Monday, February 20, 2012

Keep the Faith

Well, it has been a whirlwind.  A friend of mine recently remarked that we are not even halfway through February and the yoga industry has taken some pretty hard hits. First was the whole New York Times article which went viral and most recently we have been wading through the big debacle with John Friend. So much has been said and yet so questions remain unanswered about what is next for John, the Anusara yoga organization, the teachers, the students and so on. In the wake of the upset a lot of people have been asking me about School of Yoga--what it is, what it isn’t, if it can help them gain credentials, endorsements, etc. The best answer I have right now is to look at School of Yoga as the grassroots teacher training arm of Christina Sell Yoga, Noah Maze Yoga and Darren Rhodes Yoga.
When I left Anusara yoga it was because I wanted to spend my energy creating something that I wanted to be a part of instead of fixing something with which I no longer felt a resonance. School of Yoga is that project for me. School of Yoga is a yoga school not a yoga system. It provides trainings but not trademarks. It works through the power of a bonded community which is both boundaried and inclusive to the degree that people can and want to function within the boundaries. The primary aim of the School of Yoga is to train yoga teachers who are first and foremost yoga practitioners so that the seeds of yoga are planted in the hearts and lives of the teachers and the teachings are preserved and evolved through contemplation, inquiry, practice and personal synthesis. I am interested in exploring the ways the outer teacher can serve the inner teacher and vice versa and how we might as a culture of modern yoga practitioners and teachers learn to develop discernment, deference, respect as well as self-trust through yoga. I want to be in conversation with people who have the courage to know their truth and who are willing and able to continually refine the skill set necessary to express their truth authentically and to hold a space for others to do the same.

In terms of the asana, it is important to note  that while we are all well-steeped in the biomechanical principles that inform Ansuara yoga, we are not teaching them as a comprehensive method in the same way. We will weed out the lingo, the jargon and will emphasize pose architecture as much as, if not more than principled action. We will looking at the asana syllabus in smaller chunks and explore the alchemy between flow, form and focus in a variety of ways- some of which is consistent with Anusara methodology and some of which draws from our other training in Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram yoga and various vinyasa approaches. 
In terms of philosophy, we are focusing on helping people find an authentic relationship to their own spiritual Light through traditional practices such as asana, pranayama, mantra, meditation, puja and prayer as well as personal growth tools like art, music, journal writing, visualization, goal-setting and group discussion. Our sincere wish is that School of Yoga trainings support people of all faiths and religions to  live more dignified, noble and purposeful lives.
So- that is some of what we are up to in School of Yoga and our first step is to create a strong center. Darren and Noah and I are going to be in lots of meetings and conferences with each other, with Yoga Alliance and with our advisors to create as much stability as we can in these initial years so that we are anchored well. Practically speaking we have programs that are registered with Yoga Alliance at the 200-hour level and at the 500-hour level. We are exploring ways that people who are interested in learning with us who have been trained in Anusara can apply their past training toward our current offerings but it is not an easy thing to navigate as their are curricular differences between School of Yoga and Anusara yoga as well as protocols with Yoga Alliance with which we want to be in compliance. 

That being said, if you want to know more about our offerings, make sure you are on my mailing list and on Noah’s and Yoga Oasis’. I do think that the Anusara story is not over and I know there are really smart and caring people hard at work to make the best of a very difficult situation.  So if your heart and teaching and deepest interests remain in that stream, be patient, be bold and be willing to contribute your talent, your voice and your passion because it will be an exciting time for sure and every good hand will be needed on deck.
I also want to remind everyone- whether or not you and/or your teacher resigned their license to teach Anusara yoga that Anusara yoga has a great community because it has great people in it. Sure, the structure gave everyone a way to be together but Anusara did not make the community, in my opinion. Great people made a great community. I also believe that Anusara had great teachers because these same  great people applied themselves over a long time to the teachings and brought them forward in creative and skillful ways. Everything great that we had under the name of Anusara still exists within each of us and what we make of that is up to each of us to find a true, stable and sustainable expression of what we want to take forward.  For some, collaboration will be obvious. I think for others, solitude will be best. Some will rebuild the organization, etc.  I personally have a very long term vision in mind and feel that School of Yoga is a life's work and I expect it to change and grow and shift as time reveals to me how best to serve the vision.

