Saturday, December 31, 2011
We have had two great days of strong asana classes here in Tucson. We started the first day with me teaching a class on the Four Pillars of Advanced Back Bends. This is a notion I learned about through George Purvis who is an awesome Senior Iyengar teacher, currently teaching in Dallas, TX. IN a workshop with him a few years ago, he said that Mr. Iyengar said one time that there are four pillars for advanced back bends: urdhva danurasana, kapotasana, dwi pada viparita dandasana (with the head down) and mandalasana. So we worked with this as a structure for the opening class.
Given that theses are the pillars, one could consider that they are like the gateway, or that they live on the threshold of more advanced postures. Now, truth be told, its easier for a lot of people to get into a semblance of eka pada rajakapotasana than kapotasana, but for many of us in that category, you will also see that we are not able to sit firmly against the floor in eka pada rajakapotasana and therefore our backs are not bending evenly which over time might compromise the quadratus lumborum and so on. So its not that other poses can not be achieved without these four pillars in place, its just that these four poses, when executed well, indicate that one is prepared well to go beyond them. That's my understanding at any rate.
So, we talked about these poses as the poses that live on the threshold of the advanced postures and how this intensive comes at the time of year when we are the threshold of a new cycle and so we contemplated the theme of threshold on Day One. Darren and I talked about having recently walked through a very intense threshold and that it held some very surprising lessons and outcomes that could not have been predicted from the other side of the gateway. And even more than that, I could see that the insight could not only not have been predicted but actually could not have even been known on the other side.
I think, truth be told, that is what the threshold is all about. I mean, in some way, transformation has this unknowable aspect to it. It may be an overused metaphor but the one that always comes to my mind has to do with how the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. There is a stage in the transformational process where the caterpillar is not a caterpillar anymore and it is certainly not a butterfly yet. It is in the in-between-stage of things, in a, shall we say, threshold, kind of time. It is in that time that doubt, worry, insecurities and fears arise. When we no longer have a grasp on the things we have always known to be true- about ourselves, each other, the world, etc. that we are the most vulnerable to fears' many voices. What if it is always like this? Maybe I never should have walked through the gateway of this change. Maybe there is nothing on the other side. Who am I if I am not what I was. Who will I be? What if I don't like it? etc. etc. etc.
So the gestation process takes its own time. It can't be rushed. We must, like the caterpillar persevere for, like the caterpillar, we must be undone in some way. The new must be formed from the dissolving or disillusionment of what used to be and there is no way to make the process happen one second faster than it takes.
And the metaphor gets even better because the coolest part is that, after the period of gestation, after the the caterpillar is formed inside the chrysalis it is finally ready to spread its wings and fly, right? No. Turns out that in order to become strong enough to fly free as a butterfly, the newly formed creature must actually break out of the chrysalis all on its own. If we were to try to break into the chrysallis and help the butterfly out, it would be crippled for life and unable to fly. It is in the breaking out of the shell that the strength is formed to actually be what it is meant to be.
I think the threshold place is like that in inner work also. Whenever I have walked through a certain kind of change or empowering shift, it was the walking through, the leap of faith, and the process itself that was the teacher and the agent of the shift or change. If, for instance, the process was never scary, how would we learn the depth of our courage? If we were never at risk of being betrayed, how would we understand trust? We can not, for instance, ever learn patience quickly. Patience only has meaning when something takes a long time to manifest.
So skill in the threshold is the thing-- We can cultivate faith in the face of fear, confidence in the face of doubt, etc. And one great way to get this teaching integrated physically is to practice hard poses. Every hard pose is a threshold training- uniquely designed to knock us out of alignment and to take us to an edge where something old is revealed and something new gets a chance to rise up within us. And the real fun starts when, in a threshold moment off that mat, we remember the Teaching.
One of the things Lee said one time was that we can know how our sadhana is going by observing where we turn when we are in crisis. Do we run to old patterns or do we turn to the Beloved? Do we take refuge in fear and patterned behaviors or do we see refuge in the the company of seekers? Do we look to society to validate our inner life or do we take refuge in the truth of our hearts and the wisdom of the teachings that we study and practice? And its not some kind of all-or-nothing game because he also said that we are not responsible for our first thought, only our second thought and our resulting behaviors! Part of this game is simply knowing our tendencies when we are in the threshold. That kind of clarity and skillful observation can move inner mountains.
