It Is The Practice That Teaches Not The Teacher

Practice 2013

I have taught Ashtanga for years now and have trained in it extensively. I know the practice beyond the postures just because of the practice itself. That is what I’m teaching.

I know some “Ashtanga” teachers who do not practice it and therefore do not know the practice as a practice. They do not know the intricacies of it.

These teachers bow to the pressures of students’ to add postures which do not belong in the series, make it harder or easier by changing the posture rather than the intensity of the original posture itself, and let go of the rhythm of the class to appease those who just want to give up or make it easier so the ego can feel better. This is to the detriment of the practice, Ashtanga.

I have had great difficulty teaching Ashtanga after these teachers because students are not being educated in it.

It is the nature of the ego to make things easier – to stay in the status quo, to not push boundaries or get out of our comfort zone. But what is practice if it is not doing that – it is just exercise. It isn’t yoga if it isn’t challenging you to observe your need for: comfort, perfection, placating.

Yoga doesn’t placate – the teacher decides to do that and then it is just exercise. And don’t be fooled, just because you’re in a class that kicks your ass because it’s fast and you do every difficult posture in the yoga spectrum, doesn’t mean that it is challenging your ego – in fact that feeds your ego as well. The minute you say – oh look at that shiny thing – that’s when the ego is engaged.

I challenge you to get really bored in your practice – to strive for something else besides a good ego fix. Yoga is about personal, spiritual growth. It is to stretch you in a different way. The way that is most beneficial. Flexibility in every aspect does not necessarily manifest only in the body. Just because someone can bend over backwards, doesn’t mean that they have cracked the code of yoga. If it comes easily to you, I challenge you to find a place where you have to work for it.

Christine xo

SPRING CLEARING – Meditation and Yoga Session


SPRING CLEARING  4 week Meditation and Yoga Session

At Restless Spirit – Toronto!

Starts: Sunday April 26th – 9:30-11:30am for 4 Sundays (NO class Victoria Day Weekend)

Give yourself the opportunity to tune yourself into the season of Renewal and Revitalization! Come join me for 4 weeks of yoga and meditation to clear the senses and open up the body and mind to Receive the Richness of Spring into Summer!

Please go to our FB page for more info!

Restless Spirit Hours the Week of December 16th…


Come in for a visit and let’s chat! We’ll sit here and do cards or a session for your deepening. Or we’ll sit in meditation in the space right behind me and let Grace take over. Whatever it is that you would like to do, Restless Spirit is a very harmonious, spiritual place and you are welcome anytime to come talk with me!


I’m planning to be in the studio Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 11-7pm, and maybe Friday. Oh of course it all depends on the weather.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I have some appointments so I’ll be there for sure. Text me to make sure I’m available at the time you want to drop in.

Hope to see you all soon!

Remember to book your appointments with me here or email, or by texting or calling. Thx.

Yoga: It Is The Practice That Teaches Not The Teacher


Ashtanga yoga and Iyengar yoga have a few things in common:

1. They both come from a very traditional background and were developed from ancient understandings of yoga. They come from students of Krishnamacharya.

2. They have been taught without variation for decades (except maybe variation of teaching styles to accommodate level of student and time spent in class) and there’s a silent agreement that the form and process of the practice would not be altered. Meaning that: say the Ashtanga series would not see any variation or addition to the main idea and postures of the practice. Teachers knew way-back-when that yoga was not about them.

A lot of derivatives of these practices of yoga have developed since

because of this particular person’s predilections or perhaps that person’s understanding of what it takes to bring Yoga (not only asana) to the masses. Whatever the case, these yogas became things like Vinyasa, Jivamukti, Anusara, etc., and the idea of yoga (asana) expanded for better or worse. We see an explosion of these variations because Asana yoga has become very popular. As it becomes more popular with the “Thinspiration” generation it is more about the body and looking good than ever before. Yoga (asana) is changing because the students have changed.

Is There A Place For Traditional Yoga (Asana) Practice?

