Tag Archive: Anusara yoga

Signs Around Town (Excerpt)

When we do a yoga pose, it is an act of creation; asana is in its own way a dance form. Every time we practice, it is our choice whether to make a pose a full and deep expression of our embodiment or just a routine physical workout no matter how many times we have done it before.

So too, everything we do is in some sense a creative act. How we choose to express ourselves and what we make of our day–no matter that it is the same commute and work we may have done for years–is up to our own creative intention. What did you create today?

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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I Am Resigned

This week, I am resigned that Anusara has finally dissolved too completely for it to live on in any way that resembled its former self, the most sweetly and bravely hopeful having at last been pushed away by the concatenation of energetic forces.  Though I never actually said:  “I have resigned,” during these months of observing the intense communications of other members of the community,”  I have said with resignation:  “what is there to resign from?” “from what would I be resigning?” and have wondered whether and to what end I should express it out loud.

I haven’t felt able to say anything specific  until I was sure I could trust that whatever I said was coming from my heart and truly honored all the gifts of learning and friendship from this decade of practice in the Anusara community.  The joy, the knowledge, and the healing fruits of the practice remain part of my being and teaching even if the relationship that facilitated them is no longer tenable.  I have an idea that being a part of this break up/break apart/act of Siva/Kali/Durga — what should we call it?–might itself have been meant by the universe as a teaching for me about relationship and community (perhaps sort of like being whacked on the head for fidgeting in meditation–though I never sought out the whacking on the head kind of teacher or practice).

Since the first posting on the internet in the extraordinary world of social media, I felt a relunctance to engage in the on-line conversation and a deep call and responsibility to practice.  When I am sitting in meditation, when I am practicing asana — and when I am dancing at the contact improv jam — is when I know to my core that the gift of the practices and the opportunity to share the practices in community as an ongoing exploration of mind, body, and relationship matters more to me than the structure of the community or who is leading at any given time.  Along with asana, meditation, and studying, I have been practicing bhavana (deep meditative contemplation) on the inextricably intertwined processes of dissolution and creation.  Having been forced to go deeper from this whack on the head as it were, I am seeing better than I have before in this embodiment  patterns in my actions/reactions  for which ways to rework, undo, shift, reweave into more harmonious ways of being are revealing and unfolding themselves.

During these weeks, I kept thinking the time was ripe to write publicly about my reaction to what was happening and then I would contemplate whatever words I had thought I should say and realized that I still was not ready.  I suppose some part of me was hopeful, though I have also been from the first resigned to the imminent scattering and shifting and dancing into different constellations of all of our voices as teachers trained in this style that no longer has a referent for its name nor a precise shape.

I confess that I am more concerned about Mitt Romney, Scott Walker, Trayvon Martin, global climate change, the recession, my garden, and my friends and family, than I have been with John Friend, though I miss the delight of getting together to practice en masse and the comfort of being recognized as part of a skilled community of teachers together under the banner of a respected trademark.  And how joyous at its heyday our collective  explorations on the mat of the exquisite, elegant, and healing universal principles of alignment.  I am doing my best to take what I have learned from yoga practice (Anusara and not) and study to inform how I act, speak, and relate to the community in its evolving incarnations and to the how and what I offer my students.  To support my practice and the community, I have been continuing to attend workshops with friends and teachers who have inspired me over this decade.  It is good to practice in smaller groups closer to home.  It is good to see my practice buddies.

I never did formally resign (perhaps I was stuck like Arjuna’s sitting paralyzed on the battlefield, perhaps it was something more or less than that), but I am resigned, in the way of a graduate who liked the comfort of the structure of school but who knows she must go out into the world and make her way, that there is no choice left but to move into relationship with this community of fellow students and teachers in a different way.

Perhaps  I will have more to say, but I cannot yet say when (though if you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed how much I was saying in pictures and stories that were on one level about something completely different).

This is my desk at the office.  The quote is “The Four Agreements” by Miguel Ruiz.  I read “The Four Agreements” at the recommendation of Betsy Downing at the first Anusara yoga retreat I attended, and though it could be seen as so much New Age psychology, I think the agreements themselves are useful guides for considering how to respond when someone pushes my buttons.  Betsy will be at Willow Street Yoga June 22-24  and it would be great to see many of you there. In the meantime, on and off the mat, I continue to contemplate these “agreements” along with the “four gates of speech” and how they can positively shape how I relate and speak to others in my world, especially when things get tough.

