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Upcoming Yoga Workshops in Europe!

Hi everyone!

1381777_692896544071088_201410785_nMaya and I are still booking workshops in fall/winter 2014 and 2015 so please take a look at some of the workshops I offer (see below) and if you’d like to invite me to your studio or yoga festival/conference, please contact me at kirancourt@gmail.com!

Upcoming Workshops:

March 1st, Regensberg Yoga Conference – Yoga Revolutions 2014, Regensberg, Germany

April 27th- December 2nd, Namaste Flow Yoga Teacher Training, Tübingen, Germany

May 10th, Sakti Yoga Festival, Frankfurt, Germany

June 8th, Aceso Yoga, Chania, Greece

July 5-12, Various locations, Kefalonia, Greece

August 22nd-25th,  Yoga and Hiking Retreat, Seefeld, Austria

Sept 20-21, Athens, Greece

November 23rd, The Yoga Hub, Dublin Ireland

March 2015, Namaste Yoga Festival, Munich, Germany

Summer 2015, Yoga Retreat, Aegina, Greece

Summer 2015, Yoga Retreat, Kefalonia, Greece

Workshop Descriptions:

Extended Vinyasa Practice

What makes us doubt ourselves, our beliefs, and our abilities?  Come on an adventurous journey with Chris Courtney, who channels his experiences as a mountain guide and yoga teacher into an exploration of ourselves, our beliefs, and our abilities.

 In this two-hour vinyasa practice, he’ll guide you through a slow and mindfully paced ashtanga-inspired flow laced with humor and generous helpings of kick-your asana power flow sequences in which you’ll safely find your own edge.  Along the way, we’ll break down some challenging poses to enable you to sneak across old barriers to new levels of ability and self-belief….laughing all the way!  (Asana and laughter)

 Adjustments and Assists For Yoga Teachers

Review and learn how to give gentle, safe and supportive hands-on assists which help students to more fully feel the energy of each asana – all while honoring and supporting their breath and intentions.

 Chris has trained hundreds of teachers, written several important articles on the subject, and he is often asked to review forthcoming books on adjustments marking him as a respected voice on safe and effective adjustments and assists. (Asana, assists, and discussion)

 Fear of Flying:  Arm Balances For Everyone

 Do you run for the door when your yoga teacher calls out an arm balance?  Do you suddenly “remember” that you need to call the babysitter when you hear the words bakasana, handstand, or pincha mayurasana (much less just mayurasana)?    Then this workshop is for you!

 Join Chris for a playful and fun filled workshop where we’ll explore how to build arm balances from the ground up.   Reviewing the fundamental building blocks and “gateway” asanas to build the technique and strength for more advanced arm balances, we’ll push our edges outward breaking through barriers of self-belief and ability.

Arm balances are more than just exotic party tricks, they teach balance, coordination, and engaging the bandhas so we can move toward a feeling of laghima – the siddhi of becoming almost weightless.

Students of all levels are welcome and encouraged to sign up and attend.  Active participation in this workshop is not recommended for students with shoulder, arm or wrist injuries however they can benefit from listening to the discussions and observing the techniques being practiced. (Asana)

Chris and MayaPartner Yoga.  Come explore connection, support and trust through partner poses.  This workshop provides an introductory approach to the partner practice, including . This will  partner yoga and its benefits, meditation, seated postures, basic standing poses,  restorative poses, Thai Yoga Massage, and an amazing deep relaxation. This workshop will nourish both your practice and your heart.   This session is open to all levels of practitioners. (Asana)

 Chris teaching at Grassroots YogaYin-Yasa: The Fusion of Yin and Vinyasa Yoga By fusing Yin yoga with Vinyasa flow, we create an integrated, balanced yoga practice. The first 45 minutes of Yin work help release the connective tissues, create space and integrity in the joints and remove blockages to internal energy flow. Focusing on the hips, pelvis, lower back and knees, the Yin postures keep the core supple. The hour-long Yang section is a flowing repetition of movements requiring strength and balance, while emphasizing breath work and internal locks. The heat and internal awareness generated in the Yang portion build on the releases cultivated during the Yin series. A reverse version is also available starting with vinyasa yoga, moving to yin yoga, then finishing with 30 minutes of yoga nidra and deep relaxation. (Asana)

  Yoga for Skiers and Snowboarders

 Prepare to hit the slopes!  Find out how yoga can enhance your skiing or boarding season! Never done yoga?  No fear – this workshop is for anyone looking for a way to improve their skiing through yoga.  The only requirements are curiosity and an open mind.

