Sunday, January 22

Michael Johnson Workshop | Yogani | Tampa, FL

LOCATION: Easy drive into downtown Tampa once again—in one of my favorite locations, SOHO. I literally turned down the final street and there it was —great signage, near the street, easy to see. I learned from yesterday and looked up to see if they have free parking. Their contact page says in the back, but there were a few spots in the front—I grabbed one of those and didn't get towed (sweet!). There was the Gasparilla Children's Parade going on today, so they had extra signage (I saw when I was leaving) to direct yogis to free parking, which was very kind of them.
COST: $45—This is a workshop, so I paid online last week to save my spot. They had a beautiful set up that appeared to take credit cards. I assume cash is ok, not sure about checks. This was a full weekend of workshops with Michael, so I believe there was a discount if you signed up for multiple classes. 
STUDIO:  Yogani's space is HUGE! Grrr, I just realized I forgot to check out bathrooms again—to see how convenient it is for people to change. I decided I needed to add that information to the mix, because I normally show up in yoga clothes. But yesterday three ladies showed up in street clothes and changed in the back room—which made me wonder how the changing rooms were, was there enough space for three ladies back there, what's the bathroom like? You know, standard information to help you know the space better when you arrive—less confusion gives you more time to focus on yoga, right? So... sorry, I promise to do this in the future. I have another place to check out tomorrow, let's see if I remember! Anyway, back to the space: Huge entrance/foyer where the bathrooms are located, opens up to the check-in space with cubbies for your personal belongings, a yoga store, informational table, and check-in/register. To the right there were two practice spaces—the lunar room and the solar room (our workshop was in the lunar room), and I believe there were more spaces to the right and back. Amazing! When I walked in one of the instructors was talking to a yogi about their Bikram classes—but they seem to offer all sorts of yoga—best to check out their class descriptions. The lunar room was a large studio (with all props included, minus mats), the back wall was all mirrors (which, for me, was a great option since I'm not a fan of mirrors—but some are, so during a class they could still turn around to see their alignment... or say hello to themselves in a forward fold... ok, I may have done that—what?), there was something interesting happening around the edges with curtains, but they were pulled up—not sure what was going on there, in the center were different lanterns, and one side of the room had windows with shades on them to soften the sunshine coming in. The walls are all painted neutral—it was really a clean—but not sterile in the sense you still felt like it was home-y—and serene surroundings. 
CLASS DESCRIPTION: Compassion Meditation & Yin Yoga: Meditation is an essential key to happiness. In this relaxing workshop we will discuss some scientific studies that demonstrate how people who meditate 30 minutes a day not only live longer and get sick less often, but report having healthier relationships and a higher quality of life. We will also combine compassion meditation with yin yoga, which is a gentle method that targets connective tissues and the hidden rivers of energy that flow throughout our subtle body and mind. 
INSTRUCTOR: Michael Johnson: Since he can remember, Michael's parents were his first and perfect Teachers in this life. In a way, everyone he meets continues to teach him perfectly by being examples of both how and how not to live. Among the many teachers who continue to teach him, he has learned from Sri Swami Satchidananda, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sharon Gannon, David Life, Geshe Michael Roach, Lama Christie McNally, Lama Marut, Kimberley Theresa, and his beloved partner, Stephanie.

It is his honor, privilege, and hope to return the kindness that so many people have bestowed upon him, by teaching the highest practices of Yoga to all levels of practitioners... responsibly, joyfully, and in a way that will help others achieve their goals in this life and beyond. 
CONTACT: Clearlight

Part of the Happiness is a Skill series of workshops (Vinyasa Krama, Compassion Meditation & Yin Yoga, and two Jivamukti Yoga classes), I am so very grateful for the opportunity to take one of the workshops: Compassion Meditation & Yin Yoga. If I wasn't in Florida to spend time with my mother (which has been great, by the way)—I would have gone to all these classes. Michael was a breath of fresh air, to say the least.

It's another workshop where as I  describe the poses and timeline of what we did—it all reads silly. It was more about the community that forms in these spaces, the experience we're all sharing, the quality time spent with each other and such an amazing teacher who is kind enough to share his knowledge with us. But I'll attempt to bring you the story of our class, versus the facts.

Michael started with a little background on Compassion Meditation—defining compassion and how it is scientifically tangible thanks to our neurotransmitters (I know, we were getting all sorts of schooling, which I love). Because of that communication we get immune system boosts, better brain functions (decisions), and basically a better grasp on reality—as I see it—happiness. I did not know this... there are 100 million neurons in the small intestine. So when you have a "gut instinct"—there's a reason for it, your second brain is communicating with your first brain... and hopefully they're in agreement. If not... I suppose you barf. And that's sad.

