Photos: Kasey of Yogamates.com, on the way to Wanderlust, she just visited us in Boulder, we love her! Follow her journey to and through 50 yoga studios on her way to Wanderlust Festival here. Click here for Part One of Kelsi’s Telluride Yoga Fest.
Telluride Yoga Fest: Part Two.
by Kelsi Coia
How to Grow a Lotus
Today we started the day off with Noah Mazé’s class, “How to Grow to A Lotus.” Noah is a Boulder-born Anusara instructor now living and teaching in Los Angeles.
He started off class with the story of the lotus from the Rigveda. The text describes how a beautiful lotus flower grows from mucky water in the day, and at night the flower plunges back down into the murky pool. I love stories about binary opposites or dualisms, like the story of the lotus, especially when the listener (or reader, or student) is reminded that the two opposites are actually just pieces of the greater whole. Sometimes I feel like we get too caught up in dividing the opposites that we forget they are simply parts of the greater whole. (Sorry, I digress!).
The Rigveda also tells us about how the lotus flower is really only one quarter of the whole lotus plant. The remaining three quarters exist below the surface of the water. The text connects this lotus example to people; like the lotus, we can only know one-quarter of ourselves. This one quarter is the visible flower floating on the surface of our consciousness. The other three quarters are unknown; they are submerged in the murky waters of the mind. This doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot learn something from the unknown three quarters, but simply that these three quarters are constantly expanding and growing in every direction (“like the universe,” Noah reminded us). This is a pretty radical idea, I think, considering how long the Vedic texts have been around (though radical ideas are independent of time, at least in a linear sense). And Noah did an amazing job explaining this one-quarter/three-quarter idea to us without making it too new-agey, abstract or confusing.
These two lessons were the backbone to our class on how to grow our own lotuses. We spent the rest of class doing some serious hip-openers and attempting lotus (or like Kourtni, just easily sliding into the posture). I, on the other hand, was quite content with my half lotus. Maybe one day my one-quarter of knowledge and experience will include full lotus!
If anyone is interested in learning more about Noah Mazé and taking a class with him, he has a new website, YogaGlo, which offers unlimited online yoga instruction for $18 a month. There are even freebies on the website too, including lectures from folks like Thomas White, Dr. Douglas Brooks, and Dr. Chris Chapple. Check it out!
No Fear in Yoga
Our second class of the day was about letting go of fear in yoga. Neither of us have had class with Tias Little, so we decided we’d visit him to see why he has so many followers (including our roommate, Veronique). We quickly found out why. Tias began class with a brief mediation that he guided us through. He talked us into a proper meditation posture and out of the very popular schlumpasana (which is decidedly my new favorite word, and one of my favorite poses).
After mediation, we did some Kirtan, reciting chapter one, verse twenty from the Yoga Sutras:
“Previous knowledge and memory serve the cause. Faith, strength and profound mediation lead us further”.
Fear has always been part of the yogic tradition, Tias said. Yogis employed several methods of dealing with fear including vegetarianism, fasting, celibacy, standing on one’s head, and… “smoking lots of ganja.”
Tias then dissected the sutra for us, diving into the meanings of each word—and how we can use the meaning in our lives today. He began with Śraddhā, which he translated as trust or faith. We cannot trust in something, he said, trust come from inside; we must embody trust (I paraphrase). However, we are able to trust in the process of transformation of ourselves. As a recent college graduate, I really felt the weight of his words. So many people have told me that I’m graduating at the worst time, the economy is doomed, everything doomed, and I am doomed. And then they ask me that awful, awful question, “What are you going to do for the rest of your life?” How am I supposed to know the answer to that? On top of that, I am undergoing a rather radical transformation of self; I’m no longer a student and dependent on my parents (as much…). I’m creating my own life and that is pretty damn scary. So trust and faith, Śraddhā, is exactly what I need in my life right now. (But again, I digress!)
Tias told us that in order to over come fears, in addition to Śraddhā, it is necessary to be strong to embody Vīrya (which he translated to strength, endurance, longevity, virility; like the warrior). We must have the “staying power” to stick with our yoga training, even when we are most scared. Fear has the ability to isolate us from the Buddha, Dharma, and the Sangha. This feeds the “egoic self” and gets us stuck on ourselves. But with Vīrya (virility) and humility, we can have the strength and flexibility to be at ease with our fears. Tias told us to be like Teflon, no stick. Let fear roll off you (like bacon grease?).
The most important thing Tias told us in class was that this process of overcoming fear isn’t something that we just do once and is over. We must continue to be mindful of our fear tendencies. We must be like the dancing Shiva; we must mindfully dance on top of our fear and mindlessness, while still acknowledging its presence in our lives.
Which got me thinking: maybe fear isn’t something to fear at all. In the past few weeks I’ve graduated from college, lost my job, a friend, and love. I’m scared of what else can happen; fear has become a part of my daily life. But it’s time for me to push through that.
It’s time to get out of my “under-the-covers-asana” (as Tias said), jump up on top of those feelings of fear and dance.
Saturday @ Yoga Fest- Part Three
Mula Bandha: It’s not what you think
As former Boulder residents, we’ve heard a lot about Richard Freeman and his Yoga Workshop. Neither of us have ever practiced with him before or been to the Workshop, so when we saw that Richard was teaching an afternoon class, we thought we’d check it out to see what all the Freeman-hype is about. The class was called “Mula Bandha: It’s not what you think.” I’ll be honest; neither of us knew what the Mula Bandha was (I’m comfortable enough with my inexperience to come clean about that), so we weren’t sure what to think. As we sat down in the back of the crowded room, an awkward silence settled in. Richard stared at the crowd, with his right eyebrow raised (a classic Freeman face yoga pose, we’ve learned), and said nothing for minutes. The awkward tension kept building and building. He finally said, “My favorite part of class is the time right before I say ‘My favorite part of class…’”
Richard told us how the Mula Bandha is a cessation of thought (so it’s not what you think). He described her as a beautiful goddess who comes when she is invited in honesty, and not treated as an object to be acquired. Some people describe Bandhas as a system of locks in the body. Richard told us to think of them as more of a vacuum that brings energy up through the body. Located near the pelvic floor, one may feel the Mula Bandha in the space between the end of an exhale and beginning of an inhale.
For the next two hours we practiced poses designed to connect us to our Mula Bandhas, although we were told it wasn’t likely that we’d find them. Only two hindu deities found their Mula Bandhas, and one of them (Haruman) had a head start because of his tale. While neither of us felt our Mula Bandhas, we certainly felt a part of our bodies we never have before. Richard introduced both of us to our kidney wings. Kidney wings are attached to your kidneys and spread up and out through your back, extending to the tips of your arms. We were told to stay aware of and engage our kidney wings in every pose practiced. The next day our kidney wings were so sore, it was hard to imagine not being aware of them the day before.
We both really enjoyed class with Richard Freeman. His silly humor and face yoga/ eyebrow lifts made working through uncomfortable positions much more enjoyable and fun. Both of us can’t wait until the next time we’re in Boulder so we can practice with him at the Yoga Workshop!!