Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Anusara Harmonic Recalibration Retreat in Maui/ May 2011 June 7, 2011

I purposely did not take my computer to this retreat…. so it could be a retreat. I have to say I felt a little guilty as I usually blog from every training but I really wanted time every night to just relax and absorb the teachings. What this makes for on another level then is a more reflective blog. So rather than from my usual ” in the trenches” mode of writing, this will have a little more of a sense of impressions…shadows and themes of the week as what was most potent hopefully rises to the surface.

First of all this was a crazy event to have happen. I had planned out my year to spend May 21st in Christchurch with the Merry Band for my birthday- first ever trip to New Zealand. I was sacrificing my yearly Japan training to do it but I have roots in NZ and thought why not. Well, we all know the terrible crisis that rocked through Christchurch; and the trip was cancelled. I thought about trying to make it for Japan training when tragically the Tohoku area of Japan was devastated. It seemed John’s tour was not going to go as planned this year. Suddenly Maui was revealed as a new venue for a training ; the shakti provided a beautiful alternate- on days I could travel!

The days were divided into morning talk and meditation, a breakfast break, morning practice, long lunch break, and afternoon talk- 7am to 7pm for 5 days. I have to say it was one of my favorite schedules. We did not get in the usual two asana practices a day as we do during most trainings, but the practices we did do were full on.

Day one started with an introduction to the theme of the week: Harmonic Recalibration. I laugh as I write this because I am not honestly sure if it was calibration or recalibration but really- you get the point. Everything in the world is vibrating- Yantras and sacred geometry are forms of this greater vibration. Mantra is sound as vibration. We started with the most familiar sound to us- the invocation. John explained that OM as the form A*U*M represents the “A” as the first sound of most languages- the first sound in Sanskrit and “U” is the 16th and final sound in Sanskrit. The alphabet itself contains vowels and consonants. The vowels are refined- they can be likened to Shiva and the consonants represent the outer form- Shakti. The “AU” is sung together as “O” and the “M” actually has a dot over it called an anuswara ( not to be confused with Anusara) which gives it a reflection of the previous sound- so “M’ sounds like “ng” and goes up through the palette to vibrate in your head. You do not actually close your mouth to make the “M” sound. Try it sometime…

He went on to say that the God you hold in your heart- no matter the name it is given, vibrates at OM- and so do we. Even the universe has a sound- the sound of radiation- a background hum to the universe. ( you can check out this link I found to John G Cramer– prof of physics at U of W.. Can you hear the OM in that?)

The Maha-mantra “Om namah shivaya” – has been chanted now for 1800 years- its vibration has been expanded by  the length of time it has been chanted. It takes form in the akashic space- “namah” we bow out of awe- we are uplifted not subordinated. “Shivaya” goodness, auspicious, sacred- that which is at the essence of all that awes you is benevolent. Every time we chant we expand the global mind and collective consciousness through it’s vibration. Part of our practice is to get so sensitive we can attune to that harmonic vibration- to the vibration of spirit. ” If you can attune to spirit it’s all there”- John Friend

John then introduced our first drawing lesson. The dot and the circle- the circle represents the absolute realm- no form, time, sound, or space. In Buddhism, they refer to the circle as the void- shunyata– but in Shiva/ Shakti tantra we see the void as purna– full- full of yet unstruck potential. The bindhu– the dot- then becomes the way in which the unmanifest becomes manifest- it is manifestation that comes out of the attributes of the circle; the attributes of the Absolute: Sat Chit Ananda Svatantrya Shri Purna Spanda.

SAT: “IS”ness , truth

CHIT: conciousness, awareness, self knowing, light that is self reflective

ANANDA: our soul is bliss, love, joy

SHRI: Goodness, only goodness, no concept of evil

SVATANTRYA: ultimately unbounded freedom

PURNA: fullness of creative potential

SPANDA: how the one becomes the many, pulsation and vibration as waves

Manifestation then follows a deep order and organization ( krama)  from this seemly empty place- because really it is not empty. “ In what appears to be empty is spirit- not a vacuum or a void. There is nothing that is no thing”- John Friend

The week, John explained, was about cultivating direct knowing through practice- the direct truth of experience. For us to understand the absolute we have to understand from the relative- because that is where we are. The absolute is beyond words- but words are all we have. We use numbers to express something that is infinite, we use sequence to describe what is not linear and time to describe that which is beyond time. In my words,  we are being described a strawberry without actually ever having tasted one. This week was about having a taste- an indescribable taste.

