Monday, January 31, 2011

Home again!

I had a great trip to Kansas City this weekend. I guess technically I was in Overland Park which, if I got it right, is a suburb of Kansas City. They had a rare break in the cold weather while I was there with some lovely sunny days and mild temperatures which was awesome. I think tonight or tomorrow they expect a major snow storm so my timing seems to be on the money in this case.

We had a great group with very mixed levels both in capacity and in experience. I worked a lot with technique on basic poses instead of dragging the new folks into hard, advanced asana terrain. I think it went very well. In general, a lot of group was new to Anusara Yoga so I talked a lot about First Principle and also about the primary flows of energy- muscle energy and organic energy. Having said all that, the studentship was very high. The students were respectful, hard working and eager to learn, which made the teaching a pleasure. And they got my sense of humor, which is another important point to note. I think there is a lot of potential for the growth of Anusara Yoga on this community. Seems like it's really on the brink of or in the midst of a very cool expanding wave.

Also fun was to meet a good handful of people who have studied with other Anusara teachers that I know very well and to glimpse the most wonderful work that all my friends and colleagues are doing out there in the world. It's pretty cool. for onstage, Patty, my host and owner of Yoga Gallery, has done her immersions with Amy Ippoliti and has yet to study with John Friend personally and yet her knowledge, enthusiasm and dedication is super strong. It seems that John's vision- that Anusara Yoga be bigger than him- is really manifesting. What a thrill.

So I have a quick turn around at home before I head out to Copenhagen on Tuesday. I am pretty exited about the trip and rely happy that Kelly is coming with me. We are taking a few days on either side of my teaching to explore the city and to relax, which will be great.

More soon.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Venice Beach Morning

Elena has the morning class at Yogaglo today so I am taking the morning for some personal time before we film YogaConvo this afternoon. Then we have a break and I teach from 6-7. It has been a great few days here in California. I so enjoy my time at Yogaglo and with the Los Angeles kula. It's fun to be with a seasoned, capable and fun-loving group of yogis who have always received. Me and my teaching so warmly.

There is something about that kind of reception and that kind of welcome that really does bring me into my heart and feel quite healing and expanding. One thing I think my personal work has helped me do over this last year is to notice when I am on the receiving end of such positive energy and to soften and consciously let it in and touch me deeply. I find that the more I do this, the more meaningful my life becomes. I consider this to be one of the great blessings of my work.

Of course, the flip side is also true and somewhat perilous if we get sucked into it. As yoga teachers we also receive negative energy, negative transference where people project unmet needs, unrealistic expectations and assign all kinds of negative meaning and traits to our personality quirks and simple comments. That, too, is also true. I sometimes marvel at the irony that, as a person who grew up suffering a lot with worry about what others would think of me and doing all kinds of gymnastics to change myself into who I thought everyone thought I should be, much of which was false, unrealistic and/or self-destructive, I became a yoga teacher. I think the job "yoga teacher" comes with a very long list of very high standards, expectations and ideals that are consciously and unconsciously projected onto it.

Someone told me once they were shocked to see their yoga teacher smoking a cigarette. Another student finds it totally intolerable that their yoga teacher loses their patience in class when the students do not pay attention. Another person was wrecked and disillusioned when their teacher got divorced. Add in a whole other set of expectations and disappointments when you deal with us and money and you realize as altruistic as we can sound we also have bills to pay and we do this for a living. So the list goes on. The opportunities to fall short of high ideals is endless and so are the opportunities to disappoint others.

I am pretty passionate about the high calling it is to practice yoga and how we are, as teachers, being asked (and hopefully asking ourselves) to ongoingly refine ourselves and grow into our most authentic, truest self. Each one of us is answering a high calling and hopefully doing our best to grow. And so that is our responsibility to yourselves and to the sanctity of the Path in my opinion- that we evolve and be the best stewards of the teaching possible.

I am also pretty passionate that students dismantle their unrealistic expectations that teachers be always compassionate, understanding, humble, generous, without anger, greed or vanity and so on. If we really pull on that thread a while, many times we can see that we are hoping the yoga teacher can be a "corrective experience" and give us something we feel like we didn't get from our parents, etc.

And sometimes the yoga teacher does give us the very thing that was "missing". It's just that 25 people in a room might need 25 different things and no one person can do that and as teachers we are going to hit the mark for some and not for others. As students we have to know that "corrective experiences" need to come from within as much as from without. And as passionate as I am that as teachers we grow into our high calling, I am equally passionate that as students we own our projections, expectations and take responsibility for our reactions to our teachers -both positive and negative.

