Sunday, May 30, 2010


Okay, so it's been a few days since I last posted. Generally that either means I am very busy or I've had no major insights I want to share! In this case, I have been pretty busy. After the first few weeks of may- ten days in Arizona, two days home, 6 days in NC and a weekend in Portland, I was seriously craving a little down time to build my energy back. I had such great times on all these trips and yet I felt a bit depleted by the end of it all. So I made a very strong intention to settle into my practices and self-care regimes during this stretch of time I am home. So far, its going pretty well. I am sleeping a lot, eating awesome food that I am cooking and taking time for hair, nails, acupuncture, massage and of course, I am enjoying more time for my asana practice.

The main thing on my mind these days is really a personal consideration about what kind of teacher I am and what kind I want to be. It is kind of funny because one of the ongoing considerations that Darren and I always have with our Immersion groups is about having a vision and anchoring oneself in one's dharma. So, Darren is generally more of the persuasion about having a plan and I am bit more of the persuasion of letting things happen. So, to use a few yoga terms we can look at fulfilling a vision kind of like a spanda between karma and lila. I do make plans. Of a sort. Like if I have a writing project I am inspired about, I make plans to write, I discipline myself to take actions that will bring it into manifestation. But in another way, I am kind of a let it happen sort of person also.

For instance, I never planned to have a yoga studio. The opportunity fell into my lap. I said yes and worked really hard to make it successful, but I didn't in anyway plan for it. Also, in terms of a "yoga career," I didn't plan to travel and teach. I got invitations to places and I said yes and it grew into something over the last 10 years that takes me all around the globe to some of the most wonderful groups of people and locations. But it wasn't a plan of any kind.

I didn't even really plan to write a book. I had an inspiration and then took action. Same with the second one. I could kind of go on but my point is that I am not a big concrete vision sort of person. I am more in the camp of do what is in front of you and wait to see what doors open along the way. My spiritual teacher gave me that advice a long time ago. He said, "In general, its best to wait for the Universe to move and to follow its lead. Go where you are invited."

So its an interesting thing to think about- How does on "go where they are invited"? On one level, I think its great advice relative to working and travelling and so forth. I do try to go wherever I am invited and I rarely invite myself anywhere to teach. But I think about it in terms of the classroom also and it reminds me of the advice that John always gives us as teachers which is to wait until the student asks the question and respond to their questions. He repeatedly tells us to wait for the teachable moment.

On one level, I figure any one who comes to my class has asked for my help. But we all know that within that overall "implicit question or invitation" there are varying degrees of help that a student may or may not be ready for. Being sensitive to that is a real skill and I know I miss the mark on both ends of the spectrum repeatedly. I may fail to see someone's readiness just as I may offer more intensity to someone than they are ready for. So I have been working with that a lot these days-- I have been trying to tune into how much help is someone ready for because truth be told, not everyone wants the same thing out of a practice, a class or even the certification process. So it's an art to be sure.

And all this also starts to open up a juicy line of inquiry off the mat because sometimes the invitation the Universe gives us is an invitation to grow in difficult ways. We may have difficulty stepping into our power, telling the truth, giving up an outmoded way of coping and so forth. We may be invited, at times, to great things that we have always dreamed of (and even some so grand we didn't even dare to dram them!) and in these cases, saying yes, or going where we are invited, is a wonderful thing. Also, however, we may get invited into scary places, into dark regions of the psyche, into areas of challenge that we would rather avoid. And saying yes to that invitation is not so easy.

So in terms of a big vision- which is where I started all this- I actually got a huge hit of my own vision for myself while I was at The Certified Teacher's Gathering and while hiking in the woods in Oregon. (Gotta love being in the fire and the nectar of the kula and the wilderness to open doors to such a thing.) Anyway, while I was there, I began to see very clearly how my vision for myself isn't an external thing in any way. My vision does not really have anything to do with having a full calendar of gigs, a lot of classes with tons of people, a clothing line, a DVD, or any kind of outer empire. My vision is about being anchored in something Real. My vision for me-whether I teach a lot or not, whether people like my teaching or not, and regardless of the venue in which I am teaching- is about being a person who knows where home base is. All the other stuff is peripheral. It seems to be that if I- if each one of us- is focused on how to get to the center of the mandala of who we are, and if we are sincerely interested in serving from that place, then well, how exactly we get put to use, becomes a whole lot less important.

Anyway- meanwhile, as this has been my internal process, I have been busy with outer plans, travel arrangements, marketing materials and so forth. I seem to have a full time job just being a secretary to my own business of teaching, which at times is overwhelming.

Since I have been home I have been spending a lot of time getting things squared away for 2011. I have a lot of exciting things coming up. Mostly I am thrilled to be collaborating and team teaching with some of my friends and colleagues. I love to be able to do that because I always learn a lot and the students get a chance to receive new perspectives and to benefit from diverse vantage points.

One thing I have been doing is putting some final touches on the marketing material for the 200-hour Teacher Training that I am offering in Corpus Christi in 2011. I am pretty psyched about it- it is not an Anusara Yoga training. It will be an introduction to teaching yoga that will give new teachers a chance to dive into the fundamentals of yoga and teaching and philosophy with a handful of really amazing teachers. Offered within that program will be 3 weekends with Manorama so save those dates, even if you have no interest in the full program. She will teach a weekend on Sanskrit, a weekend on The Bhagavad Gita and a weekend on The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. So that will be a great thing to catch if you can. The dates for her visits are: February 11-13, 2011; June 24-26,2011; Sept.30-Oct.2, 2011

I am also working on the marketing materials for some of the programs I am offering in Austin.
  • October 29-31,2010: Me and Noah Maze- Entering the Heart of Practice: Asana Intensive for Teachers and Dedicated students
  • January 28-30, 2011: Me and Amy Ippoliti- Opening to the Power Within: Asana Intensive for Teachers and Dedicated Students
  • July 22-24, 2011: Me and Carols Pomeda- Taking the Inner Journey: Asana, Philosophy and Meditation Intensive
  • September 16-18, 2011: Me and Noah Maze- Abiding in the Seat of the Self: Asana Intensive for Teachers and Dedicated Students
  • November 18-20, 2011: Me and Martin Kirk- Giving Thanks for the Glory of the Body: Asana and Anatomy for Yoga Teachers and Practitioners
In the more immediate future I am looking forward to Laurie Blakeney's visit here in Austin in June 25-27, 2010. Laurie is one of my favorite Iyengar Yoga teachers and I have learned a lot from her over the years. She is practical, nice, smart, funny and so well-steeped in the teachings and perspectives of Iyengar Yoga. Seems like she has made 20-something trips to Pune to study at The Institute there. Anyway, I am planning to stay home that weekend to participate in all those festivities, which are not to be missed. I love her teaching so much I just cannot sing her praises loudly enough. (And I can sing pretty loudly, as we all know.) YOu can sign up for that with Clear Spring Yoga.

