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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).

Oct 26, 2011

Paying Attention and Being Aligned

As usual, so much happens every week - and the last week or so has been no exception.  The way I move through each week feels to me as if on Monday I set myself into a sling shot and then let fly. And land somewhere on Sunday.

Ross Rayburn was here to teach for 3 days. He did a great job, He is passionate, clear, intelligent, funny, humble. He totally honored our local community. Which is good. We deserve to be honored as we have evolved into a very well educated group of dedicated practitioners......of asana and also of pranayama, meditation and study. Ross saw that and spoke to it many times over the course of the 3 days.  He elevated and honored the steady dedicated work that has been going on over over a long period of time here.

I appreciate that! I also appreciate it that Ross is very "out" and telling the truth about his love of God and that he still considers himself Christian - loves Jesus - even though that is sometimes just not "hip" amongst some Yoga communities.  There are a lot of closet Christian Yogis....people who love Yoga and love Jesus and have had to struggle with that.  Ross made it very clear that he has been / is in the same place and has learned to take the position of "be an adult and translate".  Basically, he and I share a passionate mission of "no Yogi left behind" - or in this case I would say ""no Christian left behind (unless they want to be).

On the subject of telling the truth.......I recently received an e-mail from a truly amazing teacher and friend. I asked her if I could post it - and keep her identity obscure. She said "yes" and I copied it below. Here's what she wrote to me. The italics are excerpts from my blog and also an excerpt from Claire Dederer. The un-italicized is my friend's writing. At the end I chime in again with a couple of comments. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading!

Popular culture of Yoga:

From your blog:

I lost some perspective this summer following a couple of experiences and a handful of conversations / interactions I'd had.  I was more aware of - and more discouraged than usual by - the popular culture of Yoga: the media hype with  increasing focus on sexy athleticism, over-the-top marketing,  super-star teachers, and so on................all the ways that popular culture has once again vampired something Real.

As soon as the Autumn schedule at the studio went into gear, I was able to let all that go.  It drifted away away from my awareness like smoke, thanks to this lovely, local, REAL and strong Yoga community, the teachers and students, the dedicated space, good company, good work. I thought "Oh my gosh....what was I thinking?! I really would not be happy working at 7-11.

At a local level I am overwhelmed/discouraged/amazed by the vast popularity and total saturation – even here – of the yoga that falls into the general realm of Hot Power Flow Yoga - but that is what seems to appeal to the General Public.  This apparently is also the case [many places].  I don’t know if this is happening in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane as well – I suppose one could be happy that they are doing yoga at all – but there also could be so much more for them.

Our local Anusara Kula is relatively small, although a lovely group.  And I know that good community takes a while to build.  But sometimes this whole situation is a little disheartening.  I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that it might be necessary to do some “marketing” – I just can’t relate to “yoga” and “marketing” in the same breath.  I am envious of your Yoga community there and love visiting it!

I am also overwhelmed with all of the online courses for this that and the other thing related to yoga and to Anusara Yoga in particular – some of which I am sure are wonderful learning experiences – but good heavens – so much. And I won’t even start in on super-star teachers, irritating over-marketing, tasteless videos, etc. ….

On the other hand I am totally encouraged teaching Chair Yoga to Seniors at a local Retirement Home.  The students at this facility are so positive and grateful.  They aren’t searching for the latest popular yoga class that is going to make them sweatier and have what they perceive as a “better workout”.  I am totally thinking that this was something I would really like to do more of.

On a bit of a lighter note, I just finished reading a book called Poser by a lady from Seattle name Claire Dederer and it was a fun/interesting read.  Here is a bit from her book:

Pg. 301  Later that week I went to class at a yoga studio that I didn’t normally frequent.  It was a kind of yoga mill, a chain that had outlets in half a dozen states.  It was a strange dynamic:  You literally felt like a cog in a yoga machine when you went to class there. University of Colorado sorority girls jammed the place, with its big, ultraclean, characterless yoga rooms, masses of corporate branding, and annoying expensive towel policy…But this was the only yoga class I could make it to. The yoga mill offered about twenty classes a day. It was like the Honey Nut Cheerios of the yoga world; always there for you, in lieu of a real meal.  Its class offerings were hilariously off-brand.  Hot Yoga…was simply unlicensed Bikram.  …Power Yoga was Ashtanga done very carelessly….

Evolving Practice:

From your blog:

Since then - and especially in the last 3 years - it took me some time and contemplation to let my practice evolve the way it has wanted to evolve - (and not to worry that I am becoming "soft" or being "left behind" as the Yoga Culture at Large gets ever more extravagantly athletic.).  Now I am more likely to spend a good amount of time in inversions, do more pranayama - often woven in with asana -  and practice a full range of basic asana with to keep my body awake and to stay clear of "sensory motor amnesia" (thank you Katie and somatics for that term!)

The Bhairava Tantra verse 65 says, "All this world and indeed your very own body, is made of bliss".  I'm am interested in bliss.  I love asana and how it can release enfolded bliss.  And although I practice my way to bliss differently now, I have many students who are ready, willing and able to, as John Friend used to say, "take it to the next level".  I know how to help them get there.  In my teaching I facilitate openings into the big poses - (Kapinjalasana last practice and Scorpion this practice) even though these poses don't sing out to me the way they used to.  Until lately, I wasn't sure it was possible to teach with enthusiasm those things that I am not currently practicing with enthusiasm.  It is possible.  I love the Light that opens in students when they take it to the next level.  I love to help people into Kapinjalasana - because of what I see open in them when they get there. Bliss. That is worth everything.

This blog really rang a note with me as well. I can so totally relate – and I haven’t found a lot to read about on the topic of this development in my yoga life nor have I come across another yoga instructor who is experiencing a similar change in direction.  It’s like the stage where one has children – you can’t possibly imagine what it’s like until you have experienced it.  And that is why it was so nice to read your thoughts on this.  I am also trying to determine what direction I want my personal practice to be going.  And I am pondering how/what I want to teach.  Torn.  

But here’s another thing – it is almost like a disturbing dream – I don’t know how I would quit teaching yoga if that is what I had to do – for example if I found it necessary to find a “real” job.  Once one gets on the bus, can one ever get off?  I devote a large proportion of my time to yoga related matters.  And I mean like 90 percent of my time.  Oh dear, maybe I have a problem?!!!   I need balance AND direction.

(Me again - Karen)
I know that a LOT of Yoga teachers feel the way my friend feels because we talk about it.  It is not exactly something one likes to be "out" about  - for fear of getting kicked out of the herd - or losing income - or being left behind. But even more important, the popular culture take on Yoga is not something I like to pay my Attention to.  Attention is my life force,  I grow that to which I pay my attention. If I pay my life force towards that with which I am not aligned, then I am growing that and meanwhile diminishing the things with which I am aligned. (Attention grows things. Non-attention starves things.)

I am  deeply and happily aligned with my local community of Real, dedicated, authentic, practitioners. I am deeply and happily aligned with my important teachers and with the Yoga tradition teachings. I am deeply and happily aligned with my sadhana (practices). I am deeply and happily aligned with my husband and sons.  I LOVE paying my Attention to all these alignments.  If my life were such that I had to live immersed in the popular culture yoga craze - so much so that I could not avert my attention or keep it aimed towards that which I am truly and deeply aligned  - then I would have to make some serious decisions and get myself into different context, one with which I was aligned.

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