just yoga, part 2

Part 1 is here….

Sigh.  Maybe it’s because this time of year is colder and darker;  maybe it’s because it’s that time of year when my  head is in India but my body is still here; maybe it’s because of the modern yoga scene in general.   But it’s the time of year where I turn even more inward and become philosophical.  Or ranty.  Take your pick.

Am I the only one who is not impressed by photos of people doing what’s called “acro yoga”?  You know….the photos of someone being hoisted skyward by someone with their legs in the air?  Sure it looks cool and fun and it catches my attention for about 3 seconds.  And yeah, I’d like to try it just like I would like to try flying through the air with the greatest of ease on a trapeze.  Once.  But for a studio to put it on their regular schedule?  Really?  Do studios actually make more dough with acro yoga on their schedule?  Or is it just another yoga fitness version of the Slide?  Something to catch our attention for 15 minutes because we’re never satisfied with doing JUST YOGA?

I taught a yin yoga class over the weekend at a place where I only teach once a month so I don’t build any type of student-teacher relationship with drop-in students.   A new woman came in and like I always do I introduced myself, asked if she had ever done yin yoga before (never), and asked about her injuries.  She told me she practices vinyasa and proceeded to give me a litany of her issues and then stopped and said, “I’m sure you don’t want to hear everything.”  I said, “yes I do.  that’s my job.”  So she gave me a few more and knowing she would fine with what we were going to do, I told her to take it easy, that the class is more about letting go than muscling in, and that I would keep an eye on her.

After the class I asked how she was and she said fine, that she liked it, but she had trouble with stillness because she moved all the time in vinyasa.  I shrugged and said, yes, people have a hard time with being still.  That’s just par for the course in yin classes with vinyasa practitioners who don’t know any other way to be their yoga.  Notice I did not say “do their yoga.”  Someone then complimented her on her vinyasa practice in spite of all her injuries and she began telling me again about all her injuries.  I just nodded and said, “well…sounds like you need some yin yoga to complete your practice.”  However, I really wanted to ask her, “why isn’t your yoga healing your body? ”   But more importantly I wanted to ask her, “why aren’t you even questioning whether the yoga you’re doing is right for you?”

I hoped she would return.  I intuited that she could really use a yin practice and not just on the physical level.  But rarely do students I meet in public classes seek out classes in my home shala to get the personal attention they deserve.

I read this blog today and thought it was entirely applicable to the student who was in my class:

Yoga is a healing modality that creates balance and transformation. Sometimes people may become obsessive about how to heal from a certain ailment or malady. They focus so hard upon what ails them and their energy becomes consumed in a downward spiral. By Yoga practice you expand your awareness to explore your boundaries. What is the mobility of my body? What is the capacity of my breath this breath in this position? In? Out? How long before the tendencies of my mind interrupt my silence? This expansion of awareness is akin to taking stock on all your resources or being the manager of all your systems and behaviors. Healing which really lasts comes from the intelligence provided by observing yourself and choosing those things which you intuitively feel bring you towards well-being.

An excellent, thoughtful article and one that makes me despair about the modern state of yoga with its myriad of styles.  So many people have asked me lately what “style” of yoga I teach that I want to run away screaming.  It seems like all that people know about modern “yoga” are labels and not the essence, a healing modality as the blogger above writes about.  More times than not, people (and I am talking about people who have gone to yoga classes) have no idea that yoga is a healing modality when I tell them I also do private yoga therapy sessions.

When people ask me if yin yoga is a style, I honestly say no, it’s not, at least not the way I teach it.  I tell people in workshops that it’s just another way to be your yoga, the asanas are the same, that there is merely a different emphasis on stillness.  Even when I teach vinyasa (and I am loathe to call it flow), my emphasis is stillness.

My website says that:

...“Metta” is a Pali word (maitri in Sanskrit) meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolence. Yoga practiced in this manner is about befriending your body and becoming your own best friend.

Metta Yoga is the yoga of Awareness, a powerful combination of yoga, meditation, breath awareness, and intuitive healing.

It is yin (stillness) and yang (movement) yoga, blending softness and strength. You will be encouraged to compassionately explore your edge as you grow your practice, strengthen your body, expand your heart, and free your mind. You will be challenged and supported, but most importantly, reminded to bring your full attention to your body and to your breath, ending class with pranayama and mindfulness meditation.

I posted that on my Facebook business page today and a woman responded “this sounds like just what I need…are there classes near me?”

For some reason, her question made me very sad.

That’s all I teach.  Just yoga.

Come take a class with me and you’ll see.  Quickly.  Before I run away screaming and, as a friend has said, I take up residence in India.

UPDATE: who wants to go to India?

looking toward south cliff, Varkala, Kerala

the Heart of Yoga, Chennai

That’s a serious question.

