Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Dreaming of Hanuman October 30, 2008

I love Indian mythology. Trying to find time to read the full translated versions of some of India’s great legends and stories can be challenging in my life so I have discovered a great compromise: read the stories from children’s books and that way mummy gets to study and my kids get a great bed time story. Sometimes you have to find a way to fulfill your dharma a little more creatively.

My daughter is really taken with the monkey Hanuman. I even love how she says it. I brought her back a t-shirt made by Third Eye Threads from my yoga training in Boston. It has a very girlie Hanuman doing titibasana on it. My daughter was beyond thrilled. I spent the next two nights reading children’s versions of the Ramayana.

I remember the first time I told Maddy the story of how Hanuman helped Rama rescue Sita. We went to satsang in Maui with Ram Dass. He had a beautiful wall banner of Hanuman and he started his talk with “so I guess we have to talk about the monkey..”.As he told the Ramayana , and how that related to his teachings of unconditional love and devotion he received from his teacher Neem Karoli Baba, I whispered the story to Maddy in kids speak. “The monkey is scared but he loves Rama so much it makes him brave. He runs and runs and jumps…all the way to the island where Princess Sita is being held by the evil King Ravana.”

We were the only people there with small children and my husband was worried about the fidgeting but we found everyone was so welcoming. I think Maddy fell for the monkey that night. She also likes Ganesha but I think how he got his head disturbs her a little….

I am always looking for new books on Indian mythology for my kids. My son is heavy into Greek and Roman mythology so I am currently looking for youth books on Indian mythology. If anyone out there has any good suggestions I would love to hear them.

And yes that is a real picture- no set up. That is exactly how I found her when I went to check on her the other night…dreaming of Hanuman.


Are you sure we are doing yoga or road construction??? October 28, 2008

I landed home from Boston at 2:00 in the morning on Friday, spent Saturday recouping and preparing, and on Sunday I taught my workshop. This was Hari Om’s first official workshop and I am please to say we ended up with 15 people. We even had a few like Marcia who came all the way from Kamloops! My friend Lara Luer who is an Anusara Inspired teacher in Chilliwack even came out. It is really a nice treat because students who come to workshops are looking for more. The have a sense of curiosity and wanting to grow their practice so they come into the room pretty much ready to learn. It was a great group.

The workshop was on the Universal Principles of Anusara Yoga. They belong to the second of the three A’s that guide Anusara Yoga: Attitude, Alignment, and Action. Sometimes Anusara can be billed as “all about spirals and loops” but really, it is a heart-based practice that uses the alignment to better refine so we can get more joy out of our practice. I could teach someone all the alignment principles , and it could better their practice,  but it wouldn’t be Anusara. This is what I was really trying to emphasise as I taught the workshop because we take a small part of the big picture and teach it out of it’s full context. I tried at the beginning of the workshop to create a framework for what was to follow so that the alignment was seen in it’s true position: second to Attitude. Attitude is saying- “I do this practice for something greater. I do this practice as a way to remember I am connected to something bigger. I do this practice as a way to go to my own heart. I do this practice as a way to teach me how to offer out my gratitude.” In a nut shell: I do this practice to remember and to celebrate- Chit/Ananda.

The whole gang! Or construction crew....

The whole gang! Or construction crew....

So the whole time I am teaching alignment principles , I am gong back to Chit/Ananda. I am hoping that I satisfied those that came for technical information, those that came because they like Anusara, and those that are just beginners on the path. It was a varied crowd.

The way I teach the Universal Principles of Alignment ( UPA’s) is through a lot of hands on, visual aids, and partner work. I am becoming known for my yards of flagging tape that I bring to this workshop. We all tie each other up in flagging tape to visually see where the spirals start and stop and how they move. It was a teaching method I stumbled upon when trying to get some clarity for myself and my teacher, Christina Sell, suggested I teach it to others- Voila- a workshop is born. The UPA’s are a lot to cover in one 3 hour workshop,  but I try to tell the students to just have fun and if they get one “a-ha” moment then that should feel good. One student, Ian, told me happily that just figuring out his back leg in standing poses was worth the cost of the workshop. So good to hear!

