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!

Self Practice is ON! Spirit Yoga

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Self Practice is ON! Spirit Yoga

This week, Spirit Yoga Mysore is on self practice mode. Students are helping each other. Cheering each other on. Practicing as usual, with their whole hearts, bodies and minds. With or without a teacher.

By next Sunday, authorized Level II teacher Veronique Tan will lead the program on. Just one week after my departure.

Before I arrived in Osaka two months ago, I asked my friend Ursula Scott, who was the first mysore teacher in Spirit Yoga, for her advice. She told me this: share everything you know!

And so it ended last Sunday, later that planned, as I poured as much as I could of myself, of what I knew into a preparation workshop class for Self Practice, knowing that for a week, students would be directing their own energy, exploring the joys and difficulties of self practice without a teacher.

It was an odd end. I felt empty. But now, after a few days rest, I feel so full from that last class, and from the two months of sharing with such amazing, attentive, and loving students. I’m excited for them, for the opportunity to learn with Veronique.

But also for the chance for them to explore the depths of practice on their own–this is where so many jewels and treasures lie, in the solitary depths of self practice.

Light Changes

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Light Changes

The mornings are starting to get darker in Osaka and the natural light usually streaming into the room at this hour was most definitely dim.

The practice, however, has its own light. It draws from a different source of power. Like the sun, yes. But also, unlike it.

It is life giving. Subtle. Illuminating. Warming. Powerful. It can be overpowering too if we’re not careful. It helps us see. And, at times, it can blind us. It deserves our utmost attention and respect.

As we practice, we generate the light of our hearts. When we practice skillfully, we can direct this light. With practice, we are never in the dark.

Build Foundation, Find Flow

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Build Foundation, Find Flow

September 28, 2013. My first workshop in Osaka, Japan. May there be more in the future!

It was a quick two and a half hours lecturing on the tenets of yoga philosophy that make up the foundation of asana and experiencing tristhana (breath, posture/bandha, and drishti) in a variety of ways in an exploratory asana class.

Next Sunday, October 6, 3-5pm, we will be having a special workshop offering “Prepare for Self Practice,” which will go over principles of basic adjustments in the primary series as well as some framework for vinyasa and backbending.

There is a week gap between my departure from the mysore program here in Osaka and the arrival of Veronique Tan, the program’s new teacher.

The workshop is aimed at inspiring students to find the gifts and the joys of self practice, which is many many fold, during the interim.

The First Row

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The First Row

In the mysore room, practitioners trickle in at the start of class. When the first row fills before the class officially starts, it often becomes one of those full-power kind of practice days.

Somehow, these early students set the pace, they warm the room, they get it going: a flow in which all the later currents can just pour into. And the studio, most of the time, fills–I think, attracted by the power of practice already brewing in the building.

Sunday Suryanamaskar

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Sunday Suryanamaskar

It’s Sunday. We start mysore practice with Suryanamaskara A. Most of the time we forget the meaning of the things we do automatically. We confuse the series of postures as a warm-up–and it is, though somewhat different from what we think we are doing.

We do warm the body, we warm it as we bow to the light of the sun. We melt away the layers that need melting.

We wake from the winter morning, and rise to the springtime of our day. We grow. So that we may enjoy the warmth of summer and later harvest the fruits of our labor, before the sun goes down again, and the cycle starts all over.

Everyday, we move through the seasons. In our practice, in our lives.

The practice is the practice for our practice.

Dance your heart out

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Today felt like the inner dance process properly, finally landed in Osaka as four Sprit Yoga Studio students joined the session. It was time to turn things inside for a moment, to experience what is deep within through the body.

With little explanation, a matter of necessity due to my lack of Japanese, we went straight into experience. First, an exercise of feeling the energy moving our hands. Then with a demonstration with Fusako-san, a student from the Mysore program, who attended the first ID session.  As Fusako-san explained her experience, the lightness and the lack of thought in the movement, I looked around. Participants looked calm but a little baffled.

Nothing left to explain, we decided to go ahead and dive in. And dive in we did. I prepared an all Shiva-inspired sound track to help us into the process. Shiva, who is Nataraja, the dancer, would lead us into it. And he did not fail.

ImageThere was dancing. Small, quiet movements. Full, all-out movements. There was some emotion. And a lot of peace.

There is no formula for the dance. But when it works, we simply know it. We feel its power, we feel the opening in the body.

As we shared afterwards, one participant asked what was the purpose of the dance? The dance is a healing modality. It can move energy, emotion stuck in the body. We are able to observe it and then in the observing, release it. But I added that my own purpose was to help people see who they really are beyond all the constructs, to simply remember, if only for a moment, their truest of natures.

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