I am on my way home from Omaha, Nebraska where I spent the weekend teaching a Weekend Immersion at The Lotus House of Yoga. I taught three asana classes and 8 hours of Teacher Training on Sequencing Strategies. We had an amazing turnout, with a mixed level group of all ages and levels of experience.
Carole Westerman, one of the owners of Lotus House, is a certified Prana Flow teacher and has over 500 hours of training with Shiva Rea and is a seasoned teacher and teacher trainer. She has studied in a variety of methods and approaches to yoga and in addition she is a mother of three awesome girls and has been married to the same person for 20 years! (what a modern-day hero, right?!) She invited me to come to Lotus House to teach shortly after I resigned from Anusara yoga and so we've been planning this weekend for many moons.
One thing that was notable in the students was how well-trained they were. Lotus House has a very vinyasa-oriented approach to asana as well as an interest in alignment so it was really great to teach to people who are strong from their vinyasa-based practice and who were also trained to listen well, execute subtleties in flow and who were eager to learn, refine and explore new approaches. To me, when alignment and flow come together you get a very tasty treat- kinda like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, which some of you know is one of my favorite candies! As a teacher it seems clear to me that the learning process of alignment requires certain times of slowing down, starts and stops and demonstrations, but once those tools and insights are integrated, alignment meets flow quite wonderfully, in my opinion.
Another observation I have had over the years in well-trained vinyasa practitioners is that they become very good at listening to instructions and implementing them without always having to understand them first. A well-seasoned vinyasa practitioner will generally try out a cue without always knowing the why's and what's of the cue in the moment. Because they haven't always had demos and long explanations in class, they do not rely on them to learn in the moment. Of course, there are some cues, and nuances that absolutely can not be "learned on the go" and there are some cues we should question and there are some less- skilled vinyasa practitioners who do not listen at all and, as always, there is an endless variety of permutations on what goes well and what doesn't work and why. At any rate, a lot was going very well at Lotus House from what I observed.
Another cool quality I observed in these students was a real openness to the eclectic asana approach without a loss of focus or quality. Like I have written about before I know plenty of purists in yoga systems and I am totally cool with that. When I am in their classes, I do my best to just get on their ride and take the class that is being offered. And I know a lot of people who mix approaches, and in fact, I turned out to be one of those teachers while I wasn't watching. I also know a lot of people who say they are open to different ways but when you get down to it, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that just really isn't true. There is a lot of "right and wrong" and/or "this is real yoga that is not real yoga" bias in their comments and viewpoints. The students this weekend seemed to have a strong foundation and to be truly interested in seeing new vistas and exploring new ways. So fun. To me yoga is more about an approach to learning and an approach to self-inquiry than it is about the content or information itself or even the specifics of techniques.
And its funny for me to say that because I am a big technician and I love techniques. But the techniques, in my opinion, serve self-inquiry, self-examination and the development of self-awareness. So often I watch people debate the outer techniques and forms endlessly and even violently. To me, they are tools for another discussion altogether. Certainly, I think some techniques serve better than others and have greater degrees of efficacy depending on what you want to get out of them, but they are not the end or the definition of yoga for me. The techniques point us somewhere and that somewhere is the point AND that somewhere is a much more interesting discussion than "who is right", "who does real yoga", and so on that is so rampant in certain circles in the yoga world these days. (In my opinion, of course!)
I spent Saturday and Sunday afternoon in teacher training teaching Sequencing Strategies. I have taught this course several times this last year and a half and I really enjoy it. I go over types of students and the context of sequencing, how to use a general template as a guide for sequencing, we examine a basic Level One full-spectrum practice and the explore how to make Level 1 poses into peak poses and how to use level one poses to help peak to other poses. So there is potpourri sequencing guidelines as well as peak pose strategies. I think it is a great course.
Also, what was fun to observe was that my own ideas about sequencing have been shifting and changing and so I am going to re-work the course materials a bit. I also have some good ideas for some visual aids and learning tools for future courses I am excited about.
One shift that is happening for me is I am moving away from as much peak-pose strategy in my practice and teaching and moving more toward intelligent, full-spectrum types of classes for several reasons. Of course, it is never all-or-nothing and I still see great value in working up to a peak pose and will not abandon the approach entirely, I have just been reflecting on how valuable the balanced practice is and the sometimes slower outer achievements that come with full-spectrum sequences but the deeper, more integrated progress that comes with not going too far in one direction at any given practice.
I think perhaps my work with Asana Junkies sequences have influenced my thinking here as well as my foray into Brikam Yoga. Also, it seems to me that more and more classes are mixed-level classes and to go super-deep in any one direction is not always great for the general practitioner. Like so many things in yoga, IT ALL DEPENDS and there are pros and cons to whatever strategy you use, but I have noticed that fewer students these days are able to handle the long forays into forward bends and the long forays in the back bends that I was brought up on. And of course, a peak pose sequence can still be quite balanced, when it is done well. At any rate, I do think the main point in sequencing is that while there are pros and cons to whatever approach we use, having a clear approach is helpful since it gives an organizational strategy to our efforts in planning.
All right, I could go on about the weekend but that's a general overview. It was a lovely time for me and I really enjoyed being there. More soon.
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