Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sequence from Wednesday Practice

I know I did.

Childs pose
Down Dog

Surya Namaskar A 3X
Surya Namaskar B 3X

1 minute timings:
revolved utkatasana
deep lunge with forearms down
Virabhadrasana 1
Anjaneyasana to Parsvottanasana
     -the deeper into the front leg you lunge here the better the parsvottanasana will be
parivritta parsvakonasana
     - go for back heel down today to increase the twist

continuing on with 1 minute timings-

work for the feet:

  • Work with feet to open up the bottoms of the feet- turn one foot under as though you are sickling the foot. that is the bottom foot. Put the navicular bone of the other foot in the arch of the bottom foot and release the fascia of the bottom foot. I learned all this stuff from Iyengar Yoga teacher, Laurie Blaekeey. good times.)
  • vajrasana with toes turned under behind you to stretch the soles of your feet.
  • Repeat  the previous two postures

work for the calves:

  • calf smashing with blanket roll behind knees in vajrasana
  • uttanasana with toes on blanket roll
  • repeat both postures

Still timing for one minute:

malasana feet together.
     -this will also be the peak pose so get a sense of where it is now to see if the following work helps it out.
gomukhasana, classic form with feet and legs together
adho mukha virasana
supta padangusthasana variation
     -with hands around top foot and forehead to the shin
triangmukaikapada pascimottanasana
janu sirsasana vairations with block
     -put block between leg high up near the upper inner thighs, place the bent leg foot up on block
      -bend forward between the legs
      -bend over straight leg to ioncrease twist in the spine and release in the back
janu sirsasana-
     - go wide, toward classic form with bent leg heel on bent leg inner thigh. this is to increase  the twist
ardha badha padma pascimottanasana
bharadvajasana 2

maricyasana 1 with clasp
maricyasana 2 with clasp
maricyasana 3 with claso
maricyasana 4 with clasp
     - on a blanket
     -without a blanket if you make the clasp
pascimottanasana (which should feel very lovely at this point)

malasana to uttanasana
(we ran out of time but the sequence I wrote continues on so if you have time to keep going continue on to the following postures:
pasasana with clasp
    - heels on blanket
pasasana with clasp
    -heels off blanket if you made the clasp
1/2 happy baby- I call this deep supine hip stretch
Clasped uttanasana
     - arms out to the side
     - clasped behind back at waistline

windshield wiper
set bandha sarvangasana
windhied wipers
setu bandha sarvangasana

Monday, September 26, 2011

small rant

I am home this week, which feels like an abundance of time with the amount I have been gone lately. Kelly and I spent the morning working on some photos for my new website (stay tuned for a new look soon! Milo is working on it for me and so far its looking great!) I met Anne for some yoga, had an afternoon in front of the computer and then spent the evening with Kelly, Mom and Dad. All in all a good and productive day.

I had a great weekend at Spirit House Yoga with Martha and Ted and their gang. Martha and Ted have had a studio for over 8 years and have been building a wonderful community of people in Oklahoma with great dedication. I taught there 2 years ago and it was really amazing to see the depth and maturity that has manifested among the group since the last time I was there. Many of the students participated in Todd and Anne Norian's Immersion at Spirit House and have been attending workshops and seminars and ongoing classes. All the work has really paid off- the community seems solid, deeper and unified at a new level. I had a great time. And we had a lot of folks there for whom this was their very first weekend workshop ever! (YAY!)

One thing that is cool about Spirit House Yoga is that Martha is an about-to-be-certified Anusara yoga teacher. (She is currently deep in the video assessment process) and Ted is a certified Baptiste teacher. And so the studio offers great vinyasa classes and awesome Anusara instruction and the two methods live happily together in one studio and the studentship is stellar. I have certainly taught a room full of more bendable people than were there in Oklahoma but I have not taught a room of better students. The group was attentive, real, eager, and hardworking so whatever Ted and Martha are doing is working.

