Yoga Journal 2011!

What do you call hundreds of yogis descending on the Hyatt Embarcadero in San Francisco? You call that Yoga Journal 2011!

Welcome to San Francisco, Yogis!

I was lucky that my first trip out to visit our (temporary) place in San Francisco coincided with Yoga Journal's annual SF Conference. I decided to just do one day of the conference, as I wanted to spend the majority of the weekend with Tim. I'm so glad that I did - this will definitely be an annual event for me.

At registration on Friday evening, it was amazing to see so many folks - all with a mat on their back - the excitement, the openness - lots of ages and ethnicities and yoga stories. I met more people from out of town than in town - Chicago, DC, Phoenix, Atlanta, the Midwest, and a great many other cities!

Ready for Yoga Journal 2011!

There were an absolutely ridiculous amount of amazing teachers and yoga community leaders that offered classes and sessions this weekend. I attended three sessions on Saturday: Ana Forrest, Shiva Rea, and David Swenson. The highlights below only scratch the surface!

Beginning Forrest with Ana Forrest

I have definitely fallen in love with Forrest Yoga. Two weekends in a row with Ana (how lucky is that??) has been an amazing treat. Saturday's class was a little more basic than last week's class at BBY (which was just fine with me), and there were only about 50 people (small). One of the best parts about these special classes with Ana is the team of assistants. It was great to experience the practice with these teachers - all of who have regular classes in the Bay Area.

Ana's intensity really allows her to connect with people in the class. I loved the focus she had when working with us individually - it was as if you were the only yogi (or yogini :o) in the room. That focus is what I had mistaken as sternness in the past. Ana isn't afraid to stick with you until you get what she is saying. She isn't forceful, she isn't pushy, and she doesn't get frustrated with you. She does, however, wait until you get what she wants you to do. Forrest is such a healing practice and I am probably the most relaxed and flexible after a Forrest class. I struggle with letting go of my neck - and that is a key part of getting into some of the Forrest poses. Somehow, in the practice with Ana, it isn't frustrating to work on that like it can be in other classes. There is a safeness in Forrest that seems to grow from the practitioners and the teachers. It's a compassionate practice.

Shiva Rea and a practice for only yoginis

Shiva Rea is a teacher and activist that many of the teachers in Boston have studied under for some time. I have never had an opportunity to take class with her when she has come to Boston, so I jumped at the chance to take from her at YJ.

This class was just for women (there was a man that showed up, but he exited stage left when he realized what it was!) based on cultivating the divine feminine. . As opposed to a focus on Sun Salutations, we focused on moon salutations. A lot of the practice was done in the dark. It's amazing how quickly you lose your inhibitions when you think no one can see you.  It was a great complimentary practice to my intense morning practice and lots of choice surrounding what you WANTED to do - not what you HAD to do. Shiva certainly has a presence - I can see why people are so drawn to her. She is also quite possibly the most beautiful yogini that I have ever seen. Her movements are so beautiful and soulful - matched only by her descriptions of what she believes a full practice for a woman can and should be (a practice that varies with us according to stages and cycles in our lives). I would like to take a class with Shiva that is more traditional vinyasa (more flow) the next time it is offered as well. She is certainly someone that I want to take from again!

David Swenson and Living the Eight Limbs

I knew that after two full asana classes, that I would need a lecture based class for my third session. David Swenson is a well-respected Ashtanga teacher who has studied extensively in India and has developed a strong Ashtanga following based on his humor and enthusiastic practice.

His lecture was excellent, and he engaged all of us in the audience so that it was more participatory in nature. In simple terms, Patanjali's Eight Limbs come from the Yoga Sutras and lay out the framework by which a yogi should live. I am particularly fascinated with these because I am interested in living the life of a yogi off the mat as well as on.

Swenson started out by quoting Pattabhi Jois, who said: "Yoga is not easy."

We spent a lot of time on ahimsa, which means non-violent living. This seemed to be the most difficult for the group to work through. What is peace? Many yogis would say non-violence is the only way to go. But how then, as Swenson pointed out, do we make sense of the fact that the Bhagavad Gita (a widely read, respected text that many yogis point to) takes place on a battlefield.

After much discussion, we felt better referring to ahimsa as "minimal violence" and that whatever violence we must do - that we should take personal responsibility for the action.

All of the eight limbs deal with personal responsibility - the choices that we make in our lives. Those choices define who we are.

At the end of the session, there were still a lot of lingering questions about how we go about living these eight principles.

Swenson looked at us and said that the best way he knew how to describe a yogi was this:

"A yogi is one who leaves a place a little nicer than when they arrived."

I like that. It boils this whole complicated, translated ancient text down to something easier. There are certainly times to study the eight limbs, but most of all we should just focus on being good people.

With a rolling Lululemon. Heart the lulus!

San Francisco is going to spoil me with the weather and the yoga! I am an extremely grateful yogi - for shared experience, new opportunities, and the hope that lies in new beginnings and mornings like this one, that greeted me on Saturday out the window of our apartment. Change is hard and transition difficult, but the sun always rises like it doesn't remember that.

With gratitude to the universe,

-Grateful Yogi