Long time readers know that I started studying at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005.  I thought back then that I would never return to KYM or to India, I thought it was a one-time thing.  Little did I know that I would return to KYM only 6 months later in 2006 and that I would be blessed enough to return there yearly.   Who knew what a grip India would have on my heart?  Who knew that the longer I study in this lineage the more I know that I can study here the rest of my life?  It is an honor and a responsibility to be a representative of this lineage.

The senior teachers know me by name now.  When I walked into the building on the first day of training this year I was greeted like an old friend and it did my heart good.   The intensive, “Discover Yoga Anatomy”, was amazing.  It truly was an advanced training, beyond asana, on a deeper level.  Although the teachers have studied with Desikachar for years and years, they are still students of yoga.  One of my favorite teachers said she is still learning, that they learn from us and from each other.  They are humble.  One touches the feet of Krishnamacharya in his photo portrait that is the classroom.  They are not afraid to use the word “guru.”

I have scheduled the week of March 11-15, 2013 for taking a group for private classes.  I have scheduled an asana class; theory and practice of pranayama; chanting; meditation; class on the Sutras; and an introductory class on the Bhagavad Gita, 6 classes daily for five days.   The classes will be geared toward the students’  yoga experience.  When I was there an American yoga teacher had brought 18 people with her.  My group will be limited to 12, and I need a minimum of 6 people for the trip to happen.

After that week, I will lead a yin-yang yoga retreat March 16-24 in Varkala, Kerala.  In between my trainings, before I went to KYM, I spent 15 days in Varkala, a place where I had never been.   In fact, I spent 10 days, returned to Chennai, and then flew back to Varkala because I missed the vibe and the friends I had made so much.  They did not want me to leave.

Varkala has a chill vibe, as people there say, and I thought I would be put off by all the westerners.  I must say I had some culture shock when I arrived because I had never been with so many westerners before in my travels (apart from KYM.)  But I grew to love it.  The place is a mix of backpackers, package tourist groups, retirees, old hippies, young hippies, and families with children.  It’s easy.  Real easy.  And it would be a great place to chill after the cacophony of Chennai.  Besides which, ladies, you can get some great yoga pants made for about $10 by the tailors on the clifftop, pants that sell in the US for 7 times the price — I had 4 made.

The retreat — where I will teach one class in the morning — will be here.  I have already booked all the cottages facing the pool.  Double occupancy only so bring a friend!

I had energy work done by an amazing energy worker so a session with her and a dinner party in her garden on our last night are included in the price.  Ayurvedic consulations are available as well.  I had a back issue for five years (thanks to being Miss Gumby all my life) and after doing the yoga therapy practice every day that I learned in my first training and having medical ayurvedic treatments for 7 days at this place, I now wake up pain free — and I still do my yoga therapy practice.  The Varkala resort has its own ayurvedic doctor or there are many choices in Varkala.

Other activities are available if you want to run around, but I guarantee that chilling on the beach, eating fresh food every day, and meeting great people will be enough for some.

You will arrange the domestic RT flight from Chennai-Trivandrum and the 5 star hotel in Chennai before flying home on March 25 (very early morning) with my travel agent.  Those prices are NOT included in my package price.

PACKAGE PRICE IS $1,950.00 (OR $1,925.00 for one garden view cottage at Varkala resort) WITH A PORTION OF YOUR PAYMENT GOING TO THE BANYAN, A WOMEN’S SHELTER IN CHENNAI.

THE BEST PART IS THAT I AM GIVING A $100 DISCOUNT IF YOU MAKE ONE PAYMENT IN FULL BY JANUARY 1, 2013!

YOU CAN REGISTER AND PAY NOW ON MY WEBSITE PAGE.

ASK ME ABOUT THE “NO YOGA” RATE IF YOUR FRIEND/PARTNER WANTS TO ACCOMPANY YOU BUT DOESN’T WANT TO PARTAKE IN YOGA.

You are responsible for your international and domestic flights, one day/night stay your last 24 hours in Chennai, your Indian visa, food other than breakfast, sight-seeing, ayurvedic treatments in Kerala (if so desired), tips, and ground transportation in Chennai and Varkala.  Please be aware that your India visa starts on the day it is issued, NOT when you land in India.

This trip will be geared toward yoga teachers, serious practitioners, and those who are independent travelers and who can go with the flow.  I won’t sugar-coat it:  Ma India can kick your ass but good.  It did mine the beginning of this trip, my 6th, and then I surrendered and let go.  Once I did that, all was good.

The entire trip will be from March 10-March 24 (arrange  your flight to leave Monday, March 25 or thereafter.)  You must spend a day decompressing from your flight to India and acclimating a bit before KYM classes start on Monday, March 11.  However, I can tell you that after 6 trips with 16+ hour flights to India, I do not have jet lag when I arrive — I hit the ground running.

