beyond asana

3jewels-buddhistwisdom
If you’re finding 3 Jewels Yoga for the first time or visiting after an absence, you may be wondering where the “yoga” classes can be found.

For 10 years, I’ve been cultivating my teaching practice on the foundations of Movement, Mindfulness + Meditation. Of these three, the movement has transformed the most — expanding from asana-on-the-mat to meaningful movement in our daily life to the dynamic force of gathering as community to generate the energy of mindfulness and embody compassion, skillful understanding and authentic connection.

Over the course of two years, I gradually scaled back my schedule from a full roster of weekly asana (yoga) classes down to seasonal workshops and programs. This was essential not only to discern what I felt most compelled and committed to teaching, but also to honor my long-held desire to homeschool my son. With time and space reclaimed, it became clear to me at the end of 2015 that I had to respond to a deep call to focus on and lift up what first drew me into this practice: its potential to unify, reconcile and restore us to wholeness!

Sri Aurobindo’s adage “all of life is yoga has been a centering mantra for my learning and teaching endeavors. As with so many of life’s lessons, we journey through and cycle back to explore, transform, release, refine, and renew our understanding and practice of each of the 8 limbs of yoga. It is how we live fully into the depth and breadth of our human being-ness. We grow and let go, making space for new possibilities.

While I am not eliminating movement-based programs entirely, I have let go of asana as the primary focus of my teaching and am not centering yoga as a fitness/movement format in my public programs. I will continue to offer meditation-focused workshop and will consider requests for private lessons in asana and other movement-based formats. These changes enable me to expand my capacity to hold space for what has deep heart and meaning at this juncture in my life.

In November 2016 (which officially marked my 10th year of teaching), I announced that I would be renewing my commitment to community wellness by exploring professional opportunities to broaden my facilitation skills in health equity and social justice. That decision necessitated changes to the description and design of 3 Jewels Yoga that align clearly with my original vision for teaching. Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s evocative words about the powerful role a Buddhist practice community serves:

3 Jewels Yoga continues as a Sangha —
a Community of Refuge, Resistance + Resilience
for Good Spiritual Friends.

Here’s how you can connect with us and learn, grow, and live into beloved community!

STUDY + PRACTICE IN COMMUNITY:
3 Jewels Yoga Sangha
Workshops

STUDY + PRACTICE PRIVATELY:
Private Lessons for individuals or groups
All ProgramsWorkshops can be designed for private study.

CURRENT SCHEDULE:
Practice By The Season
Special Events

[updated december 2016]

on ground sacred and fertile

I treasure our Sunday practices and our time together on August 7th was all the more special because, for the second year in a row, I was able to spend my new year in the full embrace of Sangha.

After a week full of celebrations with loved ones (and a few more to come!), I am feeling deeply ALIGNED, AFFIRMED and INSPIRED to honor and lift up WHAT I VALUE, WHAT I WISH TO PROTECT, and WHAT I WISH TO LEAD WITH:

fostering compassion, skillful understanding, and connection through this sacred and fertile ground we cultivate in the form of a like-spirited, open-hearted, wise-minded community of practitioners who revel in silent contemplation, take delight in nature, and find refuge in communion with #‎GoodSpiritualFriends‬.
See upcoming dates below!

 

 

3 Jewels Yoga Sangha’s Practice Schedule

August 14 ~ 11 am – 12:30 pm | Monthly Sit-Together

August 28 ~ 11 am – 12:00 pm | Walking The Labyrinth

September 11 ~ 10 am – 1:00 pm | Walking The Labyrinth + Gentle Yoga with Ann Lapo

September 18 ~ 11 am – 12:30 pm | Monthly Sit-Together

September 25 ~ 11 am – 1 pm | Walking The Labyrinth (end of season)

embodied practice: “taking refuge in the island of self”

breathing in, i go back
to the island of myself.

there are beautiful trees
there is water, there are birds,
there is sunshine and fresh air.

breathing out, i feel safe.

~thich nhat hanh
Nothing To Do, Nowhere To Go: Waking Up To Who You Are

zen in motion:
as a mountain,
exalted,
resilient,
uplifted,
half moon, waxing: open heart,
balancing: steady of body + heart + mind,
taking refuge in the wisdom of breath,
refuge in the self
~t scott

#MyMellowOutMonday

embodied wisdom: lessons on chronic pain + yoga postures (with tips via Sequence Wiz)

As a yoga practitioner + teacher who has experienced chronic pain off and on for over 20 years due to a sports-related injury in high school, I know firsthand how vital it is to have an intimate understanding of our pelvis and sacrum. Yoga therapist Olga Kabel of Sequence Wiz  (whose vision statement “every yoga practice must have purpose, order and meaning” resonates deeply with my own approach) explains it clearly here: Too many asymmetrical poses can create sacroiliac joint issues. I can attest that the simple and functional exercises I learned from a friend (also a yoga therapist in the viniyoga tradition like the author of the blog linked above) have been an enormous help to me in maintaining pelvic/sacral stability.

