Tuesday, August 31, 2010

sunday morning practice with John Friend Q&A's (mercury in retrograd, anger, supreme) + asana notes

I woke up Sunday morning feeling so great. Like I wrote in a previous post I completely loved saterday afternoons topic during practice about samskaras, so I woke up reved for more. John again started the morning session with questions, here are a few with some of the main points we discussed.

Q: mercury in retrograde, how do we work with it?
A: In any situation find how to utilize it for your advantage! If you look at the word retrograde it stars with “re” as in “review” or “re-evaluate”. We can use this time when mercury is in retrograde to our advantage by pausing. Pause and go back and look at your stuff. John said when mercury is in retrograde he goes and reads all the emails that were skipped and went unread. When we try to go forward during this time we find our self stuck.
Q: how to deal with other peoples anger
A: In Shiva-shakti tantra there are skillful ways to interact with any kind of energy
We can deal with anger negatively in 3 ways:
1. We put our self down. We feel guilty.
2. We meet fire with fire. We get angry.
3. We get scared and run away

We can also deal with anger positively in 3 ways:
1. We settle and our patient
2. We are generous and loving
3. We help them skillfully address their anger
Q: Shiva Shakti tantra and the 6 attributes of the divine.
A: (I know these attributes and have been talking about them regularly in my classes. I think these six attributes are amazing and we often forget that they exsit with in us!) John said these can be good responses to who is God? What is God? That was really cool and allowed me to connect to these attributes in a different way.
1. Ananda, blissful, joy of radiance
2. Chit, aware, alive, awake, self knowing
3. Svatantrya, ultimate freedom, not bound by anything
4. Spanda, has a pulsation
5. Purnatva, lacking nothing, completely full and perfect
6. Sri, the highest form of goodness, sacred

We can summarize these 6 attribute with chit ananda. Which is also why we practice yoga…To know more and to be happy. I find myself thinking about chit ananda all the time. I recently started going back to school studying therapeutic recreation and am feeling really busy. What I love about school is that the more I learn (about anything) the more I learn about myself. All this learning helps me be happy because I am learning who I really am. Learning more helps me look at my junk, my stuff. This self examination, chit (knowledge) helps me to get rid of habits and stuff that isn’t help lift me up and keep doing the things that do. When we look at our stuff we see where we make mistaks. And we all make mistakes I know I do. We make mistakes because we loss the connection to the highest because we loss the connection to the clear, bright, rocking delight. But once we are aware (chit) we can make changes. (read my previous post about Ma Durga and how Durga can help cleanse us of these cycles and a mantra to help)

In the morning practice “we held space for rocking shifts in our self and everyone around us”

Asana notes:
• Bakasana: get low, flat back at fist then round your back puff into your kidneys. Pelvis should be in line with heart
• In the transition in vinyasas keep the finger pads rooted. Finger tips never come up that is a sign of being lazy on our path
• AMS-> chaturanga arms with knee bet over arm
• Sputa virasana-> push up with arms in ½ urdhva-> come up to camel (head last)
• Urdhva danurasana one hand to front of femur bone, bend the elbow on the floor lightly touch head then push back up
• In urdhva danurasana hands are positioned slightly out

My teaching:
tomorrow/wednesday 540-7 at the yoga center
thruday 12-1 only 4$ at the yoga center
I have cut back my teachign schedual so much. It is weird not taeching more and at more locations. I will be starting a private weekly session with waterford highschool faculty. i did this last year and it was such a wonderful experience. When we started everyone was telling me I am not good, I am a begginer, will this be easy... By the end they were rocking cant and asking questions like. Can you tell a differnce in our attitude we are all getting along better as faculty and the with the students. cant wait to continue our work. I am also hoping to sub alot and do privates or group privates. The cut back was to help me focus on school and my own practice.
Happy evening

Monday, August 30, 2010

saturdy afternoon practice (my favorite) with JF at the shop my notes and thoughts

Saturday Afternoon with John Friend at The Shop in PC, UT:
(This was my favorite of the workshops. I love hearing about myths and using these amazing stories as inspiration for practice. I loved talking about samskaras these cycles in us and how we can use our practice on and off the mat to transform these cycles. Turning ash to gold. Just being with John makes me want to work harder, throw more of my tendencies into the fire so I may rise and shine brighter and so I may help others do the same)

