Wednesday, April 25, 2012


As usual, my life is full and between teaching, practicing, traveling and all of the administrative tasks involved in running my business and collaborating with others, I haven't had a lot of time to write. Plus my last two entries catapulted me back into the Anusara discussion which was a bit consuming and my time for this blog was oven to answering comments on Elephant Journal, etc.

I find the whole situation with Anusara to be quite interesting since the rate that people are processing their feelings about it is widely varied.  There is a big continuum of discussion content and emotionality is not only high but varied. It dawned on me over the weekend in Monterey, CA (which was wonderful by the way) that this next year is just going to be like that- lots of different kinds of conversations- some of which will feel like forward movement and some of which will feel like yesterday's news and and all  of that can be just fine, if I do no expect it to be something different. We are, as a community of individuals, moving through this shift in both similar and different ways and that is as it should be.

I realized for me that in teaching I am shifting very decidedly away from some of the standards and strictures of Anusara and while I am not veering from my understanding of the method or from the bulk of my training, my teaching has shifted a lot already. My host in California asked me if I always taught "like this" and I asked her what she meant by "like this". She said, "your teaching is very Iyengar-y" which I took as a compliment  because she is mostly trained in that system herself. I said, "Well, sort of. I was always accused of teaching Anusara yoga like an Iyengar teacher. Except, of course, when I was accused of teaching  like a vinyasa teacher." (true story- got lots of "feedback" both ways over the years. Noah told me once that I was just a versatile teacher which made it very hard to actually know what I was going to do on any given day! I suppose that's true.)

And as we all know, I never stopped studying Iyengar yoga or other methods of yoga even as a certified Anusara teacher. I would have stopped had I gone to their workshops and classes and not learned anything but since that never happened, I kept studying with great teachers who were willing to teach me, regardless of method- Bikram, Baptiste, Iyengar, Ashtanga, etc.

So, the main thing that I notice now in teaching is that I am really not teaching a system anymore. Since 1999 I have been trying to teach The System of Anusara Yoga and now I am sharing what I understand about the postures, about  yoga and what I am working on in my study and practice. So while there is a large amount of overlap with The System,  I am no longer attempting to teaching through the lens of a unique system of yoga nor am I trying to demonstrate how each little action can be categorized in some way into a grander scheme of universal alignment principles. I am teaching key actions as they relate to a peak posture or group of postures but I have freed myself up from having to funnel all of that into the unified scheme that John outlined. So that is different for me.

And themes. Well, it seems like the trend is around class titles and so my workshops still have these class titles but soon there will come a day when the title just says, "Back bends" or "Forward bends" and my big plan is to be teaching more and more from an intensive perspective where students are there for the whole thing and the class title and content is incidental.  For the record, I have nothing against themes and I am happy to hear a great sermon and lord knows I have plenty to say about the inner life of asana practice and I am a very skilled at "heart language" but I really see all that stuff  as teaching tools and not a primary, delineating and salient feature of what I would characterize as my teaching offering. I think being inspiring is great and I think responding to teachable moments is great and I am all about the conscious use of metaphor in teaching and so on but, honestly, don't expect a by-the-Anusara-book- theme thing from me anymore. I have let it go. (I still think I am pretty damn inspiring, though, so don't worry.)

I love mantra and I use an invocation to The Guru and as time goes on will be teaching the convocation as a ending chant more and more. So expect more of that from me. I love the use of mantra because the sounds shift us so profoundly. I would rather employ the technique and allow people to have their own experience of their practice than to overly craft and manage the psychology or mood or emotion of any given practice session with too much "framing." I am more about "do the practice and be with what arises" when you get right down to it. And over time, we can and should watch how different practices facilitate certain moods- what elevates, what calms, what agitates, and so on--and we can be prescriptive in a way but I want people to sing the mantras, watch their breath  and get what they get, not what I want them to get.

I could go on but thats about the time I have for this today. What I am mostly psyched about is that I am planing some great programs in texas for next year. Here is a sneak preview.

September 19-23, 2012
“Myth, Metaphor and Tales of Transformation”
Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes, Mary Young
Asana, Storytelling and Personal Inquiry
January 17-20, 2013
“The Postures are Prayers: Weekend Asana Intensive
Christina Sell
Asana, Pranayama
February 14-17, 2013
“Bhakti ,The Beloved and You: Yoga as a Path of Love”
Christina Sell, Mary Young 
Asana, Pranayama, Philosophy, Renewal, Personal Inquiry
March 6-10, 2013
“The Light of the Spirit: 2nd Annual Spring Intensive”
Christina Sell, Manorama D’Alvia
Asana, Pranayama,  Sanskrit Studies
April 18-21, 2013
“Expanding  Awareness : Asana and Meditation Intensive”
Christina Sell, Carlos Pomeda
Asana, Pranayama,  Meditation, Philosophy
May 16-19, 2013
“Exploring the Boundaries: Advanced Practice Intensive” 
Christina Sell, Noah Maze
Asana, Pranayama
August 17-19, 2013
“The Heat of Transformation: Weekend Asana Intensive”
Christina Sell, Darren Rhodes
Asana, Pranayama
September 12-15, 2013
“Becoming the Author of Your Life: Yoga & Writing Intensive”
Christina Sell, Mary Young
Asana, pranayama, writing, personal inquiry
October 16-20, 2013
Teacher Training Intensive: Pose Architecture and  Sequencing Strategies 
Christina Sell
November 8-10, 2013
Devotion in Motion: Weekend Asana Intensive
Christina Sell
Asana, Pranayama
December 12-15, 2013
Teacher Training Intensive: Teaching the Raw Beginner
Christina Sell

