I got home from Los Altos, California on Sunday night and had such a busy week I didn't make the time to sit down a write about the trip or the lovely time I had there. And here I am now in Southern California for the weekend finally having a few moments to reflect and report on things.
Mostly I spent my week at home with webinars- Monday (Yoga From the Inside Out), Tuesday (Teacher Training and Mentoring) and Wednesday (Asana Junkies) and doing my best to catch up on emails and correspondences. I also had some business meetings for future plans I am making for online programs and courses. All in all, I am very excited about my work these days and the places its taking me- both internally and externally.
One of the biggest shifts for me that I recognize in my work is how much happier I am these days and how much I enjoy teaching. Making the shift away from teaching a "method" has enabled me to get more focused on "teaching people the postures" and that distinction makes a huge difference in terms of freeing me up. Teaching yoga asana is such an interesting endeavor because we have these poses that are not really the point of the yoga at all, except that by having the postures as a doorway we walk through together, we have a shared focus through which all kinds of interesting considerations of the heart and spirit arise.
So to me, saying "it is not about the poses" falls short of accurately describing the situation. However, saying "it's all about the poses" certainly doesn't get after it either. The closest I get to the process of what's happening in asana studies and practice is with the statement "it is not only about the poses."
My experience is that by creating the boundary of shape, form and alignment we engage the postural practice in a very profound way. The study of form is not only about assuming all these shapes nor is it about forcing ourselves into postures we can't or shouldn't do. Form-based practice is certainly not based on the assumption that one pose is better or more right than the other although certain expressions may be more bio-mechanically sound than others, etc. To me, form-based asana practice is about studying the asana and ourselves in relationship to the asanas. When we engage that process of examining ourselves in relationship to the forms, we get to make a series of very meaningful choices even though the shape itself is, let's just say it, perhaps a bit arbitrary. For instance, when we we study the form and we see that arms are "supposed" to do something that our particular arms can't do, we enter a process of self-study, self-observation and skillful choice-making that is anything but arbitrary.
This list of questions goes on and on and takes us into very interesting terrain interiorly and even communally. And my observation/opinion is that by taking the somewhat "arbitrary" shape and working towards it as though it actually matters, we are delivered to a line of questioning that actually does matter because the resultant line of questioning takes us into themes of self-respect, self-honor, self-scrutiny, compassion, insight, and the discernment of knowing when to work and when to yield as well as the knowledge of how to work in our own best interests. My opinion/premise as a teacher is that we get to this world of work best in the boundaried discipline of asana differently than we do in the free-form, anything goes approach to asana. (Of course, let's be clear, everything has something to offer and this is not a critique of the other, it is simply an explanation of my starting point as a practitioner and teacher.)
So it's not only about the postures but without them I am not so sure the other stuff would arrive with the same force, focus and necessity. (Obviously, just my opinion.)
I had a great time in Los Altos at Andi Bruno's studio, Yoga of Los Altos. Andi and I knew of each other through Anusara Yoga but this was the first time we me in person and it was one of those circumstances of settling into a conversation that was honest, funny, and a bit irreverent within moments of meeting each other. Northern California is steeped in the Iyengar tradition and the influence of that approach is somewhat pervasive in the region so even teachers who are not certified Iyengar teachers have been influenced by the system and its teachings. This made for easy teaching in terms of alignment and also for an interesting contrast from last week. Last week I visited a predominately flow-based studio who also studies alignment and this week was a very alignment-oreinted group had embraced movement and flow over the years in addition to the detailed refined work of Iyengar yoga and Anusara yoga. (you can see from the picture on the left that the studio was well-equipped with props and so forth and that yes, Christina Sell actually teaches some restorative yoga!)
We had students from a variety of traditions, which is always fun and one actually described the weekend as "the intersection of Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Bikram Yoga" which I thought was both clever and insightful. I have to say that I think my style has become quite eclectic but it might actually be more like 3 scoops of ice cream more than it is like a blended milkshake. I do know when I am in which tradition even if I am using all 3 in the same class. Of course, put three scoops of ice cream in a bowl and there are some lovely, tasty places where the flavors meld. You can't esccape that so you might was well enjoy it, I suppose.
Another fun thing about the weekend was that so many of the participants that came are in my Asana Junkies Webinar and so it was so fun to see each other live and in-person, not just via the internet. I started that program with a vision of supporting students and teachers in deepening their practice through structured sequences, online support, local community practices and connection to a global community and network. I have been amazed by the response and the outcomes so far. People are telling me how much stronger they are, how their communities are getting unified through shared practice and how their teaching is improving as well.
It is always a bit humorous (and perhaps a little disheartening) to me when people say, "Oh, I can't do your junkies program because it sounds too tough" but there is no requirement for hard postures to join and you can always do the parts of the sequence that you can do and skip the parts you can't. The webinar is a prime example of the "it's not only about the poses" perspective because, like the name implies, it is for people who LOVE asana and want to grow their asana practice but once you decide to do that, guess what? The other aspects of who you are come along and demand attention as well. Many "junkies" report resting more as result of the webinar, being more comfortable with respecting their limits as a result of what we talk about and more accepting of themselves and their students. Anyway, don't let the name scare you!
Speaking of Asana Junkies, I am leading two group practices while I am here in Southern California. My plans Changed from my original trip to do some filming but since my sister and I already planned to meet up in Southern California this weekend, we just kept our reservations. I will lead a group practice in Monrovia, California today from 1:30-4:30 at Yoga Cove. And on Sunday from 12-3 I will teach a practice at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. When some of the local students realized I wasn't going to be teaching as originally planned, they offered to organize these spontaneous group practices and since I was coming anyway and generally what I like to do when I go places is practice with people, this worked out great. Definitely, these grassroots efforts are the spirit of the junkies program. (If you are interested in learning more about the Asana Junkies Online Practice Club, check out the fall session course description on my website. I have so many great things planned for this session and also for the winter including some teacher training sessions based on the practices so to do the future teacher programs you need to do the course, etc. And honestly, the webinar is one of the best places to really learn about asana, sequencing and the nitty gritty details about the poses. It is a lot like "yoga school.")
Anne and I will be here until Tuesday. This weekend in Pasadena where she has a philosophy conference and then Santa Monica where we will spend some time on the beach and taking some yoga. We were talking on our trip out that almost every August we take some kind of sisterly-bonding yoga trip together. We live down the street from one another in the same town but it seems like in order to actually get together, we need to leave town! Ah, the joys of a busy modern-day life.
This August is a lot about family connections for me since the last two weeks me and Kelly will go to the Galapagos Islands with my parents on a vacation. So sisterly bonding this week and later this month parental bonding. Good times.
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