Ma Durga (divine mother)
• Myth: There was a buffalo demon who meditated on Shiva. Shiva is very easily pleased and he likes it when you meditate on him. Shiva asked the demon what he wanted, and the demon asked for immortality. Shiva said I can’t give you immortality but I make it so no God or Goddess can harm you. Soon the buffalo demon started to take advantage of this and he was killing and terrorizing people. The gods and goddess got together and they created a new god, Durga. Each of her weapons was gifted to her by various gods: Rudra's trident, Vishnu's discus, Indra's thunderbolt, Brahma's kamandalu, Kuber's Ratnahar, Lakshmi gave a pretty face…Ma Durga went out to find the demon and once the demon saw her he fell in love with her and said “run away with me and lets terrorize the world together” Durga cut off his head.
• Durga helps wake us up to a higher state of consciousness.
• She is goodness in a fierce form, she cleans you of all samskaras.
• She rides on a tiger which represents the shakti that we are riding.
• Durga is connected to Shiva, she is a transformer.
Samskaras: Sam= complete or joined together, kara= action, causing or doing. Samskaras are mental and emotional patterns of things/habits/addictions that hold you back through which we cycle over and over again during our lives.
Samskaras (3 basic categories)
1. Sadness: we don’t see our self as full. We see our self as imperfect (depression, low self esteem, self destruction)
2. Anger/hatred: we see patterns. We notice and create separation, that person has dark skin I don’t like that, that person is tall I like that…This separation creates hatred and anger.
3. Fear: we are afraid of loss, loss of friends, and loss of our life. We think we need to control everything around us (money, time, people)

Durga is a form of Grace that clears away this film on our heart because she slays these lies/cycles inside of us

Ways to invocate Durga:
• Visualization
• Mantra bija sound: Dum
o Mantra: om dum durgahyei namaha

May I shine the light of awareness on these cycles within myself. May I look at my habits and my tendencies. John said that some of these habits may be deep seated but they CAN BE TRANSFORMED.
“I want to be a better person” “I want to change my habits”

When you are faced with your habit and you say NO. Friction happens which creates tapas (fire/heat). This heat can help transform our bad habits. Turning ash to gold.

• Yajna: sacrificing what is blocking your heart.
o That is blocking you from your greatness. You create a lot of heat for Yajna when you hold a pose. Much more then you would if you just repeated it a lot.
• It is in our tendency to react. We need to reprogram our self so we don’t react instead we choose how to

• Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing):a way to cleanse and see clearly. Close off the air to the left nostril (with the ring and pinky finger of the right hand) exhale and inhale through the right nostril and repeat.
• Sahita: inhalation/retention/exhalation in increments of 4. 4:16:8
o During retention the fire grows; don’t grip onto the holding instead practice 1st principle, inner body bright. This will build prana inside, like building light. “Feel yourself with light that is transformative”

John Friend

Sunday, August 29, 2010

my notes and thoughts from saturday morning int/adv. with John Friend

Here are some of my notes and thoughts from the inter/adv. workshop with John Friend at The Shop in Park City (I am very greatful to Leslie S. who recommened me transcribing my notes so I dont end up with another notebook of messy handwritting)
John Started the class by asking for questions...
Someone asked the question:

“How would you teach abdominals without interrupting the apana vayu (downward moving energy)?"

John responded by saying that most people (especially in the west) consider the core to be the rectus abdominis “six pack”. But really the core is the vertical channel that runs through the core of our body. It is from this subtle vertical channel that our physical body is building upon. This subtle body can be thought of as an etheric double. The core of our body, this energetic channel isn’t just vertical and straight has spanda (pulsation of prana).

We talked about how we don’t have anything in our body that is perfectly straight. Everything has a curve like our spine. Our spine can hold tons of weight if you use good alignment which holds the natural curvature of the spine for example in sirsasana. But if you were to straighten out the spine and then make it weight bearing that would be very unsuccessful. So cool. When John was talking about this I was thinking about how straight is similar to perfect. If you have a curve and you want to make it straight, you want it to move in a way toward perfection. However, john was pointing out that perfection isn’t straight. I feel like in my life I strive for perfection but this reminded me that perfect is never straight we become not perfect but more fully our self when we align with our uniqueness, our curves and the curvature of our spine.

Back to the original question. Most people (especially in the west) think of the core as the rectus abdominis, so they really work that area which makes the front of the belly tight. This tightness will pull the tailbone under. But people also tuck there tailbone under so their booty doesn’t look as bad. When you tuck the tail bone under like this you make your back flat which hurts the ligaments between the discs which can make you more prone to disc problems. Fun Fact: L5 SI is the most commonly injured dist for this reason. This tucked action and flattening of the back causes prevents the energy to go down and ground toward the earth (apana vayu). This disturbs the downward flow of energy and causes energetic and physical constipation, agitates the nervous system, feeling unsure, unconnected, anxious, nervous, ungrounded…

(I was so immpressed that this question guided the whole asana practice. We worked strongly on open to grace and inner spiral and outer spiral so we could feel the grounding quality and the flow of apana vayu while created dimond strength of the core)

“when we line up with life the beauty happiness”

We then talked about where the soul is located body?
How some philosophers say it is in the head, but when you take that view the head becomes superior and everything bellow the head becomes inferior (reminds me of how a lot of people think and act)
John said the soul is located in our pelvic area and that in fact the word sacrum comes from the word sacred. John didn’t say this but I think it is very interesting that the sacrum (5 fused vertebra) resemble a downward facing triangle, a symbol that shows from the divine to the embodied.

