Posts Tagged ‘Christina Sell’

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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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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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 #9: Wednesday, September 24th at 7:00 p.m. ~ Estes Park

Today’s class with John touched me at the core. His theme of love embodied both play and devotion. We took our legs up and to the side in Hasta Pandangustasana, then reached out to support our neighbor’s ankle forming lines of foot-to-hand connected yogis. While holding each others’ foot, John instructed us to hop to the left, then hop to the right. Release of the feet and spontaneous laughter. There is always so much joy in Anusara yoga class, the playful delight of the Divine.

John asked us first to dedicate our practice to someone we love, to someone who supports us, and to imagine practicing our asana as if our loved one was standing right before us. For me, it was my husband Brian. I have described him as the string to my kite. Without him, I’d spin in circles in crash. He lifts me up and allows me to be who I am. Back home in Austin, he is doing double time with work and the boys. I am so incredibly blessed. And the practice continued.

Next, he asked us to dedicate our practice to someone who was suffering. One of my co-workers came to mind. Though we aren’t especially close, I thought of Peggy whose cancer has returned, which has required her to take a leave of absence from teaching. She loves the mountains, and I know she’d love it here at Estes Park. She was fully on my heart. Funny (or maybe not) when I returned to the lodge and checked my work email, there was a message from another co-worker with Peggy’s address. TODAY is her birthday. And the practice continued.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. ~ William Arthur Ward

Finally, he asked us to dedicate our practice to our teacher … and tears filled my eyes. I am overwhelmed with such gratitude for my teacher Christina Sell. As I’ve experienced this Anusara Yoga Grand Gathering, I have been so aware of her dedication to the method, to the principles of Anusara Yoga. She conveys both the technical material and ~ more importantly ~ the essence of this method. I thought back to something I wrote about her a year or so ago ~ Tribute to my Mentor. I bow in your honor, Christina. You are a gift.

“It’s Gonna Be Great!” … And it always has been!

(Most) of the Austin Contingency ~ Jesse & Tabitha at the back; Kristen, Christina, Jen, Kim & Me

Still to Come … Reports on break-out sessions, the Anusara Follies evening entertainment, Notable Quotables, the Main Conference Kick-off, and more photos!

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YJ Entry #2: Monday, September 22nd at 8:15 a.m. ~ Estes Park

Not much to write so just a couple of quick notes. Drove up here yesterday and pulled into Estes Park to the scene of several Elk hanging out by the roadside. Visited shops and had lunch before coming on up to YMCA of the Rockies. The Grand Gathering is SOLD OUT … I was curious what that meant. It means 800!!! We will all be practicing together in one large group session with John Friend at 9:30 this morning. How on earth will that work? The rec center is taped off in slightly larger than mat footprints. We will be mat to mat. John will be on stage and they have 2 large projection screens for the group.

At last night’s welcoming remarks, John talked about the day he wrote down his vision for Anusara Yoga and how Douglas Brooks gave him the name. He also introduced the teaching staff of about 20. After that there was Kirtan chanting with Shantala — remember the bass player Brent from teacher training this summer? In all, John said there are about 250 certified teachers in the world and 77 of them here at Estes Park. There are people from all over the US. I’ve also met folks from England, Trinidad & Singapore already. (It’s that whole world domination thing, baby!) It’s truly quite something.

Beautiful venue, great facilities ~ I am staying in a room at one lodge with Jill, Jen R. & Kristen. Jesse is in the same lodge we are. Kim S. and Tabitha H. are also here and Charlie L. Okay a couple of pix then I have to go find my place in the hall.

Should have more time to write details this afternoon.

~ Pammy

The Majesty of Estes Park!

The Welcoming Committee

Estes Park, Colorado

Our Girl Christina during Introductions at the Opening Remarks Sunday

The Anusara Yoga Teaching Staff for the Grand Gathering

Desiree at far left, Douglas Brooks next to Christina, John Friend far right

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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.

