Archive for the ‘Anusara Yoga’ Category

As those who have ever kept a gratitude journal can attest, one of the effects of such a practice is that it causes you to become more conscious, to become an active witness of your own life. After all, if you have to write something down about it later, you better be paying attention. I have found the same thing to be true from my practice of composing daily 6-word memoirs. It “forces” me to reflect, to “BE” conscious, and frequently at the very moment I am ready to crawl into the UNconscious world of sleep.

If you stay with it, there are gifts in reflection. Combining a day’s events with my own reactions and then distilling it down to six words involves a certain kind of alchemy. This is not at all unlike the deeper opening you experience in yoga the second or third time you move into a pose. At first take you don’t yield significant results, and the process may be painful, but then … AHHHHHH, there’s the bliss.

I spent yesterday in the company of old friends. At this point in our lives the conversation will inevitably turn to the effects of aging at some point, and our ongoing, futile efforts to hide the ever-increasing lines on our faces. And so it was that on my drive home as I considered my six word memoir for the day, I began to audition a host of words on aging to try to settle on the six finalists that best expressed my frustration with this whole “getting old” thing: Age, Rage, Line, Define, Sag, Bag, Hag. I was on quite a roll.

Then the alchemy began to occur. Sifting through the words, my thoughts turned to how LONG I’ve been blessed to have these friends look into my eyes (aging or otherwise) and the grace that God has granted me with their very presence. I began to play with the words “face” and “grace” until I critically considered, is that the correct use of the word “grace”? So I paused to look it up the definition online: “grace: 1) the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God;” Wow. “2) The influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.”

Isn’t THAT the definition of friends; “the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.” Friendship, a synonym for God’s grace.

“Friends’ Faces Reflect Graces of God”

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Prana recently released a new yoga mat, The Revolution. Over three years in development, the mat was designed by Dave Kennedy in conjunction with Anusara Yoga’s founder, John Friend. It boasts an extra 6″ width over standard mats — a special boon to those of broad shoulders — and with all-natural materials, you can rest well in savasana knowing that YOU are an ecofriend.

Revolution Natural Sticky Yoga Mat by prAna (eco-friendly!) – NEW! From DrishtiYoga.com:

Check it out, guys! This is a new yoga mat that’s just been released by prAna. prAna designed this mat with the help of Anusara Yoga founder John Friend. They claim that this is the best yoga mat available on the market, and we agree that it’s pretty darn cool. The thing that stands out most about this mat is that it’s extremely roomy. Whereas the average yoga mat is 24″x68″ in size, the new Revolution Yoga Mat is a whopping 30″x78″ – wowza that’s big! In addition to its extra-large size, the Revolution Mat is also very well-made. It’s a rubber-based all-natural yoga mat which is made with no hazardous materials (i.e. no PVC), and it’s completely biodegradable. This mat also has excellent anti-slip properties and superior cushioning. At 4mm thick, you won’t experience any moving or bunching underfoot.

The Revolution Yoga Mat is very dense (meaning that it’s therefore incredibly durable), and because of that, it has a hefty weight of about 10 pounds.

Available in grass and burnt orange. 30″x78″x4mm.

For a slightly lighterweight version of this mat which is 26″ wide instead of 30″ wide, see the Neo Natural Yoga Mat by prAna. The only difference between the Neo Natural Mat and the Revolution Mat is that the Neo Natural Mat is 4″ narrower.

A Video Revolution

The videos touting the Revolution’s release are playful, fun and artistic. Put together by Michael Longstaff (aka Milo), they are a series of promotions that emphasize the mat’s features in a fabulously creative out of the box — or should I say, “off the mat” visual array. (FYI: Michael Longstaff produced the Anusara Yoga syllabus poster “From Tadasana to Savasana” featuring Darren Rhodes. For more info on Michael, visit Tirtha Studios.)

The videos are totally fun. For those in the Anusara community, there’s an added bonus of recognizable friends. You can find these on YouTube. It will only take you about 5 minutes to watch these … and don’t miss “The Finale”!

Let’s start a REVOLUTION … order yours today!

The Joy (with Christina) ~ A Revolution Makes Christina Sell TALLER!

The Size: (look for Kelly)

The Construction:

The Smell:

The Finale: (with John Friend, Christina & Kelly Sell, Peter Goodman, Tiffany Grimm, Darren Rhodes & more!)

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Do you Twitter? Follow:

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The Journey Towards My Heels

The Journey Towards My Heels

Face Off with Change

My Face Off with Change

Backbends are challenging for me — both physically and on an energetic level. And as such, it’s a curious study to watch where my mind goes throughout the course of a backbending practice: I am aggravated, frustrated, invigorated and ultimately fascinated by them. If I learn nothing else from backbends, they do illustrate & remind me of the first principle of Anusara Yoga: “Open to Grace.”

These photos were taken at our Anusara group practice yesterday with Christina Sell. For more pictures, check out Christina’s blog.