I’m throwing this out to the Universe.  Doing the best I can and letting the rest go.

Let me know your interest.

not where I had my treatment — I liked the sign!

looking healthy and happy in Varkala

back in the U.S.A.

with statue of Patnajali, finally bought after 7 years of going to KYM

Back from India with a good case of reverse culture shock.  It’s not fun, I feel like hiding in a closet for about a month, besides which I have a horrible cold from breathing the recycled air of 500+ hacking, sneezing people for 18 hours flying over 2.5 continents and an ocean.   But I’m already planning my 7th trip so stay tuned for details — I have already booked March 11-15, 2013 at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram to bring people for private classes — 5 minimum, 8 maximum.  Let me know if you’re interested because after that week I am planning to teach a yoga retreat in Varkala, Kerala.  Throwing it out to the Universe and we’ll see what gets thrown back.

My yoga trainings were amazing.  I completed Modules 1 and 2 of Ganesh Mohan’s yoga therapy training and because he’s such an amazing teacher that combines the best of East and West modalities, I’ve decided to complete all his modules.  I will take Module 3 here then return to India next year for Module 4.

The course at KYM, “Discover Yoga Anatomy”, was equally amazing.  After going to KYM since 2005, the senior teachers know me and I can no longer hide in class — I get called on now!  The course drained my brain because it definitely was an “advanced” training.  For example, we had a course on “Yoga Anatomy in the Classical Texts”, a course where we discussed various aspects of Chapter 3 of the Sutra-s (among other texts).  We tore apart YS 3.26-27-28:  what was Patanjali really speaking to?  Do you take what he said literally or is the north star a metaphoric reference?  Where is the north star in our body, what does it represent?  Loved it — yoga more than skin deep.  I feel grateful and blessed to have been introduced to the Krishnamacharya lineage via Srivatsa Ramaswami when I first started teaching — it is both an honor and responsibility to be a representative of this tradition.  SRI GURUBHYO NAMAH.

Yoga more than skin deep, beyond asana… what a concept.  I realized in India that the more I study in this lineage, the more I am a yoga freak at home.  A stranger in a yoga strange land.  As hippies were called “freaks” back in the day, I feel even more so like a yoga freak now.   It contributes immensely to my reverse culture shock.  I was happy to be in India when the John Friend story broke and was amused by all the blahblahblah about it.  I spoke with a KYM teacher about what is called yoga in America and she just shook her head.

In Kerala I was offered a house and garden to convert into “Sama’s Yoga Garden” — “you could do whatever you wanted, let me get that house cleaned up for you, Shakti”, as a new friend called me and reminded me of my essence, daily.  Sigh.  I could have stayed for at least three more months.  A teaching in attachment and letting go.  I saw for the first time in 6 trips that I could very well split my time equally during the year between India and here.  Yes, it is possible because it feels so right in spite of Ma India’s warts — my trip started out a bit rough, but I eventually realized it was me, not India.  Another teaching on having no expectations and letting it all go.  I think once I learned that, that set up the scenario for the rest of my trip, things I experienced and who was brought into my life.  Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

I actually cut my trip short, changing my flight to return 9 days earlier.  I was supposed to end my trip in Varanasi but one day I had a major epiphany that I don’t need to go there because everything that is there in that holy city is already inside me.  Stop searching.  Just.  Stop.  “You know your dharma,” the Voice told me.  Shut up and do your practice.

That was one lesson Bharat Ma taught me on this trip….know your dharma.  “Do your best and let the rest go” was something Ganesh told us.  It became my new mantra.  And as it turned out, I received an email from someone who has offered to help me find a place to bring yoga to the underserved.  My dharma.  We’ll see what transpires.  Things happen when you let it all go.  As I said, we shall see what the Universe decides to throw back at me.

Ganesh’s delightful father, A.G. Mohan, came to talk to us twice and Kausthub Desikchar gave us two lectures.   I took lots of notes and will blog about their talks.

But for right now, this yoga freak is getting back into my closet.

************

PRODUCT REVIEW

Hugger Mugger sent me the Earth Elements Mat to road-test in India.  I wanted a thin travel mat that could hold up to my sweaty hands and I am happy to report that it fit the bill.

I thought it would be problematic because when I first started to use it my hands were sliding.  But the longer I used it, the surface “roughed up” a bit after which I had no problems whatsoever (and I was in weather that was over 90 degrees every day and very humid….with daily power cuts so no AC, no fans.)  I have the 3mm mat and although it is thin, it still cushions my bones.  It is thin enough to fold up and put inside a backpack for traveling, which I did more than a few times.  It is so light you can hold it with one finger.

If you want a great travel mat without paying a huge amount, check out this mat.  It gets a ringing endorsement from Metta Yoga, as did their Sattva Jute Mat I used last year.