July 4, Darren Rhodes and I will be teaching together in Santa Fe, and the wonderful Wendy Borger's studio, Spandarama. I am super psyched about that. Its a small studio so sign up now.

Noah Maze and I have a date in Los Angeles July 9-11 which will be a lot of fun.

August 13-18, 2010 Darren Rhodes and I start Part One of our Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Program in Tucson, Arizona.

August 20-25, I will be in Couer d'Alene, Idaho for a weekend of teaching with one of my favorite people in the whole world, Karen Sprute Francovich. I would love to see some of you northerners up there for that. (Spread the word in Canada, I will be coming close to the border!) This is a perfect training for people to come to who have had Level 1 and Level 2 Teacher Training and want to work on refining their teaching, preparing for certification and so on. The group there is well-trained and seasoned and it will be a great chance to go deeper into the basic skills that make for great teaching.

And while I am plugging things here in a bit of shameless promotions, I might as well mention The Ansuara Yoga Grand Gathering. I am really proud to say that I was invited to be one of the presenters at The Gathering this year. I am teaching a back bend class, an arm balancing class and I will be giving a lecture on Sequencing Strategies so I am pretty excited about that. The 2008 Gathering was a really amazing time. 800 people, from around the world all taking class together was nothing short of fantastic. So, please come to that!

All right, enough already. Have a great day. More soon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday Morning

So teaching back home was really great yesterday. I enjoyed seeing so many new and familiar faces in both classes. In Focus on Form I worked on the theme of being home, being centered. I told a story about how recently I found myself in the middle of some interpersonal drama and I called my spiritual teacher for his perspective and he told me, at the end of the conversation, "Remember this is your home."

I did not take that to mean that the ashram itself was my home as much as I took it to mean that my life of practice and my ties to all that is scared and sane is a truer home than the drama I was in the midst of. Obviously, life has situations of varying degrees of intensity that we have to deal with and so drama is a bit to be expected. But its a very different thing to be dealing with intense situations with no center than it is is to be anchored in one's center, in one's sadhana, in one's convictions and then then to be dealing with the rise and fall of circumstances from there.(Kind of like you gotta have muscle energy to be safe at the periphery. And drama is almost always a more peripheral kind of experience.)

It was an extraordinary lesson for me. And so, in class we worked with finding center, finding the mid-line and drawing in and we took that idea for a ride through a lot of fun poses. I laughed at one point, that each pose is kind of like its own little drama if you think about it. Think about how any pose has a handful of important points to keep in mind and those are the very same things tend to cause other problems. Think about any standing pose- "okay, gotta scoop my tail bone here, oh no! my thighs are coming forward...." or "gotta outer spiral my front leg here, oh now! the inner edge of foot is unplugged...." Like that- It's really just one little drama after the other.

But the whole thing is that when we stay in the pose, stay in the practice and focus ourselves on the alignment, on our intention and on the direct experience the pose is yielding, those dramas become predictable, and in that predictability they loose their hold on us. We can move more and more towards a state where we go, "Oh, this is just my mind freaking out about a hip-opening drama... I do not have to get knocked off my groove by my own freak-out." Take that off the mat and we have some real Possibility to work with.

Here's the sequence:
prasarita paddottanasana
uttanasana, feet on blanket roll
vajrasana, blanket roll behind knees
lunge with forearms down
ardha happy baby
supine bakasana prep
crescent pose
parivritta janu sirsasana
maricyasana 3
parivritta parsvakonasana
eka pada koundinyasana
setu bandhasana
supta baddha konasana

So that was fun. I came home and had lunch, did some business and met Gioconda for a lovely practice and then I taught at 6:00.

We had such great turn out for the class and I worked with the theme of "good cheer." I told the group that Noah, me and Darren are planning some int/advanced intensives together. (Save the dates- its looking like New Year's in Tucson this year and Labor Day in 2011 in Los Angeles!) Anyway, I was writing the prerequisites- things like kicking to the wall in handstand unassisted, urdhva danurasana with straight arms unassisted, a 5 minute headstand and a 7 minute shoulderstand. But then I wrote that one should be able to respect and challenge their boundaries AND remain of good cheer while doing so.

This is super important to me because we have to be able to not just back off when necessary but also back off without going down the road of self-criticism just because our body doesn't bend like the person next to us. Seriously, I know many mature people in this world who have a great perspective about life and who get in a difficult or challenging asana class and allow their mind to do terrible things to them. Sometimes, for some, their mind skips the self-criticism stage and just projects outward on the teacher- she or he is mean, non-compassionate, harsh, too demanding, etc. and so forth. But either way- no good cheer! I mean, really, I may be able to do a few poses, but I cannot speak a foreign language, fix a car, program a computer, and I suck at math. I don't think I am bad person because of that. Just not my skill set.

So anyway, the thing is that while I think yoga teachers and outside voices of compassion can help us turn the tides of our own self-criticism, ultimately, that is an inside job. If we are always waiting for someone else to tell us "We are doing fine" then what happens on that day when the teacher forgets? When the teacher is focused on the postures themselves and not on our self-worth? Then we are screwed! My point is that we really can be in class and validate our own ability and honor our limitations and back off when we need to and that does not need to be any kind of statement about our worth and so forth. So we can learn to remain of good cheer.

