Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Free Anusara Movie Night! August 29, 2010


Certification: The Process July 25, 2010

I debated what to call this post. For you see it has been so long since I have written because I have been in the “certification process” of Anusara Yoga and in the “process” have had little time to write as all my creative time ( what little I have) has been poured into making the video perfect class. So you can see there will a trade off for writing my blog and there will be no brilliant class this week but no worries..I am taking the month of August off teaching to recharge.

Everyone who is not in the certification process keeps asking me about it so I thought I would share my thoughts on it. First of all- it is not called a process randomly. The idea of processing has a faint hint of the idea of time in it and that definitely is true about certification. It takes time….lots of it. My nature is one of a pitta when it comes to time things…I think I have a personal mantra of ” get it done…NOW!” But then again I am a busy person with a busy husband and two busy children and another busy job besides yoga. It is not because I do not enjoy slow- in fact I kinda love slow but it seems to be such a rare element in my life. Christina Sell told me she got me to organize things for her once because she said that if you want something done give it to a busy person. Yup – that is moi.

But in the certification process you can not be “busy”- it is like making cider versus wine…I think. You see, I once accidentally made cider by leaving apple juice in a warm fridge in a motorhome that jiggled it for two days. Voila- cider. Wine can take years…I want my teaching to be like wine- full bodied, fruity, slight acidity, complex bouquet and just a little intoxicating. Cider is great but it isn’t wine…  Anything really worth while takes time- it should take time. At first I freaked out when the feedback I got showed all my little flaws that needed attention and the mala of heart came in but I now look back at where I started and how I teach now and I ask myself, ” Have you improved?” and I have. I have improved a lot…and I am still improving. But it takes time to take feedback, implement it and really feel it become natural to your teaching.

Now the feedback part- get ready for some things that may seem contrary to how your other teachers have taught you. This really can drive you crazy if you fight it ….”but this teacher said THIS and now you say THAT…” It is not that your mentor or board member is trying to drive you off the deep end but what they may look for in your teaching may not be what previous teachers taught. You might be more of a flow style teacher and they may have you teach all the poses from standing, you may be a real technical teacher and they will tell you to give the students more space and just move the shakti. Your brilliantly original classes that rock your students daily may receive feedback to simplify and go back to “inner body bright” rather than “the nuclear power of spirit rising through you like 4th of July fireworks” ..ok that was total nonsense but you get my drift. What they want to see in the video is the METHOD of Anusara.

The most brilliant advice I got from another certified teacher was just to do exactly what your mentor asks and then exactly as your board mentor asks- even if they are totally contradictory. It may seem contradictory but each teacher is looking for something in you that they base on what they think is valuable for an Anusara teacher- they are not trying to torment you. In the big picture having teachers ask you for something you may find almost counter-intuitive will only broaden your teaching skills and may bring something to your teaching that you had never even though about. It’s all good.

Written exam first or video first- that is another question I get a lot. That is like the chicken and the egg. I did my written test first and am now working on the video and I have friends who did it the other way around and loved that. I think it is totally personal. One friend commented that they would have written different answers had they done the test after the video but I still feel good about the order I did it in.

Now here is the stuff you need to know that other people may neglect to tell you.

You need your own video camera or total access to one..and a tripod. You will have to play with your camera a bit to figure out how to tape and then how to download videos from the camera to your computer and how to make multiple copies. This may sound easy- it can be difficult and time consuming. Also if you buy a Sony handycam it does not work with Apple..ya helllooooo…that was a cruel surprise. Thank God we have a PC laptop so I didn’t have to buy a new camera when the old PC quit and we replaced it with an Mac.

Start taping your classes now! Get a feel for how your class looks on camera and where to place the students. You also need to see where to place yourself for centering and demos. If the teacher viewing it cannot see it well they they cannot give you clear feedback. Starting to tape before the process can clear away the technical so you can focus on just the teaching. If you teach at a few locations tape them all- one may have better lighting and layout for taping and then you can compare them.

Teach the same class all week and tape the ones later  in the week if you don’t want to tape them all. I found I worked some bugs out in the earlier classes and wound up with a better class at the end of the teaching week that was more suitable to tape. You can tape all your classes and then just go back and watch the ones you think you really knocked it out of the park on. There are some classes you tape that you know will not meet the criteria and it is up to you but I usually delete these ones right away as the time to review a class can take 2-3 hours.