And of course, I have to say that alongside all this greatness we can carry forward into our next projects, I also believe that each of us also has within us the very same seeds of corruption, deceit, arrogance, elitism and so forth that have recently born the fruit of the most recent developments. Lee, my guru, always said "forewarned is forearmed." So we have been warned by what has happened and by our part in it. He also said repeatedly that "Anyone can fall. ANYONE."

So while I am quoting him I might as well talk about something else he told me a long time ago regarding growth and change. He said many times that  the way we end one thing provides the momentum we carry with us into the next thing. So, to me, right now, its not about nailing down all of the names and forms and getting everything back into an organized box as much as it is about tapping into the true momentum that facilitated this shift. Underneath the drama, underneath the discharge of difficult pent up feelings (which I say is generally "better out than in" so express it all you want) there was a momentum in each one of us--regardless of the outer choice that anyone has made in the last few weeks- that was fueled by a passion for truth, integrity, clarity, dharma, solidarity, righteousness, loyalty and so forth. For me, that the more I tap into the raw energy behind my outer life choices, I tap into something very essential that becomes a clarifying and revelatory force. When I am referenced in that essential energy- even a little bit- I find myself knowing things I need to know, walking into synchronicity, more aware of distinctions and full of faith and awe.

Anyway- those are my thoughts of today- unedited, un-screened for political correctness and hopefully not legally binding or incriminating. Keep the faith. I believe in us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Strangers in a Strange Land

“To Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.”
- Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land
grok: understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with; to empathise or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment.
- Oxford English Dictionary

