I never knew the term B-Roll until I started working with Yoga International. A-Roll is content you are used to seeing and what you pay for-- classes, tutorials, courses, etc. B-Roll is all the the stuff that makes its way into promotions and marketing— pics with my dog, weird camera angles, off-script moments.
After filming a series today, we did B-Roll for promotions. In the midst of everything, I was being silly and cracking myself up. Serena, who was in charge of production and who I was meeting for the first time this week, said to the camera folks, “Make sure you get that—Christina cracking up on her mat is the best.”
Anyone who practices with me or comes to my workshops and trainings knows that I spend a lot of time laughing on my mat. As much as I love esoterica, deep mysticism, anatomy and educational theory, I love having fun. And I do make a lot of fun. I make fun of myself, the human predicament, the current culture of yoga, the world-at-large and the circumstances to which culture has delivered us individually and communally.
Tonight is February 13th. Tomorrow is February 14th. Most of you will celebrate tomorrow as Valentine’s Day. I will mark the day remembering my mother who died last year on February 14th, after 6 days in the ICU.
I miss my mother.
Weirdly, I also feel my mom constantly since she died so her absence has brought new meaning to what it means to me miss someone. How is it that missing someone sits right alongside feeling them always with me?
This question, I suppose, is the wonder of human potential.
I used to be interested in human potential as it related to yogic powers, extra-sensory perception, and utilizing 100% of our brain. Somewhere between my 45th year and now (months away from 50) I became more interested in my personal human potential to love, to care, to sacrifice intelligently, willingly and whole-heartedly. I became less interested in ESP and more interested in what it means in practical application to be who I most truly am. And, while I know the thread of “who I most truly am” is a long and winding road to something well beyond my psychology, that very same thread passes through my very human life, my very human psychological structures as well as my very deepest longings of Spirit.
I am a quiet, withdrawn, “do-not-talk-to-unless-you-have-to-before-10am” kind of person. Like, unless there is a fire. (Or, to be honest, unless if I want to talk. I know, the rules are inconsistent, but, well, I contain multitudes...) And while I am funny, charismatic, outspoken, opinionated and prone to long diatribes of story-telling and explanation in my teaching, alone at home, first thing in the morning, I want the world to shut the eff up.
Mom, on the other hand, used to wake up and start talking., She would walk with her walker and an assistant through the house commenting on all the toys Locket had chewed and were left eviscerated in the living room. Then she would talk to the cats who were waiting for her on the kitchen table. (Don’t judge— I have terrible boundaries and I know it.) Then, Mom would talk to Dad and me and Kelly and whoever else might be around. She asked questions like, “What kind of bird is that?” She made comments like, “Look at the deer!” And when we had a rare three days of cloudy weather and she could no longer see the mountains out front, she looked at me and said, “I miss my majesty. I want to see my mountains again.”
"Don’t we all, Mom?" I remember thinking… “Don’t we all?” (Miss our majesty, that is.)
Of course, as life would have it, on February 15th, the day after she died, the house was silent in the morning.
What did I miss most?
I missed her chatter, her laughter, her inane comments and her questions to which I never had very good answers. The same behaviors I was annoyed by every morning were what I missed the most the first day she was no longer with us physically.
My mom’s physical presence was B-roll. She wasn’t the one out front selling content, making a living, insisting on structure, order and common sense at all costs. Mom— especially in her later years— was the one behind the scenes, cracking up on her mat, and finding fun where she could.
Of course, that sense of joy was not always the case.
Her recovery after her second stroke was hard. I witnessed her struggle with walking, which she was never able to do again without assistance. I witnessed her struggle to find her words again and give voice to her ideas and concerns. And, later than I wish, I witnessed the way her quick-witted, highly-verbal, fast-talking and loving family members didn’t slow down long enough to make it safe for her to speak. I witnessed her withdrawal and her depression as she dug deep to make peace with her situation.
I also witnessed her emergence from that underworld.
I saw the ways she came back to life when she and Dad moved in with us a few years ago. I watcher her find joy in the dog, the cats, the mountains, her church, her PT and OT, and the women in her Bible Study group. She also liked my cooking and the homemade ice cream I made for her, but that is probably another story.
The thing is, Mom was the B-roll for our family. She didn’t just talk or ask questions or insist that everything be presented in a neat and orderly way. She cracked herself up. Sometimes she laughed about life. Sometimes she laughed about others. Sometimes she laughed about herself. She had an irrepressible joy and a smile that could light up a room.
I do not mean she was never depressed. I mean, that she never gave up and life never stopped answering her question of how to find joy. In that way, she was super-human.
At the very least, she was a super human.
On the eve of the first anniversary of her passing, after filming some content and some “B-roll” far away from home, I am writing with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart for what she taught me while she was alive and for what her living memory continues to reveal to me. Andrea Cheek Frosolono was an exemplary mother to me and my sister, a great wife to my father and a wonderful, reliable friend to many. She lives on in the sound of my own cackling laughter, my commitment to bring joy to life and to “make fun” in the ways that I can and in the numerous contributions she made to those she loved.
One of my friends from high school wrote me after he found out Mom died. He asked me how I was doing. He had lost his dad a year or two earlier. I said, “Well, I am fine. And yet, I woke up this morning and realized this was the first day of my entire life when I didn’t have my Mom.”
He told me, “Yeah. That feeling that something isn’t quite right and that you are missing something you have always had doesn’t really go away. At least it hasn’t for me. But it does get easier to live with. You will get more used to it.”
As I have gotten older, I find promises such as his more meaningful than larger notions of transcendence and “complete recovery.” I don't mind living with a tinge of sorrow remembering my mom because it keeps me tender-hearted. It’s okay that life won’t ever be the same, that I won't ever be the same because who I am growing into is being formed by the whole of life, not just the easy parts. That is the example Mom set, whether she knew she was doing it or not.
Like I said, she was a super human.
And if you have gotten this far into my entry, thank you for staying the course. I have been keeping these entires to 1000 words this last year or so and now I am watching my word count creep up to almost 1400. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "If I had more time, I could have written a shorter blog entry." Thanks for reading and taking time to share your stories with me. Mom's life was a testimony to community and the support that is possible when "two or more are gathered" and I am happy to be gathered with you.
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace."
We are experiencing a good snow season in Colorado, which means many of us here are on the local mountains snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing and making merry. As I was putting my snowboarding gear away the other day, I glanced over at my mountain bike and felt a bit of nostalgia for riding my bike on the amazing trails we have here. Snow season means no biking. Biking season generally means no snowboarding. Long story short, outdoor sports in Colorado are seasonal endeavors.
