The Only Yogic Power We Are Allowed To Want = 3.36

Some super powers are more flashy than others, my favorite is becoming invisible.

However, any yogi that has read a bit about the science knows that if pursuing this path as outlined in the scriptures (and by that I mean Patanjali) sooner or later temptations arise.  A focused, serious practitioner would come accross some powers, even super powers.

Krishnamacharya even outlines in his Yoga Makaranda (which you can read here for free) that after long serious practice a student could begin to 'make things happen'.  Not that we would want to. In general we are told to stay away from these powers.  However, there is one, as I learned in a workshop with Ramaswami which leads to the final goal of eternal peace with fierce discrimination.  The goal of the path of Raja Yoga.  And that is...


Sutra III.36, which, funny enough, is actually a sidhi, or a yogic super-power, one of those we are supposed to stay away from as they can distract us, but not this one, this is the only super Patanjali actually encourage us to actively seek.

I even checked with Ramaswami, he nodded yes, that is true the only one I am allowed to want. That is a good number to remember: Three, Thirty-six.

This is how it happens, as explained by Ramaswami, and as he learned it from Krishnamacharya:

a)  You practice all 8 limbs of yoga as outlined in the practice up to where you can focus your whole mind on an object in an un-interrupted way, without memories or imagination getting on the way - (a.k.a: meditation)

b) you forget yourself and "merge" with the object (a.k.a.: samadhi)

c) This is samyama, you are now in a fertile state of yoga.

Jesus, walking on water
Now, suddenly all those yogic powers become possible. Tempting even.   And the way they become possible is by you doing samyama on different objects, for example, if you do samyama (or (a) and (b) above) in the pit of the throat you control thirst and hunger, etc.

d) But as a yogi you are interested only in one, sutra 3.36, you focus all your attention and lose yourself while intently focused on the difference between what you think you are and the purusha or eternal consciousness that cannot be affected by pain or pleasure or desire, that is infinite indifferent and nothing you can "think of", that which cannot die.

You just put all your mighty attention on noticing the difference, for a long uninterrupted time.

e) You experience enlightenment

That's it.  Practical terms.  OK, yes, it might take years to focus the mind that intently, especially in our world where things constantly compete for our attention. True. Nevertheless, possible.

Looking back at 1999, I can clearly say I have found the path in the 8 limbs of yoga, which was outlined and compiled by Patanjali, and graciously, blessedly, passed down by generations stemming -that we know of- from Bramachari in a cave in the Hymalayas, through Krishnamacharya, and all his students, although I owe this understanding to Ramaswami and his 20 hour Yoga Sutra class.

Now the secret is out!  And if you read this far you are in my friend, down the rabbit hole you go!  Wheeeeee

RELATED:
21 Things to Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice - FREE BOOK
Found!, One Lost Student of Krishnamacharya

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Struggling a Bit Coming Up with Straight Legs

Guess I had never seen myself in action in upward facing forward bend, or urdhva mukha paschimottanasana, or at least I had never seen my attempts at doing so with straight legs...

All new to me how much I struggle, and perhaps because the cameras were rolling, well, actually the camera, there is only one, I seemed to struggle even more, at least in this first video -if you cannot see the video go to claudiayoga.com-:



Second one was a bit better.  I remember in India I had Andrew come around and adjusted me on this one, he did not really do much other than put his leg against my spine and breathe deeply and smoothly.  That was a very precise adjustment, he taught me to breathe smoothly and along side the struggle, which made it easier.  He did this without saying a word. Gratitude.



Will see how it goes today, waiting for the family to wake up before practice on this Memorial Day.  Enjoy!

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SUNDAY NEW BLOG TIMES: Check Artur Out

Is ideology like cocaine? - picture -

Yogi Arturo wonders if oreos in pinaple, raspberry and blueberry flavors are just an Asian thing, are they?

Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga?
This Yogi needs help with his dilema of what to call his class?

Grimmly returns to his roots of Vinyasa Krama after a few weeks of Ashtanga. We understand, the Vinyasa Krama does include all limbs in each practice, and that is priceless!

The 9 ways to guarantee success at James' blog, look awfully similar to yoga sutra #... can you tell which one? - Interesting that one commentator noticed!

7 Surprises I got from the yoga sutras, via Ramaswami and from Patanjali

I found this incredible video at Eddie Stern's Blog, check Artur out, such control, such grace...




