Thursday, January 27, 2011

Take it from the Top

Being the lone Anusara representative within a 2 hour radius is exciting and daunting at the same time. One of my biggest struggles is that I really like to have a teacher. I like to be a student, I love to learn, and I want to continue to deepen and expand my practice and teaching skills. But I'm challenged to get to Willow Street Yoga Center very regularly.
Luckily, as people become more and more internet savvy I've been finding top Anusara teachers available right online. Hooray! Thank goodness the best of the best think it's important to put their thoughts out there for the betterment of all of us.
Recently, I've very much been enjoying Christina Sell's blog and Elena Brower's website and yogaglo classes. (Christina has a few classes up at yogaglo too, but I haven't tried them yet)
What a gift to be able to take Elena's classes right there on yogaglo and then go back to her blog and read her deeper thoughts, gain more insight, and get more to chew on. Loving it! And Christina has so many wonderful little nuggets on her blog along with totally inspirational slideshows of her workshops. Wonderful.
Just as they've both come onto my radar from different directions they seem to be coming together to create something, some sort of ongoing conversation with the online yoga community. Pretty exciting. Here's the video for their new project YogaConvo...

Tomorrow I'm taking off for a sweet little vacation with the family... and so I direct you on to inspiring reading from Elena and Christina. And on to inspiring practices with anyone you may find at yogaglo or on podcasts or in a studio or in your own sacred space.
Enjoy and I'll return in early February!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Workshop #2!

I have a workshop coming up on Feb 13th, just a few weeks away. Hooray! This will be #2 of official workshops. I really like doing them and am hopeful that this one will be well received. This is a backbending workshop just in time for February and Valentine's Day ... good times to open the heart. The focus is Dhanurasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana so the practice is titled String your Bow. The participants will ultimately determine how advanced the poses get but either way it should be a heart-opening good time!

The description and registration information follows:

Be your own cupid! Give yourself some love this February by exploring how bow pose and upward facing bow strengthen the spine, open the shoulders, uplift energy and fight depression. Anusara-Inspired™ yoga practitioners are known not only for their beautiful, deep and painless backbends but also for their loving and open hearts. The openness comes from applying Universal Principles of Alignment and from the Tantric Shiva/Shakti philosophy that Life is Good.

Using the dance of Shiva and Shakti as our blueprint, we will explore how to balance the masculine qualities of stability and steadiness with feminine creativity and fluidity. After learning specific Anusara-Inspired™ alignment in preparatory postures, we’ll set our hearts free as we play with bow pose, upward facing bow and invigorating variations. The workshop will give you tools to create optimal alignment and enjoyment every time you string your bow! Come open your heart, challenge yourself, and lift your spirits just in time for Valentine’s Day. For all levels familiar with Bujangasana, Salabhasana, and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana.

Location: Yoga Source in Carytown
Phone: (804) 359-9642 to register
Date: February 13, 2011
Time: Sunday 1-4 pm
Cost: $45 by Feb 3rd | $55 after Feb 3rd
CEU Certificate: $5 additional

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If you're going to San Francisco...

...Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

One of my students is leaving. He is moving to San Francisco at the end of the month. Actually, it isn't just one of my students, he is essentially my first real student. He's the one who showed up religiously for the past three years. He made up one third of the class for the first two years and he stuck with me through many fits and starts. He tried to pay me extra for a class he once attended where he turned out to be the only student. And he's the one really the only one who has been through the entire teaching journey with me to this point. Seen me through the transformation of what was to what is happening now after YTT. He saw classes of 1 to 3, grow into classes of 16 or more. And now he's leaving. Sunday will be his last class with us. It makes me quite sad to think about it.
In the last week he said that he's gotten most things in order and he said very profoundly (though not unexpected from him given he's a longtime meditator) that he's trying to stay in his heart, because if he goes to his head he's wild and lost.
It's got me thinking about Being Present within Transitions. And how for me, and I'm sure for many, this is a very very difficult task. To really be awake and aware to everything that happens as we make a transition in life, big or small, requires a commitment to staying connected to the present moment, connected to our experiences, connected to what will surely be difficult or at least intense emotions and hopefully connected into a deeper core. It is paradoxical, of course, that to stay aware to changes and experiences in the external world we actually have to root more deeply into the Self and the unchanging internal space of the Heart. Gotta love how a Tantric Paradox can hold it all, right?
In yoga practice this equates to staying aware of and connected to the Focal Point as we move into, experience, and move out of each pose. The focal point is the nexus of energy, the seat of power and gravity in the pose, and in Anusara-speak it is the place to which Muscular Energy draws in and pools and where Organic Energy expands out from. Staying steady in the focal point allows us to transition easily between postures without having to readjust and remake our alignment each time. It keeps us more connected to Grace and therefore better able to expand the practice over time.
To try it, you can practice pooling your energy into the core of the pelvis in trikonasana and keeping your mind's eye and all of your power there as you move into ardha chandrasana and back again. Keeping center in this way is profoundly stabilizing.
And so, as this Sunday is rapidly approaching and I know I will need to say good-bye I am trying to stay deeply rooted in my heart. With steadiness I will move forward to wish him well and say what needs to be said (THANK YOU, and You are a wonderful gift of a person) With awareness, commitment, and Grace I'll try to feel my own emotions and be a bit of a holding place for those of the other students. Then I'll wish him well and hope he finds the gift the fabulous kula that I know exists in San Fran. All the while knowing we hold him deeply rooted in our hearts.

A contemplation as you listen to the song: How do I handle transitions big and small? What can I bring more attention to? How can I be more present to even the smallest transitions in my life?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


A girlfriend of mine who works in the wine industry recently wrote me in excitement about getting out into the vineyard to start the preparations for the year. Yeah, in JANUARY she's going out into the vineyard to get things going. She wrote about warm weather gear, but she mainly noted the importance of Pruning the vines. As she noted, this is the start of the growing season (not later when there are buds and leaves and everything we think of as growing). This is the start, with the pruning, the cutting back and setting the stage. If you do a poor job now you're behind for the rest of the year and by the time Harvest comes, you'll be lucky to turn out grapes worthy of making into wine.
Hmm.. I thought it was remarkable, because it is really what I've been up to for this month of January after the wildness of the holidays. In January, not only do I set intentions for the year, I also rein myself back into alignment with what serves me best. I rein in my eating habits which includes coming back to a healthy diet and also just coming back to being Mindful when I'm eating. I rein in my exercise (or start back up again). I've also been reining in my television and internet consumption. Pruning back on facebook when I can manage it.
This year I'm letting the pruning effect spill over into other areas that can use some attention. My closet, for instance. My closets have housed clothes that are way out of style and/or do not fit for WAY too many YEARS. In the last week I went to a function and found I had what my husband jokingly refers to as a "closet full of nothing to wear!" (he says it as a joke because he thinks I have things that are perfectly fine, and I do have a few) the reality was I really did have a closet FULL of nothing that fit, or made me feel like me. And if part of my intention this year is to be authentic me, then I'd better dress as authentic me.
That experience was just the prompt I needed to do some major pruning in the closet. Anything that I wore to my former job (that I left almost 4 years ago) GONE, anything that doesn't fit anymore GONE... etc. The clothes accompanied me to a ladies weekend with my family and were redistributed among cousins, mother, sister, aunt, and even grandmother... and the rest to goodwill to help someone's life hopefully. And now that it's done, whew great relief and space in my closet.
Of course, in reality, it isn't just my closet that I am pruning. The closet is just an outward expression of the inward clearing I've been doing for a while now. I am at a point of truly wanting to move out of sentimentality into reality. To prune away the dead and dying growths, the false starts and misdirected attentions and move forward into new growth without the weight of all that extra STUFF holding me back. Finally, I am coming to a point where I can start to make movements in that direction, and it feels very good. My asana practice is the catalyst for all of this, paired with a deepening meditation practice. I just can't hold on to what holds me back any more. Instead I prune through my poses, I prune through my meditation and hold the line that I come back to the mat and cushion again and again. Slowly but surely I grow, change, evolve as the practice works on me inwardly. In this next cycle it's time to see what happens as the old patterns are set free. Maybe, with time, I'll become a fine wine myself.