 I find more and more inspiration these days from examples like Spirit House Yoga-- where people are coming together in unity around yoga rather than using the yoga and the various conventions, techniques and ideas of different  methods to create further division. I mean, let's face it- we all have enough division in our lives and experiences of being separate. It is really too bad that our strong allegiances within the world of yoga tend to recreate those same samskaras. They have really moved beyond that at Spirit House and it was  a pleasure to spend time in such a community.

Don't get me wrong- I get the need for distinctions and clarity at the level of defining the parameters of the various methods. I certainly see it at the level of trademarks and business. I don't have an issue with it at that level at all. Its just that to me I think more about effective yoga in general, over and above effective Anusara Yoga or effective Iyengar Yoga or Baptiste Yoga, etc. And I am always interested in looking at the efficacy of any particular style of yoga relative to what its primary aims are, not relative to what my personal preferences are.

I talked to Baron Baptiste about this once. In my opinion Baron is  a master at helping people see through the false limits of their psychology and getting real with themselves. His teachers are amazing practitioners, they know how to look at themselves, how to be accountable and how to create a transformational environment for their students that is rigorous and demanding. His approach, in my opinion is very effective. I have worked with a lot of his teachers over the years and they are great students--every single one of them.  So if you get on his case because he isn't telling you something about the intricacies of  physical alignment in a pose, you are missing the point. I am sure he could do that but he is not aimed there. He is aimed somewhere else- he is aimed at piercing through those false limits- and he is hitting the mark of where he is aimed very well in my opinion.

Or Bikram Yoga. They, too,  are aimed in a very specific way. Bikram created a series of postures to challenge, strengthen, open and detoxify Westerners who are stressed- out, sedentary and overweight. He believes that if the body is purified self-esteem and spiritual tranquility will naturally follow. Don't ask them for short cuts, for an easy way out, for justification or excuses and do not expect to experience "the softer side of yoga." They are not aimed there. They, too, however, deliver consistently on where they are aimed.

Or Shiva Rea's work. I mean who better than she to deliver us to the mythic inner realms and to invoke the ritual aspect of the practice than her? If people would just stop getting upset that she is not a renunciate and start looking at what she is aiming at they would see that there is something quite grand that happens when she is teaching and through the vinyasa she and her teachers offer.

I could go on because really, every method has this delightful offering it is making to the conversation of yoga. When we get to Anusara Yoga I think it can sometimes be harder to really understand what we are up to because, as a method that is aligned with a philosophy of totality, it gets pretty hard sometimes to know what is and what is not Anusara. For instance,  over the weekend I began  the final class with 5 Surya Namaskar A and 5 Surya Namaskar B. No lunges, no creative embellishment and no major alignment instructions. Just move and breath and feel. Ted told me later that it felt like a Baptiste Class.  But to me, that is a very Anusara Yoga way to start-- breath-based movement. In fact, it just so happens to be the Ashtanga Vinyasa way to begin also. (Why? Because its a freakin' great way to start asana practice! It works. So maybe its just good yoga, not good Baptiste Yoga or good Anusara Yoga, etc. Of course, for brand new folks, I don't see it as a great way to start but that is another story for another time.)

Anyway, I have talked to John about it a lot lately and he keeps saying "explain to me how something is not Anusara Yoga." He and I have had long talks about how broad the umbrella of Anusara Yoga is in his mind. He told me recently that he is expecting the fullness of the yoga to communicated to the students over a 6-month period of time, not in every single class. He says that he recognizes that some classes will be fiery and some will be mindful. Some will be fierce and others playful. Some classes will move. Some will have stillness. Some will have music and some will even involve the teacher rolling a mat to join in the fun. All of this and much more is  "Anusara Yoga" as far as he is concerned.

And yet we also have standards and even beyond the basic standards of "have a theme, link the theme up to the postural cues throughout class, start with a centering, end with a blessing and sequence effectively to the level of the group," we have the ever present "Video standard" lurking close by creating for many students a very special  kind of neurosis and worry. (Worry may actually be generous. Panic, upset. fear. Anger. All kinds of things arise in the the face of meeting up with that freakin' video standard!)

