Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beginners Mind

This week in my personal practice I have been working with a beginners mind. Every time I place my hands on the mat, squeeze my legs, lift my rib cage, breath... I imagine I am doing it as a beginner. After practicing for so many years it can be a habit to just move through the motions, actions and poses. With this "expert mindset" I miss so much. And although I have probably done over 10,000 second warrior poses, not one of them has felt identical to the other. Although my clever mind tells I've been there, done that so instead of paying attention I can tell myself little stories during my practice. But when I use my beginner mind I am in a place of receiving and I can learn so much about myself and this practice.

"In the beginner's mind there is no thought, "I have attained something." All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner's mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. Then we are always true to ourselves, in sympathy with all beings, and can actually practice." Shunryu Suzuki-roshi
"All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thoughts on achievement, no thoughts of self, we are true beginners. Then we can truly learn something" Shunryu Suzuki-roshi
"Strive to achieve a beginner mentality at all times. Because in the beginners mind all things are possible" Buddhist Teaching
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." Buddhist Teaching

I taught a yoga class at The Yoga Center yesterday using some of this information. The class was great. Slow moving, the students were very open, and there awareness was present and full of curiosity.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Kidney Loop

Yesterday at The Yoga Center I taught kidney loop. This is a loop I don’t specifically teach to often but I have been seeing lots of collapse in the low back and kidney area. I felt on fire teaching because kidney loop has been a refinement I have been working on for so long. I got to share all these little "secrets" and tid bits of information I have found with this loop.

For example, I had the students move to the wall and stand in tadasana with their back against the wall. I explained the loops here and the students got to feel kidney loop and got a good way to measure if they were doing it correctly. IT was probably only 15 minutes into class when one of the students exclaimed "this is hard". Then we moved through some basic poses: lunges, utkatasna, vinyasa's, uttanasana... but in every pose I waited for the students to cultivate a puff and broadening of their low back.

To me when I don't do kidney loop and I stand normally (collapsing) I feel like I am losing my energy or like my power is leaking out of me. When I engage this loop I feel like I put on my wonder women harness and I feel strong and super powerful. I could see this in the students as well. When they had they super yogi harnesses on (kidney loop) they would extend out more, they had more control over their bodies, and they had more confidence and strength in their eyes. This is probably one of my favorite gifts of teaching yoga, getting to watch students realize they are strong, and powerful or calm and clear and can do things they didn't think they can do, or feel a way they didn't think they could feel.

I told briefly the story of Hanuman, of how he had so many powers but that he was mischievous with his powers when he was young so the Gods got together and decided to cast a spell on him that he wouldn't remember that he had these powers. After this Hanuman needed to be reminded. One of my favorite parts of this in The Ramayana is when Hanuman is getting ready to leap over a giant ocean to rescue Ram's wife. But Hanuman doesn't think he can leap over it, he forgot he was powerful that he could grow giant and leap far and his friend had to remind him of his power. This is one of the gifts of the community is we can remind each other that we are powerful, we can even remind our self we are powerful. Hanuman Story

At the end of class the women were saying to me and talking to each other about how hard the class was. I was talking to a student later and she said, "it was so hard pulling our stomach in and opening our kidneys in every pose, but I liked it".

picture of Christina Sell teaching Kidney Loop

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I have been practicing a lot lately. As my head and my heart have felt heavy with gossip on all social mediums regarding Anusara. Practicing has helped a lot. It gets me out of my head, off the computer, into my body, and into the practice that has transformed me in so many ways. I try to remind myself that the universe doesn't give me more then I can handle, and as long as I walk through the many feeling instead of around them I believe that this process will continue to teach me and assist in my  healing. It almost feels like a test can I still practice the principles: open, hold fast, go in, anchor, and extend out to help others during these trying times. 

My practice on the mat has been full of passion. Passion to hold steady, to go deep inside and remember why I practice and the many blessings that has happened as a result. The way I have taught this week has also been full of passion too. I want so badly for the students to be able to move past the labels, the confusion and instead move deep into the practice.

The hardest thing for me has been to see so many of the senior anusara teachers that I have studied with on-line via blogs, yogaglo, tele-courses... and local anusara teachers who I have learned the method from leave. I have also seen so many teachers come together together, it has encouraged people to turn inside, because although we can stand together we each have to individually turn in and see what is right for us.