 Interested in finding core strength, body awareness, and balance that will help take your skiing to another level?   Tired of dealing with tight hips or sore lower back muscles after a weekend on the slopes?  Want to learn how yoga can help prevent skiing-related injuries?  This workshop enables skiers and snowboarders to improve their performance and enjoyment of skiing while reducing their vulnerability to injury.  Get ready for a great season on the snow! (Asana and discussion)

 The Psoas and Spine: Fearless and Free

Photo by Jim Campbell

Photo by Jim Campbell

 The Psoas muscle (pronounced so-as) is the deepest muscle of the human body affecting our structural balance, muscular integrity, flexibility, strength, range of motion, joint mobility, and organ functioning.  But it is also far more than a core stabilizing muscle; it is an organ of perception composed of bio-intelligent tissue and  literally embodies our deepest urge for survival and also our deep desire to flourish.

 A relaxed psoas is the mark of play and creative expression and by cultivating a healthy psoas, we can rekindle our body’s vital energies by learning to reconnect with the life force of the universe. A flexible and strong psoas grounds us and allows subtle energies to flow through the bones, muscles and joints.  A tight and shortened psoas pulls the spine out of alignment and begins a chain reaction of muscles springing into action to keep it upright – leading to lower back and abdominal soreness and lack of mobility.

 And today our fast paced modern lifestyle  chronically triggers and tightens the psoas – making it ready to fight or flee. The psoas helps you to spring into action – or curls you up into a protective ball.  At the same time we spend too much time sitting in chairs, further shortening and tightening our psoas, leading to painful conditions including low back pain, sacroiliac pain, sciatica, disc problems, spondylolysis, scoliosis, hip degeneration, knee pain, menstruation pain, infertility, and digestive problems.

In this workshop, we’ll learn not only how to lengthen, open, and strengthen the psoas  and spinal area– but how to keep it that way so we can remove fear from our core, stand and walk with correct posture, feel more powerful and free in our asana practice…and life!

 The Warrior and The Yogi

 Who are we?  Our family tells us, society tells us, laws and customs tell us. But what do we say?  How do we get to that place of self-knowledge and conviction where we are able to state without doubt, fear or anger, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is how I intend to live my life?”

 How do we find our true calling, our soul companions, our true self? In this task, a powerful ally is the Warrior Ethos. Directed inward, it grounds us, fortifies us and focuses our resolve.  When we find ourselves taking a closer look at the path of yoga, we see not only parallels to the warrior ethos but also that they are a reflection of each other.

 Lifelong yogi and warrior Chris Courtney leads you on a journey to understand how to blend the codes of the warrior and the yogi into a powerful and fulfilling life practice to support your spiritual journey.. (Discussion and jappa)

 About Chris:

Chris Courtney is a yoga teacher and writer based in Stuttgart, Germany. Sincerely seeking transformation through spiritual sadhana and the integrity of daily living are what Chris most values on his journey as a teacher and life-long student.

A dedicated yoga practitioner and teacher who first learned from his mother at the age of seven, Chris offers classes and trainings which challenge you to transform yourself and connect with your true self while tranforming your body and mind.

Chris trained with Doug Swenson and his multi-faceted vinyasa style of yoga; Sadhana Yoga Chi. As a Sadhana Yoga Chi teacher, Chris aims to create a holistic balance between strength and softness; between the internal practice and the external results. These are addressed through the encouragement of body/mind awareness, as well as a series of dynamic, flowing movements. His teachers and influences also include Swami Chetanananda, Meta Hirschl, Ramesh Bjonnes. David Swenson, Tias Little, and of course his wife Maya Devi Georg.