I personally look at the video as a time for the candidate to demonstrate a skill set and show the assessor that they know how to effectively utilize certain important teaching skills. I don't see that video standard as  "The One and Only Way  to Teach Anusara Yoga Effectively." No way could one standard be that because what we are aimed at is the recognition of who we are in totality. We are exploring the  direct expereince of the singularity of that totality in a mulitiplicity of forms. We want to know what is the same inside when we are moving, when we are still, when we are crying, when we are laughing, when we are at ease, when we are in intensity.  We are aimed at a kind of knowledge that cannot be achieved through predictable means and through recipes and through only one experience.

(And truth be told, even if the sequence stays the same and even if the teacher works from a script, every practice is different because each one of us is always in a relationship with the singular, eternal presence and with the ever-changing nature of the manifested world in the form of us and our life. But I digress. All I am saying is its not a cut and dry kind of thing.)

ANYWAY--I could go on with this because one thing that I have noticed this year in my travels is a lack of generosity among some circles of Anusara teachers. Having gone through the fire of passing that video for certification, the teachers are looking at other people's classes and saying "they wouldn't pass assessment" and instead of being generous with one another, there are pockets of criticism and nitpicking arising. And it's not pretty. We have been given an amazing method to teach with broad parameters by design. We are invited, within these broad parameter to find our authentic voice and to represent the majesty of the method through a variety of means. This kind of generosity could inspire the same in us, if we let it.

And look, I know how hard it can be to pass that video. And I know how hard it can be to train teachers according to certain standards and not see the standards being upheld by others, especially if those others are very visible teachers. I get that. I really do. But still sometimes, we are so stuck on video standard, that we may not be really trying to see where was the teacher aimed that day and whether or not they were hitting the mark of where they were aimed. Believe it or not, we are not always trying to model video standard!! I know for me, if I teach vinyasa, I may not be offering my best alignment experience and knowledge to the group that day. I let a ton go to get something else to  happen for the students.  And as much as I love alignment and believe in it, I am not that worried that one false move in uttanasana or chataranga is going to injure someone. Seriously. People bend over all the time. No big deal.

So we do our best and I suppose this rant was just a call to all of us to extend some generosity to one another and to open our eyes a bit to the many effective ways that yoga can be taught. Its a happier way to go.

Enough. Thanks for listening(that is if you made it this far!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Same and different

Kelly and I are in LaGuardia Airport with a lot of time before our flight. Our hotel in NYC was in the United Nations neighborhood and Obama was there giving a speech this morning so the hotel folks suggested we allow about an hour and half to get to the airport and a full two hours to get through security. Turns out that we made it to the airport in 20 minutes and there were no lines here at all. So, now we have plenty of time to catch up on computer work at the gate!
The weekend at Dig Yoga was fun. Me, Sue and Naime shared the teaching duties which went well. I so enjoyed getting a chance to meet so many new folks and to reconnect with friends and students I have met over the years. One thing I really like about my work right now is the growing sense of community that exists beyond the borders of state and country, both with students and my colleagues and long time friends. . For instance, I have known Sue and Naime since I was first involved in Anusara as they were such key people in the early growth and development of the school. They used to own City Yoga in Los Angeles and John used to come and do trainings every year in LA. And at that time I lived in Arizona, so I could drive to LA any time John was there and I did. In fact, I would load up my minivan with students and friends and we would take road trips to southern california. Anyway, we have known each other for a long time but this was the first time we have actually seen each other teach or collaborated on an event together. It was fun, interesting and thought-provoking in so many good ways.
About the same time that I moved to Austin, Sue and Naime moved to the NJ area and opened Dig Yoga. It's a wonderful yoga studio and training center. They have great teachers, wonderful programs for all levels of students and even for kids and they host workshops, trainings and seminars for continuing education that serve the entire region. Dig is definitely one of those Anusara Yoga meccas of greatness everyone should know about. I will be back there in 2012 contributing to the Teacher Training conversation, which I am already excited about.
On Monday, me and Elena teamed up for an afternoon class which was another first. She and I have been good friends for ten years and have never taught an asana class together. We have very different teaching styles but we blended them together in a strong and deep practice for people of all levels. It was so fun to be teaching with her and to meet so many people I know via social media, etc. Also interesting was how many people came to the even because their friend told them they "had to" be there. I met friends of friends and reconnected with long-time colleagues and students and all in all, it was a grand success.

