Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Tokyo Immersion 2010- Day 3 April 5, 2010

The Tokyo Puja

Why do we sit close at the beginning of an Anusara class? This is the question that John opened the day with. We sit close, he explained, because it builds unity and strength-  it is a principle in physics called entrainment. If you put a large clock with a pendulum in a room with a bunch of smaller clocks, with pendulums all swinging at different rates, then eventually they will all swing in time with the large one- the heavy one- the Guru.

John explained how our field, our pulsation ,gets stronger through yoga – our shakti carries a weight to it. However shakti is just power- not necessarily good power or bad power- it is charisma, and we chose how we use it. This is why when you start to accumulate shakti the dharma, or responsibility,  is also raised. Greater shakti equals greater dharma.

Misato, me, Toshi and Masa- 3 years together!

To go fast- like we do in Japan- is easier than anywhere else because the students are more open to the teachers shakti and each others shakti- we sync faster here. The invocation this morning was like one voice- one breath- I could feel us like one huge creature breathing and singing in complete synchronicity. It was not so much the sound- it was the feeling behind the sound this morning that blew my mind. How appropriate as this years tour is called Melt Your Heart and Blow Your Mind!

One of the reason we do an invocation is part of this idea of entrainment- right from the beginning we try to sync together and hook up with the shakti- we are much more powerful this way.

John kept the overarching theme of relationships again today, but we went into the types of relationships we have in our lives. Relationships can be divided into four types. In all four types the heart is good but they are defined by their words and actions. We treat each one differently- we treat each one with a different type of love.

1. Teacher- love/respect  ( maitri)

2. Student – compassion ( karuna)

3. Friend- happiness, friendliness ( mudita)

4. Enemy- peace, equnimity ( upeksha)

No one comes into your life by chance and sometimes the roles change: teachers become friends, friends become enemies etc. It is not a fixed thing. Someone will often come into your life to help you clear something in your own heart. The guru is the one that takes you from the dark (GU) into the light( RU)- so anything that takes you back into the light can be part of the guru principle- even an enemy. 

The teacher is someone you learn from, they are walking the path in front of you- showing you the way. The student is someone who needs your help- they walk on the path behind you- you clear the way for them. The friend holds your hand and walks beside you on the path. The enemy tries to block your way on the path, tries to stop you from reaching the end.

What I really got from the mornings lecture and practice was that when we talk about “skillfull action” we are really talking about learning how to apply the different levels of love. Skillful action is not a mind thing-it is really a heart thing. The morning had lots of long timed holds and I really felt clear at the end…and very,very sweaty…..

Tokyo Studio Yoggy


The afternoon talk was on the concept of time. I have written a few posts on this subject from trainings and how John relates it to the students but every time it is just a little different- a slight nuance- a different emphasis. This immersion John spoke more of the wheel and spoke and hub idea. That time is a wheel- think wagon wheel- and the top is the beginning, the bottom the peak or pinnacle, and the last third is the dissolving phase. He explained that the hub is the heart- the center of the wheel- and from anywhere on the wheel we can go there. You have to know where YOU are on the wheel, John said, you have to know what time it is. So many people at the end look back and have regrets, wishing they had done this or that.The wheel of time

Most of us live our lives thinking about the past, worrying about the future and forgetting to live in the present. Some new age philosophies tell us to forget our past, but John says it is better to: honour and feel gratitude for the past, have enthusiasm for the future and have generosity for the present. As John said, our past had somehow led us to be sitting in this room right now listening to him lecture. I know I felt gratitude for that!

In any part of the cycle, John explained, you want to make it Shri. Divine Beauty and fullness- this is Shri. You have to live the potential in any moment- you have to live your creative power. Whatever you have in the moment you do it fully and with excellence and then when you are down you look back and you have no regrets. You think “yes- that was the best I can do”.

Potential is a boundary and every time you go to the boundary the potential increases. John explained that is why he expects more from the students that have been with him longer and he gets hard on them if they are not fulfilling their potential- that is not full, not Shri or for that matter not even dharmic.

One of the students asked a great question: Is Grace Shri? Shri can lead to Grace, John explained, but it is not Grace. The energy that comes from seeing beauty is Grace. You see something beautiful and you remember Spirit- that energy that open the curtains and cleans the mirror of your heart- that is Grace.

What a beautiful way to end an immersion…..


Tokyo Immersion 2010- Day 2 April 3, 2010

Stone Jizos holding the jewel of light to lead us from the darkness....

Today , as Skeeter said, was a really good day.  John’s overarching theme of the day was relationship- a carry over from yesterday and how do we have a relationship with Spirit, how do we have a relationship with others, how do we have a relationship with ourselves.

How do you know your yoga practice is working? This was John’s question he put to us. He explained that you know because you come into better relationship with everyone and with life. You experience harmony- peace, love, happiness….why is that? Because when your yoga is working you align with Spirit- you experience it- it makes you feel amazing.  Many times we will say ” Oh,  it’s that teacher- they did it” but the teacher knows that they aligned with Spirit and then they aligned with the Spirit in you so you could see who you truly are. The teacher is the mirror- they show you who you are inside. You have the power of Grace inside you to help you reveal your heart- the teacher just shows you  how.

John proceeded to take the top 5 tattvas :Shiva, Shakti, Iccha, Jnana, Kriya and talk about how they relate to studentship.   He lined the tattvas up with the Mahabhutas or 5 elements- which we went over a bit yesterday. I will go over the attributes to each one in a little detail:

1. Shiva- sky- open, sensitive, humble

2. Shakti- earth- commitment, loyalty , trust, long term, steady

3. Iccha- water- always goes back to it’s source, goes down- humble, reflects, feels, adapts

4. Jnana- fire- burning to make a positive change, fire is greater than our fear

5. Kriya- Air- intelligence, quick, you see from all angles- even from outside the box

John took the five through the sensory organs in the tattva chart as well:

1. Space- hearing ( Shiva)

2. Earth – smell ( Shakti)

3. Water- taste ( Iccha)

4. Fire- sight ( Jnana)

5. Air – feeling/touch ( Kriya)

Studentship is about discipline. Discipline comes from th same root as disciple. I remember once John saying discipline is where you chose to place your heart. What are you a disciple to? Where do you place your heart?