So it's a Spanda as always. We have to let the good stuff in. We have to review the negative feedback for information about how to refine ourselves. We have to do our best. We have to know our best will disappoint others and we can learn not to get sucked into the story of someone's projected disappointment or disillusion. And on and on and on. This challenge is all about finding our midline, our center and staying steady there, in our offering and not taking 100% of our bearings from the outside because that will always be in flux.

One time, in a teacher training, John said, "pay more attention to sharing your love of the Path than to what people think of you and that will decrease your anxiety as a teacher."

So like that.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yoga Convo Introduction

It's been a bit of a busy time. I flew into Los Angles on Monday Night and started Tuesday morning off with a class at Yogaglo. For those of you who do not know about yogaglo, you really should. Amazing yoga, affordable prices ONLINE and in the privacy and convenience of your own home. I am so thrilled to be joint their family as a regular teacher. Check it out-

We filmed a class I called ROOT, RISE and SHINE full of good string standing pose work and back bends and, as the name suggests, lots of emphasis on Organic Energy. We had a great turnout with a lot of the local gang in attendance. I had fun meeting some new folks and seeing old friends as well.

Them I filmed some practice segments for the YOGA CONVO project that Elena Brower and i are doing. Definitely some of the ,sot pristine turning and heart-based language ever, if i must say so myself. For more info on YOGA CONVO Check out this video on YouTube:

Then we had dinner at a lovely local restaurant and brainstormed about programming ideas and ways to offer amazing content on yogaglo. I have ideas that will keep us busy for a decade, so no problem there.

I taught again is morning. The class was a cross training class with lots of core work, arm balances and twists. Good times.

Now, back to work!

More later.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Night

One of the things that really strikes about this Immersion group is how soft and receptive they are as a group. I have learned a lot about teaching this week as I have reflected on the group's studentship. The group came ready to work and ready to receive the teachings and it has made for some deep shifts and some profound insights that are definitely full of "work" for the folks in the training but there is not a kind of struggle or resistance to that work and so there is a kind of ease and almost a measure of intensity that isn't there, in a good way. I might even describe it as a lack of drama.

Not that drama is bad or that other groups have been too dramatic or anything like that. It's just more to say and to recognize that each Immersion cycle is so different and each group has a unique flavor and it's fun to compare, reflect and identify the various configurations and the gifts that each group brings to the experience.

Today in the morning circle someone shared how they came to yoga through one of our students from a previous immersion and TT and I had a somewhat sobering, exhilarating and wonderful recognition that the work that we do in these Immersions really fans out into so many different communities and that my work touches so many more people that are in the room on any given day. I think I already knew that but to hear the love this student of my student had for her teacher filled me with so much gratitude and joy.

I have always said that my job as a teacher trainer is to help the yoga teachers I train be successful and so their success is my success in a way. (of course, the obvious corollary to this is that my mistakes also multiply and fan out...I did say it was a sobering though as well as an exhilarating thought, remember? That is part of why it is sobering!)

But anyway, as these immersion cycles continue it is so rewarding to bear witness to the ongoing shifts, changes and evolutions that are happening for people who whole-heartedly engage the process. It seems the deeper people go into their inner work during these trainings, there is a corresponding expanse in their outer life in the months and years that follow. People who might have really seemed "in it" and kind of mess (I mean that affectionately, ya'll) during the Immersions are super shifted in the following months.

This kind of reminds me of something a friend of mine was recently talking with me about in terms of integrity and her own process. She was saying how as she has cleaned up her life and rooted out seeds of dishonesty in all of her relationships, abundance in all domains is increasing exponentially. I don't think we engage the process for those reasons (nor was she saying that at all) but I offer these nuggets here as encouragement for all of us to dive deep when we have the opportunity and to give ourselves consistent opportunities to do inner work and to get messy and to even fall apart occasionally in the name of a larger process of unfolding and opening.

It can be so easy to view ourselves, our lives and each other as a snapshot that is frozen in time instead of seeing life as a moving picture, as a moving stream of images that each inform the other and yet where no one image is defining. Think about it- if you were to take a snap shot of yourself at some bleak moment of your life and then were to continue to live as though that was the reigning truth, it would seem ridiculous. But so often, when faced with difficulty we often see it like that. We sometimes think the moment will last forever. The truth is quite different. This moment is birthing the next moment and that moment will birth the following moment in an endless stream of ups and downs and hills and valleys. Truly, there is a lot of texture to life and it can be helpful to remember that fact when we or those we love or even those we don't like vey much at all are facing their demons and challenges interiorly or exteriorly.

