Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

How Do You Climb A Mountain? August 22, 2011

I climbed  Mt. Fuji in 1992- coming up 20 years now. I remember how hot it was at the beginning station during the day- upwards of 30 degrees Celsius and we waited patiently for the sun to go down. Ideally you climb Mt.Fuji in the chill of the night so you can be at the top to watch the sun rise over the land. As we started our ascent on the slippery volcanic rock I just kept thinking, ” One foot after the other- one step at a time. Don’t go so fast you burn out from the elevation, don’t go so slow you get cold and cramp up- one step at a time.” So step by step we climbed the mountain.  Most climbers had wooden walking sticks with us that had a Japanese flag and some small chimes attached.  The rhythmic sound of bells accompanied all the climbers steps echoing brightly in the utter darkness. I chatted occasionally with those in our group but mostly I just listened and felt- we were walking up the greatest geographical icon in Japan. A mountain whose mere glimpse will often bring tears to Japanese eyes. Yet the path wasn’t particularly scenic it’s mostly black volcanic scree and it was also the middle of the night. I sometimes would look up the mountain to see little lights ahead of us- small headlamps attached to helmets or hats-  like fireflies dancing to the sound of the bells.

I would get tired on some parts or slide and slip on others but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to find a rhythm in the mountain- something I could follow. I wasn’t a yogi in those days- I was a 22 year old straight out of university following my dream. Living in Japan, climbing Mt. Fuji- all these radical new experiences that I was trying to absorb. It was like trying to do your dance to some music you had never heard- clumsy, awkward, and naive. Somewhere about half way up something changed and it was like the mountain and I were suddenly in relationship. The rhythm came and the effort softened and suddenly the dark wasn’t quite so intimidating.

We reached the top at 3:30 am and had to wait until 5 for the sun to rise. It was -3 Celsius at the top. I could barely make out a torii gate as we shoved cans of hot coffee into our pockets to keep warm. At 5 am the sun rose on Fuji, a line of orange to start and then breaking into reds and yellows- so bright it was almost blinding. The torii gate became illuminated in the morning colours and we looked out over the lakes and mountain below us. We had made it- one step at a time.

I thought about this climb a lot lately because I have often thought of the certification process as climbing a mountain. We often start out with a group of friends, a guide and high energy. As the journey continues some friends take different paths, others give up. Our guide stays with us for a certain amount of time and then they too leave us- they have taught us all they can and they point to the path ahead which you now follow on your own. You get tired, you want to quit. At that point you and the mountain have to come into relationship. It’s just the two of you now. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other….and suddenly….without quite believing it’s true- you are at the top.  The sun has risen and you have “upeksha”, the wide sweeping vision like that of an eagle, and what you realize is that the mountain was you all along. You were literally climbing through the layers of yourself. As soon as you realize that, the mountain dissolves and you are left with a new path in front of you….that leads to another mountain. One foot in front of the other…. beyond certification.

On the day that Anusara turned 14 years young, I reached the top of the mountain and passed my certification video. To my friends who started this climb with me- I love you all. To my teacher, Christina Sell, who encouraged me to climb the mountain- thank you for your belief in me. To my teacher, Robin Golt, who let me radio in to home base when the climb got tough- thank you for your wisdom. To my husband and children who put up with this long climb of 6 years- I could never have attempted this without your support. There are no words for all the love I have for you. To my teacher, John Friend, who gave me the best damn map to get up that mountain- thank you and deepest gratitude. You made sure I saw all the highlights and beauty along the way. To my father who’s work ethic never allowed me to give up- I miss you- I know you wouldn’t get this yoga thing but it’s a big deal. To all of you who I have met along the way- thank you for your encouragement . You know who you are.

Love and light~

” It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”~ Sir Edmund Hillary


Am I a serious yoga teacher? April 24, 2011

The benefits of my job- Cherry Blossom Viewing Japan 2011

“Yeah- I am quitting my job to become a serious yoga teacher”.

This is a phrase I overheard that sent the anava-mala landing with a resounding thud over my heart. Serious? I still have another job. So what am I.. yoga teacher “lite”? I feel suddenly small and inept next to the yogi that has given everything up to pursue their full-time yoga teacher dream.

Thankfully the veiling is short-lived as my pitta heats up my vata mind and I think from a clearer place, “Good for you- hope it makes you happy.” I mean really, they could have been miserable at their “job”. And what do I have to be insecure about? Looking at my hundreds of training hours, weeks spent away from my children and thousands of dollars I have spent- I am pretty darn serious about yoga. So why do I feel I am suddenly less ” serious” than the other teacher?

