Friday, October 21, 2016

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali-deeper than the deepest ocean

The past few weeks I have been starting Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali over, from the very beginning. I started at the preface, I am now only at the Prologue.  In the past ten years, I think I have read the first three chapters many times over.  I have a suspicion I am still missing out on the big picture.  The big picture meaning that this is not a book you sit down and read cuddled up on the couch with a cup of is a book that needs to be read over and over until its subject matter permeates your being.

Permeate:  to diffuse through or penetrate (via Merrium Webster online)

To encourage this permeation, I am going to read and write about my experience here.  However simple or childish my understanding may be, I will try my best to understand what each sutra is trying to give me.  This is a way for me to not only work on my svadyaya (self study or study of spiritual scriptures) but to encourage all of us yoga practitioners to delve a little deeper into the practice.  This already gives me a feeling of apprehension, but how else will I ever commit to such a task?  This may take quite a long time, who knows, I may have another blog or website by the end of this!

I have had the feeling that you have to be a genius, a brilliant person with super human brain power to delve into such a project.  But why sell myself short?  If any of you out there would like to help me on this journey,  let me know! I would love guest writers, comments, and company just sitting down and discussing.  What I do ask, is that there be no negativity, judgement, or harshness of another's idea of what a sutra is giving them.  In my humble opinion,  we need to seek a state of peace no matter how we may disagree.  This is a project of courage and hopefully this can shed some light on why we are yoga practitioners at all. 

Step 1-finish prologue

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Yoga=Transformation of.....everything

Today I experienced transformation. I think we always experience some form of it every time we choose to step on our mat. This morning I was challenged by my mind. It said to stay put on the couch, read an entire novel, and feel sorry for myself.  I chose to get off my butt and get to Dean Lerner's Saturday morning session.  I am very thankful I did.

Dean's sense of humor and dedication to the method are always refreshing to me.  Today he encouraged us to move beyond the rigidity that can sometimes accompany the Iyengar method. He spoke of the importance of Supta Pandangusthansana series and the positive effects it can have on our hips.  When we got to anatasana, a difficult pose for most of us, he had me press into his foot with my bottom foot for stability. I felt some freedom and stability I typically do not feel in that wobbly pose. Then he says, "What happens if I walk away?"  I thought to myself, "AHHHH! Don't do it! I want to keep this feeling. Please oh please!"  He did anyways, and I wobbled. Dean also taught a point in a few postures of the importance of not just stretching, but to challenge the top leg and arm away from one another to create even more steadiness in the posture. Lesson learned,  I lived and I learned the importance of not just being flexible, but being stable.  I walked in feeling like a sea-legged zombie, walked out able to stand up and face the rest of my day.

No matter where we are at in our lives, in our bodies, in our minds, the practice of asana, breath, and simple mindfulness can change the moment. Thank you Dean for sharing your pearls of wisdom.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Humility, yep it still exists.

Today marks the end of my first complete week back to teaching and being a participant of my life. I say a participant of my life because it felt as though I've just been in a fog of some sort trying to figure out where I fit in again.  Simple tasks like walking the dogs, daily chores, and teaching classes seem to feel so strange.  I spent the better part of 7 weeks being selfish in a way.  Napping was no stranger, doing many hours of asana a day, sightseeing, getting to know new people and even reading novels is how I spent a lot of time. I say I was busy, however there was plenty of down time in which I was left to look directly at my Self.

That is the part your never ready for.  The quiet moments where your thoughts cannot be controlled.  They are negative, anxious, judgmental of pretty much everything and everyone. It is a very uncomfortable place to sit in.  Think of it like being in your sleeping bag, your so cold and all zipped in, you have to pee, your scared to leave the safety of you tent and your skin is crawling at every sound, but it's hard to move because your all zipped in! That's what it feels like.

Even though this process of uncovering the layers of you can be awkward and sometimes agonizing, it is worth it.  To see what we are truly made of.  What is under all the stuff we have learned throughout of lives.  If only we kept the innocence of childhood until we are 90, that would be so much easier. When following the path of yoga, meditation, or even a life of spirituality,  we are constantly trying to become more humble, more compassionate, more forgiving, more open to the possibility of what we are capable of and even able to see what others are capable of. It is almost as if we have to break our hearts wide open and cry, scream, hide from it before we can get to the next step.  Of course, it is never ending and when we think it is complete, it starts all over again. 