So my point is that I do not think that hard poses necessarily make us more able to live in our hearts off the mat. It's no guarantee at all. Nor do I do think hard poses make us better people or that being stiff or tight makes us less spiritual or any such nonsense like that. I do, however, think that hard poses hold in them very potent lessons and since those lessons come to us in and through the body, the lessons get integrated in such a particularly powerful way that it might just give us a slight advantage in remembering the truth of the teaching when we get knocked off our center or when we are on the threshold of growth and change off that mat.
So like that.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Saturday, December 24, 2011
I got up, met Gioconda for a yoga class at Pure. I was laughing to myself that even though I, myself, do not want to create a trademarked yoga system, I am thoroughly enjoying the benefits of the Bikram system these days and finding a lot of insight from my involvement with the well-trained teachers at Pure. More on that later.
After class we left and went to BFree where Gia was teaching at 10:00. So I got a chance to take two classes today and to spend some time with Gia which was fun. Also fun was to see a bunch of folks at class and to enjoy just being in class and sharing in the love of the practice on a holiday weekend. The folks at BFree are so open-hearted, accepting and fun. Shelby and her teachers have created a great culture there and I always love taking classes at BFree. It was such fun for me to roll out a mat and be with everyone. I really needed it.
After class I came home, ate lunch, took a shower and finally finished unpacking from my time away in November earlier this month. I had come home and went right into teacher training and have been dealing with business and family time and its taken me this long to actually finish unpacking completely. And Wednesday I leave again. Whew.
I have been processing a lot of personal feelings and emotions these days and reflecting a lot on the year which held more than a few surprises for me. It's probably symbolic that it's taken me so long to unpack from that last trip because in a lot of ways, I suppose I have also been unpacking the last few months of decisions. Not only have I had a chance to look at my own personal feelings while I have been home, I have spent a lot of time processing with other people this week and clarifying relationships, boundaries and what moving forward in my various relationships looks like.
Lee talked a lot about relationships and I think that his teaching in the domain of relationships was one of the hallmarks of his Work. He said, more than once, "Its all about relationship. That is it. How do you think are you going to be intimate with God if not through the intimacies you create and cultivate in your human relationships? God does not exist outside the domain of your interpersonal relationships." He said other things, too, that probably contradicted that but well, thats the nature of a living teaching- its paradoxical and so all sides can not always be seen at the same time. (Or like Manorama says, "In yoga, we have to keep our eyes on the opposite." Whatever we are focused on as "truth" in one moment has another side that also has its own truth. But, that's a bit of a side trip for what's on my mind tonight.)
Forward momentum and forward movement are what is on my mind tonight and the ways that the path is both charted and uncharted territory. Certainly, people have walked the path before and can steer us clear of certain pitfalls if we let them (charted) and yet some mistakes are necessary for our learning and growth and it is absolutely guaranteed we are going to make mistakes on the Path (uncharted). One of my mentors recently told me that not only is it certain we will fall down repeatedly but that some days, "all we will be able to do is simply forge ahead in the name of what we hold sacred."
It's actually a very interesting process, this "forging ahead." As I reflect back on the year and look forward into a new one, the expression seems very apt. So much of what I am doing is an organic figuring it out as I go along and simply trying to surf the wave of my choices, my vision and what is my dharmic task. In a later conversation with my mentor on the same subject, she and I got to talking about how, as I am forging ahead and stepping up to new challenges and opportunities, my fears, doubts, and insecurities are also arising. It's as though they are gargoyles that are guarding the entryway to the next phase of growth and development and trying to keep me from entering, etc. We talked a lot about how that is normal and predictable and yet she gave me a really cool nugget to chew on relative to that process.
The thing is, she explained, that hidden in all of that dynamic mixture of excitement, doubt and so on is also a call for honest self-scrutiny. There is also the clarity of the soul, at every new level, reminding the seeker that the stakes are higher, the obligation is greater, the opportunity is bigger and the demand is more meaningful as one progresses. In 12-step communities they used to say that the road narrows in a certain way. Yes, we expand and grow our capacity and all that and yet, there is more of a razor's edge quality and not an a wide-road anymore.