We worked with back bends and lifting the chest in good cheer.

surya A
Surya B
prasarita paddottanasana
ardha chandrasana
vira 2
uppa vista konasana
supta pdangusthasana to the side, 2X
up dog 3X
danurasana 3x
bhujanasana 3X
eprk, prep
eprk, with thigh stretch
urdhva danuarsana 3X
dwi pada viparita dandasana 3X
standing maricyasana
viparita karani

Okay- time for me to practice asana now. I am pretty sore from yesterday. Gia and I did a variation of the second sequence in our practice with lots more back bends. Good times.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Home Again

I am still reflecting a lot on the week and how much I enjoyed being with everyone at The Certified Teacher's Gathering. I have spent a lot of time on the phone with folks from all over the country these last few days and it never ceases to amaze me the caliber of the people that John Friend has attracted around him as teachers, students and companions. We really do keep very fine company. And to me, that had to be one of the best parts of the week in North Carolina.

I had a talk with one of my friends just this morning about what it really means to be part of a spiritual school or organization and how there are so many levels of involvement and so many ways to enjoy the Blessings that such company provides. He reminded me that one can stay at the periphery and glean the teachings and benefit from the insight that the school offers and have a very comfortable, life-enhancing time for many years. But we also talked about how, the closer one gets to the center of the mandala, the hotter the fire becomes.

Mandala is from a sanskrit word that means circle but generally refers to a circular design containing concentric geometric forms, images of deities, etc. and symbolizing the universe, totality, or wholeness in Hinduism and Buddhism. Also it can be used to refer to a group of students who form a circle around the teacher- like 12 disciples who formed a mandala around Jesus, etc. So in this case, we might think of Anusara Yoga as as mandala, as image of wholeness or a unified field of sorts. To move to the center of the mandala is to move from the periphery of the school toward the core.

Now, before I go on, let me be very clear that in the case of true spiritual work, "the center of the mandala" is not an external locale. It has nothing to do with who gets face time with the teacher, who is in the front row, or who is regarded as "important, popular, knowledgeable, senior, etc." Being close to the center of the mandala is an inner orientation to one's transformational process. It is a context that one holds that involves giving oneself fully to the opportunity that is right in front of them and engaging that opportunity with 100% commitment and accountability. It means that one does not take refuge in doubt, complaint, criticism, blame or other forms of holding oneself back from the vulnerability required to really go for something. Being at the center of the mandala is the decision to make use of whatever happens in the circumstance to grow, to change and to serve The Highest.

So, my experience is that most of my friends who are certified teachers are not dabblers on the periphery of anything in their lives. Generally, we don't do one kind of yoga on Monday night and something else entirely on Tuesday. Each one of us went for this yoga, we gave our life to these teachings and we live very close to the center of the mandala where the fire is the hottest. And most of my friends like it that way. My long-time friends in the method are not casual people. Generally speaking, most of my friends seek rigor of some kind, which is why we get along in the first place. For many that rigor was and still is with asana. For some, it is with their philosophy studies and contemplative practices. Some dive the deepest into their practices of self-inquiry and self-observation. Some of us write. Some of us dance, paint or even hoola hoop.

And I think that is what John was getting at when he was talking about The Art and Culture of Anusara Yoga this last week. I think he was reminding us that those acts, those sets of practices, those various ways that each of us orient ourselves to the center of the mandala is the yoga he has been teaching us all along. I do not think that this art and culture idea is about limiting or changing Anusara Yoga into something else nor is it about changing any of us into someone other than who we are. I think The Art and Culture of Anusara Yoga is about recognizing that when we are moving toward the center of the mandala- when we are moving with integrity toward what matters most to us, to that place where we have no back doors, to that place where our intention meets our commitment and our actions- that we are in the flow of Grace and that state of mind and heart is Anusara Yoga.

And you can be sure that that state is going to get hot and that you are not going to get there by being casual.

So anyway- enough for now. Must rest.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Better Than Ever

So Kelly and I are in Portland, Oregon to visit his family a bit and to take some time to celebrate our 13-year anniversary. You know, it's such an interesting thing...I can, in all honesty say that our relationship is really better than ever. And yet, what made it better than ever was a good solid year of agony, a ton of therapy- each of us individually and also together and getting to the point where we thought we would go our own separate ways. So now, when I say it is better than ever that doesn't mean that things are all rainbows and light. (Although, let's be clear, things in my world are never, and have never been, all rainbows and light!) So better than ever means that we have more profound discussions now about more substantial things, that we have a deeper vision of where we are going together, that we have more and better sex (TMI? Probably. Oh well, just sayin') and also that we fight more now, we disagree more often, we spend more meaningful time away from each other now, we have more challenging conversations, and it is the full-spectrum of experience that makes it truly better than ever.

So in the case of me and Kelly, we had no forum for conflict over the years. We didn't fight, we didn't have skillful means for dealing with our darker urges and feelings and so we would just sweep what was uncomfortable under the rug and live more on the surface where things were lighter, nicer and easier for the most part. And for us, that approach worked for a long time. But eventually, the shadow came calling and the stuff swept under the rug had to be dealt with in order to continue on together. So, it had to get pretty freakin' messy for a while. We had a lot of years of collected garbage under there that we had to sort through and no one looks too good when they are going through that!

One of my favorite teachings from Ansuara Yoga and its contributing philosophies is the notion of spanda- that at the very core of Reality is a throb, a pulsation, a dynamic pulse that aches, yearns and demands to express itself. If, for whatever reason, we insist on only one aspect of that pulse to be expressed- in the case of our marriage, if we can't deal with conflict, pain, anger and betrayal as well as love, good humor, delight and so forth- we are truly against The Way of Things.

I wrote a few days ago about some people in the community feeling doubt in the midst of certain changes with Anusara Yoga. I got some feedback that people thought that I personally had doubts.To be clear, I really don't. I don't have doubts because I know and trust myself. I know and trust John Friend. I know and trust my colleagues. Most importantly, I know and trust the Light that we are all serving. I truly believe Grace has our best interests in mind.

And I am anchored in the teachings of spanda. Difficulty of any kind in a community- be it personal, be it professional, financial, inter-personal, administrative, internal, external and so forth is not a sign that something is "off." Difficulties are a sign of the pulse demanding to express itself in its fullness. We simply cannot limit the pulse to only what we like, to only what is comfortable, to only what we prefer. It is not The Way of Things. Difficulties need to be acknowledged, dealt with and transformed in the spirit of growth, transformation and so forth. (Like in marriage, you gotta learn to have healthy disagreement in order to stay in the game over the long term or the monsters under the rug get quite unruly, as we have already discussed.)

