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Archive for April, 2012

SECOND HALF OF GREGOR MAEHLE:

Patanjali and the declining number of asanas, importance of deleting tissue memory and is pranayama more than Ujjayi or a pause in the breath?

This is Part 2 of the last post and today I will cover the three remaining issues that were raised last week:
2. Was early yoga and Patanjali only referring to sitting postures like Padmasana or also to a multiple set of yoga asanas, as we know them today? Additionally, are the numbers of asanas declining?
3. The importance that yoga places on deleting bodily, tissue and cell memory and what attitude the yogi needs to do so.
4.Is pranayama just the slowing and extension of the breath (aka Ujjayi) or is it more?
Again I need to ask your forgiveness concerning the fact that these articles constitute incomplete fragments and reflections. For should they be complete treatments of these themes they needed to be hundreds of pages long and would take years to publish. Use these articles to crystallize your own thought patterns further and do not expect them to be sermons of the truth but only reflections on yoga.

2. Patanjali is the ancient author of the Yoga Sutra, which describes the foundations of the philosophical school of yoga (yoga darshana). The rishi Vyasa in his commentary (Yoga Bhashya II.46) to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali gives as an example a list of 11 asanas to show that a complete course in yogic asanas is meant here and not just sitting with your head, spine and neck in one straight line. Some of the postures he mentions are Ushtrasana, Paryankasana and Kraunchasana, none of which are meditation postures.

The shastras (scriptures) state that in the beginning there were 8.4 Million asanas (Gheranda Samhita II.1), equal to the number of species in the universe but only the Divine in the form of the Lord Shiva can know all of them. T. Krishnamacharya states in Yoga Makaranda (p. 74, sorry still quoting form the apparently plagiarized Garuda edition, for more info on this issue please go to http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com.au/search?q=yoga+makaranda) that originally 8.4 Million asanas existed but at the time of Shankara only 84,000 were still practiced. A few centuries later during Ramanuja’s teaching only 64,000 were left, which declined to 24,000 during Niganta Mahadesika’s teaching, and so on and so on until we come to Ramamohan Brahmachary who still practiced 7000 as witnessed by T. Krishnamacharya. Do you see the pattern here? He also states (p.75) that only about 84 of those were ever written in texts. Many of today’s Western yoga students see only that part of yoga that has been written down. But that is only the tip of the iceberg, as yoga always was an oral tradition. Not many yogis did write manuals and most of those have been lost. I choose to go with the view of the ancient shastras and with the word of an authentic yogi who studied and practiced almost 100 hundred years, could stop his heartbeat, could quote from hundreds of shastras, etc, etc. I don’t know how you go but I go with Shri T. Krishnamacharya.

Patanjali also defines only the effect that correct asana, pranayama, pratyahara or meditation practice has. He does not describe the many techniques. There are hundreds of yogic pranayamas and meditations and they are not listed in the Yoga Sutra. Does not mean that they are not ancient and original yoga. In this regard the Yoga Sutra has to be understood as the constitution of yoga, not more and not less. The constitution of a country gives only the framework for the general structure of that country. There are many other aspects that are covered in other documents that go into more detail. For example if you go to the car workshop or to the dentist, do you want them to read up in the constitution how to fix your car or teeth. No, you just want them to not contradict the constitution in whatever they do but you’d hope they would follow an engineering or dentistry manual that was much, much more detailed in regards to the particular subject than the constitution.

20 or more years ago I still met yogis in India who could quote from 200 or more yoga shastras (scriptures). The Yoga Sutra has 195 stanzas (196 in some recensions). What can you write in 195 short stanzas? Yoga is a 10,000-year-old organism that cannot be reduced to 195 short sentences. In order to understand it completely and to make sweeping statements one needs to study dozens of yoga shastras. Somadeva, the author of the monumental 56-chapter Hatha Tatva Kaumudi (currently my favorite shastra), quotes from 64 (!!!) yoga shastras. Good on him! That’s what we need!

I have noted that many yoga associations now require their teacher trainings apart from the Yoga Sutra to also cover at least the Bhagavad Gita and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. A step in the right direction! The more shastras a training covers the better, I tend to think.