Besides the 5 elements, there are things we as students should be doing. One of them is to have a deep meaning in your practice. Even when you don’t feel great or you don’t want to practice, you treat the studio as a temple, your mat as sacred space and you invoke meaning into your practice- you want to cultivate a relationship with Spirit so much that it holds a very deep meaning. Never get complacent, don’t lose the reason why we do the practice.

Also at the end of practice you should ask yourself what did I learn? What did I gain? You answers should tie back to Shiva/Shakti , Chit/Ananda. Did you gain awareness for example- that would be chit. Did you gain a virtue- courage, peace? – that would be Ananda. You may experience both but maybe just one. For example you didn’t gain knowledge but you had fun- you feel happier inside- that is Ananda.

In the afternoon we went over the Yamas and Niyamas and tieing them to the elements and the top 5 tattvas. Wow- it was cool. I am going to out myself here by saying that I have never been big on the Yoga Sutras- Classical Yoga imposition is how I have always thought about it. It has never really related to my experience of Anusara yoga or how I relate to my practice in general. It seems to be a text that has become prevalent through the default of early translation and dissemination. Ok- enough ranting- I am tired.

Ok. The Tattvas are sequential and cumulative just like the 5 Universal principles. You start from the first one- ie Open to Grace- and then you proceed to the next, never losing the first one, etc etc. John proposed that the Yamas and Niyamas are the same. ( For those of you not familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas they are yoga ethics with the Yamas being external observances and the Niyamas being internal observances…)

This is how he described the Ethics of Anusara Yoga:

1. Ahimsa- sky- seeing Shiva/Shakti in each other- if you see god in everyone would you act unethically in the first place? Would you cause harm?

2. Satya- earth- truthfulness, deep trust, integrity, honesty

3. Asteya- water- water doesn’t grab, it flows around. It doesn’t take. Don’t take create for others ideas etc.

4. Bramacharya- fire- proper sensual/sexual relations- a balance in relationship, one sees clearly the Spirit in another

5. Aparigraha- air- simplicity of living, a lightness that is unburdened, don’t take so much another suffers or the earth suffers


1. Saucha- sky- purity , clarity- a sky with no clouds, purification of the heart and mind

2. Santosha- earth- contentment, your are satisfied, you are still at the deepest core but not complacent

3. Tapas- fire- burning aspiration for connection with the divine

4. Svadhaya- air- study of yourself, study of texts, intelligence that sees all sides

5. Ishvara pranidhara- water- from you heart you flow your offerings out to God.

Ok here is the kicker- just like UPA’s if you do Open to Grace and Organic Energy you basically get it done- you remember your source and you offer out- Well if you do the first Yama and last Niyama you get it all done too. If you see shiva-shakti in everyone ( Ahimsa) and you make your efforts an offering to Spirit from your heart ( Ishvara pranidhana) you encompass everything.  As John summarized- you see it and then you do it. Talk about synthesis! The Yamas and Niyamas never looked so good in my tantric eyes….


Tokyo Immersion 2010 – Day One April 2, 2010

Today started too early for me as my body naturally woke up at 4;30…and didn’t go back to sleep. My little hotel room is very cute and clean and very new looking. I had enough room to meditate; yoga was kind of out of the question. My hotel serves the best small breakfast. I was so happy to see salad for breakfast. At home, salad may seem strange at such an early hour but really it is one of my favorite things in the morning. I happily downed toast and Japanese scrambled eggs ( think very, very wet…almost uncooked…) coffee and a huge plate of salad. Manzoku- very satisfied.

On a travel note, I would like to say that I really enjoy the Japanese Inn Group  for Japanese B&B style hotels( being a traditional Japanese room with futon, japanese bath etc.) but ,for $30 dollars more, the Comfort Hotel has laundry, a great breakfast, private bathroom with decent tub, and internet. In todays age of computers it really is nice to sit here and write than to drag myself to an internet cafe every night. Rakuten lists many types of hotels so check that out if you are coming to Japan and other places in Asia. If you are not lugging the computer and want to experience something special check out Japanese Inn Group- especially in Kyoto.

Day one of the Immersion was very special as it was the first class ever taught in the new Studio Yoggy location in Hibiya. It is the most open and light filled of any of the studios I have been to in Japan. It is in a perfect location and Sawako- the owner- is so pleased to final have what she calls the flagship location. John made a beautiful introduction that morning to the idea that the  place we do yoga is scared space dedicated to the freedom of everyone- a place to awaken. The flagship is the hub, the hub is the heart- the place of spirit. The invocation was so beautiful I had this wild image of the voices as spirit running like curls of leaves and vines through everything in the studio- the floor, the mats, the bolsters, the walls- we were making sacred space. One of the visiting teachers said it was the first time he had ever cried during the invocation- it was that powerful.

One of the Japanese teachers- Misato-san- who I met the first time in Japan 3 years ago suffered the loss of her mother recently. John was so very sweet when he said ” we cry when someone passes because there is so much love”. He asked us to consider of at the end of our days what do we want. If there is peace, love and happiness then we have aligned with spirit. Sprit wants us to be happy, it wants to align with us- it is our true nature.

