Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I taught Focus on Form this morning which went well. We had a lot of new folks in class today which is usually the case at this time of year. People who have been out of class for a while seem to show up around now, renewing their commitment to practice and getting a jump start on New Year's resolutions and so forth. It was lovely to have some new people in class and of course, I am always happy to see my "repeat offenders!' (That is a joke. I mean that affectionately!) We worked with Supta Padangusthasana 1 and 2 A LOT and took it into parsvottanasana and trikonasana. Good, strong basic work.
I got going on the theme of the midline and about lining up with it and about how the process of alignment is physical and metaphysical and yet the metaphysical is really grounded in the simple things like lining up the mats, lining up along the vertical axis and lining up by balancing the front and back body and doing all of that as a way to line up with all that is central to who we are.
I got to thinking about that as a theme this morning because I was thinking about how the yearly cycle is ending. Which got me thinking that a new cycle, a new year, is also beginning. And then I got to thinking about how really the Cycles of Creation (birth, sustenance, destruction) are everywhere we look and how really the yogis have always been concerned with what is not subject to that cycle, what is eternal, steady beyond and beneath apparent fluctuations of circumstance. And while in our human lives we certainly learn to engage the cycle skillfully and grieve our losses, celebrate our new beginnings and so forth, the spiritual domain is about what is not at the affect (or is it effect? I need an editor!) of those forces.
I remember one time Lee was talking about a sangha-mates passing. He said to us, "If you really knew what had happened, I mean, if you really understood what it meant for her to pass in the way she did, you would not feel sad at all." Our friend had died a wonderful death, with several miracles involved and his point was that her death was truly auspicious to the point that if we experientially could grok what really happened- not just theoretically or intellectually understand- but if we could really get it- we would not feel sad. He was saying this was totally different than the notion that that we would have a good perspective or keep her death in the proper context but that literally, we would not be sad because it was, in truth, not a sad thing at all. And from where he was sitting, her passing was not something to grieve in the least.
Of course, we can get into trouble as spiritual practitioners if we are truly sad and pretending otherwise. We call that a "spiritual bypass"-- when we use spiritual concepts to rationalize avoiding our feelings and bypassing the psychological material that is arising within us. I suppose that is another post for another day. I do think learning to recognize, give voice to and find appropriate expression for our emotions is super important work and is a big part of the foundation for spiritual practice. For sure. My point is that Lee was really giving a yogic perspective on living from the direct experience of the eternal rather than the viewpoint of the changeable.
And I suppose what I love about Anusara Yoga and the philosophies that inform it are that we do not need to chose between one perspective or the other. We endeavor to see them each as Real and valid at the level they exist. At the level of creation, the cycle is Real. At the level of the Eternal, the cycle is illusory. But since here we are in bodies, in the game of creation, some skill at navigating the ups and downs of creation, sustenance and destruction is pretty darn useful. Sally Kempton told me recently that navigating those domains is necessary and that the ability to live effectively and honestly in each must be earned through direct experience over a long period of time.
Anyway, all of that that was the musing that became a midline class and a lot of work in Supta padangusthasana. (bottom leg, the eternal leg, don't let it change. top leg it does all kind of fancy things- it is the leg of the relative domain. Like that. Ah yes, good times.)
After class, I had a good meeting with Stefania and came to some decisions about my schedule which I have been chewing on for a while. I am going to shift my teaching schedule and start teaching the 6pm class as a Group Practice beginning next week. We will add 15 minutes onto class time to have enough time for a full-spectrum practice. Sam will take over the 9:30 Focus on Form class and she will sub for me at 6:00 while I am gone. This will give me some more time to rest and re-charge while I am at home and also still give me a way to connect with the community and see people when I am in town and free up my daily schedule a bit.
I looked at my calendar and realized that I am really only home for about 8 days each month starting January-March and teaching two classes on Wednesdays just packs that time too full for me to get a handle on my personal life in any meaningful way. So, this is my solution, thanks to the wise council of Stefania.
Let's see, I suppose that is kind of it.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I know I say it a lot- but the longer I go about this teaching business, the more I find the friendships with my colleagues to be one of the most wonderful parts of the whole endeavor. There is certainly a special bond that happens with my students and with my teachers along the way which I love and is its own wonderful blessing. However, I find a unique and wonderful refuge in those friendships I have developed with my various hosts across the country and particularly with my teaching partners.
A few months back I had an jyotish astrological reading and she told me that my chart is very weighted toward "enlightened partnerships" which I thought was really interesting. She said theses partnerships were not romantic in nature but primarily work-related. (This makes sense to me since I am one of the least romantic people I know. Just ask Kelly and he would probably agree! I am practical and straightforward and like we discussed a few entries back, loving in my own way but not romantic and rarely sentimental which can actually be quite upsetting for many people when they encounter this in me, especially if they are romantic or sentimentally-oriented themselves. But I digress.)
