Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

The Seattle Chickwagon February 25, 2009

For the third year in a row now, we packed up the 7 seater Ford Explorer and headed down to Seattle. This years group included Lauren Hannah Roegele from Live Yoga, Sarah Plantenius from Tofino Yoga, Carol Wray from Live Yoga, Sjanie McInnis from Yaletown YYoga, Trisha Wilson from YYoga and Yoga Pod and Laurie Inouye from Yoga Pod. All of us are Anusara Inspired teachers so there was a whole lot of yoga geeking and general shakti mayhem whirling around- it was heaven. The funniest part of the drive was crossing the border. When the border guard asked about why we were going down etc and I showed him the paper work for the conference. He said, “$150 bucks for yoga? Where is this guy from that’s teaching?” We respond together in the chickwagon, “Texas!” The border guard looked at us and said straight up,  “Texas??? I think you all are getting ripped off- have a nice day.” Hilarious!seattle2009_252seattle2009_2551

Our normal house we rent was not available so we had to rent a new one- great view on the lake but we are all now convinced it’s haunted so next year we will have to find new haunts! Hahahaha. Yes- that was bad. I think I will have to be faster with the house next year and get back our old place.

We made it down to Seattle in great time and grabbed dinner near Pike Place market at a cool Thai place Buddha Belltown. With dishes like Succulent Swimming Rama and Pulsating Noodles (which were excellent…) how could you go wrong? The funny thing was we were heading for another restaurant and this one just called to us on the path. Love when that happens! We made to the very cold and slightly creepy house and stayed up way too late and talked of course about yoga. We actually talked a great deal about certification because we are all heading that way some day. After calculating my hours,  I realized that I really should hop on the full path to certification. The idea of taking a vacation to write my 30 hour exam doesn’t thrill me but I figure they can mail it to me in Maui and I can rent the cottage there and delve in deep study for ten days. If I get stuck I can always traipse across the ravine to Ram Dass’ house and, under the guise of borrowing a cup of sugar, ask a few questions! Sjanie has bit the bullet, so to speak, so I figure I might as well too- I like having a study buddy and a hand to hold in the labyrinth of mystery we call certification. Not having a certified teacher in Vancouver does make the process a little bit more shrouded.seattle2009_233seattle2009_238

I started Saturday with John by plopping  my mat right beside him. That would have terrified me a few years ago but I know I am flawed and need work and who better to call you on it than the source. The theme of the weekend was Maha Shivaratri– the “Great Night of Shiva or I guess “Great Shiva’s Night”. It is one of the major Hindu holidays and it is the 13th moon of the year when the moon is a fine sliver of light and has an almost purple cast to it. That last sliver of a moon before no moon is known as a Shiva moon but the one that happens in February is the darkest one. Hindus who worship Shiva will chant “Om namah Shivaya” all though the day and night in Shiva temples throughout India while bathing the statues in the temple with water and milk.seattle2009_242seattle2009_248

Om Namah Shivaya is one of the grat mantras- a maha-mantra– and though it is translated literally as ” I bow to Shiva” it can also mean ” I bow to myself”. Shiva is the light of our own consciousness, that which illuminates the darkness which we often dwell in. When we chant ” Om Namah Shivaya” we are saying I bow to the light within me that brings me from the dark ( ignorance) into the light (revelation of our true Divine nature).  The significance of Maha Shivaratri is that the moon is at it’s waning- just that last flicker before we are plunged into darkness. Shiva plays his role as destroyer in that last flicker as what once was will never be again and something new is created as the dark suddenly pulses back to light. John had a good description of a black hole sucking everything in – even the dark itself-  and suddenly on the other side imploding into a new star.

As we practiced on this very auspicious day and chanted and mediated we put our greatest wishes into our prayers.  The  13th moon, with Shiva’s power to transform from dark to light,  takes that wishes and magnifies it a thousand fold. I had to think very carefully about where I wanted to put my thoughts that weekend so I could harness some of that power. We did a really great practice with a potpourri of poses and my backbends felt great though my once broken hamstring decided to get achy. It’s like an annoying relative that comes to visit at the most inopportune times. (“HI! I ‘m, Baaaa-ck!” Oh just go away- I don’t have time for you. ) The afternoon practice was much more of the same and it felt good to not feel freaked out about what poses might come up. We all commented at lunch that the poses were not as challenging as past years but one of our group said, ” John must be looking around the room and teaching to the group- might not be strong enough to go deeper.” He confirmed that observation the next day when John said he couldn’t take us to the next pose until 50% of us had our head off the floor in dwi pada dhanurasa. Adam Ballenger was the certified teacher assisting John this year and he had a really sweet vibe to him and a deep and yet humble practice. He has an amazing story.

