Friday, February 25, 2011

On being a pioneer

So I had a great day yesterday- the highlights being a great walk with Anne and her dog, the group practice and a planning session with Ross Rayburn to plan a teaching event together here in the end of April.

Turns out he is gonna be in Dallas teaching and I am gonna be in Austin teaching the Immersion (COMMERCIAL WITHIN COMMERCIAL- new immersion cycle begins March 25-27 at Breath and Body Yoga. If you have ever wanted to do an Immersion with me, do it now because it will be 2013 before I do another one in Austin! Seriously, the Immersion is an awesome opportunity to deepen your practice in so many ways.) Anyway, Ross and I have talked about teaming up for a while now so he sent me a note suggesting that we do a short program in Austin before his gig in Dallas and, as luck would have it, I am in town as well! Stay tuned for the details and plan on coming. It will be a lot of fun.

So- the group practice wednesday was fun also. We went in the back bending direction with a lot of work with side body long in some shapes where it's not so easy to keep that- anjaneya back bends, ustrasana drop backs with arms overhead, and wild thing to urdhva danurasana. The group practice is a great class. So many people who come have been coming to that class for almost two years and so they are well schooled in our principles and have a tremendous work ethic, which is so fun to be part of. I am really pleased with what is happening in there. Sam and I now formally share that class and while we are both gone this month Anne and Mandy are going to be subbing so the fun and learning is sure to continue.

The other thing really on my mind is how much I am enjoying watching my students "grow up" in the method. Even as we speak, many of our Austin gang are meeting John Friend for the first time. G'Nell Smith, Sam Rice, and Lauran Janes are all at the therapy training with in Miami. Brigitte is there too. Kim Schaefer just got back from the Dancing with the Divine Tour kick off in San Francisco, which was not her first time studying with him but still a noteworthy event! And so many other students from around the country are meeting him and studying with him while he is in Miami.

In other exciting news Mandy recently got certified, Jess G just got news she passed her video and so now she just has to tackle the written exam. Whitney just told me she is going to apply for certification. Kat just posted amazing pictures and reflections from her adventure with BJ down in Guatemala. Kendra recently got her inspired status approved. Several students from my last TT are refining their classes and will be applying for Anusara-inspired status. And that is just off the top of my head. I know there are so many more stories of folks stepping into their work more fully.

I have always seen my job as preparing people to study with John so when my students dive into the larger community of Anusara Yoga, I feel like something really important is happening in our work together as teacher and student as well as in the larger life of their studentship and sadhana which, of course, extends well beyond me. Also it is so important for people who teach is method to glimpse the huge network of amazing people they are part of, especially those teachers involved in pioneering Anusara Yoga in their areas.

What do I mean by pioneering? Well, some of the people who study this method and learn to teach it are doing so in areas where Anusara Yoga is fully developed and so they and their students already generally have a glimpse of the world they are part of as Anusara Yoga practitioners, students and teachers.

Other folks really are pioneers- they are bringing Anusara Yoga into areas where it is not established and that task typically has a different dynamic. Pioneers do not get to rely on the good work the senior teacher (or teachers) has done in an area to make the method appealing, credible, interesting, accessible, marketable, engaging and even tangible. For instance, teaching Anusara Yoga as a new teacher in a studio where everyone already knows the lingo is hard enough. The pioneers have to do that in a place where all the students are used to something else and have come to know yoga as something different or perhaps know nothing of yoga at all (which is again a different dynamic).

So the students of these pioneers many times- through no fault of their own it's just the nature of that situation- do not know that they are actually part of a world-wide community and there are thousands of teachers across the world asking their students to come and watch a demo, take their thighs back, refine their offering, laugh right out loud in class, etc.- it's not just some weird thing their particular teacher is requiring. And in the early stages of pioneering an area that is well established with other ways of doing things, sometimes Anusara Yoga classes take a while to catch on and so people are not always clear they're also part of a very vital, successful network.

For instance, a year or so ago when I was teaching an Immersion and Teacher Training at a flow studio, we frequently ended up with a discussion that became basically a tangent of "but people don't want to learn this stuff" and one day, when I was teaching the public class at that studio, someone who didn't know the flow class was an Anusara yoga class walked out when he saw me. I didn't mind- I mean, he came for one thing and was going to get another. No problem. I am merely illustrating the point that within that group there was a continual undercurrent (and justifiable!) of feeling that somehow, people were not going to want to do this stuff. I finally realized what was going on with that group told them that the kind of resistance we were seeing was the exception to the rule of my life and that my life is generally full of teaching scenarios where people are psyched to learn from me, not walking out the door when they see that it is me, not hot flow! But honestly, I get why we had that recurring tangent as a group, because these were flow teachers pioneering Anusara and it is not easy to be a pioneer.