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I just ran across a yoga article on an online fitness site Testosterone.Muscle Unapologetic Muscle-Building Elitists. (Okay, not your typical yogi reading material, I’ll admit.) Mike Robertson’s article Yoga is Overrated makes a case against the yoga fitness craze. Surprisingly, I agree with him on a number of his assertions. Be sure to read the full text of Robertson’s article, (with my apologies for the cheesecake picture at the end). A summary of his points:

Yoga the Good

  1. Mind-Muscle Connection
  2. Decrease Stress
  3. Balance

Yoga the Bad

  1. Instability
  2. “Tightness” does not equal “Needs to be Stretched”
  3. Group Exercise/Lack of Individualization

Getting the Most Out of Your Yoga

  1. Find an educated teacher
  2. Smaller classes
  3. Focus on Quality vs. Quantity

His points on instability and tightness do not hold water in the context of Anusara Yoga where the emphasis is on balanced action — you do not stretch a muscle until you draw in circumfrentially with muscular energy. However, Robertson’s “Yoga the Bad” reflects what IS bad in what I’ll call psuedo-yoga offerings. Unfortunately, there are all too many of these kinds of teachers and classes, not only in the gym setting but perhaps (more damaging) in the yoga studio as well.

Just like I’m sure Robertson would agree that incorrectly performed body building exercises are not good for you, I whole-heartedly agree with his assertions as they relate to “incorrect” yoga. His tips for getting the most out of your yoga are worth heeding; his summation a great prediction:

“I may be living in a dream world, but I believe that there will be a revolution in the yoga world in the coming years that puts a serious emphasis on moving in a biomechanically efficient manner.” ~ Mike Robertson

That revolution is here baby, it’s called Anusara Yoga.

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I would really love to hear your thoughts and opinions of this article, and invite you to discuss your ideas here. What do you think of his assertions? Side note: My comments are written with an obvious bias towards Anusara Yoga which I study and practice. Other yoga methods also emphasize the biomechanics and provide effective instruction (with a tip of my mat to my Iyengar friends)!

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As the self-proclaimed YogiTechChick, I’m often weighing the effects of technology on our lives. At first glance, technology and a yoga practice seem diametrically opposed to one another. By its very nature, doesn’t it take us further away from “being present”? The endless stream of text messages, emails and 24/7 connectivity certainly bears witness to this shift away from the present moment with distraction only a fingertip away.

Still, many yogis are finding constructive ways to incorporate technology in their practice. Ipods give access to yoga podcasts and practice music. Iphones offer meditation timers. From blogs to Twitter to Facebook, the growth of the online yoga community has allowed like-minded folks to inspire one another, share event notices, and build the kula.

Sites offering online classes are another tech tool yogis are utilizing. Yogaglo launched last month with that purpose and looks promising. Their site “streams yoga classes globally from the Yogaglo studio in Santa Monica, California, to create the experience of participating in the class at your home or on the go.” Currently in their beta version, Yogaglo is offering a 15-day free trial period for unlimited access to their classes which are promised to be updated regularly.

“Classes cover the spectrum of asana styles, meditation, lectures, workshops, and special events.” Their home page displays the six most recent classes and you can sort archived classes according to teacher, style, level and duration. (You can pick by Levels 1-3 and duration of practice 5 – 120 minutes.) Advertised styles include: Anusara, Yin, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow and even meditation. Teachers include: Jo Tastula, Noah Maze, Stephen Espinosa, Genevieve Fischer and Tara Judelle. (Both Tara and Noah are certified Anusara Yoga teachers.) There is also promise of guest teachers as well.

The technology integration continues with a Facebook application:

With our Yogaglo Facebook application you can become part of the global yoga community.  Your friends on Facebook who have installed the Yogaglo app appear in your Yogaglo Friends tab.  With our Facebook app, you see from your profile when your favorite class is uploaded to the Yogaglo website.

While online classes aren’t for everyone, they certainly fill a niche. If you can’t make your regular class or need some guidance for a home practice, inspiration may be just a mouse click away. For those in smaller communities without access to large studios, this may be the only way they can experience a class with a seasoned teacher without traveling. As a yogi in the 21st century, being present may just be at the end of your fingergtips after all.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Late in November 2005, we concocted a crazy plan. 1) Darren Rhodes would perform every asana in the Anusara Syllabus in two days. 2) He would do all of the poses of each type (backbends, armbalancing, forward folds etc) in each level as an uninterrupted set (for Ross’ video purposes). 3) Michael would photograph every pose for output to a syllabus poster. This is some footage from the process.” ~ Ross Evans

Those of you familiar with Anusara Yoga have seen the poster. Darren Rhodes, an accomplished Anusara Yoga practitioner and certified teacher, took on the yogic task of doing every asana on all three Anusara Yoga syllabi … and that he did. Recently, I was directed to this video which was made during the photographic shoot. The beautiful background vocals are those of Darren’s wife, Bronwin. Hanuman Jai is one of ten songs available on her CD Bhavana. In 2008, Yoga Journal named Darren one their Top 21 teachers under 40 who are “shaping the future of yoga.” You can find more information about Darren, his studio in Tuscon, and his upcoming schedule at Yoga Oasis.

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Anusara Yoga Immersion with Darren Rhodes & Christina Sell in Tuscon

  • Part I – August 2009
  • Part II – October 2009
  • Part III – December 2009

For more information, contact Rachel at Yoga Oasis

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  • Read Darren’s approach to Hanumanasana and see more photos of him in the Pose of the Month column for Anusara Yoga’s Currents newsletter, Winter 2008 edition.
  • See photos from his workshop with Christina Sell last summer on this blog.
  • Special thanks to my friend Deirdra ~ my Twitter & Facebook friend ~ for bringing this awesome video to my attention.

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My Teacher

Christina Sell

The story goes that it is not uncommon for John Friend to ask a student, “Who’s your teacher?” during one of his Anusara Yoga workshops. To his experienced legion of teachers, this comes more as an inquiry about THEM than the particular individual being questioned. And as such, there are lighthearted jokes in the Anusara yoga kula ~ but with a very real undercurrent ~ when someone playfully chimes, “Who’s your teacher?”

