Sunday, October 31, 2010

Christina Sell and Noah Mazé teach Anusara Yoga in Austin, Texas Day 3

Here are some scenes from the day today! Thank you to everyone who came and made it such a great and inspiring weekend.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Christina Sell and Noah Mazé teach an Anusara Yoga Workshop Day 2

Scenes from our wonderful day together today! What a group. Big WOW on the studentship.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Noah Mazé and Christina Sell teach Anusara Yoga

A few scenes from Friday Night's class. We really had a blast!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday Night

Well, it's getting late for me after a pretty busy week. I did have the good fortune to get some bodywork this morning from the talented Kristina Rodriguez, one our recent TT and Immersion grads here in Austin, TX. This week she makes her way out to Arizona to do anatomy and therapeutics with Martin Kirk which is pretty exciting for a lot of reasons. One of the reasons I find her upcoming trip exciting (other than the obvious reason that Martin is a great teacher and she will learn a lot of awesome stuff from him) is that part of what I see my job around here as is training people to participate in the larger Anusara Yoga culture. As a teacher who introduces people to Anusara Yoga a lot and who takes people through the Immersion and Teacher Training process, a lot of what I see my job as is preparing people to be skilled, knowledgeable and contributing members of the kula beyond Austin. I have always felt it was my job to prepare my students to be John's students. So anyway, it's always fun when someone from Austin makes a foray beyond the city limits to see what they are really a part of.

Don't get me wrong-- I LOVE local community. I am very committed to it and that is why despite my intense travel schedule and being gone so much I have hung on to my local classes for as long as I have. It is so important to me to be part of a local group of people practicing and sharing the yoga journey together. But something often happens for people when they realize that other people in other places  are also talking about Shiva and Shakti and loops and spirals and so on. It is so grand to watch people realize that this "community" we are always talking about is actually a world-wide movement fully of creative, dynamic, amazing people. Seeing the big picture is always good for the smaller picture, I think.

Way back in the early days,  I used to pack my mini van full of my students from Prescott and we would drive down to Desiree Rumbaugh's studio in Phoenix and go to her classes all together. We would drive across the desert to study with John in Los Angeles, make trips to Albuquerque and up to the Utah mountains as well. I am actually pretty convinced that the reason we grew into such a tight community there with such commitment to each other and the method was that we all knew what we were doing in the remote mountains of Norther Arizona was part of a much bigger movement.

So anyway that was fun. After lunch I got a bunch of work done, met up with Gia briefly and then made my way up to The Castle for the event that Jeremiah organized to watch the Heart of Transformation documentary. We met first  for a group practice- led by Jeremiah, me and Mandy--and then Food for Fitness Cafe donated some awesome refreshments and then there was the screening. Kelly and I actually went home after the practice part of the evening. I had a lot to do to get ready for Noah's visit and my sore throat is threatening to return and since I have seen the film already, I figured my presence was best given to the practice and I could conserve my energy and head home early.

It was a nice turnout and a lovely energy at the event. There were lots of people there that I knew and some faces who have practicing Anusara Yoga in town in other studios who I have never met. So even locally, there is a bigger picture to get acquainted with.

On a personal note, I am looking forward to Noah Maze being in town and teaching a workshop with him again. We have a great time being together and teaching together is really delightful. I had a lot of fun this week but was also working with some pretty intense themes inside myself and I am really happy to have my friend and colleague here for the weekend.

All right, time to hit the hay. Its a big weekend after a big week and I am tired.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Morning

It was a very full day yesterday and kind of had the quality of a day off. Kelly and i spent the morning down in San Marcos at the river in our kayaks which is always really fun. We had lunch at Chipotle and then came home. I had planned to do some work but Kelly gave me an acupuncture treatment (which was great and very helpful) and then I had a brief check-in on some business with John Friend and Anne picked me up to go to Peggy's class.

