Last weekend I flew down to San Francisco to attend the opening of the Dancing with the Divine Workshop and training with Jhon Friend founder of Anusara Yoga. I love my Anusara yoga teacher (Jean of Village Green Yoga) and have been considering training to become an Anusara Inspired Therapeutics teacher. So, I thought why not go to the source and take a workshop with John Friend.
I found my way to the JCC in San Francisco. Parking was easy. I was early. There were a few people milling around. But as the time to start the workshop drew near, the lobby filled with hundreds – yes I said hundreds – of totally cosmic, happy yogis. Most seemed to be in their mid thirties, and all of them were glowing with yogi bliss. Closing my eyes, I could easily transport myself back to my early days of being a Deadhead in San Francisco; the clothes were much the same, as was the buoyant, sparkling energy. The only thing missing was the smell of marijuana.
Fast forward to the training. Imagine a ballroom, with 250 yogis lined up mat to mat, all simultaneously chanting and om-ing, accompanied by two musicians playing wind instruments and drums. The room was positively vibrating with energy. And there it was again, that feeling of being at a Dead show – is everyone here a groupie?
John is a masterful teacher. His instructions are clear and concise, and interwoven with yoga wisdom and humor. He carefully builds the heat and energy within the body, encouraging the students to tap into the divine energy of Shiva-Shakti. Before I knew it, I was entering poses that had here-to-fore been unavailable to me. Maybe it was the collective energy of the room, or the letting go into the divine, but either way I appreciated the opportunity to drop back into a urdhva dhanurasana (backbend) from standing and then to rise back up to tadasana. It was also great fun to wrap my foot around behind my head and balance on one hand and the edge of my foot. Who thought I would be going there?
Anusara is all about opening into heart energy and manifesting the divine. No wonder there were 500 yogis coming to share this experience. According to John, there are about 250,000 people practicing Anusara yoga in over 100 countries throughout the world. I appreciated John’s encouragement to use this great energy to create good in our world. In our final session we were each given a seed ball that has been made with concentrated energy of positive intention. We were to practice with this seed ball, focusing our energies for healing into it, and then sometime in the future we are to plant the seed ball somewhere that is in need of nurturance, care, and a bit of green. I picture all those happy yogis going out and tossing cosmic balls of love and healing into their neighbors’ yards – “here you go, have a ball of grace – you noisy, polluting so and so.”
So, I am back in Seattle, loving our snow covered world. My practice in enlivened by my experience. My students will appreciate some of the teachings. But I don’t think I will be joining John’s merry band of yogi pranksters (his name for it – without acknowledgment of Dr. Ken Kesey). John is clearly a masterful teacher, but I am not a groupie. I don’t believe I need to add another 500 hours of training to become a certified Anusara teacher. As a yoga enthusiast and teacher, I believe we should all study the wealth of knowledge of yoga. Thousands of years and thousands of teachers, all shedding their light on this sacred tradition, this is what makes yoga more than a physical practice. It is a wisdom tradition that touches all of us and encourages us to find our own path within in it. I am grateful that John has opened the door for so many and that he encourages students to make their practice of yoga resonate from a space of intention. I will continue to study Anusara yoga, but I will also study ashtanga, iyengar, kundalini and all the many other paths that form the whole of hatha yoga – the yoking or joining of light and life within and about us.
Shalom & Namaste,