So its not that I needed confirmation that such a thing as "enlightened partnerships" was present in my life- I didn't and I don't-- as I can look around and see it myself. But it is always fascinating to see the similarities between what an astrological chart says and what is actually happening in my world. And while something very amazing happens in the classroom when team teaching, there is also a deep and rich personal bond that occurs in the work of collaborating and creating something with someone else. I feel without a doubt that I am who I am today because of some of these partnerships I have cultivated over the last few years. Really, it is such a blessing.
And as the year ends and I look forward to the next year, I see lots of teamwork on the horizon which makes me very excited. It seems fitting that I would be kicking off the New Year in collaboration with Noah and Darren and nestled in the community of Yoga Oasis and with Anusara Yogi's from all over the country. I am really excited about it.
Well, off to shower, get some lunch with mom and dad and head out for a practice. I am teaching tomorrow at 9:30 and 6:00 at The Castle. I hope to see many of you there. I am here for the next 3 wednesdays and then I am gone for the following 5 wednesdays so please come to class while I am here--I want to see you!
Monday, December 27, 2010
And what is also very fun is that Amy is coming to Austin, TX January 14-16th. She and I will be co-teaching a workshop at Castle Hill. There is plenty of room still so sign up soon so I know who is coming and can plan accordingly. It will be a great weekend and a wonderful way to invoke greatness for the coming year.
Well, that is the commercial for today. The holiday weekend was a lot of fun for me. Kelly and I mostly hung out with Mom and Dad and Anne and Jeff and did our best to rest and relax. Yesterday I even took a nap. Well, not much to report today. Work this morning, a practice later and Kelly and I will make dinner at home. Mostly I need to get things in order before I head out to Tucson for the Advanced Intensive after which the year begins in full swing.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
- 10 minutes chair backbend
- chair bharadvajasana (1 minute each side)
- Chandra Namkaskar (10 minutes)
- Urdhva Mukha Swanasana (1 minute)
- parivritta trikonasana (1minute each side)
- rope 1 -20X
- bharadvajasana 1, on blanket, at wall, with rope (1 minute each side)
- parayankasana over a block (5 minutes)
- standing maricyasana- at wall,with a chair and rope
- pinca variation with feet on wall, legs parallel to the floor
- jathara parivarttonasana- straight legs- (1 minute each side)
- ustrasana- legs apart- (1 minute)
- ustrasana- feet and legs together- (1 minute)
- maricyasana 1, twist only
- danurasana (1 minute)
- pasrva danurasana
- twisted lunge
- urdhva danurasana- lots
- drop backs
- dwi pada viparita dandasana- head down.
- headstand dropovers
- headstand tick tocks
- scoprion prep on chair
- scorpion pose
- kapotasana- lots
- hips stretches
- legs up the wall
After practice Kelly and I went on a date and did a little Christmas shopping which was fun. All in a ll it was a good day although it was not particularly sunny inside or out.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
So, now that the commercial is over, let's see. what to say...
I have a had a busy few days and so I am just now sitting down to write a few notes.
Monday morning after I wrote on my blog, I practiced asana. I spent the early afternoon working on my computer and catching up on things with Sam. Then I met up with Anne for Peggy's Advanced Class. After that I met Kelly for a walk on the greenbelt.
Tuesday morning I spent on the computer which was awesome. I mean, time at the computer is not exactly my idea of awesome but it was awesome because I actually cleared out two email mailboxes! So for a brief moment in time, both inboxes were down to zero. Of course, now they have some things accumulating but nothing too pressing. I went to the clinic to have acupuncture while Kelly was on duty there which was great and helped me a lot. After that, Mom and Dad came over lunch- I made black bean soup, which I must say was fantastic.( I have one of the best black bean soup recipes ever, thanks to Shelley up in Vancouver. But I digress.) Later in the afternoon, I met up with Gioconda, Anne, and Sam for a lovely back bend practice. We worked with lots of chair back bends and a sequence that Patricia Walden taught at a workshop Anne went to with her this year. Good times. Kelly and I made dinner and watched our favorite Christmas movie, Christmas vacation with Chevy Chase. Makes me crack up every time.
Today I taught Focus on Form at 9:30 which went really well. I was super pleased with the sequence and the studentship. We worked on the loops of the legs with a lot of thigh loop emphasis to seat the femurs and did a lovely foray into virasana, supta padangusthasana, triangmukaikapada pascimottanasana, and krouncasa. After lunch Kelly and I went to San Marcos to do some bank business. I came home, did a practice and then we went up to The Castle for the 6:00 class. We did a lot of work with Inner and Outer spiral to visvamitrasana (the variation in Light on Yoga without holding the foot over the head. It was deep strong work and everyone did quite well. Not easy stuff, mind you.
I used a theme about "loving anyway" which was inspired by Natacha's Facebook update today. She said something along the lines about what do you do when you wake up and feel in a funk and the Path of Love feels very elusive. My immediate reply was, "love anyway." Not because it is easy but because the Love is paved by our efforts to bring love to bear on whatever situation we are in. I said this to Kelly and he said, "Do you really feel that way?"
And I was like, "yes."
To which he replied, "I do not really think of you like that."