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Musings on Forgiveness

Disclaimer right up front- Eventually this entry leads into a topic on forgiveness. I, in no way, am criticizing anger or advocating sweeping anything under the rug and wrapping it in white, angelic light, etc. Mostly, I am advocating self-forgiveness and musing a bit how that often times, paves the way for forgiving others. 

So, its an interesting thing because even though I made some big testimony a few entries ago how I didn’t  want to keep talking about Anusara Yoga and its downfall, its problems, its injustices (of which I think there are many)  and/or its beauty, value and contributions (of which I think there are many) I found myself very touched and moved by the depth of the struggle people are going through, made more acute in light of the latest articles, published. (I am not linking to them here- they are plastered on Facebook so have at it. If you have to pick only one to read, my opinion is that the Texas Monthly article is the best.) It seems to me that these new articles have been a little like ripping a  scab off that was attempting to form over some of the wounds leaving the wound re-exposed and bleeding again. 
So, I am being somewhat careful- like I said- with my involvement, mostly because for me the situation is fraught with the likelihood of infection. I am talking here more at the pranic level, of course. Certain impressions can poison the subtle body and can infect one’s state of consciousness. I also hit a wall a while back where I couldn’t hold space for the comments and observations about my comments and observations. Because of social media and the speed at which those exchanges often happen, I burst my own circuitry and exceeded my bandwidth or my ability to have equanimity regarding people’s opinions about my opinions. And since I value the honest exchange of ideas and wouldn’t want to squash the free-sharing of opinions- especially in a time like the last few months where long-held feelings were surfacing like a tidal wave in what I saw was a very necessary and mostly-productive process- I was in a bit of a quandary and had to bow out of the discussion. I just couldn’t hold space and hold onto myself. 
And in general, that’s still how I feel. In order for me to move forward into the next phases of what I am creating for myself and for my students, I need all my prana at my disposal. And also, I am in an odd middle ground- I do not wish for the dissolution of Anusara Yoga nor do I wish for its preservation. I am grateful for all I received from John, Anusara Yoga, the method itself and the community of my friends, colleagues, and students. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to serve it and its vision. And I also feel quite distant and removed  from it. And maybe I worry about sounding cold. I am not neutral relative to yoga, to the people I teach, to my friends I practice with or to my fellow teachers but to the system and the organization, I feel pretty neutral. 
People have continually asked me to weigh in on everything but I have to say that I feel like I wrote much of what I had to say back in October when I first resigned my formal affiliation.  My reasons are very much the same and my observations and critiques are very much the same. My vision for the future is also very much the same- to create a yoga school that teaches fantastic hatha yoga and provides resources for students and teachers to grow in the traditional practices of yoga in a way that is authentic, disciplined, and intelligent. I am still passionately pursuing the path I chose when I resigned my formal affiliation with Anusara Yoga.
And yet, I found myself compelled by the recent  discussions and quite moved by my friends and colleagues’ courage, confidence, truth-telling, outrage, upset, compassion, and tenacity.     As more and more details of John’s private and secret life (and I think there is a difference, I really do. There are plenty of things that I consider to be my private life and none of them are actually hidden or secret-- they are simply private, more intimate in nature, and shared with a smaller audience than are my public choices and issues. Secrets  have to do with the things I might  withhold because I  know they go against my public persona or image, I am ashamed of them, I know they are against the consensual ethical code of my peers, family or co-workers, etc.) came to light what I have watched is people feeling a sense of associative shame. They feel bad for being associated with something that had such a hidden and unsavory aspect to it.
I think all of that takes time to sort through and is, in essence, a chance to claim one’s own sense of self-determined, self-worth. I am big fan of honest and ongoing self-review. So I think it important to look into our own role in the machinations of Anusara Yoga unflinchingly and courageously and examine the hidden pockets of our own involvements and so on. And I think people have different capacities for that kind of inner work, which is a bit of another story. However, once we have looked at that stuff, examined it and identified the weak areas in ourselves that we need to work on, we need to actually embark on that inner journey and do the work.
So, assuming that all that is happening to some degree, I want to talk about something else I think is important--forgiveness.  Part of the cool thing about fearlessly owning our part (which does not mean accepting responsibility for what is not our part, nor does it mean letting someone off the hook for their actions or any such notion. It means exactly what it says- fearlessly accepting our part in all its glory- no more and no less.)  is that when we look at our part and trace it back all the way to its source, we can many times see that we learned the pattern we were playing out. In many cases we can see that somewhere along the line we learned to people-please, to ignore things we saw, to distrust our instincts, to sit on the sidelines, to play politics, to know, to not know, to wish for happy endings and simple solutions to complex issues like existence, suffering, chaos, etc. We can even do the work to see where the people who taught us these patterns might have learned it in their lives. And when we can  see the pattern as a learned legacy it opens up the door for some very cool things to happen in our healing.
First is, we glimpse the fact that if we learned a negative pattern we can re-learn a positive one. These learned behaviors are not from our truest self and therefore we can change the script. This is so cool and this is where accountability becomes radically empowering. (fine print: Changing a life script is rarely easy, rarely painless and rarely do we get it right in one try. However, the possibility exists for all of us to learn conscious choice as opposed to reactive unconscious replay. How cool is that!?)
Secondly, we get to accept ourselves fully even with our negative patterns because we really see we came by it all very honestly- we learned the patterns for  good reasons. Generally, we realize that the pattern/coping strategy was the best we could do at the time with the information we had. This full-hearted self-acceptance eradicates our sense of shame that something we did was wrong and therefore who we are is wrong. 
And all this takes us toward what is, in my opinion the most important part of the process-- forgiveness. We can actually forgive ourselves for whatever aspect of our involvement we are holding against ourselves. Living free of our own condemnation, firing our own judge and jury is quite freeing and liberating. And, in its own natural time, the freedom we learn to extend to ourselves can help us forgive others.
To me, forgiveness is not forgetting, it is not letting anyone off the hook and it in no way excuses the inappropriate, hurtful or problematic behavior of others. That thinking is simply childish and immature, in my opinion. If someone has repeatedly lied to me then I would be best served to remember that in my dealings with them and gauge any future involvement with them wisely.  Nope, forgiveness is more about me accepting the full catastrophe of my humanity and extending the same generosity to others, which does not exclude setting boundaries, establishing consequences for behavior, etc. Forgiveness is an attitude more than anything else.
Forgiveness is actually a very hard practice for me so I hope I do not sound preachy. And before I sound too holy, I must also assert that forgiveness has a kind of self-serving aspect to it as the state of consciousness it invokes is quite lovely and beats resentment by a mile. (Keep in mind I am pitta and resentment is our favorite fuel so I know the power it holds- good and bad.)  Anyway, my experience is that true forgiveness  only really happens after I do a lot of hard work and it arises in its own time, quietly moving into my heart and mind without ceremony, fanfare or loud declarations. All of a sudden--after a long period of time- I have let something go and lo and behold, my relationship to the event, person, situation, etc. has shifted. I have never ever been able to force myself into forgiveness, no matter how much I have tried. It is not “muscular” in that way  although the work before it, the work that sets the stage for forgiveness  to arise, might be.  And righteous anger is a stage of the process so I am not saying anger is  wrong or any such thing like that. 

