Monday, November 15, 2010

I can't teach Yoga

I'm starting to realize that it's impossible for me to teach Yoga. Yoga is its own teacher. The yoga practice teaches me. I can't teach you what yoga can teach you.

However, what I can do, is share my practice with you - in the hopes that your practice will deepen to the point where yoga will reveal its secrets and teachings to you.

Verse 1:26 of Patanajli's Yoga Sutra says:

"Sa esah purvesam api guruh kalena anavacchedat"

This translates as:

"God is the ultimate guru and teacher - unaffected by time and space."

So where does each person's best teacher reside? Deep within each student's heart resides the ultimate teacher for that student.

Later on in the Yoga Sutra - Verse 2:47 states:

"Prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibyam"

This translates as:

"Perfection in the pose is achieved when the effort to perform the pose becomes effortless and the infinite being within is recongnized."

The infinite being within - the teacher - the ultimate Guru - undistrubed and unaffected by time and space.

Who really teaches yoga? Who shares his/her practice?

Yoga is an "inside" job. Find your teacher deep within every pose.

Namaste -

Monday, October 25, 2010

Reaching Enlightenment

A young man in his late teens or early 20's walked into my class this morning. He's been to class a few times - no more than 3 times total. It was a bit of a surprise to see him show up so early at the 6:00 a.m. class. He walked in the door and said "Yogi - teach me how to find Enlightement." I thought it was a joke - but he was serious!

"What makes you think I know anything about enlightment?" I asked.
"Well haven't you found it yet? Aren't you close?" he asked.
I said, "I don't know if I'm close or far - I just come here every morning to practice - so if you want to practice get a mat and let's start."

This poor lad! He is a handsome young man - tall, and appeared to be fit & strong. But his body was so so stiff and awkward. He was greatly challenged in the most basic poses. I gave him props and modifications for Down Dog and Padangusthasana. He was cramping, shaking, huffing and puffing. He couldn't straighten his legs.

He said "I can't straighten my leg all the way cuz I worked it out the other day."
I said to him, "We gotta have you stop working out then!"

The other students in the class chuckled. I felt for the young man as I had been in even worse condition 16 years ago.

As we continued to practice I asked him "So why do you want to reach Enlightenment?"
He said, "Why not?"
I said, "Well, from my understanding - when you reach Enlightenment all craving and desire has ceased - and I still like frenchfries - a lot!"
He was quiet for a while after that statement. I imagine he starting thinking about the things that he desires and craves - like wanting to reach Enlightenment. We kept practicing.

I thought about his question the entire class. "...haven't you found it yet? Aren't you close?"

The truth is that I probably wouldn't know "Enlightenment" if it hit me between the eyes. How do you "get close" to enlightenment? Isn't that like "almost pregnant?" I would think you either ARE enlightened or NOT. And underneath all those thoughts - was the though "what is enlightenment anyway?" I went into a Marichiasana Twist.

"So do you think it's possible?" he asked.
"Do I think what's possible - for you to keep you leg straight in Trikonasana?" I asked.
"NO" he said, "for me to reach enlightenment?"
I looked at the position of his foot and asked him to turn it out. Then I said, "Come back tomorrow and we'll work on your poses and we'll find out - until then, lift your kneecap please."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Holy Smokes!

Has it been that long since my last post?

At least I've been practicing every day. That's right - every day -6:00 a.m. - rain or shine.

6:00 a.m. Sunrise Practice Class - regardless of what time I go to bed the night before -regardless of what I ate the night before. Every day for the last 16 months now. Since June of 2009.

I practice every morning at 6:00 a.m. (except Sunday which is at 8:30). Anyone is welcome to come to class. I have first-timers, old-timers, heavy people, thin people, tall people, short people, young people, old people, flexible people and stiff people. It doesn't matter who comes because yoga is for everyone and it's all about willingness.

6:00 a.m. this time of year is dark and getting cold. Some people say that they're too stiff to practice in the morning - but the morning is the perfect time exactly because you're stiff!

You see, the practice is honest in the morning. You can't kid yourself. You have to "back off", "slow down" and be "deliberate" in the pose. You can't fake it in the morning. It has to be the real deal.

So I practice at 6:00 a.m. and I love, love, love it. I hold the poses longer. I challenge myself by doing poses two, three - sometimes four times until I move to the next pose. I support the students that come and help them modify the pose to their level. I use a helluva lot of props - but that's half the fun too!

Yoga in the morning - so good. Come see us sometime. 6:00 a.m. - Mon-Sat. Downtown Yoga -


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Body-Mind-Emotion-Spirit = Yoga

So I was thinking about this the other day during my yogasana practice. I'll share it with you.

Imagine for a moment you're going into a yoga pose - it can be any pose - let's just say it's Triangle pose. You've done triangle pose a billion times right? So put yourself in triangle pose.

Ok here we go:

Stand on your mat
Legs wide
Right foot turned out.
Left foot turned in a bit.
Right thigh externally rotated
Keep right big toe pushing down and moving forward.
Put right hand on block
Keep pressure back on left heel.

Yada yada yada.... You know the drill - Triangle pose.

Now - you're in the pose - and here's where it starts to get interesting - this is the place where the YOGA really starts to come into play.

You start "thinking." The mind starts to get active.

Your mind starts talking to you. It may say anything including things like....

"Man this feels kinda crappy today"
"Ouch my inner hamstring is so tight"
"Ugh my back is sore today"
"I wish I could go lower in the pose like...(famous yogi)...can"

blah blah blah blah.... the mind talks - it basically babbles. Sometimes it gets agitated, critical, angry, impatient or fearful in it's talking - but it talks - that's for sure! It can't be avoided.

What happens next?

The emotions get stirred as a result of the internal dialogue. If the mind starts to say to you "This feels crappy today, I'm stiff, I'm sore, I really am not good at this." - Then, the emotions start to get stirred and a "feeling" starts getting washed across the body. This, by the way, is an actual chemical response to the thoughts as neuro-peptides are released throughout the nervous system from the brain. These "thought-feeling" molecules start moving through the body.

STOP HERE! This is the moment of YOGA! This moment is when BODY-MIND-EMOTION all become ONE. At this exact moment - when the mind is about to "take you out" - is when you want to drop into the experience a little deeper. Go through one more sheath. The mind is about to have you miss the experience of "Self." The mind wants you to listen to it's babble by releasing the "thought-emotion" molecules.

It is at this exact moment of time - when the mind creates the emotion- that you want to STOP and find the SELF. As soon as you feel the "emotion" - is when you need to control your response and look for the SELF - it's right there! So, so close!

This is the exact moment of time that is spoken about in all the Ancient texts - like the Bhagavad-Gita. This is the moment where you have the opportunity to become Master of your senses, and thus a true Yogi. This is the moment that is spoken of in the Yoga Sutras. The moment when the effort to perform the pose becomes effortless and the infinite being within is recognized.

The Self, the Spirit, the Atman, the essential Essence of who you are - can only be recognized when all three (Body/Mind/Emotion) are merged into one - and the practitioner realizes that he/she is none of those things - but is rather the essence that moves through, that sees through, that feels through these instruments of Body, Mind and Emotion.

This is Yoga. That's my experience of standing in Trikonasana pose (triangle pose). Experiencing the inner essence within that animates the body, mind and emotions. Then, as the Yoga Sutras say - the yogi is no longer affected by dualities. You become free.

Cool stuff - and you'll probably get a good inner-hamstring stretch at the same time!

Namaste - Jim