We are:
Divinely manifested
Embodiment of the supreme

Breath Awareness:
Focus of the floor of the pelvis. As you inhale notice what happens do you feel an expansion or do you feel a contraction? As you exhale notice what happens, do you feel an expansion or do you feel a contraction?

If the energy is moving “correctly” the inhalation should case the pelvis to expand and the exhalation should cause the pelvis to contract.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Radiance Sutras...Effort/Stability and Ease/Freedom

I have reading Lorin Roches lovely book: The Radiance Sutra also called Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. This name loosely translates to mean “the terror and joy of realizing oneness with the Soul”. Each sutra is a way of looking and feeling into the essences of simple life activities. Lorin put it beautifully when he said “meditation is diving into your entire sensorium so fearlessly that you go beyond it into the core of your being and rest there. This is yoga of delight, awe, and wonder”.

These sutras all remind me of sutra 2:46 from Patanjali’s book “sthira sukam asanam”. This sutra is about how we should live our life and practice with a dynamic balance between effort (sthira) and ease (sukam). These two words remind me of something we talk about and practice in Anusara all the time. Stability (effort) and freedom (ease). As I read Lorin’s book every sutra is showing us a way of enjoying and experiencing an activity in our life so fully that we can merge with the divine. In order to do this we have to have disciple, effort and stability. We have to focus our mind so we may pick up on all the sensations so fully that we feel the dance and pulsation of life. However if we get to rigid, too hard, focused too deeply we will get stressed, we will tense up and we will miss this blissful experience. In order to prevent getting overly focused we need to be relaxed, and at ease so we may experience this gift of embodied freedom. However, if relaxed too much we wouldn’t have the containment we would miss the sensations and the invitation of experiencing the delight of life.

(I had so much fun teaching today. I didn’t stress too much about planning. I have 5 people come to a new class I am starting 12-1 at the yoga center only 4$! The students were of all different abilities and each one loved it. I think they all grasped this idea of needing stability, discipline and effort so they may soften, and experience freedom)
Theme: effort/stability/muscular energy and ease/freedom/organic energy
Childs “in childs notice the dynamic balance between effort and freedom. If you don’t use any disciple in your will spin off and if you use to much effort the pose inst enjoyable”
Tadasana-> 1/2 moon stretch
Variation of Sun with Lunge with 1/2 moon stretch 2x
Navasana -> rev. table
Handstand work:
L at wall, L at wall leg extended, L at wall with pumping, kicking up to wall, kicking up to wall but not hitting wall (the students honored where they were in the pose, many of them made it to a high level then they thought. It took effort on me to end the hand stand session because the students were loving it so much and smiling, so we went longer but not to long because I didn’t want them to get hurt because they were to tiered and were pushing to hard)
Forearm balance
Happy baby->compass
Forward folds
We also focused a lot on being aware of our breath and taking the invitation the breath offers. The first activity offered in the sutras is a focus on the breath. The breath is an activity that we are doing constantly. We normally don’t have the stability to focus on the breath, and the softness to enjoy it. But when we focus intimately and softly we can experience the freedom it offers.

The very first sutra offers us this invitation to the breath:

“Beloved, your question requires the answers that come
Through direct living experience.
The way of experience begins with a breath
Such as the breath you are breathing now.
Awakening into luminous reality
May dawn in the momentary throb
Between any two breaths.
The breath flows in and just as it turns
To flow out, there is a flash of pure joy –
Life is renewed.
Awaken into that.
As the breath is released and flows out,
There is a pulse as it turns to flow in.
In that turn, you are empty.
Enter that emptiness as the source of all life”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Panchamukha Anjani 5 faces of Hanuman + mantra

Vishnu takes form as Panchamukha Anjani (Anjaneya means “son of Anjana”), the 5 faced hanuman.

Let’s look at each face, together these faces make up the story of Panchmukha Anjani.

1. VARAHA: The boar, the wild pig. Varaha represents our primal organic veracity. He is the plower, digging away looking deeply into the lower parts of our being. He is looking for the delight that is buried in our gut (muladhara chakra). Varaha is the consciousness digging out itself. He is the organic earth element belonging to the muladhara chakra and deals with the role in evacuative, procreative, and digestive energy.
a. Bija: HRIM (the earth bija) means the entire manifest world, all the essential Goddess energy that moves.

