Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Maui Weekend Workshop- The Three Goddesses September 28, 2009

Well I am writing two blog posts in one night which is unheard of but I am up so here we go. I am going to summarize the weekend in one go.

Day One Morning

John opened with a talk on Navaratri. It is the 9 sacred nights of the Goddesses- three Goddesses in three incarnations.  He talked about the deep orderliness of the universe. The krama or order of life. You plant a seed in the dark and the roots go down and the stalk goes up and the stalk bears branches and the branches leaves, then fruit and the fruit ripens and falls and goes back into the earth and the cycle starts again. The dark is not necessarily bad or empty- in actually it is one big blank slate full of potential. It is full of anything you want to dream.

We started out our practice with Kali. Kali is raw- she comes from dark where you plant a seed of intention. She is the muscle energy of the pose. We hugged in tight and did really strong poses that need stability. It was a morning of long standing poses and things like press handstand and half lotus handstand- which I had never even thought of let alone tried! It rocked pretty good though and we came out to see the Laulima Farms gang and others from Kipahulu and a truck full of coconuts! For the screaming deal of $3 we had Jayanti open a coconut for us and after drinking the milk he would make us a bowl of the nut and even a little spoon to scoop it with. Oh so good……

We took off during the long break  ( 10am to 4pm) and hit the south side of the island going to Makena and big beach. We had our first swim at the beach in front of the Maui Prince but the lifeguards came by and showed us a portuguese man of war which were in the water. The sting is apparently excruciating so it kind of put a damper on the swim time. We had lunch from the Jaws Taco truck in the Big Beach parking lot and then sat and watched the waves at Big Beach. There is finally a lifeguard tower there which is a longtime coming. The have 90 spinal injuries every year at that beach due to the high shore break which dashes people head first into the sand. I had a bad toss there once and it scared me very badly and I am not a weak swimmer.

We finished the south side with a drive further down the road but the clouds were rolling in from the north- which we had come South to avoid!- so we headed back to prep for afternoon practice.

Day One Afternoon

We started the afternoon with questions and one of them group asked why we ( the Anusara community?) chant so softly. I know why we do, but it was interesting to hear John phrase it. He said it related to integrity in relationship of all of the parts. Can you hear yourself but also hear across the room? Can you blend rather than stand out? I have to say the group took it to heart because day two’s afternoon chant was one of the sweetest I have ever heard- it just rode the flow of the island itself. So good…..

John also talked more about the Turiya state ( see my blog on the Dancing Shiva) as being the “ground of being”, the undifferentiated universal place from which the Goddesses arise. I don’t think I have ever thought about it in that way- like this primordial soup of all potential but it makes sense in the thinking of Spanda or Divine pulsation and where that comes from.

One of the other questions was on why a teacher made the Australians role to the left after savasana. Apparently it really threw the practitioners. John gave an explanation of why we roll to the right. It is not about anything anatomical- as some teachers may say- but it is following what is called “pradakshina”. Pradakshina literally means right in Sanskrit and it is in line with moving clockwise which is considered the movement of nature. In temples in India one always keeps the diety on the right side of the body as the circle the diety in prayer. Pradakshina therefore can also mean circumambulation. If you therefore chose to roll left you should know why. That’s what I love about this method- know what the origins are and why we do something and then choose. Being the southern hemisphere, I guess that teacher thought it more in line with nature to go left.

We had a totally fun practice of being spacious and listening and Ty Burhoe  ,who is one of the foremost tabla players in the world, came in and joined the group. I met Ty in Japan a few years ago and I was pretty stoked when he set up his tabla right in front of Sjanie and I . We had randomly picked a new area in the room and plop- there Ty sat playing right in front of us during our practice. We really had a practice of Sarasvati, for she is the first sound and she is really the goddess of all sound “nada”. John and Ty both explained that we recognize sound from not the sound itself but from the space in between the sounds. I know- ponder that one for a while…..

The physical practice was  full of very deep hip openers, half standing lotus, deep pigeon, yogidandasana, and for the garnish we did firefly which- thank god- Sjanie had introduced to me about a year ago. I got in from the standing entry but John also taught getting in from yogidandasana. I opted out and went for the known but Sjanie decided to rock it out with the new entry and had success. Cool.

Day Two Morning

Day two ended on the last day of Navaratri and we had a very “juicy” practice.  We talked about the higher octaves of the middle three elements: air, fire and water. The higher octave of air is prana- it is charged by sunlight and has the ability to move. Fire’s higher vibration is Tejas- a luminosity. It is the flash of light at the beginning of conception. The higher vibration of water is Ojas- the juicy power of life itself, the nectar of our life force.