RELATED:
Last Sunday's New Blog Times


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Found! One Lost Student of Krishnamacharya, in NYC

"...It was the spring of 2009. I had just finished teaching a yoga class at a health club in Manhattan, when a man who had been waiting by the door entered and began to do his own practice. I immediately took note of his uncommon form. He was moving and breathing just as I had seen demonstrated by Srivatsa Ramaswami and A.G. Mohan, two notable students of Krishnamacharya's.  I begged the man's pardon for interrupting, but asked if he wouldn't mind my asking where he had learned to practice in such a way.


"I learned in Madras, back in the 70's" he said.  "May I ask from whom?" I inquired, to which he replied" "You probably haven't heard of him". I believe I then said, "Try me". I was soon glad I had persisted; much to my delight, he said he had studied with "a man named Krishnamacharya" - (Longer intro here.)

This is how the article starts in the latest edition of NAMARUPA MAGAZINE.

I have just finished reading the article and I highly recommend it to anyone interested.  Richard -the student of Krishanamcharya- is a man of the theater but he studied with the master and kept a journal, pictures of which you can see in the article.

Krishnamacharya's business card is one of the gem
images you can see in the article
Gratitude to Eddie Stern and Leslie Kaminoff for interviewing him and putting out the article and of course, to Daniel Dale for recognizing Richard Schechner!

You can read the article in full by downloading the US$ 2.16 Namarupa digital edition here.

Thanks also to Krishna who pointed me to the article which I had not had time to download with being busy studying with Ramaswami. What a week!

See also:
8 Stories from A.G. Mohan that Reveal What Kind of Man Krishnamacharya Was
My Favorite 8 Yoga Books of 2010


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7 Surprising Things I Learned from Ramaswami and Patanjali This Week

Ramaswami has a story for each sutra, and a "my guru used to say" for each question anyone asks. He eats very little and lives his yoga, takes a walk during lunch, rubs his eyes when he needs rest, prays before and after each segment, and loves chanting, although we did not get to much of that.

What we did get to was the translation of the Sanskrit in the terms of the Krishnamacharya lineage, and in that I found many things that differ from the most regarded scholarly text, the one that Sharath has in his office.  Some of those differences surprised me, here the front runners:

1.- The goal of Yoga is PEACE

According to Patanjali and following the translation of Krishnamacharya / Ramaswami the goal is "peace" which is another translation of the root word -yoga- in sanskrit.  The interpretation of Patanjali is not union.  That was my first surprise, I had never heard that before, although I intuitively always knew that peace is what I want, so much so that I have began following Marianne Williamson's advise and I often ask myself: Do I want peace or do I want this? before proceeding.

Of course eternal unbroken peace is not easily attainable, therefore there are some practices.

2.- Ashtanga is the Second Practice Mentioned on Chapter II


As you may know, chapter one of the Yoga Sutras is only for the very advanced yogi, not for me, and likely not for you either.  Chapter one is for the person that can go into samadhi (focus continuously in one object without distractions for a looooong time), again, not me.

For the yogi like me, or rather the "aspiring yogi" there is chapter two. What I did not know is that in this chapter there are two practices outlined with their corresponding results.

I was under the impression it was all the same, but actually one leads to the other which is only to be taken if you choose to dedicate your life to yoga:
  • Practice #1  Kryia yoga -with the three observances of : moderation (tapas) - study and observance of some kind of ritualistic form within life, has the only purpose of reducing the kleshas or the sources of pain (of which the most important is wrong identification or wrong knowledge)
Fascinating that Ramaswami uses the word "moderation" for tapas, rather than "accepting pain as purification" as Edwin Bryant translates.  Ramaswami talked about how moderation is on everything: what we intake for food, how much television we watch, what we hear, what we read, how we speak... anyway, I don't want to go manifesto here.

Then, once a yogi has worked on that and reduced the kleshas -balanced the tendencies a little- and is ready to "dedicate her life to yoga":

Enter Ashtnaga yoga! or Practice #2 which has the object to bring us, step by step, to eternal, undisturbed, detached, utmost, peace.

2. Without the Yamas and Niyamas You May as Well Forget About the Whole Thing

The Yamas and Niyamas -first two limbs of Ashtanga yoga play a critical part in calming the mind, - Ramaswami  puts a lot of effort into having us understand that we need to balance our tendencies, or gunas. See the day I stuffed myself with lava cake for deeper, if tempting, explanation of the gunas.

We cannot "force" ourselves to become Satvic (balanced all the time), but we can aim to create the conditions in our lives so that we end up being in a more satvic, conducive, environment, which in turn will make us more prone to focusing our minds. See this post on the 10 yamas and niyamas that Krishnamacharya mentions in the Yoga Makaranda.