To get that first taste we have to go to the first principle: sensitivity. This is the first practice of attuning to spirit. Our sensitivity is directly related to one’s clarity. John likened it to rust on an antenna. I would go as far to say that our yoga practice then become the mechanism which cleans some of the rust off our antennas. This image of the antenna seemed to stay with me as John talked about the “highest opportunity to see the dancing delight of the universe”. We receive this clarity and then there is a transformation and finally a transmission back out. We start to create clarity in others. Everything during the week was in a process of relationship: receiving and transmitting in a relation to the energy of spirit.

The body than becomes a yantra- a condensation of spirit in form- made of vibration that all starts from that one bindu in the circle. The practice that day then became of one of co-participating with nature- seeing the patterns in our hands and feet that are slower, grosser vibrations of  the Absolute. We started with just the hand and seeing the order of the finger pads, the meta carpels, the 4 corners laying them out in krama ( deep order) while staying sensitive to the bigger energy. The flavour was much different then “do this in order because it is the order” it was do this as a way to be receptive to the bigger energy- to create the body into a pattern that contains the vibration of the highest consciousness. Dance with the divine in you- make sacred art. It was a very powerful and beautiful practice.

After our break- which I spent swimming far off into the ocean- we gathered for our afternoon session which I like to call art class- sacred geometry simplified. I wish I could produce nice drawings on my blog but all I have is my notebook which I copied for you to see. (Please don’t laugh at my spelling or poor drawing.) We drew two over lapping circles horizontally  which represents Shiva/Shakti. The part of the two circles that overlaps becomes an oval that can represent the yoni (shakti) or the lingham (shiva). By putting a bindu in the middle of both circles you can make a triangle in the top part of the oval. We then took the upward facing triangle ( shiva) and downward facing triangle ( shakti) . In the absolute realm shiva is still and shakti is active- as the two pass through the magical mirror of maya they become reversed and the upward facing triangle of shiva becomes action ( yang- masculine- fire) and the downward facing triangle of shakti becomes reflection ( yin- feminine- water). This was our introduction to the shri yantra which John would expound on through the rest of the week.

Day one notes

Day 2 started with John asking about our sankalpa– our intention. Our intention is based on the degree of our will ( iccha). One of the interesting things he brought up was that before intention comes our darshan– our viewpoint. For one of the first times,  John started to more heavily draw out the Buddhist philosophies and how they align with Shiva/Shakti tantra. He said that “ even though the Buddha had everything there was still a hole. That hole is God given- we do not feel full” this longing to feel full is what spurs us into action. In the Buddhist philosophy, they say ” sarvam dukam” – everything is suffering. John flipped this around to say in Anusara we say ” sarvam sukham” everything is flowing. These two terms “ sukha” and “dukha” we have come to know as ease and suffering but they actually come from the description of a wheel.  When a wheel turns true and causes no friction or wobbling  that wheel is said to be “sukha“.  “Dukha” is the wheel that is off. If the wheel wobbles and it bothers you that is suffering. The wobbly wheel will create heat from friction. So we chose our view- to see suffering or to see flow. Your view becomes your philosphy of life- the way you look at things is also your shradda ( faith).

Your view is important because it determines how you direct your mind- how you imprint the akashic field. Wherever you have directed the mind the most becomes like the deepest hole you have dug in the field of the akasha. This is where you will go during under stress. We can dig out so to speak- we can chose to change our view if it has not served us. You really are what you think. So this becomes your darshan. In Anusara, our darshan then becomes the first line of the invocation “ Om Namah shivaya” I see the good. What is your darshan? It’s a great consideration. I ended up teaching a whole class on “is your glass half empty or half full?- how do you see the world?”. The responses I received from students were interesting and brought out a lot of deep questions and stories after class.