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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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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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KULA – from the root kul, to group or gather or aggregate, refers both to a soul family or grouping, specially the family or circle (CHAKRA) formed of the GURU, his wife and their spiritual children or disciples. Ultimately Kula refers to the entire embodied cosmos as a grouping or aggregation of bodies, and to the fluid substantiality of awareness that condenses to form bodies and can flow from one body to another. ~ from the Short Sanskrit Glossary

It is not uncommon for those of us who regularly practice together to talk about the great fortune we have to study Anusara Yoga with a teacher of Christina Sell’s caliber. That aside — and I’ll grant you that’s a big aside — I’ve been thinking more recently about her gift for building community and so appreciative of the efforts that she makes in that direction. From taking the initiative to learn and use people’s names (see more on that in my earlier post) to opening up her studio for a group practice and potluck, Christina has diligently worked to establish and build a community of practitioners and aspiring Anusara yoga teachers, not just in Austin, but throughout the U.S. and Canada. (World Domination…another topic, another day!)

I just finished a 3-day teacher training with her along with 15 other beautiful, fun and enthusiastic kula mates including: Anna, Chelsea, Kim, Jen, Brigitte, Tabitha, Ari, Jesse, Tia, Valerie, Darren, Jeremiah, Kristen, Dawn & Alice. Be sure to check out Ari’s photos and our full weekend report on Christina’s blog.

What an adventure it’s been for me, especially when I think back to the connections I have with these people. Some have been with me from “the old days” of YYTT Yoga Yoga Teacher Training. (Hi Ari, Jesse & Jeremiah!) Others are simply my new “old friends” from this summer’s teacher trainings. (Yo Darren!) Whether from the shared experience of immersions or from Christina’s regular Thursday class at 4:30, one thing is for sure: my life has been enriched by these opportunities to connect with other Anusara Yoga practitioners.

Meanwhile back at the Kula Hut, the Beat Goes On!

During our potluck lunch on Sunday, we feasted on some fabulous food and enjoyed some “non yoga” music; how can you beat a little Van Morrison?! The energy and camaraderie was high, and it got me thinking … Now that t-shirts have been checked off of our Things to Do list, I’ve decided it’s time for a kula theme song. So, I am officially soliciting song suggestions.

We batted around a couple of ideas including: Eye of the Tiger ~ appropriate but let’s face it, a bit overdone, and then naturally there’s Jessie’s Girl(s) which has potential as our unofficial anthem but just not quite … uh, universal enough. Christina threw in Funkytown. Certainly, I am always up for disco/funk so that totally works for me. (You know, that old “women-of-my-generation” thing.) I’m sure there are other worthy contenders.

All of this led to the obvious conclusion ~ hey, I’m an idea person ~ why stop at one song!? Let’s compile a whole CD! I mean, movies have soundtracks right? If it’s good enough for Steven Spielberg than it’s good enough for us! By the way, does anyone know if he practices yoga?

Anyhoof, I’m taking on this project as my baby — look out, gang, the Shakti’s at work! — and I need your help. What songs do you think reflect a mood, attitude or idea that represents our kula in some form? Don’t be shy, and no need to be serious, and no need to suggest any Steven Halpern. Once we get a good list, I’ll burn the tunes.

As it stands now, we have:

  • Eye of the Tiger ~ Survivor
  • Jessie’s Girl ~ Rick Springfield (and I know “our Jesse” does not spell his name that way)
  • Funkytown ~ Lipps, Inc.

Post your recommendations below including the artist, and make your case: why should your song idea be included? Or, in the words of our fearless teacher: how does it relate to chit ananda? See, always an opportunity to practice Anusara Yoga theme development. You know people, if this gets momentum, we could turn this into some kind of benefit concert: Think: Kula-Aide 2008! It’s gonna be great! (Sorry Kelly, I couldn’t help myself and technically, I’m not referring to the drink.)

So, go forth, my friends, and lyricize!

Hitting a High Note with Love & Gratitude,

Pammy (the Producer)

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Blog Notes: One of the ways we can nurture the kula is by reading, supporting and linking to one another’s blogs. (Kula kids … if I don’t have your blog listed, please be sure and send me your link.) Besides the blog roll in your side bar, you can link directly to someone’s site and even to a specific post within your own entries. This helps direct your readers more efficiently to their entries, promotes more traffic to their sites, and builds our ever-growing community.

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Coming Next … Cocoons & Butterflies: My World of Emerging Themes

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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.