This is what makes the journey of self discovery so worthwhile. Today, go out and be kind to a stranger, remember you never know what the other person is dealing with.  Instead of screaming at the car in front of you or getting angry about how you think you were wronged, say the mantra, "I forgive you. Have a good day." See how that feels instead.

"Yoga is a friend to those who embrace it sincerely and totally. It lifts its practitioners from the clutches of pain and sorrow, and enables them to live fully, taking a delight in life. The practice of yoga helps the lazy body to become active and vibrant. It transforms the mind, making it harmonious.  Yoga helps to keep one's body and mind in tune with the essence, the soul, so that all three are blended into one." -Preface from Light on the Yoga Sutras-BKS Iyengar

This man was at the top of a log walk. At the top, a temple, a few men, a cat, and a couple dogs. This guy was my favorite:-)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Wrapping up

This is my last blog post, not from India..........

I have been home a couple days now.  Trying to stay awake during the day, sleep during the night to get back on a routine.  I waited to write this as I am still a bit raw from the whole experience. 

India in itself is a place that chews you up and spits you back out somewhat unscathed except in your deepest corners of yourself that you try to forget exist. It increases your global awareness, your self awareness, and makes your standard of clean come down a few notches.  India is a country where you see extreme wealth right on top of extreme poverty.  Not the kind of poverty we have here in good ole' USA.  (I am not downplaying what we have going on here, just saying it gives a sense of perspective those of you who will get up in arms about that blanket statement), but the kind of poverty that makes you cry upon seeing it, you can never un-see something like that, nor should you.

The area of Pune that the RIMYI is located is very nice area.  Of course you still see some things you would never see here, but all in all, I felt safe to walk alone down Hari Krishna Mandir Road.  We were somewhat in a bubble. There was a woman selling veggies most mornings after classes and the coconut man was AWESOME. (for you Renee....).  He always knew I wanted the slippery malai, not to hard, not too soft, just the perfect blend of goodness that comes from those coconuts. (Malai, not to be confused with the band I just found out about while googling malai.  Malai this weird or what!)

At the institute, the students are a mixture of young and old,  Indian and foreigners,  experienced and newbies.  Everday, we were asked to sign in. It was so interesting to see the foreigners sign in and see where everyone came from.  Iran, Australia, Canada, France, UK, Israel, Spain, China, Korea, and more! All of the teachers there have such a gift, the way they blend discipline,  humor, philosophy, and physical activity together is unmatched.  They keep students engaged and never once straying from the subject of Yog. (again, just my opinion man) I am already missing the teachings of Prashant, Abhijata, Raya, Sunita, and of course sweet Devki.  It was a privilege to be there under there guidance.

Speaking of privilege,  the last week at RIMYI,  I was fortunate to take medical classes.  I was so scared to ask for help. I sent a letter, it was lost, classic. Then I had a new friend say, "Just ask Abhi.  She will listen!"  I finally got up my nerve, walked right up and then immediately began to perspire. She was so patient with my fumbling words that tumbled out of my mouth. She told me to come to medical the rest of the week. She also said, "Next time, come for 2 months to really make a difference."

I was scared to ask for help mainly because I felt so unworthy, not bad enough for them to help me since my condition cannot be seen on the outside.  Well, I am sure that it is seen on the outside, but only to the trained Iyengar Yoga teacher eyeballs.   I have so much respect for Abhijata and the way she was brought up right under Guruji. In my humble opinion, she is a wonderful blending of Guruji, Geetaji, and Prashantji, with her own dynamic and compassionate personality mixed in.

I went to medical 3 days the last week I was there. I learned so much about how to move my body and to let go of what my mind thought I should be doing.  At the first session, Raya had me in a backbend at the rope wall and he asked, "Sticky mat or wood?"  I said, "sticky mat!"  He adjusted me and let me suffer in the pose for a bit, then came back and said, "Happy Birthday. I have brought you a gift." I said, "It is not by my birthday until November." He said, "It's come early."  Then smiled and put a wooden dowell right down my tailbone and lumbar. This was not small dowell, but it was the most incredible feeling. No pain in my back , no pain in my lower abdomen. Complete freedom came and my mind felt calm, even in this pretty inense pose. This is why I do yoga.  To finally find freedom.

