Permission to Indulge in a Profound & Healing Practice

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Jiyu supports me in one of my deepest practices in a long while…
Amazing description of an honest and beneficial personal practice by Angela Farmer

About 4 years ago, a therapist recommended that I practice with the sole intention of healing in mind. It’s fascinating to watch how I resisted that for so long, believing that I had so many other goals to simultaneously attend to. Whereas my teachers have always encouraged creativity and intelligent movement, and never pushed the strict routines recommended by most Ashtangis, there was still something in me that felt I had something to prove. I often felt that since I can do a certain level of practice, I should somehow try to maintain or exceed that, at least for a while.

Only now that I have set up my own space and spent years developing a trauma-informed paradigm that validates everything I believe in deep down can I actually let go and explore what the benefits are to diving inwards, without caring how it looks and without worrying that my social media following will dwindle. I’m finally at the point where I really don’t care. I see that my 4th series posts usually get twice as many likes, but I’m ready to work with the people (I know you’re out there) who want to work with whatever is available. Some days it may well be advanced series, but that is not the only way to have an “advanced practice.”

Whereas I’ve always incorporated a variety of practices and felt competent about knowing when to implement different techniques, I find that as a trauma survivor who has dealt with chronic illness for over a decade it helps to hear accounts like those of Angela Farmer above. For those who do not know her, she was one of the foremost Iyengar Yoga teachers, but for many years now she has been helping students to tap into their own discrimination and empowerment, which rarely unfolds when following rote sequences at peak difficulty day after day and year after year.

I love how she describes tapping in and listening to places that she would have to gloss over in a more active, rigorous or prescribed practice. It is true that for most of us we continue to hide the most tender spots, even if focusing very intently on internal forms and doing fine work in asana. It’s hard for me to admit, but emotions generally only bubble up for me in restorative work. Even though there have been times when I have felt great ease in whatever series, still some parts of me were perhaps performing rather than showing their vulnerable underbellies. It’s time for me to be a little more honest and let them come out.

I resisted getting a dog or roommate forever thinking they would disturb my routine and my practice, which I was clinging to since it helped me to function while dealing with a disease that made getting through the day virtually impossible for me. Now I realize that (especially with the trauma) I actually desperately needed companionship. Even in restorative poses on my own I was not able to reach anything that was asking for my tenderness. Only with therapists I trust and a couple of very special yoga teachers had I been able to peel away the multiple layers of facade and needing to excel and trying to prove that I’m ok and self-sufficient. Now, I find as in the case above, a warm fuzzy chewing animal putting pressure on my head and a fellow practitioner joining me for some practice creates a more profoundly real quiet and peace than the fake one-pointedness I sometimes felt in other practice situations that I now attribute to mild dissociation.

Angela mentions that her meditation experience is qualitatively different when she allows herself to practice in the way she describes. On the day I shot this video, I also felt a very different kind of stillness. I won’t say I’d never felt it before. In fact, sometimes I have felt tremendous benefit from practicing one or multiple Ashtanga series. It’s really a matter of trusting myself to see what I need on a given day and not falling into the trap that so many Ashtangis believe that this is laziness, or that failing to follow the formula nixes our chances for moksha in any upcoming lifetime. On this day it was clear that the inflammation on the backside of my body would not allow me to breathe deeply even in simple sun salute variations. After some brief standing poses I knew I could actually work more concentratedly laying down, oscillating between different patterns and easing my way inwards.

I am still a big fan of the series and likely will continue to implement them for years to come (or at least parts of them), but I will also be checking in with myself constantly to determine whether something else might be more appropriate and beneficial on any given day. Giving myself more and more of this permission feels like the real deal. It may or may not be glamorous, but I know it’s the real work. It’s the real me taking responsibility for my real life. No guru I’ve met has convinced me that they know better than I do. There is so much value in the practices we have learned, but the value is in their skillful and compassionate application. I hope that those of us open to exploration will receive the support that allows us to proceed without needless doubt and unwarranted criticism. I hope that more and more brave spaces will pop up for us to look into what is truly possible.

