Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Morning

I had a great day yesterday and even manged to relax a bit. (Well, relax for me, that is!)

I got to spend some time on the phone in the morning with an Anusara Yoga certification candidate from Montreal reviewing her video and that was really pretty amazing. I was able to help her with some detailed information about the "how-to's" of setting a theme and carrying it through the class and some tips of observation and adjustments. She was so open and so humble and so inspiring to work with. There was not one trace of defensiveness or resistance in her response to me. She was just open like the sky in terms of "how can I get better?" that I was really elated by the end of the conversation. I think we both were. Times like those are when work is really like play and when I really feel so grateful for the extended family of Anusara Yoga. We are pretty lucky to be connected with such amazing people all over the world. It is just so great.

(And just so we are clear, and just in case anyone is feeling defensive or tends to feel defensive, I do not think that being defensive is not like some tragic flaw or the worst thing in the world nor does it make us bad people if we are not "open like the sky" in every moment. Lord knows, defensiveness can arise in all of us even when we wish it would stay dormant. I am just saying that when we can work with each other without it- like when the heavens part and things line up and there is a clear channel for a transfer of help-it really is a kind of ecstasy.)

Hmm... yesterday, Kelly and I went for a long, humid walk in the morning which I love to do after a weekend of teaching inside. I caught up on a fair amount of business things and future planning and we had a lovely dinner together last night.

So- a few moments for shameless promotions. I have two retreats planned for 2010 that I want to mention. They are both tropical and they are a bit different.

The first is in Mexico in February. This retreat is limited to about 20 people and will be intimate and a great chance for rejuvenation and relaxation. The location is amazing, the food will be stellar and again, 20 people is a lovely way to connect to yourself, others and to your practice. February 13-20, 2010. Contact the folks at Milagro to sign up.

The second retreat is a bit different. It is in Costa Rica in March. Martin Kirk, the Anatomy Guru of Anusara Yoga will be presenting Anatomy through the lens of Anusara Yoga and the UPA's every afternoon and I will be teaching asana every morning. Other teachers will be there teaching that week also and while you sign up for one of us as your primary teacher for the week, you will have the opportunity to take classes from the other teachers as well. This retreat will be bigger, will have Benjy and Heather playing kirtan every night and will give you a chance to connect to the larger Anusara Yoga family and to learn some of the science behind the method. Contact the folks at Inner Harmony to sign up.

I do hope some of you out there might be able to join me during those weeks. Learning Anusara Yoga on retreat is such an amazing way to immerse yourself in the method, the lifestyle and the teachings of Anusara Yoga. So good. So deep. So fun.

So, the online mentoring group begins on Thursday and so I have some lesson preparations to make for that today, a practice to do and classes to teach. Onward!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Morning in OKC

We had a great day yesterday here in Oklahoma City.

We had a 3-hour morning class for all-levels focused on shoulder principles and working on setu bandhasana and bhujangasana- along with chataranga, lots of standing pose work and so forth. We did a 2 1/2-hour all levels class in the afternoon with deep hip opening, hamstring stretches and worked on twists like parivritta trikonasana, maricyasana 1 and 3 and made a great foray into urdhva prasarita eka padasana at the wall and padmasana.

Both classes were all levels and everyone did a good job applying the "bus stop theory of practice." (For those of you who have not taken a workshop or class with me this is the bus stop theory of practice: Yoga is like a great bus journey. In every pose there are a series of stops and you always want to make sure you get off the bus in a safe neighborhood.)

Also I began the weekend talking about what all-levels actually means in the fine print. It means that for some of the group the workshop will move way too slow at times. And for some of the group the workshop will move way too fast at times. For some of the group the postures will somewhat easy. For some of the group the postures will feel too hard. For only a few people in the room will the workshop feel like "just what they wanted and needed!"

I said that kind of jokingly and everyone laughed, which I thought was a good sign. And while it is not the whole truth of an all-levels experience, there is certainly a kernel of truth in it, as anyone knows who has gone to all-levels classes. But then again, all classes are all-levels in a way because we are all so different. But my point is that when we show up for a workshop or a public class it is just not a made-to-order experience. There is no way it can be. At home, in our own practices, it can be made-to-order because we are the ones who are running the show. But once we put ourselves in a group environment, it is a different game and "having just what we want" is no longer a viable option to count on. Of course, sometimes the Lords of Yoga smile on us and the class ends up feeling "just perfect" for us which is a great and wonderful thing.

