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I came home from a birth early morning yesterday. Two hours from the first contraction to the last, its speed required me to be extraordinarily receptive to what was happening moment by moment. Timing was everything. The trust my client and I had in each other made it work. I had been with her for the births of her first two children and I truly knew her. I’ve been connected with hundreds of women in this way now. Invisible threads link us together in a fantastic web. Two nights ago, the thread with this client was taut and glistening; I had packed my bag, laid out clean clothes, done my yoga and gone to bed early. I was ready for her. Two hours later, her husband woke me. From my place to theirs, to the hospital parking lot, triage and finally the labour room, we moved with focus and calm. In a birth so fast, the intensity of what’s moving is immense and we had the strength to receive it.
Grace poured down. I did very little. My client didn’t need my touch or voice. We barely spoke. She already knew how to give birth. And yet she wanted me with her. So did her husband. Why? My feeling is that it was for the connection we have. She trusted it with her life. In the web of it, she was free. Real intimacy is generally absent in ordinary society and yet it’s essential for birthing and dying and any other time of healing. As a culture, we don’t understand this and so we set up barriers to it with the expectation that then we can’t hurt each other. In the “health care” system, the idea of “professional distance” only keeps us aloof from understanding and the compassion that comes from it. A similar situation exists in the yoga world. In flight from the authoritarian or manipulative guru, students still practice these same gurus’ techniques. Throwing away the relationship but keeping its dysfunctional container makes no sense. The abusive teacher is not a random accident but the product of the broken masculine paradigm s/he was created in. The paradigm is the root of the problem. Denial of life is in everyone’s background, so we all walk with wounds. Whether they bring us deeper into our humanity or send us further away from it, depends on our relationship with ourselves. When the feminine principle of receptivity is brought in, we have a complete container. Our integrity is guaranteed because we are whole.
Autonomy is the natural response to intimacy. At the most primal level of existence, this is true. Only after nine months in complete union with our mother, can we penetrate the world. Two nights ago, my client stood alone while we stood beside her. In her solitude, she did the most intimate thing possible.
A piece of fiction that is true. Everything was made in shades of green and blue. She stood and leaned against the wall or over a bed, hips circling. Hot blood dripped onto the cold floor, circles within circles. The head pressed deep. The nurse asked her to come onto the bed. She said I’m coming. Another nurse arrived and set up obstetric tools. The resident looked like a twelve year old, the husband said after. His wife’s lips part, wet hair revealed. No one but mother and child are ready. Panting mixes with primal sound. Do you still imagine giving birth is sexless? Smell the ocean here. A world is breaking. Breathe earth and iron. Stop now. Let yourself soften to this, wet and warm, burning open, rising up. And she slips free, a fish swimming in air, unaware that the elements are rearranging themselves. Hush. Who are you? Silence. Then the clang of metal on metal, breath on breath. And she penetrates.
“You Don’t Need to Meditate” is the title of a blog post J. Brown wrote last month. It’s a provocative premise to throw out into the yoga community and the comments on it reflected that. J. and I both have Mark Whitwell as a teacher. That doesn’t mean we have the same experience of Yoga but it does mean we share principles of practice and trust the experience that arises from their application. So I thought J.’s post would be a good place to jump off of to share my understanding.
Here’s what I know: meditation isn’t something that can be done; it’s something that happens when the conditions are right. Meditation is the gift/siddhi we get when we immerse our mind in the intelligence that moves our body and breath. Meditation is not to become “conscious” because consciousness is what we already are and is something that is impossible for the mind to contain. If we try never- the- less, consciousness’ free flow becomes restricted. This happens when we aim to witness our experience, constructing an “other” that we can then observe. However, when we move fully into our experience, the boundaries we set up between ourselves and the rest of the world become irrelevant in the face of our essential limitlessness. This unfettered energy that is our life is the creative power of the Feminine. When I gave birth, it became clear to me that there was no difference between me and what was moving through me, utter strength realized in utter openness. I was the receiver and the giver of life, both. All of us, male and female, woman and child, are this source and force. Trying to separate from ourselves in order to become “aware” is a brutal act of disintegration and our integrity is lost in the violence of it.
