Friday, January 1, 2010

My Yoga Retreat with Todd Norian at Kripalu, US!

I just returned from my 5 day retreat at Kripalu with Todd Norian, a brilliant, inspiring, eloquent, very shri-filled and gifted Anusara teacher. Todd was skilled in his instruction, related well to everyone and and had such a delightful and peaceful presence about him. The retreat, "Illume Your Soul thru Yoga, Meditation and Pranayama in the Anusara Method" was held from Dec. 26th thru Dec. 31st at the Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshires of Mass., US (above is the view from my window ...lots of snow!!).

My wonderful teacher in Ireland, Tahnee Fournier, inspired me to explore Anusara, and I wanted to learn more about the philosophy and principles of this type of yoga. I was trained in ISHTA (which is a hatha system as well), but like to incorporate different styles in my practice and teaching. I had the most amazing time, met the brightest people and was able to rejuvenate myself and my practice! It was also an auspicious time of year, where I was able to reflect on the past year/let go and set some new goals for 2010! I feel more courageous to face the New Year and know that I will always be supported by the Universe if I follow my heart and stay true to myself! Here's a synoposis of the five-day experience and what I learned (apologies in advance for any misspellings/omissions or misinterpretations!!!):

Arrived in the evening, and Todd gave us a nice introduction to Anusara, explained the philosophy of Tantra, we worked on our intentions or sankalpas for the retreat and did some asana practice (including some fun partner work). Anusara means “flowing with Grace" and “following your heart.” It's grounded in a Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness and everything in this world is an embodiment of Divine (Supreme Consciousness) and the purpose of practicing Anusara yoga is to align with this Divine. It is a yoga that's focused on the celebration of the heart!

Anusara classes are all centered around a theme, and Todd's theme for the second day was darkness and lightness. He explained that there could be no light without darkness and that we all go through times that challenge and test us (but he elaborated that the Universe sends us these times of darkness when she knows we are ready to meet them and grow!) Posed the question: How has the darkness served you? He also spoke about the three godesses (Kali, Lakshmi, and...Saraswati) and what they stood for. He provided an explanation of the 3 A's of Anusara:

1. Attitude: why are you practicing the yoga? philosophy behind it..
2. Alignment: application of your intention
3. Action: expression of the balance of the two forces (stability vs. balance)

Todd explained the 6 attributes of our true nature (absolute nature):
1. chit: consciousness-universal energy is awake
2. ananda: pulses with joy
3. spanda: pulsation (dynamic energy pulses like your heart beat and breath)
4. parmatva: there are no missing parts (we are whole and perfect)
5. svatantya: unique freedom (we are free to choose)
6. shri: goodness, auspiciousness (divine beauty and life is constantly becoming better)

Five Priciples of Alignment:
1. Opening to Grace: setting the foundation (light)
2. Muscular Energy: drawing in
3. Inner Spiral: expanding (ex. inner rotating legs to create alignment)
4. Outer Spiral: contracting (ex. scooping tailbone)
5. Organic Energy: shining out (from the focal point) a natural desire to stretch for something greater but you have to hug in

Todd explained that this is all done to optimize our freedom of our life force and shakti and move toward our true nature where we feel lighter. Then after the theory and philosophy, we applied some of the principles and did an awesome practice.

Todd explained that the two highest purposes of Anusara yoga are chit ananda. The theme for today was courage. Courage means "of the heart" and it's the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chose course of action. He wove this through eloquently throughout the entire class with shoulder-opening poses which led us to do some beautiful backbends including the wheel pose (a true heart opener!)

Then we reflected and wrote in our journal on the following: "what challenge would I like to bring more courage to in my life?" He emphasized about the courage to let go and be vulnerable. A warrior knows when to let go and healthy engagement...looks into his/her heart and steps back and reflects. (Todd assisting/instructing in hand-stand prep in photo above).

Then we went into the optimal blue print or alignment for our skeleton and bones for our shoulders:
1. side body long: shoulder comes to the base of the neck and inner body bright
2. head of the arm bones back
3. shoulder loop: shoulder loop (curling lower tips of shoulder blades under the heart) shoulderblades are flat and hug in
4. broaden: expand shoulderblades and no pinching

He stressed that although we are all free to choose our thoughts and have freedom, we also have responsibility.

The theme for today was: "celebrate!" Todd explained that we should celebrate the opportunity to awaken and love, laugh (take things lightly), and life FULLY. The more joy and light we can hold, the more we light up! But he said not to give yourself too easily, because you become the company that you keep! But put on your party hat!

I found this to be very insightful:
Samadhi Samskaras: every thought creates a groove in the mind.
Samskara: grooves or patterns in the minds/ways of thinking and living. Negative patterns are bad habits, but they can be changed.
Samadhi: even, united and balanced

How do we learn in ways that are life-affirming and enhancing? How do we transform samkaras?
1. Step 1-> Become Aware: Don't judge yourself, but watch with acceptance and an equanamous mind. Train your mind to have awareness and see with calmness.
2. Step 2->Alignment: Descipline, choose to align with the Divine with determination and skillfullness
3. Step 3->Heat: Apply tapas, austerity and power of transformation. Yoga should be fun and transforming, but you need heat or action.
4. Step 4-> Extend and create new groove with Prema (or unconditional love).

We should navigate life and engage more. We do yoga to get into transcendence and manifestation. We ground and reach and value who we are. Yoga is taking care of ourselves in the most skillful way. As John Friend puts it: "Yoga creates a sharp (clear/lucid) mind, energetic/healthy body and a soft heart."

To conclude, Todd played the harmonium and we all chanted Om Nama Shivaya.

The following day, Todd asked: "why did the Universe create you?" For the sheer delight, is the answer! Here are the nine categories of Divine feeling: love, compassion, humor, lightness, warrior, anger, disgust, fear, wander and peace. He said that we should have no veil experience, but see with the eyes of a child (with awe) and connect with the source.

Karma is the horizontal plane or the work for a reason and lila is the vertical axis or divine play for no reason. How do you bring playfulness to your work? When is your technique or practice getting too rigid? Then we did a practice that worked with the theme of awe and playfulness. See the world through the eyes of a child!! (like my almost 3 year old nephew below)

On the last day, Todd explained that we should be able to RECEIVE! We need to soften and let down our guard! How do you receive your breath and your day? A gift is something you don't deserve, so practice receiving from the Universe. Receive the gift of life. What is your song? What is your gift?

He later explained the 5 koshas or sheaths: body, mind, breath, wisdom and bliss

Each day with Todd was filled with some theory/a theme and a wonderful practice/meditation breathwork/reflection/journaling/partner exercise that incorporated his teachings! I know I probably missed some stuff in my synopsis above, because Todd's class was so rich in theory and practice, but I did the best to capture the main things that I walked away with above. I walked away feeling empowered, confident and rejuvenated!

THANK YOU to Todd for a most magnificent way to end 2009 and begin the New Year! Hopefully, you learned something from reading about my experience...

Happy New Year! It will be the best one yet!!! I just know it!!

Blessings and Namaste,


PuraAbarca said...

給你一個鼓勵 ..................................................

Ankit said...

Wow that's great!!
Well thanks for sharing such a wonderful experience.
Meditation Techniques