the back bending classes as of late I have altered my approach a bit so as to approach them without creating as much heat on the front end. But the inversions are really key because they give so much energy back to the practioner. And the energy of inversion is a deepr, truer kind of resotred energy rather than the "backbending buzz" kind of energy. (Which,as we know, I love very much as well!)

Much in the same way we took a more mellow, slow approach to the back bends in the group practice at Breath and Body. People did some very good hand standing work, great standing poses and we worked on a handful of arm balances before eka pada rajakapotasana and dwi pada viparita dandasana. I find it so fun to explore different pathways to the poses and to experience the poses in relationship to a variety of ways we might prepare our bodies for them. Never boring. And many folks told me after class that they enjoyed the slower approach because they were so tired when we started that it was nice to ease in and not fight the heat-induced fatigue.

You may be aware that it is hot here. But not like the 80 degrees people thought was hot in Denver. (And yes, I know when you live in the mountains of Colorado, that is, relatively speaking, hot.) But Texas is a unique kind of heat. It is hot. Damn hot. 105 degrees with humidity and full sunshine. And it is here early this summer. It was here in June, not August. Most people I talk to are a bit freaked out about it, in fact. And even though, according to the Gita, "the wise yogi is not affected by hot or cold..." well, this yogi is not yet that wise. It is hot. Anyhooo.... (small rant completed...moving on now.)

Today, after I get done with a few chores, I am heading out to the Woodlands to spend the afternoon and evening there with John Friend. I will be back in time for the Teacher Training we have tomorrow. You know, it is not too late to sign up for that. In fact, I cannot urge you strongly enough to attend if you at all can because observation and demonstration is where almost every Anusara-inspired or Anusara certification candidate is lacking on their first video and where almost every teacher I ever observe teach could improve and refine their teaching. And that is exactly where we will be focusing our efforts. The idea is that it is by honing our observation skills that we really begin to teach yoga rather than lead yoga because we are responding directly to what is in front of us. To me the ability to observe and respond skillfully is really at the heart of effective teaching. I am in love with the topic and I am passionate about developing my skills and helpoing others with theirs. (12-5 S/S at YogaYoga South. Call Laura at YogaYoga to sign up up if you can fit it in.) And we have super small group so you will get lots of help and lots of chances to practice.

Also keep in mind the festivities at The Love Yoga Coop this weekend. Don't miss it- unless of course you are going to my Teacher Training!

More later this weekend. Off to The Woodlands.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Look for what is Auspicious

So when I talked to John Friend about the instructor group practice I organized, I asked him for some advice and feedback about our first meeting together. He spent some time asking me about why I wanted to create such a space, what my goals and intentions were and what I hoped to accomplish. After we talked a while he gave me some profound nuggets of wisdom which follow here. (Not as an exact quote but as a fairly accurate paraphrasing.)

From John:

"I think it is a great idea. When yoga teachers from different styles come together one of two things can happen. The first is that the differences between methods can be highlighted and division and competition can result. And you do not want that.

The other option is that unity can be created, whihc is what you want. However, in order to create unity you must make it a point, individually and as a group, to look for what is similar among methods, to look for what you all have in common,. You must look for, affirm and express that which is Highest in each of you and in each of the methods. You should begin by talking about what is auspicious and spend your time with that ideal guiding you.

It's a good time to remember the adage, "If local yoga teachers cannot get along, why are we praying for world peace and what hope do the world leaders have?"

So, I took my teacher's advice and used this as my theme for practice and we really had a great time. Many of the people I had expected to be there were absent- a few were sick, three folks had car trouble, another had a family emergency and so on like that. But those of us who came had a grand time. We did a strong back bend practice toward kapotasana and scorpion and it seemed to me like we all had an opportunity to help, be helped and from what I could tell we all enjoyed the time together. So I think it was an auspicious start.

We meet next on July 24th and Desirae Pierce from Breath and Body will teach Power Vinyasa so come with an extra towel and be ready to sweat!

I used the same theme for my 4:30 class at Breath and Body. We worked a lot to refine updog and cobra and moved into some backbends where we focused on the work of the legs. People did a good job and it is fun to see folks so used to a strong flow practice that always keeps moving be willing to watch demos, try new things and learn about refinements in their alignment. Their studentship is very inspiring to me.

Same with the students at Bodhi last night. I worked with long timings very little obvious flow sequences and the students were just so game for anything. Last week was a quite small class there so it was fun to see some more folks in attendance this week. At one point I realized I was teaching them some poses they do not normally see because the first side was always pretty shaky and the second sides were going so much better. Then I asked everybody if my conclusion was correct and they agreed. So I made sure we did 3rd and 4th sides as well to maximize on the improvements I was seeing. Bodhi has such a nice friendly laid back vibe and the students there are really open and receptive.

All right then- just a commercial for the Big Love block party at The Love Yoga Coop. Please join me on Sunday morning for a yoga class at 10am. (For those of you in my TT this weekend, why not start the day with some asana and then we all head over to south studio for TT? Not a bad idea....)

Have a good one.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

here again at last

Well, I took the weekend to go to Denver to visit with friends and while I was there I had the opportunity to teach a class at OmTime in Boulder, which was really fun. I didn't take my computer with me which is why I have not written. The trip was really fun. Laura, one of my oldest friends lives in Colorado with her husband and children and so does her sister Julie and her family. So we got to spend time with them doing all kinds of things- yoga classes, hikes, cooking, eating, shopping, swimming. All the fun things you get to do on vacation.

Here are some scenes from the yoga class in Boulder. I had a good time teaching and the students were great to be with. OmTime is a great studio with lots of interesting offerings there and so the crowd was certainly experienced in Anusara Yoga but not necessarily strictly dedicated to it. It is fun to meet people in all areas of the country and see how the teachings are taking root and how communities are shaped by the different teachers, climates, and circumstances. I really love that part about getting to travel and teach.