So when that pioneering teacher-in-training steps into the larger venues and is part of 250 people all loving the method, it suddenly shifts their consciousness as to what they are actually involved in. If you are pioneering an area, my advice to you is get your students in front of John and the senior teachers any time you can. So often the new-teacher-to-Anusara is shy about getting their students in front of a more experienced teacher but this is key to growing your community and helping your students see your offering as valid, credible, and connected to a larger field of expertise. These larger group experiences edify the work you are doing and help your students see that you are not the only one talking about this stuff. AND, connecting to the larger groups is vital for keeping yourself inspired and juiced up when the pioneering work is, at times, taking it's toll.

I did that in the early days of my studio in Arizona. I would pile people in my minivan and we would drive to Desiree's studio, I invited teachers in to teach us, and we would drive all over the southwest together to study with John Friend. It helped students develop their own relationship with the method, to recognize their place in the community outside the studio and we grew so close and bonded from that kind of time together.

And now that dynamic is happening in a slightly different way as my recent immersion grads and teacher training grads are making their forays into the larger community and into various very cool expressions of their teaching and studies. I am seeing a shift in my own perspectives as a teacher moving even more deeply into the consideration of what it means to mentor, support and assist others in their success. It is a very exciting time. I feel like so many seeds we have planted together have been nurtured for long enough and are beginning to sprout, grow and bear fruit. I feel like a cycle I began when I moved here is completing itself in some lovely ways, which of course, means a new one is starting...

Love it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Morning

I had a great night's sleep last night. I think I am still somewhere between this time zone and Copenhagen because I am insanely tired by 8 at night and wide awake at 5 in the morning. So if I could just stabilize myself in that schedule i wold be able to continue enjoying some highly productive morning hours... Anyway- I am enjoying being home for the better part of the week. I had time for a leisurely practice in the morning,  a visit to the lemons on 6th and Lamar, a lovely lunch date with Kelly, some work in my office with Sam and a walk on the greenbelt followed by an awesome dinner with pasta and produce from Kelly's farmers market visit over the weekend.

One thing really on my mind these days is High Vision. There seems like there are two sides to living and working with a high vision. One is that we have to be involved in is work that we find meaningful, that makes a contribution and holds within it that which is worthy of our efforts and convictions. And so we are clear, I do not think work is necessarily vocation. I am not of the mindset that everyone can and should make a living at their passion. It is great when that happens and so on but it is not what I am talking about here. I think we can have work in the world that is not necessarily the way we earn our living or support our families and so on. The work I am talking about is more like Work- that which is our Heart's calling, our Heart's imperative, our purpose, our creative expression and so forth.

For instance, someone recently told me that they realized through a chain of events that they wanted to be a writer and as a result of this insight,  they had set a goal for themselves that they would be paid to write. And they asked me for advice, which is always flattering and lovely. However, honestly, I was like, "I have no idea, I do not get paid to write!" Okay, true, I am published author, but honestly, that is not really "getting paid to write". For instance, Yoga From the Inside Out was very expensive to make because the pictures were all done before the age of digital cameras and there was A LOT of money spent on the pictures alone. Add in the hours spent writing, revising and so forth and the fact that when you buy that book on Amazon I make like $1, it took a long time before the investment in photographs alone was paid off.

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. Not at all. And sure I have made some money on the book with invitations to teach and doors it has opened and so forth so its not a black or white thing. My point here is- I didn't write the book for money, I wrote the book because it demanded to be written. I was itching inside till I wrote it. I didn't even write it thinking about the day when it would be published and in some ways I was in denial that it would actually be a real, live book. In fact, the day all that information about me and my ideas was actually in print and publicly available, I had a mild anxiety attack. I did not write thinking a thing about end result other than perhaps wanting to offer something to others through the telling of my story. But it was actually a shock when the book came out.

So that to me is Work. We are in the field of Work when something inside demands to be brought forward and when we respond to the demand.  Work like this may or may not yield a financial result. The point is in the doing, in the expression of the creative urge in the offering of a unique contribution. John Friend lately has been talking about this as our own artistic offering to the Shakti. And like I started with, I think having a way to express ourselves that is meaningful, having meaningful Work is key.

I also think there is another side to this dynamic as well. We have to have work that makes a contribution but we also have to recognize the contribution that we are making. And it is the recognition that completes a very vital part of the play.

