Saturday, October 25, 2014

Indian Rain - Sunday morning 10/26/14

Huge Thunderstorms last night. Flashes of the brightest lightening I've ever witnessed with an immediate clap of Thor's thunder right after. WOW!  Buckets of warm rain pour down upon the townspeople and the streets turn into running streams of water while the gutters turn into rivers. To top it all off everyone (including me) is in sandals!  It stops as fast as it came and the sky clears to a warm sun - but moments later it's back.  How can those fluffy clouds hold so much moisture? Simply amazing.

Yesterday we had back-to-back yoga classes with Arun for an extended 2 1/2 hour practice focusing on shoulders and abdominals.  Lots of twists for the shoulders and leg-lifting poses (Navasana - i.e, "Boat Pose") for the abdominal core.   Long holds, challenging sequences, and a teacher with a very focused eye - keeps you working harding than you think you have in you. It was so great.  

Today is the final celebration of the year long celebration that started on October 26, 2013 on the "beginning" of Arun's 60th year.   That's how they count birthday's in India. When you're born it's your "first year", so at the end of it you celebrate your 1st year.  So officially - last October 26, 2013 was the start of Arun's 60th year - and the 30th year of his yoga studio - Prashant Yogashraya.

Today he releases his new book - "Experiment and Experience on the Chair - the Yoga Way". There was a great article in The New Indian Express about the book release.  

Everyone is very excited.  We just hope the book doesn't get wet in the rain!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yoga is about "coming together"

Many people define the word "YOGA" as meaning "union" - but that definition doesn't resonate with me. My teacher Arun says that " is about coming together. You bring your hands together in namaste, you bring your feet, shins, knees and thighs together in Tadasana and you bring your mind, emotions, heart and soul together with your body when you practice asanas."

I also realize that yoga brings "people" together and helps us form a sense of community. This was totally self-evident yesterday as we celebrated Arun's 60th birthday in the traditional Indian style.  This was all complete with a huge 350 person lunch and festival.   

Yoga is about coming together, bringing everything to one.  

Omkaraya Namo Namah

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Puja for Patanjali

Last night (10/21/14) we attended the annual puja for Patanjali that began at 6:00 p.m.  The ceremony starts with about a dozen hindu brahmins chanting while the main priests prepare the blessing for Lord Patanjali - scribe of the yoga sutras. The chanting continued throughout the entire puja which lasted over 2.5 hours.  During this time the granite statue of Patanjali was washed and bathed in honey, milk, water, nectars, oils, etc. After full cleaned he was then adorned with a silver frontpiece and flowers.  It was quite and event. Afterwards we were fed by the priests. A 20-course meal was served on traditional banana leaves. You couldn't waste any food - but you could eat as much as you want. Sweets, salads, vegetable curries, rices, it was amazingly good and filling.  So ended our first day.  


Monday, October 20, 2014

108 salutations to Patanjali

Today in India is Patanjali Jayanthri - the celebration of Patanjali (21-Oct-2014).   We touched down at Bengaluru International Airport at 2:30 a.m. this morning.  I was with my wife Kate and some other yoga friends from Pleasanton/Brentwood area. We jumped into two cabs from the airport and by 4:00 a.m. we were in our hotel. A "Best Western" believe it or not - and it is brand-spanking new! Almost unheard of here in Bangalore.  New towels, new bed, new sheets and HOT WATER - oh yeah!

At 5:45 a.m. we walked the few short blocks to Arunji's studio and attended a packed 6:15 a.m. class. We were greeted by many friends from near (India) and afar (students from Canada, Germany, South America and New Mexico, USA).

Arun started class with the classic chant to Patanjali (Yogena Cittasya Padena Vacam...) but he ended it with 108 "call and response" chants to Patanjali.

Pranamami Patanjalim, Pranamami Patanjalim
x 108

After class Kate and I walked up to the vegetable and flower market as it was opening. This is a very celebratory week in India as it is the Diwali Festival - a festival of lights and blessings.

The light rain cleared the air and the fragrance from the flowers cleared our mind.

We're back in India!

More to come.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bound for Bengaluru

Arun resting in a pose
Heading back to Bangalore this afternoon.  All packed and ready to go.   Kate and I will be there for 3-weeks.  We will also be spending 5 days or so in the very south tip in the state of Kerala and the city of Cochin.  

It's my teacher Arun's 60th birthday on Sunday 10/26.  Diwali celebrations are all this week - and - we land on the 21st of October which is Patanjali Jayanthri - the celebration of Patanjali the scribe of the yoga sutras.

I'll post more when we arrive
AUM (in Sanskrit)

Bon Voyage!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Focus on the CORE

Everyone talks about "The CORE" but what is it really?