See, the word doubt has at its root, "to waver." and I have never once, in my whole time with John Friend, ever seen him waver in terms of his intention for us as a community. Seriously, not once has his intention wavered. He, like all of us, has grown, changed, made his own shifts and explored his own boundaries and like all of us, he is in his own process of development. But no way do I doubt his Heart. No way.

Along those lines, it has been a long time since I felt any wavering in my own resolve to serve this vision. I love this method, I love my work, I love my colleagues, I love my students and I love that now, after all these years, the conversation is more interesting than ever. John has trained us all to be sensitive, insightful, capable people who can hold the spanda with integrity, who can be discerning in the midst of complexity and who can be true to our own ideals while serving the whole. This is an exciting time of Possibility.

On a personal note, one thing I got to see with John this last week was his commitment in a very direct way. He took time every lunch break to meet with his senior students one-on-one, to give people "face time" with him to connect. He repeatedly asked the group for feedback and received it with openness and clarity. He spoke to some hard issues directly and with candor. As I sat with him more than once I felt his Light and his commitment to serve That Light just as I did on the first day I met him. So, when I hear him say "its better than ever" this year, I do not take that to mean- "we are perfect, there is nothing wrong, see this without flaw." I take that to mean, "We are fuller, we are expanding, we are more of what we have always been and we are more committed to face ourselves squarely than we ever have been."

So yes, its better than ever.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Morning Musings

So- I am in the airport now, on my way to Portland, Oregon. My brother in law is graduating from college tomorrow so Kelly and I are going to go to his graduation and make a weekend trip out of to celebrate our 13 year anniversary. (YIPPEE.)

I will miss the last day of The Gathering but I think I have the gist of the direction of things and while I would have liked to be there for the final day, I am also ready to meet up with Kelly and change gears for a few days. The last two days were a bit more focused and clear than the first two days, in my experience. John continued to clarify what he means by "The Art and Culture of Anusara Yoga" and to ground his vision a bit more for all of us.

John has always been interested in asana as an artistic expression and has always talked about living life creatively, artistically and intentionally from the recognition of our Essential Self. (Chit-ananda, right?) As he began to actually call that idea something more concrete like "The Art and Culture of Anusara Yoga" it begged a question of "what exactly does that mean?" Many people seemed worried that there would be some Anusara Yoga Way that they would be expected to conform to and so on.

From what I can tell, his vision is not some clear cut set of "ways" as much as it is a context to hold and to live. The Art and Culture of Ansuara Yoga is not meant to limit or to prescribe as much as it is to invite each one of us into an inquiry and experiment about living our dharma as authentically as possible in the spirit of Divine Creativity. After all, the hub of Ansuara Yoga is a set of Universal Principles that can be expressed in many ways through each of us and our various endeavors. Those various endeavors- from asana to parenting to teaching to reading to painting, to accounting to cooking to gardening to sculpting to hoola hooping and beyond would be considered art in this context, so long as they were reflecting the core values of Anusara Yoga.

I think this idea will require some skill to bring to life in a meaningful way, although we are already living it in many ways, truth be told. To me, I love that we have an expanded view of "allowable yogic expression" as a community. I love that we play the edge. I am into it. I also worry that in the expansion, the validation of the traditional, the validation and recognition of what creates the deepest stability in sadhana will get lost. I do not think this has to happen, and I think its a risk worth taking for the potential freedom playing the edge offers, but I still have a stake in claiming our traditional, sanity-producing, formal practices in a very public way.

Take a very common asana expression as an example--Once we started back bending poses like vasisthasana, trikonasana, virabhdrasana, etc. more often than not, people take that expression as their option. It feels so good to so many people to bend back in everything that they lose their taste for the straight lines of the classic forms. Or, how many people are working on balancing in handstands but not working with timing them? And how many people practice vinyasa but not long holds? And so forth.

In tantra playing the edge was only ever possible in sadhana when the center was strong. And the center is only strong through discipline, dedication, focus, commitment and so forth. (yes, I am old school on this and probably unpopular.) Alchemy, transmutation and transgressive practices stood on the solid foundation of meditation, pratyhara and deep, disciplined discernment. So its a spanda and I may end up being the voice for the center, not the edges. Who knows?

Anyway, all that is a lot to think about.

Yesterday, Vedic scholar, Bill Mahoney came to speak to us about some of the Vedic roots of Shiva-Shakti Tantra and about what he calls The Artful Universe. He wove teachings from Anusara Yoga with verses form the Vedas, the Upanishads and Narada Bhakti Sutras with a masterful understanding of Sanskrit to give us a solid scriptural basis for this evolving vision. It was fantastic. (And for me, whose hackles come up when anything out of any yoga teacher's mouth smacks of fluffy, New Age sentiment, I find this kind of thing very reassuring, grounding and delightful.)

For instance, the Sankrit word rita speaks to this idea that there is an underlying order to the Universe. The word also relates to dharma and is linguistically related to our English word for art. Pull on this thread a while and you get to what he calls rita visva- the Artful Universe and he suggested that the Divine Principle that supports the entire Universe is art. Continue down this line of grammar and linguistics and you get to the word "right" also which takes you to "ritual" which can be understood as "artistic behavior that is performed in order to keep the world Holy." And that was the tip of the iceberg. It got much better from there.

So- there is more that I could say but my plane is going to board soon.

One thing for sure, is that this was one of the best years (in my opinion) in terms how cohesive the community of teachers felt. So many people remarked to me that they felt closer than ever with their colleagues, more unified with one another and more supported than ever in the practice. What a blessing it is to keep this company.

Okay, more soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Certified Teacher's Gathering

So, well, here we are at the Certified Teacher's Gathering in North Carolina.

Like I imagined, it is great to see so many of my friends and colleagues all together in one room. It is a very impressive assemblage. The first two days have gone by now and it has been difficult to actually get a chance to write. I have spent a lot of time to talking to people, sharing impressions, having business meetings and of course, just being in our sessions every day.