Seasonal activities are great because when the spring thaw comes and I am back on my bike, I will feel elated for the return to the trail in much the same way the opening of snow season brings with it a joyful return to the slopes. Each season is made a bit sweeter by time away involved in other pursuits.
Yoga, unlike most sports, doesn’t run by seasons. I am not only talking about the fact that since we practice mostly inside, in temperature-controlled environments, we are not dependent or deterred by weather patterns. I am talking about a stated or unstated imperative that we practice daily, no matter what, maintaining inspiration, enthusiasm, and devotion throughout the process.
Almost every other serious physical endeavor has an off-season and a on-season. Take body builders or triathletes, for instance— they have a season where they bulk up, eat more and gain weight and a season where they slim down, lean out and so on. Many yogi’s expect to exist happily all year round on green drinks and weight fluctuations indicate some loss of discipline or moral high ground. (Don’t go too far down the road on the food or the sports analogy, I am just saying poking a little bit at the unrealistic expectations that often result in shame, self-criticism, feelings of isolation.)
And the double binds are endless— practice daily, but don’t be compulsive; get better at asana, don’t be attached to the poses; make sacrifices for your practice, have a full life.
And so on.
Truth be told, my practice has had very definite seasons over the years. I have maintained a regular practice but certainly not always an inspired one. I have had cycles where the only thing I wanted to do was spend my day working on postures. I have had phases where the topic of poses seemed absurd and irrelevant. I have found joyful connection in the online platforms of social media and I have wanted to throw my phone across the room when I saw someone post a yet another yoga photo.
I have felt strong, supple, and capable. I have felt weak, stiff, and limited. I have felt inspired by the possibility of enlightened community as often as I have felt betrayed, cynical, and hopeless about what can happen when two or more are gathered in the name of yoga. I have loved by body. I have hated it. I have felt good about my practice. I have felt critical about my practice. I’ve had periods of puritanical restriction and periods of bacchanalian indulgence. To be clear, I am not talking about a night or two. I am talking about seasons of each swing on the pendulum.
As a teacher, I have showed up to my classes, workshops and trainings regardless of what my own personal seasonal weather pattern has been. I have done my best and admittedly, my best has varied over the years.
None of my teachers ever talked much about the waxing and waning of their enthusiasm for practice, so I am writing a blog entry to talk about mine in case you are on a downswing of some kind and judging yourself. No matter how you feel, you are not alone-- at least two of us in the world have struggled to accept the seasonal nature of the inner and outer lives of our practice.
There is no single way to sustain a relationship to practice over the course of one's life. My approach might make your life miserable and yours might not work well for me. None of those outer expressions matter so much to me these days. I have come to appreciate what gets built over the long haul, in the cumulative effects of sustaining some connection to practice through the different seasons of my interest and involvement. While there are pivotal moments and threshold experiences that can usher us into new depths, the gifts of the practice are not built in any one practice, class or workshop. In the same way that riding my bike in the spring is made sweeter because of a 4-month break, sometimes my appreciation for asana returns when I allow myself some time away to pursue other activities.
I am on a bit of an upswing with asana these days, finding inspiration and delight through my Asana Junkies webinar and some recent, rewarding teaching experiences. Kelly also re-did my practice space and that change has helped me settle in again. Ever since my move to Colorado, I haven’t liked the space I have had to practice very much and now I love my whole office/practice space scenario. (This is a high-class complaint, I know, but since my practice is 90% solitary and home-based, not studio-based, having a space I like is pretty important. More so than I realized, in fact.)
At any rate, I trust the process this many years in. Sometimes I see my students in the season of zeal and I miss that season. I see other students in the dark night of the yoga soul and I recognize that season from personal experience, although I would be lying to say I miss it. My point is that yoga is a relationship like any other relationship and, after the flush of new love fades, the work of intimacy begins, often marked by a period of conflict, restlessness, and/or boredom. And, as any one who has worked through any of those issues in any of their relationships knows, the seasons of difficulty where things are burning, dying, or laying fallow can become fertile soil for future growth.
And, two practical pieces of advice in closing:
1.) Occasionally, give yourself permission NOT to practice.
2.) Don’t underestimate the power of 15 or 20 minutes to keep your connection to asana alive. The short practice we actually do is way better than the long practice we don’t do.
(Yes, I know, these ideas are sort of “blinding flashes of the obvious.” However, perfectionistic types out there often find these teachings quite difficult to take to heart. You know who you are.)
Keep the faith.
I returned home last night from my second visit to Surya Yoga in El Paso, TX. I had a lovely time with a room full of people of different ages, backgrounds, interests, capacities, and personalities. In other words, the weekend was kind of like every weekend when I go somewhere to teach. And like every class I have ever taught in a yoga studio. No matter what level we say a class is, no matter how we describe a class or a workshop- be it advanced, intermediate, teacher training, or philosophical in nature, every class is a mixture of many things.
We are different ages, different sizes, different shapes and we come with different interests in the practice. In any room, there are different capacities physically, different training backgrounds, different kinds of expertise, and different intentions. Some people want to work big poses, other people want freedom from pain. Some folks have focused their life on yoga, while others have full lives for which yoga is a support, not a central interest. In fact, the variables that might be present in any situation are too numerous to name.
These differences feel overwhelming to me some days. For all of my fiery sassiness, strong opinions, and independent nature, I have a personality that wants everyone to have a positive experience in a class, workshop, or training. Some of that inclination is a sincere desire to help people and some of that tendency lives close to co-dependency patterns like people-pleasing and fear of conflict, etc. I have been teaching yoga since 1998 and I have yet to find a way not to care when someone has a bad experience, misunderstands my offering, or for some reason feels less-than-resonant with what I am offering.
And yet, I have also learned that I am crazy person if I try to meet the divergent, varied needs, interests, and capacities in the room. And look, I write thoughtful sequences, I tell stories of my struggles, I make jokes (some funnier than others) in the hope that humor can dismantle some of the frustrations that inevitably occur in a class or workshop. I do my best. I make mistakes. I get it right and I get it wrong.
Recently I realized that I have made just about every mistake in the book when it comes to teaching yoga, except sleeping with my students. And, I am pretty sure if I had been single when I started teaching yoga, I would have made that mistake also. (Not that being married is any guarantee that a yoga teacher won’t have sex with their students, but that is another entry for another day.) My point is that I have gained most of my insight about practicing and teaching through the school of mistake-making.