John took the juiciness into a curvy spiraling practice of backbended forms of trikonasana and pincha mayurasana and of course the matrix backbend. It was all about keeping all the goddesses in our form: Kali in our strength, Sarasvati in our awareness and then letting Lakshmi pour her delight into the vessel of the body. This is really important to note because you can have all these curved fluid forms without muscle energy and then the juiciness just drains because you have not first created a strong vessel to hold it. Sjanie and I both have found we need a little more play in our practice- we are both strong enough that the rigid forms take away our juice. It can dry you out if you move too quickly and too rigidly. You have to build strength first- that is essential – but then you have to have some flow and play in there once that is established.

We did handstand with our legs revolving around in both directions- thank you Chris Chavez for introducing that to me- and dropbacks with one hand on the collarbone assists. We then finished the practice with a pose I have never ever attempted- mandalasana. It was so juicy by that time it actually seemed easy. I realized that pose would be impossible if you tried to stay rigid or muscle your way through it. It had to be this playful delight that just kept running your feet around your head. We finished the morning in seated meditation and was surprised to have a little voice whisper in my ear,” Breathe deeply” and was delighted by a sudden hit of fresh gardenia under my nose. It seemed super powerful after the morning practice. Tiff, Kelly and a few others softly made their way around the room with scents of the island for all of us to delight in with our eyes closed and hearts open. Sjaine and I were grinning like idiots at the end of practice and we kept it juicy with breakfast at Colleen’s in Haiku. Hawaiian spiced bread french toast seemed oh so appropriate.

We hit the beach for the afternoon in the most amazing weather and managed to finally “be one with nature” during the trip. The wind and water were perfect and the sun felt exquiste…everywhere!

Day Two Afternoon

The afternoon purnahuti ( final celebration) was a deep talk by John on how to really live your life . It was about the four cornerstones of how to live: arta/kama/moksha/dharma. How to keep the juicy delight but have resources to support yourself and be in line with nature and have a sense of pleasure about what you are doing. Many of us get stuck in careers or relationships that literally drain us. You can’t necessarily just run away for that may be adharmic ( against dharma)  if you have a family to care for or responsibilities to others. The key is to find ways to increase  the others to find balance.

We had a practice of discharging excess vata in the body. Vata is usually the first dosha to go out of wack and it’s home in our body is the lower region which regulates elimination in the body. If energy is not moving down naturally ( apanavayu) then it can create discomfort and illness in the body. By releasing vata and getting this to move more naturally the ojas goes up and we get that juicyness back again. 

Getting you thigh bones back helps calm vata and we did lots of poses with that intention. We also did headstand and shoulderstand. Now that might not sound like much to you but John hardly ever teaches those two poses. It was actually really great to get the King and Queen poses ( Headstand/shoulderstand) taught by him because, done well , they can be super healing poses. The whole system responds so well to shoulder stand and it can energize you if you are down or slow you down when you are feeling anxious. It has amazing recuperative effects on the body. I love it for flying because it just feels so good to get upside down when you are in another time zone. Those two poses, handstand and a good walk, makes life pretty good on the other side of the planet.

It was a full and fulfilling workshop. John was really in sync with the island and all of us were really there with him. It seems so funny to look back three years ago to Maui where I first met John and see how far I have come, not just as a student or a teacher, but as a human being. John commented on my luster and I said “I feel so good, I feel so right. I just keep my vessel strong and let the shakti fill me up.” Life is good~

mana mahalo~ thank you spirit of the islands


Enjoying The Journey June 22, 2008

Filed under: Anusara,Japan,travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 6:49 am
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Well I made it to Japan! That is not always the way when you fly standby. I plopped myself down in my business class seat and was so happy and blessed to be there. Many of my friends were working the flight so that was a real treat.  My girlfriend, Bethany, whom I went to university with and who also speaks Japanese, was kind enough to suggest sharing her room to save me some money. We had a fun night out eating sushi and catching up. Both of us are busy moms of two kids and having intense hobbies (hers are running and music) we never really get a chance to visit. It was a really nice to spend time with her.

I left Bethany and Narita after my yoga practice and breakfast. I am feeling nervous about tomorrow’s practice as 1) I am not in as good shape as I hoped   2) I am jet lagged  3)It is so bloody humid here- I break into a sweat just walking around!