Peggy's class was enjoyable- we did some veery interesting forward bend work and arm balance work featuring an excellent wall variation of utthita hasta padangusthasana , kurmasana, malasana, bhujapidasana, bakasana and parsva bakasana. I picked up some great tips and my poses felt great. Good times.

One thing of note in the class was that Ives taught a few poses during class. He is preparing for assessment and wanted to practice teaching some of the poses on his syllabus. In Iyengar Yoga, each level of certification has a syllabus of poses that the candidate is tested on. Anyway many of the poses we working on are on his syllabus and so he wanted to practice teaching them, get feedback and so on. something really struck me about it while he was teaching and the group was being very supportive that none of us -no matter what the method- ever get certified alone.

Getting certified, it seems, is a group endeavor. As students we stand on the shoulders of our senior teachers who guide us and share with us what they gleaned from their experience and we become, as teachers, a composite of our good training and our own creative expression which results from our personality, unique life circumstances and particular teaching challenges and opportunities. There is no way around it- find a good teacher and what you found was a good student who was brought through in the process by their teachers and who learned from their students. In almost no case does that good teacher exist in a vacuum or separate from their community of practitioners and teachers.

We talked about that some in our teachers session in Jackson this weekend. It is a very common part of the maturation process of teachers to break away from their teachers and to begin to find fault with the person who has been guiding them up to that point. Senior teachers all across the country this year have been telling me how their soon-to-be-certified teachers have stopped coming to class, seem much less happy when they are in class and once they start studying with John stop putting their local teacher in their bio or giving any credit to their original teachers and so on. (not kidding here- I hear a lot of stories!)

I think of it from a human development standpoint and it's kind of like the teenager who hates Mom and Dad for a while so that they can break away and find their own autonomy and independence. It can wreak all kinds of havoc in the interpersonal dynamic however as it is generally hard on both people involved. The up-and-coming teacher, for instance, feels limited, held back, bored and a kind of itching to step out in a fuller way and they are dealing with someone picking their video apart and making things hard at them right at the end of the certification preparations or someone else getting accolades they want for themselves. The senior teacher feels undervalued, cast aside, disrespected and a bit used as the student seems to find them no longer necessary.

Now I am not saying that we do not outgrow our teachers. I do think at times we do just that. Or our teachers growth and evolution is taking them in one direction and our own is moving in a certain direction and as much as those flows were at one time aligned, that may cease to be the case. That is definitely true. Also in Anusara yoga in a smaller studio, the senior teacher has an obligation to the whole of the student body and may be continually teaching basic principles, etc to their group because most people need it and after you have been around 5 years, those lessons are not as interesting or meaningful to you personally. And of course many people have enough extra time to either teach or to go to class but not both. All of this is true. I get all of that.

That is not what I am talking about here although it may be part of it. The process of growing up wasn't smooth for most of us the first time around and it isn't always smooth in the process of growing up as an Anusara teacher either. Yes, in some cases, it is smooth. And when it works according to the vision what we have is a rich, rewarding and inspiring sharing of knowledge, insight and transformation that evolves us personally and in my experience, actually evolves the method itself.That is the Vision.

But seriously, a lot of the time, we are dealing with the messy domain of human patterns and samskaras that keep us from actually realizing the vision directly. We are trudging through the malas of unworthiness, separation and fear-based feelings and we fall short of the inspiring and joyful vision of yogis helping each other be great. And my point-as it seems to be a lot these days- is that pretending something is happy and going well when it really isn't, doesn't really help us cope effectively with the land mines of human feelings we may be walking through on the way to the vision. To not acknowledge that the process gets prickly at times doesn't help us prepare adequately to handle the challenges inherent in the game.

So often in our method when things get prickly people say things to me like, "But I thought we were all supposed to get along" and they feel like the conflict is some sign of things not functioning well or right. I assert wholeheartedly, that it is only a sign of the transformational power of grace revealing what is standing in our way of the vision so we can move through it. The vision is not wrong, we are not wrong, we are simply in the domain of the malas and not the full expression of our heart.