So relative to those gargoyles coexisting with the call to clarity, my advisor said, in her experience of 30+ years on the path, that at each new level, its all there. The souls' impulse for clarity will come through the entirety of our being, sweeping along with it our neurotic tendencies of the mind such as doubt and fear, and our emotions like sadnesses, angers and so forth. It's all there, not just the easy, inspiring and Light-filled stuff. And while we need to make sure that we see the thoughts and emotions for what they are, we also need to make sure that we do not skip the soul-searching that this "sweeping through" is inviting us to. The soul is always begging for clarity and so its the "going through" of those things that is the work on self, not the bypassing of the discomfort. It seems to me that these pockets of discomfort hold the keys to shifting to new levels of consciousness. It is the very real work of experientially examining our places of discomfort and sifting through it all that they hold--the dark and the light, the joy and the pain, the agony and the ecstasy- that gives us the fuel we need for transformation and self-realization. I mean really, can we Realize the Self, without actually realizing all the stuff that lives in those nooks and crannies? Doubtful.
So- I suppose I should tie all that into the solstice and how its a going into the darkness time of year and with the birth of the Light, the days getting longer and the Sun/Son here at Christmas......but I think that's enough for now! I did have a fun time going to church tonight with Mom and Dad as I do love songs about Jesus and Christmas and think that the Christian faith is so very beautiful. On some other blog I will spin a yarn about that and stories of Krishna but for now, let's just wish ourselves a wonderful holiday. May the full spectrum of experience take each of us into deeper intimacies with ourselves and with those we love.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Speaking of the big picture of the new chapter, here is a short clip from what my astrologer said about the date she recommended for our official birthday:
The rising sign is Capricorn which is good for building organization and the star is "Shravana," which is the abode of the Vedic rishis and spiritual enlightenment. It is the modern constellation of Aquilla, the Eagle and is embodied in the three syllables of the mantra "A-U-M." It is auspicious for spreading spiritual knowledge, especially through the media. It relies on divine guidance and the channeling of higher wisdom. It is the abode of Lord Vishnu, as the preserving force in the universe -- preserving ancient knowledge, authentic knowledge, integrity, connection to the true source of life, listening deeply, and the bodhi tree of enlightenment.
Jupiter and the Moon sit together in the 4th house in Aries, which creates a combination known as "Elephant/Lion Yoga," bringing the strength of the elephant and the skill in getting what you want of the lion. It also connotes wisdom, royalty, fearlessness, and respect from all directions.
January 3rd is the 10th day of the growing half of the Moon, during the Vedic month of Paus -- which is all about nurturing the growth of something and is symbolized by the wheel of progress. It is also called, "The Prosperous," and "The Accomplished (Siddha)." January is the "growing" half of the year and 9:00 am is right as the Sun is ascending in the sky.
All in all, I think it's a great day. There will be a lot of work, I have to warn you. And sometimes you may have some conflicts with jealous people. But in my opinion, this day allows for the grace of your Guru and lineage to flow through protecting you from any annoying obstacles.
I'd celebrate the day with a Ganesha Puja and Sarasvati Puja -- as Ganesha, Sarasvati -- and definitely Lakshmi rule this chart.
Speaking of the particulars of the new chapter, I have been hard at work on the curriculum and applications for our registration with Yoga Alliance and its all going well. I am very exciting to be incorporating new program materials, resources and carrying over the best of what I have learned so far.
I have A LOT of questions and inquiries about School of Yoga and certification and so forth and what my vision is for that. Here are a few thoughts- some specific, some more general:
My vision continues to be that we are a school as opposed to a new style. Some of that has to do with my opposition to trademarks and other attempts to own yoga. Some of it also has to do with what seems to me to the impossibility of actually making what is the result of my life and learning-- which is unique to me -- into a system that others, with their own life and learning --which is obviously unique to them- could teach accurately, consistently and authentically.
Obviously, I have my style of teaching and so does Darren and so will everyone else who learns from us. I am not against personal stye, in fact I am very much for it. There is an important resonance that happens in part through personal style that is at the heart of the teacher-student relationship. I hope that, to the degree that my students find my style effective that they will emulate it in a natural and authentic way and give me respectful credit.
I am also very much for a systematic approach to education. I am interested in offering content-based trainings so that teachers have the information they need to be knowledgeable about the asana, the tradition, the philosophy and practices. I want teachers to be informed teachers, not just charismatic teachers. What I am philosophically opposed to is the thought/idea/fantasy that after you digest the teachings from me and my life experience that you would/could/should see it like me and be able/willing/interested in doing that in your sphere of influence.