Marcia and Amy getting wrapped up!

Marcia and Amy getting wrapped up!

The arm test- Lynna and Karin

The arm test- Lynna and Karin

I think I carried a lot of shakti back from the training in Boston and everything I learned there about my weaknesses I started to work on that very day. I tried some new things which I like- (we will see how my regulars react!) It was a fun morning and the studio did a lovely job of hosting. We mananged a little water and orange break and then finished with a 30 minute practice implementing what we had worked on. I could see from my regular students movements that they had gained some clarity- everyone in the room looked really solid- and they even smiled.

They remembered, they aligned and they had fun- and they left feeling better about themselves. Welcome to Anusara Yoga!


Boston TT Level 2- Day 5 October 26, 2008

I am home. Completely the same and completely different. This is my third TT with John and I just keep getting clearer.  I was feeling pretty good because John asked me a question when I was a little off guard- I was actually laughing hysterically- and I just spit it out like it was second nature. Total thanks to Christina Sell for that one- her teaching methods really work. ( can you say repetition?) It gave me a sense of confidence . I felt now I knew better what my strengths and weaknesses were- which really is what you want out of a training like this.

 Day 5 was a focus onpurna– the sanskrit word for full or perfect- and shri – the sanskrit word for beauty.  The interesting thing about fullness and perfection is that every time you experience it the boundary line grows. For example, when I do a pose that is challenging but I get further in it then before when I come out I think “Wow- that’s it-it was so full- I could feel the growth.” I feel uplifted and elated. My pose might not have looked like something off the cover of Yoga Journal, but it was the fullest I had ever experienced it in my body. The physical boundary not just grew, but a spiritual boundary grew also. The universal gives you enough Grace to fill you up at that moment. You see yourself more clearly, you see greater connection to the world around you. The interesting thing is that every time you do that your spiritual and physical vessel gets stronger and the next time that happens Grace fills you up even more. It is limitless. 

So if our spirit and bodies are a vessel for Grace, then don’t you want to create a beautiful vessel? Doing things to ourselves that are self defeating, malicious, not in alignment with Nature, can create dents and dings in ourselves. We don’t feel worthy for Grace to fill us- we feel small. Grace can only fill what we have to offer. If we feel small the vessel is blocked.  If we align all our parts in a harmonious way- a way that creates spaciousness and strength- than even if we feel small sometimes- we can invite Grace to come to fill us again. We unblock ourselves and allow Grace to wash away that limited idea of ourselves as she fills us up. When we are full we are uplifted. When others see us in this state they are uplifted. This feeling is Shri.

Unfortunately, the feeling doesn’t last. We become cloaked again when we are pushed off center by life, but we can remember how to align again. The more times we do it, the less likely we are to let ourselves stay off center for long. One of the teachers there had a great story about always fighting with her sister and having a poor relationship with her. Her sister lived in Boston so she hoped that maybe they could get together while she was in town. Instead they talked on the phone and had a fight. She was totally frustrated but now, with her yoga practice, something that would have bothered her for days she let go 30 minutes after the conversation. She went back to her center. This is a great lesson. Yoga will not turn you into a saint- you will still fight, say unkind things or have them said to you, make mistakes, experience tragedy. You will be keenly aware of when you have come away from your center- your home- but you will have a pathway back there.

John wanted us to to answer the question  “How do you make beauty?” How is Anusara different than other systems? The answer is is the 3 A’s: Attitude, Alignment and Action.

Attitude: a willingness to see and to embody/express

Alignment: The knowledge of how to line up- creating structure

Action: actually doing it

I thought about it this way. I want to paint a beautiful painting- I am an artist- I am skilled. How do I do create beauty- create art?

Attitude: I have a desire to paint- to express my ideas and feelings on canvas

Alignment: I went to art school, I have all the paint brushes and paints, I have a good easel and good light. I prepare all my tools.

