Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yoga Retreat in the Sierra Foothills

The Sierra Foothills in the fall are magical. It is the very picture of fall with majestic trees and colorful leaves. It was the perfect place for my yoga teacher training group to spend the weekend. We stayed at The Yoga Place
in Georgetown, California.

The Yoga Place has two yoga studios, a pilates studio and a walking meditation labyrinth! The land is very well cared for and the owners are warm and extremely welcoming. Our group of feisty gals barged in and made the place our own. The amount of food we had was astounding. It looked like an ancient Greek feast. Fruit, cheese, bread, wine...all of the best stuff. During the day we put ourselves through a vigorous practice and at night we acted like girls at a slumber party. The mountain environment combined with the loving, caring environment we have created for each other. It was the perfect time and place for several of us to teacher for the very first time!
Karen's class was well put together and light-hearted. Beth's class blew me away by focusing on the feet. It was extremely detailed and had a great tone. After seeing those two ladies teach it was hard not to compare myself. When Beth taught her class, a doe came and stood right outside the window. Her presence and energy was THAT amazing.
By Sunday it was my turn to teach. I was terrified. My class was a restorative class influenced by the class I took with Judith Lasater. Everyone was looking forward to restorative after the long weekend and that made me even more nervous. Honestly, I was hyperventilating. But, I followed my notes and really fed off of the great energy of the group. There calm became my calm. When I saw their bleary-eyed blissed out faces at the end I was overwhelmed. I did it! That thing that yoga teachers do to make you feel good! What an experience. I am beyond grateful to have had such an amazing first class.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shadow Yoga: a workshop

The website states, "According to Hatha Yogic anatomy the body is composed of three discrete bodies and five sheaths, (coverings or shadows). The practice of Hatha Yoga has evolved with the purpose of dissolving these shadows." Mark Horner spoke for half an hour about shadow yoga. He described it as a discipline that cleanses the shadows which occlude your true light. Mark said that the body is a container for energy. He also made the point that our body is directly connected to food. The more food you eat, the body grows. If you eat less, the body shrinks. I had not thought about it in such simplified terms.

This is the first time I really made a connection to my body as a temple or vessel. And, the idea that I should tone and take care of my body to reach my more spiritual goals in yoga. I haven't really acknowledged, before now, that I had higher spiritual goals! Nonetheless, the talk that Mark gave was profoundly relevant to where I am on my yogic path. He told us the structure of the class was that we watch him and observe. Then, we do the moves as best we can. He often had us repeat moves. The shadow yoga moves are hard to describe. They were not asanas that a yogi would recognize. They look much more like moves from martial arts. The moves were more inclusive of all the parts of the body and all directions. The feet, ankles, hands, and wrists had more focus. I loved becoming more aware of the entire system of yoga and not just the asanas.

A few points I took away from this experience are:
  1. We are on information and stimulation overload. It is time to simplify and get rid of the excess in our lives and bodies.
  2. The less connection I have with my vessel and path the easier it is to abuse and ignore it. Yoga helps!
  3. A dedication to the body is a dedication to the soul. It is time to allow myself to be good to my self.
This workshop was a very intense experience and at a level that I would not have understood before now. It is true that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Even if its only for one day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The power of Right and Perfect

The one thing my mother has always been adamant about is "use your right and perfects"! She has taught me from a very young age, to focus on what is right and perfect coming into my life. It is such a simple tool that it is easy to forget about. It is also easy to doubt the power this tool has. Even as someone who has seen it work many times, I let it fall to the by the wayside. As I mentioned in my blog about emotional release, we can get into a pattern of negativity.
In the last several months, during the economic recession, it has been hard for me to stay positive. At times I would allow myself to fall into depression or wallow in self pity. But usually, after I forced myself to do a yoga practice, I was able to genuinely focus on the positive. Then I would say the magic words, "I give thanks for the right and perfect ___.". Just yesterday I stopped panicking, took a deep breath, and asked for the right and perfect new job. By the next day I had one. Granted, it doesn't always work that fast but I do believe it works!
I encourage you to try out your right and perfects. Pick something specific and ask for it. Say it as many times as you think you need to! Be ready to accept what you asked for into your life.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Emotional Release

On hour twelve, of the sixteen hours of yoga this weekend, I was laying in Savasana. I was trying to keep my mind present. As I focused on being positive, a thought crept into my mind. What the hell am I going to do? Images of living in a tent on some friends' property came to mind. I went to that property a lot growing up. It was also the last place I saw my dad before he died four years ago. I was picturing the cool crystal river water that I played in with my dad. Suddenly, waves of colored light were washing over me. Daddy. The tidal wave of emotion that followed shook me physically. Lying in Savasana I was sobbing uncontrollably. The gates had opened and all my fear, worry, and pain were escaping. My amazing teacher Dennis asked me if I was okay. He told me it was alright. Eventually, I calmed down and my fellow yoginis were very sweet and supportive.

