Sunday, July 24, 2016

somebody open my eyes

I HATE ASTANGA YOGA



i have been reading a very umm...interesting blog lately.  i try very hard to be open minded, to listen to  all opinions so i can understand my own beliefs.  everyone on the internet has an opinion.
 one particular article,


kind of captivated me.  the very first line of the post is 

I don't accept Sharath as my Guru. 

which is ok.  you can still do astanga without taking sharath as your personal teacher. (let us remember that the translation of guru is teacher).  

his statement, in BOLD letters was probably there to lure us to his blog.  other articles are about his journey. 
 i did not choose sharath as my teacher either.  but i respect him, accept him as guruji's successor, and have continued to practice for 20 years now.   

i guess i was a little offended by what he followed that statement up with.  after calling everything including himself fake, he dumps on the entire system of astanga yoga, sharath, and everyone who is devoted to it's practice.

"My dear friend, you continue to purify yourself, follow ashtanga yoga. You are an ashtangi because your eyes are still closed. The day you open your eyes you will see there is nothing you can learn from Sharath or any other yoga teacher. 
What then is the practice for? To make you see the uselessness of having one!
Ashtanga, as it is practice today, is about staying comfortably asleep. But now it has new twist, the Guru has decided to establish himself as the ashtanga yoga God."


he claims he practiced for 10 years.  what happened?  why is he blaming the system like SO many others who fall of the path do?  could it be something else that failed?  hmm...when you are superficial & don't know it, it can be enlightening to find out the truth about yourself.

i honestly think that's what happens.  i have written about practicing yoga because you want to.  not because you expect it to glorify your life.  or make you buff & in the writer's words "younger looking so i am more successful on my online dating sites" (i'm paraphrasing for i can't read anymore of the blog).  he includes a long list of those sites on his exploring dreamstate blog.  dreamstate is not one word.  this sets the tone of the blog, which is riddled with grammar errors either because the writer's first language is not english or he's too lazy to proofread. 

i guess i'm a little pissed.  does it show?  why?  why do i protect this yoga-defend it?  

i read this shit because i like to question myself.  am i one of those people that he writes about?

hell no.  i would hope that my ego would soften after all of the years of daily practice.  most people i have known/met that have a daily astanga practice do not have huge egos at all.  stick with it & work hard long enough & yoga will do what it is supposed to do.

how do people continue to miss this point?  

this delightful blog post which i'm sure you will read ends with his world view.  enjoy.

"if you don't see that than you're blind. But... you are not blind, you are only an ashtangi because your eyes are closed."

in the words of  todd rundgren

"Somebody
Open my eyes for a little while, little while
Make me forget all the things I see
Till then, till then don't know what is happening
Till then don't know, don't care what I'm seeing
Stand and stare until I go blind
Will you open my eyes"



Thursday, July 21, 2016

rock it out

i've always been a little confused & frustrated about how much yoga should be part of my life.  i know those who go all out, vegan, spiritual, referring to themselves as a yogi  often changing their name to a hindi god.  i also know many who are content with one class a week.  i fall somewhere in between.  

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the longer i stay away from teaching yoga, the more i realize that it is just part of life.  it is not life itself. 

nothing is.  there's so much in life that can have just as much power as yoga.  for me, that would be music.  i could live without yoga but i could never live without music.  

music forces me to be in the moment more than yoga.  it's easy to notice the monkey mind.  the second the mind wanders, i trip up the beat.  then i have to get back "in" without shutting down.  relax.  breathe.  i can't give cred to yoga for this because it began happening when i was just a few years old.

music has the power to change the world more than anything.  it's easy to connect the entire planet with music.  we can not say this about yoga.

i remember something ravi shankar said a long time ago.  he was asked why he did not become a yoga guru. instead he decided to play sitar because music reaches more people.  


this article made me think about the rest of my life.  i had actually neglected some things that were there before yoga, that are still there now.  the woman in the linked article-olvia hsu-is a third series astanga practitioner whose biggest passion is rock climbing.