But we forget. We don’t feel happy or peaceful or feel love. We long and desire for that feeling again. We want to be free. It is the classic story of those with great material wealth being unhappy and those with very little being completely content. Which one is truly free? This is such a hard thing for us to grasp in Western culture. It really frustrates the heck out of me. I find as I have been practicing yoga I need less and less- or I want less and less. As long as the basics are covered- food, clothing, etc. I am perfectly satisfied. It is so freeing. I wish for the people I love to be free like that.

John’s morning practice was one of sensitivity and commitment. These are the two key principles of how you align with spirit. It is the two principles for any good relationship I think. It was a fairly simple practice but very deep. I was getting a little frustrated though as the mats are brand new and my trikonasana was turning into hanumanasana and I feel on my head in one leg wheel ( ekahasta dhanurasana).  I clawed so hard my fingers are still sore as I type!

The afternoon was a discussion of the philosphy of Anusara Yoga. The philosophy should answer the deepest questions of life: Why are we here? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of life?

The questions can all be answered by yoga, John explained. There is an inate intelligence inside all of us- it comes from the intelligence of spirit. Things grow in a deep orderly manner- on the outside we may all look different, but our cellular level all started the exact same way. How did it know how to do that? John went over the Golden Ratio ( 1.618) and I always find that fascinating. If you make a fist and turn your hand to the side so it has the curl of your fingers right side up the distance from the top of your index finger to where it curls in will be a ratio of one and and from the curl down to your wrist a ratio of 1.618. From you middle finger to your wrist a ratio of 1 and from your wrist to your elbow 1.618. Wild isn’t it?

Frm here we talked about the aspects of the Universal ( shiva-shakti, no form, no limit, completely free, sat/chit ananda/, spanda and purna) which went into the introduction of the tattvas ( principles of existence).  The top 5 tattvas- those that are in the universal realm- actually contain all the other 36 tattvas but there are at the highest vibration. Everything in existence is just stepped down vibrations of the 5 top ones. As I wrote in Kyoto, the problem with describing this higher tattvas is that they belong to the universal which is really something beyond words. As soon as we name it we have made it relative- subject to our understanding in this realm. I mean this is really heady stuff and as a teacher of this method it can get really challenging when you chose to go into that place.

One of the graphs John showed us today was one I don’t think I have seen before where you line the top tattvas along side the elements and the principles. For the teachers out there you might like this:

Shiva=Open to Grace= Space

Shakti= Muscular Enery=Earth

Iccha= Inner Spiral= Water

Jnana= Outter Spiral= Fire

Kriya= Organic Energy= Air

Putting Shiva/Shakti in the mix was interesting to think about because then you get Earth and Sky- the two things  we did in the morning: sensitivity and commitment- voila!

We spent the afternoon going over the rest of the Universal principles : Open to Grace, Muscular Energy etc. and dove into the spirals. We had a great question about where inner and outter spiral start and stop and the group was getting a little stuck so I thought about how I teach with the ribbons and John graciously allowed Yasushi-san and I to tie him up with white and purple straps. I think it was effective…hilarious for sure. I  hope someone got a picture!

John’s afternoon practice was so simple- all the basics. Three parts of muscular energy, three parts of organic- each principle in order and culminating, the focal points. Good basic stuff. We did some very yummy hip and supine stuff and it made such a great end to the day. We even got to surprise Yasushi-san with a cake and a round of happy birthday right after meditation! The meditation bell went signalling the end and then all these little fire crackers went off full of ribbons. So much fun!

We ended the day with a sharing session. One of the questions we had to answer was ” What is Grace”? I will leave that for you to contemplate and you can share your answers in the comments if you like.



Traveling to Tokyo April 1, 2010

Filed under: Anusara,Japan,travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 10:18 pm
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Yesterday was a travel day and there is not a ton to tell but I have few images that I captured to share. I traveled to Tokyo with the Merry Band and was introduced to David Kennedy- the new Anusara Creative Director- and Jai and Mario- amazing photographers and videographers. Check out DK’s photos from Kyoto….

To all of those going to Wanderlust this year- get ready to have your minds blown. I won’t give any secrets away but think Shakti refined Burning Man. Uh- huh…go make your travel plans now people! 

Well the Merry Band seems to be in a poetry writing phase currently and it made me laugh as poetry was my high school passion. My husband found one of my old books once and I was so embarrased. I am very rusty but maybe it’s something I will cultivate again. My sister Michelle is an amazing poet- she writes poetry with such a quirky yet honest view of the world. Sjanie also made a bunch of Haiku Haiku’s in Maui so maybe it is in the yogi’s blood. 

Since I am in Japan, I thought I would write waka- a traditional type of poem that included the styles called choka and tanka. Choka is no longer in use but tanka is still fairly common though not as well known as haiku. Haiku syllable pattern is 5-7-5 where as tanka is 5-7-5-7-7.   

The Tree

I wander the streets 

An observor to the rush 

Heads down people walk 

I look up and see the tree 

Together we watch the crowd


Kyoto Day Two: The Bhagavad Gita

While it was day two of training in Kyoto, it was actually day one for me as I am a day late. For those that followed the last post- yes I did make it.

I arrived to the dark side streets of Kyoto to my friend Mark’s home which he graciously lent me while he was away. His beautiful home brought back so many memories of the years I spent living in Japan. I realized the only thing I did not miss was lack of central heating. It is so cold in Kyoto that it snowed a few days ago- unbelieveable!

I started the morning off early- welcome to the time change- and went on a mission for toast and coffee. I never eat white bread at home but in Japan it just calls to me.  As I wandered with a with map in hand and very little idea of where I was going, I noticed that I always seem to be “unlost” in Japan. I have always managed to find my way around here and that is not easy in a country with little old streets and not a ton of signage.

In my wandering I found no coffee at first but a wonderful assortment of temples and shrines. In Kyoto every neighbourhood seems to have an amazing shrine and it is such a treat. My first temple I stumbled upon was Shakuzoji Temple just off Senbondori. The amount of colour in the temple was so lively with bright red lanterns hung tightly together and the jizo statues all adorned with little bibs.  For such a small temple it had a really deep visual impact and I loved it!