Action: I paint. But I don’t just paint- I stop and look at what I am painting and it re-inspires me and I paint more ( pulsation)


So what has this week left me with in retrospect? 

1) number one really was the bond I feel I began to create with Christine and Sjanie- they really are inspiring women.

2) The second was that I need to get my centering more concise- I don’t know if it will be only 6 words but the overarching theme might be. The theme doesn’t have to be so drawn out at the beginning of the class either- that was new.

3) Always say the focal point in the pose and to where and from where much more explicitly. There was a little group shakiness on this – every one was ” pull into your core”  “pull into your heart” when the focal point in the pose was the pelvic focal point.

4) stay with your theme- keep it simple.

5) know that you are on the right track.

6) chowder and beer with Sjanie in the Rosebud cafe is a good way to say goodbye to Boston.

Now I just have to go and implement all that stuff.


Boston Teacher Training Day 3 and 4 October 24, 2008

Trying to write...

Trying to write...

Sjanie studying

Sjanie studying

Day three did not get it’s own post. I just needed a night to rest my brain from themes- which is basically is what I do when I write my blog. John was really after us to condense more- could we get more specific? Could we summarize a person’s life in three words? Could we get so clear and concise on our themes we could summarize them in one sentence that was so potent we went straight to the heart of the teaching? It actually reminded me so much of Pamela Walsh’s 6 word diary ( my fellow yogini in Austin- check out my blog roll). She writes her daily diary in 6 words. So can I summarize a full day of teaching in one sentence? Wow could I do it in 6 words?….let’s try!

Day Three: Theming

Theming is remembering sat chit ananda.


Opposites bring us to the middle.


Themes are cycles, opposites-always heart.


Can you articulate how it feels?

Day 4- The Guru Principle

Any experience which expands the light


Experiencing dark helps enhance the light  


Gee- you are you! (g-u-r-u) lol


This blogs for you Pam- sorry to the rest of you that I lost. It’s a yoga thing.

Christine with a "Guru" onesie

Christine with yoga baby attire

Doing homework

Doing homework


Boston TT level 2- Day 2 October 21, 2008

Filed under: Anusara,kula,teaching yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 11:23 pm
Tags: , ,

Today was earth day- a day of cultivating stillness, steadiness. Unfortunately the only place I wanted to be still was in my bed. We got way too little sleep last night and we all paid the price today. I debated whether the earthy theme of muscular energy was a good thing or a bad thing. I mean really – when you are tired what makes you keep your focus, what keeps you mindful and builds the boundaries you need to hold you up? Muscular energy does that. On the flip side muscular energy is hard work and we were a little low on the energy scale. If we had done a water element today, I think we just would have all been puddles.

My brain is whirling with the download of info- which is interesting since I have now been with John in three teacher trainings. It’s not like the info is really all that different from what I have heard from before- it’s just that every time I hear it, I am at a deeper level of my training and new questions come- new perspectives. I love that. I love that our training is not static- every time it just goes deeper. It’s infinite- I will never know everything there is to know about Anusara Yoga. Just as John says every time he sees us he is getting better and more refined in his teaching, I am getting better and more refined in my studentship.

We spent time watching larger demo classes and then we would break away into partners and practice what we had seen and were guided to do. Sometimes I resonated- sometimes I sucked. I found- by no coincidence that the other teachers that I did the best with I felt a connection to…wow the teaching from yesterday. When you don’t have that connection it feels well..disconnected. My teaching felt awkward and insincere. I hope to do better tomorrow.

Well I apologize for no pictures today. We are not allowed to take pictures at training and I was just too exhausted to snap some shots during break. Off to do homework.


Boston TT Day one- Connecting the Pieces

Well- I am here in Boston. I spent the first day arriving here early and spending the rest of the day exploring my new neighbourhood. The loft we are staying in is near Davis Square in Somerville MA- 10 minutes from Downtown Boston and 5 minutes from Cambridge. ( I use www.VRBO.com to find cool places to stay- if you want to rent the loft contact Alex at CambridgeLoft@aol.com)

Well the loft is amazing- minus the fact that it has no separate rooms and one bathroom…and five people. Included in the group is a couple who don’t get to see each other as often as they like…so it’s a little like roommates in college where you discreetly bugger off for a while to allow for individual time. So far so good.

