Posts Tagged ‘Yoga Journal Conference’

jnaniJnani Chapman is affiliated with Commonweal, a nonprofit health and environmental research institute located in Bolinas, California which conducts programs that contribute to human & ecosystem health. Commonweal’s Cancer Help Program offers a week-long residential support program for people with cancer.

  • The session opened with a reflection technique, The Witness Practice, recommended for beginning yoga work with cancer patients. It is “designed to focus attention on how the body is feeling, enabling us to attend to whatever is happening in that moment.”
  • As a yoga teacher or yoga therapist, being able to love, forgive & accept your SELF may be the greatest teaching/example we can give our students.
  • “Fixing is the work of the ego. Serving is the work of the soul.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen
  • How to communicate with those we love who have cancer: Whenever we don’t know what to say … Say, “Honey, I love you SO much.”
  • Question arose ~ Could exercise be “bad” for cancer patients? That is, make cancer spread faster? Answer: No blood flow helps general health. It is important to keep in mind that physical exertion is stress. The body needs recovery time. Exhaustion after exertion results in depletion.
  • Teach how to breathe with additional focus on extended exhalation. Poor exhalation fails to rid the body of gaseous waste.
  • Jnani shared a thought-provoking piece written by Rachel Naomi Remen on the difference between service & helping. “Helping is based on inequality … helping incurs debt. Service is a relationship between equals … When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have the feeling of gratitude.”

“Accept what is, and know that things change.”

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

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

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

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Judith.jpgJudith Lasater always starts her classes on time. I learned this at the first workshop I took from her, a restorative training session in Dallas a year ago. I will never forget her words, “We start class on time to honor the practice. We end class on time to honor our students.” And she always does.

So today as we gathered in the Grand Ballroom and rolled out our mats for her 2 hour workshop on Yoga to Save Your Knees, I turned to the woman next to me and casually remarked, “She always starts on time.” At exactly 12:30, a bell chimed, and Judith called us together.

In addition to being the queen of restorative yoga, Judith Lasater received her education in physical therapy. An Iyengar-trained yogi, she has taught for over 30 years, and authored a number of books. You might say, this girl knows what she’s talking about.

She opened the class with a simple statement, “Pain is not good.” Over the next 2 hours, Judith led participants in experiential exercises punctuated by group gatherings to closely observe alignment details and adjustments. From the orientation of the patella to the arc of the Achilles tendon, Judith urged us to be aware, pay attention, and make the subtle adjustments that can mean the difference between pain and ease.

DSC_5534.jpg 41gsyrmnail_sl500_aa240_As she explained the anatomy of the knee in clear and concise language, she shared this key insight: “The knee joint is the “prisoner” of the hip and the ankle.” Understanding anatomy is key to our practice, and to that end, Judith Lasater has written a new book for yoga teachers to facilitate that understanding. Yogabody: Anatomy, Kinesiology and Asana will be released in May 2009 and is available now for pre-order.

The workshop flew by as participants engaged in the exercises, asked questions, and diligently took notes. The class ended much too soon, but EXACTLY on time. As I watched the line form to ask this yoga master more questions, I realized I probably wasn’t the only one about to pre-order her new book.

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YJSF-4.jpgSeane Corn has good hair. As someone whose lived a lifetime with mousy brown baby fine hair, I can attest that it’s truly something of trademark proportions. Seriously, it’s that good … which reminds me of a funny story.

I first saw Seane at the Estes Park Yoga Journal Conference last September. The event was held at the beautiful YMCA of the Rockies venue, and while most of the people were there for the conference, there were some “non-yogi” types on the grounds.

One afternoon, a gentleman was walking near the main pavilion when he collapsed to the ground, most likely as a result from the effects of altitude. Seane, who happened to be nearby, quickly went to his aid and knelt down beside him.

As the man came to, he opened his eyes to this angelic vision with long, curly, golden hair and sparkling blue eyes. Taking one look at her, he stammered out his first words of consciousness … “Wow, you have pretty hair.” And though HE probably thought he was seeing an angel, everyone else knew he was gonna be just fine.

On Thursday, I attended an intensive on Spiritual Activism which was led by Seane Corn, Suzanne Sterling and Hala Khouri. These three women are partners in the initiative Off the Mat, Into the World described as “a program that aims to inspire and guide you to find and define your purpose and become active in your local or global community in an effective, sustainable and joyful way.”

