Thursday, November 6, 2014


Teaching has taught me so much about myself.  The more I teach, the more I crave to learn more so I can be the best possible leader and instructor for my students. 
It is said by Buddhists that just by being around the dharma (Buddha teachings), even if you don't understand everything you hear, it does a world of good and breaks down your egoistic and conceptual mind.
I love to be inspired and to learn from yogis and scholars and leaders who are more experienced than me.  So I couldn't think of a better way to start off my vacation than by attending the "Eight Verses of Mind Training" by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a two-day workshop entitled "Soul Food" by international yoga teacher, Desiree Rumbaugh
After chanting the Heart Sutras in Vietnamese, Sanskrit and English, the Dalai Lama began his teachings.  One of the first things that struck me was when he mentioned that "the proper way to start to know the Buddha Dharma is here," pointing to his heart.  He explained that it is necessary to continue to study and read teachings and practice meditation along with all of the other limbs of yoga, but it is just as important to have your own experiences and apply what you have learned to your own practice. 
Pamphlet from "Eight Verses of Mind Training," Wang Theater, Boston, MA

It was such a good introduction, or segue into my weekend with Desiree because her words of wisdom complemented so well the teachings of the Dalai Lama.  She mentioned that here in the west, and all over the world, for that matter, those introduced to yoga focus so much attention on one limb of yoga - the asanas, or postures - when really the other seven limbs will help us so much in our posture practice and throughout our lives. She mentioned how important it is, as we age, to constantly oil this "machine", this human body, by performing the physical asanas and how this gives our body an innate intelligence to heal ourselves.  Coupled with a "sitting" practice, this will keep our minds sharp as we make our way into our golden years. 
Desiree Rumbaugh at West Hartford Yoga
When people who have never done one yoga posture in their life say to me, "I'm not flexible enough," I try to make them aware that this sentiment is far from a requirement for practicing yoga.  Desiree reiterates this when she mentions that the whole point of yoga is self-awareness - that's it!  What reminded me of the Dalai Lama's teaching was when she told a story about how, when you find yourself complaining about someone else and what they say, or what they do, and how this annoys you - stop and look at yourself.  Really stop and see if this very thing that drives you insane is actually something inside of yourself that you might need to work on.  The Dalai Lama says that 90% of the negative emotions that come out of our own mouths are just our own mental projections!
Imagine if you could stop and turn inward and fix it all on your own and turn all that anguish into peace?
That's exactly what we did in Desiree's workshop.  With a contagious smile, and an effervescent demeanor, Desiree has a way of making difficult poses simple and fun.  I was able to tackle a few different poses that I've struggled with in the past, namely Sirsasana II, Parsva Bakasana and Parivrttaikapada Sirsasana.  What this "success" in poses mostly does for me, however, is remind me that if I work hard enough at something, I can achieve anything I set my mind to.  I always come out of these workshops with more tricks for my practice and that of my students, but also a renewed sense of self and an appreciation of the journey of self-awareness. 

Check out some videos from the workshop here!
Full Wheel
Confidence in Cobra
Strength in Hand Stand