Friday, July 29, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Here is Kelly Berry enjoying the space.
Here is Kelly and Kelly Berry worrying about how Moshie is doing in surgery. He actually came through okay and is resting at the vet and will come home today if everything goes as planned. He had a growth on his spleen and some bleeding from that.
Monday, July 18, 2011
One of the things I like most about my job these days is the diversity of it. Sure, on one level, its all "teaching yoga" but teaching yoga for me includes curriculum design, class planning, marketing, mediation, community planning, mentoring others, advising others, teaching workshops, teaching classes, leading practices, teaching immersions and teacher trainings- each of which has a different flavor and focus. My job involves a lot of writing, a lot of networking, planning and meetings. Actually teaching a yoga class is a very small protion of what is involved in my work, come to think about it.
So, it is always fun for me to teach weekend workshops because as much as I love and believe in the Immersion Process and as much as I enjoy the conversation of Teacher Training, teaching a workshop to a roomful of people from various backgrounds and ages and with varying abilities is a really fun thing and is usually kind of a relief since there is "just the asana" to focus on.
One time I was in a training with Patricia Walden and she had me demonstrating a back bend. I was on my back waiting for her to give me instructions and I looked at her and said, "Just go up?"
Very sweetly yet sternly, she looked at me and answered, "Come on, now...there is no just in yoga."
It is a teaching that has stayed with me a lot. There is no just in yoga. What there is, or what we are moving toward is a state of deep awareness, of mindful, intentional action and the conscious embodiment of Grace. How we practice involves invoking those qualities and working within a context of ever-deepening penetration and so truly, there is no just.
So to say, "There is just the asana to focus on in a weekend workshop" is a bit misleading and inaccurate, of course. I mean there is no big philosophy curriculum to present, there is no teacher training curriculum to get through, etc.
But this issue of just came up in a conversation I had with Becky. We talk about what a wonderful and interesting thing it is to teach yoga. On one level, when we teach yoga, we are basically exercise teachers and the yoga class is basically an exercise class with a positive message. Some even say perhaps we are just "stretching in Sanskrit." However, on another level, the yoga teacher often finds themselves in the middle of a much deeper and more meaningful pursuit than "just the asana" and their students begin to engage the process of yoga practice at a deeper level than the just surface activity of stretching in Sanskrit and then we are catapulted together into a much bigger conversation than simply "place your hand here, flex your foot that way and stretch your side ribs this way." The task of teaching yoga is both ordinary and extraordinary. It is both no big deal and a very big deal.
And it is not the same for everyone, nor should it be. Not every teacher is the same and not every student is the same and that is as it should be. We all want and need different things and are different stages of maturation, attainment, growth and skill. Different does not mean better or worse but I am not someone who thinks Ultimate Oneness means "its all the same" and "its all good". Not by a long shot.
I was introduced to yoga by senior teachers and practitioners. I have never had casual yoga teacher ever. I have always studied with people whose expertise and experience far eclipsed mine and so this informs my perspective on studentship and teaching, to be sure. I remember giving a talk on Studentship in Teacher Training one time and I was talking about how, as students, when we are in someone's class we should follow their instructions and even if we normally do something one way, we should do it the way the teacher is asking when we are in their class. One of the trainees raised their hands and asked me, "But what if the teacher says to do something you know is unsafe?"
I remember not even understanding the question at the time. It was not until later that evening when I went home and was reflecting on the exchange that I realized that that had never happened to me. I had never had a teacher tell me to do something I knew was unsafe. (Since that time I have visited so many more public classes that this no longer holds true but I didn't learn yoga in public classes with beginning teachers. I went to workshops with Senior teachers and practiced at home and read books and still I spend more time in personal practice than I do in classes or workshops.) And from the beginning, I have only had teachers who knew more than me. And the teachers I studied with were not casual, they were not beginners and for them there was no just in yoga.
Becky and I talked about how serious we can all get as yoga teachers and how big it can seem at times and how occasionally we talk ourselves down a bit and remind ourselves "this is just yoga" and then we get a letter from a student or we have a conversation with someone whose life is shifting in deep and meaningful ways through the practice and we are made aware, once again, of the profundity of what it means to teach yoga and serve others in any capacity. And then teaching yoga is a big deal again.
