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Refining Our Hearts

Samskara can mean many things, in this sense it means the process by which we refine something. Move from the grossest sense to its essence. Samskara is a methodical practice, like refining a diamond from coal.

Vikalpa means the way that we see the world.

Here he has applied Vikalpa Samskara to the loops! These secondary currents/refinements that enhance the UPAs.

Back body=inner transformation
Front body=outer manifestation
Initiate from back body, but don’t forget front body!

inner edge of foot=universal
outer edge of foot= individual

from Paul Muller Ortega, description of Vikalpa Samskara

“Vikalpa Samskara reveals the sequence of liberative attainments, of penetrations into the meaning of anything whatsoever, beginning with contracted, unclear and limited states of awareness and thought, it leads progressively and systematically toward the liberative attainment of both the most clear, expanded and refined levels of thought.”


kidney loop

  • puff kidneys up, top of sternum moves down toward belly
  • kidneys lift you forward to plank

thigh loop

  • tops of the thigh bones move back in space
  • firm DOWN the back of the hamstrings
  • lift forward through top of shin bones
  • quads reach up towards top of thigh bones
  • this resets the femur back, ending at the top of the thigh bones


pelvic loop

  • inhale back thigh up
  • tuck tailbone strong under front seat, like putting a stool under your butt
  • front belly lifts away from front thigh
  • pelvic loop has to move faster on that front leg


kidney loop

  • fingertips to wall, kick up
  • bring kidneys to wall, sternum lifts up towards ceiling


inner spiral/pelvic loop

  • lift back knee up, inner edge of leg widens out out out, outer hip of back leg rotates around to floor
  • lower knee, tuck tailbone, belly lifts off of front thigh


  • hips stay facing the side while heart spins up


  • press toes into mat (like reverse ‘lift and spread toes’ in tadasana)
  • look down at thighs, top of the thigh bones move back, tailbone lifts up to pubis
  • puff up kidneys, sacrum flows down, head of the arm bones back, heart forward, reach back


  • hands give active muscular energy to legs by drawing outer edges of feet down
  • organic energy reaches up through inner edges of feet, big toe mound

Personalize: talk about podcast On Being about Rumi (

Rumi- Sufi poet from the 13th century, discussing different themes in his poetry:

I think one idea or major concept that the Sufi tradition and Rumi in particular have to contribute to our current culture is value in perplexity, the fact that not knowing is a source of learning, something that propels us forward into finding out. Longing, perplexity, these are all very valuable things. We want to unravel things and get answers and be done, but as far as he’s concerned, it’s a continual process. We can’t be done, and that’s good.


So much of our cultural focus is about completing and arriving at an end. Dieting until you attain the perfect weight, finishing the race, getting the degree, the job, the relationship and house…  Yoga, like the themes of Rumi’s poetry is a practice that is never complete. I’ve been practicing for over a decade and still feel that I’m in so many ways just a novice, just beginning.

Universalize: We can choose to see our incompleteness/unknowns/perplexity as lack OR we can use it as fuel for our longing to connect more and more with our deepest essence and live our best life. Our philosophy affirms the old cliché that life is about the journey, not the destination. In the heart-space can we live the truth of this cliché?

Even in our longing, we are already full. Purnatva in Sanskrit means fullness, it’s where we get the root for English perfect. Purnatva- One of the attributes of the divine- that the divine is full and lacking nothing. When hold the paradox of our inherent perfection and our longing to be even more full alongside one another, this creates magical momentum for our practice of awakening.

Context Statements:

–     the separation and the longing themselves are a kind of arrival.

–     destination is the journey itself. So there isn’t a point where you say, ‘OK, I’m here, I’ve reached, I’m done, I’m perfect.

–     New moon/Chinese new year- honor the incompleteness and even a sense of emptiness. It is inherent in that incompleteness, in the process of going forward, that you make yourself better and better. So the separation or incompleteness is the powerful force that keeps you going. If you ever felt that, ‘I have arrived, I’ve reached, this is it,’ then you wouldn’t go any further.

