Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tradition or Not

Okay so the formatting on this post has a life of its own today and I cannot get a handle on it. Sorry. Anyway, Mandy asked me at the end of my last post about whether or not I thought that Anusara Yoga could accurately be called a tradition. Here are her thoughts:

I've got something for you to ponder Anusara yoga a tradition? I called it a tradition in class recently and one of my very thoughtful students suggested that Anusara was to young in his mind to be considered a tradition. Here are my thoughts I shared with him...It certainly is a part the big umbrella tradition of yoga and we do things that are very traditional....chant, meditate and contemplate on the universal, asana, etc. But in some ways Anusara Yoga is untraditional......UPA's, Immersions and Teacher Trainings, bringing yoga to the masses, enjoyment of life (both traditional and non). I would love to hear your thoughts on this seems like it might be a good blog post.

I think the real question really boils down to how long does something have to be happening for it to be called a tradition. As Mandy pointed out we are most certainly part of the large tradition of yoga. In fact, we are part of theKrishnamacharya lineage of yoga, as is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Viniyoga. Our teacher, John Friend, was a student of BKS Iyengar (Although certainly he studied with other teachers and had other influences I think it is fair to say that our roots are pretty strongly planted in the soil of the Iyengar Yoga Tradition. He is 90- something we get to call that a tradition?) who was a student of Krishnamacharya. Don't get me wrong here, I am not saying we are the same but just acknowledging the roots of the alignment were fertilized by all those years John studied, practiced and taught in that system.

The other thing is that our philosophical roots are planted in the Siddha Yoga Tradition and while we are not Siddha Yoga Hatha Yoga by any means, our teacher was influenced and guided by this great spiritual tradition and its teachings, practices and perspectives. Of course, there are other influences that inform the broad, life-affirming vision that is Anusara Yoga philosophy but this is a big one. Pull on that thread, after all and you get to Kashmir Shaivism, you learn John met Douglas Brooks whose genius, knowledge and experience is steeped in the Shri Vidya tradition of Southern India and found its modern expression in his work with Rajanaka Tantra and so on. Siddha Yoga has been a wellspring of inspiration, guidance and support to us in Anusara Yoga.

My opinion is that the underpinnings of the Universal Principles of Alignment are not new or specific to us. Ask any alignment-oriented yoga teacher out there and they will tell you that similar principles inform the postures and that the poses are linked through these similar principles. So my opinion and experience is that we do not own/are not responsible for that idea, although the language of the UPA's and the system we use to approach the truth of the asana being connected in such a way is part of our genius as a method (Thanks, John!)and does define us. Yoga teachers have been linking postures through principles for a long time beofre we came around but the way we do it is definitely us.

Yoga coming to the masses happened way before Anusara Yoga so that is not part of "our tradition" either in my mind. In fact, I think BKS was one of the first people to really do that. He broke away from the "traditional" approach of one on one instruction and developed an effective means of transmitting the asana practice to large groups. He probably did more to popularize yoga than we have done as a method, although I am not stating that as a fact, just as an opinion. Obviously, other things have contributed to the rise of yoga's popularity.(like Madonna and Sting doing it!) And people have been doing intensives, trainings and workshops long before us.

Enjoyment of life and the participation in life as opposed to the renunciation of life belongs to the tradition of tantra and so that guiding ideal of ours is grounded and rooted in a traditional soil as well.

So here is what I always think is interesting. Whenever a tradition "got started" it was radical. For instance, BKS Iyengar was a radical practitioner and teacher of asana in his early days but now that method seems to hold down the conservative side of the discussion. When the tantric sects were popping up, they were a decidedly radical path, not a traditional one. To say something is "traditional tantra" is kind of funny because they were always about a radical approach. When John got started on his own, Anusara was more radical and was more questioned. Now we are seen as more knowledgeable, authoritative and valid. And that is just in 10 years!

One thing I think we have done that is "ours" is to elevate asana as something other than a means to end but to place it as its own spiritual practice and expression of divinity. In Anusara Yoga, for instance, we do not do asana "just to get to meditation." We see asana as a full expression of a philosophy and not a lower upaya, or means. And we do not do yoga to sublimate the emotions only or to subdue the personality. We use the mechanism of asana as an expression means. So that is more than a bit different.

