Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Well, another great day here in Southern California. I had such a good time filming a segment on Making peace with Your Body. It is an hour-long, focused, gentle breath-based practice with the theme of offering peace and creating a constant self-embrace though muscle energy.

After the filming I took Kathryn Budig's flow class which was a lot of fun. She had great sequences, good cues and a wonderful sense of humor. I found her absolutely delightful and also she taught a strong and effective practice. Who can ask for more than that? Check her out on I definitely enjoyed myself.

After class I taught a 60-minute public class with the theme "goodnight sweetheart" where I talked about sweetness being the full experience of all the flavors of life which, when combined, yield an overall sweetness as opposed to the saccharin-type sweetness that comes from trying to limit life's grandeur into only what is pleasant or nice. We did some gentle surya variations, hip opening, twists, restorative postures, pranayama and a lovely savasana.

This morning I taught a 60-minute backbend class called "The Highest First." it was a very straight forward and timely approach to urdhva danurasana with an emphasis on the first three shoulder principles with particular attention to shoulder loop. The studentship in the room was at such a high. So many folks who are coming to these morning class are dedicated Anusara practitioners and teachers and are really making use of the time with me to learn nuances, new insights and creative approaches to practicing and presenting the method. They pay great attention, implement my instructions and are a real pleasure to teach.

I came home, made lunch and the took a long walk on the beach. I did some work online and then went to Yogaworks for a flow class with Sara Ivanhoe, which was a lot of fun. It was definitely hot and sweaty with a lot of warrior poses and a great play list. I got nice and open and had a super great time just moving, breathing and enjoying yoga class. Good times, all in all.

It is an interesting experience to be here in the heart of the Santa Monica yoga scene and getting to participate in classes here as both a student and a teacher. It is giving me a lot to reflect on in both domains. Teaching at yogaglo is also an interesting learning curve. I some ways, it is teaching a public class and in some ways it is not that at all. I will fill in the conversation more in the upcoming weeks. All in all, I am feeling happy and enjoying what is a very expansive time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


So, I finished up the immersion in Austin and made my way out here to Santa Monica for a week of filming at Yogaglo. Yesterday morning I taught a class called "Out with the old, In with the new" that used strong muscle energy in the legs to help facilitate twists and and to grow the Inner Light. I talked a little about how Lee would sometimes say that we should spend less time working on our "stuff" and more time focusing on our practice and our strengths so that the Light we cultivated from our Work could outshine the crap that was blocking it. Grow the Light instead of work through e darkness. Like that. (of course, as we all know, it is also true that at times you have to face the dark stuff head on, with fearless self-scrutiny and unflinching honesty. But even that work can be done in the context of Light.)

I spent the day doing a little exploring, taking a walk on the beach and getting settled. I did a great asana practice and then I made my way back to The Glo for the evening class. I taught a vinyasa- based practice called Discipleship to the Flow which was a lot of fun. There was a great turn out and we had a fun time with lots of strong work leading to some backbends.

If you do not know about Yogaglo, you should find out about it. For $18/month you get unlimited yoga classes with awesome instructors and all from the privacy of your own home. It's a great deal, a wonderful resource and a great tool for your practice and teaching. Seriously, check it out-

Today I do some solo filming at 4:30 which will be an hourlong practice focused on body image and then I am going to take Kathyrn Budig's class and then I am teaching a class called Goodnight Sweetheart which will be totally different than last night's class. Tonight it will be gentle, sweet and soft, as the name suggests. I am looking forward to it.

I guess that is about it for today. I have some ideas percolating to write about but right now, I am needing to spend a little time prepping my classes. More soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Immersion weekend in Austin

So, we had an absolutely amazing group of yogis assembled in Austin for the first weekend of Immersion One this weekend. The room was packed to capacity with wonderful students ready to dive into the teachings. It was a great mix of students I have known for a while from classes and workshops here in town and a handful of new friends and folks from out of town.

It is a bit hard to recap the weekend all at once but I have to say that the group was very strong, receptive and open to learning. We worked very hard and also had a lot of fun and laughter to share throughut our time together. I have done a lot of work on the Immersion curriculum since I began teaching Immersions so many years ago. Certainly the work we did on the committee has streamlined the offering but also I have personally done a lot to create learning tools and aids that help keep the train on the tracks and help structure my presentation and from what I can tell, the work has really paid off. That is really one thing I love about my work- I am always a learning and refining and getting a chance to improve my craft as a teacher.

We followed a fairly tight time schedule and adhered pretty closely to the outline I made for each session with a few detours, tangents and responses to "teachable moments". It was so fun to watch people's bodies change and incorporate my instructions into their practices. I kept looking out and saying, "now the look like Anusara yoga backs!" if nothing else, I think we made major headway into "side body long, head of the arm bones back...melt!" I really do enjoy the basics.

Of course I enjoy the refinements also. It's all really great stuff, truth be told.