I lean very heavily on a teaching from the 12-step communities that says “Take what you can use and leave the rest” and encourage my students to do the same when they take my classes and workshops. Not to be confused with cherry-picking or “taking-only-what-you-like-or-agree-with-or-are-comforted-by,” taking what you can use is a much more nuanced, refined, and complex protocol.
If, for instance, I have a back injury that is aided by a deep lumbar curve and aggravated when that curve isn’t maintained, then poses like malasana, kurmasana, bakasana, and so on, all of which round the spine and move us away from the natural curve of the lumbar spine, are not useful for me physically. However, if they show up in a teacher’s sequence, they might be useful for me in other ways. For instance, I might get a chance to work with preliminary or intermediate stages of the pose or use a different pose all together, which often gives me a chance to practice the postures of self-respect, self-care, and self-honesty. Almost always, my desire to “fit In” and “be like everyone else” and my very valid need for a sense of belonging is going to be worked a little bit when I can’t do what I see others doing.
And, as luck would have it, the challenges also live beyond the poses.
I was in a class one time when a long-legged, slender yoga female teacher made a comment about all the “bulky muscular thighs” that were in the room. Now, while I think she needed a better word that was a little more inclusive with less trigger potential, I made use of that moment to acknowledge and soothe myself by offering myself my own loving support. I had an internal moment where I was able to say (silently, of course), “Wow, she says bulky like its a bad thing….”
My point is that no teacher gets it right all the time. And, no matter how careful we are and well-meaning, the yoga classroom is fraught with potential for upset, misunderstandings, and problems of all kinds. And yet, against all the odds and challenges, amazing transformation occurs, insight dawns, and people come back day after day, year after year to roll out a mat, practice the postures, and engage a process that offers both solace as well as grist for the mill of growth.
I used to think that the classroom was supposed to provide some kind of utopian, corrective experience that would occur when I did it all right and when everyone liked what I offered. I expected the same of my teachers also. And yet, what I have come to know is that while much of the correcting, repairing, and healing many of us need comes through feeling heard, seen, and understood, some patterns are only shifted when we work in what can feel like the photographic negative of those desirable, affirming moments. Oftentimes, something of great value is born when we rise up from within for ourselves in the midst of something that seems (or is) less-than-optimal on the outside.
Not to be confused with tolerating abuse, minimizing dysfunction, pretending we aren’t hurt when we are, or some new-age notion that “no one can rob your joy if you don’t let them,” I am simply talking about a kind of educational environment where as teachers, we continually refine ourselves and our offerings and as students, we empower ourselves to meet the inherent and probable imperfections of group learning with as much clarity and self-compassion as possible.
Of course, there is nothing simple about what I am describing.
We didn’t have a big confrontational weekend or anything. In fact, most people really did seem to like the workshop. I know I had a great time teaching. And yet, these issues are never far from my mind and heart. Every year I teach, I grow more confident and feel more stable in myself and my offering. And, right alongside that deepening, every year I am more aware of all the ways I might miss the mark and the potential harm that might be done.
I often say that most yoga teachers fall into one of two categories. The first category of teachers is the “I have my playlist, I have my cute tights, I have my Instagram account— good luck out there” kind of teacher. I do not personally know any of these teachers I am describing, but I am told they exist by people I believe are trustworthy.
The second category of teachers tends to feel responsible for everyone’s experience being 100% positive, feels the need to not just teach a solid class but to heal injuries, address trauma sensitively, and cover social issues with depth and insight that is also non-divisive and inclusive. This teacher aims to offer a physically challenging-but-not-too-challenging class with philosophical inspiration that is both accurate, ecumenical, non-upsetting and runs no risk of cultural appropriation in a room that is somehow a comfortable temperature for everyone and that is affordable to all while still pays them a living and keeps the studio in business. I could go on for a while, because the list grows longer every year.
So, obviously, teachers in group #1 have to care a bit more. However, teachers in group #2 have to well, calm the fuck down and get real about the inherent limitations of group learning, which is easier said than done for most.
For me, the capacity to calm down as a teacher rests on three primary assertions:
1.)The power of transformation lives beyond “doing it right or wrong.”
2.) The power of transformation is sourced deeper than “people like me or my class or they don’t,” and,
3.) The process in which we are involved together is bound and directed by a Grace that is intelligent, benevolent, and ever-present.
Keep the faith. More soon.
There is a game on Facebook currently that involves posting a profile picture from ten years ago with a current profile photo. From what I can tell, the accompanying narrative involves a consideration of "how well you have aged."
This morning I looked through my profile photos and found the first one I posted in 2007.
I don't have a lot of great face shots from the last few months but I did take this selfie a day ago that can be a decent point of comparison, even though I was right out of the shower and generally my hair does look a tad bit better than how it looks in this picture.
So, Facebook, you ask how well have I aged?
I need glasses to read now, I have more grey hair, more wrinkles, my skin is thinner and looser, and while I weigh about the same, my body composition is surely different and the rate at which my body recovers from activity has changed. Without a doubt, anyone with eyes to see can observe for themselves the visible signs of physical aging I am describing. And look, I moisturize, take my vitamins, exercise, meditate, eat reasonably well and still, my physical body is changing. I am okay with the changes so far.
What I am not sure the photos capture is the inner work of aging well.
I have been lucky to be mentored by wise women since I was a teenager. From counselors and college professors, to 12-step sponsors, friends, students, and colleagues, I have always had friends both older and younger than me. One of my mentors once told me that "Aging gracefully does not happen by itself. If you want to age gracefully, Christina, you will have to work at it."
We live an a culture obsessed with appearances. Of course, this statement is not news to anyone reading this blog. My point is that a zillion times a day, not only are we bombarded with images of beauty that are generally white, young, thin, able-bodied, etc., we are also battered with the message that beauty and appearances are things in which we should invest our time, money, energy and attention. A question such as "How well have you aged?" is resting in a context of youth-centric, appearance-based values, as if continuing to look young, and therefore beautiful, means we are somehow succeeding at the process of aging.