Anger tells us our boundaries have been violated. Most of us have all kinds of historical experiences where that has been the case and so we have plenty of things we are angry about and plenty of belief patterns set in place due to those violations. And as we live into our adult lives, we have current events to deal with as well, not just the historical stuff to work through. So, it’s important work and shouldn’t be passed over in the name of yogic-sounding ideals or imposed virtues of the heart. 
And by the way, resentment to me is different and needs a different kind of work energy applied. Resentment, to me,  is replaying the injustices done to me over and over and making a continual case for my anger.  Resentment is a kind of conscious or unconscious feeding and fueling of anger.
Anyway- another important thing I keep in mind is that everyone processes these things at different speeds and in both similar and different ways due to type, temperament, circumstance, etc. Also, the different aspects of who we are find resolution at different rates. For instance, our spiritual aspect of self may be quite compassionate, our intellectual aspect might be able to understand the complexity of any given situation, our emotional self might be super-pissed or very sad or supremely hurt and feeling betrayed and our physical self might need distance and space or some kind of boundary put in place. So often we want the complexity of who we are to be in a unified agreement about everything when unified agreement might not be “one answer” from within but instead  might result from the willingness to make space for all parts of who we are to have their unique perspective on a situation.
All right, that’s is my more-than-two cents for today. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back at Home

Warning up front and in plain sight- I am going to make fun of some things and speak directly to some things and if you are in an overly sensitive mood this post may not be for you. I recognize people are in various stages of a grief process, processing their feelings, observations and experiences at different rates and not every post can land perfectly for everyone.  All right, that being said, here goes.

I had a great time out in Georgia and I am happy to be back home.  Kelly and I were having dinner last night and I was talking about the time in Athens and in Atlanta and about my reflections from the experiences of teaching in these different communities. Some of the context of the discussion had to with the various delights and difficulties  involved in  teaching yoga in the midst of the dismantling of the structures of Anusara. (Has anyone come up with a PC way to say  it-- "The Scandal" sounds dramatic and inflammatory.  "The recent events" sounds vague and evasive.  "Anusara Yoga's recent growth opportunity" is funny and certainly holds a kernel of truth but all things said and done is a bit ridiculous and perhaps condescending. Anyway, what to do...)

