Thursday, September 30, 2010

reflections on the week

well, I am taking a break from answering emails to check in and write a blog entry.

I woke up today in a very happy mood. I slept well and the feeling of love and grace from our week of teacher training was very much with me. I had a lovely, delightfully deep and quiet meditation today and I enjoyed a leisurely cup of tea before I went into town for a facial and to get my nails done. Later today I will do a practice and then get a massage. In the mean time, a little catch-up on the computer.

It was a really wonderful week for me. Our group shared a wonderful quality of sincere intimacy and respect and it was so rewarding for me to watch people struggle with many of the "teaching formulas" I give at the first of the week only to find the the structure and boundaries liberating by the end of the week. It can be daunting at first to enter into some imposed structure to present a theme and I am certainly aware of the inherent challenges of standardizing something as creative as theme preparation. be that as it may, structure can be immensely useful in taking the giant ideas that inform the method and organizing them into a pithy, clear articulation that prepares students for class.

That and so many other things- Level 1 Teacher Training in my world is really about breaking basic teaching skills down to the component parts much in the way we break postures down into the component parts and sequence them to teach to other people. So much of good teaching can appear "intuitive" or "genius" or "instinctive" and while much of it is, many times what we are seeing that appears creative is actually just integrated, refined and practiced skills. So in level One I am not interested in "real life teaching situations" as I am interesting in the component parts of good teaching like- economy of words, instructing with the breath, observing foundation, quality of touch, verbal adjustments based directly on what is happening in the moment and so forth. We focus a lot more on principles of teaching the same way we fopcus on principles of alignment.

Sometimes, this is frustrating to students who want direct yes and no answers. I am very reluctant to give yes and no answers as I think those kinds of answers perpetuate dogma and dumb down the teaching 9and therefore our student's understanding) of yoga. I am more interested in the why we do what what we do and the grey area of "it depends" than on yes, no, always and never. I want us as teachers to elevate the conversation beyond "in Ansuara yoga we do this and we never do that" to something much more refined and conscientious than a list of rules and such.

I have always loved that about John's approach- he really wants us, as teachers, to think and to be educated in solid principles that can guide us in our thinking and process of self-inquiry and self-discovery. If we understand the context of something, the principles behind it, it is easier to know what the content is or what the "right" thing is to do in any situation. But if we only know right and wrong with no context we will always struggle when life comes to us in shades of grey.

Its like sadhana, really... context is most of it and discernment is the rest of it. But that is an entry for another day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Night

I keep feeling a bit disoriented relative to the time. It feels so odd to me that today is Monday. Anyway, I do know that today is Day 4 of our Teacher Training here in Tucson and already so many shifts and empowerments and transformations are occurring. As always, I find my work to be inspiring and wow- what a cool thing it is to be a part of.

For some reason, this particular group is having a very psychologically-oriented discussion this week. It always amazes me how the same (or similar) curriculum takes different groups to different places and through different terrain. This group seems to have a certain movement towards directly examining the inner life and a willingness to face directly those issues that stand in the way of moving fully into the seat of the teacher. There is a profound honesty and a sincere soul searching that is happening and an ongoing acknowledgement of the multi-faceted challenges and delights that come our way as yoga teachers.

Perhaps its happening in the group because I have been examining what that seat really means to me and what it really means to me to step into the seat I have been given. Teaching seems to work that way! Always, there is a theme or thread between what I am working on personally and what a group brings to a training. I suppose that is the message of meditation, right? That life is NOT coming to us from the outside in but life is instead, coming to us from the inside out.

Anyway, I have been thinking a lot about what John Friend taught on the last day of the Grand Gathering. He gave a teaching about the 4 kinds of relationships we have in life- the Friend, the Enemy, the Teacher and the Student. I have heard him talk about this many times over the years but somehow the simple brilliance of the teaching this year has been working on me a lot.

See, the thing is that there is a kind of intimacy in each kind of relationship- even in the enemy. To hate someone requires A LOT of energy, to wish someone harm is, in many ways a kind of intimate wish because you have to care a lot in order to be an enemy with someone, even if the caring is inverted. And intimacy among friends, while it has shades and grades involved, is essentially what friendship is.

I think it starts to get interesting as we move into the domain of the teacher-student relationship because while there is a deep and profound sharing of intimacy between teacher and student, the terms of the relationship are actually very unique and not like most other relationships that we encounter. And it can be very confusing on both sides to know how to navigate the intimacy with boundaries that differ from the average friendship or more common intimate relationships. It can be easy to project super human qualities on the teacher only to recognize their humanity and feel betrayed and disappointed in their very real human frailty. It is easy to assign them every positive quality we don't recognize in ourselves and then tear then down off the pedestal when we grow more into our own power. We can be so accustomed, as students to being served by our teacher that we forget they have feelings, perceptions and needs.

As teachers we can be so busy looking at our student's Light that we fail to see their weaknesses and darknesses and fail to meet their needs adequately. We may fall so in love with our students and enjoy their company so much that we forget we are in their life to guide them and not to be friends with them. We may have our own unmet needs of wanting approval that set us up to please them as opposed to serve them. And so on.

I suppose the variations on the theme are endless. And I also thing that just as we have a personal expression of our "unique life wave" (as Paul Muller Ortega says) I think that we each have a personal expression of the seat of teacher that we discover, many times the hard way. My personal experience is that the "hard way" of learning things has also been full of so much grace and generosity from both my teachers and students.

