Give All, Want Nothing

31.5.10

"Consistent practice (abhayāsa) and detachment (vairāgya) are the means to still the movements of counsciousness."

(YSP, 1:12)

Give all. Want nothing. Seems to be the true way of Love. How many really live this? Love given freely. Absolutely. With never a thought of anything in return. No expectation.

This same energy highlights the practice of yoga. Showing up, giving all, wanting nothing. Detachment to the time and effort put into practicing. Seems to go against our result driven culture. Though we are born in the enjoyment of being. How easily it becomes broken down, lost even, this joy of living in wonder.

I've often told students to look toward the practice as a discovery rather than a place to get to, a destination. For, you are already where you need to be, in this moment. Of course we all struggle with this from time to time. I'll be the first to admit. That realization in itself is part of the process.

The paradox lies in the dynamic nature of Ashtanga Yoga. It's challenging on many levels. How easily we can become seduced by the accomplishment of asana in this practice. For there are many. It's in our face. We connect to our bodies. Our obsessions reveal themselves. Often I feel this being the subtle design of Ashtanga Yoga. The method to the madness. There is no way around it really. There isn't much to hide behind. I guess you could hide for a time, but after while things start to implode or unravel. Which again, can be an enlightening part of the process. A definitive part of the path.

The dance of immersing oneself through the daily ritual, whatever may come. Showing up. Some days asking why. Other days asking why not isn't always a smooth ride, but it's a ride worth perusing. Worth experiencing.

The more I slow down, continuing in a steady rhythm, the movement in itself becomes a total experience. The dance of being totally committed, totally invested in every part of the process, while letting go at the same time, detaching to an elusive outcome, is never easy. However, this little perspective has huge impact on how we approach the challenging paradox of Ashtanga Yoga.

The practice has a way of aggravating our ego. Shedding light on the dark spots. There is really no need to judge the dark spots. To embrace them as part of the journey, is part of the learning. The more I've ignored the darkness, and used "positive thinking" to wish them away, the more they seemed to sneak up on me. Naming them. Acknowledging. Allowing them to come into my collective reality ultimately give power to letting go.

I've been around people who have the mask of being self realized, to know much, and often see they are just as scared as the rest of us. What is said in between the lines speaks louder. Being an observant person, the nonverbal part of someone is usually what I tune into versus the words spoken. I feel it. When no realness is being portrayed I tend to loose interest quickly.

It gives rise the simplicity of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois's language when teaching. "You do! You take! Breathe! Bandha! Practice! Take practice! Practice and all is coming." His pearls came from presence. Nothing more. An experiential knowledge taken forth. It's unique to find this in someone. Our western minds like to over analyze, and put things beyond words into language, which in essence doesn't quite hit the mark. 

Sitting in discussions regarding yoga is inevitable. However, I find when caught in the wheel of commentary - is it this way or that way? I find it brings a sense of lifelessness to the process of practice and discovery when always trying to find the one answer. There is none. Yes. There is a set sequence. Yes there is an approach as to how the practice is transmuted, but the way it translates is unique to the individual. Honoring where it comes from, and the lineage is key. And in the same breath, honoring each person embarking on this path is important as well.

Often when teaching I ask questions more than giving answers. What was your sense here? What did you feel there? At first I can see the wheels turning, as one tries to find the right answers. We seem to be set up that way. However, I quickly explain there is never a wrong answer. Never. Not when it comes to growing into our God given awareness. I will never rob someone of that.

Settling into a space of wonder and discovery balance the attachment toward the practice. I sense it on my own mat. When I feel as heavy as concrete, pushing against the feeling. Ah ha. I'm not in a place of acceptance of where I am now. I'm attached to feeling a certain way. What I did yesterday is gone. Over. Today is a new day. A new practice. We are constantly reminded of this. The push has an equal shove. Another lesson to learn.

I'm thankful for the lessons. For the learning. The learning never stops, and hopefully I'll never feel as if I'm the expert on anything. There's always a new place to expand into.

I've seen the competitive nature that runs with teaching. I've experienced it. How once someone stands in a place of being "the teacher" the openness to learn from others becomes closed, and only offered in certain circles. It's interesting. Again, the attachment of the role, as a teacher. Which at the end of the day, doesn't hold much weight if one doesn't see that student and teacher are essentially one and the same. However, that's a topic left for another day.

Through the course of it all we must continually play with this dance of fully stepping into the intensity of practice to then let it all go. Let go of expectation. All that's needed is you. Simply show up. We must meet face to face with ourselves. Our mind. Our body. Connecting to the mystery of life.

Then, see what happens ...

Heima {At Home}

30.5.10



As one Icelander put it, to hear Sigur Rós live is like a mystical experience. In the movie/documentary, Heima, the band performed random, free, unannounced concerts in Iceland. Amazing views of the country, along with their music, are the perfect compliment to both.

Tortured Soul


















"I never fall apart because I never fall together"     (Andy Warhol)

































"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

(Helen Keller)


A tortured soul. For as long as I can remember I feel like I've been one. Though seemingly calm on the exterior I've always felt the depth of my own uncertainty. Yes, there have been glimpses of knowing. Knowing with utmost certainty. There have been times the voice inside spoke louder than my own fears, as I walked forward perplexed as to why. Those instances have garnered a wealth of understanding. However in that, with deeper understanding I've come into deeper unknowing. Deeper confusion at times. What I feel is that you can't always grasp onto insights as if your life depended on it. We delve in, then once again come to a place of unknowing.

There are days I'm in utter confusion. Angry even. Asking myself why, and what is it all for? Painful. Though I've felt unspeakable pain, in that, I've felt unspeakable joy. Must I have one to experience the other? I'm not sure. What I know now is I'm not sure of anything.

So here I am. Here I sit. Maybe that is all I can do. The feelings. Feel as if they'll consume me whole. Will I ever be free of it? Something tells me that might be too much to ask.