–     Not knowing is a necessary and even creative state

–     What is the deepest longing in your heart?


Open Lvl Class Plan

Focus: sbl/ shoulderblades on back (shoulder loop). Melt heart=longing

Demo: contrast “lack” posture (rounded/hard upper back) to “longing” > sbl, melt heart/SBOB

All fours- SBL/SBOB




Dolphin> plank

Lunges w/ jump switches

Inverted L

Standing poses with side planks btwn

Quad stretches



Bridge pose

Swaying bridge

Bridge> urdva danurasana> danurasana

Dog> Utt> Parsvottanasana> reclining> Savasana


The Song of the Reed – on Rumi’s birth anniversary

Listen to the song of the reed,

How it wails with the pain of separation:

“Ever since I was taken from my reed bed

My woeful song has caused men and women to weep.

I seek out those whose hearts are torn by separation

For only they understand the pain of this longing.

Whoever is taken away from his homeland

Yearns for the day he will return.

In every gathering, among those who are happy or sad,

I cry with the same lament.

Everyone hears according to his own understanding,

None has searched for the secrets within me.

My secret is found in my lament

But an eye or ear without light cannot know it..”

The sound of the reed comes from fire, not wind

What use is one’s life without this fire?

It is the fire of love that brings music to the reed.

It is the ferment of love that gives taste to the wine.

The song of the reed soothes the pain of lost love.

Its melody sweeps the veils from the heart.

Can there be a poison so bitter or a sugar so sweet

As the song of the reed?

To hear the song of the reed

everything you have ever known must be left behind.

— Version by Jonathan Star

“Rumi – In the Arms of the Beloved”

Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, New York 1997


Remember to approach assists/adjustments with SSA – Sensitivity, Stability and THEN Assist. (I thought it was a funny thing to say to approach adjustments “Ass backwards” – because SSA is literally ASS, backwards! I didn’t share this with the group, but I might tell Sianna, maybe she’d find that amusing)

These can be taught to students as partner exercises, if they are comfortable and sensitive enough to do it. These can also be given by the teacher to students to give them more delicious experiences/spontaneous revelations!

1. Downward Dog – creating inner spiral with a strap

-this is great to give people an experience of widening thighs in, back and apart in downward dog

-gives them an experience of the articulation, also feels really good!

-one person takes downward dog, the other person stands behind them, lays strap over the widest part of their hips, threads strap around hips, in between thighs and out the back

-assistant places one foot between the person’s feet, uses strap to widen thighs in, back and apart, and then leans back into back foot!

2. Spa Dog

-this is downward dog with a friend rooting your hips down, giving a nice shot of organic extension down the legs

-one person takes downward dog, friend stands with one foot between the person’s hands, the other foot to the side

-assistant places hands just below the persons sacrum (or “above” depending on how you look at it) and then the action is pressing up towards the sitting bones, and then rooting the legs down

3. Parsvakonasana

-this is great for clearing the psoas!

-one person takes parsva

-friend stabilizes person’s back foot with one foot, then places one hand on the outside of the back shin, and one hand (or forearm) on the inside of the back thigh

-give the person an experience of Shins In, Thighs Out (don’t have to press on shin too much, can overdo it, so be sensitive)

-widening action is most important here so that the person feels really stable

-encourage them to tuck the tailbone strongly and extend up

**additional action is take hand from the shin and bring it to their hip and really root down their back leg, giving a shot of organic energy! Sianna called this the “ultimate freedom” assist.

