Kelly and I left Austin early Thursday morning and drove to Buena Vista. We work up Friday morning thrilled to find a dusting of snow covering the mountains and bringing that wonderland type of feeling to the town. So beautiful.
As soon as the sun really came out we got on our mountain bikes and rode for a few hours which was super fun. Cold, but super fun. We got home in time to get a little to eat before heading over to Jala Blu for an Asana Junkies-style group practice. The time together was loosely based on the forward bend sequence of this last week but we didn't get through too much of it, since I stopped to give teaching points and to answer questions. But that is the whole thing about working together as a group in practice- there is a sequence, and then there is where the group is at and the immediate needs to be served. It is such a fun dynamic to play with as a guest teacher.
Ideally, I see the Asana Junkies sequences or Group Practices being incorporated into studios and communities where students have regular access to alignment-based yoga instruction so that the practice format is supported by educational classes and classes would be covering a lot of the poses on the junkies sequences in more depth. However, what is cool is that because of the conversations online we are having, students without those kinds of classes are able to get a lot of education and teachers are getting good training even if they are not "up close and personal". Obviously, there are limits to any format but all in all, its a great resource for so many reasons.
Personally, I am really enjoying having a chance to teach in Buena Vista regularly on my visits here and to contribute to the regional community in that way. Jenna, the owner and founder of Jala Blu, has been such an awesome student in my programs for so many years that it is great fun for me to be able to make some regular appearances at her place and to meet so many of her friends and students. It really means a lot to me.
After a hike on Saturday morning, Kelly and I drove to Boulder for Livia and Elliot's wedding, which was pretty awesome. I think they struck an amazing balance of traditional and modern, of fancy and relaxed and they were able to blend so many aspects of their cultural heritage with their authentic interests and beliefs. It was a great event to be part of and gave me lots of food for thought.
As the wedding "official" I had a chance to give a bit of a sermon. I spent a lot of time talking to Livia's family during the rehearsal dinner to find out about how weddings are placed in the Jewish faith and to see if I could glean some insight into the meaning behind some of the rituals that were included in the ceremony so that I could speak to them somewhat intelligently. I was moved so deeply to hear from so many of them about their faith and their ideals of family, love, tradition and redemption. I still have lots to chew on from the weekend but I did my best to give a "sermon" that spoke to who I know Elliot and Livia to be in our lives together as yogis that also honored their amazing heritage and culture that is so central to who they have become. All in all, I think it went well and the bride and groom were so very inspiring.
So we drove back to Buena Vista on Monday morning in time to spend the afternoon on our mountain bikes enjoying the fall air and doing some work on the computer. After so many years of "yoga only" or "yoga almost only" I am like a little kid with my new bike. I just love it.
One thing that has evolved for me over the last few years is a growing gratitude for all that yoga has given me and a deeper sense of enjoyment in my teaching work and in my students and in the subject. But sitting right along that appreciation is the recognition that I spent A LOT of time between the ages of 27 and 44 in yoga studios and ashrams studying the subject of yoga and not nearly enough time in nature hiking mountains, riding a bike and swimming in lakes. Somehow in all the study of how to live a life according to "yoga", I stopped doing a lot of the things I once loved and enjoyed.
So, this is certainly not some big sob story and I am very resolved about the choices I have made over the years and very happy with where my choices have taken me, but I am also very happy to be reclaiming, not just certain activities, but the part of me for whom those activities are so important and meaningful.
It started to dawn on me that I didn't want to turn 54 and look back over the last 10 years and have built some kind of yoga empire and yet not actually climbed a mountain or ridden a bike and that while my back bends were good, my personal life wasn't. (Okay, that is dramatic-sounding and I do not mean it that way, exactly. We all know we all love teaching and it is rewarding and the practice is amazing and it all helps us find the inner wilderness without ever leaving home and all that. I mean seriously, yoga asana and its accompanying practices are that good. And yet....well, hmm.... if I don't ride a bike so I have good back bends and I really love riding a bike, one must ask a few more questions of themselves, right?)
I suppose it's just good mid-life crisis (or as my therapist says Mid-Life Passage) kind-of-work to be doing.
A few years ago I had several conversations with three different 60+-year old yogi's who I respect a lot and have been in a life of practice and "in the business" since before yoga really was a business. Each one of them said almost the exact same words to me: "Do not make yoga your life. Have a life and do yoga." Because each of these three people are yoga heroes to me I have chewed on this instruction a lot. Oh sure, I would take a break and do what I was doing for a few weeks or months and then I would return to this clue and chew some more. I would be sure I "had it" and then realize, well, no, maybe I don't. And so on. For the last 3-4 years.
Not that I am done chewing because when you enter a stream of teaching that says Life is the Teacher, Life is the Doorway to All That Is and so on, it gets a little fuzzy about what is life and what is yoga. This is where the chewing comes in. I believe we have to sit with questions and live with a certain measure of uncertainty in the process of finding our own answers. And even among of community of people who do largely the same practices, we may find radically different answers to very similar questions. So, while it's not exactly clear to me where yoga ends and where "life" begins I am living my way into my own expression of their advice these days and very much enjoying the process.
The thing is, you can't ever get too far away from yoga if you are me. I mean, I am out riding my bike thinking about how riding a bike relates to yoga and how mountain biking and road biking are both great but one is like flow and one is like alignment-based yoga and so on. So its not exactly "other" than yoga and yet, there is a quality that is a bit different.
I am in a fun process and one that is very meaningful to me for a lot of reasons. I think there are great points of distinction like yoga and life, yoga and asana, yoga as a life and teaching yoga, teaching yoga as a path of practice, personal life and public life, and so on. And the thing is that the way my yoga mentors lived their answer might be a little different than the way I live my answer and that is totally cool.
Seems somewhere along the way in all of this I began to value personal, individual experience and expression within yoga in a deeper, more profound way. As much as I have benefited from conforming to systems, the irony is that that work took me deep into differentiation.
Obviously, more could be said, but those are my views after a day of hiking in high elevation. (Or picking in high cotton, as my friend Gretchen-ji might say.)
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