The dictionary defines tradition as something that is passed down through generations. And so that is one of the interesting things about what is going on in Anusara Yoga right now is that its tradition is new, evolving and in the process of being codified. Part of what we did recently in The Woodlands was begin to outline very clearly a curriculum that defines us and our means of transmission more clearly so that we are not John Friend Yoga but a system that can stand the test of time.

I think it is fair to say we are a tradition- we have "our ways" and we are transmitting them from generation to generation of students and teachers. Like it is a really cool (and sobering) thing when a teacher that I trained now has teachers that they are training. But I think it is good to be clear we are a young tradition. What that means is that we are growing, changing and evolving and learning. And like anything there are pros and cons. Can you be old and new at the same time? In a way, we are. We have harvested many fantastic things from what came before and yet we are something decidedly new as well. We are 12 years old, not 112.

One thing Douglas always used to say is that just because something is new does not mean it is good, nor does it mean it is bad. And just because something is old, that does not give it credibility nor does it mean that it should be discarded. Think about slavery, civil rights and so forth, for instance.

Years ago I took the Anusara Yoga Certification Exam and the last questions had to do with what was my vision for Anusara Yoga. I wrote that I thought we were an exciting method of yoga because of our youth. We had little dogma, our ways were not rigid, our hierarchy was not limiting and we were still responsive, enthusiastic and creative. Also, I wrote, as a new method, we did not have the length of time, the seniority, longevity and wisdom of a long lifetime of study and practice to guide us. My vision, I wrote, was to be around long enough to be that source of wisdom to others as we evolved. I still hold that vision and find myself awed at the people who are part of that same vision and who hold the same kind of commitment to Anusara Yoga.

So whatever you call us- method, tradition, system, lineage, etc.- we certainly are something. That is for sure. Okay, there is more to say on all of this and I welcome any comments and contributions to the story. Again this is kind of a stream of consciousness musing, and is not meant to be definitive or politically correct!

Monday, December 28, 2009


Monday Morning. Although when I am off of my work schedule the days kind of run together a bit! But after a somewhat hectic (although delightful) month of travel and teaching, it has been glorious to have some down time to rest, recover and relax a bit. Kelly and I have made some good meals, gotten a lot done around the house and spent time with friends.

Yesterday we went on a walk on the greenbelt, ate some lunch and I met Gioconda for a practice before she taught. We did some lovely back bend work- nothing major but good deep opening with the four pillars of back bending (according to BKS Iyengar) accomplished- urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana, kapotasana, mandalasana- all very fun. I think I will have to do a back bending series sometime with those poses as our aim. That would be fun. When is kind of the question....

After that Kelly and I met up with Sam who will be house sitting for us while we are gone and doing some work for me this year. (Yes, finally, an assistant! Oh. My. God.) After that we made a lovely pasta dinner. After dinner I made a flourless chocolate cake, Gioconda came over for a visit and we watched some Star Trek episodes. A very mellow day off.

So today I will do some asana and then pack up to head out to Georgia to visit mom and dad for a few days. I am very excited to be spending New Years Eve and New Year's Day with the lovely folks from City Yoga in Columbia, South Carolina. I think that is one of the funnest things about what I do- getting to meet so many amazing people in so many places and participate in their communities. It is really a very fun thing.

So- that is kind of a brief check in for the day. I have been thinking a lot about teaching these days but more from the business side of it than from any inspiring pedagogical inquiry. I have had several conversations lately with yoga teachers about the difficulties of making a living as a yoga teacher and I have some interesting discussions with yoga studio owners about the difficulties of owning a studio and making a living. So it seems that while this is amazing work to do in the world, it is not easy work. There is the challenge of the work itself -- of teaching people to wake up and be conscious in a world that assists us in slumber at every twist and turn. There is the very real issue of yoga studios popping up on every corner and creating competition and so on. There is the cost of training to become and remain a good teacher. There is a tremendous amount of "free time" one must have and devote to personal practice to be and remain a good teacher. There are just so many costs in the business. And when we tie this thing we love into our livelihood the pressures multiply and the distractions mount and the temptation to turn this art into customer service over and above good teaching tends to win.

