Last week/end I volunteered at the Hanuman Festival in Boulder, Colorado. It was an intense five days of awakenings and I hope to share some of what I took away from it with you all!
10. “Yoga is less about moving your form, and more about moving your energy into the central energy channel running along the spine, called ‘Shushumna’. ” – Rod Stryker
After the focus on asana has been experienced for sometime, practitioners will start to get curious about exactly why we feel so good in Savasana after a good practice. This will undoubtedly lead to the topic of energy movement. When we remove blockages in the physical body, the subtle body frees up too. I had the best Savasana of my life after practicing with Rod Stryker in a class titled Tantra Yoga Vinyasa: Awakening the Sacred Channel. This sacred channel is Shushumna. It was truly a joy. If you ever get the chance, practice with Rod! I’m going to go see him again next Wednesday in Denver if any one’s interested in joining me!
9. “Teach what you know Like a BOSS!” – Gina Caputo
This is from a great 90 Monkeys Panel discussion. There were so many highlights from this session, here’s a great article that sums it up. No one is going to show up to class hoping you will fail. Same with life, do what you are good at with confidence and inspect your thoughts of the ‘they’ that you perceive to be out to get you! Confidence comes from knowing what you know and remembering that you cannot know everything.
8. “It’s not all ‘Shanti All the Time’. Viscerally feel the shit. Notice when you or others get all ‘sucrose’. Ask yourself why?” – Mary Taylor
Being a yogi or yogini is not about being peaceful and zen all the time. In fact I believe it’s more about the opposite – going deep into your own BS tag lines and examining the ways in which you repeatedly fall into your bad programming. Being able to experience the dark sides of ourselves without revulsion and struggling to find grace there is where our Yoga happens!
7. “Pure love is your capacity to be fully attentive to someone without any expectation. This takes a strong spine and a soft heart.” – Anand Mehrotra
I had heard some of Anand’s classes from across the festival, chanting and performing kriyas (actions to awaken energy in the spine – kundalini shakti in the shushumna) for upwards of 5 minutes – and I was slightly anxious to take one of his classes. Obviously, I decided that the last day, first thing in the morning when I was utterly exhausted was the best time to go! This reminds me of something my first teacher Dianna, an Iyengar teacher used to tell me: ‘When you are tired from practicing asana, stiff and sore, is when you need it the most. This is when Yoga happens’. I found this to be incredibly true for this class with Anand. I found my strong spine and softened my heart, finally.
6. This Ah-Ha was physical & mental, in Yuki Tsuji-Hoening’s Acro Yoga: Root Down to Fly class.
I have to preface, I have been going to Yuki’s classes in town and was very excited when I signed up. However when the day came, I was feeling very tired, my Shark Week was upon me, and I was having serious doubts about whether this was a good idea. For those of you who don’t know, Acro Yoga is very physical and requires lots of core engagement and is primarily inverted. My uterus was having serious reservations. I took a breath, remembered to honor my limits, and stepped into the circle. Two hours later, my aches and pains were gone, my body felt lighter than it had in 2 weeks, and I had accomplished some of the most challenging asana with partners in the air upside down EVER! All was good. I never got bit!
5. Another physical Ah-Ha. Amy Ippoliti, bless her heart, brought me up to the front of the stage in the last class on the last day – to demonstrate my Uttanasana.
So after nine 2 hour classes in four days, my low back was pretty tired, so I was bending my knees and laying my belly on my thighs. This is a good modification for such an occasion. Amy was pretty insightful to see that I had potential, and pretty ballsy to go for it when we were all so exhausted. So, there I was, happy pelvis, happy spine, happy heart – or so I thought! With a simple move from deep in my belly, Amy asked me to lift half way up, deeply engage my Uddiyana Bandha, pull my front ribs in towards my spine, straighten my legs, and BAM! I folded right over and snuggled my nose between my shins. My pelvis, spine and heart were still happy, and I was folding completely in Uttanasana just like that. It was WILD.
4. “Long Life. Honey in the Heart. No Evil. Thirteen Thank You’s!” – Saul David Raye
This was my first time practicing with SDR, and I attended three of his classes at Hanuman. I was so in love with myself after that first class; I couldn’t stay away. Two asana classes and a Kirtan. I had my heart cracked open that first class, entitled Hanuman Heart the Power of Love and Devotion in Yoga. I realized that I had been very shut, my heart had been closed off. I gave myself permission to let go of the fear and open it. This transition has been hard in me, a month after I moved from Michigan to Boulder and still not settled into a home yet… It is so easy to fall into patterns while transitioning, the ungrounded nature of it brings up my worst fears. It has been a daily practice to sit down and breathe when I feel the doubt creep back in and my heart begin to shut down. This is a recording from the Kirtan that brings me so much joy. Picture Lara and I sitting, facing one another and singing our hearts out, spittle flying!
3. I had this mental Ah-Ha while working a volunteer shift at the Green Waste station, where I helped people be mindful about their trash, recyclables & compost: I love to people-watch.
It is a kind of meditation, and i dont think im alone in this pleasure. It was instilled in me at a young age by my grandmother, who also taught me the values and virtues of a good game of cards, a good nap: you don’t have to go to sleep, just try closing your eyes for a bit… worked every time! , and gift giving to mitigate jealousy: she gave both my sister and I a gift on either birthday! So yes, people watching, or meditation on shapes and colors in motion, is so often misunderstood. There is no competition, or judgement, or critique… Just streaming appreciation. Try it as a heart opening exercise sometime, you will find the results when you accidentally make eye contact and smile with someone very pleasant instead of awkward!
2. “The idea of ‘Guru’ creates a separation between teacher and student.” -Kathryn Budig
This is big, within the Yoga Teacher-Student roles and beyond. The Ah-Ha for me was my feelings at that very moment while she was speaking to us, me in the very front row! We do this all the time, putting ourselves on pedestals above others, and vice versa, without knowing one detail about how they got to where they are now. The journey is omitted in our minds, they just landed there on the stage in front of us, imparting their wisdom… or on the street below us asking for change for that matter. They were once in another role, working out a different karma, and how could we possible understand the enormity of it? Our minds are so complex, and yet we like to simplify, make sweeping assumptions, and refuse to use them! One simple antidote to this dilemma that my Ah-Ha gave me: the remembrance that I DON’T KNOW SHIT. Simple. So much easier to admit that we just cannot know, and to have compassion just in case.
1. Vulnerability is our greatest measure of true courage.
Many people said this phrase in one wording or another over the course of the festival, and goddamnit, I could hear it a thousand times a day for the rest of my life and it would be salve to the wounds in my heart and elixir for my passions. There was a TED Talk by Brenè Brown that rekindled our collective appreciation for our own humanness and vulnerability. If you haven’t seen it watch it HERE. This circles back to Anand’s class, saying Strong spine Soft heart. Open, open, open… You will be rewarded for your courage to open a thousand times over with more authentic relationships and experiences. Imagine if everyone could? What would the world look like? Start NOW.