So a few things are on my mind relative to all of that. And yes, I know I said I wasn't going to talk much about it anymore but this has more to do with my movement forward as opposed to my commentary on what I think happened, didn't happened, etc. On the first day of our  Teacher Training when we were discussing some personal feelings that folks had in the room relative to the current events with Anusara (Oooh, now there is a way to say it... current events...) a trainee made a comment that involved a criticism and a generalization of certain things in her experience of Anusara yoga. Many people shared the experience she was describing and we talked a bit about it and after we explored it a while and had moved onto another topic, when this woman raised her hand and said, "I just need to say that I do not want to be negative or critical and I hope I didn't offend anybody and I am sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings, etc." It was as though some fear came up for her  after-the-fact and she felt she  needed to cover her tracks a bit.

A simliar thing happened when I was teaching the Spring Intensive in San Marcos in March. I posed the question to the group, in all sincerity, "How much time will have to pass before we can say something critical without prefacing it with "I am really grateful for all I learned but...." or "I really respect everyone's decision to stay but...." or "I think Anusara is really great but...."

Someone in the group sincerely answered my question, saying, "Two years, at least."

I said, "Let's do some work on that for ourselves- I can't wait two years. That is too long for me- I do not  have that kind of time."

I launched into the same discourse in March that I did in Athens during the Teacher Training because I think its essential that we get clear here on a few points. There are as many varied experiences of Anusara as there are people involved with it. Some of those experiences share a lot of content and some have almost nothing in common. Everyone was looking at and participating in the same thing from sometimes radically different perspectives and therein lies the interesting and difficult part of the conversation. If we get fundamentalist about this, if we insist that ours is the only true perspective, if we dedicate ourselves to convincing others that their experience is wrong, ignorant, misguided, confused, lacking insight,  negative, vindictive or in anyway, less-than ours we are in pretty unsavory territory.

So, the first thing I propose is that we each look at our own experience very courageously, lay it all out for ourselves to see and then validate it for ourselves.  I mean it- validate it for ourselves to such a degree that the fact that anyone sees it differently poses no threat to the truth of our own truth. It is very difficult to do this as we are trained to seek validation from others in all kinds of ways. (I also think that part can be healthy at times so I am fan of sharing, processing with people and ending the isolated perspectives that secrets generate. But we need to do both, in my opinion. At least 50-50. So I am not saying it is all an inside job but I am saying we have to meet the outer world at least half-way in such matters.)

In my experience, the more I can validate and "make real" my own direct experience in any situation then the more able I am to allow people to have their full truth and I can allow their perspective to be valid as that- their perspective, true in its own way just as mine is true for me. Simply put, I am less prickly. It's just the way that it works.

All right, so all that being said, I think the second thing we might consider is that we could confront the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" strategy as being appropriate in situations of hurtful gossip and a good tool from childhood lessons regarding playing well with others, but not always applicable to the complexity of adult life and a bit useless in the face of sorting out ethical considerations, distribution of power, interpersonal conflicts,  boundary setting, professional affiliation and so forth. I mean, the thought behind that is great but honestly, its a bit limited as a way to live, in my opinion.

Along those lines, no matter how wonderful something is, it is never perfect. No matter how bad something is, it has seeds of greater possibility. The dark is contained in the light and the light in the dark, etc. We know this from our philosophical studies. So, no matter how much we love Anusara yoga, or loved it or might love it in the future, it is, in my opinion, a completely ridiculous notion to assume that it had, has or will have no flaws and no shortcomings and no way to grow and improve. Get real. Seriously. We have to grow up on this one.

Just like each of us who are wonderful people and love other wonderful people in our lives- wonderful does not mean,  never did mean, and never will mean, flawless. Again, that is a childish ideal so to require ourselves and each other- smart, intelligent, discerning adults- to not see flaw and to not speak of flaw is more than a bit limited and limiting. In fact, it will not allow for growth, development and maturation and so the childish strategy will keep us trapped at its level of immature consciousness. (I do not mean the word childish and immature to sound mean- spirited. I really mean childish in the sense we could trace that idea and ideal back to childhood where we believed in fairy-tale endings and princes on horses, and magic wands. During this time we lacked the ability to see things in their full glory like we can learn to do as adults. Okay, this could digress very easily, so I will move onward.)

Simply put, criticism is not the about the whole thing its about the aspect of the thing being criticized. We do not have to generalize one flaw (or several) to the whole person or organization, etc. So when someone is criticizing something, maybe we could, within ourselves, just pause and go, "oh, they are not talking about everything, just about x,y, or z."

The other thing we could do is to observe why we get so easily offended when criticism arises and instead of asking people to stop speaking their truth, examine our own prickliness and dismantle it interiorly. Yoga can make us more sensitive but it can also make us more resilient. And the kind of sensitivity it is training in us is not the kind that means "easily offended" anyway. But that is another story.

I could go on, but I spelled all this out in my TT and told them that I would like to make an agreement to go forward for the week we would be together-

  1. We would grant each other the generosity to be able to share different perspectives without apology. 
  2.  If our feelings were hurt we would first look inward and see if we could gain clarity about why were so offended.
  3. If we felt we needed to share it with someone, we agreed to speak directly with the person whose comments rubbed us the wrong way.
  4. We would listen to each side of the story and agree to disagree at times, apologize if we did indeed make a mistake and that we would ask for help from others in the process when we got stuck.
  5. We would agree to remember that everyone in the room had mixed feelings of gratitude, hurt, shock, anger and even boredom relative to the situation and that we would not longer preface everything we said with "I love anusara..."etc.
Anyway, the woman who made the comment was a champ because I took her comment and made it into a full-blown teaching lesson that went way beyond her sweet plea to the group that she did not want to seem rude, etc. But that is the way it is when we teach sometimes-- someone opens a door and we can walk through a simple comment into a much bigger teaching. I have been that student more than once for my teachers over the years and its always a bit wild to see what can happen and how a teacher can make a big point out of a small comment. Sometimes, we just have to take one for the team, like this woman did. She was a trooper about it, though. 