Kelly and I took and extra day to visit the city, which mostly meant eating italian food at every meal, walking through central park and a long visit to The Museum of Natural History along with a brief stop at FAO Schwartz, where we played with the toys and La Maison Du Chocolat, where we spent a small fortune on chocolate. It was a great day of playing tourist and this morning, after an asana practice the hotel room, we packed up and are making our way home.

There is a lot on my mind these days with regard to teaching, practice and how the industry of teaching yoga coexists with the practice of the yoga but I am not sure it's coalesced into anything really useful yet. One thing I am certainly enjoying a lot is watching my friends- myself included- grow up in the method and in our teaching work. It's an interesting Spanda, in a sense, to watch our personal growth, the grow and changes in Anusara Yoga and see how those two trajectories are in relationship to one another in both easeful and sometimes difficult ways.

I remember when I left teaching at a particular yoga studio in Austin, where I taught a certain way because of the clientele and the environment and starting teaching at another studio where the students, the methods and the ethos were very different. As a result of the new environment, my teaching style shifted. And while the shift was perfect for the new environment it was not so great for the students who knew my teaching the other way and liked it "the old way." It was still me, it was still Anusara yoga but it was also different and my shifts were not the right shifts for everyone.

There is always lots of talk about how Anusara is changing and growing and big discussions about the process of growing from a small grassroots community to a worldwide movement. I think as a method, we are both the same and different and what those differences mean to different people seems to vary greatly. Some folks found the difference between the old and the new so much that they no longer felt resonant with the method and chose to leave. Others I talk to are happier now than they were in the past. Still others have a list of pros and cons, costs and benefits they continually weigh. And that's the fun of it, really. I mean, being in community means that a bunch of different people, with different outlooks, opinions and ideas join together with a common aim and vision. Community does not mean that everyone sees everything exactly the same way and has all the same views, experiences and so forth. How boring would that be?!


I mentioned this process of change and growth over the weekend at Dig Yoga a bit. To me, I teach Anusara because of the majesty of the method and because on the whole, it works for me in the same way it did in the very beginning. Much of what I love about Anusara has history in my early life-changing experiences with John and I am, admittedly, very old school about the yoga, in a way. For instance, now we have hoola hoops, acroyoga, music festivals and such. And honestly, I couldn't care less about all that. Don't get me wrong, I do not mind it one bit that most people like those things, it's more that, for me, all of that stuff has no real relevance to what draws me to the practice of yoga. Seriously, I am not grinding an axe about it so there is absolutely no need to send me a note extolling the virtues of the hoop, slack line and so forth. I get it, I really do, it's just not in my field of interest, that's all.
My field of interest is focused on the fire of practice and the ways that living these principles on my mat translates directly into helping me mobilize myself in meaningful, life-affirming ways off my mat. I came to yoga, not looking for fun but for a way to actually live into the truth of who I was without self-destructive patterns of food addiction, substance abuse and self-hatred. I did not need entertainment, I needed a lifeline.
And I needed to learn how to be vulnerable enough to let people help me along in the process. And so the yoga offered me a life of dignity, self-respect and self-honor and a community of people to lean on and to in turn, support. And these connections also sustain my interest. I have such fond affection and commitment to the vision and to the community of practitioners with whom I have spent the better part of my adult life and most of my best friends are Anusara Yoga teachers.

So the yoga is not a casual thing for me. Never was. People think I am a really strict teacher. I suppose I am. And that's why. So much of this was a life or death thing for me and while it's not that way now, I have an interest in the rigor of practice that provides useful boundaries for moving through patterns and blocks. And it's not that I am anti-fun because anyone who knows me knows that's not true either. (i mean really, i am actually a very funny person!) Seriously, though, I love to have fun and the laughter in Anusara is healing nectar for sure.

