Interview with Annie Carpenter, Creator of SmartFLOW Yoga
Photo by Tony Felgueiras at 206 Hanuman Festival
A yoga practitioner since the 70’s, Annie Carpenter continues to be a dedicated student of anatomy, evolutionary movement, meditation and classical philosophy. As the Creator of SmartFLOW Yoga, Annie strives to combine mindful movement with compassionate, wakeful alignment. Annie has been leading 200-hour and 500-hour yoga teacher trainings since 2003 and she will be teaching at the Hanuman Festival this June in Boulder, CO.
How do you teach?
What I teach is HOW to pay attention in the moment, each moment. Most of us can attend to big, exciting things happening. Yoga teaches us to be present to even more subtle things. Through this process, yoga teaches us to be more in the now, to be able to release past regrets and to avoid future fears.
What do you find to be the most effective way to teach paying attention in the moment?
Directly and kindly bringing the students’ attention to what they are doing—in the form of inquiry when possible, including breath, body, and drishti.
What has been your biggest life lesson/challenge? What helped get you through it? What didn’t help?
The death of people I love. Having time with them during the process of illness with both of us having the knowledge that they were dying helped so much. Trying to hurry the process certainly didn’t. It is never easy to lose someone you love, certainly. But consciously moving through it—and having the gift of a dear friend who gracefully accepts the process—is deeply healing. In the end, it is spiritually uplifting, even through the pain.
Where do you find the inspiration to fuel your personal practice and teaching?
Walking outside in the woods and watching birds helps. But I know I will feel better after I practice—so why not?
What yoga poses do you find the most empowering/transformative?
I love inversions and have for many years. I love the stability, the stillness, the quiet, and the feeling of strength. But mostly it’s the steady focus they demand. Also: I love pranayama. It is my fail-proof entry into meditation—even on distracted days!
What do you hope to offer your yoga students, teachers and greater community with your current/future work?
The big hope is peace; and kindness.
Who/what has been your greatest influence as a teacher?
My own practice, especially in times when I am, shall we say, not 100%, is the great teacher. Swami Satchidananda showed me that joy and humor are essential ingredients in yoga. Martha Graham lived, and insisted on, “presencing.” I think that is the means and the goal of yoga. And birdwatching! When I am seeking, watching, and listening to birds the quality of attention eclipses all distractions: dharana becomes dhyana, and often enough, dare I say it: samadhi.
What has been the most significant benefit or gift you have received from yoga?
The knowledge that all of us deserve and in fact are, in essence, joy.