3.- Asanas Reduce Rajas

Asanas, -poses- (the third limb) are meant to reduce our overactive tendencies.  However after asanas sometimes we can feel sleepy.  I know I go into a coma of sorts after my own daily practice, where I do not even want to move finger.

Now this may sound controversial, but all the series, I see now, are actually not necessary, they are flashy and they are beautiful and I love the practice, but once we change the goal of yoga to just peace then there is no need to over-excert the body.

Don't take me wrong, I still think Ashtanga (Jois' Ashtanga) provides -in my eyes- the best system of asana because it can apply to any temperament, (any combination of gunas) and it is a pre-determined routine which ensures people will get on the mat because there is no discussion, one KNOWS what has to happen.  However, this talk put the desire to reach third series in perspective.

4.- Pranayama is Meant to Reduce Tamas

Pranayama is meant to wake us up after asanas and a sweet rest leave us in a  state of "after practice coma", which I tend to experience often.

Pranayama awakens us so we can focus and therefore reduces tamas -or the tendency to be sleepy-.  Pranayama can be taken as soon as "stira sukam asanam", or when we can sit comfortably in a steady position for a relatively long period of time, which is really not that long... half an hour to an hour.

5.- Dharana is Focusing Intently

Dharana - the six limb as I was not surprised by the fifth which is still sense withdrawal-  as interpreted by Patanjali is concentrating on an object, for example, a bottle, but not thinking of it, naming it, or bringing memories as we are looking at it, just looking at the object.  In other words, no imagination, just looking at the object as is.

For example, when you see a sunset, are you able to stop yourself from saying "wow that is beautiful"?

I live by the Hudson River and every time I walk to its banks that is all I can think, therefore I am "naming" it already, I cannot focus on it, heck I cannot even conceive of it without the word "river".

The word "concentration" is an inaccurate English translation, it is best to think of it in terms of "focusing on an object for longer and longer periods of time uninterruptedly"

6.- Your Meditation Can Never Be: "Awesome" or "Amazing" or "Horrible". That is Deluded.

Meditation, Dhyana or the six limb, happens when we can maintain that uninterrupted focus for the whole period of time we decided to sit for, can be half an hour can be an hour, two, or ten.

So when someone says, how was your meditation? the only acceptable answers are, either:

a) I was able to focus on the object sometimes, but my mind wondered, or
b) I was able to focus on the object without my mind wondering all the time

Any other answer is not real. And this is the only check we should have after meditation to see if we are making progress.  How cool is that?

7.- Samadhi is Not Obtained by Divine Grace, it is Perfectly Attainable by Anyone Willing to Put in the Work

This is one that really surprised me, I did not think that it was within the power of our minds to attain samadhi -the eight limb-, perhaps because I had "wrong knowledge" of what samadhi is.

All samadhi is, is that we can hold our mind to that object, with full attention for so long we get lost and forget ourselves as well.

That is it, attainable, clear, in ordinary terms.

----

I am down the rabbit hole again.

See these too:
7 Signs That You Are a Realized Yogi - Coming up soon-
How Eating Those Bad Marshmallows Actually Made Me More Centered




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9 Ways to Fail at Yoga

Whatever your current understanding of yoga is, wetther  you think it is union, or the letting go of your ego and identifying with what is real, the all pervading consciousness, or if you think it is just exercise, these are nine proven sure ways to fail at it:

1.- You are sick:  If you do not feel good you will not have the energy to get on the mat or sit on meditation or even notice that you are identifying with your ego.

2.- Inertia:  You know you want to, you just cannot make the first move. Cannot get on the mat for the first time, cannot open that sacred book, cannot hit the cushion.

Have not seen the movie but love the main actors
3.- Doubt: You are not sure that the practice of yoga will do any good, so why waste time?

4.- Laziness:  Much rather stay in bed.

5.- Carelessness: doing the practice but not focusing on the drishti or not engaging the bandhas, or at least trying, or sitting on a cushion but letting the mind wonder, or going through life without considering the repercusions of our actions in the lives of others, just sort of going through the motions

Do you see where I am going with this?

6.- Vacillation:  Hmm, today this style looks good but maybe tomorrow I will start a Karate practice, yeah, that looks more focused, then perhaps I will take up ballet, those people know what they are doing.

7.- Delusions: You get on the mat for a week or read a text and you suddenly know that you are enlightened...  yeah, been there, you are not alone.

8.-Inability to Make Progress:  You work hard but nothing happens, nothing changes. You keep on being the good old angry individual you were before, you are rude and inconsiderate and cannot change, you still want to be right rather than happy.

