Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Good to Great

Well, it's Tuesday morning and I am sitting at my very organized desk (I told you, lots of nesting yesterday!) and now that I have done my seated practices, had my shower and drank my tea, I am pondering a blog entry.

My return to Austin has been great. I am so happy to be home and touching base with my friends and colleagues here in town while settling back into some good health-building regimes for myself. So all that has been wonderful. My return has also been marked by some various upsets within the yoga community relative to teaching schedules, studio management and so forth. I have been having some interesting talks with our community of teachers. Mine is an interesting role to be in, in a way.

I certainly have a leadership role here in the world of Anusara Yoga- Austin and I think that is wonderful, and yet, I am essentially without any really authority here because while I have seniority within the system of yoga I teach, I am simply another employee when it comes to decisions of who teaches when and where and so forth. And as much as I dream (and many of us dream) about a centralized "location" for Anusara Yoga here in Austin, it seems quite illusive to me still. I have no intention or desire to establish or run a studio and so that is certainly not a solution to what is going on. And while we are growing into such an awesomely diverse and talented community, we remain somewhat de-centralized and spread out. So much so, in fact, that I think I may really re-work my intention I have had for the last 4 years relative to the aim of us having an actual home. That actually sounds more ominous than it feels as I have no plans to change anything that I am doing here in any external way. I am very happy with my teaching life here in Austin. Unbelievably so. My classes are full of great students and teachers and I am supported very delightfully by the studios where I teach and I feel like I work for great people. It just seems to me that working for a centralized "home" for Anusara Yoga in this particular community may not be the best orientation for my focus and my efforts.

I am reading a book Good to Great about such things like getting clear on goals and focusing very specifically on one's work with clarity, dedication and exacting standards. This is actually a business book about companies that went from, as the name suggests, good to great. The author says that one of the main things that holds companies back from being great is generally that they are already good. He says that being a good company is not so hard but being a great company is exceedingly difficult and most people will simply settle for good. Anyway, it's an interesting read relative to business yet the principles have amazing application for our personal lives and lives of sadhana, I think. At least its giving me an interesting framework to look at my choices and to engage some strategic planning.

One thing that I am thinking a lot about is really, what is my business, exactly? I mean sure, I teach yoga. That is obvious. But there are really a lot of arms to what Christina Sell Yoga is and does. One very illusive arm is this community-building aspect here in Austin. I actually know that the community building is happening. I can feel it, I can see it. Its more that I am having to look at what is actually happening and what is realistic over and above what I have wanted to happen or think should've, would've, could've happened. And I think this examination and review is a very healthy process to be in. It seems that for me, there is this spanda of sorts between a high vision of Greatness and the clarity needed to understand where we are now and what is actually possible and "right" in a way.

I think that's the thing that is tricky about going from Good to Great. The Greatness the author of the book is talking about is not some pie-in-the-sky kind of dream state that lacks backbone and grounding in reality. Greatness is relative to capacity, relative to what is wanted and needed, and relative to one's dharma, if you will. (The author does not use that language but for us yogi's I think that is what he is basically saying. ) Going from Good to Great and elevating oneself or one's business from mediocrity to greatness is not about engaging some perfectionist self-improvement plan or anything like that. It does, however, involve a sober self-review of one's strengths and weaknesses while being 100%dedicated and unwavering relative to one's aim. In business it is as much about choosing what not to do as it is about deciding what to do specifically.

Anyway, more could be said and one thing we all know by now about Christina Sell is that more will be said. One very important thing I want to note is that being part of the Austin yoga community is a lot of fun. We are a diverse, talented and creative bunch of folks here in Capital City and there is no where else I would rather be.

more tomorrow.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Well, I had an excellent weekend in Friendswood, Texas. Valerie assembled a lovely group of sincere and dedicated yogis of all ages and abilities for a weekend of yoga I called "Exploring The Artistic Science of Anusara Yoga." We did a flow class on Friday night, a standing pose and arm balance class on Saturday morning, a forward bend/hip opening class Saturday afternoon and a back bending group practice on Sunday morning. This was my 4th visit to Sundance Yoga and each time is better it seems. Valerie, the owner and director of the studio has been a student of John Friend since the early days of Anusara Yoga and she is quite an expert in the therapeutic applications of the principles of Anusara Yoga. She also incorporates partner yoga and intuitive healing and many other influences in her teaching work at Sundance. The result? A heartfelt, soulful sanctuary that nurtures everyone who walks in the door.

I had a great time being with the new and returning students there and getting a chance to meet the folks who came from surrounding areas. Kelly came with me and took some awesome pictures and compiled a slideshow that is up on YouTube. Click here to watch the video.

Kelly and I got home and went over to Anne and Jeff's house to meet with Mom and Dad for dinner and to begin the week of wedding preparations and celebrations. Also- head's up to everyone here in Austin and anyone from nearby who can make it- We are having an open group practice on Saturday from 12:00-2:30 at The Castle Hill Annex to celebrate the happy wedding couple that loves to do yoga together. I am leading the practice, Castle Hill has donated the use of their facility and any donations attendees make will go straight to Anne and Jeff. Please come and enjoy the practice, the good company of our awesome community and remind yourself about about the power of love!

I am home for a few weeks and I have stack of things to do including some nesting things like cleaning out some closets, cabinets and so on. I am having a very strong urge to nest. I suppose this is not a surprising urge to have considering that I have been living in other people's homes for almost three weeks straight. So anyway- onward through the day.

more tomorrow.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Morning

So I had a great day yesterday. I am not so much thinking about it as landing back at home so much as I am thinking about it as a brief "wheels down" moment before take off today to head over to Friendswood, Texas for a visit to Sundance Yoga, which I am excited about.I got in late Wednesday night, had a great night's sleep, woke up, did my morning practices and met up with the Lulu Crew at Whole Foods for a meeting about my Ambassadorship for the year. It was a great meeting- fun, inspiring, affirming- (Which as we know can not be said for many meetings).

After the meeting, Dad and Kelly and I had lunch at Whole Foods. Then Kelly and I walked over to Lululemon and did a little shopping. Kelly, my wonderful photographer/videographer captured some very fun scenes in a little video montage. Check it out-

After that I came home, did a practice and then met up with Gia for dinner before another meeting at Lululemon. This meeting is about something you should all know about- YOGASM 2010- 1000 people doing it together. In this case, the "it" is enjoying a yoga practice and great music and other creative expressions.

Here are a few details to know about:

October 7, 2010 (Which is the night before ACL!)
Right here in Austin, TX@ REPUBLIC SQUARE PARK- 4th and Guadalupe
4:30- 6:30 music, hula hooping, acro yoga, etc.
6:30-8:00 Round Robin Yoga class with Christina, Zoe, Gioconda, Desirae, Dean, Sanieh, Matt, and there is one other person whose name is escaping me now.
8:00-8:30 prizes, announcements, and other fanfare
8:30-10 MC YOGI performs
Cost: FREE!

Save the date!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wednesday Morning

Well, the week here in Idaho is drawing to a close and it seems to have sped right by. I have had a really great time here teaching with Karen and getting a chance to hang out with the group. We have a short morning session planned today, a closing circle and then after lunch we will drive over to Spokane and I will fly out.

