When I was 18, Yoga found me. I took a class in my senior year in High School. Then for quite a while - maybe 5 years - I fiddled around with Yoga, practicing and studying on my own. Like a lot of aspiring Yogins at that time, Richard Hittleman was one of my teachers. His "28 days to Yoga" book created a way to "have" Yoga at a time when it was hard to find. (This was about 25 years ago).
After my "fiddling around" phase, Yoga found me again in the form of a very inspired and inspiring teacher named Jenni Fallein. She was one of the few people teaching Yoga in Spokane Washington. She was "After It"! We chanted and meditated. We did strong pranayama and asana. I was so incredibly hooked because my heart was so incredibly opened.
Well - time went by - like it does - and Jenni and I both moved. I explored and practiced in various styles of Yoga. I had a home practice that was diligent and daily. I worked my way through Light on Yoga. I started teaching.
I didn't have a " One True Teacher" but had several people as teachers at that time. I would just harvest a little here and a little there. I didn't particularly notice or miss having an important, "capital T" teacher. I didn't particularly notice that my heart was not being opened and enlivened by my practice and study. Everybody in the Yoga world that I inhabited was doing the same thing - learning from a variety of teachers - sort of like a shopping bag approach. I was completely unaware of the possibility of deep studentship and the remarkable learning that can happen when you really plug in as a student to one primary teacher.
Then I met John Friend. He was still teaching in the Iyengar style at that time and he had come to do a workshop at the Iyengar studio with which I was connected. I sat down in his class of only 9 or 10 students. It was a teacher training. He asked us to chant with him. Chanting had NOT been part of any of the Yoga I had done in all those years since Jenni. We began the chant and I burst into tears. I so fully and deeply recognized that Yoga had found me again. My heart pretty much blew open. And right then, I stopped skimming the surface decided to study deeply and (for a long time) exclusively with John. I plugged into being a "True Student".
Well! Last year Jenni got in touch with me. She is in her 60's now and lives in Dillon Montana. She has started teaching Yoga again. She had been leading kirtan in Missoula right along but hadn't taught Yoga for a while. She had been looking around for a style of Yoga that really spoke to her heart - and guess what? She is teaching Anusara Yoga now out of her beautiful gem of a studio in Dillon Montana. Not surprisingly, the first class she taught was already full. She really is a remarkable artist and she made her studio (Three Bridges) so full of Beauty and Shri. I know she has a website ready to launch and I will include it in this blog when I find the link.
So - in the meantime, here is a letter she sent me today. It is a "good read" and conveys the open heartedness and radiance of Jenni who is both a true teacher and a true student (and that's the only way it can be, by the way). I thank and acknowledge Jenni every time I acknowledge the handful of True Teachers I've had the great good fortune to have stumbled in to!
HEY Karen! Man, I just looked in on your blog again and love that
stuff you wrote about your knee. It is the same with my back - and I
was just telling students about that the other day. Just like your
surprise to find out that you've had this dysfunctional knee all
these years, I found out about eight years ago I had a severely
broken back! What?? And I had done the same thing...sort of backed
off practice, wondered why I had this pain I couldn't get rid
of...then when I found out about it, got cautious. They think I
broke my back when I was a kid and now it has "advanced arthritis"
and scoliosis and a reversed cervical curve and blah blah.... I was sort of scared
of doing much back-bending. But that was from being influenced by
the young chiropractor who was trying to be so professional and
"educate" me about all the hazards and how abnormal my xrays were,
etc. My regular chiropractor, I swear, is some kind of psychic
healer, and he just said, whatever I've been doing to keep doing it
because it was some kind of miracle that I had stayed this pain free
and out of surgery. Now, learning the alignment principles of
Anusara I feel better than ever and it's partly because of my back (a
gift it is - this opportunity of the broken back) that I decided to
go back and do all the study - dive into Anusara as deeply as I could
and start teaching again. (He had said to me last year - "are you
still teaching yoga? I said no, and he said, "you should be, your
back is an inspiration to others - what yoga can do" ) SO here we
are. And I'm just bending over backwards more and more. OH and when
I headed for Colorado, actually, my neck was acting up and I was
having pretty bad dizzy spells. I took a class from Todd Norian and
of course it was all on the skull loop and aligning head with heart,
and my neck is feeling fine now.) Pretty simple - that idea of
aligning the head and heart....why didn't I think of that before???
I love it.
AND the Colorado conference was glorious, Karen. ONe morning when
Douglas Brooks led the meditation and did a gayatri to Siva Sundari -
Siva the beautiful one, I just cried....went up to Douglas and could
hardly speak because of the tears - and had him write it down for
me. He said, "you look so happy" And then the last morning, John
gave the asana session on the theme of love and I don't know a single
person who wasn't crying through part of that. It was so heart
opening - the whole thing. There were people there from my
Immersions and teacher training, so that feeling of the "kula" gets
stronger and stronger for me.
I love my little studio and teaching. I still feel like such a
beginner as far as Anusara goes, but gradual progress. I bought
John's DVD teaching set and also four other DVD's of his so I could
study at home....
When do you go to India??? I forget the dates.
I think I'm going to borrow that poem about the bugs on your blog for
yoga class tonight.....
Golden liquid.....getting to see your own synovial fluid. How
lovely. The miracle. God what a good time it is.......