Paul Muller once talked about how we, as students, receive the blessings and grace of the teacher. He said, too, that the teacher is held in the grace of the student also and that it is the reciprocity of each person in the relationship playing their role that makes for the deepest transformation.

So anyway- its a very rich conversation this week in Tucson.

more soon.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Saturday Night

Well, it has been a long, full and very rich day. In a lot of ways, I suppose yesterday and the day before was that way also. I got into Tucson on Thursday in time to go grocery shopping, get some dinner cooked and then I got a massage which was awesome. After that I unpacked, moved my things in, read my email and then went to bed.

Friday we started Teacher Training which is awesome. I was on a bit of a high from the Grand Gathering- (a bit of an understatement as I left the Gathering completely inspired by this amazing community of people and our teacher and his vision and our collective offering and completely on fire and exhilarated from the whole thing. I reconnected with old friends, made new friends and I might just have to say that the whole experience was perhaps the highlight of my teaching career.)

And in some ways, the Teacher Training is as different as you can get in terms of content, set and setting and yet in other ways, I feel so in the "Anusara Yoga Field of Consciousness" that it is not different at all. We have an amazing group of trainees- most of whom have been through the Immersion Process with us already so its a bit of a reunion and, of course, we have some new folks joining us which is also fun.

Without going into a blow by blow account of the first two days I suppose I will just share my overall impression after two days. Generally speaking, what is happening feels to me like a deep, profound emotional healing with very little/no drama or BS associated with what is going on for people. People are just sincerely owning their experiences, examining themselves with honest courage and being vulnerable and sincere with one another along the way. It is quite inspiring to be part of.

So what I have been reflecting on these last two days is the profound opportunity these trainings offer all of us in our personal growth and maturation. I mean, somehow, in the process of honing our articulation skills and presenting heart-based themes based on our direct, actual experience and endeavoring to deepen ourselves as teachers, the process asks us to confront long-held limiting beliefs, to assert a new truth about who we are and gives a chance to work through those things that stand in our way of our being direct, vulnerable and powerful people. It is nothing short of amazing, really.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately- this process of growing up that occurs as we walk the yoga path. I guess it doesn't actually "just occur." More accurately, we get invited to grow up and to be adults on a spiritual path and to let go of childish projections and coping strategies that we adopted in a different time and place. Obviously, it's a process and not everyone accepts the invitation but when we claim our experience directly, when we understand what is shaping our perceptions and when we stop projecting our feelings outwards onto others, something really radical happens inside-- we gain the liberation and freedom that is only possible when we are living as accountable adults and not as victimized children occupying adult bodies.

So- I am watching some very mature inner work occur in the folks who are taking this training. It's pretty radical for Day 2 that people would be so open, but it seems to me that people in this group came here to really shift and grow and are going for it. I know that I always shift a lot in my time here because as much as my job and Darren's job is to create space and to hold space for people, we are also in the chamber with everyone else. So as always, when I teach, I have had a chance to work with some of my own patterns and tendencies and to examine myself to make some conscious choices toward more skillful responses rather than patterned reactions.

And you know, its not always gut-wrenching inner searching that shifts us here. A lot of what helps us shift is the positive input and the amazing depth of support we can access when we come together as a community with a common aim. So often shifts can happen because the kula is reflecting our light to us and somehow we get to see ourselves as others see us and that positive darshana gets that much deeper into our hearts. It's a very cool thing.

So anyway- time for me to head to bed so I am fresh and ready for the day tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday Evening

The Grand Gathering is coming to a wonderful and delightful conclusion tonight. We had yet another amazing and inspiring day. Douglas taught meditation this morning, John taught a great asana class for everyone, we had lunch and then I spent some time being interviewed and then I taught my asana class. Kelly made another video slideshow from the class:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday Night

Wow- another amazing day here! Before I launch into a description of the day here is a short video montage from Day One that Casey made:

We had another great class in the hall with John this morning. He covered the theme of good and evil and how we can, as yogi's, utilize everything we experience- the good and the bad, the light and the dark as a means to wake up to the truth of our nature. He linked his theme to the Autumnal Equinox as this marks the shift from the light dominating the days to the dark being more dominant. It was a great class and fun to assist. He taught a variety of arm balances and it was a much stronger practice than yesterday.

We had lunch, I did a practice and then I taught my class. The title of my class was Urdhva Danurasana and Beyond which was an int/advanced level class and full of amazing practioners and students. Everyone was so hard working and so open and easy to teach. We covered a lot of ground and worked mostly on drop backs and standing up from urdhva danurasana. Lots of details and lots of fine tuning and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I know I did. Kelly made a video from the class:

Anyway- after class we had dinner, there was a rockin' kirtan with Benjy and Heather and now it is definitely time for bed. There is way more to say- mostly refelctions on the amazingness of the people here- but I must rest. Tomorrow comes early.

Monday, September 20, 2010

We had a great day today here in Estes Park, Colorado. The day started with meditation with John Friend followed by breakfast and then his 3-hour Master Class.

After class we had lunch and then I taught an hour-long class on Sequencing Strategies which was sort of hilarious. We had 150-something people show up for the lecture which was a thrill and it was a quick foray through the ideas behind great sequencing. I used the 3 A's of Ansuara Yoga to organize my thoughts on what makes a good sequence.

Attitude- A good sequence is a structure through which the Shakti can manifest and move. A sequence can enliven the spirit and invite us to express our hearts in a seamless tapestry through the asana.

