practice and peter
I teach the truth of my evolving yoga experience. I experience yoga first as awareness training. Instead of expecting results, I practice allowing for increased mental and physical comfort simply by letting myself be. The body benefits, but the physical practice is a laboratory for optimizing all aspects of physical, mental and spiritual wellness.
I don’t teach from a place of pushing limits but rather respecting them. When we encounter limits, we are given a choice to struggle with them or accept and soften around them. We all possess a legitimate urge to improve. Our yoga culture and society at large often exploit this urge to the detriment of our overall wellbeing. We might end up aggressively forcing results Softening and sitting with difficulty is a more mindful approach.
I want to help people grow more comfortable with their current situations through a practice of mindfulness. When we are uncomfortable, we may find ourselves grasping for what is familiar or pushing away what we don’t like. Yoga helps us expand the horizon of possibility by helping us grasp and avoid less. In an ongoing way, we experience a shift toward greater comfort even in the face of adversity and uncertainty.
Peter Crowley teaches what he practices. In his weekly group classes, Peter asks his students to turn their attention inward while feeling specific movement to promote more physical and mental comfort. He offers sequences embodying years of anatomical study bolstered by insights and anecdotes from his own practice spanning the last fourteen years. By introducing methods for better breathing and an attentive approach to feeling, Peter encourages inquiry into aspects of a meditative practice that goes so much deeper than choreography or shape making. His class nurtures introspection and self-discovery in a non-competitive environment.
Peter found yoga in spring 2002 though he now believes that his practice began long before he ever stepped barefoot into an asana class. Through the advice of a dear friend, he started attending regular classes to address back pain and a heavy heart. Yoga guided him to rehabilitate the physical and soften his subtle body.
Peter first taught a yoga class in 2003 while living in San Francisco. Five years later, having completed two 200-hour trainings as a regular student of Ashtanga Vinyasa and Forrest Yoga, Peter left his job in architecture and began teaching full time.
He has been studying asana alignment, pranayama, and philosophy under the guidance of master teacher Barbara Benagh since 2010 and completed her 500 hour Art of Teaching course in July 2014. Beginning in summer 2015, Peter began to apprentice with yogi and chiropractor, Tom Alden. Participating in Tom's individualized 1000 hour yoga training course, Peter is advancing his studentship to be a more effective teacher. Today, his teaching style fuses his previous pursuits with the authenticity and deliberate placement found in Barbara's Slow Flow and the expert life skills culled from his mentorship with Tom.
Grateful for the authenticity and discipline of his teachers, Peter encourages exploration, practices humility and teaches authentically. He believes that while our yoga practice is sacred and solemn, we must not lose sight of humor and humility.
PUBLIC CLASS SCHEDULE
Classes at Down Under Yoga Brookline
Friday Levels II/III 5:45-7:15pm
Classes at Down Under Yoga Newton
Wednesday Levels II/III 11:15-12:45pm
Classes at On the Mat Concord, MA
All classes are All-Levels Slow Flow unless otherwise noted.
See EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS for Peter's other group class offerings in Boston and beyond.
Down Under Yoga
1054 Beacon Street
Brookline, MA 02446
Down Under Yoga
306 Walnut Street
Newton, MA 02460
On the Mat
30 Monument Square
Concord, MA 01742
Private study with Peter
Why study yoga?
A consistent and effective yoga practice can help cultivate improved physical and mental function. Through practice, we learn to deliberately calm down. We learn more about ourselves, the functioning of our bones, joints, muscles and organs. We better know and have compassion for our habituated and reactive nature by training our awareness and ability to focus. When we are in touch with our own real-time experience, we can make more informed decisions and respond to others with greater integrity and kindness. Yoga study is a proving ground for true personal fulfillment.
What are the benefits of private study?
Private study with an effective teacher allows one to efficiently tailor a yoga practice that meets specific individual needs. In a one on one setting, by asking good questions and taking inventory of ongoing insight, yoga reveals what might require attention and to develop a protocol for improvement. If teacher and student are congruent in basic values and vision, the hard work of practice will be fun and fulfilling.