I suppose like so many things, teaching yoga is both a big deal and not a big deal. And so much of what a yoga class is to anyone is not in the class itself but in the way they, as a student, approach it. At the heart of the transformational power of studentship is really the student and not the class and not the teacher. Lee used to say that a good student could wake up around a bad teacher faster than a casual student could wake up around a good teacher. He thought the responsibility of the student was that important.
Prashant Iyengar had a pretty good rant about this as well in a class in Pune. He said, "All of you are convinced that you need the best teacher in the world... Have you ever asked yourself if you are the best student in the world?!"
Anyway- we had great students in the room this weekend. Kind, funny, hard working, dedicated and I was held in such grace and support all weekend long.
Onward- things to do...
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I worked with the theme of being anchored steadily in our own light so that we can joyfully expand and rise up. Basic root-to rise class to drop backs. (root with steadiness, rise with joy. like that.) It was really fun.
Surya A- 5X
1 minute timings with vinyasa between:
press handstands with partners
ninja warrior quad stretches at the wall- 2X
eka pada rajakapotasana forward bended and upright with back leg on wall
shalabasana and cobra work
corba with chest to the wall
standing back arch with pelvis at wall and partner assist at tailbone
drop backs with partners
drop backs with wall
drop backs alone
supta padangusthasana 1, and to the side
knees to chest
We had a great time at practice. Another fun thing last night was that I got to tell everyone that G'Nell Smith's application went into the Anusara Yoga office approving her for Ansuara-Inspired Status, which is a really cool thing. I know I have talked about this a lot on this blog and in the trainings I teach but the thing that is really impressing me the most these days is just how interdependent we are as a community of students and teachers. It strikes me every time an Anusara Yoga teacher reaches a new milestone in their journey like getting approved for Inspired Status or completing the Certification Process that it was a group effort.
Let's face it, no teacher anywhere gets good alone. None of us great-teachers-to-be are sitting at home practicing alone and refining our skills until "we are ready" to be launched on the world, perfectly able to teach inspiring and effective yoga classes to everybody we meet. Nope, that's not how it happens at all. Every teacher learns on their students. Someone once told me that Mr. Iyengar said most teachers should actually pay their students for the first five years that they are teaching. At any rate, every student who pays their hard-earned money to go to yoga classes and who shows up week after week and year after year is helping their teacher to grow into the best teacher they can be. And every teacher who is spending their time, money and attention to go to trainings, classes and to study everything they can find on yoga is investing themselves fully in order to be better able to serve the students who are supporting them. And when it works well, when it is at its best, there is an incredible reciprocity of time, attention, resources and we are held in each others Grace. Every conflict we face together, every triumph we share, and every season of growth we walk through together is forging in each of us a pathway to the truth that lives at the heart of our longing to align with what matters most in life. Certainly, no one can do the work for us, but truly we can not do it alone either. This yoga is a team effort.
We worked with that theme last night in class also. Its really one of my favorites. How can each one of us be so steadily rooted in our own light that we can joyfully share and receive the abundant light of those around us? Truth be told, it may not come naturally. It may be that at first, we see someone shining brightly and we feel threatened, diminished, invisible or jealous. We may have to do a lot of inner work to recognize and validate our own light before we are steady in it. But the teachings tell us that as we cultivate that steadiness, as we cultivate true joy in other's success our own consciousness shifts. (Patanjali 1.33) No where does it say we have to do it perfectly. The sutra says cultivate joy in other's good fortune or mudita.
Gioconda and I were talking about it a few days ago and she brought up the idea that cultivating virtues of the Heart is a lot like growing a garden. You do not water the plants only once and expect them to thrive. Water the garden only once and you should expect the plants to wither and die, in fact. Instead, we have to water continually and even give extra nutrition when the soil is depleted. We have to treat for bug infestations, clip back parts that are running wild, weed around it, shade the plants from the sun but not give them too much shade. When a freeze is headed its way, we need to take precautions. And so on.