Here are some pics from out on our hike.

We got home late Monday and then I taught all day yesterday with no time to catch up in Blogland. But here I am with a few moments to spare between things today.

Yesterday was a long day in a lot of ways. I taught at Bodhi Bee Caves in the morning. It was a very small class so the folks there got lots of help! I have not taught such a small class as the ones there in about 10 years so it really takes me back. I had a short break and tried to catch up on some tasks- like getting my book sent off for the next round of editing!- and answering some other emails that had stacked up. I have lost a bout 2 weeks of email form my other account so if you have written me and not heard from me, please try again at When my other email came back up only 35 messages were there for about two weeks and so I know that a lot is missing.

Then I went to Castle Hill and taught the Level 2-4 class which was great. We worked upside down and with twists. Parvsa sirsasana and sarvangasana to setu bandhasana were the peak poses. Great to spend so much time upside down on a hot afternoon. Everyone did so well. Many people remarked how much more energized they felt at the end of practice than when they were coming in. That is the beauty of inversions! The students at Castle Hill are really dedicated and have been trained so well in the art of taking a yoga class that I have a really great time teaching there. It is a fantastic place to teach and practice.
Speaking of fantastic places to teach and practice, after that I went up to Breath and Body Yoga. We worked last night on lengthening our hamstrings with some great work at the wall. One thing I have noticed in many of my classes there is how good every one's back bends are and how good their standing poses are but how much opportunity there is to improve on seated forward bends and splits and so I have decided to offer some deeper work on the hamstrings and hips over the next few months.
This morning I went to Mysore with Juan and I took it easy. I was pretty tired and also hungry and so for a variety of reasons I just didn't have lots of juice to work with. I did what I could and took some extra time in savasana and in seated meditation at the end. After a cup of tea, a very tasty spelt scone from the castle hill cafe and a meeting with Juan I was quite energized for Focus on Form. We also worked on hamstring lengthening and did some work on parsvottasana and sarvangasana. A great group of students showed up and worked with enthusiasm and good cheer. We really laughed a lot. That is becoming a very fun class. Really, it's one of my favorites.
In fact, last week Gioconda subbed that class and told me I had a rowdy class. I laughed and said, "Yes, I tend to attract the rowdy yoga student who doesn't require a somber environment to feel like they 'did yoga'!" Hmmm.....
So I am on my way back to Castle Hill now for the Instructor's practice I organized. We are meeting the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of the month from 2-4 at Castle Hill for an instructor's practice. It cost $10 to attend and a different instructor from a different method will lead each week. If you want to come, please do- if you are a teacher, that is- and if you can make a commitment to attending consistently. This week is me teaching Anusara Yoga, next time is Desirae with Power Vinyasa, after that is Devon with Iyengar Yoga. (The $10 is split between Castle Hill, the Yoga teacher and a charity of our choice to be decided on later.) Juan will teach Ashtanga, Sanieh is scheduled to teach Prana Vinyasa, Gioconda is going to teach vinyasa... Fun, right?
All right- that is the newsy update for anyone out there interested.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


So- I slept in today to rest since I am fighting a bit of an infection (With the help of antibiotics, thank God!) which is why I was MIA in Focus on Form yesterday, unfortunately. I rested for the day and taught at Breath and Body and Bodhi in the evening. Rest was great, classes were great. I worked with the theme about presence being a physical thing as well as a metaphysical thing.

I got onto this theme because Cynthia gave me a copy of this great poem by e.e. cummings. I knew the poem and played her a Michael Hedges song version of it that I have loved for many years. Here is the poem:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet) i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

-ee cummings

There is a teaching in Anusara Yoga about the support of the community and how the community can provide a mechanism of support for us even when we are not in the physical company of one another. We can, in our physical absence, carry one another in our hearts. But the flip side to that, or the yogic fine print, it seems, is that in order to access the support of the community when we are absent we must also be committed to being present physically so that we can learn to be in sync with one another or with the energetic field or matrix that we create together.

My point is that if you are never around physically, the metaphysical aspect will tend to be closed to you. But if you think you are only supported when you are physically present, then you are missing out on something quite important. So as always, it is both and it depends.

The thing is that we do yoga for ourselves. It helps us grow stronger, more flexible, more resilient, more balanced, more centered, more creative. But the cool thing is that we drag ourselves to class sometimes with these personal benefits in mind and sometimes we fail to see that our being physically present provides a support for everyone else. Our presence really matters. Because two or more or gathered, so to speak, we have a class, the seeds of a community and a network from which to draw strength and support and from which to nourish our heart's longing. We feed and we get fed.

And when we are anchored in such a give and take and the days go by when life's demands do not allow for us to attend physically, we can still tap into the energy that is present in the group. We can still know that people are practicing for us and for one another and we can still affirm that we are part of something profound, meaningful and enriching.

Years ago at Prescott Yoga one of the students in the morning class was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through rigorous chemo and radiation and after about 9 months of absence from class, she came back. I had though it would be impossible for her to re-join her original class after so much time away and after such an illness. But it was not the case. The class had contributed to a flower fund so that every week she was delivered a rose from our class that she got to see every day, we sent regular cards, she came in to check in and visit occasionally. IN short, she stayed connected to the community in her physical absence and when she came back, her asana was hardly changed. On one level, I know this was because she hadn't really stopped coming. She was there in her mind and heart.

The truth is we cannot always roll out a mat and we cannot always come to a class, a practice or a workshop. But we can endeavor to practice inside, in the chamber of our hearts so that our absence is only physical. We can take a vacation but not a vacation from practice even if we do no asana. Something to think about. And of course, remember when you can come, do because your presence makes a difference. Like that.