What is the process?
Yoga practice is an ongoing and cumulative process of inventory, understanding, execution, and states of completion. We will look at what is (What is yoga? What is your intention with yoga? What do this moment feel like? Why do we think what we think?). We will develop trustworthy strategies that include recognizing the truth of intensity, testing variations, learning to relax and respect limits. We will note improvements over time. Practice will include breathing awareness and observation, traditional and modified yoga postures, as well as more passive gravity assisted postures using blocks, bolsters, and blankets. While you are not guaranteed to learn how to embody headstand in four easy steps (there are no shortcuts here!), private study will reveal how patient awareness training can begin to create more gratifying relationships with self, and positively affect our relationships with others.
When are we done?
Essentially, yoga in all of its forms is a lifelong commitment. We all meet yoga in different ways and the practice takes on different roles in our lives. My hope is that you are never done practicing. Though many circumstance may lead to our being "done," our work together will be complete when you feel we have effectively addressed your needs. We will have satisfied the factors that prompted your initial interest. Ideally, an enthusiasm for your own self-led practice will emerge.
Yoga is most therapeutic and beneficial when practiced regularly and with consistency. My aim is to assist those who work with me to create their own evolving practice. Practice is more than asana though asana is absolutely part of practice!
I work weekly with some clients, bi-weekly with others. I have had ongoing clients for years and others for several weeks. Nobody's yoga is identical and no personal practice develops the same way.
We might meet at your home, one of the studios in which I teach, or over FaceTime. I teach Monday-Friday.
I request a minimum of 4 weeks commitment on the part of my clients so that we can BEGIN a conversation that illuminates values and vision.
I request 24 hours or one business day notice for schedule changes. Late changes will require a 75% session charge.
Please let me know a bit about yourself. Thank you.
Below is a piece I contributed to Architecture Boston's Body Issue from Fall 2014. I compared my process as a teacher and practitioner of yoga to my first career as an architectural designer.
LAYING FOUNDATIONS FOR AN INTERNAL JOURNEY by Peter Crowley
At home, in a square bedroom bordered by white walls and a bank of large windows, I do my daily yoga practice. An architect by education, I developed an early awareness of context and environment. In this room, in my modern house, I focus this sensitivity inward. I spend mornings moving from pose to pose — or just sitting still. In self-study, I formulate an internal inquiry
What is it? What is happening? In the most secular of terms, yoga is the process of staying attentive to an object or pursuit, undistracted, for some amount of time. It’s an ever-evolving renovation of the mind and body that incorporates breath, postures, and concentration practices. Time in a physical posture is time well spent studying the network of strength and space that exists below the skin. With an awareness of these sensations one can construct a mental map, a meditation on where body and breath feel effortless, and where there is struggle. Sites of conflict need attention because they can hold captive physical or emotional scars. An immersion in this ongoing process demands patience. By quelling reactivity and shedding self-imposed expectation, we learn to be better, more up-to-date versions of ourselves.
Who do you want to be? Since I was six, I planned to be an architect. In my childhood bedroom, I spent many solitary hours fashioning models of famous buildings out of cardboard. I would construct a crude likeness, then break it apart to build it better, with ever more exacting standards. This iterative process resulted in whole cities I would lay out on my floor. I told myself stories about them, connecting separate narratives with construction-paper roads and rivers. At one point, the entire perimeter of my bedroom surrounded me with fantasy architecture. Years later, in design school, I aimed to entice the most critical of my peers and professors by posing a thesis and provoking a response.
How does this feel? Under the burden of professional demands and personal challenges, my early 20s were physically and emotionally painful. A dear friend suggested yoga to ease the reactive revolt taking place in my disordered body. At the urging of my first teachers, I studied what held me back, what locked me up. Why was my body shaking? The postures, crude in their initial execution, helped me examine, liberate, and redevelop the structure beneath my skin. My
job as a yoga teacher is to present and pass down what I have discovered. Holding space for my students to immerse themselves in self-study, I use narrative to describe a journey through the body. I pose a thesis, and yoga provokes a response. Students comfortably sit with an internal space of their own design.
