Yesterday was all about spirit – the warrior, the Gita, expanding consciousness….
Today was all about the technical. Joints. Knees. Ankles. What’s in or out of alignment. What’s tight. What’s loose. I spent the morning with Nancy Stechert, who taught a Yoga on the Knees workshop. I was particularly interested in this workshop, having had micro-fracture knee surgery almost a year ago (OWWW). Nancy started by telling us that if there are knee problems, it’s often because other joints below or above the knee are tight. Interesting, as I always thought both my hips and ankles were fairly open and healthy. She opened the workshop with a variations of virasana designed to open the feet and ankles, and I quickly realized how wrong about my ankles I was. Tight! Not very mobile! After working up the leg, we launched into a few asanas with a variety of modifications to help align the knee. Nancy’s cues were specific and clear, and I learned more about my lower body and how weak my thigh muscles were, and how much work goes into what seems like the more basic postures, than I knew before. Leaving the workshop, my knees and ankles felt open and my brain awakened to the nuances – and the power – of the little things, like flexing my kneecaps or a slight turnout of my toes.
Regina Zwilling’s workshop on the first chakra and the hips was, in a word, fiery. Regina has such a nice quality about her – specific, technical, but also open and friendly. She led us through a seated series to open the hips and a second series of standing poses on each side, that by the end left my hips feeling fired up and my mind feeling like I could head toward some more advanced postures. Our last pose – a funky side arm balance with the foot hiked high up near the armpit – seemed fairly attainable at first… until I realized how much more work I needed to do to open my hips! Regina reminded us that the first chakra is about grounding, and as we open the hips it’s an opportunity to look more closely at what you want to let go of, and what/who you want to be – and to consider how willing you are to work for it. After this workshop, I realized that ‘working for your yoga’ is a matter of perspective. And that the path of effort (maryada) and the path of grace (pushti) – the two types of yoga – are there in every posture, every thought, every technical direction or mind-bending arm balance.
After a great evening of kirtan, plus an awesome massage and nearly 11 hours of sleep (what can I say, it’s just not healthy to run on 4 hours from the previous night!), today was the day of warrior energy. It followed me around all day, and reminded me about how important the internal process of yoga is for us.
Jivamukti senior teacher Alanna Kaivalya spent the morning discussing the parallels of the Bhagavad Gita, from the battle Arjuna fights on the external battlefield, with the internal battles we face as yogis. Just as Sarah Powers said yesterday, in order to change our outside, we must begin inside. Internally, we battle aging, low self-esteem, negative body image, disease, fear and anger. How does that translate exernally? Hunched shoulders to hide our beauty; lowered heads to protect our egos; physical injuries from battling the unseen forces of the fear and anger that we push back down inside. Alanna reminded us how to face our problems head on – that the way we walk through our battles makes us stronger for any of the external challenges that arise. It’s also helpful to have a wingman, as Arjuna did when he chose Krishna to be his chariot driver. As she wove the theme through the flowing asana class, when we held back in handstand, she reminded us that problems are only problems if we perceive them that way – and the result was about 40 people attempting to rise into handstand with a little less fear and lot more gumption – and laughter.
This theme followed me to Manoj Chalam’s lecture about applying the Bhagavad Gita to modern times. With a sparkle in his eye, Manoj told us that you cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness as the problem. You must expand to become larger than the problem, to apply your spiritual experience and your intention towards it. He linked karma yoga – the yoga of action – to the way we can view challenges that arise. According to Manoj, with karma yoga we have a right to the action, but not a right to the results of the action. With right intention and a pure heart, we can take action towards solving the challenges we face, but the key is to stay present to the outcome but not attach to the result.
As I headed toward my fourth (maybe a little less scary) gondola ride back to the hotel, with my wing-woman Alanna at my side, I felt like I had a few more weapons in my internal arsenal to carry me over the mountain.
I hope you found your way to the majesty of Telluride safely. We arrived last night at 1:00am, our heads hitting the pillow just shy of 2:00am, with a wake-up call at 6:10am to get to registration and our first morning session. Yep – approximately 4 hours of sleep. Needless to say, I was a bit ‘out of my body, out of my mind’ when I arrived at Sarah Powers’s workshop this morning… a little cranky and agitated, no amount of caffeine could awaken me, tired bones and limbs. And not realizing that everything in Telluride was found by gondola, not helping with my massive fear of heights!
And of course everything happens for a reason. Sarah Powers’s gazelle-like grace, pure presence, and morning spiritual talk put me back in the yogic frame of mind. She reminded us that a daily practice allows us to embrace the changes in our bodies and minds rather than push or resist those changes. That “practice” and life becomes blurred when we look at our practice as something separate from having presence in every moment – then, we get to savor the sweetness of (in my case) – a bit of agitation, sleep in my eyes, and a harrowing ride on my first gondola since 1990.
In blending insight and yoga, we see that each feeds the other – our insights lead to our yoga, and our yoga provides the insight to feel the moment on a variety of levels. When we inquire within, and listen deeply for the answers, then honor that place by being receptive, tired bones become a little more limber and the fatigue is replaced by a vibrant inner body. That’s the meaning of santosha, the Sanskrit word for contentment.
Suffice to say – my gondola ride back to my hotel for our lunch break was far less scary. I breathed deeply, saw the stunning scenery on a different level (literally and spiritually!), and my mini “disco-nap” was more restful than ever.
Hello yogis and yoginis… This is my first time to the Telluride Yoga Festival and I have to say, I’m really looking forward to it. Last year, my good friend, Jivamukti Yoga teacher Alanna Kaivalya told me how special this Festival is – from the deeper level of attention by master teachers, to the connections and friendships made in a more intimate setting, to the spectacular backdrop of Telluride – so it became a ‘must do’ on the calendar for this year.
I’ve been a Jivamukti Yoga teacher for a long time, and while Jivamukti is my ‘home’ and my foundational practice, there is so much to be drawn from the incredible range of experience from the teachers at this year’s Festival. My teacher David Life once said: “Try everything – every class, every style, every teacher. That way you know what to take along with you and what to leave behind.” With the diverse blend of amazing teachers this year, not to mention the cool lunchtime workshops (I’ve heard amazing things about primordial sound meditation and I can’t wait to see those Yoga Slackers in action!), Telluride Yoga Festival promises to enhance my practice on many levels, not to mention help address my fear of heights!
In addition to poking around all the workshops, I’ll be taking the Friday intensive to see balance of the yin and the yang with Insight Yoga teacher Sarah Powers; a session on bhakti yoga with Alanna Kaivalya (because who doesn’t need more love in their life!?); a grounding Iyengar workshop to help heal my recent knee surgery with Nancy Stechert; and easing my way toward the divine through a meditative vinyasa class with Scott Blossom.
Come say hello… I’ll be the yogini half on the mat, half on the laptop blogging live from the event!