We did a lot of work on the Primary Flows of Energy and talked a fair amount about studentship and how it relates to the five elements and also how studentship relates to aim and personal intention. Once Again,the more I teach this stuff the more profoundly I see that yoga is not an outside-in imposition of right and wrong onto life, ourselves, our behavior or our bodies. It just isn't. Yoga is really a beautiful set of tools to help us meet our aim. And our studentship and the actions we take are going vary depending on what we want from the practice. And that is as it should be. It is such an empowering and liberating perspective.

I am now on my way to Los Angeles for a week of filming classes at Yogaglo, which is another super fun thing. I start tomorrow morning with a 10am class on twisting called "out with the old and in with the new" and then again at 6:00 for a "move more talk less class" called "Discipleship to the Flow". I am looking forward to seeing all the LA peeps and rockin' out a bit with them. I just really love getting to be a part of their yoga community. They are fun, open-hearted, hard-working and seasoned as practioners, all of which makes for very fun classes and workshops. AND I have a great place to stay right on the beach in Venice and so I hoping to have a little R&R for myself while I am there also. Also, I am gonna take some yoga classes while I am there.

On Friday i fly out to South Carolina to visit the good folks of City Yoga in Columbia, which is something I am really looking forward to also. I was there a year and a half ago and found that community of people so sincere and sweet and nurturing to be with. Kelly will meet up with me for that weekend, which is an added bonus.

And then I leave from there to go to Whistler, BC for the Lululemon Ambassador Summit. So that is a really cool thing- Lululemon is holding a Summit for a handful of us Ambassadors and is flying us out to Whistler, putting us up at The Four Seasons and giving us 3 days of seminars, trainings and personal growth opportunities (and even a brand new sticky mat-and we all know how much I love those, right? Seriously, get The Mat and say good-bye to slipping in your own sweat forever.)Anyway, what a fun thing to get to go do. I am really psyched to be invited and to have a chance to be part of it.

And the day after that ends, I head out to Arcata,California to see the awesome yogis there. I was in Arcata in the fall and Robyn invited me back I had one opening in April or one in late 2012 and so we booked the spring date. It's a rare treat to get to visit a studio for a weekend workshop twice in the same year and I know it's gonna be awesome.

All in all, it is a vital, fun few weeks for me coming up after an amazing month of March.

Wow, whoa and whoopppee!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More on Aim

Well, I am home and enjoying myself so far. Kelly picked me up from the airport and we took a walk around Lady Bird Lake before having a date at The Paggi House nearby. All in all, a great welcome home and a chance for he and I to celebrate his birthday which happened while I was away.

I came home very inspired from my travels and with lots of fun stories to tell about my various learnings and experiences. I really gained a lot at these last Immersions. I set my intention to "cultivate love, gratitude and to serve from my Heart" and I worked with that theme a lot as the weeks went on. I think that is the thing about intentions and aim- for it to be a useful tool, we have to commit to it and really apply ourselves to it. That was one of my major insights of the trip. Of course it sounds obvious, but I like I experienced it at a new level.

It is so easy to get lulled into a perspective that boils down to wanting and expecting life to go our way. ( I call this the Burger King mentality which, when applied to life, is more like a fantasy than it is a viable perspective or useful context.) Don't get me wrong here, I love it when things go according to what I want and I love getting my way. I really do. No problem. And, for the record, I have nothing against that, its just that as a conscious or unconscious expectation for how life should be, it's more than a bit limited and sets us up to be consumers of life, not students of life and encourages us to be victims of our experience not authors of an enlightened response to circumstance.

If I am expecting that life is going to give me what I want when I want in the way that I want, then I am treating the mystery of grace like I am at Burger King and generally difficulty and disappointment and mistakes, when viewed from this perspective will seem like "things going wrong". But when I am committed to an intention for growth and transformation, then these difficulties are put into a larger context of learning and Remembrance. And this is a difference that can make all the difference.

The hard part is when it actually happens and we are faced with the choice of working through these obstacle with accountability or falling into a pattern of blame and disappointment that "things didn't work out." It takes a lot to live outside of blame. It really does. It's tentacles insidiously reach into all the nooks and crannies of experience and beg us to see things as wrong and see ourselves as victims rather than participants.

Truth be told, there are times when we are victims and we are at the affect of very negative actions that are done to us and with mal- intent behind them. I am not saying that are responsible for those things. That is another consideration for another time. I am saying that we are responsible for our response to these misdeeds and to moving beyond a state of ongoing blame and over time moving beyond our anger so that the anger does not become lingering resentments that poison our consciousness. I am not saying it is easy and I am not saying it comes naturally. I am saying we work on it as a practice and that is what makes us yogis.

Aim and intention, when viewed in this way, is not an exterior, self-imposed kind of goal setting process set in motion to produce a new and improved model of ourselves. Aim, to me, is not about putting myself into some box of pre-determined expectations and formulas of how to "do it right". No, aim is about listening to my Heart enough to hear what it wants - really wants- and to claim those impulses as real, valuable and even necessary. That is what fuels aim, really, Necessity. There is really nothing more profound to me than when any of us reach a point when we can not go one second further into the future without some vital part of ourselves included in the journey. Claiming ourselves in this way, claiming our Heart in this way, is what aim is all about.