Who designed that? Turning concepts into felt experience plays out in every yoga practice. The best architecture develops out of a streamlined thesis and a cumulative body of knowledge. Discipline and love for development through process reveal themselves in the design of a great building or a focused approach to yoga practice. In my body and in that of others, experience and repetition help lay these foundations. By paying attention, we feel tension dissipate, as strength and space support our structure. We dwell in the body, confident in our creation, comfortable with our circumstances.
A piece from the Down Under Yoga Voices blog October 2017
TRUTH IN PRACTICE by Peter Crowley
For fifteen years, I have studied some aspect of yoga philosophy. Since 2002, I formed consistent ongoing relationships with several influential yoga teachers. As my values evolved, yoga revealed useful paths forward and my teachers changed. Setting a personal course for practice is challenging and rewarding, but finding an appropriate teacher is necessary.
My initial understanding of yoga stemmed from a common construct that asana was central and essential to the practice. The metric with which I first measured my progress on the yoga path was the ability to perform the poses better and better. How does one perform a yoga pose better? Is there a trustworthy way to deduce the rights and wrongs of asana? Where should these standards come from?
My teacher Tom Alden defines yoga as the practice of spiritual wellness. After two years of study with him, I understand that spiritual wellness involves observing our experience and responding well from the calm and uncluttered part of our being. The undercurrent of all consciousness, our essential nature, is peace, kindness and intelligence. This essential nature is spirit. These days, having been influenced by my teacher Barbara Benagh, asana practice is a laboratory to conduct and repeat conscious observation. The asana organizes our ongoing inquiry while providing useful insight. Yoga practice allows us to inquire with calm curiosity while compassionately responding to these insights, whatever they may be.
A curious and disciplined student can find a teacher that will effectively assist in honing the skill of practice. Practice is repetition. Repetition reveals experiences that evolve to be trustworthy and comfortable. Over time, an effective teacher helps a student access the universal intelligence that is our essential nature. This wellspring of intelligence merges between student and teacher in the transmission of yoga philosophy. Wisdom is passed on. A student can take this wisdom and
experience its truth in practice. Effective practice encourages further learning. This inspiration allows the teachings to flourish. One can teach when some element of yoga experience is grounded in the assured undercurrent of one’s essential nature, leading to meaningful and useful outcomes.
What does all that mean? Teaching requires practice and practice takes time. One can’t teach an essential practice without awareness of essential nature.
After completing my first 200-hour training in 2003, I had about sixteen months of asana and some recreational pranayama experience. I set out to teach without a cohesive relationship with a core teacher of my own. Memorizing what I remembered from other teachers, reading the pose books and participating in classes with visiting master teachers, I wanted all the answers sixteen months in. The alternative was ignorance and that was uncomfortable.
Like one might collect precious objects and artifacts to display in closed glass cases, one might curate knowledge of yoga poses. "Where should the back foot be? Where should my shin be? What should I feel? What is right? Please don’t say I’m wrong.”
Through this challenge, I learned that my ability to perform poses and pay for a teacher training wouldn’t guarantee me a seat in quietly observing the truth of my ongoing reality. In fact, I was unable to sit still. I couldn't be with myself in stillness. My experience was not grounded in universal peace, intelligence and kindness. The fear of failure, internal chatter and self-defeating comparison to others, distracted me. With two years of practice under my belt, I was a credentialed yoga teacher who couldn’t teach.
In gathering other people’s yoga truths, I forgot to integrate my own sensitivity with mental activity. Being busy and business minded robbed me of the process of stabilizing in the awareness of my physical self. The search for quick answers never
allowed me to turn my attention inward. I performed without sensitive intelligence and lived life with little self-compassion. Learning this was the key to unlocking the potential of yoga in my life. A decade later, I began arriving at a definition of yoga and a methodology for practice that, at its best, is an ongoing aspiration for spiritual wellness.
