a very special yoga retreat for 2018

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After years of taking people to South India for yoga, I’ve decided to head north.  Way north.  Almost to the top of the world.

If you have always wanted to visit India but did not want to go alone or in an impersonal group, then this is the perfect way to do it — space is limited to 16 and the trip is a go with 4 minimum.

In one of the most beautiful places on Earth deepen your Yoga sadhana with the joy of movement and breathing, stillness and silence, live in the moment simply and joyfully, and engage in meaningful cultural exchange between the East and West.

My friend Piyush Kumar owns DUNAGIRI RETREAT, an eco- retreat center about 7 hours north of Delhi, where “HEAVEN MEETS EARTH.” Piyush has been trying to get me up there for years and we have finally planned October 1-12, 2018 for you. Read more about Dunagiri at the link above.

The Himalayas are revered as a place where spiritual practices are heightened by the energy of the land. India’s ancient yogis knew there was transformational power in these mountains where divine energy is palpable. We will dive into a daily breath-centered authentic Yoga practice in the Krishnamacharya tradition. We will also practice some Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra and all classes will include guided Pranayama and Meditation. Reflexology and Integrated Energy Therapy will be available and for those who wish to be attuned to Reiki Practitioner Level 1, I will offer attunements at the additional cost of $100 — think how potent that transmission will be in the Himalayas!

You will fly into Delhi and we will be taken to the wilderness of the Kumaon. We will be welcomed by Piyush and delicious vegetarian food will be prepared for us daily. The Himalayan wildlife and flora surrounds us as we take trips to spiritual sites (such as the birthplace of Kriya Yoga) with breathtaking views of the mountains. There will be many opportunities for you to relax and renew and to soak up the peace and stillness of the Himalayas.

Dunagiri is a very special place in India because according to this article it is where “Mahaavatar Babaji had initiated Lahiri Mahasaya to Kriya Yoga almost 150 years back. And a lot of Babaji followers came to Dunagiri to visit the caves.”  If you have ever read “Autobiography of a Yogi” then you know what this is all about.

The price includes airport to airport service – meaning that you are picked up at Delhi airport, taken to the Delhi hotel for overnight stay, transferred to Dunagiri the next day, spend 10 nights at Dunagiri (double occupancy only — a roommate will be assigned if you choose not to pay the single supplement), be taken back to Delhi for an overnight hotel stay and then taken to the airport. All lodging and transfers are included in the price. The hotels chosen are in a Delhi neighborhood that offers great shopping. Piyush tells me that an extra night in Delhi can be included complimentary depending on your arrival/departure time.  And it could not be any easier to get your E Visa for India right here!  (affiliate link)

All meals and all activities like treks, guided walks, and drives/day trips around Dunagiri for the duration of the retreat are included. The weather is perfect in October with daytime highs in the upper 70s. Rooms can be heated at night if need be — see Dunagiri’s website link above for a look at the rooms.

$3, 360.00 USD
Double Occupancy
$3,560.00 USD
Single Occupancy-
LIMITED AVAILABILITY

NON-YOGA PARTICIPANT (Double Occupancy) — $2,860.00 USD
NON-YOGA PARTICIPANT (Single Occupancy) — $3,060.00 USD
A ROOMMATE WILL BE ASSIGNED IF YOU TRAVEL SOLO
OR YOU MUST PAY SINGLE OCCUPANCY RATE IF NONE IS AVAILABLE
(bring a friend or family member!)

**$500 NONREFUNDABLE DEPOSIT DUE BY DECEMBER 31, 2017**
(SEE NOTE BELOW)

 

JULY 1 — Balance due.
AUGUST 1 — 50% refund of any amounts paid minus $500 deposit – request must be received in writing by this date.
SEPTEMBER 1– Due to payment requirements of Dunagiri, NO REFUNDS of any amount paid will be made after this date. If cancellation occurs while retreat is in progress there is no refund for any unused portion. Deposit and trip price not transferable.