Sincerely seeking transformation through spiritual sadhana and the integrity of daily living are what Chris most values on his journey as a teacher and life-long student. He brings over two decades of outdoor leadership experience into his teaching and while his classes vary, his signature style is a vinyasa-based mix infused with humor, kick-your-asana power flow sequences, and longer stretches for a deep opening of the body

Chris has taught at studios and festivals in Arizona, New Mexico. California, Nevada, Indiana, Texas, and Germany.  In 2010, he founded the Grassroots Yoga in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  In 2013 Chris re-located to Europe where together with Maya Devi Georg, he hosts workshops, retreats, and other trainings.

Chris is also an Iraq War veteran who offers free classes (in a special program) for his fellow vets. He also offer private yoga therapy consulting and is a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Chris is grateful for his many teachers in life, especially his wife Maya Devi Georg, his family, Doug Swenson, Swami Chetanananda, and his students.

In between teaching yoga classes and workshops, he is also a columnist for Yoganonymous, Origin Magazine, and Flow Yoga Magazine, an online yoga and wellness magazine as well as a contributor to Politico. Currently, he is contributing a chapter to an upcoming book on yoga for veterans with PTSD.

Private lessons and workshops are always available. Contact him via email at kirancourt@gmail.com

You can follow him on Twitter at @ck_courtney

 

 

 

Fear of Flying Workshop in Heidelberg – October 20th at YogaBliss!

Do you run for the door when your yoga teacher calls out an arm balance? Do you suddenly “remember” that you need to call the babysitter when you hear the words bakasana, handstand, or pincha mayurasana (much less just mayurasana)? Or do you love arm balances but want it to feel more effortless? Then this workshop is for you!

Join Chris for a playful and fun filled workshop where we’ll explore how to build arm balances from the ground up. Reviewing the fundamental building blocks and “gateway” asanas to build the technique and strength for more advanced arm balances, we’ll push our edges outward breaking through barriers of self belief and ability.

Arm balances are more than just exotic party tricks, they teach balance, coordination, and engaging the bandhas so we can move toward a feeling of laghima – the siddhi of becoming almost weightless.

For those that struggle with arm balances, you’ll learn the basics. For those who are already proficient, you’ll learn how to go even farther!

Students of all levels are welcome and encouraged to sign up and attend. Active participation in this workshop is not recommended for students with shoulder, arm or wrist injuries however they can benefit from listening to the discussions and observing the techniques being practiced.

Plöck 60, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany

30 euros

Victim or Vigilante: Discerning the Difference While Staying on the Path. ~ Maya Devi Georg & Chris Courtney

Victim or Vengeance

We’ve both been subjected to a lot of violence in our lives.

We’ve both had guns pointed at us. We’ve been in abusive relationships. We’ve both experienced the extreme of violence, having others try to kill us. We’ve been slapped around, berated, bullied, beaten, blackmailed, abused and humiliated. We’ve had malicious rumors told about us, we’ve been stabbed in the back, and had the things we’ve held dearest taken from us by people we trusted. We know what it’s like to be a victim.

This article is not about that.

This is about people pretending to be victims in order to exploit others. This is about how to respond if you are victimized, and how the urge for vengeance that often accompanies it can take us away from our spiritual path.

It is so very easy to play the victim. Victims are never responsible for their actions, merely responding to stimuli. Victims are coddled, and cared for. Victims have our sympathy. They have our sympathy because we have all been injured—we’ve been victims.

But when people manipulate it, this amounts to exploitation. As victims, we stood up to our attackers. We stood up for ourselves and walked out of abusive relationships.  We confronted every attacker we have faced. This gave us strength and allowed us to move beyond being victims; it allowed us to be ourselves.

When someone has been truly injured or violated, they deserve our love and compassion. But when people manipulate our empathy to play the victim they seek advantage and attention. They are exploiting our emotions to serve the selfish needs of their ego. Even worse, they can hurt innocent people in the process.

Overblown or feigned injury has been used to justify aggression and violence throughout history. Hitler justified his 1939 invasion of Poland by claiming that ethnic Germans were being persecuted there.

In 1994 when the President of Rwanda’s plane was shot down, Hutu extremists blamed the Tutsi minority and called for their extermination, touching off 100 days of killing that left over 800,000 dead.

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003, claiming not only that it was linked to the attacks on 9/11 but that it was developing weapons of mass destruction. While neither of these was true, much injury was caused to thousands on both sides as vengeance was sought in the name of a lie…from a nation playing the victim.

