Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Feeling like you are in a trance . . .

Dear Teachers (you too students)

Have you or do you ever feel as though you are in a trance when teaching a class?

This past Monday we had a small group at lunchtime yoga. One of the students asked if we could go slower today. I agreed, knowing that slower is often much more challenging.

As we moved through the class I slowed down. I gave more instruction about why we were doing what we were doing. "These sun salutations will warm us up - we warm the muscles and connective tissue before we move into the more challenging standing poses." That sort of thing - which line of the body we were working on and so-on.

At one point I gave some cues, I heard the music and thought, "that is a nice song to go with what we are doing." Everything seemed to slow down and the next few minutes just flowed. It felt really smooth and natural. I guess I would have to say it was a time of spontaneous peacefulness. There was no wondering what was next or thinking ahead, just 'moment by moment spontaneous right action.' Yeah, that was it.

This has happened to me before - both while practicing and while teaching. But I guess I tune in to it more sometimes. Do you know what I mean? Just being in the flow. Being there with others. And in this case - the case of teaching yoga - being a part of creating the flow. Early on Rolf said that one job of the Vinyasa teacher is to create an experience. That was how this moment felt.

In Day 4 of Meditations from the Mat, Rolf Gates writes;
"At a Native American gathering in 1999 for the summer solstice a Hopi elder said: "There is a river flowing very fast now. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off to the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for when we do our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves: banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for."

In that moment on Monday i felt like I wasin the middle of the river with my my eyes open and my head above water. I was celebrating with those who were in there with me. The word struggle was extinct.

It was a movement in to stillness.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Shoulder blades down the black"

Hey teachers - do you get tongue-tied? Does a wrist suddenly become a forearm? Do you have trouble saying shin or calf even when you are looking at a shin or a calf?

The skills that I nee to learn as a teacher include calling my right leg my left leg and my left arm my right arm. Lately I've said "shoulder blades down the black" several times in a row.

In addition to refining our alignment cueing, we must relearn our right and left sides, weave a theme, watch the clock, remember what is next, make adjustments . . .

My wife says a yoga teacher is like a duck, calm and peaceful as it floats across the water, paddling wildly under the surface.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bryan Kest - rhyming the practice

For me there is no other way to say it. It was like taking a yoga class from a combination of Tony Soprano, Dr. Seuss and a great yoga master. Bryan Kest came and delivered one great message. Keep it simple, take the ego out. His whole approach to teaching was about being gentle to yourself and doing just what you need to do today.

I guess it was a bout 1/2 way through the practice that I realized his whole spoken narrative was rhyming. Yes - it was Seussical yoga. I can't remember a single rhyme right now. His voice is low and his delivery is simple but stern like a mobster.

If I had to guess I would say we did about 12 poses in an hour and forty five minutes. He warned us ahead of time not to expect anything fancy. This was real simple yoga, hard as hell.

I think his message is one that is needed in America today. This is spiritual practice. You may not need to go deeper in the physical poses, but you do need to go deeper in to the principles. Be gentle with yourself on the mat. Take that gentleness out in the world. Leave your ego outside.

Bryan made a big imprint on me. Now the question - is Jonny Kest his brother?