2. GARUDA: The soaring vulture, the Himalayan griffin. He resides below the solar plexus and above the diaphragm. He belongs to the water of the belly (svadhistasna chakra). He lives on the naga (snakes) of the ponds, he soars above the lake effortlessly and he comes down pulling the naga out of the lake. (That is what Himalayan griffins do; they steal snakes out of the water). Garuda is the soaring consciousness that reaches into the water of the belly and pulls the naga (snake)/kundalini up. Just like the downward symbol in the Anusara logo, Garuda inverts, heading down into being and becomes the water of the belly. Garuda is the eternal energy of life that must be transmuted in the water of the belly. Whatever enters your belly (food, air…) eventually comes back up into our consciousness (just like the griffin soaring down to pull and bring it back up).
a. Bjia: HAIM (Mixes AIM (water) with HA (earth))

3. NARASIMHA: The man-lion. Residing in the fiery solar plexus (the manipura chakra). He is the fire in the center above the belly and below the heart. There is a myth about a demon that was granted the ability (by tapas) not to be killed by human or animal, in the day or in the night, in land or in the sky. Vishnu then takes the form as Narasimha a man and a lion (neither human nor animal), he destroys the demon at twilight (not day or night) and emerges out of a pillar (not from land or sky). Narasimha represents ambiguity. The power to transmute and address the necessary, and this strength comes from our core (the manipura).
a. Bija: KLIM

4. HANUMAN: The loyal monkey. Located in the heart (the anahata chakra) all the way to the pallet of the mouth (vishudu chakra). He is the upward moving, ascending energy the heart that powerfully brings the energy of the heart and expresses it through the mouth.
a. Bija: SAUHA (the heart Bija is the most complex bija. It opens the heart and lets in the recognition that the divine has always dwelt in your heart. The heart emerges out of the pallet in the form of mantra.)

5. HAYAGRIVA: The horse. The horse represents the power of consciousness to wonder. It is very similar to the ancient Vedic sacrifice called “The Horse Sacrifice”. In this sacrifice the king releases a horse and wherever the horse wonders over a course of one year becomes the domain of the king… Wherever consciousness wonders is our domain. “Not all who wonder are lost” wondering becomes your sovereign territory. Hayagriva represents the wholeness of being. Hayagriva resides in the head (angii chakra) and is the descending energy of the mind. The wondering of consciousness traverses down and comes out as words.
a. Bija: OM


I think it is interesting that the bijas aren’t in order from ascending to descending. This is because in Anjani traditions don’t believe that kundalini is a dormant energy waiting to be awaken to move in a singular direction drawing up from the bottom to the top. Instead they believe that kundalini is already awake and is moving in an ever woven circuitry. These traditions believe that we are NOT in a process of waking up kundalini instead we ARE in a process of participating in kundalini’s dance. Like hanumans tail the kundalini twists and turns however it needs to offer its self in the most optimal experience of the Self.
Douglas Brooks (especially hanuman lecture)

Friday, August 20, 2010

10 habits to avoid

I feel very fortunate to work at The Yoga Center in Utah. Wednesday 5:40-7 and Thursday 12-1. The center is owned by Anusara-Inspired teacher Leslie Salmon who is currently going through the certification process. Leslie encourages and helps her teachers to continue to study and grow. She has a lovely library that we can “check out” books from. It is so nice to have support as a student and teacher of yoga…

Anyways on Thursday I arrived early so I could do some light asana before teaching my class and instead I found myself browsing in the library. I came across: Textbook of Ayurveda, Fundamental Principles by Vasarly Lad M.A.Sc. I have been very interested in Ayurveda for the past 3+ yeas. I have taken many workshops from Arun Deva, Shiva, Andrejs Gailis…As I flipped through the textbook I came across a list “10 habits to avoid”. Seeing them all in a list was really interesting, I have heard of most of them before yet I definitely have a habit of doing many of these. This list motivated me to put more effort in creating balance in my life style. I wrote the list down and thought I would share it here.

1. Overeating
2. Eating without real hunger
3. Emotional eating
4. Drinking fruit juice or excess water or no water during a meal
5. Drinking chilled water at anytime (this one is super hard for me I love ice water but I also know the cold water puts out our digestive fire)
6. Eating when constipated or emotionally disturbed
7. Eating before 7am or after early evening
8. Eating too much heavy food or too little light food
9. Snaking on anything except fruit between meals (I hadn’t heard this one before)
10. Eating in compatible food combinations such as fruit with a meal
Very interesting.

I am so excited john friend is coming to The Shop in Park City Utah on Monday to teach immersion 3 which I will be volunteering and hopefully observing and then I am taking his intermediate/advanced workshop next weekend.

Other fun yoga happenings:
  • Jen Hechti s teaching The Practice tonight at The Yoga Center 5:40-7:40 by donation
  • Jen Hecht and Matt Newman are teaching The Practice tomorrow at Snowbird Cliff Spa 1-3 (could be off on the time) 20$ includes spa and pool.
Have a lovely day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Highlights from my diary

(recently moved into a new apartment with no internet yet, so blog posts might be less frequent till I get connected)

I just got back from The Uncle Uncanny’s Music Festival. It was a wonderful experience full of shri (beauty) and Lila (play). I danced to music, made new friends, played/ got stung by a bee, taught yoga, hula hooped, reiki, swam in a river, smelled the earth, smelled flowers, watched the sky….
Once I returned home to my new apartment I arranged my books on my bookshelf and came across my journal from a few months back, that I had temporarily packed. I looked through some of my entries and thought I would briefly share (these are just highlights from some of the topics I have been studying, if one interests you leave a comment and I would love to elaborate more fully.)