One very cool thing I had a chance to do while I was here was meet with Karen's lovely Ayurvedic practitioner for a consultation. She gave me some very cool insight about my Vedic astrological chart and also some very useful tips about how to care for myself in the midst of my travel and how to bring myself into a deeper level of balance. It was really great to get re-inspired about Ayurveda and its wonderful healing protocols. Karen and I will be doing 3 weeks of Immersion Studies here and 3 weeks of Teacher Training here in 2011 and so I am very excited that in addition to the wonderful work I will have a resource for Ayurvedic advice and treatments. And I am happy to report that I am in a much better state of health now than I was three years ago when I first began incorporating Ayurvedic principles into my life and my advisor told me: "Well, imagine a candle that has burned out all its wax and has begun burning its wick. That is you." So, I have improved since then which is good news! Of course, there is more to do also.

One thing that has been fun for me about Ayurveda studies is that in my case it has never really been about cutting things out of my life or doing anything really extreme or unsustainable. The emphasis has always been about adding things in. For instance, Patricia told me to eat whipped cream with honey! (Okay, not every day, but my task is building ojas, not detoxing. And building ojas is a very fun thing- think rich, warm foods with plenty of good fats like cashews, whole milk, ghee... oh an some dates and cooked, spiced apples... can you say YUM!?) Other protocols include walking in the moonlight, sesame oil massages and sleeping a lot. Not bad, eh?

So the thing is that central to this vision of health is really nurturing ourselves and really creating a sense of deep nourishment in the tissues. So I love that. I love thinking about my health care regimes not as some kind of punishment-based scheme of depriving myself in the name of "being healthy" but as a way to tangibly care for and love myself according to what my particular system need to function better. So often modern naturapathic methods emphasize detox and so on to the point that many people, in the name of getting healthy, are depleting themselves and wearing themselves down further and reinforcing their deepest samskaras of "I am bad and wrong and I must repent, renounce and so forth in order to make up for my original flaw. The more I give up the more pure and deserving I must be, etc." (Seriously, scratch beneath the surface of a lot of us well-meaning yogis and you can hear this quite easily. We will often, unconsciously equate what we have given up and what we can live without as evidence of spiritual fortitude and so forth. Its an insidious samskara, in my opinion. Of course, this is just my observation, obviously, not everyone will see it this way!)

Ayurveda does have wonderful systems for detoxing when appropriate (and detox is appropriate in many cases) but even still, it places equal emphasis on building, restoring and cultivating an alignment with the very essence of lifes' nectarian bounty. And as I am reflecting on this notion of aligning with nectarian bounty I reminded of some of Paul Muller Ortega's teachings about Tantra.

Tantra, he told us once, has never been a path of denial. It is a path of fulfilling one's desires. The fine print, of course, is that as you go along, what you desire changes. We start to desire a resonance with what is wholesome and life-enhancing over and above a resonance with that which poisons, destroys and diminishes our Light. We start to desire a life of higher principles like service, integrity and unity and our disciplined actions are referenced in the context of moving toward these higher ideals not simply in renouncing something deemed "bad" by an external authority nor are they efforts at earning God's favor or working off our karma, etc.

See, I think I could write a diet book about this, for instance. You really can eat whatever you want and as much as you want of it so long as what you want is good for you and so long as you want the optimal amounts! (think about it- wht if you really watned a moderate about of cooked graines and vegetables. The problem is most people are sadly still trying to figure out who not to gain weight and still eat the whole pizza pie!) So my thought on the subject is that wanting what is good for us in the optimal amounts is where any diet of food plan project should ideally be heading. And, its also where our sadhana should be taking us.

Think about it. Diets, for instance, so often say- you can eat as much as you want as long as what you are eating is raw, fat free, sugar-free, wheat-free or whatever that particular plan is purporting as "the answer." You guys know- just fill-in-the blank. But those plans are all destined to fail, in my opinion. I mean really, who can seriously eat cabbage soup the rest of their life and feel happy about it? And it never gets at the underlying issue of why we actually want to eat so much in the first place. Why are we at odds with our body's needs in the first place? Why are we craving so many things that are so bad for us? Start to untie those knots and the content of what you eat starts to solve itself with just a little education.

On one level this boils down to understanding which part of us really wants what and figuring out which part of ourselves is going to run the show. For instance- I recently overheard a flight attendant tell another flight attendant that her "body just really wants soda" and I kept thinking, "I bet your taste buds and your little girl inside want the sweet fizzy goodness that is soda but I bet your Body would appreciate something more wholesome that wouldn't jack you up and set you up to binge uncontrollably later." Just an opinion, obviously.

Anyway, just like a steady diet of cabbage soup is destined to fail, our sadhana, is destined to fail if it asks us to live to far away from where we are really at in the moment. Its a process, I think, and each one of us is different and our slow movement towards an alignment with what our Heart wants and needs takes time. Still, I have to say again that I believe, at its essence, The Path is a way to love ourselves fully and to bring that love alive in our actions.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Same and Different

We spent yesterday morning in a public class that Karen taught. She taught the theme of generosity with the Primary Flows and took it to eka pada rajakapotasana and toward natrajasana. It was fun to see her approach to those poses since it was pretty different than how I normally approach teaching those poses.Really, I think that is the value of team teaching- students, trainees and teachers get to see there are so many effective ways to get the job done.

That is one of the things I love most about Anusara Yoga and about John's vision for us as teachers. He has always encouraged us to find our authentic voice and our authentic presentation within the boundaries of the method. And it is not just some idea with him or something he gives lip service to and then in his heart of hearts holds "one ideal" or "one way". Really, he wants our personality to shine through our teaching and our unique voice to be expressed. So, in a culture that many times encourages homogeneity and at every turn gives us the message that there is only one way to be beautiful, successful, talented and fantastic, here, as Anusara Yoga teachers, we are offered a unique opportunity to discover who we really are and to hone the skills we need to express that awareness skillfully. Because of this opportunity, I believe that teaching yoga is a path of healing and a path of the deepest transformation. There is not one aspect of my personality, teaching yoga has not called me to confront and examine and there is not one talent it has not called upon and not one weakness I haven't been asked to grow beyond. Seriously.

We talked about this a lot during our week in Tucson. Ideally, these changes and shifts that being a yoga teacher is asking us to make are taking us in a direction that is toward our best self and toward who we really already are and dream of being. If we really feel that teaching Anusara Yoga is asking us to be someone we are really are not or have no desire to be then we have to ask some deeper questions. I am serious about this. I teach a lot of yoga and I devote a lot of my life to this work and if I had to spend as much time as I do teaching pretending to be someone I am not, I would crack. No doubt. I just would not be able to hold up to that kind of duplicity. Not me. But it isn't as easy as "just be yourself" because who we think we are and who we actually are are not always the same thing. And how we behave because of our samskaras and personality traits is not always aligned with who we really are in our Heart.

So here is the rub- I am not, for instance, naturally patient. (Anyone who knows me, knows this is true. I have lots of great traits- I know I do, but patience isn't really one of them. Left to my own devices, I want things immediately, I tend to the impulsive and my first reaction to things is usually mostly fire and wind, not earth.) And yet, to be a good yoga teacher, some (actually, a lot of) patience is required. Teaching yoga asks me to step into a realm of patience that is not natural for me. I have to cultivate that trait in order to be more effective at my work and I can see that being more patient with myself and others is actually something that is desirable to me. And I know that when I am really in my heart, I am more patient than when I am in my personality habits so, I work on it. If, in my own self assessment, I thought patience was not worthwhile, then yoga would be "turning me into someone I am not" and I would have to ask myself, "Is this the right thing for me?"

