Archive for the ‘Teaching Yoga’ Category

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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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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Christina has written a series of posts this past week on her teaching perspective. One entry includes her take on what I call, the conversion mentality ~ that is, when yoga teachers attempt to convert or “shame” students from other yoga methods to THEIR way of teaching. Her thoughts prompted me to reply with a long discourse on a related idea, my belief about the origins of defensiveness.

Whenever I find myself having a strong response to something, I (try to) stop and ask: “Why am I reacting this way? What is it that’s pushing my buttons?” Granted, sometimes it takes me awhile to calm down and actually get around to thinking about it, but it’s an interesting question and an important exercise for my own personal growth.

That said, my thoughts below evolved from one of these self-inquiries into my own defensiveness.  (And just for clarification, while this was written in reply to Christina’s post, it’s really more about defensiveness in general, not those “bossy” yoga teachers of which I am a grateful student of ONE!)

What Makes You People So Defensive … not that I am 🙂

When people are comfortable and confidant in what they believe and what they are doing, they do not feel threatened by those who are different or who question them. They are comfortable in “their own skin”. But if there is any part in them that feels uncertain or insecure, then their defensive-o-meter goes a bit crazy.  Sometimes this results in: “I MUST CONVERT YOU TO MY WAY! (Read: because if you don’t buy in, well, perhaps I might be wrong!)

Here’s my non-yoga example from the world of motherhood. When you have small children (and even during your pregnancy), you are constantly subjected to other (random) people’s (random) comments ~ from the lady behind you in the grocery store check-out, to the clerk at the post office, to other shoppers at the mall. (And let’s not even mention the relatives!) People will barrage you with unsolicited suggestions, feedback, criticism, and “helpful” advice about everything from breastfeeding to pacifiers to walkers to baby schedules to your child’s NAME!

In my own experience, I have gotten most rattled and angered when people gave feedback about stuff I wasn’t feeling completely sure about. For example, my oldest son LOVED his pacifier. We’d be out and about and someone would say, “Pacifiers are bad for his teeth, you know!” If I didn’t have any concerns about it, I would just be “whatever,” smile, and go on about my merry way. But, it would REALLY get under my skin if I was having my own stuff going on about pacifiers. “How DARE they question ME about my OWN son?! Some nerve they have!”

In general, people seem to get dogmatic and bent out of shape due to some kind of FEAR. I believe that’s pretty much where all prejudice stems from: I am being “threatened” in some way. (And the extension, what if I’m wrong? What would THAT mean about me as a mother, person, yoga teacher, whatever?!) When we are really okay with what we’re doing, we are comfortable letting other people do their own thing too, and have their own beliefs (as long as it doesn’t interfere with us and “the greater good”).

Now in the context of yoga traditions and yoga classes in particular, there IS a call to good studentship. (Adikara???) There is understandable frustration that yoga teachers of ANY tradition must experience when a student blatantly does NOT do what that teacher asks. There IS a reaction: “Hello?? Why are you even in my class?!”

But another take on why we want people to “do it our way” often stems from the conversion bliss: “I gave up smoking and my life is SO much better, and you TOO should follow suit!” Many of us get caught in that “I want to share the light” mentality. It truly comes from a sincere place, I think, it can just be SO offensive to others.

Really, the greatest sales pitch we can make for ANYTHING ~ be it parenting, diets, religion, marriage or YOGA methods ~ may simply be the old Dr. Phil litmus test: “And how’s that workin’ for ya?” When we live a life that “works,” people are naturally attracted to it. They want to know, “what’s the secret?” It becomes totally unnecessary to shove it down their throat ~ shamefully, blissfully, or otherwise!

“This is how humans are: we question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question.” ~ Orson Scott Card

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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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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!

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*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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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.

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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!”

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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 #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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YJ Entry #24 ~ Tuesday, September 30th at 10:30 p.m. ~ Austin

My second workshop with Amy Ippoliti ~ a half-day intensive on Thursday ~ was a teacher training: “Hands on Adjustments that will Rock Your Students’ World.” A brief recap: we reviewed the different reasons for adjustments:

  • Therapeutic
  • Stabilization
  • Placement
  • Opening (or feel good)

Next we covered the principles:

  • Sensitivity
  • Stabilization
  • Adjustment

In Anusara Yoga, adjustments are considered enhancements, not corrections.

Amy Ippoliti Teaches Hands On Adjustments

One of the major points I took away from the class is the importance of observation before “moving in.” As a teacher, you want to look at where energy is flowing and where it is blocked. (The Sanskrit word for these blocks of energy is “granthi.”) When you go to make an adjustment, you want to see what is more open and what is blocked, then make an adjustment in a way that opens the blockage.

“The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.” ~ Laurence Leamer, King of the Night

Amy emphasized that teachers should always start first with a verbal adjustment first before moving in physically. Students are more empowered in this way. The remainder of the class focused on pose specific adjustments. Amy walked us through the techniques of various adjustments and then allowed us to practice on one another.

Moving the armbone back to create greater freedom in Trikonasana

As Amy supports the head with her thigh, notice her student’s relaxed face!

One of the adjustments that I liked the best (from a student’s perspective) was in Parsvokonasana. The teacher takes the hand of the extended arm and presses strongly back against it. This allowed me to spin my torso more fully open and up to the sky. It was great freedom.

An Adjustment for Greater Opening

Can you say, “Not a casual thing?”

We also worked with handstands, and Amy showed us a way to assist someone who is working in the prep stage of an L at the wall. You help them keep their shoulder blades firmly on their back as they learn to trust their own strength.

Amy Demoing with DJ: Prep ~ Downward Dog at the Wall

Keeping the Shoulder Blades on the Back as he comes up

Providing an assist to keep the hips lifting

Amy also emphasized the importance for the TEACHER to personally use good alignment. Not only does this protect the teacher’s body, but it also allows relatively small teachers to assist much larger people with confidence and biomechanical advantage. No where was this more obvious than when Amy took Kevin up in full handstand AWAY from the wall. Check it out!

Holding steady at the hips in Adho Mukha Vrksasana

Lots more poses, assists, notes and photos, but I’m hoping our dear friend Amy will do us all a service and compile a book on this! It was a great class with great teachings. My deepest gratitude.

Go Amy, Go!

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Updated 9/30/08 ~ Just In … See the video of the beautiful (and very petite) Acro-Yogini as she “flys” Shantala’s very talented (and very large) Benjy Wertheimer filmed at the Anusara Grand Gathering Talent Show on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at Estes Park. (Video clip compliments of my friend Jesse of the aforementioned “Jesse’s Girls” fame!)

