Dear students –
I’ll be away Sept 21-29 (see blog below for more), and will have subs covering my classes. Look for the following teachers during my regularly scheduled classes:
Thursday, Sept 21, 7:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge – Vanessa Hopkins
Saturday, Sept 23, 10:00 a.m. at Gold’s Downtown – TBD by Gold’s
Sunday, Sept 24, 9:30 a.m. at Golden Bridge – TBD
Sunday, Sept 24, 12:00 p.m. at 24Hour Hollywood – Fusako Phares
Monday, Sept 25, 6:00 a.m. at 24Hour Hollywood – Yulia Medovy
Tuesday, Sept 26, 7:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge – Krysta Close
Wednesday, Sept 27, 12:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge – Mesha Kussman
Wednesday, Sept 27, 8:00 p.m. at 24Hour West Hollywood – Debbie Dutch
Thursday, Sept 28, 7:30 p.m. at Golden Bridge – Krysta Close
I’ll return to all scheduled classes on Saturday, September 30.
See you all soon!
I’m in a state of total anticipation today, because I leave for London and Paris tomorrow, and I am so excited. I’ll have about eight days in Europe, which I’m sure will seem super short once I’m there, but I think it will be plenty to help me feel rejuvenated, and hopefully inspired in a new way.
Though yoga helps us let go of any wanderlust that we might feel, it also teaches us that it can be useful to change our perspective sometimes. That’s why we practice inverted poses – we literally turn our worlds upside-down and often see things differently, physically and metaphorically.
So I’m thinking of this trip as my headstand times 10.
Years ago, when my practice was more Ashtanga-based, before I was teaching, I didn’t feel like inspiration was part of a yoga practice at all. I didn’t seem to need it, and I didn’t think about it at all. But when I discovered Vinyasa yoga, with the creative sequencing and ever-changing flows, I discovered a whole new aspect to my practice, one that’s much more in-the-moment and less attached to the sequence, as Ashtanga yogis sometimes become, since the Ashtanga sequence is always the same. Through the practice of Vinyasa, and the surrender that comes from being willing to go anywhere the sequence might take you, I really connected with this idea of inspiration, and it’s something I’ve sought out ever since.
And that inspiration can come from anywhere – great music in class, seeing the way someone else does a pose or sequence, bringing whole-hearted intention into the practice, or observing students while teaching. For me personally, my most memorable “Aha!” moments of inspiration — the real breakthroughs — have come from deliberately changing my perspective by forcing myself out of my comfort zone. Sometimes that’s doing something that I didn’t think I could do, or by trying something that I never thought I would want to do. And even if those challenges haven’t exactly been fun, they always teach me something about myself, and that in turn inspires my practice and my teaching in ways I couldn’t have anticipated.
So, as fun as a trip will certainly be, it’s going to test me in some ways I’m not so accustomed to. I’m going to a party in Paris with all native French-speakers, and that will really give me a good challenge with my now-years-off college French. The party is for a good French friend of mine in LA who is going to Paris for her 30th birthday to be with friends and family. I’m excited just to go to Paris, and also to spend her birthday with her, but this party has had me anxious for weeks. What if I can’t understand anything they’re saying? What if my lack of style garnered from years of donning yoga casualwear makes me stick out? Letting go of these fears and embracing the excitement has already been a great practice for me.
And beyond all that, I think this is a great chance to get out of any ruts I might be stuck in at the moment (even if I don’t realize I’m in them). Remembering to look to the right first instead of the left while crossing the street in London… using different currency… getting around non-native cities… these sound like mundane details I’ll have to work around, but will they yield any perspective-shifting lessons and inspiration? Only one way to find out…
I’ll report back upon my return. Until then…
Yours in yoga,
Not too long ago, I blogged about some great upcoming yoga events around town, and remarked that LA is a great place to be a yogi, because there’s so much going on here.
Well there’s a definite flip side to that.
