In the summer of 2014, on a warm evening in the Rocky Mountains of southern Colorado, I found myself engrossed in conversation with Christina Sell. We were in her car in the parking lot of the motel where I was staying during a yoga retreat offered by a well-known Iyengar teacher. Christina too was staying “off campus” and had offered to take me to and from the ranch where the retreat was being held. And so, we rode back and forth together over the course of the six-day intensive.
Sitting in Christina’s car each evening after class, we talked and laughed and talked some more. Connecting tentatively at first, we quickly progressed into deep conversation. Be prepared for the same experience as you open A Deeper Yoga and read. Her words are honest. They are real. They pierce the pristine veneer of how things are often presented in the yoga world. Christina gets right to the heart of the matter. In these pages, she invites you to do the same. A Deeper Yoga is like Christina herself: brave, honest and willing to engage in the occasionally messy process of reflection and introspection. If you allow yourself to be guided by her excellent prompts—for journal writing and personal contemplation—you will find yourself in very unexpected, revealing and enlightened places.
I greatly appreciated our drives together and our parking lot conversations during that Rocky Mountain retreat. We both felt a bit like outsiders at that program. Christina had studied Iyengar yoga for many years but was not a certified teacher in that line, as she was trained in a related yoga tradition. I was a senior-level Iyengar teacher, but one who held an unorthodox approach. We both questioned pretty much everything. And that is what we did, in the car, together. We felt safe in doing so. In your encounter with this book you might feel safe in the same way. Here is a place where you can let your guard down in the company of another. . . a trusted traveler.
On our drives along Highway 160 outside of Durango during that yoga intensive, the conversations traversed a wide variety of topics, yet we talked less about asanas and the various shapes of the poses and more about the bigger picture of how the practice functioned in our lives and relationships. We touched on the many ways in which yoga practitioners give up their personal power and their ability to think critically. We discussed the tendency of many yoga teachers and communities to embrace a kind of group-think, especially the yoga communities that the both of us were brought up in. We acknowledged our own part in all of this, and the complex nature of belonging. We also laid out our struggles with body image, with language, and with our ability or inability to accurately communicate with others about things that are meaningful for us.
The topic of yoga and body image, and concepts of what is or isn’t considered beautiful, are covered in depth in this book. Christina shares her personal story of disordered eating, and the pain that it caused her, in a riveting and compelling way. And she manages to bring her excellent sense of humor to all of it.
Christina can be very funny. In fact, I remember us laughing hard together as we recalled one of the retreat teacher’s comments about body type. To us, those comments reflected a bias toward a certain type, and we laughed because our similar bodies did not conform to what our teacher apparently preferred. Our mutual laughter was helpful and liberating for me. That teacher’s comments could then be considered without heavy emotional reactivity and so provided an opportunity for us to reflect on how our words, as teachers, might not support our chosen values in the way that we think they do.
For me, A Deeper Yoga feels very much like an ongoing conversation, like the ones I loved having on Highway 160 in which Christina and I questioned everything. We were both giving voice to our questions, feelings and perspectives in a tradition that does not (traditionally anyway) tend to value alternative perspectives. Christina has created space for you, the reader, to join in on the conversation and to speak honestly with yourself from a place of strength and vulnerability. She does this throughout her book in a real way—not presenting a pure and pretty depiction of what some people might feel a female yoga teacher should look or sound like. Christina is who she is, as she is, and she writes bravely and truthfully from her heart as well as her gut. These pages are an invitation for you to engage. There space is for you to fill here, and as truthfully as you can.
Christina shares her personal trials and tribulations while keeping a steady eye on the bigger picture. We can do the same. We all experience struggle and connect to each other by sharing these struggles, these stories. As you work with this book you might find yourself surprised—and in a good way—hitting something profound or laughing when you least expect it. Your practice (whether writing or yoga) need not look or sound like anything Christina or anyone else has done: You will be inspired to follow her example, not imitate it. It will be your inquiry. It will be your yoga of integration.
Advanced Praise for A Deeper Yoga
Christina Sell lights the way for yoga teachers and students alike to pay attention to why we do what we do, asking us to consider: Do we want to be perfect, or do we want to be whole? A Deeper Yoga offers a quiet contemplation on how we learn to nurture our spirit and create our own mantra of loving kindness for self. With writing prompts and practice suggestions, she invites us to explore the inner deep of our soul. Christina shows us how to use yoga to embrace the self in a blanket of compassion, love and self-respect. This book offers a beautifully written, thoughtful and candid look at how she found peace at last. — Michelle Marchildon, the Yogi Muse, author of Fearless After Fifty and Finding More on the Mat
The book is exactly what it promises in its title. It is a deeper yoga to ask such profound questions as, “How might your life shift if you were not consumed with body obsession, food addiction or imposed constructs of improvement?” That question alone is a powerful entry point toward yoga’s highest expression, which is freedom through contentment or samādhi. And it reminded me of what I love best about the way Christina writes. Her book is full of similar questions, that can act like keys to unlock every locked door within you. Her path toward a deeper yoga is about making you aware of where you’re stuck and giving you the practical tools to get unstuck. — Dr. Katy Jane, Sanskrit & Vedic studies scholar, meditation instructor & Vedic astrologer; author of Awakening with Sanskrit and Sanskrit for Yogis
Christina Sell is the most effective Hatha Yoga teacher out there, in my experience. She brings that same efficacy to the page. Her written work is not about yoga—it is yoga. This book is an invitation to live the life of yoga, the only life worth living in my world. — Darren Rhodes, author: Yoga Resource
Christina fearlessly names the dangerous cultural narratives and projections of modern yoga and its insidious harm to the practitioner’s psyche and soul when the focus of practice is based solely on outer displays and standards. She invites us toward our own maturation as practitioners, teachers, and imperfect human creatures. We can move beyond the physical practice of yoga and use that same practice as a pathway into deeper intimacy with our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and inner dialogue. Christina’s memoir of wholeness through the direct experience of her body and mind illustrates with warmth and honesty what transforms when yoga and psychology work in partnership on one’s being. Her book is a must-have for contemporary yoga as we know it now. — Livia Cohen-Shapiro, M.A., Registered Psychotherapist
Reorienting us from our “perfect postures” to an experience of the innermost essence of practice, Christina invites us to “detach from media-driven imperatives” to welcome ourselves to the intimacy we’ve been seeking since we unrolled a yoga mat for the first time. Reading this evocative work has me returning to my own mat, with my own innate knowing as my finest guide. It will remain near my mat, pages marked and noted, for the rest of my life. — Elena Brower, author: Practice You and Art of Attention
Christina Sell, devoted student and respected leader in the field of Yoga, has a well-earned reputation for being a knowledgeable, powerful and life-changing teacher. In A Deeper Yoga she delivers a compelling and inspirational perspective of the transformational power of yoga and skillfully explains how yoga teachers and students can access this depth and then also facilitate others’ accessing it for themselves. — Desiree Rumbaugh, Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor and co-author of Fearless After Fifty: How to Thrive with Grace, Grit and Yoga
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