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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 58 “ON THE FIRST DAY of a teacher training program at my stu- dio, I tell people that teaching yoga is a bodhisattva path,” says Cyndi Lee, author of the best-selling OM Yoga in a Box series and director of OM yoga in New York City. “To have the no- tion that you’re sharing yoga to help people is a good thing when somebody comes into your class who resists you, or has BO, or is talking on their cell phone. Instead of your usual ‘I’m gonna kick that person out,’ or whatever dark thought you might have, you go back to your intention and you get creative.” Lee regularly teaches a workshop called “Yoga Body, Buddha Mind,” and she has a book out of the same title. That said, Lee doesn’t consider herself a teacher of Buddhism. “I’m not a guru,” she says. “Things I learn from my teachers come out in my yoga classes because they’ve been helpful to me, but I’m not trying to turn people into Buddhists. When I teach yoga, I might talk about ‘not too tight, not too loose,’ or about loving-kindness. Yet if people ask me about dharma, I direct them to books and teachers. My teacher has authorized me to teach certain things, but I would never teach anything without asking my teacher.” Lee’s teacher is Gehlek Rinpoche, and he has given her a daily Buddhist practice that includes mantras and visualizations. “As far as sitting meditation,” she says, “I do it sometimes either before or after other practice, but mostly I do it after yoga, be- cause yoga takes me to a place where I feel content to sit still.” Lee becomes content to sit still, she explains, because the physical and emotional benefits of yoga give her grounding and clarity. “We think of exercise as strengthening muscles and bones, and yoga does that. But it does a lot of things that exercise doesn’t do. It works with your spinal fluid and your internal organs and systems—cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, you name it. A lot of toxins and obstacles get processed while you do yoga.” Lee’s yoga and meditation practices, however, are not really sepa- rate. “If you’re a meditator,” she says, “every activity is imbued with mindfulness, whether you’re washing lettuce or doing an asana. “I now feel happy and—dare I say—a bit mature about my re- lationship with yoga. For a long time I was influenced by other people’s ideas about it—ideas like you need to practice every sin- gle day for at least an hour and a half, and you need to include one thing or another. I struggled to do all that and felt guilty when I didn’t. I’m older now and I’ve had a couple of injuries, so finally I’ve taken my own advice: practice isn’t practice until its personal. It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what anybody else thinks. “So every day I get on the mat and see what I’m feeling. What is my breath like? What is my energy like? Where am I tight? Where am I loose? And who is this ‘me’ anyway, and who’s asking and who cares? All of that goes onto the mat.” Still Mind, Moving Body ANDREA MILLER profiles five teachers Cyndi Lee: Buddha Body, Yoga Mind DAVIDBARTOLOMI(left),AGATHAWASILEWSKA(right) JULY 58-65.indd 58 JULY 58-65.indd 58 4/25/08 11:42:03 AM 4/25/08 11:42:03 AM