Happy New Year…to me

The title is tongue-in-cheek.  I wish all my blog readers — and haters, especially the haters — a joyFULL and metta filled New Year and indeed, the same for all of 2012.

Looking back over 2011 I learned a lot this year — learned a lot in a somewhat quiet way, not so much in the hit-ya-over-the-head type of way.  And what I learned was yeah, it IS all about me.  Really.

The year started off with a bang as I had decided to stop writing after writing this blog for 6 years.   Then this Yoga B.I.T.C.H. returned, renewed and refreshed.   I did my thing all year, teaching my students and going for a few trainings, and then I hit the wall.  I almost quit teaching this year and then I got re-inspired.  I collaborated on a new and (we think) powerful Therapeutic Yoga Training that has garnered a lot of interest so far — but not where I live.  But I’m OK with that finally.  Esalen has asked us to send our yoga resumes.  Yeah, you bet your asana I want to teach at Esalen.  I’ve finally decided to conduct a teacher training and  I’m planning a Yoga & Spirituality Retreat in March of 2013 where the Therapeutic Yoga Training will be an option.

I also decided not to allow myself be ruled by the current yoga business paradigm because I am so much more than that.   Two yoga teachers who trust my vision are on board and if it’s meant to be, it will be.   I honestly don’t care what the local  yoga studio does because frankly, that business model is tired and stale and the people I want to teach to aren’t those people anyway.  To that end, I decided to start a non-profit corporation in spite people telling me not to do it.   Henry Ford once said that if he had asked people what they wanted they would have said “faster horses.”  Think about it.  I stopped allowing people without vision into my life.  But a praying mantis taught me my biggest lesson.

My biggest lesson was listen to my heart.

Of course I know that I’ve been doing that for years, listening to my heart and to my second brain, my gut.  But somehow I had lost my way a bit this year, I can’t explain exactly how.  Maybe it was by trusting people too much, by expecting to be treated as I treat people when I should have no expectations at all.  Yes, trust is a positive thing, but not at the cost of denying yourself.   My life lesson at this stage of my 57 years on this Earth is that I am not responsible for anyone’s happiness and no one is responsible for mine.  The key is to let go of everyone, and I mean everyone, who do not have your  best interests at heart, the ones who do not support you, the ones who can not make the least bit of effort to sustain a relationship.  Get rid of the “iffy” people as I call them.   Life is too short for peoples’ “bar talk.”  That’s over and done with, and like anywhere else, the yoga world has lots of bar talk.  My Kali Sister Svasti has some good advice about what she has learned in her 40 years on the planet.

While that lesson has been rolling around in my consciousness for quite some time, it took events of this year to solidify it.  Intuitively and energetically I know that my yoga trainings early next year in India — one with A.G. Mohan, and my 6th time at Desikachar’s school – are the culmination of my beginning.  A cycle has come to an end.  The long beginning was my 10 years of a yoga teaching.   I learned that you can’t seriously refer to yourself as a teacher unless you’ve taught for at least 10 years.  Sorry if that offends anyone.  On second thought, no, I’m not sorry.  I’m being real.

I also know intuitively and energetically that I am going to give birth to something potent and profound.  Don’t mistake my confidence for arrogance.  I know this as sure as I knew for two years that I had to be at the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar last year.  Spiritual adepts have been telling me this for years — that the years 2012-2014 are going to be a rebirth.  But you have to die to be reborn.  Dying never bothered me, it’s living that’s hard.

We’ll see what Varanasi has in store.  I’ll be there at the end of my trip at the end of March.  Varanasi is also referred to as Benares or Kashi, the city of cremations, a city of death and rebirth, a city that like Haridwar last year, I know in my bones I must be there at that time of my life.  North of Varanasi is Sarnath where Buddha did the First Turning of the Wheel of Dharma on the Four Noble Truths.  One city of endings, one of beginnings.  Between trainings I’m spending my time in Varkala in the south, where there is a 2,000-year old Janardana Swami Temple, a temple to Vishnu that is referred to as “Benares of the South.”   In Varanasi I’m staying near Assi Ghat, the same ghat where Krishnamacharya stayed when he studied in Varanasi in the early 20th century.  My India trips are always filled with such serendipity.

I’m ready for a new beginning.  I believe you either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.   Those are your three choices in life and I don’t have time for vanilla or beige anymore.  As Danielle LaPorte writes:

show up.

shine.

let it go.

Happy New Year.

To me.

Therapeutic Yoga Training

I am very happy to announce a new five day Therapeutic Yoga training, a collaborative effort with Mary Elizabeth Sheehan of Yoga Potential, Ft. Worth, Texas.

If you are a yoga studio, a retreat center, or a holistic center anywhere in the world, we will come to you — no destination is too far!  Contact either of us for more information.   This is an extraordinary training that combines three somatic modalites of yin yoga, trauma sensitive yoga, and Vedic Thai Yoga.