So there is a lot that could be said about it all. I think it is an amazing cultural trend that so many people actually can endeavor to earn a living wage teaching yoga. I didn't make a living at this until 3 or so years ago. I have taught fitness since I was 18 years old and yoga since 1998 but it wasn't until 3 1/2 years ago I looked upon it as a primary source of financial support. I am glad for that because I think had I been a new teacher who was just discovering my way in the art of teaching and I had the pressure of it being my livelihood, I would have had a lot harder time figuring out for myself how I wanted to teach and who I am as a teacher. It would have been a lot harder to be clear in all that if it was coupled with the pressure of making a living. Having said that, it is an awesome thing to really get that we are supported- literally, financially supported by the money our students pay us to learn yoga- and to allow that reality to penetrate into our consciousness at a very deep level. For me, that was a profoundly healing realization of Universal Support being manifested at an immediate level.

Anyway, I think about these things a lot as I listen to so many different sides of the conversation regarding money and yoga and the business of teaching yoga. My experience is that well, it is called work for a reason. And believe me I love my work- but I am not of the new age mindset that work should not be difficult or that work should not make you tired if you love it or that work is somehow, not work if it is your dharma or life's calling. I have never really had work I liked that was not challenging. One of my favorite feelings these days is after a 6-day Immersion to get on a plane and I am tired and I feel a bit used. To be exact, I feel used well- like my energy, my attention, my talent, my skills, my passion, etc. all went to something that was good and profoundly transformational. That is what I love about it. I like spending my life's energy in that way.

And so anyway- more could be said because I think we also get confused that "successful yoga teaching" means "making a living as a yoga teacher" when that is simply not the case. Successful yoga teaching means that your transmit the art of yoga in such a way that your students come to the practice with passion, dedication, endurance and maturity over a long period of time. Being a success as a yoga teacher is to represent the lineage of your yoga with clarity, precision, authenticity and integrity. Being a success is teaching someone to breathe, to remember their greatness, to pause before acting, to reflect after acting and to learn on a little rectangular piece of rubber (or whatever it is) how to be who they most truly are. Being a success as a yoga teacher is to contribute in a positive way to the ever expanding conversation that is yoga.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Saturday Morning

Well, here it is, the day after Christmas.

Hmm... I must say for me the Holidays this year have been spectacularly not a big deal, which is just how I wanted it. In some ways I do a lot of things all year long that are big deals- workshops, intensives, immersions, training and so on. Much of my life is about visiting somewhere for a somewhat special occasion. (Obviously not on par with Christmas but a kind of special occasion none-the-less.) So being home on the holidays for a few days this year, the thing I really wanted to do was sleep in, work on the house, cook and eat some great food and take some walks by the river. (Had I not landed in the Red Tent over these few days I would have added "do lots of crazy asana" to my list but anyway...)

Kelly and his friend Raymond (who is also an excellent massage therapist, by the way) tore up a carpet in our house and laid down a floor on Christmas Eve. So yesterday we spent a lot of time rearranging furniture, hanging pictures in different places and re-organizing closets and such. See, it doesn't really sound like much-- but for me, since I am not home a lot, nesting a bit was great fun. All the changes just look so good. The carpet smelled like cat pee so getting that out was a big improvement right away. I now have a bigger room for yoga and meditation, Kelly will have a quiet and more zen-like study/library space in addition to the shared office space we have which is more of a "working space and not-so-zen! (Zen is a very generous term here- think less cluttered.) We hung up a lot of our Louis Lozowick lithographs that we had in our San Marcos house but we hadn't figured out where they would go in a smaller house with less wall space. Anyway, after all that, we had a nice dinner watched some star trek and went to bed. I am telling you, quite simple.

It has been such a fantastic year.Difficult in a lot of ways but also filled with blessings, miracles and inspiring opportunities and people. Kelly and I were walking on the greenbelt yesterday and thought back over the year and all the changes we have gone through individually and as a couple. Exactly one year ago we were in a really low point in our marriage and neither of us were sure we would even make it to this Christmas together. But here we are, things stronger than ever and enjoying each other and ourselves a whole lot more. It is a very cool thing.

For me the last year involved really examining my life and sort of throwing a lot of it up in the air and weirdly, at the end (Ok, the process is not done as it is a process and life is fluid and so we are always a work in progress and so forth) of it all it seemed I actually wanted what I had but for a while there I wasn't sure. And I think I needed to upgrade the model and make a few improvements to its functioning for sure.

Anyhoo- that's it for today. Will practice some asana in my new and improved room and take a walk and then start collecting some things for our trip to Georgia and South Carolina. We leave Monday afternoon. I also have some Curriculum Committee work to review before I take off.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thursday Morning

Well, Wednesday got off to a busy start and left me with no time to write.

