Me, Myself & My Higher Power Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 3

Magic Takes Guts

35 min - Talk


With great guts and rawness, Dana shares the story of how her yoga has evolved over the years, and how through investigation and while still firmly rooted in tradition, she finally learned to dance to the beat of her own magical, authentic drum. You will feel inspired and brave.
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Dec 07, 2015
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Magic takes guts. You gonna try that with me? Magic takes guts. One more time, magic takes guts. (laughs) I'm so grateful to spend the time to share the way that, I always loved being near my teachers so that I could learn their process, get a window, get even like a a whiff of how they stayed on their practice, how they stayed on the mat.

How do they keep showing up? It's always been an inspiration to me. I remember running up to so many different teachers, including Erich Schiffmann and saying, I think he'd been practicing for like 16 years, and I was like, "How do you do it, "how do you keep showing up, how do you stay on the path?" And he kinda swung his arms to the right and said, "When I wanna move this way, I move this way." And then he swung this way and he said, "When I wanna move this way, I move this way." And that was huge for me because when I first came to the practice to my practice through my teachers, so many beautiful teachers, I didn't get them, that what I was getting from each teacher was their practice. Like, what they were giving to me was their practice. I didn't totally, it's okay.

I was so happy to be in class and so happy to be having this experience of which happens, you know, bring the body and the mind follows. Bring the mind and you douse your life with spirit. And so I was having a spiritual experience and what felt like a spiritual awakening to me. And I was moving like all these great teachers and then I felt like what would it mean to move like myself? Mr. Iyengar gets to move like Mr. Iyengar.

I can practice with Mr. Iyengar or Iyengar yoga but I can't really practice Iyengar yoga. 'Cause Mr. Iyengar practices Iyengar yoga. And I always loved, and this was hugely helpful, helpful to me and gave me incredible permission, which I needed, that Mr. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois had the same teacher. That was like wild for me because the same teacher taught these two teachers that brought yoga to the west, the main influence, the main yoga that we get here came from Pattabhi Jois, ashtangi yoga, and from Iyengar yoga, Mr. Iyengar. And so that was the yoga that really was what we were first introduced over here.

And that they had the same teacher and that they taught so differently was immediately the invitation to be like, okay, we could have the same teacher but we can begin to listen. And so the yogis, like they didn't have books. The rishis and the seers and these cats that wanted to know God, that wanted to be liberated in their body, that wanted to feel God's presence in their life they didn't have the books. This was their Bible, their encyclopedia. Which wasn't wasn't far away, it was their body.

And this became the way in to this path to wholeness and to discovering through the body the possibility and discovering that the movement is absolutely the medicine. In my understanding, that there's this feeling that the yogis wanted to feel God, the divine, the quieter the mind (exhales) the happier we are. And I know that's what I experienced through this incredible movement and so I didn't know, I followed my teachers exactly the way that they said to follow and then I followed their footprints almost perfectly much like the way Twyla Tharp might follow Martha Graham's moves and learn them so completely, so dedicated and then when you're ready you take that foot, you make that footprint yourself. You make that first step yourself. And this lineage the teacher of Pattabhi Jois and Iyengar yoga and Iyengar is Krishnamacharya.

And so right when I was having like, I don't even know what mid-life means but I was having a lot of doubt and I was having a hard time staying inspired and staying on the path and I'm gonna talk more about gonna share a little bit of my journey with you and how I found an architect, how an architecture or a container of a practice allowed me to explore form as well as formlessness. So I was losing a lot of friends to injuries and or getting married or going back to grad school and what happened a lot of the times was you start teaching 20 classes a week and your personal practice falls away. And so I started to get that having a personal practice was so key so I was running around and taking classes and I wanted to have a personal practice or what is often called saguna, a conscious spiritual practice. That was like top on my list, I didn't know how to do it. And so you always meet those, have those moments happen that start to, like create that richness and that potency for you to like, get closer to the thing that's really important.