We are scheduling now for 2012 and 2013  –

“Each day will include lecture and discussion on the philosophy behind three somatic modalities, and body awareness practice via yoga, bodywork, and guided meditations. Both Linda and Mary Elizabeth will be in the classroom every day. Each day will last 8-10 hours including morning and afternoon breaks and a lunch break.”

Yoga connects!  Mary Elizabeth is a long-time reader of this blog and we finally met this summer.  Our energies and philosophies about yoga and healing clicked and after receiving Vedic Thai Yoga from her — and for those of you in the DFW area, Mary Elizabeth is an awesome practitioner — we decided to combine our modalities.   We firmly believe that these complementary modalities are very much needed in the world today.  Both of us would love to bring this healing to populations that can not get this unique training in their area.

This five day training will also be part of my Yoga and Spirituality Tour in the Himalayas to take place in March 2013.  The training will be an option to the 10 day package.  Stay tuned for details in 2012 — yoga studios who host my workshops in 2012 will receive “early bird” information regarding this tour.

“Linda was one of the first participants in the teacher training program my wife and I developed.   She has since participated in several others and we have corresponded on many issues about yoga, anatomy, and teaching.  I recommend her without reservation.” – Paul Grilley

Have yoga, will travel — contact us!

yoga in OMerika: what $95 buys

The Official Blessing

$95 bought that logo.

I don’t consider my posts about the Yoga Alliance as rants, although I am sure some would consider them as such.  I consider them a public yoga education.  I am reporting my own experience in order to help any newbie teachers make their own informed decisions.

I gave my reasons in this post as to why I renewed my registration with Yoga Alliance.  $150 later I am now officially an E-RYT 200 — “EXPERIENCED REGISTERED YOGA TEACHER.”  I know, I was such a hack before YA’s official blessing.  I can now conduct a 200 hour yoga teacher training after YA’s approval of my curriculum, of course.  After paying the requisite fees.  Of course.

I decided to upload more teaching and training hours to the YA site, so I pulled out my four inch thick folder with my teaching and training records.  I was amazed to finally see it all laid out in black and white, all the time and effort I’ve put into my yoga teaching since 2004 when I first registered with YA  — over 2000 hours of teaching and almost 900 hours of advanced training.  I did not even count each and every three hour workshop.

I thought what the hell, I will try to upgrade to E RYT 500 – 500 because one day I might want to conduct a 500 hour training.  The upgrade is another $95.  Piece of cake with all my hours, right?  Wrong, wrong, and WRONG.   This is the email I received from YA:

“In order to upgrade to an ERYT 500, one must first meet the criteria for an RYT 500, having graduated either from a YA registered advanced 300 or complete 500 hour program  (please see standards below).  

RYT 500-
A yoga teacher with a minimum of 500 hours of yoga teacher training, either:

o   500 hours from one school, or
o   200 hours plus 300 hours of advanced training from one school (training that requires participants to have a 200-Hour certification.

As you have not completed a YA registered training, but  have spent many hours of in depth study with Sri Desikachar, I would recommend that you complete the “graduate of a non-registered school”  application (attached) for your RYT 500 upgrade.”

Out of my 800+ hours of training, my three intensives at KYM plus private classes with Desikachar’s senior teachers total 300 hours of advanced training.  Apparently the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram is NOT a registered school with YA.  AS IF that would stop me from studying there.

I am sure Sri Desikachar stays up at night wondering whether the school he started to honor his father, the Source Scholar of Yoga, the Grandfather of Modern Yoga, should be registered with the Yoga Alliance.  Please.  Really?  The YA can’t cut KYM any slack?  Let them “grandfather” in as a registered school?  Seriously?  By the way, someone who certifies you in “Goddess Yoga” IS an approved school of the YA.  Right.

Here’s the kicker:  in order for me to upgrade to a 500 level teacher, the “graduate of a non-registered school” application costs $150 together with the $95 to upgrade to E RYT 500.  So another $245 over and above the $150 I already paid to renew and upgrade to E RYT 200.

Oh my Goddess, I am in the wrong business.  I need to be in the certification game.  And can someone tell me why YA is officially a non-profit organization?  I said “no thanks.”  I don’t want to pay another dime to YA especially considering all that dough is a lot of rupees in India which I will need starting in January.  But eventually I will have to pay it if I ever want to conduct a 500 hour level training in the future.  AS IF I could not do that RIGHT NOW.

Of course I can conduct teacher trainings without being “Yoga Alliance approved” but how realistic is that?  With the current mentality of yoga in OMerika, would anyone sign up for my trainings?  I doubt it, because even the most staunchly anti-YA teachers (Ganga White - a must read; Lex Gillan; and my teacher in Chicago, to name a few), ALL ended up registering their schools with YA.  Because that is what people look for.

