Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Night

Well, and so it has been busy.

We started the Immersion Thursday night and Friday was somewhat normal- 6 hours of teaching but me and Darren had dinner at the local Hare Krishna restaurant, which is our standard fare during most Immersion weeks. Then Saturday, Kelly arrived at lunch, and after a full day of teaching the Immersion I taught a class at Yoga Oasis East from 6:15-8:15. On Sunday after a full day of teaching I taught a 2-hour flow class at YO, Yoga Oasis Downtown. By the way, that was fun- I had a play list, taught it to music and we just rocked out and delighted in a strong flow practice together. Monday night after class, James ( a long time friend and one of the founding members of Prescott Yoga) and his fiancé Rachel came over for dinner and then tonight after class we had dinner with Chris And Meg (Long time Prescott Friends who now live in Wisconsin.)

So anyway- this is why I have had no time to really write or reflect on what has been an absolutely amazing week. We have a stellar group with amazing students full of wisdom, spunk and passion. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with everyone this week.

One thing I did for this week was to type out a schedule and hand it to the students at the beginning of the week. And so for the most part, we have stayed with the plan with only a few variances and the structure has provided for a remarkable amount of freedom and clarity. It quickly becomes obvious that we cannot answer every questions, or solve every problem or satisfy every curiosity within the scope of the training, And yet, given that, we made it through the curriculum quite nicely and the level of asana execution and knowledge is impressive.

All right, there are lots of gems from the week that I want to go into a bit but I am wiped out. Must sleep.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Life is full here in Tucson. This is a slideshow from last nights flow class I taught last night at YO the Yoga Oasis downtown studio.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tucson Day One

We had a great day today. We started off with a talk about the Cycles of Creation and the the 3 Goddesses- Kali, Saraswati and Lakshmi, which was really fun. The group did some journal writing and sharing and then we did a super strong asana practice with the theme of from kali to saraswat- raw potential to creative expression. Darren and I were really in sync, the group worked hard and it was one of the most focused and powerful beginnings to any Immersion we have done so far. Nothing like startgin the day off invoking Kali, I suppose!


meditation- 5 minutes

Surya Namaskar A 5X

Surya Namaskar B 5X

Handstand- 1 minute timings with a friend in the middle

Pinca Mayurasana- 1 minute timings with a friend in the middle

1 minute timings:



Ardha chandrasana

Ardha Chandra chapasana

Parivritta parsvakonasana

Parivritta trikonasana

Parivritta ardha chandrasana

Parivritta ardha Chandra chapasana

Ardha bhekasana

Eka pada rajakapotasana

Ekapada rajakapotasana with thigh stretches

Setu bandhasana- 2X

Urdhva danurasana- 5X

Dwi pada viparita Dandasana- 5 X



Parsva uttanasana



Childs pose

Supta padangusthasana


After lunch we spent sometime talking about Shri and Lakshmi and about how the refined form is the final stage of the creative cycle. After a discussion and contemplation we practice headstand, shoulder stand, supta padangusthasana variations and then ended with pranayama, meditation and savasana.

All in all, a great day. here are some scenes of the fun.

More tomorrow. Time to rest.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good bye San Jose, Hello Tucson

ell, it’s an almost six hour plane ride to Phoenix from Costa Rica and so I thought it would be a good opportunity to write a blog entry. Unfortunately, they do not let passengers take any water on the plane from Costa Rica and so I am unbelievably thirsty right now. Yes, I know according to the Gita, “the wise yogi is not bothered by thirst” but well, this yogi sure is.

It was an early morning this morning. I woke up at 3:45 and the taxi came for me at 4:15. So far I feel okay but it those kind of mornings usually throw my system a little out of whack. All right- enough ramblings…

The last day of the immersion was lovely. We covered a brief histroy of yoga and made a foray into talking aout some distinctions between different philosophical darsanas, which is always an interesting discussion. One cool thing about this group is that most of them are teachers and most of them have completed teaching training at Yoga Lamat, where they received a very good education in yoga philosophy and so they were familiar with the Gita and familiar with Patanjali’s sutras and also Juanpa has been teaching them such good Anusara Yoga for so long that they had a very solid foundation upon which to have the discussion.

I always marvel about how we are supposed to cover the “basic overview of three philosophical schools of yoga” in under an hour. I mean you can do it in general way in that amount of time if the people you are teaching know something about yoga philosophy. But let’s say your students have never considered concepts of dualism and non duality, or what if they only know of the word tantra from an ad in the back of a magazine promising “tantra for better sex” and what if they have never heard of something called Vedanta or have no clue what Buddhism is actually about and what if they think Patanjlai’s sutras are the only sutras of yoga? Many people come to Immersions and this is precisely their situation.

I do not mean this as a criticism at all. It is more of an observation about how it is. One thing I have observed over the last few years is that part of what has happened in the modern proliferation of the asana practice as it has become accessible and available to the masses it that the “spiritual aspect” of the practice has been purposely left out of the presentation. I am not taking issue with that so much. I am simply saying that nowadays it is highly likely that someone has done yoga for many years, loves it, is dedicated to it, but has learned very little of its philosophical underpinnings. A colleague of mine once said, “Oh sure, for most people it’s more like a health-hobby these days.”

So- in those cases, these talks about “a Brief History of Yoga Philosophy” take a bit longer to lay out in a way that makes any sense. Think about how we say there are three main elements to Anusara Yoga: 1) Non dual tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness, 2.) Universal Principles of Alignment and 3.) Practicing teachings in community. Well, just take a look at the first one and you see all kinds of words that need defining—non-dual, tantric, intrinsic goodness. Those concepts alone can make for a lengthy discussion.

Well, anyway- this group was well educated, well prepared and they were very good students. Louis, my host, told me that over 40 years ago, Costa Rica disbanded the army and invested instead in education. Amazing, huh? I think it shows in the studentship of the Costa Ricans. It was of a very high caliber.

