Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Be Here Now 40th Anniversary- Part Two October 18, 2010

” I am loving awareness” – Ram Dass

Day Two of the weekend workshop started with John Friend talking about the significance of numbers, rhythm, patterns and how they are all connected. I was scribbling down notes as fast as I could but to be honest as I try to read them back they are hard to decipher. You see my linguistic tendencies also came out of a need to avoid all algebra and stats classes….Japanese no problem…numbers……hmmm not so good….

I will try to find the highlights that were new to me and that don’t need deep mathematical understanding…

Today was 10/10/ 10. John took the number ten and explained as two 5’s. The flower of Shakti or the goddess’ is the red hibiscus..it has 5 petals. In the vibratory world, the highest vibration is white ( Shiva) and the slowest is red ( Shakti). I have no idea what flower is Shiva’s! So basically the number 5 is the number of life.

The idea was first there is 2, for example Sun and Moon. The energy between these contrary compliments is 3. The number 4 represents the stability that holds them in relation and 5 is the spiral….is the activation of the expansion and contraction of the relationship.

The number 10 is a 1 and 0. It is the creation of the binary rhythm of all life. There was something in there about the binary system creating wave patterns and that things like crystal and silica can resonate these wave patterns and that is why they are used in computers. The 0 also represents in Sanskrit “shunyata” – the void. But that which appears to be empty is completely full. The 1 then represents the sperm and the 0 the egg and from that all creation is born. Something to look up and research yourself when you are surfing the net.

We had a super juicy hip opener practice in which my leg was behind my head and I rolled down and back up but was too scared to stand up- that was pretty far for me already!  That may have been one of the deepest I have ever been in that pose. It also helps we warmed up for an hour towards it!

Ram Dass came back in the afternoon for satsang. Today he told the story of the Hanuman murti ( holy statue) that is currently housed in Taos, New Mexico. Maharaji’s devotee’s would build temples for him all over India. So Ram dass decided as a devotee that they should build a temple in America. The temple would need a murti so he went to Jaipur to the families that been making murtis for generations and found the family that specialized in Hanuman. Now usually Hanuman murtis are with Hanuman kneeling or Hanuman standing.  Ram Dass, recalling the story of Hanuman flying across the ocean to Lanka in the Ramayana carrying Ram’s ring to Sita, decided, since America was across the ocean, the murti should be of a flying Hanuman. Well, the family just looked at Ram Dass in astonishment. No one had ever made a flying Hanuman- how would he stay up? No, they didn’t want to do it.

I am not sure how Ram Dass persuaded them but somehow they agreed to make a marble Hanuman and created a large cape for him to hide the post which supports him in his flying pose. Hanuman then travelled from India to San Francisco where the devotees debated where he should be housed. One of the devotee’s had a farm near Taos so that is where Hanuman came to rest. That location, over the next few years, developed into what is today the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos, New Mexico.

One of the funny asides that Ram Dass told us is that to bless the murti- to breathe life into it- there must be a ceremony. He laughed as he told us their were two factions: one that  wanted Brahmans and a proper Hindu ceremony and the the others that were stoned and just wanted to climb naked into the crate with Hanuman. I never did find out which faction won out…..

Ram Dass then gave us all a great insight to his personal practice- his “sadana”. He explained he was a Bhakti yogi-a yogi who finds oneness through the path of devotion- and he said ” sadana, in my game- is who you think you are..and who you think you are is mostly based on fear- identifying with the individual “I”.”

He explained this further by saying he thought he was Dr. Richard Albert, he was a Harvard prof, he was a Freudian, he was a ..etc etc…all the titles and labels the individual “I” wants to hold on to. He said the real “I”  is not in the mind but in the heart and in the heart you are awareness.  ” I am loving awareness” – he whispered.” I am loving awareness”.

“You will never find your awareness”, he said,  “you ARE awareness”. “You stay there in your heart”, he explained, “and you stop identifying with all the thoughts.”

“I am loving awareness” is a thought but it is a thought that takes you to a subject not an object. You can’t focus on it because it is no thing, nothing…..it’s cool”.

” Everything I am aware of I love”, Ram Dass said. He talked about loving the wall, loving the room – it was quite funny. He then told a story about how one of his friends called him on it. It went something like this.

“So are you telling me, Ram Dass, that you love everything?”

” Yes”

“You love me?”


“You love that rug?”

“Yes- I love the rug”


His friend used to phone him and say, “This is your rug calling….” I just about rolled over laughing!

Ram Dass told us when he is looking at the world from his soul he finds the world beautiful and lovable. When you love the whole world, including yourself, you merge into a sea of love. There is no action, he explained, love isn’t action, it’s just merging. You don’t have to act. He then took a moment and looked around the room and smiled, ” this room is full of love”.

He then went back to the previous days talk of “being” and “doing”. He explained the difference between the Atman and the Jiva-atman- the One and the embodied soul. Maharaji was the Atman, on that plane, and Ram Dass was the jiva-atman. Seeing Oneness and being Oneness is a difference of spiritual planes of existence, he explained, and it takes Grace to get over that hump. He said that was interesting because people say they feel so loved when I am with him but he didn’t do anything. Wow- he thought- Grace is here- I got some of that. You get pure enough, he said, and then you wait for Grace.

John had a beautiful offering when he said that Ramakrishna had a saying about preparing your boat the best you can and then waiting for the winds of Grace. ” The waves will take you to the shore” John said quoting Rumi.

Feeling small, Ram Dass said, is a thought. Insecurity is a thought. Atman is so big- I am so small. The ego tells you that you cannot be him ( Maharaji). It’s still a thought- it’s who you think you are. You gotta be somebody before you’re nobody……

We seem, to me, that we have to shed the layers all over again to get back to that one original Atman…and  that is a part of the game- the sadana as Ram Dass put it- that we all have.