Mark says that it is not enlightenment that any of us really want but intimacy. Intimacy is enlightenment though, not in the heroic ideal of being outside of experience, but in the real meaning of being at one with everything, even with what is unloved, our fear and dread, our sense of unworthiness and our shame. Intimacy honours darkness and the wisdom found when words fail and even the idea of love loses its meaning. Still, intimacy remains. It is our natural state, what Yoga calls sahaj samadhi. We give birth in it; we are born in it and we die back into it. Intimacy is love divested of the mind’s parameters. This love is what Yoga practice is meant to offer us, not unending bliss but a heart that is whole. Pain is a “given”, necessary for our security and growth. Imagining that we can live apart from pain, and not cause harm in the process, is craziness and yet this idea is at the root of all transcendent philosophy, to which conventional yoga belongs. Recognition of the sacredness of our simple existence is essential to our sanity and the preservation of our humanity. Spirit isn’t absent from blood and bone and the fire that burns in the deep of the earth.
The challenge for all spiritual traditions now, including Yoga, is to let go of the dream of enlightenment and fully embrace our lives and each other. This means embracing the Feminine. I read yesterday here that for the first time in history Tibetan Buddhist nuns are being allowed to write exams that will grant them the title of “Geshe” and give them full access to the teaching monks have always received, which includes “ethics in their entirety”. As if ethical action can exist when we stand removed from others and deny their equal worth! I didn’t realize that the nuns have continued to be so overtly oppressed. They “have to obey the monks, can’t give them advice, and even the most senior nun still has to take a lower seat than the greenest rookie monk.” This is in a tradition that has at its root the knowledge that perfection is the nature of all things and that meditation is effortlessly present when we come into Yoga. That knowledge though, has been obscured in the misogyny of Tibetan culture.
A similar obscuration of wisdom took place in India. Krishnamacharya did what he could to restore the Feminine to its essential place in Yoga practice. Technically, he understood that it is in the union of polarities that life moves. But he didn’t realize the full implications of this, that love and its clarity is our natural state. His former student and lifelong friend, U.G. Krishnamurti, did and explained that Yoga practice is only useful, if it is an expression of our innate power. Krishnamacharya admitted to U.G. that he had no experience of what he had realized, a complete surrender of the mind to life. I think it’s vital that our idea of Yoga includes U.G.’s understanding, otherwise we are functioning within the limits of a hundred year old Brahmin’s worldview. He had a brilliant mind but it never let go its grip on him.
In the pervasive denial of the Feminine that still exists in Yoga, meditation as an escape from ourselves will hurt sooner or later. As the revelation of ourselves however, meditation is life, sex and spirit weaving us into the heart of the world. “Real silence is explosive”, said U.G..
Learn the technology of breath and body that makes practice a movement into the heart of what you are: the nurturing force of life.
I’m one of a few teachers in Canada who is passing on this knowledge. It is a revolution in understanding that recognizes the essential power of the Feminine in everyone and everything and offers a way to live in wholeness and grace.
Yoga teachers and new practitioners alike will get what they need in a small group setting where individual needs are honoured.
November 14, 21, 28, December 5, 12 & 19
Wednesdays from 7:00pm to 8:30pm at Eka Yoga Studio, 473A Church Street, 2nd floor, Toronto, ON M4Y 2C5
9 hours over six weeks: $120.00
Registration is necessary: firstname.lastname@example.org; 647.748.4884
Red Thread Series
with Crescence Krueger
There is a ‘red thread’ of feminine knowledge that has been passed down person to person since ancient times. It leads to wisdom, a clear and compassionate understanding of life that grows out of an intimacy with experience rather than a separation from it. The following independent yet interconnected programmes give you an opportunity to become part of a lineage of teachers and healers who hold this thread, a way into love.
Heart of Birth Doula Mentorship May 2012- January 2013
“Relationship moves the life force, nothing else.” Mark Whitwell
If you want to be of real help to a birthing woman, you need to come into relationship with her. Then life moves with grace. Early on, Ina May Gaskin, the now iconic midwife, recognized the crucial role a woman’s relationships play in how she gives birth. Our work together will be rooted in this knowledge and the programme begins and ends in your relationship to your self.