Being a fairly traditional Ashtanga teacher, the traditional and strict aspect of both styles can turn off newbie and young students, and those who are looking for self-gratification. I find that it is more the aspect of “I want to feel good about myself and look good” which seems to be paramount for most students these days. Precise instruction and conceptualization is not what students are looking for because somehow it makes some students feel “less than”. It sounds like criticism and doesn’t add the students’ narcissistic vanity of “how good I am for being here and doing this”.

I have found that these days having a good sweat is not enough. The classes have to appeal to the aspect of personal power. So the more challenging postures in a class the better.

I tend to balance my classes (this is when I teach Stylized Vinyasa) with a style of teaching that challenges and at the same time, I do not introduce postures like some arm balances or things like the splits, etc., unless I see that the majority of students are a little more seasoned and I’ve taught them for a while and gotten to know them. I have witnessed classes where teachers will put beginners into some poses at risk of injury without any concern and the students just love it. Conversely, I have challenged those who just wanted to really do a restorative class (wasn’t even advertised as one but they expected it (?)) and gotten my head chewed off because of it.

Just Teach As The Practice Dictates – Not What Your Or Your Students’ Egos Dictate

There really isn’t any way to predict students’ preferences anyhow, and I have to say that Iyengar and Ashtanga stay steadfast in maintaining the traditional way of teaching as much as possible – and no, I don’t mean yelling at your students or calling them names – that is the style of the teacher not the practice, and doesn’t come from the deep understanding of the practice. I mean that the process through which the student is guided is as much about the practice as it is about the student.

It Is The Practice That Teaches Not The Teacher

Iyengar must stay as Iyengar as possible. Otherwise it starts to get confused. I have taught Ashtanga for years now and have trained in it extensively. I know the practice beyond the postures just because of the practice itself. That is what I’m teaching. I know some “Ashtanga” teachers who do not practice it and therefore do not know the practice as a practice. They do not know the intricacies of it. These teachers bow to the pressures of students’ to add postures which do not belong in the series, make it harder or easier, and let go of the rhythm of the class to appease those who just want to “feel good about myself” to the detriment of Ashtanga. I have had great difficulty teaching Ashtanga after these teachers because students are not being educated in it.

Yoga Is Yoga First And Foremost

But teachers will try anything including risking the injury of their students because for some reason we have decided in this culture that yoga is about popularity and money instead of teaching simply and with humility.

It is the teacher’s role to teach their students about the practice beyond the ego-ic need to be appeased and catered to (Spa-like). The most essential teaching for us as teachers and for our students is that: It is not the practice that makes you feel bad nor is it the teacher’s responsibility. Feeling good about yourself is an inner conflict and learning that and coming to terms with it is revealed in the practice.

The teacher must teach the practice as it is because the practice is beyond the teacher and the student. It is bigger than them.


This post is an extended version of a comment I made to a post by a fellow Yogini. Here is the post:

Thanks Lucy.


The Difference between Sukhasana, Siddhasana, Padmasana

Traditional meditation cross legged sitting postures. The most done and most traditional used all over the world is: Sukhasana. The next is Siddhasana. And only rarely, Padmasana.

siddhasana3 SAMSUNG


Sukansana – sitting “easy cross legged” pose.

This is “easy” because it is simply sitting cross legged.

Siddhasana – sitting with toes tucked into thighs or set the feet side by side keeping the knees wide.

Siddhasana is a little more difficult than Sukasana and is a cross legged pose where you tuck your feet into your thighs (between thighs and calves specifically), or lay your feet side by side (on the floor in front of you) keeping the knees wide: a wide kneed pose. Which means that it can only be done when the hips are more open, and it can help open the hips even more than simply sitting cross legged.

Padmasana – sitting with feet on top of thighs tucked close to hips

Padmasana or lotus pose is the most difficult of the seated “meditation” poses. It is done by tucking the feet up on top of the thighs and close to the hips: a closed knee pose. Which means that the knees are closer together and can be done when the hips are much more open than the other two. It is not easy to get into and takes a great deal of practice to make sure the knees are protected.

These are important distinctions. All three are available to use – but please practice especially the last two, with a GOOD teacher – one who knows the difference between the three poses.

Once you practice all three poses, the differences and the benefits of each will become clear.

Please keep yoga asana names and terms correct.


 I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Quote…Martine Luther King Jr.

