The trip this weekend was for a workshop with Todd Norian, often called one of Anusara yogas most open hearted teachers - he also happens to be a fantastic musician. I had never experienced Anusara yoga and so went in with no expectations and a wee little bit of anxiety - for some reason I was fighting myself on this trip and it took a little bit to shed that anxiety and just get in to what this beautiful yogi was teaching us all.
Anusara is a modern form of yoga developed in 1997 by John Friend and it focuses on poses that open your heart, strengthen your core and tap you into the deeper meaning of life, it is Tantric in nature. Anusara opens their practice with the most beautiful invocation - I cannot get it out of my head and have been singing it for days. The studio's high ceilings echoed our voices, lifting them up - each time it gave me chills.
Om Namah Shivaya Gurave, ॐ नमः शिवय गुरवे
Saccidananda Murtaye, सचिदनन्द मुतयै
Nishprapanchaya Shantaya, निसपपचय शनतय
Niralambaya Tejase, निरलमबय तेजसे
By Sunday the workshop was coming full circle. Todd made us laugh and sweat - every day I was sore and exhausted. He lead us into some challenging poses, he changed the way I was used to aligning myself, he explained the body and how it moves in interesting ways. He had us working together and assisting one another to get into handstand, intense back bending and some how he got my foot behind my head and then had me do an arm balance. He had us laughing and he reminded us that this yogic path is a choice and one that must be cultivated and explored. He reminded us that the poses are for fun, the real work is what is going on inside. He called us joy farmers (which I love). And the diversity of the group and willingness to try was inspiring to anyone.
In the end though what I came away with was not so much about the physical practice of yoga - but once again I was uplifted, inspired and catapulted deeper by the spiritual lessons. And I was reminded why I am doing the Off the Mat challenge - that the seed of the divine is within us all and must be allowed to shine, must be cultivated. That we are all born free, so freedom is not what we seek but rather diversity so we learn. And all of it reminded me why I believe so strongly that everyone, everywhere deserves to find the infinite within themselves, to find their freedom and explore it. That no one should be allowed to take that from another and that if you can help inspire and encourage children to be free, to laugh, to love life - that is really good work.
Here is what Todd sent to us today...
May you continue to plant seeds of joy by affirming your connection to the Universal.
May you cultivate the soil of your body every day with breath, asana, and awareness.
May you tap into your unlimited potential by embracing contrast.
And may you protect your joy by being soft on the outside, like ghee,
but strong and unwavering on the inside, like diamond.