THIS TRIP IS AN INVESTMENT BUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD WILL BE PRICELESS

If you wish to pay in installments AFTER the $500 deposit, please do so by the 15th OF THE MONTH JANUARY-JUNE 2018. If you are paying for DOUBLE occupancy, the monthly installments are $475 with final installment of $485 due June 15. If you are paying for SINGLE occupancy, the monthly installments are $510 with final installment due June 15. Please contact me for other installment arrangements.

As Dunagiri Retreat is a very popular destination, the dates in October will fill up fast unless I have committed attendees. I have found over the years that the best way to plan a trip to India is to gather people who are seriously interested and committed to TRAVEL THAT TRANSFORMS.

This will be a trip like no other, very different from my previous ones.  As Piyush says:

“…we feel it is our responsibility to offer a unique and fulfilling visitor experience, and to do so in an environmentally and culturally aware and respectful manner. The facilities we offer at Dunagiri Retreat are modern, comfortable, minimalistic yet authentically ‘deshi’ — right down to the cow’s milk sweetened from its diet of fresh mountain herbs. Through sustainable tourism, we also fulfill our mission of maintaining the ‘thin distance’ between heaven and earth at this very special place. For doing so, we offer dignified livelihood to residents of the area; supplement local educational resources and provide primary and preventive healthcare.”

(**If there is not enough interest by December 31, 2017 the trip will be cancelled and your deposits refunded. If there is enough interest, deposits are nonrefundable.  As with all my trips, airfare to India, visa and passport fees are not included.)

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morning rants

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Artist unknown – sorry! If you know, tell me, I will give credit where credit is due.

Good morning, yoga peeps!  No, I’m not going to say NAMASTE.

Because OH MY GODDESS, GIVE ME STRENGTH TO DEAL WITH THIS MODERN YOGA WORLD.

I just came back from one of my favorite places on Earth and I’m not talking about India.  The only reason I returned home was my cat Maggie, NOT because I have to teach yoga.  So I am feeling extra ranty this morning.

Two articles came up in my Facebook news feed and of  course there’s lots of back and forth and blah blah blah about it.

Y’all might have seen the original article about ethics for yoga teachers, the one that appeared in the New York Times.

This is the one being discussed in my FB feed today:  A Code of Ethics for Yoga Teachers – a draft.  

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

As a Buddhist, I’ve also taken the Five Precepts.  But those AND Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas don’t stop anyone from doing anything if they really want to commit something or take advantage of someone.

We’re talking about INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY, PEOPLE.

Fuck rules or suggesting that LICENSING yoga teachers will help.  There are scummy yoga teachers who know the Yamas and Niyamas and still went off the rails. There are Buddhist lamas who slept with their students.  There are yoga teachers who don’t know yoga philosophy from a hole in the ground yet they are ethical and smart teachers.

Maybe I’m a total simpleton but I don’t need a set a rules to enforce me to be kind, to have empathy, to not take advantage of someone, to not cheat someone, etc. etc. etc.  Too much talk, not enough discernment.

The other article is Yoga can be painful and can lead to injury, study says.

Well, no shit, Sherlock.

“Doctor, my shoulders hurt so much from doing 108 chaturungas in my Power Yoga class every day.  What should I do?”

“Don’t do them.  Take a rest.”

DUH.

I’m pretty much over these reductionist articles about yoga including the recent one that Consumer Reports published about how yoga is great for back pain.  YAY, everyone jump on the yoga bandwagon because IT’S ALL GOOD!

Yoga IS good for back pain. But depending on the yoga AND the yoga teacher it can also aggravate back pain.

How is “yoga” defined?  If a doctor tells someone to “do yoga” where are they going to go? To a local studio where a class is taught by someone just out of a 200 hr training the previous week?

To a local gym or park district fitness center where classes are an hour and there are 30 people in a class?

Or are they going to seek out private one on one yoga with someone with a ton of training and experience who has studied in a therapeutic yoga tradition for 10+ years and knows how to modify asanas/meditation/breathwork for their body and condition?

This is why there must be differentiation between asana only classes and yoga as a vehicle for transformation mind/body/spirit (whatever spirit means to you.)  Those categories require different levels of training and have different outcomes.

I’ve always said YOGA is a question of semantics because asana only is not YOGA.  Yeah, I said that, deal with it.  As I’ve said before, I heard Desikachar say in class, “Yoga contains asana, pranayama, and meditation.  Anything else is acrobatics.”

