Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Los Angeles Immersion Day 2

It was another fun day at yogaglo with the Immersion. We started the day with pranayama and then I taught an asana class with parivritta trikonasana as the peak pose. It was a good straight forward Level 1/2 kind of class with strong work in basic postures.

Childs pose
Down dog
simple lunge surya namaskar variations 2 X

This whole next section was to open the feet, the ankles and the lower leg to get it to release. I saw that lots of people did not have their heels down in down dog which told me that their back heel in revolved triangle pose was going to be tough to keep down also.
blanket roll under feet uttanasana
blanket roll behind knees in vajrasana
blanket roll under feet uttanasana
blanket roll under feet uttanasana
down dog
foot work to open the soles of the feet which is too hard to explain here
sitting on the heels in vajrasana with the toes turned under so the balls of the feet are on the floor
repeat both
down dog
down dog with bent knees and really reaching through the heels to stretch the soleus
AND voila! So many down dogs with heels down. YES!

jathara parivarttonasana with bent legs squeezing a block- 3X each side
with straight legs-  3X each side
supta padangusthasana
parivritta supta padangusthasana

Vira 1- 2 X
parsvottanasana- 2X
parivrritta trikonasana- 2X

down dog
adho mukha parsva vajrasana

ujayi pranayama

Noah did a little Bhagavad Gita introduction and then we took a break for lunch. I practiced the sequenced with some additions-  sirsasana after the opening 3 poses, after pascimottanasana I did malasana, uttanasana, maricyasana 1, 2, 3, and 4 and then malasana again with much greater success. Then pasasana and then malasana and uttanasana. then chair-supported shoulderstand. Good times

Anyway- it was a great sequence to work with and we had a short afternoon with some more work on the Bhagavad Gita.

Its always interesting to teach the Immersion Curriculum and see what directions we go in as a group and  where it leads. Its never "just" the curriculum and each group has a different flavor and interest and insights they offer. One thing  that is interesting for me is that as time goes by and Anusara's standards and curriculum are more and more clarified and outlined, I actually feel less like an "anusara" teacher. I know that must sound really odd but I always find it jolting when asked, "Well what is Anusara's viewpoint on _______ and how are we supposed to think about _____________."

In terms of asana, I have no real problem with those kinds of questions but I always feel a little weird answering the "Anusara doctrine" kinds of questions. I really do not want the teaching I do to be a conversion experience or a time when people are indoctrinated into something or told a way to think, perceive or relate to these time-honored teachings. I am more interested in what the Gita means to each person personally than teaching what the "Anusara viewpoint is on The Gita."  I just do not relate to Anusara Yoga from that vantage point at all and when we started learning all the philosophy, it was, at least for me, more like The Gita for the sake of The Gita, not the Gita for the sake of Anusara Yoga Philosophy as some separate thing.

I am thinking about this a lot these days. Being around in the beginning when things were evolving naturally and organically was a really different thing than meeting all of this now that it has become something more boundaried and codified. I find I am really having to examine my own way of relating to the system as it is now since I am so involved in the curriculum and teaching people who are encountering it for the first time and meeting a "whole thing" that didn't really exist when I first came around.

Some of the questions that came up today got me on this train of thought and so its on my mind. To me, its more about how the teachings land inside me  and not so much about conforming to an outer way or anything like that.  I suppose, it is, like so many things, a spanda.

More on that later.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Immersion Los Angeles Part Three Day One

It was a great reunion with our gang here in Los Angeles today. We are reduced slightly in numbers this time around and  the intimacy is so very sweet. One thing I notice about my life right now that is the hardest part is not the travel schedule exactly or even the lack of the routine. It is more like the level of emotional connection required is a lot to sustain. I usually land in a town the night before a training starts and connect with my host or co-teacher and then we do our best to go to be early so we can start the training fresh. Then we get up and meet a group of students and dive into the teahings and personal sharing and self-inquiry and the whole ball of wax that it is to teach Anusara Yoga.

And for me, I have started to realize that it can take me a while to really "arrive" in an emotional sense. I am always really happy to see people and it has NOT ONE THING to do with anyone in the room or anything external. Its more that for me, personally, I have started to realize that my job often asks me to open up emotionally at a faster rate than is natural for me. I am very comfortable meeting people and carrying on a surface level type of conversation but for me to really engage in an intimate way, I need a little time.  Walking into a room of folks for what I know is a deep and intimate process and being "ready" requires a kind of internal shift and focus for me.

