After a full year of being completely immersed in the YogaWorks methodology, I needed a break. I absolutely adore the YogaWorks style of teaching, which is as much an exercise in intellect as it is a spiritual and physical practice. It’s sequencing and alignment embody “smart yoga” to me, and it absolutely works for me on every level. That being said, after being so wrapped up in anatomy, the ‘correct’ order of asana, and the ‘right’ way to teach, I needed to get away and just…well…play!
Dana Flynn, a remarkable being who went from Wall Street to restauranteur to yoga Goddess, taught our 300-hour vinyasa flow weekend in our teacher training. It was the breath of life we all needed after four and a half months – she reminded us of the need for discipline and a home practice, but also the absolute necessity for joy and play in yoga. She is hilarious, joy-filled, and an absolute badass.
So, when I found out that Dana, and her Laughing Lotus partner Jasmine Tarkeshi were offering a three day version of their five day intensive at Kripalu, I jumped at the chance (even though it would involve a crazy amount of travel for the week, as I would return Wednesday evening from their intensive, only to leave 12 hours later for Canada.) It was one of the best decisions I have made – it was absolute soul therapy.
As is one of Dana’s raison d’etre, the subtle focus of the week was about finding your home practice, and ways to make it your own. As she reminded us, “Ritual is routine infused with mindfulness. It is habit made holy.” (A Kent Nerburn quote.) She infused the amazing asana practices with chanting, poetry (Rumi and Hafiz are favorites who she quoted frequently) and her signature music playlists that combine R&B with contemporary classical with any other tunes that tickled her fancy. In the middle of every asana practice, she had us pause and write our own sequences to work on at home. Throughout the week she kept throwing out tools to help develop a home practice, which I found immensely helpful. She and Jasmine spent about six years not taking classes and have spent the past 20 developing their own asana practice, which is as much dance as it is asana – transitions are poses, and vice versa. That courage and willingness to create their own yoga infused everything that they talked about and all that they taught, and encouraged me to explore my own practice more, as well.
In the afternoons with Jasmine, we discussed the chakra system in an entirely new way. Jasmine has such intense intimacy with the chakras that when she talks about them, it is reminiscent of how I talk about my mother, my sister, my friends. If you ever have the chance to study philosophy or spirituality with her, I highly recommend it.
After the three days, I found myself invigorated and rededicated to my home practice and my desire to play and discover my own practice. I am so grateful for the absolute grace and beauty that Dana and Jasmine embody, and am so looking forward to infusing my practice and teaching with their joie de vivre, sense of freedom, and above all, absolute dedication and commitment to continually discovering themselves and their practice.
DANA’S 5 TIPS FOR DEVELOPING A HOME PRACTICE:
1) Start with five minutes every day. It’s better to do five minutes daily than to say you’ll do ten, and do none.
2) Use music, and music that you love! Nothing is more inspiring than music for a practice.
3) Start the practice with a ritual. Dana suggested chanting, and I also find that lighting a particular candle, putting on a particular song, or changing the lighting in some way really help.s
4) Start by writing a sequence (perhaps after class) that you can play with later, when you are not sure how to start your home practice.
5) Biggest tip – from one of Dana’s teachers, Erich Schiffmann, when she asked him “how do you keep coming back [to the home practice]?” He replied, “When I want to move this way, I move this way. When I want to move that way, I move that way.” Make your home practice your own and based in your joy. Of course, don’t avoid the poses that are hard or that scare you, but don’t make your practice a punishment or practice with the goal of “attaining” or “perfecting” a pose. This was how my own home practice used to be, and no wonder I dreaded it!
If this is piquing your appetite to study with these extraordinary yoginis, they are offering a similar intensive at Omega, from October 23rd through the 28th. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
Be Free, Be Brave, and Be Yourself.