Talk amongst yourselves.

 

 

“WHITE LADIES FINDING THEMSELVES SISTERHOODS”

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original upload by White Ibiza — irony, much?

“I would like to imagine other options, other ways of being, other ways of understanding identities, other ways of being together, even as we come apart.

Especially, in my world, where women gather.

In sisterhoods — to explore spirituality, creativity, personal development.

Our sisterhoods need to evolve.

They’re so often a slurry of cultural appropriation, spiritual bypassing, neoliberalism, multilevel marketing, and random woo punctuated by various signals of authority, virtue and performative vulnerability from their leaders.

And to quote Queen Latifah, they’re whiter than a Wilco concert.

I know; I’ve been in them, and have profited off of them. In lots of ways, I still do.

We can do better.

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(Pretty done seeing us white women using the word “tribe” for a lot of reasons. Like, people who buy our shit are not a “tribe.” A NEWSLETTER LIST IS NOT A TRIBE. See also: NamaSLAY, Spiritual Gangster, Unicorn Thug, Gypset and other terms that are co-opted by white people from POC to sell lifestyle products.)

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The inherent racism, classism + other -isms of LOA and The Secret, and other “mindset” and “manifesting abundance” programs are rarely thoroughly confronted.

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Can we give things up so that we begin to enter into a better relationship with each other? What might that look like? Our dreamcatchers, our dreadlocks, our trappings of the new age flattened without dimension or context by Whiteness and by capitalism, which really can’t be separated from each other? Can we wonder why we love to put on face paint and feathers to show our affinity for Standing Rock but don’t say shit about Black Lives Matter?”

____________________

WOW.

A friend had posted this piece by Rachael Rice on her Facebook page and I was blown away.  You can read the entire piece here.  I immediately sent Rice a friend request because damn, I had to know this woman who wrote what I’ve been thinking for a very long time.  I wrote about the lack of diversity in the New Age Yoga World long before it was on the radar screen of some popular yoga bloggers.  Ahem.

This is sure to piss off a kombucha drinking white New Age yoga woman somewhere.  Holding up a mirror to white privilege usually does that (“I’m not racist, I have a black friend!”)

I invite you to read Rice’s entire piece and her links and video before you get your Lulus in a bunch and get all offended and ranty.

I’m not going to unload a shit pile of judgment on outdoor yoga fests where many who attend are dreadlocked white people.  You know which fests those are.  As an introvert and loner, those mega fests ain’t my thang.  I’m a lone wolf.  If you feel the need to bond for three days with like-minded people, go for it.  Just don’t call it a fucking TRIBE.

Before learning definitively I am Native American and Mexican (I was lied to about my ethnicity but that’s another story), seeing white people wear headdresses as a fashion statement or burning sage (“spiritual Lysol” for white women as a Native friend calls it), made me very itchy.  I couldn’t tell you why but it pissed me off.  I just knew it was wrong.  Finding out I was Native explained it.  “Blood memory” a Native friend told me.

Don’t get me started about white people calling themselves “shamans.”  Absolutely a white person can study with an indigenous person and learn the ancient ways.  But not everything belongs to you – some things have to be earned the hard way, through sweat and blood and tears.  And you don’t become a shaman in a weekend workshop at a yoga studio or New Age store.

Rice also writes about giving up her making of dreamcatchers:

“This is my announcement that I will no longer be making dreamcatchers.  It is no longer congruent with my ethics as an artist to profit from this type of work. Really, it never has been. I’ve never felt 100% comfortable appropriating and selling a white girl version of the indigenous craft even though I took measures to give back, to educate, to honor the people I learned from.”

I also invite you to read that entire piece because dreamcatchers are a BIG THANG in the New Age World.

As I said, this post is sure to piss off someone.  But these are things that need to be said and explored.  If this post makes you angry or defensive maybe that tells you something.  Learn from it.

As Pema Chodron said, we need our buttons pushed if we want to get woke and stay woke (paraphrased.)  That’s what a good teacher does.

But it’s easier to sleep walk.  I love being the troublemaker.  😉

 

 

 

 

 

are you faking it ’til you make it?