I share this because I see this all the time. All information given by teachers is purely hearsay until we can consciously stabilize in our own experience and learn our own truth. So many students practice the yoga truths of others. In an effort to stay stable in whatever yoga information has been conveyed, practice stays at the level of hearsay, becomes static and loses potency. Evolution is stifled in favor of comfortable consistency. The relationship to practice becomes antagonistic as students become disenchanted. The demands of teaching innovation outweigh the necessity for clarity of values and tuning to essence. The magic of practice is lost. Practice stops.
Among teacher friends, it’s often said that the more one learns, the more one realizes how much they don’t know. I resonate and no longer lament this truth. The books can convey information. Continue reading. Our teachers can encourage us to compassionately accept our ignorance and guide us in practice. One will always need a teacher. Our own practice reveals our truths. We must maintain our practice. In practice, information is filtered through our intelligent and compassionate nature. We are able to meet our reality with greater clarity of purpose, trustworthy techniques for proceeding, and an aspiration for improvement. We won’t know everything, ever, but we can know our truth more confidently day by day.
How do we face the unknown? We face it together. Follow your path. Take a turn here or there. Get lost a little. I’m here to walk with you.
Let me ask you this:
Who is your yoga teacher? How have they influenced you? How is your practice evolving? What have you been taught? What is yoga?
A piece from the Down Under Yoga Voices blog March 2017
A PERSPECTIVE FROM WITHIN THE PARADOX by Peter Crowley
Life in our bodies on this earth is at once precious and a paradox. In practice, yoga teaches that we not only aspire for kindness, wisdom, and love, but that our true essence reflects those most divine qualities. How is it then that life is so wrought with difficulty and dissatisfaction? If we are being more honest in our inquiry, we might wonder why we struggle with such profound fear in this life. Why do we suffer?
Our innate ignorance is the source of suffering. There’s much we don’t know and yoga can help us see what we need to learn. Paradoxically, what looks like yoga can also be the source of maintaining the status quo or prolonging patterns of suffering. It’s normal and okay to be ignorant, by the way. Learning is a gratifying product of practice.
My teachers have taught me that the cravings and aversions we use to cope with and avoid difficulty are in fact the source of ever more compounding difficulty. Much of my time, and most likely yours too, has been spent in the pendulum swing of not wanting for something or wanting for something else. If we are ignorant to the truth of the craving and averting mind, we live in a constant “gotta get it done” and “wish I was somewhere else “ mentality.
As a regular practitioner of meditation and asana, my pendulum swing has become far less severe. This is certainly true for others and it will be true for those who begin to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the parts of self that are suffering. So… we should all practice yoga! However, it’s not so cut and dried.
One of the reasons I came to yoga was to REMOVE physical difficulty from my experience. I’m sure it was promised at some point in those early days. I learned quickly that what was uncomfortable in my body was inextricably linked to my mind. A feeling of intensity was all that was needed to react with aversion and stay stuck in a cycle of mental reactivity. Over the last fifteen years, I have grown to trust that intensity is not to be feared but that it’s a part of me. It’s a guide.
It’s also taken me much longer to learn that difficulty is never going to be removed. Fear is not ever going to go away. Sadly, the human qualities that are born from fear are with us to stay. Our knee-jerk reactions to these qualities can be minimized as our minds become less avoidant and more consciously responsive.
Yoga as a practice of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness asks us to
start with ourselves. We become familiar with difficulty and suffering in the form of intensity, or distraction, or emotional and physical pain. Yoga gives us tools to apply useful awareness techniques to cultivate an attitude for healing and wellness. We are then on a very different trajectory aspiring for more positive outcomes.
We will still sometimes disagree. We will still sometimes be angry. We are still human.
We must remember in our activism, quiet or collective, that we are all part of one collective kindness. We are one wisdom. We are, at our essence, love. We must face the obstacles that prevent us from realizing our true essence. We must also be angry if we are angry. We must feel sadness and fear if that is what we feel.
Yoga will help us see clearly the gift of life in our bodies, as a self, part of the whole, beyond the paradox.
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