My teacher, Christina Sell, reminded us of that sentiment frequently in the weeks leading up to John’s visit to Austin last fall. “You know what I’ve taught you,” she’d admonish, “… so do it!” But it was more than simply wanting to “look good” as our teacher. Christina believes that her role is to teach Anusara Yoga culture as well as the methodology. She wanted us to know what to expect and how to behave not just in John’s workshop, but in any setting with seasoned Anusara Yoga teachers and practitioners. With the ferocity of a mother duck quacking at the feet of her ducklings so that they can safely navigate a busy intersection, Christina shared the wisdom of her experience to help us successfully navigate a John Friend workshop.

Lately, her travel schedule has afforded many more students the benefit of that wisdom. Yet this leaves those of us in Austin without her guiding “quack.” I’ve used this time as an opportunity to explore some other proverbial intersections in the yogic world, and last week ventured into a “non” Anusara Yoga class at the studio where I practice.  While I didn’t know the particular teacher, I recognized her from one of Christina’s recent classes that she’d also attended. She came over to me and introduced herself, then added with a nervous laugh, “You’re one of Christina’s students. I don’t want YOU in my class.” I smiled at her reassuringly and casually dismissed it.

Still, as I closed my eyes, I joined my hands in anjali mudra with a prayer of acknowledgment and gratitude. “Who’s MY Teacher?”… Christina Sell.

Yeah, baby!

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Tomorrow is a big day, and I’m not talking about Barrack Obama’s inauguration! On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, the Goddess that IS Desiree Rumbaugh turns 50, but don’t send the AARP card just yet. One of the first yoga teachers to be certified in the Anusara Yoga method, Desiree is a gifted teacher. As John Friend said, she’s in that class of people who only need a one name introduction: DEZ!

Desiree spent her birthday weekend here in San Francisco doing what she loves to do ~ teaching yoga and inspiring her students to realize the potential that lies within them. Whether that’s the ability to touch their heads to their toes for the first time, heal their own injuries, or live a resilient and vibrant life ~ she not only talks the talk ~ she walks the walk. dez-at-50

All of this made her workshop ~ Late Bloomers: Over 50 ~ all that more poignant! Those who were expecting to be led in a gentle flow were quickly engaged in strength-building asanas. Desiree explained that as we age we lose our flexibility more quickly than our strength. To reestablish our flexibility we MUST build and engage our strength. From push-ups to core work, she put us through our paces with the discipline of a drill sargent. She continued, “You do not have to give up any class of poses simply because you’re aging. When you limit yourself, you limit your teaching.”

Later that evening, there was a small birthday celebration for Dez which included a Japanese Bath House adventure (another story … seriously) followed by some southern Indian food (as if I would know the difference between northern & southern Indian cuisine). Sitting across the table from this strong, spirited woman, it was hard to imagine she was about to turn 50 & especially as I watched her try to lick gelato off the end of her nose.

Frankly, I’M not sure the AARP is ready for Desiree!

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Sianna Sherman is known for her lyrical weaving of storytelling as she shares the Universal Principles of Alignment that define Anusara Yoga. Sharing yogic stories & philosophies with a theatrical presence, a class with Sianna is like listening to a beautiful soliloquy. With an ambitious agenda to take her students into Hanumanasa, Sianna worked her magic first thing in the morning on Sunday. Say “Hello” to the hamstrings at 8 a.m.

Sianna.jpgHanuman, the great monkey deity, was renowned for his courage, power and faithful service. As Sianna took the class through an asana sequence that opened up the hips and hamstrings, she shared rich stories and how Hanuman made his great LEAP across the continent (hence the origins of the pose) to rescue Sita for Ram.

Sianna worked the class methodically through all of the 5 principles of alignment as she shared these stories. We used a partner exercise to help gain access to the power of the standing leg in standing splits for a different variation of the pose. As the class drew to a close, we all moved into Hanumanasa, our own heroic leap of faith in the yoga process, as WELL as our hamstrings.

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California, here I come!”

In short order, I will be posting directly on the Yoga Journal San Francisco Conference Blog. Be sure to bookmark that link & you can follow ~ not only my updates ~ but those of several other attendees as well.  Wait … I think I like the moniker “Conference Media” better!  🙂 Additionally, it appears that I will be able to share my posts from THAT site directly here which is kinda nice for keeping everything together. Just think, folks: All ME, All the Time!

Congruently, I have made some minor changes to the layout of my blog for the conference duration. You will find new links on the sidebar for the San Francisco presenters. (More to come!)  I have also expanded my YogiTechChick Twitter feed on the sidebar to show 10 posts at a time.  This makes a BIG mess, I know, but I plan to be using this tech tool between my blog posts for more frequent short updates AND pictures.

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, it’s yet another social networking site: “Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you doing?” I have to admit that it seems kind of dumb at first ~ yet another public navel gazing site ~ but I have found some valuable resources and reasons to use it. All this technology is a bit daunting.

Now for a test run, I am importing Alan Zucker’s post ~ Yoga Journal – San Francisco Conference 2009 – Yoga Blog ~ in which he shares the bio of Anusara Yoga teacher Sianna Sherman. After my Estes Park experience with her, I am jazzed for Sianna’s workshop “Leap of Love: Dynamic Hip Openers with Hanuman” on Sunday, January 18, 2009.