We then had a Q and A session with some interesting stuff coming up. We had the typical psychedelic questions- every time I am with Ram Dass this comes up- and he was good natured about it. He really nailed it when someone asked about getting to that plane of the Atman through drugs and Ram Dass said- ” it get’s you into the room but you can’t stay. All those guys [that took psychedelics] were nothing like Maharaji. He could stay in the room.” I then asked about Maharaji’s lineage as many teachers came from lineages ( ie. Nityananda, Baba Muktananda, Gurumai…) Apparently Maharaji was from a village near Agra but his beginnings are not well known. He was actually married with three children which I found surprising. According to his children he was a very good father- made all the marriage arrangements for his daughters etc. Then we had the most shocking thing occur- John started asking Ram Dass about his family. Family?? I thought….

Well,  apparently a man in his 50’s contacted Ram Dass because he looked so much like him and guess what…it was Ram Dass’ biological son! They just found each other this spring and this man has children so Ram Dass is actually a grandfather. When John said “How wonderful!” Ram Dass looked at him and said ” Why is it wonderful?” It really was one of the first times I saw John kind of at a loss for a moment. Ram Dass was really just making a point that love goes beyond blood and genealogy and that in the heart it doesn’t really change anything. I think he does secretly find it wonderful though! Wow-  I really didn’t see my question going in that direction. Quite the unexpected revelation!

John asked Ram Dass if he wanted to leave the young teachers with a message and this is what he responded:

” God is within you. We have to go inside rather than outside…what you want is what you already have.”


Be Here Now- 40th Anniversary Part One October 10, 2010


John Friend and Ram Dass Oct/09/2010


We are on Maui at a very special time. This weekend workshop with John Friend coordinated with the 40th Anniversary of the book “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass. At the end of each day of asana practice, we get the privilege of sitting with Ram Dass to hear his story.

John had started our asana practice with a talk about positioning ourselves to receive Grace. That nothing is random, he said, but maybe we just can’t see the beginning and the end because it is across such a long thread of time. Think about the last ten years…what were the highlights? What were the things that gave you big openings? What brought you here today to be on this mat in Maui? It was really crazy to think about.

I thought about how ten years ago my dad died. I was barely doing yoga. I started doing yoga from money he left me. I started in Ashtanga and then almost stopped practising all together until I met Christina Sell.That was significant. I met John 4 years ago in Maui- here I am 4 years later , in the certification process, with my mat in front of him in the front row. Wow- I have come a long way…….. I can see the thread very distinctly now. Nothing seems crazy or random- it just seems…well...right. Like the right in that deepest knowing inside of yourself – my soul knows what my mind can barely conceive. How wonderful!

Of course, to top this all off,  John dropped me back into a backbend. There is no way 4 years ago it would have looked anything like what it looked like today. It just felt so good and so right- no fear, no discomfort – just the deep knowing that I am where I am supposed to be...right here….right now.

When we started satsang with Ram Dass in the afternoon it was wonderful to see the love between the two of them. Ram Dass speaks slowly because of his stroke but John creates such a beautiful space for Ram Dass to take his time and chose his words.

Ram Dass asked us I we were all Shavaites ( followers of Shiva) , he said he had been a Buddhist when he met Maharaji ( Neem Karoli Baba) who was a Vishnuvite ( follower of Vishnu) but he said the most important thing was that we could all come together as lovers of God. “God is Krishna, God is Buddha, God is Us.” I will never forget that quote.

He then introduced his talk by saying, ” So how did “Be Here Now” get here now?” For those of you that have not met Ram Dass, he has an incredible sense of humour. He had us laughing a few times during the talk.

Ram Dass told us of his journey to India and how he finally wound up meeting Maharaji ( I will leave you to read that in the intro of Be Here Now).  What was new to me is how he explained he wrote the book during his “miracle stage”, the stage where he was still entranced with Maharaji’s ability to read his mind and know his secrets.  He said he missed, at first, the real power of Maharaji, which was his unconditional love.

From there, he told us the story of the book. You see Ram Dass didn’t plan on writing a book. His teacher, Hari Dass , told him that Maharaji had given Ram Dass his ” asherbad” ( blessing) for his book. ” What book??” thought Ram Dass. ” I guess I am supposed to write a book….” So upon his return to New York, Ram Dass wrote a book on travelling in India. No publishers would take it. Hmmm, he thought, guess that must not be “the” book!

Shortly after that, in New York, one of the group who had always gathered to hear him lecture gave him a stack of papers. “What is this?” he asked.

“It’s your words. ” the woman said. She was a stenographer and she had been writing notes of every lecture. Ram Dass threw the notes into a box in the back of his car and drove out to see friends. When he got to his friend John’s place, John was getting his suitcase out for him and saw the box.

” What’s that?” he asked.

” It’s my words.” said Ram Dass.

” Can I see it?” he asked.

” Sure- go ahead.”

So John took the words and when Ram Dass left he handed them back saying ,

” I have marked all the relevant stuff”.

Ram Dass then threw them back in the trunk of the car and drove to a commune called the Lama Foundation near Taos. While helping him with his bags, another friend, Steve, saw the box.

” What’s that?” he asked.

” Oh- it’s my words, ” said Ram Dass.

“Can I see it?” Steve asked.

“Sure” said Ram Dass.

Well at the Lama Foundation there was very little money but lots of creative people. As they sat with “the words” , five artists there decide to make pictures with the words. Slowly and surely, ” What’s that??” was becoming a book. A book with Maharaji’s blessing in it.

The group of them were then trying to figure out who would want such a book about spirituality and Oneness etc. Not maybe such a hot topic in 1970, so they decided that everyone who came to Ram Dass’ lectures would receive, for their $1 entry fee ( seriously? A buck???), the lecture and the book. But at that time the book was actually a paper box. The box contained: a book called “our story” now the intro to Be Here Now, a cookbook (!), a record, a large paper with quotes you could cut out and ” put on your fridge” as Ram Dass put it, another large paper with pictures of the Gods and Saints, and of course- the book-made of brown paper that looked like grocery bags and hand bound. Ram Dass jokingly called it “ the do it yourself kit”.