Another thought: In India the Yoga Sutra is considered a sacred document and not an object of speculation. From my teachers in India, through my over 30 years of yoga practice and study of yoga scriptures I learned the following baseline: Before the world was projected forth yoga, consisting of thousands of treatises, existed in eternal perfection in the intellect of the Divine. As the world then unfolded, the various shastras being applicable to various world ages (yugas), were promulgated. During the Kali Yuga (present time) most of these teachings are lost due to entropy (break down and disorder). During the great dissolution (Mahapralaya) the entire universe is reabsorbed into the body of the Supreme Being were the yoga shastras, together with all religions and philosophy will rest during a long brahmic night. Only to then be again projected forth at the dawn of the next brahmic day, when a new universes is born in the next Big Bang. So says Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (BG 4.1) “Previously I taught this ancient yoga to Vivashvat and Manu (would be about equivalent to Abraham and Noah in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition). It was lost through the lapse of time, that’s why I am now teaching it now to you, oh Arjuna”.

Now let me trace that view in the Yoga Sutra. In Sutra I.26 Patanjali states that God has taught yoga to the first human masters and that God is beyond and not subject to time. He also states that God is all-knowing (I.25) and eternally perfect (I.24), whereas even a liberated human master has still an imperfect past. If God is all-knowing, eternally perfect, outside of time and taught yoga to the ancient teachers this amounts to exactly the view stated above, which is that yoga is an eternally perfect, non-evolving teaching that is even in times when the world is not manifest preserved in the intellect of God to be again taught when the opportunity arises. The number of yogic techniques such as asanas, pranayamas, meditations, samadhis, etc is near infinite and they are reducing in number during each world age as we proceed from the Satya through the yugas towards the Kali Yuga. But their potential number is still near infinite although not many may be manifest at the present time. So says for example the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP IV.65) that the Supreme Being in form of the Lord Shiva originally taught 1 crore (i.e 10 Million) meditation exercises, which are now lost.

A few years back my eyes glanced on the front page of a Yoga Magazine which questioned “Are we re-inventing yoga?” I don’t know how you feel but I’d rather go full blast back to its origin, that’s where the original splendor lies.