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ONLY IN INDIA ©2017 Metta Yoga & Bodywork Company

Below is a question that was asked in a Facebook yoga group I belong to.  As a teacher who is persona non grata in my local “yoga community”, it was an important question.  My answer to the teacher’s question is below it.

“I’m wondering how people experience and process professional jealousy. It seems to be a part of our normal human experience, but it feels particularly horrible – sticky, viscous and taboo. Sometimes it’s ridiculous – resenting that a new teacher, who I’ve mentored and supported – has ten people in their first class, even though most of them are friends there to offer support. Other times it’s more peer-related: why has that person received that opportunity (even if it’s one I didn’t want) or that recognition or that amount of money? For me, it seems to be rooted partly in anxiety about my capacity to make a living (which is compromised because of my disabilities), and partly in a voracious need to be seen – which I can laugh about, but there it is.”

MY ANSWER:
“I think it’s all about finding your niche and to stop trying to be all things for every yoga student. I’m not a “love and light” type of teacher so for those people looking for that, I’m not their teacher. There are plenty of others out there who will be. I always remember what I heard Seanne Corn say in a workshop, that she’d rather teach to the two who get it (i.e., what she teaches) than the 10 who don’t.  I’ve reconciled myself with that.  That might not mean a lot of money in my yoga bank account, but it’s all about choices. I’d rather be me than try to be something I’m not.  I’m not going to fake it to make it.”

What say you, yoga peeps?  Are you faking it by pushing down your emotions as if they are something dirty?

From my Buddhist perspective, less than beneficial emotions are not to be transcended, they are merely to be recognized and let go.  Yes, I know, SIMPLE BUT NOT EASY.

In this Facebook yoga group some said negative emotions should be transcended so we can evolve into an enlightened state.  Good luck with that Humans!

It fascinates me to see how many yoga people believe we are supposed to be immune to jealousy, hate, anger, bitterness, etc. merely because we practice yoga.  A 200 hour training, 1000 hours, or even 10,000 hours of training does not mean we become enlightened.  I mean seriously?!  Ramana Maharshi spent days in such deep samadhi that he was unaware of ant bites.  THAT’S trancendance, people!

After about six weeks, “he was carried out and cleaned up. For the next two months he stayed in the Subramanya Shrine, so unaware of his body and surroundings that food had to be placed in his mouth or he would have starved.”  And we expect to become enlightened or transcend painful emotions just because we do a little yoga?  WHAT?!  One woman commented in the Facebook group that she felt “immature” and so “unevolved” for having an emotion like jealousy.  I’ve heard the Dalai Lama say that sometimes he still gets annoyed at reporters’ dumb questions.  Hey, if HHDL can get miffed about dumb questions, so can I.

I have found these things to be extremely helpful to me over the years.

The first thing is the wonderful book Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi.  It is not a recent book but I think it’s the best I’ve read about our shadows on the spiritual path.  It will definitely be required reading if I ever get around to creating a teacher training.  My copy is heavily underlined and dog-eared.

The second thing is Jack Kornfield’s technique of RAIN:  “RAIN stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-Indentification. This acronym echoes the Zen poets who tell us “the rain falls equally on all things.” Like the nourishment of outer rain, the inner principles of RAIN can transform our difficulties.”

I also recommend Phillip Moffitt’s book, Emotional Chaos to Clarity: How to Live More Skillfully, Make Better Decisions, and Find Purpose in Life.   The Amazon blurb: “Despite our best-laid plans, life is difficult, and we sometimes experience anger, anxiety, frustration, and doubt. This emotional chaos can negatively affect the way we live our lives. Yet, Phillip Moffitt shows us that by cultivating a responsive mind rather than a reactive one, we can achieve a state of emotional clarity that allows us to act with a calm mind and a loving heart.”

Stop beating yourself up for being human.  You’re only a yoga teacher. 😉

Get your “Yoga Anarchist” Tshirt here

Being a hippie chick of the 1960s and 1970s I grew up with a “fuck the rules” attitude.

I ran from Chicago’s Finest during the Sly Stone riot in Grant Park when the band didn’t show up to play.  I also ran away at 16.  