There were and order to which you focus during this type of meditation:

  • establish a sense of compassion with yourself 
  • organically take that same feeling and show it towards the people you already love 
  • then work out to people who you don't know—complete strangers 
  • then to people you do know... but upset you (as he put it, your Holy Teachers in life)
  • then to all at the same time

Michael said something along the lines at the end of class—when he was reviewing these five focuses to retraining the brain—thousands of years ago our ancestors would hear a noise in the brush and either get the heck out of there (survive) or not think anything of it (not survive). As a result we instantly take on paranoia in most situations. Or as what I'm constantly challenging myself not to do—assuming the worst in a situation. Then he said, "Why can't we treat every single person as if their our family? I mean, if you want to be literal, they are... at some point we have the same relative, if we go back far enough." It's definitely made me rethink how I interact with strangers, even more than normal.

For our Yin Yoga we did only a handful of (gentle) poses, but we held them anywhere from 5-8 minutes.

  • Butterfly (Baddha Konasana or Bound Angle Pose) for five minutes
  • Knees to Chest (Apanasana)—rock your knees back and forth—Michael called this hammock pose—for a few minutes to recover from the last pose 
  • Pigeon Pose, on each side (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) for five minutes 
  • Windshield wipers for recovery from last pose—keep your feet on the floor though, no need to twist all the way over from side to side—you're just loosening up the hips. 
  • Reclining Big Toe, on each side (Supta Padangusthasana)—straight up for five minutes, then open it out to its side for 40 seconds, then cross it over the other side for 40 seconds (keeping your hips connected to the ground)
  • Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani) for eight minutes—as Michael said, "I call this the Stairway to Heaven pose... and happen to know the perfect song that lasts for eight minutes." He walked around and tucked our blankets around our feet like a big sock—functioning the same as if you'd bind yourself with your strap, to keep the legs from falling apart. I have to add, this pose is regularly (as it was today) noted as one of the most beneficial poses for your body. 

Did I mention he would play guitar and sing to us while we held the poses? Oh I didn't? <smirk> What a talented man—I can't tell you how therapuetic it is to have live music going on while you relax your body into a pose. Complete bliss. And when he wasn't singing beautiful music, Michael would talk to us about different research results or ancient text or fascinating stories revolving around compassion. It was so inspiring. And we hold these poses for this long, because we're not relaxing the muscle (though we need that to happen first)—we're relaxing the fascia or connective tissue throughout the body.

One study—which I hope to find in one of the books he recommended to me after class (I had to read more of what he was telling us—I respond strongly to reading... I'm Ovo-Vegetarian thanks to The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. These books may be just what I need to get off my lazy brain and do some meditation!)—what was I talking about? Oh yeah, the study I wrote down, because I liked it so much. There is research going on about heart communication. If you are within 10 feet radius of someone else... your hearts are communicating. Think quantum mechanics—as in ripples. Ok, how often do we just think in terms of quantum mechanics, sorry, lol. Actually I was watching this amazing series with my Uncle (hi Steve!) over the holidays called Through the Wormhole (may have to own this one). It talked a lot about how if quantum physics current studies are true—we basically need to throw out all science we grew up learning out the window. Insane. I'm all over the place today—sorry. So! We communicate through waves. It's like the other story he told: If you take a bunch of grandfather clocks and set their pendulums to rock at different times... in a short time, those that are close to one another will adjust and swing with one another. Ladies, you may be familiar with this when you have a group get together for a long period of time and your cycles all start to match up. This sort of communication happens with our hearts too. What an amazing way to connect with someone and not even know it. And if you spend quality time with someone... eventually your heart pendulums will sync up. Which makes my heart pendulum smile.

Another great tidbit he left passed on to us—was the class Tal Ben Shahar teaches at Harvard. Apparently the most popular class taught at Harvard in all its history. It's a positivity class, and there is a top five to being happy (easy, right?):

  1. Accept Pain—it's going to happen, there's no avoiding it 
  2. Stop Texting People When You're Having Dinner with Your Friends—aka, spend quality time with the people you interact with each day 
  3. Thirty Minutes of Exercise Everyday—mental and physical 
  4. Practice Gratitude
  5. Do Less

I'll leave you with that—because that alone is an amazing lesson. If you have the opportunity to spend time with Michael Johnson, I highly recommend you take it. He oozes genuine kindness—enjoying his connection with every person he interacts with. It's incredible to watch. I had to chat with him after class, because I wanted to ask about these readings he was referencing. I, of course, dorked out... it's like talking to your favorite band after you watched them play. Just a nervous energy that makes me say stupid things... or not even think to just be normal and introduce myself. <blush> But he didn't miss a beat—asked my name, gave me the name of the books to read (first two in the list below, the others he mentioned during class), and wished me safe travels. Thank you Michael, namaste

People/Books Mentioned: 

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