Well, it’s been quite a few weeks, to say the least. As I was making my tea this morning and reviewing the latest very interesting blogs, commentaries, emails, text messages and voicemails I have received I was aware that I felt quite weary and a bit hungover. I haven’t had  any alcohol to drink in a while so I am assuming I have some undigested emotions and thoughts still circulating in my system. Writing is always  good therapy, so here I sit, once again, to help the digestion and assimilation process.  
I realized today that I have been holding (or attempting to hold) a certain kind of space around “The Anusara Situation” since Darren and I resigned and that effort has been both liberating and tiring. I think the tiring part comes from how personal it all feels to me and  the effort required to sustain a sense of detachment when other people express how personal it feels to them. I am not someone who always has that sense of “thanks for sharing your truth” as a first reaction, especially when someone’s truth is in response or reaction to mine. I have a big psychological pattern of feeling different, misunderstood and accused. Being neutral and equanimous in the midst of emotionally-laden discussion does not come naturally to me.
So I have to practice that. A lot. I practice spaciousness in relationship more than I practice any back bend and more than I observe any dietary practice. Sometimes, it comes easily. Sometimes, not so much. Sometimes I am able to receive the other’s experience with gracious spaciousness. Other times, not at all. Most days, I am somewhere in the middle- I have what I recognize to be a patterned “first thought” and I am able to execute a more skillful and conscious second thought and outer action. Many times. Obviously, not always.
Because here is the thing- I value, perhaps more than I value anything else, in fact, even more than my opinions, which are many, as we know--honest self-expression. I value that we, as people need to know our truth and to express it  directly and authentically. And I believe that an important circuit gets completed when that truth is received and heard by someone else. A friend of mine is a child development specialist and teaches parenting seminars. She told me that her mentor talks about how there are levels of intimacy between parent and child and the deepest level of intimacy is not love. The deepest level of intimacy is understanding someone else and truly seeing them, receiving them and meeting them where they are. The deepest intimacy is when we, in Robert Heinlen’s language, “grok” someone or when we are “grokked” by another.
So, all of you out there who do not like science-fiction, I apologize for the Stranger in Strange Land reference, I really do. But it occurs to me that, in some ways, that is exactly the situation we find ourselves in. In a way, this situation has made us strangers in a strange land.  For some, there is relief as years of secrets they have kept are hitting the light of day. For some there is deep sadness as yet another dream fades. Others are feeling shock, outrage, anger, vengeful, and even spiteful as feelings of betrayal lead the way. It is a complicated situation that involves  spirituality, ethics, business,  social connections, personal loyalty issues, professional alliances, financial realities, and so on. 
Some folks are coping by withdrawing. Some are coping by making jokes. Some are writing a lot. Some are reading a lot. Some people want facts. Others are reassured by feelings and insight and personal testimony. Some folks are yelling. Some are crying. Some are explaining. Some people, I would bet, are drinking a lot. Some are practicing asana a lot. (I personally have been going to two  Bikram yoga classes a day just to get to a place of quiet. When all else seems uncertain in life,  twenty-six poses done in the same order, taught with the same words, in the same hot room is oddly comforting.)  But my point is that regardless of how we are coping and regardless of  what the quality of our personal experience is,  we are in a new world.
The cool thing is that while we may be in a strange land, we are not strangers to each other, although as the vestiges of now-outdated personality identifications are being swept aside,  we may discover  that we are more multi-dimensional than we once knew. We may find that the structures that defined us, those ideals, assumptions and associations that once provided tools for expansion, had hidden within them seeds of limitation, for that is often how it works. And so we have to grow. Life marches onward. The irrepressible Force of Grace beckons us - sometimes gently and sometimes brutally- to know who we really are, not just who we think we are. And regardless of circumstance, I also think that Grace is calling us to know each other more fully as well. Sometimes that means that you will see that I am more compassionate than I appear on the surface. I had  student once say, “You are like an M&M, Christina- hard on the outside, sweeter inside.”  Sometimes you may come face to face with the fact I am also opinionated, judgmental, ambitious, sarcastic and all the rest.
The thing is for me to “grok” you and for me to have the fundamentally healing experience of being “grokked”  by you, it all has to be there- warts and all.  Whether someone “stays in Anusara and works for change in the system” or “goes and creates something different outside the system" is not the issue, in my opinion. The issue for me is, as always, am I practicing yoga? And what, given all that I know and feel and intuit, provides me with the best situation in which to practice the yoga of my heart?
Of course, that begs the question of, “What does it mean to practice yoga?” Without taking up to much more time on this post, I am proposing that for me, in the midst of this, my primary internal practice has been what I already mentioned- practicing spaciousness in the midst of heightened emotions, volatile feelings, and this attempt to “grok” others and to allow myself to be “grokked.” I am practicing reading these blogs, comments, postings in all their glory with a keen eye on how they come into my emotional body and what impulses follow.For instance,I read some things and I feel vindicated. I read others and I want to explain. I read others and I want to shout, “Shut the f*&% up.” I read others and I want to cry. You get my point.
So, I keep going. I watch me wanting to do those things.  I watch me chiming in- at times with clarity and at times with opinion and at times with sarcasm, etc. I watch my conditioned-self feel misunderstood, feel guilty,  feel sad, feel self-righteous, feel apart from, feel proud, feel happy, etc. And, perhaps  more importantly, I watch for another thread that lives beneath but is not separate from those first responses. There is a thread of wisdom, of discernment, I believe, that the yoga is aiming us toward. It has a flavor, a texture, a presence that is unique to it and when I glimpse it I get the “eye in the storm” feeling. 
This storm is far from over, but it is a great field for watching oneself. I will write more soon. This is not intended as any complete kind of commentary. There is lots of grey area, obviously. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Dance of Yes and No