Okay- so we did a strong practice working on the loops and going through lots of vinyasa, arm balances and then into drop backs. That was a lots of fun. (Costa Ricans are very passionate and expressive so there was a lot of moaning and groaning and expressing which became somewhat hysterical at a point!0 After lunch we covered some shoulder anatomy, took a test, did a review and then had our closing circle. As always, the depth of the process and how it affected people was very inspiring and moving. It is such a cool thing to facilitate and be a part of.

Afterwards, we all went out to dinner together which was great. Good tasty food with great company. And I got introduced to the “Costa Rican good-bye.” You have to hug and kiss at the table as you get up to leave. Then there is hugging and kissing at the door before you leave the restaurant. And then there is hugging and kissing at the sidewalk before you get into your car. And I am not just talking about you hug the person at the curb that you didn’t hug at the table. No, you hug EVERYBODY and kiss EVERYBODY at each of the three stations. I am smiling as I write this because this was a very funny scene and they laughed at me a lot as I was so ready to go and they were so into hugging and kissing me and each other. (White girl in a Latin scene… you can imagine.)

But it was an excellent memory to leave with- all that love. The people I met and worked with all week were some of the most open hearted, generous, accepting, loving and passionate people I have met. At so many points I could feel this great company healing me and again and again I was reminded of what great fortune it is to have this yoga, these opportunities to travel and teach and the blessing it is to share such high teachings with such wonderful people.

So- 2 hours left in the flight and then it is to my Tucson family and to meet and greets friends from there and who are coming from afar. We have a big group coming for Part 2, most of whom were with us for Part 1 but we have some people who will be joining the group. I think that is always fun- seeing how each group forms and becomes unique.

More tomorrow. Here are a few pictures from the week. The sizing is weird because I pulled them from Facebook.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Well, I can hardly believe we have only one more day of the Immersion. What a week so far. Today we started of with questions and review and began our day with the BIG ONE. By the BIG ONE I mean, the Big Question that always comes up when we talk about the tattvas and about the philosophy that informs Anusara Yoga- WHY? Like, really, why is it that Spirit comes into form and why is it that there is evil and why...?

So we explored that question a bit. Ultimately, I think I avoided the question but I at least owned up to the fact I was avoiding it. I think the thing is that we can learn the why of it from an academic standpoint and depending on the system we are looking at, we get different explanations. But I think the reason the questions comes up no matter how much I try to front-load a discussion and give that answer in advance is that the why for the head does not satisfy the why of the heart.

So I can say the why of it according to Anusara Yoga philosophy and so forth and say "because the Absolute is so free it can do anything it wants. To tell it not to manifest as evil is to limit its intrinsic freedom..." And I can say, the whole thing happens "for the sheer delight of hiding and being found again. I can say it is lila, play, delight." But really, that may sound a bit empty in the face of famine, natural disasters, holocausts and child abuse.

So that's the thing- this is THE BIG ONE because this is what most religions have been grappling with for always. And really, once we have an answer for the head, well, there is still the task of living with that answer in a way that is authentic, satisfying, relevant, and so on. And that is not easy yoga to do. I think the Anusara Yoga vision may seem easy and simplistic at first (It's all Good. Yippeeee!!!) but I think really living that way is something else entirely. Really asserting the presence of God (and a Good God, at that!) in the face of the array of atrocious suffering that exists is not an easy thing. And then really feeling that way, really seeing things as that, not just as an intellectual construct but as a true and direct experience is something else as well.

And so I told the group that since anytime a BIG QUESTION is answered simplistically, I feel unsatisfied, I was not going to attempt to wrap it up in a simple package. Really, I gave that level of answer and so the next thing we each have to do is chew on it, burn with the qurestion, "live our way into the answers" and come to some sense of it within our own hearts.

Generally, I think WHY is a very dangerous line of questioning. I think better we ask WHAT? What do I want to do in response to suffering? What do I see as the positive contribution I can make to lessen the suffering around me? So like that.

So all that before 9:30 this morning!

Then we went into kanchukas and then into some lecture on Inner and Outer Spiral and then into an Inner and Outer Spiral class with lots of deep hip work, and visvamitrasana as the pinnacle pose. After lunch we talked about the malas, the doshas and the pelvis and psoas and took that into a lotus class and ended the day with some kirtan and a long savasana.

It was a very fun day. One of the most interesting things I have observed is that on the day I teach the malas, we tend to have the most fun. So weird. I will have to contemplate that one. Anyway, there is a lot of love in this group and it is so great to see the studetns come alive with the fire for the method, the teachings and the practice. Juanpa is such a good teacher and he and his wife Marienela are doing such a good job there- along with the other teachers- to provide such a sanctuary of healing. It is pretty awesome.

Whew. So now, I am waiting on some dinner and then bed.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day two and Day three

Well day two and day three have gone by in a blaze of Muscle and Organic Energy...

Seriously we worked with muscle energy yesterday and organic energy today. Every day has been so full. We start the day with review and philosophy, a strong asana practice, then lunch, then more philosophy, some anatomy, more asana, and pranayama, mantra and meditation to close out the day. It has been really great. For the most part I have stuck to my schedule and am moving through the curriculum pretty quickly and efficiently.

I am enjoying the time here a lot. Like I mentioned before I love the openness of the people here and the wise innocence of their spirits. It is a very refreshing atmosphere. I am attempting to learn a few Spanish words which seems to delight the group. (They are very sweet with my attempts to speak their language. Juampa (my host) and I made some plans for me to return in the fall so I think between now and then I simply MUST learn at least some Spanish. (Lisa, HELP!)