So- back to the story of the writing, the next question might be "what actually makes you a writer?" Does getting paid to write make you a writer? Or does the writing make you a writer? Does someone benefiting from your writing make you a writer? Someone liking what you write? And so on.  I write largely from an inner imperative, like I said. And I enjoy doing it. People are going to like it, not like, agree, not agree, benefit, disregard, be inspired, be annoyed and everything in between by what I write and so what gives the effort, what gives the offering, its value to me is not in the world of external validation, be that the domain of money, approval, or any type of outer "stamp."

Anyway, I did have some ideas for this person but my main advice was simply to write. If you feel called to write,  write and let the universe decide how its going to compensate you.  And I believe it will compensate you. Will the Universe always do it financially? Doubtful. Might it come that way? Absolutely. Will compensation come in ways you didn't foresee and in synchronicities, opportunities, insights and relationships as well. Definitely. My point is that if we are too narrow in our ability to recognize the many ways that payment might come then we limit our joy and our satisfaction.

Obviously, the parallels to teaching yoga are pretty obvious by now. We get called to teach. I think this calling is generally one of the most sincere, unadulterated, sincere longings to contribute and be of service and to share our love that most of us who get called to teach will ever experience. But what makes us a yoga teacher? Big classes? Being able to make a living at it? Owning the studio? Teaching out of town? Being on the cover of Yoga Journal? Making a video? Having our students like us? and so on. What outer markers of success and validation do we personally and collectively set up (consciously and unconsciously) that are right this moment narrowing our ability to recognize the contribution we are making and the payment we are receiving, I wonder.

This last year, I  got a fair amount of email from people who felt  dissatisfied with the way their yoga teaching career was unfolding. Not internally, mind you. They love what they do, they just expected to be somewhere "further" in some way by this time. And the time ranges from 2 years to 10 years of teaching experience so it is somewhat pervasive and not limited to the actual amount of time someone was teaching. Seems no matter how long someone was at it, they had  this experience of coming up short of their own expectations.

 But this expectation of "further" is generally living on the periphery of the experience of teaching yoga because when I interviewed these various teachers, they were definitely "further" interiorly. They had grown more skillful, more compassionate, more able to transmit the beauty of the practice and they reported feeling more connected to their heart. They have been paid handsomely, in fact. But the Universe may not always reimburse in the same currency that we invest!

Anyway- two sides to the coin as always- We come alive when we make a meaningful offering with our energy and talent. I think we need to contribute to the conversation of humanity in potent, authentic and creative ways. AND each one of us needs to do the work to recognize our contribution for what it is at its essence and not put off our own satisfaction based on narrowly defined, cultural standards (even modern yoga culture!!) that may lack the gravity and nuance of the deeper urges of the Heart which inspired the offering in the first place.

all right- shine brightly out there- the world needs us!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Homeward Bound

So we had a great weekend in Chattanooga, TN this weekend. Maggie did such a great job organizing the workshop and the students of Clear Springs Yoga really turned out for the event. We had nice full sessions throughout the weekend and the majority of people signed up for the whole workshop, which was really great.

So I know that it is not always possible to do every session during a weekend workshop. I know that many times there are schedule conflicts, there are time constraints and there are financial concerns that limit participation. I know this. I have experienced all of these things directly myself over the years as a workshop participant. That being said, as a workshop presenter it is really lovely to have the majority of people attend the entire weekend because then the process can really build on itslef and the basic details we outline in the beginning of a weekend become the foundation for the deeper work that develops over the course of the event. That was certainly the case this weekend and it was such a pleasure to have so much of the group in attendance throughout.

The students were, in general, fairly new to Anusara Yoga and so I got a chance to introduce them to some of the basic principles and practices of our approach. We had a very mixed group in age, ability, capacity, experience and yet the studentship was of a high caliber and the work ethic was stellar. To me, studentship is a key marker of what makes for happy teaching. I love teaching basics, I love teaching modified forms, I love teaching advanced postures and subtle refinements and intricate approaches to familiar concepts. So for me, the content of the teaching is second to the atmosphere in which the teaching is being presented and in which it is landing.

And this weekend that atmosphere was really awesome. Students were respectiful, receptive and so willing to get on board with what I was offering and to go for it even though a lot of what I was teaching was new or unfamiliar. The students were earnest and fun-loving which can be a delicate balance to find in a group. We really laughed a lot along the way. I used the theme "The Yoga of Yes!" which was really fun to explore. What does radical affirmation really mean and what are the many flavors of "yes" we can bring to our endeavors? We worked a lot with the psoas and the quads and the hips and ended the weekend with a rocking foray into eka pada rajakapotasana in the intermediate/advanced class. All in all, a great time.

