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Interview with Annie Carpenter

“It is in choosing to accept your practice the way it is right now that you move from fear to freedom. Commit to the journey of yoga rather than trying to force your pose to look a specific way.”

- Annie Carpenter

It’s with this compassionate approach that Annie teaches her SmartFLOW style of yoga in Venice and San Francisco. If you’re lucky enough to take one of Annie’s classes, you will know that her teaching style is different.

Ahead of her 75 Hour Yoga Teacher Training at BodyMindLife next month, we sat down with Annie to find out a little more about her world-renowned method and what her students can expect…

The prerequisite question to start with: how did you come to practice yoga?I guess the secret is out… I used drugs as a teenager, and as part of the treatment program I was in we practiced Yoga. It was love at first practice. No looking back! (And yes, it’s still and always better than getting high on any chemical.)

What led the decision to move into teaching?It was a gradual shift from teaching dance (at the Martha Graham Center in NYC) in the 80s, where my Yoga practice was my refuge away from the intensity of the dance world, to beginning to offer Yoga to dancers, and then letting go of performing and teaching dance altogether in my 30s. I was fortunate to be able to teach Yoga full time right away in the mid-90s, which lead to leading Yoga Teacher Trainings in 2003. Given my love of movement, anatomy and kinesiology studies and on-going studies in philosophy, it all looks inevitable in hindsight. Looking back, in the moment I was following my heart and my slowly shifting daily practice. I am blessed and grateful for it all.

How do you teach?I often say that my job is not unlike that of an alarm clock—I use my eyes, my voice, my hands  and my intuition to help my students wake up and/or stay awake. Wakefulness is an ongoing steadying of attention on the present moment in a sea of kindness. In this state we call up our innate intelligence and wisdom evolves; we are able to build strength and know our own edges; we are fully present to our work without judgement or fear. My aim is to use specificity to gather attention, insistency to awaken, and love to create compassion. Students often tell me that they always learn something in my classes; that might be a new awareness about a pose, a juicy bit of anatomy, their own habits, or how to be a bit more forgiving with themselves..

Can you tell us a little about SmartFLOW and how it’s different from other yoga practice?SmartFlow aims to build and sustain strength and increasing awareness in our bodies, steady attention in our minds, and patience and kindness in our hearts. We choose something specific to dive into for each practice: typically a physical challenge which mirrors a philosophical or spiritual inquiry. The practice moves ever deeper in intensity whilst always asking each practitioner to make intelligent choices for their current body and mind-state. The practice always consciously winds down to a very quiet and contented place.

We’re so excited to have you in studio next month! What can students expect from your 75 training?A strong and specific daily practice each AM. We’ll spend the afternoons moving deeper into the poses from each Movement Principle —including a new one!— looking at how habits create "escape valves” or areas of sleepiness in surprising areas and in different planes from the highlighted focus. We’ll uncover our own habit patterns and work with precise Hands on Assists, to help our students awaken and balance the joints and free the movement of Prana.

Is there a particular student or teacher that this training is designed for?Anyone who loves Yoga and wants to practice intelligently for many years to come; and teachers who want to guide their students into strong satisfying practices with an eye to both longevity and inner awareness.

Are there any rituals you follow beyond asana practice that you could share with our students?I have a deeply satisfying quiet morning practice. It consists of pranayama and simple sitting in whatever mix I need that day. Also, I walk outside regularly.. being with big old trees and birds of many kinds is deeply therapeutic for me.


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