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Entry #23 ~ Tuesday, September 30th at 12:10 p.m. ~ Austin

Okay, PEEPS ~ all puns intended ~ more than a few people at the conference stopped to ask me about my glasses. (I have them on in my photo blogging at Estes.) They are actually readers that click together magnetically at the nose piece, and separate to hang around your neck. When they’re not clicked together, they look broken which is always good for a conversation starter. (Understandably, that may be a downside for some people, but not ME!)

Totally convenient, especially for those of us who tend to misplace our glasses with regularity. They are great for teaching classes if you occasionally refer to your lesson plan or like to share a particular reading. They are available in several different colors and strengths, and also come in sunglasses which are great if you like to read outside. You can get them at Amazon.com. Just search for “CliC glasses” to find the strength and color you like.

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Entry #21 ~ Monday, September 29 ~ 10:30 p.m. ~ Back Home in Austin

I took two phenomenal workshops from Amy Ippoliti. Amy is a certified Anusara Yoga teacher based out of Denver, but she spends a lot of time on the road both with John and conducting her own workshops and trainings. Amy was featured on the June issue cover of Fit Yoga magazine. Like my teacher Christina Sell, Amy is a small and powerful being with a lot of Anusara Yoga knowledge and the radiance of Divine energy.

The first workshop at the Grand Gathering that I took from her provided “The Foolproof Method for Planning Your Class.” Much of the lecture focused on theme development and was quite similar to what Christina taught us in our Level 1 Teacher Training last summer.

I have to say that one of the very cool things about this conference was seeing the disciplined adherence to the Anusara Yoga methodology by the different teachers. As Christina showed us, there IS a method ~ a recipe of sorts ~ that you follow to create an Anusara Yoga Class. It’s not magical; it’s methodical. Just like the principles.

We worked with the idea of life-affirming theme development as based on the Universal Principles of Alignment, and then how to develop a class plan using that theme and an apex pose. We discussed the value of drawing on personal experience for your theme, but then the importance of putting it back on your students in a meaningful way.

For example, let’s say your theme is strength and you share a personal reflection about the strength of your own grandfather, a story that illustrates his strength. After you offer that up, you want to be sure to draw in your students: “Now think of someone in YOUR life who represents great strength in the face of adversity. Dedicate YOUR practice to them now.” In this way, you move them away from YOUR STORY and allow them to reflect on their own deeper meaning.

Based on her studies with John Friend, Amy developed a yoga class template ~ a visual tool ~ which was available for sale at the conference (and I understand that it will be available for purchase online as well in the near future.) Be sure to watch her website (linked in my sidebar) and also the Om Time Store that she is affiliated with. If I find any place that sells it in the meantime, I will be sure to update this post.

Because I am a visual learner myself, I had previously created my own Anusara Yoga class template over the summer, as well as one for theme development. These two templates are based on my understanding of the process as outlined in my immersion with Christina and our subsequent Level I teacher training. My templates are not as clean and succinct as Amy’s, but might be useful. Feel free to check them out, download, and PLEASE give me any feedback. I added in a lot of notes from the Teacher Training manual to further clarify the process for myself. (I need all the help I can get!) Seriously, I’d welcome your input, especially if you see any errors in my thinking or ways to enhance the tool. Links provided below:

Amy’s second workshop focused on “Hands on Adjustments that will Rock your Students’ World.” More on that ~ and some great photos from the class ~ TOMORROW. (See, y’all are going to just have to keep coming back!) Until then, remember the words of Casey Kasem, “Keep Reaching for the Stars!” After all, we’re gonna light the sky!

Goodnight All,


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One final note … I have added a new section on my sidebar of links to all of the Anusara Yoga instructors who presented at the Estes Park Anusara Grand Gathering. You can check out their studio locations, schedules and more through these sites. While you’re at it, be sure to check out Christina’s pictures from The Gathering on her blog.

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Amy Ippoliti visits with workshop participants at the Grand Gathering

Amy Ippoliti visits with workshop participants at the Grand Gathering

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Greetings from Colorado TEXAS! ~ Rock Climbing Photos Now UP!

Blogging in my room at Estes Park

For the next few weeks, this blog will be an accounting of my experiences at the Yoga Journal Conference and the concurrent Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering in Estes Park, Colorado. This is dedicated to my friends and kula-mates back in Austin. I wish you were here with me and these posts will be my way of sharing the week with you.

Let me first start with a disclaimer: As a general rule, I try to stay away from blogging about the specific details of my day-to-day life. (Frankly, I’m not that interested in what I eat for breakfast and I certainly can’t imagine anyone else is.) That said, for the next 8 days I expect my writing style will be more of “that kind of thing.” I want to capture the essence and experience of this yoga immersion in all its details: twisted, inverted and bended over backwards. So expect to read “what I ate for breakfast” and “what classes I take” and perhaps even photos OF the food I eat as I attempt to chronicle the coming week.

Check back regularly for updates!

UPDATE: 10/3/08 ~ In an effort to make this journal easier to navigate, I have broken it up into individual posts, so it won’t be quite as cumbersome.  As long as I continue to write about the Estes Park Yoga Journal conference and the Anusara Grand Gathering, I’ll make updates to this entry with the appropriate link. If you’ve bookmarked just this particular post, you might want to update it with my Potential Within home page. I hope you’ll continue to check in. My deepest gratitude for all of the comments and support you’ve given me both on and off the site.  It’s been a blast! ~ Pammy

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Journal Entries

“And that’s all I have to say about that!”

~ Forrest Gump

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The passage below is written by Marianne Williamson in her book, A Return to Love, although it has often been attributed to Nelson Mandela.  I pulled it from my folder of keepers during the Anusara Yoga teacher training this summer. We were working with class theme development and the use of poems and quotes for inspiration. I chose to share a different passage that day, but I promised to share this one too.  It gives great pause …

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

by Marianne Williamson
from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles

I would LOVE for those of you who study and/or teach Anusara Yoga to share:  For you, how does this passage relate to Chit Ananada? I see so many different angles open to interpretation and would enjoy your perspectives.  So much to work with, so please chime in.  My favorite line: “Your playing small does not serve the world.”

To read more about theme development for an Anusara Yoga class, check out my post from July: Develop a Heart-Oriented Theme.

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Have you ever encountered someone who just seems to have a knack for making good conversation? They are never uncomfortable in new situations or stumped in job interviews, and people seem to gravitate towards them at parties and events. Regardless of circumstances, they can keep a conversation moving forward. It’s a gift … Or is it?

