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Archive for September, 2013

YOGA CONFLICT

Yoga conflict by the very definition the antithesis of yoga.

I was going to title this blog “Do You Have a Yoga Practice or Do You Take Yoga Classes” but in the light of a lot of conflict in the yoga world I changed my mind. Plus someone would for sure get offended and that wasn’t the intention.

In the past few days I have seen a lot of self righteous commentary about the YogaGlo cease and desist against Yoga International for copying their format for their online classes. My guess is YogaGlo will back down but this type of thing is common and we will see more of it anyway. Unless you own a studio or have a trademark you wouldn’t understand and it is business. I hate to break it to you, but yoga is business now and a lot of the people who are appalled and are screaming yamas and niyamas (and what does that have to do with it anyway) have yoga businesses, yoga products, and market their special classes/workshops/retreats daily on Facebook blogs or whatever.

To be honest when I started blogging I saw it as a forum and an opportunity to get up on the soapbox, spew what I knew that you don’t, point my finger, and point out the fallacies, because I have a yoga practice and I teach.

Then I got bored with that. Because I found myself boring and saw that yoga had not really helped me. I was still infatuated too much with what goes on outside of me and fascinated with human behavior. In other words, all the yoga classes, philosophies, workshops, and training hadn’t changed me and hadn’t taught me what the whole thing is – oneness. I knew it, but practicing it is hard when your behavior patterns are so hardwired.

Being in a yoga class convinced me I was practicing yoga. And it was fun, tied in a pretty bow and being taught about love and compassion and not JUDGING. Then I got, am involved in yoga business, and a few months ago read a beautiful blog about someone quitting the business of yoga and being torn apart from members of the yoga community about how they were judgmental, not practicing yamas and niyamas (wtf), and blah blah blah.

Today, again, a long tirade somewhere because someone made an expression of their practice. And someone disagrees.

There is no union in this type of yoga. It is the model of duality.

So, instead of worrying about someone’s legal issues or why someone takes a different style of yoga than you do, why not just leave it. Just because you have the whole notion of it packaged into a thought process that is palatable to you, don’t expect everyone to buy the same ideas.

Stop going to yoga classes. Start practicing yoga. Buy a book on the sutras, practice your asana, practice pranayama, meditate, experience your nature. Don’t try to experience anyone elses. It is taken. Experience the yoga.

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I downloaded and watched this documentary twice. If you are not a documentary geek like I am, you might think it is boring, but I feel it reveals a lot about teaching yoga, so it is useful to teachers. It also gives the history of the lineage of the yoga that most of us practice in the West, so it is important to students too. I find a lot of students who do not know anything about the lineage of yoga. Obviously you don’t get much of it in your average yoga class and to me, not understanding the basic premise of where your yoga practice comes from, is like being a citizen of a country with no understanding of the basic philosophy you are governed under.

The documentary gives us insight into the life of Krishnamacharya, as a legend, householder, father, and as being a pivotal figure who brought yoga into the light. This is really our first insight into the history of yoga. Most of what we know prior to yoga comes through the studying of scriptures of the Vedas, Upanishads, Sutras, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, without much in how we got to the Modern yoga practiced today.

Krishnamacharya (K) is actually someone we know a lot about and anyone who has studied his life know his background, how he brought yoga practices to a larger audience, and who his students were. The movie is enriched not only with the experience of yoga through two of his students, Iyengar and Patabhois Jois before his death, but we also gain insight though his children, excluding Desikachar. I wished we had been able to get the perspective from Mohan and Ramaswami, but Ramaswami is still around and is continually writing about his teacher. Mohan has also written at length on this topic. So the information is out there. The movie was filmed in yoga, so we are able to lose some of the Western perspective.

From his children, we learn that he was a stern yet caring parent who insisted they focus or CONCENTRATE on what they are doing. Dharana is the overlooked limb. Teachers to students “Concentrate”, Students mentally “I am”. Sixth limb. This makes perfect sense for the focus of children in the practice. There is footage, most of which is available on youtube of his daughters in practice. We see the roots of Partner yoga, K holding his children up on his feet as they perform asana. They still practice as elderly people, with most of the practice being seated poses and breath focused. (Sitali inhale with nadi shodhana exhale, I have never seen this or read of this practice.)

BOF GODS1

The flavor of the movie is the atmosphere of Mysore now and a glimpse of the famous yoga demonstrations at the Mysore Palace through reenactments of the students of K. to the Maharaja, also a pivotal figure in promoting yoga as a system of health. We also learn he was a figure who brought electricity to Mysore, bringing this area into the modern age. One of my favorite scenes from the movie is the Mysore palace lit up at night. Beautiful!

the-mysore-palace-lit-up-by-97000-light-bulbs-mysore

BOF GODS

For those wishing to travel to this place, myself included, it was nice to get a feel for the area and for Pune where they visit Iyengar. We get a glimpse of practicing at Iyengar’s RIMYI in Pune and see the master in action. It made me want to hang some of those aerial yoga parachutes and just hang out in one for a while. We see Iyengar teaching sirasana to the film maker.