Tonight we came home and showered and then went to a mall so I cold buy a new book to read. For some reason I cannot get my Kindle to download here and I read everything that was on it. After that I ate some food and finished some planning for the Tucson week that is coming up. Now, catching up on my blog, I realize I am pretty tired. These are long days with such great energy but it is a lot of output and rest seems to be important for me these days. I am falling asleep close to 9:00 every night I am here which is awesome.

All right, well, I guess that is about it for now. More tomorrow.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Day One Immersion Yoga Lamat

I am very tired but I thought I might check in ever-so-briefly anyway.

The last few days of the retreat we had no internet access so I could not keep up with my reports. We had a great time at the retreat- I got lots of rest, learned a lot and taught some great classes. All in all a good week.

On Friday night I made my way across San Jose to get ready for the Immersion at Yoga Lamat. We started today and it was really fantastic. The group is so sincere and so loving and so open. I think I want to move to Costa Rica! We spent the day laying the foundation for the week- going over concepts such as Open to Grace, Grace, Setting the Foundation, Inner Body Bright, the meaning of the chant, the Main Elements of Anusara Yoga and so on. I wrote up a schedule for the whole day on the white board and for the most part we managed to keep to it. We even had 30 minutes for pranayama, chanting and meditation. Wow.

One thing that is just fantastic is to teach an Immersion to a group of people who are already so well trained in Anusara Yoga. Juan Pablo, the studio owner is a great student and a great teacher and his students reflect so well on his efforts. They listen well, ask great questions, and have so many of the fundamentals in place that the teaching is a real pleasure.

I am both inspired and also tired from the day. I found teaching to a group of people who do not speak English as their first language to be very interesting. In general, I really liked it because I was much more careful with my words and with the way I used them and yet it required a heightened amount of attention. I do think, however, that it made my teaching more effective. Maybe from now on I am going to pretend my students do not speak English! I definitely spoke slower knowing I was being translated.

Years ago, one of my friends took a long trip to Costa Rica. She came back and said to me, "You just cannot imagine how different a culture is that is based around joy." Well, that statement keeps coming back to me as I am here. There is a sense of joy and enjoyment here that is not at all typical of life in the good ole' USA. (Don't get me wrong, I really do like our country) I find the whole vibe here to be so uplifting and so nourishing. I am feeling pretty lucky I get to be working here for two weeks.

All right then, time to go to bed. I am pretty darn tired.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Wednesday at Pura Vida is a day when people can take trips and eco-tours in the nearby area. It means no regularly scheduled classes and so for me in meant sleeping in, a long pranayama and meditation practice, a leisurely cup of tea, a novel by the pool and then some editing after lunch. I actually finished with this stage of my work on the manuscript and sent it off to my editor for her to work on it. Like i just told my Dad, I began to lose track of what the words meant and so I figured it was someone else's turn. At any rate, it is out of my hands for a while.

We had a nice day yesterday. Jordan began the day talking about some of the iconography of the Shiva Nataraj which was interesting. I never get tired of talking about that image and the many embedded lessons therein. I did some work on my computer, a long back bend practice and then had lunch followed by some reading and then the afternoon session with Martin and my class.

Martin covered the shoulders which was great fun. He had some great imagery and explanations regarding the structure and function of the shoulder and the rotator cuff. Great stuff which once again makes clear the majesty and intelligence of the principles we use all the time. I followed his class with a shoulder asana class where we workshop-ed the 5 shoulder principles in a variety of poses but with special devotion to bhujangasana. Lots of deepening and improvement in the room on that one.

One thing that is so fun is being with a group of people who chose to come on vacation to do yoga and yoga anatomy. I mean, it is such a great gathering of sincere, smart and science-minded practitioners. Many of you know how often I joke about the three kinds of people who are drawn to Anusara Yoga- the mystics, the engineers and the athletes?

To review for those of you new to the conversation- the mystics LOVE heart-based themes. The mystics do not really care what you do in an asana class so long as you chant, read poetry and have long savasanas. These people have rudraksha beads around their neck or wrist, a crystal in their pocket and spare copy of The Essential Rumi in their napsack.

Then there are the engineers. these are the people who like to know at what exact angle you bend your bottom leg in vira 2 and to with what degree of torque do you apply inner spiral to the back leg. These people are more than happy to watch your demo and do not want to attempt the pose without a thorough set of instructions. These people carry protractors, compasses and a copy of Light on Yoga.

There are also the athletes. Athletes usually hate demonstrations, they will figure out "how" as they go. They are not keen on partner work wither as it ruins their flow. They like to move, sweat and feel. These people carry electrolyte replacement drinks, a spare t-shirt and lots of Tiger Balm.

Okay I am kidding. But my point is that there are those of us interested more in Attitude (Mystics) and those of interested more in alignment (engineer) and those of interested more in Action (athletes). Generally we are usually a composite of types and tendencies. We often have a strong affinity for one domain, a tolerance for the second and sometimes an aversion for the third. (like those people who love to move but love and inspirational message and hate to watch demos.) But I digress.

So- a week like this tends to attract the engineer-type and I think that is great fun. I have such a strong love for technique that is grand to just be in that aspect of the work. In no way are we ever losing sight of the Grander Vision. I actually think the study of anatomy the way Martin teaches reinforces the mystical so well. That's the thing. Like John Friend said in Los Angeles, 'We are a scientific art, not an artistic science." So like that.

It has really been a great week so far. Nothing like I expected or planned but a great outcome nonetheless. All right, well, the sun is setting and I feel a tad chilled sitting in the shade so I will close this for now. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The days are full

well, the days here are full. I am really enjoying myself immensely.