Opening the hips through alignment, storytelling, and playfulness can bring immense opening into the breath of the heart. Learn about the monkey called Hanuman, whose adventurous and devoted spirit inspires us. Together, we will make the leap with fun, with courage, and-most of all, with love!

Thanks for hanging with me as I figure out all this technology and for joining me on my San Francisco adventure. Please let me know if any of these feeds, imports or links don’t feed, import or link!  Next up … They’ve requested a bio and picture. Okay, now THAT’S daunting!

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When beautiful people co-create, beautiful things transpire. As such, I am so pleased to share that my friends Hannah Emlen & Mark Franke have (finally) ventured into the blogosphere with their very own site: YogaInspired. I am selfishly taking some credit for it, as I’ve been telling Mark for several months that it’s time for them to create one. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the stats you can see on your blog is the search terms that brought visitors to your site. Here, I’m good for a couple of “Mark Franke” visits each month: “Get your own blog, Mark,” I’ve teased him.

These are two beautiful people. Not just in their physical form which is obvious to even the casual observer, but in their very spirit and essence. Observing their asana practice is akin to watching a beautiful sunset. You are struck with quiet awe. They both radiate vibrant energy and beauty ~ whether it’s watching Mark do drop backs or Hannah’s sustained effort in “rocking” from urdhva dhaurasana up to standing. It is no wonder their blog has a unique beautiful home page ~ a close up of their eyes: Hannah, almond Egyptian-esque and Mark, that of a soulful musician.

Both are actively pursuing their Anusara Yoga teaching credentials. As inspiring as it is to watch them practice, it is even more so to experience them watching one ANOTHER ~ the look of pride on Mark’s face when Hannah demos, the expression of joy on her face when John Friend announced Mark’s birthday. So it was exciting ~ though not surprising ~ when I heard of their engagement. And I thought, what beautiful babies to come!

Originally, I planned to add their bios in this post so I went to search the internet. I came across this and decided to share it instead, an entry from their travel blog about a year ago with photos and comments by Mark. I hope that they don’t mind that I am “re-publishing” it here ~ it is simple, sweet & beautiful.

Mark Franke Sand

Mark Franke

Hannah Emlen Sand

Hannah Emlen

* * *

“I am a scorpio by birth and a christian by necessity. She was born in January and is naturally a christian without thinking about it, she wishes everyone would shut up about it cause it’s not a big deal. I like coffee but it makes me sad. She is nice. I like God. She does too.” ~ 2007

* * *

Congratulations Hannah & Mark, and many heartfelt blessings sent your way ~ on your blog, on your engagement, and on your future together!

When beautiful people co-create, beautiful things transpire.

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It was a great weekend in Austin Texas, the final stop on the Light the Sky tour with John Friend. Many thanks to EVERYONE who made it happen ~ especially the fabulous Anusara Yoga office crew, the ever-resilient Christina and THE organization guru Jesse! Full report later. Enjoy the photos!

Note: If you click on the “View all Images” button, you can see larger pictures and pause the show, like perhaps to admire the beauty of my eka pada rajakapotasana! 😀

Pammy ~ YOUR Yogi Tech Chick Blogini

P.S. And just in case, if you missed my earlier picture and post about John, check it out HERE!

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A photographer gets people to pose for him.  A yoga instructor gets people to pose for themselves.  ~T. Guillemets

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My Picture with John Friend

John Friend is in Austin for the final stop on his “Light the Sky” tour. Last night, he opened the evening with a talk of how he got into yoga at the age of 13 and the “coincidences” along the path that brought him to where he is now. He has such an easy manner and openness that makes you feel like you just want to have him over for dinner.  Still, though others easily approach him, I find myself somewhat hesitant.

While many folks got their photo taken with him at Estes Park, I didn’t. I came home with many images from that trip ~ pictures of my FRIENDS with him ~ but not that shot. So, I figured that if I was going to get my picture taken with him, this afternoon was my opportunity. When class ended today, the line to speak to John quickly formed. I waited patiently for my turn and practiced posing for the upcoming shot.

Pam without JohnPreparing for my close-up: No Friend in sight!

Finally, it was MY turn ~ my opportunity to stand next to John Friend, shoulder-to-shoulder with this yoga master, the founder of this life-changing practice for thousands throughout the world. I was inspired and humbled (and frankly, I wished for a hairbrush and some lip stick.)

At last, John Friend came over, smiled, and embraced me. And with a click of a camera, time stood still … (more…)

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Noting the Differences

There is no doubt that yoga poses have different energetic effects on the nervous system. While there are some broad generalizations ~ backbends are said to be energizing, forward bends soothing ~ each person has an individual experience. This is a topic I’ve been paying closer attention to recently.

As such, a couple of this month’s 6-word insights have been observations on the effects of various yoga poses on me: “Double Dips, Open Hips, Mood Flips” and “Backbends often agitate my nervous system.” I also wrote on Christina’s blog how balancing poses agitate me just SLIGHTLY less than backbends. This was after a challenging core and balance sequence that she taught on Wednesday night.

I love discussing these energetic effects with my friend Iyengar Anne. She is very tuned into this idea. I’m not sure if this is more of an Iyengar “thing” or just Anne the Insightful Philosophy Professor “thing”, but either way, she’s willing to go there with me. It’s been through my conversations with her that I’ve realized how unique each person’s reactions truly are!  Read Anne’s post on Yoga Energetics!