9.- You make progress but fall back:  So you have been practicing for a while, but you abandon the practice, you let it go, or you go back to the old ways.

If you have not noticed yet, this is Patanjali's Sutra: 1.30

Yeap, 1.30.

The serpent-headed guy should have been a blogger!

See this:
I got hurt by a commentator and learned a new sutra in the process


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Krishnamacharya "Possibly" Enlightened

Ramaswami
I got mad, really upset.  I wanted to identify with what is real, with the unlimited all prevading consciousness, and got all disgusted at noticing how I am still identifying with my ego: Will people like my book? or will they hate it? I feel fat today, My body aches. I mean, how low can I be?

Wrong Knowledge, wrong identification.

I am enjoying the 20 hour course with Ramaswami, really great to meet someone who has dedicated his life to yoga and that studied one-on-one with Krishnamacharya for 30 years.  An honor really. Gratitude.

There is not a lot of chanting as most of the class consists in going over the philosophy and the translation and trying to understand what each sutra means. We have a small group of people,  mostly women -guess you could have told me that- and lots of lively discussions, especially around the part where the "G" word -as in God, sshhh- gets to be mentioned.   We do not like that word in New York.

It is incredible how scientific and down-to-earth Patanjali is, how realistic, how no-fluff, how it all comes down to very real verifiable truths.  Rational is the word.

As you know the Sutras open with Samadhi, or that state where we are one with pure consciousness, or God, or that which is always permanent, that which does not suffer and never dies... however you want to call it.

Ramaswami said he never experienced it.  So I asked if he thought that his teacher  -Krishnamacharya-had experienced it: "Possibly" ... "Perhaps that is why he spoke with so much conviction".

Possibly.

Yes.

Possibly.

All this work.

Then.

Possibly.

I think I am beginning to get it. There is no enlightenment, it is a scam.

We can move closer to identifying with the right thing, the pure consciousness that inhabits no space. Patanjali has a whole list on how to do it.  He should have been a blogger. But will we experience it? I am not holding my breath.

CHECK THESE OUT:


Primary Series of Ashtanga Cures the Only Cause of Death, Says Krishnamacharya
8 Stories that Reveal What Kind of Person Krishnamacharya Was

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THE BOOK: 21 Things to Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice


Welcome to the Launching of my book:


The daily practice of Ashtanga yoga has changed my life for the better in very real ways:

1- It has made me physically, mentally and emotionally healthier.

2- It restored my body to its original blue print, and in the process I released 30 pounds. I also learned to love my body.

3- It helped me stop all energy leaking and re-directed my creativity to the kind of work I love.

4- It gave me clarity and discernment, a grounding platform, and a discipline.

5- It gave me the poise, self confidence and elegance which helped me find real, committed, true love.

6- It provided support during the biggest financial crisis of my life.

7- It launched me into a world of adventure which brought me to India and Thailand.

Through Ashtanga Yoga I have become a much healthier and happier person all around, and this is something I wish on everyone! 

When I first came into the practice I felt confused and intimidated, I wanted to have a talk with someone who knew the inside ropes, and who could guide and encourage me. 

I found many great books/DVDs  (all listed in the Resources section of the book) with great pictures and practice explanations which were great when it was time to get on the mat, but I wanted a little more, I wanted to know how: much would my life change? how soon? what exact benefits would it bring? what did the "all" in "do your practice and all is coming", that Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said, meant.  

That is how the book was born. 


It came to be to answer these questions. It is intended as a conversation, a resource and a guide that answers questions anyone coming into an incredibly solid practice like Ashtanga Yoga might have, with real-world, down-to-earth answers, and personal accounts that come from my experiences.

If you are just getting started with Ashtanga Yoga this book is for you! And I would love to hear back your thoughts, see if you have more questions, or if you simply want to say hello and share the adventure of your journey as you take your first deep and loud breath on the mat.

If you are a seasoned practitioner or senior teacher then you are also welcome to join in the conversation.  I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and also connect and say hello.  

May the practice of Ashtanga yoga which has brought so many benefits and peace into my life do the same for everyone that finds an attraction to it!

The book has just appeared in Amazon in paper-back format, I am waiting for the kindle version (which takes a few weeks to get converted). The good news is that in electronic form it will only cost 0.99 cents

However, 

as a reader of this blog you:

 GET A FREE PDF COPY 

[baticlau@gmail.com]


Note: Give me between 2 minutes and 12 hours to respond.  I may be sweating on the mat, meditating or doing some other yoga thing ;-)


You can see the video promotion of it in my Amazon Author Page.


I hope you like it!



