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Old 07-19-04, 01:36 PM  
Loretta S.
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Yoga Workshop Reporter July 2004 (warning long)

John Friend Workshop in Vancouver BC. What's better than a workshop with an internationally recognized yoga teacher? One with three VFers in attendance.

Day 1 Ė Friday night
The organizers were proactive in setting up the mats to make sure everyone had enough room and could see. There was a low stage where the musicians sat. It was the first yoga workshop Iíve ever been to that had live music. There were about 60-70 people for the Friday night session, probably about 100 on Saturday and back down to 70 or so on Sunday. They had nametags to put on our mats and John Friend walked around to everyone before it started introducing himself. That was nice. He gives off a ďregular guyĒ vibe that was nice. I much prefer that to the ďyoga guruĒ vibe. He had some opening remarks then led us in the Anusara invocation, of which they had handed out printed cards at registration with the Sanskrit and English translation. They also projected it up on a screen above the musicians, for people who didnít know it. I donít know if it was the music or what, but it sounded great with everyoneís voices and the music.

There was not much talk about the alignment principles on the first day except arms bones back in sockets, thighs back, tailbone down and seeking the midpoint. He had a philosophical theme for each day and Friday it was seeking the midpoint. He had one person demo the arm bones back in chatruanga who he said was from South Carolina (more about that later). He said that whatever is happening to seek the midline, for example in lunges, your back leg is usually dropping and your front leg is usually hardening, so you should lift through the back leg and soften the front leg to seek the midpoint.

He had a super fun version of handstand with a partner that was a lot less scary than kicking up. Basically you start in standing forward bend, then you lift one leg back toward standing split. Then the partner presses against your top foot to resist out while you push in toward the midline and then soooo easily lift the other leg up into handstand. Itís a must try. Find yourself a partner and try it.

As far as sequencing goes, he started with sun sals, then standing poses with some good binding variations in low lunge and standing forward bend, pigeon variations, bhekasana (frog pose ) one leg at a time (I could tell he was warming us up for backbends at this point). The bridge pose, then full back bend pushing up from the floor 5 times, eka pada (one leg up) on the fourth time. Then we did supta Padagusthasana (reclined hamstring stretch). He had us hold our neighborís leg like Sharon described at the NYC workshop.

After that we did some chanting with music before relaxation. He told a humorous version of the Hindu myth of Ganesh (this workshop also had the most Hindu stuff Iíd ever seen at a yoga workshop). Heís certainly funny and jokes around a lot. He has a lot of fun. The band was playing the whole time during the asana sessions and lead the chanting. Then they were playing in Savasana and I found it kind of distracting. So instead of relaxing completely, I spent the time thinking of stuff to tell you guys. I wished I had sat further back during the chanting so I could observe more people.

I liked some of the arm variations he did in standing poses and I liked the way he handled the class. He was very personal, using peopleís names with lots of help for beginners and a couple of pregnant women. He gave me the thumbs up from a couple of rows away in Virabhadrasana II. LOL

The group was very melodic with nice voices. Maybe thatís the influence of having the live music. But I love a big group like that where you can really belt out the ommmmms to the back row. The group seemed fairly experienced in general.

After class Katie, Sophie & I went out to eat at a small Greek place then went our separate ways to rest until the next day. I totally had trouble sleeping and decided that it would be worth the 2-hour drive (1 hours each way) to go home Saturday night for a good nightís sleep.

Day 2 Ė Saturday

Got up really early (see bad sleep above!) and went to Starbucks to chill out and make notes about Fridayís session, while drinking a mocha. Then headed to the morning session. As I was checking in, I realized that the person from South Carolina I mentioned was Stacy Millner-Collins of Firm Prime Power fame. I talked to her a bit, but didnít gush about Firm (maybe tomorrow LOL). Sheís beautiful, BTW and a very skilled yogini.