I suppose when you get right down to it, what I love about the method hasn't changed a lot- same five principles, same seven loops, same great friends and new ones, same vision of intrinsic goodness, same flow of grace, same life-saving connection to my body, my heart and to what matters most to me.

More later. Time to get on a plane.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Sequence from last night's group practice.

theme: FUNdamentals- having fun with the basics
sub theme: small agonies in service to a greater fun and freedom)
alignment emphasis: root to rise; get in the legs to stretch and free the spine
Heart theme- commit to the here and anchor yourself. 
relevance: first requirement for having fun is to be present. best way to work against fun is to wish you were somewhere else. (therefore commit to the moment and anchor yourself in it.)
Additional info you need to know: make sure the room is warm if you really want to mimic last night's class. it was a sweatfest. Oh, and when the energy gets a bit low after the serious standing poses, tell some jokes and funny stories.

childs pose
down dog

surya A-5X
Surya B-5X

handstand- 4 minutes
pinca mayurasana- 4 minutes

1:10 timings with back foot at the wall; the extra 10 seconds allows for transition time; no chatarangas or any vinyasa between just hold the pose, come up and switch sides efficiently.)

vira 2
ardha chandrasana
ardha chandra chapasana
parivritta parsvakonasana
parivritta trikonasana
reversed revolved vira 2
parivritta ardha chandrasana
parivritta ardha chandra chapasana

virasana- 2 minutes
supta virasana- 2 minutes

shalabasana with knees bent shins vertical
parsva danurasana

eka pada rajakpotasana prep
eka pada rajakapotasana prep with thigh stretch
eka pada raja kapotasana prep
eka pada raja kapotasana with thigh stretch

1 minute timings: (1 minute in the pose, 1 minute rest between)
urdhva danurasana X5
dwi pada viparita dandasana, head up X5
eka pada urdhva danurasana X2
eka pada viparita dandasana

supta padangusthasana variation
down dog
childs pose
baddha konasana
janu sirsasana
adho muka parsva vajrasana

viparita karani

have at it.

Enjoy. We did.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

just sayin

I am up early this morning. I woke up refreshed, made some tea, did my sitting practices, glanced through my ever-elsuive and ever-mounting email account and now, after some breakfast and more tea, I am taking a moment to catch up on a blog entry.

Kelly and I are going to go down to San Marcos for some time on the river and then its yoga practice, several appointments and then I teaching the practice tonight at Castle Hill. Its great to have a few days at home to get somethings in order and to have some time to catch up on work before heading back out. I am also prioritizing some personal time for play and self-care while I am home.   All in all, its been a good week so far.

I had an interesting talk with Anne the other day. She spent the weekend in Dallas at a workshop with Swati Chanchani who is an Indian Iyengar Yoga teacher. (I studied with her for a month in 2004, on my first trip to India and she is awesome, by the way.) One of the great things about studying with her or her husband Rajiv is that, since they are Indian, the cultural translation of the teachings is  a whole different thing.

Learning yoga in India, for me, was a radical experience and more than once it dawned on me that the culture of yoga in India has very little to do with the culture of an American yoga studio.  Now, I am not going down the Indian Yoga=Good and American Yoga= Bad path or  the opposite or anything like that. I am simply saying that in my opinion, A LOT of what we think "yoga is" in America is influenced by a kind of politically-correct-organic-lifestyle-non-violent-communication-be-all-you-can-be-while being- polite- and-maintaining -the status-quo kind of paradigm. And let me tell you, that is not yoga in India.

Take driving for instance. A question evidently came up in the workshop where a student asked, "well, if we were really established in yoga, would we get upset when someone cut us off in traffic?" Anne said Swati was like, "What does it mean to cut someone off?"  Finally, the students explained to her by saying, "Like, if someone insults you."

