I am thrilled to welcome Barbra Noh to Frankfurt in November for the city’s first Anusara Immersion. I experience her teaching style as a unique mix of focus and space. In the Immersion, Barbra hones in on specific subject matter, giving us in-depth knowledge of the theory behind Anusara Yoga. At the same time, she opens space for an intense personal and group experience of the philosophy and practice.
I invite the Frankfurt yogis and yoginis to share in this wonderful experience. My conversation with Barbra should give you greater insight about what drives her passion for Anusara Yoga and what is in store for us this fall.
Six hours daily, six days. What should I feel like after the first 36 hours of an Anusara Immersion?
After Part I of the Immersion you will feel like you have crossed a threshold into a world of new possibilities concerning your yoga practice and your understanding of how you can bring your yoga into your daily life. When I first experienced Anusara Yoga over six years ago, I discovered a world of yoga I had not seen before. I wanted to know more about this world. After the first 36 hours, I hope you will experience this very same feeling and join us for Part II and III where we go more deeply into all the concepts introduced in Part I.
You had already had a seven year yoga practice and many years teaching experience when you discovered Anusara, why were you open to change?
In a search to feel well in my body and in my life, I explored a wide range of yoga styles during these first seven years. I spent two years practicing traditional hatha yoga in an ashram style center. Later I explored Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga and various Vinyasa styles. As a professional dancer, I was very flexible. I could get into the poses, but something didn’t feel quite right. Classes were either slow moving and not challenging enough, or fast, even rigorous and I would feel “ripped apart” afterwards as my flexibility increased without any safe boundaries. Though I gained a sense of relaxation afterwards, it was more akin to the kind of pleasant exhaustion that sets in after doing sports. I felt quite good emotionally, but physically I was often in pain. I kept searching for the style and method of yoga that would give me all the things I wanted.
Why Anusara Yoga?
One day a student who had lived in the US came to my class. She asked me afterwards if I had trained as an Anusara teacher. My class reminded her of the Anusara classes she had attended in the US. I had never heard of Anusara. She told me of all the classes she had tried, she felt she made the most progress in Anusara classes. This made me very curious that there was a style of yoga out there that was apparently incorporating similar elements to those I was trying to integrate into my teaching. That very night I went home and googled “Anusara” and started looking for teachers.
Where did that search take you?
This search took me on many journeys – literally all over Europe and North America as I pursued my studies with the best teachers I could find. But most of all it took me on an inner journey to a new world of how I practice, experience and think about yoga. This is same world I offer and love to take students to: a sacred inner space for physical, mental and spiritual balance.
Two pivotal moments for me: 1. I recall one of my first classes with a certified Anusara teacher. Knee pain struck me in a pose. I told the teacher and she quickly suggested a simple adjustment in the position of my foot. The pain vanished and I could feel the energy move freely through my leg and up into my pelvis instead of being blocked at the knee. I was deeply impressed that with such a simple, straightforward cue, I could dramatically change my asana practice. 2. In Italy I found myself one day in an Anusara-insprired class – in Italian. I hardly understood anything that was said but I left that class and wandered through Rome with a wonderful lightness and strength of body and spirit. It was the most balanced I had felt after a yoga class in a long time. The energy behind the method crossed the boundary of language. This was the moment I knew I wanted to study this method.
It’s limited how much you can learn in the 90 minute class format. So I signed up for Immersions – intensive courses in Anusara Yoga. Through these studies I learnt how to safely move into poses, and how to have an intense yet empowering experience while remaining in them, as opposed to just “hanging in the poses” and hoping something would change through sheer repetition.
Where did the glimpse into this new world take you?
Once I got started, my enthusiasm for the method had no limits. I attended many Immersions, repeating the complete series four times. Each time I learnt something new and deepened my understanding of the concepts I thought I had already understood. I began inviting certified Anusara teachers to Munich. The teachers exuded in-depth knowledge, yet were at the same time warm, “normal”, approachable people. I had not previously come across teachers whose knowledge and skills covered such a wide spectrum of subjects ranging from asana, anatomy, yoga therapeutics to mythology and philosophy. I wanted the training that they had!
How did your teaching begin to shift as you learned more about Anusara Yoga?
Up to that point, I taught a fusion of the vinyasa and alignment elements that made up my own practice. After delving into Anusara through the immersions, I had a lot more information that I could access to support not only my own practice, but also implement to help students get into a better place in their yoga practice. I began integrating Anusara’s clear and accessible alignment principles into my classes. Quite immediately, the students practice “exploded” – people were getting break-throughs and making such great progress. For example, people with hamstring tears were suddenly doing pain-free forward bends. Lower back discomfort would often disappear immediately once the alignment was applied. People would come to my class for the first time, their first Anusara experience and comment afterwards, “This was the first time I did a yoga class without back pain!” The therapeutic effect of the method became very clear to me.
What key element of the practice led to you to eventually become an Anusara teacher?
Deeper knowledge of the method was leading me and my students into this new world I mentioned. My body and the students’ bodies where opening with ease and strength in the poses. This ease and strength seemed to flow naturally into our emotional and mental states. I not only gained a new asana practice. Through the tantric philosophy of the method I also gained a new outlook on life.
The Tantric philosophy facilitates the shift in the physical practice. It is a very inclusive way of viewing the world that for me, at the point I was in my personal journey, was exactly what I needed. Coming from a previous profession that demanded perfection, I didn’t need more austerity or discipline. Mentally and emotionally, I was done with focusing on my shadows and problems. The tantric based ideas I learnt and that form the basis for Anusara philosophy where like a breath of fresh air. The skies opened up, the horizon seemed so much broader and I gained a new perspective on many things.
How do you understand the key vision of Tantra?
The key vision of Tantra is that consciousness pervades all of existence. Everything that exists is Consciousness expressing itself. If you start trying to see things in this way, it changes your whole attitude to life.
To me Anusara is a wonderful method, a tool that facilitates our understanding of the one Consciousness expressing itself through us that it is less theoretical and more experiential. There is an energy which pulsates within us and when we open up to it and become aware of its subtle flow, we start to feel more connection to ourselves, to other people, to our environment – to everything. We get a microcosm experience of what the macrocosm is about. The physical practice helps me understand in some intuitive way how I fit into this complex mystery of existence.
Thank you Barbra for sharing your inspiration!
Barbra will be teaching at the Inside Yoga Conference in Frankfurt from October 26th to 28th.
For more information about the upcoming Anusara Immersion with Barbra please contact Inside Yoga.
Anusara®yoga Immersion I
15-20 November 2012