Ram Dass brought a bag up on his lap and John Friend, assisting him with much reverence, pulled out one of the original boxes containing Be Here Now. It was so amazing. Apparently 1000 copies were made. I have no idea how many are still  in existence. Out came all the little books and posters and quotes you could cut up and post- John held them up and we all marvelled at the humble beginnings of a book that has now sold  2 million copies.


Ram Dass with the orginal box of Be Here Now


In 1970, Ram Dass presented what was to be the book, as we now know it, to Maharaji. While looking at it Maharaji exclaimed ” Mistake! Mistake!” Ram Dass tried to explain to Maharaji that the second printing was about to start and the amount of money involved and they couldn’t stop the printing now and Maharaji said. ” Money and truth have no business with each other!”

Ram Dass ran off  to telegram Steve in Taos to stop the printing and fix the error. Steve said that the printing was already on the press- it was too late.

Ram Dass went back and explained to that it was too late. Maharaji asked him about he letter, ” Did you get the letter? What did it say?”

” What letter?” asked Ram Dass. ( thinking, ” if you know I got a letter then you already know what it says!!! “)

Going back to the hotel there was a letter for Ram Dass from Steve. One of the printing blocks was missing- they were missing a whole page of the book and couldn’t even locate the original. They could not print the book…..

They fixed the mistake and the book went into it’s second printing.


John holding up one of the posters with the gods and saints


We ended the day by Ram Dass talking about the miracle stage and the love stage. For Maharaji’s greatest power was his ability to unconditionally love. Ram Dass explained in the West we identify with our “roles” and in the Himalayas they identified with their “souls”. In Anusara, all of us have a “soul role”. Those two words sunk so deep, and rung with such truth, that it could become my mantra.

In honour of that unconditional love and 40 years later being able to see the greater message, Ram Dass pulled from his bag his brand new book, not even yet released, ” Be Love Now”. In front of all of us , John Friend became a recipient of one of the first copies. The official release will be November 2, 2010. Ram Dass left us with a last thought to ponder.

He said, ” I am trying to do unconditional love, I try but still…..I am doing. Maharaji didn’t “do” it, he “be’ed” it . Maybe for you as yogi’s , one day you will “be” the asana.”


Maui Therapy Training Oct/2010 Day 5

” The heart is in every cell of the body” – John Friend

This morning started by John asking us to condense all the information of the week and come up with some key principles. These are a few the group came up with:

– Go from the Highest- universal perspective

– Listen and Open – let go of some of the paradigms, be open to shifting

– Curve then length ( form then action)

– Polarity vs Duality

– The cure is in the poison when applied in the right amount

– Stability leads to opening ( stabilize the periphery move from the core)

– the governor of the back is the legs

– intentionality is fundamental to change

– Good alignment is good therapy

and my own that I never said out loud, therapy is establishing a new dominant pulsation in the body.

So Ivy came back today. Yesterday she sat with us after she told us her story and she stayed on stage with John as we all prayed and chanted and guess what….. she came back feeling better today and JOHN HADN’T EVEN TOUCHED HER!! By just listening to her story and making her comfortable and giving her hope, she had already started to feel better.

John said that the krama ( order) of therapy -after first principle- is to go from the ground up. John did a lot of root work on the pelvis to make the energy go down ( apana vayu) because after any trauma the body will naturally pull up energetically.

After grounding her a bit then John went through the following~

1) diagnostic

2) Manual shoulder loop- keeping an eye on the chin level

3) side body long from the back- pulling shoulders onto the back

4) felt the fascia of the head diagnostic

5) neck therapy by one hand on occiput and one on forehead to create a vector by squeezing the two towards each other as she relaxed tongue and jaw and she did shoulder loop for herself

6) diagnostic

7) kidney loop manual adjustment ( she did shoulder loop and John observed the energy in the head and neck

8 ) Standing forward bend with wide stance. ( Better to repeat than hold) John noticed a slight torque. stabilized her coming up to keep the rooting.

9) Laying supine. Tell them you are going to touch them before you do. John rooted her hips straight down and told us to be aware of when you are over top of someone to be slightly off their midline as being on the midline is too invasive.( *this was a really great point)

10) worked her feet a little to get the energy once again to move down

11) aligned all the body: feet up- femurs rooted and inner spiral, kidney loop, shoulder loop

One of things I noticed that I had not addressed in my own thinking was the trauma and what it did to her energetically. The rooting of the energy downwards in the pelvis  and in the feet was really a key point.

We then put everything on the board that we hadn’t yet covered that people had questions about. We grouped them and the started with the most gross ones ( structural things) to the subtle ( auto-immune).

It got a little crazy so I have only a few points on some varied topics. Obviously there are more in depth things you can do but some of these the basic thing to look at.

TMJ- usually flat neck 9 out of 10 times. Balance shoulders and build neck muscles. Don’t be surprised if their mouth  guard doesn’t fit.

Sciatica– Rubbing the piriformis dosen’t really work as it is a receptor of tightness in another area. A diagnostic is putting them on their belly and watching to see if the butt lifts up when you fold back the leg. Get the quads stretched out and the psoas flowing downward. Check spine after if no relief because it could be a disc issue. If after all that still pain send for follow up with MD.

Osteoporosis– get the alignment and then the circulation will flow better and the minerals will be in better dynamisim. Moving is better than not moving.

Knee/ACL– “drawer test” as diagnostic. Sitting  on the floor get the client to put foot on your foot and keeping the base often tibia back, track foot in a line as you move the leg up and down. Will also help reduce swelling in the knee. If you are getting ACL surgery tell them not to tighten it so much and then work the principles like crazy as the surgeons will tend to over-stabilize after injury.

