Know thyself* / by vanessa

As many do, I fell into yoga. It started as a remedy for a running injury, turned into a fanatical way to lose weight, and then settled in as a way of life. I was a freak about Bikram doing an 80-day challenge, and then a couple of months later starting a 60-day challenge. I stayed with that for a year, and was largely uninterested in the other types of yoga. And then I found vinyasa. Or, more specifically, I found Baptiste Vinyasa. I started taking a class from a woman who'd been to Level 1. Within four months I was at a Level 1 myself. I went into teacher training not having been a teacher. I came out of it and started teaching at Bodhi and the Crossings. I knew I loved the Baptiste method, but because I was new to teaching, and really yoga, I felt that I needed to study with many famous teachers. My classes would only improve if I knew crazy postures and could put together "creative" sequencing. So, I continued taking BPVY workshops, but I also took weekend workshops and travelled to conferences to try out other styles. After just over a year of teaching and taking a bunch of different teachers, I stopped the constant searching. I realized that all the different influences weren't making me a better teacher -- they were watering me down. I found that as I practiced consistency, I developed my skill. And then of course, I ended up in Boston where I took time off from teaching, but assisted at the studios, which has had immeasurable impact on my development.
I'm explaining all of this because a) I'm long-winded, and b) I am now in LA and I've been asked to talk about the yoga here, and I'm long-winded. Here's my take:

  • 1. Cambridge is the best studio in the whole world, period. I do not regret leaving Boston at all, nein-siree-Bob. I do wish I could still practice there. I found something that really spoke to me and I'm not really interested in taking other teachers now. That said, asana is such an integral part of my life that it causes more pain not to practice than to practice something I don't love, so I'm branching out. Yes, my mat is rolled out at home, but classes are good because I'll do in a class what I won't do on my own. That's right on my own I hold Warrior II for two breaths. Tops. And I NEVER do boat. Ever.
    2. It's hard for me to take a yoga teacher seriously when he/she's using a fake yoga name. If you don't like your name change it to "Jane" or something, but "Light"?
    3. I've been going to my friend Kristin's class when I can. I encourage people who come to LA to take her class. She's at Equinox and where I'll be (next Thurs at 7 is my first sub class!). We've been to several teacher trainings together and she's challenging and tells it like it is. She also hates taking care of other people's plants so don't even ask.
    4. My impression so far is that many of the practices I see are kinda like frappucinos (sp?) -- showy without substance. I know - I'm so rude.
    5. Yes there are a lot of the big name yoga teachers here (e.g. Shiva Rea, Erich Schiffman, Seane Corn, Bryan Kest, etc.). I was going to go to Seane Corn's tonight but I was sleepy and it's a hike to get to Venice in rush hour so I went to Bryan's 1-2 class. Bryan teaches a challenging class. I love how he puts beginners in standing splits and holds postures for a long time. The accent is something for me to overcome and because I have the maturity of a 13-yr old everytime he says "nipples" (a lot) or "touch yourself", I giggle. I'll make it around to the other names on that list, but I'm not in any rush.
  • ***
    More on the title of this blog. I've been reading so much Gandhi lately he's coming out my nose. Hee hee. For real though, I've read three books of his writings in the last month and a half (Prayer, Essential Gandhi, and Autobiography). You should too. Anyway, so yes, he's dead, yet I feel as though he's the most influential teacher in my life right now. His words are to me as the Gita was to him. Surprisingly, I find myself quoting him and thinking WWGD? when faced with challenges like soy or 2%? Okay that's a joke, but for real on Saturday I went to a spinning class (holy cow my hamstrings are finally pain-free a mere 5 days later), and we were "climbing a hill", Gnarles Barkley blaring in the background, and the teacher is telling us to get inspired so I thought of Gandhi on a bike in a black-lit, sweaty room with his little dohti and a moustache and I laughed. He was into the spinning wheel, but not that kind. I digress. Again. The point is, so then I had this moment in church on Sunday in which the preacher was saying all of these things that normally I would disagree with but at the time I had ethics amnesia. I couldn't remember or articulate my position on anything. I sat there in my chair as he called on me (and no, I didn't raise my hand, and no, this is not your regular kind of church). He asked me if I agreed or disagreed with anything he said. I didn't feel fear of contradicting him, but I honestly couldn't answer. In that moment, I couldn't tell what was mine and what was borrowed. All I kept thinking was "know thyself". I am nothing if not willing, and I DO want to know God. But there comes a time when another's experience with God is not enough - the soul is drawn to creating its own communion with the divine. So for right now I'm backing off a bit of the external sources and simply retreating to my meditation practice so that the inner voice within me becomes unmistakable. I have a little fear b/c I feel alone in LA and so far have used my reading as a way to keep me on track. In Cambridge, I had a cocoon of truth that was the yoga studio. It was where I worked out my shit. Here, I am developing my own way. I don't know quite what I'm doing but it feels right to drop it all and just sit.

    *or 'yourself' if you don't speak King James English, which I don't, but feign anyway.