Okay, so the plant metaphor has now been thoroughly worked, right? Well, cultivating our inner life is the same way. So often we make efforts but fail to cultivate the qualities over the time. Its as though we get jealous of someone else, try to think a happy thought, still feel jealous and then give up! Just like watering once. No- we have to keep the faith. We have to keep going and invest in the garden of the heart over the long haul. And when we do this, truly beautiful things grow.
I am seeing that so much right now in our community in Austin. The growth we have all been investing in is blooming and bearing fruit and the joy I feel watching it quite delightful. And I see more amazing things in the works- great seeds are sprouting and growing roots and a new cycle of growth is underway. I love it. It is a very inspiring time right now.
So tend your garden and keep the faith.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
We had a great weekend here with the Immersion at Breath and Body Yoga. The process is really so rewarding and profound. I mean, on one level, it's fairly straightforward and basic, right? You get a bunch of people in the room together and do a lot of yoga, talk about yoga philosophy and share a little with each other. How great does that sound?! And truth be told, I actually think it is pretty great.
But as so many of us know, so much more than that surface level of content goes on in the Immersion Process. The extended amount of asana practice itself, the subject matter of the philosophy lessons and the very circumstance of being in a small room with 35 people for 16 hours over a weekend is somewhat confrontational and creates a wonderful opportunity to see oneself with greater clarity.
One of my favorite teachings from Jyotish Astrology is about Surya, the sun. The thing about the sun in Vedic Astrology is that is shines brightly on everything all the time. At first hearing, that also sounds wonderful, right? Who doesn't want some light shining on them, bringing greater clarity? The thing is that the teaching in Jyotish is that the shines so brightly and so indiscriminately on everything that it is actually considered a malefic force. (Planets and such are categorized in that system as beneficent and malefic forces, which is part of a whole thing in and of itself and outside the scope of this post!)
Anyway, so that is the thing about the Light of Awareness. Yes, it shines no matter what is happening and yes, it brings the very clarity by which we can see and yet, it is completely uninterested in making that a gentle, sweet or pleasant process. I do not actually think of Surya as malefic as "bad" but I do think it is entirely without sentiment. I do believe The Light has our Ultimate Best Interests in mind but I do not think it gives a shit about making the process palatable, easy, or agreeable to our self-image. It has no interest in preserving our vanity or making sure our PR improves as result of our Work. Sometimes, in order to get the job of awakening done, it has to burn us a bit to get our attention. Its not personal. Its just how it goes.
Now the Immersion was not this dramatic at all. I am just saying, that it is easy to sign up for "a little yoga Immersion" thinking you are gonna hang out, laugh with your friends, do some asana and deepen your practice without being aware that:
a) there is no such thing as a "little yoga immersion" and that
b) deepening our practice usually involves looking at ourselves with greater scrutiny and
c) self- awareness has a price.
What I loved about working with this group is that they were into the process so wholeheartedly. As issues came up, they looked at themselves, laughed at themselves, asked each other for help and feedback and kept moving. We did laugh a lot, we did do A TON of asana and we got through the bulk of the curriculum without too much breakdown. It was, by all accounts, a success.
And as always, upon reflection, what I love most about these trainings is the way that all that surface content is getting handled and how, through the execution of the content itself, a deeper contextual shift happens for the sincere student who participates fully. I so often say that Immersions are life-changing and it's not that a talk on the structure and purpose of Patanjlai's Yoga Sutras is in itself life-changing. I mean, it may be. But it may not be. The thing is that the content is in service to the larger context of awakening. In Anusara that larger context is the unwavering invitation to each of us to come deeper into our Hearts and to step more profoundly into the current that informs our truth.
So, like Lee so often said, "Context is everything." Something, in my opinion, is life-changing, not when it changes our outer life (although that may happen also) but when our way of seeing ourselves or seeing our world changes. When we get a shift of context, everything else changes in an instant. What is the one change that changes everything? That is what the yoga is aimed at; that is what makes it so efficient and effective. Instead of running around fixing every little problem or every little shortcoming in the outer world, we can work for the one change that will change everything else and that is generally going to mean a contextual shift, not a change in content.