It also happens in our own communities. In the yoga studio scene, this manifests when teachers leave one studio to open their own business. The departing teachers are often accused of stealing contact information for students, or just stealing students. The departing teachers claim abuses at the hands of their former employers. We have seen studio owners actually abuse and harass employees then turn around and make outrageous and false claims about them, harming the teacher’s reputation. There are also the rumors started between rival teachers, claiming incompetence or negligence.

Sometimes both sides hold a contest to see who can garner the most sympathy but in many cases, one party asks you to choose sides and heap scorn on the other while the other remains either conciliatory or silent, and moves on.

How do we discern the difference between a call for justice as opposed to a call for vengeance (whether the reasons are true or not)? How can we tell when our empathy is being manipulated for malefic reasons?

Imagined or otherwise, vengeance is always wrong and while justice calls for an end to violence, vengeance perpetuates it. Regardless of whether someone is an actual or feigned victim, vengeance is never justified.   The bloody history of war and genocide in the Balkans, with centuries of violence justified by calls for vengeance is a very visible example of this dynamic.

We can tell the difference because the true victim calls for justice, and justice is a call for the end of violence. The true victim confronts the perpetrator and brings attention to the appropriate authorities. They do not create an angry mob to wreak havoc and destruction. They do not seek attention, they do not feed their ego.

Those that manipulate and exploit our good nature call for vengeance. This only perpetuates violence, whether it be physical or energetic. These are the people that demand the attention of others. They need to create drama, and keep themselves in the center of controversy, safely insulated in the cloak of victimhood.

And what if you or someone you love is actually victimized, does that then justify vengeance? Is revenge ever excusable?

The universal message of the divine, in all its forms, is to not heed the siren call of vengeance, which speaks to our visceral selves, but to respond from our soul with love and compassion. While on the path of yoga we seek to honor and abide by ahimsa, non-harming. Christianity and Buddhism offer us some of the clearest explanations of how to respond from our soul when our lizard brain urges us to react with vengeance.

Jesus told his followers, “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…do not repay evil with evil. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

A quote often attributed to the Buddha, but actually from Buddhaghosa says; “When someone has done us wrong, we fly into a hot rage and fierce fury! But why then do we thus repeat and commit the same evil as we just blamed the others? If you are in rage, and longing for revenge, whether you return some evil to him or not, you will ever more torture yourself with the pain that always inherently is born of any hate.”

Indeed, trusting in the law of karma can be challenging when faced with an onslaught of hatred and bitterness.  Our ego and natural survival instincts kick in and the sweet taste of bringing vengeance upon those who have caused us suffering can be hard to resist.  It can be hardest to resist not when revenge is beyond our powers but when it is well within our grasp.

But it was Mahatma Gandhi, a man who could have easily called on his hundreds of millions of followers to visit violence upon their British occupiers. Instead,  he chose to forgo vengeance and seek justice through a path of peace and compassion.

The law of karma is no different than what the Apostle Paul told the Romans when he said, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.” In his letter to the Galatians, he advised them, “As you sow so shall you reap.” Indeed, the divine order of the universe brings justice but if we seek to salve our ego by doing it ourselves, we suffer in the process. By committing the same act as the aggressor, we become the aggressor ourselves. We also become hypocrites.

As Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami reminds us, “The karma of retaliation returns to the perpetrators with three times the force.”   Indeed, in taking revenge, we perpetuate the cycle of violence and hatred while adding to our own karmic debt.   In the process, we cause others to seek revenge—moving all of us further from the path of seeking unity with the divine within ourselves and the universe.

530663_559603664067044_1214677187_nStaying true on our spiritual path is not easy while also living in this world but then again, its not supposed to be. Our soul experiences greatly development while inhabiting these bodies which come equipped with a mammalian brain wired the same way it was 10,000 years ago and an ego which often masquerades as consciousness. Without these challenges, our soul lacks the opportunities it needs to grow and develop.

By bringing discernment to our practice, we can sense when our ego (or some other person’s ego) is urging vengeance and respond instead with compassion and justice. This will keep us in our practice, which transforms us into the pure embodiment of love and unifies us with the divine.

Isn’t that why we’re practicing in the first place?