So in teaching our sequence ideally delivers us to the heart quality or attitude of the class and should line up in a very direct way to what we are hoping to accomplish attitudinally. We ahve to educate ourselves in the effects of the poses on our heart and mind and the effects of various sequences and on our hearts and minds.

Alignment- A good sequence teaches us the how-to of the poses, and the exquisite order of the method.

In order to convey this as teachers we have to have knowledge of the syllabus, the component parts of the asanas, the common misalignments in any asana, and most importantly we need to be aware of what I call the lineage of the asanas. For instance- where does the pose urdhva danurasana begin? It starts all the way in urdhva hasta tadasana and it is related to every pose on the syllabus where your arms are over your head. So another key to good sequencing is knowledge of the poses in a very fundamental way and also to know the UPA's inside out and how they apply to the various postures.

Action- a good sequence prepares the body for optimal action required to achieve the postures, dynamic expression and for the balanced action that is at the heart of good alignment. A sequence will teach the students how to shore up places of instability and open places that are tight and will assist students in managing their energy throughout the scope of the practice.

As teachers we need to take into account the skill and ability of our group, the environment in which we are teaching, the level class it is, the motivation of the students, our own temperament as teachers and so on. Tall order.

So speaking of tall order, we breezed through some practical examples. All in all I think the talk was informative, inspiring and entertaining so I was pretty pleased with it. Here are a few pics.

After class I took some time to hang out with my friend and fellow certified teacher, Kelly Haas. She and I had a chance to talk and practice which was super awesome. She is a fun, smart, sincere and dedicated person and I have always loved spending time with her. She is John's tour manager and so it is so rare that she has any spare time at all at these events so when we realized that neither of us was scheduled between 4 and 5:30, we made a date. Having heart-to-heart talks with people of such high caliber and personal integrity is one of my favorite things about what I do. It just doesn't get much better than that.

After we wrapped up our back bends I visited my friend and Fellow Certified teacher Chad Satlow in his booth for Third Eye Threads. Kelly captured it on film and made a short clip. Chad makes great eco-friendly, vintage-inspired active wear and he is a great guy with a ton of enthusiasm and passion. Check it out:

Then we had dinner and then there was a scholar's panel for the philosophy download. Pretty radical stuff indeed. Here are some scenes from the day:

All right- more to come tomorrow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Night

Well, it has been a full few days since I last wrote. This will be brief. I am now in Estes Park, Colorado at The YMCA of the Rockies for the Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering. Kelly and I cam up here on Friday to get a chance to spend some time in the Rockies for some R&R before this next stint of work.

Friday was mostly a travel day. Saturday and Sunday we spent a lot of time out in the mountains hiking and taking in the breath-takingly beautiful scenery that is Estes Park National Park. We got into the YMCA this afternoon around 3:30 and checked in, unpacked and met up with the other presenters for dinner before we all met in the auditorium for the Opening Ceremonies. It was a lovely evening. John spoke a while, he introduced his staff and then he introduced the presenters. He asked us to speak about how our life and practice has evolved over the two years since the first Grand Gathering. It was really cool to hear my friends and colleagues reflect on the journey and to share a bit about how they have grown and shifted.

For me, the last two years have been full of tremendous growth and the thing that really stands out for me about it is the way I feel like I have grown relative to community. I have always loved and valued the community and have taken great delight in the company of my friends and fellow teachers. But over the last two yeas I moved into some much more profound levels of intimacy with many of my friends in the kula. Instead of me just enjoying people and knowing I had friends, the last two years- largely through some personal difficulties I reached out for support with- I found I could rely on people to help me grow and I could be sustained by these connections in ways I really hadn't known was possible before.

We start the conference tomorrow with meditation in the morning with John and then class with him and the whole group- close to 800 people- and then I give a talk on sequencing in the afternoon. I am pretty excited about it.

Some pics- the first one of us presenters on stage. The next from our hiking adventures.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

a few refections on the week

So- wow- I have been busy this week. I can't believe it is so long since my last entry. I have been diligently working away to get caught up on all my email and projects and for one brief moment on Monday I was pretty much there but then my the evening, well, I had another stack of things to attend to. All of this is great stuff and I am in no way complaining, just saying that it's been a full week. Of course, I did have time for some lovely treats like a facial with Melva at Castle Hill. (Seriously, she does an intro special for an Organic Facial that is only $50. Her products are top-of-the-line, the room is relaxing, she is a caring, professional yogi who is a very well-trained esthetician and the price is really unbeatable for something so freakin' good. Check it out. Treat yourself. It's worth it and so are you.)

All right, enough of that commercial- Some highlights of my week were going to Peggy's class on Monday with Anne. Peggy was late to class and so Anne taught the first half of class. I haven't been in class with here in a long time and so that was fun. She shared a lot of neat stuff she has been learning altely and got us ready for some back bends. Then Peggy came in for the second hour- it was like a tag team yoga class- and we went deeper into the back bends with urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana, eka pada rajakpotasasan 2 and 1 and then drop backs from tadasana to urdhva danurasana. Good times.

Tuesday night I went to Duncan Wong's class at Breath and Body. That was pretty interesting and gave me lots to reflect on. He had a very unusual approach to teaching so that was kind of fun to witness and be part of. I enjoyed some of his rants and opinions and observations and it was fun to chew on the very different way he viewed alignment for the body than how we see it in Anusara Yoga. It was a good night and I enjoyed being with everyone and being a student in a class and exploring some new ways to access the body and the postures. He is quite a technician, that is for sure.