There is much to share about what these women are doing, and I encourage you to check out their site for more information. Suffice it to say, there’s definitely a lot more to Seane Corn than good hair. Perhaps that man at Estes Park really DID see an angel after all.

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YJSF-9.jpgIn a world that frequently challenges us to PUSH our limits, Jason Crandell offered a different perspective in this morning’s asana workshop. As we began the practice, Crandell asked us to consider that “Integrity and stability are more important than range.”

Throughout the energizing sequence, he focused on the idea that your edge is that balance between effort and relaxation. Crandell made his way around the room, instructing and guiding the practice, while offering up sage insights that were worth stopping and making a note of (and I did more than a few times in the two hour class).

We want to learn to work with conscious effort and not hurl ourselves in (and out) of poses. How many of us can relate to that style of “practice”?? We muscle (and force) our way into some pose exerting maximum effort and then come out of it with equal abandon. Slow down, Crandell advises, and see that the balance of effort and relaxation is more important than achieving any particular form.

The pose is not the goal. (Say “what?!) Instead we use poses to FREE the body. The work of the pose is there to unveil who we really are. In basic poses, we want to learn how to work; in the more challenging ones, we want to learn how to relax. As Crandell reminded us, “Anything that is difficult for you will work better when you relax.” This is true in life as well as our asana practice.

Funny, that’s how most things are.

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I grant myself permission to buy new magazines whenever I go vacation. This is a little indulgence that I enjoy, whether it’s a road trip down to the beach or a non-stop flight to destinations far & near. And so as I prepared for my flight to San Francisco yesterday, I decadently perused the newsstand at the airport with reckless abandon.

After browsing the latest issue of People, (okay, that might be just a little too indulgent) my eye caught the cover of a Yoga Journal that I had not yet seen. I’ve been a subscriber for a few years, but this was one of the “special editions” that are periodically issued separate from the regular subscription: “Yoga at Home: Everything You Need to Practice on Your Own.”

Touted as the “2009 Complete Guide” from the editors of Yoga Journal, this magazine sports a price of $8.99, which definitely puts it into the “decadent” category as far as impulse magazine buying goes. As I picked it up, the gate attendant announced my flight. I quickly pulled out a $10 bill, purchased the magazine and hurried onto the plane.

I rationalized the purchase as being “work-related research.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. And who among us hasn’t struggled with establishing a home practice? I found with my purchase that age-old question, “What should I do?” was answered in sequences, photos and languaging that’s easy to follow and understand. Several of the sequences are outlined by teachers who are presenting here at the San Francisco conference, and include:

  • Forward bending practice with Yin Yoga’s Sarah Powers
  • Restorative practice with Judith Hanson Lasater
  • Standing poses with Anusara Yoga’s Desiree Rumbaugh
  • Backbends with Rodney Yee
  • Down Dog in De “Tail” (get it, dog-tail) with Jason Crandell
  • Beginner’s Guide to Inversions with Aadil Palkhivala

Additionally, there are practice sequences from other great teachers for inversions, twists, abdominals, block work for strength, and even a beginner’s primer “Meditation for Everybody” by Frank Jude Boccio. As I thumbed through the pages, I was inspired and pleased. Inspired to see so many great do-able sequences, and pleased that my indulgence yielded a worthwhile investment.

Do yourself a favor … go indulge!

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For More Information: Follow all updates to the San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference Blog (including mine & others) or track my conference Twitters.

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Aside: The following is a repost from my entry earlier this evening on the Yoga Journal Conference blog.

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I’m sharing a room this weekend with a woman who responded to my post on the YJ conference site last month. Loretta (from Louisiana) first contacted me through the message board, then called, and we hit it off immediately. Like old high school friends who had just reconnected in time for the big reunion, we’ve exchanged several excited emails and phone calls in preparation for the conference. San Francisco will be her first Yoga Journal gathering, so I wasn’t surprised when she called to ask me what to bring.

Packing for your first conference can be a bit stressful. It’s a new environment. You don’t want to be unprepared, but you also don’t want to over pack either. This makes for a challenging dilemma. First, there’s all those gear decisions: Should I bring my own props? Can I take pictures during the classes? What stuff should I take to the sessions? And how will I carry it all around?

Then you move into your closet and the stress really begins to mount: How many yoga outfits do I REALLY need? Will I change between sessions or hang out all day in the same giddy-up? And what do people wear for the “off-the-mat” functions?