A few nuggets for me came in my conversations with Maggie who organized the event. She told me her mantra is "I love clarity in whatever form it comes." I thought this was awesome and made for a lot of easy and sane communication. What a lovely mantra. I told her that I was going to take that one myself! I tnink the thing abut clarity is, that once we have clarity, even if it comes with a situation or information that we do not like, then at the very least we can deal effectively with things as they are. If we can't see things clearly, responding skillfully is really going to be next to impossible. It really is so foundational.

I am reflecting on this a lot in my life these days. Certainly, as a teacher I need to be able to see clearly who my students are and where they are at in their practice in order to serve them well. In my inventory about my weaknesses as a yoga teacher and the mistakes I have made over the years, a lot of them fall in this category. Many times, I have failed to see students clearly and have seriously missed the mark in my dealings with them. Sometimes I have failed to see insecurity and fragility where it was operative and failed to be as sensitive as I should have been. Other times I have failed to recognize a lack of commitment and I pushed people as though they were serious students when they really weren't. I have failed to see hidden agendas, hurt feelings, competition, and failed to have appropriate limits and boundaries. The list goes on. There are times I have failed to see sincerity, dedication and support as well. In every case, regardless, my response was not as optimal and as high of a service as possible because it didn't have clarity as it's starting point.

See, whoever we are as students is who we are, I am not even saying everyone should be super committed. To be clear, is not a lecture on studentship as much as it is a disclosure about my difficult journey as a teacher and it is a contemplation on clarity for those of us who serve in the capacity of teacher. I know plenty of people who are great people who love yoga and who benefit from it who I still wouldn 't say are all that committed to it or intense about it. Intense is not "better" in this scenario. Even patanjali talked about three kinds of students-mild, medium and intense. the point I am trying to make is that as a teacher, I need to know and see clearly who is in front of me so that my teaching is actually aimed to the clear truth of who my student is and not a projected, assumed or somehow false impression of who they are.

It's really the Open to Grace principle in teaching, I think. In order to see our studednts clearly, we have to get out of our own way to see who is in front of us and to be willing to respond to what they need, or at least to see that maybe they don't need us but another teacher more suited to their temperament, etc. I find I am getting better at this as I go along but I gotta tell you, I have had some very difficult lessons in this and at the root of almost every conflict I have had with students over the many years I have been teaching was a lack of clarity- in seeing them clearly, in expectations- mine for them, theirs for me, in communication, in the terms of our relationship, and so on. And a lot of it has been quite painful. For both of us, truthfully.

At any rate, that's the teaching consideration of clarity today and it's also a great consideration off that mat in my life. I spend a lot of time out of a "normal routine" and in the hands of others as their guest and I am learning how important it is for me to be clear about what I need in those situations as well. It is so amazing to receive the hospitality I do when i travel and teach and also since I am on the road so much I find I have to get more and more protective of my energy, and it's up to me to be clear about that with others. It's an age old lesson- we really have to teach people how to treat us and to tell them what we need since most of us - no matter how sincere and well meaning we are- do not have mind reading skills! How many conflicts might we avoid if instead of getting mad at people for not reading our minds, we just told them what we needed in a clear and accountable way and negotiated from there?

Anyway, those are some musings from the weekend. Every trip these days seems to have a theme and every group I teach is an opportunity for so much reflection and study. I find my work very rich in that way. So often teachers-in-training ask me how I stay inspired and all I can say is "I pay attention to what is going on." seriously, I find self inquiry and self examination very inspiring. There is no shortage of things to work on and small victories to celebrate and insight to be teased forth into action. I think life is always trying to teach us. Grace is always knocking at the door trying to get us to step through into the fullness of who we are. To me, the many ways it knocks are very inspiring.

So like that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Morning

We had a really amazing group practice last night. 40 folks came, which was really great fun and provided a wonderful cohesive energetic field in which to practice. The room got nicely warm without being oppressively hot and people's spirits were high, yet focused. I deiced not to make a play list as I had some points I wanted to teach and my personal opinion (based on my experience and observation, mind you- is that once the music is playing, the creative mind, the artistic presence takes over and the focus to required to learn and penetrate is much less present. It is not a bad thing, I love music- it just moves us into a different intelligence is all. And I wanted a focus in the room so we could explore a bit deeper than just doing, even though it was a "practice" and not a "class".

It was a forward bending week so we worked with special emphasis on the loops  of the legs and getting super steady in the shins to create greater opening and ease in the hips. Yes, steadiness and ease was the theme- although I talked more about ease from a psychological perspective and steadiness from a physical perspective. This is my understanding of Mr. Iyengar's commentary on the sthiram  sukham asana sloka- the posture should be steady and comfortable. And while most agree that Patanjali was referring to the seat one takes for meditation, we can glean other layers of meaning for it now as well.