The next shrine was closer to the venue and was called Daishogun Hachijinja. More sedate in colour, the large old trees on the property took you right off the modern street and straight back 300 years. I swear it was so quiet there you forgot you were 50 feet off a main street.

After more wandering I finally found a perfect little coffee shop with not too much smoke, and settle in to a delicious cup of coffee brewed the turkish way with fat toast oozing with butter and a boiled egg. Feeling renewed I thought I would wander towards the venue of Ryuhonji temple and wouldn’t you know it one of the larger shrines in Kyoto was right in front of me – Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. Talk about the shakti guiding you!

This temple is famous for plum blossoms (ume) and there was one tree in perfect fullness. The colour is deeper pink than the sakura ( cherry) and fuller in the amount of petals. The man hall of the temple has the traditional offering box and gong but there was a plum shaped mirror up above the gong. I realized that if you went to ring the gong you could see yourself in the mirror. There was even another mirror further into the recess of the prayer hall that was reflecting images back. I am not sure what the history was behind it but it was certainly a rare and curious thing. I will have to follow up with more research.

I looked at my watch and realized I had actually very little time left to get to the venue so my wandering ended and in 10 minutes I was at the venue. A wonderful traditional temple, Ryuhonji is not open to the public for touring. The hall we used was surrounded by gardens and a small covered walkway to another hall. The grounds were full of weeping cherries and one of the girls snapped a shot of me in the cherry blossom shower- so delicate. The weather in Kyoto was unusually cold and the hall was unheated so though ” hot or cold should not affect the yogi”  it was challenging.

I was interested to see how John would present the material because, really, the Gita in a day??? He started  the day with a question from one of the students which was ” om namah shivaya guruve” , the Shivaya part- how do I really describe that? I understand but I have no adequate words.  John explained that we are trying to describe something beyond words. We are trying to use words from the relative world to describe something that is beyond the relative. Yes- it can feel inadequate. He gave an example how when one says ” good” to describe shiva that our mind thinks “good and bad” we think difference, opposites, contrast- but in the absolute it is beyond opposites and duality.

John managed to flow this entry point into an introduction of the Gita. He explained that Krishna is having the same problem with Arjuna and is trying to get him to have an experience of Shiva but that words are not adequate for Arjuna’s understanding. ( This is why you get the shock and awe of Chapter 11…) In the Gita, the characters represent parts of all of us: Krishna is shiva- the teacher within, Arjuna is the individual soul “jiva”, the chariot is the body, the horses are the senses, the reins are the mind, and finally the battlefield is the relative world.

John went on to say that you need three things to understand this key scripture.

1) a deep desire to awaken to your own goodness. You need to read many different translations, study and meditate on the text.

2) a teacher. The book is small but the text is very deep- condensed knowledge- and a teacher will help you unfold the layers and reveal the deeper teachings.

3) Grace. Spirit will allow you to understand this text. You must have blessings. In this way the understanding comes from the inside not from your intellect.

From here we journeyed to the setting of the Gita, the story of the Mahabarata, and we learned the three paths or “marga” of the Gita. Each path is like an upward spiral or circle. The first 6 chapters focus on Karma yoga, the following 6 on Jnana yoga and the last 6 on Bhakti yoga. John went on to say that we can live the book as a synthesis of all three paths- it doesn’t just have to be one.

From here we delved into one of the main teachings of the Gita which is Dharma. In a way, I think the Japanese get this better than westerners. Dharma and swadharma ( individual dharma) are still more active in Japan. John explained you have an individual dharma because of your own karma and you need to act a certain way in your life. You were born into this life for a reason. He emphasised that when he says ” do fully” , you do fully for you- you don’t do it like someone else. Everyone has a talent. “What is your talent?” he asked us- that will help you find your swadharma.

We came back in the afternoon to discuss the difference in viewpoints between classical yoga- from which the Gita is written- and the Tantric viewpoint. The classical viewpoint sees the world as two separate things: purusha( spirit) and prakriti ( matter- which also includes emotions and imagination, mind stuff). Classical yoga’s goal was to separate the two so that spirit could reunite with itself after being entangled and misidentified with matter which was considered inferior to spirit. ( ie body bad, ego bad, got to get out of that to get to spirit) This is called a dualistic perspective. In the Gita, specifically chapter 13,  this is called the “knower” ( purusha) and the “field” (prakriti).

 In Tantra, prakriti is just seen has a heavier, slower vibration of spirit. It is not inferior; it is all one energy. This is called a non-dual perspective.

I realized why John went over this when we got to the discussion of the gunas. The gunas: Sattva, Rajas, Tamas, are seen very differently in the Gita’s classical perspective than in the Tantric philosophy that informs Anusara Yoga. In classical yoga Sattva is good, Rajas is bad and Tamas..well is just plain awful.

 In Tantra, sattva is the place of the middle- the middle vibrations, rajas is more active- a higher vibration and tamas is dense- the slowest of the vibrations. You need all three:  for example rajas is great in the morning when you have to get things done. You want energy and movement. Tamas is wonderful at night when you want it dark and quiet , heavy so the body can rest. We actually did a practice felling the gunas in the body: back leg in the standing poses tends to be more tamasic so you need to make it more active more rajas ( inner spiral and muscular energy) to bring sattva ( balanced action). I really liked how smoothly John weaved that and how much sense it made in the body. John said even the master gets out of balance but we don’t see it because the know how the balance the gunas more skillfully.

