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Pranayama

Posted by on Jun 5, 2012 in Sequences | Comments Off on Pranayama

Pranayama

I remember my first couple of days in India this past July.

Jet lag had not yet worn off and I walked around in a daze of sorts. Fighting to stay awake in the middle of the day, gulping down lots of chai for the caffeine and falling asleep around 9pm, only to rouse, wide awake at 2am.

It was about 2am my third or second morning there that I crawled from my flat Indian bed onto my sticky mat to practice something close to pranayama. The apartment actually had a couple of bolsters that worked great for laying over and opening the chest. I remember very clearly my first Indian Ujjayi of that trip. As I inhaled to expand my chest and rib cage, I felt 20+ hours of airplane stiffness smooth away. As I exhaled I felt the anxiety and panic that comes from being in a crazy place  and having an irregular sleep pattern transform into calm, content acceptance.
I remember being so grateful that this art of pranayama exists, so grateful that somewhere along the line, my teachers actually looked at me and then decided to teach it to me anyway, regardless of my jackassness.

It’s a simple thing, taking a smooth breath with awareness, but it can have such a profound effect.

Pranayama was not always like that for me. For the first 3 years of my Iyengar practice, my pranayama practice usually turned into nap time. Even in classes, with a firm resolve to stay awake, my own small snores would often wake me. But, like anything, if you practice and keep an open mind, you can find a way to make it work. Once I stopped falling asleep and actually stayed awake, I found it annoying, frustrating, sometimes even maddening. Tension would push from the inside of me, feeling like I was going to boil over and explode into a Kquvien mess. I would become frightened and panic.

Should I get up and run around? Maybe I should just start coughing, or fake a sneezing fit. What should I do? Where should I go?

Luckily, the  asana practice that was instilled in me kicked in.

Certainly, before I get up and start running around the room, I should just lift my chest. Wow. That was a great idea, so great in fact, that I should do it again. Oh, as my awareness to lift my chest is awakening, I would realize that I was gripping my jaw muscles, okay, no problem, exhale, relax those muscles. As I continued with the physical adjustments, I would lose the anxiety, lose the feeling of needing to dash around, waving my arms and screaming. Somewhere in all of that I felt every now and then, the lovely result of an invigorating inhale and the calming touch of letting the body and mind soften with an exhale.

I never would have been able to do it without the lessons my asana practice taught me.

I can honestly say that it took me 10 years of Iyengar yoga practice before I felt like I was actually doing pranayama.

A closer look at the sutras

Posted by on Jun 5, 2012 in Sutras | Comments Off on A closer look at the sutras

A closer look at the sutras

In our classes recently, we have been taking a closer look at some of the sutras we chant. We have also added a couple of new ones to our chanting line – up.

Take a closer look at this sutra: 2.47 An asana is perfect when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite within is reached.
Patanjali is telling us with this sutra that at some point our efforts will have fruition. Certainly, there will always be work, it will always be difficult, but take a moment to reflect on your practice. There is a pose or two that come easier to you now after so many months and years of working on it. Perhaps you are able to prevent yourself from flying into a mouth-foaming rage, where as a year ago, you may have been shunned by your friends for your temper at the loss of a card game.

Take the time to read a sutra or two in the evening or in the morning or in the afternoon or when you’re in the bathroom or eating dinner or slacking off at work. Do not hold yourself back from yourself. Read, reflect, discover something distressing or joyful, take a breath,  accept it, resolve to deal with it in a calm, focused fashion and move on.

2.48 Then, from this, one is not afflicted by the dualities of the opposites.

Some of you who attend my classes have heard me talk about the old Volkswagon bus I used to have.  Seriously, every time I fixed one thing, I broke another. I removed the engine to put in new engine mounts and I destroyed the transmission.  During the transmission fixing process I blew out the clutch. Life is like that.  Light and dark, pleasure and pain, hate and love, hot and cold.  Our work in our practice can bring us to a unitive state, where we exist in the sweet spot, the sattvic place where we see a way to make even the most far reaching ideas reconcile each other. This is something that we must work towards.

