Samyama: The Contemplative Limbs of the Yogic Path
April 26 - 28, 2019 @ Tula Yoga and Wellness
June 3-7, 2019 @ Sacred Space
Spine, Soul, and Breath June 10-14 2019, @ Sacred Space
the STUDY OF THE SELF
There is nothing quite like intensive study of this practice. It ends up being intensive study of the self.
Teacher training will be hosted at Sacred Space in Northeast Minneapolis June 2019. There are four Monday - Friday sessions: you can attend all of them together or take the sessions independently.
Words are important to me. I've had a lot of different jobs in my life and I've played a lot of different roles - but I always come back to the written word.
I think words are important to all of us. Somehow, yoga has started to mean physical postures and I have questions about that. I can think of other words that are flashy but ambiguous: health, for example, or happiness. Right and wrong. I study meaning, look for what holds. I wander and I wrestle.
There are thousands of teachers who teach workout based yoga. But there is an absence of intelligent yoga writing - not prescriptive how to manuals or abstract philosophy but personally relevant inquiry. Something in me wants to write it all down.
Social media is addictive, fake, and alienating. But it's also just a tool. The question of tools is what you do with them.
I've found deep, abiding human connection online. The power of images and words is sacred. There is a power here for tender communion and outright rebellion to dominant narratives. Here's a post-modern rendering of contemplative life.
july │ 2019
I will be resident at Gitana del Mar in Santa Marta, Colombia for all of July 2019. I'll be teaching a morning and an evening class.
The resort lies on the Caribbean Coast, in the foothills of the stunning Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. The local indigenous cultures have always called it the Heart of the World. The area is unique in supporting every eco-system to thriving. The resort is unique in it's relationship to the local economy, the local indigenous, and sustainable tourism. Karin wouldn't do the 'yoga retreat' thing with anyone less than an ethical,
sustainable community. Come.
Visit for a weekend, a week, or your holidays to have time practicing with me, and time on your own. Time with the mountains. The rain forest. The sea.
THE SISTER SCIENCE OF YOGA
Ayus means life. Veda means wisdom. Ayurveda is a deep knowing of the way life - on a biological, energetic, metabolic level - works. Ayurveda is not necessarily about diet or the rules around food: it's a practice of feeling the subtlety of life surrounding and moving through us. The Ayurveda I practice is not about food rules or diets. It is about seasons, depth ecology, rituals of self care and integrity.
MIND IS BODY
Yoga has always been about consciousness. States of mind. The places in which we get tangled or triggered and the capacity a human mind has for healing. For creativity. For love.
This isn't dogma. It isn't snake oil. It's science.
We have the capacity to work directly with consciousness and the brain through such things as breath, movement, and sensory awareness training. You cannot separate the body from the mind. We all have wounds. And, we all have the building blocks of resilience.
MOVEMENT IS REVELATION
Yogic movement - as I understand it - is not accomplishment or dependent on any kind of 'mobility' or strength. Yogic movement is an inquiry. It is a process of discovering our own hearts, minds, hangups and habituated reactionary patterns.
Movement is revelation. I've never paid attention in this way before. I've never felt these kinds of things before. I didn't realize the way I feel - about myself, about the world, all of the time - could change.
Through movement we can feel our own self. The soul, what have you.
We watch our emotions and stories and terrors flit and flicker through experience, through the muscle, across the senses. As we watch, we begin to know: in our bones: in the pulse: in the gut:
our feelings are not so entrenched as we thought they were. It is possible to let go. We can feel more than we ever believed we could feel. Through movement we see how our lives live on in the flesh; a story of our uniqueness, a riddle of our characters, an invitation to change.
We fall into an openness in which our history is not the end of the story, but the beginning of a new story. Movement is revelation. Movement is grace. Movement is the long needed liberation from our petty and ancient and societal suffering. This is profound. Movement is a reclamation of our curves, our wounds, our sadness, our pride and our vulnerability. Movement is an expression. A reclamation of our voice and of our time. Movement is the embodiment of our sweeter emotions, a dance we accept, a bow to everything.
become literate in your body
The body is a terrible and a beautiful thing. When a relatively innocuous practice of yoga began to change everything about who I was, I got curious: why did movement so affect my mood, and why did my body seem to have such a direct influence on my character? What was happening to me? Standard yoga teacher training doesn't talk about the human body or anatomy in much detail (it can't, at 200 hours. It's not med school). So everything I've learned about the body I learned after, training.
I've worked with leaders in the fields of yoga anatomy, trauma studies, functional movement, fascial lines, adapting yoga asana and reading bodies. Along the way I've figured out that I can't answer most questions we have about the body; we can only stand back in wonder.
And I've learned that this learning itself is enough, even without final answers: exploring the body changes the way we look at everything. Coming to know the body even provokes changes in the brain, opening us to empathy, courage, and an ability to tolerate unknowing.
This is a beauty. To realize that even though we will die, even without ultimate answers to soul or suffering or disease, we can come to be literate in our bones, our fibers, and comfortable in our own skin.
Breath is the threshold. It is the threshold between man and nature, the bridge between body and mind. Breath is the thing in us that most closely mirrors the nervous system: it catches or accelerates, is restricted or inhibited, it seethes or settles. It is one of the few things in the body and in life that can be both: voluntary and involuntary.
Therefore, if we want access to awareness, attention, underlying states of mood and character, breath is the door.
Yoga teachers tend to talk about breath a lot, but rarely teach it. I don't care what postures you can do - if it isn't related to the breath I'm not sure it's yoga.