During the practice John talked more about the invocation and specifically about the meaning of words in the lines.  For example,  “satchidananda murtaye“: “murtaye” is from the root ” murti” meaning form. (Some of you may be familiar with statues of Hindu gods being called “murtis”). Therefore  Truth, Consciousness and Bliss take form. The form is an imprint of the formlessness, an imprint of the Absolute. Because we also contain these qualities,  we can take the form of the bliss of consciousness.

At the level of the Absolute there is no relationship. Relationship has the connotation of the relative world- the world where we live our lives. The  word “ratio” is a term we use to describe the relationship between two numbers or measures. Form is constructed in nature through ratios. For example the ratio between your hand and your forearm is  1.618- this is known as the Golden Ratio. So the line ” nishprapanchaya” – is saying that all 5 elements ( pancha) are held together in relationship. The form can arrange itself in relationship there is intelligence to the manifestation of form. “Niralambaya” , John said, was relationship held in partnership but it doesn’t need the support to exist but chooses relationship to enjoy life more. “Tejase“, the light or luminosity, then allows us to see that all relationship has deep order- we become “enlightened”.

We traced our hands and then drew the five elements with their glyphs down on paper.

Thumb= space – it is represent by a dot- a bindu

Index=  air- represented by a circle

Middle= fire- represented by an upward facing triangle

Ring= water- represented by a downward triangle

pinky= earth- represented by a square

The foot works exactly in the same way. You can have fun playing with your feet and hands in poses and seeing which part lifts up – which part fidgets- how it feels if you change an ” element”. The body is a fractal or hologram for the whole web and the hands and feet, even the ear, then are microcosm of the whole. This is one of the reasons why acupuncture or reflexology in a foot or ear can affect some deeper part of the body.

We had a beautiful evening concert that second night and suddenly my girlfriend Jean bumped me and pointed up- there in the dark night around  the luminous moon was a circle. We had the circle and the bindu…just like John had been teaching. It was one of those crazy things that happens around trainings – you literally start seeing exactly what you have been learning- everywhere!

Day three started with a clarification of the Shiva/ Shakti tantra that informs Anusara yoga. John explained he used the tantric system because it really had the best explanation to the questions of life: ie. If God is good why do bad things happen? If the Absolute is completely free why would it chose to bind itself? The energy is so free that s can choose to create an energetic appearance of being limited. It can bind part of itself but does it without ever reducing or taking away from itself. It is never reduced or disturbed as it creates a world of limitation. Out of freedom and delight it can play a game with itself: it can express itself artistically. Why do children play? It is not for outcome or conditions- it is for the fun of it. The absolute does the same and we call that play lila. The Supreme literally plays hide and seek with itself.

When we have the relationship of hide and seek, love and loss, we have revelations about ourselves. Accomplishing what you thought you could not do- that is revelation as well. The Supreme cloaks itself like a magician to create abuta– astonishment and wonder- the child that squeals with delight as you pull your hands away to reveal again what they thought was gone. The very dark times in our life can often hold the most revelation- look back at your experiences and I am sure you will find one like that.

One of the coolest things John talked about was the story of the caterpillar. There is an actual stage in the chrysalis where the caterpillar complete liquefies and reforms to the butterfly. I had to go look this up because it so captured my imagination ( here is great link). He explained that there is a point in the cycle where we can become something else- we can recreate ourselves. Concealment and revelation are happening in unison, sometimes it takes a while to see that. There is always a cycle of creation, highest refinement and dissolving happening- in our own bodies, in nature, in our experiences.