So here is my question, good readers:  the curriculum being equal, if you had a choice of a non-YA approved 200 hour teacher training with someone like me, with all my hours, 5 times at KYM OR with someone who is YA approved but does not have the hours of training and teaching experience that I have, which would you pick?

And I will say this before anyone else does:  yes, I know hours of training does not automatically make one a “good” teacher, the same way inexperience does not automatically make one a “bad” teacher.  There are always variables.

Yoga in OMerika.  Travel at your own risk.

1st Yogathon for Victims of Domestic Violence

My long-time readers know that I have taught yoga and meditation at a domestic violence shelter as a volunteer since 2004.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month so I have always tried to do a yoga fundraiser for the shelter.  Many of you also know that I no longer teach at yoga studios so I have not been able to do this fundraiser for a while due to lack of a space.  This year the director of the dance studio where I do Nia has generously offered her studio so I am back on track.

Getting local newspapers to take any interest in this has been close to impossible.  In fact, getting ANY local people to take any interest in this is close to impossible.

So I am going global and I’m asking for money.  Big money….because I want to start a consistent trauma sensitive yoga program at the shelter.  If yoga bloggers can ask their readers for money to fund their teacher trainings or travels to yoga fests, I can also ask for some do-re-me.  The money does not even have to go to me, it can go directly to the shelter to be specifically dedicated for a yoga program.

I am looking for socially-minded corporate sponsors, whether in Illinois or anywhere in the world, to help fund my proposed Trauma Sensitive Mind-Body Program.  I study yoga therapy in India; I’m certified in Trauma Sensitive Yoga….I got the goods, people!  All my yoga tools are for the women at the shelter.

My TSMB program will provide structured yoga sessions for domestic violence survivors to give them tools to address their habituated patterns and symptoms that lead to relapse into the cycle of trauma.  I will offer a research-based yoga curriculum based on the ways in which mind-body practices facilitate traumatic stress recovery.

The shelter depends on grants and donations and the money goes toward keeping the doors open for the women.  After 7 years of teaching only once a month, I finally sat down last month with the director to talk about starting a dedicated weekly or twice weekly yoga program.  She said they would look for grants for money to fund my teaching but it will be a long process.  I said that I was patient because after all, I’ve already been teaching there for 7 years.

I am not a non-profit organization (although I am looking into re-organizing as a “low profit” corporation, a new business entity) so I can not apply for grants on my own.  Once I tried Kickstarter to help raise money, but they refused my project because it had nothing to do with the arts, it was not “creative” enough.  Even the local yoga magazine has refused stories in spite of two of my students contacting the editor over the years.  I’m calling you out, Yoga Chicago.

I admit it — I get a bit down when I see others get featured for their karma yoga projects.  Not jealous because they are doing valuable work…just depressed because I’ve been doing the same thing for a long time and maybe if I got some news flash, some local money would flow into the shelter to start a program.  Or maybe just some help or advice.  Whatever.  I just keep plugging away.

As naive as this sounds, I am looking for a benefactor for this program.  A sugar daddy.  Or mommy.  An anonymous benefactor or maybe a rich person can leave us some money in their will.  Another Oprah.  Hey, Oprah!  You had Rodney Yee on your show years ago and talked about how wonderful yoga is…so help a sister out, will  ya?

Blech.  I’m just tired of banging my head against the wall.  It’s very tiring when you’re the only one doing this without any emotional support.

I know a lot people from all over the world read this blog.  If you can help us out, contact me.

But in the meantime, if you are in the Fox Valley area of far west suburban Chicago, consider attending the First Yogathon for Victims of Domestic Violence.  Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.

Help some sisters out.

from sadhus to zebras, part 2

After spending five nights on Zanzibar — no internet, no phones, just lots of sun and beach and alone time and daily power cuts and one day of the Zanzibar version of Delhi Belly — I flew to Arusha via Dar es Salaam to lead my yin-yang yoga retreat.

Years ago an akashic record reader told me that something so potent would occur during one of my trips to India (this was before the Kumbh Mela was even a thought in my mind) that I would have to go a “green place with palm trees” in order to recoup. Yep, that happened. Everything that spiritual adepts told me would happen, did happen on this trip.

I have to say that if I hear anyone whine about how terrible airport security and the TSA are in American airports, they are getting one tight slap (and if you know old Bollywood movies you know what that is.) AMERICANS HAVE NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT REGARDING AIRPORT SECURITY, so get over it, keep your mouths shut, and get on the planes. Until you’ve flown through African airports, you have nothing to say. For one thing, you are x-rayed twice, once going into the airport and again before your gate. If you are lucky, you won’t get your carry-on searched. In detail. So shut up.