John has been outlining the basic tenets of what he is calling Shiva-Shakti Tantra and describing his vision for what he is calling the Art and Culture of Anusara Yoga. Seeing him work to clarify his vision is interesting. This articulation is not exactly new but it does have a flavor and orientation that somehow seems more than a bit different. It is hard to say exactly how, but the mood and tone of things is shifting- that's for sure.

Change is always interesting to consider. Even on a simple level. Manouso Manos, a Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher once remarked, "you know how you drive an older student crazy? Teach them something new every class. Want to drive younger student crazy? Teach the same thing over and over." That teaching made a strong impression on me but I wonder now if it is actually an age thing at all. I think it is more a temperament issue. I think that some of us like change by nature and struggle with sameness. Some of us like sameness and predictability and struggle with change.

Anyway, Anusara Yoga has certainly been in a time of change, revision and re-invention. Sure on one level, nothing is different but on another level, there is a lot that is different. And I think about most of my friends in the method...we have been at this together well over 10 years now and we have each grown and changed in so many ways. What an interesting spanda, really. There are things that are the same- many of the players, many of the basic tenets, the UPA's and so forth. And yet so many things are changing- our needs, our responsibilities, our relationships, not to mention the general flavor of the culture.

I personally feel like we are in a bit of a growth crisis of sorts. John spent the first morning of the Gathering sharing about the growth and expansion of the Ansuara Yoga vision and presence and asking some of his key staff members to share how they have seen Ansuara grow this last year. I thought about my own answer while they shared their views. And while I agree with the overwhelmingly positive statements that the staff members offered, I knew that if I had been asked, I would have shared that, while the growth and development of the organization is certainly at a zenith, this year also seems to be a year where doubts are high, where concern is present and that as we grow and change, many are being confronted with opportunities to refine their sadhana, deepen their integrity and take a stand in their deeper truths even if they are uncomfortable, unpopular and initially upsetting.

Obviously, that's not a bright and shiny "it's all great" kind of thing to say on the first morning of the company meeting! But it is as though a light is shining on us and the light is revealing all the beauty and all the not-so-beautiful things- personally and corporately- as well. I personally, see that as good. I mean if you can't see it, you can't deal with it, you can't heal it and so really, when the Great Light shines in our dark places, even though it is generally uncomfortable and none of us look real pretty when its happening, it is a time of very high Possibility. And while the nature of that kind of work is rarely to provide a flattering view, in general, if we can hold that kind of context, it can be very helpful.

So- we are back at it today. Yesterday brought lots of challenges for many of my friends and yet I most definitely feel that its the Light offering its heat and clarity and in the agni of that, there is so much soma or nectar in the company of one another.

More soon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Here is the link for the slideshow from Saturday afternoon's practice at Breath and Body Yoga. We had a great time. We went pretty far afield from my plans- For instance, I had no designs on scorpion, rajakapotasana, ghanda bherandasana and so forth but we had such an all-star cast it was somewhat inevitable. We had a really good time, as far as I could tell. (I know this part of "we" had a blast at any rate!)

I made a comment at the end of class which I always say, with one addendum. I said, which I always say, "Thanks for coming, if you have questions, comments or concerns, please let me know..." and I added, "but don't send me an email, please."

So to be clear, what I meant by that addendum is that if you have an "issue" with class that you want to share with me, do not send me an email about it because emails are almost always misunderstood. Think about it- they lack facial expressions, vocal tone and in terms of interpersonal misunderstandings and conflicts, they rarely aid in real conflict resolution. Chances are I will take your email the wrong way and chances are you will take my response the wrong way. So if there is something you feel compelled to write me about along those lines, just come up to me and let me know what is going on or call me directly (512-665-3743) so we can actually have a discussion about it. I have been sent one too many emails lately outlining someone's feelings, only to spend a tone of time crafting a response back to them only to hear nothing in return and so the issue just hangs there with no closure, no conversation, no real resolution.

So, you might come up to me and tell me your feelings and we might not agree with one another but then at least we can acknowledge openly that we see things differently. Or we might get a chance to truly converse about things in a way that deepens our mutual understanding, respect, compassion and through which we gain insight into both sides of the situation. But either way, there is two-way conversation and a resolution even if that resolution is in the form acknowledged disagreement.

So, be put on notice that my expectation from this point forward is that if you are willing to write it to me, be willing to talk to me about it!

HOWEVER...feel free to send me long complimentary emails about your growth, your insights, and your gratitude for the yoga we do together. That kind of thing makes my day.

Again, we had a fabulous time at the practice and I am more and more convinced these days of the value of group practice opportunities. Not classes, not workshops, but a chance to explore together poses off the typical road map is such a great way to be together and to grow in one's practice. I love seeing people do thinkg I can't do in practice, I love watching people grasp things for the first time, I love the inspiration of being with a group of people who want to spend saturday afternoon sweating it out in a yoga studio.

In other news- I am going to be teaching Thursdays at Castle Hill this summer also. So through the summer, when I am home, my public class schedule is like this:

9:30-11:00 Focus on Form
6:00-7:30 Level 3/4

4:30-5:45ish Level 3/4
6:00-7:15 Level 2/3

I am hoping that we can re-instate the double dippers so that many of you will plan to come at 4:30 and leave at 7:15. In general in these back to back classes, if I teach forward bends at 4:30, I will teach back bends at 6 and vice versa so as not to be crazy to those of you accepting the double dipping challenge. Also, note that Sam Rice is joining the Castle Hill teaching team on Tuesdays at 4:30. Come at 4:30 for Sam, stay for 6:00 with Gia and do that on Tuesdays and Thursdays and just think what might happen!

All right then, enough promotions-- I am off to North Carolina for the Certified Teacher's Gathering. I am psyched about. Lots of meetings and so forth but it is always a lot of fun to gather with the tribe.

I am en route

Friday, May 14, 2010

community issues

I have a quick turn around with this trip and a lot to do before heading out to the Anusara Yoga Certified Teacher's Gathering. I am looking forward to the event this year. I have lots of friends I want to connect with and spend some time with. I have said it many times before but since it is on my mind now, I can repeat it. When I first started Anusara Yoga I was so into the alignment and "getting" the loops and spirals and so forth that to me the method was really about alignment and getting poses. Then I got really into John Friend and I would get excited to see him. Now, Ansuara Yoga is about the community for me as much as anything else.Don't get me wrong here- I totally dig alignment, I love to practice poses, I still like my teacher just fine. But really, Anusara Yoga is so much more than good alignment and so much more than "John Friend Yoga" to me.

