Saturday, January 31, 2009

Busy Day

Its a busy day of site seeing for the group so we got up early for asana class before sunrise. We went up to the roof our our hotel which overlooks the ghats and the Ganges and did a very strong practice as the sun came up. The sun rose, like a pinkish orange globe, burning away the clouds and the smoke and bringing its radiant light. The scene and the mood was quite inspiring. Since it was still chilly, I taught a very strong flow with lots of movement and no time to rest or to lose the heat we were generating. One of the group remarked, I think you packed a 3"-hour class into an hour and 15 minutes. I thought to myself, "Well, that's my specialty!"

Since normally I use the pre-dawn hours for my own practices I decided to stay in the hotel for the day and practice, rest and then head back down to the ghats for a walk about and to soak in the energy here. The group is off to see some local sites and I will meet up with them later. I am looking forward to some time for reflection.

We had a change in our itinerary after what we might now refer to as "the train fiasco."We were going to ride a train back to Dehli to catch our plane to South India. But instead we are going to fly to Dehli.The train would have been 20-hours; the flight is only 2. So we get an extra day in Varanasi and we bypass the potential for the train schedule to go amiss again and re-traumatize everyone! Our hotel right on the river was not reserved for the extra night and so we moved to a new hotel a little further away from the ghats. It is SO nice and my inner spoiled white girl is just loving it. (as are the other spoiled white girls on the trip!)

Hospitality in India is really quite supreme. There is a teaching here that by serving visitors, you are serving the Lord and so many of the Indian people really take that to heart. We were greeted here with marigold malas around our necks and a shower of rose petals, after which we were promptly seated in a waiting area and served 7-up and chai. (A side note about soda is that whether or not you think soda is good or bad, healthy or poisonous, etc and so forth, it tastes great when you are India. It is just one of those things- the sweet, fizzy bubbles are just perfect here for some reason. As are many sugar-filled goodies that would never pass my lips at home but somehow seem perfectly appropriate in this context!)

So, that's a bit of an update. Tomorrow is mostly travel and transition. Then we go from Chennai to Tiruvanamili for a visit to South India- Yogi Ramsuratkumar ashram is there, Mount Arunachala and Ramana Maharshi's ashram are on the agenda. As are some Hanuman temples and some Shakti temples. More soon.

Saraswati Saturday

Today is the first day of spring here and is a day where they worship Saraswati. Saraswati is the Goddess of arts and literature and I believe Craig taught us that she is the goddess we pray to for inspiration. Our group spent the morning involved in an elaborate puja(Worship ceremony) for Saraswati at a local ashram. It long and was quite intense in a lot of ways and I was left feeling such equanimity and clarity that it made it all worth it.

Following the ritual we ate a fabulous lunch at the ashram cooked by the head honcho of said ashram- a dread locked, ash-smeared Baba with a very dynamic personality. Quite a scene, all in all. We walked back to our hotel and since we have a few moments of free tie before venturing back out, I am taking some time to catch up on the internet.

Yesterday, we went to some local museums and temples which was really interesting. One temple was a Shiva Temple and the other was a Hanuman Temple, complete with lots of monkeys milling about. We ate a great meal and went to a talk at Marc Dukowksy's place. He gave a great introductory talk on yoga and he even taught us a great pranayama technique. Some folks stayed for a sitar concert but I went home to go to bed. As interested as I was in the talk, I was really fighting sleep the whole time and so I opted out of the music.

It is always wild being in India because it is a place like no other place. It is confrontational, beautiful, disgusting, peaceful, chaotic and so on. I can watch everyone in the group- all of who are first time India go-ers run through the rainbow of reactions and responses typical to the experience of being in India. It is not an easy place to be. I think it is worthwhile, but that does not mean easy. And really, there is a balance to strike as a leader about how much activity and how much down time and how much alone time and how much processing time to provide. So far everyone seems to be having a pretty good time and working with the difficulties associated with being in a country like India. It is definitely a bonding experience!

This is my third trip here and I think each time I come I feel less apologetic about being a Westerner and less fascinated by India, in a way. I love it for so many reason here. And yet, I see how awesome it is to live where we live and to have the freedoms and resources we enjoy. So my gratitude is high right now and yet, the energy of the place is quite strong.

Varanasi is considered a holy city here. Among Shiva devotees, it is considered an auspicious place to die. They believe that if you die here you are liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth. Lot of cremations going on by the Ganges and so on. Really it is a magical kind of place. My morning practices ahve been particulary strong and inspiring so perhaps the legends are true...

Off to do a little shopping...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

In Varanasi

Well, it has been kind of a time warp, for sure. Here is a little recap.