For instance, when John teaches themes he doesn't link a feeling word straight up with a key action and an adverb at all. He just teaches as himself and generally stays with a central message as he conducts his class. Since he is an inspiring person, his classes are inspiring. However, in order to make the use of themes part of a reproducible system with consistent standards, all that other stuff comes into play, to varying levels of efficacy, in my opinion. Same like in Iyegnar Yoga. Long time students of that tradition say things all the time like "The only person really teaching Iyengar Yoga is BKS Iyengar." Everyone else is actually teaching what they learned from the people who learned from him.
Be clear, I am systematic by nature. I have educational training in creating experiential systems and formulas to help bring esoteric concepts to life. In fact, I have a masters degree in that. And I believe I have demonstrated my ability to get results and to train people to become what I consider very fine yoga teachers. But even still, there is no way I can imagine being able to training someone in Christina Sell Yoga, even if I called it a fancier Sanskrit name and trademarked it. And even if I could train someone to teach Christina Sell Yoga, the task of training someone to train someone else to teach Christina Sell Yoga seems fairly improbable.
I believe that the teachings filter through each one of us in both similar and unique ways due to our life experiences, temperaments, karmas and dharma. And while I want my students who teach others to utilize and benefit from my work, studies and practices in every way possible, I do not want to create a formal system for others to follow and to have to legally or ethically comply with. I want to teach the principles behind teaching others, not just create content for people to teach. I will certainly have a style about the way I do that but School of Yoga is not a "yoga style" as such. We will not be creating endorsements for other people to teach School of Yoga Programs any time soon. We will, however, in the near future offer some graduate courses and trainings on "How to Teach Effective Teacher Trainings" and in "How to Lead from the Heart and Soul" and so on.
Hopefully, these distinctions are getting clearer, not muddier.
And while graduates will not be able to offer their own trainings in the School of Yoga Style they will be able to say they are certified through our school at the 200-hour level and at the 500-hour level, registered with Yoga Alliance, and we will list their name and affiliation on our website, etc. They will be trained with the context, knowledge, skills, resources, and inspiration to offer their own classes, workshops and trainings and to make their own contributions as they are able.
The thing is, I mean it when I say that its a new paradigm and the people involved are going to be a bit like pioneers in the project. We have had the last decade in the world of yoga be full new styles, trademarks, trends and corporately-driven yoga to the degree that a new "yoga style" is expected. I am interested in shifting the conversation around that and banding together with people who want to usher in a new wave of yoga education. This is not an "anything goes, do your own thing and its all good yoga" kind of training though. I like and believe in rigor. I would be dead without discipline, make no mistake. This is not a softer, easier way. But it is going to be a great ride for sure.
Here we go!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
There is such an interesting thing happening in my schedule right now. In October I resigned from Anusara Yoga but the majority of my teaching work is teacher trainings right now- all of which began as Anusara programs but are continuing under the School of Yoga banner, which has been very exciting. I think it would be one thing to have resigned and be sorting out what this un-planned-for-transition meant for me as an asana teacher and the whole resulting set of challenges- use a theme or not? Use the UPA language or not? how much to talk about all the things I learned from John? How much to include teaching stories from my time with him? etc. But teacher training straight off the bat really takes it up a notch beyond all that. It has required such a clarity from me right away and some serious soul searching about skills and attitudes I really think are important for teachers to have and how best to create experiential training exercises to teach those skills. I have had to get off my routine of how I train people to meet the demands of the Anusara labyrinth and dive into the freshness of the immediate circumstance with each group and respond as authentically and skillfully as possible. Its been quite an amazing process for me and I feel like I have grown by leaps and bounds every day.
And that is just in the technical domain of offering these trainings. Personally, its a whole other thing to see my students stand for their practice, their relationship to yoga and to me, in a new way. I have talked about it a bit before but as a trainer in a system that is popular and "in demand" as product in the marketplace it was really hard to know if people wanted to study with me, or wanted Anusara hours or some combination of both. I recognize that Anusara is a marketable item and therefore Teacher Trainings in the method that"count" towards certification are sellable and in demand. And I think that is totally fine and I have no problem with that. All of that makes perfect sense to me as I was once an aspiring certification candidate who was counting hours and fulfilling requirements and so on. So I get it. And having said that, it has been the most amazing, heart-warming, affirming and humbling experience to look out into a room and see that people want to train with me and not just train in the Anusara method.