In Anusara, we use the three Goddesses: Saraswati, Lakshimi and Kali to explain this cycle. Saraswati is the beginning of the cycle and is represented by the colour white. Lakshimi is the height of the cycle and is represented by the colour red and Kali is the end of the cycle- the dissolving- and is represented by the colour black. Saraswati’s name has the root “sara” in it- to flow ( as in Anu”sara”) and her color of white represents purity and you will often see her holding a stringed instrument called a vina. She represents the beginning of the wave pattern a climb that brings with it the beginning of language and fundamental music. There is an innocence and purity at the beginning of the cycle. Lakshimi represents the fullness of the cycle- fullness of power, fertility, creativity. She takes the developments of the first cycle- ie. the alphabet and basic music- into greater complexity and refinement- the highest artistic beauty at the crest of the wave. Kali is the downward pulsation of the wave- the devourer of time- that which takes back in all the creative power to wait to start to create again. Within each of these cycles is smaller cycles- all parts of the cycle have a purpose and can be an entry point into the center- into the bindu.

That afternoon was a wonderful potpourri of information which I think I was too absorbed in to write proper notes or it could have been distraction as it was the day that my friend fell out of a tree in the mango grove right before lecture and dislocated his shoulder. It was a bit of a crazy start to the afternoon- I think John would agree. One of the notes I did make at the beginning that really sat with me was “We live this life to wake up“. I talked with my husband about his at some length after I returned and mused how much simpler life was in some ways “before I woke up”. Now I am not saying life was better, in fact I think it is supremely better now, but there is a level of responsibility that happens when you wake up- we don’t get to stick our head under the covers anymore and cry ignorance. It can be rather upsetting when you look around your life and the light of consciousness shines on some things you would rather not deal with- and now you HAVE to deal with them. I will leave it at that for this blog but I may go a little deeper in that vein on a future date.

John spoke of shri and defined it as the sacred, divine, auspicious- the highest goodness; that which we consider to be sacred. He explained that is why when we see something beautiful we immediately become reverent- the highest level of beauty reminds us we are all divine. We also touched on a touchy subject for some- beauty or auspiciousness that has been stolen by that which is malevolent. Specifically we spoke of the swastika. That yantra which is so auspicious in India that people draw it on their door steps to ward off evil and bring in luck , and yet,  when we see it,  we feel revulsion and sorrow for the hate it contained for only a few short years. Just think- a symbol that represented good for 1000’s of years was completely corrupted in 12 years. Can it ever be recovered or is the samskara so deep in the akashic field that it is beyond reclamation?

From there we talked about the fact that we wake up in relationship. At the relative level the highest purpose of relationship is love. Love ( prema) then is the relative slow vibratory form of bliss (ananda). So relationships are mixing of energy fields. We spoke a little on what then are the key elements for your highest relationship- your highest beloved. The first element is trust-similar vision- how you see the world. The second element was compatibility of mind- ability to communicate- emotionally and intellectually. The third was polar energy- yin and yang. All of us have both energies in us- it is not male and female in gender but in energy.

Day four morning was a meditation on the bij sounds of the chakras. We started out by talking about the view of maya in Tantra vs Vendanta. You will often hear maya refered to as “illusion” but in Tantra we call it the “magical mirror” where the absolute reverses itself as it passes through. You can use this idea to think that as the universe breathes out we take our first breath; and as we expel our last exhale the universe inhales and takes us home. As above so below- the universe is breathing and therefore we breathe. Tantra also looks at incarnation as a gift- it’s not like you screwed up and now you are back. John recommended we become a connoisseur of life~ we get better and better and then we come back and we enjoy it even more: this is the Tantric perspective.  This perspective is our darshan– we keep it fresh, we question, we experience. We then made the chanting of the bij sounds of the chakras like a science experiment inside each of us; letting the auspiciousness of the vibration open us up. We would receive the divine in the form of the inhale to manifest it into that particular chakra and let it vibrate. We went up the chakras 2 or 3 times- focusing on the elements and color of the chakra as we did it. I liked the idea of bringing the divine in through the form of the breath- it gave a meditation I had done previously a whole new perspective.