I think this is why teaching yoga is such a good way to work on ourselves. I mean, I love it when everyone around me is happy (particularly with me) and if I had my way I would want everyone (including me) to be happy and get what they want and so forth. It can be very challenging to my psychological script when I know people do not like what I am doing, how I am or what I am offering and yet, the reality of yoga teaching is that in general, you can count on not everyone in the room enjoying themselves, the class, its content, the presentation, etc... So it is an excellent way to challenge and confront a script of people-pleasing because as a yoga teacher I get to practice staying in my own center in the face of differing public opinion. It is good work, really. Not easy, not necessarily enjoyable, but valuable nonetheless.

Plus once you really get clear about the impossiblity of keeping everyone happy you see the futility of a such a script. Just think about the heat issue, for instance. For everyone in a room to be a comfortable temperature, everyone would need their own climate-controlled area and we would have to practice yoga in little Plexiglas cubicles, each equipped with their own thermostat and so forth. (Seriously. Think about it.) And so in seeing the futility of the people-pleasing script, one sees the necessity of working with one's personal discomfort that arises when not everyone is pleased. So like that.

(disclaimer here: NOT ONE person in the workshop complained or expressed dissatisfaction or was in anyway less than attentive or enthusiastic. They all practiced great studentship. They really did. I am talking here about larger issues not specific to this weekend!)

All right, we have back bends and arm balances on deck this morning in an Int./Adv. class. I will have time to do a practice this afternoon and then eat lunch and head to the airport and then home.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Oklahoma City

Well, it was an early morning wake up for me and Kelly this morning to get me to the airport by 5:30. I landed in OKC at around 10 in the morning and Martha (my new BFF) picked me up and we went back to her house and then got some yummy Thai food before we went to her studio for a group practice and the evening class.

We ahd a very nice practice. We did a fair amount of standing pose flow and then worked into our hips, and practiced vasisthasana, urdhva danuarasana and dwi pada viparita dandasana. I was in ecstasy getting to get off a plane and have a three hour practice. Many times I can practice on a travel day but rarely is is a full specutrum practice and rarely in the midst of travel am I as focused in practice as I was able to be with a group there for support and comaraderies. Especially on a 4:30 wake up day. So, it was awesome for me. The group did very well and I think I gave them some tips for approaching dwi pada viparita dandasana that should serve many well.

I really think those two back bends are so crucial for so many other back bends that they are worth spending a lot of time sorting out. We can certainly rush toward other poses but the time spent in those will pay off for sure.

The evening class was great. I don't think it was my theming at its most brilliant but the sequence and alignment and the overall feeling in the room was fantastic. We worked on some basic aspects of Muscle and Organic Energy aas well as Inner and Outer Spiral and took it from gentle standing pose flow into deeper hip opening and seated forward bends and twists. We had a very mixed level of ability, experience and so forth but a very compatible group in terms of rapport, compassion and zeal. The students at Spirit House Yoga have so much heart, humor, passion and care for one another that it is a really fantastic thing to be a part of.

Martha and her husband Ted (who is a certified Baptiste Instructor and Anusara Yoga enthusiast) have been in business for over 5 years and they really are creating such a cool community here. I said it in class tonight but I think it bears repeating here- At the last Certified Teacher Gathering John Friend talked about his vision for Anusara Yoga and he talked about how he always had imagined it as clusters of community spread out all over the map. It really struck me in his description how important a local community is to have to practice with and how cultivating our local communities, as certified teachers, is such a vital aspect of the well being of our method. So anyway, I just kept thinking about that while I have been here because they are really very passionate, intelligent, devoted practitioners and teachers and their dedication to their studio and students is inspiring.

So tomorrow we begin at 10 and continue on with the fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday Night

Well, just a brief moment to check in here in cyberspace. I am pretty tired tonight. It has been a really full month so far. Right before Desiree's visit we had been in Oregon, then there was the workshop then right following Desiree's visit, Mom and Dad came into town, in the middle of their visit I went to Corpus Christi and then the week started and Mom and Dad extended their stay and so they left today. I added in subbing for Gioconda this week on top of my normal classes and on Friday I leave first thing in the morning to go to Oklahoma to teach. Wow.

So anyway, tonight I am just trying to decompress a bit after class and my Teacher Mentor Group before I go to bed. I had planned to teach a piece tonight about themes and UPA's but we got into discussion of sequencing and what does it really mean when something is a Level One pose. This came up because I was telling the group how in Light on Yoga Mr. Iyengar says that there are 13 poses that need to be mastered by beginners:

1. tadasana
2. vrksasana
3. utkatasana
4. trikonasana
5. parsvakonasana
6. parivritta trikonasana
7. parivritta parsvakonasana
8. Virabhadasana 1
9. Virachadrasana 2
10. Virabhdrasana 3
11. ardha chandrasana
12. parsvottanasana
13. prasarita paddottanasana

Now both the group this weekend and this evening both looked at that list and exclaimed, "But those are hard poses! I mean, how does parivritta trikonasana work as a beginning level pose?" (I thought it was fascinating how both groups said this very same thing.)