Truth be told, I find that culturally-sanctioned premise shallow and uninteresting. And yet, because of the prevalence of such messages, it seems to me that we do have to "work" a bit on aging gracefully,
A few years ago, I decided not to color my hair as it was becoming streaked with grey and silver because it seemed to me that built into the mechanisms of physical aging are reminders of mortality. Personally, I want a reminder that I do not have all the time in the world to live my life. I want a daily reminder that time is passing and I want to make use of the time I have to live authentically. From grey hair to wrinkles to crepey skin (which I didn't even know was a thing to look forward to until a few years ago!) our bodies are reminding us that they are going to go.
Conventional thinking on aging seems to fall into two primary categories, from what I observe. One strategy that many try is to hide all signs of aging, to ignore the inevitability of aging and death and to, in a variety of ways, shake one's fist at fate saying, "Aging, you won't get me!" The second orientation seems to be a type of resignation that blames aging for an inevitable decline in vitality, capacity, etc.
Aging gracefully, for me, is some kind of middle ground between these two extremes of conventional thinking. The middle ground I seek- and that I witnessed in my many wise mentors over the years- acknowledges the necessary changes and losses that time has brought and will continue to bring, while developing a deeper understanding of Life and Self. For me, how well I am aging, has more to do with who I am growing into and giving expression to, than how youthful I appear. From a yoga perspective, that the body is going to go, is not bad news because the teachings remind us that our spiritual essence, our truest nature, continues after the body dies. Aging gracefully, for me, rests on the promise that I can deepen my connection to that essence and live in an expanding relationship to what is deepest and truest within me.
And look, I don't mean to get too lofty about it. I am just saying that in the twelve years between the two pictures I shared, I have grown a lot. My life didn't get better in twelve years; my life got different. I stopped asking "Who do I want to be?" and setting external goals to improve myself. I started asking, "Who am I?" and found ways to let myself be who I actually am, rather than who I think I should be or who I think others think I should be.
In a lot of ways, on the surface I am a bit less together than I used to be. On the inside, however, I feel like myself more of the time. I am more spacious with the wholeness of who I am-- a caring, compassionate, full-of-fire, opinionated, outspoken, anxious, joyful, funny, and suspicious, etc. person full of flaws and gifts in equal measure. I am quicker to forgive myself and others. I have learned how to ask for forgiveness when I make mistakes and hurt other people. I feel more loving more of the time. I feel loved more of the time. I also stopped worrying when I didn't feel loved or loving, trusting in what is deeper than the inevitable ebbs and flows of my emotional life.
So I have more wrinkles and more grey hair. My body is aging. And my perspectives are maturing and expanding. All in all, a pretty good trade so far.
“Consciousness, which tends to contract,
expands when a group of people come together with a common aim.”
— Paul Muller Ortega *
I spent last weekend teaching a 3-day intensive with my long-time friend and colleague, Darren Rhodes, at his yoga studio, Yoga Oasis. We have taught over 1000 hours of teacher trainings together and countless intensives and workshops. In many ways, Darren and I grew up together in yoga, first meeting almost twenty years ago in Anusara yoga workshops with John Friend. As I have written before, Darren and the Yoga Oasis community are a vital part of who I am as a practitioner and teacher. I always learn a lot about myself, about the larger implications of my practice, and about the shared journey of yoga when I visit Yoga Oasis.
After Darren and I resigned our licenses to teach Anusara yoga, we explored the possibilities of continuing to teach collaboratively. As it became clear we were taking different directions in our teaching work, we stopped teaching together. A few years ago, I pitched the idea of a yearly team teaching weekend to Darren. He agreed. This year was the second annual weekend called “The Work.”
I first heard the term, ‘The Work” from Lee Lozowick, my spiritual teacher, in reference to The Fourth Way teachings by G.I. Gurdjieff. I am not a formal student of the Fourth Way, but I have been around its principles and practices for many years. Same with Darren. More could certainly be said about that another time.
As is usually the case at Yoga Oasis, the room was full of seasoned, sincere, passionate practitioners and teachers willing to dive deeply into self-observation, self-reflection, and self-awareness. Last year, our workshop ended with a strong discussion about how work on, and with, one’s self relates to privilege— racial, economic, gender-normative, etc. This year, the topic of privilege surfaced on the morning of the second day, as though, as a group, we had simply pressed “pause” for a year.
Of course, not everyone who was in the room this year was in the room last year. And not everyone who was in the room last year returned this year. And, truth be told, because time does not actually have a pause button, the conversation that began in the room continued personally for participants when they returned home and collectively within the unfolding of larger cultural streams. For me, due to a confluence of many factors, discussing the high ideals of yoga without acknowledging the gross inequities of our cultural paradigm, is to be tone deaf at best and, at worst, to be a willing participant in a sick, societal norm.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not think every Wednesday night asana class should begin with a diatribe about systemic oppression, the evils of misogyny, and the tragedy of how those forces are often internalized and operative in our personal biases and behaviors. I mean, Wednesday night class might be a great place for those kinds of considerations if a group was ready for the message. However, in the same way that preparation is important for advanced asana, a certain measure of preparedness can be helpful when considering the nuances of how personal work both is, and is not, political.
Personally, I think yogis are perfectly poised to unravel the knots of culturally-conditioned belief systems, because I believe unraveling conditioning is what yoga is actually about. The number of people who have unravelled the knots of their personal anxiety, depression, addictions, eating disorders, self-hatred, etc. through yoga indicates that re-wiring toxic patterns is possible through yoga. Of course, yoga practice works best on the knots to which we are applying the technology and not so great on the stuff we don’t, can’t, or won’t look at. And, keep in mind, I make plenty of distinctions between what it means to practice yoga and simply practicing asana or going to public classes. When I say “practice” I am referencing a larger endeavor that sometimes involves, but is never limited to, postural practice.
As I am writing, I am feeling that there is an impersonal nature to transformational group work. As personal as our yoga practice is, as deeply meaningful as our experiences can be, and as unique as each student’s perspective is, the conversation that began in the room last year, continued with different people in the room this year. Not to sound too far-out, but on one level,it is almost as if there is a conversation wanting to be had looking for a place to come into being, a place to land.
One key piece of clarity I offered the group this year was that I believe it is important to look squarely at certain problems and investigate our inner life in relationship to those issues before jumping to a solution. For instance, before figuring out how to make our studios and classes more inclusive, which is a wonderful aim, it is important to unravel the many ways our own biases and blind spots operate. Any good workshop facilitator can give a script for inclusive language and teach us how to say the right things and avoid saying the wrong things, but if those scripts are funneled through our own unexamined perspectives, there will be unconscious toxic energy behind our well-intentioned words. Additionally, we run the risk of trying to help as a way to avoid the pain of our complicity rather than doing the work to face what lives in the shadows of our culturally-conditioned psyches.