Practice that day was amazing- back bending heaven I seem to recall. The talk was fascinating to me as we covered so much material and some really new stuff. John said basically he was getting ready to set the foundation for his tour next year  including Egypt and a broadcast from the Mayan pyramids. John will be in Tulum when the Mayan calendar ends. I am not going to get into what that means or the significance but just to let you know in case you want to join the merry band. John talked numbers and base systems to start with. For example the number 108 which is an auspicious number is made up of 12- the number of the universal and also the guru- and the number 9- the number of the individual and also the top number in our base 10 numbering system. The number 12 is actually from the base 60 system- 60 minutes in an hour, 360 degrees, 12 hours in a day. The base 12 system was used by the Egyptians and Babalonians. The Mayans used a base 20 system- and it is this system that the Mayan pyramids were built on. I am sure there will be more interesting lectures on this as the year goes by. Might be worth some self research if you are going to study with John this year.

John also discussed the periodic table as being a chart of sound or vibration. The columns of the table just are more refined vibrations as they move down the chart. It’s incredible that I never even thought of that approach to the chart…makes me think I could have been a much better science student if John Friend was my teacher! So even though they discover new elements- the chart dosen’t get more columns.  The size of the atom decreases from left to right, and increases from top to bottom: and atoms are vibrations. If this is confusing think of the Tantra tattva chart and it might become a little clearer. The conversation veered into GMO’s and modification of food and what that does to the vibration and what it does to us as we ingest it- makes you think a little more about having a fake sugar in your coffee. Your body recognizes the vibration of sugar from a plant…might not be great for you but at least it is natural. Messing with our food is literally messing us up- from the inside out. Another thing that we can’t hide under the covers from ….

The last chart we copied down before practice was the astrological chart. I read my horoscope occasionally but I have no deep knowledge of the astrological calendar. The chart of years moves in reverse order to the monthly one we follow for people’s birth month. Each age last 720 years. We are currently in the Age of Pisces (though at some level this is heavily debated) and moving into the Age of Aquarius. The two previous ages were Aries and Taurus. If you look at the glyphs for these ages there is some interesting notes for the history buff. The Age of Taurus, with its bull glyph,  is known to be an age where the worship of bulls was common in Assryia, Egypt and Crete.  Aries, represented by the ram, was a time in history where various gods rose with the name contain that sound: Rama, Bhrama , Ra, Abraham etc. and the sacrifice of sheep replaced that of bulls. The Age of Pisces marks the rise of Christianity and the glyph of the fish- still seen on countless bumper stickers across North America. The Age of Aquarius  is marked by a glyph of two waves- which may represent not just water but is speculated to represent vibration, electronics,( wifi?) etc. Perhaps the age of Aquarius being harkened in as an age of awakening, is that we will be able to use technology to create freedom. Though I do have to say I feel like a slave to my computer a little too often….

The afternoon in the mango grove was calmer that day and John spoke of many of the teachers such as Babamuktananda and Maharaji and their shakti and some crazy stories of things they could do. He said that pictures of your teachers then are yantras that are passing the shakti of that person. The form then holds the vibration- holds the shakti. There is a great little picture we have of Maharji with his hand held up and we have always found it mesmerizing. It’s like it contains some special message that we have not yet figured out- a yantra we have not yet deciphered. John talked about never showing the souls of your feet towards your guru. We all started nervously tucking our feet under ourselves and John laughed and said God is everywhere- so don’t worry about your feet around him.  He said that spirit and blessings are also in the feet. He told the story of Muktananda getting completely recalibrated one night walking home with the gift of his guru’s shawl-wrapped sandals on his head. One mile with his guru’s shakti sandals changed his life!

Anywhere we create a place to worship , prana will accumulate in that area. If we worship at certain hours, then prana will circulate more in that specific time- we create a momentum so to speak- a swirling around a bindu. This harnessing of energy can be used as a practice. John suggested we journal our mind for the last hour at night. By using mantra to anchor ourselves we can be in a beautiful space even in intensity. We can then cultivate what we think as we dissolve this cycle of the day. The energy of that last cycle is what we carry into the next. If we carry momentum and our anchored in our darshan, we are less likely to get knocked off balance. Something to consider if you watch TV before falling asleep every night.