So it's a process. And its different for every teacher or aspiring teacher. For some people, patience is very natural trait but being on stage is difficult or taking charge is hard or being direct is the challenge. For people who feel very deeply, articulating the practice publicly can make them feel like they are exposed beyond what is tolerable or at least beyond what is comfortable. Some people wish they could teach yoga without ever having someone look at them in a pair of tights or without ever having to point to a body part! So the list is somewhat endless in terms of how this dynamic might manifest. But we can be sure that whatever it is for each of us, the process of growing into an excellent and mature teacher is going to ask us to confront ourselves and will persistently ask us to grow beyond who we think we are into who we actually are.

That being said, we do not need to change everything, nor should we and our personality traits are useful so long as they serve the yoga, the students and so on. That's what's fun about teaching with Karen- she and I are good and long-time friends and yet we are very different people. She is introverted and I am more extroverted. She has a gentler approach as a teacher and me not so much. She is much more poetic and feeling-oriented as a person and teacher and I am more technical and linear in my practice and teaching. Having said that, its not that she is without superb technical prowess and it is not that I am without mystical feeling-qualities. Its just that the primary door through which we approach the practice and the teaching is different. And the point I want to make here is that, it should be.

Over the years I have come to notice two basic approaches to life in people. Some people I meet love difference. And some people I meet, love similarity. When I was 18 or so, I spent a year in an emotional growth program doing very intensive recovery work and the flavor of a lot of that work was seeing how similar the human experience is underneath the surface level of behavior. After I completed that program, I landed at Prescott College which is a small liberal arts college with a very bohemian kind of flavor and every group process session we had people said things like, "Wow, it's so cool how different we all are." So, I began to see, early in life, that some people come easily to the idea of difference and struggle to be just like everyone else. Others are very comfortable with unity and struggle to assert and validate difference. I have always been someone who marched to the beat of a different drummer but I was not someone who found this easy. Seriously, as a child, I actually longed to fit in, to feel the same and to not be so different. But I know plenty of people who resist joining things, who resist "belonging to something" for fear that their individuality will be lost in doing so.

What is cool about being part of the Anusara Yoga community is that we celebrate both unity and difference. We see both as important and recognize a field of unity in which diversity is essential. So when, as teachers, or as members of this community, we feel like one aspect of ourselves- our commonality or our individuality- is being threatened, we need to ask ourselves is it really Anusara Yoga that is doing that or is it just a perception based on our internal transference. For instance- I am am someone who is uncomfortable with unity and being the same as others then every time I get asked to grow "for the good of the whole" I will feel threatened and I project my feelings out onto ANUSARA YOGA or my local kula, etc. (They are making me change!) Or, if I am uncomfortable with being an individual and standing in my own truth, every time I asked to speak from my own experience and find my authentic voice I am going to get scared and wish that someone would give me the exact answer for how to do this right and wish they would stop answering my sincere questions with "it depends"! ("Just tell me the right way to be in the club!")

And all this is easy enough to grok on paper but when we are in a pattern, when we are in the feeling part of all this it can be overwhelming and it can be very difficult to sort out. At the end of the day, however, hopefully the path is asking us to grow beyond our limits while also affirming and making use of our strengths in the process. I always say teaching Anusara Yoga is an affirming and uplifting ass-kicking.

So, something like that.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Another Full Day

Well, we had another full day of teacher training and I am now spending some time catching up on a back log of email and so forth. We had a meeting this morning with the teacher trainees. We spent some time in meditation and then with some journal writing assignments. At 10:00 we had 30 or so additional people join us for a 2-hour class that I taught. I worked with theme of being a friend to ourselves and about how we might be loving to ourselves as we practice really hard things. We worked with the loving embrace of muscle energy and did a fair amount of hip opening work, standing pose work and made a foray into some arm balances. I had thought we might get to Visvamitrasana (Friend of the Universe Pose...Get it?) but as it turned out we go to eka hasta bhujasana and astavakrasana which was sufficiently full of challenge and good work.

We had time to debrief the class and then we had a lunch break. We worked in the afternoon primarily on verbal articulation skills with lots of drills to anchor clear, concise language habits. The students responded very well to the structure and to the drills and I think we are outlining some very clear and tangible ways to approach the sometimes daunting task of teaching Anusara Yoga.

I gave the group my own big confession as a yoga teacher today. And that is that I am a very boring teaching in terms of languaging classes. I am not a believer in the "have 25 different ways to say lift your arms up" nor do I get out a thesaurus before I teach or anything like that. I am very repetitive, very precise and very unimaginative as a yoga teacher in terms of instructing postures. I think I am very creative in terms of themes, in terms of sequencing and in terms of what poses I like to present in detail in any given class. So its not that I am not creative, its just I do not apply creativity to verbal instructions. Just the opposite, in fact.

I am a pretty bare bones kind of teacher where movement and action are concerned. I stick very close to the precision John outlined in the manual in terms of our principles and I use the formula "verb+body part+ in a direction" to teach almost everything. (lift your arms up, step your leg back, surrender your weight down, etc.) I also use very simple verbs in that formula- like step, lift, reach and stretch. I am not a big embellisher. I am not a poet. I am a "move your thighs in, reach them back and widen them apart" kind of girl for Inner Spiral and as far as Muscle Energy goes, I pretty much stick to "hug your muscles to the bone, draw to the midline and from your feet draw up into your hips" with very little variety.

Seriously, those of you who know me know that I am likely to say to say the same thing over and over again with very little variety or flair. But that's me. Oddly, I say to do things and my student seem to try really hard to follow my instructions but its funny, its not because I am creative. I think its because I am commanding in the simplicity I offer.

At any rate, that's what I teach other people to do. It is not the only way to teach but it sure is a good starting point. Strip down your language to the bare bones, slowly add in what is essential and then with great persistence stay aware because ineffective language habits when we teacher insidious and can creep in when we are not paying attention.

Anyway- its a fun group to work with and I am enjoying the 70-degree weather!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Night

So Karen and I met up with the group today- Karen was a genius and scheduled the start time at 12:oo so I had a lovely morning to sleep in, practice meditation, asana, eat and prepare for the day. We did, however have a long session that went all the way until 5pm. Karen had assigned the group presentations during the last intensive so that was how we started and it was a very interesting way to meet a group and assess how best to support their growth. I could easily see where the strengths and weaknesses of the group were and so that was fun. The group is diverse in age, ability and experience and so that is kind of fun also. Karen is a great teacher and a strong leader and the students are kind, respectful, open and generous. I think we are going to have a great week.

Karen and I spent some time talking about co-teaching which was interesting. I have taught extensively with Darren and he and I have a way that we do it. I have taught a lot with Noah and he and I have a way that we do it. And so it is such a great opportunity to work with another person and develop a way to blend our mutual passions, perspectives and talents. I think there is no one way to do it- like so many things in Anusara Yoga, right? There is just more ways than one to be effective. At times this can even feel frustrating because it lacks a definite parameter upon which to gauge oneself and one's efforts. And yet, at the end of the day, I am glad we have a variety of options that are acceptable and a variety of ways to go about sharing the method with others.

