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Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
Karen is a yogini, writer, student, teacher and meditator. She founded Garden Street School of Yoga in 2000. Karen lives with her husband Chris. They have two amazing sons, Eli and Leo (both of them young men).

Jul 18, 2011

Casting About

Like every other week, last week I had to come up with a theme and sequence.  As usual - it was not a tidy, organized process. As usual, I had to listen and wait.  It is a bit like I imagine fishing to be: cast a line of an idea - nothing. Cast again - nothing. Just keep casting until something bites. I knew that the class plan would focus on shoulders, as that is the general focus for summer session at the studio. But other than that it was wide open.

The first bite came when I was talking to my son Leo. (Leo is 19 - recently returned from India - recently completed an Anusara Immersion – is amazing beyond belief - Yes, I am bragging, and I make no apologies for it). He told me that he had been talking to his friend about some of the ideas from the Yoga Immersion and also about Lee's teachings on vulnerability and transparency.  His friend was not interested at first..........but got excited later when he found a poem that expressed exactly what Leo had been talking about.  The poem is by Charles Bukowski (one of the poets that Lee recommends highly -- (synchronicity or what?!) 

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that

wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

OK - first bite.  I had a poem that hit deep in my heart. Back to fishing but now with a question: "what happened with that heart-hit?" And then....ah-hah.....another bite:  My heart melted - a bit - and "melt your heart" is a teaching in Anusara Yoga.

OK - back to fishing. How do I teach "melt your heart" in a way that is clear, easy to relate to and can be physically applied to alignment in the asana?  Third bite: I would teach the principle Organic Energy applied to the heart focal point.   

I often avoid teaching this principle - "melt your heart" - because honestly, I have struggled with it. Most of the circumstances in which I have been a student and seen it taught, it was taught very vigorously - often demonstrated by an enthusiastic male teacher pushing strongly on the spot between a student's shoulder blades - (heart focal point) while coaching the student to keep strong arms, armpits lifted, etc, and MELT YOUR HEART!! I don't know, maybe its a gender thing, but I always had trouble relating to that type of demo as illustrative of "melting the heart" Even though it is an accurate application of active Organic energy to the heart focal point, it is so fiery and muscular that I did not often end up with a sense of a melted heart.  

I fished some more – to clarify for myself how I would focus on the passive application of organic energy to "Melt your Heart" and got some more bites – some phrases and images.  For example: "from the bottom of your heart (or base of your sternum, or heart focal point) - release heavily earthward.  And from that same place, rise up - lift your heart. In other words, apply Organic energy to root from the focal point to the earth and to rise from the focal point up and out in all directions. 

Now the fishing trip was really starting to bring inspiration more quickly. It happens like that. At first - I have to surrender to fishing....surrender to service. And often I resist it. Like this: "I don't wanna fish! I wanna do something else that doesn’t demand my full attention! I wanna be distracted!!  Wahhh!!!.....You’re not the boss of me!"  Part of this resistance is that I KNOW from 10,000 themes and sequences of experience - that the focus of my teaching will be activated and animated in me. It's work.  And it is not always pretty.  Sometimes it is like rotten fish being cleaned out of the bottom of the basket of my heart.

But - at some point - I grow up, sit down, wait, fish, wait some more. I am infinitely grateful that my professional job is to grow up, sit down, and do this work.  Otherwise I wonder if my attention would be strong enough to stay the course and do the work of digging deep within my self in order to serve.  

And it is indubitably within myself that I am fishing, within my mind, my heart, my experience. I have to pull it from the soil of my own experience. ((The man digging radishes points the way with a radish.  Issa)  If I look outward to books or other people’s ideas - or google searches - I short circuit the fishing trip.  Those resources can be great - as long as they come after and complement my own inward inquiry.  I am always learning from other people - it's just that if I default to using another person's pre-packaged creative work, excellent sequence, etc., and try to side-step my own creative work, the result is usually as flat and dry as cardboard even though it might look good on the surface.

So I fish.   I might not get a bite for hours. Or I might get a bite - reel it in - and have to throw it back. Like a few weeks ago when I thought, for about a minute, that I could teach a theme based on a Lady Gaga song.  (Yes - I do admire her - but No - that theme would have been a train wreck).

Once the universe knows I'm serious - I'm ready to serve - the inspiration picks up speed, comes in faster and faster.  Then my job is to keep up with it all.

It's amazing and demanding work.  I am awed by how many Anusura teachers are doing this same strong and wholehearted work around the country and world, every day, all in service to reanimating the "body electric" with bright intelligence.
(By the way, the fishing continued and yielded up the following sequence. It worked pretty well- definitely worked with the theme of melt your heart and shoulder work. But there were too many poses - I had to consistently cut and edit. Which was fine....easy to do and still have good timing.....I just had to stay present to the clock.

HEART QUALITIES:       GravityAlert expansiveness ….as if you are listening for faint bird song

PRANAYAMA – Listen to your breath as if you are listening for birdsong
·      Ujjayi & Nadi Shodhana
  1. childs pose
  2. down dog
  3. uttanasana
    • Lots of attention to the heart focal point
    • WEAVE some of the following poses into Pseudo-Surya
  1. vira 1 to anjaneyasana to quad stretch
  2. puppy playing piano
  3. hanuman kneeling
  4. baby natarajasana- vira 3-vira 1 – (2X)
  5. ardha bhekasana   
  6. shalabasana 3X
  7. danurasana  2X
  8. parsva dhanurasana 3X
  9. Rest deeply in prone position  – melt heart earthward
  10. shalabasana to danurasana to deep cobra 3X
  11. urdhva danurasana- 3X
  12. down dog
  13. uttanasana
  14. parsva uttanasana
  15. down dog
  16. childs pose
  17. baddha konasana
  18. seated twist
  19. supta padangusthasana
  20. succirandrasana
  21. savasana

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