Now, Anne's point on this was that because we are so identified with our cars and see our cars as an extension of ourselves to such a degree that when someone cuts us off it feels personal and insulting, when in actuality, it is nothing personal at all. So in that way, sure, yoga could help with dis-identifying with the car and de-personalizing the various circumstances of our life that are actually only neutral occurrences to which we assign great meaning. Yoga could help with that for sure.  At least in theory it could.

The problem is a lot of us come to yoga with an agenda to feel better about ourselves and as we strengthen our vessel and increase our prana, we do begin to feel better about ourselves. And, as we all should know by now, I think this is a great and wonderful thing. However, this kind of growth and self-esteem can tip to the side where we feel so good about ourselves, that we actually feel so important that things feel even more personal. In short, the ego is getting stronger through the practices, rather than put in its proper place. (And yes, a strong ego is needed in yoga and I am not anti-ego or anything like that I am just saying that the proper place, in my opinion, for the ego is to be strong enough to see that it is not the primary aim of the yoga. But I digress.)  Lee used to say that as essence is strengthened, so too is ego and that stage of development is pretty dicey territory.  We have real attainment and we feel really good about our very real attainment and this causes some pretty serious problems if left unchecked. (Which is why teachers need teachers and we all need to beware of the teacher with not teacher!) Trungpa Rinpoche wrote about this in his book Spiritual Materialism. More on that another time.

But the other part of the driving example that was obvious to me was the hilarity of Swati trying to understand the concept of "being cut off" from her cultural perspective. If you have ever been to India, cutting people off is not rude at all. It is simply how they drive there. If you were to get offended every time someone honked, pulled out in front of you, switched lanes quickly, you would be in a constant state of inner upset. It is not "un-yogic" to drive that way in India. In fact, it would be a death wish to drive any other way.

Or try to be "polite" at the store in India and wait your turn patiently. You will never get any help. Their whole cultural concept of waiting in line is completely different than ours. It is not un-yogic to assert your place in the cue, to nudge the person who is trying to get in front of you, to yell loudly to the person behind the counter to get their attention and to ask for a better price, etc. It is simply how you do it there.

Lee used to say that spiritual life wasn't about becoming a new and improved, more palatable version of ourselves with better hygiene. He was somewhat opposed to us spending all of our life energy on eradicating every little possibly offensive trait of our psychology or endlessly trying to make ourselves more comfortable. He was insistent that spiritual life was about getting off that conversation and directly experiencing  the energy that was underneath all that phenomena within ourselves. This is what he called the Essential Self. So that was the inner work.

And as for the outer work, he was always telling us to be sensitive to what was wanted and needed in any circumstance. So often he said, we are simply mechanically reacting to the world around us rather than sensitively  responding to it. It is a bit tough to take that kind of feedback and reflection,  but time and again, he showed us how, even in our sincere attempts to "help", we were doing so from unconscious biases and projections, not from a true or accurate read on the situation as it was.

And speaking of driving, the guy drove more like an Indian than an American and I remember so many times trying to follow him and I was hardly driving in a new-age-"yogic" way to do it! But the context for following him was "follow the guru" not "be a polite driver."

Anyway, there is more to the story of course, as there always is but it occurs to me that while so much of American yoga is about making life nicer, more comfortable, and less offensive, the tradition itself was not aimed at improving that level of experience. Sure, once we are established in the Essential Self, in a state of yoga, we are probably going to act more peaceful, loving and so on, but one must remember that there is a difference between cultural expressions of Peace and Love and the very virtues themselves.

Probably good for us all to think about this next time any of us  want to call someone or something "yogic" or  "not yogic" after all those kind of divisions exist at the level of the mind, not at the level of the Heart. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday in Austin

I spent the weekend in Corpus Christ, TX with my Teacher Training group there. We had Manorama teaching on Friday night and Saturday and I taught on Sunday. I always love getting a chance to spend time with Manorama and listen to her teachings. This weekend was no different. She spent Friday night in what she called a "traditional satsang" where she had a student read from a book by Ramana Maharshi while she interjected commentary, gave explanations, asked  provocative questions and fielded questions from the group. It was a wonderful evening full of great gems and insight.