2.42 From contentment, the highest happiness is attained.

“Whatever happiness there may be in the enjoyment in this world, and whatever greater happiness there may be in the celestial world, they do not amount to one sixteenth of the happiness attained from the cessation of desire.” ( Vyasa’s translation and commentary on the sutras)

Our daily, mundane practices of calmness, contentment and acceptance are components of the greater practice of vairagya, detachment.  As you detach yourself from the greed, impatience and desires that assail you, the consciousness becomes serene, benevolent, and the load of life that you heave around day after day will lighten.

Be Grateful.

Posted by on Jun 5, 2012 in News, Sequences | Comments Off on Be Grateful.

Be Grateful.

This week at the Shambhala Center a week long retreat is in progress. This means that when you show up for yoga class, the lot will be full.

Please park across the street. Please be happy for the opportunity to park across the street. Be grateful that you have a vehicle that is dependable enough to have transported you to your destination. Appreciate the fact that you have the access and the chance to attend a yoga class in a lovely setting.
We are guests at the Shambhala Center. The folks there are good enough to allow me, a person who is not a Buddhist, to teach a subject in their meditation hall that is not Buddhism. They allow me to store props, even when I am gone for weeks at a time in India. I am thankful for the Shambhala Center, even when their parking lot is full and their schedule tracks differently from mine.

Each and every time you feel irritated or annoyed, do you succumb to those feelings?
Instead, look at that experience as a fabulous chance to practice. Every time you practice patience, you are beginning the first small steps toward practicing compassion. Practicing patience means you have to put your greed for something other than what you are experiencing at that moment aside. Close the door on the big “I” and consider how those around you are being impacted.
Your grouchy scowl could ruin someone’s day. Your smooth exhale with a smile as you work to cultivate some patience and ultimately, compassion, can make someone’s day.
So, how about it?

Yes.

Posted by on Jun 5, 2012 in News, Sequences | Comments Off on Yes.

Yes.

The precision that Iyengar Yoga is known for ensures that we can practice poses safely and grow strong both physically and mentally.

Cultivating the consciousness to reach into darker, deeper realms of shadow in the body brings us to a place of concentration, hopefully closer to a place of sattva, and ultimately closer to being a calmer, more relaxed person.

On the otherhand, I think sometimes that certain folks are drawn to Iyengar Yoga because they pride themselves on being over analytical thinkers who are stuck in their heads and use every little thing that is happening to the physical body in an asana as the beginning of a new set of crazy citta vrittis. On some level, the precision of Iyengar Yoga can make some of us more uptight, more tense.

Remember there are two wings of practice according to Patanjali.

Abhyasa and vairagya. These two things need to be practiced together. If you were all abhyasa, all mechanical repetition, and all you did was practice poses and physical actions over and over and over again, you’d self-combust, burn out, fade away, whatever, eventually, at some point, the batteries would run low and die off.

Vairagya means detachment.

At some point in the flurry of sucking up knee caps and digging in shoulderblades, you have to exist in the asana. Vairagya, stop, stay calm, breathe in and out and exist for a moment as the transformed person that the pose has made you into.

Yes, different body parts will do different things.
Yes, something may hurt.
Yes, you will feel a stretch somewhere.
Yes, your balance and center of gravity will be changed.
Yes, you may channel a nightmare memory from your youth and want to run screaming from the room.
Yes, you may suddenly feel better then you have ever felt before about everything in the Universe.
Yes, you may get a foot cramp.
Yes, you may fall over.

And then,

Posted by on Apr 26, 2012 in Sutras | 0 comments

And then,

In our classes recently, we have been taking a closer look at some of the sutras we chant. We have also added a couple of new ones to our chanting line – up.

