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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

Courage to Feel and be Vulnerable

Talk about partner yoga workshop– some couples neither partner had done yoga, but most one was regular yogi, and other partner had never done yoga. And I was thinking of how courageous it was for the non-yogi partner to be willing to try something so new with their partner… Courageous, because it can be really vulnerable to do something that your partner is the “expert” at, and you are totally new at…. Saw that courageous vulnerability as an expression of love.

TED Talk, Brene Brown- Social worker focuses on importance of vulnerability in order for us to feel human and alive, and fulfilled. In her research, she found that she could basically divide people into 2 groups:

  • There were people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it.
  • there was one variable that separated them- was the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy. She calls these people- whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness.

And these whole-hearted people had one other thing in common: They fully embraced vulnerability. “They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating — They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees, the willingness to breathe through waiting for the doctor to call after your mammogram. They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental.”

Contextualize/universalize: I love this so much, this is one of the most important things we can gain from our yoga practice. Our tantric philosophy invites us to embrace the full spectrum of life- the courage to feel the full spectrum of physical sensations and emotion, the courage to love ourselves and others despite our imperfectness. To really experience life fully and express ourselves fully > courage&vulnerability.

Context Statements:

–       Courage- from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

–       yoga invites us to express ourselves fully, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to be discrete about how we express ourselves, like you don’t express yourself the same way at home and at work, but in all cases, can we at least be honest with ourselves and have the courage to be imperfect?

–       We must learn to be compassion to be kind to ourselves first, because we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly

–       It takes courage to let go of who we should be in order to be who were are. But this is necessary for real connection.

–       What makes us vulnerable is also what makes us beautiful.

–       We live in a vulnerable world. And one of the ways we deal with it is we numb vulnerability> but you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the stuff I don’t’ want to feel: here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment, I don’t want to feel these.

–       When we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

–       numb through addictions, through striving to be perfect, through trying to make our kids perfect, through believing in certainties, through blame.

-But there’s another way: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee, to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of difficulty, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

Courage to be vulnerable- Open Lvl Class

IS/OS- action of the thighs and tailbone + SL

Strong action in the legs and low back gives us the support to open our hearts with courage.

4 SN for Sarah – with twists and back bends

standing poses and quad stretches

child’s pose

Handstand- demo tailbone action

King author’s pose

Abs > bridge> abs> bridge/urdva

Camel pose

camel assist


child’s pose

standing forward bends

seated twists and forward bends



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


Theme: The Wild Within – bringing some wildness into our lives can open us to unexpected possibilities, recharge our creative batteries, give us new perspective!

Heart Quality: Wildness (unconventional? perhaps.)

Action: Organic Energy – extend from the focal point out, root to rise

Pinnacle: Wild Thing! (of course)

Last week at my teacher training I was really inspired by one woman who got up to teach, and after she had received some feedback from the teacher and opened some things up in her teaching, shared that she had realized that she had gotten so serious about yoga and teaching that she forgot that it could be joyful and fun. I really identified with her because I have a tendency to get really serious and focused on things. And it’s great to be disciplined and committed, but sometimes that focus can stifle our work, suffocate it. So I started thinking about the idea of wildness, particularly in relation to Halloween coming up, and thinking about what kind of experience a little looseness, a little wildness could bring us.

If you think about a cultivated garden, you can spend so much time pruning it and making it beautiful. And that’s great! But sometimes you really just need to go out into the jungle and have a look around – and find some outrageous plant to bring back with you!

Wildness opens us to unexpected possibilities. You go into the jungle, who knows what you will find? And this can be a great boost to creativity, to anything that might feel too serious or even a little bit boring in your life. What can wildness bring us? Where can it take us?

Centring: Open to the breath. As you deepen into your seat and your breathing, focus your attention on the low belly. I think this is where our wildness lives. See if you can touch in to a small feeling of that wildness. As you hold onto that feeling, bring to mind a project or a relatoinship, something in your life that feels very serious or stagnant. See if you can breathe a little space around it. What could a little wildness bring to this area of your life?



-shakti flings

-partner stretch

-sun breaths

-SN (lunge, gentle twist)

-SN (utka, full stretch, switchbacks –> parsvakonasana to exalted warrior)


organic energy is one of my favourite things about anusara yoga. it’s where we get to express ourselves. we’ve been working the past few weeks on muscular engagement – hugging to the midline, firming the muscles. today we are going to look at the balance to that. organic energy expands out in every direction. it roots us down into the ground so we can rise up and expand!

-instruct in Vira 1 (thumbs hooked)

-instruct in DD (demonstrate first –> foundation, claw hands, walk knees back, lift up, firm arms, squeeze midline, then from back of heart press down into hands, from back of heart stretch up to hips and down to heels)

THRILLER VINYASA (in honour of halloween! and wildness)

utka> prayer twist> lunge> prayer twist lunge>DD>cobra (both sides)


-standing L at the wall

-warrior 3 at the wall

-half moon at the wall

-cobra x 3

-thigh stretch

-side plank

-wild thing (demonstrate)

-child’s pose


-ardha matsey


-jathara parivartanasana

-happy baby


theme development:

-lift and spread the toes wildly!