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“Seriously”

A friend from the DC Sunday contact improv jam (one of my favorite places to play) sent this link showing a clip from a documentary in progress about the importance of play to our health.  One of the things that I love most about Anusara yoga is that John Friend has always described its practice as being “seriously playful.”  I was born serious nature and have worked hard in my adulthood to learn to play spontaneously, and what is being offered here resonates for me.

This is a long clip, but well worth the time.  Anusara yogis, notice how familiar some of it sounds.  Enjoy!

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Happy New Year–Breaking Open (web version of e-newsletter)

Dear Friends,

Midnight of the new year found me sitting in a hotel room near the Chidambaram temple at festival time engaged in intense conversation while listening to wild music and chanting and the cracks and explosions of fire crackers.  Quite a change from my long-standing practice of making a healthy meal, doing a long yoga practice, taking a hot bubble bath by candlelight and going to sleep well before midnight so that I can start the year rested and refreshed (an excellent way to spend New Year’s Eve if you haven’t tried it).  Though I did not start this new year well rested, I wouldn’t have traded the experience I had for the world.  Sometimes we need to radically break out of our old patterns to discover how much we can expand.

One of the practices at the temples we visited on the India Pilgrimage with Douglas Brooks is to take a coconut and break it open.  The coconut symbolizes your head and all the preconceived notions and rules we set for ourselves that bind us into our old habits.  The symbolic act of breaking open the coconut is to remind us that we sometimes need to break ourselves open in order to get at the true meat of our existence and to drink the sweet nectar of life.

Many times during the trip I thought about my first experiences attending “Advanced Intensives” with John Friend.  I, like many others I know, showed up at my first Advanced Intensive wondering how I got there, asking myself whether I was worthy, and worrying that I was in way over my head and would get injured.  Though I have now been to a number, each time I still have had to practice with both an absolute willingness to be open to the possibility of expansion while being impeccably mindful of my own limits.  It is a subtle dance of consciousness, and part of the learning is finding the exact balance point where we can both break out of our preconceived limitations and still honor that we in fact have some.

I approached going to India with much trepidation.  A friend whom I met in Peru and who I later visited in South Africa, having seen my emotional reactions to the deep poverty of developing nations had warned me off of India.  As one who likes things to be quiet and clean and thrives on healthy meals and regular sleep, I knew India would be physically and emotionally challenging.  But I wanted the visions.  I wanted to see and experience its very “otherness,” its beauty, and the source of the yoga teachings.  I packed my bags with emergency supplies, some of which I turned out to need, some of which served others on the trip, most of which I ended up donating to a village that the trip helps to support.  I had to ask people to help me (one of my hardest practices) by being close when we were in dense crowds.  I confess that I wore earplugs when it got really loud in the temples, which it does.  And having prepared and taken care, I was exhilerated.  I experienced radically more with my heart getting fuller and fuller in a short time than I thought ever possible for me.  Like discovering one can do a wild yoga pose that one thought totally out of reach and then sensibly stopping before blowing past physical limits, I broke myself open and was able to drink deeply of the nectar.  And yes, I did actually hurl a coconut to the ground to break it.  And yes, it took two tries.

I was lucky.  This time, I got to choose when and where to break open the coconut.  Sometimes life does it for us and then we have the choice either to despair or to rise to the occasion.  This year, I invite you to the yoga to find where you can break open and find ever more sweetness, nourishment, and delight than you ever dreamed possible.  For me this includes not just the exhileration of advancing the intensity of poses, but the deepness of meditation, the precise use of alignment for therapeutics to better experience life, and the emotional depth of a long restorative practice.

Come join me as regular classes continue at William Penn House on Tuesdays, invitation group house practice for charity on Wednesdays, and gentle/therapeutics at Willow Street on Saturdays at noon in Takoma Park.  All info on the classes page of the web site.  Mark your calendars, too, for:

Finding the Warmth Inside: Relax Into Optimal Alignment with Anusara Restoratives, Saturday, February 25 2012, 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM, Willow Street Yoga, Takoma Park Studio, $35.00, click to Register Online or download a paper form to bring to Willow Street in person.  After a little gentle stretching and self-massage to bring awareness to the breath and body, we will enjoy the exquisite application of Anusara’s Universal Principles of Alignment to restful and supported restorative postures to release old patterns and invite in the new to find greater ease of body and mind. A great workshop and practice for all levels.

I have been sharing photos and experiences of India on the blog (if you have missed them, do check them out and enjoy).  Some of you have asked how you can subscribe to the blog in addition to the newsletter.  Please just click here and follow the instructions to get the blog posts by email.

