Catching Wind, Empowering Practice


So many times I have found myself blown in certain directions. Mostly, though not exclusively, with incredible positive outcomes. Even gale force-like winds and maelstroms, which might have moored me into isolation or thrown me into some catastrophic disaster, would eventually abate and I would land wherever with the softness of a feather. I consider myself blessed to have had such good luck to be propelled so. I also know, that in many ways, I called for it, that I invited the elements myself to move me. Time and time again, I’ve taken myself to some peak, opened my arms in surrender, and like wings unfurled, I would get picked up and thus be transported.

I wondered, however, what would it be like if I participated more in this act of flight? The last year in particular has been about recognizing the difference between flowing with things and flying myself.

It’s been an amazing process, coming to a deeper understanding that all this raw energy can be transformed and directed. That I am not prey or play thing to the forces I perceived to be much greater than myself, but, instead, an active player, instigator, herder of energy.

There is so much in this; the world at large is packed with potential energy, raw, unharnessed. In the microcosm of us, we are likewise full of unrealized vitality and force. When we learn to access this, when we learn to use it skillfully, to move it in certain directions, something huge shifts. We are empowered.

This naturally happens when we practice. There’s this wealth of untapped energy in our bones, our connective tissues, our muscles, our breath, our thoughts and hearts. Our practice helps us soften the gross layers, physical and subtle, emotional and mental, that keep us from connecting with our own physical/metaphysical body.

When we practice with consistency over a long period of time, we start tapping into these energies, which then become apparent in the practice itself. We extract energy from the practice and it fuels us. Our bodies become efficient, so does our breath, we develop an economy of thought and effort and before we know it, we are no longer consuming energy but creating it, so ample that it overflows and drips into our lives causing all sorts of creative bounty /mayhem.

This is my tenth year of yoga practice. It’s not a very long time–I continue to feel like a babe in the woods–but it’s not a short time either. Whatever length it is, it is long enough to observe the effects of practice, how it’s changed, how it’s changed me, how my life has changed because of it.

These days in Cairo’s Nūn Center, there are a number of beginners and some students returning to practice after a substantial break. And naturally the struggles that come with starting an ashtanga practice begin to appear: the body gets tired, the mind wavers, the internal debate on whether to go to class starts when the alarm rings in the morning.

I remember my teacher saying that if you never leave your practice, it will never leave you. I still have those days where doing my own practice is like going to battle with myself. What he said, though, it’s true, and it gets me on my mat, it gets me through the first sticky sun salutation, and, eventually, the practice helps me catch wind.

Mysore Classes here at Nūn continue. Sunday to Thursday, 7:30-10am. This week, we are adding Ashtanga Basic classes Monday and Wednesday at 7pm. These classes can be used as an introduction to the morning Mysore program. Drop ins and all levels are welcome! 

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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.