I left Austin at around noon on Monday. My flight took me to Newark airport for a three hour layover and then I got on a non-stop plane ride to Dehli. What was great about that was that it was an empty flight and it flew through the night. So after I ate dinner I got sleepy and laid out on 3 seats and pretty much slept through the night. I woke up right when they were serving us breakfast which was morning Austin time but was 8:00 pm in India.

The group was waiting for me in Agra which was another 5 or 6 hours in a car from Dehli. I managed to sleep most of that ride which was great because I avoided thinking about the possibilities of what might happen to me if any of my "handlers" were less than honest. (I could be sold into white slavery, I could be robbed, I could be...well, you get the picture... sorry, Dad, don't worry, nothing happened worse than having to hold my pee for a really long time before a rest stop could be found. I refrained from telling the guy "just pull over I need to go really bad.")

I got into Agra around 3am and talked to Genevieve briefly. She informed me that the group would convene at 6:30 for a trip to the Taj Mahal at sunrise. I decided that asana, pranayama and meditation would serve me more than a few hours sleep. So I practiced and then took a bath-there was hot water, which was a thrill-- and met up with everyone.

The Taj was great fun. Very impressive. We took lots of silly pictures and even I, who generally ahtes site seeing, liked it. After that, breakfast, some down time, some more site seeing and some shopping. Later I taught a yoga class and then we ate dinner and got on a train bound for Varanasi.

The plan was that we would travel through the night (12 hours) in the sleeping compartment of the train that was to leave at 9:00 and get there in the morning. All this was going well until 4am when the conductor woke us up and told us that the train was going no farther and we had to get off. So we did. But we were still 7 hours from our destination.

After a long wait in what turned out to be a mens' area for waiting and less than sanitary, but which is another story all together, we got on some rickshaws which took us to a bus station and we boarded a public bus for Varanasi. (think old, dirty school bus, not greyhound bus here) The 6 hour trip was actually more like 9 and we didn't get to our hotel here until 3:30 or so. Epic.

We had enough time to get some food and make it the scheduled philosophy talk with Mark Dycowski. Other than begin very tired and road weary, the talk was great and particularly fantastic was the walk along the ganges on the way to his flat.

So the time has been pretty grueling and also pretty fun. We have a great group assembled. People are really doing the inner work to roll with the challenging circumstances. Across the board the folks on the trip are smart, funny, sincere and kind. I am looking forward to being in the same place for a few nights.

Tomorrow we will sleep in and eat breakfast at our very nice hotel and then I will teach asana before lunch. There is a lot to see and to feel here but first is a good night's sleep in a bed that is not in motion!

Monday, January 26, 2009


Last ten days in a nutsell-
packed my house.
loaded a van
moved to Austin
finished the Austin Immersion
packed for India
Off to India today

And since pour wireless has not been hooked up, it has been hard to stay updated here. But anyway- off to India and will check in from there.

Have fun!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Well I have been busy these last two days with packing and more packing and then cleaning and then packing and then cleaning. But well, we are loaded up and ready to start the move-in process tomorrow. I managed to have a nice practice this morning which i really needed and also Mom and Dad came down from Georgetown for lunch so that was fun.

I did decide to sub out my classes tomorrow since I will be eye-high in boxes. Kim Schaefer is teaching for me at 4:30 and Lance will teach at 6:00. So please go to class to support the class and one another and if you want to see me this week then come to The Love Shack on Thursday from 4-6 for our group practice. Its back bends this week and the last time I am teaching locally for a while since I have a busy month coming up.

Here's my upcoming agenda:
  • January 24 and 25- Immersion at YogaYoga in Austin
  • January 26-February 11- India Tour
  • February 13- 18-- Immersion at Yoga Oasis in Tucson with Darren
  • February 20-22-- Immersion Weekend #2 in Corpus Christi (This is a weekend with Craig and I teaching together and its open to folks who are not signed up for the Immersion so come to Corpus for the fun if you can.)
  • February 26- March 4 --Advanced Intensive with John Friend in Tucson and Personal R&R in Prescott
  • March 6-8 --Weekend Workshop at Breath and Body in Austin
So, come March 10, I will be back teaching public classes. Until then, follow the blog or catch me somewhere else if you can! So much fun stuff to look forward to.

Speaking of fun stuff to look forward to- here is the info about the workshop that Noah and I are teaching together. Registration is officially open.