So we spent some time going over a possible sequence (as well as talking about variations on the theme of other possible sequences) of how you might introduce that pose to beginners.

So the real moral of the story is that that is not a list of "beginning-level poses" as much as it is a list of "peak poses" for Beginners. In some ways, it might be really helpful to look at the Level One Syllabus of Anusara Yoga in the same way. Not as a list of easy poses or poses that new people should be able to do right away but as those poses that Level One students are working on, growing into and learning how to approach safely and intelligently. We can see them as those poses that Level One students need to be able to do gain entrace to the Level 2 syllabus where a whole new set of postures become the peak poses. And so on.

So that was where the class went tongiht and our UPA/Theme building discussion will have to be tabled until next week. Time now, for bed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back Home

Well, back home from Corpus Christi this weekend. We had an excellent weekend of Teacher Training over there. We focused a lot on sequencing and how to teach poses in a systematic and progressive way for different levels as well on some strategies for adapting and modifying postures to address special needs.

Also we had some time to have an ethics discussion. We based the discussion around the outline that John gives in The Teacher Training Manual with the Yamas and Niyamas. It is always good to review some of our basic ethical precepts and what informs them. Also inspiring is to consider what a high calling it is to teach yoga and how much is involved in growing into the calling that it is. It makes me think a lot about a teaching that Darren always gives that his father gave him once about teaching and serving: "God does not choose the qualified; he qualifies the chosen."

We are not necessarily called to teach yoga because we are already honest, compassionate, non-clinging, non-hoarding, disciplined, and completely surrendered to the will of God. We are called to teach yoga because teaching yoga is such an amazing way to cultivate those qualities within ourselves and in our behaviors. Teaching is a means of purifying ourselves and rooting out those things within our minds and hearts that stand in the way of living true to these ideals. Teaching yoga is a line of work that calls us to The Highest and for me, nothing else quite provides same level of empowerment, encouragement, and humbling ass-kicking that being a certified Anusara Yoga teacher does.

Anyway, it is a really great thing to have such an ongoing learning situation with a group of people like we have in Corpus Christi. We have really come a long way together.

On the personal front, Mom and Dad put an offer in on a house on Friday and it was accepted. Their new house, if everything goes through as planned, is about a 5-minute walk from my house so they will be very close. I think they made a great choice and it will be a good situation for all of us. They thought they would go home tomorrow but it might be that they will be extending their trip a few days to see to inspections, etc. before they head back to Georgia. I plan to spend the day with them. Also, I have a lot to catch up that I didn't get to over the weekend.

Well, that is about it for now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Balance off the mat

Here is a cool thing about balance of the mat. Balance for different people looks different. Balance, for the human, is not some outside imposition because we are all different- with different constitutional make-ups, with different dharmas (dharma: duty, life purpose) to fulfill. And while what is optimal and balanced for each person will share certain characteristics and qualities, the actual content of what is balanced action off the mat is different for each of us. (Kinda like in yoga how each one of has to do pelvic loop but the sway backed among us have to lots more of it than do those practitioners who are flat through the lumbar spine.)

Think about it like a car. A Toyota Tercel is designed for a certain type of driving that is very different from a Porsche. A Ferrari, for instance "hums" at a higher speed than does a VW bug. Try to open up a Yugo on the Autobahn and you will have a different experience than if you open up high-end BMW. And we are like that also. We are each built differently, with different capacities, different weaknesses, different strengths and different dreams. That is my point.

I really got this when I made a foray into Ayurveda several years ago. At the heart of the Ayurveda approach to health and healing is the assertion that there are different constitutional types or doshas. Health, in Ayurveda, is seen as a state of balance or sattva and that state of balance is relative to each type. For instance the balanced state for pitta (the fire type) is different that the balanced state for kapha (the water type) and the vata type (the wind type).

For instance, no matter how in balance I get, I am still a fiery type with wind. (pitta-vata) No matter how much meditation, yoga, good eating, therapy, and so on that I do, I am not going to ever be soft, retiring, super-nurturing and very accepting. I am going to always be fire. I will be passionate, intense, clear-minded, outspoken and probably prone to a first response of anger or criticism (largely of myself!). I can learn to temper it, I can through a variety of means, give the fire good steady fuel to burn so it doesn't blaze out of control, but still, my optimal is going to be balanced for fire. I will not morph into a watery type. Period. And this goes the same for every other type.

Ayurveda, like Chinese Medicine, feels the pulses for diagnosis and treatment and so this idea holds true on the physical level also. A balance pitta pulse actually feels different to the practitioner than a balanced pulse feels for a vata and/or a kapha. So like that.