The perspective of the guru from Iyengar is not positive. He was a tough taskmaster who often inflicted a hard slap on his students when they were not focused, and Iyengar felt he was not treated equally with the other star students and was glad to leave his brother in law when he left for Pune. He was told by Krishnamacharya he was unfit and has spent decades proving him wrong.

BOF GODS IY

The current controversy over the practice of this lineage was whether the practices of asana came from prior lineage or did K steal them from the coaches and gymnastics instructors at Mysore. I have blogged on this and the movie barely gives it merit. Good. Time to move on.

Maybe the new controversy, because there ALWAYS has to be one, is over the conflict in the teaching of his students. One thing we do know, is that they all have a diversification in method. So what is the real K yoga? Did he change over the course of his life? Besides the demonstrations at Mysore, K did NOT TEACH GROUP CLASSES. His teachings were mainly of a private nature, so you learned what he thought you needed to know. The longer you practiced with him, the more you were taught.

Iyengar, in the movie, has a view of the practice of asana being what he calls, WHOLISTIC, not HOLISTIC, and the poses should be practiced without vinyasa. HE is dismissive of vinyasa krama, the method as taught by Patabhois Jois and Ramaswami, and developed by K.

I am wondering if Sharath is answering to this in a recent interview:

“Nobody teaches the breathing technique like Sri K Pattabhi Jois has done with Ashtanga Yoga. Nobody teaches the vinyasa, to synchronize your breathing with your movement, and you don’t get any scientific effect from just doing asana with no vinyasa, it’s just exercise, that’s all.”

BOF GODS jois

Whether you are committed to a specific practice of Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga, or Vinyasa Krama, it is important to keep understanding the lineage and the philosophy. All of the students of K have one thing in common, passing on what they were taught. Because of their teachings, these traditions have been and will be continued to be passed down through the lineage of this master.

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Last weekend at SOAR seminar, where my husband and I took raptor handling training, was a great way to end the training. While we were outside by Deshka’s mews:

deshka

We were given a real treat. The seminar hosts, George and Bernie, were demonstrating the use of traps and she was screeching like crazy. Long before our human eyes were able to notice, she had discerned two juvenile eagles and a parent flying towards her. She was having none of that of course. This is HER territory. They hovered for a while and then moved up into the thermals. She still had her eagle on them though and made sure they were not coming too close. While we could barely see them in the thermals, keep in mind, to Deshka, she could see every feather and the shape of their eyeballs.

While driving to Milwaukee this week, I also saw two adult bald eagles, one on the way there and one on the way back, which is unusual, since I don’t know of any nests in the area. There might be one or two not too far away, but that was definitely a first. I have never seen that. I hope they come by my house, but that is doubtful since we don’t have a lot of water nearby, but you never know.

What does this have to do with yoga? Not much, I need a distraction once in a while, but I do believe yoga is about living in a way outside of the mat where you work without the expectation of getting back. Bernie and George exemplify that. Their passion and knowledge of raptors is not only amazing, but the how they have made their lives about providing all they can to sustain and save raptors is exemplary. I wish I felt like that about my accounting job.

ITYEBGAR

You just do. I agree with Iyengar and would never argue with him. I have seen some of the worst trikonasanas on Facebook lately, so I can’t add any more to that.

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Don’t hate on me if you know how I could have avoided, but when I got the new IMAC and had things moved from the old computer, I neglected to check on my playlists and all are GONE…….

The good news is that I use music very little any more…but I do have a sense of loss for those Yoga playlists I put together over the past five or six years. Some are really bad, but some bring back good memories of workshops and deep winter or very early morning music.

I was talking to a fellow yoga teacher about evolving and sometimes it is hard to look back and remember some of the classes or ideas I had that I thought were so great, and now I know…were just SO WRONG.

That is the good thing about evolving. Evolving is just change. NOT CHANGING is really going backwards.

I am going to go back and reconstruct some of them. I hate to spend a lot of time on Playlists and now there are better mechanisms than sitting around in Itunes. I would rather spend my time practicing then working on my next playlist for a class. Some people are really good at it, I am not one of them.

The music of yoga is the breath though. I would rather teach a class with the students in their breath than to have the best playlist in the world. When that happens, the practitioners engage and experience an interesting energy release and sharing. It is how they build the bonds of being friends in and out of practice and give to one another.

One of the hardest things to teach is breathing. Newer students don’t hear it yet, although they are aware of it’s presence in the studio. They still are figuring out Virabhadrasana! It all comes in time. They know when they find it that they are in the experience of yoga.