For instance, Lee used to say, the cure for financial insecurity is not having more money. The cure for financial insecurity, he taught, is having confidence in your ability to earn money. Another cure is to have faith. The cure for feeling insecure in our relationships is not having everyone tell us they love us. The cure for that kind of insecurity is to love ourselves, to be devoted to ourselves and that requires that we shine the light of awareness on old hurts and disregarded aspects of ourselves and that we shift our context from abandoning ourselves to lovingly including all parts of ourselves in our relationship with ourselves. If we do that, we are not going to be insure about being abandoned. Plain and simple.
Worry about being judged? We have to shift our own judgmental context! Worried about failing? We have to start wishing others well. For real. And so it goes. And it can all start from a little innocent talk on Patanjali in a "little yoga Immersion" where the Light of Awareness seeps into places of darkness and brings its boons and its blessings of necessary discomfort, friction and tapas so that we can experience a shift.
Enjoy the heat.
Friday, July 8, 2011
So let's see- the theme for me these days involves some work identifying my growth as a teacher and how my skills and interests are evolving. One cool thing is that as I look around our community in Austin, TX I see lots of my students taking steps in their growth and advancing toward their goals and aims. Mandy Eubanks is teaching her first Immersion in Tulsa, Oklahoma this week and will teach her first Immersion in Austin soon. Jess Goulding just got certified and may be offering an immersion program soon. I just signed off on Desirae Pierce's application for Anusara-Inspried status. Jason Lobo returns to Dallas from a year-long stint in San Marcos with his application for Anusara-Inspired status approved. Of course, there is more I could write about and that is just in Austin. Student from around the country are emailing me their progress and achievements and successes as they put the teachings into practice in their lives and in their teachings.
So I am feeling a bit like a proud mama these days and finding such wonderful rewards from my students stepping confidently and courageously into their dreams. I have begun to realize and experience directly that my teaching work involves the people in the room for sure but in many ways extends to the people who those people are teaching and in some cases even the students of my students' students. My awareness of who I am actually working for and my responsibility in that is really expanding and it is inspiring and a bit sobering at times.
John Friend and I were talking about it recently- there is this fine line in teaching Ansuara Yoga between personal style and representing the method accurately. And while having a personal presentation and authentic style is actually part of the method as it is defined- seriously, we want everyone to be themselves- there is also the responsibility we have as teachers of the method to hand it down with integrity, precision, clarity and potency so that its transformational power is preserved through the generations. He and I were talking about the fact that I take that responsibility seriously and yet we also need to be clear as trainers that while we have boundaries, guidelines and standards that are clearly defined, we also are much bigger, as a method, than the stated guidelines. He and I were in a passionate agreement about how broad Anusara Yoga is- how wide and encompassing its methods and applications are-- and how odd it is that Anusara Yoga feels limiting to people because really, in our opinion, on one level, teaching "good Anusara Yoga" is simply "good teaching."
This came up in a recent conversation with a trainee who was telling me that he thinks Anusara Yoga is too subtle to teach to people who are not already skilled in yoga. And after listening to his thoughts and experiences I realized this is exactly what John and I were recently discussing and I disagreed with my trainee's assessment.
I did not disagree with his experience, mind you. I get that. I get that it can be easier to teach Anusara Yoga to someone who already knows the poses and is self-aware with kinesthetic proficiency. So I was in no way in disagreement that with his experience as his experience its just that by definition, Anusara Yoga is adaptable and applicable for just about anyone. (That does not mean, however, that every class is appropriate for every person at any time. We have to be smart about how we take such a statement. ) But really, we can work with injury, from a wheel chair, in restoratives, and with senior citizens new to the practice. We can adapt all the way to cirque du soleil acrobats and everything in between from stiff beginners to seasoned practitioners from technical start-and-stop classes to flowing with breath and so on.