Anusara Yoga is about who each one of us can be when we are in the company of the Heart. Anusara Yoga, to me, is about a vision of community that is so grand as to be quite impossible and yet completely worthwhile as an aim to pursue. What do I mean? Well, I simply mean to say that our ideal of being an uplifting, affirming, life-enhancing community of like-minded and like-hearted practitioners who function like a "merry band of bohemian artists" while respecting one another's boundaries and limits is no fluffy, New-Age affair. It takes nitty-gritty, real-life work to make progress toward a vision like that.

Sure, we all feel that kind of connection for a week at time on retreat or for 75 minutes during a class or over a weekend for a workshop. We feel the very real heart-level connection. We can glimpse the very real possibility that exists in growing together as a group of practitioners. And it is Real.

And then, enter the personality (thousands of personalities, in fact!)- with all of its beauty, all of its generosity, all of its hopes, with all of its fears, insecurities, unconscious sabotage mechanisms, and so forth and community can get messy pretty quickly! In one moment kula become clique, inspiring becomes devastating and working together gives way to self-concern. In an instant. And over a long time.

And see, I don't think any of that means the vision is in any way off. My spiritual teacher always says, if you are going to fail, you might as well fail at something that is impossible. For instance, we do not avoid headstand because it is potentially problematic to the cervical spine, do we? No. We learn proper alignment and proper action and we practice until the poison becomes nectar. Till we sort it out- and by " it" I mean "the pose" and "ourselves in relationship to the pose."

And the task of sorting out the pose and our relationship to the pose exists in community as well. There is always gonna be the "outside trigger" of someone else who upsets us. Seriously- it may be the teacher who makes a remark that hurts our feelings, it may be the person in class who is always acting up for attention- who has to comment on everything or who asks self-serving questions, it may be the guy whose ujayi pranayama puts Darth Vader to shame, it may be the temperature in the room, it may the music, the not-music, the sequence, etc. But chasing around the outside trigger is not where true transformational possibility exists. True possibility for transformation exists when we examine why the trigger bothered us so much.

See, it is almost always (I would say ALWAYS but perhaps there is some exception) the case that the trigger does just that- it triggers a feeling that is best described as "historical" rather than current.

So, someone says or does something. The event is just what it is. Let's say someone looks at us and there is no smile on their face. Within a blink of an eye, we can have a whole story wrapped around that one look- that person is a bitch, that person doesn't care about us, that person is judgmental, etc. But really, that smile-less look triggered us back into our childhood where someone looked at us without smiling and we felt unloved. Even if they, at the time, were loving us, the key here is that we felt unloved. That historical feeling is now transferred to the current situation and fuels a whole storyline that rarely has our best interests in mind.

For instance, how many times do we assume, "Oh that person so respects my capacity to mange my own emotional reality that they do not even think they have to smile at me and reassure me. They know I am strong and self-confident and they are probably relieved to not have to cater to my insecurities." No, we almost always think something more along the lines of "They hate me." I mean really, the person might have been spaced out in lala land when they looked at us and deep in their own world and we were the furthest thing from their minds! And yet, we go home fuming for days about how rude so-and-so was.

This happens all the time as a teacher. I am fully aware of all the teachings we give and get as teachers about "the power of our words in the classroom to uplift or destroy" and I do totally get that. I really do. And I have worked really hard in this domain as a teacher. And for a long time. (I often think I may not be nice enough to be an Anusara Yoga teacher!) I am way outside my natural inclinations when I teach. Me, if you have not noticed-I am fiery, sassy, sarcastic, outspoken, opinionated, arrogant, terse and direct. And yes I am also loving, insightful, compassionate and so on, but that is not my point here. The other stuff is very much a part of my personality. Believe it or not- in the classroom I am highly censored. Seriously, what you get in the classroom is me very reigned in. So I get that domain. As teachers, we have a responsibility to be working on what comes out of our mouths. I am into it. I really am. I have grown a lot from this work and it never fails to provide me with insight, transformation and growth.

I also want to chime in that as students, we have a responsibility to be accountable for the storyline we wrap around our teacher's words. Recently I upset a student in class because I made a comment that I meant as a compliment and she heard it 100% differently. In my attempt to be uplifting and affirming, I said something that triggered a deep hurt in her. Get this. It is very important. Everything I was saying for the 5 minutes that upset her was an attempt to affirm her and her situation. And yet, it had the direct opposite effect.

So that is what I mean that community is bound to be a bit messy. I really can't say that I could do it differently or better the next time because in that moment, I was seriously trying super hard to be non uplifting! My sincere effort met her psychology in direct opposition. And so while I can listen to her as her teacher and say validating things like "That was not my intention," or "I did not mean that", etc. it is actually her work to do to trace the trigger to sort out where the historical wound is for her. And I have to do my work about "being misunderstood."

I mean we have to think about this- teachers cannot spend all of their time prior to speaking sorting our what might or might not offend. And case in point, even trying to do that did not work!

Seriously, 30 people in one room and 30 different things are gonna be offensive, hurtful and so forth, depending. What I find inspiring, may not be what you find inspiring. While we all agree that we want an uplifting community of which to be part, the truth is the particulars of what that means and what that looks like for each of us is a bit different. So, I say the words, "We have a heart-based community" and that may mean something to you that it does not mean to me even though we both nod our heads in agreement about the concept.

And while there is a certain measure of work in relationships we have to do to communicate our feelings and ask for our needs externally, the real freedom comes when we do the inner work to discharge the triggers so that fewer and fewer comments take us down the road of "I am not worthy, " "I don't belong, " and "I am unable." (remember the malas?)

I was pondering this the other day and it is really obvious to me that if all we do is tell people our feelings every time we get hurt without tracing the trigger, we then have to depend on those people to change their behavior before we begin to feel better. I know how hard it is for me to change my own behaviors and so I just cannot wait for someone else to "behave better" before I can feel okay about myself. I don't have that kind of time. I may sounds silly and I absolutely do not mean it at all harshly. I am serious about this though. It is very seductive to wait for apologies before we forgive, or to wait for validation from someone else for our hurt feelings before we validate ourselves. The real freedom comes when we trace the trigger back to its source, give ourselves our loving attention and validation and communicate to someone else to assist in forgiveness and moving forward together, rather than in accusation or blame.