3. The importance that yoga places on deleting bodily, tissue and cell memory and what attitude the yogi needs to do so.
To inquire into this we first need to understand yoga’s panchakosha model. The model was already alluded to in Brhad Aranyaka Upanishad but found its fullest expression in Taittiriya Upanishad (II.2-5). The Upanishad describes the human being consisting of five, consecutively deeper layers, which are Annamaya kosha (the body), Pranamaya kosha (breath and prana), Manomaya kosha (the mind), Vijnanamaya kosha (deep knowledge and pure intelligence) and Anandamaya kosha (Divine ecstasy). Important to understand is that the layers are interconnected and each manifests and results out of the others. For example if you have a mental trauma this will have a physical equivalent and a pranic (energetic) equivalent in the respective sheaths. You cannot go straight to divine ecstasy as long as your mind is conditioned. Conditioned mind will have of course its correlatives in the other sheaths.
Another theme that I only want to touch briefly upon is yoga’s teaching of the three layers of the body: sthula sharira (gross anatomical body), sukshma sharira (pranic or astral body) and karana sharira (causal body). Long-term conditioning is stored in the karana sharira but you need to purify the gross body first through kriya and asana. Richard Freeman called asana practice to comb through the body with an increasingly fine-toothed comb to release tension (Yoga Matrix).
Patanjali yoga purifies/develops the five sheaths through asana (the body), pranayama (the pranic sheath), meditation (the mind), objective samadhi (the intelligence sheath) and objectless samadhi (experience of Divine ecstasy). The first five of the obstacles that Patanjali describes in sutra I.30, which are sickness, rigidity, doubt, negligence and laziness, have a very strong physical component. I have described the obstacles and their components in detail in my forthcoming pranayama book.
In sutra I.50-51 Patanjali has briefly described the necessity to purify the mind from conditioning (vasana), which is only an accumulation of subconscious imprints (samskara). He is going into more detail in the third chapter of the Sutra. This de- and reconditioning can only be successful if all sheaths (but particularly the lower three, body, breath and mind) are targeted simultaneously. Otherwise your conditioning will reboot from the sheath that you did not clean, similarly as you would reinstall your operating system from your backup drive after it got infected.
I have roughly described the process of de-conditioning of the body through yogic asana in the introduction of Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy. In a nutshell: Practice all asanas with absolute anatomical precision and without being ambitious and aggressive at all. When sensations, ideas or concepts come up release them by means of the exhalation. Be compassionate with yourself and do not practice to succeed, to improve or to get somewhere, because this would impose another layer of the ambitious mind on the body. BKS Iyengar for example has called the result of such practice ‘cellular silence’. I like that one because he understood that a noisy body impedes your meditation.
Now this next point is really important to understand: The Armenian mystic George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, who was inspired and taught by yogis and Sufis, said that true knowledge is of physical nature. In today’s language we could say it is a biochemical and bioelectrical process. What he meant was that its not just something that you think but that transforms every fiber and cell of your being. Yoga considers asana and pranayama to be the part to alchemically transform the body so that it becomes a representation of living deep knowledge, vijnana as the Upanishads call it or rta as Patanjali has it. The reason for that lies in the fact that opposed to Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta, the school of yoga considers THE UNIVERSE AND THUS THE BODY TO BE REAL. Yoga does not look at the world and the body as illusion. Yoga looks at the body as a very real replication of the real macrocosm and therefore aims at transforming the body into a laboratory for knowledge. Due to the maxim of Hermes Trismegistos (Emerald Tablet stanza 2) “that which is beneath is as that which is above and that which is above is as that which is beneath”, the body is a reflection of the state of the mind. Not only that but as I already mentioned in Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy, ‘It is the crystallized history of our past thoughts, emotions and actions’. Yoga teaches that if you want to change your mind, you need to change your body as well because your body is nothing but the gross (sthula) projection of your mental state (of course not just the conscious mind). That’s why the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says (HYP IV.113), “Before the prana does not enter the sushumna all this talk of knowledge (jnana) is futile and boastful.” Svatmarama, its author considered this statement so important that he finishes off the treatise on this note.
Back to Patanjali who says in the Yoga Sutra (YS I.43), ‘nirvitarka samapatthi (the 2nd-lowest form of samadhi) is the emptying of memory from its content’. As the body is the physical back-up drive of the mind, the memory must also be let go of on a physical plane. That’s what a course in yogic asana attempts to do and what the mere sitting with your back, neck and head in a straight line cannot achieve.
I want to finish of this essay on a devotional note as a lot of us modern yogis have thoroughly accepted yoga’s tenet that the body is real. But have we yoga’s other tenet that the divine self, the pure consciousness is also real? Especially if you succeed in your asana practice (such as getting to advanced levels) then do not take the credit but surrender all results of your asana practice to the Divine in your preferred form. For otherwise you will superimpose a new layer of conditioning instead of removing the old one. Rumi said in this regard “I tried to enter the city of God through the gate of empowerment but I found such a large crowd in front of it that I could not enter. Then I came to the gate of humiliation. I could easily slip in as there was nobody there.”

4. Is pranayama just the slowing and extension of the breath (aka Ujjayi) or is it more?
Pranayama is defined in Yoga Sutra II.49 as extension of inhalation and exhalation (for example Ujjayi during Ashtanga Vinyasa). Sutra II.50, however, gives a deeper meaning of pranayama as various breath retentions which are called internal, external and midway suspension. An even more advanced meaning is given in sutra II.51 that talks about spontaneous suspension (called chaturtah by Patanjali and Kevala Kumbhaka in Hatha Yoga Pradipika). These three meanings can only be experienced consecutively. This means: 1. Start pranayama by slowing down the breath. 2. Continue pranayama through formal practice of breath retentions sitting in Padmasana, Siddhasana, etc. 3. Once you have thus mastered prana through years of formal breath retentions, prana suspends and thus the mind, which is fan powered. Samadhi will thus be attained. This is of course very, very simplified. In my forthcoming pranayama book I have dedicated several hundred pages to this process. There is even a section called ‘why Ashtanga Vinyasa yogis need to go beyond Ujjayi’. This means that while it is correct to say that Ujjayi is pranayama, the reverse is incorrect. Meaning, yes you are practicing pranayama when you practice Ujjayi during vinyasa but pranayama is larger than Ujjayi. Shitali, Surya Bhedana, Bhastrika, kumbhakas etc also need to be practiced.