 Lauren, with her lovely baby belly,  couldn’t do a lot of the deep poses she usually can so for a few poses she just watched all of us. She was more excited than me I think when she noted how much my backbends had opened. In her words my dwi pada “rocked!” She figures practicing next to Sjanie is good for me!seattle2009_270seattle2009_267

We had a quick dinner together at a funky place in Ballard called the Root table Restaurant– Thai fusion tapas- and then headed back for Kirtan with Shantala , Gina Sala and Steve Gorn. We were lucky to have them musically accompany us all day during practice but being able to chant kirtan was an even better way to celebrate the music. It was a great way to end the day….but then we got home and even though we were so very,very tired we still talked until late.seattle2009_239seattle2009_259seattle2009_262seattle2009_249seattle2009_260

The next morning we were up and out early had a great backbending break through morning- ( ie. head resting in arch of foot with both hands on foot ekapada rajakopatasana….) and then had an adventureous time during the break when we headed to Fremont and caught the Fremont market. Sarah was in heaven! Filling our bags at the PCC ( think Whole Foods) we wondered the market finding wonderful treats such as raw local honey and home-made hummus and babaganoush that is the best I have ever tasted. The young Israeli couple doing the cooking were fab and I really wanted to give them a plug in my blog. Go seek them out- so worth it! I bought six bags of my favorite tortilla chips and poor Lauren had them all around her feet in the car on the drive home! We also found the Theo chocolate factory in Fremont and tasted some of the wickedest chocolate ever. I recommend the Coconut curry chocolate bar- not because it was so good but just because it was so totally weird! My husband couldn’t stand it but I was strangely entranced by the flavour combo. Laurie was crazy about the Chai Tea bar. They give tours with lots of samples for about $6 so check it out.seattle2009_276seattle2009_274seattle2009_275seattle2009_277

We finished the afternoon with one of the most powerful practices. I don’t know what got into us but it was like Kali- Goddess of destruction – Shiva’s consort in this waning period- seemed to come out. I was doing backbend dropbacks like it was nothing and Sjanie channeled the Goddess and pulled out the most amazing Durvasana’s I have ever seen. She was right in front of John and she just killed it! She was one of maybe four people in the room that could do it. I was so desperate to capture the moment I made her hold it for a whole extra minute. We were screaming our heads off like teenagers. You would have sworn we had all done it we were so ecstatic. It was a great moment.seattle2009_281seattle2009_264

We said our goodbyes to our friends from around the Anusara community and then packed back into the chickwagon minus Trisha who left to continue studying with Desiree that same week. We had groceries, yoga books, new yoga clothing and yoga music to bring home- I have no idea how we and all our stuff fit. Sjanie thinks it’s Shakti.

It was a great weekend, and though seeing John is always a blast and a blessing, hanging with my yoga girlfriends is really the sweetness of a delicious workshop.

Om Namah Shivaya~


Free Anusara Inspired Class Feb.25 February 12, 2009

Filed under: Anusara,teaching yoga,yoga,yoga and community — shibuiyoga @ 6:38 am



The Yamas and Niyamas: Anusara Inspired Flavoured February 4, 2009

Filed under: Anusara,teaching yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 10:19 pm
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I have been teaching the Yamas and Niyamas, ten ethical precepts, in my Anusara-Inspired classes for the last few months. My girlfriend likes to call them the Yoga 10 Commandments. It was an interesting way to learn them a little better myself. The biggest challenge was to interpret the Yamas and Niyamas from a more classical vein into a more Tantric/Anusara vein. I wrote the Yamas into my Christmas blog and by request (Pauline); I am going to describe both the Yamas the Niyamas as I taught them. What I am saying here is “This is my interpretation“.  John Friend, or a certified teacher, might not agree with me or have a completely different spin on them, but it was a great exercise in analytical thinking and adapting classical yoga material into a heart-based teaching. I have put the classical interpretation in regular script and my interpretation in italics. The first 5 are Yamas, dealing with the external more so, and the Niyamas are the next five and they deal with more internal observances.