For information about my ongoing retreats and upcoming teacher training at the end of July, please contact me!

Morning Mini-Retreat Update

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Hi Friends, Jiyu and I are so enjoying our morning mini-retreats and hope you can make it to experience a very complete practice, which will then inform any one of the practices you do in the future! We have added options for 2 days/week, a 5-pack, and a single drop-in, depending upon your schedule. Please see full details here.

Jiyu also wants me to let you know that in the cases pictured, the students asked him to do these particular assists. He does not want you to feel that he will be giving paws-on assists without your explicit consent and guidance ๐Ÿ˜‰ After all, we teach TIAVY (trauma informed ashtanga vinyasa yoga)! Looking forward to practicing with you.

Morning Self-Practice Retreats in June & July!

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Get pumped for summer! ๐Ÿ˜‰

INTRODUCTION–

Wishing you could go on a tropical yoga retreat, but have to stay home and work?  Join the club.  Get more benefit and less food poisoning by joining Jiyu (the teacher) and me (your dedicated fellow practitioner) for one or more 5-weekday morning self-practice retreats at our home in Denver!  (Can’t pull off 5 days in a row? Jiyu and I still want you to have a taste of the delicious nectar of this experience, so we have devised drop-in or 5-pack experiences for students we have worked with in the past. We just ask that you thoroughly familiarize yourself with the protocol laid out here so that the flow is not interrupted for those of us already in the groove.)

I was listening to neuroscientist Richie Davidson in an interview lately, and he mentioned how much more potent retreat practice is for making modifications to brain structure and function.  I have felt this on my many extended retreats.  Although we will not be secluding ourselves for long periods, we will nonetheless propel ourselves into full potential mode with this amazing morning routine, providing a combination of the most potent practices plus a warm and friendly community vibe that we feel is essential for most of us to experience optimal benefit. 

The mini-retreats will take place weekdays from Monday June 3rd through Friday July 12th.  Start your day with a brief puja and shamanic invocations to sanctify and empower the space for healing, then dedicated time for kriya and asana, tea with friends, 3 kinds of meditation and pranayama! I have developed this schedule based on recommendations from my principal teachers Richard Freeman, Jennifer Hinton & Patrice Bazile as well as my own long-term practice and the scientific literature on healing and neuroplasticity.

I am looking so forward to doing this that I am sure it will be my best summer ever! And Jiyu is sure it will be his best yet as well (after all it is his first)! Be prepared to relish some puppy kisses as Jiyu matures in his teaching role. In that regard, his ideas of trauma-informed adjustments are a little different than mine, and once in a while you might end up with a dog and/or bone on your mat, but he gives paws-on assists (like those in the photos) only with your explicit consent and very careful direction! Usually he aids you by his fantastic demonstrations of care-free relaxation. ๐Ÿ™‚

DATES–

The 6 available self-practice retreats are Monday-Friday (no moon days observed). If you are not able to make it every day that is up to you, though I would encourage you to think of this as a special opportunity to practice more consistently and intensely than you may normally be able to do. You may sign up for any number of weeks:

  1. June 3-7
  2. June 10-14
  3. June 17-21
  4. June 24-28
  5. July 1-5
  6. July 8-12

DETAILED SCHEDULE–

  • 5:45am Morning Puja followed by Kriya & Asana
  • 6:00am Ashtanga Invocations
  • 7:37am Enter Finishing Poses
  • 7:57am 4-minute Quiet Meditation*
  • 8:01am Utplutih & Group Savasana*
  • 8:15am Closing Chant & Tea with Friends
  • 8:35am Zazen Meditation*
  • 8:50am Metta Meditation*
  • 9:00am Competent Protector Meditation*
  • 9:05am Ekam-Dve-Trini or Break
  • 9:10am Pranayama
  • 10:15am The Rest of Your Amazing Day!

*Please do not come or go during the silent periods (7:55-8:15 and 8:35-9:05).