A personal practice of breathing, moving and sounding connects you to the power of what you are: the tangible source and force of life. This connection is Yoga and it offers a profound understanding of the Feminine and a complete container for working with birth and with your own ongoing life. All other paradigms can be integrated into it, including the medical.
“At first, do no harm!” is the ethical foundation of western medicine and yet the high caesarean rate in Toronto is evidence that women’s power is restricted and much harm is indeed being done. In learning how to nurture a woman’s strength to receive life and give birth, you are joining a group of gentle revolutionaries.
For her life’s work, Ina May received ‘The Right Livelihood Award’ this past year. It’s known as the “alternate Nobel Prize”. Mark Whitwell is a deeply respected “teacher of the teachers” who is restoring the Feminine to its necessary primacy in our contemporary understanding of Yoga and Life. They are leading the way for us.
Because the heart of birth work is realized in intimacy rather than ‘professional’ distance, the structure of our relationship will be a close one. A one-on-one relationship with me will be combined with group process and coming into working relationships with fellow doulas, clients and the larger community. You will be well supported in your autonomy!
The programme is nine months long; it has a depth to its structure and content that gives you a whole understanding of birth and your role in it. You will know how to be with another and how to be with yourself, fully alive.
You will become a certified Doula through ‘Heart of Birth’.
Please contact me, email@example.com, for a detailed description of the programme’s content and structure!
Birth Circle Winter 2012
Birth Circle is a once-a-month gathering of women who nurture the heart of birth, found in the strength to receive life. Birth Circle encompasses us all, mothers, maidens, doulas, midwives, teachers, healers…come join us!
Yoga, sound work and discussion nurture our strength. In enjoying our fundamental unity with each other, we can be of practical help to each other. Relationship moves the life force, nothing else.
Saturday February 25th, March 24th, April 28th from 3:00pm to 5:00pm at the Winchester Street Theatre, 80 Winchester Street, one block north of Carlton, one block east of Parliament.
Fee: $20.00; bring a friend and split the fee; students $15.00.
Heart of Yoga Prenatal Teacher Specialization
June – August 2012 (80 hours)
Offers an understanding of Yoga in the context of the regeneration of Life. Practice is the nurturing of a woman’s strength to receive Life in order to then give birth to it. The heart of Yoga is expressed in her: Mother, Source.
For yoga teachers and teachers in training. An 80 hour programme, which satisfies Yoga Alliance’s requirements to be designated a specialist in Prenatal Yoga.
Please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org for more details!
Heart of Yoga Foundational Teacher Training
Beginning at the end of September 2012 (200 hours)
Please contact me email@example.com for more details!
Crescence Krueger has been a part of Toronto‘s yoga and birthing communities over the last twenty-one years. Her direct experience of Yoga began when she gave birth to her daughter and realized that we are all the source and force of Life, what the ancients called Shakti. It has continued through nineteen years work as a Doula, helping other women give birth. Her ability to integrate the wisdom of traditional midwifery into current birthing environments has been supported by a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. Crescence passes on the beautifully simple and effective Yoga technology she has received from Mark Whitwell. It restores the Feminine. She teaches and mentors yoga teachers and doulas and writes. Real relationship is at the heart of life and she is committed to working in a way that makes it possible.
In the wake of the disintegration of John Friend’s authority and empire, William Broad’s recent articles in the New York Times and Mark Singleton’s book a year or so ago, the question that everyone with even the mildest interest in yoga seems to be grappling with is, “What is yoga?” In the responses I’ve heard, the answer is absent.
Assumptions need to be put aside because without understanding what yoga is, attempts to practice and teach it won’t work and people will continue to get hurt. Whether they are in physical alignment or not, lying down or leaping through space, using props or just the bare floor, in heat or in cold, in an intimate group or a mass of hundreds, chanting Sanskrit or never letting a word of it pass their lips, studying ancient text or ignoring it, moving to music or in silence, working their edge or staying clear of it, eating vegan or raw or pure or whatever they feel like, paying fees or getting instruction for free, working with a teacher who socializes with students or stays aloof, who has thousands of hours of certified training or none, who is part of an ancient lineage or who gives no credence to the idea of spiritual authority, who has the anatomical training of a physiotherapist and the psychological insight of an analyst or who thinks only of light and love, none of this matters. What does is that you practice in a way that gives you the strength to receive… an inhale, a feeling, the movement of life. Its movement is yoga. Its movement is you.