And when we claim our Heart, commit to our aim and funnel our life through our deeper intentions, everything changes and we become students of life, not consumers. We become authors of our responses, not victims of our circumstances. We get a chance to learn from what is happening and not just be annoyed or pleased by what life is offering us. All kinds of difficulty is made useful and is elevated in these efforts.

There is a teaching in Tantra about turning poison to nectar and about how everything can become a doorway to the Heart. I love that teaching. It is one of my favorites. As a person who suffers from many manifestations of perfectionistic thinking, it has always been a comforting idea. The more I consider the teaching, however, the more I realize that the teaching begs the question, "Am I?" Am I really using the difficulty or am I complaining about it? Am I really learning from my misdeed or am I rationalizing my behavior? Am I digesting this poison or am I just getting intoxicated? (keep in mind here that blame, self-hatred, self criticism and all those malified mindsets can be as addictive and habit-forming as any drug) and so on.

To me, the teaching around aim and intention is fundamental for making use of difficulty and turning poison into nectar and it's big on my mind these days. I have recently been considering a difficult relationship I have had in which both of us have been hurt by the other. Sorting out my leftovers feelings in light of all the difficulty has taught me and all that it has required of me has been enlightening. It's a tightrope, really because in truth, I also feel a bit used in the relationship and there is a fair amount of evidence to support that perspective and blame lurks right round the corner waiting for an opportune moment to get back in the discussion. And yet, that being what it is, the very nature of the difficulty elevated me in ways that I am very grateful for, that invited me to rise to new levels of clarity and integrity and as a result of the work the difficulties with this person asked of me, I am a better person in a lot of ways because of the conflicts.

Obviously more could be said, but that is what tomorrow is for!

Friday, March 18, 2011

So. Much. Shri.

Today was Day Three of the Part Two Immersion. It has been a wonderful week so far.  Something about Part Two is really awesome because the people who make it through Part One come back more seasoned, more prepared and somehow both stronger and softer. There is so much to  do in Part One- so much context, foundational information and even just the 6-day format is something to adjust to and get a handle on and all that often kicks people out of the process due to the intensity of the experience and the many ways the "actual product" may not have met their preconceived notions and expectations. But those people who make it through all of that and come back for more are usually in a very different place at the start of Part Two than they were at the start of Part One. Of course, one would hope the process worked like that; that it would be moving  us along in our growth, etc. but nonetheless its wonderful to see and be a part of.

We have been talking a fair amount this week about the movement from Raw Power  to Refinement and the goddess archetypes that guide the journey through the creative cycles and the journey from Kali to Saraswati to Lakshmi or Shri. It has been such a  useful paradigm to invoke in the Part Two Immersion where the Raw Power and intention of Part One is getting honed, refined, clarified. Its happening on so many levels this week- from asana to the inner work and insight arising within the chamber we call Immersion.

I have actually been aware of it within myself. I have been reflecting on the last few years of working with Darren on these programs and I can even see that movement through the cycles for myself. I can see many ways that I have moved from the starting point of my own intense raw power that I had  to a more refined outer presentation as well as a deeper inner experience of my own Beauty and Heart. Its amazing how profound the process is to be a part of and how much teaching the Immersion has asked of me over the years and how rewarding the work has been both personally and professionally.

Today's afternoon session was  particularly strong. Darren posed a consideration to the group that had to do with Life Script v. Aim. He told stories about his own choices that were determined by Life Script- those patterns of behavior that we have from childhood or even from family samskaras that assure certain outcomes- and stories about choices he made that were made in alignment with his Aim as a yogi. He asked the group to examine what "Life Script-inspired" patterns had come up this week and how they might be recognized, utilized and transformed in the heat of yoga to take us further toward our Aim. It evoked some interesting conversation and some amazing heart-felt sharing.

My heart was ripped wide open by the vulnerability of the sharing and the compassion the students offered each other. I was so touched by the work people were allowing themselves to do in the Immersion. It was so strong and the thing that seems so clear to me is that when we have an Aim, when we really commit to it, that vision and commitment initiate something very Real inside us and gives us leverage into a level of work on self that is impossible without such a focus.

The thing is, when we know what our Aim is, then events, situations, feelings, etc. that are apparently "going wrong" can turned to something Higher. They become a kind of fuel for tapas, for transformational heat. If we do not know what we are aiming at, those things are simply things that are going wrong. Having an Aim that we are truly committed to takes us out of life as a victim and puts us into a deeper accountability with Life as it Is. And Life as It is is always trying to communicate with us, is always trying to teach us. This, to me, is at the Heart of Studentship. We must know our Aim, commit to it and then go about using what Life gives us from within and without accountably to further our journey to our Heart.