In it's modern expression, (postural) yoga can appear to be a personal endevour. That is, we work on ourselves. Typically, yoga is a thing that you go to a studio or center to do; it is done under the tutilage of a guide; your relationship and the topic of conversations between yourself and this guide will primarily be about the physical feats of a yoga asana practice and the questions that come up along the way.
One could be forgiven, with all this focus on the body, for thinking that yoga is a personal enrichment program. A kind of self-help. Generally speaking, we all come to yoga looking to fix something about ourselves.
Somewhere along the way, we will hit barriers. We might be humbled. We'll realize that we can't, through will power alone, get what we want. We'll also start to realize aspects of our own character we'd not understood before: how we react to difficulty, for example, or what we tend to do with fear.
So even a purely physical practice, in which no text or philosophy or psychology is mentioned, we'll find ourselves in much deeper territory than we'd intended. Yoga asana can be a kind of proving ground: some of us find this depth intriguing and jump in; others of us turn away and find some other way to exercise or deal with our problems.
With it's focus on the body and the physical benefits of yoga asana, the deeper teachings of the yoga tradition are often neglected. They aren't exactly in demand; in a commercial society the customer is always right.
But there are deeper teachings.
In a post (post, post) modern society questions of justice, equality, personal and social liberation are more important than ever. They are also more confusing and overwhelming than ever before. So many people turn to a yoga tradition because traditional places of ethics and morality no longer speak to us: we come to a yoga studio because we're running away from a church. And yet we're concerned about meaning: it can't all be relative, or it's every man for himself. There is such enormous suffering, and through global connections we are more aware of suffering than ever before. Without morals, life boils down to cruelty.
Without hope, humanity rots.
Yoga's clarity of ethics have appealed to me from the very beginning. Understanding them and studying them in greater depth has been the work of my entire teaching career. As the world spins deeper into conflict and turmoil and individuals and more and more aware of how they can't get away from social troubles, it seems to me teaching yoga as ethics fills a profound need.
MEDITATION IS MEDICINE
Meditation is so important. It is in meditation that our deepest twisted patterns of mind and body work themselves out. According to Ayurveda, meditation is the most potent medicine there is, a mainline to source. According to yoga, one-pointed attention is a posture and metabolic state in which the patterns of our life take on a new direction and pattern of confidence is laid down.
BECOME MORE ALIVE
It's only on the most superficial level that yoga is 'about' the body in an exercise context, or even about stress reduction, though those are popular and wholly appropriate places to begin. Nor can we say, exactly, that yoga is a kind of spirituality or religion. It isn't concerned with gods or theologies. It's only concern is humanity.
There is nothing so deeply revolutionary, so kind and yet so moving, as being concerned with our own humanity. As exploring the cave of our own heart.
This is a process of becoming more and more our selves. More and more tacitly alive.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Teachers and serious practioners of yoga often feel lost in the wind.
There are inherent difficulties and paradoxes to taking up a contemplative life, an embodied path, not least of which is where do I go once I realize I have so many questions? It can be a lonely and a doubtful, place. Once we realize training only opened a can of worms, and deepening our practice only raised more questions, we start wondering about the tension between 'real life' and 'yoga'. We tend to get dissatisfied with what's on the market. It's hard to find teachers.
I am happy to work with ANYONE who is looking for direction. Skype is a great resource. Face to face if you're local. Or if we need to work with some body issues or teaching questions we can meet in a practice worthy space. I can help you find the next right book or appropriate training. I can help you out with questions about teaching. I am happy to talk about what's coming up in your own practice, your own body, your own experience. You're not alone.
How does an oral tradition express itself in modernity? (intimately, over time). How does an ancient practice, traditionally handed down from mentor to student, find relevance in a post-modern society? (by changing your life). How do we find personal meaning in something so old and abstract and strange? (by connecting ourselves to the source, directly).
In both training settings and in the techniques sessions of Deeper Practice I try to teach the things alluded to but never arrived at in classes: chant, philosophy, the vocabulary and teachings of the sages, yogic psychology and subtle body awareness. These are direct routes to personal transformation. This is the stuff that actually works you over and leaves you wide open in wonder.
Teachers & Inspirations
These are my teachers and folks I have trained with in various ways over the years, with no hierarchy implied. In my early practice I sought out 'the tradition' in ashtanga and iyengar yoga, as well as Ayurveda. I was also coming to yoga with a background in psychology/counseling/social justice and training as an anthropologist: that led directly to seeking out the neuroscience of trauma, resilience, and recovery. As my practice and understanding evolved, I was drawn to somatic and breath work. Leslie Kaminoff found me and holds me steady. The confluence of Buddhism and Yoga, the history of the yoga tradition, and sanskrit study rounds up my yoga training to date.
YOGA IS NOT A BUSINESS.
Studio culture can be alienating, expensive, exclusive, privileged. Superficial. Return Yoga brings it out of the studio. I train other teachers to social justice awareness, community engagement, and trauma sensitive standards not usually part of a training curricula. Return is a not-for-profit who's mission is three-fold:
- to teach the skills of yoga and meditation to under served communities,
- to collaborate service opportunities and qualified yoga teachers, and
- to offer high quality yoga teaching at a real life cost.
ayurveda │ yoga │ meditation
A two month course breaking down the principals of yoga and ayurveda to something applicable, real, and immediate in our lives. A once a week hour long podcast, a textbook, and a once a week 'practice' of asana, meditation, or guided relaxation. I take the most powerful tools of self-care and make them something palpable, do-able, regardless of your experience.