Anyway, that led to an interesting talk about what I mean when I say "love anyway" and what he think when he hears it. His point was that I am not a "lovey" person. My point was that I am dedicated to moving in the direction of Love in a fairly single-minded way. I was like, "Kelly, Love is my whole thing. That is it for me. That is what I am all about." (Okay, sure- as we all know, I have my bad habits of consciousness, don't get me wrong-- but I am pretty serious about this stuff.)
And its not an ooey-gooey-sacharin-sweet-kind-of- thing I am talking about here. The Path of Love, to me, is fiery, consuming, passionate, challenging, messy, frustrating, wonderful, inspiring, devastating, desperate at times and just everything a good affair should be and is. And like I said, I think the Path of Love is paved by our efforts to love. And making efforts to love in the face of a funk- and obviously "funk" exists on a continuum- is, in itself, walking the Path of Love in a very direct way and therefore makes Love not as elusive almost by definition. And after all, what is our other option? We know where the road of the opposite can take us. At least I do.
I think that is why I love asana so much- the action of doing it shifts our state of consciousness. Be very clear here- we do not have to want to practice to do it and have it benefit us. (This is the "love anyway" link.) In asana, if we put our bodies into these shapes, then the shapes themselves shift us. I mean really, how cool is that? And it works even without a heart-based theme! (Don't tell John I said that though! I am kidding. However, while we are on the subject, my advice to all of you is this: do not bring this idea up at a Teacher Training when he is talking about heart-based themes and heart-based language because he will start to twitch a little bit. I am teasing now but seriously, to teach Anusara Yoga you have to a have a theme. Deal with it. Learn to love it. It is part of what makes us us! Okay, I have officially digressed... Forgive me, my Anusara Yoga teacher trainer self came in just now!)
Back to my point-- One of my teachers in India said in class one time that the "asanas are the postures of the happy human being." I love that because it says that if we assume the shape, the shape changes the way our energy flows, the change in the prana affects our mood, our way of seeing ourselves and each other and all that happens whether or not we want to roll out our mat or whether or not we are in a funk. I mean, what a boon to have been given something so effective. We are the lucky ones, us yogi's. We have a very direct root back to the Path of Love when we feel estranged from it or when it feels elusive.
Anyway, that was 6:00 class with a lot of somewhat grueling work in the hips and some snazzy arm balances. After that we came home for dinner and after dinner Kelly and I watched Charlie Brown Christmas and The Grinch. (Can you get the theme here about how we get in the mood for Christmas at our house?)
Tomorrow, I am taking Mom to the oncologist, meeting with the girls for a practice and then Kelly and I are planning to make a dinner at home and relax a bit. I've been busy since I have been home although a lot of that time has been filled with nice long asana practices which is how I most like to use my time when I am home. The time in Texas seems to be flying by and the advanced intensive in Tucson is now just a week away. Wow. This is an exciting time.
All right, remember, come practice Christmas Eve with me at The Castle. It will be great.
Monday, December 20, 2010
My good friend and certified teacher Christy Nones came to some of the sessions and we had a chance to spend some time afterwards and I was was telling her how weekends like this one are really pretty ecstatic for me. To have a group of well-trained, committed and sincere students who want to learn and go deeper into their practice and to have the time and opportunity to explore some of the nooks and crannies of the asana is so fun for me. In situations like that I really feel like I am offering something useful and something that people can continue to cash in on long after the weekend ends.
I have been doing so much teacher training these days which I love because I always get a chance to refine my own teaching and to consider the reasons why I love to teach and what calls me forward on the path. And what really turns me on about teaching are those times- like this weekend- when what I am offering is beyond just a yoga experience and is in the category of "ways to practice" and "ways to go deeper". Don't get me wrong, I think big classes and large events where I have a chance to conduct class, offer an experience and all is also great. It's just for me, the thing I am into is practice. So as a teacher I am into teaching what serves people getting on their mat and practicing- not just coming to class. Not just having a peak experience. Not just having a flash of insight. I am into exploring together how to sustain those peak experiences, how to incorporate the insight in a real and useful way. I am interested in opening up the field of practice.
See, I think that the path of practice in and of itself is valuable. I do have focus and goals within that but if you get down to it in an honest discussion with me what we are going to arrive at sooner or later is that I practice to, well, be able to practice better. I am not so much a yogi in pursuit of enlightenment or salvation or anything like that. I am actually a yogi interested in increasing my capacity for practice because I think that is the life worth living. A life aligned with ideals of the Heart ( be clear I am not talking only about asana practice here but a life path oriented in a certain way) is a life that is full of dignity, honor and depth. That is the life for me even if "I never get enlightened" or anything like that.
It is kind of like diet and exercise in mind. I do not watch what I eat or exercise to ward off some unknown future ill, like "I won't get cancer if I rat raw food" or "if I never eat trans fats I will never have a heart attack" or any such thing. I am more interested in the immediate effects of self- care because eating well today makes me feel better today and honestly, I am not someone able to delay gratification long enough to put off a reward so far in the future! And truly, there are no guarantees about any of that stuff anyway. We may follow a pristine diet and still have a stroke, get cancer and so forth. So many factors seem to play into health, wellness and disease that it seem a bit grandiose to me to think we can be 100% in charge of that. (although I do think we have a lot of power to use toward that end that we are not claiming as a society. For instance, how many chronic conditions would be eased by simply losing weight? A lot. And who, other than us, is in charge of what and how much food we are eating? No one. But that is a different discussion for a different day.)