I had to push this out quickly, hope not too many typos. I’m off for the week, hope you have a great time. Also got to get back to working on my meditation book. Its sub-title is “A Break-Through Method to Spiritual Freedom” and I mean it. It contains very powerful ancient yogic meditation techniques.
I hope my rambling instilled you with enthusiasm for your practice. Enthusiasm is a beautiful word. Comes from the Greek enthous, meaning ‘inspired by God’.

This dude is SO smart. Love it that he mentions Grimmly. Grimmly has provided a lot of GREAT online research and his passion for Vinyasa Krama made me VERY interested in the teachings of Sri Ramaswami. Luckily the other day I found a local student is attending his teacher training soon. Sign me up when you get back Josh! Although Grimmmly has provided a lot of information through his site, his photos, video, and his book.

Last night I posted I feel like a newbie. All this has brought me back to the original teachings of yoga. I feel like I am starting from scratch again as I revisit old books and read all this vast wealth of yoga research online. Gregor insists that the original books are the place to research. Dozens of people are writing books on yoga, but for me, sticking with the original is the best. This has shifted the way I want to continue to work in teacher training.

Today is cold and rainy. I practiced a little with the Advanced yogis this morning in the hot room. The rest of the day is cleaning the home, hanging out with the hubby, and reading blogs and doing research. More of the same tomorrow with Intermediate series tomorrow morning.

Enjoy reading this post from Gregor Maehle per Facebook. You can friend him and see the wisdom he has to impart.

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NEWBIE

I am just a beginner. New to yoga.

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I stepped out earlier this morning for some pictures of the Buddha garden. It is progressing and you can look back for pictures a few weeks ago, however I think I lost a sage bush. The dandelions and the grass is still growing through so if it doesn’t rain, I will mulch this weekend. John has to plow up the veggie garden however so I can plant seeds. Everyone else has theirs done but I am in no hurry.

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Gregor Maehle posted this on FB yesterday:

“Is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Patanjali Yoga?
Friends,
I had to cut today’s post into two as it was building up to 9 pages in Word. The second part will follow by the end of the week. Thanks a lot for all of your encouraging comments. Thanks also to those who pointed out areas in which they wished me to clarify further. I will do my best to follow up on them, time permitting.
There will be no post next… week as we are traveling to the Australian east coast and then I’ll go down to Melbourne to teach a workshop containing Asana, Kriyas, Pranayama, Meditation and Philosophy. If you are in Melbourne please join me at http://www.ashtangamelbourne.com.au/workshops.aspx

Today I will cover
1. What is the relationship between Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga of the Yoga Sutra?
And part two of this post (to follow soon) will cover:
2. Was early yoga and Patanjali only referring to sitting postures like Padmasana or also to a multiple set of yoga asanas, as we know them today? Additionally, are the numbers of asanas declining?
3. The importance that yoga places on deleting bodily, tissue and cell memory and what attitude the yogi needs, to do so.
4. Is pranayama just the slowing and extension of the breath (aka Ujjayi) or is it more?

But let me say one thing beforehand. This is still Facebook and not a textbook. I am writing textbooks but so far it took me three years to write each one. In other words, I will not put the intellectual rigor and number of quotations etc, into these posts that would stand a textbook. Much of this material is food to crystallize your own thought patterns, rather than “it is this way and no other”. You may also find typos or faulty grammar but I think this must be excusable on a Facebook post, which is not a printed textbook that should stand the test of time.

Let’s get right into it:
1. Beaux posted
‘In the introductory section of your book, “Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy,” you state the Vinyasa Yoga system is the ideal form of Patanjali Yoga for householders, since it requires only around two hours of practice per day. You then go on to explain the eight limbs of yoga and how they work together in the vinyasa system. Was it not your message that the Ashtanga vinyasa system was all one needed to effectively practice all eight limbs?’
No. My message was that the Vinyasa system is an authentic application of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. I consider it an ideal system for householders (will have to get modified for some) but needs to be combined with pranayama to be fully effective and substituted with meditation etc if you want to go beyond the householder stage. Let me explain:
Householder (Grihastha or sometimes spelt grhastha) is one of the four Vedic ashramas (stages of life). The Vedas proposed that during the first quarter of our life we devote ourselves to learning and studying (Brahmacharya ashrama), the second quarter to raising a family, professional and business life (Grihastha ashrama), the third quarter social activities are reduced to mainly counseling others as an elder and spiritual practice is doubled (Vanaprastha ashrama), and during the last quarter (Sannyasa ashrama) only spiritual practice is done and samadhi is ‘taken’ to prepare for shedding of the mortal coil, i.e. kicking the bucket.
Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya as handed down by T Krishnamacharya suggests that each ashrama last roughly for 25 years. In the olden days Vedic society established youngsters in asana from puberty onwards. This enabled the brain to develop more powerfully, which aided studying. If you sustain your asana practice you will study more effectively. My wife for example sustained her daily asana practice throughout her five-year doctor degree, and although she therefore could not spend as much time studying as some of her peers, she completed with first grade honors (I’m still very proud!).