And when we do this, even the messiest of times, can be turned into something good. I think this is what we mean by Looking for the Good in Ansuara Yoga. It's not a new-age overlay of positive thinking. Really, I am pretty sure that is not at all what John means by this practice. Looking for the Good means that we train ourselves to recognize that our darkest times often yield the gold of our growth. Think about it- the worst times in life often become the fertile soil out of which our compassion grows. Our mistakes are often the greatest lessons. Our injuries many times make us brilliant therapists. And so on it goes.  Looking for the Good means that we can know this truth even when we are in moments of darkness, even in our despair and even when anxiety seems to be in the driver's seat. Looking for the Good is a context we hold that says, "I will be a yogi; I will continue to work toward my Aim even in the worst of circumstances. I will practice."

Its not a guarantee, though. Plenty of shit can happen to us and within us and we can lack the skill, support, resources or will to make good use of it. Just because everything can be turned to the Highest doesn't mean that we come to the path knowing how to do that. Nope, this shift doesn't happen automatically. It takes yoga of some sort, I think. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes unrelenting persistence in the face of repeated failure to learn how to make use of our discomfort so that the heat yields breakthrough and not breakdown.

In the Kularnava Tantra there is a great verse that says, "on the path of the kula, enjoyment becomes yoga, your mistakes or sins become art and all life is liberation."  We have to be on the path for that promise to be fulfilled or else its just enjoyment, sin and life. To turn those things into Yoga, Art and Liberation, the path of the kula must be engaged.

So this was the afternoon- with some forward bends, meditation, pranayama and savasana thrown in for good measure. Wow. What a day at the office.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day Off in Tucson

I always laugh at the words "day off". My spiritual teacher hated that expression. He was always like, "Day off from what? From paying attention? From being kind, generous and compassionate? From serving the Great Work? From what matters the most to you as though this Life is some kind of prison sentence and you are going to get "time off" for good behavior? What exactly do you want a day off from and how exactly do you plan to manage that?" (not that he said all of that every time he heard the expression, mind you. That was more like a compilation of his words, and sentiments over the course of the time I have known him.)

John Friend said something simliar to a friend of mine even more succinctly. He had been teaching all day long, they were out for dinner and he was heading back to the hotel to continue with  some of his work. And she asked him, "John, when do you take time off?" She told me that he looked very kindly at her and said with a smile, "There is no such thing as time off, only time." He is such an impressive, embodied example of that principle in my opinion. Just recently in Miami, he had taught all day long, was making his way through the very long line of people who wanted/needed his individual attention afterwards and, as he was working on someone's psoas, he looked at me and Sue, smiled,  and said, "I am headed home tonight to work on some really exciting projects."

Keep in mind, I am not talking about rest. I believe in rest. I think we need renewal and I am all in favor of providing ourselves with what we need, emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. So ignoring our needs is not what I am talking about here. Not at all. I am just very interested in this notion of "time off" as it relates to the yoga path, which is an invitation to tune in, not out... to paying attention, not to spacing out... to being "on" in a very deep and Real way and not "off."

I think that one key for me has to do with the level of authenticity I am living at in any given teaching endeavor. I find the further I am away from my true self when I teach, the more tiring it is to me, the more drained I feel and the more "time off" I need after. As teachers, we are absolutely charged with the responsibility of containing ourselves to some degree when we take the seat of the teacher. It is appropriate to have boundaries when we take the seat. Good boundaries, relative to our function, help us to be effective.

Depending on the situation we are in, the skill and experience of the group, the rapport we have with the group, our willingness to expose ourselves, our own personal baggage/issues at the time, this containment is considerable or not-so-much. Believe me, I have had more than one conflict over the years from being too casual and saying too much about what I really thought without censoring myself with  groups/individuals who did not know where I was coming from and who took my words negatively and were very hurt by what I said. So, I have learned about this the hard way and have some wreckage behind me. We have to be real, but we have to temper ourselves as well. I have learned the very hard way about the need to be more formal and reserved as a teacher.

My spiritual teacher used to talk about the time in a relationship with his students where he became freed up to really teach. He talked a lot about how initially, as we were just building trust in a student-teacher relationship, he had to be more careful, more PC and more sensitive to our feelings and issues as new students. He also said that during this time, he was not really free to teach the Teaching, because he had to be so careful about our feelings. He was always really excited when we took over that job and managed our own feelings and self-esteem and he could get down to the business of actually teaching us, not just sparing us hurt feelings or bolstering our self-esteem.

Its a tough nugget to chew on at times-that perspective- because as well all know, the teacher can easily hold a lot of psychic power over us and one comment from our beloved  teacher can sting in a way the same comment doesn't even register when coming from a trusted friend.  But be that as it may, Lee's point and the way he trained us was to take responsibility for why those comments stung and to not blame him for the sting. And, he didn't expect it right away, but it was his vision for us over time. He wanted us to grow up as his students and personal responsibility in this way was seen as a very real sign of our maturation.