However, good communication is key. And one thing about communication is is that it is most effective when it is fresh and current rather than old, rotting and stale. Let something sit too long unsaid and it can really fester. So what's fun about Karen is that we have a good rapport and along standing friendship and so exploring our different options together is mutually affirming, supportive and both of us are regarding the process pretty fluidly together.

Tomorrow I am going to kick off the day and talk a little about sequencing and then I will teach a class to the group (and to 30 people from the surrounding area who will join with our 28 folks) and then we will have a chance to debrief. After our lunch break, I anticipate a foray back into some of the articulation skills we practiced this afternoon. Anyway- time for me to head to bed. I need some rest.

All right, then. Bedtime.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tucson Teacher Training Part 1 2010.m4v

Here are some scenes from the week in Tucson!

Really, I am just so inspired by everyone and all that they gave to make the week wonderful. When I think back to two years ago when me and Darren offered our first Immersion together I am pretty astounded to reflect on the personal growth I feel like I have experienced and the huge shifts and changes the students have experienced. There is nothing really better than to be ushering students into the Seat of the Teacher when the students are so full of heart, dedication and tenacity. I seriously feel inspired for the future of Ansuara yoga after this week.

I can't say it enough- trust the process--it works!

Yoga Hour iphone app just released

Well, I have so much to write about at the end of the week of teacher training. I am, however, going to start with a commercial for Darren's new ipone app. Click here to see the preview!

I am spending a little time on this commercial because it also happens to be Darren's 39th Birthday today. I am thinking it would be really cool if we could get 1008 people to buy the app- after all, it's only $2.99- and practice with it today. I think it would be such a cool thing for him to know that people all over the world were doing this practice on his birthday.

I got to thinking about this because Darren is such an inspiring practitioner and those of you who know him and his work, you know that if it is one thing his life speaks to, it's the power of practice. And that is the awesome thing that this app offers people of all ages and abilities- a practical, accessible and convenient way to practice yoga. Today. Now. Anywhere.

So, join the fun, join the birthday celebration. Buy the app. Download it. Practice with it. Tell all your friends and wish Darren Rhodes a very Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day Five

So here is exciting news...
The workshop that Noah Maze and I taught back in July at Yogaglo is now for sale: http://www.yogaglo.com/blog/2010/08/noah-maze-christina-sell-in-your-living-room/
You can visit the site and check out the class descriptions and then buy individual classes or the whole shebang. It was a great weekend and I am so excited to be able to share it with everyone.

Teacher Training continues to go well. Today we worked on Sequencing towards a peak pose and spent a lot of time with Q&A and then we talked about ethics, adjustments and observation. The group continues to inspire me with their dedication and their skill and their sincere desire to represent the method with integrity.

One thing that I am really thinking about this week as I am looking at this group of students who are coming up as a the next generation of Anusara Yoga teachers is how important my friends and colleagues in Anusara Yoga are to me. I keep reflecting on the early days of my involvement in the method and how, at the time, I was having a good time and learning the yoga and so on but there was no thought in my mind that many of those people I was with at the time would come to be my best friends and my biggest cheerleaders and truest sources of support.

So I keep thinking about how perhaps, some of the people in this room are, even as we speak, forging friendships today that might be there for them ten years from now. I find that an inspiring thought. There is, it seems to me, several levels of "what's going on" in these trainings. There is the surface level of learning sequencing, articulation skills and hands- on adjustments and so forth. There is also the level of personal inquiry and soul searching that each person goes through in a week like this. And there are the friendships. And so on like that. Each level has its own texture and its own demands and its own unique beauty.

More tomorrow.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tucson Teacher Training Day 4

Good evening.

Here are a few scenes from Teacher Training. We really had an amazing day today. Today I outlined a sequence for the group to work with and then I taught the first side of the pose and the group took turns teaching the second side. Everyone in the group today got a chance to teach in front of the whole group and I must say for day 4 of a training, I have never seen such skill in action. This is a very high caliber group and not just the fact that people did a good job technically implementing the skills we have been working with. I think the thing that stands out a lot in the group is the compassion, the support and the way it is safe enough to feel unsafe.

We talked a lot about that today in the group discussions about how fear can manifest when we teach and I think for me that feeling totally confident is not really the point of teacher training. Feeling safe enough to be vulnerable, to feel safe enough to act in the presence of fear is really what teacher training is all about. It is one of my all-time favorite teachings from John. BAck in the old days, he used to tell s, "feel your fear AND dedicate to something Higher than the fear."

And that's what people did today- they took bold steps forward in the midst of nervousness and fear and we all learned and grew and even laughed some together. D taught some hands-on adjustments during the afternoon which was stellar.

Okay- well more could be said, but the day was long and the hour is getting late and tomorrow will come early! More soon.

Video Clip

Hey Everyone!

More on Teacher Training later today but in the meantime here is another lovely video montage from Salutation Nation.

Check it out:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Saturday Night

We had another great day in Teacher Training today. We worked with the overarching theme of dedication and commitment and with the UPA of Muscular Energy. It was a very full day of exploring themes, working on sequencing strategies, practice teaching and lots of Q&A. Teacher Training is always such a rich experience in terms of the conversations that come out of simple exercises and teaching drills.

One recurring theme from this Teacher Training and the Teacher Training I have been teaching in Austin is really about guiding paradigms in different yoga systems and yoga studios. I am not talking here about the larger philosophical guiding paradigms as much as I am about the paradigm of "what is supposed to happen in a yoga class" kind of paradigm. For instance, I got started in yoga in Iyengar Yoga and the guiding paradigm of that system was come to class to learn, practice at home to practice. And in the early days of my Anusara experience, I learned Ansuara Yoga much in that way. I definitely always went home sore but the atmosphere of class was definitely, "come to class to learn how to practice."

It seems to me that as the culture of yoga has evolved and grown and expanded there is a very real paradigm for yoga classes to be practice-based environments and the time in the studio is not so much a class as it is a guided practice situation. So in a lot of methods and in a lot of studios, students come to class to practice for the most part.

One time I talked to John about how he saw us and he said, well, people should come to class to learn and definitely leave feeling as though they had a practice. And he said, he wanted people to leave in the hearts and bodies more than in their heads. So, once again, we see that in Ansuara Yoga we are a bit of both and we are never only one thing. And we see that teaching an Ansuara Yoga class is a tall order. Doing one or the other is pretty easy. Accomplishing both is a work of art!

Anyway- this is on my mind because as someone who is training teachers I am finding I have to be very aware when I am asked questions about "how to teach something in class" that I answer relative to a particular paradigm or my answer won't make sense. For instance- Am I being asked, "How would I teach that in a flow class?" or am I being asked, "How would I teach that in a class that was accustomed to demonstrations, refinements and alignment?"

See the things is it can be "Anusara Yoga" if it is a practice-based class one day and we clearly outline what we are doing, why and how we are going to approach that particular class. It can still be "Ansuara Yoga" if we start, stop, outline, explain and demo a lot so long as we set the context for that up appropriately. And I think this kind of freedom and flexibility is a really cool thing as a method. As a method, are not defined by flow or not-flow, by demo or not-demo and as teacher we are not indoctrinated into a long list of do's and don'ts, always and nevers. We are, instead, trained in principles of good teaching and principles of yoga and we are in the boundaries of the method if we are applying those principles consciously and to good effect. It is not so much the what of what we are doing that makes us Ansuara Yoga it is knowing why of why we are doing what we are doing that makes us us, in my opinion. Also, I think we have an obligation to teach our students the why of what we are doing also. And we need to educate our students in how to participate in the paradigm of class that we are offering.