Looking all the way back to Tuesday afternoon, a handful of us met to do a practice which was really fun. We work a lot on padmasana and variations and out it into handstand, pinca, sirasana 2, kukkutasana and parsva kukkutasana, headstand and shoulder stand. So many questions came up in our practice about parsva sarvangasana that I decided to teach it in my 4:30 class. So we did rollicking sequence with lots of chest opening, shoulder stretching, inner spiral and ab work to head that way. It was not easy, but really good.

Wednesday morning started with Focus on Form at 9:30. We did a kind of potpourri class that went something like this:

Child's Pose
Surya namaskar variations
paryankasana variation over a block
dwi pada viparita dandasana over a chair
pinca mayurasana
ardha bhekasana
ardha danurasana
setu bandhasana
pascima namsakrasana
prasarita paddottanasana with arms in reverse prayer
garudasana with goumkasana arms
classic gomukhasana, feet together
maricyasana 1

I spent the day working on my schedule, dealing with some interpersonal dynamics, scheming about the future and then I did a lovely yoga practice before heading back out to Castle Hill to teach the evening class. We did a lot of inner thigh stretches in baddha konasana, parsvakonasana, triangle pose, and lots of core work for vasisthasana and vasisthasana 2. then we did some chair backbends, urdhva danurasana and supta padangusthasana and even had time for a nice long savasana.

After that Kelly, me, Anne and Jeff went out for Christmas Eve Eve dinner which was fantastic and then I came home, talked on the phone a while and crashed.

So here we are Thursday morning, classes cancelled this afternoon and an unscheduled holiday weekend stretching out in front of me. What fun!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday Morning

I spent the morning yesterday re-working the Part One Immersion Curriculum Darren and I will work from in Tucson in January. It now reflects the changes, additions and so forth from the committee meeting. Lots of structure and even tests (gasp!) which we will call Empowerment Reviews because really, isn't it empowering to learn something and to really know that you know it? Anyway, that was kind of a project.

After that Kelly and I ate lunch, went on a walk and I got to go to Peggy's Advanced class. All in all it was a very nice day off. I am finishing up breakfast now and I am going to go post a lesson on the online classroom for the mentor group. We are working a lot with sequencing strategies right now and due to all the comings and goings of the last few weeks I am a bit late on posting Lesson #10. But today is the day. Get ready.

Speaking of Sequencing Strategies, the Costa Rica Retreat I am offering with Inner Harmony is now a Teacher Training Week. Every morning I will lead a Teacher Training Session and Martin Kirk will be teaching Anatomy in the afternoons. I think this week will help teachers of all levels of experience deepen their knowledge and skill. Here is an overview of my offering for the week. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

The Art of Teaching Anusara Yoga with Christina Sell: Sequencing Strategies
March 13-20
Costa Rica

Understanding the art of sequencing is at the heart of asana practice and teaching. This teacher training course will teach aspiring, new and experienced Anusara Yoga teachers how to creatively and effectively sequence their classes. Each day will focus on a different type of class and will explore various strategies for approaching the challenges that are unique to each situation. Each session will incorporate asana practice, practice teaching and experiential exercises to hone and refine your teaching skills and empower you to take your teaching to a new level of excellence.

Day One: Sequencing for Beginning Yoga Students
Day Two: Sequencing for the Experienced Yoga Student who is new to Anusara Yoga
Day Three: Sequencing Strategies for teaching Alignment-Based Vinyasa
Day Four: Sequencing Toward Peak Poses within a Mixed-Level Class

Day Five: Sequencing to teach The Universal Principle of Alignment

And for those of you who do not know Martin he is an extraordinary person and teacher and has such a love for anatomy and how it relates to the Universal Principles of Alignment that you can be sure this is no dry Anatomy course. He conveys the majesty of the human structure so intelligently and inspiringly in his courses. I am very excited to be there and take it myself!

All right, time to get on with the day. Work to do, then practice and then teach.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Here is a slide show that Kelly put together from our Holiday Practice. The music is by a friend of ours and unfortunately the program we used had some kinks so the music stumbles a bit. Sorry about that. But still, the pics are fun so enjoy!