Yoga Classes with Christine U


Christine’s Winter/Spring Class Schedule

TORONTO Schedule – TBA

OAKVILLE Schedule:

WEDNESDAYS – Starts: February 6th to May 15th

7:15 – 8:15pm slower paced class with some Yoga Nidra – All Levels

8:30 – 9:45pm Vinyasa Core – Levels 1/2, athletes, etc.

Had to Cancel both of these classes. 

Please see Menu link “STUDIO/SHOP OFFERINGS” to find out what’s happening at the New Space!

The Process of an Ashtanga Practice…

The Process of an Ashtanga Practice...


I go through what’s on the graph in a split second every other day. 🙂 And it continues to be like that no matter how I advance in my practice. Ashtanga is a complex and very layered, deep practice. There’s always room for improvement, and there is always signs of improvement. It keeps me humble and it fills me with such joy too.

I love Ashtanga … no matter what.

I miss going to Mysore classes…

I miss going to Mysore classes...

I miss my Mysore classes. I miss the feeling of doing yoga in a room with people who are doing similar things. Although it was not a very communal atmosphere; everyone was there for themselves really. So was I. It just felt really good to be in your own practice with people around you. I practice at home alone. Different. I’ve been doing that for about 9 or 10 years now. I’ve become my own teacher finally. I thank all my teachers and teachers of the lineage for their work and guidance throughout the first 20 years of my discovering my own practice. I keep you in my heart.

Picture is from a studio in Boston. I just liked the interaction of the assisting teacher and the student. It was like that sometimes.

Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah – Yoga Sutra #2

Yoga is “the control of thought waves of the mind” – as one translation of the Second Yoga Sutra states. Mr. Iyengar puts it another way, “Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.” Sri Swami Satchitananda says it this way, that Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah translates as “the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.”

Stopping Your Thoughts

So . . . What now? What do I have to do? It sounds like your thoughts are like horses and all you have to do is build a fence around them and they’ll stay corralled and under control. Or they’re like a swarm of mosquitos; unlikable, pesky things that you shoo away with all get-out with some kind of fly swatter or bug repellent (the soy kind). Or perhaps more like a barking dog tied to a post and hopefully you can find the muzzle. Hmmm – I don’t know how to do that with my thoughts. Do you? Do I deal with each thought separately or do I lump them all together?

When this is taught in most yoga or meditation classes, sometimes the translation of the sutra gets lost and teachers and students tend to talk about stopping a thought or a number of them. I suppose it’s a Christian thing – you know, your thoughts are the sin or . . . it’s not about what you think but rather what you do with the thought, or it is what you think and what you do with the thought, etc. Confusing, isn’t it? It occurs to me that that must have been misquoted for centuries probably as well. Stopping thoughts always catches people up. After talking to a lot of people, it is the one thing that most fixate on.

The Thought About the Thought

What I’ve been taught and what I’ve experienced though, is that it is the movement of thought rather than the individual thought itself. But how do you stop movement? And is that what we’re supposed to do? The movement of thoughts to me is like the movement of air like wind. Sometimes it’s gusty, and sometimes it’s gale force strength. And other times, it’s a welcomed breeze. Thoughts flow constantly. Sometimes you take notice. Sometimes you don’t. So when do you take notice of thoughts? When they bother you of course. When someone says something that just gets under your skin, or when something happens and you have a strong reaction to it – like you feel embarrassed, or when you have to get or do something because your life depended on it. All worthy thoughts. How many times have you reiterated a conversation in your head hours, days after the conversation – or before the conversation has even happened . . . even if you didn’t want to think about it, yet there it is? What makes thought waves so powerful? Pema Chödron said that her teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche would say – it is not the negative, but it is the negative about the negative. In other words, it is not the thought, but the thought about the thought which turns into another thought about that thought and so on, that gets us into trouble.

