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.


Eli YOGA said...

Looking forward for more... Love your blog, really inspiring. Hugs! Eli

kwajnman said...

I always look forward to reading your blogs, and really appreciate your honesty and constant thinking about what it is that you do.
I also think it is very difficult to be casual about yoga, and certainly where I take classes, the teachers work very hard to make a difference, and I can see that they do and that many people have wonderful experiences. I have 2 challenges doing yoga, and especially Anusara: intellectually I cannot understand why yoga is different from other kinds of exercise, and the spiritual side of yoga does not seem to manifest itself in my body. It seems to require a religious faith that I don’t have. I have had mystical experiences in meditation, but that always felt very natural. The second thing I have to deal with, and I don’t know if it is connected to the first, is how to tackle the fact that nothing much seems to happen with my body, I don’t really get better at yoga, it doesn’t seem to get easier, or I really can’t do much more than I could when I started 5-6 years ago. There are probably good reasons for that, but when you don’t have spiritual experiences, no physical progress or successes, the question keeps popping up ‘why should I do this?’ Until now my steam is kept up by the sweetness of my teachers. But it does seem a far cry from yoga being a place where you work with self-development.

Debra said...

So great. I totally resonate with what you are saying and it explains you alot. Thank you.

Josie Houpt said...

Resonance my sweet mentor from afar! Thank you, yes, I too am a "funny and tough" teacher, but since my lifeline practices have led me to some funny and tough places, that is an authentic space for me. Toughness = the commitment to participate, the choice to step up and do the work, as much as you can just do it for the fun of it too!
Also, community chat, gah! Always - love! Yes, a community needs to have voices, voices that shift, and question and at times harmonize. The method shines in it's focus, how do we question our body and mind/heart tendencies, when do they harmonize, when do they not? Due to this pulse I continue to discover new ways to communicate and express that most genuine me. *big hugs*