Well, I had a great time in Virginia. Kelly and I woke up early on Wednesday morning and caught a flight out at 7. We got to Virginia right after noon and had lunch, walked around a while and then my host picked up and took us to James Madison University for the talk I was giving there. It is Eating Disorder Awareness Month and over a year ago, the awesome folks at JMU invited me to give a talk and to teach a class at their school. I expected to be in a classroom with about 15 people there but to my surprise almost 600 people showed up for the talk and we even ran out of chairs.  Mostly there were students there but there were also community members and faculty in attendance.
The theme of the evening was about The Transformational Power of Self-Love and it was such a great topic to talk about to that many college-aged kids. I look at self-love like an ongoing practice that we are going to be working with our whole lives because life is always changing and, when we look into self-love as it relates to body image, our bodies are also always changing. So to me,  its not a fixed state that we arrive at. Self-love is a relationship, or a friendship with all aspects of ourselves in which we sincerely ask ourselves on all levels - physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually--what we want and need and then negotiate the terms of getting those needs met effectively. 
The students paid attention, lots of them had tears in their eyes and a few even asked me some questions. I really enjoyed myself. The next day  I taught a class on campus and then a class in town in conjunction with the local yoga studio. We had about 40 folks in the community class which was a lot of fun. The students were so open, sincere and I was struck by how polite they were and how well they listened. They were very sweet and open-hearted which made teaching a joy.
I did feel like I had my feet in two worlds during the last few days, however.  I was having some very high and delightful moments teaching and some very difficult and painful conversations with my friends and colleagues who are working to bring clarity to the situation they are in as a community.  I am not really sure whether I should write  “we are in as a community ” or “they are in as a community” as, I suppose, a case could be made for either point of view. 
On the one had, I formally resigned my right to identify myself legally as an Anusara teacher. On the other hand, the last 12+ years of my life have been spent in that community and a piece of paper and some disagreements with policy, procedure, leadership, and certain aspects of community culture don’t sever ties like that so easily. Disagreement is a natural part of life and mature relationships can manage love and opposing views all in the same heartfelt bond. So, like I said, it’s hard to know exactly how to place myself and more importantly, how best to be of service to the people I know and love.
So, as I was in the deep flows of teaching at some very beautiful events these last few days,  I was also conferring, counseling and considering some pretty heavy stuff and bearing witness to the confusion, commitment and care that is circulating around the community right now. I have to say that the last few years of my involvement with Anusara yoga have been a lot like that. I have had some of my highest times teaching and some of my most profound personal and ethical challenges sitting side-by-side, sometimes in the same day. I have had more than a few difficult and confrontational conversations with John about topics ranging from ethics, legalities, loyalties, teaching methods, personal accountability, public image, branding, boundaries, organizational politics and so forth. I wrote a lot of this already and I do not want to dredge it all up again but the topic has come up again and people are asking me why I really left.
All those hard conversations eventually led me to recognize a deep and abiding feeling that I disagreed with too many things as they were to continue on in the same way, even though I loved John, was grateful for all I have gained and was deeply integrated into so many aspects of the Anusara community. It was my social life, my professional life and my practice life. Resigning felt like I was ripping apart the seams of my identity and yet I didn’t feel like I could effectively- without harming myself- continue to work for change from within nor did it seem to me that the system wanted to change.
I was living with an ongoing rub of anger and resentment that I couldn’t get to shift. I went to therapy, I went on retreat, I examined my marriage, I changed my diet, I had lots of bodywork and finally I came to the realization that I was angry because I was no longer aligned in the way I was portraying myself. My public persona did not match personal truth and so understandably I felt angry and misunderstood but the real thing is that I was the one keeping the game going. I have looked at this a lot and believe me more than few therapy sessions have been devoted to where that pattern has its origins. Add into that, the fact was that  all this stuff was also my job, my social life, etc. and that made it  difficult to face the truth  because many times the truth demands action. 
John himself told me several times that anyone who is not aligned with him should go their own way and so it was a huge wake-up call to own up to the fact that it was me who was not aligned, plain and simple. I disagreed with a lot of things that all added up to the stark and sobering realization that I was no longer able to hold my seat. 
Did I know facts about covens, pensions, etc. and fail to expose them? No. 
Had I heard rumors? Yes. 
Did I mention them publicly? No.
Did I give feedback privately and repeatedly? Yes.
Did I protect John Friend by withholding my suspicion and comments from the public in forums like my blog or other articles? Yes. 
Was that right or wrong? Did that enable the dysfunction or spare the innocent? I am still not sure, honestly. 
Am I bit upset that my ethics are called into question because of my yoga teacher’s actions? Yes. 
The hard thing about secrets and rumors is that they are not always ours to tell and yet once we know them we can become complicit as much by omission as by commission. I am sorting through that for myself. This cycle of events as been the hardest ethical challenge of my entire life. I am sure I made mistakes. If my actions- outright or otherwise- cause you or anyone else harm, I apologize and I ask for your forgiveness and understanding. If you need to speak to me directly about it, please email me or call me.
In my experience, which admittedly  is not everyone’s, there have been very few formal channels for feedback in the corporate structure of Anusara yoga and very few, if any, checks and balances.  The times that I tried to contribute in that way were painful and unproductive. With so many nuances and domains of relationships in play, it has not been easy to know what is best for me, for my friends and for the thousands of people who are associated with the method, most of which is very positive. Never in my whole life have so many people been so potentially affected by my choices.  It is sobering to say the least.
I still don’t know about how best to really speak to some of these issues. When I resigned my legal right to use the Anusara trademark, I kept thinking about how many people run studios and make their livelihood on Anusara yoga and how much I love so many of those people and did not want to hurt them of give them a problem as a result of my choice.  What’s a tricky thing to really look squarely at is that when John Friend was riding a popularity high all those years and and his reputation was good, we all benefitted from that and in some ways- not all ways- but in some ways, made a method that revolved around him and capitalized on his good name. And if our success is hinging on his good name, the hard thing is that the opposite sits close by as well. It’s hard to get one without the other, it seems, when it comes to esteem by association. 
I think the cool thing that can happen now for the community is that it can begin- if it chooses to- to make some distinctions between the man and the method, the teachings and teacher and the practice/principles vs. the personalities involved. I don’t think it will be easy or quick and I think the road ahead will be fraught with difficulty. That being said, I think it will be a worthwhile process  to engage.

