Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter 2009 Newsletter

Dear Community,

Greetings from Northern California, where the rains have blessed us abundantly after many years of drought.

A quick note to my 7th Heaven community: I made an error in my last Sunday announcement. I will be teaching on Sunday February 7th and there will be a sub for Sunday February 14th. Sorry about the confusion!

Now that my life has calmed down a bit, Joshua and I are finally getting married on July 10, 2010, which was the birthday of my mother. We will have a quiet wedding and then take off for a trip on horseback through Yellowstone National Park.

Joshua and I also decided to adopt a dog! We have been going to the animal shelter frequently to get to know the dogs. It is heartbreaking to see all of these beautiful, abandoned dogs waiting for a kind soul to adopt them. These creatures are to me a symbol of our broken trust with Mother Nature and the callousness we have shown in our relationship with her. As Joshua and I are not going to have any children, I am glad that we are taking this step of caring for another being by sharing our lives with them.
In other news – but somewhat related – after I have had the wonderful opportunity to benefit from the guidance of some of the greatest living teachers, I am happy to report that I have a new guru! His name is Cesar Millan and he is the Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. Under the guise of helping dogs he really heals people and that broken trust between us and nature. It is amazing to see that the problem with dogs always stems from the owner’s issues, and, as Cesar says – “…you may not get the dog you want, but the dog you need.”

What an inspirational man, he is truly my hero! Check him out…..Click here to visit his website.

P.S. I have lots of events coming up, so the page is rather long.

Step Into Your truth w/ the Bhagavad Gita February 18 10am
My call-in workshop is part of a new program called Up2yoga – a continuous conversation about yoga teachings and practices, and how to live them day-to-day. I’m excited to be part of it. For more info, check out their website.

My Up2yoga workshop offers a fully interactive experience. Through advanced technology, we’ll engage with each other as if we’re together in the same room – with breakout groups, live Q&A, and more. This gives you a chance to get deeply involved with the material and learn from each other, as well as from me.

Register now for access to my workshop, and consider becoming part of the Up2yoga community.

Loving Kindness Yoga and Kirtan
lululemon Athletica Berkeley. Sunday, February 21, 2010 6:30pm – 8:00pm Waking the Buddha in the Sangha with Katchie Ananda Metta or Loving Kindness is to the soul what fog is to nature. It nurtures and heals our wounds. We will learn the basic techniques of Loving Kindness and how to integrate this ancient, Buddhist practice into our daily life, using a slow, deep Asana practice as well as a guided Meditation. Space is limited so please RSVP. Snacks and drinks will be provided after class.

Spiritual Activation
An afternoon of Anusara Yoga and inspiring conversation with Julia Butterfly Hill and Katchie Ananda February 28, 2010 2-5pm at Yoga Kula S.F.

A 10 year anniversary celebration of the Luna treesit.

An afternoon of inspiring, thought- provoking and uplifting conversation and yoga. Julia and Katchie will lead beautifully-woven discussion about spirituality, activism,social change and hope in these challenging times, mixed with a heartfelt anusara yoga class that encourages participants to explore the themes in their bodies and in their

Space is limited.

All proceeds benefit the What’s Your Tree program and the ongoing care and stewardship of Luna, the ancient redwood tree where Julia Butterfly Hill made her home for 2 years.

This event is generously being sponsored by Yoga Kula. For More Information: Call Yoga Kula at 510-486-0264 or email or visit

Upcoming workshops in Europe
Mar 12 15:00- 17:00pm Shri, Satya, Svatantrya: The 3 “S” of Anusara – A Master class Airyoga, Zurich CH
Mar 12 18:00 – 21:00 Tapas, Svadhyaya and Ishvara Pranidhana Airyoga, Zurich CH
Mar 13 14:15 – 17:15 Shiva and Shakti – Inner and Outer Spiral Airyoga, Zurich CH
Mar 14 13:30 – 16:30 The Rasas in Tantric Philosophy Airyoga, Zurich CH
Mar 20 – 21

“Chili und Schokolade”
an Anusara Yoga & writing workshop w/ Milena Moser Airyoga, Munchen DE
Apr. 2

Kirtan Svahayoga
Amsterdam NL
Apr 3 14:30-17:00 Workshop Svahayoga, Amsterdam NL
Apr 4 14:30-17:00 Workshop Svahayoga, Amsterdam NL
Nov 16 – 21

Ansuara Immersion Level 3
w/ Michael Thurnherr Airyoga, Zurich CH

The Sacred Thread of Yoga
Oct 15 – 17 Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA Click here for the scoop.

Anusara yoga Immersion
in the Fall
dates to be determined Yoga Kula

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fast-track englightenment is dangerous

This article appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle website in 2009.

I have been following the story of the Arizona sweat-lodge deaths with shock. As part of a Spiritual Warrior retreat, for which participants paid $9,000 apiece, three people died and 19 people ended up in the hospital.

The victims were part of a group of about 60 people who – after nearly two days in the desert with little food or water – spent more than two hours crowded in a sauna-like sweat lodge that was covered not with breathable blankets but with plastic tarps.

I am upset and saddened by this tragedy and I have been wondering how it could have happened. As a teacher focused on spiritual as well as physical development myself, I believe this is a wake-up call.