Like the longing for it brought me closer. And there was an article that came out from Anne Cushman and it was From Loincloth to Leotards. And it talked about Krishnamacharya and his passion for the prince, the prince's passion so I'll back up. During the 1930s to like the mid 40s, the prince of Mysore was a very physical guy and he had gymnastics and wrestling going on in Mysore in India in the south. He reached out to Krishnamacharya to reinvigorate yoga, in India, can you imagine?

We think like it's just happening all the time. It wasn't, people were looking to the west. Like, "What are they?" The people in the east were looking to the west and the people from the west were looking to the east, isn't that always the case? And so they were less passionate about yoga and the prince was like, he wanted to really bring the, you know, bring it back to life in a fresh, vibrant way. And so when Krishnamacharya was the yoga master that was invited to be that person to bring yoga back to life so to speak.

Like the way, any time in our life when we go through something we feel like we wanna have more life in our life. Yoga was still existing but it had fallen away from popularity. And so Krishnamacharya came to the came to this hall where gymnastics was going on and wrestling was going on. And what he did was he included it. What, western gymnastics and western wrestling in the vinyasa krama?

It's often called vinyasa krama, krama means like you're, each, one step leads to the next. We'll talk about sequencing and what is good sequencing and how does sequencing feel in your body and how do you begin to sequence and what's good sequencing? And so this thoughtful, progressive way that you move in the body was something that, a phrase that I had never heard, vinyasa krama. And what I didn't know until I read this article was that, like the donda push ups, chaturanga, and the way Iyengar used the ropes on the wall to come down into triangle or walk up and down the wall into a wheel, all of this was really birthed in the 1930s. So this, if you look at any old text you're not gonna see surya namaskar or you won't see a lot of these standing poses and warrior poses that are such a big part of the practice.

They were really born out of, almost like um, the practice, I feel like it's often a baton like, "Here's what we came up with." The yogis are like, "Here's what we came up with," and they're like (whooshing) "now it's yours, make it yours." You know, and the yoga comes to meet you to meet the times and the times are changing. And so it's like, "Well this is what we came up with. "Tag, you're it," you know, and you're like, "Okay." And then what do I come up with? Well I practice and I've always felt like there's as many yogas as there are all of you. There's as many yogas, like the yoga that comes through you and the yoga that comes through you, that's all the yogas that are born through you.

You're made up of mantras and you're made up of mudras and you're made up of asana and you're already made up of all of these things. Like, all that you have all of the divine ingredients inside of you and then you have to trust that. That might be like, the part that's like, "What, I'm made up of asanas? "They're already, I'm already, "all of this is already inside of me? "I just have to like pull it out of my navel "like out of my nobby?" And, and that's what you do, you know.

The same that if a writer sits down to write 1,000 words every day or a painter paints, there's no dance without the dancer. (chuckles) There's no yoga without the yogi, so you, you know, you create it or you open up to creation so that you can make art with your body. How awesome, right? Use what you've been given to unleash or uncover and explore what's already inside of you. And so, what helped me so much with Krishnamacharya was that I had been following such a specific way of moving and then I was like, "Oh my God, "he included the donda push ups, he included this." He was like, "Include everything." And so it really allowed me to include what I love and I love moving and I love music and I love playing with musicality. Like when you go see a a performance and you marvel at the dancer on stage, that their movement, it's like they're making the music with their body.

So you're having music inspire the movement. Like some mornings I might move and I start hearing something and put that on or I might put the music on and then that will inspire my movement. And so music has always been such a big part of my life and I like it big and I like it loud and I like it bold and I like it poetic and, and beautiful, I like it all. And I love poetry, so I bring Rumi and I bring Mary Oliver and I love Mick Jagger and I bring Mick. So I start to include, like I love tai chi, I did tai chi and kung fu for many years.

So I love the fluidity of one movement into the next where there's almost like, there's no separation. It's not like one pose and the next pose. There's this fluid dance from one shape into the next. And so that became inspirational, this one shape dissolving into the next and the in breath dissolving into the out breath. And love, you know, fear dissolving into love, and judgment dissolving into awareness and, like into the witness and that shape shifting that takes place like on the other side of darkness is light and that both can be there.