And honestly, if we are all in our heart and we are all telling the truth, there is really very little evidence to suggest that we are going to be seeing everything the same way. Expecting a yoga utopia free of conflict is a bit childish, if you really think about it. It is like projecting all the things we wish had as children onto this thing called yoga community and then being disappointed when it doesn't function according to our unrealistic expectations.

Better, I think, that we be clear, realistic and yet still aim High. To me that is the yoga of community- to balance the realities of people- with all of our splendor and rough edges - coming together without slipping into cynicism, despair or remaining in the clouds in a dream-like state. Idealism must meet practicality and discernment on the Path.

All right. Enough said for now.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, October 25, 2010

Testing from my iPad

Hey everybody!

This is not exactly a blog entry. What this is is a test to see if I can post from my new fancy iPad. I couldn't get it to work on my trip this weekend to Jackson, MS so I couldn't update everyone on what a wonderful weekend we were having. So, more on that later if this test works!

Sent from my iPad

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Morning

All right- Tuesday Morning.

I spent most of the day working at my computer and catching up on correspondences and organizing some future plans. My friend Karen and I once discussed the enormous administrative work of being a yoga teacher. It still shocks me how much time is required at a computer to teach yoga!

I did manage to get a very important file downloaded and successfully opened on my mac and so that was a big victory. I have a final round of edits to do on my book and so that is a top agenda item for today.

I met Anne at 3:45 yesterday for a visit to Peggy Kelly's Iyengar Yoga class. That was fun. Crazy sequence. Not crazy in the sense that it was bizarre or anything but I would have to title that class as "The Shortest Distance to Scorpion Pose" so it was crazy in that I was quite well prepared for some deep poses but not in the conventional way I prepare.

Sun Salutations- 10 minutes or so
headstand work with blocks
jathara parivarttonasana
Twisting prep on floor
sirsasana with twisting variations
vira One work at the wall- focusing mostly on getting the soleus to release
Down Dog with feet in baseboards to root heels
ustrasana- 2X
scorpion with chair
urdhva danurasana 3X
bharadvajasana in chair
maricyasana variation in chair
headstand dropover-3X
handstand dropover- 3X
ardha halasana

I am definitely used to doing more to prep for those poses but oddly, that sequence worked perfectly. Long holds, the twisting was useful and my back bends felt great. Go figure.

It is always fun to get to familiar poses in new ways. I enjoy watching my mind have its commentary about how its all going to go. Like yesterday I was heading into the ustrasanas thinking, "no way" and lo and behold easy-peasy. Same thing as we headed into the scoprion chair work I was like, "I am not ready for this, we didn't even stretch our quads, etc." and then, there I was, no problem. So fun to see how much of whether or not I am ready for something may simply exist in my mind and not in my body. Manouso used to always say, "this is an exercise in consciousness" so I guess that its largely in the mind is precisely the point!

I see that in my students a lot. It can really throw people for a loop to approach something in a new way. Of course,t here are plenty of students who hate to approach things the same way all the time also. But in general, I actually find that once students have a certain mastery with a pose approaching it from one angle, they are hard pressed to give it up and explore other options. Something about giving up familiar certainty and success for a temporary phase of unfamiliarity and flailing can be pretty confrontational to the mind.

The dynamic also comes up a lot in people's discussions about what they like/want in a yoga class. So often I hear people describe class as though it is a made-to-order sandwich as opposed to an classroom or dynamic laboratory. So often a "good class" is seen as one that met their expectations in terms of what is familiar and what immediately accomplishable as opposed to a "good class" being that class that challenged, opened the box, took a different route and provided food for thought and fuel for practice.