I spent two days chillaxin’ at my friend Pat’s house before we left for her friend’s property where I was to teach. The retreat started on a Friday night, but Pat asked me to guest teach her class the night before. I taught the class by candlelight and flashlight because the electricity AND the lodge’s generator went out. I just went with the flow and it was a great experience! During savasana I chased inch-long black ants away from one student who had baggy shorts on — didn’t want one of those humongous ants crawling up his shorts and biting his asana or worse!

I was blessed that the weekend was a screaming success. I did two dharma talks and four yoga sessions and each one was filled with 17-20 people each. Not too shabby for my first global teaching experience.

Of course the energy was very different — different students, different cultures, a different country. There were a few Americans, but most were British and Dutch ex-pats with varying degrees of yoga experience, however, many did not have a consistent meditation practice. That’s where I tweaked them.

My first talk on Friday night was “Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation” and I felt like crap. After all my traveling I had finally hit the wall and my stomach had started bothering me again. All I wanted to do was sleep and this was only 7 at night. It was also obvious to me that these yoga students were not accustomed to sitting and listening. One woman was trouble — if you teach long enough you can figure out in a heartbeat who’s going to be a challenge as soon as they open their mouth. Pat even got upset about how rude this woman was and how fidgety the students were. I let it all wash over me. Everything is temporary.

I wouldn’t exactly call this woman rude but I could tell she had some type of anger and control issues. She asked questions not to learn more but to challenge me and then she eventually walked out on the Friday night talk. Her husband came with her for the yoga sessions and the funny thing was, he was the exact opposite of her — he was funny, kind, and self-deprecating. As it turned out, by the end of the weekend she had softened up a bit. I had directed some of my dharma talks on JUDGMENT to her during the yin sessions. She ended up thanking me for the weekend and wrote down the name of the book I had read from. Everything is a teaching, even for the teacher.

The morning sessions were yin yoga plus vinyasa and the afternoons were all yin yoga. All sessions included mindfulness meditation. During the first session on Saturday a most wondrous and serendipitous thing happened: zebras walked through the retreat. I was teaching the vinyasa portion and I saw the zebras and stopped everything. I pulled out my camera and said that I had to take a picture because no one back home would believe it. Teaching here just isn’t the same, believe me!

I could tell that few had experience with mindfulness meditation, so I thought I would take them out of their comfort zone. After the first session on the first day, I told them that since the weekend started out with a talk on mindfulness, I wanted them to keep mauna between the sessions and if they could not do that, then at least practice mindfulness as much as they could. I gave them examples such as keeping their voices low, deeply listening to someone, not interrupting when someone was talking to them, and mindfully chewing their lunch.

Some looked shocked but they tried it. Most were into it, but I saw a few reading books and texting at the same time. I tried the mindfulness experiment on the second day between sessions, but many blew it off. The funny thing was that on the second day those who weren’t into the meditation part did not even try to hide it.

I would have them sit for about 20 minutes at the end of each session. Eventually I would open my eyes a bit and I saw people with their eyes wide open big as day, looking around, adjusting their clothes, scratching an itch, or picking their feet. It’s always the feet-pickers who get me (and you know who you are.) Hey, if you’re not even going to try to sit in stillness, then sit quietly with your eyes closed and stop squirming around like some two year old kid with ADHD.

At one point I also had them do a 30 minute walking meditation which had profound impacts on some people. The majority had never done walking meditation before and they liked it. Probably because they weren’t sitting still!

I loved teaching to a totally different group of people. Even though they were westerners, they were still different compared to American yoga students, at least my students back home (mine are much more mindful!)

I must say that after being in Arusha I can see why people there are fidgety and easily distracted. While the area outside the city is a wonderland of indescribable beauty, the energy I felt in Nairobi and Arusha was one of underlying violence waiting to happen. I couldn’t shake it. Some people told me that they felt Kenya will be the next country with a genocide, it’s just a matter of time.

The fact of the matter is that all these westerners, even if they have lived in Tanzania for 20 years, could be kicked out if the government decides they no longer want non-Tanzanians in the country. I saw buildings with huge red Xs on them. Pat told me if the Arusha city government decides it wants to widen a street, your building will be Xed and knocked down at a moment’s notice with everything inside. You can come home from work one day and no longer have a home. One of the students ran a restaurant and his building was knocked down just a few weeks before. Poof, gone.

Pat will soon move to a town outside of Durban, South Africa. Her and her husband have lived in Arusha for 15 years, but she told me that it has never felt like home. Pat will build her own yoga shala somewhere on their land so she can teach and she has asked me to come back and do another retreat. Who knows? Maybe next year. I know there is at least one yogi in Durban because someone from there did a search for “Mark Whitwell” and found this blog!

We went on a 48 hour safari after the retreat. On the second day we went to Ngorongoro Crater, the place where humankind took its first steps. When you are witnessing the beginnings of the wildebeast migration, an event that has been going on for thousands of years, and all you can hear are the animals, the wind, and your breath, it does something to you on a primal level. I was told I would die in India and be reborn in Africa. I now know what that meant.