All right- thanks for listening. I am very aware that my viewpoint is just that in and in NO WAY do I intend this to speak on behalf of anyone else. 

More soon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hungry For What is Real

Hey, here are a few clips from the talk I gave last night at James Madison University. There were almost 600 students there, which was really awesome. I had such a great time and loved talking to an entirely different demographic of folks none of whom were dressed for gym class. Such fun.

More son.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yoga From the Inside Out Webinar Series

Well, for years now, people have been asking me to talk about my first book and to discuss body image issues, yoga and practical ways to transcend the grip of these difficult issues. I am headed out to James Madison university to give a talk on the topic tomorrow and as I prepared my presentation, I realized that it was finally time to offer a short course to people who might be interested in exploring these issues for themselves, outside of a yoga classroom. I have always been a bit reluctant to talk directly about body image in a public class for a lot of different reasons. (I mean, think about it- Joe is there to get a good stretch and my theme is all about loving your body and letting go of cultural stereotypes, etc. Not that Joe couldn't benefit from that but seriously, it would probably be too much for the average Wednesday night hatha yoga experience. Just sayin.) .

Each week I will present a topic, open the floor for questions and sharing and offer some journal assignments, creative and practical suggestions to incorporate into the upcoming week. My wish is that the online community we create can be a support structure, an inspiration and a forum to look through the veils of our self-limiting beliefs and behaviors and to step into a new possibility of deeper self-love and self-acceptance.

Here's some more info:

Yoga From the Inside Out: The Transformational Power of Self-Love
Webinar Series with Christina Sell
February 22, February 29 and March 7

 7:00-8:00pm CST
Tuition: $75
Regardless of a person’s actual body size and shape, many people are plagued with negative feelings about their bodies that affect their self-image and self-esteem. For some, these negative feelings result in eating disorders while other people live trapped in chronic patterns of dieting, self-criticism and self-doubt.  Join author and international yoga instructor, Christina Sell, for a series of informative and inspiring talks about how negative body image can be recognized and transformed through awareness and self-love.  Whether you or someone you know  is struggling with these issues, this series will shed light on the important underlying issues related to self-defeating patterns and will offer practical suggestions, practices and tools for establishing new behaviors and beliefs.
Participants will need a copy of Christina Sell’s book Yoga From the Inside Out: Making Peace with Your Body Through Yoga, an unlined journal, a box of crayons, an open heart, a curious mind and a sense of humor and adventure. Each session will involve lecture, Q&A and journal questions. 

For information, please email me at

To register, please visit-

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Shadow and Light

Well, we have been in the throes of Teacher Training for three full days now with 8-hour days so its been pretty consuming. We spent a lot of time this weekend on sequencing strategies- like I mentioned last post- and the work seems to be paying off. Today, I had the students work together to make sequences building toward a peak pose, integration repetition of shape, linking of a key action and utilizing progressive teaching methods. I gave them a worksheet to guide their preparation and to help them organize their thoughts and plan their sequences. Then they practiced the sequence they planned with each other and did some fine-tuning work on it. This was an experiential exercise to model how important it is to teach from our own experience. Authenticity is such a big topic these days as it relates to teaching yoga and there is no better way to be authentic relative to a sequence than to have worked with it firsthand to see where it is strong, weak and give ourselves a chance to sort out the kinks.