So then, of course, all of this this begs the question of do we know the why, and do we know how to evaluate "good effect" in any given situation? And, do we have the clarity and courage to reflect on our efforts and offerings and the commitment and dedication necessary to refine them more and more so we become increasingly effective as teachers? I suppose that is another post but really this kind of conversation is why I find teacher training so interesting to teach. The process of learning to be a yoga teacher never ends and the need to reflect and refine is ongoing. Seriously, its never boring.

Anyway, we had a great day, the students are rocking and I must say that it is totally fun to be doing teacher training with a group of people who know each other so well after being in Immersions together. I think its much more like a bunch of good friends getting together again and a whole lot less neurotic nervousness than if everyone had met for Teacher Training for the first time.

more tomorrow.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Night

We had a great day of teacher training today. It was so fun to come into the studio and see people after so many months and to listen to how people greeted each other so fondly and so enthusiastically. It was a real homecoming in so many ways.

We started the day with some journal writing about intention and with introductions and then launched right into Theme Building 101 and then an asana class. After lunch we met back for more work with Themes and then with some practice teaching, working mostly with refining instructions with the breath. We have a very high caliber group of folks and they are open, receptive and everyone is just really going for it. It's a lot of fun to teach a group of people who so whole-heartedly love the method and are ready to bring their teaching that much more into alignment with it.

I, of course, am enjoying teaching with Darren and the magic of our combined efforts that we have come to rely upon has definitely sparked. We have such unique and compatible ideas, viewpoints and experiences as teaching and I think the group really benefits from our combined offering.

After class I did my inversions and then Darren and I taught his 5:45 Expanding class which was a lot of fun also. We had over 50 people in class tonight and we taught sirsasana 2, bakasana, parsva bakasana and headstand drop over from sirsasana 2 with some great preparatory work. It was a lot of fun after analyzing yoga teaching all day to just teach a good solid class with my friend and to to enjoy the great students that make up the Yoga Oasis community.

All in all, a great day.

Scenes from the day:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday Morning

Well, it's another morning here at the Sell household. I am finishing up my breakfast after my morning practices and thought I would take a few moments to check in.

I had a really great day yesterday. I taught Focus on Form, met Gia for lunch, swung by Lululemon for a visit, came home, did my asana practice and then went back to The Castle to teach the 6pm Level 3/4 class. Both classes yesterday were definitely on the technical side which was kind of fun for me to really dive into the techniques that bring the poses to life.

Again, I do have to say I like it all as far as teaching goes. I like the flow-based, practice-based type of classes that are more theme and breath oriented. I like the alignment, technique-based classes that really feed our knowledge base of the poses, our bodies and the how-to go deeper. I like it when those things join. There is just so much value in each- attitude, alignment and action. Anyway- yesterday was kind of an alignment day.

I was up finishing my packing last night and getting ready for my trip. I head out to Tucson today for the first week of teacher training. 2 years ago, Darren and I taught our first Immersion together and we have taught three full 108-hour cycles since then. Now we are offering a teacher training and so I am anticipating that we will have people from each of those cycles as well as some folks joining us who have done their Immersion studies somewhere else.

It's so interesting to actually look back at the 2 years of these intensives in Tucson. These weeks have been so instrumental in my growth as a person and as a teacher. I really have found them to be so meaningful that its a bit hard to put into words. Two years of growth, change, shifts internally and externally in myself and also in the many students who have participated over the years. It is somewhat stunning to consider, really, what the process of learning and teaching can invoke. Darren and I talk about this a lot, in fact. When we are teaching, it's obvious that the students are going to enter into a kind of chamber for the week. I remember at some point along the way when we realized that we were in that chamber also. that even though we were there "holding the space" for others, the reality is that the process was working on us also. We were in the fire, we were deep in our own contemplation and self-study. I love that about teaching. I really do.

Anyway, I am excited to meet our group and to have 6 days to dive deep into the basics of teaching Anusara Yoga. We will focus a lot on verbal articulation skills, heart-based themes and on sequencing strategies since those things are such the bedrock of good teaching in my opinion.

Plus, I love my Tucson family so I am really looking forward to being there. Darren and Bronwin are some of my best friends, the students at Yoga Oasis are supremely wonderful, open and fun to teach and the students who come from distant lands to these training are typically highly committed, focused and dedicated. I mean, think about it, they get on a plane, take 9 days out of their life to do a training. That is just not casual! So usually in Tucson, I have a great time, supported by folks I love and doing what I love the most. Really, it's a great thing.

Teacher training for me is also a unique kind of conversation. We really get deeper into the method and into a whole new range of considerations as we clarify and practice not just what the method is but how to communicate it effectively to others. It is a very different rasa, a very different flavor than anything else. And every group is different so while similar themes do emerge, it is never boring because every group has a unique story and process.

I will check in about our work throughout the week.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday Morning

Well, good morning.

Kelly and I got up yesterday and went down to San Marcos to play boat on the river. As always, it was a great time- the river was beautiful, the weather was perfect and I absolutely love being on the water. After lunch I did a little work on my computer, went up for a visit at Lulu and then to The Castle for my practice. I did a back bend practice working in long inversions to prepare with lots of hip opening and the worked with a chair to get into my upper back. I tried to avoid lots of vinyasa and standing poses yesterday as it is so freakin' hot right now. Also, in my personal practice I am pretty interested in the consideration- what is the softest way into the deepest pose? Anyway, I made some good progress into urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana, headstand drop-overs and kapotasana. A few pictures below.

Kelly and I came home, made dinner and then I worked the rest of the evening. I had chance to review a certification video and write up the assessment so that was good. It's such an exciting part of the certification process, watching videos and discussing the various ways a candidate can improve and reach more of their potential as a teacher. It is a great thing to be part of.

I have been pondering a question someone wrote to me a while back. A few entires ago I wrote about how impressive I found both John Schumaker and Patricia Walden and how inspiring it is to see 60+ year-old practitioners of their caliber. I was writing about impressive I found them on all levels and I was musing about how the path of the poses yields more than poses but seems utterly dependent on the somewhat dogged pursuit of asana, in this case advanced asana.

I got this letter from a student:

I read your blog this morning and have a question. So let me start with this, I practice on my own 4 days a week from anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour before I teach. I do some yoga everyday but just like D dog and hip openers but that is not a time-set-aside sort of practice. The classes I teach are Basics, (2) Intro and an hour-long flow class. Anyway, in general, I tend to practice what I will teach in that class. In the process of practicing,though, if I do not have a clear idea of what I am going to teach on that day, I get inspired while moving and the class rises up within me.

Okay, so the point of all this information and the question behind it is: Since I do not necessarily practice really advanced, intense postures, does this mean that I am missing a quality of depth within myself? I teach from mostly the Basics syllabus and do also venture into the Expanding syllabus depending on my group, but I stay within those realms.

I guess, I don't see myself as an 'intense' practitioner but I am dedicated. I know and see many of my kula mates are intense pracititioners and sometimes wonder if I am not giving enough. Of course, I always leave my practice feeling good and am definitely more clam, centered and steady when I practice before I teach. That certainly goes along with what you wrote in your blog. I also know that I have a family and so that changes the amount of free time I have, so I take what I can get.