Somehow this learning did not come easily to me growing up or even in the worlds of therapy and new-age spirituality where I got the message that balance looked the same for everybody. I was unconsciously waiting for a state of inner calm, receptivity, cool-headed acceptance and abiding compassion to overtake my personality and I would have "done it"; I would have achieved balance! What I have learned, however, by following certain protocols (and by not following them also! Gotta love contrast!) what balance feels like for me.= and what things tend to support that state and what things tend to work against that state.

When I first went to see Craig Williams to get some help with all of this he told me, "You are like a forest fire with a dry wind blowing on it. We have got to get the wind to stop blowing on the fire. Once we do that your fire will be just fine so long as you give it the right kind of fuel to burn." Now the radical part is that by following a few of his suggestions I started to calm down a little. The wiry feeling I had inside (which I always thought was "just how I was") started to subside and I really experienced myself and my world differently.

So this is an interesting thing to consider when we start to consider "inner wisdom" relative to our unique expression. We do not always see ourselves clearly. We do not always make the correct assumptions on the evidence we have. (Interestingly, Joh Friend often reminds us that dosha also means, "tat which will easily go out of balance.") Like how I thought the wiry feeling was just me having lots of energy and was just fine since it is just how I have always been. (And on one level it is just fine but on another level it was not my Highest. But I digress.) So by getting some outside help and suggestions, I was able to experience a new, more optimal state, which is now my "inner wisdom" or my "inner barometer" for balance. And weirdly, I did like this state better. (At least usually! I mean for a thrill seeker, calming down is not always fun in the way we think of fun, right?)

Also, because of human nature, many times we crave and enjoy those things that tip us out of balance. Me, for instance- I love spicy food, coffee, alcohol, television late at night, driving fast, moving quickly, loud music, working lots and all things that aggravate my dosha. Left to my "inner wisdom" I might make choices, if I was not educated, discerning and disciplined that actually made my situation worse. I might confuse that wirey feeling with "good energy" and, being the type I am (read:addictive pitta!) want more of that feeling and choose those things that made me even more stimulated.

And let's tell the truth, I do sometimes choose those things and I do not always follow my inner barometer of balance, but at least I know the difference now. When I am off I have something to compare it to. I have some place to return to that I know, from direct experience, as more optimal for me. And so my "inner wisdom" was initially educated with help from the outside. That is my point.

It reminds me of how we chant our invocation- I bow to the Auspicious Lord that is the true teacher within AND without. We bow to both sources of enlightenment of Grace. So obviously this relates to yesterday's discussion about classic form vs. creative variations. More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Balanced Action


So I had an amazing conversation with John Friend yesterday about the 3 A's and about the lovely and dynamic relationship between Attitude, Alignment and Action and what it really means to be a three-pronged approach to asana practice. Obviously, Anusara is heart-centered method. As such, Attitude is considered the most important A. But really, if we think of a three-legged stool, it is at it most functional when all the legs are equally balanced.

Why I say the conversation was amazing is the clarity that John brought to my understanding about Action. Action is really Balanced Action. (Like maybe instead of 3 A's, we really have 2 A's and a B, but I digress...) Action, in our method, is about bringing balanced action to the form of any asana so that the light of the heart (attitude) shines through what otherwise would be a stale pose or a foreign outside imposition of an arbitrary shape to the body. The A's are in relationship to one another; each A, gives the other A its relevance to the whole.

For instance, if we take away Attitude, we have dry technique-based asana. If we take away Alignment and a sense of clarity as to what the form for each asana is, we have creative movement with little boundary. Also we lose sight of the vision of why the actions are even necessary. If we take away balanced Action, we run the risk of injury in the postures because the forms themselves can be like land mines of potential danger if we do not know how to align ourselves within them. And so on. Each A is important.

So we talked a lot about classic form vs. variations. One of the hallmarks of our method, I believe is our great delight in practicing creative variations on classic form and on our willingness to occasionally, as I say, "put the protractor away for a while" when we practice. But John was insistent that these variations be taught relative to the classic form because in most cases the classic form is the standard for experiencing and expressing balanced action.

Take trikonasana for example. Many time we take that pose and back bend it. But in its classic form trikonasana is straight through the spine. (Check out Light on Yoga or D's syllabus poster.) The straight spine should be "mastered" first because it is easier to find and express balanced action in that form. (Mind you, I did not say easier to do, just easier to do in a balanced way. If you are a bend-y type, guaranteed you will not enjoy classic form as much!) So if you can find balanced action straight, then you can work on not just back bending the pose, but back bending it in a balanced way- with strong kidney loop and pelvic loop, for instance.) Same goes with all the forms that we back bend- seated twists, Vira 1, anjaneyasana, etc.

