We had a really fun group practice yesterday at Castle Hill.
As many of you know, one of my favorite things to do on holidays is to get together with other yogi’s and do a practice. We worked with back bends and a few arm balances with special attention to getting some clarity in the legs in the backbends to open the chest more. It went well. We had a lot of people joining us who have never been in my classes or workshops so that was fun. (It is a bit daunting to meet people for the first time when the agenda is so intense but still, it is always a pleasure. I just worry when people encounter me or our method for the first time in a group practice because over the years my experience is that it goes great or not-great-at-all.) But even still, I enjoy meeting new people and I certainly enjoy watching the community expand a bit.
- childs pose
- down dog
- Surya namaskar A- 5X
- Surya namaskar B - 5X
- Lots of attention to the upper back in the sun salutations in both up dog and down dog.
- vira 1
- vira 1
- baby natarajasana- vira 3-vira 1
- anjaneyasana with quad stretch
- eka pada raja kapotasana with forward bend and twist over front leg and a massive inner spiral in the back leg
- eka pada raja kapotasana with backbend and quad stretch
- belly down shoulder stretch (too hard to explain, so don’t ask!)
- shalabasana 3X
- danuarasana 3X
- shalabasana to danurasana to deep cobra 3X
- parsva danurasana
- full bhekasana
- big, major, like-you-mean-it cobra
- urdhva danurasana- 5X
- dwi pada viparita dandanasana- 5X
- drop backs for some
- eka pada raja kapotasana 1, 2
- down dog
- parsva uttanasana
- down dog
- childs pose
- bharadvjasana 1
- bharadvajasana 2
- adho mukha sukhasana, right leg in front
- adho mukha sukhasana, left leg in front
- supta padangusthasana 1, 2 with bottom foot at wall
- knees to chest
- savasana or legs up the wall
My theme for the practice was the predictable July 4th theme of Ultimate Freedom. In Anusara Yoga we have a pretty common rap about freedom- that freedom is proportional to the commitment, the dedication and the discipline we bring to life. In the words of Douglas Brooks, “Yoga is not a path of freedom but a path of exquisite bondage” meaning that we are, in some way, what we bind ourselves to and hopefully, we are binding ourselves to, being committed and dedicated to, those things that have an ultimacy or a deep meaning. Like that.
I talked instead this year, about how the deepest freedom that yoga points us to- a freedom of consciousness that grants us access to a dimension beyond time and space, to a sphere of understanding that recognizes a unified field of which we are all a part, to the direct knowledge that my happiness is not separate from your happiness because I am not ultimately separate from you- begins, according to Geshe Michael Roach, with the decision to practice yoga for others, rather than just for ourselves.
From his book How Yoga Works: “And if we would be free of all this (he is talking here about suffering and the perception of separation and even of time and space itself)- as we all wish to be, deep inside- then we need only take this first step, to do small things for others: to try to remove the division into their happiness or my happiness. And that all begins with those precious forms of self-control (yama), and expands to doing the opposite- to helping others, to serving others- until the day we become what we have really always been striving to become: a being whose eyes are not longer limited by time nor even space, in the service of others.”
So I talked about dedicating our efforts to this kind of Ultimate Freedom and to practicing not just for ourselves and our poses but for one another and for the benefit of others we might never meet. Our teacher, John Friend has been teaching us to do this from the beginning. His most fundamental teaching, in my opinion, is to make each pose an offering and to practice yoga to make more beauty so that we create a higher energetic field around us so that we can serve and uplift and live as a conscious agent of Grace.
Just the other day, John had a conference call for the certified teachers where he went over his plans for The Center and also his vision for how the next stage in our expansion as a method would be served by each one of us abiding by licensing protocols and working from the remembrance that when one of us shines, each one of us benefits. He asked me to share at one point on the phone call and that idea is what I commented on. I find this notion to be both inspiring and challenging for so many reasons.
The truth is yoga rooms are filled with idealistic people who come to the practice with a vision and a longing for enlightened community. We want to make the world a better place, we long to help others, and we know that yoga has the potential to move us in that direction. And so at the level of the heart, the vision of serving the community and the method, rather than ourselves, makes perfect sense and is totally thrilling. I could feel it on the phone call. The inspiration and collective vision was palpable.
And then, there are the knots in our psychology when we get down to actually working together up close and in community. As inspiring as it may be to say that “when one person shines, we all shine” the reality is that to live from that paradigm is more challenging that it seems on the surface. It is rarely the case that we grew up in situations where difference was celebrated, where there was an abundance of affirmation, attention and accolades to go around. Many of us have seeds of jealousy, insecurity and self-doubt that get triggered when one person is shining. We have to let go of past hurts, old notions and habitual ways of reacting to difference in order to really be aligned with John’s vision for us.
There is definitely some purification required for most of us. And because not everybody has the same work to do in a community, we are all going to be in different stages at different times. We might be in community with people who are much more established in this vision and much more comfortable with “group aim” than we are and working for one another is not going to feel to us like freedom, it is going to feel like people are getting in the way of our freedom. We might have resolved our issues of jealousy and competition only to find ourselves in a working relationship with people who haven’t done that work for themselves and so whatever we do is perceived by them as a threat. I could go on as the examples are endless. Add in that fact that many people are teaching yoga for a living and the “perceived threats” have a monetary storyline going on as well. Suffice it to say that living into the vision is going to take a fair amount of purification, patience and persistence.
That being said, I think its inspiring to try. I mean, any gesture we make towards the aim of enlightened community gives us each a chance to directly shift our consciousness and to consciously evolve away from me and mine and you and yours towards a vision of ours. The struggle to communicate effectively, to work together and to collaborate is not just for immediate harmony in a community so that “everyone gets along better” in Anusara Yoga. I mean, don’t get me wrong here, getting along is great and I prefer it to the opposite. But the context for the group work we are invited to do in Anusara Yoga is not limited to that level of reality. Working for the good of everyone, working for the method rather than ourselves, and abiding in community within its guidelines and agreements, is actually a choice to work on the samksara of separation itself. It is a chance to nudge up against the primal fears of “not enough” be it not enough money, not enough attention, not enough praise, etc.
And that work is worth a few sacrifices along the way.
Obviously, more could be said about this and there is a psychlogical level of boundaries that needs to be functional. I could write another entry all together on how good boundaries are actually part of working together, but the point here is that when we are in a process of purification and when we are learning how to work together, it is not a sign that things are not working. It is not a sign that the vision is off. Its just a sign that we are in a samskara of limitation and we are getting to work at loosening its grip on us. And that is what the yoga is all about to begin with.
Enjoy your day and the pictures.