So anyway- that is a little bit about what I mean by our community vision being both impossible and totally worthwhile. Every single one of us comes to the plate with triggers just waiting to get pulled. We have them as students, we have them as teachers, we have them as friends, lovers, mates, parents, and so forth. Add to that, as members of a yoga community we are in business together or even working in competing studios, and the whole exchange of money creates a perfect storm of expectations for everyone, etc. Rest assured, we are going to rub up against one another in ways that are pleasant and in ways that are quite unpleasant and NONE of that means it is not working. None of it.

The real question is can we make use of the conflict as it happens. Can we work with our upsets in such a way that we grow and change and evolve and disarm ourselves so that we grow toward a vision of harmony. There is no "there" to get to. A community will never be 100% harmonious. Like Douglas Brooks taught us -- There is a goddess who is worshiped in Southern India whose name means "She who is never not broken." Always broken. Always somewhat crooked. Always perfectly flawed. Always paradoxical.

OH! AND REMEMBER- group practice at Breath and Body tomorrow afternoon. 4:30-6:30. $20 suggested donation.

So enough for now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday Morning

So this is the last morning of the Immersion and we start a little later today so I am taking the time to write. It has been a really good week all in all. I woke up today feeling energized and rested which is kind of rare at the end of an Immersion. I think perhaps it might be that the antibiotics I am taking have kicked in and the infection I have had this whole time is getting better. I have felt lousy physically this whole trip and in retrospect, it seems clear that I was fighting something and it was sapping my energy. Anyway- due to the wonders of modern medicine, (I am a big believer in antibiotics when they are needed, BTW) I am finishing a week of work feeling much better than when I started.

Also worth noting is that the group is really generating a lot of their own energy this week and requiring a lot less from me and Darren which is fun to watch. These Immersions are really accelerated growth opportunities and it is really inspiring to see what happens for people and their practice in 6 months. There are big internal and external shifts in many domains. It is a great thing to be part of.

I realized this morning that when this Immersion Cycle ends I do not teach another Immersion in the states until January 2011. Its kind of wild to think about, really. I have Part 2 scheduled in Costa Rica in 2010 but other than that, the focus of much of my teaching moves decidedly into Teacher Training for a while. For the most part, I think that is great. Being in the teacher Training zone, while super fun, is also a bit intense because as a teacher who trains teachers, generally, my teaching goes under the microscope during the process. For instance, I may teach a group "the standards for the video" and they will be watching me to see if I am doing what I am asking them to do. (and telling me when I am not!)

I could write about that for a while to be sure, but there will be plenty of time over the next year to be reflecting on that delicious spanda of "video standards" and "real life classroom teaching" and the places where those domains overlap and the places where great teaching may not pass a video and where great video standards fall short in the classroom. So, that is a big topic for another time.

For now, I will savor the last morning with this most wonderful group of people who have assembled for the Immersion. As always, time in Tucson is inspiring and deeply enriching. Darren and the faculty and students of Yoga Oasis have been building a rich and supportive community of practitioners here for over 10 years. The commitment to the vision of kula is in the walls here in such a way that even people from other cities can walk in and feel it almost immediately. I have been teaching here in Tucson since 2003 and I have always felt so at home here and so part of the family and so lined up with my purpose and vision whenever I am here. It is very inspiring to me to be here.

All right, that's about it for now. Someone told me Mercury is out of retrograde, which is wonderful news. I think this cycle was kind of ass kicking around misunderstandings and misinterpretations of intention. More on that later also.

Monday, May 10, 2010

moment of rest and relaxation

So-- here is the link to the the slideshow from my birthday party practice.

We were back at it today in the Immersion. We spent the morning with a short debrief of the weekend with Douglas Brooks and an asana practice that incorporated lots of binding poses. Here is the sequence:




Prasarita paddotanasana


Surya namaskar A

Surya Namaskar B



Vira 1

Vira 2

Hands clasped behind back, forward bent vira 1

Clasped parsvakonasana

Parsva utthita hasta padangushtasana

Clasped parsvakonasana to clasped uttanasan to clasped parsva utthita padnagusthasana, etc.

Maricyasana 1


Revolved utkatasana


Revolved parsvakonasana

Revolved parsvakonasana with clasp

Revolved utthita hasta padangiusthasana

Clasped revolved parsvakonasana to BOP

Maricyasana 3


Supta virasana

Setu bandhasana


Sarvangasana to setu bandasana

Parsva sarvangasana


It was a great day for me.

I am dealing with a bacterial infection in the bursa of my elbow. So I started taking some antibiotics for that yesterday and while I think they are helping they do make me feel a bit off center. At lunch we went to Darren's chiropractor for an adjustment which was fantastic. We spent the afternoon talking anatomy of the shoulders and then worked some on sarvangasana , sarvangasana to setu bandhasana and a brief glimpse at parsva sarvangasana.

All right then. That is it for now. I am going to watch a movie and let me mind turn off for a little while. More tomorrow.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Night

We spent the weekend listening to Douglas Brooks teach on The Bhagavad Gita. Being around Douglas really is like trying to drink from a fire hose but there is always a lot to think about an ponder on.

