Yogini Groundhog Day: 15 Women, One Month of Yoga
What happens when fifteen women agree to meet at a Mexican villa in a small, discrete fishing village on the warm Pacific Ocean in the middle of summertime? What happens when these same women agree to meet for an entire month, with people they don’t know, to learn and practice an ancient art called yoga – an art known to stir up your gunk, no matter how much coconut water and ocean views you may have at your disposal?
What happens on the surface is a yoga teacher training. What happens underneath the surface is a reconnection to sisterhood. What happens is the creation of a clearer portal into the physical and energetic bodies, and perhaps even a glimpse into the silent roar of the heart.
Imagine a Yogini Groundhog Day. Every morning the same thing – up at sunrise to meditate, followed by a full day of philosophy, anatomy, Ayurveda, and more light-on asana til’ dinner time. And yet, despite the repetition and lack of much external stimulation, day-in and day-out, I felt us all being melted and molded into more integrated versions of ourselves, teachers included.
I took some notes of all the things that I learned + loved in this women-only yoga teacher training. I wanted to share them with you in this month’s blog.
- Being strong and being vulnerable are not mutually exclusive – The more we shared intimate space (and not just the bathroom, but the inner-most layers of the soul), the more I began to see how women actually become more powerful through their willingness to be vulnerable, and to stand in the light of their truth, despite fear of judgment.
- Yoga is oh-so-much more than downward dog, unless it’s not – Yoga is simplexity embodied – meaning, it can be as superficially simple or as complexly deep as we want. Yoga can give us a killer bod, which feels great, but may not address our inner conflicts. Yoga can also give us a pathway for accessing the inner teacher, the voice that is beyond our fear and doubt, and the silence that leads to joy. Inner silence, when we taste it, is even better than a J-LO booty (with all due respect to her mind-blowing backside).
- Entering the shadow leads to the light – Oftentimes, we learn just as much about ourselves by entering into our dark parts, as we do by looking into our innate goodness. Over and over during our month in Mexico, I found that past inhibitions, fears, and feelings of unworthiness wrapped themselves as powerful energetic entities around the heart. When these “darker” aspects of our personalities were exposed, with love, a huge release of energy could be experienced. Old fears began to drop away. New possibilities for a life of deeper meaning and purpose emerged. Warrior 1 felt easier. Breathing felt deeper. Life felt a little happier.
- Being a leader means exposing yourself – Agreeing to be the leader is one of the most intimate and vulnerable places to sit. Being a good leader, I learned, meant being able to be humbled in front of your students, to get on their side, and to apologize when you mess up.
- Good digestion is key – It’s hard to feel enlightened if you aren’t going to the bathroom daily. Similarly, when working with our energy, and going into our old patterns, we must learn to digest our emotions and memories through the appropriate channels. What are the channels? Well, one way is to just be quiet and witness, like an observer, whatever comes up. Another way is to go inside the emotions. The emotional approach is a more feminine approach. It’s a little wilder, and very powerful. And thus…
- Emotions are powerful – When used wisely, emotions turn into shiny avatars of the heart, breaking through illusion and bringing us clarity. When repressed, they come back to explode onto others or implode back into us.
- Enlightenment is a process – Thank God, right? Coming deeper into our integrated, fullest self sometimes looks like two steps forward, one back. In fact, the old teachings say that the Goddess creates and reveals, but She also maintains and conceals. In looking at this divine hide-and-seek with ourselves, the words of Dr. Vasant Lad come to mind. He says that we should, “Enjoy our crucifixion, enjoy our resurrection, saying yes (!) to everything – the good, the bad and the ugly.” That is enlightenment.
- In times of crisis, we are held – This revelation came from my co-teacher, who said that, in times of real crises, she found that “all the information she needed appeared.” Crisis, whether big or small, is an opportunity that can lead to clearing. In destruction there is a new creation. From fierce shaking, wailing and writhing comes a new baby. And in the words of Frou Frou, “There is beauty in the breakdown.”
- The best way to get sap energy? The teachings of yoga and Ayurveda say that we lose the most energy through worry. Prana (energy) can’t flow through tension. So, the next time you are in plank pose, ask yourself, “Am I fueling an energy zap through my ambition?” “Is there a way to be soft and plank-like?”
- In the end it’s just about love – My co-teacher told a beautiful story about the late Pattabhi Jois. Every day before he died, his daily practice included placing a scented floral garland around the portrait of his deceased wife. Every day, his main practice was this devotion, the love that he held in her memory. “Every day,” said Chrisandra, “do the practices that bring you into the space of love. That is yoga.”
And on that, I leave you, sweet Athleta “Power to the She” readers, with a wish for great love today. I am so happy you are reading this, and taking the time to better yourself through the practices that empower the body and the spirit. Come join us on next year’s transformational teacher trainings in 2013 in Mexico, as well as East and West coast locations in the U.S. More information at www.8dropsyoga.com