Migraines- usually related to levator scapula and the rhomboids. Tends to be that the migraine presents more on one side. Often migraines have to do with environmental triggers etc which are out of our control but we can help mitigate with good alignment. Viparita karanai ( legs up the wall) may be used as treatment but it will initially INCREASE the severity of the migraine. After 10 minutes bring them up to sit supported at the wall and as the blood drains down it will often take the migraine down significantly.

Colitis/ Crones- usually have a flat thoracic. get the curves back in the spine and work on getting the energy to flow downward as it is usually stuck or flowing upwards.

MS– Most MS clients have a steady raised heart rate all the time. Use a heart rate monitor for accuracy and do variation exercises to get the pulse up and then go into a deep relaxation and when heart rate goes down for a bit go back to high heart rate activity and repeat. Short burst of activity and relaxation will help reprogram the pulsation of the body.

My mind is now feeling very full. What John has learned over 30 years he passed down in 5 days- it was incredible.  I was thinking if I could condense all 5 days of therapy training into one sentence what would it be……

“Honor the Spirit and align the outer form – from that all freedom will flow”

om namah shivaya


Maui Therapy Training Oct/2010 Day 4 October 8, 2010


Haiku heaven......


I am pretty tired. I don’t usually say that on my blog but it’s the truth. The information download this training has been so great for me that I am really starting to feel I know nothing….

So how appropriate that the day started with feeling. The most important thing in good health is attitude. Our relationship with our student/client is not so much about what we just do and say but about what kind of energy we put out. If you are tired or sick how do you work on people without getting drained? How do you work on people that are energetically pretty low without getting dragged down with them?

Years ago John talked about taking the seat of teacher in an immersion. In many ways it is no different in therapy. You have to make yourself a pillar of light that can go into other people’s energetic field to be sensitive to what they are feeling but not to be dragged into it. I had one student that used to drain me ( John called them energetic vampires!lol). She was so energetically negative that I would be so happy when she would not come to class. It wasn’t until I truly took the seat of the teacher, both energetically and mentally, that she no longer had that pull on me. I could teach her unaffected. So it goes with therapy.

You have to prepare to touch people- you are in an energetic relationship. You need to have your own physical practice to keep your body strong and your own spiritual practice to keep your light strong. I have a little ritual I go through before I start therapy sessions of washing my hands and visualizing the light in side of me and then making a subtle barrier on that light so I can shine it out to be more sensitive to what I see, feel and touch but that it cannot be affected by what I encounter. I think of a hurricane lamp- lots of light but the wind cannot blow it out. You have to make yourself a great big energetic field of light. I also pray, ” Grace please come help me help this person”- and if I do help them in some small way I give that back to Grace as well…. and my teachers. John had a great way of putting it,” You are tethered to the Universal as you come into their field”.  I love that.

We transmit Shakti or energy in 4 ways~

1) Touch

2) Eyes

3) Voice and words

4) Will or Intention

This is interesting to me because unknowingly I have been doing this and watching what I say and think during a session. This is intuitive- all of us have a level of intuition and psychic power but we tend to dismiss it. Learning to trust this again and use it is very important.

We started the morning working on sensitivity exercises to see if we could tell stuff about another person holding hands with our eyes closed. People were surprisingly accurate- it was very cool. We then worked on shoulders and getting the inner and outer deltoid to move at the same rate as the arms go over head. We were supine on the floor for these so it was nice to practice options for clients who don’t have the stamina to stand for so long.

Urdva dhanurasanna backbends were next. We then worked on back bends on the wall on blocks for students who cannot get their forearms parallel to the floor. One of things John mentioned was that we can take the blocks wider to help them with the arms. We also talked about legs in backbends and two things came up: 1) burning thighs and knees- more muscle energy on the underside of the leg by pulling the heels towards the pelvis more 2) sore back from legs splaying out- make sure the outer thigh and inner thigh are moving at the same rate as it is more likely that the inner thigh will move faster ( too much outer spiral) . The last thing we talked about was necks in backbends. One of the girls had herniated discs so John made her go very slow and created the curve of her cervical and kept it the whole way through the back bend. Stopping on the top of the head and rooting the forehead and keeping the head back all the way up and then coming back to the forehead before coming all the way down was key.The neck discussion led into some great neck therapy by creating curve first and then length- one hand wrapped around the occiput and one hand on the forehead. It felt great!

In the afternoon we looked at friends who had Fibromyalgia,  rheumatoid arthritis,  and other auto immune disorders. It was actually a very emotional afternoon. Most of our other friends had been guys with some mechanical stuff but the stories this afternoon were very deep and so was their pain. The skin on one of the friends was spongy and felt distinctly different to the touch ( I have to go by what John and another student were saying). It was like there was a spongy layer before the muscle. As John said,  it was like the facia had actually come away from the muscle and bone in the trauma of their accidents. To touch it softly was painful but when the pressure was applied evenly and the skin, fascia and muscle where brought right to the bone and held it brought relief and you could, after a few minutes of therapy, feel a change in the quality of the skin and layers underneath- a firming and holding.

One of the other points that was brought to our attention is how the student lays down and gets up after therapy- especially with neck issues. Getting them to roll to the side to transition is much better. Their hands when on their bellies should also be forward or under their heads as when the arms are along side the body the head of the shoulder tends to drop. Great little observation things.

One of the friends today cried. John talked about how it is important to let them cry or breathe through their mouth to let that old stuff clear but to remind them of the positive. “That incident is over now and I am going to try to help you the best I can and now is going to be the time to heal.” ” Let the new form take shape and let the old stuff clear out” such a beautiful way to honour the client but encourage healing….

The last part of the afternoon was a crazy hodgepodge of stuff that was all so great but I have no time to write all up. Lets see if I can condense it.

