Looking backwards to move forwards

©SeanAmbrose_YogaWorkshop1 (Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor)Last summer I took a whole month out and travelled to Boulder, Colorado to study and practice with legendary yoga teacher Richard Freeman and his wife Mary Taylor at the yoga studio they founded, The Yoga Workshop. It was a 200 hour programme which included practice, teaching methodology, adjusting, philosophical study, chanting, silent meditation, anatomy and cadaver labs!

In other words A LOT.

My idea for this post was to start to share my notes from my trip with you all. But when I started to read those notes I realised there’s just SO MUCH!

I feel at this time of year it’s really easy to get caught up in leaving the old year behind and coming up with tons of great plans and intentions for the new year. And that’s not a bad thing. It can be inspiring to imagine we get to wipe our slates clean and start over again, to reimagine ourselves. To learn new things, find new ways of seeing and understanding and putting aside the stuff that’s not useful anymore.

But to be able to do that well, intelligently taking what we can from the good and the bad experiences of our year we need time to reflect, absorb and filter. To have the opportunity to pick things up, turn them over and look at them again and again. And again!

I don’t know about you, but I get so busy, (and when I’m not busy, too tired!) that I miss some of the really important stuff that’s wrapped up in all my experiences.

So this year I’m taking my inspiration from Janus, the god who rumour has it January was named for. He’s the god of beginnings, transitions and endings and is generally depicted as having two faces, one looking to the future and one to the past.

©SeanAmbrose_YogaWorkshop1 (Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor)I’ve got loads of notes but not nearly enough to recapture the essence of Richard & Mary’s teaching; there are scribbles in the margins of many of the books we studied from Applied Anatomy for Yoga Teachers & Students to The Principal Upanishads via The Science of Yoga and The Bhagavad Gita but still they don’t always make sense; there’s recordings of lectures but not enough hours to sit and listen again.

I’m going back to my notes, the scribbles in the margin and even the dubious quality recordings – to pick them up, turn them over and look and listen again and again and again. If I don’t do that, I don’t get to find the rich treasure hidden within my experiences despite having invested so much in being there. And I don’t get to use the insight gifted from all of my experiences to light my way forward into this shiny, new 2019.

But that would mean a very LONG wait for me to write this post!!!

So here’s what I’ve done for now…

I’ve picked out my favourite nougats of wisdom from Richard and shared a powerful acronym from Mary.

Richard’s Nougats

©SeanAmbrose_YogaWorkshop1 (Richard Freeman)On practice:

“Through the practice we learn to negate habits and patterns – yoga unfolds the mess!”

“We’re on a path of inquiry and relieving suffering.”

“It’s about the internal form in postures as a means of finding clarity.”

“Always do service to Mula Bandha. Allow her to manifest.”

“It’s more likely that when the feet are awake, Mula Bandha is awake.”

“Obstacles are sacred.”

“All the little sense perceptions, the citta vrttis, are sacred.”

On teaching:

“[When teaching] ask yourself why you’re helping someone. You’re teaching them [the students] to experience for themselves.”

“Don’t think you know more that your students. We’re just taking theories and knowledge and giving it to them with some intelligence.”

From The Yoga Sutras:

“Atha can also mean ‘finally got here now.’” [generally translated as now or right now]

“Think of nirodhah as meaning to suspend or the suspension of something rather than to stop or halt – like putting the clutch in, your wheels still turn and your engine’s still running but there’s no engagement…”

“Tapas can mean to burn or to SHINE!”

“Sthira, usually translated as steady, can also mean connected to the earth.”

About the Bhagavad-Gita:

“Patanjali’s not presenting a clear, systematic philosophy, he’s going right for the mess of having multiple philosophies. And we’re not supposed to totally agree with it all!”

“Possibly the purpose of Krsna is to provoke us.”

“Redefinition is the pattern of the Gita – Krsna continually reconstructs everything you think you know about him. Live comfortably in not knowing.”

“Understanding comes from the art of skilful action rather than just intellectual study.”

Other stuff:

“Opportunities for zero-experience [mystic experience] are happening all the time, all around us – we don’t just eat once! It’s the same thing with our experience…”

“Eternity is burdensome and endless whereas timeless is here and now…”

“True, deep meaning is inexpressible.”

“May all beings have all beings at the centre of their heart. Once all beings are in your heart, breathing is easy.”

“Tradition flips your brain like a pancake – if you flip at the wrong time it’s a gooey mess!” [Traditional texts often flip their teachings around]

Mary’s Acronym

©SeanAmbrose_YogaWorkshop1 (Mary Taylor)While talking about compassion and her work with good friend Roshi Joan Halifax Ph.D, Zen Buddhist teacher Mary shared this powerful acronym to help us dig a little deeper as we step in to help or serve someone, whether as a yoga teacher or a fellow human being.


Feel a sense of support from gravity, feel embodied and connected to the earth.

Call to mind your intention. Remember who you are and why are you’re here. Check your motivation.

Tune into your own sensations and then try to be in harmony with others.

Think carefully about what will serve others not what you can do. It may even be to do nothing, to take no action.

Establish a meaningful contact or connection.

PS If you’ve found this post of interest please share as other people you know may find it interesting too…

9 replies on “Looking backwards to move forwards

  • sue barclay

    Hi Judi
    Thanks so much for sharing all these amazing nougats of wisdom which you brought back from the course you took with Richard Freeman.
    I especially liked ‘On teaching’ and the words “May all beings have all beings at the centre of their heart. Once all beings are in your heart, breathing is easy ” … I breath easier each time I read these words … your blog is a great start to 2019 !
    Very best wishes for the New Year
    love Sue x

  • Mo

    Thanks for sharing this Judi really inspiring and also kind of you. Look forward to reading the extended version . I’m just beginning the Minded Institute Yiga Therapy training and so the journey continues. Maureen xx

  • Janet Hamill

    Hi Judi, I’ve just read this and it’s perked me up! I’m at work, busy and feeling the stress cloud come over so I paused and refocused with support from your post. I love GRACE! 🙏 Janet


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