Asana might also be the seat of our prana, the seat of our vital force and this instruction tells us we need to seat that force within us in a steady and comfortable way.

Asana might also mean the seat of who we are, our identity- the Self and also the self, depending which kosha we are talking about and which perspective we take- spiritual, psychological, etc.  keep in mind that the english word for posture has a definition tat directs us into the physical sheath but also one that takes us to the more interior layers- Posture means physical position AND inner attitude.  So it all depends, right?

And what I love is that the sutra is embedded in the method- Open to Grace and set the foundation- Take you seat. Muscle energy- Make your seat. Organic Energy- Expand with ease. It is also embedded in the very physicality and functionality of the body- get into an inquiry of the stretch receptors and the golgi tendon apparatus and we begin to see that when the body recognizes appropriate steadiness physically, appropriate muscle engagement, that is- a message is sent to the muscle fibers to release, to stretch, lengthen and find a greater ease. No matter where you look, the sutra pops up.

In fact, it pops up all throughout the sutras- this wonderful balance of of steadiness and ease- we see it in the first chapter when we are told that practice (abhyasa - look again and see asa- which is in the sanskrit word for practice and also in asana!)  and detachment (vairagya) are ways to still the citta. (And yes, to the Anusara Yoga Immersion 2 grads, I am not using Shiva-Shakti tantra interpretations here I am speaking more from the classical translations as for this discussion that perspective carries no limitation for me at all and I am a fan of learning to still the mind, remember? I am also in agreement with the tantra that says we can be seated (OOHH.. there it is again.. being  seated!)  in the Heart through other means as well. No conflict for me between paradigms. But I digress.)

So we need a positive aspect of practice- the things we do, the actions we take, etc and we need a dispassionate, detached and renunciate aspect as well- there are things we will "take up" and there will be things we "give up" in order to move deeper into sadhana.

Look into the section in chapter 2 and you will see this clearly again when you explore the yamas and the niyamas. Each of the yamas, for instance- non-harming, truthfulness, non stealing, etc is stated and then a sutra is given about what happens when we are established in the practice of them. The boon (the ease) of the yama only comes when steadiness is established. For instance- when established in ahimsa, all others abandon hostility in our presence. When established in satya, our words create reality. When established in asteya, precious jewels come. And so forth. Again- steadiness and ease.

Anyway- I didn't go into all of that  last night- we mostly did an Operation Thighs Back kind of class (I am getting ready for this weekend, henry!) which, after some opening focused vinyasa, standing poses and floor work,  led into krouncasana. My pose was very free and clear. Quite lovely.

All right then. Enough said for now. Onward into the day!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jet lag

Well, I could not keep my eyes open by 8:00 pm last night but I woke up wide awake around 1:00am. Oh well, I decided to read a while and then get up and get on with the day, knowing a nap is probably in my future today.

I am home and feeling very inspired by the trip to Copenhagen. Something about being gone from home for that long, in a foreign country and having a lot of time to spend with Kelly seems to have shifted my perspective in a lot of ways. Aside from the jet lag, I actually feel very refreshed and rejuvenated from the trip. I had a wonderful practice yesterday, a lunch with mom and dad, a visit to the lovely lemons of 6th and lamar, a great walk on the greenbelt and managed to do a little work. I still have some emails and projects looming- please have patience with  me, those of you out there to whom I own intelligent responses to questions!

One thing on my mind the last couple days is some terrible news I got from a student up in Idaho named Dana. Some of you might remember her as she was in our Tucson immersions and Teacher Training programs over the last two years. She is experiencing a tragic loss of her home, her yoga studio and her husband- all in the same incident, the details of which are very sad and more than a bit shocking. She is now in the midst of having to deal with her grief, confusion and all the many legalities involved in the aftermath of such a crisis.

She and I have been in contact a bit and while she is physically  fine, she is more than a little shaken. I asked her for her permission to share a bit about what had happened and if it was okay for her for me to reach out to the larger community for support for her and since she agreed, this is that reaching out. I also asked her if there were  some tangible ways we might be of support to her as a community and she told me that she needs some help rebuilding her yoga library, her yoga wardrobe and her puja. I was hoping to organize a care package of items and perhaps start a small collection of funds or gift cards that she might use to at least restore a bit of her personal belongings.

If you are willing to donate any second-hand items or money (You can make the check out to Dana Weigel), please mail them to me. I will collect them over the next week or so and get them to her as soon as possible. My address is:

Christina Sell
2805 Sissinghurst Drive
Austin, TX 78745

Clothes: Dana wears a size medium yoga pants and small or medium tops and she lives in Idaho so I think clothes for all seasons would be useful. My first question is- do any of you out there have any hand-me -down yoga clothes in that size range that you would donate?