“You have a gift for …”

How many times have you heard someone start a compliment in that way? We often look at people who are “good” at something with admiration and then attribute it to a gift (as if they had nothing to do with it, but that’s another post). Certainly, we all have some natural abilities ~ an eye for decorating, a heart for people in need, a knack for organization. Still, many times the very “gift” we admire is something that has been cultivated with hard work helped out by a few tricks along the way.

Being a good conversationalist may well be a gift, but some techniques from the world of improvisational comedy might prove to be useful tools to the everyday person. In an article for Real Simple magazine, life coach Gail Blanke studied a troupe of performers to see what she could learn from this art form. Certainly, Improv is one of the ultimate tests of thinking on your feet. Blanke reports that the actors utilize three primary principles in their work:

  • The “yes and …” phrase;
  • Go with your gut; and
  • Make everyone else in your group look good!

By consistently applying these principles over and over again ~ think of it as their “recipe” ~ the actors made their difficult work and gifted banter seem effortless. Each principle she mentioned has its own value worth studying, but I was particularly inspired by the yes and…” technique. According to Blanke, here’s how it works:

Say two actors are given the words “blueberry pie” with which to create a scene. It might go:

Actor 1: “I made a blueberry pie.”

Actor 2: “Yes, you made a blueberry pie. And you remember the last time we had blueberry pie?”

Actor 1: “Yes, I remember. We took a picnic into the woods, and that’s when you said you wanted to join a nudist colony.”

You see what’s happening? Suddenly there’s a story; suddenly there’s a direction and a purpose. Using the simple words “yes…and” moves the scene into new territory, and that’s where new possibilities occur.

How to make it work for you:
So let’s say it’s Monday and you’re at the gym and that very attractive guy says, “It was a beautiful weekend.” If all you say is “Yes, it was great,” that ends the conversation right there. But if you say, “Yes, it was great. And I really made the most of it. I went to a concert in the park and brought my yellow Lab. He snatched a sandwich right out of the hands of some poor woman having a picnic. But we had fun.”

Now you’ve got something. You can follow up with “Do you like dogs?” or “Have you ever been to a concert in the park?” And, bingo, the next thing you know, you’re on your way to another concert in the park with none other than that very attractive guy. (Maybe minus the dog.)

As Blanke points out, this particular strategy both affirms the other person and allows you to move the conversation in the direction you want it to go. I love this idea and found it directly applicable to the teaching of Anusara Yoga ~ Say ‘Yes’ to Everything!

We can use this same technique in our work with our students. Those of you who were enrolled in teacher training with Christina Sell earlier this summer might recall that this was, in fact, a part of the instruction for conducting student demos. First, we acknowledge what is good about a student’s pose or effort, and THEN we direct the attention to where we’d like to draw more focus. We acknowledge what is beautiful and inspire more work as we move the class in the direction that we want to go.

Whether in conversation, improv comedy, or teaching (a distinct form of improv), the implementation of “yes and …” can make us all appear gifted! Try it today and see how it goes.

Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater. ~ Gail Godwin

* * * * *

To Consider: Read the full text of Gail Blanke’s article: How to Think on Your Feet. And just for fun, here’s a scene from the improvisational comedy show Whose Line is it Anyway? Watch for the “yes and …” technique at work ~ whether explicitly stated or just implied. It’s totally there.

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Just a quick entry to let you know that I made some minor updates and changes to the Anusara Yoga class planning tool document that I posted yesterday 8/6/08 ~ fixed the diagram, added a link to an article on the UPA’s by John Friend as well as one to Christina’s post on the Anusara invocation (a.k.a. our “song”) along with a few other minor revisions. I also changed the download format to a PDF to ensure that everyone could read it. If you downloaded the earlier Word version, you may want to get the updated file now. And one other thing … I added a few photos at the end of the post, so go back and check those out!

Have a great day! 8)

Pammy ~ Your Yogi Tech Chick

(I’m thinking this may have to be my new moniker!)

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In the words of the great philosopher Winnie the Pooh …

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”

Why do we plan for our yoga class? We plan because we have something valuable to offer. We plan because we aspire to be yoga TEACHERS, not exercise class leaders. We plan because our students are worth it!

Recently, I posted a template to develop a heart oriented theme for an Anusara Yoga class that I created using the software application Inspiration. I also put together a template to plan a yoga class ~ from theme development to sequencing. My apologies if it looks BIG on your screen and overlaps other text; it displays really nice on some monitors and totally goofy on others. (I’m still working out the finer details of blogging.) At the end of this post, there is a link to download the diagram which may be easier to view.

* * * * *

UPDATE: 10/7/08 ~ Since the Yoga Journal Conference & Grand Gathering at Estes Park, this particular post has had a lot of activity. Big Brother is watching YOU! 😯 I’ve been excited to see so many visits, but would love your thoughts too!  Besides, the life of a blogger is a lonely one and I LIKE COMMENTS!  Seriously, I would REALLY appreciate any feedback for improving this idea. I’d like to make this a very workable tool.  Maybe a “fill-in-the-blank” format? What would YOU like to see? ~ Pammy

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Anusara Yoga Class Plan

Using the Anusara Teacher Manual, our Immersion Booklet, and my notes from teacher training, I compiled the following summary to assist me with the class planning process. Please let me know if you see any mistakes or missteps. (I did this on that dang road trip with Mom & Dad, so who knows!)

OVERALL GOAL: For students to leave class feeling better about themselves, empowered by the revelation of own Divine nature; highest intention of practicing Anusara Yoga (AY) is to align with the Divine. Our highest intention is to see and experience the universal everywhere, within and without in the full range of diversity.

* Because this is really long, I’m using the nifty “Read More” link below for the first time. And even if you don’t want to read more, don’t miss the photos at the end! Woo-Hoo! 😛


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During our Anusara Yoga Teacher Training, we were asked to bring in a poem or inspirational story for an exercise in theme development. I have folders of poems and stories that I’ve collected throughout the years, so my only problem was choosing just ONE. This is the stuff I love! Ultimately, I settled on a piece that came to me in an email about 10 years ago ~ The Butterfly and the Cocoon.

The Butterfly and the Cocoon

A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the cocoon for several hours as the butterfly struggled to force its body through the little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making progress. It appeared as if the butterfly had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further. The man decided to help the butterfly in its struggle. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.

The butterfly then emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

He continued to watch the butterfly. He expected that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to be able to support the body. He knew that in time the body would contract, and the butterfly would be able to fly.

But neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were Nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If God allowed us to go through our lives without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.