I look forward to seeing you through the new year and sign off expressing my ever growing love, appreciation, and gratitude for all of you and the deepening and expanding connection through the yoga, neighborhood, and all that life here in DC and in the greater yoga community brings us.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

 

 

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On My Way to New Jersey

I was not able to attend the mid-week intensive in New Jersey with John Friend. It was hard enough to make room in my schedule for the weekend workshop.

I can, though, be with my teacher and friends not just in spirit, but in intention. Knowing that the focus of the intensive was sadhana (practice), I selected The Philosophy of Sadhana to read on my way to the weekend, so that when I arrive I can be more in alignment mentally with those who already have been immersed this week in deep study of what sadhana means for ourselves and in community. Choosing to study in a way that connects us with our friends on the path, even when we cannot physically be present with them is, of course, one of the ways we support relationship in sadhana.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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Expanding Your Edge

Thursday night,  I took a dance improvisation workshop at Dance Exchange, the second in a series of three workshops.  One of the exercises we did was in groups of two.  The game was to do simultaneous improvisation.  Without designating a particular person as a leader, each dancer was to try and stay in synchronized movement with his or her partner.   When we were done with the exercise, some of the dancers talked about their goal having been to be in control of the lead or trying to push their partner past his or her edge.  I had been innocently (or perhaps naively) unaware of these dynamics, as I had been seeking to find where the dance could be the leader rather than either partner.

After the workshop, when I was walking to the metro with the teacher and another participant, both of whom are performers in their 20s, I raised the issue of people trying to push others past their edge (I’d held off raising it in the group as it seemed too many were in a different space).  I said that knowing that my partner was a lot less flexible than me, though lots stronger, and knowing his competitive edge, I never would have tried to push him beyond his physical limits.

The teacher said he liked being pushed past where it seemed like a good idea; it made him get to another place.  I agreed that it is good to try to expand, to go beyond what we think are our limits.  I have been taught, though, by my teacher John Friend, not to blow past my limits.  Rather, in the practice of Anusara yoga, we seek to be intimately and exquisitely aware of our edge at every moment, and then expand it.  The game with the partner using this paradigm would have been to find the edge and then see if the dance could expand it rather than to try and exert control or see if we could push our partner past his or her limits at our partner’s risk.   When we operate in a paradigm of straining and striving, or we push for control or try to compete with ourselves or with others, that is where we get injured.  I’ve had my share of dance injuries, I added, but to continue dancing through the decades, I cannot be blowing past my limits, though I am still growing.  I was not sure that what I said felt relevant, but I could also tell that it was information that went into the thought mix for later.

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Quote of the Moment (and Happy Birthday Anusara)

Today is the 13th anniversary of Anusara yoga being officially named Anusara yoga. I am filled with love and gratitude for John Friend and all my friends and teachers who are sharing this extraordinary practice.

In thanks for the delighted and celebratory invitation to the practice, which for me is a hallmark of the Anusara offering, I share this quote:

“The more the yogi practices, the more visible everything becomes (yavad idam sarvam drstam).” Vedavyasa, quoted in David Gordon White, Sinister Yogis.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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Web Version of May Newsletter–Invitation to the Dance

Dear Friends,

One of the most captivating elements of dance as artistic expression for me is that it has the capacity to show the beauty in the full range of emotions.  Whether the choreographer is telling a story or sharing an impression, making a political statement or expressing a feeling, the dancer’s inherent grace can show us that there is beauty in all things, helping us through the artistic medium to abide with what might otherwise seem emotionally intolerable and to celebrate more fully that which would naturally make our hearts sing.

Since I first began practicing asana, it has been for me an embodiment of the dance.  The exquisite technique of the Anusara® principles of alignment  transformed healing work into a dance of exploration.  The expansion of my strength and flexibility in middle age — when because of my dance history I thought only would contract with age — allowed me to express progressively more fully the joy I find in my body.

This year, John Friend’s overarching theme for his workshops and trainings around the world is “Dancing with the Divine.” The theme resonated especially fully for me because I started attending regularly last fall the Sunday contact improv jam on Capitol Hill and have been re-exploring dance after all the shifts I have made with an ever-deepening asana practice.  It has been with an eye towards not only my own dance, but the connection of the community, and our dance of relationship with our living planet that I am choosing which trainings and workshops to attend this year.

When deciding what my study priorities are for the year, I look first at where my practice and teaching could benefit from some deep attention and wisdom offerings.  I look to the local offerings to deepen my connection to my home community and to minimize the environmental impact of getting to be in the same room as the teacher.  I am thoroughly appreciative of how wonderful it is to have a burgeoning and dedicated local community that has incredible teachers and draws others.  When planning which workshops or trainings with John Friend I will attend, I look at whether there is an opportunity to combine a training with a visit to friends or family or an opportunity to see art exhibits or museums that are of particular interest to me.  I like to go to any trainings that I can get to by train and, like even better when it happens, where I do not need a car once I get to the training/workshop location.

