Monday, October 17, 2011

Your Mind was Made for More than Thinking: Getting Online with Erich Schiffmann

(Erich Schiffmann)

"Don't make up your own mind. Use your mind to get online. Listen for what to do. And when you listen for what to do, the online knowing registers with you as being your common sense." (Erich Schiffmann)

"D o you think it's straight?"

My husband seemed to be asking in earnest as he stood about two inches away from the five foot shelf that ran lengthwise across the back wall of the study. Since I started school, there's been an increased effort to contain the books in my study with a library shelving system. And so building shelves has been a project of some importance. But it was clear to me that this shelf needed some structural help...and maybe even some inspiration. But I think he knew it too because he stood up before I had a chance to answer and said,

"I think there's no point working on this anymore today. I just can't seem to get online with it".

Erich Schiffmann's phrase 'Get Online' had clearly made an impact around our house. My husband loved Schiffmann's analogy of getting online as a way of understanding the silent mind, and has since adopted the phrase into his own vernacular. And we're not the only ones that have found that Erich's ideas stick. An internationally renowned teacher, Erich Schiffmann is a dedicated practitioner whose subtle classes are a reflection of a skillful, meditative silence, and an immediate, spontaneous approach to movement and group practice.

Erich Schiffmann is an accomplished American Yoga Master widely known for his award-winning video, Yoga Mind & Body, featuring actress Ali MacGraw. He is the author of a best-selling book, Moving into Stillness. He has been teaching yoga for more than thirty five years. At age 18 Schiffmann sent a handwritten letter to Jiddu Krishnamurti and was accepted to study with him in England. He deepened his practice of yoga with Desikachar and BKS Iyengar in India, and with Dona Holleman and Vanda Scaravelli in Europe. Yoga Society president Leighanne Buchanan called Schiffmann one of the "innovators" in Yoga Journal's fall 2000 issue. He has produced numerous yoga instructional videos and conducts yoga workshops and teacher training throughout the United States and internationally.

I stopped in on Erich, his wife Leslie Bogart (a registered nurse/yoga instructor) and their dog Bella at their home in Santa Monica, where Erich has a lovely yoga sanctuary off the back garden of the main house. Given that Erich is a maverick filmmaker, I should have known that our interview would likely be captured to dvd. A few of those clips are featured on the left hand sidebar of this site. Erich and I had a chance to chat about what it means to get online, free-form yoga, his years of study with Krishnamurti, Iyengar and Vanda Scaravelli, and everything else including discipline, creativity, surfers and Christ.

"Yeah. Well, my older brother gave me a yoga book for my birthday. And I remember thinking, what a stupid birthday present." Erich Schiffmann [laughing]

(Erich Schiffmann teaching)

"After about 10 years of disciplined practice, I just found myself not enjoying my yoga anymore. And I didn't like not being in love with it the way I had been. And if only someone had just said things aren't going wrong, things are going really right! It's that the discipline is working! The discipline builds your sensitivity... And once the sensitivity has been built, the discipline begins to dissolve." (Erich Schiffmann)