Ella Isakov, Yoga Editor: It’s a pleasure to interview Annie Carpenter, a yoga teacher based in California who has dedicated her life to the study, practice and sharing of her love of yoga, meditation and living one’s truth. Inspiring words on the path to freedom, seeking your authenticity and cultivating gratitude through a dedicated practice.
Parvati Magazine: You discovered dance and yoga in your teens, how did they complement each other? How did they each encompass the “expression of the soul” for you?
Annie Carpenter: Yoga and dance are inherently rituals. In the practices of Yoga, we seek to understand the truth of the Self and our relationship with all living beings, while in dance the ritual is a means to enter into an abstract communication between dancer and her audience. At the heart of both is vulnerability and truth, community and connection both human and spiritual.
PMAG: You are very open about having a strong daily meditation practice and seeing that as being the essential part of your daily life. Can you speak on how finding stillness is an asset for movement, be it dance, yoga or actions in daily life?
AC: Meditation is a gateway to uncovering current and karmic unconscious habits. It is a means to cut through, or drop below if you will, the perceived needs and wants that the constructs of time, place and ego lead us to. Daily practice over the years leads us to the freedom of the present moment, where vitality and creativity eclipse habit, fear and boredom.
PMAG: You have created an intelligent, explorative and alignment based yoga teacher training program “SmartFLOW Yoga” and you strongly uphold that your goal is to lead students to cultivate “transformation on all levels”. How do you inspire your students to live a dynamic and authentic way of life off the mat?
AC: An intelligent yoga practice insists that we inquire into who we are, body, mind and spirit. If the inquiry is held in patience, compassion and joy then knowledge becomes wisdom and transformation likely follows. SmartFLOW Yoga invites each of us to fully express one’s individual spirit: in asana, thought, language and relationship. We actively toss out the misguided tendency of yoga to be about achieving a singular shape or goal that is one-size-fits-all; rather we celebrate each individual and her path as it evolves. For example if we look at a particular Asana, we consider what that pose is asking us to explore– what message, what inquiry does this pose offer us? The SmartFLOW teacher will lead each student to find her own expression of that pose, whether it’s simple or a highly advanced pose. Whether Asana, Pranayama or Meditation, we encourage everyone to explore and create their own path.
The adage, “how we do one thing is how we do everything” applies here. If we can inspire compassionate inquiry, true and lasting change towards being a kind and loving citizen of the earth becomes inevitable.
PMAG: You have studied with many highly respected teachers, and have cultivated your own wisdom through years of study and regular daily practice. What advice do you have for yoga teachers today to maintain authenticity as a teacher, both on the mat and in life, to stay true to their inner voice?
If we teachers see ourselves as guides, then the more Yogic paths we have explored and the deeper we’ve traveled along these paths, the more we have to offer. Students can intuitively sense our commitment to, and experience in, our practice. They will trust us, and thus themselves, more, with the awareness of the breadth and depth of our practice.
Practice with the best teachers you can find. Practice on your own. Practice with love, gratitude and delight and be willing to surprise yourself!
Known as a “teachers’ teacher,” Annie Carpenter is the creator of SmartFLOW Yoga, an intelligent marriage of mindful movement with compassionate, wakeful alignment. Annie creates practices that are at once advanced and challenging, yet safe and playful. Practicing yoga since the 70s, Annie continues to be a dedicated student (geek!) of anatomy, evolutionary movement, meditation and classical philosophy. Annie is the author of RelaxDEEPLY, a CD of restorative yoga, and Yoga for Total Back Care,” a DVD produced by Yoga Journal, and several SmartFLOW manuals. She contributes regularly to Yoga Journal. An influential Teacher Trainer since 2003, Annie is based in CA and teaches globally.