In fact, it has been such a powerful experience that I am going to say it right out loud: I wasn't sure that would be the case. I honestly did not know, in my heart of hearts, that people really wanted to learn from me, Christina Sell, and not just get Anusara training and hours that "counted" toward their career goals. (And again, it's not that I blame anyone for having career goals, because I don't. I have plenty of my own. I am talking about me here, not the students in or out of the room.) Being me, Christina Sell, and looking out into a room of people who are stepping away from the safety of conventional boundaries and certification standards and going into unknown territory with me AND trusting me to teach them and guide them has been the Number One most empowering, frightening, humbling, thrilling, demanding, affirming, lovely and enlightening experience of my life to date. Honestly, words don't describe it. And I have been trying. But one thing is for sure, the profundity of the situation is not lost on me.
We spent a lot of time on the basics this weekend and I implemented teaching techniques I have never tried before and I found the results overwhelmingly positive. The power of the basics and the potency of simplicity is staggering, really. The more I train teachers the more I realize how much we need to just back the whole thing out to the majestic challenge it is to get people into and out of well-aligned postures. And that one simple-sounding task is full of such rich terrain in terms of the skills, perspectives and insights it offers. The theme for the weekend was "Foundations" and that is what we focused on. We laid A LOT of groundwork that we can work with in the Level 2 training. I kept thinking of this weekend's work like creating a scaffolding that we can hang embellishments on later. Once we have getting into and out of postures with an clarity and an economy of words mastered, its a lot easier to fill in key actions, themes, and various other creative strategies.
All right, thats it for tonight. More soon.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
It's a really unique experience, this training. We are on week six of a six-week process that began in January as an Anusara Immersion and continued on in August as an Anusara Yoga teacher training. As so many of you know, half-way through our second week of Teacher Training, Darren and I resigned our Anusara certifications. So we have a room full of people who started with us in January with one thing in mind and who are finishing following unforeseen circumstances.
We have an amazing group of students who are sincere, dedicated, sweet and hard-working and who held a compassionate, encouraging space for me and Darren in a time of turmoil only a few months ago. It has been wonderful to re-connect with them, to be together again and to forge ahead out of one paradigm and into another. Darren and I have been a bit unsure this week about how much to talk about what happened and what we feel like is next and how much to just stay with "business as usual." I am mindful that the process of our decision making already has taken a lot of time from the groups' formal teacher training and yet when we checked in with the group about it, one thing that was so amazing was to hear them reflect to us that our transparency about our process was actually "teacher training" of a variety that is pretty hard to find. Very reassuring.
So I find myself in a steep learning curve these days as the transition from "certified Anusara Yoga teacher" and "community leader" is morphing into something else entirely and I am learning the ropes of how to live fully as a "voluntarily de-frocked yoga activist sage" as one of my Facebook friends recently called me. Anyway, I have had, as one might predict, some great victories and some misses and mistakes. One recent "miss" had to do with a lack of sensitivity at a workshop.
In retrospect I would have managed certain things more skillfully had I been aware of the fact most of the people in the room didn't know I had recently resigned from Anusara! I assumed everyone knew what had been going on but they didn't. I could've been softer and sweeter about it than I was. (I suppose in that way, it is business as usual! Anyhoo...) Also, I am with me and my news and my process every day and the rate of growth and change over the last few months has been rapid. I wasn't really tuned into the fact that this was the first time people would be hearing the news or seeing me and they were not up to speed with the process. Again, softer and sweeter might have been better...
The cool thing is that the path I am on is not a path where mistakes are not allowed. Mistakes and misses are part of the process of growth and change and being afraid of making a mistake is a kind straight-jacket to have to live in all the time. The cool thing is that being a yoga teacher invites a lot of feedback of many different flavors from a variety of sources and its always useful to reflect on what is being said as a way to refine and grow. As yoga teachers we tend to live a lot of our lives in public and so our mistakes are public as are our victories and triumphs. And because of that, feedback is a way that Grace has to communicate with us and to teach us. Lee used to say that "all feedback is neutral" even if it was meant by another in a harmful way. It's our relationship to the message that determines its meaning and value. We can run amuck in either direction-- seeking praise, avoiding criticism, buying into the critiques too much and fueling self-hatred, etc.-- and we always have ample opportunities to fall off the razor's edge of yoga in either direction.
