Exciting new classes begin 9/4!

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Samanasana

I’m thrilled to be offering a weekly mini-workshop followed by satsang as well as 2 new Mysore classes!  I’ve been looking forward to sharing in this kind of teaching format for years and feel so grateful for the opportunity.  Please see Group Classes for schedules.  See you there — Ashtanga Yoga Denver  🙂  Class descriptions:

Ashtanga Smorgasbord is a detail- and fun-oriented mini-workshop with a unique focus every week featuring postures with relevant variations drawn from the traditional series for exploration and adventure.  Each well-rounded session will delve into breath, bandha, alignment and attitude that together open the door to an asana practice that increasingly encompasses all 8 limbs of the Ashtanga system.  Ancient yoga scriptures assert that when we keep our attention in the core of the body mixing technique and counter-technique “to taste,” we unleash nothing short of a flood of nectar, so come on an empty stomach, ready for feasting!  This is a perfect way to reinvigorate and intensify your existing Mysore or other vinyasa practice while tailoring it intelligently and compassionately to your body and life circumstances.  Some experience recommended.

Satsang is a gathering intended to foster a sense of community and provide space for inquiry into contemplative practices, their contexts and their integration into our everyday lives.  We will begin each session with some silence followed by chanting, kirtan and/or instruction and discussion based on pertinent texts and topics brought up by the group.  Practice takes us into realms where interdisciplinary study can be enriching, venturing anywhere from Neuroscience to Psychotherapy to the Arts.  Keeping good company is said to be one of the most powerful means to deepen spiritual practice.  By sharing our enthusiasm as well as our challenges, we will build skills and discover support to access our most authentic Self and bring that realization into the world.  All are welcome, free of charge.

Mysore combines the very best aspects of private instruction (individualized attention and customization of the practice to meet your needs and goals), group classes (energy and inspiration gained from practicing in the companionship of others), and home practice (focused attention and personal accountability for your own path).  Students go at their own pace under the supervision of the instructor, arriving when they wish and finishing by the end time listed.  Six series entice us with unending challenges glimmering on the horizon while real life intervenes with plenty of opportunities to let go and learn to work with the inevitable obstacles and beautiful realities of embodiment.  No experience necessary.

Trauma, Relationship, Guru

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Richard assisting me in laghu vajrasana in 2011. Photo by Chris Croft

“The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recovery, therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections. Recovery can take place only in the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation. In her renewed connections with other people, the survivor re-creates the psychological faculties that were damaged or deformed by the traumatic experience. These faculties include the basic capacities for trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and intimacy. Just as these capabilities are originally formed in relationships with other people, they must be reformed in such relationships.” — Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery 

The importance of the therapeutic relationship in psychotherapy has long been recognized.  It has been purported to be the single biggest factor (or even the only necessary and sufficient factor) contributing to positive treatment outcomes for a variety of problems and disorders.  How many of us feel a bit disempowered and disconnected from others?  This is often why we turn to therapy or to yoga.  We could all benefit from profound and selfless relationship, which is not so easy to come by in this world.

Such relationships seem to be growing more and more scarce in the yoga world as it becomes less and less “cool” to accept a guru or make any commitment to study with somebody who is truly qualified to teach.  In its popularized form yoga is seen as yet another fitness and fashion craze, and its ultimate goal (Self-realization and rediscovery of interconnectedness, the very opposite of disempowerment and disconnection) is forgotten.  Considerable disillusionment comes from having watched so many apparently advanced teachers succumb to the basest scandals.  However, instead of jumping on board and behaving abhorrently or losing faith altogether, teachers and students might deeply ponder the gravity of the role and do their best to uphold the highest standards.

It is well-established that memories are stored somatically, so when we work with the body in yoga, we have the potential, to a greater or lesser extent, to re-awaken traumatic experiences and relive them to some degree.  Even if we consider ourselves to be in the fortunate minority of people who have experienced no dramatic or excruciating trauma, we still carry with us whatever we have encountered throughout our development during at least one lifetime!  The choice of who will share this very intimate practice space with us while we undergo these processes is quite a sacred one.

When you fold into that hip-opener and associations with your X or difficult family members bubble up (explicitly or not), it would be ideal if the teacher would not reenact those old pathological scenarios and behavior patterns, reinforcing them in your system!  How terrible (and re-traumatizing) is it to feel unsafe, abandoned or subject to compounded injury and negativity in times of vulnerability…?!  How incredible would it be to share with somebody who supports you and sees your highest potential and reminds you of it in that moment?  A present being can often help us to face difficult feelings with more mindfulness than we can alone.  What a gift, to progressively work out ticks and misconceptions that we have adopted strategically in order to survive, but which build up those very barriers that alienate us from what we truly desire!  Sharing even one instant in true relationship with a genuinely compassionate being can reconfigure how we respond in analogous cases (or overall) for the rest of our lives (and perhaps beyond)!  Then, we learn how to be there for ourselves and others in that same nurturing way.