I leave you with this thought I stumbled upon while looking for a vine picture. And a question What pruning are you doing in your life right now?

"We continue to prune all day, and have finished more than sixty percent since the start of the year. Pruning is a dialogue with both the past and the future. By cutting away and reforming each vine, we’re working with those who did the work before. By thinking of the work to be done in the future, we’re making decisions to facilitate the work of growing future vintage’s wines."
Joe Dobbes

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


"Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly -
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath."

-Kabir translated by Robert Bly

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Asking my Head, Asking my Heart

Confusion exists only to bring clarity.
Clarity exists only before the next confusion.
Can you be in the unknown and pulse between both Gracefully?
--Thoughts from the YTT last year

My thought for this year is to live in and from my heart. To at once place my heart in the center and on the outside of the circle of my awareness and to offer love as best I can.
Aside from that, in the last week I've felt sort-of clueless as to how to proceed on my own path in a nuts and bolts way. In the last year I finished Anusara YTT and earned Anusara-Inspired status. I also taught my first workshop and series classes. The logical next step in my career is to high tail it as fast as I can to workshops and trainings with John Friend so that I can apply for the Certification process. There isn't a Certified teacher around, and in some way I feel a real duty to move quickly towards Certification to officially bring Anusara to town. While I know I want to be Certified, I honestly don't quite feel ready to take the next steps. Now what?
Not knowing my next step is a very weird, unfamiliar, and unwelcome feeling to me. I usually have a goal I am adamantly working towards. I usually have an inner guidance and outer structure propelling me forward to complete many tasks on a path towards ultimate fulfillment or at least recognizable achievement (like my Master's Degree). And so, finding myself in the realm of questions, in the realm of not knowing, of asking again until it is clear was surprising and somewhat unsettling.
What was wonderful was that being in that place of question without answer I was offered many opportunities to go to my heart. To ask my heart repeatedly: What do you want to do here? What feels right and authentic and real as a next step?
A friend and teaching buddy of mine shared this question by Abraham (she thinks) with me as a contemplation: What do you want and why do you want it? Seriously, in your life in this moment... What do you want and why do you want it? If I ask my head these things I get a lot of logical answers .. I want to work hard towards Anusara Certification because it is the next step in my career path and because we don't have a Certified teacher here. I want to study with John a lot more because I have so much to learn to live up to the standard of being a teacher in this community. I want to go to advanced YTT with Todd this summer because it is a stepping stone towards Certification. I want to push my practice further because I am the leader in this kula and my practice needs to shine. I want to work work work very hard because it is what I DO. When I answered in those ways I felt that it was right and real, but also that it wasn't what I truly wanted right now. I DO very very very much want to become Certified, and will. I also don't want to wait very long.
But isn't my intent this year to move away from my head as the only guidance system and more to my heart as a guide? So when I asked my heart: What do you want and why do you want it? I got some beautiful, surprising answers that pointed me on a slightly longer path towards Certification. I want to enjoy and deepen my practice this year because I worked so hard last year. I want to play, dance, sing, craft, eat, drink and enjoy because my spirit is ready to soar. I want to let this new loving beautiful creative being out and about in my life because I've done a lot of growing and changing in the last few years and she needs to feel her life as a full on WOMAN/Goddess. I want to go to workshops, be in the kula and do a big 5 days with Todd or John for the FUN of it because I want to reconnect to the fun side of Anusara and my body. I want to deepen my teaching experience before I add on more information in advanced YTT because I've just been throwing SO SO SO much in there that I need time to assimilate and I feel full already. I want to assist Todd and Ann so I can learn from them and feel their loving presence. I want to put energy into the fledgling community that is here with more teachers' practices, more kula jams, bringing in more Certified teachers and more social kula events because this is a very sweet time in our life and I want to know it. And I want some time off from the striving and working so hard so that I can actually ENJOY my life and put energy into my friends and family without picking up to run off to a training all the time. (oh and I want to have another baby sort-of soon).
You may have noticed that the Heart list is a bit longer and more expansive than the Head list. That's probably why my head tries to talk so much and take over. I feel that it is a year for hugging-in after all the expansion, it is a year for really deepening the roots that I've planted. And while it feels weird to say something like "I'm taking a break from trainings," or "I'm NOT going forward full-speed-ahead into Certification", it feels right. So, it must BE right. As an overachiever, goal chaser I struggle with the idea of softening to live in my life not ahead of it. This feels way scarier than running off for trainings and making myself feel super important by all I am doing. Instead, I know from the experience of taking a year off when my daughter was born, time to settle and ruminate and sift through is never time wasted. Time deepening friendships, family ties, and enjoying life is not time lost on some path towards a "goal". It can only enhance and and make the achievement of the goal that much sweeter when it does happen. Not to mention, is the "goal" what is really truly important here anyway? As they say ... Life is a journey, not a destination. So, I think I'll take the scenic path.

