Wow, I'm flying high after a weekend with Erich Schiffmann at Yogaville. This was a big deal for me because I have wanted to study with Erich ever since I was introduced to his book during my teacher training in 2008, and also because in nearly ten years of practicing yoga, I've never taken a retreat or stayed at an ashram.
The workshop was “Essentials of Freedom Style Yoga.” However, Freedom Style is a non-style in that there is no technique except for the using meditation as a channel to express your practice. In Erich's Freeform classes, there is meditation, some preparation through some asanas that he leads, and then he cuts you loose to do your own thing, then more meditation.
In a way, this is how I have practiced yoga from the beginning. Actually, I can't see why you wouldn't practice yoga this way. I did yoga from DVDs and books and making stuff up on my own, and only dabbled in classes until I got really serious about working toward teacher training. It was only then that I got all these new rules about how to do yoga and how to teach it. I was struck by one of my friends who had brought her book for Erich to sign, had NO written in big letters on the page for fish pose because our teachers had said we should never teach that one. Really? Never? Another attendee said that a superstar yogi had said “there is no reason to ever do pigeon.” Really? Never? Those kind of decrees really frustrated me in teacher training, and continue to frustrate me now. I also get cranky when people ask me what kind of yoga I teach because I don't identify with any particular school of yoga. I pick and choose things that resonate with me. It was so encouraging to hear from Erich that this is a perfectly valid approach to practicing and teaching. I feel like I also got some insight into how I can continue to cultivate my practice by following my own inclinations. I'm on the right track.
At the same time, it was a very challenging workshop because at the core of Erich's teachings is meditation, and frankly, I suck at seated meditation. There, I said it. This warrants a post of it's own, so for now I will say that I think it's totally normal to suck at meditation, and if you think that you suck at it, you're probably doing it right. So yeah. I need to work on that with more discipline since I intend to continue doing yoga the way I am doing it.
In addition to the amazing lectures by Erich, his asana sequences are just … magical. I hope that after thirty more years of yoga I can offer sequences like that. He also a world-class hugger made extra fun because he is so very large. This weekend was so very good for me. I'll follow up with at least one more post about meditation and about my experience of staying at the ashram. Good times. While I can't wait to study with Erich again, I'm also feeling refreshed and ready to grow my practice in other ways, too.
If you want to hear Erich's teachings for yourself, he has a bunch of talks available on his website!