Entering the Heart of Yoga:
Anusara Yoga®Teacher Training and Intermediate/Advanced Asana Intensive
with Noah Maze and Christina Sell
April 22-26, 2009

Join Noah Maze and Christina Sell for a weekend of Anuara Yoga® designed to take your teaching and your asana practice to a new level. Noah Maze and Christina Sell, both known for their clarity, humor and precise teaching styles, are joining together to present a unique training for Anusara Yoga® practitioners and teachers. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to work with two masterful teachers in a personal setting!

20-hour Teacher Training
April 22-24,2009
The 20-hour teacher training builds on the fundamental teaching skills covered in Anusara Yoga® Level One Teacher Training and will be focused on refining the central teaching elements necessary for teaching dynamic, inspiring and effective public classes. Special topics include sequencing toward peak poses, creating authentic heart-based themes, hands-on adjustments, creative solutions for mixed level and special populations, and basics of therapeutic applications of the Universal Principles of Alignment™. One session will be devoted to video preparation for certification assessment.

Space is limited to 18 participants. Please reserve your spot early.

Wednesday, April 22 9:00-1:00 3:00-6:00
Thursday, April 23 9:00-1:00 3:00-6:00
Friday, April 24 9:00-1:00 3:00-5:00

Location- Austin, Texas
- Venue Details provided upon request.

Intermediate/Advanced Asana Intensive
April 25-26,2009
The Intermediate /Advanced Asana Intensive is for experienced students who want an opportunity to explore the poses on the Anusara Yoga Level 2 and Level 3 syllabi. Students must be able to kick to the wall for handstand unassisted, push up to urdhva danurasana with straight arms unassisted, hold sirsasana and sarvangasasana for 5 minutes in the middle of the room. The asana intensive is not appropriate for people with injuries or recovering from illness.
Christina Sell and Noah Maze will co-instruct each session allowing participants to enjoy plenty of hands-on assistance, insight and creativity throughout the workshop.

Saturday,10:00-1:00 For the Fun of It: Asana as an Unending Source of Delight
This playful class will incorporate standing poses, arm balances and backbends along with unique variations and interpretations of familiar poses to free the body, mind and heart to experience new levels of unbounded delight.

Saturday, 2:00-5:00 Upside Down, Inside Out: Inversions, Twists, Forward Bends
This dynamic class is designed to challenge you to move beyond your preconceived notions about what you can and cannot do and who you, in fact, you actually are! If you enjoy turning yourself upside down, twisting (and even occasionally shouting), join Noah and Christina for this amazing session.

Sunday, 10:00-1:00 At the heart of it all is The Heart of It All- Opening to Fullness
By increasing our capacity to live and practice with and Open Heart, we gain great access not only to the human domain of experience but to the Divine Experience as well. Not a simple affirmation or new-age sentiment, opening to the fullness of the Heart is an invitation to Reality itself. Enjoy back bends, arm balances and creative vinyasa sequences in this heart-opening, joyful class.

Sunday, 3:00-6:00 Chit Happens- Revelation and Self-Discovery in Asana, Pranayama, Mantra and Meditation
This class will emphasize deep hip opening work, pranayama, mantra and meditation to assist practitioners in the journey of inner discovery. This introspective class will provide the perfect compliment to the strong work of the weekend and will give participants practical tools with which to deepen their personal contemplative practices.

Location: The San Marcos School of Yoga
400 Centre Street
San Marcos, Texas

Teacher Training: $360
Asana Intensive: $55/session; $200/all sessions
Entire Weekend: $550

Early Bird Registration- For completed registration before April 1
Teacher training: $350
Asana Intensive: $50/session; $180/all sessions
Entire Weekend: $525

For information and registration please contact Christina Sell at 512-665-3743 or email her at
For more information about Noah Maze visit him online at
For more information about Christina Sell visit him online at

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Morning

Well, yesterday was a day of packing. Today will be more of the same and some loading of boxes and furniture into a moving truck...Ah yes, the yoga of moving... Well, let's not be so grandiose to call it a yoga, actually. It is more like a task that one can attempt not to spiral into the depths of boredom, despair and overwhelm throughout! I am not a big fan of moving. I like having moved but I do not like the process of moving.

Jesse has so generously offered to come down and give us some help this afternoon, which is really great. This is real compassion in action. Jesse bought a house and moved this last year and even so close to his own moving, he still volunteered to help. I mean really, the one thing I hate more than moving myself is helping other people move. I used to own a pick up truck and well, need I say more? I helped A LOT of people move during those years. I learned to avoid eye contact, leave the room, etc. once the topic came up. (Not exactly compassion in action!) Actually several people like Kim and Brigitte and Pam also offered to help and I may be cashing in on those offers on unloading day!