Take a closer look at this sutra:

2.47 An asana is perfect when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite within is reached.

Patanjali is telling us with this sutra that at some point our efforts will have fruition. Certainly, there will always be work, it will always be difficult, but take a moment to reflect on your practice. There is a pose or two that come easier to you now after so many months and years of working on it. Perhaps you are able to prevent yourself from flying into a mouth-foaming rage, where as a year ago, you may have been shunned by your friends for your temper at the loss of a card game.

Take the time to read a sutra or two in the evening or in the morning or in the afternoon or when you’re in the bathroom or eating dinner or slacking off at work. Do not hold yourself back from yourself. Read, reflect, discover something distressing or joyful, take a breath,  accept it, resolve to deal with it in a calm, focused fashion and move on.

2.48 Then, from this, one is not afflicted by the dualities of the opposites.

Some of you who attend my classes have heard me talk about the old Volkswagon bus I used to have.  Seriously, every time I fixed one thing, I broke another. I removed the engine to put in new engine mounts and I destroyed the transmission.  During the transmission fixing process I blew out the clutch. Life is like that.  Light and dark, pleasure and pain, hate and love, hot and cold.  Our work in our practice can bring us to a unitive state, where we exist in the sweet spot, the sattvic place where we see a way to make even the most far reaching ideas reconcile each other. This is something that we must work towards.

2.42 From contentment, the highest happiness is attained.

“Whatever happiness there may be in the enjoyment in this world, and whatever greater happiness there may be in the celestial world, they do not amount to one sixteenth of the happiness attained from the cessation of desire.” ( Vyasa’s translation and commentary on the sutras)

Our daily, mundane practices of calmness, contentment and acceptance are components of the greater practice of vairagya, detachment.  As you detach yourself from the greed, impatience and desires that assail you, the consciousness becomes serene, benevolent, and the load of life that you heave around day after day will lighten.

Gorakasana

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Sequences | 0 comments

Gorakasana

Yes, I am still working on Gorakasana.
I have moved past the violent arm swinging to keep myself upright. Small improvements are still improvements.

Last week in Pune

Posted by on Jul 20, 2009 in News, Sequences | Comments Off on Last week in Pune

Last week in Pune

Well, I am down to my final week here in Pune, it figures that as I become more accepting and adjusted, it would be time to leave. But I think it is my approaching departure that is contributing to my attitude in some ways. Home will be a place of luxury where I can let the water from the tap get in my mouth, the bed will be soft and comfortable, the sheets will be clean and I will use alot less hand sanitizer.

For the last eleven years I have devoted myself to the practice of Iyengar Yoga and coming to the birthplace of this system and being in the prescence of the Iyengars has been overwhelming on many levels. I came, knowing that being at the Institute would have some kind of impact on me emotionally and spiritually, but also curious as to the intensity and mood of that impact. The fact is that Geeta, Prashant and Mr. Iyengar himself are human flesh and blood with moods and feelings and physical problems like the rest of us. That does not diminish what they have done and are continuing to do for the world of Iyengar practicioners.Geeta is an amazing teacher who does a phenomonal job of teaching these huge classes complete with menstruating women in the back, a shoulder or neck problem, a few poor souls suffering from stomach ailments and then the rest of the normal masses who try to pay attention and keep up. She is guilty of angry outbursts, sending a flood of verbal abuse down on the cowering victim, but given her responsibility, I am not so sure I would do much better. I can honestly say the threat of her wrath has made me more alert than I ever thought myself capable.The last few classes we have been working on backbends. I am chosing not to post these sequences simply because of there intensity. There were very few poses leading up to the backbends, to type the sequences down would not do them justice. One class we spent 30 minutes doing Tadasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana, then a 15 minute Sirsasana and then just began backbending. Geeta’s instructions and choice of words have been particularly intense and effective in the backbend classes; I can only dream of teaching my students so magnificently. After an hour of Urdhva Dhanurasana, we finished the class with a long Sarvangasana, then Savasana. We have about 3 hours at the Instiutute to do our own practice each day, so that is the time to recover properly as needed or do more backbends!!