A Middle Path Method
The phrase "middle path" or "middle way" comes from the teachings of the Buddha. One of his many kind gifts to us was a recognition that living well depends on avoiding the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. The Buddha isn't the only person who has discovered this. His understanding on this subject is similar, for example, to Aristotle's "golden mean" whereby "every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice." All of the techniques I practice and offer are guided by this understanding, and are intended to help us realize it more and more fully.
My own practice has been profoundly influenced by the Hatha yoga and the Insight meditation traditions. The contemporary field of what we might broadly call bodywork, which includes massage therapies of many varieties, also play a crucial role in my practices. In my work, I bring to bear the the skills and understandings I have received from each of these deep wells of support for life. I blend and adapt them with the intention of guiding my clients and students to find their own unique way of embodying a felt sense well-being and peace. For the past few decades, yoga in the U.S. has moved more and more toward a “fitness” or physically-oriented perspective. While that approach meets the needs of some folks, fitness is traditionally a minor aspect of yoga - just one of the many wonderful tools yoga practice has to offer. In fact, physical well-being can rightly be considered a side benefit of yoga, rather than its main goal. A larger intention for traditional yoga practice is to free ourselves from suffering. In other words, we practice holistically to develop an independent sense of whole-being wellness. We do that with our bodies as they are today, with the middle path understanding to guide our efforts.
Our yoga classes often include chanting, breathing practices, self-care massage techniques and meditation. These exercises may not fall so much into the “physical fitness” category, but do work to help us discover our deepest sense of well-being and connectedness within life. My own practice has been strongly influenced by my longtime cultivation of both Buddhist meditation and bodywork therapies. Both of these influences flavor the way I offer yoga classes. Likewise, my practice of Buddhist meditation is quite naturally flavored by my yoga and bodywork practices. My offering of massage therapies, to others and to myself, is supported by yoga and meditation pieces as well.
The meditation classes I offer are largely from the Insight meditation tradition and the emerging MBSR tradition, in which I am most well-versed, and sometimes they also include time to stretch and move in ways that are informed by the yogasana practice. We also sometimes use a gentle self-massage techniques (usually for the face or shoulders) to help us establish presence in the body and set the tone for sitting practice. Through MBSR, I have come to appreciate the value of bringing the scientific method together with contemplative practices, and so I also rely on emerging research to help inform teaching choices, and to frame our understanding.
The massage therapy I offer is deeply informed by the Yoga and Buddhist meditation practices. These practices have been my main support in developing the skills of bodywork - deep listening, caring contact, and skillful intervention.
In short, all the group classes and private sessions I offer aim to meet the people who attend them with care and skill and to help them discover how to meet themselves in the same way. In group settings, various needs are accommodated by offering choices and modifications. The Middle Path approach has the benefit of being versatile - any of our activities can be vigorous and strong for the person who benefits from that, or very gentle for someone whose present needs are better met by subtly or simplicity. The middle path approach supports us in continually discovering what is helpful right now, guiding us ever deeper into wisdom and kindness.