Of course, exploring problems without immediate solutions takes fortitude and stamina, which is where yoga practice comes in. In the same way, a yoga practice is built slowly over time, our capacity to grapple with the challenging issues of our times, for all its urgent necessity, is also going to built slowly over time. As we see the structures of our culture continually exposed as unjust and/or incapable of managing the moment in which inhabit as a human race, I believe we are also seeing— at least in many communities— yoga students and teachers grappling with how to cope, contribute, and evolve. We are not necessarily good at the work yet, and I expect to make plenty of mistakes along the way, and yet, the same dedication we bring to practice can be brought to bear on the messy business of standing together to insist upon “a more perfect Union… and to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
As is often the case, I left Tucson feeling inspired by the everyone who was part of the weekend and heartened by the experience we shared.
And for those of you white men reading, or folks who know white men who are reading, I have a friend, Chris Crass, who is offering an online seminar focusing on Anti racism and feminism for white, male faith leaders. If you practice and teach yoga, please consider yourself a faith leader and avail yourself of an opportunity to dive deep into your personal work and to learn practical tools for bringing love, faith and justice into your practice and teaching. Please help get the word out about this seminar. https://www.facebook.com/events/518295371989664/
I head to New Orleans for a weekend workshop today. I am looking forward to my last teaching weekend of 2018 and then some time home to snowboard, read, practice and prepare the course materials for my upcoming Asana Junkies webinar. More on that soon.
*I have this quote written in my personal notes from when Paul spoke at an Anusara yoga Certified Teacher’s Gathering in Denver. I think it was around 2006, but I do not have the date in my notes.
I met Stacey Millner-Collins almost ten years ago when I had the opportunity to assess her Anusara yoga certification video. I remember how dynamic and strong she was as a teacher, how skillful her students were, and how powerful her message beyond the asana was. When we were discussing her video, (She passed on the first try, by the way.) she told me about how great her community was. I first taught at City Yoga in 2011 and made several visits over the years. This weekend was the first time I have been back to teach in over five years. I believe this visit was better than ever, due largely in part to the ways that Stacy has been a trustworthy steward of the teachings and her students and teachers.
The City Yoga community is a shining example of what long-standing, Spirit-led leadership can look like when such leadership is met with sincere and dedicated students and sustained for more than a decade. For all the problems in the world of modern yoga, I visit many studios that exist as places of sanctuary, hope, and healing. Don’t get me wrong— every studio has issues, conflicts, and problems they face. My point is that for all the places where yoga seems to be broken, there are many places where yoga is working. City Yoga is one of those places.
Last weekend, I was teaching in Tucson when the news of the Philadelphia synagogue shooting was announced. This weekend, while I was teaching, we heard the news of a yoga studio shooting in Tallahassee. My Facebook feed was flooded with outrage, upset, and prayers of concern, none of which was surprising, and all of which I understand. I am fortunate to know many politically-engaged yoga teachers and practitioners in my immediate circles of association, which I am told is unusual. I suppose I keep good company.
And, of course, there was more than one person in my feed who posted about the yoga studio shooting who have remained silent on every other national calamity. That is a post for another day.
That being said, I also spend a lot of time in conversation with teachers and students about what is our responsibility as teachers in the classroom during this unique time in history. Do we stay silent about current events and let the yoga do what it does? Do we use our platform as teachers to speak out against injustice, oppression, and systemic issues that manifest in the almost-daily atrocities that show up in our news feeds? I have no practical advice for what anyone else should do.
For me, the teachings and practices of yoga have the capacity to help me only to the degree that I admit what I need help with.
Will yoga help with addiction? Sure, but yoga going to be of greater help to me once I admit I have a problem.
Will yoga help with the ways that I have been indoctrinated into unconscious bias due to living in a culture founded on systemic, institutionalized racism? Yes, but only to the degree that I acknowledge I need help with unraveling the knots of those conditioned patterns.
Will yoga help me feel more peaceful? Sure, but yoga is going to provide only a cosmetic, surface-level solution until I recognize the pockets of anger, violence, and vindictiveness that live inside me.
And so on.
From the personal to the cultural, from the psychological to the political, yoga’s utility in my life exists in direct relationship to my willingness to see, and give voice to, what is actually going on, not what I wish was happening.
To be clear, I do not advocate standing in front of a room a bashing all things Republican. Nor, do I think anything of value will be accomplished with a F*ck Trump tirade from the front of the room. I do not think we need to proclaim that, “chances-are-as-a-white-women-in-a-pair-of-expensive-yoga-tights-you-might-just-be-unconsciously-invested-in-toxic-patriarchy-and-so-before-your-first-down-dog-today-you-need-to-check-your-privilege.” And while that essential idea may be true, it’s not going to create a teachable moment or a change from within for anyone in the class.
(To be clear, I am grateful for the disturbing voices in the world of activism who have said just that so that I could examine myself in relationship to my upset, defensiveness, and recoil when my “I do good things in the world” identity meets up with the impact of how marginalized groups often feel in the face of me personally, or me as part of a larger demographic— a.k.a. white women. Again, commentary on this aspect of my post is part of a future post where I will write about my own white woman fragility in the first person. My point is that I have been upset and I have felt uncomfortable in ways that have helped me grow and know myself more fully. As a yoga practitioner, I am grateful for these learning opportunities. Truth be told, I rarely like being called out, I hate not getting it “right” and, more importantly, I have come to know there is more to me than the drive of perfectionism, more to my role than keeping people comfortable, and more to my life than maintaining and contributing to a sick, societal norm.)
When it comes down to to brass tacks, I am interested in yoga only so much as it is practical, accessible, and applicable to my life. While I am truly inspired by Possibility, I am anchored in reality. And so I speak to that in my classroom.
I closed our weekend with a story. Anusara yoga got its name from a passage in the Kularnava Tantra. The text opens with Shiva seated on the mountain top in deep meditation. Parvati has climbed the mountain to see her Beloved and she begins by extolling his virtues: “Oh great guru, You who are omniscient, ever-present, and steeped in the deepest Reality… and so on. (I am paraphrasing here as I am on a plane and do not have the actual text AND more than a few years have passed since I read the actual verse to which I am referring.) She goes on saying, “You who are the Highest of the High, the Deepest of the Deep, tell me…. I have been in the world and I have seen suffering and people are hurting. Please, oh great Lord, tell me what I can do to help….”
