Archive for November, 2013

Learning from a Fallen Guru While Finding my Inner Booty

Comments Off on Learning from a Fallen Guru While Finding my Inner Booty Written on November 26th, 2013 by
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Fresh from an exciting if intense yoga weekend, I enthusiastically strode forth to teach my yoga clients some of “The Roots” (or Sridaiva as this new method is called) Monday morning. One called me a crackpot and another a whack job. Despite all the trepidation, they were definitely very interested if a little confused by what I was telling them to do. That was frankly also my initial reaction to John Friend and Desi Springer’s new system because, well, it is pretty radical. It doesn’t even look like yoga and get this.. There is no stretching!! I know..crazy, right? How can this be? Does not compute.

As many of you know, the burgeoning Anusara community was rocked by the John Friend scandal a couple years ago. It tore the whole community apart beyond repair. And John was ripped off his pedestal in a dramatic Us-magazine kind of way. People were angry. Understandably so. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to hating on him. Many lost a significant amount of income, as well as a whole community, identity, and sense of direction.

The best way to describe Friend now is that he is less puffy. His body is leaner, his hair isn’t shooting out of his head in every direction, and he is a person rather than a persona. He still has his sense of humor, but he isn’t trying to entertain everyone with verbal tap dancing. He is more gracious. He also didn’t invent this new system, Desi Springer did. He gives her credit for helping him to let go of absolutely everything, including the yoga system he invented and all that he thought he knew about how the body and spirit worked. He admits it was a very difficult and humbling process, both physically and emotionally. But he believes in it, because of what it did for him on many levels. His role now is to help Desi refine, develop, and spread it.

Okay, blah blah blah, what is it, already? Well, the main thing is that it starts with a anterior pelvic tilt. Now I know for many of us in the biz, this action in and of itself isn’t a big deal because many have been teaching about neutral spine for years. And PT’s (and your mother) have always told you to bend your knees when picking up heavy objects and for chrissake not to slouch.

Here is what makes it radical:
1. The lower back curve that you train in is VERY extreme. (But even seniors can do it)
2. We learn to draw the gluteals up…way up…in fact, up and over the mound of the butt and into the sacrum. I can guarantee you that if you stick your butt way, way, way out with the pubic bone totally behind you and try to fire the glutes, really fire them, you won’t be able to…at first. It took me 9 months of my teacher, Robin, grabbing my ass to get even a spark. My ample posterior was on an extended lunch break with no intent to return to work. Everyone thinks they can do it, but when you go to actually touch your butt, there is always only some sad jiggling instead of a palpable firmness or your pubic bone has slid forward. And the butt doesn’t just squeeze and grip. It is like the underneath side of it or inside of it slides up and hugs your sacrum.

Every pose is done with very bent knees with your legs firing like you are a tiger coiling to strike or on the starting blocks about to run for a race. You are actually creating a spring-like force in your body like never before. Every finger and every toe is working like mad, resisting against each other. Your new goal in yoga class is to now create an incredible amount of tension. I’m serious. This kind of engagement is hard and you will run into every resistance you have. It will stress you out. The practice isn’t for pussies. There was a wind chill of 10 degrees outside over the weekend and we had all the windows by the river open. Try spending four hours in a deep squat like you are about to jump in the air and see if you don’t sweat profusely and want to cry.

Now why on earth would anyone ever want to do this? This does not sound fun or relaxing. We want to release tension not create it. Weirdly enough though, it IS fun. It is also incredibly healing and you do end up releasing all kinds of unnecessary tension while keep the necessary. Now, for my story. Being a dancer, aerialist, and yogi has done a job on my hip joints. I was pretty sure I was headed for at least one replacement. I tore my labrum on my left side about ten years ago doing an aerial trick and have had chronically torn hamstring attachments on both sides for the last ten years. I have not been able to run or hike downhill without unbelievable hip pain (which then goes down my ITB’s into my knees) for at least 12 years. If I tried to sprint, my hip would pop out. I didn’t think too much about it, and was just grateful I could still be a professional aerialist and teach yoga without pain. Hell, I didn’t like running anyway.

After 9 months of training in “The Roots” through Robin Janis, I can run again even on highly unstable surfaces like trails with no issues. I can also climb down mountains with zero pain and complete confidence that my body will finally really hold me. My husband was shocked to see me recently jump from one foot to another, from rock to rock, down a steep slope. He thinks I’m more courageous, but that is simply because I can now trust me. The inner and the outer go hand in hand.

I can do aerial tricks that I’ve not been able to do for the last 15 years. At 41, my back bends are getting deeper and feel good again. The rapid progress has been shocking. Now, even with all that, this weekend made it clear that I have only barely begun to “mound up.” I have a lot of work to still do. And Hanuman asana (getting my splits back) is still a long way off.

What is super interesting is that I have actually danced around this method for years without knowing it. I knew that pointe work and doing yoga with springs or therabands attached to my feet and hands felt great and really opened me up, but I just never did those exercises regularly enough. The set-up itself was hard and finding the time to get to a place where I could do it wasn’t easy. Plus, toe shoes killed my toes, even if my hips felt good. I also had no idea how to translate that real springy feeling into my body without all the crap, which is what I really wanted.

Culturally, this stuff is interesting because in part, it is a celebration of the female form. We are no longer trying to make our lovely lady lumps disappear. We are quite literally finding power in them. No more knitting the ribs together or bringing the tailbone down in any way. It also has very non-western quality, because it has the feel of African dance, the athleticism and animalism of Capoeira, and the slowness of tai chi. It has none of the straight lines of traditional Pilates, yoga, or ballet. Frankly, it is a little ugly to watch. But yoga was never meant to please the eye. It was always meant to be about building awareness starting with the physical form and going to deeper and deeper levels. It is about embracing your strength and your vulnerability and all the grace and ickiness that is a part of that. When you truly feel your own humanity on a deep level, you can then clearly embrace the humanity of others.

I am even coming to a place where I can start to say (on pain-free days of course) that I am grateful for my pain. I know that without it, like John, I would never have changed my patterns. I would never have departed from what I thought I knew. Floating in unconscious comfortable bliss is quite nice and I enjoy it when it is there, but it won’t make you grow. Most of us have to be dragged kicking and screaming into growing. Pain has brought me radical paradigm shifts before, and by now you’d think I would learn to expect them. While it is still a struggle, I’m listening better each time, resisting less, and embracing more easily. I will probably be forced to let go of “The Roots” system at some point in the future as well. But right now, there is real opening.

What I like most about this system is that it can be for everyone. There are extremely remedial versions that will still push every button you have without harming you, except maybe your ego. It is wild that something can be tedious and nitty gritty and utterly magical all at the same time. I could have stayed angry at John or I could run down mountains. Really, in retrospect, the choice was easy.

Here is what it looks like: See the beginner explanation

Now here is Desi doing the very advanced sequence. It looks extreme and contortionistic, but what is remarkable actually is that she can fire her legs like she does when they are straight even.

Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. It just all starts with getting your butt the hell up.

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