So really, this week is moving, unpacking, yoga teaching on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, packing for India, TRANCE DANCE on Friday night (Please come to that- me and Forsyth are going and what a fun girls night out it is going to be. okay, you groovy guys who like to dance --you can come, too.) and the Immersion this weekend. Lots to look forward to.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Mornin

Well, I personally loved the movie The Wrestler. Anne, however, did not find it to be so great. It was reasonably graphic and violent and all that but I thought it was really good. Everything that everyone has said about Mickey Rourke's performance I would have to agree with. He absolutely transcends himself. He really does. I could not believe that I was watching an actor play a wrestler and not a wrestler acting. Very cool. Worth some blood and graphic smack downs in my opinion, to see acting of that caliber. Same with Marissa Tomei, who plays a very believable stripper.

Yesterday was fun. I had a most productive meeting with Desirae who owns and operates the fantastic Breath and Body Yoga studio. Mark the date March 6-8. I will be teaching a weekend workshop up there so please join me if you can. And stay tuned this spring and summer for her offerings to include Anusara Yoga classes and intensives. So fun! Great flow classes in the style of Baron Baptiste, Shiva Rea and now, Anusara Yoga to join the mix.

Kelly and I went to Clear Spring Studio to meet up with the gang there for and afternoon practice. We used was a back bending sequence that buillds to kapotasana that Patricia Walden taught in Sante Fe, New Mexico a few years ago. I happened to be at that retreat so it was fun revisiting the sequence. I am better now than I was then and got much deeper into the pose. Kelly helped me get a solid grip on my heels so my new years goal is well within reach. A centimeter or two a month and well, I should have my ankles no problem! Although really if I can get my own hands to my own heels I am going to feel pretty happy about that.

Then we went to The Alamo for dinner and a movie. Very fun day all in all. Other mundane details of my life include the Uhaul truck loading we will be doing tomorrow and the happy news that the appointment has been set for the closing on our house on Tuesday. So the move is well, moving right along.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Morning

Well, it is strange to think that today, had my original plans remained intact, I would have been in Vancouver. But as it is, I am at home, drinking an awesome cup of chai I made and getting ready for a great weekend at home instead. Really, not bad either way you look at it. And the Vancouver folks get a week with Robin Golt, a certified teacher from Montreal. They are going to have a great time.

Speaking of great times, we had a really fantastic practice at The Love Shack yesterday. Mandy and I met for coffee before- which, now that I think about it in retrospect, was more like an hour of me drinking coffee and her listening to a caffeine-induced rant! Hopefully I was at least mildly entertaining. Mandy led the practice yesterday and it was really great. We had a good turn out and everyone worked hard yet the mood was quite sweet. I think the Thursday practice is really going to be an awesome thing. It was the perfect practice for me after my back bending frenzy of the day before. After my 50 drop backs, my sacrum definitely felt more than a bit weird, but oddly yesterday when I woke up, my psoas was out of spasm, my SI felt great and I was in a good mood, although my arms were really tired. So yesterday the forward bends and upside downs (inversions) felt like perfection itself. My hips were so open by the end of it and my upper back was so prepared from the work the day before that my shoulderstand was stellar.

Craig's class was a lot of fun yesterday. It went by really fast and was chock-full of great information and "Secrets" of the Gita. Okay, the information is not really secret as it is all hiding in plain sight. But secret meaning that you have to know how to understand what it is that you are reading on deeper-than-the-surface levels. He helped de-code some of the symbolism so we could do just that.

The other thing that is just so clear- and I am by no means the first to say this- but it would have been a whole heck of a lot easier to understand Patanjali's Sutras all those years ago, had I gotten started with an in-depth study of The Gita. I mean really, it is so clear that Patanjali assumes his reader knows everything in The Gita. Every verse I read I keep thinking, "Oh that is what Patanjali was referring to!" Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the class and am really happy I get to be here for it next week also. Also particularly fun to think about is that next week, when the class is over and I have finished my socializing and chai tea drinking after class, I will drive 5 minutes down the road to get home not 35! Ecstasy. Truly.

Today I have a lunch meeting with Desirae from Breath and Body Yoga and then I am going to the group practice at Clear Spring Studio. Then me and Kelly and Jeff and Anne are going to see The Wrestler at The Alamo. (Of course, if you wan to join us for that, come along. I am really excited about seeing that movie.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Well, its Wednesday afternoon already. I am waiting for Kelly to come home so we can eat lunch together and I figure I can use the time to update my blog and take my mind off my growling belly!