Also- gift cards to Athleta, Lululemon, prana, etc. might be nice as she could order herself things online. I assume she also needs street clothes as well. Maybe think REI gift card, Gap, Target, etc. She is a down to earth woman in Idaho, vey practical, not fancy, yet with good taste.

Books: If you have any books from your yoga library that you can send her way - Light on Yoga, A Gem for Women, The Teacher Manual, an extra Immersion Manual, any inspirational poetry, any resources for dealing with loss, suicide, tragedy and so forth, send them to me as well and I will put them in the mail to her.

Dana was also concerned about not having her Teacher Training notes so any notes you might have from past trainings that you want to pass along would be great. Or an extra copy of John's DVD training sets.

Again, gift cards to Barnes and Noble, Borders, Amazon, etc. might be a good way to go on this also.

Puja- She also asked specifically for a statue for her puja since all of hers were destroyed. If you have any murtis that need a good home that might bring some light to her in a  very dark time, please send them to me and I will get them to her.

Also, cards, letters, and any show of support would be great to send to me and I will make sure she gets it. I am sure that anything will help her right now. She told me she is surrounded by a lot of darkness so prayers and light are very important as well. Dana is a great person- she is kind, compassionate, strong and dedicated. She lives in a remote place and travelled great distances to study and be with the kula. She practiced a lot on her own and is very hard working, disciplined and committed. Any way we can extend ourselves would be great- and if we all band together a little goes a long way.

I remember many years ago at an advanced intensive with John, someone's wallet was stolen. I think the thief took several hundred dollars and John asked each of us in the room to give $20 to the person who had been robbed. What was so cool is that with several hundred of us giving just $20, we more than covered the amount that had been taken, with no major impact on any one person. It was such a powerful lesson in community banding together to bring an elegant solution to misfortune.

Obviously, in this case, we can't so easily "undo the wrong" but by joining forces and everyone giving a little bit, we can bring Light to a dark situation, we can craft an uplifting supportive response in the face of this painful situation.

All right, I look forward to hearing from you. Let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day off in Copenhagen

Well, even though it is a day off, my body woke up nice and early. I finally had tome to catch up on online mentor group (by the way- I am beginning another online group in April so if you want to join in the fun, email me at and we can get you some information or help you with registration).

Anyway, I got up, did my meditation, made some tea, worked on the mentor group and now I am catching up here before Kelly and I head out for the day. It looks like a beautiful day outside- the sun is shining brightly and the clouds and rain have cleared up. We are going to go out and explore the city today, which I am excited about. Clothes, chocolates, cafes, cycle shops and walking about town. Tomorrow, is another museum and castle day, hopefully with a viewing of the royal jewels even!

The week of yoga here was really fantastic. We spent yesterday morning talking about Patanjali's Yoga Sutras from a classical viewpoint and discussing some of John's interpretations of the classical translations from a Shiva -Shakti tantra perspective. The group is so smart, thoughtful and interested in nuance and distinctions that I found the time flying by. We broke for lunch, reconvened and did a fun group practice.

Kelly was in house taking pictures all week and made a wonderful slideshow for us. Check it out:

Well, more reflections later- on into the day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Copenhagen Immersion Comes to a Close

Well, we have made it to the end of the week and thus the end of the Part Two Immersion tomorrow. It has been a very profound week in a lot of ways. As always the intensity of meeting the curriculum guidelines is immense and the responsibility I feel as a presenter of these Immersions is strong and pervasive and So all of that s there. And, as always, the Immersions also stimulate such rich reflections and insight amongst the group and inside me as a teacher and student of the yoga. It never fails. The Immersions are rigorous, intense and inspiring in so many ways.

One of the recurring themes for me this week was the importance of really having an aim as a yogi. It seems more and more obvious to me that practices and lifestyle recommendations in yoga are NOT about a list of outer do's and don'ts designed to make us into some kind of "ideal yogi". Really, how we chose to evolve our practice and our studentship (I am not tallking here aout "yoga class studentship" but the larger consideration of being a student of Life, discipleship to the flow, sadhana, etc.) is really all about what we want from the yoga. If what we want is a health-based hobby, then the yoga is not going to ask that much of us or require that we relinquish a lot of our comforts, preferences, and so forth. Ut if we are looking for deeper outcomes from yoga than a hobby provides we might be asked to turn up the heat in our practices.