So if I am understanding this right, what you mean by 'clarity and excellence in the postures' is about the connection you keep with yourself and the understanding of the pose in your body, which is what yields the light of understanding and the essential beauty of the expression in the pose. Is this right? In that case, I feel I am on the right track.

So-I hear this question a lot from practitioners, or variations on the theme at any rate, and I am not really sure how to answer it because I always worry about how my answer is going to sound. But I might as well take a stab at it this morning. Or at least, at part of it.

One think I know for sure is that we are all different. I was talking about this in class the other day and this is something Carlos Pomeda is always insistent about when he teaches yoga philosophy. He says that at the heart of the Indian tradition is the recognition of types. I think about this a lot because traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda, is organized around this idea also. We have different constitutions, different capacities, different needs and different limitations and liabilities. What is good for one person may be detrimental to someone else.

Think about this because it is important. In the Ayurvedic world view I might have a stomach ache and my sister might have a stomach ache but because we are different types, we might have similar symptoms for different reasons and we would respond best to different treatments. Chinese Medicine is the same way. Two people can have a dry cough for different reasons and need different herb, etc. But remember, in general, Western medicine says, "Oh, you have a stomach ache...take this medicine" without as much consideration of underlying cause and the temperament/constitution of the patient. So those of us raised in the one size fits all approach to health and well-being have an unconscious carryover that one size fits all in other areas also and this is reinforced throughout our culture- one model of success, one model of beauty, etc. and perhaps we unconsciously take that idea into yoga and say to ourselves or think about others "one way to practice right."

Spiritually, Indian traditions are also founded on the idea of dharma- that each one of us has a unique role to play, a duty to uphold and a Work to do in the world. It might be the dharma of motherhood, the dharma of the monk, the dharma of the merchant, the dharma of the healer, etc and the idea is to do one's own dharma well. Those of us who study the Bhagavad Gita can remember the teaching Krishna gives Arjuna, instructing him that: "It is better to do one's own dharma poorly than another's dharma well." So again we see that yoga is not a one size fits all approach to life or spirituality.

So that is a very fundamental context to keep in mind when we ask ourselves or our teacher about our practice because while comparison can be useful at times, a lot of times we are comparing apples to oranges. I think we can, without realizing it start looking at the outside forms- like how much asana and what type and is mine intense enough- without considering personal dharma and individual constitution and a person's time of life. And maybe we are considering those things but not truly, deep in our heart of hearts validating ourselves, our choices and our approach to the path because this One-size-fits-all context is subconsciously determining how we feel about ourselves and others. That can be a real challenge to deal with because intellectually we may have the rap down- "Oh yeah," we say, "everyone is different, I know that. I even believe it." But emotionally, we can still be driven by a feeling of not measuring up or by a feeling that we really should be more like the person next door, etc. who somehow seems shinier, better, happier, more famous, etc. Brining the head and the heart together in such matters is not easy and is probably another post for another time.

Having said that- I think most approaches to asana yield positive results. I really do. Kundalini Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Power Vinyasa, Prana Vinyasa, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, Ansuara Yoga and even any kind of stretching in Sanskrit seems to do a body, mind and heart good from what I can tell. Vigorous practice seems to yield some positive results, softer practice seems effective, flow yoga, bolster yoga and so on. Seriously, I see the good in it all.

But stay with me here- I do not think it all yields the same result. (And before we worry about that last statement too much, please refresh the previous conversation in your mind- it is not supposed to yield the same result because we are not all the same.) I think everything can be ONE and I think everything shares the same Heart of Goodness and all that, I really do. But I am not of the belief that everything is the same or that everything is equal. So when I look at the quality of personal presence that Patricia Walden has and the quality of personal presence John Schumaker has and I see them at 60+ doing poses I am struggling with with ease, I think to myself, I want both. I want a posture like that- inner attitude and outer form --and I think in their case, one built the other throughout their life of sadhana. So for me, I am still going for intense, deep postures.

Now- just because I am looking at them as an inspiration for me on the path doesn't mean I might not turn my gaze to someone else who at 60+ never did difficult poses and still has a very profound Light they cultivated through asana. I think there are a lot of examples for that also. Well, actually, I don't think there are a lot of examples of either- hard poses with lots of Light, easier poses with lots of Light because I think people are inspirational because they are rare and because it does't happen in lots of cases but that is another story. (And yes, I know that easy and hard is a relative term and I know standing in tadasana is infinitely complex and advanced is not a state of body but a state of awareness but I am talking here that Patricia does 108 drop backs once week and she is in her 60s and John is still arm balancing and back bending with grace and power. So I am calling that advanced for the purpose of this discussion.)

My main point is that I think it all depends on what we want from asana and the question is more about finding that out for ourselves and begin anchored in our own dharma. I think the letter writer answered her own question in the end, I really do. Also, I would not want anyone of us to pursue advanced poses for fear of missing out on something like inner depth. Yoga, as defined by Shri Brahmananda Saraswati is "that state where you are missing nothing." If we purse its practices from the context of "I might miss out on something" we are gonna be a bit off from the get go. I think best is that we follow the thread of our Heart's passion and the thread of our immediate life and its demands and obligations and we weave a tapestry of those threads that honors our unique dharma and is in the weaving itself, an act of creative exploration and expression.

That to me, is the Art and Culture of Anusara Yoga.

I could say a lot more on the topic, but, this is enough for today.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Night

Wow, what a great day. I woke up early to have time to meditate and get to Festival Beach by 8:30 this morning for Salutation Nation. It was so great to meet up at the park in the morning and be there as people began to gather. We had over 150 people there in attendance and what a lovely time it was. For me an event like this is really about the of the practice, the power of the heart and the power of being a community of the heart who shares in the love of yoga together. I taught an all-levels flow class. The class went really well- the students were so open, receptive and eager to make refinements and learn as they went along, which really impressed me, given the venue. I mean there we were for an hour long class in the park and yet, people were so on board and so willing to try new things. It really was a wonderful experience to be part of.

And to make a wonderful experience even more wonderful, the Lulu crew at the end surprised me with a lovely invitation to be an ambassador this year. How awesome is that?

Seriously, I couldn't be more excited to join the Lululemon family in this capacity. Not only do I LOVE their clothes (as we all know) but I really think this is a great company. By sponsoring so many grassroots events like Salutation, Lululemon supports our local communities in wonderful ways making yoga and fitness opportunities available to people and giving us so many healthy, fun and inspiring ways to be together. I have talked to employees of the company over the years and without fail they report that it is an uplifting, supportive environment dedicated to helping people make their vision and reality. To me, this is a fantastic business model. Sell a great product, offer wonderful service and assist people in growing beyond their limited ideas.

Here is a link to a video that Kelly made capturing the festivities:

After Salutation Nation, I ate some lunch with Kelly and my parents at Whole Foods and then made my way up to Breath and Body Yoga for Teacher Training. We talked a lot about what defines an Ansuara Yoga class and spent a lot of time on hands-on adjustments. it was a great day and we covered a lot of ground. It is so fun for me to watch the group's understanding grow and deepen as the process nears completion. There is always a very real stage of "I am never going to get it" stage that people feel in the beginning half of the training process and then at some point after the halfway mark it all starts to gel for people. It is so exciting to see that happen. I have seen it enough times to trust the process and to hold the space for others as they are riding the sometimes rapid and stressful current of learning how to teach this wonderful method of yoga.