Now we come to the householder phase, which appears to be the only one that today’s society has maintained. Yoga Rahasya states that pranayama is the most important form of practice during householder ashrama. Combined with the one-and-a-half hours of asana practice you we would have ideally picked up during the student stage we are now sitting 1.5 hours asana and then add half an hour of pranayama per day to come to a total of two hours. In other words during Grihastha basic pranayama should be added but asana practice maintained. Why did Nathamuni and Krishnamacharya think that pranayama is especially important during Grihastha ashrama? The answer to that question we can find in shastras such a Shiva Svarodaya and Vasishta Samhita: pranayama (here meaning alternate nostril breathing in Padmasana with breath retentions) powerfully develops the brain and nervous system so that we can perform our family duties and contributions to society more effectively. These shastras teach (quotations are given in my pranayama book) that not only those in the spiritual professions (such as yoga teachers) but also merchants, politicians or those in administrative or defense duties can perform their duties more effectively when practicing pranayama (again details all in my pranayama book).

I was never of the opinion that vinyasa yoga was “all” that was needed to practise the eight limbs. The reason lies in the original Vedic vision for yoga’s unfoldment during ones transition during the four ashramas (stages of life). Once the householder stage is left behind the vinyasa yogi is ideally prepared to develop the higher yogic limbs by distributing additional time towards spiritual practice. During Vanaprastha ashrama it would be ideal to double ones practice, devoting more of it to pranayama, meditation and devotional practice. In days of yore this ashrama lasted roughly from 50 –75 years. After 75 the Sannyasa ashrama starts, which is totally devoted to spiritual practice and samadhi.

How far ancient Vedic concepts like the ashramas can be practiced in modern society is yet to be found out. But we can simply look at them as stages of maturing as human and spiritual beings. As we mature we need to feed in new layers of practice. One person may stay at practicing asana exclusively for a long time. Another person will add pranayama quickly. A third person will graduate to meditation soon. As I got older and more mature I doubled my practice time to add an hour of pranayama and meditation per day and around 30 minutes of kriyas. This proved to be very, very fruitful for my understanding of pranayama, meditation, mantra etc and for developing my spirituality.
On the other hand, yes, its true, it has raised concerns in regards to my ability to earn a crust. I always had to accept some form of financial demerit when going deeper into sadhana (spiritual discipline) as I had to deduct the time from the one available to make a living. In that regard I’m no exception to anybody else.

But let me look at Vinyasa equals Patanjali yoga from another viewpoint: Vinyasa Yoga is Patanjali Yoga but Patanjali Yoga is not Vinyasa Yoga. Let me explain: New Yorkers are Americans. Correct? Americans are New Yorkers. Wrong! If you are from LA you are still American but not a New Yorker. Therefore: Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is Ashtanga (Patanjali) Yoga but Patanjali (eight-limbed) yoga is not reducible to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. One of the reasons why in my first book I attached a commentary to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra to the vinyasa count of the Primary Series was to show that
a. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is an authentic representation of the main principles of the Yoga Sutra and therefore the claim “This is Patanjali Yoga” was correct.
b. But while Vinyasa Yoga presents an ideal way of practicing Patanjali yoga during the householder phase, the Yoga Sutra of course goes far beyond vinyasa yoga. More than half of Patanjali’s sutras are dedicated to various forms of samadhi, which are practised in Padmasana, which needs to be held for at least three hours (in some cases, such as samyama, much longer than that). Patanjali states on various occasions that he derived his knowledge by practising samyama on the chakras. All of this implies to go beyond vinyasa yoga. But vinyasa yoga is still the best way to get there. Why, I will show another day. But for now, vinyasa is only then the best way if you do add at some point during grhastha ashrama pranayama and meant here is formal kumbhaka practice in a meditation posture.