Concussion/head injury– squeeze uniformly on the fascia of the head to take pressure off

Thyroid– shoulder stand or Viparittakarani to get the glands working more effectively and getting blood to flow the other way. Make sure the kidneys are supported in legs up the wall.

Low blood pressure/ dizziness– keep curve of the neck especially in uttanasana- take the time to create that at the half way mark.

Restless leg syndrome– work on the pelvis to get the energy going downward ( apanavayu)

The last task of the day was homework: Here is the scenario~

Our friend was struck by a large heavy wooden lid of her hot tub while lying in it. It struck her on the top of the head and pushed her down into the water as the lid closed on top of her. It was February of this year. She had a concussion. Now her arms are constantly aching in no particular area ( systemic) and she has difficulty raising her arms above her head. She gets headaches 1-2 a week.

Make her a 15 minute routine.

You can do this at home with all of us here and I will share on tomorrow’s blog what we call came up with and you can comment on what you thought might be appropriate.

Good luck- we can compare answers tomorrow!


Maui Therapy Training Oct/2010 Day 3 October 7, 2010


Shiva dancing in hibiscus


“When we rest we rebuild and we are reprinting on to the matrix that we established during the day”. – John Friend

What kind of matrix are you building for yourself? What are you creating for your mind and body during the day? This is how day 3 started. John discussed how even the layman could look at a cell in a microscope and tell the difference between a healthy cell and a cancer cell- there is no harmony to a cancer cell – it is misshapen and ugly.

The body will produce all new cells within 7 years. In 7 years you will not be the same as you were right now- the body holds such an amazing intelligence. You have the ability even at the cellular level to change- how incredible a gift.

We worked on the hamstrings for the morning. Any good yogi worth their salt will tell you when they hurt their hamstring…mine was 3 years ago almost. It still twinges at the thought of Visvamitrasana……

Back to the previous days the most important thing is attitude. Check. Now the next thing is alignment and the hamstring muscle and fascia tend to spiral AWAY from the midline. So to stretch it affectively you have to align the hamstring taking into consideration the spiral of the muscle. You then have action- You must engage the muscle to stretch it. One of the things that has proliferated the stretching world is that to stretch the hamstrings you must engage the quads ( I know I have heard that) but really to stretch the hamstring you have to ALIGN ,ENGAGE and STRETCH the hamstring. Wow – I know – novel concept.

I know when I tore my hamstring ( I think I blogged it way back…) I told everyone that Christina said I had to go back and do the pose ( or a close one to it) I hurt it in. So I healed my hamstring doing uppavista konasana and hanumanasana- yes splits. The secret was to go very slow, keep super strong boundaries of the lower legs,  then hold the muscle and fascia to the bone and engage it has I turned the hamstrings and widened them from the insertion up to the origin of the muscles. It was intense and slow but it did the job. The poison – in the right dose- is often the cure according to John.

When you hold the muscle to the bone- especially an injured one- there is a calming that comes. I want to ask John but I think the premise is when we get hurt the muscle over stabilizes to protect further injury and actually cuts some of the blood supply which affects the rate of healing and also the tightness of the muscle. The best time to work on an injury seems to be immediately. The longer you wait the more overly stable and more scar tissue builds up in a reactive way.

One of the other points that John emphasized in the morning session is that EVERYTHING IS A DUAL ACTION- it is Shiva/Shakti. In actuality, it is the hallmark of the method of Anusara Yoga. You cannot do muscle energy without organic energy, you cannot do inner spiral without outer spiral, shins in thighs out, seesaw principle etc.

We did a whole bunch of hamstring therapy on ourselves and once again if I get a chance to make it in a form you can see then I will. Think parsvakonasana to trikonasana with super muscle energy and super shin in as you manually work the front hamstring with your hand. My heel was digging into the mat and pulling back isometrically so hard that I thought I was going to wrinkle the mat up. We then also did the same in prasaritta , uttanasana with arms wrapped around the shins and purvottanasana. Think the most major shins in thighs out you have ever done…and then multiply it by 10X. That is how hard we worked the legs this morning! I think my legs are still a little in shock……


John brought a Pez dispenser to help us.......


Ok- How do you get someone to work that hard? Muscle energy and steadiness and ability to hold is a discipline. How much you can discipline yourself is directly related to meaning. How badly do you want to get better? How much do you want to get out of pain. For those of us training and not in pain it was “how badly do you want to serve?” That was a big bunch of people wanting to serve today!

We helped each other in Uppavista konasana- the most common seated pose to hurt your hamstring in- and I got to work with Carol Wray. Carol is my good friend and fellow Inspired teacher from Surrey B.C. What I like about working with Carol is that we both do a lot of therapy and we can use each other as resources and practice buddies. One of the key things we both noticed in Uppavista when going to align the hamstring in an inner spiral as that the heel has to really be anchored and working. If the heel lifted during the adjust then much of the stability was lost as well. The two pints that we really needed to anchor were heel and INNER KNEE . We went from bottom of the leg to top ironing and rotating the fascia and muscle. As the student bent forward,  John asked us to look to see if the legs splayed out and if they did then sure enough the inner knee had lifted and muscle energy was lost and therefore stability.

We also worked on janu A ourselves and looked at how to stabilize knee pain by leaning TOWARDS the sitting bone on the side you are folding in. I always tell my students to let their foot roll out and use their muscles rather than their hands to pull in their knee to keep the groin soft but putting more weight on that side makes it even better! If you are dealing with someone with  a rebuilt knee or knee replacement then you can close the joint first ( knee towards chest) and then take the folded leg out to the side as a unit. Once in the full pose, lifting the bent leg heel to engage the side of the calf muscle ( peroneal muscles) will also help relieve knee pain.