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SUNDAY NEW BLOG TIMES: An Ashtanga Yoga Confluence?

Happy Sunday everyone, how did you enjoy the end of the world? So far it looks like we do primary and a bit of intermediate here in hell!

Here come 8 great reads from around the blog-yoga-sphere:


Sereneflavor is going, and so is leapinglanka, are you? (go here to leave your e-mail and they will keep in touch, registration is not yet open).

Getting started with Ashtanga Yoga? see the review of the "Intro to Ashtanga" DVD by Kino, Greg and Tim.

Tim Miller's memorial post to Guruji and how it affected him

If you missed this class, then you are probably still alive.

Bandhas? forgedaboudit, says Grimmly generating quite a discussion

Can you interpret Bindy's dream?

Yes, this is a photo, and of this planet. Amazing ha?

It's been 2 years....
Let's remember him by watching the questions and answers straight from the Guru himself:



Last Sunday's New Blog Times

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David Keil: Yoga Anatomy - DVD Review: Volumes 1 and 2

The subject of David's DVDs: anatomy, is dry, unless you are into it.  BUT David finds a way to make it meaningful from the perspective of a yoga practitioner and/or a teacher. He also  covers a huge amount of territory.

Click on the image to visit Amazon

Looking at the cover I thought that it would have humor in it, but in reality the DVD is very serious and other than the occasional and rare joke (yes looks like the skeleton has his skull empty), it is a very focused and a valuable resource for practitioners that want to know more about what goes on inside the body.

David points out that there are a lot of elements in anatomy, but, just like in yoga, it is important to gather them all together. They are not separate systems, they are all very interrelated, and throughout the lecture you get the sense of how each part connects with the other.

I found the first DVD valuable in the way of learning the basic terminology, i.e.: "distal and proximal" "lateral vs. medial" "rotation" etc.  The explanation is clear. I also liked some of the formulas he makes to remember names (bone name + letter "O" + Joint name).
I won't pretend I am all learned now, anatomy is a profound subject, but I feel I have a go-to place, and I will probably watch it again, and again, when necessary.

DVD II opens with the psoas, which is the “center of gravity that controls our center of movement, and that is why it gets to be included in what is known as "core" (psoas, abdominal muscles etc)". 


A large portion of the DVD talks about back pain and addresses disks herniation, then gives ideas on how to treat back pain.

He separates the healing of such horrible malady into two camps, people who think that back pain can be healed provided that:
a) The abdominal muscles are strengthened, and 
b) The abdominal muscles need to be released.   

He believes that the releasing of the abdominal muscles may help those who sit for most of the day as the tissues will tend to shorten due to posture and the ribs and pubic bone become closer together (hunching, -my word-). 

Throughout the course he emphasizes the need to look at each individual,ala Krishnamacharya, to see what is happening in their organisms before making any recommendations.


David Keil
----
I would say it is interesting to see anatomy in this form, meaning conversation rather than book, although I wish there were more drawings and animations, never the less as it stands the video is a pretty good resource to have around.

Not so long ago David actually took the time to answer my nutation question, for which I am grateful, and that post continues to be on the "most read" list.  I guess there is quite a bit of interest in anatomy out there.

For David's website go here

Thank you Christine for recovering the post I thought I had lost and that Google never recovered!

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Did Yoga Just Give Me An Orgasm?

The French call an orgasm the "little death" La Petite Mort.  I was not particularly thinking about this until yesterday morning on the mat when I noticed how in every practice, when I reach my edge, I feel like I am about to die. That is at worst. At best I feel a bit sick, either the stomach is processing something or the twists are working their thing, or I get dizzy and need to breathe deeper, I don't know, something is happening, and I am about to die, or throw up, whatever may come first.

Shiva Shakti
Of course the deep breathing and focus eases things and eventually I relax into each pose, letting it happen, coming back to the breath, finding the mythological state of yoga, the peace, the release.  Letting go, dying a bit?

But there is a moment before that where I almost die, if not for real at least of disgust, or physical revulsion.

I have noticed this so many times that I began to wonder weather by "dying a little" every day and then being with it by breathing, we may avoid a horrible death full of suffering whenever the lady in black may come knocking.

So I guess the little death can happen in the yoga mat as much as it can happen in the bedroom.  Perhaps this is where yoga and tantra mix, where we come face to face with how human we are and how interrelated life - pleasure - pain - death are related.

Would an orgasm a day bring a quieter death?  Would getting to that edge in practice ensure a longer healthier life with a less painful death?

I wish I had the answer, I know there are no guarantees, but I keep wondering, maybe hoping.