Yesterday Jordan told a great story about Krishna. Short version is that there was a monster in the Yamuna river that was eating the townsfolk when they went there. They were so concerned that some harm would come to Krishna if her went into the river that they told him not to go into the river. Of course, what did he do? He went to the river and jumped in. And he did not come out. And he did not come out. And he did not come out. And everyone was distraught and worried and then they saw some bubbles rise to the surface. And then they saw the giant monster rise out of the water and Krishna was dancing on his head, playing his flute and the monster was not happy at all. But Krishna kept playing and dancing and eventually, the giant grew tired and subdued by the music and lay his big head down on the river bank exhausted from the struggle. Krishna, with his wisdom, looked at the giant and said,"I know why you have been upset. This river is just too small for you. I think you would be a lot happier if we found a place for you where you had more room. I am going to take you to the ocean where you can be free."

So, too, each one of us has a wildness inside that when not given enough room, grows intemperate, unmanageable and dangerous. Even our wilder emotions like anger, jealousy, fear, rage and such need an ocean of spaciousness in order to to exist without causing us problems. We cannot suppress them or keep them in a cage of our own judgement and criticism or they will begin to eat the villagers of our own being! We need to find ways to give them space, to make room for them to be what they are, as they are. So like that.

After her talk I posted my blog, did a practice and then ate lunch, did some editing and then went to Martin's class. We covered the pelvis and which was fascinating. after that I taught an asana class on hip opening to reinforce the anatomy work and ground it in the physical body. All in all a great day. I cannot recommend an anatomy training with Martin highly enough. I think it should be required before certification. I really do. It is that good. That relevant. That empowering. I have always been a believer and I have always had the direct experience of the potency of this method. Seeing the science of it more clearly through his careful and passionate instruction is a whole new level. The intelligence of the Universal Principles of Alignment is really quite stunning.

All right- time for me to practice some asana before lunch and before I get too hungry as the morning progresses.

Monday, March 15, 2010

anatomy musings

I got to sleep until I wok e up this morning. Well, of course, we always sleep until we wake up. In this instance I mean that I got to sleep until I woke up with no alarm which is really one of my favorite things in the world. After so many years of getting up supremely early for work, exercise, etc. I find it immensely enjoyable to sleep until my needs for rest are met and then get on with my day.

Today that meant a nice long pranayama, mantra and meditation session followed by a cup of tea while I write this blog. It is kind of my morning ritual at home so I thought I could keep it alive here. It works for me most mornings to spend a few minutes collecting my thoughts and musing about what is on my mind. Since I do not have internet access in my room so I am writing it in a word processing program and will past it into my blog when I go up to the guest lounge where we have internet access.

So yesterday was a good day. I particularly enjoyed Martin’s anatomy lesson in the late afternoon. Martin, prior to being a full time yoga teacher, was an engineer and so there is no one better to teach a group of Anusara Yoga practitioners anatomy than Martin Kirk. He is passionate, articulate, charismatic, smart and since he was a certified teacher BEFORE leaning anatomy, he sees anatomy through the lens of the UPA’s instead of the other way around, which is fantastic. And he is very good at teaching- what I have always said- that the UPA’s really work to mitigate the dangers of any asana pose and also to keep us aligned according to the design of the body. I am passionate about this subject- UPA’s are not an imposition on the body. They are a means by which we consciously align with the optimal design of the body. The only reason they seem like an imposition is because we are misaligned to begin with.

So- There are so many great nuggets of wisdom to share form his 2-hour presentation. He began by telling a story about how, when he began working on his anatomy book, John said he wanted him to explore the idea of the individual matrix and embryonic development. So he shared with us some of his findings- suffice it to say that that alone is somewhat mindblowing. Here are some of my notes from his talk on this:

  • Non physical aspect or reality- THE INVISIBLE MATRIX
  • There is a You that was YOU before you were You( and that You is perfectly programmed to become you.)

Now this part was kind of interesting- he said that he always thought that the in terms of fertilization, “the best sperm won” but really…

  • the human egg is surrounded by a hard shell; the first sperms that get there pound against the shell and break it down; later on “some slacker gets in easily” Who knew?

Also this part was pretty cool in terms of the deep intelligent order that guides the process of coming into being…

  • Within the first 30 hours, the cell begins to divide- 2-4-8-16, etc. within 5-6 days the growing clump of cells imbeds itself in the uterine wall. Then the individual cells do a kind of origami and begin to fold back into itself and forms a cavity. When that cavity closes off it becomes a tri-laminar disc- in the center of that disc a line begins to form-(CAN YOU SAY MIDLINE PEOPLE?!!!) T hat line attracts certain cells that become the nodo-cord (Primordial kind of spine) and then the nodo- cord sends out signals and calls cells to it- then the cells come that will become the spine- within 22 days, this tri-laminar disc begins to fold back on itself again and the cavity it forms becomes our inner cavity. Within 6 weeks, the cells that were attracted to the nodo-cord begin to ossify. Within 8 weeks they pinch off what was the nodo-cord and that makes up the fluid inside the discs of the spine. Within 10 weeks the muscles between the vertebrae begin to take shape. From there, everything takes shape.

And so since we are all Anusara Yogi’s in the room and Martine such a well-trained teacher he brought all of this into the context of The Highest…

  • It all comes from seeming nothingness. And yet in tantra we must remember a very important distinction relative to creation and so forth. In tantric philosophy, God doesn’t create the universe- God becomes the universe. And that happens out of seeming nothingness!
  • So all this attracting, dividing, multiplying and folding in on itself is happening according to a deep plan, which we are calling the Invisible Matrix and which in terms of physical structre we call The Optimal Blueprint.
  • In asana we are trying to line up with the Optimal Blueprint- with the Invisible Matrix. We have to keep this in mind when we explore anatomy.

