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Monday, April 20, 2015

SPRING TRAINING AT STILLWATER YOGA - FINDING FAITH AND COURAGE

When you've studied and trained in Iyengar Yoga as long as is required for your Level 1 Assessment, which is a minimum of three to four years (or as long as it takes for you to be truly ready) and even longer for Intermediate, Junior Level or above Assessments, hearing the news that Iyengar Yoga will not offer Assessments after this year until 2017 took many of us aback. The chitta vrittis (read chatter) in my head whispered, "but what if I don't pass this year?" Fortunately, we all recovered from any lapse of focus and put our eyes back on what mattered: our Spring Training at Stillwater Yoga.

Stillwater Yoga owner, Kathleen Pringle is dedicated to training and assessing teachers. As one of only a few Advanced Iyengar Instructors in the Southeast, she conducts Teacher Training in Atlanta as well as other states. Her curiosity and fascination with the mobility and stability aspects of poses with various body types and issues is infectious. She takes us on a journey of learning that I wish all academic teachers could witness. Charlotte-based instructor, Erin Bailey explained, "I feel like Kathleen is a great fit for me as a teacher. I appreciate how gentle she is. Since I am a very sensitive person, I am glad that she puts compassion towards her students as a very high priority. She comes across as patient and a very careful communicator in all aspects of her teaching. And her beautiful smile alone is enough to put anyone at ease."

In Atlanta, students come from far and wide to study with her. Teacher in training, Kim Blitch drove from Kentucky despite the fact Kathleen will be in her town in a few weeks to teach another training. Kim said, "Kathleen is an inspiration. Her dedication and love for Iyengar Yoga is obvious as a teacher and as a student.  She is generous with her time and knowledge for which all of her students benefit."

Learning from those in the Iyengar system who have more knowledge is what distinguishes an Iyengar Instructor. Iyengar teachers never stop learning. For example, mentor, Kquvien DeWeese is away for a few weeks training at two different workshops with Senior Advanced instructors, Patricia Walden and Manouso Manos. One of the ways Kathleen continues learning is by going Pune, India every winter to study with Geeta Iyengar. 

Kathleen's ever-growing mastery of training teachers showed itself immediately. She set a seamless pace for the weekend by having us pick poses to teach in Nancy Mau's Saturday morning Level 2 Purva Pratana Sthiti or backbending sequence and then grouping us to fulfill a task. By focusing on our task together (eg. listing the linking actions between three poses in our sequence) each person in the group became a visible and viable part of our training. "We bonded right off the bat," said Phyllis Rollins of The Yoga Center in Charlotte, N.C.  


Phyllis demos a bad pose so Kathleen can 
teach us the correct hands-on adjustment.
We learn from Kathleen and we also learn a great deal from each other. In fact, Kathleen even learns from us. For example, she may witness common tendencies that teachers in training might have teaching specific poses. She shares those tendencies with us so we learn to avoid them. Aspiring Intermediate Junior Level Instructor, Phyllis Rollins explained, "I enjoyed working with the individuals to practice teach and get feedback on some of my problem poses."

Practice teaching is an important part of teacher training. Kathleen creates a safe space for us to brave the act of teaching some of the poses in our level syllabus. To keep us on our toes, she has the 'students' purposefully do common wrong actions to help us train our eyes to see them. "Kathleen makes the process supportive and helped me focus on the areas of my teaching that need improvement. It was a very positive experience for me," Phyllis concludes.

The secret to a great Iyengar class or training session is having some of what Patricia Walden calls your 'Yoga Vitamins'.  Nancy Mau explained in her seemingly flawless Level 2 class on Saturday that those 'yoga vitamins' are from Sutra 1:20 śraddhā vīrya smrti samādhiprajñā pūrvakaḥ itareṣām. śraddhā(faith) vīrya(trust)  smrti (memory) samādhi (concentration) and prajñā (wisdom) pūrvakaḥ.  BKS Iyengar translates this in Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali as,"Practice must be pursued with trust, confidence, vigour, keen memory and power of absorption to break this spiritual complacency."