So with one whole Yoga Journal conference under my belt (or should that be “under my yoga strap”), I’ll offer some of my experienced sage yogic advice.

The Gear — Less is More

Bring what you absolutely must have. With these kinds of numbers, nothing is supplied, of course. If you don’t REALLY need it, don’t bring it. Caveat: Check the program for any class requests. (Eg. in the notes for Judith Lasater’s Practicing Yoga to Save Your Knees, participants are asked to bring a strap and a tennis ball.) Besides the marketplace has all sorts of goodies for sale if you’re really in a pinch.

Cameras — Most presenters seem comfortable with folks taking photographs. If you’re unsure, ask. There’s nothing like a photographic record.

What to Take to Class — Always good to have a notebook and pen, maybe a water bottle; Space considerations may come into play so just use common sense about how much stuff you have around your mat;

How will I Carry It Around: Good to have some sort of mat bag or sling with something for your room key, phone or camera, and of course, credit card for shopping after class. There are all sorts of bags with in a range of prices. Stay tuned for my great economical mat bag idea in an upcoming post.

Moving on to the important stuff — The Clothes

Not sure how San Francisco will compare to Estes Park, but there I was struck by the immense range of yoga “looks” — from the earthy crunchy granola au natural organic cotton to the LA glitz and glitter with a little bit of everything in between. Bottom line: Wear what you like to wear for your yoga practice. (By the way, did I mention there’s a MARKET PLACE just in case you need to pick a little top or two?)

Finally, unless you tend to sweat profusely (and I’m not naming any names from back home), most folks don’t change outfits during the day. One a day should be plenty (with an extra shirt thrown in just in case you spill some Chai tea on yourself. Remember: Less is more, less is more. Unless there’s chai!

The off-the-mat “looks” range as greatly as those on the mat — from leggings and sweaters to jeans and t-shirts. Again, wear what you’re comfortable in, just add lipstick (or whatever). San Francisco is sporting some great weather right now, but I’m told it can get chilly down on the wharf in the evening. A jacket or light coat may be in order. Whatever you do, don’t forget the jewelry, and if you do, there’s always the MARKET place!

All in all, don’t pack too much, keep it simple and have I mentioned? Less is more. After hauling my big old suitcase across the San Francisco airport, onto the BART, and up to the 10th floor of the Hyatt, I feel especially qualified to make that last suggestion.

Up Next — Pammy’s Mat Bag Idea: Saving Money in these Tough Economic Times and still look stylish at the Studio!

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Okay, it’s official … I am ON the Yoga Journal site. My first post ~ Meet Pamela Walsh ~ is now up!  Check it out!  Read, comment, have a glass of wine! Time to pack. My flight is at noon tomorrow. Here’s the link (and the bio anyway)! 🙂

Yoga Journal – San Francisco Conference 2009 – Yoga Blog:

Pamela comes to the San Francisco conference from Texas and the yogic world of Anusara Land. A young yogi in a middle-aged body, she “found” yoga just a little over two years ago. Shortly thereafter, she down-dogged her way into Christina Sell’s class, heard her laughter and her teachings, and she’s never been the same sense. Besides THAT one moment, this self-proclaimed “YogiTechChick” credits four life-changing yogic experiences:

— The afternoon she opened Light on Yoga and found that her college party trick was actually a yoga pose;
— The first time she “caught air” in bakasana;
—The day it dawned on her that savasana actually happened in EVERY class! (Well, except Christina’s, but that’s another post); and
— The precise moment she discovered that — despite looking deceptively similar — a big scoop of wasabi tastes nothing like guacamole. (Okay, so that wasn’t “yogic,” but it was life changing.)

Pamela honed her sharp journalistic skills during a 10-year stint writing a weekly newsletter for her local elementary school — Go, Kiker Comets! — where she reported on such challenging issues as overdue library books and contentious PTA meetings, not to mention the great cupcake controversy of 1999 for which she was nominated for a Pulitzer prize.

She lives in Austin with her husband, a dog, three sons, and two Mac computers. When not blogging for Yoga Journal (which, okay, is most of the time) she posts on her OWN site, PotentialWithin, about yoga, road trips with her parents, and anything else that amuses her.

Like to Twitter? You can also follow her conference tweets between her YJ posts.