John talked about this a bit in slightly different terms at the Advanced Intensive in Miami.  He talked about what it meant to develop our relationship with him, the method and to really learn to trust him. He gave examples of how he has different relationships with different students depending on our history, temperament, rapport, intimacy, dedication and karmas with him. He said it can be very easy to watch him be fierce with someone else and then to consciously or unconsciously, use that as a reason to doubt him even though he has  never been that was with us. John has been fierce with me over the years- also amazingly loving, spacious, kind, expansive and sweet- but honestly, his fierceness has never felt mean to me. In fact, I always feel a bit relieved when he is giving it to me straight because when he does that then  I know that he trusts me enough to not candy-coat his teaching with me. I know, in some way, he is free to teach me from his heart in the moment, even if its not uber "nice". Its a full spectrum, this life of Grace, after all. Why would the teaching only come wrapped in the sweet stuff?

So, my point in that little digression and story telling is to say that as students we influence the field of the teacher and The Teaching and as teachers we need to be sensitive to what the students can handle and what they are ready for. It may be that with some groups we do have to hold a lot of ourselves back because they are not ready for the full force of what we have to offer. That kind of holding back is skillful means and is much different than holding back out of our fears of being rejected or the idea that we need to put on a false "new and improved version" of ourselves when we teach that complies with our projections and ideas about how a yoga teacher should be.  If we are doing that, then we are going to get tired quick and need a lot of "time off" to recover!

I also think  this time off thing has to do with capacity. I have watched John grow his capacity to serve over the years that I have known him. And as his capacity increased, so did the opportunities Grace gave him to serve. He got more work, not less. More ways to help, more people to see, more projects to create. It is so wild- we get rewarded for a job well done with more work, not with more time off. This yoga is not the 40-hour-work-for-the-weekend-so-you-can-do-somethng-you-really-like kind of paradigm that most of us were raised in. No, this is an exercise in meeting the very expanding nature of Grace as it is, on its terms and letting it carry us beyond our limits, beyond our ideas of time on and time off, and into its rapid, loving currents of demand. And remember the teaching says that if we bring our efforts, Grace will carry us. If we work, Grace will  make us able to do what it requires of us.

That being said, I have a "day off" today- which mostly means that it is a day where I do not stand in front of a group and tell them what to do with their arm bones and thigh bones. And I do have some plans for some delightfully nourishing activities. (think: long asana practice pretty toenails, a facial and some acupuncture.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Costa Rica Final Day

It has been a pretty full week and one thing is certain- teaching a 5-day Immersion alone is a lot more tiring than team teaching a 5 or 6-day process.  (make that a note to self) I found myself pretty tired at the end of each day and ready for a meal,  a good book and some rest. Generally, I am a pretty lousy houseguest at these things- after talking for 6 or 7 hours during the day, I can barely open my mouth to make interesting conversation at dinner, nor do I usually feel like it that much! I usually retire to my room, touch base with Kelly and try to be completely uninteresting, inspiring or charismatic. I find the more I work and the longer I go about this, the more I seek solace at the end of the day, not sociality. Seems like a way to keep balance.

At any rate, we had a great discussion yesterday about Open to Grace and the many facets it involves. Many of you know that I have a long history of experience with Twelve-Step groups and Open to Grace is kind of like the first three steps to me. The first three steps are:
1. Admitted we were powerless over________ and our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood him.

Now, keep in mind that AA was not written to be politically inclusive, gender neutral or to spare or build our self-esteem. Many people find the reference to God as a Him a problem. Others revolt when they hear the words unmanageable. The mere suggestion that any of us might be somewhat insane sends others into a defensive posture. Be that as it may, these steps make a lot of sense to me and they dovetail nicely into what it means to me to Open to Grace.

To me Opening to Grace is a whole lot more than remembering "Life is Good" although it involves that to be sure. Opening to Grace is not just adopting a positive mental outlook or  putting on rose-colored glasses so that we can see life through new-age ideals. I think it is much deeper than that. And while Opening to Grace absolutely implies a recognition that there is a Flow of Grace that essentially good and the remembrance that we are part of that flow and can learn to connect to it and express it, Open to Grace is also the admission that we find ourselves contracted a bit (or a lot), not as deeply aligned as we might like, suffering in perceived separation, longing for wholeness, afraid and clinging to vain, illusory attempts to control ourselves and others to take the edge of our existential fears. In a word, we  are POWERLESS.

Obviously, we are not powerless in an Ultimate sense, of course. The Ultimate is handled, right? We are already perfect, free, creative, beings of bliss. Great. This is the good news. the great promise. But  this first step is about recognizing who we are in the relative world where that Ultimate knowledge isn't completely manifested, where we get cloaked, where we behave badly even when we know better, and where, try as we might to make a shift, we stay stuck. Like that.

And this recognition can be at the source of our humility. Of our receptivity. It is not a bad state although it may not be pretty. It actually makes us quite fertile soil for deep growth when we finally come to the end of our rope, when  our addictive, samskaric coping mechanisms stop working, and we can admit that we are in need of help.