In training, we have to put ourselves out there so we learn the most we can in the time alotted. That takes faith and courage. Luckily, Kathleen sets a tone of compassion that emanates to all of us. Erin adds, "It warms my heart to feel the support of everyone in our group. The feeling is certainly one of 'we are in this together' rather than that of competition."

No matter how raw or new to the system you may be you will get through it. Our Spring Training happened to be Atlantan, Corinne Lee's first Iyengar Teacher Training. Her openness to learning and willingness to put herself out there in an egoless way served as a reminder to us all to keep a beginner's mind. Corinne shared this about her experience, "Being new to the Iyengar lineage of yoga, I was thoroughly impressed and challenged by the rigorous and seemingly dogmatic practice and overall mindset. But I realized after my first teacher training, that the rules are there to keep your practice safe and steady as you progress into more advanced asanas. The Iyengar queing and sequencing has definitely strengthened and deepened my practice to a whole new awareness and communication with the mind-body connection."

Like Phyllis, I chose poses that I knew I needed work learning to teach. I'd done my homework, studied the material, and knew the primary actions; however, knowing it and teaching it through the Iyengar Method are two very different things. Kathleen explains, "In Iyengar Yoga, you teach one-on-one even if you are teaching a large class."  Everyone gets seen.  Therefore, we train not only to learn the actions of the pose, but also how to observe each student and know how to help support them where they are, further them along, or correct any wrong action that might come up for them.

After the Saturday Level 2 class where we each taught a pose, Erin Bailey of Charlotte admitted "Nancy Mau is a tough act to follow." Nancy's expert demonstrations, her economy of words in instruction, her clear and succinct corrections, not to mention her seamless linking of poses and yoga philosophy gave us a prime example of what we should all be aspiring to.

Becoming an Iyengar Instructor challenges every part of you in a very fulfilling way. You have to keep taking your 'yoga vitamins'. Your faith, trust, memory, and concentration are tested constantly. You transform and discriminating wisdom follows. Patañjali encourages us not to give up and not to loose focus with the Sutra (of which he has about 196 of them) that comes just after Sutra 1.20.

In Sutra 1.21 tīvrasaṁvegānām āsannaḥ, which BKS Iyengar translates as, "The goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice." The goal is Samadhi and here I will use the definition of that to be self-realization in every fiber, cell, and synapse. Self-realization so you can share what you have learned with an honest and pure heart. You can deliver your simple demonstrations and clear instruction with enthusiasm and ease.

I believe Corinne Lee saw the results of that vigorous and intense practice in Kathleen's Spring Training, "Once you've sat through an Iyengar teacher training with Kathleen, you can understand why she is so highly respected and well-known in the Iyengar community. Her succinct teaching approach paired with her genuine tenacity for the practice and her dedication to her students is inspiring."

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article. To Nancy Mau for showing us how it's done and once again allowing us to teach in her class.  To my training peers who I've enjoyed learning from and getting to know better. And of course to Kathleen who is committed to passing this great lineage along with the utmost dedication, integrity, and respect. 

If you'd like to learn more about the Iyengar Method visit iynaus.org and our Southeastern Iyengar Association at iyase.org. To learn more about Kathleen Pringle and her other great instructors please visit stillyoga.com #stillteaching #stillinspiring #stillwateryoga  #stillit.


Namaste.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Fooled by Form and Other Thoughts on the Journey To Self-Mastery - Part 2

"When stability becomes a habit, maturity and clarity follow."  - BKS Iyengar Light on Life


As an advertising writer and creative consultant, I am more than aware of how our human desires are enticed with sensual displays of everything from electronics to food and fashion to pharmaceuticals. However, as much as we like to blame advertisers for the many ills of the world, they can also do a lot of good. They can change behavior, caution, educate, employ, and raise money for good causes just to name a few. 

Those of you who are old enough to have children may have experienced how the exponential growth and omnipresence of advertising is beginning to teach our kids the need for discrimination. Learning to make wise choices is integral to finding balance in an over-stimulating, ever-changing world. The eight-limbed path of yoga is a well-tested systematic way to build the intelligence of the mind so we can think, speak, and act with discriminating wisdom.