1. Yoga Sutras 2:3 discusses the 5 Kleshas (pains/blockages to spirit)
a. Avidya: ignorance (a =not, vidya=truth) associated with tamas
Asmita: “I-ness” “ego” a false sense of self. The person you think you are is not the person others think you to be. Makes it hard to learn from karma.
Raga: attachment. It’s not nessisarily your physical possession of something it is that things possession of you. Attachment of the mind (I find this kleshas fascinating, it is very interesting to observe)
Dvesa: repulsion, fear of the new/unusual/different (closed minded, judgmental)
Abhinivesah: fear of loss, clinging to one’s life

Thinking of maya reminds me of the freedom we have in our life. I heard Douglas Brooks say (roughly) its great we have freedom! The problem is everyone else has freedom too. This freedom allows us to fully enjoy life and choose our perspectives. We can choose to be negative; we can choose to pick at everything, point out and notice the bad. We can choose to see the darkest side of every situation. I think most people choose these perspectives because it is easy, it is easy to notice the bad. We also are free to choose another perspective. We can choose to be positive, we can choose to see the goodness in life we can even choose to see that everything in its essence is imbedded with goodness, everything is intrinsically good. We can choose to look at the brightest side of every situation.
Question: How can we use the kleshas to see the beauty and goodness in life?

2. The 3 A’s of Anusara yoga and Karma, Jnana, Bhakti...

a. I have been re reading the Bhagavad Gita and reading other translations (which is always fascinating to look at someone else’s perspectives). I think Krishna’s main teachings in The Gita are the Three Ways to “God”. Krishna tells Arjuna that you can connect with the heart and with God through Karma (action), Jnana (knowledge), and Bhakti (devotion). What I love to much about Anusara yoga is that it offers an invitation not to pick one of these ways to know and connect more fully with your heart, but Anusara yoga is an invitation to practice all three of these ways at once, we call these the 3 A’s of Anusara yoga. The three A’s and how they relate to the three forms of yoga:
• Attitude (the Will to be, know and to do)= Bhakti
Alignment (knowing the Will) = Jnana
Action (manifesting the Will) = Karma

3. The Highest purpse of Anusara Yoga
a. CHIT: Self-Knowledge to know oneself
b. SHIVA: Awakening, recognition, remembrance, self-realization, enlightenment
c. ANANDA: Creative expression, to enjoy the freedom of being
d. SHAKTI: Make beauty, serve the increased joy of the whole, exulting in the Goodness, celebration, flowing with the heart

4. Pranayama is formed by two Sanskrit words. Prana= Life force energy, Yama= The control of. Pranayama is really cool because when we use and control our breath we can conrol our life force energy.

a. These are five main movements of Prana:
• Prana: rising in-drawing energy, from foundation and extending up
• Apana: downward rooting energy, rooting into foundation
• Samana: contracts to the core, hugging into the midline
• Udana: Rises and moved outward, extending out from midlife, organic energy

b. These five movements of Prana underlie every movement we see around us. Everything is an extension of Prana…The way we move, a tree grows, a car moves, the planets swirl, our heart beats… Prana this vital life force energy is marvelous because it is the fabric of everything. It is like the oneness we can merge and experience our self with. Through the experience and control of our breath we can begin to experience our pranic body. This experience opens us up to something bigger. First principle.

c. “All that exists in the three heavens rests in the control of Prana. As a mother her children, oh Prana, protect us and give us splendor and wisdom” Prashna Upanishad 2.13

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) CELEBRATION

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (AMK, Handstand) is a fun and exhilarating pose! However, it can seem daunting and not worth trying…not true. I encourage you to play with this fun pose. Honor where you are in your practice and where you are on your journey toward this fun inverted pose. When we honor where we are on our path, we are putting our self in the current of the now, into the present moment. When we are in the moment we can acknowledge and celebrate each and every small step along the way as we progress toward handstand. On the other hand when we view handstand as a goal, of it only being a “success” if we are balancing on both hands in the middle of the room, we step out of the flow of the now, we get frustrated and we miss our opportunity of celebrating the little steps of progression on our journey.

When we celebrate we are filled with a sense of joy and delight. One of the three key features of Anusara yoga is the non-dual Shiva-Shakti tantra philosophy. The basic premise of this philosophy is that life is inherently good! We acknowledge that there is one big energy (Param Shiva) which is the highest and most subtle of all the tattvas (levels of existence). This energy this higher teacher is what we are invoking when we chant the Anusara invocation at the beginning of class. In the invocation we say this highest teacher is the essence of peace and bliss. So when we experience and celebrate bliss in our practice we are aligning with this highest teacher. We are aligning with the bigger energy that we are all a part of.