When you review your classes get out the criteria sheets for self evaluation and teacher evaluation from the Anusara website. Look for the things that the evaluators are looking for. If you miss more then one then it may not be “send in” material but check with your teacher about what they want to look at. Remember that could be 2-5 hours of their time to review your video.

Well that is about it. I could say more but really- you just have to go through it yourself. You will have your own experience of the path to share with others- hopefully some of this may help you in your journey. Enjoy the process….


Tokyo TT 2010- Day 3 Gratitude April 12, 2010

I left Japan on the most beautiful, sunny day. I had such an emotional morning with John and the kula that I couldn’t even write until I got home. I sat on the train to the airport watching the cherry trees whisk by and sat in contemplation of my training and life in general. 

I sat right in front of John on the last morning. It was quite funny actually because he was asking where Leanne was and the whole class laughed as I waved from right in front of him. I usually have been moving along the back of the room for most of the trainings and I think I surprised him. He asked me what I learned in the last week and I answered, “ That we understand the universal through relationship in the relative world.”  If you look back through my last blogs you can see that steady thread of relationship come up through all the teachings. 

The third morning we covered the subject of  Shiva-Shakti Tantra – this is now the way that Anusara is defined rather than the more general term of Tantric philosophy and how it differs from Classical and Vendanta philosophy. This is really key to understanding Anusara yoga and it’s life affirming teachings. All three forms are all looking for the same result- freedom ( moksha) but the approach about how to get there differs. Classical yoga, for example, uses kaivalya ( separation) to reach it’s goal. By separating yourself from everything that is inferior ( prakriti) – that is not Spirit- you get freedom. Vendanta yoga sees the problem as misindentification- “neti neti” not this and not that- the prakritic world is seen as maya or an illusion. These two paths then are seen as paths of the negative. 

Shiva-Shakti Tantra in comparison uses a marga of the positive or inclusive. It sees prakriti- the material world- as just a stepped down vibration of the universal. Body , mind, and emotions, seen as inferior or an illusion in other systems, are seen as just another form of ” rockin’ blissful conciousness”.  This philosophy sees the light of conciousness as expanding and as it manifests it actually goes into greater complexity and there is evolution. Things die and fade away but overall there is an energetic expansion. Have you ever met someone in their later years of life, stooped and wrinkled, but there is an inner power that seems to belay the exterior? I mean I know it fits the arche-type of the wise elder, but really, don’t we all want to grow and be wiser by the end? 

Part of a good evolution is that you make more beauty and love. Shri- often thought of as beauty- is about relationship as well. It is how the parts relate to each other that makes beauty. Beauty is kind of a funny thing to think of as science but it does often work that way. I believe I saw a program on discover once and they took pictures of people and altered them mathematically to make them “more beautiful”. Guess what the mathematical ratio was ..1.618. The ratio between lips and mouth , eyes and nose etc. Lenardo Davinici’s Vitruvian Man is also drawn in ratios of 1.618. What is interesting is that what we call symmetry is not “even”, it is not “equal” it is actually slightly…odd? All I know is that I like flowers in odd groupings of 3, 5, 7 rather than 4, 6, 8…it just someone how looks better to me. So what am I saying… I guess that relationship doesn’t always mean 50-50, balance doesn’t always mean 50-50. The back leg in a standing pose and a front leg in a standing pose don’t do 50-50…they create symmetry and beauty by the back leg doing more and the front leg doing less. This is shri… 

Live, love , laugh- my good friends Lauren’s life motto- was the next subject. Live fully– keep expanding your potential. Everytime you reach the edge your capacity goes up and your ability to hold the light is getting bigger so now your dharma is to live that new potential. Love much– this is about purna– fullness- and shradda– trust.  The deeper you can trust the deeper you can love. if you don’t have trust you can’t fully love. If you don’t trust the strength of your back leg your front leg can’t decend fully… Laugh often– how do you see things? What is your darshan  ( general view)? ( I think of this as the cup half full/ half empty view)  Can you see the wonder in the unexpected? Make your humour uplifting and expanding- never put anybody down. John said when you start your practice everyday to really think about how to live more fully and with more joy- the ripple effect will continue after your practice even if you are by yourself. If we are beings of energy how can this not be true? You know of places that have energy you can feel- good and bad. Imagine shifting energy just through your practice. It has been done. This one phrase that John said that morning really stuck out to me, “Expand the light and the dark will dissolve. It is better than attacking the dark.”  Whoa- I know a whole lot of people that attack the dark; “Life is hard- you gotta be a warrior” type people.  It may get the same end result but I wonder of the consequences along that particular path…. 