Shri yantra and sacred geometry notes

We spent that afternoon learning to draw the shri yantra– really- it was hilarious.  We were breaking into fits of laughter as we tried in desperation to follow John’s drawing- some of our renditions were so bad! I was sitting right up front and I still messed up. I have since bought myself a yantra colouring book- maybe that will help…. The book that John was using to draw from I also bought and recommend for further study Yantra: The cosmic Symbol of Tantric Unity by Madhu Khanna. The shri yantra itself is a pictographic vibratory diagram of the tattva chart- it represents how shiva/shakti bring everything into creation. The upward and downward triangles represent these two energies. I am still reading right now and have a very raw understanding of it so I will not continue but I find the book very useful.

Day 5 started as guru vs guru principle. For the guru principle is present at anytime and any place- we can learn to access it wherever and whenever through skilled means. John explained that serendipity is not raw luck. It is the revelatory power of the shakti at work. I see this more and more in my own life and I can see that really nothing is random- it is all the actions of the shakti. My favorite phrase when things go a little haywire is ” the shakti is messing with me” and rather than freak out I look to see what it is I am supposed to be awake to in that moment. It is a much calmer way to react to life’s obstacles.

Shakti has a frequency that is infinite. It can be felt as low energy or high energy in a space that we can get recalibrated to: it can change our mood. I am sure you have had experiences like that. When we hear the truth, when we see beauty we are momentarily shifted by that vibration- we have an experience beyond mind- it is intuitive. It may only be a second or two but that’s all you need for a revelation. Our practice is about learning to be skillful in holding that resonance- extending it. So through the dharma- in alignment with Grace- the guru principle reveals you. That which opens the curtains and brings in the light- a person, an object, an experience can be the guru. Once we have had moments of the curtains opening, and become more skilled at holding the vibration, then everyday becomes a moment of shri. We become shifted at some level. Everyone is different. We could all be watching the same sunset, but one person will have an unbelievable experience. We often look outside ourselves to seek these moments, but it is always there inside of us and there are practices to connect you with that guru principle.

For example, John spoke of the fact that the shakti is not air but in the air. So when we do ujayi pranayama we set up a resonance with the shakti. We try to hold that resonance we find and use it to ride the waves of doubt and fear,anger and sadness. The waves are all from the same source. You can literally ride the wave of anger straight back to the bindu of love. This is a very Tantric way of thinking- anything can be a gateway. Anything can be a gateway because the shakti is in everything: and shakti is always full of Grace.

We then did pranayama and traced the breath back to the bindu and waited and served the shakti in the air. You don’t grab or push- you just open to it and it comes in. We worked with a few pranayamas including nadi shodana. John explained that there are 5 nadis in each nostril, which relates to the five elements, and one can actually get good enough to affect and manipulate the different elements thorough their pranayama practice. The energy in us changes every 2- 2.5 hours so you can use this understanding to align and calibrate yourself with what time it is. We can garner energy or slow ourselves down as long as we know the bigger energy. Day 5 was the top of the cycle- the accumulation of 5 days of shakti- the purnahuti. There was extra magic available that day- a high resonance we could calibrate with. You could chose to shift right there- I like to think of it as “make a wish day”….. what is your highest desire?

Someone asked a question about people in dreams and John discussed how people are doorways to the energy- the shakti. So if you dream of someone it may not be that person specifically that you are engaging with but the energy that form takes. The forms will change but the shakti comes to us at our level of understanding- even in our subconscious. May be interesting to journal who comes up on your dreams and what the energy of that person means to you. I dream of my dad a lot when I have questions- his energy was one of love and stability- he calms me down, makes me feel brave. I feel empowered after I dream of him. Ram Dass often speaks of his teacher, Maharaji ( Neem Karoli Baba) being a gateway so I understood this from my talks with him. Don’t get lost in the form- get lost in the energy behind the form.