In the afternoon we had some friends of our group come in to see how we could learn to help them. Two of our friends had plantar fasciitis so that is what we started with. One of things we noticed right away was that both of them had almost arch in their foot. By slightly elevating their foot on a rolled sticky mat and getting them to firm the shins and then place the foot in order ( big toe mound,inner heel- stretch across the transverse arch to the pinky toe mound and then outer heel) an visible arch was created. If you have a student with it in class they can do standing poses with the front foot working on a rolled mat like this- uttanasana, trikonasana etc. After class yesterday I actually did some research and I found that the most common treatment for plantar fasciitis was anti-inflammatory drugs, orthodics and soft shoes and a recommendation of no stressful exercise.  There was almost nothing on physical therapy…..

Next we looked at the Achilles tendon and on a friend who had it surgically reattached.  One of the worst things you can do for it is the classic runners stretch- you know when you hand your heel off a step and create a really deep angle in the ankle to stretch the back of the calf? Yup- I used to do that one too!

The technique that is more effective is to raise the heel with the toe mounds on the floor and get the calf to engage strongly. From there- keeping the engagement start to stretch the heel towards the floor. The other thing John did was actually work on the surgical area. Sitting on the floor he placed the friends shin on his thigh so the top of the sin was raised and heel on the floor ( think seesaw principle) . He then went to the SIDES of the scar and kept pressure there as he moved the foot. You could see the difference in blood flow in just a few minutes. The next one was similar for the treatment positioning but he used one hand you really work downward pressure on the ankle and keeping that again put the foot through a variety of positions flexing and rotating different directions.

We then went to each other and worked an S-curve massage on the feet. You basically stabilize one part of the foot as you move the other back and forth or figure eight. I laughed when we did this one because my husband and I do this for each other when we sit on the couch! I had no idea it could be used as therapy it just felt good and after my husband broke his foot here a Maui a few years ago it seemed to make a big difference. Hmm- who knew?

Carol was up next which an old surgery in her ankle and after she was finished with John I got to work on her which is so great. You can’t really do a lot of this stuff on yourself because you can’t relax and just work what you need. We got right up under Carol’s scar and pushed it to the bone while we worked the ankle in different directions. It was painful for her but she had much less pain and greater mobility after. I wonder if it lasted? I will ask her today.

One of the most interesting things we looked at in the afternoon was scoliosis. One of the ways you will see it in one of your students is in uttanasana. If they are wearing a tight shirt it will show up very distinctly. Scoliosis is measured in degrees and at 50 degrees doctors usually put a rod in your spine. Darren Rhodes , who is the poster boy for Anusara Yoga,  had 45 degree scoliosis- after doing what John suggested he is now down to 10 degrees. The key is to de-rotate the spine using the strength of the muscles to pull it back in line. Putting the student on all fours, you start by seeing the dominant and subordinate areas clearly. To align you get the subordinate areas to brighten and the dominant areas to release. I found this interesting because rather than looking at the bones we were really looking at the skin and muscles. The muscles will eventually influence the bones. Twisting is effective too using the same technique of brighten the more collapsed areas and softening the more dominant areas. One of the keys was to work the non dominant side twice as much. Putting student in balance poses that create instability where also effective for building strength and balance in the non dominant side. We just did a simple hand and knee pose with one leg up and opposite hand up and moving the arm and leg side to side very slowly keeping them parallel to the floor.

The last thing we worked on was the lumbar spine that had injury. We felt to see if the vertebrae were posterior or anterior, if they had a slight twist, and then used twists and inner spiral to get the spine to line up again. The sacrum has to work very hard in these to move in and up. The vertebrae then need to create the visible trench on the spine and widen away to free them back to their proper alignment. We got to work on each others back and once again , thanks to my husband, I am really good at aligning vertebrae while someone is laying on their belly. I took one of the biggest guys in the room and had no problem getting him aligned. He looked a little amazed….

John said something causally at the end but it really resonated with me- “you have to make harmony with whatever you got.” For many of us there will always be something that is not ideal or perfect- and I am not just talking about the physical here. We have a choice to become despondent and angry or we can chose to make harmony. That is why attitude always comes first……

wonder what tomorrow will reveal?


Island girls- Kathryn Wiese- Big Island and Samantha Fox- Kauai



Maui Therapy Training Oct/2010 Day 2 October 6, 2010

Filed under: Anusara,teaching yoga,travel yoga,yoga therapy — shibuiyoga @ 6:20 pm


Ganesha- remover of obstacles


Day two started with me being positioned between two Hawaiian Certified teachers- Samantha Fox and Kathryn Wiese. Samantha is on Kauai and Kathryn is on the Big Island. It was so nice to be sandwiched between such sweet energy- like getting hugged by the Shakti. Check out their sites- Samantha has an amazing retreat coming up in November if you are thinking Yoga holiday.

Today was a focus on the shoulders. John started by saying that everything in nature has curve. When you take the curve out of something it loses it’s juiciness and becomes drier.To bring good health to the body it has to just recreate these curves so the vibration can flow in alignment and things that are ” stuck” so to speak get cleared. All experience and memory carries a wave formation. The idea of the therapy is to create a new wave form that is stronger than the old one. The new experience has to be stronger than the old memory. By holding the alignment in place and just breathing we start to create new patterning.

The shoulder is one of the most articulate bones in the body. It does not fit into a cup like the hip and basically is held in place by the rotator cuff muscles and the small ledge of the clavicle and the border of the scapula. This freedom allows for a huge range of motion but also for high chance of injury. I see a lot of clients with shoulder issues- even I have shoulder issues once in a while!