Near the loft is David Square T- station, Boston’s subway, and a killer crepe shop. I knew it had to be good when I saw their community board covered with yoga info. I had the best coffee and killer crepe- all bell peppers and spiced goat feta and spinach with portobello mushrooms- heaven! The making of the crepes was an art in itself. The crepe maker swirled the wooden tool to make the perfect thickness and then knew exactly the moment to flip it- hundreds a day all made with so much skill. Every crepe I saw come off the griddle were perfect replicas. Amazing.

I packed it in for a nap and the rest of the loft crew started to arrive. In our group we have Christine price Clark( Vancouver), Sjanie McInnis (Vancouver), Shelley Tomczyk (Vancouver), Brent Kuecker ( Portland) and me. It’s an amazing group and we are all learning and sharing together. It’s really nice to see Vancouver really stepping up and being so well represented.

After very little sleep- but a great Tibetan dinner with Brent- we got up early to start “the journey”. It was interesting to see how all of us were nervous and worried about being called on by John. We are all so well studied and should feel fairly confident in our ability but nerves set in and we start to feel small. We had many conversations today on “how to respond if we are called up”. It was almost like the alignment principles for demo teaching.

1) Breathe

2) Look at our group and know we fully support you

3) teach how you always teach- trust yourself- do not suddenly change who you are to be something that you “think” John wants you to be

This seemed to have a calming effect on all of us but we will see what happens when we truly have to practice it! The conversation got better tonight at dinner and we all agreed that if we are not our authentic selves when we demo teach, then how are we supposed to get authentic relative feedback? Why we would do that disservice to ourselves?

John started today with, of course, first principle- Open to Grace. As a teacher, we have to not just create a connection to the universal and to ourselves, but we have to create a connection to everything and everyone around us: more specifically our students. There is a method to creating this connection ; to creating cohesion. I think in some ways that this might be the hardest thing to do. I mean really- how do you get the students to go with you on this yoga journey for an hour and a half if you haven’t connected with them? They might be doing the postures but they aren’t on the journey- they aren’t connected to you and therefore probably not connected to the bigger source. This is one of the reasons John wants us to remember all of our students names. It creates a connection- the student feels that you value them- you value them enough to make that effort. If you make that effort for them then you start to build trust- maybe they will make effort for you- like really getting that front leg square in parsvakonasana. 

When the teacher gets the student to align with the greater flow two things are revealed:

1) They begin to see the interconnectedness between everything. It comes first at the physical level and then on a deeper more spiritual level. (chit)

2) They feel an innate freedom inside. There is a joy- a happiness. (ananda)

I love this because the Anusara method answers the question why? Why do we want to align? We not only want to align for optimal health or healing but because we want something even bigger- we want to align to experience chit and ananda. When we experience chit-ananda the most wonderful thing happens. We get happy. So simple- yet it is the thing that unites all of us- we all want to be happy.

I got happy and connected today when I got to finally meet Meg Abene Newlin from Wisconsin, Christina Sell’s good friend who is part of my “on-line” kula, and Tahnee  Fournier from Ireland. We have been chatting on line and supporting each other from afar for the last year so it was so joyous to see her in person and share food and conversation. She is opening up Anusara in Dublin people so go seek her out if you are there! The icing on the cake was to see my friend Marc St. Pierre- he was with me this year in Japan and he really enriched my practice.

My roomies, my homies, my kula!

My roomies, my homies, my kula!

Well the fabulous dinner is done and now it is time for our homework so I will try to blog more tomorrow.


Come join me! October 16, 2008

Filed under: yoga — shibuiyoga @ 8:51 pm


Bye Bye Kansai!