Having said all of that, I do believe that the discipline we bring to bear on our current choices will prepare us for whatever life brings our way in the future. I do not think yoga or any of it's companion practices spares us from suffering. ( although I do think it can help us avoid the unnecssary suffering due to our own ignorance, self-inflicted violence and/or neglect but that is a different post for a different day.) I know great yogis who get sick, have injuries, experience profound tragedies and so forth. The main difference I see in the lives of yogis is that we get to face those things with the Teaching. We get to face those things with tools for managing our minds. We get to face those things in a supportive and loving community. We get to bring skillful action into our life circumstances and that is a difference that can make all the difference.
In a simliar vein, I read a excerpt this morning from a talk my teacher gave last summer:
"The point is not to integrate the extraordinary experience into our everyday lives. The point is to align your every day life with the extraordinary and move in that direction."
That about says it.
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Saturday, December 18, 2010
The students here in South Florida are a lot of fun. This is one of those gigs where I am coming in to teach a group of students who are well trained in Anusara Yoga and so it is a very wonderful kind of fun for me. I love "pioneering" Anusara Yoga- going into areas that do not have a lot of exposure to Anusara Yoga and introducing them to the broad strokes of our method. But it is also a whole lot of fun to come to a place where the students are well seasoned in the method and to have a chance to offer my perspectives on the method and more nuanced alignment details and nerdy yoga geek kinds of things. That is how it is here. For instance, Everybody knows how to keep their foundation anchored well through surya namaskar, how to keep their arm bones back in chatauranga, how to engage their legs in standing poses and so forth. I am getting to work in finer details rather than broad brush strokes. And while I am taking no creative liberties with the method, I am able to be creative in it's application.
Also notable here in the South Florida community is a great sense of camaraderie, friendship and warmth amongst the members of the kula. The students here are smart, funny, receptive and fun to be with. They seem to be very connected to one another and the team of senior teachers here is working together very well to keep things on track. Seriously, that is an inspiration to witness. Yoga community when it is good, is so very good and yet it can easily become civil war when personality overrides universality. And that can happen pretty easily, even when we are trying to avoid it. Anyway, it is great to see an example of such great team work, collaboration and common vision.
Darlene and Steve, my hosts and the owners of Yoga One (www.yoga1.net) are awesome committed yogis in the full swing of running a studio, raising a family and managing a full time chiropractic practice. They are long time students of Anusara Yoga and are examples of high integrity and personal excellence. They have been great hosts. I often tell people when I am traveling to teach that I am typically a very boring house guest. I will generally want to eat dinner right after I teach, talk a little bit and then retire to my room with a good book. After talking to group of people all day long, I am usually ready to stop talking and withdraw to a bit of quiet time, They have been great to talk to and great about letting me be boring also!
So, that is my check in for tonight. We have advanced back bends on the docket tomorrow and then I head back home for ten days. More soon.
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Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
After practice we picked up lunch at Chipotle (which, by the way, is like my favorite restaurant- veggie burrito...YUM!) and took the food over to Mom and Dad's house. The five of us sat out on the deck (it was like 78 degrees here yesterday) and had a really lovely lunch together.
After that, Kelly and I did some errands, walked on the greenbelt and then came home, made dinner, ate, and watched Elf. (Elf is one of my favorite Christmas movies. Will Ferrel slays me in that movie, but I digress.)
It was a very lovely day all in all. Today, I have a few details to catch up on and then we are planning a visit to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar with Mom and Dad and then I am leading the Anusara Group Practice at the Love Yoga Coop at 4:30. I am really looking forward to that. I was torn about teaching yesterday- I have missed everyone here and wanted to see everybody and I also needed some personal time and time with my family yesterday. So I think it is a good trade-off to have taken the day off yesterday and then lead the practice today. I will be back in class on Wednesday for sure and through the holidays as well.
Well, nothing too deep or meaningful to report besides that. I head out tomorrow for a quick trip to teach in Florida for the weekend. I am looking forward to meeting the folks down there and teaching an all-asana weekend after two straight weeks of teaching teacher training. I actually love teaching teacher trainings. Teacher training is really one of my favorite things to teach because I find the conversation to be very layered, rich and generally quite interesting. However, teaching teacher training requires a very strong focus and sustained clarity (which is part of why I like it) and I find teaching asana programs following teacher training is always so fun. More doing, less analyzing. More feeling, less thinking. I like both, just for different reasons.
All right, time to take the dogs for a walk. More later.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010
It was a great 6 weeks. As I reflect on all the different places I went and the amazing people I got to spend some time with I really am filled with awe and gratitude for this work and for the people who are called to it. So often people look at me and say things like, "Do you like being away from home this much?" and I am always a bit shocked by the question because it falls short of really addressing the heart of the situation. Of course I do not like being away from home a lot.
