anya porter

the eruption of truth

the eruption of truth

For a period of my life, the yoga postures served me well. I grew through them and they offered healing to my wrecked dancer's body for a time. But then, as many of us do, I allowed the postures to guide my physicality and I ultimately suffered because of that. You could see photos of me in postures or practice next to me in class and think, "wow she is strong and flexible". The problem was that I unwittingly pushed myself to be strong and flexible only in the places the poses required and in the end this was not balanced or wholesome, no matter how much alignment and breath and safe sequencing I applied.

When I was in my final months of pregnancy and just afterward, my body was pulled apart where it was weak and disconnected. I am not alone in this experience and it definitely doesn't just happen to pregnant yoga practitioners, although the elevated levels of relaxin in the body along with the increased abdominal pressure certainly enabled this to worsen quickly. Through the process of reconstructing myself in the last two years and working with many other students who I believe have been harmed by yoga, I have realized how insufficient the posturing, and more specifically how insufficient so much of the instruction in this work is. 

I am not saying the postures do not contain insights, for they do, endlessly. I am simply saying that they are not enough by themselves. We have to keep looking beyond, beneath, inside and through them. The postures are patterns we set into bodies that already contain their own patterns, imbalances, incongruencies, imperfections and deeply individual insights. How can we not take the individual into consideration as we apply them? Alignment, as we may witness in some forms of yoga, takes us only so far on a personal level before it causes us to become rigid. Geometry certainly has its merits and beauty in certain yoga styles, but it doesn't break down or build up everything; it doesn't give space for all of the organic nuance and multitudes of asymmetry, in my experience. Flow is wonderful for moving without overthinking but it falls short in the realm of detail and precision, no matter how clear instructions may be. Breath work and opening pranic pathways means nothing if the physical structures are not addressed with integrity and after all, what ARE pranic pathways? What does that actually mean? 

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Shunyata, Groundlessness and Vinyasa

Groundlessness is a concept that Pema Chodron discusses a lot in her wonderful writing and talks. It refers to shunyata, or the buddhist concept of emptiness. This is not emptiness in the sense that nothing is there. It is emptiness in a sense that nothing, including ourselves, is solid and predictable. This is not some myth or made up story to get through hard times, it is actual reality. We can test it and see that our results are always the same. Nothing on this earth, in this universe, stays the same. 

For me the vinyasa practice embodies the sadhana of opening to groundlessness. We traverse from pose to pose with skill because we have studied the postures themselves. We prepare ourselves well for that journey by understanding alignment and actions in each pose. But what about the spaces between the postures? In the process of transforming our body from form to form can we be as present with the spaces between, those inevitable areas of groundlessness? 

As I prepare for my workshop today, I am reminded of this beauty and elegance of attention. Between each shape is a multitude of possibilities and that wide openness is the very same thing as shunyata. Emptiness actually means that anything is possible. 

I look forward to sharing this work with you today and my hope is that it inspires ever more practitioners to take “vinyasa” beyond the athleticism of achieving great stunts and many chaturangas and into the space of shunyata. Skill in action. Opening to possibility. Letting go of where we fixate and seeing that it is wide open.

See you there.
xo
AP

Paravrtti: Revolving, Re-Orienting and Lightening Up

When I first began to practice and then to teach yoga eight years ago, I was understandably enthusiastic and admittedly naive.  I thought my life had been changed for the better FOREVER.  I was intent on studying and teaching therapeutically minded, vigorous and heart opening yoga that I was sure would help my students as much as I felt it helped me at the time.  Nine years later, my practice and teaching have changed immensely, and through a variety of injuries attained and healed,  physical achievements met (and then met with a desire for more), and successes and heartbreaks both on and off the mat, I have begun to actually learn the value of evolving with a practice that supports the whole person, not just their muscle tone, flexibility or ability to achieve some temporary and surface notion of “inner peace”.  In other words, I have re-oriented my view.  

The word paravrtti (pa ra vrit tee) is often used in yoga asana to refer to the act of revolution in a posture (as in revolved triangle - paravrtti trikonasana).  In looking at Buddhist texts, it can also mean to to transform or re-orient one’s view radically; so radically that it can refer to the actual process of enlightenment…

I’d like to take the concept down to earth and discuss the paravrtti of one’s own practice and LIFE.  The question I ask myself each day as I step to the mat, sit on the cushion, plan a class, or even communicate:  "How can I meet myself and others with humor and compassion, yet consistently challenge and require the greatest amount of self-inquriy so that we can all benefit from this exchange?“  Who knew that was going to be a thing I asked myself often?  The paravrtti, or radical re-orientation of our view in ANYTHING comes from the act of asking ourselves to wake up.  Again and again.  This can be an incredibly re-orienting (and sometimes disorienting) process that is also, at its essence, quite painful, because it asks us to let go of the ways that we fixate.  How do we keep waking up?  By lightening up.  