Embodied Wisdom: A Twenty-Year Lesson on Chronic Pain + Rehabilitative Therapies + Yoga

Back in 2006, I remember being baffled when a physical therapy assistant told me to stop practicing yoga even though the stretches for my super tight iliopsoas muscles (deemed the culprit for my back pain) were similar to the asanas (like lunges and pigeon pose) that seemed to help relieve the tension in that area. She offered no further explanation that I can recall, so I was hardly convinced it was problematic. I loved how my body felt in postures and appreciated the skill with which my teacher instructed.

Even before starting my teacher’s training with her that summer, I came to experience the potential of yoga as a lifelong journey of self study and refinement. Coupled with my study and practice of Zen Buddhism, I knew that it had less to do with what happened physically on a mat and far more to do with generating compassion, equanimity and resilience of heart and mind in order to nourish skillful understanding of ourselves and skillful relationships with others. Asana can be used as a skillful means of clearing tension in body, heart and mind. However, what has become clear to me over the years about asana is that, if not practiced or taught with a skillful understanding of the interplay between movement, muscles, connective tissues and bones, it can be incompleteineffective and dangerous. This may be what the PTA meant but failed to articulate.

I’ve been treated by athletic trainers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, osteopaths and podiatrists since my high school sports injury. None have quite made a deep and thorough connection between my various symptoms (broken toe bone, strain in my arches, tightness in Achilles and calf, shin splints, runner’s knee, frozen shoulder, SI issues–a spiraling line of dysfunction from my left foot, leg and hip wrapping around to the right side of my sacrum and continuing upward to my right shoulder and, sometimes, down to my right elbow and wrist—all arising from a brief stint running track followed by 3 years of shot putting + discus throwing) and the root cause: pelvic and sacral instability.

During my last trimester of pregnancy in 2010, nearly every footstep would bring searing pain to my pelvis because of pubic symphysis diastasis  (PT treatment #3). The pain diminished post-partum as my ligaments tightened and knitted my pubic bones back together but returned with a vengeance in the form of sciatica and SI pain, making it difficult to sleep and even to walk when getting out of bed in the morning. For a mom, on little sleep, who uses her body for a living to teach yoga, this was madness!

Over the past two years, I’ve seen an osteopath and undergone a fourth round of physical therapy. I found that going to an osteopath was a waste of time and insurance money for such fleeting relief. I would feel better after the manual manipulation but then, because of my daily activities, would run the risk of throwing myself back into misalignment and require readjustment again…Um, no thanks! I asked numerous questions about caring for my body’s unique structural alignment as well as the impact of yoga poses and running on my problematic areas. According to them: no restrictions, limitations or modifications were needed. Hmmm, really?!  And, of course, the pain returned.

So back to physical therapy for what I proclaimed would be the last time. During my initial assessment with the PT, I rattled off my history of injuries/symptoms dating back to the stress fracture in my foot from a stunt I performed (jumped off a cement post and crossed my legs as I hit the ground) when I was 8 years old! I absolutely did not care that the PT was taken aback by my onslaught of information. She actually told me she didn’t need to know all of that (meaning, insurance only covers the current, localized issue — my sacrum). But I wasn’t having it and promptly insisted that she help me to understand and to correct the chain of dysfunction, explaining that I could not keep coming back to physical therapy every few years for “Band-Aid” treatments.

Even though I asked the same questions about maintenance and self-care, I had no illusions that I would get all the answers from physical therapy. Indeed, I got the same “you’re-free-to-move-without-restrictions” prescription. (To their credit, I realize that in some ways these therapists deferred to my experience as a yoga teacher, as well as my healthy range of motion in my joints–figuring I knew how to take care of myself.) But overall I did receive a better treatment plan this time because I advocated for it. More important, in deciding to be fully responsible for my own healing and care, I diligently tested the validity of the recommendations from these healthcare practitioners alongside the knowledge of my body I had acquired through my training, practicing and teaching of asana. I continue to seek new perspectives on anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and exercise to refresh my understanding and application of relevant principles and tips to my practice and teaching.

Treating every movement as an act and extension of yoga has been key to healing and realigning my body. Through the union of purposeful asana with running, walking, strength training, and self-applied myofascial release with foam rollers and balls (see links below), I have gained more stability and a considerable sense of freedom from pain and tension in my body. I continuously share this journey with my students and encourage them to trust their bodies’ wisdom (particularly when it shows up as pain) and to develop a collaborative relationship with their care providers. They may be experts in their fields, but we must reclaim our role as experts of our own bodies.

