Photo: ©Urban Zen Foundation
Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program
The distillation of knowledge into very potent effect
BY MAGAZINE EDITOR SUSAN MAIER-MOUL
Related Article Conversation: Rodney Yee, Part One
Related Article Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program Information and Open House
Website Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program Links to Application and Scholarship forms
Website Urban Zen 2011 Program Information Faculty, Schedule, Tuition, FAQS
In part two of our Conversation with Rodney Yee, Rodney speaks to the benefits and evolution that are the fruit of long term practice. We begin today discussing the refinement brought by practice to the delivery of palliative care and medicine.
Rodney Yee We’re aligned with health and healing in the hospital and that go along the doctors’ oath, which is to do no harm. We have to educate the practitioners to really learn how to do no harm and also to just apply the techniques that are simple, and it takes a while to learn how to simplify really. I mean any great artist will tell you that in some ways, it’s the simplification that’s actually very difficult.
Susan Maier-Moul That’s so the case! I mean, sometimes when people say “less is more” I think they don’t quite understand that it’s not just “any” less, it’s a particularly well-designed, and a specifically targeted less.
Rodney It’s a distillation. It’s like making something more potent. It’s not just like cutting something anywhere and saying “less is more.” It’s truly the distillation of knowledge into very potent effect. It’s like a poem, or it’s like a short story, it’s like the distillation of a lot of writing into something incredibly powerful in a short period of time.
Susan DIstillation of course is something that happens as we age and mature and applies to how we bring our practice in the world.
Living a life transformed by yoga
Susan I think this is another way that becoming certified in this way with Urban Zen as a yoga therapist is actually distilling an individual’s practice, refining the technique of bringing their practice to bear upon something in the world.
Rodney We’re really trying to do it within the yoga community itself. To be honest, the yoga community even though it’s got a wonderful sort of bandwidth at this point, it’s actually getting in some ways more decentralized off its original purpose. Not that we say it has to be centralized.
Susan But you’re talking about practice. The purpose of practice.
Rodney The practices eventually don’t become more contortionistic, they become more subtle.
And that’s the beauty of practicing this long is you start learning where to put your energy and where to put the emphasis. You know really how to point the instrument.
It’s fundamentally important. We really need to start teaching the younger teachers how to begin to do that. Because otherwise it really becomes really far off base. It’s a wheel that’s not trimmed.
Susan I hear you saying something about yoga therapy and having practice itself bear upon therapy and what yoga therapy can mean in the context of 20th century medicine.
Rodney It does take ridiculous technique, but the technique comes from ridiculous study. It comes from a passion. It comes from a real love of the art. That’s the essential heat and after that it’s really a lot of hard work. And it’s a lot of hours.
Evolving the practice
Rodney You have to be clear about where to guide that energy. And I think where the industry starts to go wrong, it sort of follows this tendency in our world to glorify the young. See I can say this now that I’m 54, so I can glorify my own age. (laughter)
But really it’s unfortunate that we really don’t have a structure that lends itself to listening to the elders in society because face it, at 51 you have a lot more perspective than someone who is 21. There are definitely wise young people, don’t get me wrong – but there’s a certain perspective that for the most part a percentage of people have at this age that they never had when they’re in their 20s and 30s, and even 40s.
Susan One of the things that neuroscience talks about now is involvement with the materials of your profession, and also what some theorists refer to as “extended mind.”
The sheer number of hours of involvement with those materials evolve a mind that is more effective with them. I think that’s what we see with yoga and with years of practice and with bringing maturity to practice over time. The longer you are exposed to the material of yoga the more refined is your ability to use those techniques for something.
Rodney Well, there you go. The more ability to see a broad perspective I believe, too. And the associations necessary with a larger environment. So that it’s not so centered around one’s own experience.
Susan What I really want readers to understand that this is not about somebody else. This refinement, this application of practice in the real world, the day to day world, that’s what we can all be raising the bar on, innovating and contributing. People who are in their mid 30s or mid 40s shouldn’t think it’s too late to do the thing they know they are here to do.
Rodney That’s good, and it’s not only not too late, it’s not too early. I was just talking to this man who is retired, and he’s been retired for a couple of years. He’s a very successful business man. He was basically saying that he’s sort of lost right now. It’s the first time in his life that he’s not putting money in the bank he’s talking money out of the bank. He’s married to a wonderful artist and I can see that she is not lost.
The whole scope of her life has this place to go.
Because of her deep internal quest of being an artist. It’s still very much an internal quest, especially at this stage in their life. For him he’s gotten all of his identity in the financial world. And now he has to in some way recreate himself.
A force to be reckoned with
Rodney To me it’s so important for people to understand that. If they don’t start having, anytime, whether it’s at 65 or at five years old, an internal life of some inquiry that goes on and can go on for the rest of their lives, then they’re going to build up habits. The longer you wait, the habits themselves are like a tidal wave. And if you wait longer and longer in some ways you have to have more courage to break the habit of what you’re considering important in your life.
And one has to ask in a yoga practice, at least in my point of view, you have to ask in a yoga practice, what is my energy being put toward?