So we explored the structure of the spine starting with the shape of the spine, the optimal curves of the spine and then the muscles that support the spine. Another key piece of context that Martin pointed out has to do with evolution. Our spine is at its most perfectly aligned state when we are on all fours. SO much of the trouble for us with alignment and so forth comes when we stand up. Martin said jokingly and in all seriousness, “we still need a few more million years of evolution to be better at being upright. We are only midstream in our development as upright beings.” Okay so this is radical to consider and it can really confront a kind of complacency or superiority mindset, if you ponder it.

The other thing along those lines that we got into talking about that made the hugest impression on me had to do with establishing the optimal curve for the lumbar spine and a question that came up about why to so many people’s feet turn out. One thing that Martin said is that if you really look at the number of muscles that rotate our legs out vs the number that rotate the legs in, then the external rotators will win every time. In our current design model (keeping in mind the previous point that our evolution is still in process) we are pre-disposed to outer spiral in the legs. (Like how John says in the Teacher Manual that “the strength of the buttocks will override the strength of the upper inner thighs.)

But weirdly the design of the body works best when the inner thighs are active and the inner and outer spiral are balanced. So what does that tell us? In order to function according to our design, we have to use CONSCIOUS ACTION to bring ourselves into alignment. Like Iyengar Yoga teacher Laurie Blakeney always says,” yoga is not natural, it is supernatural.” Natural is external rotation wins. Supernatural is applying alignment (inner spiral in this case) consciously and skillfully according to the Optimal Blueprint.

So this really impressed me because if we see this clearly we see that this is truly a yoga of empowerment. This is a yoga of using our consciousness to go beyond “what happens naturally,” to go beyond our current state of evolution and to take a million or so years of the process! (I firmly believe that in a million years the internal and external rotators could actually balance on another... but who has that kind of time?) So really we see that this yoga is empowering, evolutionary and deeply intelligent. It does not get much better than that in my opinion.

Well, I am going to run now and see if I can make it to the first part of Jordan’s class. She is telling stories every morning which is very fun and then I will post this and do a practice and so on.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Well, here I am in Costa Rica. It has been a few days since I wrote and now I am bit tired so I am not sure how brilliant the post will be. Probably not so much. It was a pretty long and uneventful day of travel to get here. I left home around 5:30am and got to the retreat center around 4:00 and had time to check in, unpack and do a practice before I ate dinner. So all that was great.

We have a very small group here this week and so we combined groups to make each teacher have a lighter work load which was a very elegant solution in my book. As it stands I will teach some asana every afternoon and have the mornings free to rest, write and practice- just like I, myself, am on a retreat! After my afternoon class, Martin will teach anatomy which I am really looking forward to. So in a lot of ways, this is a great gig- I get to have some personal down time, I get to teach some lovely people, AND I get to learn more about anatomy while I am at it. All in all, a good deal.

I mentioned I will have time to do some writing. John and I finally decided that the timing is not right for Anusara Yoga to publish the book I wrote and so I will be making some changes to the content so that it can go to the editor at Hohm Press- who published my first book and who did some editing on this project and is excited about working together on completing the project, which I am really excited about. I am ready to bring it to completion as it is exactly 2 years since I first gave the manuscript to John. So on the plane over here I did a round of edits on hard copy and I need to enter them into my computer and then I will have to re-read it and see what else I need to change. I need to do some work on the bibliography now that I am shifting the content a bit but I can certainly do that while Regina is reading/editing/reviewing it.

The basic gist of the book is how to take yogic principles off the mat in order to build what I call a Temple of the Body. I am very pleased with the writing.In fact, I hadn't read the manuscript in so long, I actually found my own thoughts inspiring! Really the other part of the premise is that practice- asana, mantra, meditation, diet, etc. is really all about love. Discipline does not have to be some set of self-imposed restrictions that we do to be "good yogi's" but instead could simply be a way that we align ourselves with our heart and so whatever gestures we make are really self-affirming, self-loving acts. Obviously, not a new theme for me, but it hangs together quite nicely, I think. I tie it into a story about a great Indian Saint named Yogi Ramsuratkumar.

So- it is nice, as I am working on the book about practice beyond asana to have some time this week to dive into them and focus on them. So that is a plus- Then on Saturday I start an Immersion in town which will be a whole different gig.

Well, that's a rap for now. Gotta make a sequence for this afternoon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Morning

Last night's class was really fun. We worked on getting some mobility and opening in the shoulders and took that all the way to scorpion work with the chairs. It was pretty fun. I like that class a lot. We have a broad range of levels in that class so I give a lot of options for the poses that are along the way to the the more advanced poses- like we had three stages of handstand being taught yesterday and when we got to scorpion pose some people were working on pinca mayurasana and not adding in the back bend work so I think everybody worked on something and in general, the mood of the people who come to that class is so focused and people are so willing to go for it and yet underneath it all is a very good sense of humor and play. All in a ll it was quite delightful.

I said it last night but I learned a lot about how to approach advanced postures from Desiree Rumbaugh over ten years ago. She, at that time, was just beginning to travel and teach and she still taught a lot at her studio. She had a Friday morning Level 2 class. (that was back in that day that Level One meant "feet on the floor" and Level Two meant "feet in the air" and there was no Level 3 or 4. Anyway- she had this 2-hour class that she taught every week and one time she told the group about her thoughts behind the class. She said that when she was learning yoga the only time she would work on advanced poses, the only time they got taught, was at workshops. She wanted to have a place on the weekly schedule where people could learn those poses- where it wasn't only a workshop thing. So that was the Friday class for many years.

Anyway, I used to leave Prescott at 6:00 in the morning- many times with a van load full of friends and students in tow- and go down to her advanced class. Then I would stay for her gentle class that followed. Keep in mind she taught gentle kind of like how I teach gentle but it was definitely where I learned to teach Anusara Yoga to lower levels in a more basic presentation and broken down into manageable chunks. But I digress. By the time I worked a lot more with John, the basics of these advanced poses were familiar to me and I new how to approach them intelligently since she had taught us so well. Although in those days he did a lot more "how to" with the advanced poses than he does now. But that is because he has more people out in the field giving the "how to." But I digress.