 

Co-written by Maya Devi Georg and Chris Courtney

 

 

 

IMG_3012About

 

Maya Georg is much loved for inviting and challenging students to learn more advanced asanas in a safe and playful way, breaking them down to make them more accessible to a wider group of students. As someone who could not even touch her toes when she started into yoga in 1999, she is living proof in the transformative power of the practice. She has studied with Dharma Mittra, Swami Bua, Yogia Gupta and Swami Chetanananda. Having founded Sani Yoga in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2009, (where she also served as an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of New Mexico) she taught thousands of students in yoga as well as conducting her own yoga teacher trainings which left a lasting legacy of highly skilled and authentic teachers. She has taught in New York City, sometimes substituting Shri Dharma Mittra’s classes. She’s worked with students as young as 4 years old to 95 years old, performers of Cirque du Soleil and expectant mothers. The settings in which she has taught is just as varied as her student base, teaching in NYC public schools, yoga studios, universities, gyms and the conference rooms in office buildings. Now in Portland, OR, she continues to teach private lessons and workshops all over the United States and Europe.  She is a regular contributor to Yoganonymous, Elephant Journal,  and Yoga For Smart People.

 

Reclaiming the Word Fierce.

Utkatasana is a powerful standing pose that can build heat quickly and for beginners, it makes your legs shake like Elvis.

The asana (pose) draws its name from the  Sanskrit root word utkata, which gives this pose its name, means fierce, wild,  powerful, frightening, or intense.

Some people call it chair pose (since it resembles hovering your hips above a chair) but I think this loses so much of this asana’s meaning. I prefer to stick with the old school definition; fierce—but not in the way this word is normally used these days.

So often, it seems, we associate a word with the word that usually follows it; fierce and strong, fierce and mean, fierce and tough.

Ask the average person to make a fierce face and they’ll usually scrunch up their face in an angry scowl, almost as if they are trying to look like the Hulk.

In a world which already has so with so much violence, aggression and injustice, isn’t it time we reclaim this word, and the asana which bears its name? Why does fierce or powerful need to denote something aggressive or angry? Does thinking of such things serve your intentions? Probably not.

How about reprogramming ourselves to think first of fierce love, fierce devotion, fierce dedication, or fierce compassion? For this reason, I ask my students to smile in this asana and think of what they feel fiercely about. I see their faces; the mother’s fierce love for her child, the musician’s fierce determination to mastering his instrument, the nurse’s fierce devotion to caring for others every day, and of course the yogi/ni’s fierce dedication to their practice.

So, next time your teacher guides you into utkatasana (apologies to my regular students—I know it can sound like a broken record), how about letting a big smile or look of calm determination come across your face and think about the the other side of the word fierce; fierce love, fierce devotion, fierce compassion, fierce dedication.

A few faces to try:

Fierce Love:

Nancy’s Nannies

Fierce compassion:

Sisters of Mercy

 

Fierce dedication:

Bali Arts Council

 

Why Daily Deal Offers Are Bad For Yoga.

We’ve all seen the ads for daily deal sites offering a pack of yoga classes at a newer studio for some ridiculously low price.

Twenty classes for $20—come and get it before midnight! For the cash strapped yoga enthusiast, these deals are hard to resist so they get bought up by thousands of people in cities all over the USA.

According to experienced studio owners like Maya Georg, founder of Sani Yoga in Albuquerque, “aggressive salespersons from these sites are constantly hounding studio owners with a hard sell to sign up for these deals with promises to to expand your presence and get free advertising.” If only it were all that simple.

Hey, I’ve even posted links to such ads on my Facebook wall for studios where I was teaching, but the more I’ve seen the effect daily deal sites have on yoga studios and communities, the more I’m convinced they are bad for yoga in America. Here is why:

It Changes The Energy Of The Studio.

It all starts at class check-in time with a line of people out the door and a teacher and/or work trade student working the desk and either starting the class late or seeing a stream of new students (sometimes still wearing their shoes) come walking into class several minutes late.

Teaching in the aftermath of a big daily deal offer is like watching a herd of buffalo stampede into your classes, changing the vibe and dynamic you’ve taken months or years to cultivate with your students.

Yoga in Times Square or the check in line after a daily deal was run for the studio?