And if you didn't catch it yesterday, here is the video of J-Man:

And one of me playing with John Friend:

Okay- well, we had a really great Immersion this weekend. We focused a lot of time and energy on studying Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and so that was interesting. That text has many riches and it was fun to just explore some very basic concepts that he outlines. Daunting, but fun. This Immersion Group is a lot of fun to be with for me. We are really into the process now and with so much of the groundwork laid out- both in context, content and personality and style- now we just get to keep going deeper. I really enjoyed teaching having come right from the curriculum meetings with everything so fresh in my mind.

On a personal note, what is full in my mind and heart as the year closes is a profound, awesome and humbling sense of gratitude. I find myself trying to speak to it a lot lately and welling up with tears. I feel as though some deep shift within me has happened in the last two years where some knot within me really loosened. (Truth be told it has been loosening all along but you know, the whole onion thing.) I feel like I have stepped into a deeper relationship with my practice, my work and the people with whom I am sharing my life and I feel like something within me has healed. The best way I can express it is to tell a story from my childhood (Some of you have already heard this, so I apologize for the repetition. But as we know, if it is worth hearing once, it is worth hearing more than once...)

When we lived in Rye, NY we were members of the Presbyterian Church and I remember very clearly being outside that church playing with the minister's children while our parents were doing something inside. We got to talking about God and whether or not we believed in God. I did. But I have a very distinct memory of feeling that God did not know who I was. I remember praying and praying with a feeling of loneliness in my heart that He couldn't hear me or my prayers. (I know, deep thoughts for a 7- year old kid, huh?)

So I tell that story because every time I sit in front a room to teach yoga, to lead a practice and I open myself to the fullness of it, I remember that feeling from when I was really little and a small voice inside me whispers, "You were heard. This is the answer." You see, Grace, to me, is not an etheric thing at all. Grace, to me, is present in the community of people who I teach, with whom I practice, learn, study, worship, play, eat, and explore. It's very real and immediate. Like my spiritual teacher says, "God does not live in the sky." God, it seems to me, lives in our hearts, and in this community of people who share the same heart.

And obviously, it isn't always easy to be in a community. I think we all know that. Like Paul Muller Ortega said, "Practice is about fire and nectar." True community, as an expression and agent of Grace will generally have both fire and nectar to offer us so that we grow. But the nectar of love is full in my heart these days. I would say it is a miracle but, well, it is the a kind of miracle that is right here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Morning

Well, the day yesterday was certainly full. After a walk on the greenbelt and some kitcharee I went up to Breath and Body for the Immersion. We spent a lot of time exploring inversions and variations and then we made a foray into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

We had a practice and potluck at 4:00 which was super fun. We put 43 people into the room (Desirae said that was the most people there practicing yoga ever, so that was fun.) And we had a really delightful potluck after. People made great food and we hung out for quite some time just gabbing about yoga, life and so forth. It was really a fantastic evening in so many ways. I was really moved by the whole thing. Several people asked me to post the sequence so here is a rough rendition o f it. Flow-based sequences are a little harder to capture but this gives you an idea.

The Sequence

In flow, all on one side:
Lunge with arms stretching out in front, back leg down
one-legged down dog
wildthing prep
parsvakonasana variation with arm straight up
opposite side vasisthasana
triangle pose
vinyasa and repeat with other leg leading

twisted lunge with quad stretch

From Down Dog:
Vira One
Vira Two
Reversed Vira Two

Then Vira 1,2, rev. vir 2 pasrvakonasana in flow

clasped parsvakonasana
standing pasrvautthitahasta padanguthsasana with friend holding foot and back bended

then in flow: clasped parsvakonasana, to clasped parsva utthita hasta padangusthasana, clasped 1/2 uttanasana, clasped pasrvakonasana

Then in Flow- Vira 1, Vira 2, reversed vira 2, clasped parsvakonasana to standing, etc. and back down- grab big toe and go to vasisthasana 2, vinyasa

Classic Parsvottanasana
Anjaneyasana with Quad stretch and back bend
eka pada rajakopatasana prep
eka pada rajakapotasana with arms in gomukhasana
ardha bhekasana
ardha bhekasana with other arm in up dog
danurasana with one arm in bhekasana
setu bandhasana
urdhva danurasana
dwi pada viparita dandasana
eka pada rajakapotasana
backbend delight and free for all- kapinjalasana, natrajasana, kapotasana
Down Dog
Down dog
child's pose
parsva adho mukha vajrasana
agnisthambhasana with twist
janu sirsasana
windhsield wiper pose
knees to chest

And some picture pilfered from Lisa's Facebook page!