We ended the day finding our talents- going back to the discussion of the morning. I really have trouble with this. I always ask myself, “why am I here?” ” Am I doing the right thing?” I am good at a lot of things but not brilliant at any of them..my talent is being a jack of all trades I think! As I sat with this a little longer I looked at my small list and something else popped out. My talent- I think- is sharing. That is why I love to write, that is why I love to teach, that is why I love to travel. I want everyone to share my experience- to see what I have seen, to taste what I have tasted. Even my flying is sharing- I am constantly chatting with the passengers and asking them to share their experiences, giving them helpful information for their travels. This was a big revelation for me. For those that know me maybe you can comment on this- do you think we got it right?

I ended the night with a tofu dinner at the local mom and pop place and a soak in the local onsen ( hot spring)  around the corner from Mark’s home. It was a full day of discovery on so many levels. Off to Tokyo tomorrow- wonder what else will be revealed……


Yoga Should not be Stressful March 29, 2010

Filed under: Anusara,Japan,travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 8:01 pm
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That was my realization yesterday as I sat in the Vancouver International airport- yoga should not be stressful. I had planned to train with John Friend in Kyoto and Tokyo for 11 days- the first three in Kyoto- since last year some time. I am a planner- ask my friends and family. I am not the “leave everything to the  last minute” type of person. Not that I am not spontaneous – I love surprises! ( as long as I have my credit card and  the right shoes).

I arrived home from Maui with family in tow at 3 am Monday. Slept part of Tuesday and then washed clothes, cleaned house and bought groceries. I go to work Thursday. Flew to Narita for work and arrived home Saturday to a home sans husband. He had flown out that morning to Las Vegas. ( yes- I know- we are both insane!) Running all over town in my uniform, I bought more food, did banking, got medicine and other last minute things for my trip to Japan. I picked up the kids and headed home to a full day of sleepless packing ( I had already gone close to 20 hours by now with no sleep) and fun things like a movie and painting toe nails with my daughter. I wanted my last night with my kids to be family time.

Sadly, I arrived home to a blind pussycat. Old, sick and dying of cancer,  my poor pussycat of 16 years had rapidly gone down hill in a few days. We bundled her up and took her to the vet to wait 2 hours to see a doctor. I knew what was coming but I kept hoping I was wrong. I was right.

We said goodbye to our pussycat Ashita amid wailing and tears as my 10 and 6 year old hugged and held her. I made them leave the room while she was put to sleep but I buried my face in her beautiful fur one last time and cried my heart out while they were not in the room. Death is an inevitable part of life- pets teach our children how to grieve so that when they lose a person there is something to guide them. I brought them back in the room after she had passed . I remember how seeing my dad after he had passed away made me feel somehow better about death- to see how peaceful it could be.  My son said it was the worst day of his 10 year old life. It probably was.

So after that day ( and night)  of tears and sleeplessness, I awoke to head to Japan. Exhausted both emotionally and physically,  I just wanted to get on the plane and sleep. Though I was pretty sure I would have a seat on the flight things can always change when you fly standby and wouldn’t you know it- it changed. Another flight to Asia was over sold and they moved all the passengers to my flight and suddenly no more seats! I always have anxiety when I fly on my pass but now I just felt plain sick. I wasn’t going anywhere. It felt like a little too much.

I drove home in a daze to two happy children- good thing. I took them out for dinner and spent time with them- good thing. I managed to get another backup ticket for the domestic flight to Kyoto- good thing. I found two shirts on the floor I forgot to pack- good thing. I talked to my friends- good thing.  I realized around 8pm that this was not a big deal. I was going to Japan for a yoga training – this was not a medical emergency or something serious- this was supposed to be fun- not stressful. As soon as I sat with that for a few minutes everything changed.I was on an adventure- I would get there eventually and think of all the stories to tell!  There are no bad flights, I always say, just better stories. The cup went back to half full and suddenly everything felt better. We always have a choice- I forgot about that. I chose the light, I chose to see the good. And I am sitting waiting , hoping  to get on the flight once again…who knows what will happen? Whatever it is it will be good.

Aum shri ganesha namah – mantra to Lord Ganesha who helps travelers


Cyber Yoga March 10, 2010

I know you guys thought I dropped off the earth but Anusara Certification will do that to you. I have been busy with exams and videos and my poor little blog has gone neglected in the process. Please forgive me.

Out of my time management crisis and the 2010 Winter Olympics in my hometown came a wonderful new discovery: online yoga. I know that there has been mp3 downloads for a while: Elise’s Yoga Kula and Hillary Rubin were pioneers of sorts in that area but the owner of Yogaglo in LA took it a little further: streaming video.

I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not but I was hearing rumblings in the yoga world and thought it may a solution for my time challenged life. I usually drive 40 minutes or so a few times a week to take a public class but sometimes I am  lucky if I have 40 minutes to practice! Anyone else have this problem? The other thing that attracted me was that Yogaglo has certified Anusara teachers on staff and, not having a certified teacher close at hand, that was intriguing as well. As an Anusara Inspired teacher working on certification, having 3 or 4 certified teachers available to you can really bring depth to your teaching. ( yes- I borrow everything……)

For $18 US a month ( the price of a drop in at most studios) I can watch as many classes as I want. One thing I would also like to point out is not only is there asana classes but there are lectures available from well-known scholars such as Sally Kempton and Douglas Brooks. The drop down menu on the site allows you to choose style, length, level and instructor. Even if you have only 30 minutes you can find a practice to suit you. For those that travel,  as long as you have your computer and access to the internet , you are ready to go at any time of day… or night depending on your  jet lag! 

The sound and video quality are excellent. I only had trouble once downloading a class. It was very disappointing as we were halfway through a really great class while it happened! It could have been our modem but I haven’t had time to follow-up. The classes are filmed in a white room with the teacher at the center and the students facing the teacher with their backs to you. It makes you feel like you are in the room with everyone.