No matter. More and more, I just want to be free, but in the same breath, I don't know how, and not sure if I ever will. I see how locked I can be in my own mind. The chains are of my own making. Yes. I'm sounding highly mellow dramatic. It's the way it is. It's what I'm feeling. This too will pass. Then tomorrow I'll be filled with love, and compassion. Cross your fingers, lol. But why the tug? Why such strong feelings, back and forth. Forth and back. One day, feelings of oneness, the next, feeling desperately separate. Often I feel alone in this knowing. That too is an illusion. However, it's not enough to know it in theoretical sense. I wanna taste it.

So whatever.

I can be honest regarding what I struggle and wrestle with. One has to. Even with no regrets I see how I didn't consciously choose a path of comfort. I didn't choose a path of security either. I could have. Maybe I should have, but at what cost? The cost was too great and still is. But, does it make it any easier?

Hell no.

Eivør

29.5.10



Last night we went and saw Eivør live in concert at the Reykjavik opera house. The concert was amazing. She's amazing. I can't say it enough. With a powerful and unique voice, she has a way of taking you to another place through her performance. I bought her Cd, though it is wonderful in it's own right, she's one of few performers that sound better live than recorded. Eivør is the real deal.

The best part of the night was when she sang freestyle, only her and her drum. One of the most inspiring musical performances I've ever seen. Hypnotic and tribal at the same time. There's an earthiness to her presence, singing barefoot, and totally committed to her craft.

If you haven't heard of her you will soon, and she's from the Faroe Islands of all places.

Wiki - Eivør

The Call

28.5.10


"The Call" from keith wyatt on Vimeo.

The Plan


"The Plan" from keith wyatt on Vimeo.

Learning Revolution

27.5.10



Ah. I completely identify with this talk. From someone who never quite fit into the conventional education system I love what's presented here. I've always been a bit of square peg fitting into round hole, lol.

Icelandic Music

Somehow my yoga blog has turned into an all great things about Iceland travel blog, lol. Bear with me. I have one more thing to rave about and that's Iceland's music scene. I don't exaggerate when I say Iceland has the highest percentage of talented artists and musicians anywhere in the world. For a country this small it pumps out some pretty amazing stuff. It's unreal.

Today I found myself at a local music store in downtown Reykjavik desiring to find a few additions to my music collection, which is pretty pathetic by the way. I've been so unimpressed with what's been released in the mainstream lately that once I heard some of the Icelandic music acts I felt like finally my music thirst was quenched. I bought 7 Cds, and I never do that. Ever. And, there's more I want to get but I didn't have time! Let's just say I was more than impressed. What fun. I was like a kid in a candy store.

One of my favorites is Emilíana Torrini. Absolutely wonderful.

Emilíana Torrini


Of course I picked up a few Sigor Rós Cds, because you just have too, and I thought I would try something a bit different like Seabear, but believe me, there's so much more. So, so, so much more. 









  









                                 

Karandavasana

24.5.10



Such a wonderful demonstration by David Robson.

Sigur Rós


Sigur Rós - Glósóli from Sigur Rós on Vimeo.

I'm really digging some of Iceland's homegrown music acts. Unique. Hypnotic. Learn more about Sigur Rós.

Icelandic Horses







Iceland breeds only one type of horse, the Icelandic horse. Seen just about everywhere dotting the countryside, they color the landscape in beautiful, picturesque fashion. No other horses are allowed into Iceland under any circumstances. Absolutely not. So strict with this policy, if an Icelandic horse leaves the country, it's not allowed back due to keeping tight control on the spread of disease, and keeping the breed pure.

One unique trait, besides their relative size, compared to other horses, is their gait. Even though I've only been exposed to horses on a handful of occasions I could clearly feel the difference in the Icelandic horse's step compared to other breeds I've ridden. It's quite interesting. 

I've always loved horses, and the Icelandic horses are especially cuddly and friendly, as one fellow traveler put it. I'd have to agree. Such beautiful, loving creatures.




Amazing Iceland

23.5.10


Iceland from ozan alptekin on Vimeo.

In Step

 The Pearl - Reykjavik, Iceland

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
(William Shakespeare)


Ah. In the past several weeks I've been out in left field. This is often where I find myself anyway. Haha. Departed from writing personal accounts on my blog I've been in heavy contemplation. I had no choice. When feelings come up this intense they must be dealt with. It's been one of those times where again I've had to look at myself, blatantly. Now I'm on a roll. Why stop? Once I've had the opportunity to name the fears I've held inside, as challenging as it is to look, nothing feels better then to be free of them.

I'm understanding how contemplative work is never a comfortable experience. It just isn't. It's rewarding, but never an easy going, fun ordeal. Much like consistent yoga practice - twisting, binding, bending, flexing, jumping isn't always fun, but we sure do feel better when it's all done. Makes it worth it.

What have I been tapping into? My emotions. I mean really taking a look at them. Somewhere along the path I've gotten into the habit of judging what I'm truly feeling. Doah! This pattern has gotten me stuck in various areas of my life. Really stuck. Conditioning I developed at a young age, it saved my ass in many instances, and to my amazement, is astonishing how deeply ingrained it is. 

Through the practice of yoga I've embraced the power to shed many layers, and this is another that has come up. Stuck emotions. Like I've said before, what's the use of practicing yoga if in turn I don't take the awareness developed by consciously opening to what needs to be shed. Shit! This has been a long time coming. Releasing feels like welcome liberation.

Everything comes to the forefront when the time is ripe. Like I've told many yoga students, a flower blooms when it's ready. With extra time in solitude, listening, I had no choice but to observe the place where I stand in NOW. It's beautiful, even though there's a multitude of feelings to be felt. Not all feel spectacular to begin with, but no matter, this is the juice of life.

