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