Mind you, I am not criticizing the different aims. I am not someone who has an issue with "yoga for a cuter butt" despite what people might think. Nope, that's not my axe to grind. I could care less why people do yoga in a way and have no interest AT ALL in convincing people with an athletic orientation to be more "spiritual" about it, for instance. That,to me,is a very boring discussion. Who cares? I reoeate- not me. What I am interested in is that eah of us know our personal reasons for practice and that we feel empowered by them and that we make intelligent choices in our lives based on those reasons. And, I feel no need to see the reasons- while all great reasons, in general- as the same. So things can be different and still be valid. We have to be grown ups about that, you know? (so that was a bit of rant. Now, onward through the terrain....)

This idea of knowing one's own aim came up over and over in our talks this week where I kept landing squarely back to the same insight- as yogis we need to know what we are aiming at in order to know what we should be doing, Thus the first principle being so much about intention and sankalpa and being clear with what we want and clear about how we set our foundation. Everything we do is going to stem from our aim. And best that we can make that aim conscious so we can participate consciously in aligning with it.

One day we were talking about eh five elements as they relate to studetnship and someone said, "well it just sounds like this is all about being some kind of perfect student or something.". And it dawned on me with utter obviousness that it was no such thing. The elements outline a balanced approach to studentship but how much we need to develop our weaknesses has to do with how much of a liability they are relative to our aim, relative to what to what we want, what we are called to, etc. Lee used to talk about his all the time, saying sadhana was not about becoming some version of our self that is new and improved. He would talk about how, if particular traits and idiosyncrasies were not in the way of our service, or our dharma, then it would be best to spend no extra energy trying to eradicate them. Yoga is not about conforming to an outer standard- it is about aligning with our inherent goodness, our deepest capacity and our longing to serve in a reliable way. If in the process of doing that, we need to refine ourselves and our efforts, well fine. We can and we should. But it is not an outside- in proposition.

This has been a wonderful new layer of insight and clarity for me this week and is just one of the many jewels I will walk away with from my time with this group. The other fun thing has been teaching an immersion to a group of people who really like school and are very comfortable in a classroom settting. The students read on the break and at night, prepare questions,review their notes with each other, ask insightful, reflective questions in class, take copious amounts of notes in class, and like the nerdy stuff a lot which has been fun.

It has been a wonderful week, full of richness and also, it's been tiring. I am happy we will close things down tomorrow and then have a few days for R&R.

More soon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Evening

 Well, it has been a pretty busy few days with the workshop over the weekend and we started the Immersion today. We have a wonderful group for the Immersion- lots of yoga teachers and people eager to learn and explore Anusara Yoga and its philosophies. It always amazes me how different each group is and yet how similar people are as well.

We dove right into today with a discussion of The Cycles of Nature and how to view the cycle of the birth, sustenance and dissolution from the traditional as well as tantric perspectives. Every time I teach Immersions I am very aware of how daunting the curriculum really is. The amount of information we try to cover in a week is staggering at times. today as I started talking I was so aware that I needed to define just about every word I was using in order for what I was saying to make sense and have a context that was understandable. To get one idea across of the cycles of nature, we had to traverse through material v. absolute, sprit v. matter, feminine principle v. masculine, tantra v. traditional, the meaning of Om, the names and archetypal meanings of Brahma, visnu and shiva, their feminine counterparts of saraswati, lakshmi, and kali, the traditional teaching of the cycles, the tantric view, the concept of what lies beyond the cycle and so on. Lets just say that it gets big quick. Add in a few stops along the way to grapple with the language differences and cultural differences and there was a lot of ground to cover.

The Danish students are excellent. They are serious about learning, interested in education, thoughtful in their questions, sincere in their interest. 

This afternoon we had a very interesting discussion relative to Opening to Grace. The students shared some very beautiful ideas and experiences about connecting to Grace in their lives. Then they told me there is no equivalent word in Danish for Grace like we talk about it in English. But interestingly, they said there is a word that means the same thing but it is very religious in connotation and very "loaded" and so not a good choice to use in class. I reflected on this and listened tot he teachers talk about this and I told them that actually, the word is religiously loaded in our culture also. After we talked a while, I came away with the opinion that as the difficulties the Danish students/teachers of Anusara Yoga are having explaining the philosophy are actually not so different than the difficulties that new teachers have in America when you get right down to it. Obviously, the circumstances vary a bit and the storylines are different culture to culture but even with what we hope is a broad-based inclusive philosophy, it can be hard to see the way to sharing Ansuara Yoga philosophy authentically and with cultural sensitivity, no matter where you live. It just  seems that getting into the swing of teaching these ideas can really take some time and bring up some issues and fears along the way no matter who you are.