No TV, no movies to watch, only a few books, being pulled out of distractions have allowed me to really sit with myself, and damn it, it's not so scary. Am I stepping into a greater appreciation of my being? Ha! I just might be.

My stay in Iceland is winding down. The time flew by. With it being my first time to discover this magical island I know I'll be back.

My unique experience regarding Iceland has been my dreams. I've had the most vivid dreams, in a stretch, than I can recall ever in my life. Seriously. I'm talking about gnarly, animated, dynamic dreams. Many mornings I've had to lie in bed and be like WTF was that? Really. Deciphering some of these vivid nightscapes has been like walking through a maze of the subconscious. Where do I start? Some type of energy is moving through. Not sure what, but the energetic nature of this place amplifies it.

Is this why Icelanders are so damn creataive? Hmmmm. I need to start writing down my nightly dramas. Who knows what it could lead to ...

Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland

22.5.10


Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull - May 1st and 2nd, 2010 from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.


Amazing video of the Icelandic landscape and the Eyjafjallajökull volcano by Sean Stiegemeier. The music is by the Icelandic vocal artist Jónsi.

Sweat Lodge

21.5.10

The Sunday before last I participated in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony in a beautiful spot here in Reykjavik. An awesome and enlightening experience. Realizing there has been bad press regarding sweat lodges since the tragic event last fall, in Arizona, I wanted to give my own experience, because when done correctly, and I use the word correctly quite strongly, it can be a wonderful and beautiful process to go through. Obviously, it's been done for centuries in the Native American tradition, and had it's place in the larger scope of spiritual development in their culture.

In light of what took place in the unfortunate event the spiritual leader of the Lakota tribe is quoted as saying:

"Our First Nations People have to earn the right to pour the mini wic'oni (water of life) upon the inyan oyate (the stone people) in creating Inikag'a - by going on the vision quest for four years and four years Sundance. Then you are put through a ceremony to be painted - to recognize that you have now earned that right to take care of someone's life through purification. They should also be able to understand our sacred language, to be able to understand the messages from the Grandfathers, because they are ancient, they are our spirit ancestors. They walk and teach the values of our culture; in being humble, wise, caring and compassionate. What has happened in the news with the make shift sauna called the sweat lodge is not our ceremonial way of life!"

So, I'll put this out there right away, if you ever decide to participate in a traditional sweat lodge ceremony it is imperative you do one with someone who knows what they are doing! 

The sweat lodge leaders in Iceland have been doing ceremonies for over 20 years on a regular basis. Though it was challenging, I never once felt unsafe or uncared for. Through and through, it was a joyful experience in healing and transformation. You could feel the deep respect for the tradition, and the ancestral wisdom connected to it emanate off the sweat lodge leaders. One went on to tell me his deep love and respect for the Earth and how representative she is of abundance, love and support. He expressed how often in hard times we look to the sky, up toward the heavens for answers never really truly connecting to what is down below. The way he explained this was deeply touching, and more than just words, I felt his resonance with this connection through his energy. A special thing to witness.

The group was made up of 20 individuals almost equally divided between male and female. In the beginning we were given numerological readings corresponding with a color. The first color given is the one you are born with, which corresponds to a chakra. This is part of our essential make up. Then we were given a color for this year which again corresponds with a chakra which deals with lessons and challenges of this year.

I was told my essential color was light blue which connects to the throat chakra. A free spirit energy. It's important I express myself through various outlets. He went on to tell me more, which for now, I'd like to keep to myself. One thing that's quite interesting is much of what I was told didn't come as a surprise. Funny how we know the answers inside - all it takes is someone from the outside to tell it like it is for us to listen. Haha. More and more, I've come to the realization that I simply need to listen to my heart. It's knows.


The first part of the ceremony, we dance! Yes we dance! Dance! Dance! I had to dance for one solid hour in front of people I didn't know (no alcohol either, ha). For someone who can be quite shy in the beginning, I had to let it rip and start moving. Talk about a freeing experience. They played music to a high volume and the dancing seemed to go on and on and on. At first I was like, why? Then I got it. After while I felt like I was in a trance, opening to a space of feeling, movement and rhythm.

Next was the sweat lodge. I'm not sure how many have seen a sweat lodge, but it looks like a small hut of some sort, this one being round in shape. Beforehand, special rocks are heated for hours over an open fire to heat up the lodge. There are certain protocols during the ceremony, such as only entering in clockwise and leaving that way. Once everyone settled in, the rocks were placed in the middle of the lodge. We have to "welcome" each rock that is placed in the middle. When all the rocks were placed the leaders started with a few words. They spoke mostly Icelandic, with at bit of translation, but I got the gist. Basically we were told the more we put into the experience the more we will get out of it. To heal you must feel. They passed water around and towels dipped in ice cold water for everyone before closing the opening of the loge. Soon it was pitch black.

Sitting in an area absolutely pitch black is something like being in a time warp. Even one of the leaders explained it like this. The time spent inside never seems quite as long as we were really inside. Interesting. Right away you notice the blackness, and the heat. Then the leaders lead us through a series of chants. They said when loosing yourself in the chant one is better able to withstand the heat. Often our minds will make a situation feel worse than it is through obsessive thoughts. Hence, chanting really gets you through. During the round water is poured over the heated rocks, and the hut fills with hot steam.

We did a total of 6 rounds increasing with intensity. After each round the entryway is opened as a rush of fresh air came in. A welcome relief. The leaders made sure we consumed plenty of water before heading into the next round. Every round has a theme, and each one feels as if something were being released, and let go of. I allowed myself to be fully present in the process, chanting strongly with the others. There's never a need to be shy or insecure, heck it's so dark there's never a worry. Even though I was in there with other people, with the darkness, there is also a feeling of it's just me, and what's being pushed to the surface.

After the ceremony I can't even express how great it feels. Omg. It's amazing. When I went to change and quickly glanced at myself in the mirror I had to do a double take. I looked different. It was like I was wiped clean, and totally rejuvenated. I felt that way too. I had the cozy feeling of being deeply held. I had the best sleep ever that night.