If you guess that maybe that title was a bit of a traffic shout out, what can I say, I am human, but I still wonder about this, so much so that every time I feel the prelude to death in a pose I figure perhaps I am making for a healthier old age.

What do you think?


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Gayatri Mantra Only for Men? - Updated

This is one of those posts that google "lost" last week. They recovered  2 out of 3 so far, and I am grateful.  However, the third one -still missing- was my review of David Keil's Yoga Anatomy into which I had put hours of work.  I hope they recover it and I can get it back up soon.

In the meantime, perhaps is good to bring this post updated, as some people got involved in the comments and it made it more interesting.

This was my original question:

Someone identified as anonymous commented yesterday in the 32 Unusual Ways to Attract Abundance into Our Lives and said that the Gayatri Mantra is traditionally not to be recited by women.

He posted the comment in all fairness and in a sweet manner and said:

Traditionally Gayatri mantra is not for women. And if done, this is the only one that requires the person to take shower before and wear clean, washed clothes and also at sun rise, noon, sun set. Any other chant can be performed any time because one can think of god any given time. Just something I know coming from a very traditional background and wanted to share.

My knowledge of this mantra, I admit, is limited as I only know what I read in books I bought in India, and what I can piece together. So I replied to him and asked whether this was written in scriptures or where did he hear that. But I wonder...

Then came some answers:

EcoYogini pointed us out to the wikki definition which states that in Induism the mantra is traditionally sang by males brahmins - but modern hindu reform movements have spread the practice to include women and all casts.

Then Anja, a woman who has lived in India all her life gave a more personal accoun which you can read in full in the comments of this post, of note to me was where she said:

".... A hindu brahmin male, at a young age is initiated into the study of vedas... An important part of this ceremony is where the father of the boy recites the gayatri mantra in the boy's ear several times...


... As a young girl, when I went to the upanyam of a cousin and asked my mom to tell me the secret mantra that was being recited in my cousin's ear, I was told that women should not chant the mantra even if they know it. Yoga asanas and especially the Surya Namaskara was also traditionally practised only by brahmin males. Though this privilege is not explicitly mentioned in any of the scriptures as far as I know."


She concludes that the upper casts of India wanted to hold on to the power brought about by the mantra and perhaps this is the reason why it was not shared.  I guess that makes sense... God bless them for trying.

Now the secret is out, and the Gayatri Mantra is widely available, here is a YouTube version I love.

Perhaps the only thing we lack now is personal experience of its power.  May we all benefit!




Check these out:






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Delicious Pranayama Well Kept Secret

I cannot tell you anything about it. It is a secret.  Talk about when the you are ready to read it the book will appear.

About a year ago I bought the book Pranayama but quickly dismissed it.  Then Helen reminded me that Andre Lysebeth -the first student to visit Pattabhi Jois in '64-  was actually the author of that book I had thrown to the bottom of the pile I keep near my desk.

Out it came again, a little dusted.

All I will say is three things:

1.- I appreciated his honesty and down-to-earth conversation he creates around telling you secrets that have been passed from yogi to yogi by the ages  and how by reading it you "get" that certain practices are to be kept private, very private.
The Pradipika does it too, but Andre adds the ring of true in the wording of our modern times.  I loved his Belgium/French no b/s approach to a subject that can be very prone to it.

2.- It's really not an introductory book, could be perceived as boring unless you have the fire of curiosity on the subject.

3.- He does mention the Ashtanga Yoga Nilam of Mysore, if briefly, just like Helen said..  He also has some very good pictures of advanced students -from Mysore not sure if at the yoga shala- with a guru watching closely over him as he practices.

Liked it much better than Yoga Self Taught. A treat, and shhh... a secret.

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5 Simple Yogic Internal Cleansing Techniques
10 Things to know About Pratyahara -Sense Withdrawal-


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Kino, Tim and Greg "Intro to Ashtanga Yoga" DVD Review

I am very pleased after watching the DVD  "Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga with Kino, Greg and Tim". I find it an excellent resource for beginners, and a very complete, well-rounded introduction.

Kino -you probably heard of, is the director of the Miami Life Center. I met her in Mysore earlier this year and she catapulted James into the Ashtanga hall of fame when she published in her Facebook page that he had been completely humiliated by yoga...

Tim Feldman is her husband and co-founder of the Miami Life Center.  He is a long time student of both Lino Miele -he mentions him in his portion- and Pattabhi Jois.

Greg Nardi is a long time student of yoga and Ashtanga yoga. Although I did not find his link on the faculty at the Miami Life Center he is listed as co-director. He also maintains the Facebook page "Ashtanga Yoga Worldwide".