I am not complaining. I actually think its a good thing and a great opportunity to work with my tendencies. And, like so many things in yoga,  the more I am aware of my tendencies, the easier it is to make conscious choices about how I want to be in relationship to them. But, for instance, just Sunday I was wrapping up an Immersion at home and reveling in the  community experience there and then this morning I am looking at another room of people knowing we are diving in again. All this to say that I felt that shift happen pretty easefully this morning as I looked around and saw all the sweetness in everyone's faces and the anticipation and gratitude for one another. And yet, its a definite moment for me when I really feel like I "arrive." It can even take a few days sometimes.

We did have a great day.Noah and I experimented with some slightly different teaching strategies to great effect and we made another obligatory dive into the tattvas followed by a discussion of the malas and ending with a forward bend practice. Tomorrow we will start with pranayama and go into asana right after that and get to work on The Gita. I love talking about The Gita and the malas were a great way to ease into a discussion on the many reasons why we need to "fight the good fight" and resist the powers within us (the malas) that cover our light. Manorama, when prepping our group for a talk on the The Gita was talking about how the good guys in the story had pretty much been exiled from the kingdom. She said, "When the light has been given mo place to exist, battle must ensue."

Its like that inside ourselves also. there are forces that are working against the experience and  expression  of our Light and we must do battle with them. And sometimes the battle is violent, sometimes merely assertive and other times the strategy is more like a tai chi or aikido move. But while these forces in us can be acknowledged and accepted for what they are, they need not be tolerated and certainly they can not be given free reign. At some point, we have to do battle and defend our light so that it has a place to live in the kingdom that is us.

So we talked about that as we talked about the malas, the way the Light of the Heart gets covered. It's always a great conversation- oddly confrontational and liberating all at once.

More tomorrow.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fire and nectar

Well, let's see... It's been another full weekend for sure. We had our final Immersion weekend here in Austin this weekend. What a strong finish it was! We pushed the envelope quite a bit in the asana, looking at scorpion pose, arm balances from sirsasana 2 and drop backs and so on. That was fun. And we spent a lot of time in review of the curriculum which was great. Review is not exactly the most scintillating kind of sessions but it is so great to have a chance to clarify confusions, to ask people to compare and to contrast ideas and principles, and to really get down to some of the more academic points of the curriculum. And from what I can tell, people like to have a chance to actually "get the answers" to those empowerment reviews!

So that is kind of the content part of the weekend but the context of the final weekend of an Immersion is always a bit richer than that! It is so rewarding to bring a group through the whole nine yards of an Immersion and to see how far everyone has come in terms of asana practice and also inner shifts. This group had many inner and outer shifts and like I always say, I feel like I shift right along with a group anytime I teach one of these trainings.

I think for me one of the most rewarding aspects of this training was in recognizing how deep and sincere the students were. I had an ongoing feeling that the Austin Anusara Yoga Community has evolved to a new level of focus, commitment and and has become much more mature. I felt like this group marked the end of a "pioneering" phase with the teachings here. I had free reign to teach and not convince, students came ready to learn without needing to debate or compare a lot and most of the students have been in my classes or in my student's classes and so they already knew the method worked and was viable, they just wanted to go deeper. It was a truly pleasure to teach. I really loved it.

The Immersion curriculum is intense and powerful and challenges even the most seasoned practitioner. As much asana as there is there is plenty of philosophy, lots of soul searching and it is a big dose of community, to be sure. Asana junkies have to get with philosophy, the mystics have to deal with a ton of physicality, introverts have to share a lot, extroverts have to listen to other people and on it goes. Just being in a room for 100 hours with 35+ people is no small feat! Anyway, the students did great and I left feeling uplifted and grateful for opportunity to share the experience.

After the training, we had a small gathering to celebrate Kelly's graduation from college which was sweet. He has started college 8 different times and finally completed his studies last week, earning a MA in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It's a big accomplishment for him and in a lot of ways for our family, as we have been cheering him on and supporting him through the process.