Last night I had the pleasure of taking class from an amazing and humble gentleman, Gabriel Halpern.  His theme in class was "slacken the reigns” (read, LIGHTEN UP).  He mentioned the notion that our practice should be serious but the attitude on and off the mat should be to “slacken the reigns”.  We approach everything so tightly and with so much fixation.  Even our yoga practice, which is meant to create a sense of balancing opposites, can become too tight, too rigid or too aggressive.  Perhaps this resonates with you?? 

One of the things I have learned through the process of developing Breakti® is that in order for this practice to evolve, I cannot fixate on ANYTHING.  Not one thing.  In addition, if I lose a sense of humor, all else is also lost.  My process has been slow and careful, despite being pulled in different directions to quicken the pace.  The more that I work through the material over time with care and patience, the more I find freedom in letting go of old rigid ideas of what a practice should be.  

Paravrtti is to revolve, but it is also to evolve.  To evolve requires fluidity, grace and humor.  When we get stuck in fixation, nothing is moving, the air is stale and we feel trapped in the sense of deluded comfort we get from believing our ideas to be solid and permanent.  

Can you sense the areas of your own life or practice where you hold on with white knuckles and grit your teeth?  What would it feel like to let things go a bit, to release the grip and lighten up?  Yes, it feels incredibly scary, but I choose the wind in my hair, just over the speed limit and cruising in the sunshine over a sterile and stale safe windowless room any day. 

LIGHTEN UP! 

-AP

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This Very Moment. My Friend, Zoe.

“…Life is just a moment in time
And we go round and round
(if you’re listening)…  

 - Pharcyde, Moment in Time

 I went home recently to visit one of my dearest and oldest friends, Zoe, to check in with her and support her as she courageously fights stage four breast cancer.  There is no one I know who embodies and embraces life more than Zoe, and to honor her fearlessness and zeal, I am beginning to rethink the way I live and work every day.  Consider it a matching pledge drive; as she dedicates herself to raw food, juicing, and natural healing modalities in the face of a very scary disease, I will dedicate myself to my work, relationships, and life in general with more fervor, courage and compassion.  When something scares me or makes me worry, I think of her and it moves me to be fearless.  When I feel myself harden and close off in reaction to discomfort, I remember Zoe’s open heart and free spirit and it moves me to be more compassionate and open.

Zoe has been through cancer before, and when she was diagnosed this time, back in the fall, she felt very strongly that she did not wish to go through all the chemo, radiation and surgery that she had to endure through the last episode.  While it was a very hard decision to make and share with her loved ones, I recognized her unbelievable bravery in the face of this disease and in the face of all of the people who supporterd her but hoped she would take a different route.  She has made amazing strides in her journey, converting to a raw food diet, juicing, supplementing, reiki, acupuncture, biofeedback and more…  and what is most amazing is that she has done this all through the support of loved ones and even strangers.  Zoe works for herself and did not have the money to do this on her own, but through fundraising and the immense generosity of everyone from her neighbors to her healers, she has been able to make this journey.

Zoe’s story embodies two tenets of buddhist thought that I hold dear to my heart:  compassion and interdependence.  Nothing, NOTHING, not one thing can exist independently on its own in this unvierse.  We cannot experience our life in a vacuum, and our interdependence in life is part of what makes it so amazing and grand (and scary).  Without the support of others, we would not exist.  And without supporting others, we negate the natural flow of life.  This is the law of interdependence.  

Compassion can be a tricky word.  Sometimes it seems too touchy-feely.  Sometimes we cannot muster up any tenderness in the face of the horrible things that go on every day in our world, our country, our city, our block.  Yet compassion is innate within us, it is our basic nature.  When we know someone close to us who is suffering or we hear stories about people like Zoe, it touches our heart.  It awakens this innate capacity for fearlessness and love and draws it up from within us like water from a deep cool well.  

Zoe’s journey to heal herself through diet and natural medicine has been supported through the interdependence of her many friends and loved ones, and those inspired by her story.  The compassion of many has united for the cause of one.  This moment is the perfect one to draw up from your well and engage with your life in a way that honors these tenets of compassion and interdependence.  I invite you to help me in my pledge drive, matching Zoe’s courage and absolute love of life with your own.  Care to join?  Now is the time.