Some tricks and tips for working on AMK:
Kicking into handstand:

When you kick into hand stand you want to be leading with the belly of the hamstring, and which ever leg is swinging you want to keep it completely straight and emphasis inner spiral.

When you are kicking into handstand the bottom leg that is bending is pushing down into the floor to help get your bum above your wrists or to the wall.

How to put on the brakes on while in mid air?

Push finger pads strongly into the mat
Lift head (skull loop)
Flex feet


I practice handstand every day even if it is just for a few mins of kicking, and every day I find something to celebrate in my journey upside down.

Friday, August 6, 2010

muscularity and Flexibility...stability and freedom

On Wednesday night I went to a bouldering rock climbing completion that was put on after the outdoor retailer show. It was great I watched the women’s and men’s bouldering finals. It was insane to see these incredible and beautiful climbers. As I was driving to the completion I was very interested in seeing their level of flexibility since I assumed they were likely to be very muscular. Watching I could see there were a few climbers who were very muscular and stable. They could hold on to those tiny holds, but the holds were very spread out and some of these strong climbers didn’t have the flexibility/freedom to make the reach with their arms or legs. I also watched climbers who were very bendy and flexible they could through their leg up but didn’t have enough strength to make the move. However the majority of the climbers had this fantastic balance of strength/stability with flexibility/freedom. These climbers were a delight to watch. I could clearly see that the climbers who were balanced in stability and flexibility had the opportunity for the most freedom (they had many more options available to them for solving the problem), they also expressed the most shri (beauty) and they moved with grace. It was a magnificent experience.
In our practice on the mat we want to develop stability, strength and physical integration (muscular energy) but we want to balance that with expansion, flexibility and freedom (organic energy). Watching the climbing completion reminded me of the importance of balancing out our self when we practice on the mat so we don’t get so muscular and so stabile that we are unable to express our freedom, but at the same time we don’t want to get so loose and flexible that we are no longer safe and supported.

This was the focus of my class this morning at Flow Yoga. We worked on creating strength and flexibility in the shoulders and in the hamstrings. I reminded the students that finding this balance is very personal. We all bring something unique to our mat…our self! For example, I am very flexible and I have been working for over a year to bring more stability and strength into my poses. When I do a forward for like paschimothanasana (seated forward bend) I could just lay and rest on my legs but if I do that all my freedom and shakti escapes my body so I need to contain it by bringing more strength (muscular energy) into the pose, by scoping my tail (outer spiral) bone and rounding my back. On the other hand my husband is more muscular so he wants to focus on extending our and lengthening (organic energy) he wants to emphasis sticking the sit bones toward the back of the room (inner spiral) and the heart toward the front of the room.

The class was really fun. The students were rocking it with great studentship, dedication, and even some laughter.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Restorative Yoga Class

Tonight was great because I had an opportunity to teach a restorative yoga class called “relax and release” at Flow Yoga SLC. I have taken this class a few time and I have subbed this class a few years ago and the class reminded me very much of a gentle yoga class. My new understanding of Anusara especially my knowledge about therapeutics made me really excited to sub this class. I am an avid reader of Maria Cristina’s blog and she often writes about her restorative classes. In her classes from what I can tell she offers as many as I would say 5 poses and as few as 3 in a 90 minute class. The reason for this is using multiple props to help hold the body with the universal principles of alignment and then allowing the body to completely surrender onto the floor, props, chairs… for a duration of 5-15 mins. I didn’t want to totally shook the class with only 4 poses so we did move a little in the beginning. It was really great experience I overheard students saying I feel so restored yeah. I did notice as the students we holding some of these supported poses past 2 mins they started to twitch.

So that’s what we did:
Tadasana ½ moon stretch, AMS
anjaneyasana twist
Moving bridge
Supta pigeon
Supported bound sputa baddha konasana (bolster, blocks, blanket)
Legs up wall (bolster,strap)
(I wanted to do a long supported twist but didn’t have time)
Shavasana (bolster)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

how are you feeling? How can we move toward the sattvic spot

I took Matt Newman’s Anusara-Inspired class last night which was the first class he taught (I believe) since he got back from Wanderlust. He was on fire and the class was full of great presence, pulsation, clarity, passion and some laughter. One thing I especially loved was how he started the class. He had us come to our mats close our eyes and noticed how we feel. He even said (in my ruff translation) that this isn’t the same as when someone asks you how you are doing, and you respond automatically saying good or okay. He asked us to really notice how we are feeling with compassionate non-judgmental awareness. This was a great way to start class, giving us an opportunity to not only tap into the heart but to listen to the authenticity that is there. Thanks Matt, I will be borrowing this approach. Our awareness is so awesome because it is like a huge bowl and can hold whatever we put in it be it anger, jealousy, greed, self pity, love, excitement. When Matt or a teacher encourages us to put into our awareness whatever we may be feeling we can be comforted knowing that our awareness can hold it, and our attention can help shift it, expand it, and learn from it.