Now, I myself have heard John say, Action over Form but I think we have to be mature in our understanding of this. I am pretty sure he does not mean that form does not matter! This might mean that in a back bend like urdhva danurasana the shape is bent but the action is like tadasana; there is still that kidney loop action within the form. The kidney loop in this case is there to bring Balanced Action. And so on. Same with poses like padmasana where the form is extremely externally rotated we still need the action of Inner Spiral to keep the femur set in a balanced way so that we do not aggravate the psoas or the S.I. joint.

So enough on this today. Obviously more could be said. Oh, but the thing I must say is how cool it is to keep plumbing the depths of the basic of this method because as John told me once, "The depth of the basics is infinite." How crazy after 10 or more years at this with John to go, "Oh, right.... Balanced Action, not just Action." (I swear this stuff is never dull.) And John's patient dedication to my love for precise articulation always astounds me.

Tomorrow I hope to follow this up with a discussion on how all of this relates to Tantra because the way we take this off that mat is actually where the fun begins! It is a lovely discussion about discipline, indulgence, rules, guidelines, deference, and the exciting path of discovering and expressing one's own wisdom and authority. (How is that for a tantalizing preview?)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday Morning

I set the intention yesterday to really take care of myself and I did just that. Had some tea instead of coffee in the morning (For the record I am NOT anti-coffee in general. However, the more tired and cranky I become the more I drink it and the worse it is for me- I get angry, impatient and less able to sleep well and so it feeds a downward cycle rather than an uplifting one.) I made a great Ayurvedic lunch and dinner, got a chiropractic adjustment (3 ribs out and a few vertebrae out f whack as well!), went to Peggy's class, walked my dogs, made an accupuncture appointment for today and got some work done closing out the weekend and getting ready for the week, the training in Corpus and the online mentoring group. A good day, all in all. I even bought myself a new T-shirt at Costco.

Peggy's class was really fun. She taught a backbending sequence working up to dwi pada viparita dandasana with the head down and the legs together and straight. It was most excellent. She also introduced a discussion of the kleshas and how yoga helps us cope, manage, lessen them. It was a good time. The sequence was simple, straight forward and very effective. I left feeling open and also quite calm. I think that is what I love most about Iyengar Yoga- the post- practice sattvic state. (Even after deep back bends.) I think it has to do with the inversions, the lack of vinyasa and the longer holds with empty space between poses. (Don't get me wrong here, I like vinyasa, moving a lot, etc. also... I am just saying what I like about Iyengar Yoga specifically. I could write another entry about what I like about vinyasa because that list is long also!)

Let's see- accupuncture, practice and teaching is on the agenda today. Mom and Dad arrive sometime tomorrow and so I am not going to be teaching on Thursday so I can spend some time with them while they are here. Hannah will sub for me at Castle Hill and probably Erika or Omar will sub for me at Breath and Body. However, next week I will be teaching vinyasa for Gioconda at 9:30 on Tuesday and Thursday at Castle Hill while she is gone, so that is fun.

That is about it for now. Onward.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Well, we had another fun day of backbends and arm balances with Desiree yesterday. After class we went to Whole Foods for lunch and then to Lululemon and then to REI and then home and then to the airport. It was a fun and mellow way to end a very full weekend.

One of the things I really like about having guest teachers is that students get a chance to see how one method can be presented in a lot of different ways. There is an interesting dance in teaching Anusara Yoga between "what is the method" and "what is the particular teacher's teaching style".

Over the years I have always found it very helpful to show the teachers that I am training in the method that difference and to train students to be discerning in mine or in anyone else's class between what is Anusara Yoga and what is a teacher's take on Anusara Yoga or a teacher's personal teaching style. Hopefully the one method is being presented with consistency as well as difference. That is the aim.

That aim for the classroom mirrors our larger philosophy, in fact. (There is One Spirit that takes on a multiplicity of forms in order to know itself fully and express itself joyfully. ) We really celebrate differences and want the method to find a variety of expression so long as it does so within a certain set of boundaries. Des, Andrew and I had a really interesting talk about how every method will always have traditionalists/purists and will always have creative, mad scientist/artists who push the boundaries and keep us expanding the form and that each type is important to health and longevity of the system. If we only have traditionalists we run the risk of being dogmatic, zealous, stagnant. If we only have mad scientists we run the risk of becoming diluted or undefined or so diverse as to have a lack of unity. Really, we need both.

I think there may also be a third type that I would call a synthesizer who pulls from other methods and experiences and diciplines but brings it back to the method. (Like how my association with vinyasa methods this year has influenced my style a lot lately and how my studies within Iyengar Yoga influence my presentatin and understanding of our method. But I digress.)

