Annie Pace Workshop

What a terrific time. I was pretty sick, still, so that was a pain. But I’m happy I went.

Friday evening: 12 participants. We were at a new Thai massage and yoga studio in old town Scottsdale. Beautiful space. Got there and Annie was already chatting with the students. Sanskrit Scholar was there, and The British Director, and Renaissance Man. Volleyball Guy came for this first session, as well. Also there: a Swiss massage therapist and his Finnish girlfriend, visiting from Mysore.

The first session was a few hours, and it centered around discussion points: “What is yoga?,” “What are the eight limbs,” “What are the gunas?” That sort of thing. Then we spent some time with the suryas, specifically in relation to setting the foundation for the standing poses.

I tend to be a slacker on the standing poses. I think it’s because all of my pre-yoga physical pursuits were slanted so strongly towards strength vs. flexibility. And in the case of weightlifting, which was a decades-long habit, it was strength plus alignment. So while I appreciate the subtleties of alignment, it’s never as fun as the pretzel-y stuff.

It was nice, though, to spend some time really concentrating on the alignment and the depth/strength of the early postures.

Illness note: Intermittent coughing and runny nose. Not too bad until savasana. Forget about lying down for very long. I was launched into a huge coughing fit, so left the room. The owner of the studio was very kind, and tracked me down in the ladies room to offer me some water. Composed myself and managed to get back for the final chanting and namaste.

A lovely evening.

***

Day 2

Morning session started at 8. We chatted some more (about the old days in Mysore, the tradition in general, etc.) and worked through the standing poses. The previous evening, Annie had referred to her reputation as a “tough” teacher, as a traditionalist, etc. She has a very strong energy, which feels uncompromising, but she is also just delightful and playful and… well, effervescent. If you ask her a question that she thinks deserves a “no” (“Do you think peoples should practice some of the early backbends of intermediate to improve their urdhva dhanurasana and help them learn to dropback?”), she’s going to come back with an unequivocal “no!” Aw, it gets into all that business about women who are strong and uncompromising, and how that strength gets “read” in our society (generally as B-I-T-C-H. Hillary Clinton, anyone?) and that really is a whole ‘nother discussion. One I’m kind of over, quite frankly. Let’s leave it at this: I walked away from these discussions feeling very clear about what Annie feels and very respectful of her devotion to the tradition of Ashtanga yoga. And I also felt very inspired by her delightful, open energy.

And on another note: it was very interesting to work so closely with a female teacher of that caliber. Physically inspiring in a different way than when I’ve seen the male “old school” teachers. Kind of a duh! realization, but the fact that Annie is a woman gave me a new perspective. (Yeah, I know, duh!— because I’m a woman, too.) The refinement of the body of the long-term practitioner is quite remarkable. And not in a way that feels socially familiar. What I mean by that is that I am accustomed to seeing bodily images in the media that are intended to be “sold” as “ideal,” and which are intended to stir a kind of envy or greed. And then that greed is translated into longings and products (“buy this outfit and you will look like her,” “buy this diet program,” “go to this gym,” “be a celebrity if you go to this nightclub,” “drink this beer,” “diamonds are forever,” etc.). The body of a long-term practitioner is refined past (and through) all of this static, through all of those social belief-systems. The only thing I can compare it to is the minds of the zen monks I’ve been lucky enough to know. They travel straight through the storm of “reality” and come out on the other side, refined and clear and free of the shared beliefs that tend to stick on our psyches.

Oops. Tangent.

Okay, Day 2, evening session. Mysore practice. Woohoo! Annie checked in with everyone to hear what their usual practice is, and then off we went. I wondered if an afternoon practice would seem weird to me, but it was just fine. I actually loved the fact that there was one teacher and no helpers. No community adjusting or “helping out.” I always feel very anti-hippie when I think like this, but I like having one teacher in control of the room. And boy, was Annie engaged. She asked us to ask for adjustments and help where we felt we needed them, so we did. LOTS of work for her.

Illness note: Another coughing fit in savasana.

***

Day 3

By the last session, on the morning of Day 3, everyone loved everyone in the room. LOL! Seriously, the energy was really nice. We chatted at the beginning of the session, then did a guided primary. Everyone was sad to see the end of the workshop, I think. We all sat around and talked for a good 45 minutes afterwards.

***

I am sure I’ll have more thoughts on the workshop. Got to get ready for work, now, though.

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6 Responses

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed the workshop. Frankly, the first time I met Annie she scared the crap out of me! Over time I began to see her softer edges but her dedication to the practice is fierce.

  2. Awesome.

    And the refinement of the body–what a cool observation.

  3. I totally agree with you about Annie. As you notice, and YM pointed out, there is a softness beside that fierceness. I respect her a lot–more every time I see her (went to two of her workshops last summer).

  4. hi – what a great post – thanks for sharing! I’ve been thinking of seeking out a workshop with a senior female teacher and now Annie’s on my list.

  5. I did my first workshop with Annie this past Spring and I love her style of teaching! She’s tough but with a heart. She’s an inspiration…glad you enjoyed the workshop!

    SD

  6. Hi Karen
    I love the story. Thanks for writing it. It kind of resonates with what I recall fellow practitioners mentioning about their experience of the workshop she did in Berkeley a few ago. She is a long term practitioner and teacher who has dedicated her life to the method and is strict. One appreciates her view, even if one might have a different opinion about certain things. And you kind of touched upon those things about which some of us might be less strict. If I had to wait until coming to standing from UD before being able to do the first poses of 2nd, I would be most frustrated. Not only that, but from a practical standpoint, a person like me who spends the day in front of a computer generating drawings is constantly doing forward bending, so 2nd series brings the relief of that by having an opening of the chest. Of course, so does UD. But you get my point.
    Cheers,
    Arturo

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