I don’t focus as much on forward bends in my practice as I used to. Ashtanga Primary series played a large role in my practice for years, but then I developed yoga butt, and learned the hard way how to protect the body from excessive forward and backward bending.
That said, forward folds are an important part of any practice.
You may have noticed my breathless announcement last month that I’ve been added to the schedule as a yoga teacher at Burlington Yoga. What I didn’t share was the weeks of deliberation before I signed on. I raised money from friends and family across the planet for my teacher training, and my equipment. I did so because I wanted to be able to offer free yoga from the outset. Offering yoga classes for free is how I get to practice my yoga. It is an opportunity to put into action the last words of my mantra: “That there may be more light and life on the planet, and all may have without buying.” So it was hard to make that transition into the studio system without feeling like a hypocrite. My rationalization went something like this:
- The students aren’t paying for the yoga, they are paying to keep the lights on (I got this from a great podcast with Nischala Devi).
- Teaching in the studio I like to practice in will deepen my own practice, and strengthen our Kula (a new Sanskrit word I learned from the studio owner, and my primary teacher: )
- The (very small) amount of money I earn from teaching can be used for appropriate karma activities.
So, as my first month is coming to an end, it was very lucky that I received an email about a very worthy fundraiser. In addition to donating my first month’s money to this cause, I’d like to invite all of you to consider donating as well. Forrest grew up in the community where I was first taught to meditate, his work as a documentary filmmaker is a direct continuation of the work done by my teachers there. Even as I write this, my heart is overflowing with joy. This is what brings more light and life to the planet.
I hope you consider making a contribution to this campaign.
No, not that one. These:
Classes this week will focus on the three bandhas and ujjayi breath. Click on this link to view the sequence (this is my rough outline; each class will vary depending on the students).
If you check this calendar you will find out if there are any last minute changes to the schedule.
Guys! Hey, Guys!!
Just today this podcast was suggested to me (the path that brought to the suggestion is an interesting story as well, but I’ll save that for another time. This podcast is an interview with Nischela Devi who, in the connected yoga world is, I guess, pretty well-known.
If you care at all about yoga, do yourself a favor, and listen to the full 90 minute podcast. There was so much that she offered that felt like it spoke directly to me. Things that have been brewing inside for a while that she gave voice to, and things that I plan on immediately putting into my practice, starting right now.
The podcaster, J. Brown, who conducted the interview is also something special. I’ll think of him for a while as the Marc Maron of the yoga world, although I don’t know how apt that description is, but I have subscribed to the rest of his podcasts as well.
It’s our last class until the end of the summer! Let’s look at the standing sequence one more time:
This NYT opinion piece, addresses, but does not resolve an important issue in the Yoga world:
…the case of Mr. Choudhury is not unique. In 2016, a beloved teacher in the New York City-based Jivamukti Yoga center, known for its celebrity clientele, was sued, along with the center and its leaders, for sexual abuse by her mentee. John Friend’s Anusara community was rocked and dissolved in 2012 after he was discovered having affairs with married students and performing Wiccan-like sex rituals. Kripalu’s Amrit Desai was accused of sexual misconduct and abuse of authority in 1994 and a $2.5 million settlement was paid (the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts divorced itself from Desai and reorganized). And there are, of course, countless under-the-radar stories of yoga teachers coming on to students or touching them inappropriately in class.
The ‘solution’ offered at the end of the piece is a step in the right direction:
I believe all organized yoga teacher training should include training in ethics and, if affiliated with Yoga Alliance, point students toward that resource. Each community center, meditation group and yoga studio should post a code of ethics, as Jack Kornfield’s Spirit Rock community recently did. Every center should have a formalized, safe place to report abuse seriously and anonymously. Even secular yoga studios should provide this service, alongside mats and towels.
But this is only a first step. This kind of abuse happens whenever we put someone else in charge of our growth and healing. The teacher/student relationship (or priest/parishioner) is so inherently uneven in terms of voice and power that abuses like this are inevitable. It might even be fair to say that this is a feature, not a bug.