Contemplation: What do you want and why do you want it? What does your head say and what does your heart say?
I DARE you to leave a comment!!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Song of the moment

As it is a busy sort of weekend with my mom in town i'll leave you this video of Ziggy Marley singing True to Myself, just as a reiteration of the thought that's been dancing in my brain in the last week. May we each be true to ourselves as we move into 2011.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Dearest Darling Blog --- Oh how I've been avoiding you. Begin Whine: But I've been cleaning up from the holidays, visiting with friends, making a vision board, setting intentions, (watching TV), going to class, cooking for a friend, doing the laundry (watching TV), practicing, meditating (watching TV), cooking for my family, and reading a little. It's a lot to live this life. Yes, I have plenty of excuses... I have been quite busy, you know.
But the truth of it all. The TRUTH you ask for... I'm shifting and changing and sorting through. I'm going to a place of depth and asking a lot of questions. And, I'm a little unsure of what to tell you. And in return, I'm ignoring you. (if you must know, I've also been on facebook quite a bit, i know you hate that.... sorry!) You're calling out, I hear it. I even have several different posts percolating in my brain at this very moment. And I want to tell you it all. But for the moment avoidance is my game. I know we can't play this cat and mouse forever. I'll break down and give up all my secrets. Right now, let's just say 2011 is finally starting to take shape in my mind and heart in a real and authentic way.... not as a put on of what I think I should do... it's just been a process to get there.
Finally, though, I'm excited and feeling a fit. So I'm hopeful to stop avoiding you and start our conversation again. That is, when all my busy work (watching TV) is done.
Love, Sarah

Sunday, January 2, 2011


In contemplating New Year's Resolutions... Intention setting for the next cycle... many people offer many goals, or guiding questions, but the one I like comes from Anodea Judith:

"What do you offer this world?"

I spent a few hours two days ago contemplating my intentions for the 2011 cycle. I looked at them in different areas of my life: Relationships with my husband, child, family and friends, Practice, Studentship/Certification track, Teaching/professional, Physical Health, Emotional Health, and Personal Growth. Pages of thoughts and lists more than 10 items long in each category is what came out. Totally do-able I believe.
But looking back over it all with this Anodea Judith question in mind really hones it all in and brings me to the depth of what is real and what is important for me.
The over arching intention for this 2011 cycle is to be more and more skillful at offering Love. To be more skillfull at serving the Shakti in a way that takes me out of the center of the circle where I always want to put myself and places the other there where I can offer love in the best way I know how, and in the way that they truly need it. Because, honestly, if I can rock astavakrasana and I get new business cards and re-design the blog but am a total ego maniac or big time B---- I am not at all helping the world in any way. If, instead I can help show people how wonderful, worthy, and deserving they are in this life then I am helping again and again to change the world for the better.
Thing is, I'm a really loving person. I just get caught up sometimes in the expressing of it. So the flipside or the go along with this intention is to Live life as myself. Not my limited self, but my true authentic self. If I am living from my heart as myself I am living in a way that automatically places the other first and allows me to deeply deeply love and express love. And it's not an act. Now, to let the light of love shine!

Contemplation: What do you offer the world? and What are your intentions for 2011?