Straight into the yoga, John was once again wacky and fun starting with down dog, talking about shoulder blades back and melting the heart in cat into down dog. Then some sun sals and Virabhadrasana Iís. It seemed to me like he did more warriors on the right leg, but whoís counting. He then had us do partners in handstand, but kicking up this time and using the fist between the legs the second time. Yes, we got photos thanks to Katie. I was having trouble with my digital camera (caused by low blood sugar on Friday morning and my not being used to it yet) and ended up taking the film camera, so there will be a few days delay for processing and digitizing.

We did some hip openers to warm up for backbends, ustrasana (camel) and a kapotasana prep kind of thing. Then he had us play with a vasisthasana (side plank) into back bend thingie that was hard, but fun. We did the bird of purgatory (paradise) where you start out by binding in standing forward bend then balance on the non-bound leg and stand up. Then the final part is to straighten the upper leg. Though it was hard, was kind of fun. I canít straighten the leg but Iím working on it. (Iím sure Iím scrambling the sequence here, but you get the idea). We did ardha chandrasana, then with a variation where you bend your top leg back and grab it. Great front hip opener!! I was struggling with balance a little at times, but still having fun. We did a fun Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-leg fwd bend) variation where we twisted with the arms on the opposite legs. I did the first side wrong, but then saw what everyone else was doing and went back to the first side again. It was a great lower back/side stretch.

Then we did 9, count Ďem 9, urdhva dhanurasanas including drop backs with one and two partners and eka pada (one leg up). I learned something about opening the upper back by bringing in the arm bones into the sockets. Iíd say it was a very successful back bending session. Yes we got pictures, again thanks to Katie. More chanting before ending the session.

Then it was off to lunch at a veggie restaurant that I had found two doors down from Starbucks.

Back for the afternoon session of twists and forward bends. Lots of good janu sirasana (one leg seated forward bend) variations, including parvritta (twisted). Upavista konasana (wide leg seated forward bend) and parvritta (twisted), more pigeon variations with twists. All of these had chanting or seated Pranayama (ujjayi and alternate nostril breathing) between then. Then another long, boring chanting session before Savasana. I had definitely reached my limit of chanting and wished instead that I were doing more asana. Some people were really getting into it but harmonium music gives me a headache. The background music was nice, but I donít like it when it becomes the whole event. During the last 15 minutes Iíd have rather done more reclined twists or sputa baddha konasa.

I really like Johnís goofball presentation style. Heís not afraid to be silly and have fun. He talked today about how learning a lot of technique was nice (and useful), but sometimes you just have to let go and have fun and not be so darn serious about it. Naturally, I embrace that philosophy. The theme for the second day seemed to be embracing everything as part of a whole. So even if you have ďbadĒ parts of yourself, or yoga poses you hate embrace it all. So I decided to stick with the theme by embracing the part of myself that doesnít like chanting and be OK with it. I donít have to like chanting. He also talked a lot about having fun and not having to be so serious. I totally embraced that.

Afterwards, Katie headed off to visit with her family and Sophie and I took a short driving tour of downtown before heading again to Starbucks to meet our spouses. Mine came up for dinner and we went to a Vietnamese place. I didnít like the food as well as what we had for lunch, but they had that insanely good Vietnamese iced coffee and then we went for gelato (My husband got tiramisu and I got Orange Hazelnut Chocolate, YUM!). Did I mention that it was hot in Vancouver? Well not hot, hot, but hotter than weíre used to in this parts of the world. John mentioned that the heat index was 105F when he left Houston. Iím sure he got a giggle about how we Northwesterners thought it was sooo hot at 85F!

The trip back to Bíham was uneventful and there was (surprise!) no line at the border whatsoever. Maybe I was all whacked out on Anusara, but I was feeling a lot of love for my sleepy little neighborhood and for my Tempurpedic mattress, I slept like a baby rock, even though I was majorly sore when I got up.

Day 3 Ė Sunday

Itís my decided opinion that driving in no traffic on Sunday morning is way better than driving in rush-hour traffic on Friday afternoon. I got there early and chatted with a few other workshop participants before the center opened up.