It's been said advertising can get you to try a product or service, but only a good product or service can get you to buy it again. Learning to build good products is an art. Most of us have heard our parents say, "Well they don't make [insert product] like they used to." These days, we've come to believe some products are built with embedded obsolescence. In other words, after a certain time, it's actually made to break down so you have to buy a new one. It seems as if some manufacturers have lost their passion, drive, and sense of integrity when developing new products.

And yet, we are detoured constantly by them. Look, a shiny new phone. Where did you get those awesome shoes? Can I take a picture of your car? Is that a new lip color? Wait! How did I get here? Where was I? ADD/ADHD comrades aside, our world has become a massive detour sign destabilizing our connection to who we are and why we are here.

It has been my experience that when we apply passion, drive and integrity towards the 8-limbs of yoga, we have a better possibility to extend our life cycle so we are made to last. We can also develop control over the millions of distractions around us. We begin by building stability in the body through the postures. In the postures, we get to know ourselves by learning to ground our feet on the earth and extend our arms and legs and spine. 

Extension creates space in the body. It purifies our nerves and wakes up the skin so it's like every pore becomes an eye showing us more and more of ourselves. What is my left side doing?  What is my right side doing?  Which side is stronger?  Which side needs to work harder? As we progress we move from the skin inwards to the muscles, to bones, to the organs, and suddenly you find yourself wanting to go back and visit this fascinating place again and again so you can explore it more and more.

It's just you, yourself, and the unexplored sheaths of your body that are slowly unveiled as your stability and inward focus expands. You get glimpses of a quiet place deep inside you that offers stillness and peace.  It is from this place of stillness that you gain clarity like you've never experienced before. The moment you question it, you lose it.  The chatter in your head returns but like any other pleasurable occurrence you want to try to go back to it again.

Fortunately, along the way you have learned that with practice and detachment you build on the stability you've gained and the experiences of stillness, peace and clarity begin to grow too. You begin to be able to apply this stability and clarity to other aspects of your life. Over time, your desires and attachments are put in a perspective you can see with more eyes than you knew you had.

,,,To be continued. 

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Fooled by Form and Other Thoughts on the Journey to Self-Mastery - Part 1



     "Mastery of the body is the gateway to mastery of the mind"  - BKS Iyengar Light on Life


Yoga is a path I stumbled upon on my way somewhere else. It attracted me because it expanded on a mind-body concept that I'd gained from ballet without a promise of tutus or toe shoes. It offered something better: Freedom. The Cliffnotes version of yoga might be as follows: Mastering yoga precepts brings the discipline to master postures, which leads to mastering the breath, which leads to mastering thoughts and desires, which leads to one-pointed focus, which leads to supreme stillness that leads to self-realization. Mastering anything takes a lifetime of practice, discipline, and commitment. 

Most of us have encountered the idea of mastery at some point in our life. We are driven to become proficient at something in hopes of some reward.  As children, our first reward is usually some form of acceptance or love. Smile. Pick up your toys. Say 'thank you,' and master the social skills your culture demands and you gain acceptance into your tribe. School rewards your mastering the skills the 'system' deems important to becoming an active member of your community. Employers reward you with raises for mastering the skills the 'corporation' figures will give them the most return on their investment. Like Pavlov's dog, we learn very quickly that if we do something 'they' want we get a treat. 

We have been trained well, and yet the process of modern existence has distanced us further and further away from our connection to our own body. It's wild to consider that America's Puritanical beginnings have nothing over the digital society of today in its ability to isolate us from our own skin, but I'm beginning to believe it. Whatever we think we need these days takes on some form outside ourselves. It's beginning to get dangerous where we don't even think for ourselves. As former Harvard Business Review editor, Nicolas Carr asserts in his latest novel, The Glass Cage: Automation and Us. 

Iyengar Yoga is not an ascetic practice of denying the body or the material world. Being part of a household, neighborhood, or community are all opportunities towards self-mastery. The simple duties of cooking and cleaning can become wonderful exercises in mindfulness. However, by living at the speed of society these days, we have become automatons. BKS Iyengar says in Light on Life, 'They move from bed to car to desk to car to couch to bed, but there's no awareness in their movement, no intelligence."  We continue doing the same thing in order to attain some nebulous prize that promises to gratify our ego. What we discover is that no matter how much we get it's never enough. Reverend Jaganath Carrera explains in his book Inside the Yoga Sutras that if we believe something will give us happiness or pleasure, we are doomed to repeat it. However, the feeling is fleeting, so the craving returns, which is why he says fulfilling desires will never eliminate them. 