A few choice teachings:

  • Myths are self-conscious lies told in the service of a deeper truth.
  • As you come closer to the truth, you do not arrive at a definitive answer, you gain access to a greater expanse of options and answers.
  • 1 good laugh is worth 10,000 serious thoughts
  • There is nothing less humorous than Indian philosophy
  • Sanskrit is like bicycle racing- it never gets easier, it just gets faster.
  • Every word in Sanskrit derives its meaning from a verbal root. Everything derives its meaning from what it does.
  • Certainty is a far greater problem than ignorance. We can learn more from doubt than we can from certainty. Tantrikas pose the problem as one of certainty and Vedanta poses the problem as ignorance.
  • ritual shows you make sense of what is actually happening. The incongruity of that is where ritual gets its power and serves its function.
  • we are not trying to solve the problem of being human but rather we are trying to engage the process more skillfully.
  • the world you see is your world through your experience but it is not only that.
  • You do not change the world, you change your measure of the world.
  • Your life has no purpose, no goal and no meaning...and that is the good news.
  • The things you want most will unravel you. All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.
  • There is no getting what you want without making a mess.
  • Life years to live.
  • If you want to lay claim to your whirling mind you have to lay claim to your body.
  • On the evolution of yoga: no modern physicist would be where they are without Newton, yet no one believes it anymore.
  • The tantric approach is one of clear boundaries with no limits.
  • Once you get into a purity paradigm the problem becomes, "How pure is pure?"
  • In tantra, freedom is not the goal, its the starting point. You are what will you bind yourself? To what will you yoke yourself?
  • If you can't say yes to your nature, you can't be generous to others about theirs.
  • Step deeply into your preferences, it will release you to be you.
  • Don't ask the world to deliver what it is not. "Receive the world as it is, how it is really presented, and then we will talk."
  • The world will bend to your desires so long as you are not asking it for what is is not. It is not about not asking for what you want. It is more that you should not ask for what is not being offered.
  • GRACE- you didn't earn it, you don't deserve it, you can't pay it back. And while you cannot compel it, you can invite it and you can align with it.
  • You are not fallen from Grace you are fallen as Grace.
  • You will gain as much fulfillment as you apply yourself.
  • Grace steps in when effort lets go.
  • You don't have to try too hard, you just have to try hard enough.
  • You are not not to exceed your boundary but to expand your boundaries.
  • There is nothing in a teaching that can hurt you but you can hurt yourself.
  • The Universe is giving us all that we need to flourish but it makes no promise that it will.
  • However it is we choose to love is what we become.-Appa
Kelly is working on the slideshow form our very fun party last night. I will post that when he gets done with it. It was super fun.

All right, that is it for now, time to settle down and get ready for bed. We go back at it tomorrow.

Friday, May 7, 2010


So it is my birthday yesterday. It was a great day. We started the Immersion Thursday night with our opening circle meeting at Darren and Bronwyn's house which is always a lovely way to begin the week.

We began yesterday with a talk and discussion on the malas- those lovely coverings of the heart that create feelings of unworthiness, separation and doership/inability to act. It is a potent consideration that built into the machinery of being human are the malas and yet one thing I love about this teaching is it can really help us to feel less blame for ourselves or judgement for ourselves when we know they are part of the deal of being human. Also when we can see these patterns as patterns, as malas, we can gain a little distance from them and we can know that the mala, while operative, while sometimes even self (or other) destructive is not who we are. We get to tease out the mala from the Self which is very big work.

So we started off with a pretty ambitious sequence and we didn't quite have time to really sort out the peak poses as would have been nice but we made a great journey into eka pada rajakapotasana- almost everyone I saw was grabbing at least their toe behind their head and we got strated on natrajasana. We are going to have ot visit that one again this week since, like i Said, we didn't really have time to sort out the challenges of just getting into it! Lots of people in the room could do it, with a little more help and time to explore it.

The afternoon we talked about the the margas or Paths that are outlined in the Gita, we had an anatomy class and finished with shoulderstand, meditation and savasana. All in all a very big first day.

I love Part 3 Immersions. the group dynamic is already formed, the commitment is always high and they generally feel like the run themselves. (Sort of!) This group is of a very high caliber. For instance, last time during Part 2 I asked people not to lie down during the talks and if they were tired to stand in the back when we were in the afternoon talk, not one person was lying down or treating the space casually. I didn't have to repeat the instructions I had given last time, which was a real gift.

So, on my birthday I got to the thing I love best which is teach yoga and particularly delightful was teaching yoga with my friend Darren. He remarked at the break that our teaching is feeling smoother than ever and I think that is true. This week concludes three cycles of Immersions we have co-taught and each one has been potent, unique and growth producing. I think that is what I like about the,. I see the profound shifts that the students have by engaging the process but I am right there in the mix also. The Immersion facilitate big shifts inside me also.

Today Douglas Brooks is here and so we have a weekend of Gita studies which is awesome. Tonight we have my birthday practice and party which I am excited about.

Oh, and those of you in Austin, I am going to teach a practice at Breath and Body on Saturday May 15th from 4:30- 6:30ish. (ish means that we might go over just a bit if we get into fun things.) $20. The air will be on, the door will be open, the music will be fun, the sequence will be rockin, the company will be fabulous... really, don't miss it. I leave for another 10 days sunday so please do come and play.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday In Prescott

All right- so it has been a while. The Teacher Training all weekend was somewhat consuming and in the midst of that I was packing and preparing for our trip to Arizona. I thought the weekend went very well and we made some very amazing progress on several fronts. Two weekends later, and it is a different group of trainees which is awesome to witness.There is really plenty to write about and reflect about but my time online is a bit limited so all of that is going to have to wait.

However, one thing that does stand out from the weekend is just how strong it was. I got letters and texts from several people who loved the training, who had huge breakthroughs in the public classes I taught as well as letters from a few people who were hurt by things I said, or who misinterpreted my comments in 180 degrees from how I meant them. So that tells me we were definitely in some kind of transformational zone for so much emotionally-laden content to surface.

I kept thinking about the time when we had a guest teacher come to the Immersion group in Tucson and how half the people loved it and half the people were offended. One very wise student observed- "Well, he said yoga is both fire and nectar. Some of us got fire. Some of us got nectar." It seemed like that was the case in the space at Breath and Body also. More could be said because really, it is an interesting topic but for now, that's kind of an overview of issues I am reflecting on. And really, from what I can tell, several issues on a few different levels were at play.

Kelly and I got on a plane on Monday and made our way to Arizona where we are in Prescott for a few days at my teacher's ashram before we head down for Part 3 Immersion in Tucson. Being here is always fantastic and also intense (fire and nectar- there it is again!) Seriously, the more I walk this path the more I realize that life is just full of both bitter and sweet feelings, experiences and moments. In fact, if we consider the whole "taste profile", sweet is only one of the flavors necessary for a complete profile. There is salty, pungent, bitter, sour, astringent AND sweet. So life is all of it. Like that.

All right, the weather is amazing and I am going to go out and hike in it. More soon.