This talk on Shri went into the subject of hands on adjustments- SSA : Sensitive, Stability, Adjustment. So don’t be an ASS!….Oh, yes, I know that was a groaner but it will help you remember! I have to say that hands on adjustments are something I want to work on further because I have had some horrible ones in the past and some really amazing ones. The amazing ones where when the teacher actually barely touched me- or so it felt like that. There is nothing worse than getting “cranked” into a pose. I am sure many of you can relate. 

The last part of the morning talk I have no notes for…you see I was crying through most of it. John said he had been thinking about his dad the night before. Many of you have heard John talk about his mother but not as much about his Dad. What I didn’t realize is the similarities between John’s dad and mine. John shared his father’s story with us about being a blue-collar guy who never missed a day of work. His Dad never understood John’s crazy passion about Asia and yoga but bought him whatever books he needed and helped support his son’s love. John’s father, Clifford, lost his job after almost 30 years and was never able to find another because of his age. John kept saying, ” He was a good man”. I knew exactly what he meant. 

My father was a blue-collar guy who built concrete buildings and bridges. He started working when he was 16 in the mines of Northern Ontario and fate, thank God, brought him to the West Coast and the construction industry. He never missed a day of work. He was the first guy there and the last to leave. If something wasn’t perfect he would rip it out and start again until it was the best he could possibly do. He never gave you less than his A game. 

He raised four daughters. This great big man, with a mind of an engineer and a grade 6 education, had four girls. Rather than building things with him, we pestered him for money for clothes or movies etc.  I was the youngest. I didn’t pester him for clothes so much but he knew I had a dream of going to Japan. The farthest he had ever travelled was Hawaii- and that wasn’t until he was in his 40’s. We were never  spoiled in our house- but we got what we needed- not necessarily what we wanted. In 1985, my parents sent me to Japan- further away than anyone in my family had ever gone. I remember coming home and telling the stories of my adventure and I could see the light of adventure in my father’s eyes. What he could somehow never justify doing for himself he did for me. Like John’s Dad, he supported a dream within his child. 

My dad died 10 years ago and after receiving money from his estate that I put on my kids RESP’s and my mortgage , I kept a small nest egg aside. I held onto that money for a few years. I wanted to do something special with it- I didn’t know what- but I knew that it would reveal itself in time.  Shortly after my dad’s passing I discovered yoga. I dabbled in it but after becoming very sick with asthma, I decided to more fully immerse myself. I ended up using my nest egg for private yoga lessons and workshops. My poor dad would have been scratching his head and saying, “Yoga???”.  But I figure he was doing that with my little obsession over Japan so it couldn’t have been that surprising. 

What he never realized is that yoga makes me always think of him. His work ethic and sense of pride inspires me. I think of him after every hard practice and before every 10th backbend. I don’t give up. That would be dishonouring him. 

My father was a very quiet man. He had very few close friends- our family was his friends. He was a simple man- he didn’t have any crazy passions expect for being out camping in his motorhome. My father’s gentle soul could be seen on his daily walks as every dog and cat around would come out to greet him. In the campsites, wild chipmunks would even come up to talk to him and sit in his hand for a peanut. To me, that was just my dad, but I realize now that was a rare gift. 

Under all that gentleness though there was also a fierce protectiveness and a love of adventure. He had an Indian motorcycle in the 1950’s- he talked about how many times he almost died on it- but you could see the twinkle in his eye. My mom made him sell it as he was getting too many speeding tickets. He chose family safety over adventure. 

Every time I see something amazing on my travels I think, “ Hey Dad, look at that!” and I know he is with me. What he couldn’t do in life he now does in death- his energy vicariously travels the world with me – supporting me. 