I don’t think Africa will ever be my India, but with an open heart I look forward to returning. I am very grateful for having this opportunity that was set in motion five years ago. Hari om.

“We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Well, then can I roam beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year,
Yes and maybe it’s the time of man.
And I don’t know who I am,
But life is for learning…”

karma yoga in Tanzania, Africa

I borrowed this fabulous photo of Mt. Meru from Miss S and her blog Yoga, Dogs, and Chocolate. Miss S was kind enough to help spread the word about my Yoga Adventure in Africa. I was overwhelmed that someone who has never met me could write these words: “Linda is an old soul, peaceful and living in the light. She really has a way of making you feel good and know that no matter what is going on everything is going to be OK.”

Thank you and much metta to you, Miss S. I will say again that it overwhelms me to receive the support from global yogis ever since I started writing this blog (and you know who you are!) I am blessed.

Much more important to me is that if you attend this yoga experience of a lifetime, YOU WILL ALSO LITERALLY HELP PEOPLE TO SEE because $108 of your yoga payment will be donated to the Seva Foundation for their eye clinic in Moshi, Tanzania.

YOU WILL GIVE PEOPLE
THE GIFT OF VISION

That’s compassion in action. That’s karma yoga. If 10 people attend this yoga camp, that’s $1,080.00 donated to the eye clinic. Do you know how far $1,080.00 will go in Africa?

What are you waiting for?

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selling myself

As per Svasti’s suggestion that I should ask people to spread the word about my Yoga Adventure in Africa…I am asking you to spread the word. All of you who are regular readers of this blog and the yoga bloggers on my blogroll, please help spread the word about my yin-yang yoga weekend in Arusha, Tanzania. This yogini of a certain age is bustin’ out of Middle America and going global, baby.

Dear Svasti was the first one to help advertise this on her blog and on Twitter.

Yes, I know in this global economy that yoga funds are limited but they say if you’re going to dream, dream big, so I’m dreaming big. The fact is that there are always people with disposable income even in crunch times, they just have to find me.

The genesis of this trip is thus: I was asked to teach there. I met Pat at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005 when we both did the month-long intensive. She said that traveling yoga teachers are few and far between in Arusha so could I come teach to the ex-pat yoga community. We kept in touch but the timing was never right for me. Now it is and all things happen for a reason. Here is what I’m offering:

SCHEDULE:

Friday afternoon: Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation

Saturday morning: Yin + Yang practice + meditation (2.5 hours)

Saturday afternoon: Yin practice + meditation (2 hours)

Saturday evening dharma talk:

Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness as they apply to your yoga practice

Sunday: same schedule as Saturday

YOGA DESCRIPTION:

We will explore both practices of passive (yin) and active (yang) yoga. Yin yoga consists of long-held poses (3-5 minutes) focusing on the connective tissue of the hips, pelvis, and spine. We will passively stretch the tendons and ligaments in order to unblock and distribute chi (prana) throughout the meridians (nadis), clearing blockages, and helping to balance our organ and meridian systems for our general health. This powerful practice opens your body and enlivens your mind for meditation. A slow flow vinyasa class follows the yin practice visiting the poses that you already love. You will relish the extra space cultivated in the yin poses as you discover a new sense of freedom and grace in yang movement. Recommended for students of all levels with a “beginner’s mind”, and is especially recommended for athletes and all “stiff” yogis! An open mind, rather than an open body, will deepen the experience of this profound and powerful practice.

This is truly a yoga experience of a lifetime because after the yoga weekend there will be two safari options available for you. If a safari is not your thing, book five days at the Blue Oyster Hotel on Zanzibar (and who does not want to say that they chilled out on Zanzibar?) BEFORE the yoga weekend and you’ll get a 10% discount off 2010 prices (proof of retreat participation must be shown at check-in.) Complete details and safari prices are available here.

Most importantly, this trip involves seva. $108 of your yoga payment will be donated to the Seva Foundation to help support their eye clinic in Moshi, Tanzania. If you come on this yoga adventure you will literally HELP PEOPLE TO SEE.

It’s always been extremely difficult for me to market myself (I need an agent!) When I did my first website it took me 6 months to just write about me. The bottom line is that yoga in the west is big business and I need to get my name out there. Look at any of your favorite big-time yogis and they are not shy about marketing themselves and putting what they offer out there. They also have people who are more than willing to help spread their words.

It’s my time after all these years. According to Wikipedia, Arusha is also the Hindi word for the rising sun. There are no coincidences.

So if you want to help a yoga gal out, spread the word. I’ve already spent $512 on a half-page ad in a local yoga magazine, I need to make back some dough!

(thanks!)

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