Because once we see the reality of our limitations, we engage the second step which is also inherent in Opening to Grace. We come to believe.  It does not say that we believe all at once. It does not say that we get perfectly adept at trusting the big picture. It suggests that we come to believe. The second step suggests that a process of  faith is engaged and that process produces hope. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

I personally think that faith is a daring act in our world. It takes no courage whatsoever to be cynical, doubtful, and insightful to the point of believing in nothing. There is a ton of evidence everywhere we look for such a worldview and it requires no big leap to live from a limited paradigm that lacks in  magic, mystery and hope. No, more difficult, I think, is to be a believer- to be someone who risks high ideals, a big visions and dares to believe that life is more than what we see and that each one of us has a sanity that exceeds our current manifestation. I think the second step points to the courage required to soften enough to grow sensitive, to be humble enough to know we want help and to be daring enough to think we might be worth it.

And the third aspect or the 3rd Step is that we ask for help. We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over. We get on our knees, actually or metaphorically. In Ansuara Yoga, we sing the invocation which is, in many ways, a calling out to the Divine for blessings, to guide our hearts, minds and bodies and implicit in this chant is the recognition that we cannot do it alone, that we want and need help and that we will try our best to align with the help we are given and make good use of it. John is saying it now, "We want to align with the lead dancer". In order to want to do that, we  generally have realized that our dance moves could use some extra help or that we could be even better when teamed up well!

So one of my favorite teachings about the chant is that it is actually Shakti's line, not Shiva's. It is actually Shakti, in perceived separation from her Beloved calling out to say, "I want you to teach me that I hold the Auspicious Light inside. I want to remember that my form is essentially You- Being, Consciousness and Bliss. Show me that the ever present light of peace shines in me no matter what is happening. Show me that we are not two but one." The chant is sung from perceived separation, not unity. It is sung from the longing to connect more fully. And obviously, on the days we feel connected,  the chant is sung in celebration, but that is a different post.

Okay, it would be a  very related post. My group brought up how empty it can sound to be told to celebrate all the time and that they did not relate to that and felt it was a bit shallow and so we got onto the whole thing about Opening to Grace because they asked me what I thought it meant and if I thought it was just about being happy all the time. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not at all a Pollyanna type and knows that I am often more interested in the sandpaper side of this experiment than I am the gloss and glitter.  So I offered the  perspective  that while Opening to Grace recognizes the good and all that, it is to me, the real and honest recognition that, even though my intellect may buy that vision 100%, I still need a lot of help to fully live that knowledge and to embody it with the deepest abiding integrity in all my affairs.

 And to me, Opening to Grace is also about allowing myself to suffer that disparity between vision and action and to ask for Help to bridge the gap between who I most truly am and my limited manifestations on a day to day basis. To me, that is the yoga.

No time to edit. must go teach, sorry if there are some mistake- just hope the point comes across.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Anusara Yoga Teacher Christina Sell Talks About Teaching With Friends

Kelly filmed this short video clip and compiled it a few weeks ago and I have not had a lot of time or where-with-all to introduce it properly. We were actually just sitting around after dinner talking about how excited I am about some of the upcoming events I have planned this year and the way some of work had been unfolding over the last few years, particularly in the domain of collaborative teaching. I had a few words to say about it that he got on film.

So to make this little video into a promotional opportunity- take note of the upcoming events:

*Me and D are mid-Immersion Cycle right now with Part 2 beginning on Wednesday in Tucson and carrying on through the year with Part 3 in May, TT 1 in August, TT2 in October, and TT3 in December. (

* Me and Christy Nones are teaching Easter Weekend in Miami. (

* Me and Ross are teaching in Austin April 28-29. (

*Me and Noah begin begin an Immersion Cycle in Los Angeles in May, Part 2 in June, and Part 3 in August. Teacher Training in November and December. (

* Me and Darren and Amy are teaching a program specifically for people who have graduated from an immersion in Tucson May 18-22. (

* Not pictured in this short clip but Jeanie Manchester and I are gonna teach an intermediate/adv. intensive in Boulder this summer. August 19-21 (

*Also, scheduled since this was filmed is a weekend at Dig Yoga in Lambertville, NJ with Sue and Naime September 16-18. (
For more information about any of these programs, please contact the studios directly.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day Two Costa Rica Immersion

We had a good opening start day yesterday. As is typical we began with introductions and we spent some time clarifying intentions for the week. We have a very lovely group of folks- many of whom did Part One Immersion with me last year and many who are joining in this time.  We spent a little time on the Cycles of Creation and the guiding goddess archetypes for each phase of the cycle. Then we launched into a strong back bend practice.

It is so interesting teaching people Anusara Yoga all over the world because there are so many things that everyone knows and then so many things that vary community to community, depending on the local teacher's teaching style, the community's access to larger venues and workshops and so on. Add in a language difference and cultural difference and all of a sudden, teaching a basic class is not so basic! At any rate, first mornings to me are about getting to know the group, getting them used to me and my teaching style, helping them get bonded and comfortable with each other and so on. We did a strong practice but nothing to technical or foreign. Strong surya namaskars, handstand, pinca mayurasana, strong standing postures, hip openers and quad stretches, some back bends, some forward bends and twists. The general template. Basics.