When my dad died we could have written anything in the obituary. Between 4 girls and my mom we are never at a loss for words- no wonder my dad was quiet! But rather than writing a big long passage I looked at my sisters and said, “He was a good man”. They all nodded and my mom wrote it down. That was all we put.

I cried that last morning, not of of sadness, but out of love and deepest gratitude. I trusted my father very much and therefore I loved him very much. He was not perfect- none of us are. I learned lessons from him about how to live life and how not to live life. My circumstances are not his and may I have the ability to live even more fully- to have no regrets. Expand the light to diminish the dark…

So I knew exactly what John was talking about when he spoke of his dad. I knew a good man too.

Donald E. Weston- my dad


Tokyo TT Day 2- Harmony April 7, 2010


Todays’ over arching theme was harmony- or Wa in Japanese.  John bascially downloaded an immersion in one morning so there are a lot of concepts that I won’t go over and I will try to get to what I thought were some of the key teachings.

First of all Masa-san did the centering and invocation. His invocation was so deep the first OM semed to rumble out of the earth. I could literally feel the weight of history in that first OM. It suddenly felt like I was sitting in a temple hundreds of years ago witnessing a very sacred thing. I talked to a few others after and apparently I was not alone in my feelings. The whole group followed so beautifully and it was this low rumble of creation. My husband would have loved it!

Masa-san did a very good centering under a lot of pressure. I really feel for anyone that has to teach in front of John. I have never had to do it yet and I am constantly thinking “what would I say? Would I remember the teachings?”  I remember once John saying to us ” Don’t lose your mind when your teacher asks you something” but really- if you are not nervous and half out of your skin when he does, then you must not be human!

John told Masa to teach ” harmony” but rather than going straight there, Masa contextualized the teaching. He gave us the setting.

  WHEN/WHERE  You know how John is always telling us we have to know what time it is? This is part of the context. You have to set context first. Then you have to know HOW. How do you create harmony? Most importantly you have to know WHY. Why do you want harmony?

When we teach we think Attitude, Alignment and Action it is in that order, but for the students , starting to introduce the theme from the reversed order works well. Attitude is more universal and so it may be hard for the students to relate to right away- it is not so relative in the material world they have just left on the street outside the studio. The teacher must see what is in front of them, use their knowledge and then remember why.

Ok let’s see if I can do this ( sake helps??) Let’s take harmony again…

WHEN/WHERE  For example if I was to teach tomorrow it would be the 3rd day of a 5 day training- the middle- the peak of a cycle is the fullest- the highest beauty.  Lakshimi’s day.

HOW We have to really empty out anything that diminishes us – that makes us small inside- to make room for this fullness of this moment. We want our inner body to be filled with the highest beauty that is available today. We want to align our outer body to echo this fullness and beauty.  Both inside and outside come together in harmony.

WHY? Because when we experience beauty it leads us to our heart. When we are in our heart Grace decends and then we awaken to our true nature- we see the connection to everything (CHIT) and we celebrate that connection and create even more harmony ( ANANDA).

This may not be the best example, but you can play with this as a template and hopefully come up with something much more brillant. My motto right now is really trying to simplify my teachings but make them deeper. I have hope that this way of looking at teaching may help me keep my theme from having too many threads.

We spent a good amount of time on balance today. What is balance? How do you get balance? Again this teaching goes straight back to relationship. I had this “aha” moment when doing seesaw principle with my legs and realizing that was just another relationship. The thing about balance is that it is a relationship that can take you to the middle- and when you are in the place of the middle Grace decends, and when Grace decends you awaken and when you awaken you see the connection to everything and everyone around you and you celebrate that connection…… John reiterated this many times today so it continued to clarify that Grace is not the experience- Grace is the mechanism that allows for the experience- CHIT ANANDA is the experience.

This is really big because I hear so many teachers say ” then you experience Grace” but you experience Grace and then what??? It dosen’t stop there…when you experience Grace what happens??? Something else for the teachers out there to chew on for a bit.

Ok time to pack- half a day tomorow and then it’s homeward bound…at least I leave on a day of fullness and beauty!


Anusara Teachers Intensive Tokyo 2010 April 6, 2010

Inari Shrine- Shinto sees spirit in everything

I just left the girls and said I wasn’t writing tonight because I was so tired but here I am!  I practiced three times today so my body is a bit wacked out- my teacher says, ” Come practice with us” and I don’t even think I just go. Rare opportunity now a days.