I get it. I really do. We have just so much time and energy in a day and after a long day of work I completely understand that people want something they can count on in a predictable way. No problem there. No big shock that formualic sequenced classes are popular. I am not saying there is a thing wrong with that. I see tremendous benefit in that approach. I am just saying it's a good thing to be conscious within ourselves about what is really driving our preferences and choices and to understand what we really mean when we say a class is good or not.

And I must also say that I am finding my classes full these days of brave explorers and curious seekers and people willing to abandon the way they always do something to increase their understanding, proficiency and expertise. I think that is also a cool thing about teaching yoga. If we keep teaching how we think yoga should be taught then the people who want what we are doing will find us and have a place that fits for them. If we keep trying to make our class a "good class" based on other people's definitions without examining what our own criteria is and what we are hoping to accomplish as teachers, then not only will be chasing around something pretty impossible, we will fail to provide the students who want and need what we have with a place to find it.

So like I said, I have now been doing what I do here long enough that there are some pretty awesome folks who are supporting my classes and coming for what I do and I have less and less of those conversations that run like, "but I wish you played music" or "but why don't you flow more" or "I wish it wasn't so hard" and so on. It's good company for sure.

more tomorrow.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Morning

Good morning!

I had a great night sleep last night and I think the acupuncture I got from Kelly and the herbs he gave me a d a mellow weekend of rest seems to have helped me move through whatever cold I was fighting upon my return. I feel much more like myself today.

Like I said it was a mellow weekend for me. I had my photo shoot for Lululemon on Friday afternoon. Kelly captured some fun footage from it. Click here to watch.

Saturday I was feeling pretty lousy but I did spend some time at the Apple Store getting myself switched over to Apple from PC. So that was a big thing over the weekend. I am hopeful that my technology tools will be a little more integrated and easier to use- once I learn to use them, that is.

Yesterday I felt well enough for a walk on the greenbelt and to reorganize my office- since I was getting a new computer and everything- (and yes, I did my closets this weekend also!) Since I am no on a mac I could finally download Darren's iphone app Yoga Hour and I practiced with it. I really liked it. It has good solid instructions, everything you need for a nice home practice, nothing you don't. Good times.

Here are a few scenes-- Kelly was playing with his new iphone camera and all its fancy processing options for artistic effect.

Anyway- here it is Monday- I have a bunch of work to keep doing to get all my ducks in a row for my next sojourn in November. I will be gone for almost 6 weeks with lots of stops along the way and so there is always lots to get organized before that sort of trip.

more tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday Morning

All right- it's Saturday and I am enjoying a weekend of largely unscheduled time- the first in a long time. I am fighting a sore throat so the timing is great o be able to rest a bit and renew. I, as I usually do when I come home after a long trip, am faced with an overwhelming desire to reorganize my closets and engage in other nesting-type activities. And now that it seems the heat of the summer has passed I think its time to get out some fall clothes and put away the huge stack of thin t-shirts and tank tops.

Yesterday I spent some time working on Yoga Convo with Elena and then had some accupuncture, met Gia for a visit to the nail salon and lunch at Central Market then did a restorative asana practice and then headed out to my photo shoot for Lululemon. That was a lot of fun although I had planned all of these arm balancing type poses and when we got to the shoot Liz, the photographer, said she needed upright, vertical poses. (Think natrajasana, not vasisthasana.) Anyway, I wasn't exactly prepared for natrajasana but we went for it anyway and I think we got some great stuff to work with, although I am a bit sore today from holding things on the same side for an hour! The picture above was kind of a warm up shot and things improved as we worked.

My life has been so full this fall and I have to say that each event I have been part of has felt like a lifetime of learning. I am in what feels like a growth spurt as a teacher. Some of that is marked by growing outer work and opportunity but mostly I am referring to a level of inner shifting that is occurring for me. It's a bit hard to explain and I certainly feel more "in the process of it" than "on the other side of it" but I feel a profound shift happening that is both expansive and grounded in a new way.