The Anusara teachers on Yogaglo are Tara Judelle and Noah Maze and a host of guest teachers: Marc Holzman, Elena Brower, Naime Jezzeny, Scott Lewicki and many others. I have to say that Marc blew me away. His style was the epitome of what I hope to cultivate as an Anusara teacher. Real, open, accessible, intelligent- he really makes you forget you are not right there in the Yogaglo studio. He has an incredible back story as well. Sadly for those who discovered him on Yogaglo he is moving to Paris so here is hoping for a cyber feed from France! Vive la Anusara….

For those time challenged, studio-less, teacher-less, needing a change, traveling yogis please add to the list of cyber resources by commenting below~



Maui Weekend Workshop- The Three Goddesses September 28, 2009

Well I am writing two blog posts in one night which is unheard of but I am up so here we go. I am going to summarize the weekend in one go.

Day One Morning

John opened with a talk on Navaratri. It is the 9 sacred nights of the Goddesses- three Goddesses in three incarnations.  He talked about the deep orderliness of the universe. The krama or order of life. You plant a seed in the dark and the roots go down and the stalk goes up and the stalk bears branches and the branches leaves, then fruit and the fruit ripens and falls and goes back into the earth and the cycle starts again. The dark is not necessarily bad or empty- in actually it is one big blank slate full of potential. It is full of anything you want to dream.

We started out our practice with Kali. Kali is raw- she comes from dark where you plant a seed of intention. She is the muscle energy of the pose. We hugged in tight and did really strong poses that need stability. It was a morning of long standing poses and things like press handstand and half lotus handstand- which I had never even thought of let alone tried! It rocked pretty good though and we came out to see the Laulima Farms gang and others from Kipahulu and a truck full of coconuts! For the screaming deal of $3 we had Jayanti open a coconut for us and after drinking the milk he would make us a bowl of the nut and even a little spoon to scoop it with. Oh so good……

We took off during the long break  ( 10am to 4pm) and hit the south side of the island going to Makena and big beach. We had our first swim at the beach in front of the Maui Prince but the lifeguards came by and showed us a portuguese man of war which were in the water. The sting is apparently excruciating so it kind of put a damper on the swim time. We had lunch from the Jaws Taco truck in the Big Beach parking lot and then sat and watched the waves at Big Beach. There is finally a lifeguard tower there which is a longtime coming. The have 90 spinal injuries every year at that beach due to the high shore break which dashes people head first into the sand. I had a bad toss there once and it scared me very badly and I am not a weak swimmer.

We finished the south side with a drive further down the road but the clouds were rolling in from the north- which we had come South to avoid!- so we headed back to prep for afternoon practice.

Day One Afternoon

We started the afternoon with questions and one of them group asked why we ( the Anusara community?) chant so softly. I know why we do, but it was interesting to hear John phrase it. He said it related to integrity in relationship of all of the parts. Can you hear yourself but also hear across the room? Can you blend rather than stand out? I have to say the group took it to heart because day two’s afternoon chant was one of the sweetest I have ever heard- it just rode the flow of the island itself. So good…..

John also talked more about the Turiya state ( see my blog on the Dancing Shiva) as being the “ground of being”, the undifferentiated universal place from which the Goddesses arise. I don’t think I have ever thought about it in that way- like this primordial soup of all potential but it makes sense in the thinking of Spanda or Divine pulsation and where that comes from.

One of the other questions was on why a teacher made the Australians role to the left after savasana. Apparently it really threw the practitioners. John gave an explanation of why we roll to the right. It is not about anything anatomical- as some teachers may say- but it is following what is called “pradakshina”. Pradakshina literally means right in Sanskrit and it is in line with moving clockwise which is considered the movement of nature. In temples in India one always keeps the diety on the right side of the body as the circle the diety in prayer. Pradakshina therefore can also mean circumambulation. If you therefore chose to roll left you should know why. That’s what I love about this method- know what the origins are and why we do something and then choose. Being the southern hemisphere, I guess that teacher thought it more in line with nature to go left.

We had a totally fun practice of being spacious and listening and Ty Burhoe  ,who is one of the foremost tabla players in the world, came in and joined the group. I met Ty in Japan a few years ago and I was pretty stoked when he set up his tabla right in front of Sjanie and I . We had randomly picked a new area in the room and plop- there Ty sat playing right in front of us during our practice. We really had a practice of Sarasvati, for she is the first sound and she is really the goddess of all sound “nada”. John and Ty both explained that we recognize sound from not the sound itself but from the space in between the sounds. I know- ponder that one for a while…..

The physical practice was  full of very deep hip openers, half standing lotus, deep pigeon, yogidandasana, and for the garnish we did firefly which- thank god- Sjanie had introduced to me about a year ago. I got in from the standing entry but John also taught getting in from yogidandasana. I opted out and went for the known but Sjanie decided to rock it out with the new entry and had success. Cool.

Day Two Morning

Day two ended on the last day of Navaratri and we had a very “juicy” practice.  We talked about the higher octaves of the middle three elements: air, fire and water. The higher octave of air is prana- it is charged by sunlight and has the ability to move. Fire’s higher vibration is Tejas- a luminosity. It is the flash of light at the beginning of conception. The higher vibration of water is Ojas- the juicy power of life itself, the nectar of our life force.

John took the juiciness into a curvy spiraling practice of backbended forms of trikonasana and pincha mayurasana and of course the matrix backbend. It was all about keeping all the goddesses in our form: Kali in our strength, Sarasvati in our awareness and then letting Lakshmi pour her delight into the vessel of the body. This is really important to note because you can have all these curved fluid forms without muscle energy and then the juiciness just drains because you have not first created a strong vessel to hold it. Sjanie and I both have found we need a little more play in our practice- we are both strong enough that the rigid forms take away our juice. It can dry you out if you move too quickly and too rigidly. You have to build strength first- that is essential – but then you have to have some flow and play in there once that is established.