LA could quite possibly be so overloaded with yoga events, that good ones, maybe even great ones, get lost in the clutter (to use some of my best ad agency lingo). The recent LA Yoga Fest 2006 happened this past weekend, and according to Joni’s account on the Accidental Yogist (one of my must-read blogs), it was quite poorly attended. I saw the flyers for it a few weeks ago and looked at their website, but opted not to go when I saw that they didn’t have a schedule posted just a few weeks before the event. In fact, they were still accepting proposals for workshops for teachers, and that concerned me. Of course, $45 for a day of yoga and food always seems like a good value to me, even if it’s a tad disorganized (and really, as yogis, we can’t ever expect things to be planned down to the last detail… where’s the challenge to go with the flow in that?), so I would have gone if I had gotten a sense that people would be there. But the event just never quite managed to build up the kind of buzz I would have liked to have seen.
But Yoga Fest aside, their troubles are emblematic of the difficulties faced by so many of us in the LA yoga world, and, I imagine, in other large cities with vibrant yoga communities. People are so enthusiastic about their yoga here, and they have so, so many options of teachers, studios, events, everything, that it can be a huge challenge to attract people to any of these things. I’ve been at amazing kirtan concerts with really well-known artists here in town, sitting in an audience of maybe 50 people at most. But then I’ve also been to sold-out Krishna Das shows in huge spaces.
Part of it is whether the word is getting out there, but part of it seems to be that unknowable answer to the question of how to differentiate one teacher, studio or event from another. In a town so saturated, do the endless yoga studios and relatively homogenous styles of teachers just blur together for people? Or is yoga well-established enough now that not many people are in the market for a new teacher or a new studio, but are instead happy to stick with what they know? Or is it something else entirely?
Whatever the answer is, it’s turning a lot of teachers and studios I know into constant self-promoters, an act that I know many of us wish were not a necessity. It seems awfully unyogic to push one’s services constantly (Remember “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”? Now it’s more like, “Hey student! I’m here! So you better be ready!”). I’ll keep thinking about this and revisit the subject. Curious to know your thoughts…
Hi there. I have one more trip to finish up this summer (rough life, I know), and then I’m excited to say I’ll be around full-time until Thanksgiving and then again until the winter holidays (and hopefully beyond). Yay! But for these classes, please expect to see some of your favorite subs in my place:
Thursday, September 21, 7:30-9 p.m. at Golden Bridge
Saturday, September 23, 10-11:30 a.m. at Downtown Gold’s
Sunday, September 24, 9:30-11 a.m. at Golden Bridge
Sunday, September 24, 12-1 p.m. at 24Hour Fitness Hollywood
Monday, September 25, 6-7 a.m. at 24Hour Fitness Hollywood
Tuesday, September 26, 7:30-9 p.m. at Golden Bridge
Wednesday, September 27, 8-9 p.m. at 24Hour Fitness West Hollywood
Thursday, September 28, 7:30-9 p.m. at Golden Bridge
I believe pretty strongly that the rise in the popularity of yoga in the west has virtually everything to do with the rise of our 24-hour, deadline-driven, information-overload society. People love and need to be able to come to their yoga mat and let all of that swirling madness go. It’s about survival, as much as it is about unwinding.
So for the most part, I think it’s important for the teacher to provide in class what people are seeking – a refuge from their daily thoughts and stressors. Having some time and space away from the things that stress us out allows us to learn to cope more effectively with them; when we learn that we can truly remove ourselves from the stressful situations, whatever they may be, we gain a new perspective and learn to address stress more healthily.
But there are certain days when it seems important to remember the world around us, even if doing that might initially cause more stress. Sometimes the news is filled with stories of suffering at home or far away, and sometimes it’s important to remember a significant day or event or that shaped history. And it’s not responsible or true to pretend as though this suffering doesn’t exist, even though we’re seeking refuse from our own sources of suffering, however small they may seem in comparison.
In these cases, we can benefit so much by engaging in a practice of metta (loving-kindness) meditation. Metta is that feeling you send out from your heart when you wish someone else to be safe, to feel well, and to feel loved. Metta is compassion, it’s love, and it’s a wish to heal. We practice it when we wish to aim our own energy toward healing others, but the result is usually that we heal ourselves.