Related:

Learn more about the role of connective tissue plays in creating and maintaining stability, postural integrity, and balancing out or holding “stuck” tension.

Anatomy Trains

MELT Method

learning together: teaching as a collaboration

I begin every class by asking practitioners what their bodies need that day. I invite them to make requests: 1) for particular poses that they’ve either found helpful or challenging and wish to explore; and 2) for parts of the body that need attention, making special note of any new injuries or sensitivities.

There are times when this invitation is met with blank, self-conscious stares and silence. (Typically when it’s a brand-new group or when I’m subbing for another teacher.)  When this happens, I pose it another way: Where are you holding tension? What needs to be stretched? What needs to be strengthened?

Finally, a quiet murmur from a hesitant voice dares to reveal in a room (most often) full of strangers a perceived weakness: a knee or shoulder, lower back, neck or hamstrings that chronically and persistently ails. Now come the echoes of agreement! Oh, the relief at knowing we’re not the only one suffering.

I’ve been teaching for 7 years, and it puzzles me that, in a yoga class of all places, people (read: adults of all ages, beginning and experienced students alike) appear reluctant to respond to this invitation to fully participate in creating their experience on the mat.

________________________

Is it the awkwardness of public speaking?
Is it just wanting to turn off the efforts of the thinking mind after a long day to simply enjoy being led?
Are students deferring to the skill of the teacher because they have no preference?
Or, do they really not know/understand how to listen to what is happening in their body?
Do they not feel empowered to ask?
____________________________

Naturally, beginning students feel like they don’t know enough to ask. But then I think: Well, what would you say to a massage therapist or medical professional who asked you to describe the sensations in your body and where you’re feeling them?

What about experienced practitioners who are reticent? Are they keeping quiet because they think the teacher should have a plan or because they don’t wish to appear as if they are challenging the teacher? Have they never been asked to consider these questions before?

In far too many instances, I suspect that it is the latter reason. Some teachers are either not approachable or are not creating an atmosphere where questions and curiosities are openly welcomed. It may not be intentional; however, the lack of awareness and connection between such teachers and their students becomes apparent when those students reveal, through the questions and observations they pose to me, disparities in teaching (philosophy, skill, etc.) and communication styles.

In a recent conversation, a practitioner expressed concern about her physical discomfort when doing a particular sequence of movements in class taught by another teacher. After guiding her once more through modifications I had just taught the group, I asked whether she’d ever talked with the other teacher about this. She paused thoughtfully and realized that she hadn’t–in part, because she was deferring to that instructor’s style and because of the well-noted rigor of the class itself.

My question gave her new perspective. Instead of outright dropping the class, she agreed to first speak with the instructor. I encouraged her to then base her decision on how that instructor received her questions and, when tested, whether that answer ultimately served to eliminate her discomfort and enhance her practice. I added that such feedback helps us learn how to teach our students!

Situations like that are common. So it has long been my practice to encourage students to respectfully approach any and every teacher to inform them of their injuries or sensitivities, to ask questions, and to make requests. It is how we teachers learn to listen, observe, instruct clearly, and respond skillfully to students–whether by modifying poses or by offering an all-together different pose option to accommodate the diversity in body type, range of motion, skill level (to name a few) in our rooms. It is how we teachers continue to develop our skills.

So it is important for me to invite practitioners to co-create the practice with me. When that connection and openness has been established, requests will pour in before I can even ask…sometimes the moment they walk in the door! I do this with the intention to empower students to make the practice their own: to help them discover how to listen and respond skillfully to their bodies on and off the mat.

We feel different in body, heart, and mind everyday. So–even if we move through the same poses time and again–our yoga practice is different! Honoring what we are experiencing in the present moment not only keeps us safe in our practice, but also deepens our intimate understanding of ourselves, strengthens our intuitive powers, and nourishes in our hearts the sense of compassion, resilience and trust we have for ourselves.

At the end, I thank everyone for helping to create the practice. Yes, I am an experienced teacher who offers them tools to stretch, stabilize and strengthen the body as well as to relax, understand, sort, settle and honor the heart and mind. But it is very rare that I come in with a pre-planned sequence. (Why? Inevitably, a new student will show up without any previous experience or a regular student will have a new ache or injury. Whoosh! Out goes the plan.) Instead I arrive with the intention to teach spontaneously from a mix of intuition, knowledge, and observation. What I teach then is inspired by the present-moment needs of the practitioners because they are the experts of their own bodies and, as such, the co-creators of their yoga experience.

{originally published 22 aug 2013 now-defunct dharma yoga arts blog}