Certified Anusara Teacher Abby Tucker's write on face book "I feel this with all I am. Anusara is a Shakti. It is not a man, not an organization, not even a method. It is a pulsation of energy. Align to that!"

This past week I subbed three classes for my teacher Adam while he was in Montana teaching an immersion. I felt really confident teaching for him and got lots of positive feedback all the classes. I have been studying, practicing, reading, journalling... all these things i have been doing are improving my teaching and people can tell!

Universal to personal.

I took a class from Jen Hecht and Bob Hoffa with in a day of eachother last week. As both Ansuara teachers taught to the universal I felt like it was directed at me personally. I love when this happens. When  a teacher says something universal and the other students and myself each feel like it relates to something specific that we are going through.
That is a skill.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Quote from Paul Muller-Ortega

"We are each ultimately responsible for our own path,

our own practice, our own sadhana.

How do you go about making wisdom and knowledge your own?

Unless wisdom is illuminated in your heart,

you don't actually 'know' it.

Knowledge must be awakened by direct inner experience."

~Paul Muller-Ortega 

Opening to GRACE

Opening to grace reminds me of the 3rd step in 12 step recovery programs:"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God". For me this is understanding that things are not always going to go the way I have planned, and instead of fighting against what is in reality happening or getting sad and angry at the situation. Opening to Grace and turning it over to my higher power is realizing that I am not in control. And in fact trying to control it actually creates more pain for my self and possibly others.

Here are two examples that have happened this week:
  • Tyler and I are in the market to buy our first home in SLC, UT. We found a house we really love and we put an offer on it. It is not a traditionally sell. Instead there will be a live auction next Monday. It is really up the air weather we will get it or not. We really want this house and are taking every step to get it. I am also trying to turn it over and trust that if we do not get it, it was meant to be. I trust if we don't get it, we will find another home that is right for us.
  • This has been a really hard week in the Anusara Community with accusations pointed at John Friend and with several certified teachers resigning that licence. Again I have had this future plan that involves Anusara and I did not plan on this current situation. I so wish I could control everything and everyone, however that is not the case. I have to practice the first principle of Anusara Yoga which is OPEN TO GRACE. Open implies the opposite of contract, and when I first started reading the letters of resignation from some of my favorite teachers contract is what my mind, body, and heart did. But opening means to take in and feel, and to move through the feeling spectrum.  I really don't want to hold all this fear, anxiety, confusion, anger, and sadness. The cool thing is opening up to grace lets me give all that stuff to Grace/God/Higher power. My shoulders get lighter, which lets me open up even more. When you open something the contents are realized. So opening to grace is like opening the pandora box, all the fears and stuff you are willing to let go of get realized. Until I forget and all those feelings come back and then I have to remind myself to open to grace again. I love that this is the first principle. Because I forget about it so many times in a yoga class for example but since its the first pricinple i get to keep reminding myself to do it, over and over. I really do have faith in the Anusara Method I don't know what is to come but I think good things will end up manifesting from this situation.
    •  "believe this is supposed to be happening. As usual in Yoga, all the players are in the right place at the right time for the next evolution of Yoga to take place. Yoga is the driver here.

      Yoga is a living, breathing Intelligence (and a good driver). . It is a Blessing Force and a Wisdom Force. It arises to save you if you let it. And that arising Intelligence will demand alignment and it will not always make that demand nicely. "
    • "In my heart of hearts I know that once the dust settles something absolutely extraordinary is going to emerge from all of this." Marc Holzman

Saturday, February 11, 2012

advanced practice

Went to Adam Ballengers Advanced practice at Centered City Yoga. He talked about listening to our mind versus listening to our heart. Our mind is similar to our ego and our intellect. These want to make us happy and doesn't always consider the deeper purpose and more long term happiness. Adam used the example of milk chocolate. It might make you happy in the short term but but doesn't make you feel as good in 30 minutes or in a day or week. He went on to say we need to parent our heart. When the brain suggests a short term fix to happiness we remind the brain that maybe eating 10 bars of milk chocolate isn't the best choice if we want to align our self in a way that continues to cultivate happiness.