So, like I said, I personally am not interested in a 2-3 year period of time having to  go by before everyone is undefended enough to hear each other's thoughts about things.  I am putting the people who know me on notice. I am smart, intelligent woman who has opinions about things and whose job is to offer those thoughts and insights in service to others in the process of deepening our sadhana together. Part of my job is to share that reflective process, not to not offend the group.  Freedom is only freedom when we are free to agree and free to disagree, when we are free to praise and free to criticize.  Of course, there are skillful means so I am not planning on becoming some kind of crazy blurter or anything like that but I am just saying, that in order to really teach and learn, we have to clear the field a bit and be less identified with our own feelings of being offended.

I am saying "we". I am rarely psyched to be criticized and I prefer for everyone to think I am great and for us to have big lovefests of agreement. I am big fan of preaching to the choir. Like any good co-dependent I like to please people and have a good repertoire of adaptive strategies in place to do just that. But I have to say, it's tiring. And this recent situation has just gone on too long, in too much scale to be able to preserve those strategies without breaking down and destroying my energetic field entirely. Being PC all the times takes a lot of energy.

All right, tomorrow or the next day I have some more things to say on teaching and some clarity around that I came to.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Athens, Georgia

Well, I travelled to Georgia yesterday and arrived in Athens right around sunset, meditated, got unpacked and moved in and then settled down for the evening. We start teacher training here today. I came to Athens for the first part of this teacher training back in October, just days after I resigned my Anusara Yoga license. We had our second session in January and here we are back in April finishing up. I realized on the plane here that I have not been here since all the recent developments went down and so I was thinking we may have a few things to sort through.

I have two groups like this- this one in Georgia and one in Texas- programs that started as Anusara Yoga trainings and yet turned into a Shravana School of Yoga training post resignation.  (Well, maybe three groups, as there is the Good to Great Training Program that Noah and I are doing.) Anyway, I kind of feel like this is a big month for finishing those programs and completing obligations that began in what now feels like a very different paradigm of life and work. Several of my colleagues have been encouraging me to write and check in about my "post Anusara" life and to keep writing blogs about the whole situation so as to show people who are struggling in their transition that (A) there is life after Anusara and (B) I am still present and interested in being a community member, that I haven't abandoned the community.

I found it an interesting request, especially interesting since more than one person made it of me. I made a conscious choice a while back to step away from the front lines of that particular discussion and let it play out on its own without me being overtly involved.  (Keep in mind I have been commenting on the situation in some way, shape or form since OCtober when Darren and I resigned. ) Anyway, as the scandal broke and unfolded, I found that the way the scenario was playing out through social media was entirely unsatisfying for me, if not downright energetically draining and detrimental.

The experience  did give me a lot of food for thought about how social media creates certain kinds of connections that are fine and good for what they are but how it is not the same as true intimacy. I do not find social media to provide the same quality of sharing, listening, learning and understanding that can happen in face-to-face community or where, shall we say "two or more are gathered." Again, I am all for social media I am just saying it is different due to scope, speed, etc.  I think perhaps a good metaphor is that it is a bit more like fast food and the speed at which the connection is served up does not really allow for the unfolding of the story complete with the nuance and personal connections that are so necessary for us to really be nourished in communication.  Anyway, I am not up for a big debate on that as I have seen tons of lovely things happen through the power of social media. I am just saying that careful consumption when it comes to the Big Stuff is probably wise. I know it is for me.

So, the fact I haven't been writing a lot about "it" (meaning The Anusara Situation)  is not because I have abandoned anyone or because I am uncaring, uninterested or anything of the sort. I actually made a conscious choice to involve myself in a different conversation than the one that was playing out on Facebook, etc. I resigned from all related groups and stopped clicking on blogs and so on.  If you have been reading my writing, you can read directly about what "post resignation" looks like for me since that is what I have been writing about, although I haven't prefaced it by saying "Post Resignation, Day 28: Licensing a Yoga School", "Post Resignation, Day 90: Getting a new partner" , etc. I personally want to be directly involved in the new story and not be referencing myself, my life or my work to the thing I left behind. (Although I am very clear that I am taking great things from the experience forward, etc.)

So I have been writing about what I am up to and what I am thinking about and what has been interesting to me as of late. And the thing that is really interesting to me of late has to do with the power of the practice itself. I have been spending as much time as I can in my practices and finding such refuge there, not surprisingly. And in my teaching, I am much more interesting in helping people deepen their life of practice and being in that conversation than I am in waxing on about the flaws of this system or that idea and so on. Honestly, I want to study, practice and teach yoga and the big world of yoga commerce- while necessary on some level since I make my living this way- is not the interesting line of discussion for me these days.