Today was intro day for the teachers intensive and we started right into one of the most basic things to do in your class. Ready for this? Greet the students.

I know you think “of course” but in many classes, in many styles, this is not the case. We are making a safe place for our students where they feel welcome and you are building a relationship of trust. Saying hello and making someone feel welcome may do more than the whole next hour of asana. Such a little thing.

We talked about holding the space and making a “mandir” or temple and holding your intention from the invocation all the way to the end. The two highest reasons for practicing yoga are  CHIT and ANANDA. This is a spiritual practice that we do in our bodies. You have to tell the students why they want their arms straighter , why the need to pay attention to foundation. Many people come to me and say ‘” Anusara-oh yeah- spirals and loops right??’  I just cringe! At least more people are coming to me now and saying. ” Anusara- oh yeah- Shri and Shakti“.  It is easy to fall into the technical trap when you teach Anusara but of you do you are not really honoring the highest teachings and it just becomes a physical education class. They might feel really good after but it would be a good class- not a great class. How do you make good into great? That is what John is trying to teach us.

We spent the morning creating a class all together with a theme, a heart quality, and apex pose. We then looked at what type of poses could led us to the apex pose. John then took what we had created as a group and taught that class with lots of pausing for explaination and clarity. I think it worked well.

I am too tired to write more tonight but I will use Pamela Walsh’s 6 word story to summarize the day:

Always start from the universal-spirit

Manas sees difference- buddhi sees universal

Open To Grace has two parts

Inner body bright- melt the heart

Sequencing- Do forward bends before backbends 

Spirit- One light in many colours out

Alignment is rules without the why

Do not be dogmatic- remember why

Play your instrument in the orchestra

Celebrate diversity and glorify the universal

We are the embodiment of spirit

Inari - shinto god of rice, agriculture, fertility & business


O-Edo Onsen Day April 5, 2010

Filed under: Anusara,Japan,travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 12:40 pm
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Today was our day off between trainings and the weather was not cooperating. I had grand plans to go to Kamakura but Myriam decided a nice warm onsen would be much nicer. After a little research I found this tourist attraction onsen right in Tokyo called O-Edo Onsen Monogotari which loosely translates as the “Great Edo Hot Spring Tale.”..I know…maybe it’s a Japanese thing….

The onsen is a bit tacky tourist but I have to say – we had so much fun! First of all we found out that the posted price was reduced for their 7th anniversary so we got another 1000 yen off the regular entry ( 2900 yen) .We were like little kids giggling at every thing. We got to pick our own cotton yukata ( type of kimono) and sash ( which took us forever to decide on a pattern) and then we entered into the little town under cover they created. If you have ever seen Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away it reminded me of that. I wonder which strange kami I would have been….

There are all sorts of shops and restaurants inside with prices comparable to places outside so you don’t feel like you are getting taken advantage of being inside the facility. They have a system set up with an arm band with a bar code on it so everytime you want something- food, massage, gifts, – you just swipe your arm and the whole thing gets tallied at the end when you leave. It is a little dangerous though because you may spend more than you planned..( right girls..??)

The baths are very nice and they have outside baths as well, segregated for men and women. It was glorious to feel the rain come down and be outside neck high in hot water and sitting on rocks. It wasn’t Hakone but it was great in its own way. My dream is to travel to outside onsens all over Japan. Japan’s  precarious relationship with nature is what creates these hot springs, but you sit in them you look around at the trees and flowers and admire nature’s other more delicate sides. Something very tantric about that….

Just a note here to all my yogi friends : if you have a small tattoo you can cover up you should be OK but big tattoo’s are not allowed in most public baths in Japan so be aware of that before you go.

Many hours of soaking, scrubbing ( akazuri) and oil massage later, the three of us filled up on sushi and miso soup. It was a lovely slow, luxurious day.  I will have a good sleep tonight……


Tokyo Immersion 2010- Day 3

The Tokyo Puja

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Teacher- love/respect  ( maitri)

2. Student – compassion ( karuna)

3. Friend- happiness, friendliness ( mudita)

4. Enemy- peace, equnimity ( upeksha)

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

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

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

Tokyo Studio Yoggy


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

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

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

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

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

What a beautiful way to end an immersion…..