Side Note: Pamela was first discovered blogging in the lobby at 2 a.m. during the Yoga Journal Conference at Estes Park last Fall. She has since been issued a key to her own room.

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Just received word that our local newspaper, the Austin-American Statesman, will be featuring my Yoga Journal conference posts on their Austin360 recreation channel (not quite sure why they call it a “channel” instead of a webpage but so it is) as well as on their home page periodically during the conference. My direct feed from their site is: Statesman.com/yogitechchick. More to come later tonight, but NOW it’s time to PACK. Then, I need to get my nails done, have a pedicure … can’t be at a yoga conference with chipped polish!

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California, here I come!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 6th Annual San Francisco Yoga Journal Conference opening later this week, January 16- 19, features a theme of yoga and activism with an experienced and exciting array of presenters ~ “from environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill to Matthew Sanford, who advocates yoga for the differently-abled, to asana classes that will spark your activism with Seane Corn and Sharon Gannon and David Life.”

I am headed out to the conference on Thursday where I will be blogging directly for Yoga Journal — at least three posts a day, complete with photos.  (Thank goodness I got that new haircut!)  With my new MacBook Pro, iPhone, Nikon zoom lens & Twitter account, I will keep you updated moment-by-yogic moment with reports from the Bay area (where I’ve never been before.)  Can YOU stand it?!

Venturing outside the boundaries of my Anusara Homeland, I will be attending two different day-long intensives, as well as 7 additional classes with yoga legends such as Seane Corne, Jason Crandell, Cyndi Lee, Gary Kraftsow, and Judith Lasater, not to mention Anusara greats Desiree Rumbaugh and Sianna Sherman. (For Pete’s sake, I couldn’t go cold turkey, people!)

In addition to my in-depth yoga journalism, find out:

  • Will I be able to navigate the San Francisco Transit System?
  • Just who IS my potluck roommate from Louisiana? (Hi Loretta!)
  • Can I keep up with my room key & conference tag without Jen?
  • Will I get that interview with Dez?
  • How little sleep can I actually function on?

These answers and more … later this week!

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Oh, how I’ve missed my blog! From holiday shopping and celebrations to trips to Iowa & New York & back again, this last month has been a whirlwind of activity with few opportunities to sit down and reflect … at least in writing. I’ve continued to write my daily six words, just had limited internet access to post them. But I’m back to it now, and caught up … I think!

It is good to be me!

New Year's Eve in NYC

New Year's Eve in NYC

In the last month …

  • Hosted a pre-Christmas brunch for my family of 20!
  • Rented a van and drove (15 hours) to my in-laws in Des Moines for the holidays, where I …
  • Spent Christmas in bed (and the bathroom puking), literally never saw the light of day or even my children! (“I’m dreaming of a white … porcelain toilet”)
  • Celebrated my father-in-law’s 80th birthday!
The Crew in Iowa ~ Happy Birthday, Walter!

The Crew in Iowa ~ Happy Birthday, Walter!

  • Got an iPhone and have become EVEN MORE connected. Well, once I got out of Iowa. (So much power in one little thing!)
  • Drove back home to Austin which took two days because one of the boys started puking in the van somewhere along the Kansas turnpike & consequently
  • Spent a lovely night in a Hampton Inn in Gainesville, TX (By the way, they allow dogs there which was a bonus!)
  • Had 36 hours at the house for laundry & repacking before Brian & I flew to New York at 6:15 a.m. on the morning of New Year’s Eve.
  • Celebrated New Year’s Eve at the Gotham City Bar & Grill in New York City with friends, gourmet 6 course meal, brass band & champagne.  Was up for 22 straight hours, and then
  • Drove out to Lake Placid (4½ hours) ~ well, actually I rode, didn’t drive ~ on New Year’s Day to spend 3 days in a winter paradise, where we
View from the Cabin ~ Poetsbrook in Lake Placid

View from the Cabin ~ Poetsbrook in Lake Placid

  • Stayed at our friends’ cabin, once home to Louis Untermeyer (who regularly hung out there with the poet Robert Frost)
  • Made new OLD friends & asked lots of INTERESTING questions
  • Skied Whiteface Mountain, one of the High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains, the ski area with the highest vertical drop in the eastern United States, and venue of the 1980 Olympic alpine skiing competition.
From the Medal Stand at the Lake Placid Ski Jump

From the Medal Stand at the Lake Placid Ski Jump

  • Watched 13 year-olds practice jumping off the 90 meter Olympic jump (You know, that old “Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat” footage?)
  • Drove back to New York City, then flew home to Austin, where we
  • Started back to school and work less than 24 hours later!