This was actually my second sweat lodge experience, and the interesting and ironic part is that my first ceremony was in the outskirts of Sedona, Arizona where the tragic events actually happened. However, I was there for a totally different purpose, and my sweat lodge leader again knew what he was doing, and didn't differentiate from that. He took us to our edge, and with that being said, we always had control over when enough was enough.

In the same breath the grief I felt for those who lost their lives to this experience has tugged at my heart deeply. It's unfortunate on so many levels. Ceremonies such as this shouldn't be put into the hands of just anybody.  It deserves respect from where the ancestral wisdom came from and handled with utmost care. The leader needs to have gone through their own rites and rituals to then be able take others on such a quest of purification.

Will I do it again? If it presents itself in the fashion my previous experiences did I definitely will. They were never anything I've looked out to experience, but they found me. These rites of purification have a way of doing that no matter what they are.

It was magical, and to have done it in Iceland made it all the more special.

AYCT

19.5.10

More on Practice

"A daily practice brings about a gauge in your life. For me, it’s been a way
to know who I am in the moment. And it’s the only thing in my life that
is something I do every day; it’s the same practice. So no matter what
else I’m doing—I’m traveling, if I eat differently—every day the practice
being the same repetitive practice gives me a way to judge myself in a
nonjudgmental way, a way of seeing. “How am I doing? How am I holding
up to the stresses of daily life?” It’s also the only time for me that I
can take my mind out of my daily life and become free in a spiritual
sense to investigate myself, my true Self."

(Nancy Gilgoff)


"My experience of practicing yoga now for about twenty-three years is
that it keeps me connected to a process that is life-giving, light-giving,
and health-giving. The rewards of yoga are tangible and immediate, and
especially in the beginning. Staying connected to the practice for me just
ensures that this evolutionary process continues to unfold itself in some
kind of organic way, creating greater health, greater wealth, greater possibility,
greater opportunity, greater things.

I think it’s very important for people to develop patience in the process.
Things may not come at quite the speed that people would like them to come and oftentimes people become attached to the physical progress in the poses, using that
as sort of yardstick to measure how well they’re doing in the practice. I
suppose everyone goes through that phase at some point, and maybe
some people never get out of that phase."

(Tim Miller)



"After ten years, one starts to get a bit of a grip with the mula bandha. After twenty years, I realized this was the real strength of yoga. Now that it has been more than thirty years, more than ever I realize the real strength of the yoga is in what’s invisible. I tell
people, “What’s invisible is what’s important.” The breathing and mula
bandha; the name and the form, namarupa, is maya; it’s an illusion. And
the people who give too much emphasis to the name and form miss the
real importance, which is the mula bandha and the breathing, the invisible
internal practice."

(David Williams)


"On Guruji’s first trip to America, his English was pretty pitiful. He explained as best as he could in English, but if he could see you weren’t holding mula bandha
correctly, he had no qualms whatsoever about reaching behind you and
just putting a little squeeze on the rectum. The reflex is to pull it tight
immediately, to tighten up. When teaching pranayama, he was very strict
about uddiyana bandha. He would have each person sit in front of him
and he would press in very hard on that section you need to hold very
tight to keep the air locked properly. People who don’t do pranayama
don’t understand the importance of uddiyana bandha a lot of times. It’s
locking up the energy so it goes to the right places. That and the chin
lock are very important, and using the three together is like playing the
piano and using the pedals. To make the music come out properly, it’s absolutely
vital that some degree of mastery be attained. And it’s hard during
asana because you are moving and shifting position. It’s much easier
when you are sitting in lotus. Like you were saying, kukkutasana would
be a great place to practice nauli because it’s challenging. So after learning
pranayama, control of the bandhas comes more easily during asana
practice and as you shift position [vinyasa]. Mula bandha is vital. That’s
one thing that separates ashtanga from most other systems. If you are
holding mula bandha properly and keep breathing, you can try to pick up
a piano. Either you will be able to pick it up or you won’t, but the likelihood
of hurting yourself is very slim. It’s a protective device; it prevents
hernia and all manner of displacement of organs. It’s vital. The system
wouldn’t work without it, and teachers who don’t concentrate on it are
not doing their students a favor. Their students will progress in spite of
the lack of knowledge, but it will be nothing like the pace they could
achieve if they had a little instruction. It’s the cornerstone of the practice,
really."

(Brad Ramsey)



Why Asana first?

"Asana? I think it is because he wants us to understand the physical effort
which gives us tenacity, willpower, in order to be able to develop discipline.
He inculcates discipline so that we understand that we should be
attentive to other people and practice the first two limbs. But you haveto
go through the physical to understand the two limbs which come before.
You have to be peaceful in your head, you can not go immediately to the
first two limbs. That’s why he makes us start with asanas."
(Brigitte Deroses)

"When you inhale, it works on the sympathetic nervous system. When
you exhale, it works on the parasympathetic nervous system. This is why
we have to bring it into balance all the time. All effort is initiated by
the sympathetic nervous system, while sleep or relaxation is more the
parasympathetic nervous system. Pranayama is how we control the nervous
system. When we inhale, you have to make an effort. Exhale is just
happening, you don’t need any effort. But to inhale deeply you need to
make an effort. When you make an effort everything becomes tense. If
you say “Inhale,” a person may screw up his eyes, raise the shoulders,
move the head up—it creates that action. In pranayama when we inhale,
we move the head down and look into the heart. You don’t raise the
shoulders. You just inhale peacefully. So you are breaking the pattern.
When you exhale you don’t fall into tamas, you keep the back straight.
Otherwise, you would naturally collapse the back on exhalation. When
you exhale, you engage mula bandha, you support the spine and avoid
falling into this heaviness [tamas]. In this way, you change the nervous
system, you gain mastery over it. And this is probably how Krishnamacharya
was able to stop his heart from beating."