And as I looked out at the folks who came to his party, I realized that they were all my yoga students and it really hit me that Kelly's graduation is also a community victory. Every person in the room has paid money to learn yoga from me over the years which made it possible for us to pay for Kelly's school. The community "support" in this case was tangible and real and so potent for me to recognize.

Once again, I am struck by the power of community and the many ways we can help each other be great and live into our goals and dreams. As we all know, teaching yoga is not easy, nor is being a student. The process asks a lot of us. And as we walk the path, it gets harder, not easier in a lot of ways. Like I so often say, we get rewarded for a job well done with harder things to do.

One time Manorama said, "it's not like yoga is going to tell you to take a break and have some tea." Of course, occasionally we do take a break and enjoy some tea or any one of life's amusements and that's all well and good. In fact, in that same talk she said, "sure, distractions are in this realm for a reason and they have their purpose but that is different than living a life of distraction."

So, for sure, we know none of this is easy, and it's not meant to be. There is tapasya and fire involved. ("it's called tapas for a reason- it BURNS"- Manorama) However, there is also nectar and sweetness as well. Kelly's party had that sweet quality of community and friendship that was really delightful to experience and be part of. As time goes by, I find this to be some of the most important part of the yoga to me-- these connections in community and glimpses of the deep support we can be to each other. Certainly, community has it's own fair share of tapas to offer us as well, but that's another entry for another time! Right now, I am reveling in a sweetness of gratitude for all of you who I have the opportunity and honor to teach.

We got up early this morning and spent some time boating in San Marcos. Then I had time to practice asana, before getting on the plane to head out to LA. Here I am now, unpacking and getting ready for bed.

More soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Well, this has been a very long stretch without a blog entry. I have been busy but also without a lot of time alone to sit down and write.
I have been up in colorado since Friday and camping since Sunday. 
Friday night we had a wonderful book signing event in Boulder that Jeanie Manchester helped me organize. We had a lovely turnout with folks from all over Colorado. I taught a strong flow class with a theme of devotion- fun flows, arm balances and good strong work. Some of the students from higher elevations told me it was the first time they have  sweated in an Anusara  yoga class! Of course, that made me laugh. A lot. To be fair, they live at like 10,000 ft above sea level where it is never hot or humid!
Over the weekend Jeanie and I co-taught some group practices which was fun. I had never taught  with her before and so it was a good chance to see what she has been up to in her teaching and to connect with the Colorado gang, many of whom I know from workshops I have taught in other places and many of whom I met for the first time. We had a good strong back bend day on Saturday and a hip-opening arm balancing day on Sunday. Jeanie and I have very different teaching styles and from what I could tell the students enjoyed the practices and seemed to benefit a lot from the different presentations we offered.
After the session on Sunday Kelly and I had a jyotish astrology reading with Dr. Katy Poole, who Jeanie recommended to us. (the two of them are doing a retreat soon, so check that out- yoga and jyotish. Yum!) it was a fantastic reading for me, full of great inspiring insight as well as a good healthy dose of "tough love" relative to my dharma. ("Get on with it- stop playing it safe, tell the truth and stop pretending to be someone you are not! Your guru gave you a job to do, now do it." So kinda like that.) I highly recommend her and her work. She is smart, passionate, authentic, and down-to -earth while, without a doubt, dedicated to the Highest Possibility in each of us.
Before the time in Boulder I had three very full days of teaching the course "Teaching to the Raw Beginner" at Yoga Oasis. It was an amazing experience for me for so many reasons. I have never been to a training on the topic nor have I ever taught a workshop like this before and so it was truly uncharted territory. I have taught plenty of Teacher Trainings and I have taught plenty of raw beginners how to do yoga but putting it together was new.
One thing I really enjoyed a lot was having a chance to talk very frankly about teaching yoga and the challenges and realities of teaching public yoga classes. So many of the challenges I have faced as a teacher- both internally and in the classroom- have done so much to shape my ideas about teaching and have helped me hone my skills and refine my personality traits over the years. And the funny thing is that very few of all of the challenges I have encountered were ever mentioned in the teacher trainings that I have been to. So it was fun to actually speak directly to the heart of our challenges and to share the insight I have after 12 years or so of mistakes!