And Shiva answers her, outlining a path of the Heart, a path of the family of the Heart, that makes human life an opportunity to bring the Highest into form. In one passage, Shiva says that on the path of the Kula “one's enjoyment becomes yoga, one’s sin is made into art, and all life is liberation.” He basically says, “You— IN THE WORLD— strengthened by ME ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP— are the answer to the suffering you are hoping to heal.”
So, go to the mountain top, dive to the depths of the oceans within you, and find whatever access point you can to what is Highest and Deepest within you and then, because it is your duty, because to stay silent would betray the majesty of what you know to be true, because you want to Help, speak to the beauty of Spirit, testify to its power to strengthen you in the face of suffering, and unapologetically invite people into that same place inside themselves.
Each one of us is the answer. More importantly, each one of us together we can be the meeting point of Heaven and Earth that the text points to as the Possibility of the Path and the end to unnecessary suffering.
I taught my first workshop at Yoga Oasis in 2003. As I was collecting my belongings and preparing to drive to Tucson, the phone rang. Bronwin Rhodes was on the line. She said, “I just wanted you to know that we have had a tragedy here. One of our beloved Yoga Oasis teachers was found murdered in his home.”
I asked Bronwin if they still wanted me to come, given the circumstances.
She stated unequivocally, “We need you to come.”
I had been teaching yoga about five years. This workshop was my first experience as a guest instructor. I was a bit freaked out, to say the least. As I made my way to Tucson, I prayed that I could be of service to the community. I called my father for advice and he reminded me of Paul’s letter to Romans in Chapter 8:38-39 which reads:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (New International Version)
I remember contemplating how closely that scripture aligned with the chant we sang in the beginning of yoga class which affirms the nature of Ultimate Consciousness as “ever-present, full of peace… shining independently, as it is, as the essence of Spirit.”
My guess is that most spiritual traditions some means of reminding folks that something essential and whole lives beneath and beyond the surface of life and it’s often-times painful circumstances.
At any rate, I managed to overcome my self-doubt enough to teach asana, speak to the tragedy, and in some imperfect way, minister to a community who was grieving, angry, and hurting. And, the Yoga Oasis community gave me the gift of allowing me to help them. Deep in the bones of the Yoga Oasis organization is a rare kind of vulnerability and strength that runs in two directions simultaneously. As a community they offer a place of support to others while providing people with the opportunity to discover the gift of Spirit that only comes when one is in service to something larger than themselves. Not that Yoga Oasis is a perfect place or that they always get it “right” the first time, but, as the name implies, Yoga Oasis is a place of healing and nourishment in a culture that can feel as dry as a desert when it comes to hope and inspiration.
Fifteen years later, I am reflecting on my first visit to Yoga Oasis, after another strong teaching experience there this weekend. I headed into the visit— like everyone else in this country— on the heels of the Kavanaugh hearings, a violent shooting of two black men in Kroger, a plan to erase transgendered people, a fear-mongering commentary on an immigrant caravan, and pipe bombs being mailed to outspoken Democratic leaders. And, as you know, the news of hatred and intolerance continued into the weekend with a mass shooting in a synagogue.
There is no easy answer for modern day yoga teachers about how much one should acknowledge current events in the classroom. Personally, I do not know what other teachers should or could do. I do know for me that teachings like “The Light of God is ever present and full of peace” or “Nothing can separate us from the Love of God” can seem a bit tone death in our current cultural landscape. And yet, interestingly enough, those are the very teachings I lean on heavily in times where darkness rises up in the cracks and crevices of unexamined, conditioned biases and fears, both personally and collectively.
Far from a reassuring or trite sound bite, I hear these teachings as a call to radical faith and enlightened action. It seems to me that if my operating assumption as a person of faith is that the Light of God shines brightly no matter what happening, that Love endures in the face of all tragedy, and that Spirit is indivisible and untouched by circumstances, then the only logical pathway forward in the current times is to allow my heart to break over and again as I feel the disparity between what I believe to be true at the deepest levels of reality and what is actually happening in the midst of my waking life.
For me, any wholeness I experience from practice, any sense of relief that I find, and any expansion I encounter is not a “time out” from the horrific news cycle but is a touchstone of courage to do the work necessary to face hatred and deceit directly. Sometimes the work happens in psychotherapy as I examine the darker pockets of my own psyche. Sometimes the work happens in difficult conversations with loved ones. Sometimes the work is in writing articles like this one which I write a) for my own clarity and understanding, b) with the hope someone else might find them useful, and c) so there is no doubt in anyone's mind about which side of this fight I am on and where I stand. The lines between personal and political seem to be coming closer together.
At any rate, I am not interested in abstract theories, dogmatic rules, or prescribed protocols for what it means to be a good Christian, a good yogi, a good teacher, or even a good person. I am interested in the direct experience of my own wholeness and its source, which to me is the indivisible, inseparable, and abiding force of Love. I am comfortable calling that force God although I know it by many names. More importantly than what I call it, however, is that I find refuge and strength in its remembrance. And as I see it today, high teachings of Love are only as good as they are brought into being through practice. And, once integrated, these teachings no longer belong to a tradition or a religion, but exist as my own knowledge and wisdom.
In some ways, it seems to me that the message I have been exploring for fifteen years worth of visits to Yoga Oasis is the same as it ever was and the support of that community is, to me, an example of the abiding power of Love of which I am speaking.
So, we did lots of asana. I preached a bit. I made a new friend. I connected with amazing students I have known for years and met new ones. I saw A Star is Born in a fancy movie theater with reclining seats and beer.
All in all, a good day at the office.
Oh, and VOTE. Please.
I spent a few days last week filming some online content for Yoga International. On the final day, we were shooting B-roll for promotions and marketing— photos in my yard, me playing with my dog, stirring a pot of soup in my kitchen, and answering questions about my relationship to yoga. One of the questions I get asked the most in interviews such as these is how I stay inspired to practice.
My answer to the question of inspiration has a few different layers.
The first layer is that I do not stay inspired all the time. Like anyone else, I fall in and out of love with my practice. I do not always appreciate what is required to sustain my sadhana. I go through periods of inspiration and periods of boredom and disinterest. Asana practice, meditation, mantra, writing, etc. are like any other relationship in my life. Some days I devote great attention to them and other days my relationship might best be described as avoidant.