...to be continued.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Eye Ur Veda and Other Lessons from Ayurvedic Practitioner, Sonam Targee at Stillwater Yoga in Atlanta



Sonam Targee is a man of many talents with a list of degrees and certifications as long as most of our resumés. Stillwater Yoga practitioners, Tom and Anastasia Ragland brought him to Atlanta, and he offered a free lecture at the studio.


An Ayurvedic and herbal medicine practitioner for 30 years. He currently practices and lives in Rochester, NY. He was born in Tamil Nader, South India. He holds a masters degree in Chinese Medicine, a practitioner's certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a Bachelor's Degree in Ethno-musicology, a graduate of The New England School of Acupuncture, and a member of the National Ayruvedic Medical Association having studied extensively with renown Doctors of Ayurvedic Medicine Dr. Vasant Lad, Dr. Robert Svoboda, and Dr. Mahadevan, as well as His Holiness The 16th Karmapa Master Mantak Chia, Baba Mktananada, Dr. Hawkins, and Yeshe Donden (personal physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama). 

I usually never regret attending a lecture at Stillwater, and this turned out to be no exception. When I entered the studio, Sonam's sense of calm struck me immediately. Non-plused by late comers, he directed us to gather up several handouts to take home. Once we settled, he chanted an invocation. Apparently well-versed in yoga alignment techniques, he sat on blankets with his inner thighs weighted with sandbags. He began writing on a whiteboard some key points about Ayurveda. Marking an easy way to remember how to pronounce it by breaking it down to eye • ur • Veda.

He began by explaining that the Gunas or qualities in nature in Ayurveda are the results of the balance or imbalance of the basic elements earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Too much fire creates heat and dryness. Too much water creates dampness and cold. Too much air and ether create gas and spaciness.

In Ayurveda, Doshas are what make up the primary constitution of a person. There are three basic doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. We can be a single, double, or tri dosha.  Our constitution is determined by things like the mind space around your conception, the pregnancy, and childbirth, as well as seven generations or more of your ancestors --- not to mention the snake, frog, or swan pulse pattern on your wrist felt by your index, middle and ring finger.

Each dosha has specific food propensities, for example, Vata like dry and salty foods, Pitta like spicy and sour, while Kapha prefers sweet and creamy. There are also physical cues to a dosha type Vata may have long legs short arms or short legs and long arms.  Every dosha has a planet and day association like Monday and Friday are Kapha, Tuesday and Thursday are Pitta, and Wednesday and Saturday are Vata.

In addition, when a dosha is out of balance, it creates specific changes in the physical and mental constitution of a person.  A Kapha imbalance may lead to sadness and cysts.  A Pitta imbalance may lead to anger and rashes. A Vata imbalance may lead to anxiety and respiratory issues.

It is difficult to give justice to this 5000-year-old practice in just two hours - a practice that can even boast surgery techniques like the "nose job" which are still being used (unchanged) by plastic surgeons today. However, Sonam gave a wonderful overview and left us knowing there's a lot more to Ayurveda than meets the eye.

Namaste.

To learn about other workshops and lectures at Stillwater Yoga visit Stillyoga.com. To contact Sonam Targee in Rochester, NY call 585-256-1841. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Further discussion on freedom from suffering by "Cultivating the Opposite", Pratipaksa Bhavana

In my last blog, I explored the idea of pratipakṣa bhāvanā, "cultivating the opposite".  I talked about the importance of using this concept to counter the afflicted acts or thoughts that keep us in an endless cycle of suffering. The klesas or afflictions are avidya, ignorance, followed by asmita, egoism, raga, attachment, devesa, aversion and abhinivesa, clinging to life. I focused mainly on raga or attachment.