I have really been working a lot this year with the idea that life is not coming at me from outside, but life is coming at me from inside. I am not speaking about a lightweight new-age kind of "you create your own reality" kind of thing although this does come pretty close to that kind of idea, I suppose. I am talking about this more from the immediate sense of getting myself off the blame game and stepping into greater and deeper levels of accountability for my life and my responses to my circumstances. Elena and I were talking about his in some of our preliminary taping the other day and one thing I realized is that for me for many years, in attempting to stop blaming others, I just blamed myself.

But you know, rarely is the solution for one thing, its opposite. Usually, the solution for something comes, not in its negative or opposite aspect, but from a different vantage point all together. For instance, my teacher once told me that the solution for financial insecurity is not having money. The solution is having faith in one's ability to earn money. Or for those of us out there who are desperate for approval from others, the solution for that is NOT in getting someone else (no matter who it is- society at large, the teacher, the lover, the parents, etc.) to finally tell us we are great. The solution to that seemingly insatiable need for approval is in honoring ourselves, in learning to approve of ourselves and in accepting our own validation as credible.

The more I go along in my life the more I see how fundamental positive self-regard really is. Gia and I were talking about this yesterday. We were talking about how once we move into the place of self-love the easier it actually is to look at and own our less-than-stellar personality manifestations. It's a bit paradoxical but from a place of deep regard for myself I am more able to see those surface level manifestations for what they are- samskaras, conditioning and outdated coping strategies- not as me or as proof of my worth or lack thereof. However, when I am not in an inner place of self-regard, I am much more identified with those outer layers and confronting them directly feels much scarier.

Emma said something insightful on the topic also. She was talking about how any time we can accept ourselves it is going to be healing and it is going to help our ability to be functional in our relationships. She was saying how, when we are judging ourselves, we are typically coming from a place of shame and that shame perspective makes us very prickly where others are concerned. If I am in a place of shame and you tell me I am too intense, for instance, I am going defend myself. If I am in a place of self-acceptance and you tell me that, I am more likely to be able to laugh a bit and be like, "Yep, wow, that's me in my intensity with my pitta flame burning too brightly. Sorry about that, thanks for letting me know!"

See that's the thing- the comment from the outside is the same in each situation so it really has nothing to do with what is said on one level. (That doesn't mean we, as friends, colleagues, teachers and students shouldn't keep in mind The Four Gates of Speech: Is it truthful? Is it necessary to say? Is it the appropriate time? Can it be said in a kind way? We should definitely be keeping these in mind but that is a different topic and post for a different day!) See, even if someone violates all Four Gates of Speech and says something very false, unnecessary, untimely and mean to us, we do not have to abandon ourselves to our shame-based beliefs! We really don't.

Of course, none of this is easy and all of it takes a mountain of inner work to even get in the neighborhood of, but I am convinced these days that there is a deep freedom to be had in the process of claiming this level of accountability for ourselves. If we have to have the outer world organized around avoiding every one of our prickly places, we are going to be at the mercy of the outer world. Life will be coming at us from the outside in. Every time. And that, my friends, is the Path of the Ordinary Human.

But if, we organize our inner lives around moving deeper into positive regard and acceptance for ourselves, suddenly we are less prickly even if other people are not "behaving well" and just by loving ourselves more and more, we begin to live in a much more loving world. And that, my friends, is the Path of the Yogi.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday Morning

Well, I am officially tired. Coming home on Tuesday and teaching yesterday was bit too much for the energy I had left after a long teaching tour on the road. I was not at my best yesterday morning although I did my best relative to the circumstance I found myself in. Focus on Form went pretty well, I thought. We worked with some details on kidney loop and on refining the front leg in pasrvakonasana and took that into maricyasana 1 and then eka hasta bhujasana. We even got headstand and halasana in which was great.