It is important to check in and notice how we feel, because if we don’t know how we feel/or where we are we can’t get to how we want to feel/where we want to be going. I like to use this metaphor of being in a canoe or a raft (I did just get back from a rafting trip). We are all in our little individual boats in the middle of this vast ocean called life and we are trying to get to this specific spot. I call this spot the sattvic spot. Sattva is one of the three gunas (qualities of nature) that is a state of harmony, beauty, vitality, ease, joy and intelligence…We are all trying to get our boats toward this place, toward this experience. In our boat we have some paddles. We have the freedom to choose to move our boat toward or away from this sattvic spot. Sometimes we get closer toward this spot passively; it’s the currents and the winds that with a sense of ease move us closer with little effort on our part. It just seems like good things keep happening. Sometimes it is really hard and requires a lot of effort, dedication and we have to row our ass off to move more toward sattvic. Same goes for moving away from this sattvic experience. We can move away passively and sometimes we even pick up our paddles and we put effort into rowing away from this harmonious experience/spot.

In this ocean there are also waves that rock our boat. Patanjali says in his second sutra of The Yoga Sutras "Yoga chitta vrtti nirodah" the traditional dual translates is "Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind." I like to look at this sutra with the non-daul, life affirming point tantric point of view. No matter what we are doing in our boat, what direction we are going, we are going to experience some waves (vrtti). I purpose that instead of trying to stop them, can we instead lean how can we ride these waves? How can we use these waves as an opportunity to move closer toward the heart, toward this sattvic spot/experience? I think one of the ways to do this is by authentically listening to our heart and noticing where we are. This applies on and off your mat. On our mat, ask your self, is taking full expression of ardha chandrasana helping me experience more radiance or will having my hand on my hip allow me to access and express my inner beauty more fully?

How can we allow every breath, every adjustment as a way to align with our heart more fully so we may paddle ourself and ride the currents of grace toward this sattvic spot in the ocean we are floating on 

Theme: listen to your heart and your breath and use what comes up as a map to help you enjoy a more sattvic experience.

Sequence idea:
AMS, UTT, tadasana
Surya A 5x
High runner lunge
Ardha chandrasana, vira 2, ostrich
Prasarita padottanasana

Virrasana (hands on head skull loop, organic extension)
Pinca mayurasana

Anjaneyasana + quad stretch
Pigeon + quad stretch + mermaid
Matsyendrasana/ Setu Bandha
Double pigeon
Upavist konasana
Parvrta upavista konasana
Baddha konasana

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I just got back from floating down The Cataract Canyon on a raft. This trip was great for many reasons. One reason was from sitting in a raft for multiple hours a day and noticing my posture, the posture of others, and the complaints about low back pain. This was a wonderful reminder of how important the sacrum. When the sacrum is balanced in rotation and is going in and up it is a beautiful thing.
The sacrum bone is located at the base of the spine and its job is to transfer the weight from the upper body to the lower body. The way we hold the sacrum in our daily life and in our asana practice is very important and can help us maintain optimum health or can act as a source of lower back pain and discomfort. The sacrum, located at the base of the spine, is formed from five fused vertebrae’s and looks like a downward-facing triangle which is interesting because the symbol of a downward facing triangle represents the unmanifested coming into manifestation. Because of where this symbol is located it is very fascinating and interesting. The flat part of the triangle that represents the direction of the unmanifested is facing upward. If you look at the subtle body energy and the chakras you see that the higher you get up the spine the more transcendental the energy gets. At the crown of our head is where we find the svadhistana, 7th chakra. This is the most mysterious and transcendental chakra and is where Shiva is said to reside. If we follow the downward point of the triangle down we find the muladhara chakra. This 1st chakra that rests at the base of the spine is the most gross, most earth, most manifested energy and is where the coiled serpent (kundalini shakti) lays waiting. (Just an interesting side note: We can see this symbol in the heart of the Anusara logo.) When the sacrum meets the pelvic bone it forms a joint called the sacro-iliac (SI) joint. Most people suffer from low back, SI joint pain, and this is normally caused and can be prevented by the positioning of the sacrum.
There are two main normally misalignments that many people habitually make in their everyday lives. There are also little ways to correct the misalignment:

1. It is very normal to collapse onto one leg while standing. For example, if you were talking to someone and you straightened and put most of your weight on your right leg and stuck your right hip out to the right with a little bend and barely any weight on your left leg. This will cause the right side of your sacrum to push back (because you are collapsing on that hip), this backward pressure and rotation on your right SI joint to go out and get stuck. When I say get stuck I mean your sacrum will be “stuck” is this rotation and will keep the sacrum turned at an awkward angle.