Yesterday was a super fun day with Focus on Form at 9:30. We worked on shoulder principles toward backbends with a hilarious foray into nakrasana. Scenes below.
The 6:00 class was jam packed- although please keep coming- we have changed the "limit" on the Mind Body Online software so we can let more people into class! Once I found out people were getting turned away, I intervened, tormented the poor desk staff and made them break the rules so people could get into class. We had a full house and people really worked with great enthusiasm. Lots of inverted work into deep urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana variations and headstand dropovers. Such fun.

I got on a whole theme last night about aligning with one's Heart's vision and staying in steadfast remembrance of the Heart no matter what is happening. As I was closing class I told the class to return to the fullness of their Heart and to the source of their Vision and as I gave that instruction I did it also. The realization swelled up inside me that a class like the one we jsut had is really a huge part of my Vision. Community- having people to share my love of practice with and being part of something dynamic, meaningful and heart-felt is really what my Vision is all about. I left class so grateful for our wonderful community of practitioners here- the ways it has grown, changed, and expanded and for my good fortune to get to teach such capable, hard working and curious students. What a good life it is.

Also fun was that Sam and Justin- acroyogi's extraordinaire- are in town this weekend. I met them first at The Immersion Darren and I taught in Tucson and they are here to teach a workshop at Love Yoga. So they came to class and shared in the fun which was a fun treat. If youa re free this weekend, check out their workshop- they are super great people, very skilled at what they do and it will be a great way to connect and practice in community.

All right- on with the day!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Morning

Well, it is, as Mr. Rogers used to say, "A beautiful day in the neighborhood..."

We had a great final weekend at Breath and Body Yoga with the Teacher Training program drawing to a close. The thing about this kind of ending for me is that it never really feels like an ending because there is just so much more awaiting folks post- Immersion and post- Teacher Training. So it always feels important to me to mark the final day/hour/ moment and to acknowledge the very huge accomplishment it is to complete 208 hours of Anusara Yoga studies and yet to me, I never feel that sad about programs like these ending because I know that the journey together is not really over at all. In fact, now that the groundwork is laid, we now can start having much more interesting discussions- like about fine tuning and video reviews and so on.

The weekend was really great though. Perhaps the highlight for me was during the Sunday morning class when I told the group to work in partners and told the Teacher Trainees to partner up with someone in the room who was there for the public class. Watching the Trainees work and assist the other students was really inspiring to me- what good teachers they all are! I was so proud of them and their skillful adjustments, assists, and the care and compassion they showed their partners. Pretty awesome.

I think the other highlight was in the closing circle hearing a bit from the students about what has happened on the inside as they have been in this training process. It is always amazing to me the level of inner work that goes along with these kinds of experiences. I mean its a tall order to simply learn the method, practice it, explore the philosophy and then apply oneself to the study of how to teach it. The surface level of skills is immense and learning that stuff alone is demanding.

But while all that is going on, there is this other level of work that occurs. There is a soul searching, an inner exploration, a coming to terms with oneself kind of process that gets invoked in Immersions and Teacher Training. It seems to me that we get re-wired a bit in the process of going through these programs and even though the bulk of what we spend our time on is specific skill building drills or hammering out the details of alignment, philosophy or sequencing strategies, the inner work is, in many ways, the place where the biggest learning occurs.

I am glad of this because I think in the end, this type of work is what makes Anusara Yoga teachers some of my favorite people in the world. Recently, with all the huff and puff that came out with the NY Times article about John Friend and Anusara Yoga I took some time to read blog posts from our critics and people who obviously didn't- shall we say- resonate with us or our method or our community. I even chimed in on one of those blogs and was accused of being John Friend's apologist and asked how dare I add anything to the conversation. But I digress. My point in brining all that up again was that so many criticisms of our community from the outside said things like, "They are so fake and so happy all the time and I wish they would get real and stop acting like everything is shiny and bright" etc.

Now don't get me wrong, I know why someone would see that and why someone would say that about us. The culture of Anusara Yoga has a lot of evidence to back such a perspective up. But the thing is, the sincere, seasoned Ansuara Yoga people that I know are some of the deepest, most authentic, most consciously-suffering people I know. They are far from Pollyanna, bullshit artists who put their head in the sand and pretend things are groovy when they are not. And our training process is so intense that if you enter into it, it's going to cook you a bit (read a lot) and most of that BS will get burned away or you will decide to drop out.

As a group of people, we grapple with big ideas and speak to them in everyday settings and become obsessed with the very finest nuances of Indian thought and yoga philosophy. This is not light-weight approach, even though on the surface it can look like a bunch of people in tie-dyed pants, playing with hula hoops and saying the word Shakti a lot. I think that contrast alone can be a bit hard to really make space for for some people. You see, Anusara Yogi's are never one thing only- we are a very diverse, eclectic, free-spirited and highly passionate bunch of people. You have to be to make it through the process of training in Anusara Yoga. And as soon as you think Anusara Yoga is "this" or "that" or "not this" and "not that" the wind shifts and the culture morphs a bit and asks everyone to become that much more inclusive in their perceptions and perspectives.