-root your wildness down through your feet and then lift the torso up out of the waist, opening to unexpected possibilities! like thriller in a yoga class!

-tap into that wildness in your belly and bring that into your pose

-think of a person in your life who inspires you to be a little wild, a little outrageous. do this pose for them! imagine they are pulling your hands back towards the back wall as you lift up and curl back

-bring your fingers to your head, mess up your hair!

-now with complete disregard for looking cool, walk your hips up jauntily to the top of your mat. this is a rehearsal for later. (got them to walk from DD to uttanasana to the beat of thriller. priceless)

Teaching Modifications

To keep the integrity and knowledge of asanas clear, make sure that people know the full form of the pose you are teaching. for example, many people now think that parsvakonasana’s full form is the front forearm on the front thigh. if you are teaching this modification, make it clear that it is a modification. In some cases you can bring people all the way into the full form (front hand outside of front foot) and THEN back it up into the modified version so that it’s clear


Q: what is the difference between dhanurasana (bow pose) with hands holding the outside of the feet versus hands holding the ankles with feet flexed?

The version with holding the feet gives more of an experience of organic energy extending up. The version holding the ankles creates more muscular energy in the feet, empowers shoulder loop and allows a deeper curl in the upper back.

Leens I don’t feel super clear on this – I can see what’s happening in the ankles version, but not really sure what’s happening in the feet version. Any thoughts on this?

Handstand Assists

When doing a handstand assist (of pressing into someone’s hand to come up), many teachers make the mistake of having people come into downward dog, lifting the leg and coming into the handstand from there. Sianna said “As far as I am concerned this is the most advanced way to do it!” because you have to have ALOT of core strength to bring the hips over the shoulders – its a far distance to travel! A good distance for an intermediate student, or someone just learning handstands, would be to have them take a stance halfway between downward dog and uttanasana and then lift the leg. A more advanced student can come into it from uttanasana (with hands a little farther forward than normal) because they may be more open in their hamstrings.

Sianna also suggested the “team of three” to come into handstand – the handstander, the leg presser and the hip holder. one person stands behind the handstander, getting ready to hold their hips once they’ve pressed up. the leg presser presses a hand into their leg and helps them up! the hip holder takes a firm hold of both hips and gives them an organic boost up, making them feel steady and secure.

Movement vs. Action, Giving Just Enough

Sianna spent alot of time talking about learning to instruct action succinctly and economically. Alot of us were teaching action as we were bringing people into the pose, and getting too detailed right away. Sianna explained that this is a really easy way to lose people, if you are overloading them with too much information. Sianna suggested backing off, learning to bring everyone into the outer form of the pose, looking closely at everyone to see what was needed, and then layering the action instructions on top. She also stressed FOUNDATION – that so many people are busy instructing action but their students have misaligned foundations! Especially to demonstrate your skill as a teacher in a certification videos it is important to practice coming back and checking students foundations.

I think my learning edge here is looking at the students closely and being able to see what they need, and giving them enough instruction without overwhelming them. I also want to practice giving quick verbal adjustments to students to line their foundations up, to keep the flow of the class going but keep everyone’s foundations clear and precise.

Twisted Lunge (hands in prayer twist over front leg)

Rather than coming into this with hands in prayer and simply twisting over the front leg, Sianna suggested bringing the hands to the knees, pressing hands into the knees to create a big side body long and then on the exhale taking the arm all the way over. This also prevents binding in the psoas and hamstring, which is more likely to happen if you come into it without lengthening first.

Windshield Wipers

Sianna had a concern about bringing the ankle onto the knee in this pose, as it creates too much pressure on the medial collateral ligament and could eventually wear down and become a problem. To prevent this either don’t bring the ankle onto the knee 🙂 OR really practice SITO – if you have dropped the knees to the right, energize the left foot, lifting the baby toe side of the foot towards the outer knee, and keeping that widening the thigh and drawing it back and up towards the ceiling (the thigh will lift because the pelvis is at an angle) Then really stretch organic energy, can bring the top arm up and stretch, now it would be safe to bring the right ankle to the left knee. You can teach this in stages over time, until you see people can hold that action. It’s also alot of action to teach at the end of a class when people are relaxing, so feel that out and teach that kind of detail only if it makes sense for the studentship and level.

Cobra Arm Details

-Many people can bring their hands farther back because when they come up they end up pressing their hands forward rather than dragging back

-We don’t want to squeeze the elbows into the body, this is a common misalignment

-to practice getting the action, do this in the air. Bring your arms into cobra position in the air. Open to grace, melt the heart. Claw the hands in the air, then bring an expanding spiral to the lower arms to widen the elbows (forearms turn in). Then melt the heart, and create a contracting spiral, turning the upper arms out. Drag hands back. Ya should feel it in the mid back, around the bottom tips of the shoulder blades. Oh yeah.

– to teach beginners, teach on fingertips, widen the elbows out, melt the heart. do fun things like having them stretch their legs back one at a time, reach forward and grab the person’s foot in front of you and pull it back. then have them root back with that same energy themselves.

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


christina sell teaches backbends at the Anusara GG. great theme idea and beautiful assist for drop backs using elbows

–       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.