I’m writing this post from an Intercity Express (ICE) International train traveling from Amsterdam to Köln. This is the beginning of my German Yoga Tour, with teaching days in Köln (VishnusCouch.de), Düsseldorf (VishnusVibes.de), Dortmund (CoolYoga.de) and Leverkussen (YogaVilla.de). I enjoy coming to Europe – traveling on trains, and streetcars, all the bikes, and the goats and sheep grazing in snowy grass as high speed trains whiz by. The cities of Europe are a terrific clash of the old and new worlds dancing some sort of old-school fertility jig with a modern, erotic twist. When is the last time anyone saw a grandmother stop peddling her bike through the snow to send a quick SMS message? Not unheard of here.
With the holidays only one week behind me, I don’t feel like there was a lot of time to think about this trip. The plans have been made since July and the master classes and workshops have been advertised since fall. I’ve been going about life pretty normally with my daily practice as my anchor through the all the hubbub of Yoga School ending, family visiting, and holiday celebrating. Then suddenly I’m on a plane, flying over the Artic Circle, train-ing into Centraal Station, and walking the winding streets of Amsterdam in a light snowfall with a dear friend. It’s almost surreal. Through it all, these themes that I set up for this tour have been taking more shape in the back of my mind. They have had an affect on what I’ve chosen to practice over the last few months in the same way that teaching Yoga School through the fall had a palpable affect on me. However, it’s only been in the days since the holidays and since arriving here in Europe that I’ve had a moment to step back and reflect on what's been happening.
Yoga School is such a transformative time for me and for the students. That’s what I love about it. That’s why I do it. Yoga continues to be a process of placing all the parts of who we under a microscope to get down to a cellular reality, going from the most gross to the most subtle aspects of who we are. Yoga School is a time when I get to strip away all the ‘extra’ bits of music and creative sequencing that are a beloved part of my daily classes, and get to the nuts and bolts, the minutiae, of the poses. It can feel very clinical or sterile at first. But then, as I release into that experience, it reveals itself to be incredibly deep and shockingly “advanced”. Add to this the fact that one of the master classes I’m offering on this tour - Salutation to the Source - focuses on surya namaskar as a practice replete with asana, mantra (sun mantras), and pranayama (check it out the breath instruction is in German). Consequently I’ve been recommitting to this particular sun salute series (Bihar School) since September. It has been fascinating! I usually have to force myself to move on from that part of my practice because it really does take me somewhere else mentally, physically and pranically. The result of Yoga School and developing surya namaskara as a bigger part of my practice has been an embracing of what might be called traditionalism or maybe neo-traditionalism is more accurate. It has certainly lead to doing less on feeling more on my mat. There have been fewer asanas and I’ve been spending more time in the few that are there. All of this has been germinating behind the scenes for some time now. Over the last years my practice has become more of a sadhana, always familiar and containing the personal essentials that help move me higher on my spiritual path. Though there are slight differences all the time, my time has started to feel more and more codified. Whoa. There’s something to which I was always resistant. But what I have found through years of teaching, the dissection of the minutiae in the practice with Yoga School, having a personal sadhana, and reconnecting to the vastness in the seemingly simple repetition is that there is tremendous freedom in form and structure. Isn’t that what this practice is all about?
I still manage to have radical moments. I don’t feel like I seek them out or strive to be radical. And maybe none of these…call them changes, are even obvious to anyone outside my skin. It has felt oddly radical to stand at the top of my mat and to step wide into Prasarita as a starting place for a handful of standing poses. I still get naked to practice. Even that isn’t all that radical. But what’s happening now is that with each passing moment the practice seems to be shedding more articles or barriers. It’s getting naked. What I’m hoping is that I can be that octogenarian on bike with an android phone one day.
The tour gets started with Wake the Snake at Vishnu’s Couch (Südstadt) on Saturday. Lots of kriyas, pranayama, mantra, mudra, asana and awakening. I’m hoping to blog throughout the trip, just ‘cause.
Om pavana Hanumana ki jai!