My First Meditation Retreat

I remember my first meditation retreat some years ago. I am a self-declared ‘idea’ person; Give me a problem and I will give you a number of solutions that are pretty creative and sometimes even original. Anyway, I was at this meditation retreat for the first time, sitting Zazen. I was determined to do a good job. I went with a friend who is a seasoned sitter, and so I mimicked him the first day. I sat for 4 hours straight without moving. OMG – I was so sore for the rest of the time. In order to get through this, I made sure I sat a lot (it was a very relaxed atmosphere about your schedule to sit – still very strict about eye contact and silence.) I battled the whole way through. I sat and sat, and still my thoughts came, ideas about: how to fix the roof; what gifts I can make each and every person there because they are so great; how much I wished I could eat (I was fasting as well); how much I wished I could wash my hair (little facility to do that at this place), and how I was right about being eaten alive by mosquitos (it was a hot week in August). Afterward, I told my teacher I found out how I wasn’t as still and silent as I thought I was; I had always thought that I was a pretty laid back, quiet person. But I wasn’t. Maybe that’s why some of you don’t want to do the meditation that asks you to be still. It can be a pretty shocking, and an eye opening experience, and some of you may not want to know. Through my years of practice, I learned that thoughts will always come and go, but it is most certainly about how your organism responds to those thoughts.

The Paradox of Still Mind

“Yoga is the suppression of the transformation of the thinking principle”, as someone else puts it. Suppression? Hmm. I am not a fan of our potential interpretation of the word suppression. In psycho-talk, it can be interpreted as ‘swallowing’ or ‘eating’ your thoughts or words and that never ends well. How I have experienced this, “suppression of the transformation of the thinking principle” has taken a number of years of hard work to understand my reactive responses to external stimuli. Most of us react because we feel threatened by something/someone, or, we are anxious to prove something, and so on. What needs to happen is simultaneous to developing a Still Mind. Once you develop the Buddha Mind, you will realize that you are not separate and there is no threat (really) because there is no you. Before you develop Buddha Mind, you struggle with all the thoughts which anchor you into an identity that is separate. In other words, you need to develop Buddha Mind before you can transcend your reactionary self and you need to transcend your reactionary self before you can realize Buddha Mind. It is a paradox. Like peeling the onion, or chipping away at a stone. The only way through is to open your heart and risk the death that all of us are so afraid of – ego-death.

I always liked the word Transformation. Here it is talking about the transformation of the thinking principle. Transformation? Is a thought a thought if you don’t react to it? Like the falling tree in the forest thing – it is a conundrum. Is the mind-stuff just like scattered dust particles in the air and only when you start to collect them do they become annoying dust-bunnies? Is that what “transforms” thought particles into real thoughts, whether you organize them, collect them or corral them?

Steps to Yoga

Movement of thoughts is the undulation of the mind when it is reactive. Now we’re getting somewhere. It is not the thought that needs work, but the reactive mind. A lot of yogis/yoginis, swamis, etc. say that any kind of therapy is not necessary when you do yoga. But the key here is that you do “YOGA”, not little ‘y‘ yoga (mostly asana practice) or what it has now turned into because it is mostly a hedonistic practice to most – bhoga (meaning, doing yoga for its own sake for the appeasement of your own ego – i.e. look at what I can do). To do YOGA is to delve into the workings of your mind and how it effects your Being. Awareness is key, and to affect awareness, there needs to be some sort of dialogue (with a teacher who knows, a therapist who knows, etc.). But this is still not Wakefulness. Almost every yogi/yogini I know equates being aware of the present moment, of what you do or say in that moment, of how your organism reacts and so on, to and in line with Enligthenment. But this is not so. In awareness, there is still the “I” – You are aware.

The Heart Path

This is really only the beginning. The process that is the Heart Path will take you Home. The Heart Path really to me is about the final step toward Enlightenment and that is “Acceptance”. You have seen who you are and you accept it. You don’t try to hide, mask or manipulate it. You have seen the world as it is – truly, and you don’t run from it, or hide. And you don’t try to manipulate it. You have seen what other people are like and you don’t do anything to change them. You just accept them. You have seen the truth of the wild, untamed world of animals, vegetable, mineral and you see them for what they are. Without greed or fear in your Heart. There is only Love.

My friend says this – Yoga (Union) is just that. You need nothing else. We’re already there. Yoga IS the Cessation of the Thought Waves. That is Yoga. Yes, yes, yes I say. It is that simple.

. . . Yoga is the Stillness Within. Let It Be.

Walk with Grace.