You see, we operate under the banner of unity. We have a philosophy of totality in which everything is seen as an artistic expression of The One. Yoga, for us, is not some imposed set of principles or practices that take us out of life in order to align with the truth. Yoga, for us, is an artistic aligning with the essence of life, of the totality of life and so, as a method, it seems our approach requires us to include and discern, rather than to leave out, cut away and/or rigidify the boundaries. Kind of like that age old adage - "Be careful what part of creation you cut out, God might be there."

And our training programs ask each of us to do the same for ourselves--to stop cutting parts of ourselves out and to engage the very intense and rewarding work of claiming ourselves- our hurts, angers and jealousies as well as our light, our passions, our inspirations and our own deepest self-honor. Put yourself in a room with a bunch of people learning Ansuara Yoga in an Immersion or Teacher Training or enter the stream of certification and be sure that, while it may not say so on the brochure, the process is going to demand some pretty profound work from you. And it is in the rising to the edge of that demand that each one of us becomes more aligned with ourselves and more able to live in the totality of who we are. So even though the surface may appear a certain way, truth be told, most people who make it through our process have dug pretty deep inside themselves to stay the course.

Obviously, we are not perfect people. But that is a story for another day. I got going on all this reflecting on the depth of what my students shared in the closing circle, none of which, interestingly enough, had anything to do with loops and spirals!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Morning

What a fun day yesterday- I worked all morning and then met up with a few of our local Anusara Yoga teachers- Lauran Janes, Brigitte Edery, Chris Muchow, Sam Rice, Jason Lobo for a practice in the mid afternoon. We had a great time- lots of strong back bending work with no fluff and no fanfare- just how I like it. We did some good sun salutations, a long headstand and then preparatory work and then right into the back bends before we got tired. We got to very deep urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita with the head up and the classic form with the head down and legs straight, then lots of kapotasana (which is coming right along for me and for many others in the room!) and then into natrajasana, eka pada rajakapotasana 4 and padangustha danurasana. We finished up with a few forward bends and a shoulder stand and went on with the day. Doesn't get much better than that except if scorpion pose is thrown into the mix! Oh well, next time.

I found the practice totally inspiring and fun and I left very elevated and happy. (Of course, that might have been the back bends... but still, whatever it takes!) I took great enjoyment in having such wonderful practitioners to meet up with- each of whom was self-maintaining, honestly interested in learning, totally ready to help each other and committed to advancing their own practice. Very fine company indeed.

After practice I came home and cooked dinner for Mom and Dad and Anne and Jeff and my cousins Andy and his wife, Machelle who are in town. We had a wonderful time together eating and sharing family stories from past and present.

One of the the things I like to do when I am at home- other than practicing yoga with my friends is cook. I cooked a lot yesterday- while I was working I had some things going in the kitchen for lunch(very yummy squash, zucchini satay wraps from my Ayurvedic cookbook) and then cooking dinner was a lot of fun. I made whole wheat pasta, ratatouille (also from my Ayurvedic cookbook) and the guest each brought things to contribute to the meal. It was a really lovely way to be together. Something about cooking at home is very grounding and nurturing to me and it always help me feel anchored and settled. And let's not forget that eating food cooked at home is a wonderful thing to do and in almost every case- better tasting, better for you and cheaper.

This weekend is the final weekend in the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training at Breath and Body so I have some last minute things to do to prepare for the weekend and some loose ends to tie up before I head out next week so I best get on with it. I don't leave for another week but once I am gone, I am out of town for the better part of the month and then I come home for two weeks and then I go away again for close to six weeks. There are some very fun things on the horizon and I am looking forward to all of them but I do need to organize myself well in advance to make it more easeful.

All right- onward with the day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday Morning

All right, I got on the computer a few hours ago and am only now able to actually get through some of my email and so forth enough to settle down and write a few paragraphs. It has been a full few days since I last wrote. Like I mentioned in the last entry, we had a lovely time with Free Day of Yoga and then Tuesday I spent a lot of time with Lauran Janes reviewing her video for Anusara-Inspired status with her. We had a lovely time together. She was so open, receptive and eager to learn and grow from the process that it was just a real pleasure to work with her. There is something that seems to really click for people when we sit down to watch a video together. Obviously, this cannot be done in all cases but it is an enlightening and rich process when its possible.

Also, it was really cool to hear Lauran reflect on her process of growth and evolution over the last few years since she enrolled in her first Immersion. You know, I am not the type of person who throws words around a lot and says things like, "It will change your life!" but really, Immersions can really change your life! If nothing else, they seem to be a container in which we can observe, reflect and shift ourselves and during which we are paying a certain kind of attention to ourselves that really facilitates change. Sometimes I think, well, maybe all of us would be changing anyway over the year. I mean, sure, we really might and probably would be.

But I am also reminded, when I hear about people's lives and how they shift in the process of study and practice that is an Anusara Yoga Immersion, of something Paul Muller Ortega said about initiation. He said that initiation can set into motion a series of shifts and changes that would not otherwise happen. So these changes would exist as potential options for each of us but would not actually come into being except with the right catalyst. So it seems more and more clear to me that Immersions are a certain kind of catalyst for a lot of us. Sure, we would still grow and change and so forth without them because hopefully, all of us are maturing and consciously working on ourselves. But there are a certain set of shifts that get set into motion when we sign our name on the dotted line, give ourselves to the process and see it through to the end.