I used my handy JORUDAN time tables to make my way up to the mountains in Tochigi prefecture where Nikko is located. I managed to hit every connection within 5 minutes and just seamlessly went from rice paddies and flat land to endless rows of cedar.  I had my face plastered to the window most of the trip. What struck me most on the train ride was how green everything was.  The rice paddies had been planted recently and the bright green tops of the rice plants reflected in the little square ponds. It brought back so many strong memories of when I lived in Japan that it caught me a little off guard. I suddenly felt terribly guilty for not contacting my friends in Gunma where I used to live to arrange a visit. Realistically it would have been difficult to make time to do that and not exhaust myself, but it still bothered me.

At Tochigi station the mountains suddenly appeared- so green and such a distinctive shape. The mountains here really look like the ones in old scrolls and paintings.  Between Tochigi station and my final station the sides of the rail line were suddenly lined in cedars. They said something quickly in Japanese about it on the train- they were all planted there many years ago. It was so cool and quiet. It reminded me of one of my favourite Japanese animated movies “My Neighbour Totoro” (隣のトトロ). I could just see the totoro spirits snoozing away in one of those old trees.

I made it to the station, rode the bus for 5 minutes, and made my way to my hotel- a Tokanso Ryokan to be exact. It’s so perfect- so Japanese. I mean as I am typing I am sitting at my little table in my yukata (robe) with the sliding doors open to the Japanese garden and listening to the crickets.  I mean- really – this is one of those quintessential Japanese experiences. The only thing missing is my husband- he would love this. I had a lovely soak in the HUGE bath (it fits about 15 people) all by myself. Heaven. I have to say that practicing arm balancing in a Japanese bath can be quite fun- you’re very buoyant and the water is hot – think the water version of Bikram!- And no one to see me be silly. Perfect!

I needed the soak after my three hours of wandering Toshogu Shrine. I forgot how inspiring this place is. It was built in the 1600’s and the trees are hundreds of years old. It was overcast and kept threatening to rain but never did. The whole darker, humid atmosphere added a sense of mystery to the whole place- cloaked in a misty veil. I bought a combination ticket for 1000 yen which let me in to most of the major sites on the shrine and saved me about 1000 yen if I had visited each shrine and temple separately.  Toshogu main shrine is what most people think of when they think of Nikko but I have to say that my favourite place today was Taiyuin Temple. Of course just before I got there my camera battery died. I might go back there tomorrow if I have time.

The whole temple is nestled into this grove of cedars and a little stream rushes though the main entrance. You climb up flight after flight of stone steps to pass through multiple gates with evil looking demons staring at you. Each one is slightly bigger than life size and they vary in colour- mostly red or white. There must have been at least 500 lanterns of stone and iron that line the walkways of the temple-each one standing 8 feet high. The whole area has the feel that you just wandered into it during a mountain hike. It was quiet and still- yet there was heaviness to the stillness. You could feel the weight of history there. It was a place of reverence.  When I finally got to the main temple hall I threw my money in the box and proceeded to pray.

 T  This temple had Japanese bowl bells. You struck the small bowl three times with a wooden striker- first time to alleviate your past karma, second time to pray for your present and third time for your future. Rather than clapping twice like you do at a shrine you just place your hands together once and bow. The ceiling was painted with panels of about 200 dragons- one going one direction with a ball clasped in a claw and one going the other with no ball. Most people would just walk in- pray- and walk out, but I sat and looked around. I actually sat on the floor trying to pondering the meaning of the dragons.  I was trying enjoy the journey and the present moment of being in that place rather than rushing to the next “site”. One of the priests noticed me and started to chat. I asked him about the dragons and the significance of the ball. He explained that one was a dragon going up to heaven with our wishes in his claw –represented by the ball- and as he descended back down his claw was now empty.  We had a great little talk.

I spent the rest of the evening having dinner with 3 of the other students that are attending the retreat. We had a beautiful dinner- need pictures of that too! – and chat. They were patient enough to put up with my broken Japanese- I wound up talking about difficult subjects and was beyond my vocabulary.  We all discovered that none of us know where the venue is tomorrow. That should prove interesting! Off to bed in my futon. I returned to find it all laid out for me. I found delight and wonder in every moment today. I just hope we find our way tomorrow!


Sattvic- the place of the middle November 14, 2007

Filed under: yoga — shibuiyoga @ 4:16 am
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Day two of teacher training has come and gone. A massage and a long soak in the bath were a well-deserved treat. I am like a sponge trying to absorb both the teachings.

My jet lag makes my dreams very vivid and when I dream after a day of training it is like my brain is sorting through this vast amount of information…in both languages. I wake up with a word running through my head and I have to get out the dictionary to look it up. So far I have added to my Japanese vocabulary yokubou– desire, kokyu- the breath, kokateki– effective, ishiki– conciousness, tsunagu– connect, heikou– parallel, ishindenshin– to understand each other without words, seishinteki– spiritual ippanteki-general, teinei– mindful (I have only used this word as “polite” I didn’t realize it had another meaning.) 