I  think the whole thing will sort itself out (it already is) and my energy is best spent to sorting myself and my own direction out (which is what I have been doing). The people who remain and work for the re-invention of Anusara Yoga will have their lessons as will those of us who re-invent ourselves outside its formal boundaries. My expression will have its unique flavor as will other people's. This is as it should be and to me, its really all about resonance. I want to be around those people who want to learn, study and grow in the directions consistent with what I am teaching. And keeping in mind that every group needs some dissent and conflict to keep it vital and healthy and I do not see 100% agreement on all points necessary for forging ahead together,  I am not into convincing anyone of anything about what they should or shouldn't do, or how they should see things or anything of the sort. Now is the time for soul searching and taking responsibility for one's life and one's choices and really listening for resonance.

So- I am working a lot these days on future programming and scheduling and have some cool things lined up. My thing is about creating an opportunity to learn, study and practice yoga, not so much about creating a new thing to join, although we are creating some structures to support the learning for sure. Call me idealistic but I think that if we were anchored in our life of practice over and above which organization is teaching us, defining us, and validating us, we would have a stronger connection to what is enduring. Seriously, organizations are human-made and will always fail us at some level. The best an organization can do is own up to its mistakes and learn and grow. No company, school, community, etc. will be without fault or flaw. Ever. If our eggs are in that basket we can look forward to a lifetime of disappointment.

However, if we use the structures of organizations, schools, programs and communities to help us to go inward, to learn practices for connecting with who we truly are, to grow more aware of the Energetic Field of which we are all a part, then the organizations will  have served their function and their inevitable limitations will not be as problematic for us when they surface. Lee always said that "forewarned is forearmed" and so we can consider ourselves forewarned on this point: nothing on the manifest level  is without flaw. Or like Bob Dylan said, Everything is Broken.

We have to grow up around our expectations of perfection, I think. Yoga never promised us a life without pain or without problem or without difficulty, as far as I can tell. It promises us- if we practice- a connection to what lives deeper than all that, to what lives at the Heart of who we are and at the Heart of reality. It promises to show us what is enduring and many times it will do that by allowing what is essentially transitory to dissolve right in front of our eyes, thereby clearing up our confusions and misperceptions.

So, anyway- those are my thoughts today. More soon.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A way to connect

Ever since we started Shravana School of Yoga the three of us have been inundated with requests for ways to get involved and to step into some training with us. Noah and I decided to create a short webinar program to introduce people to some of our basic ideas and practices and to keep the conversation alive. Please join us for this 4-part series designed for teachers and students of all traditions who want to learn, grow and go deeper into the heart of their yoga practice. 

Live the Light of Yoga: Path of Practice Essentials
A Shravana School of Yoga Webinar with Christina Sell and Noah Maze
Tuition: $100
May 8, May 9, May 10 & May 11
7:30 pm Central Time
To register--
This 4-part webinar is perfect for yoga students and teachers from any yoga system or tradition who want to deepen their yoga practice through mantra, ritual, inner work and meaningful conversation. The course, modeled after the Shravana Path of Practice Intensives is designed to help students clarify their spiritual aims and is a great opportunity to learn about the Shravana School of Yoga's vision and mission with two of its founding members, Christina Sell and Noah Maze. 

Known for their clarity, passion and commitment to transformational educational experiences, Noah and Christina, along with Darren Rhodes founded the Shravana School of Yoga in January 2012 as a way to bring traditional teachings to modern life through creative, innovate and experiential programming. In this course, Christina and Noah will facilitate  4  hour-long discussions designed to provide an opportunity for people everywhere  to share in the light of the teachings and in  the joy of the practice. 
All sessions will be recorded live and will be available for download to registered students so it is not necessary to be present for the live presentation.
Course Outline:
 Session #1- High Vision and Clear Aim - What is your Highest Vision? How can aim serve to expand your possibilities rather than limit them? How does knowing why you stand for assist you in your spiritual journey?

Session #2--The Power of Ritual- Mantras, Puja and Conscious Acts of Devotion- Learn a simple puja ceremony along with four traditional mantras that will help you invoke your spiritual intentions and innate power.

 Session #3- The Spiritual Experience of Being Fully Human- Learn simple, effective tools based for integrating the  physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual aspects of who you are. Come into a deeper understanding of who you are and how to live with greater acceptance and clarity for you and your needs.

 Session #4- Developing and Deepening your Personal Practice- How many times have you heard that you should "take your yoga off your mat" and yet wondered about how best to do that in the midst of your busy life? This session explores how to bring yoga principles into your life and will help you open your heart and mind to a fuller, richer and more meaningful life of practice.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Christina Sell practices Mandalasana

Here is a short clip from my practice down in San Marcos today. Still a bit rough but it was what I was working on today.

Kelly and I had a super productive and restful  few days down in San Marcos. We did lots of work on the property, and had some time to catch up on business,  spent some time in the river in our kayaks, and I got some time practicing asana. All in all, my idea of a good time.

