Do Your Homework

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Kaz Castillo assists Veronique Tan at Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore

Kaz Castillo and Veronique Tan with the dedicated practitioners at Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore.

Last week, Veronique Tan, whose program I am covering here in Osaka, distributed a sheet explaining “homework” to each regular student. I was with her, as she explained to each student what she recommended they work on over the next two months that she is away in Mysore. And how I would be here to help.

On Thursday, one student, Akemi-san noticed that I had my own sheet–actually, sheets plural! A neat stack stapled together, on each page was the profile of two students, each a regular Mysore pass holder, their current posture, their work in progress, their challenges and their “homework.” She pointed with delight and laughed!

“Yes,” I smiled and laughed too, explaining that I also had my own “homework” from Veronique-sensei!

And so work begins. Homework in tow, I will be going to Spirit tomorrow morning, my first day of a two month covering stint here at Spirit Yoga Osaka.

The Mysore program here is not new to me. Past teachers that have taught here are friends. The first to hold the program, Ursula Scott was instrumental in inspiring me to make my first ever trip to Mysore, India. Then, last year, I became the interim covering teacher here between August and September. Returning now after nearly 9 months of teaching in Egypt and in Spain, of traveling and having what I can best describe as an epic romantic adventure with myself, I feel a little like I’m returning to the classroom after having done quite a bit of homework myself.

Sure, it’s been a little “off book.” There’s been a lot of practice–but a lot of the prime yoga  experiences lately have happened off the mat. Self-study is not an isolated activity that is happening at home, it is happening all the time in life.

One never really knows what to expect or what our practice will be like or what the class will bring each morning. And it’s best not to have any expectations. But we certainly can come to class, to our mats, to our lives a little more prepared each and every morning…

The Schedule of Morning Mysore: Monday-Thursday 6:30-10:00am. Friday 6:45-8:45am Led. Sunday 7:30-10am.

PHOTO: Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore. Photo by: Veronique Tan.

Oh, My! How They Grow!

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IMG_4748I recently came home to Manila after a year of travel and teaching. The most striking of changes were seeing my nieces and godchildren, two of whom were newborns when I left the Philippines. I was shocked and delighted to see them walking, talking (though the words are not formed yet).

Returning to Osaka after nearly nine months, I feel a little similar, seeing how things have changed and how the program has grown.

It was a beautiful and easy re-entry to Spirit Yoga last week, as I assisted Veronique between Tuesday and Thursday. I loved seeing some of the older students with whom I had worked with grow deeper in their practice. And I was thrilled to see how many new faces there were also. It is a real joy to see one’s practice evolve. It is likewise so heart warming to see a whole program become bigger, more robust.

It’s a real pleasure to be back. It’s an honor to hold this space once again, in the teacher’s absence, this time Veronique Tan, who has been guiding the program here since October 2013. I feel blessed and inspired to see how much a program can grow!

PHOTO: Thursday’s class was an all time high: 27 practitioners. We had to draw open the curtains to the changing area to make space for people to finish. I love the enthusiasm I see here in Japan. Could clearly see how happy the students were to send Veronique off so she could herself study with her teacher. I start leading the Mysore mornings tomorrow, Sunday, June 29.

Inner Dance: Back to (ENERGY) School

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Pi organized a two-day offering during my brief “stopover” in Manila– giving me a chance to see the babies and catch up with him and his wife Daniw, to take a refresher course and see what new things he has been trying out with Energy School, and giving me time and space to stop and dance myself.

Though it’s only been a little over a year and a half since I last saw Pi Villaraza, the young Filipino healer, at the forefront of the Inner Dance movement, it felt like a lifetime since I saw him last.

At the heels of the much anticipated end of the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012, we had just barely concluded a three-week free-flowing Inner Dance immersion/training, when Pi announced that he was going for a walk.

Now… the last time Pi went on walkabout, he disappeared for years from society at large. He lived as hermit on a remote island and drank only coconut water, emerging with the healing inner dance process, which he then began to share across the Philippines and South East Asia, and to the many global healers and seekers who have sought him out in Palawan, Philippines.

So as a group of us, who were at the Maia Earth Eco Village at the time of his departure, watched as he walked away, there was no knowing what to expect, other than things were changing. That was the only certainty. I didn’t feel sad exactly, seeing this dear friend go, but felt strongly that something was ending.