Like we don't have one without the other and so, and watching, even Twyla Tharp talk about look, you know walking into a room, a white room and she's about to choreograph a dance and being like, completely like this raw, white room. Excitement and then like, "What am I gonna do? "How is this creation gonna come through me "again and again and again?" Like apparently every time Barbra Streisand or great singers go to sing they think their voice is not gonna be there. And so the only way to keep trusting that and showing up, which is this last mudra is vajra predoma, which means to keep the faith and keep the trust and so I almost have to turn it into a verb, like you're faithing. Like you're faithing with your practice and then that's how the listening happens and the staying happens.

And it's, I'm not trying to come up with anything new. I'm really like, "I wanna be myself and I wanna see "how I wanna move, if I wanna reach this way "or that way, how does that roll?" And so I started almost like, you know when you're, like when you're born and you start on hands and knees, like, like you're crawling on hands and knees and that's the first chakra. Like your foundation, finding my connection. And so the architecture that's being revealed in this conversation in our gathering today is this architecture, the skeleton, right like you see a skeleton, let's say even if you go shopping at the Gap and you buy the same jeans that I do, you're probably gonna funk them up a little bit differently whether you like, rip a hole or drop the waist or cinch it real high, you're gonna make it your own and so triangles existed, you know, like a lot of these shapes existed and but the way you move in and out of them or you might be inspired you know to start with those shapes and you don't know what's gonna be born from them, you have to keep showing up in them, like when I marvel at Picasso, you know, each time that he paints he started with a foundation, he started on his hands and knees drawing still life. But now when you look at a Picasso you're like, "That's Picasso." Because his style was revealed.

As he got to know himself, as he kept staying with himself, that's the magic takes guts. The guts is to keep showing up no matter what. And in staying, that's how this doorway and the word dervish, which is also a big part of this architecture and lotus flow, dervish means doorway. I always thought dervish was like a leprechaun. (laughs) And dervish means doorway and the turning, and a big part of the flow is this turning, not only from front to back but it's this place where human and divine meet. It's the sacred merging into oneness.

And what is turning outside of you is what you're not. Not who you think you are but who you really are. And then the turning is this returning home. It's this dissolving into love. So these shapes merging from one into the other is this dissolving.

There's like a beautiful line when Rumi says, "Dissolve me like sugar, this is the time." Like this dissolving and this, shatter yourself until you dance. Like shattering who you think you are. So the dance has that effect, like in every ritual there's always the dance, there's always the dance and so I wanted to, my background was like, I changed my license not so I could drink, I changed my license so I could go dancing at the disco. (laughs) That's how much I love dancing. It was like, "I'm gonna change my license "so I can go dancing at the Milky Way." Just so you know, the name is called Milky Way. And so I love dance and I love speed and I love momentum and I love this turning and I love this dissolving and the shape shifting and so I started to put that in there and the poetry, my mind on its own is like, goes south of the border.

So I need to uplift my mind and reading poetry I feel like the sufi poets and the bhakti poets, I feel like they just pour sunlight into my cup. They're like, they just pour it in and I need that, I have to reach for that light. I even keep a book, it's called the Gift by Hafez, Ludinski did the translation, the Gift, it's a golden book as well. And it's uplifting and the mind on its own, like it needs to be uplifted, that's why mantras and mudras and these shapes become this, all the parts are so great but it's the whole that comes together to create this feeling of wholeness and I've often felt like, separate from you and separate from you and, I separate myself from myself and so it's been a journey to stay and to, faithing and faithing in this journey. Some of the teachers, the new teachers will often ask me, they'll say, "I don't feel "like I'm qualified to teach yoga." And I'll say, "Well, have you suffered?" And they're like, "Yeah, I've suffered." I'm like, "Oh, you're so qualified." (laughs) 'Cause you know, the suffering is the motivation for your path.

