Friday, July 24, 2009

Freedom Yoga Project Blog #2 - WRITE NOW

“When I read I get lost, willingly, hopefully, I beg of thee, book, take me away from this reality and flow my imagination to a playground where dreams come true.” – Lawrence-Jacob Milman

Freedom Yoga Project Blog #2

When time frees up what better, then get a book to let your mind grow, fill it up with mystique. And when a long haul flight to JFK airport in New York is ahead, 15 hours in a sky steeped tube will grant you a head start. Books don’t usually tie me up or render me helpless, but when they do, the pages smother my existence, as they did this time.

On May 10th sitting on the runway moments away from lift off, I put away my cell phone after sending text messages to many that touched my life in the past year and a half of my HK experience. I felt I was preparing on something to shift. I was committed to returning to the Asian island different, reinvented, fresh. The text messaging was as much a “Good Bye” as it was in appreciation. In fact, simply those two words graced one particular message, “GooD ByE”.

With one ending, many beginnings were about to be born. I’m a descendent of Russian Jews, my Mum, and Dad, both from the Ukraine met in Canada, married in Toronto, and had three Canadian children, we are the first generation, I’m the eldest, middle sister Jax, and eight years my junior Mark, our name is spelt Milman, one L. It was a book that has been brought to my attention various times over the years, and it only really stuck due to the author’s name, he phonetically shares my family name. It’s called “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”, by Dan Millman.

The book was made into a Major Motion picture. While still living in Vancouver B.C., I connected with the big screen version. I very much have a system when embarking on any journey: 1. Choose a book that will color my perspective, and 2. Write, in fact WRITE NOW, which happens to be my personal mantra. This time, the book chose me. A new yet keen student offered to lend me the sequel Millman book “Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior”, she said it helped her get through a loss of a friend. It turned out that the book prepared me for the shift, as I was going to spend nine intense days with Ana Forrest, an unconventional master of the art of yoga, in the unconventional yogic setting of Cranston, Rhode Island.

I’m a Poet. No question about it, everything that leads you to this point is part of who you are. I came into teaching as an Anusara-Inspired yoga teacher, meaning, I jumped through the hoops to get my name accredited on the Company website. Hoop jumping is a huge part of what everyday life is, the hoops that Anusara led me through were truly heart opening, empowering and nourishing. It’s a system and philosophy that is both bio-mechanically and spiritually elegant and since I decided to live a life of elegance, the flavor was satisfying. The lines are sharp, the physical benefits are sleek, the performance visually stimulating and intellectually challenging, a high performance vehicle, somewhat like a Cadillac. BUT…. I’m a Poet – and in being one, it’s where my heart hijacks my mind, and takes it on a joy ride into my gut. I see yoga as the breath that links these three, The Mind, The Gut, The Heart.

Ana Forrest stands in all her shit and, like a lotus flower, rises above it. The depth and darkness of her story frames the context in which the use of the word “shit” is appropriate. Against her story, that word carries sweetness in the images that she has passed through. Forrest Yoga is flavored in a way that’s more like my time studying theatre; sharing the commonality of feeling. Ana’s mantra is “mending the hoop of the people”. To heal we must surrender to the disease, and the discomfort would not be pretty, in fact the demons inside of us are dark. How do you make come to terms with your monster? By creating a safe space, and believing in its ability to heal its hoop. It’s not swatting the cockroach but surrendering to its quirkiness.

In the book, Dan Millman’s journey has him striving for an opening beyond the third chakra, into the heart. It is said that the journey from the third to the fourth chakra is the biggest leap any individual can take. The shift from manipurna to anahata is as huge as if you’re taking off on a long haul flight to JFK, it’s like flying. Or like in the movie The Matrix, where Neo had the ability to leap like superman, but still had parts of his identity to let go of before he was ready to feel the depth of his ability. That giant’s leap, that was the shift; that was my shift!!!

Ana’s hoop imagery is inspiring to me, so much that I recognized it in Leonard Cohen lyrics-

"Ring the Bell that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

Healing is the ultimate acceptance of the monster, and the monster when looked at through the eyes of possibility, through the fourth chakra, Anahata, is the window to the light. The crack is nature finding an artery to shine the light in. Mending the hoop doesn’t need to look like a car with a brand new body, as it’s perfect already as it is, as a vehicle with a dent in the fender and a rope holding the door closed. In these creative moments we discover character, grit and authenticity. This is the seed of Freedom Yoga.