Ahimsa: (non-violence) Non-violence towards others. This includes animals, which is one of the reasons many yogis are vegetarians. 


 By loving ourselves and remembering our true nature we are naturally more inclined to love others. We do not obstruct the divine flow. In asana, this also means we go to our edge but we never push so much we are in pain.


Satya: (truthfulness) Speak the truth.


Be truthful to who you are and where you are in your practice. Speak the truth to others in a way that doesn’t hurt them (the first Yama) I always remember John talking about the gates of speech when I think of this one.


Asteya: (non- stealing) Do not steal from others.


 Be full in your experiences and let others be full in their experience. Do not rob yourself of the joy of new experiences- do not steal another’s pleasure by being jealous.  People often steal because they feel they are lacking so remember that the first principle in Anusara Yoga reminds of our fullness: purna.


Bramacharya: (celibacy) One should abstain from sexual intercourse except for procreation because it depletes the body.


Yeah- mama. This was a fun one to teach…I went at it this way:  Have the conduct (charya) of God (Brama).  Do not let small things in life take you away from the bigger picture. God is all seeing, can you spread you awareness to encompass more than one thing? We should live our lives in moderation and consideration of all things. We should have integrity in our relationships.


Aparigraha: (non-coveting) Do not covet or horde things. Do not covet things that belong to others. Do not cling to material possessions.


Everything has a time and a place and we have to sometimes let things go when there time is over; both people and things. By letting the things that no longer serve us go we actually make space for something else. When we let go of something, or someone, or some idea, we have space in our lives for other things, experiences or ideas to enter.


Saucha: (cleanliness) Our bodies and minds should be clean and purified.


Do you notice when you walk into your house when it’s clean you seem so happy and when it’s a mess you get angry? (Ok- maybe that’s just me….) Making your place to practice simple and clean, having a clean mat and natural light all bring saucha. Eating organic food, recycle – all these things can be saucha. At the heart level we come to every practice with a fresh attitude. Though we may be troubled or injured we begin on the mat like a clean slate waiting for Grace to write on us. (Of the 3 A’s in Anusara Attitude come first for a reason)


Santosha : ( Contentment) Rest or ease of mind in one’s current situation. To be with out envy.


If our true nature is “always present and full of peace and completely free” why do we feel so discontented? We feel content when we are truly aligned with Grace- we feel content when we remember our true nature. When we are misaligned or feel separate, than these feelings of unease and discontent come up. In a way it is a reminder to come back to the place of the middle. You can look at unhappiness as way to remind you that your true nature is not in alignment with your current situation. On a subtle level this is reflected in the 2nd A in Anusara- Alignment.


Tapas: (austerity)  lit. “heat” or “glow.” Sacred heat generated by certain physical or spiritual practices; ritual self-purification; austerity. A process of transcendence through continued effort, experiencing the force of evolution in life; heat; austerity


Tapas helps us burn away the cloaks that cover the pathway to our heart. It burns away obstacles in our path but it also lights the way with its glow.


Svadhyaya: (Self- Study) Self reflection. Study of Scripture or Sacred Texts. 


Tapas clears a pathway to the mirror, burns away the layers so we can see in the mirror but when we look into the mirror what do we see? What information and wisdom do we gain when we look into the mirror? What is reflected in the mirror is only valuable if we choose to look at it with the openness of self reflection. Often the study of texts or scripture helps give us insight into what we see in the mirror and how to deal with it.  To discover who you really are is one of the greatest rewards of Yoga practice. We may, or may not, like what we see, but our past inherent responses to daily situations, and our habits, give us measurements to clearly see which path is our proper direction. Anusara is a practice where we actively do svadhyaya in the asana practice. The poses themselves become a tool for self reflection when done in that inquiring, active, mindset.


Ishvarapranidhana : ( Surrender to God) Surrendering to the will of God, surrendering the fruits of your action to God.


The quality of our actions is more important than the end result. In Anusara we have: Attitude, Alignment and Action- the 3 A’s. Attitude still comes first and then alignment and then action. Most of us focus on the actions and therefore miss a whole journey along the way. The other interesting point is that with English language surrender can mean to “give up” to not try. In Anusara, we start with first principle, a big “YES” to remembering we are part of a divine connection that goes through everyone and everything. It becomes more of a joining than a surrendering. We then effort, we do the pose to the best of our abilities and training, but what we surrender is the outcome. We can only surrender the outcome if we remember the first principle in Anusara “Open to Grace”.