If you didn't suffer, if you were already happy, joyous, and free you wouldn't be like trying to, like this hide and go seek game, right? Like seek and then you find and then you kinda lose your center and then you, you know, find it again and, creating that balance for you and, the foundation. So starting on the ground was like okay and then getting your, you know, kind of rolling myself up like, "Okay, well I'm not sure "what's gonna happen, I had to be willing not to know." And then the practice began to build very naturally on its own right through the chakras. From hands and knees to coming into downward dog to coming up into standing poses. And at first the practice started very like, in one direction, like I always did all the standing poses like I learned in one direction.

And then with time, not planning the canvas out, started to move and shape shift. (inhales and exhales) Into the back of the mat. I couldn't plan it out, I had to keep showing up each day. Like I can look back over many, many years. Like if you were to slice out like, a year of Picasso's paintings and you thought that was only his work, like he showed up each day.

Like God loves you, there's a Sufi saying, God loves you when you work, but he loves you even more when you dance. (laughs) So then I started moving front to back and then this became more second chakra right? Creative so from the foundation, the creation. The watery, creative expression of the practice. Peaceful warriors and derving around from the front into the back, devotional warrior. And all these poses and then I was singing to Kali so then Kali was creative. (exhales) And I wanted to get from peaceful warrior to oh my God, that came through one day and so I rolled back and called it rainbow warrior.

And then I hit OMG and then I wanted to chant to Ganesh and so Ganesh was born, and so that was like, none of it was planned. I was like, "Okay, keep showing up." And oftentimes I had to show up, like, you know, get a call that your father's in the hospital and I'm on my way, you know, on my way to see him and then go teach a class and it was like those first three ohms I knew were for like, for me. And through the tough stuff and the great stuff, having this consistent conscious connection with God. With gods, with all the gods. Even the gods forget they're god. (laughs) You know, they have to be reminded.

There's a great line when Hafez says, "You are god in drag." And so every day it's like removing the veil that keeps me from seeing and knowing and the movement has always been a way in. So then moving up that container, then it's like the twisted poses. So then it became like a big part of lotus flow, where this container was this moving and this dervish and front to back and this turning and this moving prayer. And the higher chakras became, it literally just went up from your feet first, second, third, now you're in your your relationship with yourself, right? The first chakra's like your relationship with your tribe.

Now you're up here with your relationship with yourself. And your inner strength and also a power greater than yourself. So then you get into twisted poses. Or the revolve poses. So it became more neutral poses.

Utkatasanas and warrior threes. And utthita hastas, and starting from the big, big open poses, all those creative poses, peacefuls, callies, artas, all are big hip openers and they flow really easily from one to another. So that's the big flow sequence. When you start to get to some of the more neutral poses and the revolved or parivrtta poses, those are sometimes more isolated. So we're moving up, we're in the third, third forth, up in the heart, right?

Then back bendings, right? So you get a neutral in the front and twists, other poses like that. The pyramids, part of, parsvot. Revolved artas, could even be extended and then you build those progressively one step at a time. So that the first pose isn't like, coming up into like, "Come into bird of paradise." You know.

You take it step by step, and of course you're moving in your own body time 'cause everybody has a different background, different life experience. Some people could fly into a pose. You might need those steps to take you there, which is so great because that will really inform your sequencing. If I wanna get to that pose, let's say you pick what sometimes is called a maha pose. Maybe your whole practice that day as a discipline, as a fun challenge is like, "Hmm, I really wanna get into this pose." Maybe you'll explore your whole practice to move in the direction of getting your feet behind your head or playing with a deeper back bend for you that day.

There are wonderful, creative ways to keep you focused and excited and turned on about your practice. What's, you know, it's explained in a Joel Kramer article. It's one I read early on and we can re-read any day. Like, we could read it right now together. Is that sometimes what happens is you come to the physical part of the practice and you progress pretty swiftly, like, can't do crow, can do crow.

Can't stand on my head, can stand on my head. And all of a sudden, after like this massive spike of an incline, you level out. You're like, flat, right? And it's in that period, it's kind of, can seem like it's the dark night of the soul, or like, or maybe I need to go do kickboxing or like, you think it's something else. But that's the toughest time to stay.