Seeing Martin Luther King get hit in the head with a brick when he marched for open housing in my neighborhood and watching on TV the war zone that was the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention pretty  much radicalized me at a young age.

So me and most rules?  Yeah, not so much.  They make me very itchy.  And it’s the same way with Yoga.  Although I spent 10 years going back and forth to India to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, a Yoga school one can consider traditional, I still march to the beat of my own drummer.  That’s why Erich Schiffmann’s Freedom Style Yoga and Paulie Zink’s Yin Yoga feel so right to me.

An anarchist is someone who rebels against authority, the established order, or ruling power.  I’ve been called a Maverick, a Yoga Subversive, and a Fierce Voice in the Yoga Blogosphere so I dig the idea of Yoga Anarchy.  But you have to know the rules before you can break them.  Like the way a jazz musician studies the traditional way of making music for years then one day starts playing free form jazz and blows peoples’ minds.

Are you a Yoga Maverick? Do you color outside the lines? Do you hate being put in a typical Yoga box?  Do you explore your own personal Yoga?  Join the Yoga Anarchist Movement and fly your Yoga Freak flag high.  

HERE’S THE LINK TO GET THESE SHIRTS 

When I sell 5 then they are printed and shipped.  The font is simple as befitting a no frills anarchist but on the back of both the men’s and women’s shirts there’s a fuchsia lotus design that represents my business logo.

The ancient Yogis, the sramanas, broke away to do their own thing, rejecting Vedic Hindu ritualism and the authority of the Hindu priests.

So do your own thing and tell the world you’re a Yoga Anarchist.

 

ain’t nothing new…

Last year I became a certified Reflexologist.  I love doing the work.  For most of last year I worked with a friend who went through chemo, surgery, and finally radiation for breast cancer.  She said…“I could not have made it through my ordeal this year without you.  Your mojo is what balanced out all the scary medical stuff.  I knew I could get through, but relaxing as you did your thing was one of the only times my mind was clear enough to truly embody that message.”

I became a Reflexologist #1, because I was inspired by some awesome reflexology I received in India and #2, I wanted to learn something new and different.

But the bottom line is…

Nothing new under the sun… all it is is re wrapped and sold in a different language

I also do what I call “Shamanic Energy Work” (I use the word Shamanic because I’m Native) but there’s a ton of energy healing modalities out there.  Reiki, Quantum Touch, Reconnective Healing.  Same same but different as we say in India.  Aint’ nothing new.  Energy is energy.

It’s so true that there is nothing new under the sun.  I’ve been teaching Yoga since 2002. Today I looked at the Omega and Kripalu offerings just to see what’s what.  My first thought was, “I’ve been teaching these same things for 15 years.”

“Trauma sensitive yoga? I was teaching Yoga in a domestic violence shelter long before anyone even heard of Dave Emerson or “trauma sensitive yoga.”  Other than learning about the physiological aspects of trauma in the body, the training was a rehash of what I had already learned in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition.

“Introduction to Yin Yoga”?  I was one of the first Yin Yoga teachers in the Chicago area and taught classes and workshops at least 12 years ago.  I brought Yin Yoga to the Yoga community in Arusha, Tanzania in 2010.

Sorry J. Brown, but I was teaching “slow yoga” before it became a thing.  Breath-centered Yoga?  Starting teaching that way in 2005 and ever since.

“Mindful Yoga”?  I was in the first Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock in California 2007-2009.  Combining the Buddhadharma and Yoga in my classes felt right to me before I took that training.

“Therapeutic Yoga”?  I offered a workshop on Yoga in the Krishnamacharya Tradition for Yoga teachers after my first time at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005.  No one signed up.  Not one teacher at the studio where I taught at the time was interested.

Ain’t nothin’ new, kids.  The only thing is that those teaching at places like Kripalu and Omega can market themselves a hell of a lot better than I can.

As a long ago private student told me, it’s hard being a pioneer because pioneers get the arrows shot up their asses.  Much easier to follow the leader.

Like anything else, I see a lot of people running after that new, best thing.  It’s always been there, right in front of you.