Ask me another question, I always think to myself.... something like, "Do you like what you do while you are gone?" Then I would have to give a resounding YES! in response.
or "Am I completely inspired by the work I do, the people I meet and the places I get to experience?" YES!
or "Does the hospitality of my friends (and sometimes near-strangers) I stay with move me to tears and make my life fuller, richer and make the world seem a bit smaller and more manageable?" YES!
or "Does the opportunity to share the teachings of yoga with people all over the country and participate in the life of various communities of seekers create in me a deep feeling of purpose and passion?" YES!
or "Does doing what you love most make up for the discomforts of travel and so forth?" YES!
So like it is in any endeavor, life becomes shaped by the questions we ask ourselves and the answers that we are living into. As yogis we should not be asking ourselves "what makes life easier?" I, for one, do not think the highest question is "What makes me most comfortable?" or "How can I avoid inconvenience?" and so forth. I think the Path of the Yogi invites us to ask questions like "What is worthwhile?" and "What is worthy of sacrifice?" and "What brings me into the field of Ultimacy?"
Those are the questions that inspire me and the sometimes pain-in-the-ass of airports, crowds and delayed flights and the fact that I live a lot out of a suitcase and spend more nights sleeping in other people's spare bedrooms than I do in my own bed pales in comparison. Is traveling a lot hard? Sure. Certainly at times it is. No one who does what I do denies that. Is it worth it? Absolutely. No doubt about it. The people who now fill my life continually teach me how to grow into my capacity, to move beyond what is easy and have helped me recognize the web of support that surrounds me and Grace, through each person I meet and work with, has become a tangible experience, not a theory.
All right. Time to practice asana.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
For me, at the heart of Level One Teacher Training is the refinement of verbal articulation skills. I remember years ago in Teacher Training John said that teaching yoga was "a process of articulating your inner experience." I have reflected on that a lot over the years because it remember his words as striking me with the reality of how important what we say and how we say it is and what we do not say as yoga teachers.
I am not talking here about the consideration of how we need to speak kindly and make sure we do not cause unnecessary harm while we are in the seat of the teacher, although that is part of the discussion, I suppose. I am talking here about the hue clarity and precision we use when we are teaching the poses themselves, when we are languaging the principles when we are weaving our theme. I remarked in the class the other day that if teachers everywhere, regardless of method could simply, precisely and clearly talk students into and out of basic form with an economy of words, the conversation of yoga would be elevated immediately. So often our students are not achieving optimal form, not because they are too stiff, weak or uninspired but because our instructions of what to do and how to do it are bogged down in mixed messages, filler words, too much information, and jargon. Oddly it takes a lot of effort to weed these things out of our teaching and learn to clearly, confidently and precisely "say what we mean and mean what we say."
The students have been working hard and asking sincere questions and we have sent a lot of time outlining the distinction between the UPA as a point of emphasis and what that really means. It seems there is a fair amount of confusion about that out there in the world of new Anusara yoga teachers. We all have to remember that the UPA is a point of emphasis and not an exercise in exclusivity. We will instruct other actions, we Will say other things it is just that the primary lesson of the day and the main point of emphasis will be a UPA and that that UPA is tied to the heart theme.
obviously, this is not the only way to teach but it is the video standard and if we get good at this basic skill set then, we can experiment and explore from there. The thing about a standard is that it outlines a set of criteria that will help to ensure that if we are meeting them, we will most likely be effective in our pursuit of teaching Anusara Yoga. But the standard is not there to say "and this is the only thing that works." we can not possibly write down every single effective way to weave a theme and so we say "tie it to a UPA and when you teach that UPA weave it in there." Other ways might work well also but we do need to learn how to master this particular skill.
As always, teaching yoga is not a black or white endeavor and if we make it too formulaic and too "always" and "never" then we are not adequately preparing our trainees for what they will actually be facing in their role as a teacher. John always tells us "it depends" and that answer invites us jot explore and refine and investigate what it depends on and why. He has given us a way to teach yoga that is very similar to they away he has given us to practice yoga-- with principles. If we understand the context of Anusara Yoga and the guiding principles and precepts then it is much easier to navigate the grey area of individual situations.
I am feeling a lot of gratitude to him for this these days. I think teaching us like this is a profound testimony to his faith in us and in our capacity to live beyond rules, regulations and dogma. By giving us guiding principles and by asking us ton establish ourselves in the context of Anusara Yoga over and above a list of particulars, he is inviting us into the very heart of this yoga where from our deep abiding knowledge we express ourselves fully. It is not the easier but wow, is it more worthwhile.
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Thursday, December 9, 2010
This morning we started a Part One Teacher Training here in Los Angeles. And by "we" I mean me and Noah. I am really happy to be able to teach with two of my best friends so much these days. To me, Noah and Darren are my brothers-on-the-path and so not only do I have fun in the classroom when we team up together, but I get to learn a lot from each of them during the time we share and through the conversations we have while we are together. I feel fortunate to have such amazing friends to share my life with and also to work with. It is part of my work that makes me very happy.