After lunch we talked about Shri, beauty and refinement and tied that into the 3 A's the 5 shaktis and the group did a little writing and sharing. We did a very technical asana class in the afternoon based on questions, injuries, challenges that students were having in the poses from the morning. It is always so fun to watch a group really wake up to the fact that yoga does not have to hurt! I think for so many people, the alignment at first seems tedious or slow or like it is holding them back from the joy of the movement, etc. But when it begins to dawn on people that the pain they have been enduring in their postures every time they practice can be remedied by the application of these principles, by small shifts in their placement, by more engagement, etc. then what happens is  a deluge of questions like "What about this pose?" and "What about my low back in that pose?" and so on. Good times.

I think that is the thing about selling alignment to people- it has to be relevant. And what makes it relevant to different people varies. For me, I got started in Iyengar Yoga and so alignment was what you got. I mean if you didn't find it relevant, then good luck staying in that practice. I immediately grokked the profundity of the alignment on all levels. I had no trouble seeing that the minute details were linked to the larger play of consciousness. I always saw it as a way to anchor my attention while aligning my body. My efforts were not always infused with compassion or love, mind you, but I understood what it was about.

 I think, too, it helped  that I was brought up in gymnastics where we were graded on the execution of optimal form. There was a right way to do the routines and the various "tricks". Some of that was external- like for competition. Some of that was functional. For instance, if you are doing a back flip and you do not take your head back at just the right time, you won't flip, you will fall on your butt or worse- your back or your head. So, it was very familiar to me to do what my teacher said because when it came to athletics and such, I was used to being coached and I really liked it.

Anyway- I understand that many people get many years into yoga before they are exposed to an alignment-oreinted approach and that transition can be rough for a lot of reasons. Truth be told, I have watched a lot of boring, long demos in my life to learn what I know. I have spent a lot of hours in yoga classes where there was no sweat, no heat from movement, no "pay off pose" that day, just lots of details, technique and watching. I get it. Believe me. But I do not look at my yoga education on a daily basis. I know some days and classes and workshops are going to be "great practices" and others are going to be more technical education for the intellect. Some experiences will inspire my heart. I am not so concerned about what is happening in the short term- I take a much longer view because I can look back over time and see what the various combinations of experiences has yielded. And I am happy with that. After all, we have to educate all three aspects of who we are - body, mind and heart and it doesn't always happen at the same time in the same class, etc.

We ended the day with some pranayama and meditation and a long savasana. Good times. I got to bed early, slept well and since it is light so early here, I woke up with plenty of time to meditate and write this morning. All right. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Syncing Up

Well, I am here in Costa Rica for almost a week to teach an Immersion.  It has been a year since I have been here and it's wild to think about how much has happened in the last year. One thing that I have learned- and am still learning to adjust to- is the different type of continuity that exists with students when I am not teaching public classes regularly. Throughout the days, months and and years of teaching ongoing yoga classes we share a very lovely kind of ongoing connection that happens from being in one another’s lives on the mat every week together. The more I travel and teach, and the less I am holding down the fort in public cases, the more I have to let go of that familiar kind of bond and recognize a different kind of continuity with students. This new type of connection happens over yearly cycles or bi-monthly cycles or monthly connections. Both are lovely and special but it's a different rhythm  and has taken me some time to adjust to for sure.
So, the last time I visited Costa Rica we had such a lovely time together and I was so warmed and nurtured but the culture of the Costa Ricans. Truly they are warm, open- hearted, loving people who are very expressive and expansive people. I am really looking forward to being with them again.
I had a great weekend in Corpus Christi. I am teaching an introductory teacher training there which has been eye opening and inspiring. We have a intimate group of students most of whom are new to teaching and fairly new even to yoga. I worked with Michelle who owns the studio to develop a program that would introduce them to a variety of styles and methods and basic teaching skills.  It has really been a great project. 
One thing that I have learned to count on over the years is that if I go and spend some time with John and with the Anusara Yoga community I will always come home in some way  shifted. It's so odd because it happens regardless of the technological/technical information provided. For example, I went to an advanced intensive and I came home and my observation skills over the weekend were sharper and I had better clarity about how to respond to the group's needs on more than a few topics but its not because we did any overt work with this. It happens, I believe, from a different, less linear process than what we might call "training."
I think it is fair to call it entrainment, though. Entrainment being the phenomenon that is often illustrated by the example that if you put a lot of small clocks in a room with a big grandfather clock then over a period of time, all those little clocks begin to shift and pulse with the larger clock. That syncing process is called  entrainment and its a the heart of the guru-devotee relationship. 
What's cool is that the little clocks stay unique to themselves- they don't suddenly morph into another kind of clock all  together but something does shift- the pattern of their tick-tocking. Lee used to talk about that. He would say that the devotee isn't there ton imitate the guru or to become different than they truly are but they come to the guru  to link their consciousness up with the state of consciousness that the guru embodies. It's not outer entrainment - we are all going to get to keep our wonderful unique personalities. But we find as we hang out in certain fields of energy that inner shifts occur at the level of the mind and heart. Of course it might affect the personality, but that is not what the relationship is aimed at. Personality change is a by-product of the shift of consciousness that entrainment encourages.
One of the Teacher Trainees this weekend asked if gurus have special powers or not. I thought it was a sweet and interesting question. the group had spent the last weekend with Manorama and so we were processing their experience with that a bit. I said, that my experience and study seems to suggest that there is a long continuum of “special powers” that gurus have but it may not be that they can materialize and de-materialize at will or anything overtly fantastical like that. But we should not overlook that around certain potent individuals, we may find ourselves feeling more expansive, more in touch with our truth, more aware of our connectedness, feeling smarter, more articulate, clearer and so on. And while these qualities certainly arise from within ourselves- it is “us” in one sense, we might consider that it is not unrelated to the teacher whose presence we have synced up with. And to me, that is most certainly a “special power.”
I noticed this phenomenon time and again around Lee. Certainly, around the many great teachers and beings he introduced our sangha to. I notice it around Manorama and I most definitely experience it as a result of keeping company with John and with the many great teachers he has introduced us to like Carlos Pomeda, Paul Muller Ortega, Sally Kempton, etc. Certain people function very well as “door openers” and can help open a door into deeper states within ourselves.  And again, the guru is not the person who is opening the door. The guru is that function of opening the door. Sure a certain person may be better at it than others, but  still, it is the function that is the guru.
Obviously more could be said about this but I have been feeling a certain heightened state of mind since my return from Miami that has been wonderful.  It is always so good to plug into the energy field that is the Anusara  Yoga kula when it is gathered around our teacher, John Friend. I find it always creates a shift. Of course, as we know, sometimes the shift is  full of fire and sometimes the shift is full of nectar but either way, hang out around this field called Anusara Yoga and you are gonna be called to a new level.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Saturday night

