The Vancouver kula had the pleasure of hosting Desiree Rumbaugh in our beautiful city this September. I say “beautiful” almost tongue-in-cheek because yes- Vancouver is beautiful- but we had nothing but cold, rainy fall weather since the middle of August. Desiree showed up to what had to be the most spectacular September I have seen in my life… and I grew up here.
I told her John’s personal weather system must be rubbing off on her- he always brings sun to cold, damp Seattle in February and Des definitely brought it to us- in more ways than one.
This was the first time I had met Desiree, though many of my fellow kula members had before. I knew that she had greatly influenced my mentor teacher Christina Sell and I had read her bio on the web and of course her writings in yoga journal. She pretty much is a rock star in the yoga world. I guess I had expectations of her without really knowing it, but I have to say she blew me out of the water. Not with her practice- which is incredible, not with her teaching- which is impeccable- but with her straight forward, completely humble personality. I have never met someone so uninterested in talking about themselves and whose first question to me was ” So – tell me about you. How did you come to yoga?”
(“me??? you want to you about little old me???” my inner voice) It was like Desiree was immediately so real with all of us that it felt we could totally be ourselves- warts and all. She was actually interested in the warts- the true us. I felt sitting with her was like having an old friend that you truly love come for a visit- and you sit on the couch in your pj’s and drink hot chocolate spiked with Bailey’s. That kind of comfortable.
Her teachings are that way too- very real- very accessible. That can be the thing with Anusara- you can fall off the razor’s edge with the philosophy and lose your students completely. I noticed not one word of sanskrit passed her lips the first two days- except for the invocation. I am sure Desiree’s sanskrit knowledge is vast but she didn’t try to wow us with her knowledge- she wowed us with her simplicity.
She had some great phrases but the one I loved was “What is in your way IS your way”. I found I could read into that one phrase so many interpretations. It spoke to me of many different things. If my relationships frustrate me it is not about the other person- but me. How I relate to them- how I chose to deal with them. You know when you are with someone and you think “why can’t they be more …etc?” it is all really just your reaction to their behaviour.
It spoke to me of practice too and how when you are injured your practice is dealing with that injury or misalignment. Misaligned body leads to pain- misaligned relationships lead to pain. “Therapy on the mat” I believe is what Desiree was really going at.
I strive to teach that way to. I feel that practice on the mat is practice for life off the mat. The more consciously you practice on the mat- really being present in your practice and what you see and feel is going on- the more present you are off the mat. I think all yoga starts to pervade your life off the mat no matter what style; but in Anusara it seems to take the most direct route- though not the easiest. Lots of dips and valleys and steep climbs but always interesting. Anusara demands that you wake up and look around you- engage in your surroundings- engage in your life. I think that is why Des is such a loved teacher- she is a really great guide. She doesn’t yell “ toughen up- keep going!” She yells, “I know it’s so hard but isn’t it fun!- look what you can do!!!” And you just laugh and get stronger with her encouragement and keep going.
One of the other things I noticed this week was the beautiful support of the women yogis. We had some pretty open conversations over lunch and we all commented on how hard we are on ourselves. One of the Vancouver yogi’s with the best practice, most graceful body and sweetest voice was overcome with emotion when she told us of her insecurities in teaching. Most of us just stared at her with mouths open. “You? You have doubts??? Wow.” We talked yoga and babies, yoga and small children, yoga and aging, yoga and other jobs… you get the picture. Desiree led some good lunch conversation with the girls about some of these things and it felt really good to have the company of such amazing women- everyone offered support and encouragement and we all left the table feeling stronger. You would think that with all our yoga experience we would be beyond such things but we are all human- we doubt, we suffer… but we can also encourage and support.
We spent a good portion of the weekend working on some good basics of alignment and how that draws into yoga therapy. (Des has two DVD’s out right now- Yoga to the Rescue and Yoga to the Rescue for Back Pain and what we covered is contained in those DVD’s.) There were some really great gems of knowledge that she passed on to us and I am already using them in class. It was also nice to hear Desiree’s stories of injury- she is one of the only yoga teachers I know whose shoulders slope forward…like mine! Nice to know I am in good company- if she can learn to work it out so can I!
In contrast, our first day with Des was anything but easy. Fun – but not easy. We did the famous- or perhaps infamous- Eye of the Tiger practice. It has been sitting in my file for months because you have to practice with a group- or at least two of you- and that just doesn’t seem to happen much in my life lately. It was a kick butt practice but Desiree told us how they used to gather at her studio on Tuesday’s and Thursdays and as they bent themselves into scorpion and balanced in pavritta bakasana they would talk about their kids, their relationships and their lives. ( They had enough energy to talk?!) It was the yoga equivalent to the coffee klatch by the sounds of it. How great. What a way to spend time with your yoga friends- your “tribe” as Des described it.
She said, ” We are like this little tribe that gets together and gets to do this stuff that we love and everyone else thinks is weird. Isn’t that great?” Well at least my husband and kids don’t think it’s weird, but my father-in-law gives me strange looks when I mention anything about yoga. My mother even says it strangely- kind of slowly like she is trying to say a foreign word, ” Yes- my daughter teaches YO-gaaaa“. Gotta love her.