I did have an interesting encounter with a student in the Seniors Yoga class who really hated my class. (She may have actually not liked me at all either, come to think of it!) Anyway, it always amazes me how strong people's feeling are about yoga classes. I mean really, it's an hour out of our life and in this case $7 out of the wallet and it boggles my mind how much things not going according to one's expectations can cause upset.

When I think about this from a generous viewpoint, I am aware that this phenomenon speaks to the deep passion we all feel for the practice and for the important place it holds in people's lives and in their day. I am well aware of how a great practice or class can elevate our whole day and so obviously, the opposite must hold true as well. But wow, sometimes I feel like shouting, "Jesus Christ! It's just a yoga class!"

Anyway- enough about that. After attempting to discuss this woman's feelings with her and offer an explanation for why I think developing strength is important to the aging process and a failed attempt at educating her into the fact that modified standing postures are, indeed, appropriate for people over 55, as well as a failed attempt to acknowledge that I am aware that yoga is not simply athletic even though I am fit, Mom and Dad and I met Kelly at Whole Foods for lunch. That was fun- the weather is perfect here right now and we had a lovely time sitting out on the patio together.

After that Kelly and I picked up my photo shoot clothes at Lululemon and had a visit with the most wonderful ladies there yesterday. That was super fun. I was trying a sweater on and parading around the store in my Lulu gear and customers kept asking me about the different clothes and so forth, thinking I worked there, which was hilarious. I didn't correct their perception and I even closed a sale on a lovely Express Yourself wrap and got someone started on a full-support tank with a matching pair of pants. Good times.

I came home and did my asana practice and then went back to The Castle for the advanced class which was a lot of fun. We did some strong work in standing poses, some interesting handstand variations, looked at mayurasana explored the variations on bharadvajasana and then padmasana and then into pasrva sarvangasana in padmasana. Such great students in that class. They are so respectful, so hard working, and so deep in their commitment. The class is a true pleasure.

All right then. I have a bunch to do today and should probably get started on it. I am pretty excited about being home this weekend.

If you haven't already, please sign up for the workshop with me and Noah. We are gathering a lovely group together and I would like to have a very good turn out for the event. I will be gone for most of the month following this workshop and for the first two weeks of December and so if you want to get some time in with me, this is a great opportunity to have me at my best. Teaching with Noah is one of my favorite things because I really feel we bring out the best in each other as people and as teachers. Don't miss this!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We had such a great time at South Mountain Yoga this weekend. We were laughing this morning that it was kind of a "Tough Love with Christina Sell" kind of event. The group here is so smart, so well-trained and so dedicated that I felt no real need to candy-coat my message or to soft-peddle around the truth. It was a strong weekend of lots of hard work, lots of laughter and lots of learning.

I loved my time with Emma and her students and the folks that came from surrounding areas. I so enjoy the work I do, getting to travel and be part of different communities all over the country. And every time I come to a community like South Orange, I am reminded very clearly of what is truly at the heart of Anusara Yoga- the local studio and the mandala of beauty, commitment and care that it creates, serves and sustains. There is a special bond that exists in and among a group of people who practice so closely together. This is not to discount the bond that exists among us who see each other once a year. that too is something profound as well. But I am always inspired and humbled by the very important work that people Like Emma do in our community.

Yoga studios, in my opinion, are places of sanctuary in a world where we desperately need safe places to learn and to grow into who we most truly are. These sanctuaries exist because of the vision of one person and a team of people who support that vision and teach at the studio and even more importantly by the students who financially and energetically align themselves so that the studio can function over a long period of time. It is a group endeavor and when it is done well, there is a profound wellspring of nourishment for all of the people involved. It is a great and wonderful thing. I know for me, I was deeply nourished by my time with the South Mountain Yogi's this weekend. And, once again, Kelly put together a wonderful slide show as his offering.