(Tomas Zorzo)


"In a lot of schools of yoga, if it hurts you are doing
something wrong. And if you were a perfect physical and mental specimen
already, then I can see how that might be true. If you are altering
the status quo in an unpleasant way, you might want to stop if you were
already perfect. But if you feel growth coming from it, and see things
changing that need to be changed . . . the series is just a mold toward a
body that meets the requirements for spiritual advancement, I believe. I
don’t think you can get there without pain. I never met anybody who did.
For me, it hurt from the first day to the last, at least something. There’s
always something."

(Brad Ramsey)


"First, you keep your body strong. Life demands that you have to be strong
and healthy. Also, when the person starts to practice, they change their
habits in a healthy direction. At the psychological level, you start to develop
willpower, which is also necessary in life. When you practice every
day, you develop willpower. When you relax in the asanas, you are developing
the quality of relaxation in life. So the asana practice is giving you
strength and relaxation and also the possibility of reflection. You can see,
according to your state of mind, how the practice will be affected by what
you are eating. So the practice is a mirror. You can see many things. When
life is falling apart, you still have your practice: it brings you balance."

(Tomas Zorzo)


"Every Saturday would be neti day.
When I got there he was using his old neti string, a really old one, a piece
of bicycle valve tube, what we call surgical tubing, but black like bicycle
inner tubes are made out of, and one of his old Brahmin threads. He’d
double it and roll it on his leg and spiral it real tight, and it felt just like
sandpaper—it was, of course, linen. So every Saturday we lined up at his
little sink in the yoga shala and he would make some of the Indian people
come, too. If they were snorting in class or blowing their nose or
something, they’d have to come and they were the first in line. We always
got there as early as we could because the sink was just cold water. The
first time I went there this little Indian kid, I think his dad made him
come because he had a kind of asthmatic sound to his breathing, really
clogged up, and the kid was practically crying, “No, no,” and they were
rattling back and forth in Kannada and Guruji was like, “Hey, you get up
here!” and the kid is crying and screaming and Guruji says, “Open!” So
he puts the tube up the kid’s nose and reaches into his mouth to grab it,
and “Aargh!” throws up all over Guruji, who jumps back and starts yelling
at him. So he does the other side on the kid, and I’m next. “Oh, no, don’t
worry,” [says Guruji] and runs his hand over it like that [to clean off the
neti string]."

(Brad Ramsey)




(Extracted from, Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students, by Guy Donahaye, Eddie Stern)

More on Guruji

"The way Guruji teaches is not lazy in any way, shape, or form. He brings the same energy, or more, to every class every day. I would be dragging, it
would wear twenty of us out. I think it was the consistency and the genuine
love and desire to see you learn this practice and improve your health.
It took me four years in Mysore, off and on, to get into lotus. I remember
the day that he finally, after sitting in front of me, got me into
lotus. He stopped the whole class and almost started crying with laughter
and joy. I think he was more thrilled to see me in that posture than I
was. You know, that’s just one example. It goes on every day that you are
in there. Whatever posture is difficult for you, he never forgets, he always
makes you do it, even if you’ve gone by it. It’s his discipline and his
tenacity along with the love of the practice that make him unique."


"I would describe it as being one of the most sincere messages I’ve ever
received. When you are in there with him, you know he has totally dedicated
his heart and his soul to this teaching, so you want to give him the
same in return. I’ve had many teachers of all types throughout the years,
from English to basketball, and of course, you meet great teachers along
the way. I’ve never met anybody who loved to teach as much as Guruji.
In fact, it seems to me, as he is teaching he seems younger, he’s a different
person in the room. Out of the room, he’s such a beautiful wonderful
householder that the combination was overwhelming to me. To me, he is
one of the great humans." 


(Ricky Heiman)


"Guruji is tremendous, he is amazing at getting people to go beyond
where they think their limits are. It’s a little scary sometimes. I’ve seen
looks of panic and complete terror on people’s faces and also tremendous
breakthroughs. As a teacher—I’ve been teaching for thirteen years—
watching Guruji is amazing. I don’t feel confident to do the same thing
that he does. He’s got sixty years of experience teaching—he’s seen a lot
of bodies, he’s put a lot of bodies through this practice—and I feel like I
need to be much more conservative than him. I’ve seen him put people
in full lotus, and get them into garbha pindasana, kukkutasana that I
would have never believed possible. And what it gives them is tremendous
and you can take that and from that develop the discipline and love
for doing the practice, which is something that does happen through that
sense of accomplishment."

"One of Guruji’s real strengths as a teacher is that he obviously practiced
strong yoga. He was clearly challenged by Krishnamacharya, and at
the same time he was also a scholar and I think that is unique. A lot of
people were just yoga practitioners or they were scholars. Guruji has
been both, and he brings that into the room. He obviously embodies the
yoga teaching, the philosophy, the lifestyle, as well as having done the
practice."

(Chuck Miller)


"At the time I was very impressed by his energy because he was always attentive
to everyone. As soon as you tried to skip a posture, he would say,
“You there, you haven’t done that posture!”—like that. I was very amazed
that he was so attentive to reading everybody. And everybody had the impression
they were his favorite and he did that for everybody. It was afterward
that I understood that when he made us take the postures he
paid us special attention, so you got the impression that he liked you
a lot. We realized that we were each his favorite, his unique student.
And that was his manner of making us advance. I understood that much
later. But in the beginning I thought, “Oh, he likes me.” But he loved
everybody."