"And why I knew I wanted Olivia to be the feature model for Third Series in the next Ashtanga Dispatch Magazine. Not because she has a strong asana practice – but because her yoga asana practice is only such a small part of what makes her such an inspiration. Don’t let the third series reference fool you. Because the next magazine is not really about ‘yoga’ at all! It’s about the rest of our lives. The stuff we do the other 23 hours of the day – hiking, climbing, planting, surfing … and as loving partners,moms and dads, community leaders, and activists."
so rock it out and let the world be yoga.









Wednesday, July 20, 2016

license to teach



don't do it.

yoga in the west focuses mostly on asana.  it's the only thing we understand because the american culture is swimming in health clubs.  the internet is clogged with photoshopped runway models naked doing some painfully out of alignment posture.  

or worse-real teachers posing everywhere.   teaching students that this is a good thing.  teaching students that ego is cool and it's ok to scream all over the internet about how spiritual you are. 

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zin zin yoga teacher-oh and by the way....i'm for hire.

lost soul-what do you do?

zin zin yoga teacher-what do you need?

lost soul-ummm....i don't know.  

zin zin-i shall show you.  but first, i must calculate payment for the following-horoscope, palm reading, kombucha fast, aromatherapy session, rumi poetry training, grooming,  fingerprinting & background check, and general spiritual cleansing.

lost soul-how much will that cost?

zin zin-how much you got?

lost soul-(showng zin zin his money pit)-looky

zin zin-that will do.  oh-it will take 3 weeks and then after 10 grand, you will receive the coveted 

zin power yoga $10,000 ryt CERTIFICATION TO TEACH & PASS ON THE TRADITION OF ZIN YOGA

if you act now you will get 2 certifications for the price of one

i advise you not to quit your job because the jobs are already taken by hoards of real estate brokers, x-lawyers and other savory millionaires.  i shouldn't complain because i've made some cash from these guys.  apparently it's in to have a studio.    

the money does not trickle down much folks.  a typical tycoon owned studio is not interested in it's teachers.  like all millionaires, they are CHEAP.  they pay a couple bucks a student-you are expected to create your own student base in a certain amount of time-usually a very small amount, so you can make your tycoon (or massive corporate health club) as much $$$$ as possible while you pocket the change.

you want to teach in a yoga studio?  let me be truthful about this.  studios are a good place to start teaching.  you usually get free classes (tons of study for nothing) but the pay is far worse than anywhere.  
oh yeah-you aren't supposed to teach yoga for money.  but it's ok to make money for someone else.  

here's another tidbit.

teacher trainings exist for one reason.  studio sustainability.

rent is expensive.  taxes.  liability. the crumbs tossed to the teachers.  who can blame them?  they can't survive without them.

the problem is that people who take these trainings don't understand that just one does not give you the chops to handle the job.  i'm not against teacher trainings at all-i took a few myself-but they should be looked at as trainings-NOT a license to teach.

or you can invest in insurance for yourself, fliers, cards, stickers, pay money online to boost Facebook posts and by the time you are another couple grand in the hole on top of the rest of the money spent on your yoga teacher education....

you are deeper in debt than you ever imagined.  and you will have to get your luxury job back.   all that money wasted.  for what?  all you got was yoga-not a job. 

take my advise.  

don't do it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

the reality of teaching a rigid traditional yoga style

and then there's reality.

astanga is not popular because it is intense & requires a lot of work from the student.  this is not for most students.  if you pull yourself out of the yoga scene for a while (in my case about 7 or 8 years) you see how most people will never be able to or want to put themselves through this.  nor can most people afford to ever visit india let alone study there each year for months.  india itself is cheap but the yoga & flight are not.

of course the system has to be modified to suit the needs of the student.  you have to give the right options based on the body.  this is something that takes time to understand.  just like anything, it takes practice.  i taught mysore long enough to learn this.  it's very natural for me to adjust.  if nothing more, i know that i'm very comfy teaching.  it does not really have to be yoga.  over the years i taught puppetry, afro-cuban percussion, aerobics, & pranayama.  it's all the same.  often the student becomes a teacher.  that make me happy. i am very happy about.  hopefully i have pointed them in the right direction.  starting with the mat.  manduka should give me royalties.

i found teaching non-astangis more challenging than hardcore astangis.  you can't let everyone approach the same posture the same way.  it's not safe.  it's not effective.  you have to correct habits, inspire, and most of all

teach what you know from your own practice.  in the end, that's what you use.  hopefully you have absorbed SO much information that it becomes the tools you need to face the job.