We spent some time talking about that this morning in class. One of the class members shared a bit about how she worries her personality isn't "acceptable" as a yoga teacher since she is strong-willed, opinionated and outspoken. (And no, this was not me sharing!) It was such an interesting thing because on one hand, as yoga teachers, we have the opportunity to refine our personalities in certain ways and to cultivate ourselves according to certain virtues so that we can effectively offer the teachings to a wide variety of people in broad-ranging circumstances. However, we also have the opportunity to be authentic, individuated expressions of The Influence (I wrote about this a while back) and by being true to ourselves, give other people permission to be authentic and true to who they are. All that is great. I am totally into that.
So here is the thing- not everyone is going to like our truth. Not everyone we teach is going to share our outlook, our sense of humor or our values and ethics. (As an example, I once- and only once- dated a man who did not think I was funny. It was horrible. Shocking also, because how could you not think I am funny? I mean, really. Hello... But I digress.) My point is that just because I am being true to myself does not mean people are going to like it. In fact, I once had a 12-step sponsor who told me, "Christina, if at least 10% of the people in your life are not mad at you at any given time, you are probably not telling the truth."
And as soon as we are "too much" for one person, another person is going to step in and love our intensity. And as soon as we are "too honest" for someone, someone else is breathing a sigh of relief that we are finally talking about the HUGE elephant in the middle of the room. As soon as we try to be "compassionate and sweet" someone else senses we are fake. As soon as we are "cheery and positive" someone is doubting our clarity and depth. This goes on and on and on and at some point, we get to really see that people not liking our "individuated expression of Grace" is not necessarily cause to change. Sometimes, of course, it is. And sometimes outer success and popularity at the expense of our wholeness is just not worth it.
However, having said all that, I do believe that most feedback that comes our way is worth looking at squarely before we accept or deny its validity and take or not take action on it. And choosing to shift our personality expression as teachers may be a choice in the name of a higher service which is totally different than shifting from the childish perspective of wanting to be popular, well-liked or approved of.
Once again, context is everything.
Anyway, we spent some time today outlining our vision for the School of Yoga and our future course offerings: Look for a 200-hour program in Tucson in 2012 (which, if you have any inclination to do make sure you call Rachel at Yoga Oasis because its filling up!) and an additional 300-hours being offered in 2013 and the first part 2014. I have some cool programs planned for San Marcos next year and will start a 200-hour program in Texas in 2013 with the additional 300 hours to follow. As we clarify and evolve that vision I will be posting more about all of that. And even though I do not want to be a "system", I want to be clear that I have plans to teach an awesome curriculum in a very systematic, orderly way so its not a mishmash of random information. We have been consulting with several experts in the field of yoga, education and anatomy to craft a top-notch program of the highest caliber. So stay tuned for details!
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Here is a recent interview done with Bay Shakti. Enjoy!
The Practice And Decision Making: Q&A with Christina Sell
by FREDO on DECEMBER 6, 2011
Editor’s Note: After Christina Sell announced her resignation from her Anusara Certification, I reached out to her to talk about her decision. Although I have never practiced with Christina, I did read her first book,Yoga From The Inside Out: Making Peace with your Body Through Yoga, and have greatly admired her approach to the practice. The following questions arose from that dialogue, and center on how as yogins we can leverage the practice in our decision making, both great and small.
Fredo: How did your practice inform or shape your decision making process? How has your practice supported you as you have announced your decision?
Christina: This is a great question. When I talk about practice, I am not only referring to asana practice, but to an entire set of internal and external acts, observances, and outlooks that comprise the whole of my spiritual life. For instance, practice includes but is not limited to meditation, pranayama, asana, scriptural study, dietary observances, chanting, mantra as well as internal connection and remembrance of my guru and the lineage of which I am a student and devotee. The internal connection is, in many ways, primary, as it provides the context in which the outer actions play. All outer technique without internal connection would fall short of what I consider “practice.” All inner connection with no outer behaviors in place would miss the mark as well.
