the image on top is "Welcome Home Sweet Sugar" by Kelsey Brooks

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jen Pastiloff

Jen's class is fun.

About 15 minutes before class, I was in Santa Monica, looking up nearby options on the MindBody App. "Manifestation Yoga", .1 miles away from me, sounded so perfect that we just had to drop everything and run across Santa Monica's gigantic outdoor mall.

A couple sweaty minutes later, Jen welcomed us into the space and we set up in the front. We quickly learned the rules:

1. Have fun. Jen really emphasized that her yoga was about fun, above all else. And you could feel that joy expanding from her heart.
2. You are encouraged to fall- then, if you fall, you must laugh, and take your neighbor down with you.

First thing that happens, during three-legged dog, Kimi reaches over and taps me in the butt with her toe. "Okay, everybody," says Jen, "Reach over and tap your neighbor on the butt with your toe- gently". She made the whole class do it. And it works your hips and legs!

The class was a powerful vinyasa flow, with every kind of music, R & B, rock, lyrical....a little bit of heat and concentration and I'm in the zone. I've learned to appreciate warm classes. Not so hot that the heat is the main focus, but lovingly warm in an inviting and muscle-relaxing way.

There was something about Jen's attitude that really moved you to express yourself in any way, modify a pose or try something and fall. For me, that always translates to trying to jump up into a handstand at the top of my mat. Toward the end of class, Jen asked us to come into prasarita padottanasana and Kimi whispers "turn towards me". We do a partner version of a spread leg forward fold and then adjust each others feet (flexing back the other other persons foot) when we were bending over each side. Jen's comment? "You guys are so cute".

Jen just came back from teaching a wine and yoga retreat in Italy, and at one point she even (jokingly?) invited everyone to bring their wine bottles to class next week. Kimi commented that this was so comforting, when an instructor is humble, it makes a student feel accepted and deepens his or her respect. After Jen's class (and my lingering yoga-high, I take forever to leave class), my imagination sprung-up positive-mood wildfire. Perfect night.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gianna Carotenuto

...is so present. Is so freaking present.

It's profound how presence can have a gravitational pull on those around you. As a student, she had my full, complete attention all throughout class.

So, this is Forrest. I've taken one class before, but really I am quite clueless to the movement, only aware that the practice is there to create space for transformational growth. I admire the way that Ana took her personal struggles, particularly bulimia, and used those experiences to create healing practices worldwide.

Gianna is a dedicated Forrest teacher, and really warmed me up to the practice. The sequencing was fantastic, we started with grounding, then hip opening, then heating, heart-opening and cooling, third-eye opening. I experienced ego-loss several times in the practice, particularly with camel at the end, and with the wide-leg forward folds.

Gianna had us discover the space between our thigh bone and our hip socket, and I had never, ever, thought of that space past pure metaphor before. It's amazing what a powerhouse that is. As yoga is an opening up of energy channels, I also think that observing the next hours after a yoga class and noticing what shows up, is a key to the space you transported yourself to within the class. To rephrase, it's one thing to hear a teacher say that opening up a certain space bringing in creativity. It's another thing to find yourself in Venice with a dead cell phone and the most confusing bus directions ever; then find yourself hitchhiking safely to Redondo Beach and meeting some people with apartment leads in the mean time (sorry, mom! hope you don't read this : ).

In summary:

-space between the hip socket and the thigh: huge energy center
-incredible, incredible, incredible adjustments. would love to learn how to do this!
-letting go of the head in a handstand, dramatically different experience (note: harder).
-wide-legged forward fold against a wall: new favorite thing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Annie Carpenter

Annie is not the sort of teacher, nor is a Level 3/4 class the sort of place, that you would expect your instructor to make a "blarh" funny face to get you to loosen up. So far, SoCal is wonderful: brilliant, intelligent, super-aware yoga, down-to-earth vibe.

Annie teaches in Sanscrit, which is just right for a Level 3/4 class, but I actually haven't seen pure sanscrit in a while, so it caught me off guard. I like having something hold me accountable though. Her style reminds me so much of Natasha Ritzopoulis, it's nice to be able to have such teaching over here.