(Brigitte Deroses)


"He’s like the whole orchestra. He doesn’t just have one way, he can find
a way for everyone. So he sees you and your spirit and the aspects of your
character that are competent and good and that may be lacking and
not so rounded, and he seems to be able to do that with everyone. He
doesn’t overcomplicate it, he keeps it really simple. There are three really
powerful techniques: the breathing method, coordinating the movement
with the breath; the drishti; and the squeezing, the bandhas. He doesn’t
get extremely technical, he doesn’t talk about anatomy, he doesn’t talk
about complicated energetic concepts. He keeps it incredibly simple. It
takes a brave person not to appeal to a person’s, particularly a Westerner’s,
need for information. You know, that kind of information, it’s incredibly
simple: “Breathe!” “You breathe!” “You do!” “No, no, no, don’t
think, you do!” And it’s so effective."

(Nick Evans)


Do you see Guruji as a healer?
"Absolutely, absolutely. I don’t know if you want to talk about what kind of
healer, because yoga seems to be union between body and mind, but he
seems to get in there with you. Boy, he gets right in there, he’s right
there. And I think he heals himself every day with this teaching. I haven’t
met anybody who loves to teach as much."

(Ricky Heiman)


Practice and Life

18.5.10

"The purpose of our spiritual life as human beings is to pass through the
difficulties that life brings us, and to allow these things to pass through
us without getting hooked—to become more like a witness to the events
without craving, just to be aware of them. That is the difficulty. Life is
just change, and maybe your wife passes away. To see Guruji’s wife pass
away was very interesting. He felt attachment toward his wife. And I remember
him telling me something in Sanskrit like, “Time is being eaten
by a rat, you have to accept that, everything has its expiration date.”
You have to accept that everything is changing, everything is passing
away. I remember Guruji crying and telling me that. “Yesterday Amma was
here. Today, is gone. Yesterday here . . .” And he was crying so strongly. He
was not pretending. He was in the middle of suffering this attachment to
his wife. He was not going to see her anymore, and he was suffering. And
at the same time, he surrendered himself completely to this suffering
and it was interesting to see how he recovered. He was smiling again one
month later. He was so happy. And he was not happy because his wife
was gone. He could express his love toward her but he could accept that
things were changing. That is detachment. You have to say goodbye to
things that are living. You cannot control that. Life is bringing you so
much, especially if you have a family. All the time things you want are
not coming, and things that you don’t want are coming. You see the attachment
and the aversion and desire and everything right there."

(Tomas Zorzo)

(Extracted from, Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students, by Guy Donahaye, Eddie Stern)

In Memory of Guruji, July 26 1915 - May 18 2009

Guruji and the Depth of Practice

"I don’t think what he’s imparting can be said. But I think there’s nothing
else really worth talking about, because he is teaching a kind of openness
of the mind and the heart which is so stunning that, at least at times, you
don’t know what to say, you are awestruck and can’t put it into words.
That’s why there is such an art, I think, to teaching. Krishnamacharya
once made a comment to a friend of mine: yoga is not mechanical. I
think Guruji is always teaching that through a very formal system. You
have to follow the form very carefully, in fact you have to pour your being
into it with intensity to create tapas, internal heat. But then you have to
be completely not attached to it. And somewhere in that changeover,
where you are able to follow form precisely but then not identify with it,
the real yoga comes out."

Is it a spiritual practice?

"Yeah, I think it’s spiritual in the way most people use that word. You
could also say it’s beyond spiritual. If someone has a concept of spirituality,
this is much more interesting than anything they could imagine. But
it’s definitely a totally spiritual practice. However, if someone comes to it
and has no interest in what they believe spirituality to be, if they just take
up the practice for improving their health or fixing some biomechanical
problem in the body, it’ll prove effective but it will also put them in touch
with their core feelings. And just by touching those core feelings they
will start inquiring into what is real. They’ll start to ask: “Why am I suffering
all the time?” “What is true?” And so they’ve come to the right
place. And so yoga in a sense is like a fountain. People will go to it, for
many different reasons but because they’ve gone to the source they start
to get a taste for it, and they might not really understand why they like it
but they’ll keep coming back to the source and eventually they’ll just
jump right back in."

It is spiritual in the sense that the Atman, the soul, is revealed, but at the
same time there is a methodology as well, so is it somehow a fusion of those
two things?

"Exactly. If we say that what is of most interest to the open mind, to the
open heart, is beyond expression, beyond words, also therefore beyond
technique, our first reaction is “I won’t do anything.” But the fascinating
thing about practice is that what is manifesting as the body and the mind
is composed of strings and strings of techniques, and so yoga is actually
the art of using techniques with incredible skill and through that one
naturally arrives at a place where there is no technique anymore but freedom.
This is one of the major themes of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the
extremely illusive themes, that the truth is ultimately formless because it
generates all forms. How can it be approached? How can you realize it?
It’s actually through seeing forms with an open mind and allowing the
body and the mind to complete their natural tendencies to complete
their forms, and in that you release form." 

(Richard Freeman)

Guruji and the Practice

16.5.10

"You learn that there is a wisdom contained within the practice, if you are
paying attention. Learning to listen is key. The form of the practice and
the method of the practice contain a teaching. I believe that if you are
paying attention, if you can look below the surface and ask: Why do we
start where we start? What do we do first? What do we do next? How do
things link one-to-one through the sequence? There is something informative
that teaches you something. You learn how one pose will teach
you about another. You work from the outside to the inside. You are basically
working on clearing the way and clearing the physical blocks in the
body, which are related to clearing mental blocks in the mind.
Yoga philosophy teaches that what we are doing is uncovering, cleaning,
and Guruji said over and over again, if you listen, “This is not physical
practice, this is mental cleaning.” He talks about cleaning the nadis,
clearing the tubes that energy flows through. I really do feel—maybe this
is not unique to ashtanga yoga, maybe any yoga practice has the ability to
clear the way—but Guruji’s method does it so methodically, so systematically,
with the sequence set for us, and not relying on just doing postures
as you choose. This, I think, is really difficult. It’s hard not to fall into biases,
taking a practice where you just do whatever it is you want to do, or
what the teacher wants to do at that point in time. It’s hard not to fall
into tendencies for what your preferences might be, or for staying away
from things that you don’t like. You have a sequence that is set, and
whether you like it or not, you are going to do navasana and marichyasana
D, janu shirshasana C and supta kurmasana. There is something
about putting yourself up against that which challenges you in a way that
I don’t think you would challenge yourself normally.
I remember seeing poses in the first class I watched like janu shirshasana
C—I swore in this lifetime that I would never do that pose.
It just looked impossible to me. Kukkutasana I was convinced, literally,
never in this lifetime would I do that posture, and within a couple of
weeks I was doing it. It is a tremendous thing for a person to get, to realize,
that the things that we set as extreme limits for ourselves are just in
our mind, and we have to be careful of the limits that we impose on ourselves.
As human beings it’s amazing how prevalent this is in our society."