That’s it for today. Part 2 of this post will follow soon.”

So the old yogis lived to be a hundred. According to this I am still practicing at the second 25 year span, but I have been adding pranayama. My hips still are not ready for the 3 hour seated position in order to experience samadhi, but here is an interesting quote from Tim Miller’s blog this week:

“In the fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras Patanjali says, IV.4 “Nirmana cittani asmita matrat”—Individual consciousness develops only in contact with another individual consciousness. This is the primary reason that it is considered necessary to have a Guru to make progress on the spiritual path. Our conditioning is so strong that it is difficult to break through it without some kind of assistance. Contact with the Guru allows a kind of energy transfer that is called Shaktipat. This can come through touch, through a glance, through a mantra, or even something as subtle as the gift of a flower. Taking yoga class with Guruji was an opportunity to receive Shaktipat through his touch when you were adjusted or by touching his feet at the end of class. Hanging out afterwards having coffee, chatting, and listening to him tell stories was an opportunity to have his Darshan, his “loving glance”—another form of Shaktipat.”

He goes on to explain his experiences with Guruji and many of his other students have talked about similar experiences. Most people who have practiced yoga have similar experiences with teachers. I am just saying.

I appreciate Gregor explaining his need, as a householder, to use his time wisely. I find it hard right now to practice primary in under two hours so to add pranayma and meditation we are talking three hours. I had hoped after Esalen I would be able to go there but the work gets in the way. As a busy householder I appreciate what I can get in.

Saw the eaglets getting fed yesterday. The parents brought a fish back. They are past the stage where they are fed. They have to almost fight for the food from the parents. That aggression will serve them when they have to hunt themselves. Right now the eaglets are huddled in the center of the nest and the mom is just….watching…..intensely.

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Hate it when I can’t connect through WordPress

http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2011/09/07/where-is-yoga-headed-these-days-the-experts-discuss-its-evolution-and-future/

Short but good article on the future of yoga.

The blending of yoga into other ‘forms’ is a daily thing these days. I very rarely go out on Facebook or the blogs without seeing some new integration of yoga into a form of exercise or as part of a program. Seane Corne finds value in this and she has several of her own very popular yoga programs. I took her detox workshop and found it valuable. I found her a very authentic teacher. Obviously she is charisma and charm. She is also passionate about yoga.

Rodney Yee seems to argue for the tradition. I was a little surprised. He is a real celebri-yogi and hangs out with Donna Karan and such. But I LOVE his tapes. Some of my first at home yoga tapes were Rodneys. I love his Advanced Yoga dvd. He really seems to stay true to the form of yoga. I have never done a workshop with him but would if given the opportunity.

Not surprised at all about Gary Kraftsow. He is a student of Desikachar, so he has it first hand from a guru.

Plus, there is a real value in Viniyoga. Again and again, I see students with conditions who were told that yoga would help their back or whatever and they come to a general yoga class when what they really need is a more specific practice in the form of therapy.

I find more and more that I study, that I am interested in the tradition and staying close to it. I am reading two books right now by Gregor Maehle that I hope to review soon. One is on the Primary Series of Ashtanga, which I uploaded a while back and never looked at on Kindle and the other recently on the Intermediate Series.

I started by reading the Intermediate Series first, because that TOTALLY makes sense right? But I find myself referring back to the first book and now am reading that from front to end. I picked up the second because Grimmly put a post out on an upcoming Pranayama book Gregor has coming out and was intrigued from the excerpts on how close Gregor believes in the tradition and staying true to it.

He not only is knowledgeable about the teaching of Ashtanga, but is also a scholar on the philosophy and is knowledgeable about anatomy. He goes in depth in the Intermediate Series on the pelvic girdle, the shoulders, and the spine.

He also insists on the use of language and proper Sankskrit and makes a good case for it.

He also doesn’t mince words. He firmly insists that you start the Intermediate Series after you can practice full Primary. Um, guilty of not doing that. That is what brought me back to the Primary book. I thought he might have some hints for opening the outward hip rotators and he did. Sit for an hour in ardha siddhasana and siddhasana every day. I have actually been doing something similar for a while.

Anyway he affirms a lot of things I sort of knew. Some I resisted and some I kind of knew. The book on the primary series is appropriate for any yoga teacher. He refines and explains poses that you teach no matter the style.