I find the reminder in the penultimate paragraph to be the most salient way to address this issue:
We ended each class with a Sanskrit chant that translates to, “The one true teacher lives in the center of your heart.” I wanted these young girls to know, though teachers are helpful guides, the one true authority is inside of them. I wanted them to carry this lesson forward into their adult yoga world as women.
We can all do with the reminder that our connection to the universal soul cannot be mediated, that growth is not granted, nor wisdom handed down, but earned through the sweat of our brow. I would love to know the mantra that the writer is referring to. I couldn’t find that translation anywhere, although there are a few mantras that have a meaning similar. Here’s one:
It’s time to walk the plank!
This article is lovely for a number of reasons, one of which is that it repeats one of my favorite definitions of Yoga Asana:
In the most practical and classical terms yoga-asana is the science of awakening to the here and now by maintaining a steady balancing act between effort and ease.
In searching for some information about B.K.S. Iyengar’s religious tradition I came across this lovely transcript of Guruji leading a group in OM and wanted to share it:
All of you sit straight. I don’t want you to stand. Think that you are standing though you are sitting on the chair. Treat your tailbone as the feet – as the center of the feet. And the two buttock bones are the actual feet. So sit on the buttock bone from the back to the front, the center like an arch – reverse arch – touching your seat. When you stretch your body, the torso – close your eyes, drop your eyebrows down; when you close your eyes the upper lid should come down, not the lower lids going up – again open your eyes: slowly bring your upper lids to come and touch the lower lids along with the eyebrows. Don’t bend the head down.
Hear the inner sound from the ears and take the vision – reverse the vision of your eyes to the inner space which you cannot measure either through physical eyes or intellectual eyes. It is so deep inside. As you descend the energy of the brain from the four hemispheres let the energy touch the stem of the brain or the egg of the brain so that the four hemispheres’ energy recedes to the center. And from there, it has to dip down towards the seat of the heart which is the seat of the mind. And as you are sitting, see that your feet, the buttock bones are firmly established on the seat. Gradually stretch the frontal spine – do not jerk the back spine – but the frontal vertebras, creating space on the anterior part of the spine which is known as the physical energy.
Ascend the physical energy from the front of the tailbone to reach the core of your being which is exactly just near the diaphragm, the center of the diaphragm. Similarly, bring the intellectual energy from the head to descend so that both the physical energy and the intellectual energy reach at the seat of the intelligence, the heart. At the same time your vision should follow the descendence of the energy of the intelligence as well as the ascending energy of the physical body. And you will know where they meet.
Take your ears inside. Release your tongue. Do not touch your tongue to rest on the upper palette. As you are in sleep, as the tongue is completely quiet, non-moving, here also learn to relax the tongue and let it rest on the lower palette. Remain quiet. Passively look within, not only with your eyes, but with your ears, so that the mind becomes quiet and your brain becomes silent. In the silence there is auspiciousness. In that auspiciousness the incantation has weight. Look within. Let your inner layer of the skin also look within without dropping the height of the spine.
Along with me, after I say AUM, I request you all to sound AUM.
AUM is not a Hindu mantra. The first word to open the mouth is akara – A – you cannot open the mouth without the word “A” – you cannot speak without rolling the tongue – that’s why “U” comes – so silence comes from the “M”; so it has nothing to do with Hindu religion. AUM is the three words which makes one to speak. Therefore the importance of AUM and they call it as “shabda brahma” or brahma, the creator, in these three words where the language has come to existence. Therefore the Hindus use the word AUM as a bija mantra, as a seed for talk. Therefore let us all pay respects to these three words which makes us to live, which makes us to create, generate, protect and destroy what should not be used.
Slow, soft exhalation. Do not do an inhalation. If you inhale you disturb the vision of your eyes. So let the vision be deep inside.
AUM chanting going on.
Hear the sound of silence. Let your ears move in to feel the source of the vibration. And that is self.