I had a fun morning. Last night driving home from Austin, Kelly and I were talking about how I turn 40 this year. (And so does Jesse.) I said, "I think I want to have a party. I want to have a big yoga practice and do 40 drop backs or something like that." Then I thought about it and realized I could probably already do that and so maybe I should plan on doing 108 drop backs for my birthday celebration. (already I can feel it- the list of people wanting to come to my party is diminishing...) But anyway, then I thought, well, why wait till then? So this morning I did 50. At fifty my back was pretty tired and so I stopped. But I figure, I can add 10 more a month and 108 will be no big deal by May 7. Patricia Walden, grand goddess of back bending does 108 drop backs once a week and she is in her 60s and since she is my hero... )

Last nights classes were great. They were very well attended and I really enjoyed my time teaching. At 4:30 we worked with the idea of one's own dharma and finding the support in being who you are intended to be and not trying to be someone else. We did hip openers and inner and outer spiral work in a strong standing pose sequence to prepare for a foray into seated postures. Everyone did a great job. (And I promise next week, I will save time for savasana!)

At 6:00 I talked about fullness and perfection, like the moon this weekend. We worked with two main streams- inner and outer spiral in the legs to preapre for padmasana and massive shoulder loop work to preapre for shoulderstand to setubandha and back up to shoulderstand and eventually the sequence goes to parsva sarvangasana in padmasana but we ran out of time. (no savasana for the 6pm class either!) Lots of people did great work in refining their shoulderstand and its variations.

Well, tomorrow afternoon is the practice at The lvoe Shck and then Class #2 of Craig's Gita series. miss Mandy will be leading the practicethis week. It should be a whole lotta fun.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Public Answer to a Private Question

Okay the question was asked in private but it is by no means personal so I am answering it here in case my answer is useful to others out there in the blogosphere.

So, my advanced class has decided to take on Eka Pada Rajakapotasana over the next six weeks, and I would love to get your opinion on what sort of series of events you would take your class through in this scenario. We started things off last week with strong leg work in poses like Vira I and II, Baddha Konasana, and Rajakapotasana prep. I know shoulder loop seems to be a big challenge for this group and I'm hoping I can take some of Saturday's class to them and see improvements. What else is going to be important?

Part of the back story on this question had to do with a discussion we had in one of our session about how do one might take these more advanced poses that we work on in the Immersion for 3 hours and translate them into the public class format? In the Immersion we have all been getting together and learning the principles and building on our knowledge and how can we make that happen at the studio and in the public classes we take?

So I suggested that you make a plan for a peak pose that you are going to work on and/or toward for a given period of time. Then you tell your students your plan so they are aware that there is a method to the madness, so to speak. And then you go about building it. So there are two main streams of things that are involved in "working on and toward poses" in my opinion. (there are probably more- for instance even as I write I am thinking of a third stream- the psychological stream. But if you do your job in the other streams, the psychological stream should get addressed along the way...ideally, that is.)

So in working toward a pose you have to consider "what actions are necessary to achieve that pose?" What does a student need to be proficient at so that when they are at their edge they can access something familiar that will make the pose move more into possibility? If you do not know how to draw your arm bones back in a standing pose, chances are it is going to be hard to do when you are on your head about to go up to urdhva dnaurasana. Blinding flash of the obvious, right?

The second thing I think about, while not unrelated, obviously, but which is not exactly the same thing either, is "What needs to be open and what needs to be strengthened for people to achieve the form?" For instance, my pet peeve in yoga is when teachers teach an advanced variation of something when the fundamental building block pose for it isn't established. Like, why work on scorpion if you cannot balance in pinca? It doesn't make sense. Sure it can be fun and all that but if you are totally dependent on your partner holding you up then really, is that the most effective use of your time and energy? Now I know people may disagree with that, but it is my blog and therefore my opinion...

So for eka pada rajakapotasana (EPRK ) we have to look at what the students need to know how to do in the legs and in the upper back and in the arm.

In the legs, the student needs to know how to draw in (Muscle Energy) to make the spine long and the inner body bright and to create length along the side body. They also need to know how extend out from the pelvis into the foundation (Organic Energy) without losing the mid-line and core stability that the muscle energy gave them. This is key to balance. Many people lose balance in this pose and that is because they are either not drawing in in the first place or once they extend out they lose the stability they created for themselves.

I actually teach a drill for this where you can draw in and lift yourself up 3-5 inches with Muscle Energy and then extend out with Organic Energy without dropping to the floor. Repeat this 3-5 times on each side. Fun times.

Once the foundation is established we need to make sure there is a kidney loop and pelvic loop strongly established so the pose has length and begins as vertically as possible so there is minimal compression to the lumbar spine. So this can be practiced in the prep form but also in anjaneyasana, vira 1, parsvottanasana in upright and/or backbended stage or in hanumanasana.