Noah and I share a love of the outdoors, a passion for education and a love of ideas so it is super fun to team up on a Teacher Training together. We sent the morning on introductions, theme development, asana practice and talking bout looking for the good. We sent the afternoon exploring theme delivery, observation and verbal articulation skills. It was a full day. The other thing that is fun about teaching with Noah is that we are both educated at Prescott College, a school that emphasized experiential education. As much as both of us can articulate ideas and principles, we both believe in the power of experience to transmit the ideas effectively. So we are always refining ways to make the concepts central to teaching Anusara Yoga as experiential, direct and concise as possible.
It was a great day and I was aware all day of how different it is to teach teacher training to a group of folks that I didn't lead through an Immersion. Not better, not worse, just different. One thing though that is profoundly different that i noted is that when a teacher trainee who is not my immersion graduate doesn't know something from the immersion curriculum, I felt more patient with them then I did withy immersion grads! When my immersion grad doesn't remember something i am like "come on.... I know i told you that... Get with the program!" I think detachment is part of it and really, it made me see how much I ask of my long time students. (you guys rock, by the way!) Maybe this insight and experience will help me be more patient in the future! Maybe. Of course, maybe not.... Hmmm.....
Anyway, I so enjoyed meeting this group of people just one day after saying good bye to a group of people who have been part of my life for over two years and with whom I have really walked through some serious fire. I felt very open in my heart today after the deep work of last week and very in touch with my love of this path and my love for the art of teaching and the process of refinement it is to be a teacher.
We have a global group gathered from places as far as Australia, Ireland, and Thailand. It is pretty amazing to think how far the teachings of anusara yoga have spread in the last twelve years and how many wonderful people are drawn to this way of life. It certainly is good company that we keep.
Anyway- time for bed.
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Monday, December 6, 2010
We spent the afternoon on the business of yoga and Darren led a discussion about all that is involved in making ja living as a yoga teacher. He said, at one point, that he hoped ton strike a balance between inspiring (go for your dreams and follow your heart) and realistic ( don't quite your day job unless you are independently wealthy or have a mate who has a great job because this is a very difficult way to make living.) I do think we found that balance and there were many moving and poignant moments throughout the discussion.
One thing that I realized is kind of a blinding flash of the obvious. All the time I say, "why do so many people think they can make a living teaching yoga? I never thought that when I got started teaching yoga. I didn't make a living at this for ten years!" well, in tho n years more and more people actually are making a living at it ( or trying to) and so it does appear more and more as though it is a viable option to consider. Very few of us when i got started did this for a living. Very few people owned studios and very grey few people traveled and taught yoga. Now that more people are doing it, well, it gives more people the impression that they can do it! Makes perfect sense.
I want to state again for the record that while I lovey job and would not want to do anything else, I do not think that teaching yoga full time is a great aim for most beginning teachers nor do I think that we should confuse one's heart's calling with one's vocation. It may be our dharma to teach yoga but we may need a supplementary source of income to pay the bills. If we cannot pay our bills teaching yoga, it is not a sign that we should not teach, that we are not being supported in our dream or that we are out of alignment with the universe or any such thing.
Dharma is not necessarily vocation, regardless of what the new-age career guides all say. And yes, I happen to make my living doing what is aligned with my dharma as far as I understand it, but keep in mind that I started teaching yoga in 1998 and didn't make a living at it until 2007. I had my first invitation to teach out of town in 2003 and it was not until 2009 or 2010 where that was my primary source of income. So it takes time to build a yoga teaching career- just like any career.
The other cool part from the afternoon was Jessica's contribution with her passionate talk about branding. Check her out on www.RuDesigns.com and see what she is up to. She has lots of help to offer and list of insight on the topic of branding, marketing and authentically showing up in the world. More on that perhaps later- it's getting a bit to late for me to recapture the potency of what she offered.
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Sunday, December 5, 2010
We sent the morning finishing up our talk about conflict, transference and boundaries of the teacher student relationship and then I taught a to model how I would introduce shin loop to a group. One of the students in the group had a goal for the training of learning to teach the loops and so I taught a class about shin loop. Tomorrow the group will put the basic principles behind how I taught into play with the other loops and do som practice teaching.
We sent the afternoon talking about THE VIDEO finally. We made it a. Point in the first two trainings to not talk about the video and so now, having put it off for two full weeks, we finally launched into a discussion about the video standard. Well, actually we had a discussion more on the process of certification, the legalities, the codes of conduct, the role of the mentor and many other things that took so much time we only scratched the surface of the actual video standard! Ah well, be that is it may, i do think the information we covered was relevant and engaging for the most part.
My big plea is for candidates to do a lot of their own work before giving their video to a mentoring teacher whether they are applying for inspired status or certified status. If you can find anything wrong with your video that you think you could improve, then improve it before you give it to your mentor. You want the mentor to help you find the things that you can not see, not the things you already know! I know that this seems obvious but it does bear stating clearly- watch your own video have your fellow teacher trainees watch your video and when you can't find anything you wok improve, then ask for your senior teacher to watch it. It is the most empowering way for you to engage the process and the most respectful way for your teacher to be engaged in the process as well.