So my thinking is that we have a similar kind of scenario in a lot of ways on Wednesday nights. We have lots of strong people, who are experienced practitioners who come to class and who are ready to get off the basic standing pose flow and learn how to do some other poses. We used to call them "the poses at the back of the book". So the thing is that all the poses in the back of the book are built from the basic poses. So in a level 2-4 class, there are always, preliminary stages to practice that the less experienced or the stiffer or not-as-strong student (level 2-2.5)can do to prepare. And then there are always expressions of the pose that are intermediate (level 2.5-3) and there are expressions of the pose that are more advanced (level 4). The key to benefiting from a class like that is to know which level you are where to work and also to validate and honor yourself for whatever expression of the posture is authentic to you.

It was kind of funny last night because I was working with a theme of sensitivity and strong action and I got off on a whole rant about how if we are beating ourselves us about what we can not do we should really ask ourselves how much we are working on it. For instance, if you cannot kick to the wall in handstand and you feel terrible about it but you are only working on it when it comes up in class, you should let that go. Chances are that is not going to be enough effort to actually learn that pose. If, you are making 10 sincere, focused attempts to kick up every day and after a year, you still have not made any progress, then you are allowed to bitch about it for a moment. However, once that moment passes, pick yourself up, go to class, show your teacher what is going on and get some pointers. And then get back to work!

Sounds harsh, huh? My point is that the habit of beating ourselves up about what we cannot do sometimes is so seductive and insidious that we end of spending our valuable energy on feeling bad rather than spending it on how to get better. It is a nasty little habit of the mind, feeling bad about ourselves. Vow to overcome it.

Oh and Anne told me a story she heard at a recent Iyengar Yoga workshop about how Patricia Walden. Evidently, the story goes that when she first started could drop back to urdhva danurasana but could not push up from the floor. Those of you suffering that pose should take courage and inspiration from that because seriously she is a back bending bad ass now and to think when she got started she was not strong enough to push up to that pose is somewhat mind blowing. Talk about a testimony to longstanding efforts done repeatedly with devotion! Wow.

Okay then, time to practice asana and make my own efforts towards some poses! Deep forward bends and inversions today for me.

Okay, enough for now!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I am taking a break from my mountain of email. (it is a metaphoric mountain- meaning, "Things are piling up...") I had a great day yesterday. I spent a few hours in the early morning doing some writing, then Anne came over for a back bend practice and then after lunch, Kelly and I went down to San Marcos to re-con the studio there and to spend some time in the river play boating.

I LOVE KAYAKING. Part of why I have reduced my local schedule down to just one day a week is that I really was wanting some time to have a little fun and what I had in mind was being able to spend a little time in my boat this year. That is one fun thing about kayakaing- at least the kind Kelly and I do. There is no real reason to do it other than fun. We are not getting anywhere, there is no logical reason why you would turn a boat into the current and try to surf a wave other than delight. And delightful it was! The weather was perfect, the water was big from all the rain we have had and so tricks came pretty easily considering it had been A LONG time since I had been in my boat. All in all, a great time.

This morning I taught Focus on Form. We worked deeply into hip opening and forward bends into a valiant attempt at kurmasana which was a lot of fun. (well, I had fun.) Actually that kind of sequence, as Jenn Wooten commented, does tend to create a fair amount of involution. So towards the end someone joked that "We need some music to help us rally for this." So we turned on some Jai Uttal for the last 10 minutes of class which was silly but fun and perhaps it helped.

I worked with the theme of stability and freedom. Of disciplined action to create opening. Of strong work in the shins to help us open the hips. Like that. It went well.

So after lunch, it has been a pile of work. I have a bunch errands I also need to run and then later on a walk with Gia and the 6:00 class and a date with Anne.

Here are some fun things to keep in mind!

I will be out of town for a while but in April I have some guest appearances I would love to have well attended:

Saturday, April 10
Breath and Body Yoga
Anusara Yoga Class

Desirae is starting a new class on Saturdays at 4:30 for the teacher Trainees from our Immersion to have a place to practice teaching Anusara Yoga. It starts on April 3 and I will teach it on April 10 so please support that class and support this new crop of teachers. Most of them are experienced teachers and will be incorporating UPA's and heart based themes into their classes and so please come to that. For more details, please visit www.breathandbodyyoga.com.

Also our Teacher Training at Breath and Body starts in April. It is the only one i Will be doing in Austin until late in 2011 or early 2012. If you have ANY interest in participating in it and you meet the requirements, please contact me. So, during those weekends, I will be teaching the public classes at Breath and Body. This is so we can have some real-life scenarios in the Teacher Training process and trainees can see the real-life application of the method. PLEASE COME! Limited time only. All classes will be taught at Breath and Body. All classes will be Mixed Level.

Friday, April 23-

Saturday, April 24

Saturday, April 25

Friday, April 30

AND! 2011 Austin Immersion Dates have been set. If you want to take an Immersion with me here in Austin, this is when its happening. Reserve the dates:
Part 1:March 11-12; March 25-27
Part 2: April 29-May 1; May 27-29
Part 3: July 8-10;July 29-31

And me and Gioconda are going to lead a practice at The Love Yoga Coop on April 17th from 3-6. So please come and play with us. More details on that forthcoming. I am thinking a potluck might be fun after that though. Anyone interested?

Stay tuned. More fun things to come.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday Morning

Well, we had a good Immersion weekend this weekend. We dove into the philosophy pretty strongly this weekend and so that was rich. The thing that really boggles my mind about Immersions (and teaching yoga philosophy in them) is how immense the subject matter is and how rarely a group is satisfied with simple distinctions like "Classical Yoga says to separate yourself from the material world, Vedanta says it is all an Illusion and tantra says participate and celebrate". Well, maybe people would be satisfied if I was willing to say it that simply. But it just isn't that simple.

