TELLURIDE – If, as much as you’d like to, you can’t see yourself making a trip to India to study yoga with a guru anytime soon, next weekend will bring a bit of the experience home to Telluride when one of the world’s most advanced Ashtanga yoga practitioners, Annie Pace, teaches a three-day workshop for students of all levels at the Telluride Yoga Center from June 4-6.
In the modern world where yoga has become big business and its permutations too numerous to count, Annie remains a devoted adherent to the pure Ashtanga tradition made popular in the West largely through the influence of her guru, the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois – known affectionately to his students as Guruji.
“I’ve always taught what my guru taught me to teach,” she explained. “I consider myself a lineage holder.”
“She’s just a very unique resource in the sense that it’s coming straight from the source,” said Victoria Hoffman, who heads TYC’s Ashtanga program and encourages her students to study with Annie both here and at Annie’s new school and retreat center in Crestone, Colo. called Shakti Sharanam.
“She thoroughly understands the Ashtanga system as she learned it straight from the guru,” Hoffman continued. “She’s very adept at integrating the philosophical elements into the physical practice.”
“I am maintaining the purity of the Ashtanga lineage to the best of my capacity,” said Annie, who estimates she made 20 separate trips to Mysore, India to study with Guruji over several decades.
In 1995 she received his blessing to teach Ashtanga yoga at the most advanced level.
“There are only a couple of people in whole world who have that,” she continued. “It’s the highest level of certification that exists.”
The Ashtanga method incorporates breathing in synchronization with progressive postures and specific points of visual focus to build internal heat that is said to purify the organs by producing sweat that carries impurities and toxins out of the body.
But although very physically active people are often drawn to the style because of its dynamism, Pace seeks to dispel its reputation as a being an exclusive practice for “hard bodies.”
“It’s a very therapeutic practice, it’s not exclusively for the athletically inclined,” she explained.
“One of my other intentions is to demystify the yogic philosophy and to communicate the practice in a way that is accessible for everyone regardless of their physical capacity,” she continued.
To achieve that goal, Annie’s intensive workshop begins on Friday evening from 4:30-7 p.m. with an introductory session that will include philosophy and a light practice suitable for all levels, including absolute beginners.
Since the workshop is sequential in nature those who aren’t sure about committing to the entire weekend should plan on attending the first session as long as there is enough space.
“If people are afraid to get their feet wet, just come to Friday night,” Annie explained. “It would be appropriate for anyone to drop in on.”
The Saturday morning session from 8-11 a.m. builds on Friday’s experience. In the afternoon students will be split into to two groups at Pace’s discretion with beginners meeting from 3-5 p.m. and continuing students from 5-7p.m. for self-directed Mysore style classes under her guidance.
All students will reconvene on Sunday morning from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. for a final, wrap-up session. Later that evening from 5-6:30 p.m. the entire community is invited to an evening of devotional song and chanting called a kirtan with Annie, who also studies Hindustani music and is an accomplished harmonium player and singer, joined by Hoffman and John Michael Tucci on drums.
The event is free but donations are welcome and will benefit Shakti Sharanam.
“This is an opportunity to work with Annie here on a very intimate level,” said Hoffman.
“It’s a really a wonderful opportunity for the community to have her come here.”
Cost for the entire workshop is $225 with a discounted rate of $200 available for early registration through June 1. Single classes are $54 each, with instructor permission.
For more information about the workshop call the Telluride Yoga Center at 970/729-1673 or visit www.tellurideyoga.com; for more information about Annie Pace visit www.shaktisharanam.com.