So why don’t I quit my other job and do nothing but teach yoga? Well quite frankly it is not fear- it is actually the opposite- love! I love my job. Just as much as teaching I love to fly to Japan every week where I can pray and meditate at a temple, or do a rockin’ yoga practice for three hours without distractions. I have used my layovers to visit yoga classes in other cities, sneak in a yoga workshop, read yoga books, write about yoga, or just sit a beautiful museum, art gallery or garden and contemplate my yoga teachings.

On a practical level, flying pays for all that yoga training and gets me, at a discount rate, to yoga trainings around the world. It also pays for the karate lessons, gymnastics, and water polo lessons of two young children- which may be much more difficult on a “yoga-only” income.  Also  there is no better practical application for yoga than being sealed in a metal tube with 300 people for 11 hours. If you want to practice patience and loving kindness , try it 37,000 feet in the air. Really – you have no idea how many hugs I get as people get off my flights.

As my yoga career grows and I delve deeper into the world of yoga therapy, moving slowly closer to Anusara certification, I am getting asked more and more if I will quit flying- like one precludes the other. How do I answer this?

Yes, it would be nice to focus just on yoga and be home on a weekend for a change. That said,  flying actually brings a balance right now. It gives me perspective outside the yoga world and allows me to apply the teachings in creative ways off the mat…it can also make for some great themes!

I believe that we need to make room for all that serves us and when it doesn’t serve us anymore it just naturally falls away- no regrets or sadness- just the natural transition of life. Maybe one day that will happen with flying but until then it serves me- why change it?

So, am I a serious yoga teacher? Yes, I am ….and a serious wife , mother and flight attendant. But who wants to be serious anyways? My teaching style is actually known for a great deal of laughter.  I think I prefer the term sincere…….sincere yoga teacher…….  anava-mala  be gone!


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…..


Tokyo Immersion 2010- Day 2 April 3, 2010

Stone Jizos holding the jewel of light to lead us from the darkness....

Today , as Skeeter said, was a really good day.  John’s overarching theme of the day was relationship- a carry over from yesterday and how do we have a relationship with Spirit, how do we have a relationship with others, how do we have a relationship with ourselves.

How do you know your yoga practice is working? This was John’s question he put to us. He explained that you know because you come into better relationship with everyone and with life. You experience harmony- peace, love, happiness….why is that? Because when your yoga is working you align with Spirit- you experience it- it makes you feel amazing.  Many times we will say ” Oh,  it’s that teacher- they did it” but the teacher knows that they aligned with Spirit and then they aligned with the Spirit in you so you could see who you truly are. The teacher is the mirror- they show you who you are inside. You have the power of Grace inside you to help you reveal your heart- the teacher just shows you  how.

John proceeded to take the top 5 tattvas :Shiva, Shakti, Iccha, Jnana, Kriya and talk about how they relate to studentship.   He lined the tattvas up with the Mahabhutas or 5 elements- which we went over a bit yesterday. I will go over the attributes to each one in a little detail:

1. Shiva- sky- open, sensitive, humble

2. Shakti- earth- commitment, loyalty , trust, long term, steady

3. Iccha- water- always goes back to it’s source, goes down- humble, reflects, feels, adapts

4. Jnana- fire- burning to make a positive change, fire is greater than our fear

5. Kriya- Air- intelligence, quick, you see from all angles- even from outside the box

John took the five through the sensory organs in the tattva chart as well:

1. Space- hearing ( Shiva)

2. Earth – smell ( Shakti)

3. Water- taste ( Iccha)

4. Fire- sight ( Jnana)

5. Air – feeling/touch ( Kriya)

Studentship is about discipline. Discipline comes from th same root as disciple. I remember once John saying discipline is where you chose to place your heart. What are you a disciple to? Where do you place your heart?

Besides the 5 elements, there are things we as students should be doing. One of them is to have a deep meaning in your practice. Even when you don’t feel great or you don’t want to practice, you treat the studio as a temple, your mat as sacred space and you invoke meaning into your practice- you want to cultivate a relationship with Spirit so much that it holds a very deep meaning. Never get complacent, don’t lose the reason why we do the practice.

Also at the end of practice you should ask yourself what did I learn? What did I gain? You answers should tie back to Shiva/Shakti , Chit/Ananda. Did you gain awareness for example- that would be chit. Did you gain a virtue- courage, peace? – that would be Ananda. You may experience both but maybe just one. For example you didn’t gain knowledge but you had fun- you feel happier inside- that is Ananda.