Also, bear in mind that this is not a perfectionistic witch hunt either. On one side of the formula are the candidates who are way too casual- who do not even watch their own videos before they submit them. On the other side of the coin are those candidates who can not see their goodness, the goodness of their teaching and cannot recognize when good enough is well, good enough! No class is ever perfect, no class is without room for improvement and we are hopefully never done growing, changing and evolving our teaching.
Look for obvious things that are constantly emphasized in Teacher Trainings and are carefully outlined on the assessment forms. Check for passive voice ("leg lifts up" instead of "lift your leg up"), check for active commands, make sure your use of active and passive commands is skillful, make sure you say "your legs" not "the legs".
If you do a demo, make sure the action you are showing is observable, that your points are succinct, and that your students are positioned so they can see what you want them to see.
If you give an instruction to the group, make sure they do it, I mean, really do it. If it is important enough for you to say, it has to become important enough in your mind that you make sure they do it. For instance , say, "take your leg down to a 90 degree angle," and then do not say anything else until you look around the room and make sure they are actually doing it. And if they are not, make sure you consider why not.
Seriously, If they cannot do the full form, ask yourself why not? Not knowledgeable enough? Not open enough? Not strong enough? Not motivated enough? And address your next instructions to teaching your students relative to why they are not executing the form you are asking for. Honestly, a lot of what I see on videos is that teachers are teaching poses too hard for their students and instead of preparing them for the poses, teachers are allowing a lot of "not quite" alignment rather than making the poses more basic/accessible or teaching component parts of the poses. Keep in mind if 50% of your group cannot do the form you are teaching, its probably not the right pose for that class.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but these are common places where most of us can improve. Also, check in to see if you have given time for silence and if you are actually linking your heart theme to a UPA for that lesson. Check that the UPA is actually a lesson and not just a commentary in the background.
Obviously there is more to say on the topic, but these are some key points on which to evaluate yourself. And start taping your classes now. Do not wait. Even if you are terrified to see yourself. The process of self assessment is how you will grow the most as a teacher. Video taping yourself affords you the opportunity to evaluate your efforts relative to the Anusara standard but more importantly, according to who you want to be as a teacher. And watching ourselves teach on film is a different perspective. Believe me it can be very illuminating to see ourselves teach and to get a perspective on our work that is not so internally referenced, the way it can be when we are on the inside of the teaching.
Anyway, that's some free advice! Also potent from the day was the recognition for myself that as I have grown and developed as a person through this method, abiding by our standards has become less and less difficult. Modeling good teaching that aligns with our standards, while not always easy, is really a gesture of thanks for all Anusara Yoga has given me. It is one way I can say thank you to my teachers who have so generously guided me all these years.
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Saturday, December 4, 2010
One thing you have to reconcile to continue to be happy in Anusara Yoga is that this is an evolving conversation. And like I said this morning, our involvement in the discussion evolves it. On one level very little has changed since John started the method. And yet, the way the basic premises are communicated and the flavor of the communication and the bhava or mood of the culture has shifted and changed over time to be sure. Lucky for us, our leader is growing, changing and refining his thoughts and experiences and so the method and the way we are asked to represent it is growing, changing and being refined.
The trainees spent the morning in small groups practice teaching and refining verbal articulation skills. After lunch we debriefed the morning and then spent the afternoon on conflict resolution skills and talking about transference and how it can rear it's ugly head in our relationships as yoga teachers. The thing that really stood out for me about this afternoon's discussions is how many times, as yogis in community we can have a conscious (or oftentimes unconscious) expectation that because we are in a "yoga community" conflict will not arise and we should some how be immune from all the painful expressions and manifestations of our humanity like jealousy, envy, fear, greed, deceit and and so on because we are yogis.
In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. Most of us came to yoga, not because we were free of that stuff but because we wanted to get free of it and we thought yoga might have some help to offer. And it does have help to offer. It has profound technology to help us overcome the darkness within ourselves. But it doesn't always work right away and many times along the way to getting better, it actually gets worse.
I am not positive about why things often feel worse before they feel better but I think that it is because one of the main technological resources we have as yogis to overcome our darkness is something called awareness. My teacher taught us a practice of self-observation that involves observing ourselves without judgment and without attempting to change ourselves. There is more to it than that, I suppose. But essentially, the idea is that by seeing something exactly as it is with no buffers, a shift of consciousness can occur inside the practitioner. (as it relates to A
asana practice-- I remember being in Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher, Laurie Blakeney's class and someone asked her how to get some muscle to fire and she said, "stare at it until it moves." and i have tried that approach in asana and it does work.)
Self observation is not so dissimilar. I suppose we stare at ourselves until we move but with no investment in moving at all. And so it is, like so many things on the path, paradoxical. By seeing something as it is without trying to change it, it actually changes. But in order to really see it, just as it is in the way that it is unavoidable and in the way that we can no longer avoid our own part in it, the "it" we are observing has to get pretty big. I think this may be part of what is going on when something seems to get worse before it gets better.