Kelly's backbend demo

me showing off

J-Man's demo- (Jeremiah turned in his Anusara-Inspired application to the Anusara Yoga office on Friday. YAY!)

Pose of 2009

Zoe--friend, yogi, mother and mistress of music



natrajasana play- erica, margaret, hannah

margaret and catherine

Brigitte and Alex enjoying the food

Food, glorious food!

For a video of J-Man's demo go here:

Oh-- and for another fun clip of me and John Friend at the Curriculum Committee Meeting, Check this out (Compliments of Amy Ippolitti):

All right, then, more pictures to come soon. Time to get the day started.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Well, good morning! We had a great night at the Immersion last night. After some introductory remarks about Patanjali And the History of Yoga we launched into a long practice of standing poses and deep forward bends. It was pretty darn luscious. Here is the sequence and some pictures.

Theme: dwelling in the splendor of the Self

Surya Namaskar
Lunge with back knee down
Lunge with twist
Lunge with twist and a quad stretch
Vira 1, Vira 2, Rev. Vira 2, parsvakonasana flow
Vira 1, rev. vira 1, Rev. revolved vira 2, revolved lunge flow
Chidl's pose
SPG 1, 2
windshield wiper pose
reclined babay cradle
seated baby cradle
parighasana, ashtanga style
uppavistha konasana
baddha konasana
janu sirasana
parivritta janu sirsasana
surya yantrasana
lunge, shoulder under leg
clasped uttanasana
eka pada sirsasana

Don't forget holiday practice and potluck today at 4:00 at Breath and Body Yoga. Come enjoy asana, food and one another.

Friday, December 18, 2009

So, I got home in time for a walk and a soak in the hot tub at the club before Kelly and I made dinner. I was pretty darn tired from the last few weeks and I fell asleep by 9:30 which was most delightful. It was a pretty jam-packed few weeks- completing the Teacher Training Program in Corpus, Completing the Immersion Program in Tucson and then the 3 days in The Woodlands working on the Standardized Immersion Curriculum and setting standards for its implementation. Any one of those things is pretty big but they happened totally back to back with hardly any time to really reflect and integrate. This weekend I teach an Immersion at Breath and Body Yoga and then I have a bit of down time to let these great things soak in a bit.

So- hmm.. a good night's sleep a great cup of tea and a few brief words on the blog before today gets underway. One thing that really came from the meeting was a collective agreement that The Immersion Program is really the jewel of Anusara Yoga. It is such a sacred duty to teach them and to be responsible for teaching the fundamental practices and theories that inform our practice. We all agreed that keeping the integrity of the Immersion Process intact is of the utmost importance. It was so cool to hear the passion and commitment for the program voiced in similar and different ways by the various members of the committee. I am very inspired to continue my work in this are with even more attention to detail and with even more dedication to the teachings themselves. So great.

Along those lines, I have a big stack of work to do for the Immersion Curriculum project as well as a looming stack of work to do for the different programs I want to offer in the next few years. I feel a wave of creative inspiration arising to meet the somewhat daunting stack of work so that is good. All right, some of our Austin gang will head over to The Woodlands tonight for the annual practice with John and Anusara Yoga Office Party. Although that is a super fun thing to do and i have enjoyed going over the last few years, I am really excited to be with everyone at the Immersion with the Immersion Curriculum so fresh in my mind!

And on Saturday night we have a potluck and practice at Breath and Body Yoga to enjoy together. (Those of you in the Immersion, do not worry- our asana practice won't be totally ass kicking on Saturday so you will still be able to practice at 4! Or you can go home, take a shower and come back for the festivities.) At any rate, I hope to see you many of you at the practice or at the party. Always such a nice way to be together. Truly.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Well, it is late but I am wide awake even though it has been a long few days.

We are really just covering so much territory it is blowing me away. First and foremost the thing I am loving so much is being with everyone. It is such an all-star cast. John Friend, Amy Ippoliti, Christy Nones, Martin Kirk, Todd Norian, Betsey Downing, Suzie Hurley, Sianna Sherman, Noah Maze, Olga Rasmussen, Ellen Staltonsall, Lois Nesbitt, Jimmy and Ruthie. There is something quite strong and profound about being together and sharing our love for the method, for teaching and for the information with John who shared it with us in the first place. I am enjoying working together and seeing different people's strengths arise and discovering pockets of humor, passion and sincerity in each other. Many of us around the table have known each other since the 90's and so there is a feeling of history- of a shared past and a sense of awe that we are actually in the process of shaping the future as well.