We could never fly.

~ original author unknown (sometimes attributed to the American writer and painter Henry Miller)

There are important lessons in this parable for both the yoga practitioner and the yoga teacher. For the practitioner, this story beautifully illustrates the importance of cultivating our own strength to overcome our obstacles. When things are difficult we may want to give up. We think our efforting is fruitless, and it is easy to get discouraged. Whether on the mat or off, we have to stay the course.

“In our human lives, we sometimes find ourselves in the chrysalis state. During those times we don’t have much to offer the outside world because, whether we realize it or not, much of our energy is consumed with an inner transition.”

Sometimes, we think we are ready to emerge when we are not quite prepared; there is still work to be done. Then, we must have patience with ourselves and faith in the process. We get tired, we rest, we try again. Like the butterfly, when we persist we can experience greater joy and freedom than if we take the path of least resistance.

Holding the Space to Emerge

As yoga teachers, it is easy to slip into the same misguided assumption as the one in the story. Like the man with the scissors, we often give up on our students too soon. We see them struggle and worry that we are being “too hard.” We are quick to offer the easy way out ~ the less challenging form of a pose, the modified version, the prop to support.

Instead of giving them the opportunity to build and drawn on their own resources, we undermine this natural and necessary process. In our efforts to make it easier on them ~ to alleviate their discomfort (or is it, our own?) ~ we often deny our students the chance to experience the fullness (purnam) and richness that their efforts would yield. Our job is to hold the space, to create the environment for our students to work and flourish, and then wait. Their beauty will most certainly emerge.

“Sometimes the greatest supports we can offer others and ourselves are patience and quiet confidence in the process unfolding, along with faith that the result will be extraordinary.”

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* * * * *

I asked for Strength,

And God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for Wisdom,

And God gave me Problems to solve.

I asked for Prosperity,

And God gave me Brain & Brawn to work.

I asked for Courage,

And God gave me Danger to overcome.

I asked for Love,

And God gave me Troubled people to help.

I asked for Favors,

And God gave me Opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted

I received everything I needed!

* * * * *

* This poem is a variation of the Unknown Confederate Soldier’s Prayer.

** Quotations above are taken from the Mystery Of Transformation: The Butterfly Chrysalis** as featured in the DailyOM, an email subscription service of “inspirational thoughts for a happy, healthy and fulfilling day.” It is a great source for theme ideas and uplifting material.

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One of the required characteristics of an Anusara yoga class is that it be centered around a heart-oriented theme. During our teacher trainings earlier this summer with Christina Sell, we were offered several ways to find and develop this essential component. Until this training, the whole idea seemed kind of random and a bit magical to me, something that required Divine inspiration.

However, Christina systemically broke down the process for us and provided the proverbial ingredients behind the recipe. We examined three approaches that a yoga teacher can base a class around: the use of a personal trial or situation, messages from poems and stories, and an attribute or heart-based word analysis.

Regardless of your starting point, in each approach you must ultimately answer the same three questions. When you can answer them clearly, you will have a solid foundation for your Anusara yoga class: They are:

  1. How does this relate to Anusara Yoga (and Tantric) philosophy?
  2. How does this relate to chit ananda?
  3. How does this tie in to today’s practice/lesson?

Inspired Software

As a technology specialist in the local school district, I have the opportunity to experiment with a variety of software applications. There is a fabulous program which I highly recommend for just about anybody involved in creating presentations, whether they be verbal or written in nature. Though it was initially designed for as a tool for students, I find it helpful for anyone who likes to brainstorm project ideas.

The software, Inspiration, creates an infinite variety of graphic organizers. It is a great tool, especially for anyone, but especially visual learners. You can diagram connections, and then with a click of a button, it turns your diagram into a well-organized text outline where you can add notes and hyperlinks for references as desired.

You can create presentations, class plans, research papers and even plan a vacation with a few simple clicks. All of this and it’s fun too! The program comes with a variety of graphics built in to jazz up your diagrams, and you can add in your own custom images as well with simple drag and drop. (Think: yoga pose images in a sequencing plan!) You can export your outline directly to PowerPoint ~ it automatically creates your slides ~ or you can post your outline and chart directly to a webpage.

The software is relatively simple to use, available for both Mac and PC platforms, and comes with a load of useful templates, particularly if you have a student in your home whether they’re in 4th grade or college. Purchase a single copy for $69. You can also download a free 30 day trial from their website, and here is a quick start tutorial. (Can you tell I like this program?)

Inspiration Software meets Anusara Yoga

During my family road trip last week, I used the travel time to review my class notes from our two teacher trainings. Then, I developed a graphic chart using Inspiration to help me visualize and streamline the process. (Hurray for laptops!) The chart reflects the ideas of Christina Sell and those of John Friend from the Anusara Yoga Teacher Manual. I just organized it into a form that worked for my particular brain processing.

Note: Due to the file conversion necessary to post it, the hyperlinks in the chart do not work, but I have provided working links as text directly below the diagram for your reference.

Anusara Yoga Class Theme Development

Class Theme Development as taught by Christina Sell; (outline by Pamela Walsh)

Hyperlinks to Sources

Though certainly not all encompassing, I think the format is very workable, and would love your ideas, links and suggestions for improving it. If this appeals to you, you can download the chart and links I compiled as a Word document here: Anusara Yoga Class ~ Theme Development Template. To borrow from Christina’s teaching metaphor, it will give you a basic recipe to start cooking.

Just season it with a little Divine inspiration and you can’t lose!

Pamela Walsh ~ Your Yogi Tech Chick

*** Another Theme Approach ~ UPDATE ***

I attended Mandy’s class yesterday where she based her theme on the niyama saucha. She did a beautiful job weaving the idea of orderliness, tidiness, purity, and cleanliness through everything from where we placed our mats and props to the careful placement of our shoulder blades on our backs. She reminded us that we are worthy of taking great care in establishing our foundation.

Mandy demonstrated that the yamas and niyamas are great building blocks for theme development. Working with the chart above, the yama or niyama would be plugged in as the “attribute or heart-quality to cultivate,” and you simply work from there. You could also do the same with any of the six attributes of the Absolute. Perhaps this is obvious to you ~ or as we use to say in Boston, “Dawn over Marblehead!” ~ but I always need a few concrete examples to get me rolling.