We’ve all seen it, right? So often these new students arriving en masse do not understand basic yoga etiquette and require extra special attention to keep them safe. As a teacher, you end up going into workshop mode on the basics much more often, which is not a bad thing—while the more experienced students feel like they are circling back rather than advancing their practice. Basically, it changes the relationship between the studio and its student community, and seldom for the better.

Flows and sequences you’ve developed and grown with your students end up being modified and watered down while your loyal regular students seem perplexed and not as satisfied as they once were.  Its not uncommon for a regular student say they’ll stop coming to class until the daily deal herd has moved on to the next studio.

While such a setup could work if these new students were buying into an introductory program where they could learn the basics and then move into regular classes, few studios ever make this arrangement and rather use it as a way to fill classes and get the “energy up.”  The problem is that too often, it has the opposite effect.

 It Has A Corrosive Effect On The Community.

This stampede of new yoga students paying next to nothing for yoga classes does not go unnoticed by the loyal student community, who have been buying 10 class packs and doing monthly auto-withdrawal deals with the studio for years. Many of them are on a tight budget as well but they make decisions in their life that enable them to keep supporting the studio community.

Dude, no smoking in class!

How should they feel upon seeing their favorite studio offering classes to others at 90 percent off what they have been paying all along? And in the process, these same people paying next to nothing have changed and watered down the groove of the classes they loved the most. So, by taking this shortcut effort to grow the student base, the studio begins to alienate the loyal student community it worked so hard to cultivate. Is that fair to anyone?

 Its Not Really Effective For Growing A Student Base.

Some yoga studios decide to do a daily deal offer as a way to attract new students but in the end, its not been proven an effective way to draw and retain the students who will make up a real community.

Depending on how pervasive such deals are in a given city, its possible for people to buy up several daily deals for yoga and go to classes for about $1 each for an entire year. In fact, I know of few people I know do just that.  There are certain people who will always take the cheapest option available to them and bounce around to wherever they can take a class (regardless of quality) while paying as little as possible. While a studio may be able to retain a few of these students, 95 percent of them are just looking for the next good deal to move onto and the remaining 5% could have been attracted to the studio anyway for far trouble, cost and effort.

The assumptions made when deciding to try a daily deal offer would be valid if it was the only studio in town making the offer but we all know that is not the case. As soon as one studio advertises a daily deal offer, others follow suit with several studios all chasing after the honor of hosting the same herd of deal-seekers at a rate of $1-2 per class.

So, instead of growing a student community, it creates a localized race to the bottom that changes the entire local yoga scene, making it more competitive than collaborative.

It’s a Danger To A Studio’s Survival.

I’ll come right out and say it, relying on daily deal sites can present a very real danger to a studio’s survival.  And whether you’re a studio owner or support a studio you love, there are some things to be aware of.

If a studio offers a standard daily deal such as 20 classes for $20, and sell 1000 of them, the gross on that sale is $20,000—but only half of that goes to the studio with the daily deal site keeping the other half (if not more).  With a low end average price of about $10 for a yoga class, this means the studio is now on the hook to deliver $200,000 worth of yoga classes for an intake of just $10,000 (in some cases, the studio gets even less).  The reality is that its just plain impossible to pay the rent on the space, keep it clean and beautiful, and pay teachers with these deeply cut rates. So, the studio takes a big hit financially right from the start.

And the response to this observation is usually that revenue from the existing student base will be enough to carry the studio along through the wave of daily deal students, but that’s not usually how it works.

First, the loyal students will begin to ask if they can buy the deal too.  This places the studio in a tough spot of either telling a loyal student that they must continue to pay full price or giving them the same deal as the newbies and thus cutting further into the studio revenues necessary to keep the place running.

Secondly, the changed energy of the studio leads some students to leave and find another place to practice, even if they love their teachers (they’ll usually start taking more classes at another place the teacher is working).

End result:  more lost revenue, a smaller student community, and a more competitive (instead of collaborative) local yoga community.  In my humble opinion, it’s a big reason why we see so many more yoga studios opening and then soon closing these days – especially the ones that have relied on daily deal sites to attract new students.

Even worse, it makes people think that a yoga class is only worth $1, cheapening every aspect of the practice, the work teachers put into it, our lineage, and the sacred spaces in which we share this gift.