I am more convinced than ever that being an effective teacher is about three primary domains- I called them The 3 C's of Teaching in the training: Context, Content and Conversation.
Context refers to the aim we have as teacher, both in the larger sense of our own dharma and in the immediate sense of what aim we have for the class we are teaching that particular day. Content is actually the "stuff" we teach like poses, principles, sequencing, etc. And Conversation is about the way we present it- the words we use, the tone and tenor of our presentation and our relationship with the students. It seems that the more these domains are in a healthy balance, the better the teaching. 
Context is super key because it is our vision, our darshan as teachers. If we are clear on what we want to offer students- both in the big picture and in the immediate sense of the class we are teaching, then we can know how to aim our efforts. If we are unclear, then we may have great sequences, and great tips about the poses but we will be less likely to really meet our aim if we do not know what we are trying to accomplish. Furthermore, we will not be as able to assess our efforts and our efficacy as teachers because we won't know what to evaluate ourselves on. For instance, if I want to provide a nurturing atmosphere and I am clear on that aim, it will determine a lot of how I will proceed in class. Those of you who know me, know that I am rarely aiming that way- I am generally going for focus, determined strong work and courageously devoted effort so my teaching style isn't soft. (but if you want to see nurturing Christina, download this class on yogaglo- it's an awesome example of me aiming  at gentle and nurturing and, if I do say so myself, hitting the mark pretty darn well!)
This idea really hit home for me recently as I listened to a colleague of mine talk about how, in the opening 10-15 minutes of class, she wants people to feel at ease and so she give spacious, movement cues that are not very detailed or alignment-oriented. She feels that too much alignment instruction right up front makes people contract and worry too much about doing it "right" or "wrong".
I got to thinking about how I am the exact opposite way when I teach.  I cue my basic alignment actions in the initial centering and don't stop until savasana. I want people focused from the git-go and I give them very little room to explore or think for themselves initially. I have found that I have better success at actually helping people get  into hard poses when they are on my train from word one.
So both my colleague and I teach effective Anusara Yoga and both of us have well- attended classes and both of us train skilled teachers. However,  the "content" of our teaching is different as is the "conversation" because she is aiming at facilitating ease and I am aiming at facilitating  focus.
Anyway, we had a great group of new and experienced teachers. I learned a lot from them and got some great feedback about what to keep in the course, how to improve it and how to streamline the presentation. I am sure I will offer it again so stay tuned for details on that.
The week before the Raw Beginners course, Darren and I taught what I think was our best ever Part One Teacher Training. It was the most streamlined, simplified, accessible and concise training he and I have ever taught together.  We overhauled the curriculum and made changes to the way we presented it and it was super effective. 
One thing I am noticing in the process of training teachers over the years is that students are coming to our programs with less  teaching experience than in previous years and people are learning to teach much earlier into their yoga life than they used to. For instance, I  did yoga for 7 years before teaching. By the time I learned to teach I had been a student for many years and had seen a zillion modifications for poses in class and so I didn't need that as much from TT, I had learned it in classes. And, as far as Anusara methodology goes, an experienced teacher can be taught how to teach the UPAs right away but a new teacher needs to learn how to teach the poses and how to teach what I call  "good basic yoga" before they learn how to teach "Anusara yoga". 
Of course, some of that is a false distinction as "good Anusara" and "good yoga" are not entirely different animals but thatis a story for another day! At any rate, we revamped the curriculum to spend Part One TT  more on "teaching good basic yoga" and we had great success. The students were challenged in a realistic way without  being overwhelmed. I swear if we can just get people into and out of the poses efficiently and with accurate instructions, we will elevate the way yoga is being taught and practiced world-wide.
Of course, we had lively and  interesting discussions on other topics for sure and I will be exploring some of those themes in the next few weeks. All in all, it was an amazing few weeks for me. I enjoyed the work and I enjoyed taking some time to retreat to the mountains. I was unplugged for five days with no Facebook, Twitter, email, blog, phone or text messages and it was awesome. I actually felt my consciousness shift considerably away from Facebook Mind and into a much more profound current. Something about nature and her rhythms....
More soon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Night

Another day of teacher training complete.

We worked with the theme in this morning's practice about True North and how if we have True North within us- the light of our heart coupled with discernment and discrimination- we have access to an inner guide as life takes us through twists and turns.