In an effort to deepen our understanding of how to use this new counteracting tool, lets look at its application in prānāyāma - regulating the breath. BKS Iyengar, in Aṣṭadaḷa Yogamālā, Vol. 1 goes into great detail about witnessing the breath and noticing how we breathe without the interference of other thoughts.  However, he says to do that we have to first establish silence.  In the same breath, he explains that "breath stimulates and creates thoughts in the brain."

Do you notice we have two opposing things going on here?  How can we find silence to breathe if breathing stimulates noise in our head? But that's life isn't it? Life is full of opposites. There's positive and negative, hot and cold, happiness and sadness, laughter and anger just to name a few. To cultivate silence in our head, we have to remember the Sutra Tivrasamveganam Asannah that Iyengar translates as, "The goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice."

We have to practice quieting the brain while witnessing the in-breath, the out-breath and the natural retention. If we don't discipline the brain to be quiet, it will suck all of our attention away. In my last blog, I describe a tornado of spiraling thoughts. To avoid thoughts from spiraling, the student "[...] has to learn to develop the sovereignty of intelligence and sobriety of brain so that the brain remains as a witness and not an actor. This is called pratipakṣa bhāvanā."

Once we find silence, we can begin to experience the wonders of our internal world. We can discover the origin of the in-breath. We can follow the breath and notice how one nostril or lung seems to engage in the process more than the other side.  If the left side is active or pakṣa the other side is the opposite or pratipakṣa bhāvanā.  

This week at Stillwater Yoga, we will be working on prānāyāma. Kathleen Pringle often asks us to notice the two opposing sides of the body as we breathe. We can strengthen the breath by bringing attention to the inactive side, which helps to balance our awareness of our breath.  This is also a form of pratipakṣa bhāvanā."  

Using the breath is also a good way to calm ourselves down when we are suffering deeply from any one of the five afflictions or klesas, which BKS Iyengar describes as 1. Nescience 2. Egoism 3. Attachment to lust or greed 4. Aversion, hatred or malice; and 5. Selfishness or fear of losing the joys of life.  The breath enables us to step away from those negative sensations. Instead of painful noise, we cultivate silence and breath.

We build strength one breath at a time, moment by moment, countering debilitating thoughts or feelings first with the breath. We create space, silence and awareness of our internal world. It brings us closer to our true self. It gives us an ability to gain clarity --to think and act in a more positive way than ever before. I encourage you to learn about how the breath can help you develop a habit of pratipakṣa bhāvanā.  It can become a strong force to fight the pains in our heart and head that keep us bound in suffering.

Namaste.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cultivating freedom from suffering through Pratikpaksa Bhavana

"Yoga starts not only with the analysis of sorrow  
but also helps trace the root cause of sorrow."  
- BKS Iyengar, Astadala Yogamala, Vol.1

According to Yoga Philosophy, there are five klesas or afflictions that cause suffering that is either seen or unseen. First is avidya, ignorance, followed by asmita, egoism, raga, attachment, devesa, aversion and abhinivesa, clinging to life. BKS Iyengar states the afflictions as 1. nescience 2. egoism 3.attachment to lust or greed 4. aversion, hatred or malice; and 5. selfishness or fear of losing the joys of life.

I am going to focus on the third affliction Raga or attachment. It's all about what we want to have or hold.  It's about desire or expectation and the afflicted thinking that results. According to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 2.33 Vitarkabadhane pratipaksa bhavanam, when we have what BKS Iyengar describes as an "arousal of thoughts" or Vitarka Badhane, we have to Pratipaksa Bhavanam. We have to counter that brain activity by contemplating what the heck is going on in there and doing the opposite.

Oscillating ruminations from lusting after or afraid of losing something or someone, expecting a raise to just being attached to a particular outcome in your yoga practice all cause endless suffering. They can only be countered by stepping away and getting a different perspective. As systematically stated in Patanjali's next Sutra 2.34. Vitarka Himsadayah Krta Daritanumodita Lobha Drodha Moha Purvaka Mrdu Madhyadhimatra Duhkhajnanananta Phala Iti Pratipaksa Bhavanam.  Iyengar explains this as "Pain are of three degrees - mild, medium and intense, caused by three types of behavior - direct indulgence, provoked and abetted. They are motivated by greed, anger, and delusion, and they have to be countered and corrected with right knowledge and behavior."