That being said, the next layer is that inspiration is not required for sustaining a practice over the course of one’s life, participation is. I brush my teeth twice every day and I am rarely inspired to do it. I just do it. I even brush my teeth on days I feel so tired all I want to do is get in bed as soon as possible. So, another layer to my answer is that inspiration, when it comes to a lifelong practice, may be overrated.
I think it is unrealistic to expect to feel constantly inspired. Take marriage, for instance. I am not inspired every day to be married. And during the tough periods, I am not always inspired for the work it takes for me and Kelly to find the common ground required to go forward together. But more days than not, my marriage is simply part of the warp and weft of my life and I participate in it without thinking too much about it. In a lot of ways, asana, meditation and teaching are like that— part of the loom upon which the rest of life is woven.
The next layer to my answer regarding inspiration is that I am a student of myself. I don’t have to study myself long to observe the knots of psychological contraction that take the forms of defensiveness, fragility, insecurity, anger, fear, jealousy and suspicion to find some inspiration to stay the course on the path of practice. Honestly recognizing how much work I have to do usually provides a useful dose of inspiration to keep me going.
Lest the news seem bleak, the flip side to how much work I have to do is that I can also see how far I have come over the years. I am not the same person who set foot on the journey thirty years ago. For all the contraction that still requires my attention, I have changed and expanded in surprising and beautiful ways. I know what self-compassion is and how to offer it to myself, I have discovered softness, kindness, forbearance, patience, and I have the capacity to experience my life more fully and directly than I ever dreamed was possible. The perspectives, practices and protocols I have used over the years have worked and I find inspiration in the many ways I have grown, overcome, and moved through my various challenges.
And, of course, one look beyond my immediate life and I am confronted with reminders of how many ways power is abused and how much we all suffer due to avidya, or ignorance. From the political arena to the corporate world, from universities to churches and ashrams, oppressive structures of power permeate even the most seemingly-benign and well-intentioned institutions. I personally feel a bit weary from trying to keep up with the latest examples of oppression, coercion, and manipulative tactics used to maintain a status quo that is inherently unjust and yet, I find the situation in which we find ourselves as a culture a source of inspiration for practice.
At the heart of yoga practice for me, is not a better body, a more rewarding career, a head full of esoteric explanations or anything else that typically shows up on the brochures and web pages we use to peddle our craft as yoga teachers. At the heart of the yoga experiment to me is wholeness and the tools and techniques to dig beneath and beyond the many fractured aspects of my psychology, perceptions, and conditioned perspectives to more fully know where wholeness is sourced. Sometimes the work feels graceful and at other times, gritty. That’s the way of it. But, I do think that, as yoga practitioners, we are equipped to look beneath the surface of life and find inroads that are real, viable, sustaining and sustainable.
On the surface of life, I urge you to vote. If I had my preference, I would have you vote Blue, but I am not so simple as to think that everyone who shares a practice of yogic inquiry comes to the same political conclusions. So, please vote, donate money to good causes, protest, write letters, make phone calls, and participate in the political process in any way you can.
And while I do not think that a well-aligned trikonasana or a handstand in the middle of the room stands a chance against the forces of misogyny, racism, climate change, and corrupt politics, I do think yogic practice can work to dismantle the ways those forces have taken root inside of us individually. And, call me idealistic, I also believe that our individual work can ripple into our yoga communities and provide us with a conscious microcosm in which to practice ideals of justice, unity, diversity, and harmony. Of course, we can bring our fragility, fear, suspicion and defensiveness into those same spaces and create further damage to ourselves, to one another, and particularly to people in marginalized groups. There are no guarantees and yet, I find the possibility of who we can become through conscious community infinitely inspiring.
And, we can move and breathe, which will not change who is in the White House, but will most certainly change the way we inhabit the house we call our own body and the “small nation that is our own being.” (BKS Iyengar)
Keep the faith.
"Never ever give up."
Trigger Alert— This post mentions of systemic sexual and religious abuse. Proceed accordingly.
I am upset about the the President, the Supreme Court and the too-numerous-to-name- shenanigans on Capitol Hill. I am upset about systemic oppression, institutionalized racism, and the personal and cultural fragility that keeps un-recognized prejudice and bias operative in the overt and covert ways. I worry about the environment, medical care, the cost of education, affordable housing, and the capitalist takeover of common sense and decency. However, of all the news in the media these days, the continued reports of sexual abuse within the Catholic church hit closest to home.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My husband is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse from priests in the Catholic church. While the details of his story are not mine to tell, suffice it to say that the news reports about what can only be described as “epidemic levels of abuse” land in a very personal way in our home. I have nothing polite, inspiring, or nice to say about generations of clergy abusing children, while community elders hid the abuse in an effort to preserve a dangerous and damaging status quo.
I am a person of faith and I am not anti-church. While a lot of my religious upbringing wasn’t particularly helpful to me, I consider very little of my religious education harmful, unlike my husband’s experience. And, having found authentic avenues of spiritual expression as an adult, my participation in church now is enriching and nourishing. Mr. Iyengar once said that yoga is not a religion but is the “science of religion.” I relate to his assertion because my yoga studies and practices have helped me make use of many structures of religion without being bogged down by dogma or doctrine.
I was in a Bible Study recently when, in an effort to include me, the leader brought up the topic of yoga. A big discussion followed about whether or not someone can be a Christian and a yogi. As I listened patiently, one woman who is a student at the local yoga studio, said, “Well, for me, when they say OM, I just go to a Christian place.”
I thought to myself, “How interesting… I don’t have a “yoga place” and a “Christian place.” I simply have The Place that opens in prayer, worship, service, communion, and leads through the many expressions of devotion where I have come to live. The Place is expansive, loving, hopeful, deep, and strengthening.
Distinctions such as “Christian” or “yogic” are not meaningful to me. I know that such distinctions are very meaningful to many people and I respect the importance of said distinctions for people who feel these differences matter. For me, modes of worship vary and moods of practice differ, but where I am delivered into through worship and practice is decidedly non-denominational. I used to say that I was a great Christian except for the tenet that Christianity is the only way, which unfortunately, always seemed such a primary principle that belonging felt difficult, even though I have always loved Jesus’ teachings. At any rate, somewhere along the way, I stopped worrying about being a good or bad Christian, a good or bad devotee of my guru, a good or bad yogi, or even a good or bad person. I started focusing on those activities, people, teachings, and environments that are Real to me and that promote my growth in wholeness and Love.
