Saturday, January 24, 2015

Yoga is the vehicle - not the destination

I've been thinking about this theme in my own practice, and also during the classes that I have been offering this week.

Yoga is not the destination - it's the vehicle.  What do I mean by that?

So often we think of Yoga as the end result.  I've even said to myself "When I am finally able to do (enter pose name) then I will have made it."   As if being able to perform a pose was the end result or destination I was seeking.

What I know now more than ever is that Yoga is the vehicle not the destination.  Just like a car is a vehicle that takes you to your destination (i.e., your work, home or vacation spot)

So, if yoga is the vehicle - what or where is my destination?  It's within.   The destination is the deepest places of my heart, my soul, my inner being - a.k.a. - the atman.  

Thus, Yoga is the vehicle that I ride inside!

It's an inner journey to my deepest Self.

Om namah Shivaya

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Meditation - it's not what you think!

I've been meditating more lately. It's good for the mind (and the brain). 

Meditation is not what you think - literally!   In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - they talk about aligning your mind with pure consciousness (something they call "Purusha").

Meditation requires you to do two activities, which are very difficult for most people:

1) Sit still
2) Stay Present

To help one in meditation, it's a good idea to "ask for help" (what a concept!)

In days past, people would ask for help by calling out a chant - and repeating it over and over again. This process of repetition is called - JAPA.  The process of japa is important as it "cuts a new groove" in your old patterns.

One of the oldest chants in the world is from the Rig Veda  (approximately 3,500 years ago).  It's called the Gayatri Mantra and its still chanted today.

It sounds like this: (chanted by Deva Premal) -

The words are as follows:

Om bhoor bhuvah svah 
    (to the supreme essence of everything that permeates of all levels of existence, time & space - 
and that eliminates suffering and embodies happiness)

tat savitur varenyam 
    (to THAT luminous brilliance that is the most virtuous and best for human consciousness)

bhargo devasya dheemahi 
    (Destroy our weaknesses, flaws and defects, so that we may receive in our meditation divine and abundant strength and joy) 

dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat 
    (In order to propel our intellect towards the path of supreme consciousness)

I chant this every day - sometimes out loud - sometimes driving in the car - mostly silently to myself. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The simplest pose can be the one!

We've all seen the pictures of those amazing yoga poses - the poses that look like Cirque du Soleil performers are doing them. Nearly every issue of Yoga Journal has one.  These types of photos are now used to advertise everything from car insurance to bank credit.  Crazy!

These images of "fantastic" yoga poses can be inspiring - but also damaging in a number of ways.  Not the least of which is that it sets a person up for an unrealistic standard and expectation.  

My own experience with practicing yoga is that the simplest of poses can have the most profound effect. Just sitting still is perhaps the most powerful pose that I have performed in some time.   The hard part is being still and that's where the magic happens.  

What if, the next time you rolled out your mat you just took 10 minutes and got as still as you possibly could - either standing, sitting or flat on your back.   This is the practice of yoga. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

After 10 years of practice

What happens after you practice yoga for a period of time?   The pictures below represent a 10 year span for me.  The picture on the left is from 2004.  The picture on the right is from last week (12/31/2014).

What I notice from this is that I'm a little longer, a little more grey, and a little more serene.  

What would have happened if I hadn't kept up my practice for the last 10 years?  No one knows the answer to that question.   But, at 57 years old I hope I can show similar results in the next 10 years.

However, the most important practice is today.  So it's just a good idea to get started when you can.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kerala - "God's own Country"

That's what all the brochures and tour guides call this place. "God's own Country". Supposedly one of the top 10 destination spots of a lifetime and I can see why.  The climate, food, people, culture are all amazing. Kate and I have spent 3 nights here now and our last night is tonight. We've enjoyed Ayurvedic massages, amazing food, cultural performances and exhibits galore, local people, backwater beauty and the all the western comforts one would want in a 5-star hotel (the Taj Malabar Vivante). It's been super great and relaxing. Total we will be going on our village tour to Poothota in the outskirts of Cochin. The plan is to be on a country boat driven by a long bamboo stick (think the canals of Venice).  Pictures will post soon.

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