One thing that really strikes me the more I explore the history of yoga is that it is a moving stream. So we can look back and say "tantra said" but at the time it was one big experiment in a way just as I suppose it still is! My teachers have said there was always lots of exchange of ideas across schools of practice. And then add in the fact that tantra- as a synthesis as well as an evolution of what came before- shares so many threads in common with Classical Yoga, with Vedanta and so forth that you cannot exactly isolate it out to talk about it. And truly, deep thorough understanding of any one of the traditions we explore is a lifetime of work and way outside the scope of what we can really cover in an Immersion. So always, it is a kind of divine discontent. Probably for everybody.

Having said all of that, it was a great conversation and the weekend was full of insight and connection. One of the things that I love about Immersions is that they provide an external sort of framework in which to observe one's life and the changes and shifts that come along in the course of a year. Also- I believe an Immersion initiates a certain process of change that would not otherwise happen had the Immersion process not been engaged. I have seen it enough times to know that Immersions are a potent process and subtle and not-so-subtle shifts happen over the course of the program.

The other part of that is that these changes happen for me as a teacher. Every Immersion is a certain kind of pressure cooker, a certain kind of chamber for transformation. As a teacher, I am in that chamber with the group, not apart from it. I never fail to grow, change and shift as a result of teaching an Immersion. My personal intention for this Immersion when we started it was "softness" and as I reflect on the last year I find myself feeling much softer toward myself now than when we started. Obviously it is not an objective or measurable intention but it is still palpable. And it didn't just happen. It took a lot of work. I feel like the last two months really took me into the heart of that intention in some very cool ways. So my point is that as an Immersion teacher we certainly hold a space for others but meanwhile, we are cooking also. And I love that about my job.

The other thing that is happening- in and amidst the UPA's, the loops and the philosophy discourse is that we are each bearing witness to the changes one another are experiencing. Think about it- one weekend a month for 9 months or for 6 days straight three different times throughout a year- we are putting ourselves in a room with a bunch of people for at least 6 hours a day and learning together. That alone is a profound stage. As we are engaging our own process, we are doing it "in public", in plain sight of a community of people who are doing the same thing and who are committed to their growth and ours. It is an amazing thing that is happening in between the lines of the curriculum. So I love that also.

And this particular group of people who did the Immersion were really strong, committed students and practitioners. That deep, committed quality of sincerity really ran consistently throughout the group which made them a pleasure to be with.

All right, well, more could be said but now I have lost the thread of my thought and it is time to get to asana practice.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Morning

I got home from the advanced intensive on Friday, took some rest and then went to Breath and Body to teach the final weekend of our Immersion. The advanced intensive was really amazing this year. John wrote a letter that was sent out to the participants outlining the protocol for the three days: He wanted everyone to treat the practice space as a temple, or mandir and observe silence while we were in the practice hall. There were some other instructions about not chatting, not leaving the room unnecessarily and he asked people if they could not perform an asana to simply stand in tadasana or sit quietly doing japa.

So we all came with those instructions and on the first day John was standing near the entry way, personally greeting each participant and welcoming us. And once the workshop began, once we entered the mandir, he really held a strong focus and maintained a very lovely discipline in the classroom. Noah and I were in the front row and had so much fun being right up where he was and practicing together. It was really like old times. I kept thinking, "Wow, this is the John we met all those years ago, but somehow, even better." I loved it. I loved his focus, i loved the formality, I loved the measure intensity, I loved where it took me physically and attitudinally. It was really the best advanced intensive I have been to in years.

He used the theme of The Goddess and worked with Kali iconography on day, Saraswati the next and Lakshmi on the final day. I was only there for two days as I had to come home to teach but the two days were more than worth it.

Here are his sequences:

Day One
A.M. Sequence

uttanasana- ext. spine
right leg to lunge
lunge forward with right leg
urdhva hastasana
All standing poses with slow vinyasa between:
Vira 1
Ardha Chandrasana to trikonasana
pinca mayurasana
pinca with partner to really get the melt
Vira 2
Vasisthasana 2 - backbended
hands clasped in uttanasana
bird of paradise prep
chatargana-up dog- AMS
clasped parsvakonasana
clasped trikonasana
clasped ardha chandrasana
sirsasana 2- bakasana
sirsasana 2- bakasana- handstand
supta virasana
push up out of supta virasana
eka pada raja kapotasana with quad stretch, top arm up
eprk, grab back foot and begin to swivel shoulder
Urdhva Danurasana 10X
drop backs
dwi pada viparita dandasana- head up variation
lunge with a twist

(no savasana!)

Day One
P.M. Sequence

right leg back to lunge with forearms down
left leg back to lunge with forearms down
eprk- forward bend
janu sirsasana
uppa vistha konasana
parsva uppavistha konasana
Ujayi Pranayama
triang mukaikapadapascimottanasana
ardha matsyendrasana
Ujayi pranayama with kumbhaka
japa- Om Namah Shivaya
janu sirsasana
parivritta janu sirsasana-2X
hanumanasana- 3X

(no savasana!)

Day Two
A.M. Session

right leg back to lunge- jump switch
Urdhva Hastasana
Vira 2
Vira 1
Ardha Chandrasana
parivritta trikonasna
parivritta parsvakonasana
parivritta Ardha chandrasana
twist in cobra
supta virasana
eka pada supta virasana- up and out to the side
urdhva danurasana 3X
eka hasta urdhva danurasana
pushing up to urdhva with one arm
eka pada urdhva danurasana
drop backs- 10
one arm drop backs
dwi pada viparita dandasana
headstand dropovers
ekapadaviparita dandasana
ekapadarajakapotasana 1, 2
hanumanasana with a thigh stretch
eka pada rajakapotasana 3, 4

(no savasana!)