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Is always astounding to me. How wise Richard is but is able to say succinctly and with a great deal of Wisdom something I have been pondering about blogging about. Or Grimmley too. Check out Grimmley’s blog today:

http://www.grimmly2007.blogspot.com/

He has included references to Yogo Makaranda, the writings of Krishnamacharya to support the argument against Mark Singleton’s research on Modern Yoga asana being the result of Krishnamacharya utilizing gymnastics into the vinyasa that resulted in Ashtanga style yoga as taught by Patabhi Jois. The evolution of Yoga asana in the West.

Lately I have been studying the scriptures of yoga and the answer is not there, since there is little or no focus on asana, or the discipline of some sort of practice evolving out of the Vedas, Upanishads, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and Sutras, among other scriptures.

Singleton’s work represents a well researched topic but I have had problems being convinced of the conclusion and I occasionally get asked if Ashtanga yoga is just gymnastics because of Mark’s work and the subsequent discussion.

What Richard says:

“Yes. I agree with Mark Singleton that much of the superficial structuring of contemporary yoga practices comes from these various modern, outside influences. However the vinyasa system as taught by Krishnamacharya and the more rigorous patterns taught by Pattabhi Jois are very true to the hatha and tantric yoga traditions. They are precise, direct cultivation of mudra, bandha, central-axis meditation as well as cultivation of meditative mind states using and helped by input from outside sources. One should study in depth the hatha and tantric practices to see how true yet cleverly innovative the vinyasa method is to them.

It may be true that some of the modern “styles” of yoga are more directly related to other outside influences, and are not grounded in the internal practices of actual yoga lineages. But some practices are grounded and happily use any techniques from their environment to get the job done. Such evolutionary mixing is to be expected in living tradition—it can be healthy, may have some dangers, but so it is for all forms of knowledge.

It is important to note that the practice of asana is well documented in ancient texts. It is not strictly a modern invention as has been misinterpreted by some when reading Singleton’s work. In good Ashtanga vinyasa yoga and in good yoga in general, we are working asana in direct relationship to balancing and cleansing of the nadis, the proper practice of bhanda, mudra and pranayama. More and more practice reveals that these things are the purpose and primary focus of asana, and when done well lead directly into Raja yoga and deep contemplative practice.”

Richard

Often if I am looking at yoga books, my husband will look at the pictures of someone in handstand or scorpion and say that that person must be a gymnast, which really annoys me.

So does practicing a handstand make you a gymnast?

HANDSTAND

What I get out of Richard’s statement, is that intention is what makes it yoga. There is a focus and a concentration that makes it non performance, not the achievement of the pose itself. So can this be yoga?:

HANDSTAND1

I don’t know. That type of work is definitely a display of the progression and evolution of yoga asana, so can intention make it yoga or anything close to the tradition? Maybe yes and maybe no.

Whenever there is a shift or progression and knowledge, there is normally people who want to stick to the source, and I happen to be one of those practitioners. People find whatever they find in whatever they are doing. I do appreciate Singleton’s search for the truth, because it sure isn’t in the shastras. Most practitioners of modern yoga would not find any discernible truth in the scriptures that they can relate to most of the yoga classes they take.

The search for truth is going to be fragmented by opinion. I would hate to hear that Krishmamacharya was a liar and that my practice was based on the falsehood of nonexistent palm leaves. I probably would quit and feel like I was cheated.

But for now I will stay in the practice of what I believe to be real practice and have no problem with people who state Singleton’s case as if it were FACT.

And continue on my own research. Thanks Grimm and Richard!

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Been gone a while. If you are one of two fans, I apologize, but have been thinking about blogging and whether it is worthwhile.

Actually I have been thinking about losing the baggage of what is not worthwhile and have read some astounding blogs (Grimmley and David Garrigues and good stuff on Elephant Journal.)

And have been reading a lot of worthless blogging for the sake of blogging.

SO how do I categorize?

Worthless: I have to blog today so how about ten poses to work your Core.

Worthwhile: Why I left the business of yoga.

Which left me spinning. And questioning.

Also I found myself begging the question of whether I should teach. I do this periodically and usually find I can quit tomorrow. YEAH for me!

For a while, I struggled with practice, teaching, and being defensive about what I practice and why other practice is pretty much a waste of time. Why not blog about it?

A lot of time it makes others defensive and that is, to me, NOT worthwhile. Everyone processes or are in a different state of the process.

And should anyone have to defend what they are doing or why.

It is easy to push buttons all the time and it makes for discussion and for people to reflect on their path, so that is a good thing right?

But essentially I came to the point of loving practice again. And whether I blog, work, push buttons, argue, teach, not teach, I always have practice.

I am also enjoying STUDY. Svadhyaya.

WHATCHA reading today. I am studying the Vedas and Upanishads.

I am mixing it up and PRACTICING what I preach. I now have a daily pranayama practice rather than sporadic pranayama/meditation practice.

My other passion, still the eagles. I am obtaining this pic for my beautiful kitchen. The stunning HANS:

IMG_0374

It is the end of eaglet season. I am working on a tribute blog, which will be long, no yoga.

AND how about that Syria. If only war could bring about moral fortitude to nut jobs.

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