Here is a recent interview done with Bay Shakti. Enjoy!
The Practice And Decision Making: Q&A with Christina Sell
Editor’s Note: After Christina Sell announced her resignation from her Anusara Certification, I reached out to her to talk about her decision. Although I have never practiced with Christina, I did read her first book,Yoga From The Inside Out: Making Peace with your Body Through Yoga, and have greatly admired her approach to the practice. The following questions arose from that dialogue, and center on how as yogins we can leverage the practice in our decision making, both great and small.
Fredo: How did your practice inform or shape your decision making process? How has your practice supported you as you have announced your decision?
Christina: This is a great question. When I talk about practice, I am not only referring to asana practice, but to an entire set of internal and external acts, observances, and outlooks that comprise the whole of my spiritual life. For instance, practice includes but is not limited to meditation, pranayama, asana, scriptural study, dietary observances, chanting, mantra as well as internal connection and remembrance of my guru and the lineage of which I am a student and devotee. The internal connection is, in many ways, primary, as it provides the context in which the outer actions play. All outer technique without internal connection would fall short of what I consider “practice.” All inner connection with no outer behaviors in place would miss the mark as well.
I was a student of Lee, and his guru, the great Indian Saint, Yogi Ramsuratkumar.when I met John Friend. John Friend has always been an amazing teacher, guide, and a mentor for me and Anusara Yoga has always been a great source of inspiration relative to my life on and off the yoga mat. As much as I have loved the teachings of Anusara Yoga, it’s important to recognize that my primary spiritual influences have always come through the teachings of my guru,
I mention all of this simply to point out that while I was a practitioner, a teacher, and a teacher trainer in Anusara Yoga, my primary spiritual practice came from another lineage. In general the two schools have quite a bit in common and yet as time continued and my sadhana and relationship with Lee deepened, I became aware that I was straddling two worlds and that stance was causing me a lot of stress. The deeper I connected to my own Heart through my practices of meditation, contemplation, and even some psychotherapy, I realized that I no longer wanted to teach John Friend’s curriculum and train people to teach what was important to him. I wanted to align my teaching more closely to my own heart, my own spiritual path, and to help people teach what felt important to them. I recognize that Anusara Yoga encourages freedom, advocates personal expression, and that most people do not experience a feeling of limitation within the system at all. I know John wants people to be individuals. However, for me, there were so many points of divergence that added up to the recognition that I was no longer aligned in the way someone in my position in the organization should be.
The decision, as one might imagine, was difficult and scary as John, Anusara Yoga, and the community has nurtured my growth and development for over ten years. I am a very loyal person and have always done my best to represent Anusara Yoga honorably, accurately and ethically. Additionally, my entire livelihood rested on Anusara Yoga and I have trained many teachers whose livelihoods rested on Anusara Yoga as well. So, financial fears reared their heads for sure.
And yet, I wasn not only a student of Anusara Yoga, I have been a student of John Friend, the man. I knew in my heart, he would not want me teaching his yoga for my job and career if I had disagreements about curriculum, policy, training protocols, certification standards and assessment, marketing, branding and so on. He would want my Heart fully aligned. So out of respect to him and our relationship and to my own personal integrity, it became obvious to me that I needed to resign.
Additionally, I needed to bring integrity to the lineage of spiritual teachings that inform my life and my heart and to give credit to the influence that is behind me, my practice, and my work. So at the end of the day I realized that I really couldn’t serve two masters without being out of alignment with each.
In the process of navigating the transition, practice has been a refuge. I meditate every morning and I find that time to be a source of direction, inspiration and spiritual connection. In the school I am a part of, we use Yogi Ramsuratkumar’s name as a mantra and also a prayer. In one of our devotional songs we sing a line in Tamil that translates as “All I have is your Name.” As my fears surfaced over finances, or as other people’s disapproval, misunderstanding, and anger came my way or as my own self-doubt bubbled up from within, I clung to that line, reminding myself that who I am is not limited to the label Anusara or to a paycheck or to a status within the culture of modern yoga. Who I am is a devotee of Lee Lozowick, the Spiritual Son of Yogi Ramsuratkumar, and all I have is His Name. This practice of remembrance soothed my fears and anchored me in the internal source of my sadhana.
Additionally, carving out time to focus on my breath and keeping a strong connection to my asana has been key as it takes me back again and again to that place within me that is much deeper than money, public approval, and certifications. And ironically, in facing my fears and listening to my Heart instead and forging ahead in the Name of what I hold most dear, I actually think I had my finest hour as an Anusara practitioner in the moment I resigned. I was truly following my Heart!
Fredo: How might you advise students who are struggling with their place relative to your decision?
Christina: The question isn’t really what someone should do in the face of my decision, but instead the question folks should be considering is “Are you practicing?” And from that question, others emerge such as: “where are you most comfortable practicing? What is the most immediately supportive action to take that will nurture and sustain your life of practice?” If you can answer these questions honestly and respond authentically, you will find your way.
On a practical note, my resignation simply means that I will keep being me and teaching what I am practicing and the people who want to explore that with me should find ways to study with me, regardless of what system they are certified in. I write about this a lot on my blog so I won’t spend to much time on it here but if you want to learn from me, you should come study with me. If you love Anusara yoga and feel comfortable practicing within that system then by all means, don’t jump off the ship! It is a wonderful system with some of my favorite people in the world associated with it. My issues may not be your issues. We each have different needs, desires, and karmas. This is no problem whatsoever as far as I am concerned. The yoga I love has very little to do with names, trademarks and outer designations and lives in the Heart of each of us, just waiting to be recognized and expressed. So my advice to everyone is LISTEN TO YOUR HEART and act according to your inner wisdom.
Fredo: Christina, thank you so much for your beautiful, heart-filled, and inspiring words. Blessings on your journey!