After my good nightís sleep I was able to figure out what was wrong with my digital camera (operator error!) so all the pix Iíve posted so far are from Sunday. I have about 40 digital pics from Sunday and about 20 film photos from Saturday (as yet undeveloped). The digital ones are all high resolution. So Iím going to spend some time shrinking them a little and get the film developed & photos scanned. Then Iíll get them all up on a photo share site and post a link. I donít think Iíve ever got so many pictures at a yoga workshop and really have to thank Katie for taking so many for us.

Anyway the theme for Sunday was contrasts and yes we were all sore, I think I speak for the entire workshop when I say that. When he had us do the first forward bend, he said, ďAnd yes, you may groan.Ē We all did, involuntarily, as our sore hamstrings woke up. Zoinks! But after a few suns sals I began to think that the best sure for DOMS was a hot vigorous yoga session. After a bunch of standing poses and hips stretches, Sophie and I suddenly realized that he was warming us up for back bend hell again. We did so many variations it wasnít even funny. I lost count. But the real magic was that I felt so strong and open and my lower back feels great now the day after. I realized that lately Iíve been working too hard in my back bends and holding tension where it didnít need to be. I was also not working my upper back enough so all the work was going into my arms and wrists. Iím much less sore today than I was yesterday and my lower back feels great.

We did a lot more partner work on Sunday and many more variations on handstand and back bends. It was great and filled with laughs. There was more chanting at the end of the session and I spent the time during the chanting, taking pictures and reviewing the pictures we had taken earlier. We talked with Stacy Millner-Collins after class and she is an Anusara yoga teacher now and does only yoga. But she said that her focus is the same as when she was doing the Firm, helping people find health no matter what their size, shape or fitness level. She was very sweet.

After class we said good-bye to Katie and Sophie & I headed off to shop in an Anusara cloud of laughter. We exchanged a couple of funny phone calls and messages with Eoin while driving, but didnít manage to work the timing right to meet up with him. We went to Half Moon Yoga store and I bought a couple of Prana shirts (on sale) and a Pranayama bolster. I also got a pretty new silk eye pillow and a David Swenson DVD. Sophie got a pretty necklace. We ate at a natural foods deli and then headed to Banyen Books only to realize that we were both too tired to enjoy book shopping. So we headed back to Sophieís car and parted ways. My Anusara happiness was wearing off and I was just hot, tired, sore and couldnít wait to get home.
"The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing, would suffice to solve most of the world's problems."- Gandhi
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Old 07-19-04, 05:31 PM  
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Thanks for the write up, Loretta! Had just read about John Friend in the latest Yoga Journal, but didn't know anyone who had actually been to an Anusara class. How interesting that Stacey Millner-Collins was there... she is one of my favorite ex-Firm intructors!
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Old 07-20-04, 12:06 PM  
Katie W
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Excellent and thorough report, Loretta!

I was so grateful to read Loretta's report, because the whole happy weekend is a blur to me. As a "strong-beginner" (my teacher's description), I found it very challenging, but in a good way. My only reservation is that there weren't many modifications shown for beginners, so I had to decide if I felt ok doing certain poses, modifying them, or just sitting back and watching. Not that this it was a problem for me, but a real beginner, or someone with specific physical issues, might not be able to make that distinction. And, maybe I erred on the cautious side, I don't know.

When everyone was doing backbends, I was lying there, wondering "how do they do that?" and John came over, and helped me do a "baby backbend" by having me hold his ankles, then talking me through it, and supporting my upper back as I pushed up. I felt safe and comfortable doing that, and did it a few more times, with his assistants. But, it was Loretta, who later, showed me how to modify, using a chair.

It was wonderful being in the workshop with Sophie and Loretta, because they are so fun, but also because I learned alot from just watching them, and talking about it afterwards.

Chanting was a new experience for me, and I thought the 1st 5 minutes were fun, but found I got restless, and wondering when it would end. The last time, I sat at the back of the group, then went and laid down on my mat. I noticed a few others were doing that.