What Can You Do About It?

There are other more effective and less energetically turbulent ways to grow your student base but just like yoga itself, they are slow and require patience and persistent practice.

Think about the most solid and longstanding yoga communities in your city and I’ll bet you never see them offering daily deals to get people in the door. Chances are, they started small, stayed authentic, and built a community with their students over time—focusing on serving the students who came through their doors.

A prime example that comes to mind for me is Vital Yoga in Denver, Colorado. Fourteen years ago, Micah Springer started a studio in a small 320-square-foot studio in her basement and soon her sister Desi was onboard. The two sisters took their time building a true community and today that studio is now the expansive and vibrant Vital Yoga in the Highlands district of Denver, offering 50 classes per week in rooms which can hold over 100 students.

One very simple low-tech way to bring new people into a studio is to periodically offer a “Bring a Friend For Free” week so regular students can bring a friend in to try yoga. This method is not only less turbulent and costly as a daily deal site, but it strengthens, rather than weakens connections within the studio’s community.  Plus, the chances of retention are much higher since there is already a personal bond between the student and the friend they bring with them.

Another idea from yoga teacher and therapist Sean Downes is to band together with other studios to offer a card that allows students to attend classes at one of several different studios—perhaps one to two classes at each of four to five studios—a sort of local yoga sampler card.  Such an approach would not only build collaborative ties within the local yoga community but give students a way to attend classes at several studios at a the same rate as buying a multi-class pass at a single studio.

But in the end, its truly about offering quality instruction from competent and compassionate teachers and continually renewing and strengthening the community.

As a student, you have the greatest impact on this since you make up the community at the studio (s) where you practice.  If you feel well served by a teacher, don’t you think they deserve to receive some value for the thousands of hours and dollars they’ve spent to prepare themselves to teach you, not to mention the love and care they put into crafting the class you’re taking with them today? Don’t you want the doors of your haven from the chaos of the outside world to stay open?  If so, why not do something about it?

I’ve lost count of how many times someone drinking a $5 iced mocha while reading a glossy $8 magazine and texting on their new iPhone told me they’d love to go to yoga more often but that its just too expensive.   Obviously for most people its not a matter of means but choices.

Courtesy of Yoga Jam

The choices we make every day on where to put our energy and where to spend our money make up both our lives and shape the world around us. And its not just yoga studios; it’s the bagel place around the corner or the cozy bookstore you now miss since they recently shut down.

So, instead of chasing after the latest online daily deal, how about taking a look at where you’re spending your time, energy, and money, walking into your favorite studio and making a commitment not only to your practice, but to the teachers and community which support it? It’s a great way to help ensure that the teachers and studios you love will be there with you along your journey.

 

 

Chris Voted Albuquerque’s Best Yoga Instructor 2012

I just wanted to thank everyone for your incredible support – I found out last week that I was voted Best Yoga Instructor for 2012 by the readers of Albuquerque, The Magazine.

This is an incredible honor not just because there are so great yoga teachers in Albuquerque, but because you believe in me.  You are the reason I teach yoga and your kindness leaves me incredibly humbled.

Ramesh Bjonnes: The Elizabeth Warren of Yoga & Tantra.

A review of Ramesh Bjonnes’ new book:  Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit: A Personal Guide to the Wisdom of Yoga and Tantra.

In 2008 as the U.S. financial system was in teetering on the edge of disaster, a fearful and confused public was not able to understand the complexities of why and how we had gotten into such a mess. The complex and tangled web of credit default swaps, derivative markets and unprecedented risks the banks had taken were not fully appreciated by the public until Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren came along to explain them in language lay persons could understand.

Her ability to explain complex concepts to a broad audience changed the national conversation in a positive direction as more people were empowered with levels of knowledge they had been previously unequipped to access.

While in the Western world we’ve had a number of intellectual heavyweights on yoga and tantra such as Georg Feuerstein, Mukunda Stiles and Douglas Brooks (to name a few), we’ve never really had an “Elizabeth Warren of Yoga and Tantra” until Ramesh Bjonnes began writing for elephant journal in 2010.

In the name of full disclosure, I must admit that I’ve been a fan of Ramesh since I began reading his column in elephant journal and I often turned to him for help when seeking to make the authentic more accessible in my own teaching.