*** Theme Resource ~ UPDATE 8/22/08

This morning while I was writing a new post for my blog, I was reminded of an essay I heard on the NPR series, This I Believe. (For those of you who regularly read my blog, that’s where I first heard the Martha Graham piece, “I am an Athlete of God”.) If you don’t know about the series, here’s a brief description:

This I Believe is an international project engaging people in writing, sharing, and discussing the core values that guide their daily lives. These short statements of belief, written by people from all walks of life, are archived here and featured on public radio in the United States and Canada, as well as in regular broadcasts on NPR. The project is based on the popular 1950s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.”

From their website, you can search a very large database of literally thousands of essays on hundreds of topics. The essays are 350-500 words and include themes of courage, love, determination, strength, and self-knowledge. (Anusara yoga teachers, are you seeing a pattern here?) Under the “Browse Essays” link you can see many of the topic headings. Anyway, I thought that this might be a good resource for AY teachers to look at for theme development ~ perhaps a place to find an opening story or anecdote to build on.

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Come on come on, untwist my legs
Pull my arms a lot
How did I get so tied up
In this yoga knot
You tell me just how
I can take this yoga serious
When all it ever gives to me
is a pain in my posteriors

~ Elvis Presley “Yoga is as Yoga Does”


Additions to our yoga playlist (mostly from Jesse) with the Dylan numbers that Anne suggested but I missed:

  • If Not for You ~ Bob Dylan
  • Shelter from the Storm ~ Bob Dylan
  • Gotta Serve Somebody ~ Bob Dylan
  • Jenny (867-5309) ~ Tommy Tutone (for Jen R)
  • Love Shack – The B-52s
  • Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On – Jimmy Buffett
  • Southern Cross – Crosby Stills & Nash
  • Bring Back the Magic – Jimmy Buffett
  • Wiggle It – 2 in a Room
  • Let’s Get This Party Started – Pink
  • Come Together – The Beatles
  • All You Need is Love – The Beatles
  • Dancing in the Streets – The Grateful Dead
  • Lean on Me – The Temptations
  • Yoga Is as Yoga Does – Elvis Presley (WHAT??? Click here for these lyrics)
  • Do You Believe in Magic ~ The Lovin’ Spoonful
  • Cast Off All My Fears ~ The Allman Brothers Band
  • Don’t Look Back ~ Boston
  • Accentuate the Positive ~ Frank Sinatra/Perry Como/Al Jerreau/Willie Nelson
  • Time to Change ~ The Brady Bunch (Jesse assures us the lyrics are worthy. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!)
  • Alice’s Restaurant ~ Arlo Guthrie (in honor of our girl)
  • I Can See Clearly Now ~ Jimmy Cliff
  • Positive Vibration ~ Bob Marley

* * * * *

How to Find Song Lyrics Online

It’s not too hard to find lyrics when you know the name of the song and/or artist, but sometimes those two pieces of information elude you. The following tip my son taught me is worth having in your back pocket — thanks Austin — especially if the idea of using song lyrics for a class theme appeals to you. It’s also handy for those times a song line gets stuck in your head but you can’t remember any more. A phenomenon that usually happens in the middle of the night.

Simply type the line or phrase into the Google search bar WITH QUOTES AROUND IT followed by the word lyrics. Let’s use an example from the Simon & Garfunkel song The Sounds of Silence. Suppose all that was rattling around in your head was the first line: “Hello darkness, my old friend.” Open Google and type: “hello darkness” lyrics in the search bar. Note: the more unusual the phrase the less words you have to use inside the quotes. Using that trick, I can find the lyrics, song title and artist to just about any song in less than a minute. Then, it’s over to iTunes where it’s WAY too easy to purchase a song in just a few clicks.

I found a great online article ~ How to Find a Song ~ with much more detailed information and advanced search techniques to find songs, sheet music, MP3’s and even vinyls which may be more obscure, including oldies (like what’s on the “B” side) and even instrumentals. Check it out at: AllButForgottenOldies.net. Okay, I really am sounding like an old lady now!

Lyrical License: Kiss this Guy

I use lyric searches with regularity because I tend to be uncertain of exactly what’s being said. More than a few times, I’ve been wrong. (The audience gasps!) A line from the song Bitch that I wrote about in my last post is one such example: “I’m your hell, I’m your dream.” Until yesterday, I thought she was singing: “I’m your ‘F,’ I’m your dream.” ‘F’ as in … well, never mind … but literally, I thought she was saying the letter “F”!

All of which reminds me of one of the funniest websites I’ve run across, Kiss This Guy, a collection of misheard lyrics and the stories behind them. I found it one night as I was attempting to settle an argument about a line from Maria Maldaur’s 1974 hit Midnight at the Oasis. The question at hand … “Did she SING the camels to bed or SEND the camels to bed?” Turning to the computer for answers, we stumbled across Kiss This Guy and stayed there for the next several hours laughing until we cried at some of the mistakes and the stories behind them.

  • From Midnight at the Oasis“Midnight after your wasted” Actually, that one makes more sense with the whole camel thing. By the way, she SENT them to bed.
  • From The Sounds of Silence (Hello Darkness) … “Hello Douglas my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you and Jen.” The guy wondered whatever happened to the couple after that first stanza.
  • From More than a Woman ~ BeeGees … “Bald-headed woman, bald-headed woman to me,” I don’t know WHAT to say here.
  • From The Authority Song ~ John Cougar Mellencamp (I fight authority, authority always wins) … “I fight Dorothy, Dorothy always wins!” Obviously, a Wizard of Oz reference.
  • From Addicted to Love ~ Robert Palmer (You might as well face it, you’re addicted to love) … “My name is Perry Mason, I’m addicted to drugs.” Do you think Earl Stanley Gardner knew about this?
  • From Stairway to Heaven ~ Led Zeplin (And as we wind on down the road) … “There’s a wino down the road.” Okay, certainly not out of the realm of possibilities, we’re talking Led Zeplin!
  • From O Canada, the Canadian national anthem ~ have to include this one where I graduated from high school. (O Canada, we stand on guard for thee) … “Oh Canada, we stand on cars and freeze!” Again, this one actually makes more sense.  I know … I lived there, I froze there!

I am sure you all have a couple of your own — and please share — but in the meantime, here’s a link to their RSS feed. The site itself is set up as a database that you can search by song title or artist, so look for your favorites. Be sure and check it out, but do fix yourself a cup of tea and go to the bathroom first. You’ll be there awhile.

Yoga is as yoga does there’s no in-between
Your either with it on the ball
or you’ve blown the scene.

Goodnight everybody, Elvis has left the building.