Students definitely need to know how to establish shoulder loop without losing the kidneys. In my opinion very little opens the shoulder loop as well as shoulder stand and going from shoulder stand to setu bandhasana like we did on Sunday. Good stuff. (Well, there is a ton of stuff for that with chairs, but in terms of straight poses, shoulder stand is awesome for so many reasons. Also dwi pada viparita dandasana is a good pre-requisite pose.)

And the work of the arm itself- at a bare minimum they must understand "plugging in" but more helpful are those three points we worked with on Saturday- outer shoulder blade, inner deltoid, outer elbow. Learning to work those points when the arm is in the overhead plane is the key to the arm work in the pose. urdhva hasatasana, down dog, handstand, parsvakonasana but also poses like gomukhasana arms will teach the top arm what it has to do.

So the other part is the student must have some proficiency and success at: externally rotating their legs (that is the work of the front leg), the quads must be really open (the task of the back leg), they have to have, not only a bendable upper back (shoulder loop) but an openness to the shoulder joint and an ability to articulate the bone in the socket. So in preparing for the pose, you have to open the hips, stretch the thighs, stretch and prepare the whole spine, bend the upper back and open the shoulder socket without overstretching it.

Now what I mean by psychological is really that you want each stage to build confidence through competence. Like if students are not really doing these things and we are praising them, then it is false confidence and when they get to the full pose and they are unprepared it can go bad and then it is not empowering. But if at every stage the component parts are built, then they head into the finished pose prepared and confident they will have a greater likelihood for success and breakthrough as opposed to break down!

Okay, there is more but that is a month of work at least!

Oh, one more thing. Mr. Iyengar says that there are four pillars of advanced back bends. urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana, kapotasana, and mandalasana. So he says if you can do those well, the other advance poses come easily. And while many people can do EPRK and not mandalasana, etc. his idea makes sense to me because those four poses address all these issues. Just something to consider. So I keep fantasizing about a backbending intensive called the Four Pillars. Stay tuned for info on that. Maybe in March.

Of course he also says the four poses that you need to make pascimottansasan good are janu sirsasana, ardha badha padma pascimottanasana, triangamukaikapada pascimottanasana. and maricyasana 1. And I think most of those poses are harder to do well than pascimottasana.Also he says halasana prepares pascimottanasana (A few hints for J-Man here.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Morning

I really had a great time at the Immersion this weekend but wow, was I tired last night. I got home and was really wiped out. Kelly and I ate dinner and did a short program of chanting and meditation and then I went to bed at like 8:30. I must have really needed it- I went to sleep quickly and woke up this morning at 6am feeling rested and ready for the day. I love sleep.

We practiced lots of supta padangusthasana work in the asana portion of class yesterday with an emphasis on outer spiral in the top leg and took that into standing poses, vasisthasana, sarvangasana variations. Everyone really did a good job and held a strong focus for the duration. Really, these long practices are not only physically intense, but the require so much mental attention and the ability to stay with a process as you move through a rainbow of emotions during the practice. I feel like this weekend brought some really good asana breakthroughs to the group, which is inspiring.

We spent the last part of the day talking about the Tattvas some more and the magical mirror of Maya. Once again, not easy to consider such topics after a long haul of asana and at the very end of the weekend but people really stayed with it and didn't spiral into massive amount of confusion. Confusion is really an interesting state of consciousness to observe in oneself and in others. In my experience and in my observation, it takes on a momentum all of its own many times. Confusion often starts with"I do not get that" which is not confusion at all. It is simply a lack of understanding. Shortly thereafter, however, confusion enters in and adds all kinds of upheaval and drama to what was simply a lack of understanding.

Now pause the story - Disclaimer-- I AM NOT CRITICIZING HERE. I am simply stating a phenomenon I have observed in myself and in those I have taught over the years.

Once confusion is present in an individual it often spreads to the group and creates a energy all of its own. It is like a smoke screen that obscures access to discriminative intelligence. It is a heightened state for the nervous system and really, at this point, you cannot teach anything, you cannot learn anything, you have to clear the smoke first, you have to settle yourself or the group. Chronically confused people are often unaware of how their confusion actually perpetuates itself and impedes their learning process. As a teacher, for me it is palpable when confusion enters a group and the level of anxiety is increasing due to its effects.