In the afternoon we went over the Yamas and Niyamas and tieing them to the elements and the top 5 tattvas. Wow- it was cool. I am going to out myself here by saying that I have never been big on the Yoga Sutras- Classical Yoga imposition is how I have always thought about it. It has never really related to my experience of Anusara yoga or how I relate to my practice in general. It seems to be a text that has become prevalent through the default of early translation and dissemination. Ok- enough ranting- I am tired.

Ok. The Tattvas are sequential and cumulative just like the 5 Universal principles. You start from the first one- ie Open to Grace- and then you proceed to the next, never losing the first one, etc etc. John proposed that the Yamas and Niyamas are the same. ( For those of you not familiar with the Yamas and Niyamas they are yoga ethics with the Yamas being external observances and the Niyamas being internal observances…)

This is how he described the Ethics of Anusara Yoga:

1. Ahimsa- sky- seeing Shiva/Shakti in each other- if you see god in everyone would you act unethically in the first place? Would you cause harm?

2. Satya- earth- truthfulness, deep trust, integrity, honesty

3. Asteya- water- water doesn’t grab, it flows around. It doesn’t take. Don’t take create for others ideas etc.

4. Bramacharya- fire- proper sensual/sexual relations- a balance in relationship, one sees clearly the Spirit in another

5. Aparigraha- air- simplicity of living, a lightness that is unburdened, don’t take so much another suffers or the earth suffers


1. Saucha- sky- purity , clarity- a sky with no clouds, purification of the heart and mind

2. Santosha- earth- contentment, your are satisfied, you are still at the deepest core but not complacent

3. Tapas- fire- burning aspiration for connection with the divine

4. Svadhaya- air- study of yourself, study of texts, intelligence that sees all sides

5. Ishvara pranidhara- water- from you heart you flow your offerings out to God.

Ok here is the kicker- just like UPA’s if you do Open to Grace and Organic Energy you basically get it done- you remember your source and you offer out- Well if you do the first Yama and last Niyama you get it all done too. If you see shiva-shakti in everyone ( Ahimsa) and you make your efforts an offering to Spirit from your heart ( Ishvara pranidhana) you encompass everything.  As John summarized- you see it and then you do it. Talk about synthesis! The Yamas and Niyamas never looked so good in my tantric eyes….


Tokyo Immersion 2010 – Day One April 2, 2010

Today started too early for me as my body naturally woke up at 4;30…and didn’t go back to sleep. My little hotel room is very cute and clean and very new looking. I had enough room to meditate; yoga was kind of out of the question. My hotel serves the best small breakfast. I was so happy to see salad for breakfast. At home, salad may seem strange at such an early hour but really it is one of my favorite things in the morning. I happily downed toast and Japanese scrambled eggs ( think very, very wet…almost uncooked…) coffee and a huge plate of salad. Manzoku- very satisfied.

On a travel note, I would like to say that I really enjoy the Japanese Inn Group  for Japanese B&B style hotels( being a traditional Japanese room with futon, japanese bath etc.) but ,for $30 dollars more, the Comfort Hotel has laundry, a great breakfast, private bathroom with decent tub, and internet. In todays age of computers it really is nice to sit here and write than to drag myself to an internet cafe every night. Rakuten lists many types of hotels so check that out if you are coming to Japan and other places in Asia. If you are not lugging the computer and want to experience something special check out Japanese Inn Group- especially in Kyoto.

Day one of the Immersion was very special as it was the first class ever taught in the new Studio Yoggy location in Hibiya. It is the most open and light filled of any of the studios I have been to in Japan. It is in a perfect location and Sawako- the owner- is so pleased to final have what she calls the flagship location. John made a beautiful introduction that morning to the idea that the  place we do yoga is scared space dedicated to the freedom of everyone- a place to awaken. The flagship is the hub, the hub is the heart- the place of spirit. The invocation was so beautiful I had this wild image of the voices as spirit running like curls of leaves and vines through everything in the studio- the floor, the mats, the bolsters, the walls- we were making sacred space. One of the visiting teachers said it was the first time he had ever cried during the invocation- it was that powerful.

One of the Japanese teachers- Misato-san- who I met the first time in Japan 3 years ago suffered the loss of her mother recently. John was so very sweet when he said ” we cry when someone passes because there is so much love”. He asked us to consider of at the end of our days what do we want. If there is peace, love and happiness then we have aligned with spirit. Sprit wants us to be happy, it wants to align with us- it is our true nature.

But we forget. We don’t feel happy or peaceful or feel love. We long and desire for that feeling again. We want to be free. It is the classic story of those with great material wealth being unhappy and those with very little being completely content. Which one is truly free? This is such a hard thing for us to grasp in Western culture. It really frustrates the heck out of me. I find as I have been practicing yoga I need less and less- or I want less and less. As long as the basics are covered- food, clothing, etc. I am perfectly satisfied. It is so freeing. I wish for the people I love to be free like that.