Next dance for me with the bigger community is the Anusara Grand Circle in Stratton, Vermont for the summer solstice.  My heart expands with the anticipation of being in the mountains of Vermont with clear, starry nights and bright, vivid almost endless days for a gathering of fellow yoga dancers, those I already know and love, those whom I will get to know better, and those I will meet for the first time.

It is especially exciting to know I will have the opportunity to study with some of the incredible teachers in the international community I am honored to know, but from whom I have not yet had the privilege of taking a class.  It is also a great opportunity to be with people who are just beginning to get excited about Anusara (gatherings like this are a great opportunity to study with John Friend without having the formal application process.)

Local yogis, I look forward to seeing you in regular class offerings in the neighborhood and Willow Street, including just until the end of May, Thursday night restorative yoga.  I expect delightedly to see you, too, as fellow students at many of the incredible offerings both in and around DC and the country.

And if any of you are interested in coordinating a trip to the Grand Circle to celebrate the solstice, send me an email.

Peace and light,

Elizabeth

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“Now Write in Your Journals…” (and What It Means to Be a Good Student) (DWTD)

The first day of the advanced intensive this week, John Friend invited us to write in our journals about what we wanted to get out of the three days from both an energetic perspective and from the perspective of a particular asana that has challenged us. This was not long into the first session of the first day, but it was after he spent some time speaking about what he believes it takes to be a good student–of yoga and of life. Though he did not specifically relate the qualities to the Anusara principles or the mahabhutas (elements), based on what I have heard him teach before about studentship, which is a significant aspect of a committed yoga practice, the qualities of studentship he outlined are parallel to the principles of alignment.

The first quality of studentship, he explained, is having a simultaneous sense of wonder and of humbleness (openness to the teaching and the teacher). This is about being spacious (akasha) and an application of the first and highest principle–opening to grace.

The second is steadiness, which includes showing up, paying attention, being consistent, being diligent. This is being like the earth, being muscular and strong (muscular energy) in how one studies.

The student also needs to be accommodating, to be able to be fluid (like water), to go with the flow of the teacher, the studies, and the class as a whole. This is similar to how the expanding action of inner spiral helps us make more space to grow in a pose.

Third, the student should always do his or her best, to be on fire to learn and grow. Doing one’s best in this way is like the action of tucking the tail bone to engage fully outer (or contracting) spiral to draw into the inner power to shine.

Finally, just as air reaches out in all directions and the Anusara yogi, in asana practice, uses organic energy to extend outward, a good student makes offering of all he or she is learning, to make studying an act of loving service (seva).

When John asked us to take out our journals this week, I took mine out and wrote on what he asked. As I did so, I found myself remembering the first time he asked me to write in my journal, which was at an Inner Harmony retreat in 2003, when I was in the middle of my Anusara teacher training. I have been keeping a journal steadily since I was 11, and though I was on fire for studying yoga, being told what to write in my journal felt a little like an invasion of sacred and intimate personal space. I think others probably expected this; they had “yoga” notebooks with them and did not need to write in a personal journal when the received this instruction, but all I had was my regular journal.

I am still in Miami; tomorrow I will be visiting a friend and then joining with others for the Mahashivaratri celebration, or I would pull out my journal entry from the week at Inner Harmony to see what I wrote. I know that I wrote as much about why it was hard for me to be told what to write in my journal as I wrote on whatever was the topic on which I had been directed to write. I know also that was the week I really decided how important it was to study with John. Finding the balance between knowing what was my own space and truly understanding where I would best learn by following completely the teacher, was a critical part of my yoga studies. Being a good student is not always easy, but it is an evolving part of the sadhana (practice) of relationship, which is the true yoga. This is why how to be a good student initiated the week’s teachings for a group of advanced students, most of whom were teachers themselves.

This afternoon, at the end of the last session, John asked us to get out our journals (I am still using my regular journal as I am not much for taking notes and separate notebooks for yoga just get left behind mostly empty) and look at what we had written on the first day. Did we get out of the training what we had written that we wanted, he asked. For me, the answer was mostly yes, and in some profound and unexpected ways. Would I have gotten so much in that regard if I had not done what my teacher directed and thereby focused my intention for the training? I think probably not. And part of what I wanted, though I did not write it down that way, was to be yet still a better student of my teacher, the teachings, and the spirit.

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