And then you have to ask yourself, what are you practicing? Like when you practice yoga, what are you practicing? So some of those poses fall away but something else is there that's even richer. Like, you're not your successes and you're not your failures. You're something much more than that.

But it can seem, with the feedback of the asana practice, when, if you've got the handstand practice, well then I am my handstands. When those things fall away from you, you have to dig deeper. And that's what's being asked of you when you plateau. And that's when sometimes people run and that's why the invitation is to stay. Yogi Bhajan, I studied Kundalini for many years.

A lot of the big breath movements and the mantras and apparently his last words on his death bed or his transition, "Do your sadhana." Last thing he said. So from these revolved utkatasana, neutral buzzing around a little bit with you here. Ones, revolve poses. We move up into back bends. Into the fourth chakra.

Heart openers. All kinds of them. What will often happen in this architecture is getting super long, maybe doing some hand stands, some forearm stands so that after all that big twisting it's really fun to do back bending after twisting. And you might find that, "Hey, I like doing twisting "before back bending or after back bending" and I remember another time when I had mentioned to Erich Schiffmann, "Hey, how have you stayed on the path?" "When I wanna go this way I go this way, "when I wanna go this way." 'Cause I was always told if you don't wanna do three wheels, do them anyway, and you know you're told certain things and you forget like, how vast yoga is and that's their experience, right? There's as many yogas opinions as there are yoga teachers.

So I can honor that opinion, but I still didn't know that I had all the ingredients to move like myself, to make it my own. And honor that lineage of transformation. Like, be rooted to the lineage which Krishnamacharya also was the first person to ever teach women, to say that, so you sense that if he was including gymnastics and wrestling, he was infinitely innovative. He was saying, "This is an innovative practice. "This is a creative practice.

"The heart of yoga lives inside the heart of you. "Now tag, you're it, you create, "now it's your turn to create." Otherwise yoga just lives in a book, right? And so doing those inversions and getting really, getting the spine super long is an awesome way to get that length after the twisting, or you can, you might find you like twisting, going right from twisting into back bend and I remember asking Rodney once, "Hey Rodney, what do you do?" Rodney Yee. "Hey Rodney, do you do like headstands before "shoulder stands or shoulder stands before headstands? "Do you twist before back bending "or do back bending before twisting?

"Do you (speaks gibberish)." He goes, "I don't know, just do them all "and see which one you like better." That to me, 25 years ago or 20-something years ago was like, "Oh I'm the soul scientist. "I'm gonna investigate." That's what yogis do. Yogis investigate. (laughs) It was like not even, Oprah hadn't come up with her aha moment but I was having those all the time. And those are the things that kept me around. And so then I would move into, if I didn't do inversions at that moment I might get really, really long in salabhasana.

Salabhasana's that one like this where you can have your hands down or like (inhales) these babies. Because getting really, really long was another way to like lengthen the spine. Oh I'm gonna back bend, those back bends, right? You're opening your spine even deeper from your feet, but definitely from your, deep into your groins all the way to your shoulders and beyond so that big back bend, I wanted to create that length in my spine after those twists. And then other poses like dancing camels, all these where you open up started to come through, and playing with the sequence I'm gonna actually hit this in one of the Yoga Anytime sequences where coming from a crescent lunge, moving into gate pose rolling out into star gazer, maybe nabbing the back foot.

Turning that into a pigeon. You might grab the back leg or take it down here. So it gave me, rock some of these in between. And there's times I move more slowly in the practice and I like getting the energy going. (inhaling and exhaling) And I like speed so I include it. (laughs) Moving on my breath. (inhaling and exhaling) That merging, take care of the knee as you come around.

(inhaling and exhaling) And the movement brings you into the stillness. It's like the sound that brings you into the silence. The movement brings you into the stillness. (inhaling and exhaling) So I kept the I have found that just happen naturally again and again. Started on all fours, got up on my feet, got those rhythmic suryas going.