THE DVD

Philosophy:

Greg
Greg gives a solid -if brief- overview of the history and philosophy of Ashtanga. I was left wanting to hear more.  

I particularly liked how he includes us, you and me, into the mix, which is something I firmly believe in. We are, after all, the living tradition:

"...As modern day yogis we can begin to expand the definition and raise our expectations of the practice"

The end goal is also pretty clearly stated: with practice we will be able to stop those jerking re-actions that cause us troubles:

"...Committed yoga practice offers us a system to change limiting patters of identification in our minds and body so we can experience greater freedom and reduce the suffering that is common to all human beings."

Breathing:

Tim
Tim Feldman takes over for the breathing section and has a wonderful 3-part way of explaining the contraction in the throat by which the breath is lengthened and controlled.  He has plenty of demonstrations and works with Dora, to show the movements in the body of a female.

Towards the end he also talks about vinyasa "without which it is not ashtanga yoga", and has a brief but effective demonstration of how to unite the breathing to the movement in a simple standing to squatting mini-sequence.

"Once we do this practice shanti -or peace- finds us", says Tim, who has a nice accent and clear eyes, and you believe him because you can see the radiance in him.



Practice:

The good news:  Kino goes through the primary series and it only gets to Janu Sirsasana A, which means it is a short practice, with the whole adventure at 1 hour and 9 minutes.  Great to start with.

Kino starts with the opening chant and a translation side by side. Greg is next to her and he makes every possible modification so that the practice becomes possible, no matter what level.  For instance, it was good to see the bended front leg in triangle, which someone like James seems to struggle with as a beginner.

The level of detail in the voice instructions is outstanding.  It never stops and goes into what has to happen in depth. Perhaps this is necessary for those first couple of practices as a strong point of reference to  notice everything that has to happen in each and every asana and transition. There is a lot going on indeed.

There is no 1-2-3-4-5 count for the breath while in the poses, rather extra bits of direction are heard so that the practitioner knows exactly what has to be engaged, thrust-ed, extended, worshiped, etc. For example,  for the sun salutes:

"For sun salutation begin by allowing your breath to awaken the inner sun ... allow your self to salute the sun and the inner fire..."

The Sanskrit is kept to a total minimum with the name of the pose in that language only mentioned before each pose, which is always beginner-friendly way to go so kuddos to that.

Finally, the back bending is fully modified by Greg making it possible (especially when seen next to Kino) and the closing is complete with full modifications.

------------

So there you have it, a great introduction DVD to Ashtanga. I wish it had been available when I started.

You can buy the DVD here directly from Kino's website, no Amazon just yet, it cost $22.95 plus shipping and handling 7.95 - not sure if it ships internationally

RELATED POSTS:


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"Worst Practice" Can Be The "Best Practice" - 7 Reasons Why


Have you ever heard that? "Worst Practice = Best Practice"? People saying that they were not “feeling it” but kept going with the practice anyway and ended up having the “best practice of their lives” -or some exaggeration of the kind?   

I have, I had one of those yesterday morning.  The newly added antibiotics to the ongoing pain from a root canal left me no choice, I wanted out badly. But I thought I should call b/s on myself and keep going, and I did. Good for me!

Here is how, I believe, the curious phenomenon of worst/best practice is weaved together: 

1 – You decided to keep going anyway. You are in new territory already, you are exploring something you do not usually do and you are changing behavior. Pad yourself in the back! How many people can do that?

2.- You don’t have the energy.  You know that you don’t want to, you are tired, sick, in withdrawal from pain medication after a root canal, in break-up mode, in make up mode, angry, whatever.  You are keeping it real. You are grounded.

3.- You pay more attention.  It is likely that your mind is not-so-with-you, so you need that extra bit of focus to pay attention to the breathing, to come back to the moment to remember the sequence.

4.- You give yourself a break. Especially in the case of pain, you are not feeling so hot therefore magically you start to find your edge and not pushing that much harder.  You are working with what is, you are a yogi.

5.- New found awareness.  Suddenly and due to all of the above you find yourself in the present moment, you are aware of every moment and every muscle, you feel the tension and the release, you forget all the images you usually attach to every pose and get with what is actually going on.  You are not even doing yoga, you are just present.

Maybe it is just me but usually I have countless images flowing through my head of how the asana should look like.  They mostly appear to be in the way that Kino does them in videos or the way that woman used to stay in the poses at Eddie's studio, or even how I see Sharath do it when I watch him.  There are also interspersed images of different bloggers that post videos.  But all of these go in a worst-case-scenario, and that in itself somehow makes it so much more light.

