Fully Immersed

Our Anusara immersion ended yesterday. Sixteen of us came together with our exceptional teacher Emma Magenta for nine weekends over the course of a year. Altogether, it was 108 hours. It was a big, serious committment of time, money and effort, but one we all felt was important and managed to convince our loved ones was important.

We were all there because Anusara struck a chord with each of us, and we wanted to go deeper. It was a lot more than just a class where we took notes, or a workshop to improve our poses. Though we did learn all about the Universal Principles of Alignment that our style of yoga is based upon and did many hours of tough asana, we also studied the Tantric philosophy that makes Anusara unique. We read and discussed the Bhagavad Gita. We practiced pranayama, meditation, and kirtan. And we got to better understand how yoga touches all parts of our lives — physically, mentally, spiritually. If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you know that two of the Universal Principles in particular have made a major emotional impression on me: muscular energy, or creating a strong foundation by contracting and pulling in, and organic energy, or extending and shining out.

We created a kula. We went from a group of strangers — or, at most, people who’d seen one another once or twice in class — to a cohesive community, a circle of love, trust, and safety. We established strong bonds of friendship.

When I started going to South Mountain Yoga about three years ago, I knew almost immediately that Anusara was going to be significant for me. I was feeling so battered and lost, completely foundation-less. I walked in there and it felt like a haven. What I got out of it was just what I needed.

It still feels that way, and I’m a completely different person — because of all kinds of work I’ve done since then, but in large part because of my yoga. I’m as strong as I’ve ever been, physically and emotionally. I’m more comfortable in and confident about my body. I’ve found a language to understand the spiritual ideas that I already had.

It’s hard to articulate what Anusara is and why it’s special without sounding like some sort of cult member, so I try not to proselytize when my friends show an interest. I tell them that yoga is like anything else — you find the studio, teacher, and style that work for you. Of course I want them all to come do Anusara with me. But I’d love for them to come to it organically, like I did.

There’s the possibility of teacher training in the fall, and though I’ve never considered myself teacher material, I’m starting to rethink that. Good teachers are passionate about their subject. I don’t think I have the amazing gift that Emma does (that’s her front and center in the picture, in the bright blue jacket). But I’d love to help other people see what I see in Anusara, to get what I’ve gotten out of it. Whether I’m a good prospect for such an important job remains to be seen. But I’d love to learn more. So I’m thinking about it.

But I’m really going to miss having immersion weekend to look forward to. It was always so nice to know one was coming up, that I’d get to spend the weekend talking and thinking about something I love, with people I love, and doing something soothing and healing for myself. This last one was a week after my father’s memorial service, and the timing could not have been better.

One of my classmates put it this way: When we began, it was like we were in the lobby of a museum, and we were there to see an exhibit we were interested in. But it turned out the museum was huge, cavernous in fact, and there was more and more to explore. So now we’re wandering through the infinite museum of Anusara yoga.

The nicest thing about this metaphor is that even if we’re in different rooms or focusing on different exhibits, we can still meet up in the cafe. See you all there.

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Creating a Kula

I started a blog a few years ago that quickly disintegrated into a personal journal at a very difficult time in my life — not so fun to read, much less write, or broadcast to the world. I kept the (sort of silly) name, Tracebook, thinking I’d start up a blog to talk about the books I’m reading, because I love books. And I’ll still do that here. But I’ve changed my focus a little.

If you click on “About,” above right, you’ll see what my mission is. It’s multifacteted and all-inclusive, two adjectives I’d like to think describe me, as well. I’m in a strong and bright place these days, and I want to shine it out there.

But I also want to explore the huge role motherhood has had in my development as a person for the last seven years, and the role it’s had in many of your lives, as well. That’s the concept behind “If It Hurts, You’re Doing It Right.” In this space I’m going to explore the day-to-day of being a mother, as well as the larger emotion of it, especially when your children are very young. The capital-letter Emotions: Guilt. Anger. Loss. Frustration. Grief. But also Bliss. Love. Pride. Joy.

On this blog and perhaps in book form at some point, I want to create a picture of how becoming a mother felt to me and to my friends (my kula!) who are kind and brave enough to share their stories. Obviously, I am in no way an expert about the “right” way to do any of this – and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that one doesn’t exist. I hope that having a discussion about it will bring us together, because though this journey (motherhood, but also life) often feels lonely, we have a multitude of comrades.

In Anusara yoga we refer to our community as our “kula.” One of my teachers, Julie, described it today as having two functions — to ground and support you, and also to allow you to expand and shine.

If you’re reading this, you’re already part of my kula. I hope you’ll continue to read, and that you’ll comment, and give me your feedback!