Last year, on somewhat of a whim, I offered a webinar called Asana Junkies. In a year or so of traveling the country during the time I refer to as The Anusara Yoga Aftermath I talked to many disillusioned yogis who felt disconnected from themselves, from their practice, from the teaching and from a larger community of practitioners. It seemed to me that all of the talking and writing people had been done to sort out the dynamics of the situation had certainly helped people to varying degrees and yet, there was still this feeling of disconnect. I thought that, while the initial wave of processing was healthy, beneficial and necessary, the next stages of healing for people and communities would come from a return to shared practice.
To me, a community of practitioners is just that- a community that practices together. We may or may not have shared religious ideals, philosophical ideology, political views, dietary preferences, and certainly we will not always have compatible personality profiles. Up to a point, I believe a group of practitioners need to have a common bond in order to make the group worthwhile but after a point, I believe very little of that is necessary. A community of practitioners is formed through shared practice over time. That is the basis of the bond, as I see it, and when shared practice becomes the focal point, so many other difficulties fall into their proper perspective.
I also wanted to create a forum for folks to have support, education, and inspiration to deepen their asana practices without a huge financial investment and without leaving home. As important as getting on planes and going away for education, retreat and study is, I believe over time it can disrupt family life, detach us from local community and unconsciously or consciously re-inforce a belief that yoga happens somewhere other than where we actually are. I could go on about that but, well, that is another post.
Anyway, like I said, the webinar was a bit of a whim. I also did not want to talk philosophy or promise heart themes or anything like that back then. I wanted it to be clear we'd be diving into asana as the emphasis of our work and so I called the program "Asana Junkies." I didn't think the name would be so offensive and problematic to so many. I certainly didn't mean it to be disrespectful to people whose lives have been painfully and horribly affected by the horrors of addiction. Having spent a lot of time in addictions recovery myself as a recovering bulimic and also as a drug and alcohol counselor, I am anything but cavalier about how serous addiction is. I simply meant to say, "Hey- if you love asana, come on over here because we are going to go down the road of asana together for a while." For years, I have called myself (and my more zealous friends and students) an asana junkies, a yogaholic, a yoga junkie, a yoga animal, etc. The name was intended as a bit of a joke, but I have gotten more than a little feedback that the joke didn't land so well for many!
Nor do I see Asana Junkies as my "new brand," as many people have spoken about- both directly to me and to others about me. If I had to put Asana Junkies into the language of business and marketing, I would see it as a product that I offer, not as Christina Sell's Brand. And sure, products have a brand and the company that makes a product has a brand and all that is fine. But it is not like my brand used to be Anusara Yoga Teacher and now it is Asana Junkies Leader of anything like that. I also have an online course called Alchemy of Flow and Form I teach with my friend Gioconda Parker and a an onsite 300-hour TT by the same name and Live the Light of Yoga Intensives and workshops I teach and so on. As I see it, Asana Junkies is a course that I teach and refers to a model of shared, supported practice. It is not a set sequence, a defined style or anything of the sort.
And the name, with its edge and possible offensive nature was not by intention but was really more of a whim. A year later I think about changing it but well, other than "it offends some people" I can't think of a good enough reason.
And the irony is that if someone is easily offended then it is not going to work so well for us to work together. Not over the long haul anyway. I do A LOT of work to manage my personality as a teacher and to be as nice and as compassionate and soft as I can be but I am still me- sarcastic, edgy, offensive at times, and with a sense of humor that either works for someone or not.. I am kind and I am insightful and I am expansive by nature and yet, I am not always "nice" and my opinions are not always easy to take. So, in terms of branding, the reality is I am who I am and so even not-branding is a brand and perhaps this was just the right name after all, as the name seems like a bit of a gargoyle at the gate. (Gargoyles standing at the gate of transformation is definitely another post for another day.)