 I’ll finish with a quote from one of my favorite authors and Buddhist teachers, Pema Chodron. 

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

(this was excerpted from my newsletter.  if you’d like to read more, please click here.)

"little wing", or how jimi taught me mindfulness

last night as i finished class and headed down into the train for my usual thursday night commute, i was perhaps more tired than usual, more anxious to just be home in the warmth with my kitties.  the train came fairly quickly, which always brings me a smile, and i hopped on, sat and closed my eyes.  

the ride was easy, no glitches, no long pauses between stations.  at one point a passenger apparently skipped out of the train at the first stop in brooklyn, and as i watched the reactions of other passengers i noticed a man sitting further down the train where the passenger had exited smiling mischievously to himself, having witnessed the act of human joy firsthand.  in reaction to his smile, i had no choice but to grin harmoniously with him.  this made me remember, one more time (as i am reminded time and time again), how very available joy and beauty is to us in each moment, if we allow ourselves to fully witness the many textures and colors that life shows us.

as i got off for my final transfer to the line that takes me home, i noticed the platform was full, a good sign that a train had not arrived in some time and one was due quite soon.  i stepped to the other side of the platform and as i peeked my head around the corner, there was the g train in all her short glory taking the final turn into the station.  the momentary elation of a blissfully short commute was then superseded by the sound of a guitar and harmonica as i boarded the train.  

i settled in for the last seven minutes of my ride home, hearing what i finally registered as a tune by the doors.  the man singing and playing was really excellent and even mic'ed so he echoed through the car in which we all rumbled along.  

as he finished up the jim morrison tune, he started into the chords of a song i knew all too well…  that first screechy, percussive chord could only be hendrix.  and the song could only be “little wing”, and the memories poured in…  

back in high school, my friends and i listened to a lot of jimi, and at some point, one winter night while in a friend’s bedroom listening to music, one of my friends turned to me and said, “YOU’RE little wing, anya, that’s YOU”…  and from that moment, i was dubbed.  and so the song has taken shape to me over the years, it has molded to my being as a part of me, an echo of who i was but also a clear symbol of who i will always be, with the thousands of smiles i give for free and butterflies and zebras and moonbeams.

so as i sat on the train and listened, my eyes welled up with joy and sadness and nostalgia and with all of the things that “little wing” does not yet even mean because i haven’t discovered them yet.  each time i hear the song, i am in a different place in life, i have more layers of experience, and find myself in very different states of mind.  but each time, the song also shares something a little different with me, as if i didn’t hear a certain chord or note, or in this case, the way the musician sang was subtly different, perhaps a little less melancholy than jimi’s version.  all of the memories of being younger burst into my mind, but also were met with the sweetness of the evening, the gentleman’s mischievous grin, the unknown passenger’s skip out of the train, and the easeful and quick ride home on a tired night.  

this, to me, is how our practice starts to shape how available we are to the vividness of everyday life.  magic is there, always waiting for us to open to it, if we only allow ourselves…  and even in the moments that feel melancholy or nostalgic, we also must realize that whatever we remember, however painful or joyous, is also met with the opportunity of this moment we are actually in.  

we must open our eyes to our experience so that we can feel and see and hear the beauty and pain of everyday life…  and allow that to saturate our pores, the very cytoplasm of each cell.  in this way we dance with our path, we witness in stillness and move with grace to each experience as it approaches us in the great ballroom of life.  

i will always be “little wing”, and every time the song arises, i am instantly brought to the moment and the past simultaneously, and sometimes even the future as i wonder who i will be next time i hear it.  as i danced last night with time and sound and memory, the colors, faces and the sounds became hyper-vivid, almost technicolor…  and as we tumbled into my station i felt myself feeling a bit sad to leave before the tune played out.

but i also knew that i would travel on with that guitarist, even as the train doors closed, the sound fell away, and the train grumbled on.  even as i traversed the stairs and somewhere down below “little wing” played on, i would go and dance along with it.  

even as the night hit me with cold air and car horns, clear and pure and present, i danced on.

It is so important to recognize the moments that reveal what an amazing gift this life is….


… And the more you pay attention the more you may realize that each moment has that potential revelation.