No matter where you are in motion, the head of the arm bone has to go back. The more forward it is the more strain there is on the rotator cuff muscles and more shortening and hardening on the front of the deltoid. One of the places to start is to get the clavicle- you know that part on skinny models that is always sticking out around the collar- well actually that bone should not be highly visible. For me that was my first big “aha!” years ago when I started Anusara. I had a very defined clavicle- my father called it stooped shoulders- and my neck was highly developed at the back ( trapezius and levator ). No wonder I was hurting my shoulder doing chataranga- my shoulders were always rolling forward! As soon as I learned to make my inner body bright the clavicle would disappear and I could more naturally draw my shoulders back with tightening the the back of my neck. It is a great landmark to always look at the clavicle of your client if they are coming to you with a shoulder injury- it will tell you a lot right away.

When we reach for something the front of the shoulder ( deltoid) tightens and becomes dominant and the back of the shoulder over stretches and weakens. Think of driving, working on the computer etc- we are always reaching. When we reach we often round our back in the process and take the shoulder blades ( scapula) off the back. All the weight and focus happens in the front of the body and we do not co-opt the back muscles that should be firing. Why is that?

John explained that the face muscles get the most brain space and our hands- guess which gets the least? Yup- your mid back. It is the most primal or unevolved part of our bodies- we barely know it is there!  Good news is we can work to increase the kinesthetic understanding in our backs and start to increase the pathways to get it to work more efficiently. When the mid back fires effectively than the front of the shoulders get softer and there is a lessening of the tension in the upper back  and neck ( levator and traps).

The back of the body is less evolved but it is the source and you have to go to the source to access power. I think it might have been Martin Kirk who talked about fetus development starting from the back and then moving forward. It may be less evolved but that doesn’t lesson it’s importance.

An interesting side note here is that when we move from the front body it activates the sympathetic nervous system. When we move our awareness to our back body it activates the parasympathetic nervous system. Often just by taking your awareness there you will notice a distinct calming of the mind and body.

One of exercises we used to get some kinesthetic understanding back there was to go to cobra position very low and then squeeze a pen in between the side of the body and the armpit. I had done something similar with Des but with hands of a partner there…pens are much harder! John said to even try index cards…. yipes! Try to see if you can move from plank to cobra and not lose the pens. It is very difficult.

The rotation of the arms also affects access to certain parts of your back. For example if you are in Down Dog and your inner edges of your upper arms are rolling down that will cause the head of the shoulders to drop. If you roll the inner edges skyward but the lower arm does that as well that is also not good. The upper arm must rotate up and there must be an equalizing pulsation by the lower arm bone rolling down. Make your arms straight and strong and then look for three points: outer elbow, inner deltoid, and outer shoulder blade- all three of these should be lifting in an equal rate away from the floor. Keep that and then work the spirals of the arms by get the upper arm bone to rotate up and the lower arm bone to rotate towards the midline. You know when you are activating your shoulders and mid back correctly because there is a softening of the upper back and a lengthening of the neck that happens right from the thoracic spine. You feel freedom in the head and neck yet steady and stable in the mid back.

The hands in Down Dog should also be working effectively and you can check this by palpating the lower arms. The underside should be strong and hugging up and in ( especially at the underside of the wrist- the retinaculum) and the top side of the lower arm should be softer. When students do not effectively claw the hands you will see the opposite and this can be very hard on the wrists and can translate up into the shoulders.

It is really important to take small rests in between working the new pathways to give the body time to assimilate. John described it as letting the ripples of the pond settle. Give the wave formations a chance to permeate and steep in the body.

The afternoon started with John talking about radio frequencies. For instance with a digital radio if you put in 99.8 you get music but if you put in 99.7 you get static. We want to always be seeking the home frequency where the universe plays- the optimal blueprint. We find that by using diversity to find balance. There is an order to finding the frequency.

When you hit that frequency two things happen- 1)you get an internal illumination- you get a direct experience of connection to spirit organized in form 2) you get a freedom- a quality of the heart. You cannot have joy with freedom- they are all connected. All you need to do is have one moment of hitting that frequency and then you never forget- it shifts you inside. You might get frustrated because it is short lived and difficult to find again but you cannot give up- it will happen again.

We spent the rest of the afternoon working on keeping the scapula on the back in all positions of the arm. It actually is possible- though really hard! By getting the arm stabilized we could freely move the scapula. and then we would stabilize the scapula and move the arm. They can move independently of each other but most of us are unaware that is possible or even that it is better for us.

We had a lot of partner work in the afternoon but, since I can’t draw on my computer, me telling you without showing you the exercise would be difficult. Maybe after all this is done i can do a little photo or video blog with some of the exercises. No photography is allowed in class so may just have to wait on this.

One of the last things to leave you with today is the importance of touch. When you are adjusting someone or doing therapy on a client the steps are the same. 1) Be sensitive. Give yourself a little time to feel the other persons energy and to ground yours. They will pick up on you and you will pick up on them- listen to that. 2) Stability. Stabilize the periphery and make the person feel secure so they can relax. Once you can feel that then you 3) Adjust

After an adjustment you should ask questions. Be aware of the type of questions you ask. For example if you say” So- how was that?”  They may say ” Good” but does that really tell you something? Open ended questions are not going to serve you or the client.  I always use what Christina Sell taught me years ago- “Better, Same, Worse” . It gives the student the ability to tell you it is worse or the same without feeling they have disappointed you and gives you clear lines of when something is effective or not.

OK- off to day three……..


Maui Therapy Training Oct/2010 Day One October 5, 2010


BJ, Skeeter and I


Welcome and Aloha~

I am in Maui for John’s therapy training. It has been so great to reconnect with old friends and meet some new ones in person ( I have a lot of “cyber” friends that I met in person today- Hi Katie and Jeremiah).

Day one of training was already so full. I felt like I just wanted to take all the training today and go work with it for a month and then come back for day two! I have been trying to really pay attention and focus and make lots of drawings so that I have good reference material to go back and look at when I need it. I hope I can decipher it all later…..