 Unfortunately, I still did not have enough words on hand when John asked me to explain why revelation brings Chit and Ananda…. in JAPANESE! I fumbled terribly. I tried to keep it simple and Yasushi-san helped retranslate my explanation when I was finished. John probably knew I couldn’t translate it…I mean its hard enough in my first language, but I think he was seeing if I could simplify it and challenge myself. I mean that is why I am there, why I am in Japan doing this training rather than in the U.S. I want to be able to teach this practice in both languages.  

 Today’s teaching was on makes a good teacher. John boiled it down to three things: vibrant body, sharp mind, and soft heart. We then used the talent of our sharp mind to observe and verbally adjust our partners. John then threw in the 5 elements: Space, air, water, fire and earth. I would adjust one person in English and the next in Japanese- back and forth until at one point I stopped thinking and just spoke. I realized it when I started translating for Amy Ippoliti- a certified teacher who is assisting. I just sat in the place of the middle between the two languages and just flowed. When I couldn’t find the exact word I became water and flowed around it to rephrase it. My mind was like the sky and wind- dancing between teaching, listening, and translating. I couldn’t stay in the middle- I began to tire and lose my focus but I had a glimpse of it. Finding the place of the middle, sattvic, was not effortless- it was more like a balancing act- walking a tight rope. But sometimes, after a few steps, it seemed that the rope became wider and my steps easier. The rope had not changed though…only my mind…my perception of the rope. When I lost my focus the rope appeared smaller and I fell off. Once you have tasted that balance, the place of the middle, you just want to get back up there and find it again. 

Day two also brought new friendships. I had dinner with the Hong Kong yogis and shared some great insights into Anusara yoga training. We love the mental and physical challenge, we like to be called up and put on the spot- we want to strive for excellence. If and when we are certified it will mean something. When John explained the elements, he explained fire as transformational. He is so right. 

 I believe that training to be an Anusara yoga teacher is transformation through fire. Like a Japanese sword, we are heated and pounded with skill and artistry. Slowly, over time, the raw metal that we came from is molded and transformed into something new, beautiful, unique, strong, and graceful; and as anyone will tell you about a Japanese sword- the best in the world.


Lost in Shinjuku November 11, 2007

Filed under: Japan,travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 3:47 am
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My luggage and I arrived in fine form and after wandering around in the rain for half an hour I found my ryokan (inn). The problem had been they used the Gotanda bowling center as the landmark…which was torn down six months ago! Tokyo is an old city so its much like Europe where roads twist and turn and change so they tend to give addresses by a numbered area- and you can literally wander in that area for hours and not find a place. I put my hundred yen in the TV and settled in to my home for the next seven days.

The only disappointments were no windows in my room and no Japanese style tub- just showers. I might have to search out a ladies spa to go have a soak one night.

 I was up at 6:30 and wandering the city by 7:30. I can make it in less than 30 minutes from the door of the ryokan to the door of the studio. That was the only thing I found easily this am. I literally walked into the building it was in as I got off the train. I spent the rest of the morning trying to find somewhere with internet. I wrote about freespot wifi in my other blog on Have internet will travel but to find freespot I needed to get on to the internet…aha…and there in lies the dilemma. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I remembered some Shinjuku hotels having wifi in their lobbies so I found the Shinjuku Prince and in I went. Yatta! Success. Would you believe that that was the only hotel with it in Shinjuku? Do you how many hotels there are in Shinjuku? I mean this place is huge…it’s as big as all of downtown Vancouver and it’s just one small part of Tokyo. 

My golith of a computer has put a permanent dent in my shoulder. I spent three hours wandering Shinjuku and getting lost and ending up back at the Prince Hotel for more internet searching. I was getting a little embarrassed after the third time I plopped down in their lobby. After many hours I have ordered new business cards for tomorrow and I have found a great internet café right across the street from the yoga studio.  It’s just noon and I have had a day full of adventure already! I think a nap is in store for this afternoon and maybe some yoga if I can roll up my futon. Can’t wait to start training tomorrow.


Karma… or just good luck?

Filed under: Japan,travel yoga,yoga — shibuiyoga @ 3:03 am
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You know those days that start out really badly and suddenly get better by the minute? I am having one of those days. I am on my way to Japan to study yoga with John Friend- which was no small feat. In fact this whole adventure has been in planning since early 2007. (You can read my blog titled Om Namah Shivaya to get the background on that one). I am a planner- I love to plan- I am in my element when I am planning- and I am damn good at it. … maybe with a few exceptions.