-ap

maitri

my heart is filled with tenderness
abundance
emptiness.
great sadness and still waters

——————-

these are the lions that inspire fearlessness
wealth of spirit
open hands

at first glance we see the sharp teeth
potential scars from retracted claws
remember old cuts now healed or still scabby

upon gazing
we may see the softness of fur
fierceness of clear eyes
wisdom and great strength

if we allow ourselves to sit near
we can sense the tremble of sinew beneath skin
heat of breath
lightness under each paw

when we reach out and feel
there is always the possibility of a sharp swipe returned
but also still possible the genuine softness that yields and purrs

——————

the greatest tenderness of touching that which might slice open or surround me
or that which may simply lie in repose
leaves me open-handed and paused
waiting, feeling with each nerve ending the possibilities

and i am moved to be fearless
not shying from abundance
not running from emptiness
abiding in the great sadness
and the still waters of this very heart
seeping from eyes that can unclose

ap

Turning Inward, Revealing Outward

put this out in my newsletter today…  for those that weren’t privy (you can always sign up on the upper right hand corner of my website)…  please read on..

The more that I tread down the path of evolving and creating a classroom that echoes the integrity that I wish to cultivate in my life as a whole, the harder I realize that process to be.  One of the most important practices I have had to cultivate is that of continuously turning inward.  In sanskrit, the word parivrtti denotes a turning, and often a turning inward.  You hear poses like parivrtta trikonasana (revolved triangle) or parivrtta ardha chandrasana (revolving half-moon pose).  These poses are both cleansing and clarifying in that they reflect on a physiological level this same process of looking in. 

When we look inside ourselves, gazing toward the light of our hearts, there are often many clouds and layers of dust that cover over that which ultimately shines with effulgence in all ways, always.  As we practice on the mat, attuned to the rhythm of our breath and hearbeat, the metronome of music, we can often begin to reveal our light through the work of being present in the challenge of whatever physical, mental, or emotional hurdles present themselves.  In this way, to turn inward, to nestle into the folds of our own clouds and dust so that we can find the light, is to also turn outward and reveal the brilliance we already contain once we re-discover. 

As we settle into the winter months, it is a time of constant turning inward to find ourselves exactly where we are.  Sometimes the clouds are thick and gloomy and other glorious days we may find our light with little effort…  but always, like the sun behind the winter haze, our light is there.  


New Year's New New Playlist!!

It’s finally up!!!  

I realized as I put this on Grooveshark that two of my favorite songs ever are called “Sure Thing”…  this is the original on this list.  You can prolly guess the other.

Had an amazing time sharing this music with you all this week.  Enjoy.  Click on the album or here for playlist.

(as always click on the right #yogamusic to take you to lots of other goodies)

St Germain New Year

kali city. yoga city. breakti city. (abridged)

i fall in love again with the city as if she is a fierce goddess…  dark and heavy, her humid hands cradle my face with a sweet remembrance that whispers decades of wonder into my ears. i move through sidewalks and subways like a waiting devotee, asking for a moment, a breath of her acknowledgement…  one space where i can fit in and be held, be heard and understood as her own. 

i have yearned for so long to be understood by the streets, to be absorbed and uplifted by this steel and concrete pulsation that is my home.  here we lie together hand in hand, me wrapped in her thick night, reciting mantras of hip hop and street music so she might hear me.  pounding my feet and hands and shoulders and heart to the dancefloor so she might feel me.

i forgot along the way when my heart was so deeply broken that she loves me, that in fact she IS me.  i descended into her bowels thinking that the underground was an endless night.  i stopped remembering the absolute devotion that i still hold in my heart…  the religion of her street-love. 

but now i remember again.  i remember she used to tell me how full we all are, how perfect and immaculate we are in our own grime and dissonance.  this trash and pavement is an opportunity to uncover a deeper beauty.  this city is a playground for harnessing our holograms of infiniteness…  one big yoga mat for a practice that moves on the rhythm and heartbeat and breath of millions of minds and journeys and stories.

i welcome myself back to her arms.  bhakti in my heart, i will offer everything because she is already me.  and i am she.  atha yoganusasanam.  here begins the auspicious discipline of yoga.  kali city.  yoga city.  breakti city.

-ap

dandelion

Letting go of something you are afraid to lose is one of the hardest things we have to work with (along with allowing something in that you are scared of – really a mirrored image of the very same thing).  Our process of letting something go can take days, weeks, years.  In the end, when we are ready…  we let that person or idea or object go when we are fully ready.  And as we do so, a deep calm ensues and we recognize, once on the other side, all of the weight and thick heaviness we’ve been carrying through that time is no longer there.  The pain of letting go is replaced by a spaciousness that allows us to feel our own basic goodness and the basic goodness of that person, object or idea in its simplicity. 

-anya