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a story

several years back i was teaching in the Pullman hood which is pretty far south of where i live.  my husband had always driven me there and one day we had a car accident which resulted in 4 broken ribs.  this can take about 3 years to heal.  the doctors did not give me any physical therapy because they knew i would do yoga and that was enough.

of course i had to modify the practice.  you don't just stop because of a body setback.  you have to adjust the practice to suit your needs.  in the beginning i did pranayama & meditation until i was able to move.  i adjusted everything & learned to let go of the more advanced practice. i learned a lot from this and was able to share the knowledge with students who have limited capabilities.

the car accident had given me tools that i did not have before.  because of this, i became a better teacher.  i was able to help more people.

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ok-so i think it's time to talk about props in astanga.  hardcores are strongly against using them.  i used to feel this way until my body changed.   i still do not use them.  a daily practice over years keeps the body pretty strong & open.  i have recently read a lot of hate articles from esteemed astanga teachers disgust for props.  why?  i mean...most of us have to teach non-astangis.  that's how the world works.  you have to figure out a way that works for everyone.  sometimes you need a block, a strap, a bolster.  

i studied with an amazing iyengar teacher for a while just to learn how to approach teaching in a more therapeutic way that makes sense for the student.  this eliminates frustration in the student & they gain much more from the practice.  everyone's tolerance & limitations are different.

i'm NOT a fan of gigantic lead classes that treat the students all the same.  the worst thing is the teacher actually getting her own yoga on while teaching, paying no attention.  at the end of class they burn incense & quote rumi.  soft new-age music wafting from the stereo.....i have even subbed classes where i was expected to massage the student in savanna!!!!

so how do we teach traditionally to the average joe?

easy.  

have an open mind

Saturday, July 16, 2016

all by myself



i have a hard time understanding why so many people refuse to cultivate some kind of personal practice.  

the astanga system can't be understood without a daily long term practice.  the practice is taught slowly & individually.  it's highly repetitious, making it easy to remember & practice without need for a classroom.  it's a counting system.  each movement has a number.  an inhale.  an exhale.  a dristi which makes it easy to clear the mind.  the ujayii warming the body, creating a soft sound-as a friend once said-"the music" of astanga. the bandhas (i always referred to it as the secret weapon)  make you light so you don't have to depend on the physical to do all of the work.  it makes every movement more comfortable.  when you practice solo you can choose the length, the speed, the smell, and the atmosphere of your own practice.   it's such a beautiful thing.  i am eternally grateful  to have it in my life.  

but why is this concept so damn hard to convince 95% of the students i have taught over the last 8 years?  looking back, i realize how trying to do that wore me out.  i had been spoiled by teaching mysore for years.   serious students who practiced daily at the crack of dawn, did what they were told, & reaped the rewards.

in my last post i talked about the pain when you feel too much.
it's hard to let go of that.  pretend you do not care.  wonder what kind of sacrifice you are truly making.  caring too much can definitely have an effect on you.

you have to draw a line.  caring is a good thing.  attachment is not.  this is incredibly tricky.

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when i was searching for astanga, i had to work hard.  do my research.  find the right teachers who were closest to the tradition.   you really had to want it in order to find it.  the teachers were & still are very hard to find.  you are expected to work hard and commit.  you must spend 2 months in mysore if you want to be taught, return each year if you are certified/authorized.   
this concept is embedded in the culture of India.

for instance-i fell in love with bollywood over there.  i went to films all over india.  every region had their own movie stars.   i wanted to learn how to dance in the style of the films.  

there was a bollywood dance class available in mysore.  i wanted to sign up, except you had to commit to a month or they did not want to waste their time teaching you.  you had to really want it.  it wasn't served on a platter.  it wasn't set upon your lap like so many things in this country.  

you can't have something for nothing.  

without commitment, rewards will never be possible.  you have to be prepared to spend the rest of your life with the yoga.   you have to unite with your mat on a daily basis.

you know that it helps you live a more comfortable life.  when is the last time you regretted practicing?

i don't think i will ever stop trying to convince people of this despite the frustration.  

because the other 5% have been worth every breath.