Inner Dance, the community as much as the process itself, was like a serpent, at this time. It was renewing itself, shedding its old skin in order to move forward with fluidity and grace, and, most of all, with a new lightness.

Pi returned. Much sooner than anyone might have anticipated. Some might have thought he was never to return. Life went on. But differently. Daniw, Pi’s wife, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Issa, growing their family.

Seeing Pi last weekend, I realize that he too has been giving birth to something new. How inner dance continues to evolve under his stewardship. How in essence the process is the same, if not more authentic than its ever been but also how the methodology is developing, how there is more logic in its form, particularly in its facilitation. And how more than ever it is a marriage of science and mysticism–and I only use the word “mysticism” for the lack of a better word to explain the presence of the divine in our lives that isn’t necessitated by a leap of faith but rather of actual experience.

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The two days were a deep exploration on the ID process. It was exciting to see how the methodology is inspiring both deeper and more authentic results. I saw people swirling in movement, singing, crying, speaking in tongues, wriggling on the ground, releasing blockages by screaming–all kind of typical of the deep release work that happens with inner dance. What was new could be found in Pi’s facilitation. The ID process is finding a balance between form and fluidity, Yin and Yang, Shiva and Shakti.

It was also affirming to see how certain things have come to me during my own facilitation these two years, through the traveling, exposure to other tools, and through my own experience as a student of yoga and as a teacher, that are very much aligned with the direction that Pi is moving in. A testament, I think, to the great universality of Inner Dance; that it has It’s own energy, that It will move its practitioners in the direction It needs us to go.

Furthermore, it was a great to meet some of the Manila Inner Dance community. Having sought Pi out in Palawan and returning there often, I have never danced in Manila, though it is where I am from. So it was a great opportunity to connect with this segment of the community I have no experience with.

Lastly, I am so grateful to Pi for believing in me all these years–even when I had no belief in myself–for supporting me in my own process and for encouraging me to move forward in this work. I feel truly blessed to have this beautiful soul in my corner, reminding me who I am, lest I forget it again.

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F
ood by Asha, Pi’s sister, who runs Dahon Kusina, a source for raw food products, raw food workshops, and a favorite at the Sunday Legaspi market.

The Teacher’s Energy

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Veronique coming into Virabhadrasana A

Veronique coming into Virabhadrasana A

I love that precious time in the morning, when everything is quiet, and the teacher self practices, breathing his or her energy into the space, laying down the blueprint for the class to come…

Things have gone full circle again as I return to Osaka, this time to cover for Veronique Tan, who took over the Spirit Mysore program after I subbed for it 9 months ago. For the last three mornings, I have worked the mysore room with Veronique, assisting some familiar practitioners but also a lot of new ones.

And I am inspired–just as I imagine many of the students (there was a record number of students today at 27) who came to class this morning to send off their teacher. It’s amazing what one person can do in 9 months. And while Veronique herself relates that the program did not begin to grow until the spring months and humbly points out she’s not done much out of the ordinary–as an outsider with an inside seat I see things differently.

Barring certain logistical restrictions and external factors, for students to show up, the teacher must shows up first. And mere attendance will not do. For a teacher to truly show up they must practice in the same way they want their students to attend to class, with consistency and dedication, with flexibility and also compassion. First and foremost, the teacher must practice, really truly wholeheartedly practice–not for the student but for one’s self, not with any attachment to any particular goal other than to simply practice. Ideally, he/she must teach as he/she practices; ideally, he/she must live as he/she teaches–at least, as best as humanly possible.

In the last year, I have learned a great deal from not just the experience of teaching and the interaction with students but also from the teachers I have had the good fortune to cover for and learn from. I know I will continue to learn in this space even with Veronique all the way in Mysore, India. Lots to look forward to here at Spirit, where I will be subbing the Mysore program from July 1 to August 31.

Dance Like Shiva

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We are all dancing.
We are always dancing.
We are dancing with ourselves.
Dancing with our friends, colleagues,
family, even strangers we meet on the
streets.
We are dancing with our work.
We are dancing with our practice
and in our playtime.
We are constantly dancing with this/in this
Whirling Wonder we call Life.

PHOTO: Nataraja, Shiva dancing with Osaka City in the background. It’s a pleasure to be back in Japan. I will start teaching for Veronique Tan here at Spirit Yoga on Sunday as she goes to India. Will be teaching the Mysore program here until the end of August.