When we take time to remember, with loving-kindness, the suffering of others, we gain the most powerful perspective of all: how fortunate we all our in our own ways. We’re fortunate to have people we love and people who love us, we’re fortunate to be safe and have the basic necessities of life, and fortunate to have things we do that give us pleasure, and most of all, we’re fortunate to be alive. That little spark of gratitude can be so powerful in how we approach our own lives.
So continue allowing your yoga practice to be a refuge to you. It’s something we all need. But those times when a voice inside you says that something bigger than you needs attention, listen to that voice. That’s your spirit’s recognition of its connection to everyone else living in this world. And when you allow your own metta to help heal that suffering, you’ll notice an amazing change yourself.
But finally, just now, it struck me: blogging is just like a spiritual practice (or a “mind-body practice,” if “spiritual” is too strong a word for your tastes).
Blogging is tons of fun when you first start out… you have lots to say… there are so many subjects to cover, so much info to put out there… you feel enthusiastic and want to dive into that enthusiasm headfirst… but over time (maybe even a short time!), the excitement wears off, and it becomes just another obligation.
So many things in life are like this. Think about it in your own life. How many hobbies or interests have you picked up over the years that either lost their sheen after some time and become chores? Or worse, after some time you stopped doing them altogether? Relationships can be just like this too – new friends and lovers can fill us with excitement, but eventually, that shimmer wears off, and the relationships can go in any number of directions. Seeing this habit in ourselves is such a great human moment, and it can even be a breakthrough moment if we allow ourselves to delve deeper into what that means.
Our monkey minds constantly seek stimulation, excitement, adventure. What that means is different for each of us, of course, but the essence is the same. And when we find that *thing* – whatever it may be – we grab a hold of it tightly and we try to keep or repeat the feeling we get from the newness.
Through our yoga practice, we learn to (try to) let go of our attachments, whether that’s our attachment to material things, our attachment to the way things are and the hope that they’ll never change, or our attachment to this need for newness and excitement. But knowing that we need to let go and actually letting go are quite different things, and certainly one of the most difficult yoga precepts to bring into our lives.
And really, if we get attached to the newness of some new hobby, and then it wears off and we drop the habit because we’ve found excitement elsewhere, there’s usually no harm done (the expense incurred in picking up the hobby notwithstanding).
But a spiritual practice is different. To make progress, we can’t practice it like a series of fun, new hobbies. We have to stick with it. And that can be hard as all get-out when it loses its excitement and is just another chore. To continue to stick with it at that point is, I’m convinced, where the real practice begins. When we take time for our own practice – whether that’s a physical asana practice, meditation, going to church, chanting, painting, dancing, or anything else – when the excitement is gone, that’s when we’re really living our yoga.
In his autobiography, It’s Here Now, Are You?, Bhagavan Das writes about exactly this habit, in a very spiritual light: getting really stoked about a spiritual practice in one tradition, staying with it until the excitement wore off, then moving on to the next thing, in his case a spiritual practice in a different tradition. And this pattern went on and on for years, until his quest for excitement took him out of spiritual life altogether… it led him to selling used cars! Eventually he found his way back, but it took many, many years before he truly understood that a spiritual practice had to be a permanent part of his life, and couldn’t be sacrificed or used as a tool to find the next high.
So what does that mean? I think this is a leaving-your-comfort-zone moment. Just as it’s useful to challenge yourself to do *new* things that you think you wouldn’t normally do, I think it’s equally important to challenge yourself to do *old* things that may have lost their appeal but that we know are what we need. It’s the same thing as eating healthily when the junk food looks good, or going to the gym when we’ve been inactive for a while. Think of it as a challenge, and think of it as a new challenge if that helps you. Your new challenge is to revisit the old things in your spiritual life and make them new. Find a way to make them new every day, and you’ll be well on your way finding what life can be.
That’s my goal for today, tomorrow, the day after that… and until the next new thing rears its distracting head.
Lots of September love,