Is it toward getting the perfect hanumanasana? Is it towards getting a perfect urdhadhvadhanurasana? That’s all fine for awhile, it’s all interesting, but you need to actually start understanding that precision in asana is basically training the mind to not only be in the body, but it’s training the mind to be precise in the body.
Susan I’m actually encouraged by the exponential growth of yoga practices and awareness of yoga. And I totally agree, people are not well informed of the immensity of what they are being introduced to, the power and efficacy of yoga especially conjoined with life itself, with living a practice over years. And of course there’s the opposite effect which you’re pointing out, the bankruptcy of living without a practice – that’s a devastating reality.
So you’re saying, as practitioners, we’ve taken that first step and we shouldn’t miss it – the opportunity and the bigger picture.
Rodney If you don’t understand that to be the actual, what all the practice is going towards, then you’re sort of in some ways just not utilizing the tool at all. And you’re utilizing it for something that will eventually boomerang on you. If you use it for acquiring a deeper posture, you know, you’ll have good results, but in the end it’ll be very disappointing.
And I really think that yoga practice is meant to have this life long curve to it and so I really feel like it’s up to the people that practice a long time to really begin to share that aspect of the practice so that there won’t be a big shift, it won’t be from black to white. People will realize, ok, it’s fun to do the postures on a physical level, but if it really doesn’t have a deeper introspection to it it’s going to be sort of an abrupt awakening, if you will.
Susan I hope people will understand, you know if it’s their path, they will really become amazing ambassadors of their practice if they had the skills gained in the Urban Zen program.
Rodney Well first of all we all talk about service. We talk at great length in these practices about serving. One of the great ways we can serve as yoga teachers obviously is in health and wellness. And we do that just by the nature of the practice.
But to understand the power of restorative poses and pranayama and meditation and beginning to highlight even more those aspects of the practice, really in tandem with being serious asana practitioners, then again, we’re not fully utilizing our practice to serve. Our training is encouraging people to explore these other aspects of the traditional yoga practices so that they can work with people really at any point in their lives whether it’s on their deathbed, whether it’s after an earthquake in Japan, whether it’s in a PE class at school, bringing attention to these other aspects of the practice, toward how to get people to be present.
Darshan from a truly mind-blowing faculty
Susan I really have to shout out the faculty. You guys have an outrageous roster! These are the best minds of our generation, as a poet once put it.
Rodney It’s just that. The people the program participants are going to get to study with because of Donna Karan, it’s like hearing inspirational speakers all the time. The thing is when people are good in their field, they’re good because of some reason. And the people that Donna Karan has collected are the best in their field. That’s exactly what it is.
When you hear Joan Halifax speak on death and dying, you will be completely changed for the rest of your life. You will have a little bit better tool about how to deal with death and dying, whether it’s your own family or with a complete stranger and you’ll have gotten something from the best in the world.
I don’t mean just the intellectual ideas. In some sense, you will literally receive darshan, that magnetic transfer, a vibration of forty years of experience.
It’s critical. I would rather spend four days with Joan Halifax than I would like to spend five years with a university professor on the same subject. It’s that kind of caliber. These people are just rock stars in their field for a reason because they’ve done the work. And why not receive the work from the top of the top?
Susan I will just add because I really think it’s true, these are not just people who have exposure to this for a long period of time, but they’re actually practitioners whose skill, the skill they have honed and refined, is to transmit.
Rodney That’s a really beautiful statement. That’s what they do. I mean, that is the work and that’s why they’re known. Because they can transmit the vibrancy and the essence of the art form. And therefore I just got the best seed planted in my field.
Someone in LA said recently to me, yoga teachers are a dime a dozen. So it’s like, where are you going to go? Where are you going to go with this knowledge? And the answer is, why not put another feather in your cap?
Why not learn how to utilize the knowledge even better and then why don’t you learn how to utilize it in confluence with – maybe you’re a yoga teacher whose going to use Young Living Oils in your yoga class. Maybe you’re going to do Reiki on people while they’re in shavasana. Maybe you’re going to learn something about nutrition that totally changes your life, and totally changes people, even your friends and family. Your community starts to have a different idea of what nutrition is.
So the impact of, on what your career can be within the field, if you will, of yoga, it’s going to expand many, many fold.
A career that counts, built on a unique program
Rodney Urban Zen and the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program is going to open new career doors for a lot of young people. I really feel like what we’re doing here is the next physical therapy of hospitals. It’s going to be that demanded in another five years. There will be many many integrative therapists in every hospital in the country.
Susan And empowered by working with the massively distributed medical care model, these intensively trained and certified new therapists will be at the core of a sea change in the delivery and policy of public health.
Rodney Yes, because I think that what we really have to do is learn how to live. I think we have to continue to learn how to appreciate this gift of life.
Any practice that allows us to be in the present moment allows us to more utilize the gift of life. Whether we’re sick or whether we’re well, that is one of the secrets we want to learn how to do every moment of our lives. So when we talk about health and wellness and the new paradigm of health and wellness I really believe it’s a bigger question, it’s like, how do we really live our lives?
I think that these are the modalities, the modalities we picked for Urban Zen are some of the most valuable and effective. They are integrated modalities, offered in combination that teach us how to do that.
Optimum healing, optimum living, optimum dying, I think we need tools for. We have fallen upon an amazing combination of tools that can do just that.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.