We got done with the workshop on Sunday night. On Monday I slept in, did a yoga practice and the Kelly and I went into the city to spend some time with my friend. Elena Brower. Elena and I are working together to create an online yoga conversation called Yoga Convo which will involve and series of conversations about yoga and how the asana practice directly impacts our lives and how the trials and challenges we face on the sticky mat can be a mechanism through which we learn to skillfully engage the trails and challenges of our inner life. We did some initial filming and brainstorming about the program. And as soon as we work some of the details out, we are going to let you know how you, too, can join the conversation. We plan to have an open forum and several ways to engage in more intimate sharing and processing together.

I went to Emma's class this morning which was wonderful. She is a great teacher, she taught wonderful asana with an inspiring message and now I am getting a little work done before I head out to the airport.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


t has been several days since last I updated this blog. I have been super busy and in deeply involved in all kind of fun activities and I have hardly sat down to catch my breath, much less to write. And when I did have a chance to sit down it was generally at a time when there was no internet connection to be had. Anyhoo--

It’s hard to actually go back and get everything up to speed and fill in all the blanks.

I suppose the highlights are that the Teacher Training in Tucson ended on a very strong note. It was a very powerful two weeks and gave me a lot to work with and to think about for myself as a teacher. We had a very strong and mature group of teachers in the training and their capacity for honest self- assessment and reflection was very high. This, like I have mentioned in previous entries made for some deep and revealing discussions that really stayed with me throughout our time together.

As I grow as a teacher it is more and more clear to me what a multi-faceted process of Work on Self that teaching yoga is. On one level, it seems pretty basic- we teach people the yoga postures and some of the philosophy that informs the practice and we cultivate community. How hard could that be? But much more than that definitely seems to be going on in any given class, workshop or training. These innocent-looking poses seem to unlock a lot of passion, feeling, insight and opportunity to grow and change. And the intimacy of all that is going on makes for enlightening and sometimes complex and frustrating interpersonal dynamics. (I actually did not experience any of these frustrating interpersonal dynamics during these weeks of training but the topic came up a fair amount as we traversed the teacher training curriculum and shared about the intricacies of managing the Seat of the Teacher.)

The process of transference in the classroom is a topic that is on my mind a lot these days anyway. In our closing circle one of the trainees told the group that while he is not particularly proud of this part of himself, he is aware that when he meets people, he immediately forms an opinion of them and creates an idea about how people are going to act and then many times spends the training dismantling that impression and getting to know who people really are.

That whole process is called transference and it is happening all time. Like this very honest and insightful person shared, we meet people and form an impression about them. This impression is generally influenced by our patterns and samskaras that go all the way to childhood. Generally, we don’t like people because they remind us in some unconscious way of someone who made us feel bad as a child and we like those people who remind us in some unconscious way of people who made us feel loved and honored as a child. (And while this is not a blame game by any means, generally both of these are- yep, you guessed it-- Mom and Dad! Keep in mind that Mom and Dad may have been holding us in the highest regard a on the day we perceived their look to mean that we were a nuisance and so forth. This is seriously not a blame game because it is about our impressions not about what was actually said or done to or for us.)

So anyway, there we are with all these positive and negative impressions within us and our emotional body and we meet another person. Well, like I said, these historical impressions guide a lot of our current impressions, feelings and decisions and so on. And the dynamic gets further complicated when you add in a teacher-student power differential. A person with historical impressions of not being noticed comes to yoga and a teacher compliments the person on the mat next to them and fails to say something to them and that historical impression gets activated and they feel disregarded by the teacher and feelings of hurt and anger follow. A person has impressions that say “one mistake and you are not loveable” comes to yoga class, gets adjusted in a posture and that impression gets activated and they feel like the teacher is critical, unfair and they themselves feel unworthy. And so on.

And of course, the teacher has all of their patterns also. If a teacher has “Mom and Dad didn’t listen to me” samskaras, for instance, all kinds of things can come up for a teacher when students are not doing what they are asking for in the classroom. If a teacher has a strong internalized message about “don’t make anyone upset” then how happy is a teacher going to feel when a student doesn't like their class or something they shared, etc.? And on it goes.