6.- Savasana feels delicious.  After all that work and attention, the focus continues into relaxation pose and you find your body twitching in areas you never knew could twitch, like the back of your elbow. Then you notice how this spot is actually connected to the center of your stomach, they both seem to vibrate at the same rate.  OK that was what happened to me, your example may differ.

7.- You did it! You went through one of those whining moments of life, took charge and decided to plow through, with intelligence and compassion. You were gentle yet you did what had to be done to put bread on the table. Hm, that is not the metaphor is it?

Well done! It was the best practice of your life.
Picture from here

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The First Western Student to Visit P. Jois and his Book: Yoga Self Taught

Andre Van Lysebeth (1919-2004) was the first western to arrive at Pattabhi Jois' shala in 1964. I was not even born then... Wikipedia does not say much about him, perhaps because he is Belgian and his website is in French or perhaps because... I don't know why.

I got curious about him when I read that he arrived so early at Jois' place, and looked him up, also got his book Yoga Self Taught.  It turns out he spent quite a bit of time in India, mostly in the Sivananda tradition and the Vishwayatan ashram in Dehli, one I had never heard of before.

Reading Yoga Self Taught, it is clear that he was not very influenced by Jois' teachings at all. For example his name does not appear in the book -although I do realize that this is a later edition, Wikipedia says that in the first one he did mention him and that is what prompted other western students to follow-.

I get the sense that Andre was a very prominent teacher in Belgium, perhaps the most famous -his teacher training course is four years long-, and he mostly did his own style of yoga with a Sivananda flavour.

In the book, the first thing that caught my attention was the one-liner he chooses from his guru, Sivananda: "An ounce of practice is worth several tons of theory".


Perhaps you also catch the similarity to the "99% practice 1% theory" or even the: "Do your practice and all is coming" of Jois...


The sequence he chooses to show is one he learned at Sivananda's and the most surprising thing to me is that it starts with the shoulder stand.

When I say surprising what I mean is that I feel weary of a sequence starting with the neck in such a possible compromising position before the body has even had a chance to warm up through a standing sequence.

I guess he anticipated people would question it on it and so he maintains that the rishis suggest starting with the inverted pose for circulation purposes. I am left scratching my head.

This is the sequence:

Sarvangasana - Shoulder Stand or Candle - for 1 minute 
Halasana - 2 minutes
Matsyasana - 1 minutes
Paschimotanasana 2
Upward dog - Cobra - 1
Shalabasana 1
Dhanurasana 30 seconds
Ardha Matsyendrasana 1 min
Headstand Shirshasana 1 to 10 minutes or more
Uddyana and Nauli 1/2
Breathing 3 mins
Relax 3 mins 

Also of note is that the word "vinyasa" (or how to move from out of one pose and into another one) does not appear in the index.

He has some interesting explanations of why the poses are named the way they are as in for example matsyasana -fish pose- which he says is because the belly goes up and resembles a fish floating in the water.  And he also goes extensively into how important it is to breath and to clean the body -great tongue scrubbing explanation-

Anyone out there in Belgium that has had any experience learning from him?


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SUNDAY NEW BLOG TIMES

Hong Kong, China, from the air
White Indian Housewife confused about Meditation

A pondering yogi guide to Tratak - stare at that candle, and get those benefits

Thank you @Yoga for NY ...  no further licensing required for teachers in NY -pending final decision- due to their efforts!

100 Incredible pictures taken from airplane windows

Woof or Om? Picture of the Doga contest winner.

Ninnie, a yoga teacher from Malasya drew a cool google doodle,  here you can even see how she drew it, frame by frame (I found it via an article at Yogadork)

And this article had a lot of people thinking that motivational speaking should sometimes be in the negative form: It's Your Fault

And here is last Sunday's New Blog Times!

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Spring And an Attempt at Dropping from Head Stand - Pretty Fail

UPDATE: I meant Hand Stand, not head stand, thanks V for pointing that out...

Will Blogger let me keep it if the post is pretty?

Blues and purples bleeding from the mat and into the nails

A path showered in pink from the Cherry blossoms

oh stop it! you did not!

Love this bench, it is so romantic

tulips

Uttitha Hasta by the Hudson, how could you not?

And the living is easy, the yoga practice is another thing

Trying to see if I will ever dare to start thinking about wondering if I will ever go about a drop from a headstand, hand stand. I.e.: much a do about nothing.  Funny that as a kid I did not really much care for it, and it was easyyyyy







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