Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Autobiography of a Yogi

I'm reading "Autobiography of a Yogi" - by Parmahansa Yogananda. I've glanced at it in the past but never truly read it cover to cover. I'm almost finished.

First published in 1946, it tells the story of a man who dedicated his life to getting close to his personal understanding of God through the science and practice of yoga (specificially "Kriya Yoga").

The story speaks to me in many ways and on many levels. Yoganada's dedication, diligent practice, human-ness, and vulnerabilities all come through the pages.

The practice of yoga can change anyone's life for the better - I am totally convinced - no further proof is required.

I envision the day when we all look back on our life as yogis.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Prana - the life force

It's called by many names - prana, qi, energy, the force, quantum - but it's all the same. The original cause. The primordial and invisible building block and essence of all life.

Control, regulation and mastery of the breath (prana-yama) is a key step on the yogic path. Yoga literature does not distinguish between "breath-substance," "mind-substance," or "LIFE" substance (prana) The three are so closely linked that there only exists a differentiation in the untrained mind. In reality, breath, thought and life are all the same - physical manifestations of pranic consciousness.

Slowing and controlling the breath will slow and control the random "thought waves" of the mind.

Until the human mind can be mastered, there is no peace of mind. Master the breath and the mind follows. Master the mind and peace will follow.

Om shanti shanti shanti

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Klesas - Afflictions

Have you ever tripped over your own feet? Isn't that embarassing? You look around quickly to see if anyone saw you.

Stumbling blocks are all around us. The Yoga Sutras tell us of 5 main stumbling blocks or "afflictions" (the sanskrit word is KLESAS), which inhibit our spiritual growth. They are:

Avidya - is best defined as ignorance. But it really relates to "spiritual" ignorance - thinking the real is false, and the false is real.

Asmita - Ego. Enough said?

Raga - Desire. "I WANT" is the root of all selfishness

Dvesa - Aversion. "Get that away from me" is the opposite pole of desire.

Abhinivesa - Clinging to life and an unrealistic fear of death.

So - if you just don't trip over those 5 stumbling blocks, then you will be on your way to a fulfilling life.

Practice. That's all it takes. Practice.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Precise Alignment

What would the pyramids in Giza look like if they weren't precisely constructed? Would they even exist today?

Would any building in San Francisco withstand even a moderate earthquake if it wasn't precisely constructed to exact designs?

Why then - do people let their "body structures" fall about it random patterns? We see this all the time in yoga class. We ask you to put your feet together yet they are a several inches apart and stuck outward like a duck!

When the body is structurally intact - and in a biomechanical balance - you feel better. You feel better because there is no longer a struggle with gravity. You're not "pulled down by the weight of the world" ...so to speak.

Balance, integration, freedom of movement, lightness, integrity and stamina are all a result of precise alignment in the body.

Practicing yoga will help you "straighten up" in more ways than one!

Friday, February 9, 2007

Teaching yoga for 70 years!

B.K.S. Iyengar of Pune, India was born in December 1918. He is 88 years old and practices yoga every day. He has been teaching yoga since he was 18 years old.

There will be a festival honoring Mr. Iyengar and his 70 years of teaching at the Santa Clara Convention Center - July 13-15, 2007.

For more information visit www.yogacharya.org.

One of the presenters will be Arun H.S. from Bangalore, India. Arun will also be at Downtown Yoga on April 7th and 8th.

70 years of teaching yoga! Wow!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Extend and Expand

Can you reach "beyond" your fingertips? Can you expand your lungs fuller than you ever have in your life? The ability to EXTEND and EXPAND is at the root of a yogasana practice.

In life - all things either EXTEND and EXPAND - or - they CONTRACT and DIE. The entire universe is expanding outwards and extending itself in a forward motion.

It hurts for a new yoga student to extend and expand. They feel the tightness in their muscles and skin, and they want to stop. They don't want to feel discomfort.

But we must move through discomfort to feel comfort - we must extend and expand or we will contract and die. There is no middle ground. Their is no resting place.

When we extend and expand we feel vibrant, alive and confident as we're moving in the same direction as all of life. When we stop extending and expanding - we contract and die and feel as if life is a struggle.

Extend and expand and feel life move through you fully.


Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Royal Poses (Raja-asanas)

Raja means ROYAL in Sanskrit - Asana means poses. The "Rajasanas" of yoga are Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand).

Sirsasana is known as the "King" of all asanas, while Sarvangasana is known as the "Queen" of poses.

Sarvangasana should ALWAYS follow Sirsasana in practice. You can have poses in-between headstand and shoulderstand. Yet, shoulderstand should always be done when a headstand is done.

Sarvangasana can be performed without doing Sirsasana in a practice.

Think of it like this. A King doesn't rule well without his Queen. But a Queen has no problem ruling on her own.

Enjoy the poses.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Let the wind of change move through you.

Vayu is the Hindu god of wind. Agni is the Hindu god of fire. Both Fire and Wind have transformative attributes. Yet, most people in the West only think of using FIRE (Agni) to make changes within themselves.

What I mean by this is that most people think that they will only see a change in their bodies if they work "harder" in their yoga practice. They think they need a "good workout" - they need to "sweat" - they need to "feel the burn" - Fire - Agni.

However, the changing power of "moving air" - breathing - accessing Vayu - can change the body just as dramatically. In fact, the practice of consciously breathing while performing asanas will calm the mind - thus enabling the brain to emit "relaxation" neuro-peptides throughout the nervous system. This will allow the muscles to relax and open and stretch further than you could by using the burning power of force.

I encourage you to get to know VAYU - the Hindu God of Wind - during your next practice.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

The Art of Sequencing

Kate is doing a workshop this weekend - Saturday & Sunday - February 10th & 11th on "The Art of Sequencing" The times are 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. both days. You can come on Saturday or Sunday or both. Saturday will focus on the physical attributes of sequencing poses. For example - why you would do shoulderstand AFTER headstand. Sunday will focus on the "energetic" sequencing of poses. For example - why you would do forward folds to relieve anxiety and why you would do a backbend sequence to alieviate depression.

Please call Kate if you'd like to attend. She'll reserve a spot for you.


Friday, February 2, 2007

We made the papers!

Today's Valley Times - 2/2/07.

Article entitled: "There's no excuse not to exercise"

Read it here - http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/alameda_county/pleasanton/16605697.htm

Constantly Practicing Detachment

Yoga Sutra 1:12 says - "Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tan nirodhah"

So what does that mean? Abhyasa means constant practice. Vairagyabhyam means detachment from desires. Nirodhah means to extinguish (nirodhah and nirvana have the same meaning). Thus, this sutra says that by practicing detachment we can extinguish the thoughts in our mind that keep us from experiencing peace.

Are our WANTS every satisified? Aren't our NEEDS always met? Craving, desire and wanting more only leads to suffering (dukkha) Practicing detachment from our wants brings peace of mind.

This is a hard pill to swallow for many people. But just try practicing it for today. See what happens. You may just feel better by the end of the day.

Om shanti shanti shanti

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Do no harm

Ahimsa - non-violence - is the first of the five Yamas (moral restraints) outlined in the eightfold path of Yoga by Patanjali.

None of us think that we're violent. Yet, often we harbor "non-kind" thoughts towards ourselves and others. How many times have we said to ourselves ..."I hate him...I hate that....I hate myself for doing that?"

Do no harm in word, thought or deed. Loving kindness is what the world needs and what we all desire. We each have to be the wellspring from which this expression comes forth in order to experience it in our individual and collective worlds.

Practicing ahimsa is practicing yoga - and - just like practicing asanas (poses) - practicing ahimsa will HEAL your body!

Namaste -