In the very beginning, class begun with a restorative virasana, which I so appreciated and wish I could have stayed longer. Afterwards, we moved into a cat/cow, when Annie pressed into my back and said "Oh, that's your spot, isn't it?". Yup, that's the place I'm always scared to backbend into, but I really, really need to because it's a huge area of growth.

One of my favorite moments in class was when we did drop-backs into pincha mayurasana. Annie had me demonstrate one and really helped me get into it in a way that was controlled and safe. Pincha mayurasana against a wall was an incredibly heart-opening practice and may be one of my favorite backbends. Can't wait to come back to class.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Erich Schiffman

Erich's class has a novel structure: he begins with moments of acknowledgement to his students, and togetherness, and then moves into lecture. Afterwards, there is a free flowing practice *and to see a room full of west-coast yogis move into their own practice- amazing*.

So, Erich's main themes for class involved not seeing yourself through the lens of birth and death. This, he says, is a main cause of "meaninglessness" and not taking accountability for your actions. He talked about how most of his life, he saw himself as mortal, and that caused him to be less present and care less. Later in his life, he saw himself as pure consciousness beyond both birth and death, which caused him to be more committed to his actions and the way he treats people. ('you'll have to meet that person in another life".

Now, it's interesting, because I would use the opposite phrasing: become more aware of your mortality, become more aware of death and how we all share it. Our actions may be absurd and meaningless, use the power of courage to create meaningful actions in spite of that potential absurdity. True compassion comes out of that place of embracing the unknown, the uncertain. And if you begin to observe your experience, you'll notice that your actions have a profound effect, they may not always be the means to the end you thought, but they create heaven and hell through your mindset in a moment.

...and really, though the language is completely difference, we are saying the same thing. Be present, have compassion, create meaning through your actions, read between the lines. I had a wonderful chat with Erich in which I discussed these things with him, and also how my seed-planting-instant-karma beliefs were also from a place of "you'll have to meet that person in another life". (Except, I think, in another form that you project outwards, in five minutes).

Switching Coasts.

New Coast. (West once)

So, a few notes from the last one (East one)...

-Saying goodbye to Ryan was the saddest moment. I really, really, really hope he'll continue his yoga practice- and I'll hold him accountable for a while. Knowing how pure his heart is and how honest he is, I know that if he says he will, he will. But I've never had such a profound relationship with a student before- being so young and new myself, it was a mindblowing honor to be able to make a difference in someone's life like that. To watch someone's eyes lit up, and their posture change over time. Man.

-On my way from Massachusetts to NYC to say goodbye-for-now, I had a spontaneous 3 AM circle-chakra-class in Westchester. Best Class Ever. I used the sequencing from the Chakra Namaskar to create a practice that was appropriate for the time frame, and my fellow yogi Pat followed it up with Pranayama. Thank you, Fifth Nation. Practicing with you guys is incredible.

It made me think about how influenced I was from my Chakra Namaskar training earlier. What's interesting is that at the time I saw it as mythology. Ok, this makes sense, this an interesting system, it's a fun practice. Cool.

But it didn't sink in till later. It wasn't until later- weeks later- that I started using the chakras as alchemy, I started thinking in terms of elements. I would suddenly say sentences as "I need to incorporate more space, and a bit more flowing into this moment," or "it seems that you have a lot of fire happening right now, you may need to balance it with some heart openers so that energy is going in the right direction...". Hmm, I wonder where those came from.

And then my practice...complete shift. Every practice became some version of kundalini awakening, some version of chakra namaskar. I started toying with this after Jacqui's class, but now even more so, there was so much more intentionality in my sequencing. I had all these absurdly useful tools in my toolbox, and they worked. These chakras, although not physically present as "wheels" in the body, allowed me to map out the territory so I can change it....add more grounding, more flowing, more expression....

"....important characteristics of maps should be noted. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which account for its usefulness...."
A. Korzybski, Science & Sanity, 4th Ed., 1958, p.58-60.