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I’ve been working with this idea of a “non” yoga playlist. Well actually, it’s more like a non TRADITIONAL yoga music playlist for yoga practice. Following yesterday’s post, I spent my day googling lyrics and listening to my ipod as I kicked around possibilities for the pending project ~ Kula Collection: From Tunes to Tadasana. Okay, the playlist title is still a work a progress, maybe From Songs to Savasana.

This all started out half tongue-in-cheek — that is, “ardha” tongue-in-cheek — but the idea has really taken form, and the process itself has been revealing. As I logged the emails and comments, it was interesting to see the different approaches people took: Christina suggested music she liked while Anne (our resident philosophy professor extraordinaire) focused on a more academic interpretation and an attempt to keep true to the ideals of Tantric philosophy.

I found myself getting stuck somewhere in between. One song that came to my mind was Bitch by Meredith Brooks. (Quit laughing, people.) I like the music and immediately thought that the lyrics illustrate the idea of “chit” — knowing and embracing ALL parts of the self:

I’m a bitch
I’m a lover
I’m a child
I’m a mother
I’m a sinner
I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell
I’m you dream
I’m nothing in between
You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

What a great illustration: “I’m a little bit of everything all rolled into one!” Perfect. But then I got hung up on the opening: “I hate the world today” and that line “I’m your hell” — just doesn’t sound very Anusara-ish — and geez, can I even say “bitch” on my own blog? It made me tired. So I just crossed it off and threw in a safe bet from Billy Joel: I Love You Just the Way You Are. I dunno … what do y’all think?

Last weekend at our teacher training, Christina walked us through the process of theme development using poetry as a prompt. Clearly, this exercise illustrates yet another medium for inspiration in planning a heart-based theme class. Frankly, I was surprised by the number of songs I came across that could work as a prompt for an Anusara Yoga class once I started looking at them through the eyes of a yoga teacher. From soft rock to disco, from hip-hop to country, I was not limited by the genre. The experience showed me that when you become conscious, you can begin to see inspiration and the Divine everywhere. Altogether now … “DUH!”

So from music that has some kind of special group meaning ~ Eye of the Tiger ~ to those songs that would make great audio for an upbeat practice ~ Celebration ~ to personal favorites ~ Brown-Eyed Girl ~ to just plain silliness ~ Who Let the Dogs Out ~ I have “heartedly” enjoyed the process.

FIRST DRAFT RECAP~ Our “Non” Yoga Playlist

  • Eye of the Tiger ~ Survivor
  • Jessie’s Girl ~ Rick Springfield (By the way, did y’all catch him on Monday’s Oprah?)
  • Joy to the World (a.k.a Jeremiah was a Bullfrog) ~ 3 Dog Night ** NEW **
  • Mandy ~ Barry Manilow **Just In**
  • Funkytown ~ Lipps Inc.
  • Brown-eyed Girl ~ Van Morrison
  • If God Was One of Us ~ Joan Osbourne/Alanis Morissette
  • Into the Mystic ~ Van Morrison
  • I Believe I can Fly ~ R. Kelley
  • I’ll Remember ~ Madonna
  • Celebration ~ Kool and the Gang
  • Namaste ~ Beastie Boys
  • Bodhisattva Vow ~ Beastie Boys
  • That I Would Be Good ~ Alanis Morissette
  • 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) ~ Simon & Garfunkel
  • Return to Innocence ~ Enigma
  • High ~ James Blunt
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water ~ Simon & Garfunkel
  • River ~ Garth Brooks
  • Chasing Cars ~ Snow Patrol
  • Forever Young ~ Rod Stewart
  • Wish Me Well ~ Tahni Handal
  • Freak Out ~ Chic
  • You Dropped a Bomb on Me ~ The Gap Band
  • Wave on Wave ~ Pat Green
  • Oh Happy Day ~
  • Friends ~ Dionne Warwick with Elton John
  • We are Family ~ Sister Sledge
  • Tonight Tonight ~ Smashing Pumkins
  • More Than This ~ Roxy Music
  • Amazing Grace ~
  • Wild Thing ~ Jimi Hendrix
  • We’ll be Together ~ Sting
  • Breathe ~ Anna Nalick
  • Something Inside so Strong ~ Kenny Rogers
  • When You Put Your Heart in It ~ Kenny Rogers
  • Live Like You Were Dying ~ Tim McGraw
  • Walking on Sunshine ~ Katrina & the Waves
  • I Love You Just the Way You Are ~ Billy Joel
  • Ring of Fire ~ Johnny Cash
  • Son of a Preacher Man ~ Dusty Springfield
  • Shiny Happy People ~ REM
  • Eric Clapton ~ (Suggestions???)
  • Love Profusion ~ Madonna
  • Nothing Fails ~ Madonna
  • He ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother ~ Rufus Wainwright
  • Bob Dylan ~ ???
  • Stand By Me ~ Ben E. King
  • Let Me Be Your Witness ~ Marc Cohn
  • Elton John ~ ???
  • Fields of Gold ~ Sting
  • All is Full of Love ~ Bjork
  • It’s in Our Hands ~ Bjork
  • Alarm Call ~ Bjork
  • Declare Independence ~ Bjork
  • Where Soul Meets Body ~ Deathcab for Cutie
  • Right Here, Right Now ~ Fatboy Slim
  • Way You Move ~ Outkast
  • Eagles ~ ???
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow and What a Wonderful World ~ Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
  • Who Let the Dogs Out ~ Baha Men
  • I Hope You Dance ~ Lee Ann Womack
  • Poses ~ Rufus Wainwright
  • Talkin’ about a Revolution ~ Tracy Chapman
  • As I Lay Me Down ~ Sophie B. Hawkins Rounding out our list with …
  • Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show ~ Neil Diamond ** Because I’ve decided that John Friend must be a bit like Brother Love, only with his arm bones back once the hands are in the air.

We’re making great progress! How many are we up to? I think we ought to have a solid 90 songs, a symbolic reminder of 90 degrees. Or, we could go for 108. Chime in with your suggestions here or email me if you’d rather. So, what say you, oh Kula Mates? What songs are we missing?

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Part III: Sharing Strengths

In my recent posts, I have been reviewing the teachings of Marcus Buckingham as it relates to finding your true strengths – those activities in life that give you energy. Buckingham instructs that once you’ve identified your strengths you must begin to focus more and more of your daily actions and efforts on doing those activities. Through these endeavors, we are infused with energy and enthusiasm, which will ultimately increase both our productivity and success. This is the way to reignite the passion and joy in life.