Well, that’s it. Osaka is over. Air Canada decided to cancel the route as of October 23rd and I finished my last flight there on the 12th. My flying life will now radically change and therefore the rest of my life will have to adapt. This is not a prospect I look forward to but I don’t dread it as badly as I had feared. I have used the looming changes to really savour my current blessings and to let them go as gently as possible.

When I first heard about the cancellation of the route, and then the impending layoff of 600 flight attendants, I felt sick to my stomach but I made a decision to just enjoy my last few trips as much as possible and to let the future take care of itself- it was out of my control. As I have said in past blogs, I believe that everything happens for a reason. One door shuts another door opens. Unfortunately, most of us are so busy still pounding on the door that shut behind us, we don’t notice the new one that opened.

One of the Yamas- or restraints- of yogic philosophy is aparigraha– non-clinging or non-possessiveness. It has been interpreted to mean an absence of greed, an abstinence from materialism among other things. I have thought of it as beyond just clinging to material things, but to things that naturally change in our lives. We become so set in our routines and what we think is our “right” that when anything upsets that, we become panicky and fearful. (I mean… I could start speaking on the current economic situations in the world and you would have a ten page diatribe on how we got there because we cannot practice aparigraha but I will leave that to the yogic economists out there…)   I chose instead to embrace the present and look for the new door when this one closed.

What an amazing last few trips it was! I think I gained 10 pounds from all the food I ate. I visited all my favorite establishments that I had come to know over the last twelve years and dined on gourmet noodles, sticky rice sweets, excellent sake and of course my wonderful coffee. I took small gifts of chocolates and cookies to all the shop keepers who called me a “regular”. The Japanese are serious about how they define their customers- being called a regular was an honour usually reserved for local Japanese- not for a foreignor that popped in once or twice a month. Many of them gave me little gifts back- a bottle of homemade soy sauce, a little trinket for my bag. It was sad and wonderful all at the same time.

I was happy to be able to mix my yoga practice into the ritual of saying goodbye because as my door on Kansai closed, it was just opening for my friend Mark. Mark has relocated from San Francisco to Kyoto as the newest teacher at Studio Yoggy. Mark and I met back in June in Yokohama and fast became friends. His Japanese is progressing at an astounding rate and he is doing most of his class in Japanese. This is no small feat in Anusara where we mix philosphy into the physical practice.

Mark moved to Japan just before my last two flights so I decided to catch a couple of his classes during layover. The first layover Mark was teaching in Osaka. “Nice and close”, I thought. Well….            

Mark was teaching at a studio location that I had never been to but I received good directions ( I thought) from the hotel and headed out early to his class- withalittle pit stop for coffee along the way! When I reached the station near the studio I again asked for clarification on the directions and off I went walking…and walking…and walking…until I came upon the next train station. I started to panic just a little as I spun my map around and around to line it up with the streets around me. This was not looking good. I then headed back to the main intersection and started to walk again until I came upon a shop keeper opening up for the morning. I asked about the location I was trying to get to and he shook his head and pointed back to the station that I had originally come from…1/2  a mile away. I looked at my watch and realized I had just 12 minutes to make it to Mark’s class. My heart sunk. All this way just to be late- how frustrating. I started to walk and being jet lagged and a little emotional I started to tear up a little bit. I never get lost in Japan! Why today? I looked at my watch – 8 minutes to go. I decided that if I didn’t make it to class that I would find the studio eventually and that maybe Mark and I could have lunch at least. I started chanting “Om namah shivaya, om namah shivaya..” and slowed down my frantic mind and just thought, “Go withyourinstinct.” My instinct told me I was on the wrong side of the station originally so to walk back up the opposite side. Three minutes later the whole map appeared in solid form before me – landmarks and all- voila- the studio. I ran in with5 minutes to spare and quickly rattled off to the bemused desk clerk my being lost …and late… and so sorry …and is Mark here?.. and where is the change room?.. and where do I pay?…and she looked at me with downcast eyes. “Mark-sensei wa imasen..Mark is not here.” WHAT? Shoot. Did I screw up the times? Maybe he was sick or something. As my mind played with scenarios the clerk continued, “Mark sensei wa mayochatta…Mark is lost.”