Friday, July 15, 2016

detach

plants and ants


when you do a lot of yoga, eventually everything around you becomes yoga.  you don't need to teach it.  you just need to do it.  it enhances your life.  it makes life lighter.  one is able to feel empathy for the world around them.  there's a sort of energy that seems to radiate out of everything-including plants & ants.

i understand why one would be vegetarian.  it can make you too sensitive to eat this life.  i saved a worm.  i re-located flies.  i fall in love with spiders.  with snakes.  with the sun & the moon.

that's about as new age as i get.

i can only speak from experience (and perhaps this is the epilepsy talking) but this is how i feel.  i don't really have any expectations from the practice.  i just do it & this is what has evolved.  

i see how the world would be far more peaceful if everyone had a yoga practice.   any kind of practice.  even 5 minutes a day of sitting.  of becoming aware that you are taking in breath.  that you are also letting it go into the atmosphere.  all of us share this air.  we all share everything.  and when tragedy happens, no matter where it is-everyone suffers on different levels.  it's almost a curse to feel so much because you can feel so much pain.  its so hard to understand how anybody can take another life.  all of these recent mass killings.  kittens lit on fire.  rape.  it hurts a lot.  and you really can't do a thing about it.  

the tricky part is detaching yourself from this pain.

who can do this?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

taking the high road

despite all of the anger some of us display over teaching yoga, we have to take responsibility for feeling this way.  after all, don't we all have a choice to do this work?  to follow this path?

we may judge others who also have choices.  once we've made the choice, whether it's teaching or whatever.  we have the power within us to 

let it go

and move on.  move on to other things.  find something that makes you happy and do it.  it's easy to get stuck.  the difficulty is getting un-stuck.  making a choice to change your current situation.  that is the only path that leads to happiness.

it can, however, be like jumping off of a cliff.  just like yoga,  it takes trust.  and it can be scary.  but we must accept that this is life.

 we can't whine about it because, after all, we don't really have any control over outside situations no matter how messed up they are.

take the high road and just practice.

because all is coming.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

yoga for nothing & your chicks for free

teaching yoga for money sucks.

there.  i said it.

i made the mistake of investing over 50 grand on my education overseas only to "compete" with the massive influx of teacher training refugees.  

i'm not the only one.  

countless amounts of traditional experienced hardcore teachers are either going underground or just stopping (both in my case) because there seems to be no demand for this kind of yoga teaching.  no demand for teachers who have sacrificed themselves, their livelihoods all in the name of passing on the 2000 year old system of yoga.

i left my corporate "gig" because large corporations would not pay me anything (i had to be dependent on the employees to pay out of pocket without a commitment).  i also taught for one place for 8 years.  my experience was equal financially to a person who took one yoga workshop. to my bosses, i was worthy of nothing & if i did not like it, i could just leave.  better yet, if they gang up on me (which everyone did), they force resignation.

then you have to tell yourself this because it's true.

it's really THEIR loss.


the yoga, because i was actually earning a living from it believe it or not, had become tarnished & i just did not want to be part of that kind of world (kind of like yelp). i have too much respect for it. all i can do is focus on my own practice.

and when i do that, i realize that all of it does not matter because that $50,000+investment was actually an investment in myself.

and for that i am eternally grateful.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

secret weapon

rockin' the core

without asana, stillness would not be possible.  the reason is that the body causes suffering if it is not strengthened & stretched.  the most important of all of the physical aspects is definitely the core.  as i age i realize how important it is to work hard on the core.  astanga is perfect for this.  every lift, every jump back, jump through, use of bandhas to create strength inside the body.  

if the body feels comfortable, with less pain, relaxation happens in the body so it's a lot easier to relax the mind.

but i'm sure most of you know this already.

work hard on your core.  the rest of your body will thank you for it.
******

uth pluthii
(lifting up)
100 breaths you do.





