Monday, December 19, 2011

The Apathetic Yogi

What determines who is, and who isn't a true master of Yoga? Is the dedication to the practice the determining factor? Is it the skill of the pose? Is it the depth of the twist or fold? Is it the physical stamina?

Certainly all of these traits are impressive and have some importance in evaluating a person's yoga practice. Yet, I think that true mastery is best seen in the apathetic yoga practitioner- the one who truly doesn't care one way or the other.

Think about it for a moment. Suppose you are in a yoga pose. Say you are in Janu Sirsasana pose - head to knee pose. For some people this is an easy pose - for others (like me) it's a challenging pose. Regardless - you're in the pose. And when in the pose, nearly everyone has his or her own individual thoughts about the pose.

If the pose is easy for you, then you may be thinking to yourself - "This is easy, I'm so skilled at this and I'm delighted that I can do this pose so well - I love, love, love this pose. How great that I can feel my back and legs release in this pose. Janu Sirsasana - YAY!"

If the pose is hard for you, then you may be thinking to yourself - "Darned this pose! It's so hard. The back of my leg is killing me. How can people ever relax in this pose? It's so frustrating. When is this going to be over? I hate this pose."

Then, you have the Apathetic Yogi. He/she doesn't care if she's in the pose or not. The pose is neither easy nor hard. The pose doesn't stir up emotions of any sort. The Apathetic Yogi's mind is completely and utterly detached from the pose. There is no longer any "gripping" of the mind with the pose. The Apathetic Yoga couldn't care if he/she stayed in the pose for another hour - or never did the pose again for the rest of his/her life. It doesn't matter what the pose is or isn't to this yogi. What matters most is that his/her mind is free from desire and/or aversion. The mind is free. The pose is merely the seat (literally - the asana) where the mind can rest.

This is mastery. Apathy is a signpost on the path to Mastery. When you find that you just don't care what pose you're doing or not - then perhaps your practice may have just taken a giant leap in the right direction.

Namaste -

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Satya needs no hype

It really bother's me when I hear a yoga teacher (or any other professional) using hyperbole to over-sell themselves in their marketing and sales communication.

For any self-respecting yoga teacher to claim "extraordinary results" (i.e., beyond ordinary) - or that they have the magic answer that has been handed down to them from "Ancient Masters" - or that they're going to give someone "the secret to unlocking the Vital Pranic Forces" just really makes me bristle. It borders on being unethical. It especially bothers me when I know that the person making these claims is just as human, just as messed up, and just as clueless as the rest of us.

Sure, maybe they can do a pose or two that I can't do - but that only means they know how to do a pose - it does not mean they have the answers to all of humankind's universal questions. It's sad too when the person making these claims actually believes them to be true. Then we have an even MORE dangerous situation.

This is my opinion - and my opinion only - ready: No one among us has the magic answer. There is no secret formula. The truth is we basically know very little.

Satya is the sanskrit word for Truth. Water is the element that symbolizes truth. In fact, there is an expression we use when we know something is false. When something's not true we say- "it doesn't hold water."

To claim that you can "intuitively read" what someone needs "and know how to heal them" - doesn't hold water with me. In fact, it makes me not want to have that person near me. When I hear claims like that I sense "Sales-pitch" or "Charlatan" or both!

Here's the truth - we barely know what's best for ourselves. How the heck can someone be so presumptuous to infer that they know what other people need without even asking them! It insults my intelligence. It doesn't hold water and is - in my opinion - dangerous ground.

The truth doesn't need hype. State the truth - the truth is - no one has any "secrets" to life. The only secret to a long life is this: "Don't die before you go to bed and do your best to wake up every morning." If you do that - you have a good chance of getting through the day.

The Yamas and Niyamas are Spiritual pricinples which need to be practiced. They are simple enough - no mystery in them.

Ahimsa - Don't Hurt or Kill
Satya - Be Truthful
Asteya - Don't Steal
Bramacharya - Try to Restrain Yourself
Aparigraha - Don't take more than you need
Saucha - Clean it up!
Santosha - Be Content now
Tapas - Work with Zeal
Svadyaya - Learn something new - cultivate wisdom
Ishvara Pranidhana - Dedicate everything to a higher power - some may call that God.

No mystery, no secret, but they must be practiced.

Satya needs no hype.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Elusive Truth

Noted Physicist Richard Fenyman once said this about knowing the truth ..."We never are definitely right, we can only be sure we are wrong."

How then would you apply this logic to discovering the TRUTH about yourself?

In the Brihandaranyaka Upanishad (written some 3,000 years ago), Yajnavalkya is questioned by his students to describe God. His response is very similar to Mr. Fenyman's in that he says "The Divine is not this, it is not that" - (Neti, neti)

If I am to find the deepest Truth about myself then I must identify, remove and discard what I am not. I am not my thoughts, my mind, my body, my job, my car, my story, the name on my driver's license, my imperfections, my talents, my desires or my fears. Neti, neti. Not this, not that!

What's left? Start asking yourself what you're not and see for yourself.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


My dictionary gives several definitions for the word - DISCIPLINE

1. Punishment
2. Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character
3. Control gained by enforcing obedience or order
4. Self-Control
5. A rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity.

The reason I've been thinking about this word is because I've been disciplining myself to get up every morning at 5:00 a.m. for the last two years - so I can practice yoga every day at 6:00 a.m. (NOTE: Sunday's are at 8:30 a.m.).

Every morning, as I drive up to the studio at 5:40 a.m. I think to myself the same thoughts..."I need to stop doing this every day thing. Maybe I can do just every OTHER day."

Yes! It feels like PUNISHMENT - the first definition. 6:00 a.m. Yoga is HARD to get to - hard to get started - hard to think about. But then, the practice starts, and by 6:20, 6:30, 6:40 - something starts to happen. I start to feel GOOD that I made it there.