Well, enough for now. Must go to bed and rest. I promises my acupuncturist I would try to sleep a lot.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday evening

All right... Well, here I am in Tucson, settling down to some email work after a day of teaching. It seems a never-ending task see days, to get through all the email. So if I am late in my responses to you- please have heart- I am working way through it one email at a time. Also, sometimes I get these really beautiful emails about very rich inner experiences and I just do not have time to write a response worthy of the share. I once had a student get upset with me about numerous things and one of her many complaints and hurts was that my emails were terse. So if you are a recipient of "terse" at some point, I beg your forgiveness in advance!

We have a full house in our immersion this time with 55 people from all over the country joining together for the experience. It's a very eager group, with a lot of insight to share and a lot of curiosity about the method and the practice. We have all ages, all levels of ability and a variety of experience in the group so it makes for interesting teaching to be sure. I am enjoying it so far. A lot.

I spent some time after the last cycle of Immersions was done compiling a workbook for the week. The students each received a 40-page workbook with the schedule outlined, notes from the lectures, the asana sequence, anatomy diagrams and so forth all merged into one workbook they can take notes in, answer journal questions in and so forth. Those of you who were in the TT here in Tucson had a similar learning aid. I made them for these Immersions also.

From what I can tell, the workbook is really helping the students grasp the ebb and flow of the training and get a sense of the time table we are on and also have a way to keep track of the immensity of information. Note-takers can take more notes in the workbook but non-note-takers will at least have a reference to return to. And the good news is that it is making our job of sharing the information much easier and I think more effective.

Darren and I are enjoying ourselves together as usual. I remarked to the group at our opening circle that I am who I am today because of my friendship with Darren Rhodes. He has really been a great source of inpiration and wisdom to me over the years not to mention a wonderful teaching partner and sanghamate. So as much as I love teaching Immersions, I really love team teaching them with D.

We worked today a lot with the theme of the guru and about the dynamic play between our inner teacher and our outer teacher. We talked a bit about the ways they are different and the ways they are similar and how to discern between the two. One particularly interesting thread came up during the day when someone remarked that many times they think they are listening to their inner teacher when really it is an imposter- it's an inner critic, an inner judgeor some dark character sounding authoritative but actually not teaching from a connection with inner Light at all. Darren said, "Oh yes, the question is are you listening to your guides or are you listening to your guise." Classic. Totally classic.

Sometimes we are being led from inside by the voice of truth. And sometimes the answer from within is not coming from clarity at all. It feels totally true. It sounds totally true but really we are fooling ourselves. This can be shocking t realize. So anyway, part of the yoga is learning to discern between the various shades and sounds of commentary that come to us
wanting to convince us of their authority and choosing what we will give weight to, what will be the guru, in a sense.

After class I visited the local Lululemon store and then had time to go for a walk before making some dinner. It was a full day but not tiring or exhausting which is great.

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Few Reflections from the Weekend

We had a really wonderful- in some ways, "off the charts" weekend at our workshop this weekend.  We had great attendance, great studentship, lots of laughter, hard work, sweat, steam and deep considerations about what it means to have radical self esteem.

To me, the whole idea of radical self-esteem is referenced the in the idea that radical actually means, "of or pertaining to the roots, that which is fundamental or even extreme or thorough." To me, self- esteem is valid consideration for the yogi because we actually have to have a positive self-regard to feel worthy of the great promises of yoga, to take care of ourselves optimally so that we can stay healthy and on track in our discipline and so that we can recognize that our life of spirit-based practice is actually an act of extreme self-love and self-honor. And when we really love ourselves, when we really recognize our worth, our ability to serve, to help and to express ourselves with meaning and joyful purpose increases.

I am not really someone who is into self-esteem for its own sake because I think that kind of pursuit is a bit limited and has more than a few pitfalls. I have known so many people so dedicated to "esteeming themselves well"  that were unable to look squarely at what was distasteful or dysfunctional within their psychology and behavior. As soon as these people begin to notice or hear from others that they were not "great" their esteem would feel threatened or at stake somehow and they would ignore the feedback and reassert how great they were, thus preserving their esteem at the cost of honest clarity and self-scrutiny. This pattern, for instance, is one of a few serious pitfalls that can occur when with the  pursuit of self-esteem outside of a spiritual context.

The context of radical esteem is to remember, to recognize and to experience directly that what makes us worthy is our God-given connection to Grace, our fundamental perfection and our deep Truth of Being that is, as the teachings tell us, stainless, pure, sparkling with Spiritual Light. This is at Source. this is the root. This teaching is why its radical- this Light is extreme, thorough and at the baseline of our worth. This is the domain of Being.