But what do we do about those things that don’t give us energy, those tasks that are a necessary requirement in our lives or our jobs? Buckingham offers several effective ways to handle those “energy drains” including that sometimes you just have to pick up the shovel and shovel it! (My words, not his!) Shovels notwithstanding, one strategy is to team up with others whose strengths complement your own. By playing off our collective strengths we can create a mutually beneficial relationship where everyone’s energy is boosted, and all tasks get completed successfully.

This is something effective managers have known for a long time. Like a good coach, managers want to maximize the talents and gifts of their employees. Of course this makes sense in the sports arena, the corporate world, and even in family life, but how can we make use of this strategy in the seemingly solo task of planning and teaching an effective yoga class? Using Buckingham’s strength-based approach and this concept of sharing strengths, I’ve outlined five steps to guide you in this process, a.k.a. “How to use the Greatness of Others to be Great Yourself!” 😉

5 Steps towards Developing a Better Yoga Class

1. Determine your strengths as a yoga teacher. As you look at the components of planning a yoga class, what are your strengths? (Remember the criteria: anticipation, lose track of time, more energy at completion.) In an Anusara yoga class plan, we need a heart-oriented theme and a logical asana sequence with connection to the Universal Principles of Alignment. Maybe your strength is creating a theme, but sequencing drains you. Be astute in your evaluation. Discern without judgment.

2. Develop your strengths fully. Use the energy you acquire to study, develop, and enhance your strengths. If you are “in” to yoga philosophy and it energizes you, then deepen your understanding even further. Read more of the sacred texts. Study with a philosophy teacher. If the biomechanics of physical alignment excite you, take an anatomy class and learn more about the body. Too often we waste energy trying to strengthen a weakness. Instead, we could experience an exponential increase in our energy if we applied that same effort towards an area of interest. Read earlier remarks in comment 3.

Aside: I am reminded of what Christina advises aspiring teachers in the Anusara yoga immersion; teach what resonates for you! Represent the method accurately, but teach to your direct experience.

As you develop your strengths, compile your ideas and make notes. If your strength is theme development and personal connections, journal stories and anecdotes that could support a number of heart based themes. If your strength is in scope and sequencing, keep a record of those class plans. If the language of teaching comes easily to you, write down effective phrases. Record, journal, track! It will fuel the fire within.

3. Find people (or resources) with complimentary strengths. Team with fellow teachers, utilize your kula-mates. Tap into books. Build a reference library. If you struggle with sequencing, then look towards an informed source. Turn to the sequences in the Anusara Yoga Teacher Training Manual by John Friend. Write down a series when you’re in class with a teacher who does it masterfully (like Christina Sell). If you appreciate the way someone else centers their class or brings their students out of savasana, use that approach. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

4. Give credit to the Source, universally AND individually! Make sure you acknowledge where your material comes from, along with your teachers, and those who have helped you along the way, including — and especially — the Absolute. It is essential to credit your inspiration and sources.

5. Share your Strengths. Whether it’s working directly with fellow teachers, writing, or sharing resources that have helped you, offer your strengths and ideas to others. Don’t buy into the fear that you need to “keep it a secret” or someone might “steal it”. There is abundance. The more you put out, the more you’ll bring back in. Be seen as someone who is willing to share. Allow your energy to spark others.

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” ~Albert Einstein

Whether using this technique to plan a yoga class, or to create a holiday dinner, build a home or coach a team, maximizing your strengths in combination with the strengths of others will generate success and ENERGY for everyone.

* * * * *

Reminder: The Marcus Buckingham workshop as seen on Oprah is available for FREE on iTunes. Thanks to Kelly Sell for sharing that Marcus Buckingham also has a book on this topic available titled Now, Discover Your Strengths.

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I am in the midst of my first Level I Anusara Teacher Training with Christina Sell. It is a 30-hour journey spread over 4 days and chalked full of great teaching, great inspiration and great lessons for life. During our discussion yesterday, we talked about the importance of learning people’s names, using their names when you see them, and particularly as this relates to a teacher and his or her students. There was some discussion on mnemonic devices for accomplishing the task, but most of the discussion centered on the importance of simply making the effort to do it.

My name is Pamela Faye McFarland Walsh & This I Believe

Raised by a salesman and now married to one, I have been aware of this fact and have valiantly attempted to practice this skill for most of my life. No doubt, the challenge of the task can be daunting, but definitely worth the effort.

As a married couple, Brian and I have adopted a simple formula for dealing with occasional lapses in memory. When we run into someone who knows one of us but not the other, we are very good about immediately introducing the person. But if, for example, we DON’T introduce them right away, then that’s our married silent cue: “Hey, I forgot this person’s name, so help me out.” The spousal unit then chimes in with a quick, “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Pamela’s husband, ‘Brian’ and you are…?” At that point, the individual will hopefully say their name, while I stammer a few seconds behind with something like, “Oh, I’m sorry, Bri, this is my friend Joan from school.” Or something to that effect.

Now I say “hopefully” because we’ve actually experienced situations when the response was an uninformed, “Oh yes, we’ve met before.” And that’s it. No help. No prompt. Literally. Then hope quickly fades to the conversation at hand searching for some clue to our connection, coupled with furtive glances in the direction of a checkbook or credit card looking for a name. (By the way, I am a big fan of those “initial” purses that were popular awhile back!)

Addressing a Problem

I work at the elementary school in the neighborhood where I live, so it is not uncommon that I run across people who may be familiar with me, but to whom I’ve never been introduced. (This usually happens at the corner HEB when people are out of their “usual” context.) So this presents an interesting challenge because I’m never sure when I’m searching for someone’s name if it’s one I should know — that is, we’ve actually been introduced — or someone I’ve never formally met.

“Sean” the Light on Me

There was this wonderful Dad who volunteered regularly in the computer lab at school a few years ago. Sean was a friendly man who was willing to help out wherever he was needed, always taking the time to stop and visit. He was quick with a smile and a friendly “Hey Pamela, what’s up?” each time we met. Sean used my name, and I always made it a point to use his. It was great. Except his name turned out to be “Doug” which he finally broke down and told me, two years into “Sean”. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I asked in despair. “Well I didn’t want to embarrass you.” Now every time I see him, I bumble through the line-up: “Hi there Shah … Du .. Sh ..Doug … DAMN!”

Another trusty method of the unsure is to revert to the generic use of some kind of pet name or nickname when memory fails; you know, one of those familiar slang or colloquial expressions? This technique is widely accepted in the south where endearments such as “Sweetheart” and “Buddy” pepper daily conversations. My cousin, a middle school principal in Kentucky, employs this approach quite effectively. He told me once: “All the girls are Darlin’ and all the guys are Bud.” Okay, so certainly not as effective as learning everyone’s names but possibly better than the alternative.