So I got a chance to hear a bit of Lauran's process over the last few years and after so much work inside and out- she is now engaged to be married, handing off her business, moving to Costa Rica and approved for Ansuara-inspired status. And from where she was when I first met her these are more than small shifts! And being a part of someone's process of growth is something that is deeply satisfying to me as a teacher. There is a nectar in bearing witness to someone's life unfolding that is quite rich, rewarding and inspiring. You see, when someone I am teaching and working with answers the calling of their heart and steps into becoming their best self, it calls me to do the same to remain worthy of my very precious seat of teacher. Seriously, this is good stuff and I know of no other job like it.

I feel full of that kind of inspiration lately as so many people are stepping into very awesome opportunities and stepping up into greater roles of leadership and empowerment. Mandy (also recently engaged!) has a video in with an assessor and should be finishing her certification soon. Jess Goulding was just approved for certification and will submit her application and video in the next week or so. Chris Muchow is a new teacher in town (check him out 5 times a week at The Castle) and while I did not train him (He comes from Denver by way of Amy Ippoliti) he will be finishing his certification within the year also and will add his brilliance to our band of illustrious teachers here in Austin. This weekend also marks the end of a year-long Immersion and Teacher Training process with some great trainees at Breath and Body Yoga and so a good handful of those grads will be entering the stream of certification and applying for their Anusara-Inspired status within the next 6 months or so.

These kinds of milestones are pretty exciting to me. I do not think external validation is necessary to be a good yoga teacher. I really don't. No one needs to stamp their approval on us to make our offering worthwhile. They really don't. In fact, by the time that anyone gets these formal designations bestowed upon them, they are already great teachers, they are already making positive contributions to their communities and they are hopefully, already empowered in their own hearts. In fact for many people, by the time that the official stamp comes along, it is less important to them than when they started.

And yet, the formality of going through the steps and jumping through the hoops and allowing the sometimes maddening and frustrating unfolding of the process to season us is a rite of passage and an initiation. It becomes a tangible way to mark and codify the sometime intangible process of growth and change that is involved for each and every one of the people who go through the certification process. And it absolutely sets into motion a series of changes that would not otherwise happen.

Anyway- that was Tuesday and then Wednesday was a fun and full day of teaching- 9:30 Focus on Form, 11:00 Seniors and 6:00 Int/Advanced. Both the 9:30 and 6:00 classes were so well attended and with such sincere students I was blown away. We are really deepening a lot these days and it fills me with inspiration and gratitude.

All right. Back to the email and the curriculum design.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday Morning

Well, I had a pretty fun Labor Day. I actually did labor most of the day but in general, I enjoy my work a lot so it's not in any way a bad thing. I spent a lot of the morning answering email and working on the Teacher Training curriculum for the upcoming Teacher Trainings in Tucson. (And it's not too late to sign up- you can do a level 1 and level 2 Teacher Training with me and Darren back to back. Good times for sure!) Then I did my asana practice and taught a special yoga class at 5:30 for Free Day of Yoga.

I am not really sure how long Free Day of Yoga has been happening here in Austin but its a pretty cool thing. All over town, all day long, almost all of the yoga is free. So people new to the practice or seasoned practitioners and everything in between can make a day of it and spend their Labor Day on the mat, practicing yoga in community. For instance, Venus came to my class last night and said it was her 7th class of the day! So, Free Day of yoga is kind of like a yoga buffet-people eat a lot whether or not they are still hungry just because, well, its free and they can. But seriously, it's a really wonderful community event and it is no small thing to organize, I am sure but it certainly one thing that makes Austin Yoga great.

Anyway- my Free Day of Yoga class was scheduled to be in the Chakras room at Castle Hill but we had already reached the room's capacity at 5:20 and people were being turned away. (Which I hate and do my best to never have happen. In fact, I have gotten quite frustrated with more than one front desk person over the years for deciding for me what capacity on a room is because my idea of a full room is usually very different than most people's idea of a full room. But I digress...) Anyway, I intervened and convinced the management to open up The Annex so we could fit everyone who came in the class. The Annex is really an amazing studio space- we had Anne and Jeff's wedding practice there and we are going to have the workshop with me and Noah there. (Sign up for that! Its going to be great.) There is tons of natural light, lots of wall space and we easily fit the 50-something people that came to class in there.

I worked with the theme of karma and lila, of work and of play and kept the evening's class more on the side of play. The idea is that work, in general, for most people, is often done with a result or a reward in mind. It has a karma to it, in that way- we work to get something. But play, well, play is done for no reason other than delight in the doing. So the teaching goes that while some things happen in life that are a result of our actions (karma) there are also things that happen simply because of lila, or God's Play. Obviously, these are big ideas to grapple with and more is involved than simply the notion of work and play, but that was the springboard for my class theme last night. I worked with the heart quality of delight and we moved through some fun arm balancing work, and some back bend variations that were just down right silly at times. All in all, it was a great class and I had a really good time teaching.

I suppose that's about it right now. Hope your day is delightful.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday Night

Well, it was a great wedding celebration.

Friday night we had the rehearsal and then the rehearsal dinner which was really fun. We all went on one of the chartered boats on Town Lake and had a lovely simple dinner on board. The weather was amazingly nice, the sunset was spectacular and the bats flew right at dusk which was quite stellar. It was a really nice way to spend the evening together and to get in the celebratory mood.

Saturday Kelly and I got up and went to the Famer’s Market which was fun. I am always working –either in town or out of town on Saturday mornings so I am rarely free to do something like that so it felt really special. We got some great produce, some wonderful fresh milk and local honey and late-season peaches.

