When people used to ask me what style of yoga I practiced or taught, I had a clumsy and convoluted elevator speech. I couldn't find it in Yoga Alliance's dropdown menu of "yoga style" choices.
Now I borrow the description used by Erich Schiffmann, the teacher who radically influenced my practice with his gift for distilling and sharing insights from decades of devoted practice. It comes closest to describing how yoga lands on me and how I like to share it.
Erich transmits the wisdom of using technique as a stepping stone to a deeply intuitive, intelligent listening that informs each moment on the mat. And he regards the mat as training ground for a way of being and living off the mat.
He calls it Freedom Yoga.
It's about your yoga - not anyone else's.
The practice is about learning to do your own yoga, not anyone else's. All while drinking from the well of teachers who inspire to get clear on what aligns with the distinct language of your own heart.
Freedom Yoga isn't so much a technique as it is the essence of what the practice ultimately requests from us — a willingness to tap into and trust the vein of wisdom pulsing from The One. Gentle, relaxed curiosity and inner listening is all that's required. Erich describes it this way: “Instead of deciding in advance what it is you think you’re supposed to do, you start transcending everything you’ve learned and intuitively start letting the alignment come through.”
The mat can be your life inspiration laboratory.
Freedom Yoga first sets your asana practice free. Once you get the hang of this with asana, it begins to register that the same Source of intuition guiding where to put your hand in ardha chandrasana might be trustworthy enough to steer your life, moment to moment, off the mat.
Meditation is the essential ingredient because freedom yoga knows that thinking too much is soul's kryptonite.
Meditation holds your hand across the bridge between the familiar banks of mechanical practice to the liberating shores of intuitive living. Making your way across that bridge can be scary. It demands a monumental leap as you risk letting go of deeply engrained habits and everything you think you know.
So you practice. You test it out in circumstances where the stakes aren't too high. But you do test it out for yourself, because you recognize there's little value in faking your way into anything. Over and over, you inquire. You listen for and act on guidance on the mat and the meditation cushion. Then you listen for and act on guidance on which socks to wear or whether to paint the walls aqua or white. Eventually, you listen for and "give expression to what you find yourself knowing" (Erich's phrase) from inner guidance on more consequential decisions.
It feels like you're surrendering your personal authority. The nerve! And you are. You're abandoning the limited definition of who you thought you were in favor of an unlimited, expansive Knowing of you who actually are. "My (limited, misperceived definition of who I am) will be done" yields to "Thy (true definition of you) will be done."
I'm finding my own way through this. I can't figure any of this out alone.That's why I cherish sharing yoga with others. We team up and get inquisitive together and report the news to each other. There's a mutual commitment to investigate the truth and set one another free. That's what disciples of truth are obligated to do.
How I Share Freedom Yoga
Sharing freedom yoga doesn't mean setting students loose to "channel inner knowing" right out of the gate. We play 'Simon Says' all the time in my classes, with guided centering and meditation and alignment-savvy asana instruction and intelligent movement to erase the tight spots, still brain chatter, and cultivate curiosity.
I encourage those I share the practice with toward skillful listening, nudging them in the direction of a creative practice. What I want is for the practice to be fresh and compelling every time. If we're listening inwardly with relaxed, steady commitment, every new now arises as entirely worthy of our attention. In my experience, a good teacher supplements or goads my own inquiry into truth — not someone that's certain they are a substitute for it.
I teach at Sun & Moon Yoga Studio in Arlington, Virginia and offer limited private instruction. Sun & Moon is a marvelous school of hatha yoga. The warm and supportive community vibe plus studio leadership that insists on quality instruction but leaves wide berth for every teacher's unique voice and style? That's the finest gift I could ever ask for when it comes to having a place to teach. I treasure Sun & Moon. Thank you Amir. Thank you Annie.
I'd be up a creek without my teachers. I'm thankful, too, for my teacher's teachers. And their teachers.
I’m Yoga Alliance‐registered and completed two 300-hour teacher trainings at Sun and Moon Yoga Studio in Virginia. That was fun. In Yoga Alliance acronym parlance, I'm RYT-500, E-RYT® 200, YACEP®.
I serve as president of the Feathered Pipe Foundation, a Montana-based registered non-profit 501(c)3 educational organization that runs programs at one of the oldest and sweetest yoga retreat centers in North America. For 42 years and counting, Feathered Pipe has focused on the elevation of human consciousness. I recommend you find a way to get yourself there.
I spoiled myself silly with Erich Schiffmann's teacher training in 2006. I'm over-the-moon inspired by his playful, authentic, and openhearted approach to yoga.
In 2012, I completed Embodyyoga's Mindful Yoga Therapy Teacher Training program presented by the remarkable people from the Veterans Yoga Project. Sharing trauma-sensitive yoga is near and dear to my heart.
In late 2013 I completed Level 1 training in a body movement education modality known as the Trager® Approach. That journey continues.
I have an affinity for and strong desire to share rat race survival skills. Having lived on the East Coast for over three decades, I'm intimately familiar with the challenges of trying to stay on the 'peace beam' while immersed in a digitally-saturated and frenzied urban environment and working at demanding jobs. I've learned a few things along the way that I like to share about movement, mindfulness, and the game-changing wisdom of letting loose with midday dance breaks to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
I eat a lot of blueberries, live in Virginia, am crazy about A Course in Miracles and am in love with Montana. I'm obsessed with cat nutrition, appreciate how my camera helps me investigate the qualities of light, and I do not like dark chocolate even a little.