Also, my friend Darren Rhodes and I talk a lot about the dance between "Perspectives" and "Principles" and how important it is when we teach (and when we take classes from any teacher) to be clear within ourselves and to be clear in our presentation (or in receiving teaching from someone else) what the difference is. This is also knowing the difference between Anusara Yoga philosophy and our personal philosophy. And staying clear on these distinctions is work that is never dull.

It was a really great weekend. I enjoyed seeing how everyone responded so delightedly to Desiree and her teachings and perspectives and how respectfully, skillfully and authentically she presented her story, her experiences and her knowledge. She is really such an inspiring person, practitioner and teacher.

Okay then, on with the day. Lots to do.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


A few scenes from the day with Des. We did standing poses and back bends in the morning and ended the day with some forward bends and hip opening work. As always, lots of fun, lots of good nuggets of wisdom for on and off the mat and from what I could tell people had a great time. I know I did.

A few thigh stretches...
And thighs back here also!
Sheldon and Andrew
Des and Andrew trying to help Jason get some mobility in his upper back...
chataranga dandasana
Down Dog
Feeling the Love
Ready to go the The Broken Spoke
On a personal note, my yoga-world-order was restored over the weekend- Mark and Hannah were back in class, Pammy was back in class, Jesse was back in class and Ari was taking photos of the fun. (This is to say that I am not ever grateful for everyone else and for all of you who are regularly in class and for those new friends who came from far and wide, because Lord knows I am, but it is so nice to have some of the old gang back together. I have really felt a bit as though we have been split asunder since last spring. Not criticizing, not admonishing, just simply saying HOW MUCH I like it when we are all together.) And we have photographic proof. Here is a link to some of Ari's fabulous photos.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Morning

Well, we had a good time yesterday with Desiree. She started out with Yoga to the Rescue- which in some ways to me is a class about "Do the principles, do the poses well with impeccable form with lots of attention and intensity and you can heal what hurts."

Then we had a great hip opening class and which culminated in yogi nidrasana, clasped uttanasana and a lovely savasana. Here are a few pictures.

And here a clip of Des teaching Anne a trick to get her parsvakonasana deeper....

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Morning

Well, it is Friday morning and ready or not, there is a workshop this weekend. I mean ready or not, mostly because I have not been home a lot to have all of my ducks in a row and to be as 100% organized as is my preference when hosting such things. Still, yoga workshops are usually populated with helpful people and I am sure that if I need a hand plenty of people will be able to help. Mostly I need to get to the store this morning for things like receipts, name tags and so forth. And it is raining which makes the venue a bit more challenging because last year we had a fair amount of overflow onto the deck and so forth. Oh well, its going to be great.

Hmm... It is September 1th today. I was at Inner Harmony on retreat with John Friend on the September 11th. I remember when he and John Epert (the host) and Krishna Das announced what had happened. For those of you who were not around in the early Inner Harmony days, that retreat center is located on the top of a mountain in the middle of Utah and is, shall we say, remote. So there we were- 50 or so of us, many of whom were New Yorkers- on top of a mountain in Utah not really sure whether we would be able to leave as planned and not really sure what we would be going home to. Intense, to say the least.

The main teaching that I remember that John gave that week was to "make beauty." He taught back bend class after back bend class and time and again asked us to assert and create beauty in the midst of the pain, the suffering and the ugliness that had led to such a violent act. He never once said, "Do not be sad or do not be hurt or do not feel afraid" as much as he taught us, in the midst of all those difficult feelings, to assert a higher perspective. This teaching is really timeless and is at the essence of what we are up to in Anusara Yoga.

So- I had a decent day yesterday. I got to talk to John some about my book. (He thought I was on the right track with the last round of edits so I can keep going on those. YAY!) and we also talked about some politics and p.r. issues he wanted to make me aware of. So that was enlightening.

I find the interpersonal domain of teaching yoga to be way harder than keeping a heart-based theme alive in a yoga class or talking someone into and out of a pose efficiently. The interesting water of personalities rubbing up against one another is really a way harder yoga for me. But actually, I think it is part of the fine print of teaching Anusara Yoga.

I have found over the years that the work we do as Anusara Yoga practitioners within community can be quite valuable and worthwhile and every bit as transformational as the other practices of yoga. The yoga of relationship with others has, at its essence, an invitation to grow and refine ourselves with the direct feedback of other people's response to our efforts. I do not think that we have to change every time someone has a less-than-positive thought about us. I really don't. That would be crazy-making for sure. However, it is generally worthwhile to look at feedback we get and see if there is some opportunity for refinement within it that would be in our best interest to implement and if so, to work on it with patience and compassion for ourselves. So like that.