Having said all that, each one of us may be all kinds of crazy at times with a tremendous amount of work to do to actually glimpse this Light of our True Self. This is the domain of Becoming and as yogi's we cannot ignore this domain or bypass it with lofty descriptions of our True Nature's perfection. Sure we are perfect at the level of Being, but if we are acting in violent ways toward ourselves and others, then we are missing the point of the practice.

And these domains live in a spanda with each other. If all we do is assert the Being level we bypass the important work on self that helps us grow up, be accountable, functional and ready to serve. If all we do is clean up our outer life without recognition of the inner Light then we run the risk of using yoga to make what basically amounts to cosmetic changes and our yoga  can become yet another vain self-improvement project.

As usual, I think it is both, and the yoga can be approached from either end to great effect. More on this later.

As I knew I would, I had a blast hanging out with Amy who is very fun-loving, funny and and passionate about growth change and living in Potential and Possibility. And I enjoyed seeing her teach and teaching with her  and having the whole shebang in Austin was really great for me.

I head out to Tucson today for an Immersion with Darren. We are full to the brim with Immersees and I am excited to dive into the teachings with a new group.  Stay tuned for  more on that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday Morning

Well, I had a nice day yesterday. I spent some time on my mat in the morning, made lunch for mom and dad and then ran some errands in the afternoon and even managed to get my nails done before heading up to The Castle for practice.

The theme of the practice right now is basics and building a foundation. While it is an intermediate/advanced practice, the idea is to spend a few months getting grounded in the basics and building a foundation from which to move into deeper work. I am really into this consideration these days... How do we go from intermediate practice to advanced practice? What are the distinctions between intermediate asana and advanced asana? 

Without a big long exploration into this right now, a huge thing we need in order to go into deeper, more advanced asana is strength and focus. Certainly, we need flexibility but for many people, the missing link is strength. I am passionate about this as a teacher. For instance, if you want to balance in the middle of the room in handstand, get good at holding handstand for two minutes at the wall. Looking for balance at that point will be a whole lot easier once you have that kind of strength.

Also, I used a conversation I had with Noah and Darren when I was planning this practice.  As we were planning the first back bend day of the advanced intensive recently, we all agreed that good strong standing pose work can be excellent preparation for back bends. It does not have to be anything fancy, just get into your legs and stretch your spine and get ready to bend. So with that basic strategy in mind, I wrote this sequence. Also  we worked with timings and using basic poses to prepare for somewhat basic backbends. Basic, in this case does not mean easy or simple but foundational and important. 

Along with these  foundational concepts, we worked with the key actions of "root to rise" so as you practice concentrate on strong rooting action in the legs to yield strong stretch and extension in the spine.

Have at it...

Surya A 3x

Standing poses-1:08 minute timings

Standing head to knee
Natrajasana variation with back shin perpendicular to back wall, thigh parallel to floor, toss upright
Parivritta trikonasana
Parivritta parsvakonasana
Urdhva prasarita eka padasana

Handstand-3X- 1:08 minute timings
Handstand with Shins on wall-3x- set pose up about a shin's distance from the wall- phot entire shine and pinky toes on the wall, knees face straight up to sky, massive melt in upper back

Pinca Mayurasana -3X-1:08 minute timings
Shins on wall-3X- 1:08 minute timings 

1:08 minute timings:
Lunge with quad stretch and a twist
Vira 1
Eka pada rajakapotasana
Eka pada raja kapotasana with quad stretch
Supta virasana
Push up to straight arms from supta virasana- walk hands as close to feet as possible- 3X

Urdhva danurasana-5X- 1:08 timings
Urdhva danurasana on ridge tops
Stand up from urdhva
Drop back
Drop back and  stand up

Agnisthambasana with twist



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wednesday Morning

Well, I spent a lot of yesterday with Mom and Dad at the doctor's office and then we went out to lunch which was really nice.  I got caught up on some correspondences while I was in the waiting room and had time to practice and go on a walk before it got dark outside, which was really lovely.

COMMERCIAL REMINDER- We have a few spots left in the weekend with me and Amy Ippoliti so please sign up for that. I will be out of town for a month immediately following that workshop, so it would be great to see everyone before I go. I can't think  of a better way to all be together.

My life is certainly in a phase of expansion these days, both internally and externally. It is a pretty exciting time of growth, change and unfolding to be sure. I have been reflecting on this a lot lately since I spend a fair amount of time on the computer making plans that stretch out into 2012 and answer emails from people all over the globe and ponder all kind of matters of the heart and spirit and give voice to them in my classes, workshops and in writing.  It is really quite a life and if someone would have told me when I got started that it would look like this I would have laughed. When stepped foot on the path I could have easily won the vote for "least likely to become a yoga teacher." Seriously, I was a mess.