Dennis later talked about the fear that is for survival versus an artificial fear. Though the fear of where am I going to live is a real fear, it doesn't need to govern me. It is easy to get into a pattern of being fearful all the time. Always worrying. What I found this weekend is that I was stripped down. Down to a more true me. I almost feel like bones, muscles, and blood with no skin. Just wrapped in raw emotion. The emotions are always there just under the surface.

I am an emotional person and since I heard about emotional release from yoga, I figured it would happen to me. I hoped it wouldn't, but now it has, and it was a good thing. Now at the end of this amazing weekend, I just have to figure to put my skin back on.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Returning to yoga after summer

Aside from the pinnacle of my summer, the Wanderlust Festival, I did very little yoga! Today marked day two of my return to the Bo Tree's yoga teacher training. I was a little surprised to learn what my body had remembered and my mind had forgotten. My body fell back into the asana practice easily. What I had forgotten were the subtle body cues I was working with in the spring. Things like not locking out my knees and elbows, engaging my core, and building up my arm strength.
I was back to square one when it came time for Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand). My intent had been to practice plank and dolphin poses to build up my shoulder strength. Of course, during the sumer, I didnt even think about it. I was a little disappointed to still be unable to do it even though three months had past. View this pose here:

This led me back to some of the important points in yoga.
  1. Being compassionate and patient with your body.
  2. Finding time to do a daily practice will never get easier. The time is now!
  3. Taking a yoga class can always teach you something.
Though getting going again can feel daunting, a little patience makes all the difference. I found that my willingness to learn and physical strength were right where I left them!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Wanderlust Festival

I spent this week in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe. The trees and mountains were amazing and I was dizzy from the altitude the entire first day. I did volunteer work setting up yoga rooms and dressing rooms in exchange for a free ticket. Since I worked twelve hours the first day and six hours the second, I was totally free for the whole festival. My first yoga class of the festival was Anusara Yoga:Tuning the Hips to an Open Groove with Christy Nones. This was my first experience with Anusara yoga. The class flowed very well and warmed me up for the hip openers. Christy was great with her friendly encouragement and inspiration that pushed my boundaries and self-limitations. After Christy’s two hour class I went to stake out my spot in the huge open air tent for Shiva Rea’s two hour class called “Off the Hook”. Shiva Rea was amazing to watch! She had so much pure energy emanating from her. Her eyes looked directly into me! Her class was all about letting go and flowing with the true energy. She had live musicians and a DJ performing during class. It was incredibly freeing! I love the idea of letting your body move however it wants. Directly after that I went to a two hour class with Doug Swenson called Yin Yoga. I had heard Doug’s name before and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to practice with him. He had a very calm and soothing demeanor and his many years of experience were apparent. In his class he showed how easy the transitions are in Yin Yoga. We did a good part of class with partners which required almost no effort. That was important on hour six of yoga classes! I was so grateful to practice with such masters! I made it back to the giant tent for the end of Jai Uttal’s Kirtan. I loved listening but I wasn’t really able to participate because I didn’t know the words. Jai had a very sweet presence and was great to watch and listen to. The final event, for me, of the night was Yoga Trance Dance with Shiva Rea and MC Yogi. I participated as much as a could but ended up sitting on the side in exhaustion by the end. It was an exhausting and truly magical day! I went back to camp and slept for a long time. Saturday I took the gondola up 2,000 more feet to get to the top of a mountain that overlooked Lake Tahoe at over 8,000 feet above sea level. I walked along a mountain road (breathing very heavily at that elevation) to “high camp”. This was the VIP area where I was able to take a class with John Friend called Flow with Grace. The class was held on a wooden deck and had a tent over the middle. There were so many people that many of them were practicing in the full sun. But the surroundings were phenomenal and John was so friendly and funny! He also had a way of pushing me far past my own limitations. Duncan Wong had taught the class before and stayed to practice with us. It was very awesome to watch someone of his level practice with the rest of us. We also did a lot of partner work and I had a great partner who helped me do my first handstand that wasn’t against a wall! All the teachers and students were into connecting with our surroundings and each other. It was so great to pass by Shiva Rea or Jai Uttal or John Friend through the course of the weekend. And at all times I would look up and see the huge mountains all around me and KNOW that there is something bigger than me. For the rest of the day I alternated between eating out of the cooler in my car, seeking shade, and taking the gondola up the mountain to listen to bands. Sunday seemed to come so fast and I chose one last yoga class. SmartFLOW: yoga to open the hips by Annie Carpenter. I had read that Annie was a dancer so I knew her class would be good for my overly flexible body. She seemed a little harsh in a ballet teacher sort of way but the poses were perfect for me. I was also very proud all weekend to know the poses by their Sanskrit names because that was how the teachers referred to them. I felt like a real yogini in these classes and was able to keep up. This was nothing like the Yoga Journal Conference I had been to in January. It had a completely different vibe but I have also come so far since January! The whole experience was so positive and amazing. It has also really opened me up to experiencing other yoga styles, teachers, and studios.