Many times, when conflicts, difficulties and mala-inspired patterns arise inside ourselves and in our communities we hit a panic button and make a bunch of decisions. Generally, these decisions do not have our best interest in mind. They tend to go like this- "this should not be happening in a yoga community, " "I guess those yogis are actually full of shit," " so much for Anusara and all their open hearted crap- I knew i couldn't trust them," " if they were really practicing yoga they wouldn't be so___________" and so on- all of which boils to leave, check out, exit, good bye.
Anyway, none of that is how I see it. I think we come to path to get free of these limiting ways of thinking, feeling and acting and in order to move to the next level in our growth and practice we have to see what is in our way clearly. It may get really big before we can see it. We do not come to yoga already knowing how to be yogi's. We engage the path and then the path-slowly, surely, deliberately and painstakingly at times- trains us how to stay on the path and to grow in our capacity to hold these teachings with greater degrees of efficacy and integrity.
I figure all the same mundane bullshit that happens in any community is going to happen in yoga community. Why wouldn't it, given that we don't become yogis due to our perfect record of righteous conduct but instead we become yogi's because we need the teachings. I figure what makes conflict different in yoga communities is that we have the teachings, we have each other and we have the practices so perhaps we can work towards more enlightened outcomes. Perhaps we can bring consciousness to bear on our discord, awareness to bear on our habitual tendencies and we can, over time learn to engage the conflict skillfully so that we grow and evolve and get trained and honed in our humanity through the process.
Well, I suppose more could be said, but enough for now.
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Friday, December 3, 2010
We spent the morning on introductions, reviewing theme development and practicing asana. We talked sequencing and verbal articulation skills in the afternoon. It was smooth first day with a lot review, clarifications and we had lots of time for personal questions which is always great.
I think for me the thing on my mind is how much people have changed through this process. I know I have. August 2008 was kind of low point in my own life. Kelly and I were going through a very hard time in our marriage, I was having to face a lot of difficult things inside myself and while a lot of things were also going well, I felt a bit removed from them- as though my life was kind of happening to someone else.
Anyway, for me the two and half years have brought amazing growth, empowerments and clarity. And what is cool is that my teaching work in Tucson, my friendship with Darren and my relationships with the students in our programs have been a source of constancy and support throughout some difficult soul searching and personal growth. I say it a lot but these trainings are real chambers for growth. All of us step into it together and while Darren and I accept the responsibility for guiding the process and holding the space, we are certainly in the process also. As immersion teachers, we are not in any way separate from what we are asking of our students. The process asks a lot of all of us and while it is not easy it is certainly worthwhile.
Okay. More tomorrow.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I really have had an amazing time being here. On one level it was rejuvenating (like when I was on retreat) but also a bit tiring and busy once the celebrations and so forth were in full swing and I was plugged into those activities and opportunities to serve, all of which were fantastic. One thing I am reconnected to from this trip is the deep love and affection I have for my sangha here. This has been the longest time I have sent here since I left and I really feel like I got knitted back into the life here again in a very real way- both internally and externally. And as a mentor and friend of mine commented to me yesterday, " it is great to have both."
The structure of my life actually demands that I stay connected inside myself to what matters to me. I do not get an easy connection and continuity from outside routine and structures right now. Because of the amount I travel, I meditate almost every day but never at the same time. I practice asana almost every day but never at the same time or in the exact same way because my outer circumstances are so variable (people often try to get me to tell them about my practice and I can rarely give a satisfying answer to them because there is no normal. Normal has become varied. And my relationship to practice no longer follows external definitions like it used to. Several years ago when asked, I could say, "well, I teach every morning at 9-10:30. I practice every day from 11-1 and then have lunch."
This is especially true in the domain of friendships. I rely heavily on those people in my life who can continue to stay connected to me and me to them without regular, daily or even monthly contact. If, when someone doesn't see me or hear from me for a while, they begin to doubt our connection, begin to anchor themselves in my faults and shortcomings and project all kinds of meaning onto the fact I am not physically present, then that is a person I just can't have in my life right now. Not in a close way anyway, I just do not have the mental/emotional bandwidth for that, so to speak. Or even the time, to tell the truth.
But what is very cool that I have a very good handful of those people in my personal and professional network who I can call and connect with as though no time has passed, who are busy themselves and do not use the busy-ness to avoid intimacy but are able to maintain a heart connection with me and the people they love without regular face to face contact. It is essential.
And yet, wow, when we have a chance to connect face to face, to weave ourselves into a group effort, to work and serve and play together in person then it is a super thing. That is always how it is when I get together and teach with someone, when we meet at a workshop or when I teach at one of my friend's studios. And that is how it has been for me being here. My connection to my teacher has always been deeply internal and not dependent on seeing him and the support I feel from the sangha is the same way. However, there is a nectar in physical presence, in continuity of life together that is very special and deeply nourishing.
Yep, it is nice to have both.
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