This trip came on the heels of my husband’s ten-day business trip to China. (Read between the lines here not enough time to double check my planning) So maybe I missed a few things in the planning…like my business cards…all 500 of them! I also forgot my body part dictionary I was working on. Two things I planned months ago that fell through the cracks sometime between Halloween, dentist appointments, ballet lessons, a smoky dojo, doctor’s appointments, eye infections and a computer crash. How could it have slipped my mind?

My dear friend Maggie lent me a beautiful slick Japan friendly computer for my trip to only have the motherboard freak out. My husband saved me at the last minute with the biggest, most awkward, not so Japan friendly, laptop through work. I bought a business class employee ticket to be able to sit up front and enjoy the service I usually provide but it doesn’t guarantee the seat if its full- which it was. While all the contingent passengers waited for seats I realized I was not getting into business.  Another employee couple were in front of me and they would be given any seats available- oh well- I would still be on the plane and going to Tokyo. I practiced gratitude for at least having a seat. Then a strange thing occurred. The Japanese couple were waiting for an upgraded customer to show up and if he did not they would get the last two seats but if he did they would prefer to not be separated. So they paged Mr. Smith….and paged…and paged. The agent called my name and told me to hang on because if Mr. Smith arrived I would get the last seat in business. Are you kidding??My hope dimmed as Mr. Smith did not appear. I mentally started to cuddle in to my economy seat when a surprised Mr. Smith came running up. That’s when the darndest thing happened- I knew Mr. Smith. His family had been my passengers before and we had chatted during a long flight. And would you believe Mr. Smith remembered me. When I told him I was going to Tokyo for yoga he gave me his business card and told me he would put me in contact with his good friend in Japan- the CEO for Lululemon Japan.

The ironic thing was I was supposed to try to meet up with Lulu Japan as a former alumni ambassador but that plan went down one of those cracks last week too. So here I get to meet a perfect contact in Japan and me with no meishi  (business cards)! Mr. Smith figures Kinkos in Japan can print some for my stay.I was a little hesitant about getting in to Tokyo when I land but I know what to do- it has just been ten years since I have done it. My friend and fellow FA, Barb, is working the flight and informed me that they have a 72hour layover- in Shinjuku…do I need a free ride into downtown? See what I mean better by the minute. I think it is time to practice some more gratitude. Let’s just hope my luggage is there….


Have Internet Will Travel October 25, 2007

Filed under: travel yoga — shibuiyoga @ 2:00 am
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I really have no idea how people traveled before the Internet. Seriously- I think I have googled about 200 things related to my upcoming trip. I seem to have a vague memory from pre-Internet days of a book called Lonely Planet… I think that is how I used to get around.

I thought I would share with you some of my links I use when traveling to Japan. The first one is the Japanese Inn Group. I am usually very selfish of this link because it really is fantastic- you must have caught me on a good day. This website lists bed and breakfast style accommodation throughout Japan. They usually consist of a house that has been cut up into little rooms- both western and Japanese style- a pay TV ( literately 100yen per hour) a hot water kettle and shared use bath. The range is really vast of what you might find- from very basic to quite posh. The average price for one person is about 6000 Yen a night- equivalent to just over $50 Canadian right now. I have stayed at two different inns in Kyoto and will stay in one in Tokyo for the first time this year. One inn in Kyoto has the best old fashioned hinoki tub- I just made sure I was the first one in at 6pm. ( Hi-no-moto Inn pictured above) . My poor girlfriend had heeby-jeebies about sharing bathwater ( you are supposed to be clean before you go in…) and stuck to the shower during our stay.

For train information try this link. It has connection info and all sorts of handy things- like walking times- to get you where you need to go. Remember that traveling in the mornings in Osaka and Tokyo can be crazy so leave extra time to make it to your destination. And get ready to be pushed….Word of advice- face FORWARD to the door when being pushed so your rear end is going into someone rather than your front. You never know when someone will go for a grab so if you are female and traveling late at night or at commuter times look for the pink cars marked for women only. If you plan on seeing Tokyo and Kyoto during a stay in Japan check the Japan Rail Pass. It is offered to foreigners on a travel stay at a discounted rate. You must apply for it before you leave for Japan- it is not available in the country.

If you are bringing your computer along and need wireless access try this link. It lists lots of cafes, computer friendly areas, and Internet places. It will also tell you whether power is available there or not.

As for cheap flights to Japan you are on your own there- I use my benefits as a flight attendant. If you find something though let me know and I will happily add it!