After that, the students taught the sequence to another group who then taught their sequence to the first group. It was a wonderful  process and the trainees did really great with it. It was also fun to see how their individual teaching styles are really emerging. And because we have a small group I am able to really give a lot of personal attention to the trainees which is fun for me also. All in all I am enjoying the intimacy, comradery and maturity of this group.

It is so amazing to me how every training group has a unique flavor and personality and how much I enjoy being with every group I get a chance to be with. Its such an amazing thing to start a week not knowing anyone and end a week feeling like we have shared a very meaningful and sometimes multi-dimensional journey together. (of course this group is not brand new to me by any means.) Like I so often say, teaching these trainings is rich, rewarding and challenging work. I enjoy it immensely and I also suffer it a fair amount, truth be told. I am passionate about the subject of yoga, about my practice, about the craft of teaching, the challenges of learning, the psychology of both the teacher and the students and the dynamic process involved in engaging the study of consciousness in and through the body together. In fact,  I live with a kind of divine discontent relative to this particular dharma as the task at hand is very difficult and multi-dimensional.

I was talking about it this morning to  Kelly as we drove down to San Marcos for Day 3 of the training. As I have been reading through various blogs about current "yoga news and controversy" of which I am evidently a part, based on more than a few comments that I read, I have been thinking a lot about the distinctions between public and private lives, between personal and professional ethics, between non-harming and truth-telling, between need-to-know, right-to-know and want-to-know and how difficult it is to surf those tides in an elegant and dignified way now that social media dominates our lives and blogs and Facebook are considered "news sources." And since, as a yoga teacher, the majority of what I am teaching rests on my own experience, my own interaction with, assimilation of and reflection on my life  as a yoga student and practitioner, there is no doubt about it-- the line between personal, professional, private and public gets more than a bit blurry most days.

My therapist recently talked to me a bit about archetypes and how, if we function under an archetype like teacher, doctor/healer,  or artist, then we run the risk of being consumed by the archetype. (Think of Marilyn Monroe, Janis Joplin and you get an clear picture of artists who were consumed by an archetype.) We were, of course, talking about me, who lives many hours each week operating under the teacher archetype. So, like the good therapist she is,  she was interviewing me about how often I relax that role, drop that mantle and allow myself to not have the answers, to be called on my bullshit, to own up to my frailties, to allow others to counsel me, etc. She asked me pointed questions like:

  • When is the last non-yoga related vacation you took?
  • Do you have friends who do not do yoga?
  • What do you do- really do- for fun?
  • Do you write things that you do not share with anyone else?
  • etc. 
I am sure you get the point.To make matters worse she used a haunting phrase about a very prominent celebrity who she felt "cannibalized her own life for her fame" and while was met with great success, seemed to have  become a somewhat empty shell of a person. My dad often says that a good minsters job is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable and it seems that is the role of a good therapist as well. We are knee deep, she and I, in a discussion about how persona and public image can be in service to Self  or it can be a detriment. Persona can be so false that it is misleading and downright inaccurate. However, when used skillfully, persona can  create a buffer-- a necessary and intelligent boundary so that we  are not consumed by the archetypes that so strongly influence our passions and proclivities.

I have long talked about how easy it is to believe our own PR as teachers. I thought about how fun it might be to actually write a bio for a workshop that told the truth. For instance my bio might read: "Christina Sell, known for her sharp, sarcastic and sometimes-hurtful wit, is often fiery to the point of too-intense and opinionated to the point of arrogance. Clear, precise and passionate, she suffers from deep insecurities  that often cause her to worry obsessively about what other people think and over-compensate through extreme competence and overwork. She also talks too much."