John started the day by talking about the deep order in nature, in fact he defined Anusara as ” to be in the flow of Nature”. He showed us the curl of the ear and how it is the same shape as a fetus and how that same curl is in the hand when turned on it’s side and the hand is curled shut. He said the body is complex but to not confuse that with complicated- that the very complex is “simple” multiplied. Look at the big picture and you will see the larger order of nature.

The next interesting thing he brought up was that even bone when you look at it has a spiral. If you follow the spiral it will flow in the direction of the midline. I found that really crazy and I now want to go look at some bones to see if I can actually see that…( John kept saying to us to challenge him and stay open so I am going to test this one out…no dogma for me…)

As the body moves from the core it grows in complexity- it evolves so that the hands and feet are an evolved part of the initial core of the body. There is a natural growth of even a seed-  the roots go down and from the stem it branches out into greater and greater complexity. I think of the flowers on the trees as the most evolved form of the plant but all of the plant – the roots, stem, branches all came from the same core. Even trees spiral- look from the top of the tree downward like you are in a helicopter-  and you will see the arrangement of the branches spiral- it is not a coincidence.

John carried this thread through to the fact that the person who is now standing in front of you did not come to you by chance. The person in front of you is there for a reason- you might not be able to see why- you will probably never know why- but they are there for a reason- a deeper pattern. When someone comes to us and says “my knee hurts” our tendency will be to look at their knee right away and just start working on the knee. Instead- he explained- you have to step back and be like the Sky- first principle- be open. Feel the person’s energy- is it going up or down? Look at them and see the person- not the knee. Look for the beauty.

Now I know that may sound so simple but so many therapists and doctors do not see the person- they see the knee, the bad back, the rotator cuff etc. When you touch someone to do therapy on them it is not just mechanics- it is a deeper expression of empowering someone to find the supreme intelligence inside themselves. Somehow they cannot hear that intelligence anymore and if you just mechanically move them there is no shift of the inner self to help them learn to listen again.

When you are bringing someone into alignment in the outer form of the body you are actually affecting pulsation deep within the body. If the rhythm or pulsation is too fixed- no ups and downs – (think sitting on the couch all day and then going to bed vs cardio during the day and then deep sleep at night) then actually that is UNHEALTHY. There should be a variety to the pulsations of the body- ups and downs in the rhythm of blood, lymph, organs- over the course of the day to bring optimal health. Our form will actually affect these pulsations so by aligning the outer form in a more harmonious way the form becomes a better conduit for the pulsations- nature comes back into alignment.

When you look you may also see parts of the body that are dominant and other parts that almost seem dark. By quieting the dominant parts and shining more light into the darker parts you also bring alignment to the outer form and the pulsation flows better.

We focused today mostly on the pelvis. It is really the core of the body- the seed so to speak. We worked on really understanding how the head of the femur moves in the acetabulum and anatomical neutral was for the hips. You guys know this one?  On your hands and knees. When you are on your hands and knees the head of the femur more naturally roots into the acetabulum- it’s when we stood up as a species that problems seem to have happened. John said “imagine you painted the head of the femur gold- when you are on hands and knees you can’t see the gold- the head is so firmly nestled into the hip but when you stand up you could see a ridge of gold at the femur- the head moves forward and out”. Most of us have feet that turn out as well- that is also dictated by the hips. Much lower back pain can be relieved just by getting the femur to move back deeper into the acetabulum.

We then worked on getting the curve of the low back. In yoga, forward folding can cause more problems for people with low back issues- it can actually make things worse. Create the curve of the lumbar first and then lengthen. If a student cannot create the curve, they should not be folding forward and trying to lengthen.We looked at where the apex of the back should be- at the sacrum- and then noticed for many people it was L-4. We took some students and worked on getting the curve in the low back by taking their hands further ahead and their feet wider in uttanasana and then getting the upper trochanter to get in line with the ankle. The legs are the governor of the back. I am used to looking to see hips over feet but the trochanter and the ankle are landmarks on the side of the body that will help me a lot in the future. If your student cannot do uttanasana you can create the same actions with hands on the wall or hands on a table.

John explained how he also discovered muscle energy and why we hug from the periphery to the core. All muscles have an insertion and an origin. The origin is more stable and the insertion is more flexible. From the core, the muscles have their origin and as you move away from the core they have their insertion. He said if you stabilize the more flexible part than you open the fixed part. “Stabilize the periphery and move from the core” I have heard this many times but I never thought about it in relation to origin and insertion in muscle. Very cool- can’t wait to share that with my physio friends…..

There was so much today that I just can’t get all of it down but there is one other interesting nugget I got. Have you ever been told that one leg is longer than the other?? Do you know how small the chances are that the bone is actually different in length? Very , very small…. the leg length is usually due to muscle and soft tissue pulling that leg up, or forward etc. You may have better luck working on the psoas etc then going to get it pulled by the chiro every week. ( but I do love my chiro for getting my SI back in when it just gets to cranky for me to stabilize and pull back in myself anymore)

One last thing I wanted to share was muscle monitoring.  Sometimes where we think the issue is is just a muscle trying to tell you that something else is having a problem. How about that knot in your piriformis ( butt cheek) that won’t go away- things like sciatica. The piriformis has a direct relation as a monitor for the psoas. If you can get the psoas to release, get the thigh bones to move back more into relation with the acetabulum, suddenly piriformis calms down. The muscles of the buttocks are all monitors of tension in the thighs. Stretching the thighs  with good alignment may be better than a massage of the butt cheek- though massage does feel pretty darn good! Another one to go talk about with the physios….

So today in a macadamia nut shell~

Sky– look at the energy and feel – be open- don’t get stuck in paradigms

Earth– stabilize the periphery and then go to the core

Water– create curve in the lumbar by taking the femur heads further back into the sockets and getting the sacrum to tip in

Fire– root the tailbone only enough that the action is down and forward but that it doesn’t over-ride the femur heads

Air– root down and rise up keeping all the previous alignment

Need to sleep to getting to open and absorb for tomorrow!