Most teacher trainings I have been to over the years have focused on making sure that we, as teachers, know how sensitive our students are and how powerful are words and actions can be as teachers and the message has always been about “be careful as a teacher.” I think this is good advice. I really do. Sensitivity and awareness are key tools in our trade. I also think it is only part of the story because as soon as we start getting overly focused on trying to figure out how not to offend anyone in the classroom not only do we get enrolled in a pretty dysfunctional way of life as a teachers but soon we are going to have to see how hopeless that very task is. With 30 people in a classroom, 30 different sets of samskaras at play, one cannot possibly predict the myriad ways that each person in the room might get offended, hurt or upset by something we say, do or don’t say or do. It’s too big.

All we can do as a teacher or a student is to look at our reactions and claim them as our own and step out of the blame game by tracing our reactions back to the source of the original upset to the root cause of the original upset, to the root cause of the pattern. This is the path of the yogi, after all, not the path of the ordinary human. The yogic path is a path of accountability for one's actions and responses with the recognition that life is truly not coming at us from the outside in.

So- more on this another day. After the teacher training, I came home for a day and had a visit to Lululemon for a lovely shopping trip to get an outfit for YOGASM and for my upcoming photo shoot. Kelly and I had lunch with Mom and Dad and then I packed and then we made our way to YOGASM which was a lot of fun. There are so many things to say about the event but I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with MC Yogi and the way he Kelly made a video you can watch.

Click here to watch it.

After YOGASM, Kelly and I came home, went to bed and then got up around 4am the next day to catch a plane to New Jersey. So far we are having a most excellent time here at South Mountain Yoga. More on that to follow. Time to get to some email I have fallen behind on.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Teacher Training continues

Day One of Part Two went swimmingly.

We have a full house- about 50 folks- in the training and it is amazing to see the groups come together like this. The force of the assembled group was amazing this morning. For me, it was quite palpable. Darren felt it also. he said, "Wow, this is a different group then we started with!"

And that's the thing- the bonds are closer, the ties are stronger, the trust is deeper and the commitment is higher. Level Two teacher Training is also a lot less hand-holding. We have tighter boundaries about time, higher expectations about accountability and Darren and I start turning more and more over to the trainees to do for themselves. Instead of breaking every little thing down to its component parts, we start giving the trainees more and more balls to juggle at the same time. It's exciting, really.

We spent the morning in an opening circle, in a theme development exercise, in asana class and ended with some Q&A. The group had lots of lunch time homework and then we spend the afternoon in Q&A and in practical teaching exercises on observation and demonstration which were much more challenging than last weeks work on the topic. All in all it was a full day.

One thing I am really psyched about is that we seem to be successfully integrating some feedback from the first 2 trainings. At the end of the first week we asked the group to give us feedback about what worked and what we could improve and we got some great suggestions- they liked the morning period of silence, they liked the time structure, they like the practical exercises and drills, they like teaching in front of the whole group, they liked the two of us sharing our varied perspectives.

The suggestions for improvement were also interesting. The first group said they would prefer to have homework for things like reading in the manual, writing sequences and developing themes instead of using class time with me and Darren for that. They said that less talk about videos would be better and several people wished for more boundaries on tangential questions.

Anyway, we were able to incorporate those things into the second week of Part One and then the feedback from the second week students has also been incorporated into this week. We have empowered the group to hold each other more accountable as peers for silence in the morning, for sticking to the teaching exercises we are practicing, we have added a period of formal sitting in the afternoon, we are tabling more questions and while we didn't take out the lunchtime homework, we did give the students an option to complete it the night before.

So its cool because I think we have bee able to improve our training and offer a better experience for the students as a result of the feedback. In fact, we had a very enlightening conversation today as a group about Looking for the Good and feedback and the powerful ways they inform each other. More on that tomorrow.

Time, for now, to wind down.