No schedule yet for Inner Dances but am excited to offer the moving meditation and healing modality as well!

A Look Back: Ashtanga Yoga & Detox Retreat in Gouna, Egypt

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This retreat with Nūn Center in Cairo was a total surprise. The day I decided it was time that I finally book a ticket out of Cairo, where I have been lingering for nearly over two months, Nada from Nūn called to see if I would like to lead the retreat, thus happily extending my time in Egypt.

The week-long retreat was a marriage of so many beautiful methods, all promoting nourishing the body, mind, and soul. Meditation, breathing exercises, Sanskrit chanting, yogasana (ashtanga and gentle classes for those on juice fast) were woven through an expertly planned and executed nutritional program with a juicing or (delicious!) vegan detox diet and body work. Inner Dance, particularly, moved participants to new depths, allowing people to feel free, release and flow in new ways. Everything just dropped so beautifully into place.

 

 

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There were a variety of yogasana classes. We started with a gentle welcome class introducing many to their first taste of yoga. The following mornings, more experienced practitioners opted for ashtanga class with the first two days being foundation-building led classes, followed by mysore-style self-paced classes, while juicers and beginners were treated to gentle flow and yin-style classes, focusing more on allowing students to cultivate greater awareness of their bodies.

 

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One of the best things about teaching a week-long retreat is the luxury of time. There is time to develop a stronger connection with students, to cultivate greater awareness in the body, to dive deeper into the multifaceted yoga practice. We had time to meditate each morning, to practice chanting mantras like the Gayatri Mantra, to sample yoga nidra and kirtan.

AND There was time to dance–inner dance, that is. In all, there were three sessions. The first session was an (inner)eye opener in which participants felt awe and surprise at the experience of their own healing energy. The second, which was a partner session, was a playful and loving exchange between participants. The final dance was one of deep surrender and beauty, spontaneous and heart-opening.

 

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I love how after the week, I could clearly see the transformational power of yoga combined with a rich slew of holistic practices, how everything beautifully supported each other. Grateful for this final offering in Gouna, Egypt. Excited at the possibility to work further with Nūn Center in the future.

PHOTOS: Nada in headstand, background is The Palace pool in Sheraton Miramar and the Red Sea behind it. / Asana classes. / Partner inner dance session. / Chanting together. / Final group picture.

 

 

 

Finding of Treasures

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IMG_4150Last day and I weave my way in and out the vibrant souk Khan el Khalili in Old Cairo. There is a lot to see and it’s easy to get lost. I have a particular goal, buying presents for family members, but along the way there are many distractions. Lots of shiny things. Glitzy miniature pyramids, faux pharaonic treasures used to bait tourists. Store sellers calling our attention in English, in Spanish, in all sorts of languages except the local Arabic. I am happy to have a guide, who knows her way around.

There’s a delicate balance to be maintained. Focus enough to keep to our main purpose–in this case, belly dancing costumes for my nieces–but with an openness, spontaneity enough to allow the magic of the souk to happen, wherein the unexpected treasures hidden there may also be revealed.

It takes skillfulness to navigate a bustling market place, teeming with possibility, with novelties and antiquities. It is exciting and inspiring. It can also be exhausting and frustrating if wondered haphazardly.

There is a need to be centered, so that you can spend time, energy and money wisely. Likewise, there is a need to simply be in the moment. To enjoy the souk, which in itself is a delight and a treasure.

Reminds me of (guess what!?) practice! Practice is a bustling souk, full of everything, amazing finds, incredible energy, but also dead-ends and traps. Navigating it can be tricky. It’s good to know our way around (as in self-practice) or to have guidance (with a teacher). It’s also good to go for a wander, to allow ourselves to get lost a little, because this is how we learn.

We aim to practice with concentrated effort. Too much focus on any one particular thing, and we may miss the unexpected treasures along the way. Too little focus and we allow ourselves to get caught up; we get distracted from the main goal, deep connection through practice.

Practice like going to the old souk demands/inspires a balance between skillfulness and surrender, the two facilitating the finding of treasures.

PHOTO: Alley-side stall with an array of old and new trinkets and treasures. No trip to Cairo is complete without diving into the dynamic old Islamic Quarter. So blessed to have such a great guide and companion on my day out at Khan el Khalili. Thank you, Sumaya!