See, for me, I came to all of this "work" form a very practical standpoint. I guess that makes sense because at the end of the day, as esoteric as my interests run, as idealogical as my vision is, as grand as my aspirations may seem, I am, at essence, a very practical person. I got into spiritual life through the door of complete personal breakdown, not because I thought the Teaching was inspiring but because I was told in no uncertain terms that I would be dead without it.

And these advisors were right. I was 18 years old, suffering tremendously with depression, bulimia and all kinds of drug and alcohol abuse and I went to treatment for 18 months. While I was there I was introduced to the wilderness and to all kinds of experiential therapies and cathartic experiences but also to 12-step programs. One of the most brilliant things about the 12-step perspective on addiction, self-esteem and personal growth is their unwavering assertion that addiction is a spiritual crisis, not a crisis of personality, character, or morals. And, while issues need to be addressed on all those levels also, the heart of the matter is, well, The Spiritual Heart of the addict.

So, it wasn't so much that I had lofty visions of enlightenment when I got started. No, for me, I was hoping to make it through a day without binging and purging and I had a longing to crawl out the hole of despair I had been in for a while. They told me I needed a Higher Power for that and that my only long term solution would be living a spiritual life and so, well, I enrolled. It was necessity in my case that fueled the search, nothing else. (Well, maybe desperation also, truth be told.)  And, honestly, it was brutal a lot of the time.

See- the thing is that I felt really weird along the way. (Weird might even be a generous way to describe it, actually.) I went through college weighing and measuring my food and abstaining from drugs and alcohol at a time when most people were doing the exact opposite thing with their lives. (I would look around with jealousy at my friends just happily munching away on pizza while I was learning how to eat 1 serving of a grain, 2 servings of vegetables, a protein and a fat. Seriously, I was learning how to eat again and not starve myself or binge and purge or just endlessly obsess about what to eat or not eat and I felt weird, different, bizarre, defective and alone.)  I stayed home and went to meetings when people my age were going out  to bars, parties and clubs. I was decidedly "not cool" because I was in a process of having my coping mechanism reorganized, re-scripted and re-worked and let me tell you it was  like living with the rug pulled out from under me for many years. Weird does not begin to describe how I felt.

I think a lot of people feel that way when they are trying to shift patterns that are dysfunctional or to remove the buffers that block our vision and experiences of life as it is. None of this stuff we all talk about has been easy for me or come without hard work, tenacity and perseverance. So often people describe me as "intense" and I think that is true. Mom says that I came out of the womb that way, I certainly  pursued my dysfunction that way and I have also pursued my recovery that way. I found intense teachers with high expectations and typically enjoy the company of those who are passionate, committed and dedicated over and above people who squeak by, take the easy way out and live aligned with  the lowest common denominator of life.

I think that is why I like yogis so much.  We are answering a very high calling and asking very intersting questions.  Many folks on the path got there because ordinary life was not so satisfying and they were looking for a deeper meaning than work, vacations, diets, collecting stuff and maintaining social status. I mean,  let's face it- if conventional values make you happy then you are generally not asking yourself about the meaning of life and how you might enter into the non-dual reality of bliss and ecstasy because you are too busy watching TV, believing everything you read and enjoying the endless distractions of modern life. Personally, I have very little to talk about with someone who isn't in some process of self-inquiry. But that's me.

I wrote a few days back about how eventually, if The Divine is interested in you, the Fire of Transformation will come to you if you do not come to it. In Jyotish astrology, they call this the force of Saturn. And the farther away from our path that we are, the more furious the knock Saturn will give us to get us back to where we are supposed to be. In yoga we sometimes say, "the karmas ripened." At any rate, the thing to know is that as we walk the path of these lofty visions, we have to deal directly with what stands in the way of said vision. If we want to live from our Light we are going to have to knock down the artifices that block its rays. And like I mentioned in a previous post, we rarely look good or feel good when that is going on. However, looking good is not the point and this Fire doesn't give a rats ass about our vanity.  We have to keep in mind that  when we forge new pathways within ourselves and when we open to new possibilities of encountering life, that Work is valuable- certainly for ourselves- but it is also valuable to others because it cultivates within us the offerings of compassion, empathy, insight and wisdom.

That is the really awesome thing about all of this as I look back on my life. I have had and continue to have  lots of help, lots of support and for the most part I keep trudging along the path even when it gets bleak, awkward, dark and dreary.  And now, I feel grateful I went through so many of those struggles so early in life because now  I am freed up to be of service. All those days of feeling weird and different are of immediate relevance to the work I do and the help I can offer. Those feelings have been turned into and toward something else.