But no,  the bio actually reads something like: "Christina Sell has been practicing yoga since 1991. She is the author of Yoga From the Inside Out: Making Peace with Your Body Through Yoga and My Body is a Temple: Yoga as a Path to Wholeness. Christina is the 2012 Art of Asana columnist for Yoga International Magazine and a regular contributor to Origin Magazine. She is a faculty member on Yogaglo, which provides online global access to yogic wisdom. Known for her passion, clarity and creativity, Christina's classes are challenging, inspiring and dedicated to helping people of all ages experience the joys of yoga practice and conscious living." Blah, blah, blah.

So, the thing is that both bios are true. Its not an either-or proposition and that is exactly my point. Truth is each one of us, in our humanity, in our condensed divinity, is both shadow and light. I am certainly not suggesting that we go around making ridiculous self-disclosures and airing our dirty laundry and personal issues publicly in the name of transparency and truth-in-advertising, but I am saying that we have to, as teachers, keep one eye on that shadowy material lest it consume us while we are busy believing our public image and basking in the love that our seat so often affords us.

enough on that tonight. keep the faith.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Same River: Do and Do Not

We started Level 2 Teacher Training down in San Marcos today which was really awesome.  I love this group and as much as I am hosted well and welcomed in so many studios across the country, I really, really, really love teaching in my own space. Something in me just feels relaxed, happy and well, at home. So  it was awesome to just dive right into the material. 

In some ways, Level 2 is a lot like Level 1. We go over a lot of the same teaching skills and yet its also a lot different. However, in Level 2 I  add in more variables, more layers and more direct teaching practice and make the trainees work a lot more. So it is the same and different.  Anne, my very smart philosophy professor sister, told me that the "you can not step in the same river twice" is actually  misquoted. Evidently, Heraclitus said that "we both do and do not step in the same river twice" which  is a very different contemplation.

In some ways, life is the same. On one level, its another day, another dog pose. The poses are always there, the same poses, day after day. And yet each day is also different. We are different, our bodies are always changing, our emotions are in flux and so on and all of these variables play a part in determining how we experience the constant of these ever-present postures. We meet similar challenges in life off the mat as well and yet, hopefully, we are changing and learning how to respond more optimally. We may be faced with our own samskaras and patterns again and again and yet each time we circle back around with deeper awareness, clarity, compassion and self scrutiny, we get an opportunity to be different in relationship to what is arising.

For many years, I really thought I would be able to bypass that circling back around to what seems at times, an endless well of conditioned thoughts and behaviors. I thought one day, I would just be magically free of my neurotic tendencies and patterns. But as time has gone on, while somethings are really no longer problems for me, in a lot ways I think the main thing I can report is that I simply feel less troubled by the repetition of certain issues. They still come up- its the same river. But I see them differently- it is not the same river. I have learned how to be less identified with everything I think  and so a lot of those thoughts which used to become long stories and dramas fraught with lots of emotion and the impulse to take action, are often just thoughts arising from the river of thoughts within.

Of course, the currents drag me down and have their way with me also- I am no saint or siddha. I am just happy that I no longer believe everything I think. Anyway...

Tonight the group did a lot of work in the teaching practicum with basic articulation skills and then adding in the observation, demonstration and adjustment/refinement/correction task. It was great to see how far the trainees had come since last time we were together and to also get a sense of where we can work this week and what to hone in on.

I spent a long time delivering a sequencing lecture and filling in the discussion about the General Template. In Part 1 I gave a very basic talk about how to plug poses into the template in a general way that follows a certain flow and organizational strategy. In Part 2 we layer that template work  with the specific task of preparing for a peak pose utilizing the  repetition of shape,  key actions, and insight into progressive sequencing within the entire class design as well as with the various individual postures in the sequence so that difficult poses are progressively taught and presented. At this point the discussion is far from basic, which makes it very interesting indeed.

We closed the evening with the closing mantras, which was awesome. It's such a great way to end a session- praying for others and offering a traditional chant as a way to make our work be aimed toward higher principles and aspirations. We started this practice during our last week in Tucson at the Path of Practice Intensive. I really loved closing the day in a  formal, ritualized way and so I taught it to the group here, who took to it right away.

Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah 
Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah | 
Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu 
Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet | 

May all Beings be happy.
May all be free from sickness.
May all see and experience what is auspicious.
May no one be unhappy.

All right then. More soon.