So, after a nice long week at home, I headed back out on Sunday to Houston for the Texas Yoga conference, which was a lot of fun. The conference was well attended, well organized and had such a lovely intimate, yet professional vibe. I had a ton of fun at my class and I was so thrilled by the level of studentship present. Honestly, yoga conferences can be a bit of a mixed bag. There tends to be a lot of very serious practitioners in a room alongside people who are new to the practice and just beginning to explore yoga outside of their local class. However, in the class I taught, the studentship was very high and the group was incredibly receptive to the instruction I was giving. We really had a blast. Lots of laughing.

Yoga teachers, Les Leventhal and Ricky Tran, both of whom were presenting at the conference came to my class, that was a lot of fun because not only did they have lovely practices to watch but they were both stellar students, which was a great teaching in and of itself. It was inspiring to see both of them just slip seamlessly into the seat of the student and model how to pay attention, follow directions, listen and play the edge as well. I really got a big hit of inspiration from both of them.

I left the conference and flew to Miami Sunday night. I got my car, got to my hotel and got to bed before midnight. The Anusara Yoga Advanced Intensive with John Friend started Monday morning and wow, was that a lot of fun. I have been attending this intensive for twelve years now and it is kind of an anniversary for me and John since it was at this intensive in 2000 that we first met.

There are so many things to write about from the next three days- amazing teachings, awesome yoga, wonderful people, great insights and so on. The thing that really stands out was simply how awesome it is to do yoga with John Friend. Yes, I know, that sounds like a blinding flash of the obvious, given my relationship with him, the method and so on but it was like a whole new level of remembrance for me about what happens when I sync up with him in an asana class- such deep insight and such great feeling poses with a lot of ease. We did A LOT of backbends every morning and a more moderate forward bend practice in the afternoons.

One very cool teaching John gave that I really thought was salient had to do with how to engage the teacher and how to stay true to your own personal relationship with the teacher through time. He gave some examples about how he may be fierce with some of us, soft with others and that it can be easy to take our bearings based on how we see him with other people as opposed to simply being anchored on our direct experience of how John is with us. We might see him really fierce and assume he has changed somehow and then stop trusting him. We may not realize that he is being strong with someone who has a very established bond with him and that person isn't upset at all with his intensity, for instance. Or he might be really sweet with someone who is fragile and hurting and we make assumptions about that as well. At any rate, he asked us to move forward in our relationship and trust him based on our own experience and not on these projections and rumors. I thought it was an excellent teaching and a lot more could be said about that.

Also fun was seeing all my students meet John for the first time and to connect with them at the workshop. And an additional wonderful thing was getting to spend some time so many of my friends. I made some wonderful connections with folks and left completely inspired and anchored in all that I love about this practice and community. John was clear, focused, loving and big-hearted. He seemed expansive and yet also fiery which I think is such an awesome field of energy in which to practice. His passion for the path and for helping each one of us grow individually and as a community was downright palpable.

I came home Thursday and Friday headed out for Corpus Christi to teach a teacher training weekend. I am enjoying the group a lot and I am having a real flood of insight about several aspects of teaching that I think is an after effect of simply being in the Grace-filled shakti of the intensive. More on that soon.

Must sleep.