4. Child’s Pose

-stand behind person in child’s pose, bring hands to hip creases and root the top of their femurs down

****this is contra-indicated for people with knee injuries or recent knee surgery because there is too much pressure on the knee joint

5. Uttanasana

-standing behind the person, make sure their outer hips are flowing back, then root them straight down with organic energy    Leena where would you say you place the hands? I’m not sure what to call that placement. I don’t want to say “butt” 🙂

-ONLY do this if the legs can straighten and the lumbar spine is lower than the top of the sacrum

-if person is on the edge, the low back is not quite below the sacrum, then really work SITO to see if the lumbar curve comes down —> if it does, then you can give the assist

6. Prasarita Padottanasana Shoulder Opening Assist

-one person takes prasarita padott. with hands clasped behind back, folding forward and bringing clasped hands towards floor

-friend places one hand on the sacrum to root them down/stabilize, then brings their other forearm to the base of the humerus bones and gently presses the arms forward

-to come out, keep the hand on the sacrum and inhale, hold person’s clasped hands and help them to come all the way up

7. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana Assist

-one friend takes the pose, the other straddles the person’s torso, reaches underneath the shoulderblades and draws shoulderblades together and lifts the heart up

-then moving back to the person’s knees, hold the outer lower thighs, near the knees, and give organic energy through the leg bones and down into the feet nas the person curls deeper into the upper back and lifts their heart up

(make sure that the feet are lined up and the shins are vertical with knees right over the ankles)

8. Salabhasana Shoulder Cupping

-see if they need a strap in this pose – when their arms are clasped behind them and they lift up, if the arm bones are pushing forward, a strap will help them get more of an experience of openness and allow their arm bones to plug in/lift up more strongly

-straddle their hips, cup their shoulders from the front, sweep forward to create side body long and then lift them up, bracing your elbows on your bent knees

-instruct them to melt their heart. oh deliciousness

9. Salabhasana Calf Rooting

-let person come into salabhasana first by themselves to get an experience of it

-standing over their shins, take the whole hands to below the knee, on the calf, and root the calves down

-person in the pose roots the tailbone and comes up!

-you can also pull back on the heels or press down on the tailbone to get an experience of organic energy in this pose, play with freedom of coming up

10. Cobra Shoulder Assist

-straddle your friend in cobra, bring your knees into their shoulder blades, cup their shoulders from the front, lift and lengthen to create side body long and then press your knees into their shoulders as they curl back

11. Cobra Organic Energy Assist

-to give them an experience of the energy split from the focal point DOWN AND UP, draw the hip bones in and way back towards the feet and instruct them to really draw their belly strongly forward and drag their hands back, softening through the heart

12. Anjaneyasana Organic Energy Assist

-root their hips down so they can really rise up

13. Parsva Parsvokonasana Assist

-i tend to call this pose twisted lunge – the general form is a lunge with the torso twisted over the front leg, hands in prayer, back heel up

-one person takes the pose, for example, twisting over the right leg. the assistant approaches from the left side of the person facing their back, and places their left foot diagonally facing their pelvis. take a slight lunge as you will be supporting the person from behind. encourage strong legs, stable muscle energy. take the right hand to their top armpit and the left hand to the hip. the right hand draws the shoulder up and onto the back (head of the armbone back) and encourages a deeper twist. the left hand draws the outer hip back and roots it down. the person’s back will be really leaning into you and their spine will stack right up and over their front thigh. they may ask you to marry them. beware.

14. Ardha Chandrasana Assist

-one simple assist for teachers is to stabilize the top hip (gently) and hold the top wrist

-one fun assist is to bring one forearm under the ankle and one forearm on top of the shin (of the top leg) and press forearms into the shin, creating an experience of shins in. encourage a big scoop of the tailbone and organic extension. then the person can play with bringing the bottom arm off the floor and extend it forward! fun.

15. Urdhva Dhanurasana Assist

Team of three. One backbender and 2 strappers!

Place two straps under the backbender to start. One is under the hips the other is under the mid back. One strapper stands at the person’s head (backbender holds their ankles) the other strapper stands at the person’s feet. Both strappers hold the straps (obviously). Backbender brings their hands to the strapper’s ankles (take a wide stance here so they can have room to play in their shoulders) and then as they come up, strappers stabilize them with the straps. Really emphasize plugging the heads of the arm bones in and strong muscle energy.