In class I jotted down a quote I really resonated with:
"do you line your body up with your brain or do you use your brain to line your body up with your heart", "Goal: to feel intuitively good".

It was a great practice I saw some friends who I haunt practiced with in a bit. We did partner work in various arm balances. I love how partner work builds community. I partnered with two yogi's I haven't worked with much before and I feel like after working and sweating with them we are a lot closer. So cool! We did lots of inner spiral/ expanding spiral work in the legs and the arms, + core work to link the legs and arms together.

Adam also talked about the recent articles that has come out about John Friend. He reminded us that Anusara Yoga is a system of yoga, and that anusara yoga has not changed. Its not John  Friend yoga. Reminding us that we can still like and practice anusra yoga without agreeing with everything John may or may not have done. This made sense to me. People make mistakes. It can be easy to place people up on pedestals and think they are perfect, but the best anyone can ever be is human. I am interested to see how John handles this situation.

Friday, February 10, 2012

24 Birthday

For my 24 birthday I got together with my friend Andrea and Jen and we did some yoga. I did 24 drop backs in honor of my 24 years. Here are some pictures:


I love reading but I haven’t read a purely fiction book in quite awhile. The closest book I haven’t gotten is The Prophet, The Gita, The Buddha, and Siddhartha…That was until last week when I bought The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It was so fascinating I finished it in a few days and bought the second book of the trilogy Catching Fire, which I finished last night. I loved that when I was reading these books my attention was so focused. I was so curious, interested, and fascinated that I read and read for hours.

When I taught at Avenues Yoga on Thursday we talked about this (more than half of the class also read this pre-teen trilogy and were very excited when I referenced it).  These qualities of curiosity are wonderful for getting me in the moment fully with attention. We can use the same qualities same qualities in our asana practice to help cultivate attention. Being curious if the body is doing what we are asking it to do. Inquiring to see what will happen in the next breath. Being sensitive to our experience noticing the difference of stability and erratic. This was a great get to know and feel your body class as the students worked toward trikonasana (triangle pose). The principle I focused on was muscular energy and it is so fun to watch students as they examine and feel their muscles to see the slightly let down look on their face when they realize their muscles are not engaged (been there done that) and then see their delighted face after poling their muscle and finding it firm.
I taught lots of hip openers leading up to trikonasana. I explained the importance of using muscle energy when working hip openers because if the muscles aren’t engaged the part of the leg that will be getting flexible is the knee, we don’t want to get our knees more flexible. But when the legs are engaged and you rotate the leg it is the hip that will be getting more flexible. This is particularly important if a student has a history of a injured knee.


This past weekend it was my Grandpas 80th birthday and we 100+ family members and fiends came together from across that nation to celebrate his wonderful life. It was a superb hilarious crowd. When I was driving home I reflected about the day of festivities and reflected on how fascinating it is that celebrations bring so many people together.
This is similar to engaging muscles, in Anusara lingo, using muscular energy. When we engage our muscles it unites pats of our bodies into units. Instead of having a foot, shin, knee, thigh bone, hip… when muscular energy is engaged drawing from the periphery to the core it draws the leg and all its body parts into a unit. Sometimes when I practice and I am engaging my muscles and my body stats shaking, I smile and tell myself that my muscles jumping for joy in celebration for being used and getting to unite with its fellow body parts (which are often separated do to poor alignment and laziness).
I used this idea as a theme for my class at The Yoga Center class on Monday and at Avenues Yoga for my class on Tuesday. The student’s practiced great adhikara (studentship) as I encouraged them to prod and gab at their muscles throughout the class to notice if their body was doing what they were asking it to do.  This is something I have been observing in my own practice, when I poke my thigh to check that I am firming my muscles I realize that they are not engaged. In both classes I taught basic standing poses and seated postures. After my Avenues yoga class a student told me “wow the poses weren’t advanced but I worked so much harder then normally” another interrupts “because she kept telling use to squeeze our body parts”.

I remember when I was starting to practicing from Adam Ballenger and he was getting me to  engage my body in every pose I was shocked, even in poses that I used to completely relax in like eka pada rajakapotasana (pigeon pose) and forward folds I was being taught to engage my muscles. I used to go to basic yoga classes and practice engaging my body like Adam was teaching me and I would leave class feeling like I worked so hard.

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...