This is obvious when you give birth. Then the vast intelligence of life pours through you in waves, bringing new life to light. Any distinction between you and what’s moving you dissolves. Coming into unity with your experience is the consequence of giving birth and it’s what yoga practice should give you too. Both activities return you to your natural state, sahaj samadhi, pure love.
In love, polarities merge. The polarities of spirit and sex and pleasure and pain are particularly fierce in a world that denies the inherent sacredness of life. Birth reveals it. We need to speak about the insight women’s experience gives us. It shatters dogma. What brings a person inside you is what brings them out: sex. The hormones that bring men and women to orgasm are the same hormones that control the birth process. While pain is part of birth, so is ecstasy. To give birth autonomously, you must leave your mental framework and enter the unbounded territory of primal experience. Then sexual energy moves, unconfined by cultural definition and the manipulation of self and other that comes with it. New life moves too and the sexual body and the spiritual body are known to be one. Every cell in blood, bone and brain vibrates in harmony with life’s descent. We are the source and the force of life, what yoga calls Shakti, so using yoga to make you somehow more spiritual is nonsensical.
Culturally, we are so very confused about love and sex. We set up huge obstacles to being in relationship and it starts at birth. The medical paradigm doesn’t understand how life works, only how to intervene when it doesn’t. In the face of drugs and surgery, mother and child lose touch with each other and their ability to be as one disintegrates. In a similar way, when yoga is misunderstood as a series of interventions that transform us into something else, something more beautiful, something more spiritual, they disassociate us from what we already are and become an assault on our integrity as life itself. We lose our selves.
It looks like we are beginning to recognize the violence and betrayal. But I don’t think the source of it is yet understood. Denial of life runs deep. It’s old and its craziness infiltrates every bit of us. Without a technical understanding of how to develop the strength to receive your life, any attempt to “do yoga” is not going to work. Adding beautiful words and concepts onto dysfunctional technology won’t help. It makes things worse, intensifying the sense of lack and longing that grows in the discrepancy between how things feel and how we imagine they should be.
Mark Whitwell has been an enormous help in my understanding of all this. What is missing in our collective understanding of yoga is a connection to life in all its beauty and pain. When UG Krishnamurti realized this, he called it his Calamity. It hurt to have his mind let go of its grip on his body, just like it hurts to give birth. UG insisted there’s no higher state to get to. We are yoga. Coming into love is heartbreaking. And the only sane thing we can do.
On her blog ‘Shivers up the Spine’, Priya Thomas writes about her interview with Mark Singleton, author of Yoga Body: the Origins of Modern Posture Practice. The interview was held before an audience (I was part of it) at the Yoga Festival Toronto a few weeks ago and was an exploration of how we are framing and re-framing yoga as it moves more deeply into world culture.
Yoga’s relationship with language is an intimate and long standing one. The Sri Yantra has the entire Sanskrit alphabet embedded in it. The first letter, ‘A’ , represents Shiva, the masculine principle. The last letter, ‘Ha’, arrived at simply by aspirating ‘A’, represents Shakti, the feminine. When ‘A’ and ‘Ha’ embrace, all of life is embraced too.
We can get physically tangled up in language though, bound tight by the cultural mind. Asana practiced as an imposition of mind over matter is the patriarchal legacy yoga culture is struggling with, whether it’s delivered in terms of spirituality, religion or exercise. In mind’s stranglehold, language loses its relevance. It no longer expresses our experience but controls it. Mark’s research documents the many permutations of mind’s imposition, present worldwide and through time.
An effective yoga practice untangles body from mind by digesting it. Words dissolve, vowels and consonants vibrate in our very cells and we speak the truth.
Understand birth, and you understand yoga, the fact that you are the source and force of life. Direct access to your power, what yoga calls shakti, is the gift. It’s your connection to this power that gives you a real ability to mother, heal and teach.
In learning the principles of breath and body that let the vast intelligence of life flow, a woman has the practical means to prepare for the complete integration that giving birth entails. These principles come from an ancient knowledge of life that Krishnamacharya was blessed to learn but that has yet to become a part of our collective understanding. Simple and safe, these principles lead to an experience of your natural state and the strong likelihood of an uncomplicated, spontaneous birth. Birth IS yoga.
