Reflections from Workshop: Day 1

I am away at a workshop with Patricia Walden this week! (If you want to know more about her, click here).

It’s rare that I have a chance to be a student. Studying is important to my personal yoga work…and ultimately my teaching. During this week’s workshop with Senior Teacher Patricia Walden, I am able to focus on myself. I learn a lot about how to teach by being a student under a senior teacher.

Patricia has studied Iyengar Yoga since she was 26, in the 1970′s. She studied and practiced personally with Mr. Iyengar until his death 4 years ago.

I want to write about what this week is like. My process will be stream-of-consciousness. My goal is to share my experiences without laboring over grammar, spelling and my endless editing and re-editing. We will see where it leads.

Tedrah is here too. I’m looking forward to hearing about what it is like for her. We are so busy here, we may not have a chance to talk about it until we return to Memphis.

My one picture from yesterday is my lunch! Hope to take some better pics today.
My one picture from yesterday is my lunch! Hope to take some better pics today.

Traveling can be a challenge. I don’t like being away from the studio so much. The past 2 years have made travel necessary, and I’m examining my priorities. Spending time with my family is high on the list. Work and personal is a balancing act, especially when I love my work! But I know of no one who doesn’t have to deal with juggling things in this way. I realize I am not alone.

Back to the workshop:

Although soft-spoken, Patricia is clear and direct. Her instruction challenged me, and she also worked with the beginners. It’s remarkable how open these beginners are to learning. Her expert teaching means they are challenged according to their capacity, but without being overwhelmed.

If you peeked in the studio window, you’d see a lot of people in work-out clothes doing poses – and a physically demanding! You might not notice right away, that while we practice she is teaching us lessons on yoga philosophy. The philosophy behind yoga practice translates into all of life. It is a practical discipline.

One example was watching her work with a more advanced student on his over-working in Upavista Konasana. She showed some adjustments he needed to make in his pose to work on the correct action in the lower back. She used that and several other instances as a way of teaching Svadhyaya (self-study). She helped him to see where his body is over-working to the point of aggression. She also pointed out other places that needed strengthening.

How much to d0 & not do. It’s a common theme in our asana classes. Patricia’s approach was subtle but strong.  The student’s understanding of himself deepened.

Speaking of philosophy…
She started the morning reading from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4, Sloka 34 & 35). I like Stephen Mitchell’s translation/commentary, and upon reading that I came away with the importance of a wise teacher. And that the goal of wisdom is freedom.

Another topic of the day was practicing saucha (cleanliness). Today she focused on physical cleanliness. She encouraged us to remember that the body is an instrument of the soul. She suggested that we explore the importance of keeping the mind pure.

It is an understatement to say there’s a lot of hubbub going on in our community and the whole world right now. I’ve had concerns that our philosophy discussion would include something bordering on politics. I was wrong. She keeps the focus of why we are practicing yoga and what our personal responsibilities are.

We are studying sutras II.40 & II.41. Today there will be further exploration I think. We are heading toward cultivating attitudes that create purity of manas (mind), and ultimately a sattvic (serene) state. She said “sattva-cize” your mind. Using Sanskrit in an English way can make the directive more clear.

The practical/fun parts of the trip are:
Seeing my yoga friends from around the country! Friendly & smiling faces. There are about 40 participants, and I know about half from other trainings over the years.

Spending time with my husband who is here with me! He is enjoying the museums here and learning how they have evolving over the years. I am impressed with the Legacy Wall at Dallas Museum of Art. The focus was on a married couple who gave their collection to the museum. The DMA is downtown, and it is interesting to see how the museum integrates their sculpture garden into their indoor collection. Friday evening we head to the Louisiana Film Prize Festival to see what is possible for the Memphis Film Prize.

Seeing my teacher Randy as a student, rather than a teacher. He works just as hard (maybe harder) than us students. A good example for me to see. Plus, his sense of humor always brings a lightness to my more serious side.

Eating! After class yesterday morning I was starving, and devoured my lunch. A great and filling salad (see photo). Sadly, it’s the only photo I took all day. So it looks like I’m here to eat, not study. Oh well, maybe better photos today.

OK – I’ve just finished breakfast and moving onward to Day 2!

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