(Chuck Miller)


(Extracted from, Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students, by Guy Donahaye, Eddie Stern)

Guruji

15.5.10

"He’s like the whole orchestra. He doesn’t just have one way, he can find
a way for everyone. So he sees you and your spirit and the aspects of your
character that are competent and good and that may be lacking and
not so rounded, and he seems to be able to do that with everyone. He
doesn’t overcomplicate it, he keeps it really simple. There are three really
powerful techniques: the breathing method, coordinating the movement
with the breath; the drishti; and the squeezing, the bandhas. He doesn’t
get extremely technical, he doesn’t talk about anatomy, he doesn’t talk
about complicated energetic concepts. He keeps it incredibly simple. It
takes a brave person not to appeal to a person’s, particularly a Westerner’s,
need for information. You know, that kind of information, it’s incredibly
simple: “Breathe!” “You breathe!” “You do!” “No, no, no, don’t
think, you do!” And it’s so effective."

- Nick Evans

The Ashtanga Method

14.5.10

"Yoga is a scientifically based technology that gives us certain techniques
by which we can awaken or uncover our inherent spirituality. The idea is
that we are inherently spiritual but that there are perceptual blocks to
our realization of that. I look at yoga as a way of removing the obstacles
to a perception of our true essence.

It’s what Patanjali talks about in The Yoga Sutras: yoga, chitta vritti
nirodhah—yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of consciousness.
When that happens then: Tada drashthu svarupe avasthanam—then the
true nature of the seer, the inner being is revealed. So yoga is all about
techniques for removing the blocks to our true perception of ourselves.
It’s a scientific method for the realization of the fact that we are spiritual
beings. In that sense it’s obviously a spiritual practice."

"For me it’s been a long process of recognizing the value of the yamas
and the niyamas, the process of making yoga real in my life, how it affects
my relationships with other people, my relationship with myself.
You’re only on the mat for, at best, a couple of hours a day. What are you
doing the rest of the time? You can’t practice yoga for two hours and then
go out and act like a jerk the rest of the time. I mean, I suppose you
could and people do, but I can’t see the point in that. Ultimately, one
needs to—especially if one’s a teacher—one needs to set some sort of
example."

(Tim Miller)

Eka Pāda Bakāsana A & B

13.5.10



Eka Pāda Bakāsana A has been a challenging posture for me. Still working on getting more bend in the leg, which is a work in progress. As you can see my left side is far stronger than my right. At this point it's nice to get a substantial lift.

KPJ

12.5.10

"Guruji is tremendous, he is amazing at getting people to go beyond
where they think their limits are. It’s a little scary sometimes. I’ve seen
looks of panic and complete terror on people’s faces and also tremendous
breakthroughs. As a teacher—I’ve been teaching for thirteen years—
watching Guruji is amazing. I don’t feel confident to do the same thing
that he does. He’s got sixty years of experience teaching—he’s seen a lot
of bodies, he’s put a lot of bodies through this practice—and I feel like I
need to be much more conservative than him. I’ve seen him put people
in full lotus, and get them into garbha pindasana, kukkutasana that I
would have never believed possible. And what it gives them is tremendous
and you can take that and from that develop the discipline and love
for doing the practice, which is something that does happen through that
sense of accomplishment."

"One of Guruji’s real strengths as a teacher is that he obviously practiced
strong yoga. He was clearly challenged by Krishnamacharya, and at
the same time he was also a scholar and I think that is unique. A lot of
people were just yoga practitioners or they were scholars. Guruji has
been both, and he brings that into the room. He obviously embodies the
yoga teaching, the philosophy, the lifestyle, as well as having done the
practice."
(Chuck Miler)


Viparīta Śalabhāsana & Ganda Bherundāsana

10.5.10

Iceland ♥

Beauty to be experienced!






















Everyone it's time to put Iceland on your list of places to visit! 

The fascinating part of being on the land of fire and ice is not just the seer beauty of the place, but the fact there seems to be subtle energy circulating that runs deep. A challenge to put into words. Pulsating. Vibrating. An extremely young country in a geologic perspective, it's no wonder I felt the shift in energy when I landed over a month ago. 

Finally I get it! Through the years I've always heard how special Iceland was, but never truly convinced, until now. It must be experienced!

Guruji

9.5.10

In honor of Guruji, and with the anniversary of his passing coming up, I thought I would highlight I few excerpts from the upcoming book, Guruji - A Portrait of Sri K. Patabhi Jois - Through the Eyes of His Students, over the next week. A big thanks to Steve who put me in contact with the link to Guy Donahaye's website, which have a list of passages from the book. Incredibly inspiring.

Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students


The way Guruji teaches is not lazy in any way, shape, or form. He brings the same energy, or more, to every class every day. I would be dragging, it would wear twenty of us out. I think it was the consistency and the genuine love and desire to see you learn this practice and improve your health. It took me four years in Mysore, off and on, to get into lotus. I remember the day that he finally, after sitting in front of me, got me into lotus. He stopped the whole class and almost started crying with laughter and joy. I think he was more thrilled to see me in that posture than I was. You know, that’s just one example. It goes on every day that you are in there. Whatever posture is difficult for you, he never forgets, he always makes you do it, even if you’ve gone by it. It’s his discipline and his tenacity along with the love of the practice that make him unique.