Theme: Exuberant expression of the heart! Inspiration: Michael Jackson

Heart Quality: Exuberance/Expressiveness

Action: Shoulder Loop, Organic Extension

Pinnacle: WILD THING


The theme is: Michael Jackson! Ok maybe unconventional but let’s take a look: Michael Jackson has been a huge inspiration to me as a performer. He was such an incredible innovator and dancer, and what touched me most about watching him was the way he just gave everything away when he was onstage. Everything he did was totally FOR his fans. There is one stance he would take, where he would throw his arms out to the side, thrust his chest out and yell “AAAAAHHHH” and wind would blow and ruffle his shirt. And that could have been a really arrogant gesture. But I always experienced it as incredibly humble. I always saw that as an expression of “This is all for you. Everything i do is for you”. So I want to look at that as inspiration for some backbends we are going to do today. To cultivate that kind of energy, that kind of exuberance, where we can give it all away. And this relates hugely to our core purposes in yoga: Chit – Remembrance and Ananda – Celebration. Remembrance is tapping into the deep core of who we really are, and then once we’re connected to that, to celebrate it, Ananda, to express our hearts with exuberance. So let’s dance!

Centreing: Where does exuberance come from? It’s an expression of the heart. As you breathe, begin to expand the torso on all four sides, creating a real sense of space around the physical heart. And as we drop into our hearts, really occupy and move from that space, we can begin to feel that exuberance arising.



-sun breaths

-uttanasana folding

-SN – straight leg lunge, gentle twist

-SN – hip opener>holy ham, full stretch

-partner stretch – palms touching, SBL, HAB, squeeze bottom tips together, then lift heart and press into hands

-cobra x 3


-utka>prayer twist


-triangle>ardha chan>standing split

-vira 1>vira 3

-baby dancer

-side plank

-wild thing



-setu bandha

-janu sirsasana (if you have conflicting feelings of michael jackson, lets make this pose an expression of compassion for him and for yourself)

-ardha matsey


Steadfastness on our path

–       HQ: Steadiness and freedom   Actions: ME/OE (HABB and SBOB)

Continuing my yoga training- some obstacles to getting into a training that I really want to be part of. First felt disappointment, uhh I should just do something else, but then I remembered how much I care about studying yoga and how I want to stay dedicated and true this path that I love.

In yogic philosophy the Ganesh, the elephant god, represents that aspect of consciousness that helps us to move through obstacles and blocks in our life. It’s significant that this aspect of consciousness is embodied as an elephant. If you think of the qualities of an elephant they are earthy, huge, live for a long, long time… qualities remind me steadfastness. And this quality is crucial in moving through obstacles, both in terms of life circumstances, but also obstacles in our inner relationship with our selves, with out spirit. So in our practice today we’re going do embody that quality steadfastness of Ganesh in order to move more deeply into our poses and subsequently also experience more freedom and expansiveness in the practice.

Meditation: Even breaths.

–       Warm ups: lunges and jump switching

–       Cactus arms (retract arms in, SBOB then expand)

–       Utkatasana with arms retract and then extended

–       Lunge twist

–       Utka> Prayer twist > step back > twisted lunge> holy hamstring stretch

–   Chatturanga push ups with blocks under shoulders (don’t touch block, keep HABB/SBOB)

–       Parsvo

–       Trikonasana- 1st- remember IBB lengthen, HOTBB (ME), extend (OE))

–       TRIK partner: hand on friends pelvis (root down) and crown of head (extend)

–       Shoulder opener

–       Pigeon prep

–       Setu bandha

–       Twist

–       Savasana

–       Chanting to ganesha

–       DFD bend arms push ups, don’t go all the way down if can’t keep arms symmetrical.

–        dips on edge of chair, make sure to keep head of humerous back.