Jaganath Carrera's Inside the Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study & Practice of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras explains that the path of yoga isn't for "passive bystanders on the sidelines of life." If we are striving to be free from the destructive tendencies (read afflictions) of the human condition to gain any semblance of a state of peace and tranquility, then we have to work hard to counter our 'unbridled' thoughts. 



Destructive thinking can become like an endless tornado. It spirals downward and takes us and everything else in its path with it. Therefore, we must understand the imperative to stop it. To stop it, we must make a habit of Pratipaksa Bhavanam, cultivate the opposite of harmful or destructive thinking.   
It's mentioned twice in Patanjali's pithy 196 sutras. Perhaps that's because it plays an important role in the what he deems the ultimate goal of Yoga: Citta Vrtti Nirodha, the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.  BKS Iyengar describes as "the cessation of all forms of thinking, whether internal or external, that sprout with or without volition."  

Our thoughts have the power to create or destroy. We want to counter negative thinking with positive thoughts. Ultimately, we don't want to allow a tornado of thoughts to begin at all so we can be free of them and create peace. First, we have to be a witness to our thoughts and actions. We have to begin to recognize how they are affecting us and those around us. From there, we can begin to cultivate right thoughts and actions. Yes, it's a lot easier said than done. But my teachers and mentors continue to stress Sutra 2.21 Tivrasamveganam Asannah, which Iyengar translates as, "The goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice."

I may be an idealist, but I believe we can change. However, I'm smart enough to know change takes a lot of effort. Oddly enough, most of us will avoid that effort and choose to endure unbelievable amounts of suffering instead. Some of us don't see the problem has anything to do with us (it's something or someone out there causing all my suffering). Transformation can't happen without first acknowledging our thoughts and actions have something to do with it.

Chip Hartranft in his book The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, A New Translation and Commentary says we've all developed bad habits in our thoughts and actions that we cling to because they are what seem to define us somehow. Therefore, we need a systematic way to purify our thoughts so that we can be free from suffering. He says, "The central human wisdom Patanjali teaches us, is that a pure awareness resides, impervious, at the core of each and every kind of sensation, thought, and feeling, whether we see it (vidya) or not (avidya). And the route to knowing this wisdom fully is yoga." I just wonder how much suffering do we all have to endure and cause others before we recognize it and decide it's time to learn how to stop it?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Getting to the heart of language and intent: Valentine's Weekend Iyengar Teacher Training with Kathleen Pringle


Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland character the March Hare inspired the ubiquitously quotable line 'Say what you mean and mean what your say'. Of course, how often do we say what we mean? We usually discover if we did or didn't by the outcome, right? Did you get the action or reaction that you wanted?

Language is a powerful tool; however, it can become a heavy and superfluous appendage to inter-relational effort when used carelessly. Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training is not like any other kind of  education. I recommend it for reasons that go far beyond a desire to teach yoga. Learning discrimination and refinement in our speech is an invaluable skill, and it's an enormous part of Iyengar Teacher Training. BKS Iyengar set up a system of teaching the mind and body through the science of yoga that is designed to work on us synchronistically from the outside inward.

"Yoga releases the creative potential of Life. It does this by establishing a structure for self realization [...].  The Light that yoga sheds on Life is something special.  It is transformative. It does not just change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees. It brings knowledge and elevates it to wisdom."  --BKS Iyengar, Light on Life

Kathleen Pringle has helped transform innumerable Iyengar students into more self-realized individuals and certified teachers. The Valentine's Weekend Teacher Training paired introductory level teachers with junior level teachers. What is so unusual about this particular pairing is an innate sense of respect for each other and openness to learning. Iyengar Teacher Certification involves a lot of training, even Introductory Level teachers usually have a solid number of them under their belt, and they still may not be Certified Iyengar teachers. Junior Level teachers are veteran learners. They always come with a beginner's mind. In this atmosphere, there is a comfort level that allows organic exposure of what needs attention. While the training involved lessons on a myriad of details in teaching and questions on syllabi covering a total of over 90 poses, Kathleen often brought it back to our words.