A few pearls:

And so begins your journey of not taking everything literally.

You have to study your translation. First you study someone else's translation (of a text). Then you have to study your translation.

The one thing never absent from the study of yoga is you. Of course, that opens up a much bigger question: Who are you?

What is You is not limited self alone but it is not Absloute Self alone either. It is both.

We have tons of practices for the body and mind but we have limited experience with understanding what underlies reality as we know it.

Tantras are tools.

On mantra: That which protects the mind. The mind is the bridge between the relative and the The Absolute. We do not leave the mind behind.

You can use experiences as tools to create your life artistically.

It is not going to help you  to be obsessed with preferences.

Perfection of mind means a quiet mind. Then the free flow of energy will come through with great force.

You can't fool God.

Everybody plays a fool before the Guru... and that is not a bad thing.

Everybody needs a place to fall. It is impossible to train a student who won't let themselves fall..."

Your expression is always expressing something.

Confusion is the partner of clarity.

Learning is a grueling, ego-bashing process. It's brutal. It's not fun.

I am starting the Nobody movement.

The network gets revealed the more you perfect your consciousness.

Dating is like practice because in order to date someone you actually have to spend time together.

Union is the way into the network.

If you get the essence of the class, you will not have missed the class.

Devotion is nothing more than knowing oneself.

The work of the mind is always to divide.

Yoga is not a better or worse game.

The yogi is not after partial. The yogi is after total.

Are you interested in being something or in Being itself?

Play with the clay you have been given.

Yogis learn not to activate on all the energy they experience. Nor do they fall asleep to it.

Don't get into yoga if you want it to make you happy.

Yoga is not here to grant you your preferences but it will teach you find happiness beyond your preferences.

If you are sincere, the Force of the Teachings will draw themselves to you.

What you want to want will always elude you. What you want will come to you.

On problems: Nobody had more problems than Jesus Christ and by the benefit of those problems he realized he was the Son of God.

knowing what you do not understand gives you a place to start.

On surrender: Everyone loves the topic until it comes knocking on their door.

When you surrender the things that bring you to that state will ALWAYS bring you to the new.

You don't get to divinity by leaving humanity in the dust.

Getting angry is different than living in anger.

Whatever is going on for you requires your presence.

God Alone Exists.

Everybody is a whole Universe.

The untrained mind always wants what it doesn't  have and has what it doesn't want. the yogi-in-training is learning is learning to reverse that process. When you get to the place where you have what you want and you want what you have you are in the state of the trained or restrained mind.

And that was just Friday night! Obviously, each one of those statements could inspire a blog entry on its own. Perhaps I will take a few and run with them as the weeks go by. As it is now, its time to get on with the work of the day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Musings on community

I am sitting on the front porch of the lovely Daily Grind Cafe in Santa Barbara enjoying some breakfast before we head back home to Austin, TX. I had a short teaching gig in Santa Barbara followed by a few days of camping on the beach in Carpenteria. Kelly and I have been trying to make some time for some fun and play- thus the camping trip in the Rockies and now along the beach in California.  Now that he is out of school he has a bit more time for these kind of adventures! We had an amazing few days of rest, hiking and sleeping to the sound of the ocean. It was really great.

The Master Class in Santa Barbara was fun. We had a nice turnout with a very mixed level group. I enjoyed a chance to teach the group, get to know some new folks and plant some seeds for Anusara Yoga there. The theme my host asked me to work with was community and so I did. I talked a lot about "coming into union" (coming into union- communion- community) with oneself and then from that coming into union with one another. I also talked a lot about how I am much more interested these days in facilitating yoga community in general  more than I am interested in working for "Anusara Community" specifically.

Now don't get me wrong, I love being with a bunch of people who love Anusara Yoga so I am not saying I am against "Anusara Yoga community." anyone who knows me knows that is not the case at all. However, I have seen a very unfortunate trend amongst our people over the last few years. Obviously, this is not in all cases and if what I am going to say doesn't apply to you, let it roll on by like water off a ducks back. I have noticed that people, in an attempt to create "Anusara community" are creating unnecessary division within the larger yoga community of which they are a part. For me, its not so much about whether or not we all like Anusara Yoga as much as it is coming together in the love we each have for yoga. My aim around community is to grow yoga community period. Within that overall aim, I know that Anusara community will fall into it's natural  place.