And Then the Mailman Came

So with all of this mulling around in my head, I ran across the November issue of Yoga Journal in which Kelly McGonigal writes about stress reactions and using yoga to alleviate its effects. She outlines different stress responses noting that one person may get highly agitated, while another goes into an inactive, low-energy funk. Just like our reactions to asana poses, stress reactions are equally individual. In the article, McGonigal describes a stress management technique of yoga therapist Elissa Cobb, and it all started to make sense.

“This practice will help you become aware of what happens in your body and your mind during stress. It can also give you insight into how a yoga practice can help you balance your body’s typical response.”

“Sit on your yoga mat and bring to mind a challenging experience you’ve had, something that triggered a strong stress response in you. As you do this, try to conjure up your reaction in your body and mind. Maybe that means clenching your fists or tensing your neck and shoulders. Whatever it is exaggerate or enhance the response. Don’t try to change it ~ go right into it, and try to amplify it. Notice the thoughts and emotions that go along with the body’s response.”

“After you’ve been with this experience for a few moments, think of a yoga pose that would bring you in to a completely opposite state.  Move into the pose. Notice the difference. Observe your thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Stay for as long as you’d like. After you release the pose, come back to a seated posture and take some time to reflect on your experience. Compare how the real response and the recaptured response felt, and notice the freedom you had to transform the first.”

Because we each have a unique reaction to stress, we will also find different poses soothing in those situations. Some people need the energy and lift that a backbending practice can infuse. Others (like me) find solace and comfort in the deep forward bends that bring us down from an agitated state. When we understand what we need, we can practice our own yoga therapy.

To be successful with this, you have to be cognizant of two things:

  • What is your typical stress reaction and pattern? Do you get worked up by stress or overwhelmingly lethargic?
  • Which poses (for YOU) create the necessary effect to counter your response?

Armed with this information, we can alleviate our own suffering. Hey, this is all sounding kind of Anusara-ish: When we know the SELF, BLISS follows!

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Yoga Journal just sent out this conference update that features photos and these FREE download-able MP3’s of several of the Estes Park 2008 events including:

  • The Yoga of Money lecture by Brent Kessel, financial planner and 20-year veteran of Ashtanga yoga;
  • Ganesha & Other Stories: Symbolisms of Hindu and Buddhist Deities with Dr. Manoj Chalam; Indian-born Manoj is a scientist with a Ph.D. from Cornell University. He has compiled a book on Hindu/Buddhist Symbolisms and presents workshops on Symbolisms and Vedanta at retreats of John Friend’s Anusara Yoga, Deepak Chopra, Sivananda Ashram Teacher Trainings and other yoga studios.

There is also additional information in the update about the upcoming Florida and San Francisco conferences.

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During the Anusara Grand Gathering, John reiterated the theme of our community as “the merry band.”  It’s a great analogy, of course, because it conjures up all sorts of images that serve as class inspiration.  As a yoga teacher, there are many themes to run with:

  • Playfulness and Celebration
  • Individual Effort in Coordination with a Group
  • Sustained Practice
  • Skillful Action

You can further extend this idea to your individual BODY as the “merry band” ~ each muscle and bone an important band “member.” I’ve referred to this before as the kula of the body.  Everything must work in unison; every piece must play its part.

Consider backbends … The back can’t do the backbend without the strong work of the legs, and the jaw isn’t really doing anything at ALL to help despite how strong it’s holding (but gosh, it sure means well)!

When there is balanced and skillful action, the body sings. When one area fails to perform or over-efforts, the music ain’t so grand.  (And perhaps we cringe with the pain of a sharp note!)  As practitioners, we are the conductor of this inner orchestra, the master of our OWN symphony!

Whether in the kula of the merry band or in that of body, keep in mind the words of H.E. Luccock: “No one can whistle a symphony.  It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”

Play well, my friends, play well!

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Does Anyone Know Chinese?

It’s always fun to see that someone has linked to this blog or a particular post, and then to visit their site and discover our common interests ~ from special education to journaling to (obviously) yoga!  Found this “link back” earlier this morning with my favorite handstand photo posted and well … I can’t quite decipher what it is we have in common. I’m just a little nervous because the few English words on the site are:

  • no rush
  • buy
  • eagle eye
  • Magic
  • Make a wish
  • Erotica/You Thrill Me, and
  • Madonna

I’m hoping my handstand photo has more to do with “PURNA” than porn, but it’s a bit sketchy right now.  The good news is that the other pictures on the site seem innocuous enough, so perhaps this is just part of our Anusara worldwide domination path … yeah, let’s go with that!

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YJ Entry #34 ~ Wednesday, October 15 at 9:00 a.m.

Whoever said blogging was a solo activity?

Whoever said blogging was a solo activity?

It’s a Wrap!

Playing a bit of catch-up this week after a long weekend camping with my family at Garner State Park. I took my laptop but, “HELLO Pam? No internet!” (Talk about primitive camping!)

That said, I think I’ve dragged out this whole “Yoga Journal Conference Journal” gig about as long as I can. Time to cut you loose, my friends, at least from this thread! I have to say, it’s been a blast.  I have enjoyed the challenge of writing for broader appeal, and I thank each one of you for coming along on the ride. I hope you’ll stay with me on my journey.

My Yoga Journal Conference Posts

You can review a list of all my YJ entries on the original post. There were so many things I could have written about and so many memories to share. Given that a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll “officially” end my reporting duties with a collection of photos from that spectacular week in Colorado.  A very special thanks to my friends ~ Jill, Tabitha, Jesse, Kim, Kristen & Jen ~ who generously shared their photos with me and rounded out my digital “album.”