Look for the Yoga Elder in your neighborhood.  You might be surprised at what you find in the deep hole you dig once you stop digging the shallow ones.

arf-arf! recommended by da' Dawg...

 

 

who says yoga classes should be 90 minutes?

New York yoga teacher J. Brown raised an interesting question today in his blog post regarding the “Incredible Shrinking Yoga Class.”

He writes, “In the last twenty years, yoga in the west has gone from a guru-driven model to a market-driven model. Decisions still often come from atop a pyramid. But now, the directives are based more on aggregated data than on the presumed authority of an ancient wisdom. One small manifestation of this turn can be found in the way that yoga classes have gotten progressively shorter. As yoga teachers are newly questioning old models for what and how they teach, industry mores also deserve examination.”

When I got back into yoga in the mid-1990s the class I attended at my local park district was 60 minutes.  I practiced at the park district for about 7 years (never moving into an “advanced” class whatever that meant back then) before I did my first teacher training and started attending yoga classes in Chicago studios where the classes were 90 minutes.

Those 7 years of 60 minute classes were never “just asana” classes.  Not that we talked much about philosophy or even did formal pranayama, but the teacher was a mindful yoga type before being”mindful” was a thing in Modern Yoga.

J. Brown writes, “Perhaps there needs to be a better way to distinguish between classes that are more directly concerned with the broader aspects of yoga, and those more geared towards an exercise regimen which potentially hints at something found elsewhere.” [emphasis supplied]

I have a simple answer for that: don’t call the asana only/exercise regimen classes “yoga.”  Truth in Advertising, what a concept.

I wrote about that in 2010 (sigh) when I said it was a question of semantics.

Or if it’s an asana-only class, why call it yoga at all? Physical therapists use movements derived from yoga all the time but they don’t call it “yoga.” It’s physical therapy and everybody knows that is what it is. Nothing else.

Getting back to the length of time of a typical modern yoga class, at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram where I trained the morning asana classes are 60 minutes.  The asana classes also include pranayama and meditation (which is how I teach) and the classes do not feel rushed, in fact, they are perfectly sequenced.  Long savasana is not needed (like a 10 minute one at the end of typical American classes) because we do one or two minute savasanas after certain sequences.

So who decreed that a yoga class needs to be 90 minutes?   But I guess that depends on what calls “yoga” (getting back to semantics.)

At the KYM pranayama classes contain some asana and the meditation class — a whole hour of meditative focus, how shocking! – contains some asana and of course, pranayama.  In other words, the yoga is not compartmentalized like it is here, the yoga is a seamless process.

A shorter, powerful practice is absolutely possible, it depends on the skill and training of the teacher.  But who can teach that way coming out of a modern 200 hour teacher training?

If what is referred to as “yoga” nowadays is shrunk to 60 minutes of posing and a 5 minute nap at the end, how then is that Yoga?  A 60 minute class of 20 minutes each of functional asana, pranayama, and meditation, skillfully taught, can be more potent than 90 minutes of something where “the teacher kicked my ass” that I used to hear all the time in studios.  How many 90 minute classes are nothing more than rushing through as many sun salutations as possible with no attention paid to the breath and doing a typical vinyasa flow once on each side and moving on?

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my “freedom style” yoga class in India

Thank the Goddess I no longer teach in yoga studios.  J. Brown writes, “The days of regular attendance in group classes allowing for a comprehensive yoga education have perhaps passed. People are not generally looking for a yoga education when they are coming to a yoga class anymore.”

Maybe so, I haven’t taught in studios for years.  I teach out of my house and I’ve been told my classes ARE like going to Yoga School.  Maybe that’s why some of my students (few that they are nowadays) have been with me since Day One of my teaching in 2002.  They keep telling me every class has been different in all those years.  I still can’t figure that out.

As a wise and pithy friend commented in my semantics post linked above:

“It’s [Yoga] a path of liberation we are talking about here – and not from “bra fat!” Patanjali’s first Yoga Sutra (Hartranft translaton) says it all:

Now, the teachings of yoga.
Yoga is to still the patterning of consciousness.
Then pure awareness can abide in its very nature.
Otherwise awareness takes itself to be
the patterns of consciousness.”

That can still be done in a 60 minute class.  You just have to know how.