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July 15, 2011

A Playful Approach to Zen and Yoga

Letitia Bartlett and Kansan David Zimmerman invite you to breathe, open, and unravel from grasping and imbalance into freedom and equanimity with Iyengar yoga and Zen in their upcoming retreat, Return to Balance: Yoga and Zen.

Letitia has been teaching yoga for 15 years, is a graduate of the San Francisco Iyengar Institute, and explains a bit of her philosophy of yoga and its interplay with Zen and even the performing arts below.

Why the emphasis on returning to balance?
I get so many of my ideas from studying mime and circus. Balance is something I know a lot about because I was just walking on my stilts [in a performance] for the Fourth of July. It’s interesting that people think of holding balance but, actually, holding doesn’t usually work very well. It usually works better when you have a looseness and some flexibility. Honestly, that’s why Zen is a wonderful style of meditation, because it’s about reinventing every moment. I’m interested in trying to find a neutrality as a place to come back to. That’s a basic idea of mime: you do a lot of work with a neutral mask to try to understand the universality of the human experience, what are you without your personality? What are expressions of fear, anger, joy, and sadness without a personality stamped on it?

How have Zen and clowning influenced your yoga practice and vice versa?
At this point of my life I am trying to pull all three together. The idea in both mime and meditation of stripping away, peeling away layers of yourself…To keep looking underneath…These are lifetime practices. I am doing yoga but also the yoga is doing me. You put yourself in the pose and then get out of the way and let headstand or shoulder stand work through you, trying to understand the pose without gripping on it. What’s triangle pose doing to me now? What’s half moon doing to my hip? [It’s about] creating that kind of balance and remaining open and present.

What is the style of yoga you teach?
It’s definitely Iyengar based but my performing arts background and studies in mime and circus have informed my approach. I’ve also made it fun. We do some group balancing which is really fun. I’m very inspired by acro yoga (partner acrobatics); you use acrobatic principles to feel light when you balance. It’s fun, it’s not serious. I have a playful approach.

Join Letitia Bartlett and Kansan David Zimmerman in their retreat, Return to Balance: Yoga and Zen from August 26-28.

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