By Andrea Bertoli • Originally published in Vibrant Wellness Journal
The Esalen Center, a holistic retreat center in Big Sur, California, is home to an array of alternative educational programs. Esalen offers yoga, cooking, meditation, massage, classes and retreats to fulfill their mission of leading personal and social transformation. This September The Esalen Center is hosting a Yoga and Creative Writing workshop featuring John Robbins, the author of Diet For a New America, and celebrated Anusara yoga teacher Katchie Ananda.
The workshop is designed for everyone, whether you are a seasoned yogi or a beginner, and for those interested in writing as a career or a pastime. In the Workshop, you will find support, inspiration, and practical tools to gain greater authorship over your life, and to more fully and passionately inhabit your body, mind, and spirit. The Yoga and Creative Writing workshop will,
“alternate sessions of Anusara yoga with creative writing exercises and opportunities. Participants will get immediate and personal feedback and suggestions from John about their writing, and deepen their yoga with Katchie, using the five principles of Anusara yoga. The goal is to find one’s unique and authentic voice and dharma, on the mat, on paper, and beyond.”
In case you’ve never heard of this wonderwoman before, here’s a bit about Katchie:
Katchie is an internationally-recognized yoga and dharma teacher whose leadership in yoga and social change prompted Yoga Journal to name her one of five top yoga teachers making change in the world. She has well over 10,000 hours of teaching experience spanning 25 years as a full-time yoga teacher and trainer. Studying extensively with, and often working alongside, a number of world-renowned teachers and schools, Katchie is certified in Anusara, Jivamukti, Integral, and Ashtanga yoga by Richard Freeman.
An avid student of Vipassana Meditation, she has studied closely with Jack Kornfield, her Buddhist teacher for over 15 years and offers retreats and day-longs with senior dharma teacher Wes Nisker at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Esalen Institute. She is the co-founder of Yoga Sangha, now Mission Yoga San Francisco, a studio in San Francisco renowned for its focus on practices to awaken the heart. She works with authors and activists such as John Robbins, Julia Butterfly Hill and Milena Moser and is dedicated to raising awareness about human and animal rights, the environment and social justice. She has brought her humor and stories to conferences, festivals and workshops all over the world and is loved by her students for her authenticity and whimsical wisdom. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband Joshua and dog Leelou. Stay in touch with her on her website.
Vibrant Wellness Journal had the privilege of interviewing Katchie Ananda about the workshop, and this is what she had to say!
VWJ: Can you tell me some more about your work with the Esalen Center?
KA: Esalen is one of the oldest, committed spiritual places in this country and I love teaching there. For the native folks who lived in this area, the hot-springs were a sacred place to do their rituals and healing practices. To continue this legacy, feels like continuing a long and sacred tradition.
VWJ: Have you worked with John Robbins previously and/or how did you decide to teach this together?
KA: I have. John and I have known each other for almost 25 years now and have been dear friends. Our collaboration came out of this deep friendship and the natural kinship, respect and love we have for each other.
VWJ: What was the impetus for the workshop?
KA: John and I do this special workshop once a year to bask in each other’s presence and to let other people share in the special collaboration we’ve developed over years of working together. We’ve found that the work of going back and forth between yoga and writing is a wonderful tool to get in touch with who you really are. I’ve taught yoga for 25 years, and John is a NY Times best-selling author whose books have changed the world. Our collaboration simply arose out of the joining of these natural gifts we have, and our desire to share them with a group of people.
The weekend lends itself perfectly to finding what really matters to you. The world needs people who have woken up and have learned to listen to their inner voice, sometimes referred to as “The One who Knows,” and then are able to bring it back to their life and make a difference.
VWJ: What do you hope participants will get out of the workshop?
KA: My goal for participants is to have them realize that they don’t have to fight against their own body. We don’t do yoga to “get somewhere”. We do yoga to listen and give our body a little time to see what it needs – just as we would if we were to check-in with a good friend. Everybody always thinks yoga is about stretching. I actually teach yoga quite differently. My motto is: “Liberate your body – but stretch your mind!” I help my students to build a relationship with their bodies and emotions that once established, may support them for the rest of their lives.
The writing helps the student to stretch the mind, to break out of habitual patterns, to be creative and expressive, to help see what really matters to us and how we want to spend our time on this earth. Participants will come out this weekend refreshed, inspired and hopefully with a new vision of where they are going and a new, kinder relationship to their body!
VWJ: Are you able to put these practices into play in your own life (and how do you do this)?
KA: Yes, as a matter of fact I am working on a book as we speak! And of course I “liberate my body” every day. My commitment is to show up on the mat for this sacred communing with my body and respond to what it needs. That’s it. I used to think that the practice was to achieve mastery over my body and that this mastery would lead to enlightenment. Now all I want from my body is its support, so I can become the best, most authentic person I can be in this life time. It’s all about having my body as an ally so I can be up to something bigger in the world.
VWJ: Will any of the workshop materials be available to those who cannot travel to Esalen?
KA: Hmmm, I never thought about this – our work is really intimate and it is a great opportunity to get such great, personal attention from the both of us. But who knows, maybe one day it will be available in some other form.
VWJ: Next steps in your work?
I am committed to finishing my book and to spread my message of how to do yoga differently. I see a direct correlation between how we treat the earth and how we treat ourselves. Today yoga is often used to “sell” an image – forever young, flexible, healthy and perfect. This impossible ideal is dangled in front of students like the proverbial carrot. This makes me sad as yoga truly is for everyone and can become a sacred refuge in the storms of life. I want to help change that paradigm, so we can see our bodies and the earth as the sacred and wise entities they are.
Thanks, Katchie, for spending time with us and sharing your gifts. Much luck with the workshop.
Want to sign up for the workshop? Check it out here.