Tomorrow morning at 10am I am teaching the class at Breath and Body and then we have a full day of teacher training after that. We go deeper into hands-on adjustments and demonstrations and so that is usually pretty fun stuff to play with.

Anyway- it was a fabulous day in the life of Christina Sell here in Austin, TX. There is something about these community yoga events I find so inspiring and really help me feel connected to and so at home here. It seems to me that in an average week, most yoga practitioners have their routine and the schedule of classes they attend and all of that makes sense to me but it can yield a somewhat isolated, silo-experience of community. For instance, in any given studio for any given class there can be a wonderful sense of community but outside of that class or studio, maybe not so much. And then there are these times like today, or the recent One Om Event when we get together- regardless of method, independent of home studio and so on- and move, breathe and join together as a community who loves the practice. It is the best kind of alignment, I think, this alignment with ourselves, with the practice, and with a community of people who are doing the same. I feel very inspired and very grateful for a day like today.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Afternoon

I was getting all set to write this morning and I checked my email and in the inbox was an emergency sub request from Jenn Wooten. Her nanny was sick and so she needed a sub for her vinyasa class. I realized, "Well, I am up and I actually could do it" and so I took a bath, got dressed and headed to The Castle to teach.

So I taught a flow class, complete with a fun playlist and everything and told the group, "I am here today in my alter ego as a flow teacher." Truth be told, I do have an alter ego as a flow teacher so it was not a big leap for me to make. Jenn has a great group of students, they worked really hard, laughed some and were so polite, respectful and fun to be with. I enjoyed my time there a lot today.

After class I got in a discussion with some folks about Anusara Yoga and how it gets pitted against flow practice a lot which I think is unfortunate. I personally see no Real reason that alignment needs to go against flow or flow against alignment. I know of plenty of circumstantial reasons and surface reasons but not in any ultimate sense do I see them that differently. For instance, I do recognize that a flow-based practice affords a certain kind of access to the inner life and a start and stop approach yields something else. I see the differences in class in terms of what one can actually teach a group with different the different and various methodologies but really, I have to say it again, I find value in each. For me it is never one way or the other- it is more about understanding what each way contributes to the conversation and to the life of my practice and then using them accordingly. For instance, I never go to an Iyengar class expecting the same thing as I do from a Msyore practice in Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga but each of those methods and approaches has significantly contributed to my progress on the path.

And what is kind of interesting teaching Anusara Yoga in Austin, where there isn't an Anusara Yoga studio where all the offerings are taught with our methodology, terminology and principles, it is easy for people to assume that Anusara Yoga is only one thing because they are only seeing it once or twice a week in comparison to other styles, not in comparison to how versatile and adaptable it is as a method. For instance, when I had a studio we had a full schedule of offerings, all in the Anusara Yoga style. We had Gentle Yoga, we had Basic Yoga, we had Vinyasa, we had Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. So while it was all Anusara Yoga, each class was really different based on the level and the curriculum. Students saw a whole different set of postures in Level 3 than in Level 1 and by the time someone was in Level 3, it wasn't a big start and stop explanation of the loops and spirals, I just said "Hey, Peg, more shoulder loop" and so on.I am not complaining. I love the work I am doing here and I totally enjoy the teaching i get to do here. I am just saying that it's different.

I think about this a lot because I teach a certain kind of class here in Austin and it worries me someone would think what I am doing is Anusara Yoga. Well, it is Anusara Yoga but it is not all of what Anusara Yoga is. That is the thing. We flow. But we don't only flow. We start and stop, but we don't only start and stop. We demo but we do not have to demo. We link postures creatively but not necessarily. We sequence according to principles, not routines and so all kinds of thing "work" and are consistent with are method. And even within all that freedom there is structure for sure. I think the method lends itself to just about any approach really well. the only thing we are not, as far as I can tell, is passive stretching or spacing out and doing whatever you want to. So once we tip into that approach, we cannot call in Anusara Yoga!

Anyway- speaking of flow- tomorrow is Salutation Nation.Expect an hour-long flow with a fun playlist and lots of people enjoying the great outdoors, the power of community and some great yoga. Please come- I definitely want to look out and see some familiar faces and have people there who will laugh at my jokes.

more soon. Off to get ready for Teacher Training this evening.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thursday Morning

I had a great day of teaching yesterday. I started the day with Focus on Form. It was one of those mornings when I had planned a class for the group that normally comes to class and when I got to class we had only small handful of those people and a larger handful of people new to me and to the class. So, we worked on a smaller portion of what I had planned. We dove deeply into prasarita paddottanasana and also sirsasana 2. We spent some lovely time in Virabhadrasana 2, parsvakonasana and some additional poses (vira 1, baddha konasana, etc.) to educate and improve the access we needed to the hips and groins. I thought the class went very well and it was a morning of ah-hah's and insight. Good times.

I came home and ate a light lunch, worked on my computer and then did a long back bend practice. I worked a lot with John Schumaker's sequence from Feathered Pipe with a few additions and embellishments. It was fun to revisit his teaching and work with his instructions in my own practice. I ran out of steam right around the 3-hour mark and made some food and talked to Kelly before heading back up to The Castle to teach. I taught a forward bend class which seemed to go well. We worked hard in some standing postures and then went into baddha konasana, janu sirsasana variations, pascimottasana, supta padangusthasana, triang mukhaipada pascimottanasana, eka pada supta viarasana, urdhva prasarita eka padsana, and krouncasana. Again, we had a lovely group assembled but with lots of the regular players missing. I think its summer.

I worked with the theme last night about dignity. Gioconda and I were in a discussion about that on my drive into work so it was on my mind. See, the thing to me is that the great invitation of yoga is to experience that inner state of dignity directly and then to make choices from that recognition. I am not so much into a list of yoga do's and don'ts that we are supposed to follow in order to be "good yogi's." I'm really not. I feel like I have, in some way or another, been trying to fit myself into someone else's box since I was a small child. So, I am not at all interested in fitting myself into a "yoga box" of someone else's making. (And I have tried that approach, believe me. Some boxes are too small for me for sure and others, frankly, are a bit too big to be useful for my purposes. But that is another story, I suppose.) Anyway, what I am interested in is learning and living what facilitates access to my Heart and then making choices that keep me lined up with what I have accessed. And for me, when I touch that inner place of my Heart, I find, again and again, that a great dignity resides there.

Recognition such as this begs the question, "So now what?" So how do I bring this to my life? What actions will dissipate this awareness? What behaviors will refine it? What patterns or samksaras so I have that might sabotage me? How might I let go of what stands in the way of my living from this place? And so on. For the most part, it is a movement from the inside out, not from the outside in.

This so now what? question is such a hallmark of our yoga, I think. Not only are we on an inner journey but we are on a journey from the inside out as well. The recognition we find in asana, meditation, contemplation and so forth ideally initiates a next step of action. We don't leave the insight on the mat or put it on the shelf with our neatly folded blankets after class. No we take it with us, and chew on it and digest and assimilate it until it becomes us. And obviously, some things digest easier than others. Sometimes the insights we get are like small snacks and are easily incorporated. Others are like gigantic meals and cause indigestion, stomach cramps and all kinds of gas and bloating before they digest. (just sayin'.) But the point is- it's ours--our very own insight, brought to life through our very own, painstaking digestive process. It's not a rule from the outside we are conforming to.