This is for you …

    Photography Lesson

    So what have I learned

    From the cropping and pasting and the looking?

    That days are meant to be lived,

    Friends are meant to be loved.

    And nothing is more extraordinary

    Than the ordinary

    When it is recalled.

    ~ Lois Wyse

    Photo Journal

    There are 6 sets of photos on the pages listed below; you can view them individually or as a slide show. Each page has links to the others at the top, and of course, a home link to return to this blog (which I hope you will)!

    • The Grounds ~ Layout of the land, scenes from Estes Park and the YMCA of the Rockies
    • John Friend ~ Photos from his classes and opening remarks at the conference
    • Workshops ~ Breakout session
    • Talent Show ~ Anusara Grand Gathering Follies
    • Kula-Mates ~ From “Jesse’s Girls” to my Canadian Roomies (who really didn’t lock me out)!
    • The ELK ~ Because Anne Loves them!

    In Gratitude

    Finally, a word of acknowledgment … I will be forever grateful for this writing experience and what it’s brought to my life. It began simply as a personal journey and morphed into one GRAND adventure! It was such a thrill to be asked by Yoga Journal to “link up!”  (Thank you, Andrea Kowalski!) Then, to actually hear John Friend make REFERENCE to my blog in front of our GRAND gathering?!  Well, to say I felt “acknowledged” would be a bit of an understatement.

    Truly though, the greatest gift came from my friends who lived it with me. Your excitement and enthusiasm FOR me filled my heart beyond measure.  It’s hard to explain what that meant to me, but I KNOW y’all get it at the deepest level. You ARE extraordinary, and I’d go to the MAT for any of you!  Thank you for helping ME develop my potential within.

    With Love & Gratitude,

    Pamela Walsh (a.k.a. Pammy ~ the Yogi Tech Chick)

    P.S. So Andrea, let’s suppose you want me to continue my commentary in FLORIDA, or San Francisco, or Grand Geneva, or perhaps New York … Wait, is there anything going on in Costa Rica? 😉

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    YJ Entry #33

    At the Monday breakout session of the Anusara Grand Gathering, I attended Ross Rayburn’s Teaching Advanced Poses to Beginners.  I went to the workshop to … well, learn how to teach advanced poses to beginners. I had expected instructions for different poses ~ step 1, step 2, step 3 ~ with perhaps a few clever tricks, assists and shortcuts thrown in.  Instead, Ross reiterated the essential Anusara Yoga method: Teach the Universal Principles of Alignment.

    The workshop did offer some important guidelines for working with beginners, much of which is covered in the Anusara Yoga Level I Teacher Training curriculum.  Ross emphasized that we have three main objectives with our beginning students:

    1. Get them to move.
    2. Get them to breathe.
    3. Teach them to work.

    As such, he said you need to get your theme set up quickly ~ no long drawn out monologue.  When you are working with beginners, it’s easy to get pulled into the trap that you need to explain EVERYTHING before you do it.  This often begins with the Anusara Invocation, the chant, or our “song” as Christina* is fond of calling of it.  Ross said that it’s not so important to understand what it says, as what it means!

    Ross Rayburn

    Ross Rayburn

    Aside: He made a very funny observation about the first time he went to chant in front of a class ~ his mother’s Southern Baptist voice in his head and what THAT voice said about the chant!  How many of us can relate!

    Next we want to get our students up and moving quickly.  Start dynamically, movement led with the breath.  Don’t worry so much about their alignment (unless of course, it’s for safety). Our tendency is to OVER teach beginners. I thought about Christina saying, “Whatever you do don’t teach them tadasana right off the bat!” (Or should I say “mat”?)  She pointed out that if you get into a detailed explanation about the four corners of the feet and the subtleties of the arches you will lose them on the mountain … pose.

    You also want to teach them how to WORK, the effort that is required in asana practice.  Ross had us move into utkatasana and hold it.  When the comment was made that you wouldn’t have beginners hold it for so long, Ross said that well, yes you would, particularly in a pose like that. By its nature, utkatasana puts your students in proper alignment ~ thighs back ~ without a lot of additional instructions on technique.  It is a good “safe” hold, so it is a great place to teach beginners to work.  They are not going to get hurt staying there. Let them feel their thighs burn, and the relief of the forward bend afterward.

    The keys to working with beginners?  Get them move, get them to breathe, and teach them to work! “Keeping all THAT” (as we like to say) teach the Universal Principles of Alignment. As the workshop came full circle ~ exactly how DO you teach advanced poses to beginners ~ the answer was revealed like that of a trick question. You teach advanced poses like you teach the beginning ones: with the Universal Principles of Alignment. It reminded me of that great weight loss “secret.” Consume less calories than you expend, and forget the tricks and gimmicks. Like dieting, the lesson is the same.

    There’s beauty in the simplicity, but there just ain’t no shortcuts!

    * * * * *

    *Read more insight on the Anusara Invocation and the whole chanting “issue” on Christina Sell’s blog.  She has had some wonderful posts on this topic recently:

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    Cuttin’ Class!

    YJ Entry #32: Tuesday, October 7 at 9:15 a.m.

    I was the kid in high school who never cut class.  Given that I lived in Winnipeg (Canada) at the time, there really wasn’t much else to do anyway.  Now, I have grown into the conference participant who doesn’t miss workshops.  Given a setting like Estes Park, this proved much more difficult.

    With meditation sessions beginning at 7 a.m., back-to-back workshops, and an evening event, our schedule was packed tighter than the bunk beds at the lodge.  I had grand plans of hiking, visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park, and just soaking up the scenery. Unless I “cut” class, it was not to be.