Friday, July 8, 2016

look ma..no wall

facing fear 

something that i find particularly interesting about astanga yoga (perhaps other yoga, as well-i can only speak from experience) is that it forces us to face fears.   a perfect example of this is sirsasana.





original blurb of the photo above was taken in thailand-2008

look ma, no wall!

teaching the students sirsasana without a wall. i despise the wall. because students never learn this posture. i have taught people to headstand after using the wall 1-10 years. this, in my opinion, is unacceptable being it's the most important posture in all of yoga.

i was taught from day #1 that sirsasana was the most important asana.  the KING.  students have to learn how to fall, how to trust themselves NOT necessarily the teacher.  because you are on your own the second you leave the classroom.  one must learn how to balance. this is easily applied to life.  for instance, i am a serious biker  it can be scary riding downtown.  sirsasana can also be scary.  

facing fear is a huge part of the process.  

because we can take what we learn from this & find applications in life.  it gives us courage to face challenges all of us face in life.  stuff you may not even KNOW you are afraid of.  and if you trust the universe & learn how to fall,

your life begins to lighten.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

ego.

sharath

after spending a month doing mysore at dena's shala, sharath came for 2 weeks to lead intermediate & teach mysore.  

by this time i had been to mysore right before guruji retired & sharath was getting ready to take over.

this was the reason i did not return to mysore.  i did not "click" with sharath in any way so there was no reason to return.  of course i still respect & honor him, i just couldn't choose him as my teacher.

more background

i spent i think almost 8 months in Kovalam, Kerala, South India studying with another amazing teacher

lino miele.

i practiced all of primary & intermediate (a 2.5 hour daily practice) until i was allowed to enter the next series-advanced A.  i was FINALLY allowed to do vasistasana & shorten my practice (primary fridays/sundays, intermediate mon-thurs).  whew!


 at sharath's workshop, me traveling all the way to Australia, i am cut off at eka pada pachimotanasana.  that's quite far back-around halfway into intermediate series.

SLAM!!! 

the evil man has thrown out all of my hard earned 3rd series entry as well as half of my intermediate which had taken.....6 years?  to arrive.

huge blow to the ego & i couldn't take it.  

i blame myself.





Wednesday, July 6, 2016

fierce

one of the greats

dena kingsberg

after she was announced, i signed up because suddha was psyched, i trusted he knew something that i did not.

i was also warned.

why?  

"she is fierce"

and all i could think of was

"yes please....."

looking at her, an incredible beauty, this really appealed to me.  she came with her strong husband jack.  VERY convenient because i am aware that teachers need help doing hard adjustments in mysore classes.   mysore teaching takes a hell of a toll on the body.  for this reason you must never take a mysore teacher for granted.  they often sacrifice themselves for you.

of course i eventually took her month long mysore teacher's cocoon while running our chicago program & hosting her several times.  6 mysore teachers from all over the world-none who were authorized but like me were doing it because students needed a program-was an incredible experience.  i learned the first 3 pranayama exercises from her which we practiced daily before asana.  it has become a habit for me & very helpful.

the cocoon was held at her studio in Byron Bay, Australia

but first i spent a month with her in Bali because i wanted to go to India & the teachers i respected suggested going there as a cushion-a sort of preparation for the shock of India.

after 4 trips to India, 6 months teaching in Tokyo & Thailand, (i'll fill in the details later but you can check the blogs out on the right side of this page),
 i  returned to Byron Bay for 6 more weeks to study with her & do a 2nd series workshop with Sharath.

that did not end well.

to be continued.....