Don't get me wrong, there is still soul searching and the need to handle samskaras and outdated psychological strategies and so forth because life and its challenges keep marching onward asking us to grow, to change to respond optimally but my point is that I have a much bigger context now for my personal challenges than I did so long ago. And like Lee always said, "Context is Everything."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday Morning

Well, it's a cold day here in central Texas, although from all the posts on Facebook, it is not as cold here as it is many other places I am reading about. I was talking to someone yesterday who asked me how I was enjoying the cold weather and I was like, " I could live my whole life without being and cold and not miss it!" Okay, probably a big exaggeration but still, I am not a fan. ( yes, I know, I am going to Copenhagen in February... I didn't say I can't deal, I just said, "I am not a fan!")


Yesterday I went to Peggy's advanced Iyengar Yoga class with Anne which was interesting. We made a lovely foray into ekapadarajakapotasana 1 and 2.

Here is the basic sequence she worked with:
(think long holds)

Low Lunge and then High lunge with back heel on wall
Eka pada bhekasana forearm down
Eka pada bhekasana curling torso up toward cobra
Parsva danurasana
5 minutes sun salutations
Eka pada rajakapotasana prep front leg folded deeply, torso upright
Eka pada rajakapotasana prep, front shin parallel to front edge of mat, torso upright
Lunges with back shin on wall, back to wall
Lunges with back shin on wall, bringing pelvis forward
Headstand drop overs to chair and then back up repeatedly
Headstand drop overs to bench ( which is a little lower than a chair and harder) and back up repeatedly
Eka pada viparita dandasana over a chair-2x each side
Rope back bends on rope wall- some very fun variations but way too much to describe here
Ekapadarajakapotana 2
Ekapadarajakapotasana 1
Supported halasana

Good times. It was a very effective sequence. Talk about no wasted poses and using back bends to prepare for backbends! That pretty much says it.

I have been talking about this idea with a lot of my teacher trainees and advanced students lately. In the beginning of teaching our students to back bend we can use lots of movement, lots of vinyasa and lots of standing poses to get people warm enough to bend and so forth. But as we and our students advance, it is good to see how deep we can get without spending a lot of extra energy so that we have lots of energy left to use for working on the actual peak pose. So often, if we are not careful, we can spend all of our energy in preparation and have just enough to do the peak pose maybe once or twice but not to really work on it. (this kind of economy is also very useful to master when, for various reasons, we do not have a lot of time for asana practice. If we can learn what 6 poses can take us to urdhva danurasana well then we can throw out that script that says, "I don't really have time to work on x,y,or z" or "unless I have two hours, I need to skip the hard stuff." Obviously, it is great to have lots of time to prepare ourselves, I am just saying economy in sequencing has very meaningful applications in a busy life.)

Anyway, this was one of those sequence that was very effective yet at each step of the way my mind was like, "seriously? That pose? Already?" and then lo and behold, there I would be, feeling great in the pose.

After class, Kelly and I had dinner and sat around the fire together. I did some work, he did some studying and then we headed to bed early. Lovely!

Today I and going to spend the morning with mom and dad. mom has an MRI to explore the next steps in her treatment. Her lumpectomy indicated a need for more information before deciding the next course of action. So, I am gonna go to the doctor with them and then to lunch and probably spend a few hours this afternoon practicing asana.

More soon.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Morning

Well, I sat down hours ago at my computer to write this blog and then I got swept up into emails, dates and future plans and now finally, I am settled into the task of writing.

I had a great weekend in Corpus Christi, TX this weekend. I  taught the first weekend of a year-long Teacher Training program I am directing there. I will teach several weekends, Manorama will be teaching three weekends and  Gioconda Parker, Desirae Pierce and Michelle Acebo will also be teaching a weekend throughout the year. The program is an entry-level Teacher Training program that is aligned with Yoga Alliance standards for registry, not an Anusara Yoga program, so it was a little different than my normal approach to Teacher Training. Instead of teaching students how to teach the Universal PRinciples of Alignment and how to develop heart-based themes and use heart-based language, we worked a lot with the basics of getting people into and out of the poses with clear, action-based commands. We did a lot of pose analysis and exploring pose architecture and not so much with outlining the loops and the spirals.  Obviously,  a lot of it is the same as Anusara Yoga training but Anusara Yoga teacher training is more like graduate school whereas this training is more like a liberal arts education.