In many ways, Arizona is a vivid example of what has gone wrong in the spiritual movement in recent years.

It would be easy to dismiss James Arthur Ray as a cult leader who got out of hand, but it is not that simple. I don’t think James Ray is crazy or evil, but I do think he is a deluded human being. This retreat was about creating abundance and a more fulfilled life through pushing one’s boundaries. In his eagerness to reach this goal, Ray was willing to overlook the well-being of his followers.

As a spiritual seeker, I’m very aware of the “edge,” the place where we push ourselves past our comfort zone, to let go of old patterns and explore a bigger potential. In a culture that is focused on comfort, that’s often an important exercise. But how far should we push ourselves or encourage our students to push?

As a young yoga student, I more than once let an over-eager yoga teacher push me in a yoga pose past my limits – and I got injured. I so wanted to reach a new level that I discounted my safety in the pursuit of my goals. With time, I learned to take responsibility for my own safety, and now I teach my students to listen to their bodies and respect their limits. Ray’s followers – tragically, perhaps criminally – apparently were not encouraged to do the same.

In most serious spiritual traditions, every teacher has a relationship to a teacher and a community that provides a check on the teacher’s ambition and ego. The practice has developed over many years and can help the practitioner find an inner sense of a balance that allows for growth with integrity. It’s a process that requires time, patience and mindful attention.

Today, spiritual teachings are taken out of context and can become downright dangerous. We are looking for the quick fix, the fast rush – even in our search for enlightenment. Some will use old and powerful teachings in an attempt to get there.

In the Anusara yoga I teach and practice, the principle is to say “yes” to life, to our goals and aspirations and dreams. But coupled with that “yes” is an immediate “no,” expressed by creating boundaries, for the safety of our physical bodies and our psyches. We literally contract our muscles to protect and stabilize the joints and the core. Then out of that “no,” that stability, can come another “yes,” a physical (and perhaps spiritual) expansion, one that is more grounded, more realistic and has been tested by life’s challenges.

It is too late for the people who suffered and died in that sweat lodge. But it’s time for all of us to insist that anyone who presumes to take on the mantle of “spiritual teacher” must honor the importance of “no” – as much as the aspiration of “yes.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall 2009 Newsletter

My Dear Sangha,

I have just returned home from an amazing journey abroad. Returning to my homeland to offer the gifts I have learned over the last 20 years here in America was especially precious to me.

And, after 20 years, I have just become an American citizen! I aced my test last Monday and I will be sworn in some time next month.

Some of the highlights of this trip were my visit to Grindelwald, a small city located high in the Swiss Alps where I met up with Jack Kornfield, my teacher. Having made some loose plans to go paragliding before the Vipassana retreat in Beatenberg started, everything came together and we spent a most marvelous day in each other’s company. It was a beautiful day filled with hiking, eating fondue (only Americans eat fondue in the summer time), and flying through the skies together. During our flying adventure, we caught some amazing thermals (in paragliding speak that means columns of rising air). Spending almost an hour in the high up mountains, at some point I looked over to Jack and saw that he had caught a thermal and, literally, had his head in the clouds! My teacher with his head in the clouds – I laughed out loud.

Visiting my homeland with a foreign friend, I see things with different eyes. The familiar becomes special and I am able to appreciate everything anew. From that day with Jack, the theme of my trip was appreciation. It turned out to be a very appropriate theme, indeed.

The nine days spent teaching with Jack in Beatenberg was both wonderful and intense. Adjusting my skills as a yoga teacher to suit the silent tone of a Vipassana retreat proved to be a great learning experience, throughout which I felt touched by Jack’s confidence in me. The yoga classes I offered were very simple and quiet. It was great to see the power of yoga once again.

The next event in my Europe schedule was teaching an Anusara Immersion in Zurich, and I attempted to do so, in German no less. On the third day I hit a wall and said to my students that I would never speak another word in German again! I think it was very daring to try to convey such a complex and sophisticated system in a language that I haven’t really spoken in 20 years! Nevertheless we managed, in part because my assistant, Michael Thurnherr, a wonderful and mature teacher, helped out a lot. The immersion was packed and successful in that everyone moved through a week of personal transformation.

Following all of this good work, I enjoyed the pleasure of a 10-day vacation with my beloved friends Julia Butterfly, Alissa Hauser and Milena Fraccari. We traveled across Italy in a tightly packed car, from event to event. We had all been on the road for some time. Four girls and one car made for too much luggage. Every time we had to leave for a new destination, Julia chased us all away so she could get into the “zone” to pack the car. It was amazing that she managed to fit everything, including stuff that was given to us along the way.

I had an especially powerful time at a conscious community named Damanhur in northern Italy. I have never seen anything quite like the temples they constructed, by hand, into the heart of a mountain! For many years they built them in secret and once the authorities found out, they went there to shut them down. Instead, the Damanhurians invited the officials to view the temples who were so overwhelmed by their beauty that they couldn’t destroy these works of greatness and, thus, promptly granted them a permit! It has been called the ‘Eight Wonder of the World’.The official greeting of the Damanhurians is “Con te,” which means, “with you”.

In Florence I co-taught an event with Julia, which was organized by Damanhur. I know I will return to this industrious and sweet community very soon! If you want to check it out, here is their website:

I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Fall.