More soon. Tomorrow is Easter. Big family day.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Get Real

When Manorama was here teaching her Luminous Shabda course she gave a teaching that I have really been chewing on. She was talking about how there is no fantasy on the yoga path, only practice.  In fact, she had been in the process of de-mythologizing herself and making a very funny but potent teaching lesson from someone's question about how she wakes up in the morning and how she relates to her day. I have seen her do this on more than one occasion when someone asks her about how she begins her day and she launches into a very funny schtick about how she wakes up to a choir of angels, makes her way over to her window where she waives at the world while she blesses the good people of New York City who have assembled under her window for morning darshan and then... and then... and then... After a very  entertaining description of herself as some kind of saint she says something like, "I do what anyone else does- I go pee."

Several times throughout the weekend she made a comment along the lines of "If yoga is your fantasy, what in the world can help you? Yoga is here to help us live in Reality, to help remove fantasy from our lives and so if it has become some kind of fantasy for you, you have placed yourself beyond its help." Okay, so this is not an exact quote but it is the teaching that has been coming back to me over and over again in the time since the Spring Intensive here in Texas. Something about that teaching is a bit haunting and sobering.

If someone were to ask me what Lee's primary teaching was I would say it was "Get Real." Maybe I could language in more mystical sounding words like "What is, is." But the entire thrust of his teaching was aimed at helping us see ourselves clearly in the moment so that the clarity of sight would be a doorway into  deeper  realms of what is. For this is a multi-layered concept, right? There is what is real that is available to our senses- real in the sense that we can touch, taste, hear, see, smell and feel things. There are also realities at the level of emotion, thoughts, insights, and beyond into the transpersonal realms and the metaphysical domains and so forth. So what is, is is not a simplistic formula for awakening but instead an invitation to a multidimensional way to live in accordance with life as it is.

Anyway, I can't help but notice how much of modern American yoga culture seems to be resting on a bit of a fantasy about how we will get happier, sexier, richer, more whatever by pursing the path. We seem to expect super human feats of compassion from each other and use the word "yogic" as come kind of tool of judgment like "that's not very yogic of her to get angry" or "that is not very yogic of him to have a BMW" or "its not very yogic of them to worry about the future", or fill in whatever blank that follows.  Give me a break. I suppose I am in a bit of a ranting mode this morning but I am really chewing on this one a lot these days. If yoga is my fantasy, what will help me?

I think yoga was a big fantasy for me for a lot of years. Each class, then each workshop event, each certification milestone, every teaching opportunity, etc I expected - not always consciously- to be some kind of thing that would in some way, complete some process within me and let me off the hook in some way. Like I said, its not like this was some conscious operating system, its more something I can see about myself in retrospect.

And the truth of that matter is that over time, my perspective has changed about the whole endeavor. I think about it a lot like marriage. I have been married almost 15 years and most days I like being married and most days I like my husband and on most days I even like myself. But the whole thing takes a lot of work--a lot of communication, a lot of getting over my old patterns and just getting real with the moment as it is and what it is asking me for in terms of response. And some days go better than others. And anyone who writes some story about me and Kelly being in some idyllic partnership is creating a fantasy out of what, in reality, is nothing of the sort.

So, yoga is like that I think. It takes ongoing work and the primary reward for such ongoing work is that ability to work some more. Like in asana, we get rewarded for a job well done with harder things to do- more refinement, trickier postures, the call to greater awareness in more challenging circumstances. And since  its true on the mat it must be true off the mat also. Somewhere along the lines I stopped thinking that I would get done with the yoga and somehow be granted a reprieve where I no longer needed to attend to my inner life or to my thoughts, words and deeds and where I would be somehow carried in some larger flow in such  way that my Work was done for me. Sure, there is an element of being carried that underscores my life but it is not what I thought it would be when I first heard that teaching. (Again, the fine print of yoga.)

It seems that what we are into here is an exercise in consciousness. Progress, does not mean being delivered to some state where we get to forget ourselves and "let go" although some kind of letting go is surely part of it. Progress does not mean some easier life, free of pain or heartbreak and free from the need for discipline and sacrifice. I think progress on the path is essentially the refinement of our attention. This refinement is not a hyper-vigilant kind of thing mind you, but an increasing ability to be with ourselves fully, to never abandon ourselves and to be aware of "what is" with greater clarity and sensitivity no matter what is happening.

All right, onward with my day. I am tending to business this morning and then working on the place down in San Marcos. More soon.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Shravana School of Yoga: Continued Reflections- Ready, Fire, Aim

Shravana School of Yoga: Continued Reflections- Ready, Fire, Aim: I have been so thrilled by the response to the workshop that Noah and I are giving in San Marcos in May . We are over half-full and I know i...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Back from Philly