See the thing is that over the years I have talked to thousands of people about yoga and whether you like to practice  loops and spirals with a heart theme, 26 postures in the same order in a heated room, 5 surya A and 5 surya B, heated vinyasa, with music, without music, with or without props and so on, I have observed that what keeps people on the mat for over 5 years is more similar than it is different, more unifying than it is dividing. Without fail, long time practitioners  of all methods report a greater clarity, a greater compassion, a greater sense of self-love, a deeper desire to help others, etc. as a result of practicing yoga. And all this happens regardless of the method!

So years ago I signed up to teach Anusara Yoga and it is my primary practice but in so doing, I never felt like Anusara Yoga was the ONLY way to do yoga. I simply felt likely was  a very good way that I felt happy to represent, teach and be part of.  I still feel that way, in fact. I have never stopped learning (or wanting to learn) from great teachers in all methods and I have always enjoyed intelligent conversation and comparison about what each approach has to offer.

So the thing about  community is that it happens and it has many faces and each community is a little different in how it expresses itself. There is no one way to be in community that is "The Anusara Way" or anything like that. And as far as a little free teacher training goes I have some advice: When  I am cultivating community in my classes, or in  my studio,  I am not talking a lot about it. In fact, I never talk about it at all until I feel that it has already gelled in some way. I wait until I feel it happening to give voice to it, to point it out, to bring it to conscious awareness. A big mistake new Anusara teachers make is that they come home from a big Anusara community love fest- like a workshop with John, wanderlust, etc- where they were deep in the throes of community- and start talking about this great community with a group of  people who are not yet bonded with each other and it lands sounding false because the group doesn't have it yet and therefore the teacher is referring to their own experience, not the group experience. And without realizing it, an emperor's new clothes situation follows.

And also, community, is not about potlucks or about performances or anything like that. Community comes from the decision (and the ongoing follow-through) to genuinely care and invest in each other. You can have great potlucks and no community. You can have great community with no potlucks, etc. In my experience, community happens in an organic way that cannot be forced or hurried but must be tended to and is specific to each group. And I  think the biggest thing to help create community it is having projects and shared interests and endeavors. Community is not just me making a nice event for you to come to. Community is all of us making a nice event for all of us. It takes a village to have a village, it seems.

For instance, whenever I go home to Arizona  to visit the ashram, the first thing I do is make sure I am on the dish crew for the group meal. I know that if I roll up my sleeves with my sangha mates I am going to bond with them in a few moments and in a way that just sharing a cup of tea is never going to measure up to. I am closest to the people with whom  I have served on cook crews, work projects and so on, not just people with whom I  have conversations.

Anyway, I talked a lot about these things in my class and we had some nice learning, some great sharing and some wonderful openings in a short time.

The week before, as most of you know was a week of Immersion 3 with Noah and it gave me lots of food for thought as well, largely on the topic of expectations, but that is a story for another time as this post is long enough.

Have a good day!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

asana sequence from this afternoon

  • Childs Pose
  • Down Dog
  • uttanasana
  • lots of jumping back to down dog and forward to uttanasana to get hips high and to start the work of "floating" forward
  • handstand work at the wall
  • sirsasana 2 X2
  • succirandrasana X2
  • supine lunge X2
  • AMS with jumpings
  • lunge, forearms down
  • lunge, with forearms extended out and back knee down
  • 1/2 malasana lunge (front leg foot on midline, knee slightly wide, like malasana)
  • malasana X2
  • sirsasana 2 to bakasana
  • standing baby cradle prep
  • eka pada galavasana
  • sirsasana 2 to eka pada galavasana
  • uttanasana
  • setu bandha sarvangasana
  • windshield wipers
  • setu bandha sarvangasana
  • savasana