Sara Davidson Flanders

MY APPROACH AND MY BELIEF: I like to play, explore, sweat. I like to work hard and inquisitively and also enjoy the pauses between poses to savor the effects of the practice, becoming more aware of the juicy energy that pulses and unfurls through the work. I love a strong practice and building toward a deep and challenging pose. Rather than warming up with a flurry of sun salutations and quick movements, I sequentially, systematically, creatively build a practice that explores and refines these actions in various poses, so the muscle memory and capacity is ready when the apex pose is attempted. I move into this practice with a recognition of patterns and actions in the body that have to happen for the peak pose to unfold.  I'm aware of where the body tends to be weak, stiff, unstable, and I know actions to bring awareness and balance to prevent injury, pain, or energetic dullness. I believe these muscular and energetic actions and apex poses are vehicles for greater Consciousness. There are metapatterns that our bodies are illuminating to us: opening of the body allows opening of our emotions and wisdom; strengthening and stabilizing in the body vibrates and translates to a fortifying of the psyche and spirit. Our consciousness unfolds and awakens as we repattern our tightness and our instability. We create deep intimacy and courage in the physical practice and the true fruit of this practice shifts us into greater aliveness and compassion. This is my passion, my practice, my teaching. 

MY ASANA BACKGROUND: I took my first yoga workshop in 1992. I felt an instant recognition that yoga was going to be a major influence and presence in my life. I continued on and off practice until 1997 when my regular practice was deeply established, and I  began teaching prenatal yoga. Two years later, I took a 200-hr teacher training that catapulted me into becoming a full-time yoga instructor. I adored ashtanga yoga for its discipline and challenge and meditative quality. My joy unfurled in my exploration of vinyasa yoga and its creativity and dance-like flow. My meditative predilection enjoyed the more slow, internal hatha yoga approach (meaning the style that is often referred to by that term). But as my strong practice amped up, so did my injuries. Inquiries into approach left me believing that I just had to breathe more seamlessly. And after a series of challenging poses, I heard a pop and saw stars. It wasn't until a few days later that I felt the cumulative effects of my practice thus far. I developed so many back injuries that I was in constant pain and I could no longer practice forward folds, backbend or twists without excruciating pain. So what's a yoga teacher to do? I was led to deeper exploration and healing.

I sought the wisdom and teachings of some mentors that were studying precise alignment of the body in yoga. And through precision and frustration and a lot of patient perseverance, my body started to heal. The practice they taught me was called Anusara. When I was stable enough in my body to practice in a class, I went to study with Anusara's founder, John Friend. Through the principles of alignment and heart-based philosophy, my body strengthened, opened, stabilized, and felt free again. And so did my heart and mind. I became a Certified Anusara Teacher in 2007, after 7 years of studying with him, other Anusara teachers, and studying my body and its patterns. Teaching this methodology has brought me and many students tremendous joy and healing. My teaching blends biomechanics, alignment, and a rich foundation of philosophy.

 

MY MEDITATION BACKGROUND: I started meditating with a student-led group, back in my senior year of college in 1992. I really didn't have any specific technique or approach, but the daily practice of just sitting and paying attention to the quiet stillness and the steady rise and fall of the breath felt like a lifeline to sanity and happiness. Sitting quietly each morning brought me a sense of peace that carried through the day. The following year, I lived at Green Gulch Farm, a Zen Buddhist meditation center in California. I studied farming while learning the wisdom and practice of meditation in a residential setting. I developed a lifelong love and commitment to daily meditation as a doorway to my heart and my sense of purpose and meaning. I continued throughout my young adult travels to study and meditate with other communities and teachers. When I moved to Michigan in 1998, I reached out to the Detroit Zen Center to find community who found solace in the silence. And in 2003, I moved in and became the Residential and Program Director of the Zen Center. I underwent Dharma Teacher Training, and was transformed by thousands of hours of retreats and daily sittings. In 2006, I left that Center and that style of meditation, because I recognized that the approach no longer made sense for who I was and how I wanted to live. I didn't have words for it then, but I recognized the struggle. Since then I've understood that the training was renunciate in approach, and yet I wished to be in a family and work in the world- as a deep practitioner. 

So, I left and took refuge in my intuition and learned what it was like to meditate again, not from a particular technique, but from a simple resting with breath and presence. After a year of this coming home to myself, my dearest friend and colleague suggested I learn an approach to meditation from Paul Muller Ortega. And I did. I took his inaugural Entering the Heart of Shiva course in 2007. And I've studied with him ever since. This approach of effortlessness has been such a gift. In all the years of practicing, this style has helped me melt into the stream of Great Love in ways that bring deep healing and experiential understanding of nondual Consciousness. This is a practice for the householder- those of us who live and work in the world. This practice honors the sacredness of our physical experience and honors that our emotions, our senses, our body can actually be doorways to greater awakening, rather than hindrances or problems. 

MY LIFE: I live in Rhode Island's East Bay area with my husband, Corey, and our little son, Liam. We practice yoga and meditation in our home, and support each other's inner work. We're passionate about eating well and enjoying each other and our life together in our adopted home state of RI. I lead weekly classes in the Providence area, and workshops and trainings around the U.S. I can be reached at 401-743-9717 and saradflanders@me.com 

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