Day Two
P.M. Session

deep lunge, forwarms down
eprk, twist over front foot
viloma pranayama
Om mantra
janu sirsasana
uppavista konasana
agnisthambasana with twist
supta padangusthasana 1,2
half lotus prep in supta
supta padmasana
supta padmasana opened up
sirsasana- eka pada sirsasana, parsvaikapada sirsasana, padmasana
sarvangasana- eka pada sarvangasana, parsvaikapada sarvangasana, padmasana, parsva sarvangasana in padmasana
triang mukaikapada pascimottanasana
bharadvajasana 2
yogi dandasana
eka pada sirsasama

(no savasana!)

Think LONG HOLDS on all these sequence. Like 2 minutes each side. Slow burning fire, nothing quick, nothing crazy, nothing fast. Just long, diligent work in the basic postures that took us to some pretty deep places. Very nice indeed.

More soon.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Okay so this is fun. This is a video that MiLo made and John just sent out in a newsletter. Lots of fun growth afoot in the world of Anusara Yoga... http://www.elephantjournal.com/2010/02/shiva-shakti-tantra-video-w-john-friend-of-anusara-yoga/ Check it out.

I had a great day home yesterday. Kelly and I took a walk in between the rains, I did a long deep hip opening and inversion practice and went down to see Ana in San Marcos and get my hair cut. She and I are still scheming about getting the San Marcos of School of Yoga back open which is kind of fun. I myself won't be teaching there any time soon but it can serve as a great resource for the yoga teachers in that area. Probably by May something should be in place. So that is a fun project to think about. Although I cannot think about it much more until April.

Then Kelly and I went to dinner with Mom and Dad at Vespaio on South Congress which was totally great. Good food, great conversation. Well, at least Dad and I had a great conversation. We after all, did most of the talking. He gave me some excellent advice on my writing projects and some good perspectives about moving forward on some things which was very helpful.

So today- I am going to do an asana practice and then get on a plane and head out to the advanced intensive in Hollywood with John Friend. It is kind of annual event for me. It was this week over 10 years ago when I first met John and I think I have only missed the event one year since then- when I first moved to Texas. This, however, is the first year it is going to be in California and not in Arizona. So it is the same tradition with a new face, which is fun. I am going to stay with Noah and his family which I am looking forward to and if all goes well, I will even get a chance to drop in on his class tonight. (all things meaning LA traffic and my plane landing on time and me being able to follow directions to City Yoga... See, a lot of things have to line up!)

Well, in order to get it all done and make my plane, time to go. I get back on Friday afternoon and will be there with bells on for our final Immersion weekend here in Austin, TX. Yippee.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Morning

Well, I got home from Driggs, Idaho last night. It was a pretty uneventful return trip home other than the spectacular scenery on the drive to the airport and from the airplane window. I really love mountains and wow- Sundari was telling me that that area is surrounded by 5 national parks. I am not sure that there is really a prettier place to be in term of mountain vistas. Amazing.

I really had a great time in Driggs. I woke up thinking about how cool it is that all across the country- well, world, I suppose- there are pockets of Anusara Yoga practitioners who get together and practice these teachings. Sometimes the pockets of practitioners are in the middle of a city, sometimes they are in a rural area, sometimes they are congregated in large groups and sometimes in small groups and so on. I mean the way it all looks can vary but when a group of people are committed to Anusara Yoga, there really is a certain feeling about it that is tangible. That was certainly the case in Driggs.

Recently Anne and I were talking about how one of the things we both love about group practices, classes and workshops is that when you get right down to it- its a bunch of people in a room doing yoga. (I know, its another blinding flash of the obvious here this morning with Christina Sell!) But what she and I were getting at is that aside from how it looks on twitter when people give their 130 character commentary, aside from all the Facebook photo albums we post, aside from how it gets written about on someone's blog, or discussed over a meal with friends and so forth- what it is at its essence is a very simple thing. It's a bunch of people who get together in a room to do yoga.

Sometimes I cringe when yoga feels like it is a "scene" rather than sadhana, when the flavor of a workshop is "career training" as opposed to life-enhancing and when new and aspiring teachers seem more focused on "achieving certification" than they are on serving their students. And believe me I can spin a yarn about all of those trends "in the business." And yet, even in the midst of it all, there we are, on a sticky mat, in a basically empty room with a bunch of people and our teacher doing yoga. The simplicity of it, its true elemental nature is always there even in the madness because all yoga ever has been and all it ever will really be is the practice.

We can dress it up, we can let our minds roam with it, we can bring all our mundane, selfish and consumer-driven motives to yoga and still, there is the ongoing reality of the practice itself. The unrelenting invitation to wholeness that comes when we move with the breath and assume the forms we call asanas Always, there is the task of facing ourselves, of aligning our bodies, of opening our hearts, of claiming our goodness and standing in and for our deepest, most abiding truths. That is all it ever has been and it is all it ever will be. It is both fire and nectar, this yoga.

I want to write at some point a little about yesterday's class but the point I have been making so far is on my mind because of how soft, simple and sweet the weekend in Driggs was for me. No scene. No crazy ambition in the classroom. No competition. Just a bunch of sincere, hardworking people in the room doing yoga and interested in learning how to go deeper. And as a teacher, that is nectar.

I woke up this morning feel refreshed, inspired and deeply satisfied from the weekend. Cate and Bridget are doing great things with their studio and the truth of practice is being served in a wonderful way there. Again, I must say that studios like Yoga Tejas are at the heart of the Anusara Yoga vision- sanctuaries of sanity for people to learn, study and grow together. It really doesn't get better than that.