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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”

* * * * *

“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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On Labor Day, a group of us gathered down at Christina’s studio in San Marcos for an awesome 3-hour practice followed by a great potluck lunch. It is always such a fun gathering of spontaneous standing poses, inversions, arm balances and more. The atmosphere is light and supportive and we help each other, laugh and enjoy our asana practice together. Additionally, Christina arranged a special ceremony for those of us in attendance from YYTT. She created lovely, personalized certificates with our individual picture on each one, along with a special sentiment. She also arranged for J-Mo to sign them, adding special poignancy to the moment. Christina’s husband, Kelly, is the photographer extraordinaire and captured the day for all of us. Check out all the pictures on Christina’s blog.


My attempt at Eka Pada Koundinyasana I


Kim & I going for Surya Yantrasana (Compass Pose)

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It’s gonna be great!
It’s gonna be awesome!
I have a really good feeling about this!
~ Christina Sell

I imagine that few people forget the first time they meet Christina Sell – her small stature doesn’t mask her powerhouse physique and radiance of vital energy. As John Friend has described her, she is “the tinkling delight of Spirit incarnated in a vibrantly fit woman.” (Yoga from the Inside Out). Through the blessings of other gifted teachers, I had been drawn to Anusara yoga prior to my first class with Christina last September. Her mastery of the alignment principles of the body – infused with the language of the heart – allows students of all levels to experience deep and profound openings in their bodies and a connection with the divine unlike anything I had experienced. When the choice of a mentor in YYTT came about, the only question I had: “Would she take ME on?”

Since that first class just a year ago, I have been blessed to study and receive instruction and inspiration from Christina in many formats – in her classes, weekend workshops, YYTT, and now the Anusara immersion, to her book, her blog, and sharing personal conversations and emails. Christina’s approach and outreach is a testimony to the “Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness that underlies the methodology of teaching Anusara yoga” (from the Anusara website, She enthusiastically builds and cultivates the kula with her attitude, alignment, and action! If there is such a thing as a Yoga Warrior it is embodied in the form of Christina Sell.

To document specific things she has said to help an injured student or suggestions she makes for prop uses to assist those with tight hip flexors, would be no different I expect than what any schooled yoga teacher might offer. For me, the greatest lesson I have received from Christina – one that I work to integrate into my own practice, teaching and life – is the importance of attitude.

An Attitude of Community – Christina connects with her students. She makes an effort to meet everyone before class. She works to remember names and USES them throughout class. Students feel connected to her and each other. You’re not just another student on the tally sheet. She cultivates community both on and off the mat. I will work towards that same goal in my teaching practice.

An Attitude of Light-Heartedness – Christina has taught me that asana practice can (and should) be playful and fun. Her self-deprecating teaching style and use of humor allows students to relax, to not take themselves so seriously, and to “be okay” where they are in their practice and WHO they are as a person. As a student, it is easy to become frustrated with your inability to do something – whether it’s from lack of balance or fear of falling or inflexible body parts. Humor can quickly diffuse that frustration: “There are some lovely people in the Tight Hamstring Club,” Christina will say, prompting appreciative chuckles when she adds, “It isn’t a moral shortcoming.” Silly? For sure! But many of us need that obvious reminder to let go of critical self-judgments.

An Attitude of Commitment, Discipline & Devotion – Christina has taught me to find the edge, the work, and the beauty in each asana. I learned Urdhva Hastasana could be a LOT more than holding my arms over my head. By practicing asana with an attitude of commitment, we are mindful of the principles necessary to work in the pose – the foundation, the alignment, the flow of energy. The pose becomes more vital and a greater expression of the divine. Her attitude of devotion inspires her students to work HARD. She reminds us that asana practice is an offering, a prayer in motion, an expression and reflection of the divinity. When the mental effort to hold a pose begins to wane, this attitude of devotion and alignment with grace helps to sustain our physical efforts.

To become a yoga teacher, it is certainly important to learn how to correctly teach a pose, how to modify for injuries, how to field questions and provide resources, and how to make your students “more comfortable.” Those things can be learned through books and presentations. But it is equally important to cultivate an attitude and style that inspires your students to deepen their practice. That is not something that can be instructed, but must be experienced first-hand to fully understand its import. I feel incredibly blessed to have had that opportunity under Christina Sell, and I truly hope to offer that same kind of humor, enthusiasm and love for this practice to my students. In the words of my dear mentor …

“I drank the Kool-Aid!”


For more information on Christina Sell, her studio, and upcoming workshops, visit Christina’s website or her blog

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