My husband and I have a lot of discussions about the church, religion, and faith because when spiritual authority figures perpetrate abuse, the result not only a loss of innocence, agency, and trust, but oftentimes a loss of the very thing that could be an avenue to heal the wounds of such primal betrayals— faith. Walking the path of recovery looks different for each person. Full of hills and valleys, stormy seasons and sunny days, recovery is a process that takes its own bittersweet time to unfold. And, time takes time.
At any rate, I am encouraged that generations of darkness are coming to light, even as I am heart-broken by the magnitude of suffering. I predict that state after state, diocese after diocese, will be faced with the revelations of the abused, all urging recognition and reconciliation. I know my husband lives into the task of healing with sincerity, tenacity, and commitment, as do the many survivors living in the wake of abuse, injustice, and deception. My deepest hope and prayer is that the leaders of the Catholic church can summon the necessary courage for their own healing and recovery. (Read More)
In the meantime, if you are a woman in the Catholic church, I urge you to sign this petition and to copy it far and wide to your circles of influence. One of the authors told me that the writers do no not expect an answer from the Pope, but they do hope the media will notice the petition and the media attention will exert some pressure on the power structure of the church. If you are not a Catholic woman, but would like to support the process of recovery already underway, please share the petition widely since you may know some people who are eligible to sign.
And, regardless of your personal faith and the varied avenues that take you to a place of wholeness and Love within you, I wish courage, strength, and healing for all of us.. We live in difficult times, when forces seem to be stacked in favor of despair, cynicism, and nihilism. In the face of such odds, it is easy to overlook small acts of courage and affirmation and to discount our individual contributions. Whatever positive action you can take, I urge you to stay in the game and to invest in whatever expression of Love, hope, and faith that you can muster today.
And, if you are fortunate enough to wake up tomorrow, do it again.
And never ever give up.
As the end of August approaches, I can feel a small hint of autumn in our mountain air, reminding me that soon the aspen leaves will be turning, the days and nights will be cold and the summer’s end will give rise to fall’s beginning. Like so many things in nature, there are no clear lines of demarcation, no obvious point where one thing becomes another, but instead there are small harnbingers of change, small hints of inevitable shifts to come and the endless, ongoing continuity of life itself is woven into a tapestry that is more cyclical than linear.
I think yoga practice is a lot like that as well. So many people tell me that “yoga changed their life” and I know exactly what they mean. I enjoy hearing these stories of transformation and change that get people onto the path of yoga and become a reference point for a new direction of growth and deeper self- understanding. Participating in a life of practice creates new possibilities and expanded perspectives that can be profoundly life-changing and “How yoga changed my life” stories are often filled with hope and inspiration.
And, it seems to me that slowly, over time, in the same way that summer’s heat and expansion yields to the coming of autumn and to the eventual contraction of winter, so too, do the seasons of yoga shift and change in their own ways within us. At some point, yoga becomes less of a stake-in-the-sand-moment-of-change and more of a thread of support and sanity that is woven into the fabric of our being. And like the cycles of nature, the cycles of practice have seasons of heat and passion, seasons of nourishing spring rains, and seasons where the ground of enthusiasm may feel as frozen and hard as the earth after a long winter.
No one ever told me these things. I think I expected to be able to maintain some kind of consistent zeal throughout the life of my practice and yet, the truth is that my journey has not been a straight line or a steady experience of “getting better and better every day.” And the longer I stay the course, the more my interests expand beyond the boundaries of my mat, beyond the dramas and concerns of our industry and well beyond a lot of commentary on the ever-changing landscape of modern yoga.
I have a lot less interest in all the wrongs with yoga and all the ways its running amuck and lot more appreciation for the power of my personal practice and the sanity it provides me in the midst of the seasons of change within me. I like my students more than ever and enjoy the ways that teaching yoga affords me an opportunity to bear witness to the seasons of change in their lives. I feel fortunate that teaching yoga gives me a way to stay in relationship to the power and the strength that a sustained relationship to yoga principles and practice provides.
At some point along the way I realized that I am never going to be the strongest, bendiest, smartest or most enlightened yoga practitioner or teacher out there. Other people are better at anatomy, therapeutics, philosophy distinctions, meditation, mantra and so on. Plenty of people have a more disciplined lifestyle and more easily digestible personalities than I do. (And based on my Facebook feed, a lot of people care MUCH MORE about all that stuff than I do these days. But I digress.) In same way that fall’s cool breeze blows through the sunny days of summer, I got a sense that the best offering I could make as a teacher would come from charting my inner landscape with compassion and love. Almost imperceptibly, and yet definitely, I began to know that I was never going to know everything about the subject of yoga, but I could know a lot about who I am and that knowledge, if integrated with patience, and tenderness, could be a foundation of sanity from which to teach and contribute to my student’s lives.
On the surface, it all looks the same, I suppose— I maintain my practice, I write good sequences, I teach solid classes, I do my best to answer my student’s questions thoughtfully, I apologize when my pitta flares, I study, I write, I meditate, and so on. But the best part is that some kind of tension lessened when the season changed from thinking that I was going to “get somewhere” with all of this to recognizing that so much was already present in the mix as it was. Somewhere along the way I started to realize that I have a thing I do as a teacher— and it is not as smart or as specific or as creative or as sexy or as fill-in-the-blank as other people’s offerings, and yet, it is mine. That thing I do comes the time spent inside the poses, the practices, the teachings. My offering comes as much from the ways I feel I do well as it does from my struggles, my mistakes, and my shortcomings. At the heart of it all, there is me and my repeated return to myself through the seasons of practice— hot, cold, sunny, cloudy, stormy or mild. Today, for me, there is no life-changing yoga but there is simply yoga in the midst of life changing.
On a personal note, I had a good summer— We planted a garden, I hiked in the mountains, I took a class with Locket, I got new glasses, and I spent time with my friends and family. My intensives at Mt. Princeton were deep and rich, reminding me of the power of community and how far sincerity can take people in yoga. I co-led a hiking and yoga retreat in the Dolomite mountains of Italy which was spectacular. I visited some of my favorite studios to teach and I got a chance to go to a workshop with one of my long-time Iyengar yoga teachers, Manouso Manos.
I have also been working on the edits for my new book, which is scheduled for publication in June, 2019. This book has taken me a long time to write and to revise and I am fairly pleased with how it has evolved. More on that soon.
And, if you are still reading, I am starting a new session of my online teacher development course in October. Space is limited to 25, because I want to get to know you so, sign up or find out more here!
Until next time, then.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."