PRACTICES–

Morning Puja: We will delineate our sacred space through the invocation of the King of the Nagas, the ultimate support, invite Ganesh to have a seat in our sacred space, and then call in benevolent spirits from the 4 directions and 3 realms to be with us and bring their wisdom, compassion, skillful means, guidance, help, healing and curative energies while we practice together.

Kriya & Asana: You are welcome to arrive or leave anytime between 5:40-7:55am. Kriyas you might want to practice before coming include skin brushing, oil pulling (swishing sesame or coconut oil in the mouth for 5-20min–do NOT swallow!) during your shower (possibly warm with a 30-second cold rinse at the very end to invigorate the nervous system), salt water flush, or while here, kapalabhati and uddiyana bandha kriya… (Need a brush-up or want to learn more? Schedule a lesson with me live or on Skype. For those signed up for a mini-retreat, I am offering a 50% discount on private lessons.)

You will be encouraged to enter finishing postures (following backbending) around 7:37am. These are some of the most detoxing and rejuvenating postures when we take our time with them. If not inverting, you are of course welcome to do restoratives, etc., just as you are welcome to make the rest of the practice your own. I have slings and every prop I’ve ever seen available for your enjoyment. (In case you have to leave for work and cannot stay for additional group activities, go ahead and do pranayama and meditation during the asana period.)

At 7:57am, we will sit for 4 minutes following the yoga mudra/ujjayi postures prior to utplutih. At this point in the practice it feels most natural to sit quietly. We will then reap the benefits of a nice long savasana.

Tea with Friends (20 min): Time for satsang (spiritual company), a light snack if you want to bring one, fun with the puppy, or time to come or go if need be.

Zazen Meditation (15 min): This is seated (or standing if needed) meditation on breath and posture. If you have your own silent meditation practice, you are welcome to do that during this time.

Metta Meditation (10 min): This is compassion meditation, which has the potential to very deeply change our way of relating in the world. If you are familiar with this practice, implement your favorite method. Otherwise a script will be included in the chant download.

Competent Protector Meditation (5 min): This exercise is meant to restore healthy attachment, which is a prerequisite for most all forms of healing. It has been recommended by neuroscientists, trauma therapists and shamanic healers alike. You will visualize a real or imaginary being capable of providing you with protection, support, companionship, wisdom, warmth, and all else that you need. You will bask in the feelings associated with that support in order to retrain the nervous system to feel safe and cared for, which will allow your own innate healing mechanisms and life talents to gain a stronger foothold in this universe.

Pranayama: If you have been given a breathing practice by a competent teacher, please feel free to do it. If not, you can schedule a private lesson with me live or on Skype to develop one, or you could download Richard Freeman’s Yoga Breathing (2 CD/ MP3 set) onto your phone and bring earphones to do CD 1 or 2 with him during that hour. (The first 3 practices take about 30 minutes and would be a great start for anybody who is new to pranayama. You can do them sitting up or laying down.) You may leave if you finish early, but do give yourself at least a couple of minutes of savasana. For those still around at 10:15am, we will do a final chant together before going out into the world. ๐Ÿ™‚

INVESTMENT & REGISTRATION–

Each week will cost $50, or if you want to go all-out, you can sign up for all 6 weeks for the discounted price of $250. There will be no refunds for missed days, and if you register but then cancel within 48 hours of your start date, you will still be responsible to pay for the week. You must register by reading and signing this form by Sunday 12-noon prior to the week you intend to practice in order to ensure that there is room. You will then get the exact address (near Water World, 84th & Pecos) and final details from me.

For those unable to book a full week, drop-ins are available for $25/day, 2x/week for $40, or if you plan on coming 5 or more times this summer, you may purchase a 5-pack for $85 upfront, good through July 12th. No refunds. Please follow the protocol above, registering by noon on Sunday before the week you first wish to attend so that I have time to plan and send you the infos.

Jiyu and I are looking forward to practicing with you!!! ๐Ÿ™‚