We did handstand with our legs revolving around in both directions- thank you Chris Chavez for introducing that to me- and dropbacks with one hand on the collarbone assists. We then finished the practice with a pose I have never ever attempted- mandalasana. It was so juicy by that time it actually seemed easy. I realized that pose would be impossible if you tried to stay rigid or muscle your way through it. It had to be this playful delight that just kept running your feet around your head. We finished the morning in seated meditation and was surprised to have a little voice whisper in my ear,” Breathe deeply” and was delighted by a sudden hit of fresh gardenia under my nose. It seemed super powerful after the morning practice. Tiff, Kelly and a few others softly made their way around the room with scents of the island for all of us to delight in with our eyes closed and hearts open. Sjaine and I were grinning like idiots at the end of practice and we kept it juicy with breakfast at Colleen’s in Haiku. Hawaiian spiced bread french toast seemed oh so appropriate.

We hit the beach for the afternoon in the most amazing weather and managed to finally “be one with nature” during the trip. The wind and water were perfect and the sun felt exquiste…everywhere!

Day Two Afternoon

The afternoon purnahuti ( final celebration) was a deep talk by John on how to really live your life . It was about the four cornerstones of how to live: arta/kama/moksha/dharma. How to keep the juicy delight but have resources to support yourself and be in line with nature and have a sense of pleasure about what you are doing. Many of us get stuck in careers or relationships that literally drain us. You can’t necessarily just run away for that may be adharmic ( against dharma)  if you have a family to care for or responsibilities to others. The key is to find ways to increase  the others to find balance.

We had a practice of discharging excess vata in the body. Vata is usually the first dosha to go out of wack and it’s home in our body is the lower region which regulates elimination in the body. If energy is not moving down naturally ( apanavayu) then it can create discomfort and illness in the body. By releasing vata and getting this to move more naturally the ojas goes up and we get that juicyness back again. 

Getting you thigh bones back helps calm vata and we did lots of poses with that intention. We also did headstand and shoulderstand. Now that might not sound like much to you but John hardly ever teaches those two poses. It was actually really great to get the King and Queen poses ( Headstand/shoulderstand) taught by him because, done well , they can be super healing poses. The whole system responds so well to shoulder stand and it can energize you if you are down or slow you down when you are feeling anxious. It has amazing recuperative effects on the body. I love it for flying because it just feels so good to get upside down when you are in another time zone. Those two poses, handstand and a good walk, makes life pretty good on the other side of the planet.

It was a full and fulfilling workshop. John was really in sync with the island and all of us were really there with him. It seems so funny to look back three years ago to Maui where I first met John and see how far I have come, not just as a student or a teacher, but as a human being. John commented on my luster and I said “I feel so good, I feel so right. I just keep my vessel strong and let the shakti fill me up.” Life is good~

mana mahalo~ thank you spirit of the islands


Day 3 – Ram Dass and John Friend Intensive Maui

The Bhakti yogi Hanuman

The Bhakti yogi Hanuman

The theme of day three, the last day of the intensive, was ” Faith, Devotion and Grace”. We covered the last 6  chapters of the Gita- except for chapter 15. (Don’t ask) It was really the emphasis of the Bhakti path or devotional path of yoga which was contained in the last chapters of the Gita.

The Bhakti path is not really unfamiliar to us in the West as the worship of Christ is a bhakti path. Many people worship God but the figure of Christ as the embodiment of God and his attributes makes it easier for us to understand than the disembodied divine spirit. As we are manifested in physical form it is hard for us to understand and conceive that which is beyond form and so we take manifested objects and our love for them is what triggers our love and understanding of the universal. We need form or a name in order to have that opening.

I often think of my Dad that is no longer alive and my love for him takes me straight into that place where abstract thought cannot take me. My love for him teaches me about devotion. It takes the absolute realm of the universal and manifests it into something that I can understand. Love is in relationship. You need to love something to understand love- you can’t understand love from a book or from a lecture- it is experienced in relationship.

John asked us all to write down what was the secret of the Gita that Krishna gave to Arjuna- the highest teaching. This is what I wrote, ” That God is in everything and everything is in us. Knowing this, live skillfully with love in your heart”. It is amazing that it takes 18 chapters to get that but you know how we are…..Arjuna keeps asking and doubting and Krishna has to keep explaining and going into more detail….I am wondering if Krishna was a wife….hmm.

We had a rockin’ practice of love in the morning which culminated in hand stand drop over to urdva dhanurasana. I know we did some other cool stuff like a dwi pada with an assist that had our foot in our partner’s back-( I actually adjusted Sjanie’s spine….*pop* ) but we were so blissed out that I forgot. I practiced right beside the Hanuman banner and Maharaji’s picture and it was like Maharaji and the monkey were really digging our practice.

Ram Dass came back for the afternoon and I got brazen enough to ask him to sign my book. As I walked into the room he was in I signaled a bewildered Sjanie and had her grab her book. This is not something Sjanie would normally do, so I kind of cajoled her into it, but I don’t hesitate to say she has no regrets. Ram Dass was very sweet to us and I told him how my daughter loves the monkey ever since we had Satsang with him. He was very pleased about that. Sjanie and I returned to the yoga room with our books clutched to our chests and a little misty trying to soak up Maharaji’s shakti and lookin’ like we just had our favorite movie star autograph our book. Yup- yoga geeks…..

Ram Dass gave the most uplifting and warm talk and he spoke for two hours. He talked about his stroke which was very moving. He said it was like his chapter 11 in the Gita when Krishna reveals himself in the universal form. Before that Arjuna didn’t have faith- he had belief ( which comes from the mind) but he didn’t have faith ( which comes from the heart. When he has his stroke he said he lost faith- he said to Maharaji, ” Hey- did you go out for lunch??? What is THIS?” He was completely depressed in the hospital  and he stared at the picture of Maharaji on the wall. People would come in and say ” How could Maharaji let this happen to you”. It was ” all very sad” he said.