–       Wall- toe push ups, walk back to make it harder.

–       Plank, knees down, side bodies long, melt heart, keep body straight as your lower

–       Next, knees down, chest and chin down, dog tail up, makes it more weight bearing.

–       Plank- lower knees, chest and chin simultaneously.

–       Build strength- plank chat, plank, dog. Add two to practice measurably strengthens arms and shoulders in 3 weeks when you practice 4 days wk or more. (DO THIS IN MY PERSONAL PRACICE!!) You build strength through range of motion not stagnant.

–       Strength training for women increases confidence

Theme- going to the moon. Kennedy set vision- wasn’t technology yet, but he had a vision. Based on trusting that they could figure it out. As teachers for us to embody this trust that we can figure it out is critical right now- we’re at a place in the economy and environment. We can go choose to go somewhere new.

Heart qual- trust- open your heart to trust your own inner guidance

PP- Urdva D

Action- Shoulder loop- bottom tips in expands the heart- opens the thorasic spine

Oh how wonderful – side bodies naturally lengthen and shoulders go back

Bow your head honouring your inner guidance

–       arms to sides- wrists slightly forwarded- shoulders hug in- tip should blades into your trusting heart

–       mixed level- keep defining terms – like humerus

–       twisted sun breaths

–       interlace- side stretch, 2nd favorite side

*first 15 minutes them with action, not lots of technical stuff. Get people moving and knowing the feelings.

DFD leg lifts

Cobra- head of armbone to back of the body (define that clearly for students)

–       teach students to isometrically sweet hands to feet


–       partner standing cobra (very close, only do in comfortable classes) – resist with forearms, sweep forearms down, reach your trusting heart up, shoulders go towards ears as our sidebodies get long.

–       Same cobra on smooth floor- tricepts talking! – show how if hands under shoulders you slide back- if you couldn’t slide on the floor all that pressure goes to your low back.

–       Width of hands- wrists under elbows, makes correct action easier. Hands forward is more advanced puts pressure in the lower back.

Dolphin Dog

–       for beginners huge stretch in shoulder, don’t hold long, then 2 wks later teacher DFD it will feel easier

SN- 90 angle butt stretch with elbows on floor

OTG take the breath into the back body- trusting in the bigger energy to support you as your open.

Lunge twist- 2nd take hand wider and go into backbend

Chatturanga- 3 blankets halfed lengthwise

Belly down hips on blanket, chatt prep arms 90, core that has to lift

Skull loop crucial for empowering core

Baby chat on elbows – not sagasana.

Fire butt up- firm but bouncy, not gripped

–       lower from plank to blankets

  • takes three weeks to notice improvement in strength, except hams, they take more

anjaney- knee bent

passive chest opener, 1-2 blankets. If shoulder problem put elbows on blanket too.

-then activate arms 90 up- sleep walk, plug in, then bring over head

-urdva arms, hug HAB in

Shoulder opener w block, elbows in to midline, arm pits hollow, take block up and back till elbows over shoulders


Cobra on blanket with partner holding calves, cobra 2 with hands back

Danurasana with blanket and partner hold heels, can even sit on heels and hold shoulders- bring shoulders forward and up

Setu banda- set feet, roll inner thighs in, heels draw to TB, get hips up and tb in.

Urdva D- stop with weight on upper back, plug shoulders in. bottom tips of SB into heart, stretch up from the heart.

Come out- touch down to top of head first, then tuck chin and come down.

UD options:

–       lift the floor up with blanets  or firm bolster- have had on bolster, start with natural arch in back. Turn hands out

–       head needs to slide in when it goes to floor- not using quads, pull heels to butt.

–       Don’t push feet into floor, puts all the weight in the arm, just drag heels and slide the head.

Twist on back, move hips over 10 inches. Knees to l take hand to hip, lengthen SB and pin SBLS back to floor.

shoulder opener assist (for arms in extension, such as pincha