Heart Theme- steadiness and steady remembrance of guiding light
UPA- midline
Postural emphasis- vinyasa prep for twisting action of janu sirsasana, parivritta janu sirsasana and wait for it)... compass pose!

It was a great day because the sequence and the theme worked so well together and for the students and the concept was so meaningful for so many.  After we debriefed the class  we had a chance to work with weaving heart-based language into verbal instructions. After lunch we had an excellent discussion on ethics- which are ideally referenced in True North, not a bunch of outside rules-  and about the distinctions between ethics and personality differences. Its just so clear to me the longer I do this the more complex and intricate the web of interpersonal relationships becomes and the more likely it is for conflict and discord to arise.  Also, wonderful and rewarding intimacies arise as well, that is for sure.

I had a really interesting experience at a personal growth seminar a few years ago. We were working with the concepts of projection and transference and how so often our reactions and impression of people are not dictated by present-moment information but are colored and influenced by past experiences. We were given an exercise to do where we, the participants, were to identify a "negative transference" we had with one of the teachers of the seminar. We were given a step-by-step process to help trace the reaction back to earlier life influences to see the source of the negative reaction. Then we went up to the teacher and shared what we had wrote.

What was so amazing to me was watching how 40 grown adults, all of who were competent people and well-educated each had had a negative reaction to one of the teachers at some point in the seminar. Each of us had felt hurt in some way. Each of us had felt "less than" in some way. Each one had felt disregarded or misunderstood in some way. And since I teach people for a living it was particularly stunning to see that no matter how hard I try to "do a good job" or "do it right" this process of transference is at play.  (Every. Single. Person. In. The. Room. Had. A. Negative. Reaction. It was not random! or haphazard. very compelling evidence, really.) Also, there are plenty of positive transferences headed our way as teachers as well.  As students it can be easy to project positive traits on the teacher that are not exactly accurate.

At any rate, there we all are, in a room, doing the yoga, opening up our energy channels, contemplating Big Ideas and, all the while, the transferences can be happening underneath the surface of awareness. This is super important to keep in mind because a lot of times feelings get hurt as a result of these kind of psychic misunderstandings and the misunderstanding can be detrimental to both the student and the teacher in a myriad of ways.  Add to the situation that the expectations for teachers that are lined out in the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual are super high. Even the simple sounding intention that an Anusara Yoga class help each student feel better about themselves is, in my opinion, a bit unrealistic.

I mean sure, of course we want that for everyone who comes into our class. Of course we do. However, what achieves that aim and interferes with that outcome can vary widely from person to person. One student feels great because the teacher paid so much attention to them and gave them a ton of hands-on adjustments through class and the person next to them felt criticized and  picked as a result of the adjustments they were offered. Some people feel respected when you give it to them straight while others need a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, so to speak. And the variations are endless.

My point- or one of them- was that all of that stuff is more psychological whereas ethics are more about right, wrong, and dare I say it? (Yes, why not?)  Ethics are about morals.(Funny what a bad word that has become in modern society. But I digress.)  I did, in fact, I look  up the word and that is what the dictionary said- "having to do with right, wrong and codes of conduct." The word moral also has some etymological relationship to the word mood which is interesting as our ethical conduct- or lack thereof- does relate directly to the mood of our teaching, the mood of our class and the mood of the way we conduct ourselves.

More was said, and more could be said to recap the day but that's a glimpse at the tenor of the discussion. It was a rich topic with many fascinating facets.

We  spent the remaining portion of the afternoon on observation and adjustments.

Wow, what a full day.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

In the Thick of It

We are in the thick of Teacher Training here in Tucson and I am having an amazing time.

I think the thing I like most about teaching Teacher Training is how much I learn every time. Not only do I get a chance to reflect on the practice of teaching, clarify what I think about it, and refine my articulation of various concepts and challenges related to teaching, I also get a chance to practice my skills all week since we do some much skill building exercises throughout the week. Its like getting a teacher training for myself!

I re-worked the curriculum for this training and strream-lined it, simplified it and I think its the best Part One me and Darren have ever done. I think the material is perfect for the group- manageable, appropriately challenging, informing and inspiring. I feel really good about it.

One recurring theme for me that keeps coming up is how important the basics are. I actually love refined teaching and interesting sequences and nuanced instructions but it is very clear to me that Part One Teacher Training is not about that at all. It is about teaching people to do a good job with the basics- like getting people into and out of the poses well, instructing with the breath, being economical with ones words and so on.  The better we are at the basic skill set, the more effective our teaching is going to be.