Over time though he started to realize that the stroke wasn’t from Maharaji- it was from nature. It was his karma.  His abilities that he was left with were Maharaji’s Grace. It was fierce Grace, but still Grace. Because Ram Dass had slowed down his audience had to slow down too. His wheel chair and paralysis softened people to him and he was better able to open their hearts. These positive things Maharaji supplied. Maharaji used to say to him, ” I love suffering- it brings me so close to God”.  That’s not saying that suffering is optimal, but isn’t it usually in our darkest times we seek out answers?

Ram Dass explained that devotion cannot be done by intellect. It is done by the heart. A devotee is one whose heart has been opened. He explained that he loved Maharaji and was his devotee but what he really loved was the God within Maharaji. You cannot fall in love with the God in you, your atman, but you can fall in love with the God in someone else.

John had a great quote that went, “ When I don’t know who I am I serve you- when I know who I am I am you.”  It really summerizes the path of the bhakti yogi.

Maharaji used to tell Ram Dass to meditate like Christ. ” Lose yourself in love” he would say. This puzzled Ram Dass so Maharaji showed him and, as Maharaji meditated, tears rolled down his face. Meditation can become like a ritual that is empty of love- this is what Maharaji was trying to explain. Ram Dass said, “You can sing hymns like you are reading the shopping list- but these are the beautiful words of Christ- you need to sing with love”. Ram Dass’ name means servant of God. It also is another name for Hanuman.

This segued into Ram Dass giving us a mini synopsis of the Ramayana. He kept saying he was talking too much and apologizing and we were all ” NO- please, please continue.” His assistant said he hasn’t talked that long to a group since his stroke. His assistant figured our attentiveness was feeding his desire to share. It was so very special.

Ram Dass finished his time with us by telling us his mantra- “ I am loving awareness“.  John sweetly gifted a shawl made from cashmere to Ram Dass and wrapped it around his shoulders. It was so obvious to us that it was like Maharaji’s famous blankets. It all just seemed so right. The perfect way to thank him and honour our time together.

After Ram Dass left,  John took the mantra Ram Dass told us and we used that as our japamala mantra for the afternoon. We also turned our mats and faced one person who we did  a meditation and a partner exercise with. We had to look at them and tell them what we liked about them~ what we saw. It was fun and brought back memories of doing that with Christina Sell many years ago.

We ended the whole day by making a huge circle and taking the whole three days and summarizing it into a few words or a phrase. We went around the circle saying our personal summary. There were some classics. Some of my favorites were, ” Be the loving dude I actually am” ” Love everybody” ” love makes us one” ” Hare Krishna” “Hare Ram” ( back to back no less… ) and “Yum, yum, yum” which is what Ram Dass would say every time he talked about getting to that deepest part of your soul.

I asked Ram Dass only one question during the intensive. I said, “Ram Dass, can faith and love in us awaken it in others?” He emphatically hit his good hand on the arm rest of his wheel chair and said, “YES! Absolutely!” 

My dharma thickens…….


Day 2 -John Friend and Ram Dass on the Bhagavad Gita September 25, 2009

Filed under: Anusara,teaching yoga,travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 6:12 pm

How does a child know a flower is beautiful?

It’s intuitive. You don’t have to tell the child what is beautiful the child knows. Part of our mind is like this  and part of our mind is much more logical and looks for order and difference. We have an intelligence that sees diversity and another that sees unity. We need both. 

That seemed to be the opening flavour this morning. How to use your mind- all parts of it. John themed around fire and put the heat and the light right in our mind to help “light it up” so to speak. He said you have to have a fire in you to “live full on and have no regrets. Full on sweetness, full on sensitivity. We don’t really know why we are here but in time it will be revealed and we don’t know how we will affect the world.” So basically- go out there and live! Be passionate and dharmic about how you lead your life. It was great- he was pretty passionate about it.

We spent the rest of the morning going through chapters 6- 10 and talking about the teachings that stood out to us. Though I have studied the Gita a few times before I learned a new little gem. When Krishna says ” I am” in Sanskrit it is “Aham” – which sounds pretty close to “a” and “ham” which is the sound of the breath. The “a” is Shiva and the “ham” is shakti. There is something that my teacher friends can ponder for a while.

We talked about balancing the Gunas and then took that starting point into balancing the gunas in asana. Our practice was trying to figure out which part of the poses was more Tamasic ( heay, dark, moving slowly) and which part was more Rajasic ( fast moving, upward inertia) and then make the pose more Sattvic ( the place of the middle). Now the interesting thing is that we are always looking for the place of the middle and we think of that as “good” and so sattva is “good” and the other two are “bad”. The reality is that you need the other two to even find the middle. So nothing is bad per se- it can be good if used in a way that is life enhancing.

We spent the afternoon talking a lot about time. Some good questions arose about the new age of thinking of just being in the present and forget your past. John was pretty clear that we need our past- we need to remember- our teachers, how we got here, what informs us nad live in the present. What in your past has helped you reveal the light of your heart now? How did you get here sitting with Ram Dass and John Friend? ( or why are you reading my blog….)

We also need to pay attention to the future. He talked very openly about the melting glaciers he saw this year and how much they have retreated in just the last few years. If we only live in the present then we are not going to be able to be custodians of the future. We have to be aware of all three but not get caught in the sorrow of the past or the fear of the future. Be present- remember the past and look to see what your responsibilities are for the future. This is how we live full on~

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna,  Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare-

This was the Mahamantra that we did around our Japamalas today…..I first learned it in 1976 at the Honolulu Airport from a man that gave me a book with a lot of blue people in it. I was 6.Day One Maui Intensive 006



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