So, like I said, here we are a year later and our courses are going well and I have to say that Asana Junkies is far from a course about hard-core yoga postures or even about hard-core people doing yoga. Asana Junkies is part-inspiration, part-education, part-community collaboration and part-personal practice and part-group practice. I have to say that it has been one of the most rewarding teaching experiences I have had in a long time. I have long-marvelled at the fact that, as yogis, we have one of the most sophisticated physical practices but we learn it in 90-minute increments, with no required reading, no attendance requirements, no tests, no homework, no prerequisites, no clear curriculum, no objective skills to measure and with very little intellectual information about the what, the why and the how of the practice. Really, we are so experiential in our methods-- we put people in a room 1-7 times a week for 30-120 minutes, guide them through postures with cues and a few demonstrations and then we expect them to listen, to learn, to apply the things we say and not hurt themselves, to feel better emotionally and to connect to their spiritual selves and so on. Seems a tall order for what is effectively a gym class in terms of how the subject matter is presented. Think about it, even 6-year old karate students get tested on their skills and no college professor would teach an upper level course to someone who had not completed a 101 course to learn the basic vocabulary needed to learn how to learn the subject.
Anyway, I could go down the road of whether or not our educational objectives are actually reasonable considering our educational format but that is another post for another day. Other than to say that what I love love love about Asana Junkies is that the educational format extends beyond the lab portion of class. We have lecture and discussion as well. With weekly calls and online forums and an website chock full of learning resources to support the process, we have a chance to go through some of the theory of practice, some of the relevant anatomy and to trouble-shoot the postures both conceptually and then experientially so that understanding can meet implementation. And I give more than a few pep talks about "do what you can" and also about how the asana fits into larger teachings so we get a good dose of inspiration for the heart and spirit also.
Also, I love that students get information online and then are charged with the work of finding the application on their mats without a teacher always there to help them. I think this informed and supportive independence is very healthy in a day and age where we are learning how to be our own intelligent teacher and student and to utilize help without being dependent or becoming childish in relationship to the teacher. Of course, that too, is another post for another day.
There are a few other things I like a lot about the course like being in communication with yogis from different back grounds all over the world, that there is a honor-based sliding scale so that people can pay according to their current budgets and that there are yogis of different ages, abilities and interests all joining together in practice to what they can as they can. I could go on but, well, that is enough of the back story other than to say the course has become much more than I thought it would be and has re-inspired my teaching work and stretched me way beyond what I thought it would.
Oh, and I LOVE that I have a local practice group here to work with. I think every yoga teacher needs a great place to learn and practice where they are well-received as a student , a great place to offer their work where they are well-received as a teacher and a great set of friends who could care less about who they are as a student and teacher and who love them as the people they are. (Again, that is a different pose but Asana Junkies at Bfree Yoga in Austin has given my teacher's heart a home which has meant the world to me.) I honestly think some of my best teaching is happening in this course and it is way beyond what any course description of catchy name could capture, which is why I am writing this article now.
I did a course during our winter session on "5 Weeks to Better Back Bends." We worked a lot with a general sequence and some routines for upper back opening, quad stretching, shoulder stretching and strength building. Here are a few glimpses into our work together: (It is probably obvious but I actually think this course is some of the most relevant asana-based teacher training out there. All of the insight and information I give to folks as practitioners is immediately applicable to their teaching work with students and is a training in pose knowledge, observation, adjustments, prop work, etc. So practical. But I digress.)
A Few Tips for Urdhva Dhanurasana
A Few "Before and After" Shots
Spring Session Starts Soon (Shameless Promotion Coming Up)
So we had so much fun and created such a good foundation for the back bending work in 5 weeks that we are going to go further down the road with our Spring Session. I am super-excited about the course and have been hard at work making all the course materials- new photos, new classes, etc. It is going to be awesome. Each course gets better in terms of organization, course materials and my understanding of how best to support the learning process.
Here is the link to find out more about it- http://www.springsessionasanajunkies.com.
What you get if you chose to participate:
-Level 1/2 Online Class,
-Level 2/3 Online Class,
-Level 1/2 Audio Recording,
-Level 2/3 Audio Recording,
-Upper back opening routine
Please note: The Winter Course is required but if you didn't join us for winter and want to join the spring, you can sign up for the winter course and the spring course work on both together! You will need access to the course materials from Winter to best benefit which is why I made it a required course.
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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."