So its been a big foray into super basic teaching fundamentals and the students are doing well with it. As the year progresses we will get to add more details to the instructions and more refinement to the presentation but I am firmly convinced that if teachers everywhere were doing the basics well, the world of yoga would be a better place. Just like in asana, the basics are not necessarily easy to do.

Its tie for me to get some sleep so I am not going to write for very much longer. Tonight I taught a class at Yoga Oasis East which was super fun. We had 48 people show up which packed the room to capacity and we worked on drop backs. I used the theme about creating refuge within our bodies and becoming beacons of light as a result of being anchored. We worked a ton with Inner Body Bright and just about everyone in the room learned how to drop back and stand up. It was super fun. The students were receptive and joyful and  we really had a good time.

Well, I have lots of gems and insights rockin' around inside but I need to turn my mind off for a while and so perhaps tomorrow I will dive into that treasure trove. I had so many very interesting conversation that made me really think this week. I think thats the sign of a great training- getting asked interesting questions! Sure there are the predictable, always-asked Level 1 appropriate questions that we expect. And then there are the deeper questions of personal inquiry that people explore and invite me into and that is rich territory indeed.

I am thinking about a lot so stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Worth, Worship and Worthiness

We had a great day one of Teacher Training here in Tucson. I have a bunch to do tonight and so instead of a full blog entry about the day I thought I would post this little clip from the weekend in Friendswood.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Responsiveness and Necessity: Kayaking and Yoga

I had a really good morning down in San Marcos. Kelly and I  spent some time on the river which is always super fun. We are in desperate need of some rain around here and so the water is getting lower and lower but there was still some wave to play in and it was refreshing to be in 72 degree water. That is a cool thing about The San Marcos River- The water is spring fed so it is 72 degrees year round which is pretty mild as far as rivers go. I still wear a wetsuit even in the middle of the summer since I get cold easily but is not a frigid experience by any means. Plus, I suppose that after 40+ days of triple digits already this summer, cold is welcome!

One of the things I like most about whitewater kayaking is how alert I have to be. While yoga requires focus and concentration for sure, kayaking has a whole other element because the medium we are working/playing in is moving.  Balancing on one leg on a stable floor is one thing but a river is never the same- the water is moving, the current is changing and the  kayaker must be continually responding to those changes.  For instance, what worked in the wave when you first get into it  will not necessarily work all morning long. In white water  kayaking, one has have to rely on their skills and not on formulas or habits. Its like in teaching yoga- we teach with principles of teaching, not rote sequences, rote instructions or formulas guided by "always and never". Discernment and responsiveness are the guiding principles in my opinion, not rules or standardized, predictable answers.

And the responsiveness is key because while a lot of us can get scared or freaked out in yoga doing a new move, in kayaking you are  not just be upside down but you are often upside down, getting pummeled by a wave and under water holding your breath! So maintaining composure is both more difficult and more necessary.

Lee talked a lot about Necessity as it related to spiritual practice. He was fairly adamant that a life of true spiritual practice was difficult and the easier thing was to simply allow one's desire for comfort, ease and unconscious  mediocrity to take over and be the order of the day over and above self-scrutiny, self-sacrifice and surrender. (He was not saying and I am not saying that we should never be comfortable or anything like that- he was simply talking about the force of habit we have to overcome if we are going to align with who we truly are over and above who we think we are.) 

I think in 12-step recovery a lot of what gives Necessity is the fact that one has reached a point of despair or a "bottom" of sorts where the negative pattern or behavior has escalated to such a degree that the person is "sick and tired of being sick and tired." Keep in mind, this is not limited to outer behaviors or substance addictions. We might be sick and tired of feeling unworthy, of feeling unimportant, etc. These bleak moments often yield a stark clarity of insight where we know we need to change something, even if it is "just" our perspective, context or attitude. It is in these moments of clarity where we actually see the that the stakes are higher than we thought and there is a cost to our habits that is greater than we realized.