I wanted to share this last post because it made a big impact on my whole month. It felt as thought Abhijata and Raya saw me in a way no other teacher has. I have extremely gifted teachers here in Colorado that I work with, but nothing can replace the teachings from the source and I am bet they would agree.

That's all for now.

Yes, I am wearing bloomers.
I hope it is ok to share these.
In deepest gratitude.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The fine art of negotiation.

This past week has been a roller coaster!  Lunches, classes, meeting old and new friends,  getting over a chest cold, then having a rickshaw driver take me to the wrong place.  I have even begun to learn to negotiate, to haggle if you will.

My roomie and I went on a little shopping trip last Saturday.  We were wanting to get back before Geetaji's question and answer session.  Nana picked us up and asked where we wanted to go.  We told him,  then I said, "I would like to be back by 4:30 to shower and get ready for the event."  He said, "Angela, it will take longer than that we need at least one chai and you know we could go to a couple more, 5pm I will have you back at Om Villa."  I said, "I will meet you in the middle and 4:45 is fine." He laughed a big belly laugh after I said, "Well, at least I have learned to negotiate like and India."  We got back at 4:59.

In India, people haggle, negotiate, and try to talk down the price of everything.  It's not really my thing, but I have been known to not buy a 90 rupee papaya because the day before it was 60.  It is so silly to get up in arms about 30 rupees.  I would not try that at WFM!

Today I had breakfast with an Indian teacher who comes to Colorado frequently. I asked her, "Did you drive?"  She said, "Yes, my scooter." So, we were off! This tiny woman with a blonde lady almost a foot taller than her on the back of her scooter! It was so fun. She could tell I was nervous so she said ,"Hold onto whatever you need and as tight as you need."  I actually did not need to hold onto her much, there was a convenient handle right behind me! 

Her home is at the edge of a neighborhood and is beautiful.  The balcony overlooks a river and so many fruit trees. I saw four hawks circling above.  It was serene. She fed me roasted veggies, fruit, and a nescafe for breakfast.  The coffee made me happy.  I was feeling reminiscent about the first time I came to India with Dana.  On the drive from Mumbai to Pune, we stopped at a very dirty coffee shop and our first beverage here was out of an automatic nescafe machine!  It is amazing how many memories you can make in one month.

After spending time with my friend this morning, we went to the edge of her neighborhood to call me a rickshaw.  We tried three before we found one to drive me to Model Colony.  The one that agreed cleaned off his mirror to keep and eye on me, probably to make sure I am the type of person who can pay what he asks.  We drove for 15 minutes and I said, "Model Colony?" He said, "Modern College?"  Then we pulled up to a place called 'Modern College'.  I looked at him and we both started laughing at the fact we were both speaking English, but neither understood.  I arrived at the Institute really late, but at least I learned that even though the meter may say 60 rupees,  it may not always be what the driver wants.  He wanted more money, asked my name.  I said, "Cindy". He smiled, bobbled his head at me and gave me my change.  I gave him my fake name and the amount the meter said and was on my way.  I guess that was good enough for him, he had a name and I had my change.

We only have a few more days in India, a few more classes, a few more rides in the rickshaw.  I am again trying to stay in the moment and not in front of it.

Until next time.........

One sweet ride! I think I want one!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

No more photos please.....

This past weekend was a holiday in India.  Monday marked India's 70th year of independence.  We took it as a sign that we should go for a little road trip!

My roommate, 2 Australians, and a Swedish-Aussie went on an adventure to the Ajunta and Ellora caves. These caves are very old, one at Ajunta is 2200 years old!  It is amazing to think that something from that long ago is still standing, has not been blown apart by war, weather, or just plan decay. 

We left right after the women's class on Saturday.  The driver picked us up and off we went on a six hour drive through small towns and some countryside.  The countryside here is absolutely beautiful. So green, so lush, dotted with the occasional wildlife.  It amazes me to see some people actually plowing fields with a cow or ox.  Not that they do not use John Deer here, but it was humbling to see people working so hard with there hands and backs.  We also passed by tent cities, which in there own way were also humbling. I will keep these images in my mind when travelling back to the U.S.

Upon arriving in Arangubad,  we saw city life again. Our hotel was an oasis.  Fancy for us after having been here for two weeks. It almost felt wrong being in air conditioning.  It's interesting that in the states I quite enjoy the AC at our house, but here not so much. It is an attack on one's systems.  So opposite of the hot, humid, loud, chaotic, but also rhythmic way of the city streets.