To me, there thing about Grace is that it is a very practical thing. Grace is the aspect of reality that wants us to know who we are, whose sole purpose is to reveal to us the truth of who we are. Grace to me is not "everything working out" or "things flowing easily" or "getting a good parking spot" or any such simplistic thing. Grace is present any time my identity is crumbling, any time my worldview is expanding, and any time I am bottoming out with an old behavior and longing to live in deeper integrity with my heart. Grace is not some foreign force outside of myself. Grace  is the very essence of truth within me calling me deeper inward to greater possibility and is present in anything that deepens my capacity to know myself and to serve others. As John defines it, Grace is the revelatory power of the Supreme. To me, that is not "not hitting any traffic lights on the way to work" or "getting a cosmic Get-out-o-jail-free card" because honestly the grit of experience is often what helps us get shinier and brighter. How can we say difficulty is not in or of the flow? I can't.

Anyway, talking about Grace is a wonderful way to spend the day and a great consideration to take into the evening. We ended the day today with some work on inversions, a long savasana and a lovely walk home for dinner. 

And tomorrow, back at it. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Morning

We had a really fun day yesterday.

I woke up early due to the time change, practiced meditation and then had a time for a long asana practice as well. Soham, our host, came home with some lovely Danish baked goodies so after a wonderful and rich breakfast we showered and made our way out into the world. We drove about an hour north through Elsinore and out to the Hamlet's Castle which had many fun and silly moments and learned some interesting educational tidbits regarding castle life and the values people had at the time. The tour took us down into the casements- this underground tunnel system where the soldiers lived. Suffice it to say that their living conditions were somewhat horrible and it was sobering to reflect on how short a time ago it was that people lived like that. Two thousand men were crammed into the underground system with no heat, no ventilation, no light, no showers, toilets and so on. Wow.

And yes, I know there are still places in the world where people live in what I would consider sub-human standards and so it was not just something that happened in 1700 but even still so often our well meaning liberal conversations focus around how messed up things are and to think it was 350 years ago- which is not a long time ago- they thought soldiers were not really human and so on is interesting to me. Add into the story that in India around this time, there was a kind of flourishing of very high minded ideals in certain areas. Of course during the time of that Renaissance spiritually, there were still widows throwing themselves on funeral pyres as acts of ritual suicide which was socially and religiously condoned. Anyway, it's always intriguing to think about these things and about how consciousness is evolving and in what ways it is and isn't and in what ways the evolution manifests in culture. Also important is to place the yoga teachings which we revere into the time and place in which they originated and not to assume things about them from our current cultural biases and so forth. For instance these were not originally teachings of social equality although now social action is almost always paired up with yoga and certainly with modern Buddhist streams.

After the casements, we visited the upstairs part which was where the king and queen and their attendants lived. This was, of course,a different story.

All in all it was a fun time. We drove home, had a wonderful lunch from a local Italian deli and then Soham went to teach and Kelly and I hunkered down for the evening. I fell asleep early, woke up super early and then fell back asleep. Next thing I know Kelly is saying to me:"Guess what time it is?" Of course I couldn't guess so he told me it was 11:00. Anyway, off to a late start today. Time for some asana, a walk about town and then at 5:00 we have a class. I teach a workshop this weekend and then the Immersion starts Monday. Good times.

More later.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Well, we made it to Copenhagen in time to go to a funky district here called Freetown ( where everything like water, electricity and gas are actually free due to some loophole in the law here. We had a great vegetarian lunch (which was not free) and then came back to Soham's apartment and unpacked. Then we went on a walk,got a coffee, visited the yogs studio (, did a little window shopping, came home for some asana, ate dinner and sent a little time catching up on email correspondences. Whew. Big day and 9hours time difference to boot.

Ww have a good group assembling for our weekend workshop and next week's immersion here. Most of the students have done Immersion One with Ross Rayburn so I will get to build on the excellent foundation he will have laid and add a few things to the conversation and then Ross will pick the group back up in April for Part Three.

It has been a wonderful day in transit and I and just now feeling my eyelids getting a little heavy so I will be brief. One thing that I am already enjoying is the same thing I always enjoy when travel to another country and that is the different vantage point that travel affords. Truth be told we have a very diverse country in America with marked regional differences throughout. And I get to experience that dynamic a lot in my travels. For instance, just recently I was made keenly aware of how different Venice Beach, CA is from Tucson, AZ and from Kansas City, KS. But nonetheless, getting out of the country sheds a different kind of light on the values and expectations that many times seem objective or absolute and yet actually have more to do with cultural imperatives and conditioning. I find these new perespecties refreshing and thought provoking.

Anyway, more on this later. Time for a shower and sleep. Tomorrow we are going to Hamlet's Castle. Fun!