One thing that happened that was really fun is I always loved that rhythmic surya namaskar 'cause it's so, it's such a great pranayama. It's like inhale arms up, exhale come forward, inhale step back, exhale downward dog. It's like when you're, seated pranayama practice is an advanced practice. An easier, more accessible pranyama practice is surya namaskar, it's like (inhales) you're right into the breath and the movement. So I remember one day getting out of the shower and I also love that there's the same simple movements that repeat.

The sun rises and the sun comes down and then it rises again, you can't always see it, right? But it's always there. And so I got out of the shower just like I was born into the world, put on some big music and I started dancing a little bit from side to side. And then this was born, it was called my creative namaskar. So this is called, I call this one love.

You can get up and follow or you can. And I move on my breath and the same movement will repeat one love and then I might make it mine and then depending on the song I'd have one love, and out to the side and then I might take it one love, OMG. One love, feet together, one love, OMG, one love, feet together. And that became a fun way to express that celebration. Surya the light, nama to honor, to celebrate.

And I'll tell you, like, sharing the creative namaksars, people have fun with these. Like in fact once I start, they don't stop. And I took those from side to side and then it got me to the mat. 'Cause you know how you're gonna move in the winter is different than how you feel in the summer. And when you're in love you come to your mat and you're walking on your tip toes.

Everybody knows you're in love and you're like, "Oh, I can't wait to practice." You know, like, how you feel when you're in love is different than how you feel when you're just out of a breakup. And it's gonna keep mirror, like your practice is gonna mirror the world. That's what it does and so like, rather than push away like, "Oh, I've gotta get to the top of my mat and do my." Like I try to listen and trust that it's gonna look different on different days, it's gonna usually follow this architecture. I'm gonna start on the ground you know, and then I found the mudras, the mudras found me. (laughs) I don't think I found a lot, I think that we find each other. And the magic is the repetitions, like just staying, staying, that's the guts.

And I started to do isolated mudras and then I started listening and noticed I like threading them together. Taking garuda mudra, isolating it, and then I was like, "Wow." And it isolated separate lotus, or vajra predoma, which can land on your heart which is very sweet. Or in your lap. And I was like, "Oh I can, these can flow together." Like this became my way to create and feel connected like, first it feels like I'm separate from God when I get on my mat, and then we start like, flirting (laughs) and like stepping on each others' toes and there's a relationship there. And the relationship, it takes time for creativity to trust you.

Right, you're not gonna get to your mat the first day and all of a sudden (whooshing). Right, like, creativity has to trust you. The trust is built between you and this relationship with this presence and so then I started to flow with the mudras and have that be a way to to create another way to flow. Which was great for my mom, for example, who thinks, "I can't do yoga." I'm like, "Come on, mom, hook your thumbs. "You're already flying, you're already free." (laughs) So that's the, that's a hit on some of the turn on.

If I were to never share this practice from me into the world I would have this relationship with God in my life. It would be enough. That's how big the blessings are. Magic takes guts, family. You gotta keep showing up, never give up and always let go.

I've always wanted to feel God working in my life. God's presence. This is how I feel it. It's not a reunion, it's not a union, it's a reunion. (laughs) Yoga is a reunion with who you really are. This is the reunion.

Loving you, loving this life, namaste.


1 person likes this.
im speechless,im touched , thank you!!!!!!!
1 person likes this.
1 person likes this.
dear dana, thank you very much!! that was so healing and illuminating on so many levels!!!!
1 person likes this.
Absolutely beautiful and eye opening. Thank you. Loved it. Namaste
2 people like this.
Namaste Lovers...thank you for letting me be your divine guide. Let me know how I may serve you best as I film more of these in may. Love your Devoted, Dana
I was feeling a little depleted & after this, I feel full again. Sometimes I need a mirror to reflect back to me what I already am. Thank you for being that mirror today.
Thank you - you have inspired me to be me.
Thank you🙌🙏
Very beautiful. Absolutely touched my heart today. Thank you!
You have re-inspired me. Thank you Dana.
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