Come on. Was this seriously happening? Both of us lost? I jokingly told her that if Mark didn’t show up I could teach. The next thing I knew they handed me the phone to talk to one of the managers , my friend Tomoko, and I was asked to teach if Mark didn’t show up in 10 minutes. Talk about a strange morning. Well ten minutes later I started my impromptu  yoga class, withno prep, and 30 minutes later a very flustered Mark came into the studio. The poor guy- in ten years of teaching he had never once been late- he was beside himself. All ended well. I was payed back for my class fee- given a free class for the next week in Kyoto and payed for teaching the class as well! Mark even bought me lunch and we had a good laugh over how the universe likes to mess with you just to keep you on your toes!

The last trip to Osaka was the best- the most satisfying in so many ways. I started out with a late arrival into Osaka and ran in full uniform to my favorite massage place. They had been wondering where I was ( I don’t make an appointment in case of flight delays) and had just enough time to book me for what I call heaven- an hour and a half aromatherapy oil massage. As you can see from the pictures they are tiny but man are they powerful- it’s like they hone in on all the painful tight places. Like I said heaven- in a sadistic kind of way.

I woke up early the next morning to hop the train to Kyoto. The sun was shining so bright and it was slightly cool- just enough to tell your senses that it was becoming fall. I arrived in Kyoto to start my morning walk up Higashiyama- the same place I spent time in last New Year. The weather was perfect and the sun was becoming warmer as I climbed through the meandering streets. I took in every colour, every texture, every scent as I weaved further up the mountain. I stopped in front of a door way just to admire the simplicity and the textures that were contained in no more than 4 feet. A stone road led to a cobbled brick shoulder to a wooden ramp to another stone step upon which sat a bonsai in blue and white ceramic . Two wooden half circles supported the bowl and in behind was a wrapping of straw and framing the whole vignette was a slatted wooden door. So simple, so natural and yet so rich. It completely entranced me.

Textures of a culture

Textures of a culture

I climbed higher and higher to finally come to my favorite temple, Kiyomizu. Like a grand wooden tree house it seems to float on the mountain side. I came into the main part of the temple to pray and noticed my dragon fountain was out of order but was curious as to what seemed to be a special event going on. I asked one of the Japanese volunteers what was going on and he explained that the image of the Kannonwhich is housed inside the Hondo or main hall-  was open to public viewing today. She would only be open until November then again in March and then they would close the doors on her sacred container to not be opened again for 25 years.  It was the most magnificent hall- lit very softly along the sides. There must have been 50 statues of different gods and demons that protect the Kannon and all around them were hundreds of candles. Similar to lighting candles in church , in Japan you also light candles for those you wish to help or protect. The candles had paper wrapped around the bottom and you could purchase one, write your blessing on the paper and then light it and place it all around the figures in the shrine. Unfortunately due to the age of the relics no pictures are allowed so you will just have to go there yourself! I would suggest this November or next March as 25 years is a bit of a wait….

I wandered back down the mountain to make my way to Mark’s yoga class in Kyoto. He was very punctual and had prepared a wonderful class. Tim, a mutual friend that I had also met in June, was also there so that was a treat. My only regret is that if I had continued that route I could have taken more classes from Mark- I learned so much from him in even that short time. Aki, another teacher who I met last year in Japan, was also there and we rocked out astavakrasana in front of the amazing studio wall. She laughed and agreed that the studio was quintessential Kyoto ” Kyoto-poi“. I felt so blessed to see old friends and have them, and my yoga, as part of my last day.

Tim, myself and Mark

Tim, myself and Mark

I went home with my fantastic crew and I felt deeply satisfied with how I chose to say goodbye. In Japanese when you are completely full, nothing more can be added to the experience you say ” dai-manzoku“. It really couldn’t have been better and now I am looking for the next door. Bye bye Kansai!