Tuesday, July 5, 2016

dena is coming!!!

and so on...and so on...
hero #3

i took all of the certified teacher's workshops that came to chicago.  manju, nancy gilgoff, chuck & maty, and the next hero

tim miller.


what can you say about this man?  he has been by guruji's side for a long time.  if it weren't for sharath, he would succeed skpj & carry on the tradition of astanga yoga.

tim knows far more than asana.  he knows the planets just like guruji & can explain everything  quite well on his blog tuesdays with timji.

approachable, fun, highly intelligent.  easy to learn from.  
i chose him for 2 out of my 3 teacher trainings-one for primary & one for intermediate.  i learned how to count every single vinyasa from him.  i had the arsenal before i began teaching the proper counting system.

one day after coming to class daily, including the mysore, my teacher suddha recommended that i teach.  i thought about it & realized i couldn't take his training, which would enable me to begin teaching in his studio.  i was working at frontera grill-a rick bayless restaurant (not a bad job by any stretch) and couldn't miss work.  

it did not seem to matter.  he waved much of the TT because i had been in class & at workshops for a long time & knew much of what he would teach anyways.  i got the pass and began teaching at N.U. (chicago yoga center).

the next hero would change my life forever.  a woman i had never heard of, but suddha was SO excited about it i figured she must be something special.  

"DENA IS COMING!!!!"







Thursday, June 30, 2016

a serious man

chapter IV
hero #2
a serious man

the next workshop i took was Richard Freeman.  both teachers teaching the exact same system, both certified, both equal.
they couldn't be more different than each other.

for instance, you can joke & have fun with Swenson, Manju & Tim Miller (more on them l8r), but Richard is SO serious that it's quite difficult to go there with him.  i tried.  i couldn't make him laugh.  however, i retained a lot of information about specific postures that i still apply to myself & my teaching.  one that sticks out in my mind the most is called the bankers pose.  it's a great image when focusing on opening the thoracic spine rather than the lumbar region.  this is excellent advice-especially when applying it to ustrasana.  observe.


do you see how he puts his hands far up his back in order to activate the upper back & between the shoulders?  this technique has been working for me for years.  and for others that i have taught.

properly bending the spine backwards is a science.  far too often people "hinge" the lower back because it's already very curved so it's easy to "depend" on that area, thus causing over bending in some parts of the spine while ignoring the rest.  and the hardest part of the body to open is the upper, followed by the middle.  shoulders are tight from modern living, slumping in chairs over computers, etc. has made this an issue that should be concentrated on in yoga classes when teaching backbending.  that way, students don't continue to blame the system rather than the teacher when they collapse their vertebrae.

guruji had always said that you should never study 2 systems simultaneously.  and you should have only one teacher.  i think you can learn something of value from all of the certified astanga teachers without choosing only one of them. 

because he also said that the practice itself is the teacher.

99% of it at least.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

finding joy

chapter III

hero #1
finding joy on the path to enlightenment 

i was certain from the start that i wanted to follow the path of a traditional specific system and astanga fit the bill.   i had no interest in mixing, modifying or showing off.  i was intensely doing & studying with one teacher.  i never had teaching in my thoughts.  i had no interest.  times have changed a lot since then.  many people become teachers before becoming students first.

and that takes a lifetime.

i remember my first workshop with a certified astanga teacher.  suddha brought all of my heroes to chicago.  my very first one was with david swenson.  his joyful playfulness lifted me up within a system that is not supposed to be fun.

but why not?

because discipline is supposed to be hard.  you obey rules.  you do your practice 6 days a week.  you take moon days off.  you never practice on saturdays.  you take rest on ladies holiday.  you surrenderto the system.  let go of what you believe is correct method.  because you can't possibly understand.  

you must surrender your ego immediately

i did not see anything but joy in the way david had taught.  he showed me that it was ok to have fun.  after all shouldn't one practice because one should wants to?  you will never keep it up if you don't love it.

these kinds of rules are toxic to most people.  doing what you are told, not doing any postures that  were not officially given to you by a certified instructor,  doing a highly repetitious practice for the rest of your life.

i have not seen any difference between this practice and practicing music-working on your chops-which i also do daily.  i have been a musician all of my life & i know that if you practice over and over, eventually you are able to play.

and there's nothing better than that.