The necessity and therapeutic-transformative potential of the student-teacher relationship is stressed again and again in the shastras.  Through relationship we either drive ourselves further back into our shells or melt away resistances to states of fullness that we generally feel are too nice and therefore not possible for us.  I would like to beseech everybody to reconsider what is possible in relationship, whether in the shala or on the street (and hopefully here on this blog)!  We can practice this all the time…

New Yoga & Singing Workshops with Jen & Karen!

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IMG_4636Hi friends, check out our new demo teaser and my Featured Guide Page at Truth in Singing!  I will be collaborating with my new friend and voice pedagog extraordinaire Karen Tucker Patterson on her new holistic approach to finding your authentic voice.  I will teach yoga at the beginning of the sessions and she will then lead some revolutionary voice work.  We are offering two more workshops this year, November 15th and December 13th in Lafayette, CO.  Please click here to register.  We are hoping to offer additional workshops next year in Denver and Boulder so stay tuned…

Fall Fun Posing in Nature!

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Om gam ganapataye namah!

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sri nerd ganesh

Greetings, everyone!  Thank you for visiting my blog.  I hope it will contribute in some way to true happiness and freedom for all beings.

Ganesha is here to get us off to an auspicious start.  He blesses beginnings and is often said to be the remover of obstacles.  Our material on this blog will address many issues that tend to be seen as hindrances:  sickness, physical limitations, modern worldly commitments, relationship complexities, change and loss, character flaws, habits or addictions that appear to get in the way of our practice or ability to live fully…  They say the trick is to regard the “problem” as Ganesh himself, giving us the chance to behold it with greater respect and allowing for the possibility of learning and growing from it with humility and gratitude.

In this photo Ganesh is looking quite studious, and in fact he is said to be Intelligence itself.  We could all use more of that!  Or perhaps I should just speak for myself…  Well, even in his case, this lesson was hard-won as is illustrated by the following story, a version of which is often told by my teacher:

Shiva (Ganesha’s father) was needing to go out to perform some godly duties and didn’t want to leave his wife, Parvati (Ganesha’s mother) unattended.  He asked Ganesh to guard the door and be sure not to let anybody in.  As a test, he came disguised a few different ways and was very pleased to find Ganesh unrelenting in this task.  Shiva then felt reassured that everything was taken care of and was gone for quite a while.  Upon arriving back home excited to see his wife, he found that Ganesh refused to let him in!  No matter what he tried (entreaties, subterfuge, force…), he could not gain entry.  In a fit of frustrated fury, he sliced the boy’s (human) head off.  Needless to say, this did not go over well with Parvati and the homecoming festivities were further delayed.  Eventually they found an elephant, and Ganesh was outfitted with a new head.  After that he learned to get to the heart of the matter and not take things so literally (or seriously).

It’s astonishing to see how easy it is to develop fundamentalist attitudes and adhere to them even when they don’t apply.  We see this happening in the yoga world all the time when we hear a certain instruction meant for a particular person in a specific situation and we turn it into a universal rule and try to impose it on everybody.  Without understanding that the external posture is there to serve internal processes that can lead to open awareness and end all suffering, we try to cram our bodies into forms fabricated from fantasy and inflict more suffering on ourselves and others.  We then waffle to the opposite extreme, telling our entire social media network that this style of asana is injurious, nonsensical and definitely not meant for me…  We are forgetting its (and our) ultimate purpose (and potential).  Even the best technique will fall short unless we take it in, digest and assimilate it in a way that is appropriate for us.  It is far more challenging to look at our individual circumstances critically and use our own capacities to respond creatively and adaptively to them…

This brings me to Ganesha’s ears, which are quite large for divine listening.  Listening (with any of our senses) brings us into the present moment and our unique reality.  Rehashing the past, dreading or hankering after imagined scenarios in the future, and tugging at our experience right now wishing for it to be other than it is (or as other people tell us it ought to be) are all recipes for distraction and dissatisfaction.  When we listen (be it to our bodies, other beings or our environment), we can act in skillful or even enlightened ways that ultimately benefit us all.

We all want to be happy and discover the real cause of happiness.  The more I study various long-standing and apparently legitimate practice/wisdom traditions and interact with those who have truly immersed themselves in them, the more convinced I become that this goal is realizable and not some New Age magical thinking.  When we inquire deeply and sincerely, guidance comes, whether we see it as such or not.  May we explore together and find our own ways.  May we perceive bumps in the road as little jabs from the tusk of Ganesh and continue on the path with a more open heart and better sense of humor!