As for NEXT week … I’m off to San Francisco where I will be OFFICIALLY blogging for Yoga Journal at their California conference!!!  I will be posting at least three times a day, complete WITH photos.  So, despite a very long, wordless spell, I’m about to shift into high gear.

Along with first-hand reports from the conference, I’m hoping to share insights from Desiree Rumbaugh, who has generously agreed to “an interview” if we can get our timing right. (Can you say, paparazzi?!)  I’m thinking we’re looking at some Pulitzer opportunities here, folks!

So, if you’ve gotten OUT of the habit of checking this blog … I’m BAAACCCKKKK! Be sure to add this to your daily “Things to Read” list! After all, we know … I LOVE an audience. Happy New Year, my friends, life is indeed GOOD!

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breast-cancer-awareness-ribbonI am off to San Francisco for the Yoga Journal Conference in January. That much we know. What to take? The choices are numerous, the decisions are hard. Breast cancer is something that has personally touched several of my friends. October was breast cancer awareness month. The Susan B. Komen “Race for the Cure” hosted its Austin event last weekend. What can yoga offer cancer patients for their disease and pain management? What can it offer them on their path to recovery? While I can certainly see the value of yoga as a tool for disease management ~ learning to breathe, releasing stress, living in the moment ~ this is not something that I have any education to back me on.

In January 2009, Yoga Journal will sponsor its 6th Annual San Francisco Conference. Following the main conference, there will be an offering of one-day intensives on Monday, January 19. Themes for the daylong workshops include: Yoga and Activism, Green Yoga, and Yoga as Medicine. Within each of those topics, conference participants can further specialize.

For example, in the Yoga as Medicine offerings, participants can choose from:

  • Yoga for Emotional Health: Focus on Anxiety and Depression with Gary Kraftsow
  • Freedom of the Hip Joint: Asana, Anatomy, and Therapeutics with Judith Hanson Lasater
  • Higher Education on the Lower Back with Aadil Palkhivala
  • Anusara Yoga: Yoga to the Rescue with Desirée Rumbaugh
  • Adapting Yoga and Transforming Health Care with Matthew Sanford, and finally
  • Yoga as Medicine in Cancer Treatment with Jnani Chapman

Recently, a woman called me looking for my help. She wants to practice yoga. She is recovering from breast cancer. She is recovering from breast cancer AND has elementary-aged children. She is recovering from breast cancer, has elementary-aged children, AND her husband is deployed to Iraq. What can I offer this woman who has sacrificed so much?

I clicked on the description of Jnani Chapman’s workshop.


Jnani Chapman

After an overview of the body’s organs and systems, cancer cell pathology, and the side effects of treatment, we’ll explore how yoga awareness, breathing, movement, and relaxation methods can help bring symptom relief.

Will this be enough? I look for more information on Jnani Chapman. In an article about the benefits yoga can offer cancer survivors, one woman shared her experience. “For me, yoga’s main benefit is the reestablishment of a sense of my body as being ‘on my side’ after months of wondering why my cells had chosen this aberrant course,” says Merrie, a breast-cancer survivor who also attended Chapman’s class.

Hey, never underestimate the value of having someone on your side, especially when it’s yourself. After all, sometimes “the only courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

Yoga as Medicine in Cancer Treatment

Instructor: Jnani Chapman

Monday, January 19, 2009 from 9:00am – 4:30pm

at the Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco

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So BIG NEWS, Team Fun, big news! Yoga Journal called and they want me to go to San Francisco for their upcoming conference and well, blog some more. With that, I’m off to California for the MLK long weekend in January, where I’ll be writing and taking pictures and posting at LEAST three times a day. I can hardly wait …

… to be where little cable cars
climb halfway to the stars
the morning fog may chill the air,
I don’t care …

With a theme of yoga and activism, the conference (Jan. 16-19, 2009) features an array of nationally-known teachers including: Judith Lasater, Cyndi Lee, Ana Forrest, Richard Freeman, Sianna Sherman, Desirée Rumbaugh, Seane Corn, Rodney Yee, Rod Stryker, Gary Kraftsow, and more!