Weirdly, a very strange story about me had gotten to John that was even difficult to see the kernel of truth within it but well, there you go. Remember the whole game of "telephone" we used to play as children? You sit in a big circle and the first person whispers something into the next person's ear and then by the time the message gets back to the first person it has invariably changed and sometimes quite radically. Funny how that happens in real life also. Stories change, nuances and motives get added, personal agendas influence how we see and experience each other and then down the road, well, you get my point.

And in this case, I took the feedback- not relative to the content of the story (because it was entirely false)- but as evidence that energetically something between me and this person was way off and, while I am not sure how right now, I would like to move toward healing it.

All right, on with the day and into the night...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Good Morning!

I was pretty tired yesterday on my first day back from my trip but all in all I had a great time. It was fun to see so many people in classes and also we had our instructor's practice with Juan teaching us Ashtanga yesterday which was great. He is such a knowledgeable instructor and his love for the method he teaches is inspiring.

I started the day off with Focus on Form and we worked with the theme of faith and the steadiness it creates. While I emphasized a fair amount of muscle energy we also worked with shoulder principles and creating concavity before convexity in forward bends like uttanasana, parsvottanasana, supta padangusthasana, navasana and ardha navasana, abhaya padangusthasana, urdhva mukha pascimottanasana 1&2. We also walked down the chataranga dandasana road for a while.

I had a quick lunch at home and then went back to The Castle for the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice with Juan and then Gioconda and I had some girl time before we each went our separate ways to teach our evening classes. I returned to The Castle for the 6pm class which is listed as a 2/3 but is a pretty darn strong class. We worked with muscle energy and shoulder actions to go towards back bends and into drop backs which was a lot of fun. If this same group keeps coming we are going to have to change it to a Level 3/4 class on the next schedule. Really the caliber of studentship has been quite high.

Then the mentoring group stayed after and we got to work on examining the assessment criteria for a certification video. We focused mostly on developing and presenting the heart-based theme. I had hoped to show the video of my class but we had technical problems and so we only got the audio of the opening portion of class. Still, I think it was useful and really, a mentoring group has as much to do with what students do outside of class than it does with what I provide inside class because it is more about honing the information people already have than it is about presenting anything radically new. A huge part of my agenda in this group is to help people become their own best assessor- to see their teaching through loving and discerning eyes relative to "effective teaching" and relative to the "assessment standard."

Speaking of the mentoring group, I do have some spots still available in the online group that is forming. Talk about an all-star cast- we have people from all over the country and into Canada all of who are super dedicated and already I can tell it is going to be an amazing opportunity for growth and community.

Speaking of growth and community, Desiree Rumbaugh is here this weekend and there is still space to join us. If you have never studied with her, don't miss it. It is inspiration on so many levels to work with her and really, it is a great chance for us to all come together as an Anusara Yoga community. And she is not goignt o come back in 2010 so if you can make it this year, please do!

Okay then, on with the day

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

On the way Home

Well we had a great trip. On Saturday, I led a Labor of Love Labor Day practice at Allison's studio. It was really great. We worked through a variety of standing poses, arm balances and backbends. She has just moved into a new space and so it was a great thrill to be the first class/practice ever taught there. The Labor of Love theme was so perfect because getting a new studio space ready has been just that for Allison and her gang. Also fun was that there were local folks as well as some friends from Utah and Spain who had been in the area for John Friend's recent Oregon tour. It is a really neat thing to be reminded of what a world wide community of fantastic people that we are a part of.

After the practice we made our way over to Bend. We had dinner with Mom and Dad Sell and Brother Tim and his kids. So that was fun.

We woke up the next day to meet up with Dennis and Jeannie, friends and former employer we had not seen in over ten years and then we connected with Mare for a hike along the Deschutes River. We had hoped for some mountain time but there was storm and we didn't want to hike in the snow! We spent the day and evening hanging out with Mare and her family and went out for a great meal.
Yesterday I went to a very fun yoga class at Bend Yoga. It was a great practice and the instruction was good and I had a fantastic time. I had a chance to spend some time talking to Rebecca, who taught the class, and her husband Keith who I practiced next to. What a nice group of people and how fun to meet people of like mind and heart like that.
Afgter yoga Kelly and I hung out, drove over to Portland and met up with Brother Barry and his wife Belinda. All in all, a great trip.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Me and Kelly in Oregeon

SO we travelled yesterday and got into Oregon. had time for a great lunch and afternoon walk and made our way to Shawn and Dianna's (Kelly's brother and his wife) for dinner and a visit with them and their 3 kids. Seth, my other nephew was out of town on a camping trip. Anyway, we had a great visit, good food and fantastic conversation.