So here we are again, I suppose, in the age-old exploration of chit- ananda. If we know the source of our own dignity (Chit) we will express it with joy, clarity and creativity (ananda). Anyway, more could be said, but its time to move on with the day. Kelly and I have a play date this morning, then a little work, some practice and teaching tonight. it's my last night teaching Thursday afternoon so I hope you can make it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday Morning

Yesterday I managed to sleep in really late and spend the morning catching up on work and then doing some asana before I headed out to Lululemon to plan the final details for Salutation Nation this Saturday. It is going to be a great event and I am really excited to be teaching this complimentary, outdoor class. The class will start promptly at 9:00 am at Festival Beach (on the East side of 35 and don't worry, there is LOTS of parking!) and after class we will have food, prizes and a chance to hang out and enjoy begin together.

I think that is the thing I am most excited about about the event. We are hoping to gather several hundred Austin yogi's of all ages and abilities together to enjoy an asana practice, to enjoy the great outdoors and to enjoy being together as a unified community. Equally cool is that almost every Lululemon store across the nation is organizing a group of people to practice together at 9am in their time zone for the same reason! So while we are here in Austin as a community, we will be joining together with a much larger community of people. I think that's a pretty exciting opportunity. I do hope you join the fun.

For more information on the event, Lululemon 6th and Lamar has a Facebook page which is a great resource for the event (as well as other fun things going on with them.) Obviously, we all like their clothes but these kinds of grassroots community events are, in my opinion, what make this company really great. (Okay, that and the universally flattering Groove Pant which makes everybody's butt look good. Seriously. But I digress...) Think back to Zoe and Matt's doing Yoga under the stars and Gioconda's great One Om Event? All made possible with Lululemon's help.

All right, after the planning and the shopping, Kelly and I spent some time together doing email, etc. and then went out to dinner. All in all a very lovely day. My cold is steadily improving and I feel fine however, now Kelly has a sore throat. Oh well.

Today I have a good mix planned of work and play- I have a lot of planning to do for the weekend, I have some bodywork scheduled and a date to go to the pool with Gia (of course, her right arm is in a cast so it will be me swimming and her dangling her feet in the water from the side) and I have a chunk of time set aside for asana which I am excited about.

Speaking of setting aside time for asana- This month Mandy Eubanks is teaching a Group Practice at the Amala Sanctuary on August 12th and 26th from 4:30-6:30. That will be a lot of fun so come if you can.

Also- please help me spread the word- Starting in September I am going to be teaching a 50-minute Anusara Yoga for Seniors class at Castle Hill Fitness Center on Wednesdays at 11:00. I will teach Focus on Form from 9:30-10:55 and then Seniors Yoga at 11:00. It is going to be a $7 community class and you do not need to be a member to come. Please spread the word to anyone you know who might enjoy a basic, gentle yoga class geared toward Seniors. We will work on strength building, balance, flexibility and relaxation. Certified Iyengar teacher (and my sis) Anne Bowery will teach on the weeks I am out of town.

More tomorrow.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Morning

It's been kind of a whirlwind these last few days. Sometime on Thursday evening I started getting a sore throat and by Friday evening I felt officially sick so I skipped pranayama class Friday afternoon and went to sleep instead. We left Montana bright and early on Saturday morning and I got home right around 3 in the afternoon. Kelly gave me acupuncture, I unpacked and then we went to bed.

We got up early in the morning yesterday to head down to San Marcos for the day-long meditation intensive with Carlos Pomeda. I am a huge fan of Carlos and his teaching. He is totally clear, precise, compassionate and exacting. His commitment to the accuracy of the tradition, his dedication to practice and his humble, sincere manner is so inspiring to me. He is such an amazing example of the power of the practice and what it can yield in us over a lifetime.

He spent the day talking about fundamentals of meditation and gave us an very broad theoretical understanding of meditation as it has developed throughout the history of yoga and we had an opportunity to practice several different methods of meditation, which was really interesting. I enjoyed the day immensely and I got a lot out of his teachings, people's questions and sharing and the practices we explored. Equally delightful for me was the simple joy of just being with everybody for the dayoff . We started with a asana practice, had a morning session with Carlos, a potluck lunch and then an afternoon session. It was a mellow yet inspiring day.

One other thing of note about Carlos is he has an excellent capacity to meet people where they are and as the day progressed what was so cool was to watch the group drop pretense and posture and just ask sincere, heartfelt, and Real questions about their sadhana. I think Carlos is so unpretentious and so authentic himself that just being around him invites people to be that way themselves. I always feel a deep level of psychic relaxation around him because of this quality he has. And what was really cool was that when I sat this morning for meditation, I felt more focused and clear about what I was doing and about how to respond (or not respond) to what was arising.

There are lots of juicy nuggets from the day that I will be chewing on for a while. There was just so much packed in there on so many levels that the "unpacking" process will take some time. Here are a few gems:

  • If you find yourself falling asleep in meditation, then get more sleep! However, there is a stage of consciousness that we go through on the way to samadhi that is very much like sleep but is not exactly sleep but we probably lack the capacity/vocabulary to describe it any other way. "To get to samadhi, you have to go through sleep"- Swami Muktananda
  • Meditation is the practice of developing Self-awareness. It is not about the mind. If all of your attention is being directed at your mind, you will have none left for your awareness.
  • Anything you do bears fruit, but remember there are different kinds of fruit.
  • You do not have to give up your individuality. You have to give up your limited notion that that is all that you are.
  • And how will you know you are more than your limited individuality if you never let go of it for a while?
  • Playfulness is only one option in Tantra. Tantra is also very serious business. For tantra, both the light and the dark are Real. To represent only play is limiting. And to highlight play doesn't equip us to handle difficulty. The equanimity we seek in tantra, exists from what lies beyond light and dark, playfulness and seriousness.
  • "taking a playful attitude" is not relevant to certain parts of our sadhana.
  • As yogis, we are not after the mind. We are after the Self.
  • You can be very deep in meditation and still the mind can be active. It is like being deep under water and knowing there are waves crashing at the surface.
  • consciousness has to have a focal point, even if it is Itself.
  • The emphasis is not on what you are witnessing but on The Witness.
  • Non Duality does not ignore duality. No one can ignore duality or they do not know what they are talking about. (I wanted to tweet that one!)
  • We have to start where we are at.
  • In mantra meditation, we are working with sound not meaning. "It seems stupid from a logical, conventional viewpoint. But what is stupid from a yogic viewpoint is to remain restricted to meaning. We must escape the tyranny of meaning."
  • If you follow sound, it will take you to silence.
  • The Life Force knows how to heal. Given the right conditions, prana will heal.
  • What makes meditation what it is is that it is a guided process, as opposed to a quite time with yourself or a period of relaxation.
  • the place where you find resistance is the place of the greatest breakthrough.
  • Samskaras live in the body. After all, they have no where else to live
  • Meditation because it is there to be done and it is a good idea. Meditate because you are an evolving being and it is your practice. If you meditation to "feel good" or to "get high" then that reason will not sustain you through difficulty.
  • Meditation is really quite simple. It is really just consciousness doing its thing which is Awareness. (I think I will tweet that one!)
All right, more soon.