    Heavy sigh. I didn’t.

    But my kula gal pals?  Well, that’s another story …

    Caught on FILM!

    Currents of Grace

    Co-Conspirators: Jill & Tabitha

    Saying “yes” to Everything! (Can you say, “Trouble?” … I mean, “Tabitha”!)

    An Inspired Jill (who has JUST completed her Anusara Inspired requirements! Go Girl!)

    Kimmy Makes it Look Easy

    Tabitha and the Bridges of Larimer County

    She’s a Wild Thing

    Jill looks so innocent (and beautiful)!

    Worth checking out!

    Tabitha & Kim: Okay, so they got some asana in!

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    Entering through the Designated Doors

    September 24, 2008 ~ Last Day at the Grand Gathering

    Sleepless in Austin

    YJ Entry #31: Tuesday, October 7th 2:30 a.m.

    The deranged vata rises!  Went to bed and fell asleep, but two hours later I’m lying wide awake and working handstands in my head.  I KNOW I can press my way up … just … need … a little … more …inner … SPIRAL!

    Hmm. Perhaps I should have worked in that Roger Cole lecture on “Insomnia & Yoga” while out at the conference. Maybe next year. Okay, so anyway …

    • What do you call a person who is “new” to Anusara Yoga?
      • An Anu-newbie
    • What do you call a seasoned practitioner of Anusara Yoga?
      • An Anu-saurus

    Besides thinking I’m pretty clever, I’m throwing these out for you as terms of reference. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things that really struck me during the Grand Gathering was the number of “Anu-newbies” I came across.  For whatever reasons, I had just assumed that all the participants would be enthusiastic Anusara Yoga practitioners with a baseline familiarity of the method, but that was not the case. Not all had drank the “kula-aide” just yet.

    The Dining Hall Gang ~ Kim, Jesse & Tabitha
    The Dining Hall Gang ~ Kim, Jesse & Tabitha

    I found this both amazing and exhilarating. Many were simply there to … shall we say … taste test? Some came out of curiosity, some because of scheduling issues. (They couldn’t make the main conference and just wanted some mountain-top yoga.)  I thought it was fascinating that they would sign on for something like the Grand Gathering with really no clue what to expect. How totally cool is that?!

    No other place were our new friends more obvious than the dining hall.  As we shared our meals, we frequently engaged in animated conversations. Occasionally someone would ask ~ “Just what IS this Anusara Yoga anyway?” ~ and we got to fill in the blanks.

    The gates would open as we flooded them with the proverbial “oceans of grace,” our life-changing experiences with this practice we love. Talk about IMMERSION! When we finally paused long enough to “enjoy the breath,” I wondered about THEIR experience.  Did they “feel the zeal” or were they “loopy” from the jargon?  Could they get that whole “self-knowledge and delight in creative expression” thing in that short of time?

    I thought back to our fill-in-the-blank ‘chit ananada’ lesson from Christina’s teacher training last summer.  To help us define our message, she offered us this format:

    “When we know __________ , we can express ourselves more ___________ -ly.”

    It is essential that we can fill in these blanks every day, for our students, for ourselves, for one another. And THAT’S what we’re here for. As Amy Ippoliti put it, “Did you CHIT-ANANDA today?”  When we KNOW our true essence, we can express ourselves more divinely.

    May you hearts (& blanks) be filled each day,


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    YJ Entry #30: Sunday, October 5th 4:30 p.m. ~ Austin

    Who would have thought a nearly 100 year-old song about the banana shortage in New York City could serve as an inspiring theme for an Anusara Yoga class, but such was the case at the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park last week.  At 8 a.m. on a crisp Colorado morning, Desirée Rumbaugh engaged a curious group of participants that included both experienced Anusara Yoga practitioners and some newbies alike.

    Some had come simply for the title alone: “It was cute and piqued my curiosity,” said one woman who had no idea that INVERSIONS were in store for her, this despite what the course catalog had stated. (Note to self: Always read the fine print.)

    Take the stress out of your inversions, and turn your world upside down by aligning with Nature. Come and experience a whole new world of possibilities that Anusara Yoga’s Loops and Spirals can bring to your practice. Mostly asana.

    As Desiree started the class, the gal leaned over to me again. “I don’t get it. What does a banana have to do with inversions?”

    I smiled. “So, you’re new to Anusara Yoga?” I whispered. “She’s referring to the banana shape the back can arc into during handstands and such.”

    “You don’t want that?” she queried.

    “Yes, we have NO bananas!”

    It is our way.

    * * * * *

    An Inspired Theme

    I love to see how Anusara Yoga teachers weave a theme ~ how they can take almost anything, look for the chit ananda, and turn it into an inspirational prompt for a class.  Desiree began the class talking about the origins of the song ~ the banana shortage in the 1920’s and how stores took to placing the upbeat message in the window over the depressing “No Bananas” gloom and doom: “Yes, we have no bananas!”

    What is the deal with handstands and Anusara Yoga anyway?  Desiree said that handstands teach you to trust in the back body more than any other pose.  Then she tied the old banana song to Anusara Yoga.  “Bananas are about shortage. When we have a banana back, we have a shortage of trust in ourselves.”

    And the choir sang, “Hallelujah!”

    * * * * *

    Straightening it Out

    The keys to getting out of your own personal banana-sphere is two-fold:

    1. Strong work in the legs ~ muscular energy, hugging into mid-line;
    2. Strong abdominal action ~ to draw the ribs back and keep the work (and pain) out of the lower back.