I will do a further review when I finish the books. Can’t wait for the Pranayama book.

Is anyone watching the Decorah eaglets?

Honestly it is the most fascinating thing ever. I could give up HBO series for this. Right now the eaglets are huddled in the nest. Mom must be out getting food.

Sorry for the long wait between posts. Due to lack of sleep for the past five days, but I am catching up. Got to go over and see what Grimmly is talking about this morning so may have more to add later.

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Great little tutorial. When most people are learning jump throughs they want to do the whole movement. I love how Kino broke it down here. It can take years for people to get smooth jump throughs. One good tip I found somewhere is to try not to bring your hips through. The hips stay back and up as long as possible, just as in jump up to forward fold. Jump from the hips, not the feet.

I read a LONG article about John Friend today which had the whole timeline of the story right up until losing everything. John pretty much has lost all his friends and followers over this. It also sounds like he was getting a lot of advise all along, some good and some not so good. He also is either lying, still, or has a very conflicted point of view with the people who were close to him.

Case in point, now he says he never offered himself up as a ‘guru’, while some of his followers claim he did. I found myself wondering, what is his practice now. What was his practice before.

To me this is an opportunity to go back to the source. If you are a yoga leader in your community, no matter how large or small, to me, it seems your practice should always be the priority. To me, in John’s case, or anyone else that struggles, falls back, strays, or whatever, it is something you always have. Yet in his interviews I hear very little about HIS practice.

That is the whole beauty of yoga. While yoga is now a HUGE UNIVERSAL thing, it really is most powerful at the individual level. You can have little else, but you can always practice. There are very few excuses. Whether you are traveling or busy or whatever, it HAS to be the priority.

Someone told me recently that they had to stop because of an injured ankle. You CAN still lay down and practice or practice seated, or do pranayama. You CAN still practice and sometimes it is just redefining what practice is. Go back to the sutras and explore the essence of practice. The sutras say it ALL. Plus, svadhyaya, self study IS practice.

I know when I get busy and feel I can not practice and then get RIGHT back on it, I realize it is essential. The other day it was just a few sun sals and some standing poses and some seated. THAT counts as practice. On Monday it was the hour pranayama practice with Richard. THAT counts as practice.

So my wish for John is that he finds his practice again, if he has also strayed from that path. As confusing as the whole situation is, THAT is where he will find a way to step forward. Good luck John.

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I really hoped for getting to the one month at Yoga Workshop next year but now looks like I am going to plan for the shorter five day essentials which deals mostly with the Primary Series. Plus Richard’s philosphy

I found these on youtube. I really want to go to the month long immersion but from what I have heard, many are called and few are chosen. For the month long you are required to be accomplished in the Intermediate series. They have the description for it and you get Anatomy, Therapeutics, Sanskrit and Chanting, and Meditation. So, I may apply but won’t be too crushed it I don’t get in.

My practice was sporadic over the last few crazy days. It is hard to get a full series back in on Teacher Training weekends, but we had a productive weekend and I did full Primary yesterday. Today may be a Rishi series.

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Part three was even better than the last. If you are an RF fan, this is a great series. It is live, but you can still purchase and download past sessions. There are six in all.

I read recently that RF is really into the pranayama practice. He has it refined and even though the practices are Intermediate/Advanced, he makes them accessible. He has little props to exhibit what he is explaining. The scoop in the cave of the sacrum. A statue of Ganesh showing the cultivation of uddiyana bandha.

He takes you through at least three practices and then you can continue to cultivate the practice between sessions. I really felt the uddiyana muscles last night. Last night I happened to be stressed out but this calmed me down quite a bit and almost immmediately. It is like having Richard RIGHT there.

He makes a point when he is teaching kumbhaka, that the next puraka or rechaka indicates if you are forcing it. It should always be easy. If you are holding the breath for five, count fast if you are a beginner and slower if you already have a deep practice.

The point of the practice is to cultivate mindfulness of the sensations you feel in your pranayama. Richard says that you can go spontaneously into a deep meditation during practice. He guides you through a lovely sivasana and then answers questions.

I am going to put a suggestion in that he continue this past six months, for what it is worth. You can not listen to Richard for five minutes without learning something. He is insightful and engaging.

This program is great for teachers who want to teach deeper pranayama to their students. I will refer back to these sessions for a long time after they are done.

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