There are so many great things that will be filtered into our community in the next few years that are going to help all us us really go to a new level of excellence. I am excited to being implementing the changes in the Immersion I am already teaching as well as starting the Part One Immersion with Darren in January using the new protocols. It is really going to be great and seriously, just because you have done an Immersion once, is no reason to not do it again.

I think there are probably some other really insightful things to write about but honestly I cannot for the life of me think of what they might be. However, here are some fun pics.

Amy, Chair of the Committee with John Friend

At work in the meeting

Lunch break: Me, Noah, Martin

The Men: Todd, Martin and Noah!

Noah in Table top variation of eka pada koudinyasana 2

On break at the hotel

John and I playing. This was part of some fun silliness that Amy actually has on video.

All right. Another morning of work tomorrow and then home.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The final day of the Immersion was pretty much off the charts. We spent the first part of the morning sharing about the experience with Paul Muller-Ortega. After several people shared how much they liked the weekend, I invited people to share about what they found provocative and challenging about the weekend. See the thing is that teachers like Paul are not the easiest people to be around. They are super-intense and lots of stuff arises in their presence. Like I told the group my dad always says that a good minister "comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable." The fact that you might sit in a talk with Paul all weekend and feel extremely irritated, uncomfortable and challenged is not a sign that the process was not working, in my opinion. It is, in fact, a sign that he was doing his job well in a certain way. But that doesn't mean it is easy to be with it.

I feel very strongly that our trainings and classes and meetings not be a space where we feel like we have to adhere to some company line about how everything is great. I know how hard it is to be on the side of having to chew on irritation, disillusionment, disappointment and discomfort and not feel like it was okay to say something other than "this is great!" So my commitment to myself and to my students is to, as best I can, create and facilitate a forum where we can experience things differently and really, truly have a space that allows for the expression of full spectrum of experience . If we cannot do that, then all kinds of crap gets swept under the rug where it festers, rots and sours the other stuff that is so beautiful.

With all my heart I know and believe in the value of being disturbed in the company of spiritual teachers, in community settings and in chambers that are created for growth and transformation. I also know that it can be a very stressful thing. For that stress not to become dis-tress we have to talk about things, we have to learn how to mine the discomfort for its gold. The tantric principle that "Everything can be useful for sadhana" is true but it is only a nice idea if we, ourselves, cannot truly make use of what that everything might be in any moment!

It was fascinating to hear the variety of responses to the weekend- from "I found my spiritual teacher" to "I felt like running out the door the whole time!" In my opinion, Shyla pretty much nailed it on the head. She reminded us all that Paul himself gave a teaching about how, within sadhana, we need fire (agni) and nectar (soma). She said, "Wow, some of us really got the fire. Some of us really got the nectar." And not a person was unaffected. I was stunned, awed, amazed by the different things people were sharing, by each person's willingness to claim their own experience for what it was and as I saw the spectrum of experience laid out so fully among us, I knew that- without a doubt- Paul did his job most well in serving us as individuals and as a group to take the next step in our growth. It was quite a process.

We took a short break with some some partner stretches and then moved into the closing circle which went even deeper than I expected. Truthfully, I was blown away. Well, maybe just blown open because I felt very much there, not away at all. Person after person shared and called themselves to speak from the heart as a way to honor what they learned and to really tell each other what it meant to them to be part of this group for the last 5 months. It was as though no one wanted to sell each other out by sharing anything that was less than from-the-truth-of-their-heart. Watching people dig deep- to grapple with the words and the feelings and face themselves and one another with such raw vulnerability was nothing short of miraculous to me. Even as I write I am moved to tears as I remember the beauty.

So it was an amazing week. On so many levels and in so many ways and while words do not do it justice, I had to at least try to get some of it down.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Well, what to say... The days here are so packed this time through. Not only have we had long days with the Immersion all week but I have gone to a few of the classes at Yoga OAsis and sat in on some meetings which has been really great for me. I had the opportunity to go to one of Darren's Yoga Hour Mix classes and also to go to Scott's Basic's class which was great. Scott has been doing the online mentor program with me and so it was fun to see how some of those lessons transferred into his teaching and to get a chance to talk with him about his class.