Day 5 practice was in relationship to the guru principle. There is a leader and a follower- a dancing couple. But the dance does not begin with the leader; it begins with the follower- the student. The student has to ask the question first. Both the student and the teacher contain the guru principle- there is nothing subordinate in the relationship- both have Grace. We call these terms ” chalikripa” the Grace of the student and  “Gurukripa” the Grace of the teacher. The teacher will only help you once you ask- this is dharmic. The teacher will not answer what has not been asked. The guru appears when the student is ready- when the students adikara( studentship) is high enough to have the ability to hear and see the guru. The student must always stay open and questioning for the path is not straight- it is a dance. We form a question and then we are just open and we listen- we wait for the shakti to dance with us.

All of us can dance with the divine- we just need to practice coming back into ourselves- realize the preciousness of the moment. We humble ourselves without putting ourselves down and we look to our strengths and our shadows. We all have talents and tendencies- we all have a heritage of blood and DNA. All these things come together to makes us our unique selves- to make our dance unique. The shakti wants to dance with all of us because of that uniqueness. To stay dancing with the shakti we keep going to our strengths and stop feeding the shadows- sounds simple but it is a lifetime of practice. Every moment of every day is a choice- every moment is a gateway to the heart- can we truly learn to live that way? You can if that is your vision.

Day 5 ended with a guest- Dr. Jacob Liberman. He is an optometrist who now researches light and how it affects us. His story is that during a meditation he had a profound experience of seeing the air between things and a sparkling of something in the space between things. When he came out of meditation his eyesight- which had needed corrective lenses- was vastly improved. He could read things see things he hadn’t before without glasses. The crazy thing his when he hooked himself up to the machine in his office it said his eyesight was unchanged!It led him to question what is it to see and what is seeing?

The eye doesn’t move- it only responds. For example we say ” it caught my eye”. The eye responds to light but no one has ever seen light. It is formless, it has no attributes and no mass. It is the biggest mystery of science. In religion though we have phrases such as ” God is light” – so what is it about light? Why is it so important?

We absorb 2%  of light through our skin and 98% through our eyes. 75% of that light goes from the retina to the hypothalamus and then to the pineal gland which is our biological clock so to speak. Before artificial light we were all entrained ( guru principle ?) with nature by light. Think about rising with the sun and going to bed with it- what a novel idea in our current times.  We all need a certain amount of light to be healthy- in fact studies have shown that populations in northern countries with less sunlight have a higher incidence of multiple sclerosis. Light is necessary for our body to work in harmony with nature.

We also need the dark. Dr. Liberman spoke of how light at night during the time we sleep can affect us by affecting the pineal gland which affects melatonin. Things such as “light pollution” in big cities, night lights or bathroom lights left on at night in our home- can actual affect our patterns of sleep. The pineal is the regulator of all the rest of the regulators of the body- the endocrine system. He took us through an interesting mediation he called the train journey. Seeing which color stations( by the chakra color) we felt like we wanted to get off and visit and which color station we just wanted to go past.  ( I just wanted to hang out in the green station all day)It is based on chromotherapy which is use of color to determine how to better balance your energy. Color is determined by light and the vibration of that light- we don’t see the colours but visualize them and yet there is a perception inside of us interacting with that vibration.

He went on to say that life is looking for us- it is calling to us and we actually have to work to NOT hear it. His experience with light and his sight opened him up to a whole new revelation in thinking. Though a doctor and a student of science, he is also a mystic. Taking time to see that little simple things are really so profound.  “Consider that every instance is a miracle” – Jacob Liberman . Interacting with awareness is a qualitative different experience than thinking. We stop using our thinking and then we see- we see that life has been looking for us, inspiring us, breathing us. Imagine meditating not just once a day but through every minute of every day. What would that be like? I have to say he was a very cool guy. ” There is nothing like direct experience- we confuse the menu for the food”- Jacob Liberman

It was a beautiful way to end a five-day retreat. Five days of exploration, study, practice, absorption- all used in a way that created a deep resonance inside all of us. What we carried away in each of us that week was more than just knowledge- we carried at the cellular level a shift in who we are and how we are in the world. We didn’t just read the menu- we ate the food- and it was delicious. But don’t take my word for it- practice and taste it for yourself…... om


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!


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.”


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……..


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