'Do your words follow your intent? The idea came up not only with our teaching, where we would use confusing words to solicit an action, but also in our general questions. When someone articulated a question, it would seem clear at first what was being asked; however, Kathleen helped us understand how it could be interpreted in various ways. While it could be just "a matter of semantics," it's important to see how the subtle differences in language can create confusion. The amazing caliber of learners in our group allowed the possible interpretations to be aired freely. The more I listened to the banter the more I learned about the imperative for clarity.

Having the opportunity to take classes and train with Kathleen on a regular basis, I have slowly  begun to develop an ear for the care she takes with her words. She has studied the words of BKS and his daughter, Geeta intently. She knows words are not thrown around lightly in Iyengar Yoga. They are carefully said or written to bring Light. Every word matters. When the words change, there's a reason. Developing a refined sense of what we want to say is a constant challenge.  However, discrimination and wisdom with our words keep teachers from becoming white noise in the heads of our students.

Interestingly, I experienced something like this firsthand today, albeit in reverse. I had to finish some copy for a project and a woman who is renting a room in my house temporarily stayed home.  Her job involves calling film production people, and though she worked in her room with the door closed, her voice carried. I found it impossible to work, so I had to leave and go to a coffee shop.  It struck me how I could work undisturbed in such a crowded place. I texted Rusty Cobb, a music producer who works with sound regularly, and I asked him how I could write at Aurora Coffee with all the noise and not at home with one voice talking?  He said, "It's all about clarity." Unbeknownst to my roommate (who is wonderful, by the way) her singular voice resonated clearly throughout the house.

Clarity gets our attention. Kathleen said in an earlier training that clarity can also come through the quality of our voice. Our tone plays a large role as well.  The dynamics of the voice can become like a prop to our students to encourage, motivate, and keep them safe. In teacher training, Kathleen also made a point that to be clear doesn't always mean we have to use words. There is power in silence. When we demonstrate observable actions without words, it becomes another language (think sign language), and the eyes, not the ears form the impression.

Patanjali, credited for codifying the art, science, and philosophy of yoga through his 196 Sutras or aphorisms also wrote a commentary on the importance of purifying our speech and grammar. The American Sanskrit Institute says on their website, "Patanjali so perfectly captured the essence of yoga in his Sūtras that there is virtually no difference between theory and practice. The text is the practice."

Yoga develops the discrimination and wisdom that brings about lucidity in our thoughts and gives us more precision in our words. Iyengar Yoga offers a systematic way for that evolution to happen. Refining our speech is what will create the educational system, the neighborhood, the community, the business, the government, the city, the state, the world --the life we want.

In my opinion, it's a skill worth learning.

Namaste.


A big thank you to Kathleen Pringle for her time and insights. The tips on teaching inversions are invaluable. I'd also like to thank Nancy Mau for coming in on her anniversary and demonstrating exemplary teaching under our curious microscope.  Finally, I want thank my training peers, who will always and forever be my teachers, too.


*Source:  Yoga Sutras, The Practice by Vyaas Houston, M.A.
                http://www.americansanskrit.com/yoga-sutra-article