We actually had that discussion the the way to Yoga Oasis East last night where I taught a public class which is part of the tradition we have established on the Immersion weeks. I teach a night over there and get a chance to enjoy being with the greater Tucson kula beyond the folks in the immersion. I love teaching at Yoga Oasis East because it is the very first place I ever taught an out of town workshop. Darren invited me to teach shortly after my book came out and so it is, in so many way, a kind of home for me. The studio is so nice, the people are so sincere, dedicated and open. I really like it.

I taught about something Carlos mentioned when he was here in October teaching the Hatha Yoga Pradipka. He said, "We are dealing with prana, with the flow of life itself. Is there anything more unstoppable than that?" So I talked about how we align with the unstoppable power of Grace and we can create boundaries and channels for it to move through so that we might harness it. We did lots of thigh stretches and hip opening and some standing pose flows. I even gave some instructions about mula bandha which was a bit out of the box, in a way. I think the class was quite sweet and fun. I really loved it.

So that was last night, after a day with Paul Muller Ortega (philosopher, holy man extraordinaire) which is kind of hard to speak about in a way. He creates such a strong chamber when he speaks that I am always aware of several lessons and teachings going on all at once. He is one of the smartest of the smart so there is this level of teaching about information where he delineates philosophy with a kind of clarity and assurance that is most impressive. Then there is the insistent call to practice and since he is such a strong practitioner that call is fairly pressing throughout. And in the intensity and clarity I find him remarkably compassionate. And I have listened to him now several times and one thing I know is that for me the best approach is always to just let the mood of the meeting just wash over me and to not try to figure it out too much. Always and every time I feel some deep inner shifts occurring when I am around him that seem tangentially related to what he is talking about but in a way, not necessarily.

Wow- now all that sounds vague, doesn't it? Anyway- we began the day on Saturday with a fun group practice that I called "one hour to eka pada raja kapotasana" which was Matt's goal pose and I am happy to report he did it on both sides and "with no pain" he said. So that is cool. We had great tunes, good energy and ended with a group sing-along to Son of a Preacher Man, which was most excellent fun.

So that was Saturday- practice, Paul, talk with Scott, Class at Yoga Oasis East. Today we were in session with Paul all day and then I got to spend some time with Rachel and Meg (who were some of my very first yoga students ever who are here at the Immersion.) It is so amazing to still be practicing together and to still be growing up together even though we do not live in the same place anymore. Rachel now holds down the fort at Prescott Yoga and Meg is raising a family and teaching yoga in Viroqua, WI and yet the bond of love is still so very strong since it was most certainly forged in the fire of yoga.

All right then. Time to get to some email. I have been a bit negligent on that front so if you have emailed me recently and I haven't written back, it is because I am behind. Soon, I hope.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday Morning

A few scenes from out day on Wednesday. I do not have much time to write this morning because we have a practice this morning before Paul Muller Ortega begins. As always though, this Immersion is amazing. The energy of the group is so strong and so soft and the sincere. I just love it. Part 3 is always so fun because the momentum has been created and now we just ride the ride.

Inner spiral demo

Darren helping Christina do deeper in yogi dandasana. I can rarely make the wrap on the outside of the leg so this was great fun!

Bronwyn demos paripurna matsyendrasana

I wanted to post a great pic of bliss in yogi nidrasana but the formatting was off. Will try again soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Here is the link for some pictures from the final practice we all did together in Corpus Christi last weekend. Enjoy:

It was a great day with the Immersion. It is late now and so I cannot write in a very detailed way at this point. We did a long arm balance practice with me and D doing some tag team teaching throughout which seemed to flow quite well today. After lunch we worked on developing a theme for the year as a way to contextualize the various challenges one might encounter in along the way. Then we interviewed the group about what goal poses people had that were in the forward bend, twist or inversion categories. We wrote them all up on the board and then we did a class with the aim of getting them all covered. We made it though most of them in the class which I was pretty psyched about-agnisthambasana, yogi dandasana, pascimottanasana, ardha badha padma pascimottanasana, padmasana, pasasana, maricyasana D, paripurna matsyendrasana, yogi nidrasana, and a few others that I cannot remember. We didn't get to hanumanasana and the inversions but I think the feeling was somewhat unanimous that people felt pretty complete. It was a really fun class.

So there are so many reflections from the day I could write about but that is kind of it for now. More tomorrow. Must rest.

Here are a few scenes from yesterday from Stephanie's camera.