.............

I would describe it as being one of the most sincere messages I’ve ever received. When you are in there with him, you know he has totally dedicated his heart and his soul to this teaching, so you want to give him the same in return. I’ve had many teachers of all types throughout the years, from English to basketball, and of course, you meet great teachers along the way. I’ve never met anybody who loved to teach as much as Guruji. In fact, it seems to me, as he is teaching he seems younger, he’s a different person in the room. Out of the room, he’s such a beautiful wonderful householder that the combination was overwhelming to me. To me, he is one of the great humans.  

- Ricky Heiman

( Passages from Guruji, A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Through the Eyes of His Students)

Ashtanga for Everyone

6.5.10

love this

 Boiling hot water fresh from the Earth
“look, i’m not trying to be an artist. i’m not really a self-proclaimed anything. i just want to be happy. and that’s different for everyone. the american dream ideal has been shoved down our throats since it developed, and hey man to each his own. that dream was somebodies once and it’s embedded in a thousand other people right now. but it’s not my dream. it’s not my goal. because i don’t want to look at myself in the mirror when i’m thirty and regret all of the things i never risked because everyone told me “you’re not going to get anywhere” - like what the fuck is “anywhere” even? who decided that i had to be something practical in order to be happy? i am awestruck, i am spellbound, i am shell-shocked, and i am exhilarated. but you know what i’m not? i’m not bored. i don’t ever want to wake up one day and realize that i am bored. that i am unimpressed with everything that everyone else told me mattered. i’d rather figure out where i belong then have somebody else decide for me. so i’m taking my chances. why?
why the fuck not.”

(violent femme)

Ashtanga Yoga Mysore Class

5.5.10



I just love the beauty and synergy of a Mysore class. Wouldn't you agree?

Winnipeg Yoga Shala

Tweaks

 I love Iceland!

"Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk."
(Doug Larson)

In the last couple days I've had the lovely gift of a tweaked back. The strange part is I'm able to do my practice with no problems. Almost as if I can bring mind over matter in a course of two hours or more. Then afterward, when my body cools down, the back doesn't feel so good. Not sure if it's the culmination of all the hiking coming into play or what. Guess it takes a while for it to settle in.

No matter. Life is full of tweaks. With a tweaked back, the lesson to be learned is in making an adjustment. Lately, I've had to address certain imbalances in my body and bring consciousness around them. With one leg slightly longer than the other, often I feel the imbalance in my sacrum. On side pinching. With that, I've had to find ways to lengthen through, and keep my right side more loose and fluid. Bringing in a sense of balance.

With various imbalances I can never take my vinyasa for granted. I must bring an extra amount mindfulness into the area of my low back with every upward facing dog. In the end, it a good thing, with tweaks I've learned an endless amount in regards to accessing a posture.

Ha! But for some reason I can't seem to get enough of hiking around Iceland. If anything the practice of yoga has allowed me commune with nature, and come to a place of vast inner appreciation of it. It's been awesome. Although, the beauty and energy of Iceland make it easy. Unspoiled. Pure. Geo-active. The list goes on, and the contrast of fire and ice has piqued my interest into the forces of nature. Definitely wasn't expecting this insight before I planned to come here. I welcome it.

Ūrdhva Kukkutāsana A B C

4.5.10

Possibility

 Icelandic Beauty
"Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star…"
(e.e. cummings)

  fjord 


The day after the climb it was back to business as usual. Practice in the morning. Sunday. The start of my practice week. However, after climbing over 4, 000 ft. on an incline makes for an interesting practice. An interesting practice indeed. On top of that my usual Primary Series class afterward, and a 3 hour afternoon workshop devoted to vinyasa, jumping back and jumping thru. A packed day.

To my surprise I was still a buzz of energy after hiking Hekla. Even after all the physical exhaustion I felt, and still feel today, a sense of renewed energy coursing through my body. This I was not expecting. I was expecting to be absolutely worthless and found it to be the exact opposite. 

I've never stopped myself from other activity because of worry of how it will affect my practice. Never. I don't see it that way. I feel the practice of yoga allows me to live more fully. Obviously I'm highly devoted to my practice, but through time I've realized it can't be my life. What it has done beautifully is open the reality into what's possible. To be in a space of limitlessness. Do I want to live big or do I want to live small? It doesn't have to mean scaling up mountains or tenuous physical challenges. It can be just as simple as offering a smile to a stranger.

In practice I continue to push the boundaries as to what I deem possible. It sets the stage to then go out in life and experience it. Living big isn't necessarily connected to material wealth, I'm talking about the spiritual wealth of active experience. Living this reality, fully open. Alive. Free.

The practice of yoga helps to open the channels, heightening our sensitivity to ourselves and to those around us. We stand better prepared to live in awareness. The critical step being what we decide to do with it. Standing in recognition. In a place of knowing and connection, to then go forth and live in yoga. Union. What's the point of coming to my mat bending and flexing if I don't make the connection off? This is the bridge I'm consciously crossing at the moment. I'm learning it never matters if I get knocked off my center. It's inevitable. But, am I able to bring myself back in daily life? This is key.

Even better, I'm making the connection not to judge myself too harshly with all my foibles. Oh! I have many! Again, learning this is where the juice is. There is no outer image to mold into. When I enter into a state of yoga it will express itself as unique as it's own, like a snowflake. One no better than the other, but extraordinary alone. 

It becomes evidently clear how the process NEVER ends. I'll never come to a place and be like, okay, I'm done. My learning is done. No. The depth we can grow into is endless. An ever expanding work of art. Which is comforting. Knowing life will continue to shift, grow, expand, contract, morph into ... anything.
 

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