Thursday, June 14, 2012

Magnet For Magnificence

 So here me, Darren and Amy Ippoliti  are in Tucson, AZ for a week we call Magnet for Magnificence. This course was envisioned over two years ago as a graduate course for people who have done Immersions and as a way for us a friends and colleagues to offer something together. This year- the course is not so much an Immersion Graduate Program course as it is a Intermediate/Advanced Intensive for experienced students. I suppose these are all small distinctions on one level and yet I find that there is a lot of work these days in those kinds of  nuances that exist in the aftermath of the Anusara breakup and breakdown.

I spoke a little about that in class as we are all feeling our way through this transition and everyone is at different stages of their work with the issues involved. I find that there is just no easy way to speak to it all these days as it is very easy to say too much, say too little, joke just a little too honestly or sarcastically, over-process it and/or  not allow optimal time for folks to actually acknowledge what's going on. Put 50 people in a room and there is no way the teacher's offering is "on the money" for everyone.

At any rate, I  have gone back and forth between the "do not mention it and move only in the forward direction" and the "joke about it" and the "offer my own thoughts and perspectives frankly and as respectfully as I can." I am not just talking ethics here as that is only one angle of the situation. I am also talking about my growing understanding and relationship to the UPA's and to asana practice and execution.  To me, the thing is I think that in 75% of the poses at least, the UPA's are really great alignment cues. And by this I mean, they are great things to actually say as a teacher about "what to do to do the pose". But I think in maybe 25% of the poses, the principles are there energetically but are not exactly the salient feature of the posture, not the main thing you need to know about how to do the pose. So maybe in 75% of the poses they are fine in the foreground but in 25% of the poses they are more in the background as energetic aspects.  (Don't quote me on this- I haven't worked out the exact percentages, that is just meant to be illustrative.)

For instance, this came up in lolasana in class and I was saying "push down and lift up" and someone, very well-trained and practiced asked, "Is it more important to lift off the floor or to keep the arm bones back and the shoulder blades on the back?" It was  sincere question as she is a super sincere student and teacher and I teased her later that she opened up a door for me to walk through. You see, that question (and many that come up just like it) is an example of a widespread confusion, in my opinion, about the UPA's. To actually do that pose, lolasana, the shape has no real element of "side body long, arm bones back". To do the pose the pushing down through the arms to lift up will shorten the side body (particularly for the short-armed folks) and will take the shoulders and upper back into a rounded position.  It's not that there isn't some energetic quality of stabilizing that can happen by working the actions to some degree, but at that point, the UPA's are not helpful in executing the posture (ie- getting off the floor). And as a side note, I also think that there is a lot of value in shoulder blades on the back but if that is such a good position, why not also work the opposite position, especially since the thoracic curve is kyphotic. (this could be a longer digression than I have I have time for, however.)

Back to lolasana and arm bones back- Compare that example to setting the arm bones back into the socket to stabilize the shoulders before going up into handstand. In the handstand case the UPA is very useful as a "how to" instruction.  Or compare garudasana arms to hands clasped behind the back arms. etc.

So to me, I guess I might say they are "universal" but the way I understand their application in that sense is very nuanced and we need to make distinction between when those principles are energetic and when they are mechanical, when they are actually reflected within the shape and when the shape appears and requires and action that sounds exactly opposite of the principle.  I also think there are actions we do to get into postures and actions we can do to create and sustain the posture and they are not always the same. And as a teacher, I am going to be talking about that and chances are it may sound critical or something, but you know, even when I was certified, I was talking about that stuff. So its actually not like that is some new topic of conversation for me or a new line of inquiry for me to be  exploring as a practitioner and teacher. It's just now, everyone is a tad more sensitive.  (So, in some ways, the same line of inquiry is actually seen and experienced really differently, which is another story.)

To me, I actually found the need to "make everything fit" a bit tedious. Immensely helpful at first as it gets so much done with broad strokes. And then after a while, it became problematic since there are nuances that appear to live outside those broad strokes and to understand nuance requires a much richer and deeper understanding. And so as so many students and teachers are struggling and exploring how to take the best of what they learned in Anusara and bring it forward into the next iteration of their teaching, I anticipate having more frank discussions on the topic. Also, I am not trying to teach Anusara yoga without its name. I am actually in what feels like a very creative process of awakening to the next iteration of my own practice and so that is what I am teaching. I figure I should warn people again, it may be raw at times, edgy and uncomfortable. It is for me so, well, I suppose that's not surprising if it is for my students.

I said it a while back but I have not taken the "Four Gates of Speech" vow and I am not committed to the "if you can't say something nice do not say anything at all" motto nor do I see myself or promote myself as a "nurturing" or "politically correct" yoga teacher.  I do restrict my speech and I do avoid certain topics in  public that are related to the scandal, etc. but why I do not cue "arm bones back" in every pose is not something I am shying away from.

Of course, more could be said about all of that for sure.  More on Magnet for Magnificence soon.

Have a good day.


Maya Alapin said...

"And as a side note, I also think that there is a lot of value in shoulder blades on the back but if that is such a good position, why not also work the opposite position, especially since the thoracic curve is kyphotic. (this could be a longer digression than I have I have time for, however.)"

Can you say what this means more? I always feel I need to work the opposite but UPAs stand in my way... what does kyphotic say about both directions for arm bones?

Melissa Ravencraft said...

Christina, I would like to preface this post with; I have no vested interest in any ‘name’ of yoga. While I do practice Anusara yoga at the local studio, I would be just as happy to practice any form of yoga, as I am a student.

My spirit was seriously broken prior to returning to yoga, and my body is still broken, but on the mend. I use yoga to help keep me centered – mentally, physically, and spiritually. I would love to be a teacher, but my body will never cooperate; besides, there are certain things within the yoga teaching that I do not believe in, so I work with what I have, and I find great peace in my yoga practice, whether I’m at the studio or using a home dvd with whomever I decide to practice with on that day – Desiree Rumbaugh, Baron Baptiste, John Friend, or various other yoga instructors I have. I have been known to get brave and turn on some soothing music and grab Darren Rhodes book and turn into my own instructor, smile.

With that said, I am reminded that all forms, names, of yoga came from one central yoga practice, and it has evolved to meet the needs of its practitioners. Yoga will forever evolve to meet the needs of its followers, kind of like ‘religion’.

There are leaders and followers in this evolution, you, dear Christina, are a leader, and people like me will follow you, until you go mental, laugh. So you meditate, practice, and teach, we will pick out the bits and pieces we need to find peace in our little part of the world. We will pass on what we learn, and give those who listen a chance to pick and choose what they need to move forward in this life.

I’ve learned putting people on pedestals is dangerous, as they are human and humans fail, whether we do it in the spotlight or somewhere in which no one ever sees us. We are not perfect, but we strive for perfection everyday, and that is what makes us human.

With great love and respect for you and your forward movement Christina, Namaste!

Justicia said...

love this blog and your insights! one question, why are you practicing lolasana, UGH! Hate that pose (ok, dislike), and it has nothing to do with armbones.....

Yup, I'm keeping that one on my list of yucky poses, and you on my list of favorite teachers. smooches!