And really, some people go to confusion more readily than others. Some people are way more anxious at the stage of "I don't get that" than others and those people generally jump straight to confusion which often functions as a kind of shutting down mechanism: "I am confused and therefore I am out of the game of trying to understand". And again, I think this happens almost entirely under the radar of consciousness so it is not a critical thing I am saying here. However, if we can learn to be aware of when confusion is beginning to take the reigns of our mind and emotions, we can choose to intervene and self-soothe a bit. We can learn to talk ourselves down, to ask questions that are not backed with so much anxiety and we can learn how to be with "not knowing" and keep our access to the higher functioning of our intelligence so that we can learn.

Wow, so that was quite a side note, I suppose... all to say that confusion never really took the reigns of the group in the tattva discussion, like it so often can. People asked questions, wanted clarity and but with no drama and no apparent anxiety about it. What a pleasure.

Okay- well I have some things to catch up on today and depending on how it all goes, perhaps I will stop off at Matt's Ashtanga class.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


We had a great day at The YogaYoga Immersion today.

After our brief check in at the beginning- it was last year when we last got together, after all- we spent about 3 1/2 hours practicing asana. We worked a lot on fine tuning the work of the shoulders and took that work into eka pada koundinyasana and visvamitrasana and then to lots of urdhva danurasana and eka pada raja kapotasana. We have several "first timers" in that pose- people who touched their foot behind their head for the first time ever, which all of you have ever done that know, is a uniquely exhilarating and disorienting experience.

I was a bit tired when we got started but the class went well, people worked so hard and I get such a thrill from watching people connect the dots and breakthrough their perceptions of limitations that I was totally energized by the end of the day.

We spent the afternoon on the "36 Tattvas and the Nature of the Universe"... okay kidding. We did make a foray into the 5 Tattvas of the Absolute and set the stage for a discussion of Maya for tomorrow. We have been creeping up to the tattvas during this course and we are about to dive into them full bore tomorrow, which is great. We are ready. And so far, the group has not melted down into major confusion or any kind of breakdown with the information so that is great. I am continually struck by the depth of wisdom and insight in this group. Our discussions are always interesting, thought-provoking and real. It is great fun.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Practice at The Love Shack

Here is a link to Lisa's Flicker site where some pics of yesterday's practice live. We had a really great turn out. About 20 folks came for the inaugural Thursday afternoon practice at The Love Shack. We did a nice strong standing pose flow and worked into drop backs and one-legged and one-armed urdhva danurasana. Nothing earth shattering but a nice way to start the year without blowing anyone out of the water, so to speak. As the practice continues, we will certainly push the envelope a bit, to be sure. Make sure that you are there next week. Miss Mandy will be leading a forward bend practice. And the practice will alternate like that week to week- back bend forward bends with arm balances and inversions fair game for either practice.

Group practice is really such a great way to take asana to a new level. We get to come together with each other and use the group energy while empowering ourselves to really make use of and draw upon all that we have already been taught. And the other really important part is to realize that if we come every week and really prioritize the time- then we are also building a network of support for ourselves and for one another. Imagine who we will be as a group with two more years together on Thursday afternoons... and then add two more and so on... So my vision for this time is that we create a cohesive, dedicated group that is at the same time open and welcoming and accommodating of new folks joining us.

And again, big cheer to Mandy for spearheading the group practice and an additional thank you to everyone who is supporting it.

And to top the day off I went to Craig's class on the Gita last night, which was great. I am thinking about really focusing some energy on that text this year. Craig's class was an excellent introductory session on the context of study and of this particular text. So, although I am not in town for the next three sessions of the class, I think I will continue with the reading and contemplation of the Bhagavad Gita.

Well, time for some asana before heading to IKEA to meet Mom and Dad and to fantasize about ways to spruce up the new house. Yippee. (Yes I know, "the wise yogi is not moved by pleasure or pain..." but well, I LOVE IKEA!)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Goodness and Compassion

I have been thinking a lot about compassion these days. Not like it is a new concept or anything. It isn't. But it has come to my attention through some inner and outer circumstances that I am not exactly super compassionate with myself and it has been suggested to me, by more than one wise person as of late, that this might be a good thing for me to cultivate in myself. (Yes, I did write a book basically about this, which well, makes it even more poignant, no?)

True Story: At the intensive with Paul Muller Ortega in Tucson, Arizona a few weeks ago, I asked him a question about how one might make the distinction between when outer change is called for and when the optimal change is more of an "inside job"- like a change of attitude, perception, etc. He said several very interesting things. The first thing he told me is that we need to let go of the idea that there is only one way to walk the path of yoga. We have to let go of the idea that there is a "right way" to do it.