Copyright © Lawrence-Jacob Milman, 2009. All rights reserved. The reproduction or transmission of all or part of the work, whether by photocopying or storing in any medium by electronic means or otherwise, without the written permission of the owner, is prohibited. Any unauthorised use or act in relation to the work appearing on this website will result in both civil and criminal liability.

the leap
grey's chakra's

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Freedom Yoga Project

Freedom Yoga Project.
“What is Freedom Yoga?” That’s the most popular question that’s been asked of me since the class description was first published on the Pure Yoga website. It’s also a good question; I’m introducing the Freedom Yoga Project – Blog, in hopes of getting some answers for you as well as myself. This is part of the process that makes up this other world experience, a true yoga experience, it’s made of everything, and everything is everything.

For months and now years, I’ve heard motivational whispers from those that have discussed yoga with me. Yoga is a topic that is personal, ones relationship with it strikes a cord for even the most reticent of individuals, though I am not reticent, my love for expression, and my belief in its healing ability tend to be easily sifted from conversations.

My first Yoga experience came in theatre school, studying behavior while simultaneously learning to actively listen, it’s an exercise created by Sanford Meisner , the BKS Iyengar of the modern acting culture. The Meisner Technique asks one to listen with every cell in their body, becoming sensitive enough to the subtle or not so subtle behavior that the partner they are working the exercise with, may not be aware of, then, tell them honestly – based on what it is you’re seeing, colored by your personal feelings, in that very moment. (My teacher would say as long as it is in the moment it’s always appropriate) This goes on and on, for two years (length of the program @ the neighborhood playhouse theatre school in NYC) under different variations of the exercise with the intention of invoking truth from each other. Just like on the Mat bringing unconscious behavioral patterns to our awareness, can be emotionally heartbreaking all the way through to euphoric, and often liberating from limitations. The time I studied this technique was awakening as well as my stepping-stone to taking the seat of the yoga teacher. Discovering that our bodies range of motion is directly related to our minds range or lack of motion; our emotional life exists connecting these two experiences. This proved to me it was possible to manipulate us to evolve our character.

The whispers rarely related to the above connection, what the whispers revolved around was how I should do a Hip Hop yoga class, okay, sounds cool, what is it? Back to where we started, I had no idea how to make that a reality, I already play Hip Hop music in class, and I’m not rare in that either, MC Yogi gave us Hip Hop lovers a rapping guilty pleasure. I love to Dance but have had fewer then 10-dance class experiences in my life, “I’m not developing a hip hop dance yoga class, at least not yet.”

So as I taught my class schedule, a handful of hot classes, Anusara’s, the Powers and Yin’s in between, in my mind there was this burning question how was the traditional going to manifest into a hip and dynamic offspring? I called my hot flow classes Funky Hot Flow, and made killer playlists. As successful and enjoyable as those classes are they just weren’t quite the feeling I was going for. I left the idea but it always lingered in both my head and the whispers.

It wasn’t until Mid March 2009 that opportunity and guts met. I received an email asking PURE YOGA Teachers for any fresh ideas for classes, I pressed the delete button and didn’t consider it; Until a few days later, between Tuesday Morning classes a time slot that normally ranges in activity from breakfasting with dedicated students, practicing asana and pranayama in the studio, to talking scheduling and administrative details with management . This wasn’t a normal day many major shifts in my life were freshly executed; I took a walk around the park behind Taikoo place. As the sun kept the city soft with her heat, she also spotlighted a group of elderly Chinese women doing a dance routine, I watched with amazement, as a whole new personality rose from these local women, a completeness, an involvement in the moment that inspired me, “to capture it” as Eminem say’s in his track "Lose Yourself" , and we must complete what we started as the women in the park finished the dance moves with the indulgence of Tai Chi.

For the first time since living in HK my heart and mind collectively opened wide, and the idea of FREEDOM yoga was born. In less then 6 minutes, as I returned to the studio, I gave the idea enough form to share it with my good friend and fellow teacher Lisa Mak. I said tough sell huh? Lisa listened, asked me to explain it again and again…till she said, “I wanna do this class!”
The class didn’t see the light of day till mid-June, but with the whispers, now sounding like full out voices something was about to happen.

Over the Next 6 weeks the “Freedom Yoga Project” Will follow the creation of the weekend work shop Freedom Yoga – From the Hips to the Hop… stay tuned.