And yes, I  think we can also grow from a place of longing to be greater and from the recognition of goodness within us that we want to bring forward. I definitely think we can feel a creative resonance with something profound and want to bring that awareness into our lives and that longing can create Necessity as well. I have felt that also, that deep yearning to really love from the expansive quality of my heart. 

So the point is not so much what gives Necessity as much as that we have it. And that we stay tuned into it because it gives us a lot of fuel to keep walking the path when it gets difficult.  And it will inspire us to stay responsive, not reactive and to maintain our connection and composure when we are upside down in a rapid getting a bit pummeled!

So here is a picture of me in the wave.

We also checked in on The San Marcos School of Yoga to see how its paint job is progressing. The property is a corner lot and there is the yoga building (pictured below) and a house on the lot. Both are getting painted and they had made a lot of progress. When we have programs here we will use the house for meals, massage, acupuncture and community space and the yoga space for asana and morning meditation.

Here are a few shots of the inside. These are taken with a wide angle lens so it looks a bit bigger than it is but we laid down mats. 40 people will fit with room to spare. Good times.

When you first walk in the door, this is the view.

And when you are look back at the door, this is what you see.

We have a huge space for prop storage as well. So  I am going to outfit the school with chairs for 40, blankets for 40 people to have 3 each, 80 blocks and straps and so on. Just think of the fun we can have!

I am really excited to be able to create a training center like this right here in Central Texas. I will be able to offer a variety of trainings, intensives, immersions and educational courses to help us grow as a community in a down- to-earth, intimate and rigorous setting. The cool thing about San Marcos is that its close to Austin- about 35-45 minutes- but it's low key, relaxing and connected to closely to the life of the river. Its such a great place.

More soon. Off to Tucson.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Morning

Well, it was a busy weekend with no time to sit and write. I am behind on emails and I haven't written a blog entry in a week.  And I decided instead of chaining myself to the computer this morning that I would take a trip down to San Marcos to get some time in on the river. I am always happier when I get some time each week paddling. 

Plus The San Marcos School of Yoga has been getting a new coat of paint and I am excited to see how it looks now. I am getting really excited about the re-opening of the school. Sam and Anne will be offering some classes there this fall  and I am going to be offering more and more trainings there. Teacher Training 1 in December, Int/Adv Asana Intensive in March and Teacher Training 2 in April. And lots more to come so stay tuned. I am so thrilled to be able to offer high quality training in an intimate, community setting here in Texas. My vision is that many of you from all over the world will come and join us at these events and enjoy the simple, down-to-earth setting. So fun.

I had a very full weekend. Thursday night I taught a class at The Woodlands Anusara Yoga Studio . We had a great turnout with people from all over which was really fun. The studio used to be owned by certified teacher Vicki Beilharz who ran it for years. When I first moved to Texas she was the owner there and I taught a workshop there then. Vicki moved and the studio has passed through two more owners and was recently taken over by Anusara Yoga. It was so fun to be invited to teach there again, to see some old and new faces and to be part of the new wave of inspiration that is happening there, now that it is Anusara Yoga's studio, right down the road from the main office. We had great students, good times, and lots of learning together.  We also did a group practice on Friday morning which was a dynamic blend of vinyasas, pose analysis and explanation as well as some sermons and pep talks!

Skip back to yesterday's post and you can see some footage from the classes.

After lunch on Friday Kelly and I went to Friendswood, which is about an hour away on the other side of Houston from The Woodlands. Valerie is a good friend of mine and was the first person in texas to invite me to teach at their studio once I had moved here. She reached out to me with such love and acceptance and we have been close ever since. This is the fourth year I have gone to teach at  Sundance Yoga.  It is so fun to go somewhere every year around the same time because it provides such a touchstone for one's growth and development. Valerie is a very loving and nurturing person and teacher and her students are really great. I gave them a big dose of fire and passion which they seemed to receive well. We had four sessions together and covered some major territory inside and out.  Good stuff.

Kelly's working on a video now so we will get that up soon. 

I have lots on my mind and all kinds of insights percolating around that I cannot wait to get down on paper (or computer) but right now, the river is calling. If we don't get there early, all the tubers are in the rapids and we can't play.  

more soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Morning

So let's see- what is going on.... I had a great weekend home teaching in Austin. I was pretty tired from the festivities of The Anusara-Inspired Teacher's Gathering but by the end of the weekend I felt rested and  back in my stride a bit. The Immersion group here continues to inspire and impress me with their capacity and studentship. They worked so hard on so many levels. And yet,  even as I write that sentence,  I am aware that "hard" may not be the best adjective to describe what I saw. They worked deeply. Yes, there was a physical effort for the asana but they were also so willing to explore their inner landscape and to open up and share how the teachings were taking hold inside of them.