I start to feel the "training that corrects, molds and perfects the mental faculties..."
I start to feel the " control gained by enforcing obedience..."

I start to feel - GOOD!

And then 7:15 a.m. comes and I'm done with the practice. I change my clothes, get a cup of coffee, and drive to work. I feel the benefits of discipline. I'm stronger. I have peace of mind. I'm prepared for what life will throw at me that day.

But then the next morning comes - and I don't want to do it. But I do it anyway.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's the 27th Pose?

I wonder what the 27th pose would be if Bikram Choudhury decided to extend his 26 pose sequence?

In late 2002, I met and practiced with Bikram at his College of India in Beverly Hills, CA . I should have asked him then - but didn't think of the question until now.

Bikram's 26 pose sequence is well thought-out and offers a complete asana "circuit." Working in a highly-heated (100+ degree) room has it's benefits as well.

Yet, what would the 27th pose be? If 26 poses were "good enough", then why does Dharma Mitra's yoga poster have 908 asanas? Why does Light on Yoga have 602 photos of Mr. Iyengar in poses?

Supposedly, according to yogic tradition, there are over 84,000 yoga poses. Maybe as many as 840,000! And it is said that 84 poses are a must for perfect health. It was also stated that the first yoga teacher was a cat!

In the appendix of Mr. Iyengar's classic book - "Light on Yoga" he offers a 5-year program of daily asanas (That's right - I said 5-years!).
Each week the poses become more challenging and deep. If you haven't checked out the back of your "Light on Yoga" - it's time to do so. If you don't have a copy of "Light on Yoga" - get one!

Mr. Iyengar is 93 years old - (b. 12/18/1918) and has a daily yoga practice of up to 3-hours each day. He can easily hold his headstand (sirsasana) for up to 30 minutes. It is not an exaggeration to say that he has been the greatest influence in the world on yoga in the 20th Century.

Mr. Bikram Choudhury is 65 years old - (b. 2/10/1946) and is also a highly respected and accomplished yogi. I found him to be very charming and approachable. Yet I just have to wonder. What would the 27th pose be? And why isn't he telling us? He must know that 26 poses is simply a start. Right?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Removing Obstacles

Tonight I'm giving a class (the 3rd of 8 sessions) on Yoga Philosophy, Ethics and Meditation. The topic tonight will be the obstacles in the Yogi's path and how to remove them.

Yoga Sutra 2:3 states the obstacles in 6 words:

Avidya, asmita, raga, dvesa, abinivesah, klesha

The last word - klesha - literally means "afflictions" or "obstacles". The first five words are the actual challenges that interfere with a yogi's development. They are:

Avidya - Misperception, ignorance (more akin to Spiritual ignorance or blindness)
Asmita - Ego and all distateful forms it takes - as in pride and loneliness
Raga - Desire
Dvesa - Aversion
Abinivesah - The unrealistic "clinging" to life - sometimes exhibited in not wanting to grow old - wanting to stay youthful - trying to stop the progression of life because of resistance and/or non-acceptance of death.

Typically when one thinks of obstacles we tend to think of external obstacles - circumstances, events, people, places and things that we can manipulate and control.

Yet, Patanajali in his disertation on yoga was quite clear and succinct that the problems to our development lie solely within each of us.

The questions each person must ask are clear - they are self-examinatory in nature:

Where am I ignorant on this issue?
What am I not seeing clearly?
How is my misperception and ignorance of this situation clouding my view of reality?
Where has my pride and ego gotten the better of me?
Am I doing this to feed my ego?
Is my feeling of loneliness and separation a result of a rampant and out of control ego?
What am I craving now - and how is that keeping me from being present?
How has my craving for things I desire caused pain and suffering in me and others?
What am I avoiding? What do I find distasteful that must be done?
Can I accept myself - growing old - looking old - graying? Do I feel the need to be "young again" and lie to myself about who I am and where I am in life?

This is how a yogi must practice.

Good luck

Friday, January 14, 2011

Selfish? Not me! Look again

The Buddha said that the cause of all our suffering is our selfish desires. Our cravings to have things different than they are at present is what creates conflict and pain

Yet ask most anyone if they think they're selfish and most will say "certainly not!". However we would never be upset if that were the case

We get upset because things don't go our way - period!

We want what we want when we want it. And we want it now. This is truly the definition of selfishness

We hear talk about acceptance - yet can you accept it when its not going your way? Can you still feel compassion, grace and equanimity in the face of things not going your way?

That's the yoga I try to practice. Its not easy at all - because I'm a selfish person.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thanks MLK! I had a dream too!

January 17th is when the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Many will remember his fiery "I have a dream" speech. His talk gave hope to hundreds of thousands of people across the world. He proved that a man with a dream can be a powerful force to reckon with.

More than two years ago I dreamed of a lifestyle where I would be surrounded by loving, kind and brilliant people practicing yoga in exotic locations - hosting retreats in far-off lands.

This January 17th, while citizens of the United States celebrate Dr. King's call to let "freedom ring" - I will be celebrating an independence of spirit and growth with 12 other fantastic people in India. My life is truly blessed and I want to share it with everyone.

Do you have a dream? Live it now!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to Bangalore

I'm thinking of that Beatles song...."Back in the U.S.S.R., you don't know how lucky you are boy!"

Yes, I feel like a very lucky boy. I am leaving for Bangalore in less than 48 hours with my lovely wife/yoga partner and 11 other wonderful yoga students. Our destination? Prashant Yogashraya - home of "Arunji" and then on to Yoga Nikaya.

14-nights/14-days, no work, all yoga. How fun is that?