Oh, I have been so lax with the blog the past 2 weeks! So, here’s my little update. I flew to San Francisco on January 19th. As always, I really loved being there. The weather was a very, very pleasant departure from the winter chill of Chicago. Apparently, I missed out on some single digit temps. Can’t say I’m sad about that. In SF, it was sunny and 60-64. Perfect.
I was staying in lower Nob Hill (or technically, the TenderNob – what a terrible name!) Fortunately, it was a very pleasant, mostly downhill walk to the Hyatt Embarcadero where the conference was held. I attended a Sunday afternoon session with Gary Kraftsow: “Meditation, Contemplation, and Transformation.” Then, an all-day intensive with Mr. Kraftsow on Monday: “Evidence-Based Viniyoga Therapy for Stress Management.” Both sessions were incredible. He’s a very, very interesting man and a captivating speaker. Having studied with both Krishnamacharya and Desikachar from the age of 19…what can I say, he’s the real deal. There was very little actual asana practice, but we did several pranayama, meditation and chanting exercises. I have become incredibly enamored of chanting in the past few months, so it was right up my alley.
I think one of the things I most appreciated hearing was that “yoga is not asana.” Obviously, that’s part of it, but there is SOOO much more. I think in the West, so much focus is placed on asana that the rest gets neglected. Gary told us about how people talk about how they practice yoga, and they also meditate. As if they’re separate. And they’re not. Meditation IS part of yoga. And a wonderful part, at that!
The most fascinating exercise we did involved langhana and brahmana, along with chanting. First we were told to think of something that caused us stress or anxiety. Once we captured that thought, we were told to really feel it, evoke those uncomfortable emotions. Then, we started the pranayama practice, as Gary chanted. We repeated a pattern of inhale/retain, exhale/sustain. I have to admit, I was seriously uncomfortable. I am no stranger to long inhales and exhales, but the retain/sustain parts were no fun. After several minutes of this, we were told to return to a more neutral/slight ujayi breath, while we did a guided meditation. Then, we were asked to summon that emotion we felt at the beginning of the exercise.
This is the amazing part…it was gone. All the emotion and stress I felt the first time I conjured the memory (and it was a super fresh one…something that had actually occurred about an hour earlier) was GONE. I was able to visualize the event without any sentiment attached. And even now, 10 days later…nothing. I’m a believer.