Then we made our way to The Castle for our group practice. We ahd a really awesome time at practice. We had a wonderful group of yogi’s assembled, all of whom were hard working, easy going and very skillful. We went for backbends like urdhva danurasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana, and eka pada rajakpaotasana with some forays into mandalsana, drop backs, headstand drop overs, padangustha danurasana and some a very interesting ustrasana variation. Fun stuff. My back bends felt great, everyone had a good time and the new space at the Castle is beyond wonderful.

After a shower and a meal, we picked Anne up at the hair salon and went to the wedding venue. I did her makeup and a bunch of Anne’s women friends hung out while she got dressed and waited for the ceremony to start. It was a lovely ceremony with Anne’s good friend and colleague, Tom, officiating.

The ceremony was beautiful, the facility was gorgeous and Anne was absolutely radiant and full of life and love. Here is a link of some images from the weekend that Kelly put together.

Click here to watch.

I really like weddings. (and yes, I always cry at them!) As Anne and Jeff took their vows, I found myself contemplating love, marriage and the courage it takes to commit oneself to such a proposition over the course of one’s life. Weddings are so sweet and so inspiring because they are full of optimism, hope and dreams. I definitely experienced a sense of renewal and gratitude for my own marriage and also for the wonderful community of people here that I am sharing my life with. I mentioned it in our yoga practice yesterday but I suppose it bears repeating here.

You see, I think it’s an amazing thing in this life to develop a loving relationship with ourselves and to develop a friendship with our self that is loving and kind. I also think that it is a wonderful good fortune to develop a relationship with someone else that we want to share our life with. And it is, just as wonderful and important to have loving friendships and supportive people within a community with whom to share the love of practice, the love of yoga and the love of transformation. After all, each one of us has a family of origin but what is very cool is that as we walk the path of yoga, we also get a family of choice. We get to choose a group of people to surround ourselves with that will nurture, support and uphold us. For some of us, our family of choice includes our family of origin and certainly, for others, not so much. (And obviously, these dynamics may be worthy of a post all their own, but I digress…) Anyway, as adults, we get to craft a family of choice and participate in a community that can harvest the best of our history and help us transcend our own limitations.

So for me, this weekend was really a celebration of the love that comes from family- of origin and of choice-- and the beauty of growing and loving in a community of people committed to some wonderful and inspiring ideals such as marriage, fidelity and faith.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Morning

Well, Friday is here and it is Anne's wedding weekend. This afternoon we have the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. Tomorrow we have the Group Practice (12-2:30 at Castle Hill Annex- be there! Everyone is welcome!) and then the wedding and reception. It will be full weekend of fun. And hopefully this rain we have now will come for a while, cool everything off and then go along its merry and wet way.

So, I had a pretty uneventful day yesterday- All my usual morning practices, a nice long hip opening practice and lunch followed by some errands, a mani/pedi date with Gia and a lovely Ayurvedic dinner at home. I spent some time working on Teacher Training workbooks for future trainings and then went to bed. So in general, I am doing my best these few weeks to rest and rebuild and get all kinds of things in order because I leave town again on September 17th and I am basically gone until October 12. (I will be back for one day only- the night of YOGASM- October 7th!) Then I am gone the whole month of November and 2 weeks of December. So now is my time to catch up and get organized here at home.

So, if you want to see me, these are the weeks to do it and the last two weeks of October! Oh and the workshop with me and Noah is now open for registration so please sign up soon so we can get a sense of enrollment and I can tell Noah to go ahead and buy a plane ticket! I am so excited to be offering programs of this caliber here in Austin and I know the weekend is going to be really awesome. Noah is one of my best friends and favorite teaching partners and this will be an awesome way for us to all be together. If you want more information about Noah and his work, visit him online at

And anyone from out of town who wants to come, let me know and I can help you find local housing. And all you local teachers, please spread the word to your students and connections. I would love for this event to branch out well beyond the borders of Anusara Yoga and be a way to bring the Austin Yoga community together for heart opening asana and I need your help to make that happen.

I have lots on my mind these days relative to the world of teaching and mentoring teachers but mostly all of my musing is along the lines of the amount of time it really takes to mature and grow as a teacher. It is just not very hard anymore to become a yoga teacher. I mean, toss a rock around here in Austin, TX and its gonna land on a yoga teacher. Someone told me that Austin has more yoga teachers per capita than any other city in the country! So obviously, the challenge is not in becoming a yoga teacher. Anyone with 12 weekends free and $3000 can become a yoga teacher it seems. (Wow, sounds harsh. I am not trying to be disrespectful. I am just sayin'.)

So that being said, what seems to be a bit harder than becoming a teacher is skillfully engaging the phases of maturation and development that come after the initial foray into teacher training has been made. I mean, truth be told, 200-hours of training is the tip of the iceberg in terms of preparation. The seasoning that happens as we stay in place, nurture our students and communities and serve one another in growing beyond our patterns and perceived limits is where we really get trained. This is where I believe that we really hone this craft of teaching. And I am not sure that I people really know how long it takes. I didn't.