People want to work the core, strengthen the core, get down to the core, shake the core, move from the core - but finding the core is the challenge.

The core is far more than a physical location - it is a mindset.  Most people think the CORE is their gut - and in some respects it is just that.  It resides deep inside you - just like your gut.

I'd rather look at the word "CORE" as an acronym for how we experience the world.  Let me explain:

C.O.R.E. = 

C = your CONSCIOUS awareness of what's going on within your mind.

O = the underlining OPERATING systems through which you move through the world - the OPERATING system includes all your conscious (but mostly unconscious) beliefs, perceptions and viewpoints about how the world works.  Just like a computer - it's what runs your "applications" - it's how you apply yourself in your life, in your job, in your relationships, etc.  How you apply yourself is based on your underlying operating system.

R = your (perceived) REALITY as a result of seeing the world through your particular lens that has been shaped by your operating system (i.e., the voices in your head- the mind - the internal dialogue).

E = your EXPERIENCE of the world as a result of being shaped by your perceived reality.

So what happens in life?   We have experiences.   We get jobs, lose jobs, change jobs.  We get into relationships, lose relationships, change relationships.  We get money, lose money, earn money.  We get healthy, go out of health, get healthy again.   The experiences are what they are - shaped by our perception of reality as determined by the underlying operating system which runs our life and view of the world.

When the experiences aren't to our liking we try to change only the surface experience.  For example - when we don't like the job we have - we try to get another job.  When we don't like the person we're with - we go try to find someone else.  But what usually happens?  We find the same job with the same problems and the same relationships only they have different names.  Nothing  really changes and it feels like we're living an episode of the Twilight Zone where the same thing happens over and over again.

In Yoga we call this the cycles of Samaskara.  These are patterns that will repeat ad infinitum until we get to the CORE and understand the underlying principles that are manifesting them.

It's only when we realize that our perception of REALITY - the way we think the world is - is the problem - that our problems can change.  It's not the external experiences that need to change - it's the internal OPERATING SYSTEM that's creating the lens through which we see the world that has to change.

Thus, we have to delve deeply in the CORE and become CONSCIOUS of the OPERATING system that's creating our perceived REALITY which brings forth our EXPERIENCES of life if we want to make any profound change into our lives.

This is what yoga offers - an opportunity to train the mind to reflect - to observe and to watch.   It takes time, practice and patience - but it can be done.

OM Mani Padme Hum

Friday, June 28, 2013

Yoga - it's not a workout!

At the Mysore Palace in the early 20th Century, Yoga Master Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was teaching yoga to young men.   The yoga he was teaching to these teen and pre-teen boys looks much like calisthenics of today (see picture). 

Since young pre-pubescent boys are so active and physical (and limber), they took to Krishnamacharya's teaching right away.  Many students seemed to master the poses early on.   Some students continued to practice these "active" asanas for many years to come. Two of these young boys where BKS Iyengar (Krishnamacharya's brother-in-law) and the late Pattabhi Jois (pictured).

Pattabhi Jois passed away in 2009 at the age of 93.   Mr. Iyengar (born in 1918) is now 94 years old and still practices several hours of asana a day.   Krishnamacharya (born in 1888) lived to 101 years of age.   The longevity of these yogis is interesting since the life expectancy of India prior to 1950 was less than 36 years old!

The yoga these men practiced in later years changed dramatically from what they practiced as young school boys.

Mr. Iyengar is quoted as saying..."When I was young, I played. Now I stay."   Mr. Iyengar's practiced changed from active movements to long "holding" of poses. 

In fact, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (approx. 200 BCE) the main sutra on "asana" (2:48) says that the pose should be steady, firm, fixed and happy (Sutra 2:48 - Sthira Sukham Asanam).

The next two sutras of Patanjali's Sutras state that  "...perfection in asana is not an outward appearance - but rather that perfection occurs when the effort to do the pose becomes effortless and the infinite being within (the atman) is recognized.   Then, once that is accomplished, the practitioner no longer will suffer from duality."

Thus, asana is "work in" not a "work out" - a meditation on the infinite being within.  

This is why I hold the pose in my practice.   .

The use of props enables me to hold the pose longer - and to give "life" to the prop (the chair, the block, the belt, bolster, blanket). 

I'm not interested in "getting a sweat", in "working out"... in getting "tight abs" - but all those things happen (except the sweat).  I am stronger, firmer, more flexible than I've been in 40 years.  But that's not why I do the practice.  I do it for my mind - and to explore the deepest depths of my being, my soul.  I practice yoga to discover the atman within.   My yoga is a "work in".... - a work in progress!