Consider my Dad. My parents raised four daughters and, as such, bore witness to a small parade of boyfriends throughout the years. After the dreaded event of once calling my sister’s new boyfriend by the old boyfriend’s name, Dad unapologetically adopted the use of “Slick” for all future boyfriends for all of us, with an occasional “Ace” thrown in for variety. It worked, but I will note that Thanksgiving CAN get a bit confusing. When Daddy says, Slick, four grown men turn their heads.

The Ace in my Life: The man calls ’em “Slick”

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“Words have meaning and names have power.” ~ Author Unknown

Whatever your strategy — and please feel free to post your tips — it is worth a concerted effort. As I mulled this topic over, I was reminded of something I’d read a few years back that eloquently speaks to this issue.

During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Surely this was a joke. I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. “Absolutely,” the professor said. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy. ~ Joann C. Jones

Names ~ personal or pet ~ this form of acknowledgment means something of great value to most people. Take the time to learn the names of the people who cross your path ~ your teaching path, your yogic path, your life path!

And may YOUR name never escape me, Sweetheart!


* * * * *

For a poignant reminder on the importance of acknowledgment, read Howard White’s essay, “The Power of Hello” from the NPR series, This I Believe.

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The principal at my school is all about positive attitude and motivation. Like many effective leaders, she frequently shares material to inspire and encourage the staff. 212: The Extra Degree is one of those things. This short video clip is about the extra effort that separates good from great. Like water changing to steam with just one more degree, it illustrates that the smallest of margins can make all the difference. I invite you to click on the link now and watch it, then read on. It’s well worth 3 or 4 minutes of your time. Here it is again. Click on it. Watch it: 212: The Extra Degree.

I mention this clip as it so perfectly ties to the theme of Christina’s advanced asana class on Thursday afternoon which dealt with SUSTAINING. An excerpt from her blog beautifully outlines this quality as it relates to the Absolute:

” … because our physical bodies hold all of the clues we need for the metaphysical journey, we can look in our very physicality for clues about the nature of what sustains and how. For instance our heart beat and our breath — each of these functions so very important to sustain life exist in a — everybody say it all together now — SPANDA, in a pulsation (Go back to the attributes of the absolute from a month or so ago.) And because asana is a way that we can, if we choose to, practice “acting like Shiva” as a means to embody the sacred, as a means to “Align with the Divine” we can consciously participate in this spanda in our poses and the alignment becomes the means by which we sustain the pose.”

Now one always gets nervous when Christina Sell starts talking about “sustaining poses.” Well, “one” might not, but this ONE does! See, she does not allow the length we hold poses to be determined by whim but by the biomechanical Universal Principles of … da, da, da …. the Timer. (Does anyone have some Anthony Perkins “Psyho” music to insert here?) Actually, I suppose we should be grateful that she uses the timer, folks, because she seems to keep us EVEN LONGER when she forgets to set it.

That said, on Thursday, she changed the interval we normally hold poses from 1 minute to 2 minutes ~ a monumental difference to those of us lunging in Warrior I. (Make sure you read, that’s lunging, not LOUNGING.) We should not be surprised. “Virabhadra: The name of a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs.” (from Yoga Journal) The name simply does not suggest a casual approach.

With seconds ticking slowly by, Christina fires us up: “Come on. Take your front thigh down to 90 degrees,” which is after all one of the hallmarks of Virabhadrasana in Anusara. The quads were burning. We were all sweating. Even Anne. It was hard. Just ask that girl who walked out of class complaining it was “too hard.” Interesting. (Perhaps there was a reason the adjective “advanced” was listed on the class schedule, yes?)

We switch legs, move into the pose, the timer starts again: 10 … 15 … 20 seconds pass. Christina stops the timer, pulls us out, and directs us back into the starting lunge: “Sit deeper. There ya go. Now keep that position of your front thigh and now move into Warrior I without giving anything up. That’s it.” And the timer starts again. The thigh at 90 degrees. Not 89 … 90! Sustaining.

And that extra degree makes all the difference!

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Anusara Yoga in Austin

So I have to add a couple of other photos from last weekend at our last Anusara Immersion that the divine Ari Stiles captured. First, our group photo above — all groups need a “silly” photo, for sure — and especially ours. Then this picture of Jeremiah & me. Jeremiah and I go “way back” to our days of Teacher Training. He teaches several classes now at YogaYoga.

Finally, if you haven’t already viewed them, be sure to see all of Ari’s photos from last weekend. And here she is in all her glory, sporting a lens cap for her “Third Eye” giving a whole new meaning to “Third Eye Blind”.

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This past weekend was Month 7 of our nine month Anusara Immersion. As we enter the last third of our 108 hour immersion experience with Christina, we are devoting more time to asana practice. Both Saturday and Sunday’s gatherings were highlighted by 3-hour practices which were quite demanding as we focused on arm balances & twists.

We started Saturday’s practice with handstands and Pincha Mayurasana which of course suited me just fine as it is my stated goal to be able to come into both of those asanas away from the wall and held with definite controlled balance. Some 2 1/2 hours later, my arms were tired and my body was ready for savasana. I was grateful when Christina instructed us to lie down on our backs. Happily, I rolled over and closed my eyes, only to be abruptly instructed to push up into Urdhva Dhanurasana — not once but 4 (or was it 14) times. AND THEN, we got to work some drop backs. Savasana was still a distant 20 minutes away!

Following a good night’s sleep, I came into Sunday’s class feeling rested and not nearly as sore as I had expected. I rolled out my mat at the front of the room, ready for a new challenge. Sunday’s practice combined twists and arm balances while we worked with the theme of Karma & Kriya, work & play.

As the practice reached the midway point, I tapped into muscle reserves that I weren’t sure existed & I began to regret my choice of mat location. To drop into child’s pose here would be an obvious defeat. I might as well wave a white eye pillow in surrender. And so, I soldiered on.

Another twist, another arm balance, another furtive glance at the clock on the studio wall. Would I make it until 6 PM? I found myself secretly longing to be pregnant as I glanced back at my friend Suki, who was quietly resting in Supta Virasana.

But I did survive & at the end of the day, I was grateful. And not just for savasana. As I sat at the dinner table with my family recounting the weekend, I shared with them the joy I felt when I “caught air.” I felt proud of the effort I had sustained. I had strengthened not only my arms, but my confidence.

It was at then that WORK met PLAY!

Eka Pada Koundinyasana I

Demonstrating Here that Ever-Shaky (& I do mean SHAKY) Balance of Work & Play

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