In reading Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit, I quickly recognized Ramesh’s ongoing intention to dispel the idea that tantra is a branch from the tree of yoga but rather the reverse that yoga’s roots lie within Tantra itself.   What also stands out clearly is his intention to bring living tantra to a much broader audience.

Within the first pages of the book, he discusses the ideas of Western and Indian yoga scholars who believe that yoga comes solely from the Vedic tradition (brought in either by either Aryan invaders or that the Vedic Aryans were already native to India)—a concept Bjonnes refers to (and rejects) as the “One River Theory.”

Ramesh then offers historical, archeological and genetic evidence to support his own “Two River Theory”—the idea that the history of yoga is actually a blend of the Tantric and Vedic traditions of India.

He continues to weave this idea throughout the book illustrating how the Vedic and Tantric cultures form two worldviews; the former focused on the ritualistic and religious quest for fierce control while the latter is mainly empirical and spiritual and aimed at alchemical transformation.

And despite these seemingly different approaches, he collects and examines broad aspects of yoga and tantra from numerous traditions to show not only how they are related, but as he concludes, that they are essentially the same and perhaps are just seen from a different perspective. This is particularly clear in the chapter Tantra and The Yoga Sutras: If Patanjali had Been A Woman in which he examine’s Nischala Joy Devi’s book The Secret Power of Yoga. In that book, she applies her heart, not just her head, to interpreting the Yoga Sutras with the results sounding more Tantric than Vedic.

For example, Georg Feuerstein’s well-respected translation that “Yoga is the restriction of the fluctuation of consciousness” is held out as an example of the disciplined (and more literal) Vedic approach. Conversely, Nischala Joy Devi’s translation of the same passage reads “Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart”—a more Tantric interpretation of the same original words.

But not to dishonor or dismiss the Vedic interpretation, Bjonnes offers the words of his teacher Anandamutri (who interprets the Sutras much like Feuerstein) that “Patanjali meant that a yogi must suspend his or her mental tendencies (vrittis) in order to find peace and thus, experience the goal of yoga.”

And no book about tantra would be complete without several discussions of the cosmic consciousness of Brahma, composed of Shiva and Shakti. What I particularly appreciate about Ramesh’s approach to discussing Shiva and Shakti is that he does it in a way helps to steer people away from identifying primarily with one or the other (often men to masculine Shiva and women to feminine Shakti) but rather he offers a constant reminder that the two are inseparable because they are one.

In the process, he also offers practical reminders of how to stay aware and connected to the ever-present source, requiring discipline, not indulgence—in both deep practice and deep love while also staying engaged in the world.

In keeping with his intention of offering a book about transforming our ordinary life experiences into sacred ones, he not only discusses broader aspects of yoga and tantra but he also delves into some details on everything from dispelling a myth about when women were allowed to practice yoga, to why Tantric love is not just about sex, to why we chant om at the end of yoga class.  Its only fitting that since some refer to Tantra the “yoga of everything” that this book seems to be about just that: everything, and how it is connected to everything else.

Throughout the book, Ramesh’s discussions can be soaring threads of inspiration but they are also laced with much plain spoken language and often blunt criticism, such as when he refers to the Christian belief in the virgin birth as “irrational hogwash.”

But lest it appear he is picking on any one path or tradition (even science itself), he tries to apply the same rigor to each one being discussed as he turns over many stones the average reader may not have thought to examine. In this sense, the book feels like sitting around the fire with Ramesh on a dark night as he explains each concept and answers questions in a way everyone in the group can understand.

While just under 200 pages, Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit is like a rich mental and spiritual brownie—best enjoyed by taking small bites and allowing them to sink in rather than gulping it down in one sitting.

It seems that today we are blessed with a number of thinkers and teachers on the subjects of yoga and Tantra who seek to fill the role of the bearded sage in the back of the cave, guiding dedicated seekers deeper into the journey of their practice.

I’ve long believed that what we need more of are thinkers and teachers who place themselves at the mouth of the cave of knowledge, seeking to make the authentic more accessible and thus enable more people to have the option to choose the path of Tantra and Yoga.

In Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit, Ramesh Bjonnes fills both of these roles quite well.