John’s morning practice was one of sensitivity and commitment. These are the two key principles of how you align with spirit. It is the two principles for any good relationship I think. It was a fairly simple practice but very deep. I was getting a little frustrated though as the mats are brand new and my trikonasana was turning into hanumanasana and I feel on my head in one leg wheel ( ekahasta dhanurasana).  I clawed so hard my fingers are still sore as I type!

The afternoon was a discussion of the philosphy of Anusara Yoga. The philosophy should answer the deepest questions of life: Why are we here? What is my purpose? What is the purpose of life?

The questions can all be answered by yoga, John explained. There is an inate intelligence inside all of us- it comes from the intelligence of spirit. Things grow in a deep orderly manner- on the outside we may all look different, but our cellular level all started the exact same way. How did it know how to do that? John went over the Golden Ratio ( 1.618) and I always find that fascinating. If you make a fist and turn your hand to the side so it has the curl of your fingers right side up the distance from the top of your index finger to where it curls in will be a ratio of one and and from the curl down to your wrist a ratio of 1.618. From you middle finger to your wrist a ratio of 1 and from your wrist to your elbow 1.618. Wild isn’t it?

Frm here we talked about the aspects of the Universal ( shiva-shakti, no form, no limit, completely free, sat/chit ananda/, spanda and purna) which went into the introduction of the tattvas ( principles of existence).  The top 5 tattvas- those that are in the universal realm- actually contain all the other 36 tattvas but there are at the highest vibration. Everything in existence is just stepped down vibrations of the 5 top ones. As I wrote in Kyoto, the problem with describing this higher tattvas is that they belong to the universal which is really something beyond words. As soon as we name it we have made it relative- subject to our understanding in this realm. I mean this is really heady stuff and as a teacher of this method it can get really challenging when you chose to go into that place.

One of the graphs John showed us today was one I don’t think I have seen before where you line the top tattvas along side the elements and the principles. For the teachers out there you might like this:

Shiva=Open to Grace= Space

Shakti= Muscular Enery=Earth

Iccha= Inner Spiral= Water

Jnana= Outter Spiral= Fire

Kriya= Organic Energy= Air

Putting Shiva/Shakti in the mix was interesting to think about because then you get Earth and Sky- the two things  we did in the morning: sensitivity and commitment- voila!

We spent the afternoon going over the rest of the Universal principles : Open to Grace, Muscular Energy etc. and dove into the spirals. We had a great question about where inner and outter spiral start and stop and the group was getting a little stuck so I thought about how I teach with the ribbons and John graciously allowed Yasushi-san and I to tie him up with white and purple straps. I think it was effective…hilarious for sure. I  hope someone got a picture!

John’s afternoon practice was so simple- all the basics. Three parts of muscular energy, three parts of organic- each principle in order and culminating, the focal points. Good basic stuff. We did some very yummy hip and supine stuff and it made such a great end to the day. We even got to surprise Yasushi-san with a cake and a round of happy birthday right after meditation! The meditation bell went signalling the end and then all these little fire crackers went off full of ribbons. So much fun!

We ended the day with a sharing session. One of the questions we had to answer was ” What is Grace”? I will leave that for you to contemplate and you can share your answers in the comments if you like.



Traveling to Tokyo April 1, 2010

Filed under: Anusara,Japan,travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 10:18 pm
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Yesterday was a travel day and there is not a ton to tell but I have few images that I captured to share. I traveled to Tokyo with the Merry Band and was introduced to David Kennedy– the new Anusara Creative Director- and Jai and Mario- amazing photographers and videographers. Check out DK’s photos from Kyoto….

To all of those going to Wanderlust this year- get ready to have your minds blown. I won’t give any secrets away but think Shakti refined Burning Man. Uh- huh…go make your travel plans now people! 

Well the Merry Band seems to be in a poetry writing phase currently and it made me laugh as poetry was my high school passion. My husband found one of my old books once and I was so embarrased. I am very rusty but maybe it’s something I will cultivate again. My sister Michelle is an amazing poet- she writes poetry with such a quirky yet honest view of the world. Sjanie also made a bunch of Haiku Haiku’s in Maui so maybe it is in the yogi’s blood. 

Since I am in Japan, I thought I would write waka– a traditional type of poem that included the styles called choka and tanka. Choka is no longer in use but tanka is still fairly common though not as well known as haiku. Haiku syllable pattern is 5-7-5 where as tanka is 5-7-5-7-7.   

The Tree

I wander the streets 

An observor to the rush 

Heads down people walk 

I look up and see the tree 

Together we watch the crowd