Now as a side note, I had maybe spent a total of 5 minutes-tops- in conversation with Paul in my lifetime. I had sat in the back of the room, listening to his lectures throughout the weekend and I asked this question on Sunday. So, not only was the answer great, but I was pretty impressed that in only a few seconds he had nailed my entire life script, read me like a book, seen through me like a window pane, so to speak. To me, if we need ANY inspiration about why we should meditate, that is it. After 40 years of contemplative practices in the presence of great gurus, he was able to skip over the question I was asking out loud and answer the real question I was grappling with. Very impressive. But I digress.

And he did throw me a bone at that point saying that the longer we walk the path and especially if we are sincere, getting off this "right and wrong" idea gets harder because we sincerely do want to behave dharmically and to engage the principles skillfully. (But that is different than being driven from the psychological script, I suppose. He didn't say that exactly but I am thinking about that distinction a lot. We may actually behave in the same way but for two different motivations. Anyhoo..)

The next thing he told me was this: "You know, the Great Supreme Consciousness is gazing upon us with the Highest Compassion. It might be helpful to cultivate that same attitude toward yourself." (MIGHT BE HELPFUL??? Ya think?!!)

The next thing he said is that it is also helpful to cultivate patience toward oneself and toward the process. Sometimes, he told me, the head knows and the heart is not ready to see. Sometimes, the heart knows, but the head is not ready. He said, very simply, that we cannot rush the process of lining those aspects of ourselves up.

I think he may have said a few more things but those are the three main points he made. Those of you who know me can see, that he addressed the three main streams of my psychology in under 5 minutes. Now that is skillful means as a teacher. So impressive.

So, as I have been thinking about compassion toward myself it seems to me that it must be rooted in the assertion of Intrinsic Goodness- in that deep essential goodness that is not at the mercy of psychological strategy, human preferences and aversions, and even our good and bad behavior. One must somehow enter into a relationship with the disparity between the stainless purity of the Self and the very fallible nature of his or her humanity. And when we see and feel that disparity in ourselves without judgement, without it being an invitation toward self-hatred, then compassion begins to arise. I think it is a tall order for many of us.

So anyway- I worked in my classes last night with establishing a foundation of goodness and rising up in compassion. (root to rise) We took that into shoulder principles and ustrasana in the Hatha Class and into a pretty darn fun arm balance flow in the Advanced Class. Lots of new folks were in class last night, a lot of old friends who have gone missing and then a nice group of regulars were there also. That is always what is so fun about this time of year, right?

Just a reminder that THursday we are not ahvcing advnaced class at 4:30 but we ARE having an advanced practice from 4-6 at The Love Shack. Also at 7:30 that night Craig is beginning his series on the Gita at YogaYoga South which is not to be missed. Come to practice, clean up, get some food and then end your day with a talk about Remembering the Highest. I mean, really, does it get any better than that?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back from Corpus

I had hoped to post a longer entry but by the time I caught up on some email, updated my workshop schedule and the blog link list, I am out of time! I am meeting Genevieve in Austin this morning to go over some details for our India trip and then I am going to take Matt's Ashtanga class and then go for a swim. I am pretty excited for some strong movement as the weekend of teaching was quite full and snagging an hour of practice each day as about all I could manage.

But what a weekend it was. We had the first weekend of our Corpus Christi training this weekend. We will be together for a whole year doing an Immerison and Teacher Training program. The group was so great to work with. We had 19 folks sign up for the training and they are all so open, strong, sincere and motivated to learn. We spent the weekend on covering the 5 UPA's and it was an immense download of information and sharing of insight that was really pretty inspiring.

I have a lot I could say but the highlight for me of the weekend was the introductions circle because the level of honesty and vulnerability that people brought to it was so real that it really blew me away. One of my favorite things to do is to hear from people what it is that they love about yoga and how it has changed their lives. People shares some of the most incredible stories about the difference their practice has made in their lives and in the perceptions about themselves and their world. I kept thinking- yes, that is what we get to do as yoga teachers. We get to be part of that process of change and discovery and really, is there anything better?

The other cool thing is that people found life-changing yoga everywhere- in gyms, YMCA's , videos, yoga studios and so forth. I was so inspired by this as well. The power of this practice transcends location, means of delivery and even our own beliefs about whether or not yoga is "for real." That is what is so cool I mean really, we just never know who is coming into our class and what is happening in their inner life when they are doing surya namaskar. We just don't. We may think we do, but we don't know for sure. And I found this idea so humbling and so inspiring.

So it was a great weekend- Michelle assembled a great group for me to work with and it was cool to see the fabulous work she has been doing in Corpus Christi. And Beth, one of the students in the program, let me stay in her guest house/apartment which was like a 5-star hotel! I felt so totally spoiled. I really did.

All right, off to the races. More later.