Happy Valentines Day To My Son

                                                                                                         February 14, 2015
Dear Cole,

I fell in love with you even before the tests proved you were there. Your dad and I had been creating TV, radio and print campaigns for years.  However, you will always be the greatest show of our creative abilities. They don’t give out ADDY’s or One Shows for that, but we didn’t care. Something bigger than fame, success, and ambition was developing. I felt an immediate connection.  You did make me sick at first, which made hiding your existence a little difficult. Not that we didn’t want to shout the fact from the rooftops. Your dad and I changed jobs to lower the stress of our work so that it wouldn’t affect your development. We wanted you in our lives. I talked to you every day. I read to you, too.  I couldn’t wait to meet you. You took your time. I waited weeks past your due date.  That was a bit too long. Luckily, we were in the right place at the right time, and though you came into this world with great urgency, you landed safely.  I will always be grateful for that.
Every parent I know describes feeling a love like they’ve never felt before.  It is amazing to me how every babble, blink, burp, or bm was a wondrous event. Reading “Pat The Bunny” to you again and again and again and again and again never seemed to bore me. A Blues fan from the beginning, the music that would settle you was The Cobra Record Story. I know every word of every song by heart. I even made up my own songs to the rhythms of those like,  “You get fussy at four, but I just love you more.” 
You smiled from day one.  Even though you had colic, and your system was very distressed, you could always summon a smile between pains. In fact, I’ll never forget we were in the doctors because you were running a fever, you were maybe 4 or 5 months and your dad started playing with you and your belly laughed so hard.  Here we were in the doctors because you were sick, and this infectious laughter came out of you for the first time.
Your whole being seemed to emanate joy. If you missed a day at daycare, the teachers would say that the children didn’t eat as well. Apparently, you walked around the tables and made sure every child “ate their colors”.  When I would pick you up you would squeal in delight. It thrilled me while at the same time making me aware of how much I wanted to be home with you. We decided to give it a try. 
I stopped working full-time and went freelance. That meant sometimes you sat quietly at my feet and played in the recording studio and occasionally, I’d have to take you to meetings. One meeting, while I looked for an address at King Plow, you decided to climb into the fountain to try to catch a fish. Luckily, your diaper held up to that; even the fish survived. When I brought you to New York while I helped Ogilvy & Mather with a client pitch, we spent a weekend at an Ashram. I remember you were pretty much potty trained by the end of it. Running around diaper-less long enough to discover the wonders of being a boy and urinating outside worked like a charm.
At home, the bottom drawers in the kitchen were all yours. However, the idea of sharing came innately to you.  One night we were all watching a movie, and you went to the kitchen, climbed up on a chair and got three plums.  You walked back and handed one to me, one to your dad, and kept one for yourself. You were like a magic fairy enchanting us all.  Of course, I do have fond memories of you utilizing the concept of sharing as a negotiating tool to get what you wanted as well,  “Mommy, would you like a popsicle?
Your first haircut, your first day at school, your first best friend, your first band concert, your first play, your first jujitsu competition, your first big idea, your first love, your first car drive – are all still vivid in my mind. Our first big trip together was to Paris. At only 11 or 12, you enjoyed going to museums and seemed so taken by the artwork. Your favorite at the time was Rodin. Getting the chance to see just how many times he sculpted a hand or foot to “get it right” fascinated us both. For your high school graduation trip, we went to Seville. It was such fun, from witnessing the passion behind the art, dance, and other crafts of the area to giggling over “monkey butt” remedies. Our most recent trip to India seemed daunting compared to our other excursions. I felt less in control on many levels. It became a demarcation line marking your independence. Though you’d already gone to college at Clemson, our trip made it clear to me that you were now your own man. I attended the Geeta Iyengar Birthday Yoga Intensive, and you found a Sitar teacher to study something you wanted to learn. Our days held vastly different experiences, but in the evenings we would share them along with an adventure together at a restaurant, a cave or museum. However, our connection felt more like two adults than mother and son.
Needless to say, it’s still an adjustment for me. We did do a few walkabouts together in India, and I cherish those. They have been our ritual since you were very little. Our first ones began as an adventure and a time to use our imaginations. We created a parade of dinosaurs that followed us. Every walk we made up fun stories where a dinosaur got out of line or had an issue where we helped them. When you got older, our talks changed. You shared your ideas about a software company, which you later began in 5th or 6th grade developing software games. You told me about your ideas for inventions for everything from cars and rail systems to an intriguing plan for a better educational system (one that teaches based on the student and not a one-size-fits-all curriculum - I wish you had that available to you now). 
I’ve watched you become such an amazing guy. You have an analytical mind, a creative soul, and a warm heart. You have so many talents you enjoy already from barista, banjo, guitar, and sitar playing to cooking inventive gourmet. I know that no matter what you do or where you go you will make a difference in the lives you touch.
My most profound moment with you was when you were just a toddler and unfortunately caught me crying after I’d experienced a great loss. You patted my knee and said, “Mommy, don’t lose yourself.  Don’t lose yourself.” You were only two and a half and your wise words resonated so strongly with me, I shifted immediately to a better place. For that reason, every Valentines Day I want to send those beautiful words back to you. Don’t ever lose yourself, because as you can see you are a precious, magical soul, my dear King Cole and you are loved very much.   

Happy Valentines Day! 

Love, Mom