But here is the thing- how Anusara Yoga looks in each of those situations has to be different. We are a bit of a chameleon method, in a way. Try to pin us down to one thing and we might change colors on you and show you another way we can express our true nature! I told my trainee that when I have raw beginners I can teach them a whole class on foundation and "how to step your feet wide" and its Anusara Yoga: "Step your feet wide. Everyone go wider. Even wider, Susie. That's it, Bob. Everyone, be so courageous in your stance that your feet are lined up right under your wrists. Yes, that far! Be bold.Now let's try it again..." (UPA-Set the foundation. HEART THEME= Courage. Boldness.)
But wait, there is more....
- With an advanced group- do drop backs for courage and super refined work about the bottom tips of the shoulder blades creating a courageous lift of the heart. (shoulder loop) Or take a courageous stance in the legs and root down with courage (Organic Energy) and then drop back.
- With an injured person in private lessons- "be courageous in your work and dare to imagine yourself already healed."
- In a restorative class- "be courageous enough to let go."
- In a Level One class- Peak Pose= triangle pose and the sustained courage of muscle energy in the legs that can help provide the foundation to open the pose more toward the sky and get a turn through the torso.
- In a flow class, UPA-The Breath and Opening to Grace."Follow your breath, your rythm as a link to the Source of courage that lives within you. Follow its lead, your heart, your breath, and make a connection to your courage as you move today."
This is why it always "depends" in Ansuara Yoga and why it can be frustrating to learn to teach Anusara Yoga and it is also why it takes a while to get good at teaching our method. We tend to think Anusara Yoga is whatever it was from the person we learned it from without realizing that was a personal expression and relative to the circumstance in which they were teaching. Like if I am teaching my immersion group tonight and someone was not careful they would think "oh, that is a method for advanced people" when in fact, it is simply an advanced group of people doing Anusara Yoga. If someone were to see me teaching a mixed-level workshop of people trained already in Anusara Yoga with good teachers, they would say, "Oh, that method has a lot of technical precision" when in fact I was teaching Level 1 poses since it was mixed-level and giving a ton of refinement since they were already trained in the basics.
So anyway, I thought I would share some of those reflections in case they are useful. And also, its important to remember that gaining versatility as a teacher takes time. And it is not required. You may just want to work with one type of student and that is totally fine. John himself has said many times that we do not have to try to be all colors of the rainbow. Some people will hold down a beautiful shade of blue and others a lovely shade of red. All that is okay.
Anyway, as I have been pondering my own growth as a teacher I realize I really want to work more and more with Anusara-Inspired teachers and helping them gain more versatility and more proficiency at teaching the method and and in making the leap from the skills required to be Anusara-inspired to what is required to become a Certified Teacher. I am going to be offering some specialized trainings like Teaching to the Raw Beginner and a mentor program with Noah Maze in 2012 (details on that soon) and a sequencing workshop and some practice-based intensives for Immersion Grads and Teachers at The San Marcos School of Yoga in San Marcos, TX. (Look for the first Level 1 TT there in December and the first intensive in March 2012!) Its really going to be great. And the fun gets started soon at The Anusara-Inspired Gathering in Tahoe in July.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
- childs pose
- down dog
- Surya namaskar A- 5X
- Surya namaskar B - 5X
- Lots of attention to the upper back in the sun salutations in both up dog and down dog.
- vira 1
- vira 1
- baby natarajasana- vira 3-vira 1
- anjaneyasana with quad stretch
- eka pada raja kapotasana with forward bend and twist over front leg and a massive inner spiral in the back leg
- eka pada raja kapotasana with backbend and quad stretch
- belly down shoulder stretch (too hard to explain, so don’t ask!)
- shalabasana 3X
- danuarasana 3X
- shalabasana to danurasana to deep cobra 3X
- parsva danurasana
- full bhekasana
- big, major, like-you-mean-it cobra
- urdhva danurasana- 5X
- dwi pada viparita dandanasana- 5X
- drop backs for some
- eka pada raja kapotasana 1, 2
- down dog
- parsva uttanasana
- down dog
- childs pose
- bharadvjasana 1
- bharadvajasana 2
- adho mukha sukhasana, right leg in front
- adho mukha sukhasana, left leg in front
- supta padangusthasana 1, 2 with bottom foot at wall
- knees to chest
- savasana or legs up the wall