***This is a post of particular appeal to yoga geeks. And fans of process. If you just want to get on with your day, may I suggest a quick skim?
Yoga has been a thread that has run through my life since 1990. No matter where I've been, getting on the mat has been a way of coming home. I started out with Iyengar yoga and loved it. Janet MacLeod and Patricia Sullivan helped me find moments of peace I had never known. When I first walked into Robyn Smith's Anusara class in Arcata, California, in 2002, I knew I had found yet a another home base in Anusara yoga and in Humboldt County.
Anusara took what I already loved about yoga and added the sweet juiciness of the heart to the flowing structure of the poses.
Last weekend, I had the splendid opportunity to spend 3 days in Master Immersion with John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga. You can read more about John and his fascinating path here.
When I told a new friend over dinner at the end of the workshop that I am transformed from these 3 days, he wondered what could happen in such a short time to spur transformation. Of course it's easy to feel good, strong, flexible and open hearted after 3 days of intense yoga, but transformed?? What has changed?
Anusara has an invocation we sing before each practice. The short invocation helps us to open to the universal grace that is always flowing within and beyond us. I've been enjoying it in classes and my own practice since 2002. During the last (and 6th) opening invocation of our weekend, during the afternoon class of the 3rd day, the tears flowed. We had had just learned some nuances about vibrating our "om" to the crown chakra and the sweetness of chanting sanskrit along with a room of Japanese-speaking students was lovely soft. The gratitude flowed as I realized that John--who I had always considered my teachers' teacher--had become my sensei too. The realization came with the flash that I had suddenly committed myself more fully as his student.
My yoga practice--after 21 years--finally grew up. Accepting the responsiblity of becoming's John's student means that when I see him again in a year or two, my fingerpads won't mindlessly drift off the mat, my inner thigh won't still be unknown to me. If we don't both see evidence of my growth, then what's the point?
John brings an energy to the room that lifts the practice to a new level. It's not that I don't want to shine out respect for my other beloved teachers. I've given effort and grown enormously through their teachings. Regular weekly classes have given me peace, solace, comfort and strength. I've studied Anusara for 8 years with Robyn Smith. I learned I could be strong upright, upside down and backwards, even through 2 pregnancies.
So what's so special about 3 days?
First, John's level of confidence and love lets me know I can do. If he believes I can, well then, why not. The alignment is so strong and precise, even when I'm taking my body far to the edge, I trust I won't injure myself.
I was also able to light my fire after talking about the doshas in relation to my practice. The doshas are the 3 archetypal energies of our constitutions. I've long known I'm primarily kapha dosha, the water, nurturing, slower-moving, relaxed dosha, but today I was able to see myself kindly, smile at my tendencies and then fire it up.
It's interesting because I've been going through a little bout of self-hatred lately. I love my life and adore Japan, but not working and gaining a little weight threw me off my center. In my mind, I know I'm taking a temporary break from my career and I appreciate the level of frivolity, socializing, and soul-searching I'm able to have, but in my heart, I'm taking in more than I'm giving. Reading more than writing. Buying more than making. Being healed more than healing. Spending more than earning. Creative output has been less than input. Not a comfortable feeling for me.
Kapha dosha likes easy comfort. Would rather lie down. Is very comfortable with the domestic and the nurturing. These are tendencies but life is all about balance, isn't it? My dear friend Frank remarked, "I'm done with end users."
How that statement has been swirling around me these past few weeks. How are my gifts ready to manifest in service at this moment of my life?
The fire was rekindled this weekend.
The circumstances of this weekend were unique. John has been coming to Japan for 5 years. He loves it. He has loved Japan since childhood and Japanese philosophies have eeply informed Anusara philosophies. As he extolled throughout the weekend, the Japanese students get it and they get it fast. First principle, open to grace...they already are. Present, undistracted, attentive.
Well, I was one of 2 non-Japanese in a group of 47 (intimate by Anusara standards). It was such a small course because it had been rescheduled after the earthquake and many people couldn't come and foreigners chose not to travel to the destination workshop.
As John showered the room with praise for greatness, uplifting the strong community to help them help others, I received the high praise along with everyone else. When he compared the Japanese students to Americans, I heard the praise of "us" (the Japanese students), even as I played the part of American student, asking more questions, getting into handstand when he called for elbow balance, tearing up sporadically, running to the bathroom during the 2-hour break, lying down during the lecture.
It was like a private joke between John and I. I was the joke. Yet I was worthy.
There was no way to be invisible this weekend. He knew me, saw my weaknesses, loved me anyway, and believed I could succeed. So I did.
I gave my abolute all and left it all there on the mat. I walked out proud. Humble. Cleared of the muck and a little closer to knowing my meaning.
Every week, I've been visiting the children's school as their Yoga Teacher. I feel so blessed to meet all these children as students, doing my own tiny part to help them grow, learn, stretch, and breathe, while they they share their gifts of attention and joy with me.
Sometimes it looks like cabin fever and then suddenly it's brother and sister so sweetly playing together, painting the colors in their head, loving their myriad warm drinks. Then it's back to the mess and the whining and the stuff strewn about the house. And then it's cozy again. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
I've been teaching yoga at the children's school and we've been working on that very thing, of course. Breathing through fear, agitation, unrest. Being peaceful and then getting up and getting so many wiggles out. Returning to peace. Ageless teachings, no?