It has been a long time since I last wrote. Seems like every time I sit down to write a blog entry, I open up my email first and then get pulled into the administrative work of setting appointments, scheduling future dates, writing workshop descriptions, building websites and answering questions from students enrolled in current programs. And then before I know it, either my time for writing has passed or my creative juice is spent.
Anyway, here I am this morning in Kanas City with a cup of tea, reflecting on the last few weeks. Gioconda Parker and I launched the Alchemy of Flow and Form Advanced Teacher Training with a visit from Carlos Pomeda to talk about the History of Yoga and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It was an awesome weekend for me.
I have always loved studying with Carlos. His presentation is clear, orderly, thoughtful, logical and he has a remarkable gift of answering questions without making anyone feel stupid and yet never letting the conversation get too far afield. I always feel that when I study with him I am getting an accurate and respectful rendering of the text without much interpretation.
This year the thing that struck me most was really how kind and humble Carlos is as a person. For many days after the training, that was my primary take-away. Don't get me wrong, all the usual stuff about the text was there and he was a clear as ever in his teaching and I found the actual information quite interesting and inspiring. But more than that, his presence was what communicated to me. He was thoughtful, kind, and many times showed himself to be down-to-earth about his own challenges and shortcomings without ever once diminishing himself, selling out on the teaching, or putting anyone else down. And his commitment to the path of awakening was inspiring. Once again I was reminded that as teachers, WHO we are might just be the primary communication we make.
And the other take-away I am still considering is that the form that hatha yoga has taken over the many years since the Pradipika has really stayed the same and also changed dramatically. I found it so refreshing (and at times a bit overwhelming) to have the trainees in the room ask questions about teachings of yoga that they had received over the years and for Carlos to kindly and without shame, point out that "Well, there is no evidence for that in the tradition". It happened a lot. Of course that does not mean some of the innovations are not useful and effective. And, of course, for new things to come along, they are, well, new-- so they might not be sitting there in some old book. But still the same, I am chewing on which things are new and effective and which things are simply new.
A lot could be said on this for sure, but like I said, I am still chewing.
The next weekend, Kelly and I went to Portand, Oregon. We took a few days of R&R and then I taught the course called Cracking the Code which I had recently taught in Tucson. I taught it as a weekend workshop, instead of a 5-day training and I certainly noticed the shorter time. In fact, I think this course would probably be best as a year-long course, but even in a small doses, I think I shared a lot of good information. There are so many gems in Light on Yoga and there are so many funny things like "inhale and place your leg behind your head" that need some, shall we say, unpacking in order to make use of.
At any rate I alway love going to Portland to visit. This year fall was in its peak with the leaves were changing and incredibly beautiful weather. There is such an amazing culture there of great food and drink, gorgeous nature and a conscientious eccentricity that always makes Portland a very fun place to visit.
This was my second visit back to The Bhaktishop to teach. The Bhaktishop is full of sincere practitioners of diverse backgrounds and training with very open minds and hearts. It is mostly a vinyasa studio so I am always honored to come and be the teacher I am which is not-so-flowy these days. (Another story, for sure. I can certainly teach flow but it is not my primary style or first affinity.)
Teachers and students from all over the area were there and it was a fun weekend for me. As much as I love going new places to teach I am always more relaxed when I visit a studio the second and third time. I feel more at home and more myself. Lisa Mae and her new business parter Audra are awesome hosts and made me and Kelly feel so welcome and at ease.
I taught the asana classes a little differently than my normal sequencing style since I was following some formats from Light on Yoga so that was different for me and the sessions were shorter than I am used to so I was also juggling the reduced time to present the information. I think we all wished for longer asaana sessions but with so much of the weekend designated as Teacher Training the asana got cut short.
The land in Oregon is full of majestic mountains, flowing waterfalls and grand views. One of the traditions Kelly and I have on our visits is to hike a 10-waterfall hike around Multnomah Falls which is always inspiring.
One fun thing we did while we were there was get some folding bicycles to ride and so we rode all over the city on our breaks and on our personal days after the workshop. It was so great to explore the surrounding areas on bike and to be outside in the fresh air during such an amazing time of year. Very good times.
On a personal note, I am very happy about having an awesome little commuter bike to take on some of our trips in the future so you can expect some pictures of our travels with bikes. (They fold up into a suitcase and can be checked baggage so really, all kinds of things are possible!) Anyway, the bikes definitely elevated the experience into something quite different than usual and very refreshing.
I was home in Austin for a few days and then I headed out to Kansas City to teach at The Yoga Gallery. The weekend has been really great and fun for me. As much as I loved working with Light on Yoga in the last workshops I have to say that having a somewhat blank slate upon which to create a weekend plan was a welcome change from the last two programs I taught. But having recently visited Light on Yoga in so much depth I did find that my teaching had a renewed clarity and focus from the study.
I think that is the thing about study. I have been thinking about how important it is to spend time on the subject without thinking or worrying about how I am going to present or teach the information. And between the two courses on Light on Yoga and the course on the Pradipika I have had a good dose of study this last month. To me, there is a delight in sinking my teeth into the material and working with what it means to me in theory and in practice and then watching-- as that process percolates and integrates-- how it shows up in my teaching.
I have the good fortune to teach a lot of yoga teachers and this "sinking our teeth into study without regard for how we are going to teach it" is something that I really feel needs to be a point of emphasis. When we step onto the path of teaching yoga (and I do believe it is a sadhana to teach) several amazing things seem happen for folks. One is we suddenly realize that teaching yoga to others and helping them understand the practice is a completely different thing than being on our own mats enjoying a good time. For many folks this is a wonderful and uniquely humbling experience to find out that creating a yoga class that others will benefit from is not the same thing as being able to outline what kind of class we like or we think is good, etc.
The other thing that often happens is that we get a chance to clarify what we know and what we do not know. many times, when our students ask us about something we find we can answer with authority we didn't even know we had. Somehow our students pull wisdom and knowledge out of us and into our awareness and make us connect our own dots of understanding. Many times in the effort to explain a concept to others we get clear on it for ourselves and our own "ah-hah moment"s come as a result of teaching. It is so awesome.
And the other thing I notice a lot is that teachers stop thinking about themselves as practitioners and start thinking about themselves as teachers. Without realizing it, they often stop studying the subject of yoga itself and start studying how to teach the subject to others. And while, for many of us, those domains are related to one another, I think it is important to detach a bit from the "How will I teach this?" line of questioning and return to "What does this teaching mean?", "What do I make of it personally?" and "How might I practice this in my own circumstance?" and so on. Truly these are different lines of inquiry than "How would I teach this?" and by returning our attention to ourselves and our practice through our studies we keep the fires of inspiration stoked and burning. For me a strong fire of inner sadhana ALWAYS funnels into my teaching in positive ways so like I said, the domains are related, but the context is really different.
Anyway, the weekend is in progress- we finish up tomorrow and then I head home. I have a few days home and then head to New Mexico to take a retreat with one of my favorite teachers. Patricia Walden. More study. Can't wait.
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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."