Well, I had a great weekend in Philadelphia at Dhyana Yoga Main Line with Justicia DeClue and her gang of students and teachers. Justicia and I met in my classes at the Grand Gathering in 2010, I think. Anyway, at some point after that event  she invited me to come teach at her studio in Philly. I had a super fun time with her and her sweetheart and business partner, Shawn. They are both smart, funny, insightful, honest and direct, which always makes for lively conversation, a lot of laughter and a great visit in general. The students were all very welcoming, fun-loving and hard-working. 
Justicia is in the very final stages of her Anusara Yoga certification process and remains committed to that path in the midst of all the recent turbulence, which I find quite admirable. Her studio was completely void of drama, upset and controversy which was also very impressive. As a strong and dedicated practitioner, Justicia seems very grounded in the yoga itself and is guiding her community along those lines as well. It was refreshing and inspiring to see people skillfully utilizing the Anusara Yoga methodology without being defined by it,  defending it or abandoning it. Very healthy, actually.
We worked on a fairly comprehensive set of postures with lots of hip opening emphasis throughout. One of my passions these days has been a return back to clear lines in the form, and precision in execution. I think over the last ten years we experienced a shift in alignment emphasis away from outer form and toward the action-based approach to the asana and its been fun to return to really examining the shapes of the asanas, the lineage of the poses and the architecture of the postures as they relate to one another. I am exploring the muscles that one must use to assume any given shape as well as the opposing actions that we have to work to create and maintained balanced action within the form. 
Also, its an interesting conversation to me these days  to start to reclaim some of the “classic forms” from Light on Yoga like Virabhadrasana One with the palms pressed together overhead in prayer and the head back, or flat palms against the floor in trikonasana or setu bandha sarvangasana  with the hips high, not just the remedial form so often done for the sake of  softening the groins.(So we are clear,  it’s not that I think we shouldn’t soften the groins, its that I think we can be looking to keep those actions in place in the full form with the hips high and the front thighs stretching more.) Of course, this work is not for everybody and remedial expression is awesome and so important to utilize for a variety of reasons. However, for intermediate student who wants to progress into more advanced postures there is some rich work to be done in this domain.
So, that’s what I am into in asana these days- outer shape and inner action and precise execution. I suppose I have always been into that, truth be told,  but as always, I am refining my understanding and my articulation of my thoughts on the subject of asana. It is never dull, that is for sure.
I am really excited to be headed home. I have Easter Weekend unscheduled as far as teaching goes and so I am looking forward to the longest stretch home in Austin in about 6 months. Kelly added it up for me recently and told me I have been home like one month total out of the last 6.  It really caught up with me by the end of this last stint of teaching and had it not been for the remarkably inspiring Spring Intensive I think I might have lost it a little, as every coping strategy was depleted by the time I got home from New Mexico a few weeks ago. The Intensive was so revitalizing for me and so enjoyable that it gave me back a lot of energy and renewed my enthusiasm for future events and projects. All that being said, I am looking forward to a more than a week at home to catch up on sleep, dive into my practices and finish planning my 2013 calendar which I am working on right now.

All things said and done, it is a busy time for me and yet I feel some energy for the work returning. Today I am heading down to San Marcos to meet with a guy to get some fans up in the studio. With our intensive coming in May I figure we are going to need some fans in there!  (Hey, do you guys know we are half full for the intensive with Noah? Sign up now.)

More soon.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

More Pearls of Wisdom from Manorama

Here are a few more pearls from Manorama from  our time in Tucson.

How do you know you are a beginner at anything? You are focused on the end. (Manorama talked here about how in the beginning of things we are looking to the end- like in meditation we are watching the clock or in a hard pose we can't wait for it to be over or on a first date we are wondering about whether we will get married. once we mature, we can enjoy the process we are in and be more present for the journey without as much focus on the end.)

In Sanrksit, the sound is the entry point to Awareness.

You must know the difference between a lower case "s" and an upper case "S"

If you ask the right question, the right questions will lead you to the right answer. Instead of looking for answers all the time, look for the right questions.

Meditation is like being on a first date with someone you don't know well.

The big secret about meditation is that no one likes it. (Find me someone who likes meditation and I can bet you money that person is not a beginner.)

Everyone is cut out for meditation, its the ground of who you are.

"Meditation is like practicing death."- Sri Brahmananda Saraswati

You are in for lige and you are not getting out alive. But if you practice, your experience will be different.

Meditation s an experience to understand the relationship between this realm and beyond. Like any relationship, it takes time to develop and dialogue.

Sanskrit is the language of the meditative reality.

If you break with tradition, be Picasso about it. He broke and he did something fantastic.

Yoga is the process of engagement.

Yoga is the union between what you can see and what you cannot see and realizing there is something more.

Walking through fire is required for our development in this realm.

Sri Brahmananda Saraswati- :yoga is the experience of missing nothing."

Yoga is the experience of wholeness.

If the mind is always missing something, what does that tell you about yoga? It must be found beyond the mind.

Yoga teaches you to "make new" out of what is eternal. The mind always wants what is new. That's how "new" plays you. Instead, learn to play the mind. Give it pulsation, which makes new out the old and then absorbs the mind.

rama- to play, to sport, to charm

You don't need your practice everyday but when you really need your practice you are going to need the strength that only daily practice gives.

We all get unanswerable "why's" in life. Maybe these are the things that evolve us. When the thinking mind can't find the answer to the why, you are given an opportunity to go beyond the the thinking mind. What lives there? yoga.

It is not the teachings that we have to manage. We have to manage ourselves in relationship to the teachings.

There is no "advanced" there is just what is. There is only practice.

Authenticity of Voice is not the same as self-expression. Authenticity of Voice is living in contact with the ground of being so that you know what to pull down at what time.