Kelly and I woke up this morning, had breakfast in bed and then went to Multnomah Falls for a hike. It is a fantastic hike of about 5 miles and lots of up and down hill with one incredible waterfall after another. After that we went to lunch and we are now waiting to meet up with my friend from college, Stephanie, for a visit and perhaps another walk.

It is really great to have some time in nature, some time with Kelly and some time for some R&R. Tomorrow I am leading a practice at Allison Altsrom's place and I realize now that I said the wrong time. It is 10-1, not 10-3. So, anyone in Portland who wants to come practice, come and join us. The link is a few posts back or send me a quick email and I can give you the details.

All right- in other exciting news, I just borrowed a pair of scissors from the hotel desk and cut my bangs. My hair dresser will probably yell at me but when I saw all these pictures all I could think was, "Wow, my bangs are in my face. How annoying." (Okay, I also noticed the scenery and how my shirt matches the trees almost exactly.)

More later.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wag More

So, Kelly and I were driving down the road on Monday to go on a walk and I saw this bumper sticker that said, "Wag More, Bark Less." I laughed and it totally made me think about yoga and how really that is the invitation of practice in a certain way. The mind - at least one aspect of the mind at any rate- barks. That is what it does. And the only way to "Wag More" is really to be more in our heart than in our head. And that is what the philosophies of Anusara Yoga tell us- we can enter into our hearts, into a deep source of delight, enjoyment and happiness (the "inner wag," so to speak and we can live from that knowledge and experience.

So that was my theme yesterday at 4:30 and at 6:30. Both classes were eka pada raja kapotasana classes and I worked with more movement than strict action to open the hips and shoulders and prepare the spine for the deep bend of it. I stayed away from lots of details and techniques and focused more on movement with the breath and full range of motion for the shoulder joint in a flow-based practice. We did lots with gomukhasana arms and pascima namakarasana and urdhva namaskarasana. And by the time we got to eka pada raja kapotasana, a lot people (in each class) got their foot behind their head for the first time ever so it must have worked!

Anyway- using that as a theme was also fun for me because it was a reminder for me to "wag more" when teaching which is a nicer place to be inside myself anyway. Okay, time to clean up and head to The Castle for Focus on Form.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Okay well, it is Tuesday Morning and it has been several days since I checked in here on the world wide web.

I spent the weekend in the Houston area teaching. Friday night I was at Valerie Immore's studio, Sundance Yoga. On Saturday I taught at the Katy YMCA. And then I went back to Sundance on Sunday. It was a really great weekend. I worked with a Shiva/Shakti theme at Sundance and with a theme of Saying Yes to Life! at the YMCA. This is the second time I have taught in Katy and the third time I have been to Sundance and so it was really great to meet new folks but also to see so many familiar faces. The workshops were both well attended - we had around 30 people in every session- and all in all, it was a great weekend.

As I was packing my things to get in the car I realized- "Oh wow, this is not an Immersion weekend- it is asana classes all weekend. What a relief!" Don't get me wrong...I love Immersions and I love teacher trainings but they really do require a different kind of focus and attention than a weekend that is primarily asana classes. Partly because many of the Immersion students are teachers or want to teach and are heading to Teacher Training, the information in an Immersion is not presented in as much of a "take what you can use" kind of manner. There is a lot more required knowledge to cover and to help people really understand. It is just a different animal than offering several sequences to help people increase awareness, improve their practice and gain some insight into new and familiar postures.

Anyway- the weekend was great and then yesterday I actually took for some down time. The weather was cool- only 93 degrees- so Kelly and went walking on the greenbelt (I gave up running. It hurts. Three runs and my uttanasana was wrecked! sigh.) and then we went to the movies on the spur of the moment. I am like the least spontaneous person I know so this was kind of a big deal. We were driving down the road after our walk, I was looking at The Chronicle and I saw that Harry Potter started in 8 minutes and we were right there on Westgate. So we turned left instead of right and went to the movies. After that I cleaned up, went to Peggy's Iyengar Yoga class at the Austin Yoga School with Anne and then came home, made dinner and sat up- late into the night talking with Kelly. It was cool enough to sit on the porch and enjoy the summer evening which was awesome.

Today- I am going to practice some asana this morning, get some things in order for the week- I start my local mentoring group on Wednesday as well as a new class at Castle Hill on Wednesday night so I am looking forward to that. I will be out of town Thursday-Tuesday so there is a lot to do to prepare for the trip and so forth. Kelly and I are going to Oregon and I have not been back there in like 10 years. So excited. if you are in Portland, come to practice with me on Saturday from 10-3. I am teaching at Allison's new place.

Gioconda will be covering my Castle Hill classes and Erika will be teaching at Breath and Body Yoga. So go and support the class, the substitute, the studio, your fellow classmates and yourself. (not necessarily in that order....)