I was a student of Lee, and his guru, the great Indian Saint, Yogi Ramsuratkumar.when I met John Friend. John Friend has always been an amazing teacher, guide, and a mentor for me and Anusara Yoga has always been a great source of inspiration relative to my life on and off the yoga mat. As much as I have loved the teachings of Anusara Yoga, it’s important to recognize that my primary spiritual influences have always come through the teachings of my guru,
I mention all of this simply to point out that while I was a practitioner, a teacher, and a teacher trainer in Anusara Yoga, my primary spiritual practice came from another lineage. In general the two schools have quite a bit in common and yet as time continued and my sadhana and relationship with Lee deepened, I became aware that I was straddling two worlds and that stance was causing me a lot of stress. The deeper I connected to my own Heart through my practices of meditation, contemplation, and even some psychotherapy, I realized that I no longer wanted to teach John Friend’s curriculum and train people to teach what was important to him. I wanted to align my teaching more closely to my own heart, my own spiritual path, and to help people teach what felt important to them. I recognize that Anusara Yoga encourages freedom, advocates personal expression, and that most people do not experience a feeling of limitation within the system at all. I know John wants people to be individuals. However, for me, there were so many points of divergence that added up to the recognition that I was no longer aligned in the way someone in my position in the organization should be.
The decision, as one might imagine, was difficult and scary as John, Anusara Yoga, and the community has nurtured my growth and development for over ten years. I am a very loyal person and have always done my best to represent Anusara Yoga honorably, accurately and ethically. Additionally, my entire livelihood rested on Anusara Yoga and I have trained many teachers whose livelihoods rested on Anusara Yoga as well. So, financial fears reared their heads for sure.
And yet, I wasn not only a student of Anusara Yoga, I have been a student of John Friend, the man. I knew in my heart, he would not want me teaching his yoga for my job and career if I had disagreements about curriculum, policy, training protocols, certification standards and assessment, marketing, branding and so on. He would want my Heart fully aligned. So out of respect to him and our relationship and to my own personal integrity, it became obvious to me that I needed to resign.
Additionally, I needed to bring integrity to the lineage of spiritual teachings that inform my life and my heart and to give credit to the influence that is behind me, my practice, and my work. So at the end of the day I realized that I really couldn’t serve two masters without being out of alignment with each.
In the process of navigating the transition, practice has been a refuge. I meditate every morning and I find that time to be a source of direction, inspiration and spiritual connection. In the school I am a part of, we use Yogi Ramsuratkumar’s name as a mantra and also a prayer. In one of our devotional songs we sing a line in Tamil that translates as “All I have is your Name.” As my fears surfaced over finances, or as other people’s disapproval, misunderstanding, and anger came my way or as my own self-doubt bubbled up from within, I clung to that line, reminding myself that who I am is not limited to the label Anusara or to a paycheck or to a status within the culture of modern yoga. Who I am is a devotee of Lee Lozowick, the Spiritual Son of Yogi Ramsuratkumar, and all I have is His Name. This practice of remembrance soothed my fears and anchored me in the internal source of my sadhana.
Additionally, carving out time to focus on my breath and keeping a strong connection to my asana has been key as it takes me back again and again to that place within me that is much deeper than money, public approval, and certifications. And ironically, in facing my fears and listening to my Heart instead and forging ahead in the Name of what I hold most dear, I actually think I had my finest hour as an Anusara practitioner in the moment I resigned. I was truly following my Heart!
Fredo: How might you advise students who are struggling with their place relative to your decision?
Christina: The question isn’t really what someone should do in the face of my decision, but instead the question folks should be considering is “Are you practicing?” And from that question, others emerge such as: “where are you most comfortable practicing? What is the most immediately supportive action to take that will nurture and sustain your life of practice?” If you can answer these questions honestly and respond authentically, you will find your way.
On a practical note, my resignation simply means that I will keep being me and teaching what I am practicing and the people who want to explore that with me should find ways to study with me, regardless of what system they are certified in. I write about this a lot on my blog so I won’t spend to much time on it here but if you want to learn from me, you should come study with me. If you love Anusara yoga and feel comfortable practicing within that system then by all means, don’t jump off the ship! It is a wonderful system with some of my favorite people in the world associated with it. My issues may not be your issues. We each have different needs, desires, and karmas. This is no problem whatsoever as far as I am concerned. The yoga I love has very little to do with names, trademarks and outer designations and lives in the Heart of each of us, just waiting to be recognized and expressed. So my advice to everyone is LISTEN TO YOUR HEART and act according to your inner wisdom.
Fredo: Christina, thank you so much for your beautiful, heart-filled, and inspiring words. Blessings on your journey!