I had a really good time with the group. They were very open, sincere  and hard working. One of the things I enjoyed most about this particular group of trainees is that they were beginners to teaching yoga and they were very humble as beginners. They had no ego attachment to being seen as advanced or more knowledgeable or experienced than they actually are. They were eager to learn and to explore the practice from a fresh perspective and learn how to see things as a teacher and  begin the process of articulating the practice and guiding others to their experience.   We worked a lot with basic forms of surya namaksar and the lateral angle poses of the standing pose syllabus.

One thing I feel really good about is that the program I am teaching is geared perfectly for the experience of the group so they felt challenged but not overwhelmed and I was in no way frustrated trying to teaching something they were not ready for. The weekend was smooth and fun and full. It is going to be a great year. I am really excited about this project.

Next on the horizon is the weekend here with Amy. There are still spots open so please sign up and plan on coming. Amy is featured on the cover of Yoga Journal this month and  we are teaming up to offer a commentary on Radical Self-Esteem through the practices and principles of Anusara Yoga. It is a unique opportunity to dive deeper into ourselves and our community with two great guides. I do hope most of you Austinites will support the event.

After Amy leaves, I hit the road for several weeks straight- I have a 6-day Immersion to teach in Tucson with Darren, then a few days of filming with Elena at yogaglo, and then a weekend in Kansas. I come home for a day and then head to Copenhagen for two weeks to teach a workshop and an Immersion.  And then home for a few days followed by a visit to Chattanooga, TN!

And the year continues on like that with fun new cities to visit, new projects to get underway as well as some return visits to familiar places with good friends.

We have group practice again on Wednesday and we are going to be bending in the backward direction. So many of you wrote to me that you did last week's forward bend practice so I thought I could make it a regular plan to post the sequences we work with on wednesday nights here and then folks in distant places could practice on Thursday what we do on Wednesday. That would be a fun thing.

Well, that's about it for now- I do have some things rockin' around in my mind that I am contemplating that I am sure are going to bubble up to the surface here in a few days. So stay tuned!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thursday Morning

Well, as usual, its been a busy re-entry. 

One thing that absolutely helped was shifting my teaching schedule though. Normally Wednesdays are pretty much  wake up, morning practices, drive to The Castle, teach, drive home, make lunch, a few hours of work, a few hours of practice, drive back to the Castle, teach, come home, eat, go to bed. Now, that is not exactly a bad work day but my wednesdays are like one or two or three days in a week (or 7 or 8 days in a month) that I am even home. So it's not a bad work day but its a pretty hectic "day off"!As my travel schedule has grown busier and the teaching opportunities have started involving more and more week-long intensives, managing an ongoing public schedule of classes, even as limited as it was, really became unworkable and unsustainable. As much as I enjoyed teaching my classes on Wednesdays I really needed to carve out some extra time. So instead of teaching Focus on Form yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone with Elena sorting out some pans for our project, Yoga Convo. We are going to be working with Yogaglo to bring the idea into reality and we are all super psyched about it. 
(COMMERCIAL-- If you do not know about Yogaglo, you should. $18/month for unlimited downloadable classes form great teachers in all kinds of methods. Plus there is "premium content" where you can, for a fraction of the workshop price, download workshops and teacher trainings. Such a cool thing. (Look for me in Premium Content now and soon on the subscriber channel as well!) It is a great resource to grow and expand your practice.)

Anyway- I spent the morning working, had lunch with mom and dad, did some errands, spent more time at the computer and then made my way to The CAstle for our Group Practice. I was really psyched with how good the attendance was and how cohesive the group felt on night one. Of course, a lot of the folks in the group have been practicing together in class for quite some time now. I enjoyed myself a lot. We worked on forward bends mostly. In Light on Yoga Mr. Iyengar says there are four poses that aid pascimottanasana: tirangmukaikapada pascimottanasana, janu sirsasana, ardha badha padma pascimottansaasana, maricyasana 1.  (Ashtanga Vinyasa Yogi's-- these are the 5 first poses  in your seated sequence, yes? I know, not in order but still, think about this everyone! Also, think about the different positions that bent leg is being taken through and what it means for the hip joint.)