    With the intensity of a personal trainer, Dez led us through some serious core work. (You might say she helped us firm our inner banana.) As we moaned and groaned our way through the series of exercises, I longed for the promised inversions. Why is it important that we do this work? Because when we go upside down, when things become more challenging, when we get tired, we forget our alignment and collapse into our default mode with all its sway backed glory.

    And this is the message behind why we practice simple poses like urdhva hastasana with strong straight arms or utkatasana with tailbone scooped. We want our default to BE proper alignment.

    Final point: When all else fails, never underestimate the value of a catchy workshop title!

    Yes, we have no bananas!

    Pamela (that's Me!) with Desiree

    Pamela (that's ME!) with Dez

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    YJ Entry #29: October 5th 2:00 p.m. ~ Austin

    I just got this video clip uploaded from the Anusara Follies.  (Thanks Jesse!)  I’ll put the link with the pictures on that post too, but didn’t want you to miss this!

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    YJ Entry #28: Sunday, October 5th at 10:45 a.m. ~ Austin

    One of the real treats of the Anusara Grand Gathering and Yoga Journal Conference sessions with John Friend was the live music of Shantala.  Shantala brings Kirtan chanting to a whole new rockin’ level and features the husband & wife duo of Benjy and Heather Wertheimer.  Joining them at Estes Park was world-renowned bamboo flutist Steve Gorn and Brent Kuecker on bass.

    Heather & Benjy Wertheimer with Steve Gorn (left)

    John Friend (shown here with Heather Wertheimer and bassist Brent Kuecker) playfully refers to Shantala as “Anusara Yoga’s House Band”

    Shantala’s website aptly notes: “The weaving of Benjy’s Indian classical singing and instrumentation with Heather’s soaring vocals is fresh, original, and profoundly moving.”

    Shantala joined John onstage each day as he led our group of 800 through the mornings’ 3-hour Master class.  In addition to the Kirtan, the group provided additional “motivation” during our practice, giving us lively beats to rev up the energy for challenging asana work, or celebratory drum beating at the conclusion of a large group attempt (like 800 of us holding each other’s foot in parsva utthita hasta padangusthasana.)  John also got them to serenade us with some appropriately inspired blues during the “How to Grow a Lotus” class.  (If you haven’t heard, Anusara Yoga is known for its playful delight!)

    Besides his immense talent, Benjy also has a larger than life personality that shines from the stage.  He has an infectious smile and animated expressions. More than a few of us noted a resemblance to Will Farrell and his trademark expressions.  Benjy’s talents aren’t just limited to the musical world.  He good-naturedly participated in the acroyoga performance at the talent show. (A video link of that can be found in my talent show post.)  But I HAVE to say, I was particularly impressed when John asked Benjy to demo eka pada rajakapotasana and he did it COLD … literally after sitting on stage playing drums for the previous hour.

    In addition to accompanying John during his classes, Shantala offered a wonderful evening of entertainment on Tuesday night of the Grand Gathering.  Friends old and new gathered in the Longhouse to sing and dance in a spirited celebration.

    Shantala has several albums. Their newest release, SRI, is deeply moving.  Guest artists include Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur, Gina Salá, Steve Gorn, Manose, Jami Sieber, John Friend, and others. Listen to samples of the tracks. Treat yourself to this delight.

    It is indeed SRI!

    * * * * *

    Shantala with John Friend performs at the Grand Gathering! A good time was had by all ~ below our girls rock on: Tabitha on the left and Jill on the right!

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    YJ Entry #26: Thursday, October 2nd at 9:45 p.m. ~ Austin

    There’s a saying that goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” Conversely, sometimes you don’t know how good you have it until you talk with a few others.  I mean, consciously you KNOW you have a good thing, but then you REALLY don’t know until you hear it from others.  Such was the case at the Yoga Journal Conference when I engaged in conversations about our respective teachers. Take my roommates from Canada …

    One night, I asked them who they studied with. I was shocked when they said that they traveled more than an hour EACH WAY to study with their teacher. And then THAT was just a once-a-week basis.

    I swallowed hard and looked down.  I barely have to drive 15 minutes to practice twice a week (and two classes both days) with a highly trained certified teacher.  THEN, I actually whine when she’s out-of-town sharing her training with others.  On top of that, she works to bring other great teachers here to Austin.  What am I complaining about?!

    My roommate inquired, “Who do you study with, Pam?”

    “Christina Sell,” I offered and started to list her credentials, “She’s … “

    “Oh my gosh,” Shanti gushed, “I LOVE her book! I have given it to at least 10 people.  She is amazing!  You are SO lucky!”

    Yes, she is. Yes, yes I am …

    I remember the day I picked up Christina’s book, Yoga from the Inside Out: Making Peace With Your Body Through Yoga. I began to cry as I read the forward by John Friend. Halfway through the introduction I was sobbing. By the first chapter, I couldn’t breathe. Christina’s words touched me at my core … and THIS was before I really even knew her. She IS amazing.

    Christina’s second book is about to be released. I was hoping that it would be out before the Grand Gathering, but it wasn’t off the press.  I’d tell you the title if I knew it, but she has contained the energy (hugged to the mid-line, so to speak) for one big burst of release.

    When it’s released you can bet it will be mentioned here. I’m finally beginning to get it.

    Certified Anusara Teachers: Elena Brower & Christina Sell

    As the shirt says, “Shrilicious”

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