a. How to identify which way your pelvis is rotated: lie on your back, with your knees bent in and your feet on the floor. Gently flatten your lower back to the floor. Keep your feet on the floor and slowly bring your knee to the right, and then a few inches to the left. Feel for a knobby place (the PSIS, Posterior Superior Iliac Spine) around the back of your pelvis. The side where the knob feels the most dominant is the side to which your pelvis is rotated.

b. You can also identify this misalignment with the help of a friend. Turn around so your back is facing your friend and lift up the back of your shirt. Have your friend notice the two indents at the top of the sacrum (you might need to feel around for these). Have your friend put their finger on each one of these indents notice how they are positioned. Then lift up one knee hip level and then do the same with your other leg. Have your friend notice what finger moves the most as you left up your knees.

i. You can help correct this misalignment with the first universal principle of Anusara yoga which is open to grace. When we talk about the first principle we are also talking about the inner body. If your pelvis is rotated away from optimal blue print so if your inner body. To correct this turn your inner body away from the side that you pelvis is rotated, and this may feel very imbalance it is actual balanced and neutral. Having the misalignment in the sacrum has re programmed your body to what “neutral” is however the body is wrong and this new "neutral" is continuing to move the body farther and farther out of alignment. By turning your inner body way from collapse you can “re program” the body so the sacrum is facing straight ahead. Whenever we talk about principles it is important to remember that we are always practicing a combination of the 5 so even though I am emphasizing the open to grace in this situation you still want to do everything else as well. For example if you don’t work muscle energy, engaging the muscles then you can’t maintain the position of the inner body.

2. It is also very common to round you low back causing the sacrum to go out and down. When the sacrum is positioned like this you are causing too much compression on one side of the vertebrae and too much extension on the other. We want the sacrum to be going in and up because this puts a natural inward curve in your back which helps align the whole spine.

a. You can create the sacrum going in and up using the Anusara universal principles of alignment. Inner spiral the thighs, take the inner thighs toward the back of the room or if you are sitting down toward the back of your chair. This should cause a trench like curve in your low back and cause your sit bones to widen. This is great now we want to get the core working to help support the spine so create outer spiral by scooping the tail bone under so the curve inst quite as intense and so you can feel the low belly lift. And way-la! Sacrum in and up. You can reach your hand to your low back/sacrum and you should feel the downward facing triangler-ish bone going in and up to the base of the spine.

I like to imagine my pelvis as a bowl filled with water. And as we have talked about above the positioning of the sacrum has a huge impact on how that bowl is held. If your pelvis is rotated toward one side your bowl will be tilted and the water will spill out to that side. If your sacrum goes out and down, your bowl will be tilted backwards and the water will still out toward your heels. If your sacrum is not rotated and your sacrum is going in and up your bowl will be neutral and your water will be contained. In your daily life and in every asana pose we are working, using the universal principles of alignment, to make sure our bowl/pelvis/sacrum is neutral.

Some asanas categories to work with finding balance in the sacrum:
Asymmetrical Poses where one leg is forward and one is back (lunges, parsvakonasana, parsvottanasana, virabhadrasana, Trikonasana…): in all of these standing poses you want to create that neutral pelvic bowl. Do this by balancing out the outer spiral (scooping the sit bone) of the front leg and inner spiral on the back leg. It’s an asymmetrical pose, so the sacrum will need to tip in and up faster on the back leg side, while it will need to go down and in faster on the front leg side. You can take your hand to your low back and feel the sacrum to make sure it is going in and up, you should have an even lodorsail curve in your back. If the curve is really big lengthen your tailbone toward the earth so the low belly engages.

Sitting poses and forward bends (sukasana, uttanasana, janusirsasana, upavista konasana): for all forward bends, the top of the sacrum must draw in and up before moving past 90 degrees in the pelvis. This is a crucial alignment for the health of the lower back.

Symmetrical poses where the feet are in one line (Ustrasana, tadasana, utkatasana): as a symmetrical pose, this is a really great way to realign the sacrum/pelvis. Use your inner body to balance the rotation of the pelvis. Inner spiral the thighs and emphasize this on the side that the sacrum is rotated toward. Then apply outer spiral and emphasize this action a little more on the side that the sacrum is rotated away from. So to continue our example from above, you would inner and widen your right sit bone out a little more, and you would scoop your left sit bone under a little more.

Prep for shavasana: bend your knees and put your feet on the floor knees over ankles and isometrically draw your heels back toward your sit bones which will create a lodotic curve in your back. Keep the curve as you straighten one leg at a time toward shavasana

Yoga nerds notes by Zhenja
Yoga as Therapy, By Doug Keller):
The Anatomy coloring book, by Wynn Kapit and Lawrence M. ELson

Intention and Testimonials

Testimonials & My Intention

My Intention It is my intention as a yoga teacher to help you bring more health and vibrancy to your body, ease and alertness to your mind...