An exploration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual transformations a woman goes through in the childbearing year will give you insight into her needs and will help you provide a space that nourishes her connection to herself and her community. The feminine force isn’t a concept, myth or metaphor; she is you and me.
Crescence Krueger passes on the beautifully simple and profound Yoga that she has received from Mark Whitwell. Her direct experience of Yoga began when she gave birth to her daughter and it has continued through eighteen years work as a Doula, helping other women give birth. Her ability to integrate the wisdom of traditional midwifery into current birthing environments has been supported by a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. Crescence teaches and mentors Yoga teachers and Doulas. Real relationship is at the heart of life and she is committed to working in a way that makes it possible.
BIRTH: THE HEART OF YOGA
with Crescence Krueger
An Immersion and Pre and Postpartum Yoga Teacher Training
June 4/5, 11/12, 25/26; Saturdays 2:30pm-6:30pm, Sundays 1:30pm-5:30pm;
and two private meetings with Crescence
at LiV Yoga Studio, 155 Liberty St. (King and Dufferin), Toronto.
Appropriate for anyone who is interested: teachers, pregnant women, doulas, midwives…the yoga will be adapted to you.
$645.00 + HST Yoga Alliance credits; certificate given.
contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 416.994.4566
Join vocalist and composer Wende Bartley and me! In the union of inhale and exhale, movement and breath, we feel our innate wholeness. By extending the breath into sound making, we readily resonate and open to a wide range of sound and healing frequencies. Directing our sound into the masculine and feminine polarity points, we celebrate our union with Source. Love isn’t something we need to find; it’s what we already are.
February 14th, 7:00pm to 9:30pm; Opensource Yoga (central Toronto;exact location given when you register); $30.00 Contact Inya: email@example.com
A Pre and Postpartum Yoga Teacher Training and Immersion: April 2/3 and 9/10, plus two private meetings
Understand birth, and you understand the very heart of Yoga, the fact that you are Mother, the source and force of Life. Direct access to your power, what Yoga calls Shakti, is the gift.
By learning the principles of breath and body that let the vast intelligence of life flow, you’ll have the practical means to prepare for the complete integration that giving birth entails. These principles come from Krishnamacharya; in the deep denial of the Feminine that still defines our world, they have yet to become a part of our collective understanding. They are simple and safe and lead to an experience of your natural state and the strong likelihood of an uncomplicated, spontaneous birth.
An exploration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual transformations a woman goes through in the childbearing year will give you insight into her needs and will help you provide a space that nourishes her connection to herself and her community. The Feminine Force isn’t a concept, myth or metaphor. She is you and me.
This experience has meant more than words can say. I am leaving today with a full heart, deep inspiration and an overwhelming feminine connection. Jessica Liebgott, Yoga practitioner and aspiring midwife
I don’t know if I can begin to express my gratitude for the love, incredible insight and passion you have shared with me and ignited in me! It is with a sense of connecting with something much bigger with myself that I walk out into the world with after this weekend. Amanda Montgomery, Yoga teacher and mother
Crescence Krueger passes on the beautifully simple and profound yoga she has received from Mark Whitwell. Her ability to integrate the wisdom of traditional midwifery into our current teaching and birthing environments is rooted in eighteen years’ work as a doula, helping women give birth, and a twenty year connection to Isabel Perez and Ina May Gaskin. Real relationship is at the heart of both yoga and birth and Crescence is committed to teaching in a way that makes it possible. She was on the faculty of the Yoga Festival of Toronto in 2010 and has played a variety of leading roles in the community over the past two decades.
Included are two private meetings, one before and one after our group gatherings on April 2/3 and 9/10, Saturdays 9:30am to 6:00pm, Sundays, 11:30am to 6:00pm. The one-on-one time is an opportunity to talk and to receive an appropriate personal practice in preparation for, and integration of, the training. Your own practice is the source of your effectiveness as a teacher and your power as an individual. Everyone, including pregnant women, is welcome.
Eight Branches Healing Arts Centre, 358 Dupont Street (west of Spadina) Toronto, ON, Canada
Fee $645.00; Certificate; Yoga Alliance CEU’s.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org 416.994.4566