Once again, we see the yoga timetable of slow, reliable, steady and painstaking growth at odds with the Western consumer mindset of fast, quicker, bigger, better and easier. Seriously, I am not trying to preach here or anything. Really, I am not. I am actually saying this because no one ever told me such a thing 12 years ago when I started teaching yoga. No one ever told me that I would actually begin to feel proficient as a teacher after about a decade of doing it. I am not sure I would have found the news comforting then and perhaps someone actually did tell me just that and I was not listening. (this, in fact, is highly likely... but I digress.) Anyway, I make sure I say it to the teachers I train because it can feel so daunting to manage all the different aspects of teaching Anusara Yoga and many people feel discouraged when they are struggling in the early stages of teaching. So the real truth is that although we can train you in 200 hours but you can't necessarily do it well after that!

Anyway, my spiritual teacher always says that as a guru, he sees absolutely no need whatsoever to test his students and devotees. He says he does not need to test anybody because time will test everyone. All he does, he says, is watch for how to maximize the tests that time is already going to give his students. Time, he says, will reveal our weaknesses, our blind spots, our discipline or lack there of. It will patiently assist us in growing and strengthening our will. It will reveal to us how hard we need to work and whether or not we can go the distance and sustain our efforts beyond the immediate and initial thrills of inspiration. So that's the thing-- long standing, repetitious, devoted efforts.

So regardless of endeavor- healing, maturing, learning, teaching, loving, etc.- time just takes, well time. I know, its another blinding flash of the obvious with Christina Sell this morning.

So anyway, like that.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday Morning

What a day yesterday.

I got up did my morning routine and headed out to teach Focus on Form. I was so happy to see so many folks there. Whenever I am gone for two weeks I always wonder- Will the class be there when I get back? But there everyone was and Sam did such a good job as my sub that it was easy for me to step right back into the swing of things.

We had our first Seniors Yoga class right after Focus on Form. I do hope we can get the word out about this offering. It is a great class for beginners, for people who want a more gentle, modified class regardless of age. We had a nice turn out of teachers along with my Mom and Dad and I am pleased with where this class might go. Also, I would really appreciate any help you can give me in promoting the class. It is a Community Class which means it only costs $7 to come and there is no need to "join" the gym. Of course, there is no need to join Castle Hill ever to take part in the wonderful yoga offerings there. This is no ordinary gym.

After Seniors Yoga me and Kelly and Mom and Dad had lunch at Whole Foods. After that I met with Jason Lobo about the San Marcos School of Yoga. Jason is a great yoga teacher and student of mine who just moved here from Dallas to join up with the Anusara Community here and he is renting my house in San Marcos and he will be offering some classes there so stay tuned for news about what he has going on down south!

After that I went over to check in at Lululemon and then walked over to The Caslte for my asana practice- which went amazingly well. I am making some progress in my kapotasana attempts. I still; cannot get my heels by myself but I am getting closer and the effort to get into the first stage of the pose is easier and easier.

After practice I met with Paolo and Stefania for some wonderful scheming and planning about Ansuara Yoga classes at Castle Hill and we can grow our program there. It is always so exploring to look at where we have come in a few short years as a community and to look ahead at potential and possibilities for expansion. We, as a community, can expect a steady and definitive growth of Anusara Yoga programming at The Castle in the years to come. So a big thanks to all who are supporting the classes and the vision there.

After that meeting I taught my 6:00 class which was a strong back bending class culminating in drop backs and standing up. I took a slightly different route there last night to try to capitalize on strength in dropping back rather than gravity. It is harder in a way, but better over the long haul, I believe. I am more and more interested in helping people learn ways to work on advanced postures without partners so we spent a lot of time prepping drop backs and working at the wall before using partner assists.

I mentioned this in class last night but I do think it bears repeating and that is, that class is a hard class. It is a class that I really want to have for people to learn how to work on advanced postures and postures you just don't get to every day in the average all-levels practice-based class. We have been working for a while now as a group in the class and the caliber of studentship is so high and the capacity of the group is very high and I ask a lot of the people who come. It is not a casual class at all and because of that, so many people are getting so good!

This issue came up in a recent teacher training I taught- the issue being, how can one learn advanced postures if they are not being taught in class? And the more I think about it, the more it becomes obvious to me that the only way I learned how to advance my practice was by taking classes where the advanced postures were broken down into manageable chunks and analyzed and explored. Or I learned in workshops where that happened also. Then I would go home and practice like a mad woman obsessed. (okay, I am still kind of like that at times.) But my point is that I didn't figure most of this stuff out on my own. I went to classes- driving and flying great distances sometimes- in order to learn. And then I practiced. A lot.

So anyway, I want to have a class where people have access to poses beyond the basics and where, a dedicated, capable student can explore the boundaries of their abilities. And that class is Wednesday night. And it is definitely happening and it is very exciting to watch and to be be a part of. And, of course, it does not mean that everyone has to be able to do everything in a Level 3/4 class, it just means that students need to come with a certain attitude and work ethic and I will help them work at an appropriate level.

After class, me Kelly, Shannon, Chris Muchow (a great Ansuara-Inspired, soon-to-be-certified) teacher who just moved here from Denver, J-Man, Sam and Tearson had dinner out on the patio at Whole Foods which was fun. I would love to make that a regular gathering time after the Wednesday night class as it is a great way to be together as a community in a relaxed, informal setting.

So after that very full day of meeting, teaching, planning, and practice we came home, did a bit of organizing for today and then I fell promptly to sleep with a very deep feeling of satisfaction.

Oh and remember---Saturday. 12-2:30. Group Practice. Castle Hill Annex. Be there and celebrate Anne and Jeff's wedding. Donations go to the Bride and Groom.