A few months back I hosted Manorama to teach a course on the Bhagavad Gita in the Teacher Training Program in Corpus Christi. I was, as always, struck deeply by her and her teachings. (More on that later as I plan to compile and comment some of my notes from that soon but suffice it to say that I think she is a total badass on every level and she is totally my cup of tea as a teacher- strong, loving, funny, smart, compassionate, uncompromising, soft, strict, etc.)

Anyway, one thing she said that weekend was that the job of the student was to "get inside the teachings, not to defend against them." I thought this was so great. Obviously, we are not talking here about blind faith or accepting everything at face value just because it "comes from the tradition." Hopefully, it's obvious by now that I am a fan of discernment, discrimination and conscious engagement of the teachings.

So that being said and assumed, her point really hit home with me. When we engage a text like the Gita or Patanjali's Sutras or any of our source texts, it is easy to react to the language, the terminology, and  the uncompromising demands they make and, without even realizing it, defend ourselves against them. Her instruction or invitation, was to find a way into them instead.  Often that "way in" involved honestly acknowledging what words created reaction inside us and why.

 For instance, there is a lot written about "self-control" in the Gita. And anyone who has been through some therapy or some 12-step work or has a introduction to spiritual concepts like "Let Go and Let God" often sees "control" as a negative thing. And so the text uses a word that triggers a certain response within us and if we are unaware of that trigger  we are defending against the text before we even know it and missing a chance to benefit from the Teaching.

If, instead, we pay attention to our mind and its reactions, we get to ask a few deeper questions like "How is the text using that word?" and "Is the yogic application the same as the modern vernacular or common usage of the word?"  What, for instance, does self-control mean from the perspective of the Gita? How, from a yogic perspective, is self-control absolutely necessary and beneficial?  When we ask those questions, we being to find a way into the text.

Same with the Sutras where  Pantajali outlines our "afflictions" and it can be so easy to recoil away from some of its language because- well, let's face it-- who among us likes to see ourself as afflicted? It can trigger a whole host of associative feelings that were not intended at all. We may feel criticized, ashamed, depressed, defensive and so forth. But that text, like I always say, is a "just that facts" kind-of -explanation and has no interested in bolstering our self-esteem or making us feel better about our lives or anything like that. Nope, its more about laying out what we are going to face when we set out to experience samadhi and dive into our inner lives. Lee used to say, "forewarned is forewarned" and the sutras are saying, "be ready- you are going to met some obstacles and afflictions within yourself!"

Another very cool teaching Manorama gave about The Gita was that "This is your story." And if we accept that premise when reading the Gita, we get to ask ourselves a very useful question as we study: "In what way is this my story?" In what way am I sitting on the battlefield of my inner life facing a choice that seems to have no easy way through it? In what way am I a warrior of great integrity battling with the forces of darkness and doubt and having to rely only on my duty, my connection to Spirit and my values to guide me? And so on. Truth be told, we are every person on that battlefield, as Mandy reminded us via Douglas Brooks' teachings.

I think that is the thing I love about the traditional teachings like The Gita. They are so real and applicable. There is this new-age idea that if we are ourselves and if we are authentic "everything is going to work out great." And sure, on some ultimate level, that is totally true. And, of course, The Gita speaks to this also reminding us time and again that the Self cannot be injured, killed or abolished and so on so do not worry. But the Gita also reminds us that here on earth, while we are  in bodies, and living our lives as humans, when we set out to be ourselves, to live authentically and in alignment with our dharma, we are going to be on a battlefield and there are going to be times when we must act in ways that are not easy, that will create pain and that it may not always "work out" right away. The truth is that me walking around in my authenticity is going to rub against you walking around in yours and we are going to have sort that out from time to time. Its naive to think otherwise, in  fact.

So- enough on that for now. We had a great Immersion weekend and I am still processing things from it and the week up in the mountains. And what better way to process things than through the lens of The Bhagavad Gita?