And YOU, my friends, get to come along for the ride on my proverbial cable car. First stop ~ Class Selection! Go to the Yoga Journal conference site and check out the schedule. Post your suggestions and comments, and I’ll pretend to take them to consideration. But hurry … it’s a limited time offer!

Interested in joining me? Well, I DO need roommates there at the Hyatt, just promise you won’t lock me out. Maybe you ~ like JESSE ~ can get your photograph posted on my blog! (Side note: it helps if you have good hair.)

Sing it, Tony Bennett, sing it …

… your golden sun will shine for me!

With Love,

Pammy ~ Your Embedded Yogi-Tech-Chick-Blogini

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Estes Park Colorado ~ September 2008

The following photographs were taken during the Yoga & Rock Climbing session on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at the annual Yoga Journal Conference. Much thanks to my friend Brenda Dowell for sharing her photos with me and allowing me to post them on my blog.

Jason Magness led the group. They did some “mat-free” yoga on the mountain which Brenda said hurt a bit ~ headstands in and on rocks. While she said Jason told them that the pain was just a perception, she felt quite sure more than a couple of folks “perceived” it.

Photos compliments of Brenda Dowell (second from the left)

In addition to the rock climbing excursions, Jason also conducted a couple of sessions at the Yoga Journal Conference on Slackline Yoga.  To read more about Jason and the slackline “movement,” check out Yoga on Line by Mary Bolster. (Is “Mary Bolster” really her name?  Kinda sounds like a good yoga writer pseudonym to me!)

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Yesterday’s mail brought a CD from one of my Canadian roommates ~ Brenda Dowell ~ with over 150 NEW photos from our adventures at the Yoga Journal Conference at Estes Park last month. Brenda attended one of the day-long Yoga and Rock Climbing sessions with Jason Magness. I had toyed with the idea, but ultimately passed. Now that I see her photos, I am totally kicking myself that I didn’t go. Maybe next year! I’ll definitely be posting more of her pictures later today, but here’s just a couple to start your day.

I got a total kick out this first shot which she took before we’d even met. Little did she know, Brenda captured the morning elk visitor strolling towards the dining hall with my Austin kula-mates: Jesse with his trademark hair, Jen on the left and Kristen (okay, it’s her leg) on the right. I was probably somewhere blogging at the time … or asleep … on a couch … in the lobby.

Morning Stroll at Estes Park

I’m thinking the “assist” is pretty important here!

A View from Above:  Can you say “SHRI”?!

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

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

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

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

Whoever said blogging was a solo activity?

Whoever said blogging was a solo activity?

It’s a Wrap!

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

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

My Yoga Journal Conference Posts

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

This is for you …

    Photography Lesson

    So what have I learned

    From the cropping and pasting and the looking?

    That days are meant to be lived,

    Friends are meant to be loved.

    And nothing is more extraordinary

    Than the ordinary

    When it is recalled.

    ~ Lois Wyse

    Photo Journal

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

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

    In Gratitude

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

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

    With Love & Gratitude,

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

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

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    YJ Entry #33

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

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

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

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

    Ross Rayburn

    Ross Rayburn

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

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

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

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

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

    * * * * *

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

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    Entering through the Designated Doors

    September 24, 2008 ~ Last Day at the Grand Gathering

    Sleepless in Austin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes, we have NO bananas!”

    It is our way.

    * * * * *

    An Inspired Theme

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

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

    And the choir sang, “Hallelujah!”

    * * * * *

    Straightening it Out

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

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

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

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

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

    Yes, we have no bananas!

    Pamela (that's Me!) with Desiree

    Pamela (that's ME!) with Dez

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

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

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

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

    Heather & Benjy Wertheimer with Steve Gorn (left)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It is indeed SRI!

    * * * * *

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

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    YJ Entry #27: Friday, October 3rd ~ 4:20 p.m. ~ Austin

    The elk were everywhere at Estes Park ~ around the lodges, crossing the roads, and wading through the water with their harem (or whatever you call the lady friends of the big boys).  It is really quite a sight to behold, these lovely large creatures who are so at home with the human kind.  As promised, this post is for my friend Anne ~ Christina’s sister, philosophy professor and Iyengar teacher extraordinaire!

    Here’s a brief explanation of the what happens during the Elk Rutting Season! If I can get it to load, I have a short video clip that I’ll post as well.

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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!

    * * * * *

    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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