Anyway, with all that in mind and with a general plan to open the front body, then the lateral body, then the back body and then the inner line of the body, we did the following sequence:

Child's pose
Down Dog
Surya Namaskar 5X
Surya Namaskar B 3X

The full sequence done with 1-minute timings:
lunge forearms down
lunge with a quad stretch and twist
Virabhadrasana 1
eprk prep

classic gomukhasana
supta virasana (3 minutes)
supta padangusthasana 1
triangmukaikapada pascimottasana
bhradvajasana 1

pigeon, front leg in siddhasana
pigeon, with quad stretch
janu sirsasana
agnisthambasana with twist
janu sirsasana

supta padangusthasana 2
supta padangusthasana 2  with bottom leg to side edge of sticky mat
baddha konasana
supine lotus, deep fold at the hips
ardha badha padma pascimottanasana

lunge with front leg in malasana, forehead down, hands clasped behind back
maricyasana 1

1 leg clasped uttanasana
clasped uttanasana

windshield wipers
knees to chest


Good times.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday Evening

Another wonderful and intense weekend has come to a close and I am returning home with a full and inspired heart. In fact, I am writing this on the plane. The weekend, like I said, was wonderful and intense. (Also Intensely wonderful and wonderfully intense.) Like that.
We had 60 people in the workshop with over 75% of the folks in attendance from places other than Tucson. We had lots of certified teachers in the room  and plenty of Anusara-Inspired teachers there as well. The  caliber of studentship was incredibly high and the focused intention of the group was unparalleled. It was a very unique offering in so many ways. The timing of the New Year, the fact that it was 6 hours a day for 3 days, that everyone participated in the entire weekend not just select sessions, that there were only 60 people and it was co-taught  by 3 experienced teachers made for a very potent chamber, to say the least.
In fact, our goal as teachers was to provide a chamber for the students- to create a transformational opportunity that would set in motion a series of shifts that might not otherwise occur in a more ordinary circumstance. In his opening words, Darren called this chamber a crucible. A crucible is a container in which alchemy occurs. It is a container capable of withstanding high pressure and intense heat so that metal can be melted and transformed. 
I love this idea as a guiding metaphor for our work as yogis. We need a crucible externally in order to Work. We need strong boundaries, firm guidance, disciplined structures, focused intention and undivided attention in order to  break the force of habit that binds us so that we can step into new territory physically and psychically. Time and again I see that when we have these things, transformational shifts happen because of the heat such circumstances produce and call forth from us. Workshops like these can provide outer structures that are useful in many ways and can, without a doubt, assist our growth and development.
But there is another level of training that is going on also. We are also becoming the crucible, the container in which change and transformation occurs.  That the whole thing in asana- we have the opportunity forge  a strong and resilient chamber of our bodies that is  capable of withstanding the intense energy, the incredibly profound  pressure and heat of transformation. This is the  energy of the yoga itself. It is not a casual affair, it is a burning, passionate and intense fire that, once invoked, engaged and cultivated, incinerates all that stands in its way.
The fire of yoga is, at its essence a Fire of Love- but it is not a sentimental love at all. It is a consuming flame that cares very little for our preferences, for our personal comforts. It has no regard for our opinions about how things should be because it cares only that we learn to respond to ourselves, to each other and to Life itself from the highest possible perspective. In the sincere and committed seeker, the Fire of Love will do it's job  no matter what. 
Lee used to talk about "becoming attractive to God" and he would talk about how we could become "food for the Divine." It's a kind of esoteric idea but the basic premise  is that either the values of the Sleeping World and its vices will consume us, or eat us,  or the Divine will. And if we have the good fortune to attract the attention of the Divine and once the Universe takes an interest in us and our growth on the Path, we  are not necessarily going to be asked when it is  convenient for us to grow and change. We are going to be answering to a much higher authority than convenience. If we bind ourselves to the work of our dharma and our dharma needs us to shift to be of service to it, then the fire is gonna come to us. I know in my own life there have been (and will be) times when I  willingly toss myself into the fire  and other times when I  need to be dragged -kicking and screaming - to it's flames in the most humbling ways imaginable. It's just how it goes. 
But the idea is, that even though the fire has not once spark of sentimentality or caution for our vanity, it does have our best interests in mind and it is not an indiscriminate fire. Not in the least. We can trust it and we can trust where it's taking us. Even when things don't look pretty. I mean who looks pretty when their vanity is being exposed for what it is? Think about it... If  we were looking good in the process then vanity wouldn't be getting the nudge it needs now would it? How we would we ever learn patience without frustration? How would we learn humility without failure? How would we know community without loneliness? And so on.

So the weekend was a full-spectrum kind of experience and intense in so many ways and people had incredible shifts. It was a honor to teach such amazing people who are so committed to their practice and to what yoga is asking them to become. I was humbled, inspired, awe-struck, ecstatic and deeply grateful to be in the space with everyone. 
Also great was teaching with two of my very best friends.  On a personal note, I think one of the things I like about teaching and spending time with Darren and Noah is that they are as intense as I am, albeit in different ways and with different manifestations and so forth. I love their company so much because they each cultivate the fire of yoga within themselves and tend it's flames with tenacity, passion, honesty and commitment. And their Work calls me to my own. You can't really ask for better friends.
All right, more later.