My impressions of the workshop are that it was both fun and challenging, and you certainly get that yoga-high!! but, I found myself hearing Felicity's detailed and careful instructions in my ear, as I went into poses, and was glad I went to her workshop first... but I'm really glad I went to JF's workshop, and would do it again.
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Old 07-20-04, 12:11 PM  
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Originally Posted by Rivercat
Thanks for the write up, Loretta! Had just read about John Friend in the latest Yoga Journal, but didn't know anyone who had actually been to an Anusara class. How interesting that Stacey Millner-Collins was there... she is one of my favorite ex-Firm intructors!
There are several of us, including me, who do regular anusara classes. I went to the NYC workships on the current John Friend tour. I posted about it somewhere -- I'll look for the posts. LisaTV did the workshop in Michigan a few weeks before it came my way. And Jane C. does it this weekend -- can't wait for her report.

Loretta and Katie -- I found your remarks fascinating. And can't wait for even more photos!
(You can get to my sketchblog through my profile page.)
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(I have a professional/personal relationship with an instructor who produces video and book material relevant to this site.)
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Old 07-20-04, 12:59 PM  
Katie W
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Sharon....John Friend worships....? LOL
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Old 07-20-04, 01:16 PM  
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Originally Posted by SharonNYC
There are several of us, including me, who do regular anusara classes. I went to the NYC workships on the current John Friend tour. I posted about it somewhere -- I'll look for the posts.
Here they are:

The Yoga Workshop Reporter
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Old 07-20-04, 01:18 PM  
Janet B
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Wow - Loretta - what a great write up!

Thanks so much for your detailed write up - WOW!
I can't wait to see the photos! If there are any posted so far on the thread I can't see them

All these yoga reports are great! I'm not sure if I'll ever have the nerve to go to one but I love reading about them! Thanks!
Cheers - Janet B
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Old 07-20-04, 05:20 PM  
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Just adding my thanks too, Loretta. Even if I was there, it's a blur for me like it was for Katie I'm still recovering...and I'm amazed how long the "high" has lasted. The family and I went to the aquarium yesterday (the day after the workshop) and I was not just digging the sea lions, I was REALLY digging the sea lions

I think I'm actually going to save your post and glue it into my yoga journal!

Janet - the pics are in this weeks yoga check in. I think Loretta is trying not to chew up too much bandwidth.

be as relaxed as you can be, as you do what you gotta do.

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Old 07-20-04, 07:45 PM  
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You have me Soooooo psyched

I'm really looking forward to the Toronto John Friend event. The only bummer is there wont be any other VF yogis (unless some wants to to make a mad dash. Anyone? Bueller?)

Loretta, I saw your comments a couple of days ago, and am digesting. I'll have a similar experience, re: border crossings, etc. I'll be staying in what I think will a fun hotel I reserved through . The detailed description was very helpful to me and I love love love the photographs - as you know.

Anyone who hasn't seen the photos - go to this weeks check in - they start on pg. 3 or 4.

I may skip the Kirtan - the Friday night event doesn't end until 9. Frankly, I"m interested in dinner in Toronto. Food first.

Katie - did Felicity call you a strong beginner? That's quite a compliment. I have my eye on her workshop in Seattle this winter. I think, for you and me, the thing to do at these events is know how to take care of ourselves. Its great to watch people with more advanced practices - you learn so much. Its great that John helped you with your backbend.

The vibe was, clearly, supreme. I can't believe Sophie's all "gone anusara"

will it happen to me?????
Jane C.

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come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,
Come, and come yet again.
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Old 07-20-04, 08:30 PM  
Katie W
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Jane, no--not Felicity, it was Annie, my Anusara/Iyengar teacher at 2 Dog Yoga, who said that. She's encouraging me to go to Level 2 classes, but I'd rather stay in Level 1, because its slower and I can concentrate more on form, and its a smaller class, so I'll get more corrections.
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stacey milner-collins, yoga workshop reporter

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