Sunday and Monday were spent at the caves. Both Ajunta and Ellora are very special in there own ways.  We had an unofficial guide, which was good at the beginning, not so good at the end. Ajunta is set in a big horseshoe shape Cliffside with a little creek and bridges below.At Ajunta we were taken aback by how many people asked to take pictures of us.  It does not happen so much in Pune as it is more cosmopolitan.  These smaller towns are filled with people who may have never seen someone as light as I am.  After about 50 or more, I had to start saying no.  In my own quirky way I would ask two things, "Are you under 15? Yes, for 5 rupees."  At first I felt a little mean saying no, but if you know me at all,  I do not like being photographed!  These caves were spectacular. Many still had paintings on the inside. We finished with a quick dip in the creek.  The part I loved the most was my new goat friend and the monkeys. They blew me away.  The Ellora caves were just as spectacular.  Many were set up in the hills that our guide took us to. It felt surreal to be high above the city of Ellora looking down at all the green.  It can be very beautiful even amongst all the people and pollution.  Our unofficial guide there was a friend of our driver and he was wonderful.  Patient with us and our sixth wheel, a young Japanese man who was travelling alone.  Our guide even spoke Japanese.  He even was asked to be photographed!  The last cave we saw there was incredible. Huge!  Crowded! I was cooked by then. Tired, Sunburnt, and hungry.

Overall, it was an amazing 3 days. Filled with a ton of laughter, finger massagers,  Norwegian jokes, and little lioness roars.

After this trip in particular,  I recognize that we do not just come to India to study yoga,  we come to India to be brought back to the realities of our planet.  Even though the population here is becoming bigger and increasingly more western,  they still stay true to there roots in many ways.  Religion, family, and food.  I feel so fortunate that I was able to do this at least one more time.  I will be ready in a couple weeks to be in the comforts of my own home and be welcomed by my family.  This I will not take for granted.

Until then, more yoga at the institute, some yummy food and new friends.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A lesson on Plate tectonics: how our physical reacts to yoga asana

This afternoon at practice something shifted for me. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was able to let go of an end result and just practice to see where I was led. I will list the sequence below as some is part of the amazing sequence from Abhi on Monday.

On Monday, Abhi taught a class to bring stability to the feet, legs, and hips. She used a brick to emphasize the work our inner feet need to do in order to maintain the grip of the outer hips in poses such as parsvottanasana and the standing parivritta's.  I wasn't entirely sure how much I could take at that moment, but as always, just trust the teacher (especially if they are fortunate enough to have the last name Iyengar) and go with it.  I did and I was rewarded.  Rewarded with a spine that felt incredibly relaxed,  abdominals that for once did not feel gripped, hips, legs, and feet that felt like they could support me.

The title of this blog was made up while I was working on matsyasana preparation this afternoon in the practice hall.  While in India, my plan was to work on this pose in particular and tailbone/hamstring actions in backbends.  Who knew they were all so closely related! I know anyone reading this who is my senior is thinking, "You are just now getting this..?"  Yep, I am just now getting this.  It takes coming to this hectic place to apparently slow me down enough to focus.

Tectonic shifting refers to the "...large scale motion of Earth's lithosphere........the lithosphere which is the rigid outermost shell of a planet, is broken up into techtonic plates......Plate movement is thought to be driven by a combination of the motion of the seafloor away from the spreading ridge...." -Wikipedia- (where else!)

After combining Abhis work, adding in a few other preparations, and the cue from my new friend here, I actually felt my outer hips grip in padmasana!  This grip enabled me to extend my frontal groins and keep my tailbone extended. No back pain, no hip pain, no pesky endo pain.  It was enlightening to say the least. So much was moving and shifting! I felt serene, happy, and felt expansion in parts I have never felt before. 

Below is the sequence.  Things go much faster dilly dallying. 

Adho Mukha Virasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Eka Pada Svanasana-at wall
Uttanasana-legs hip width
Paschima Namaskarasana
Parsvottanasana-brick in line with inner foot to teach the inner ankle to move to bring pressure to inner foot, this in turn goes into the outer hip muscles(this goes for all the standing poses)
Ardha Chandrasana
Prasarita Padottanasana
Parivrtta Trikonasana
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana
Utthita Hasta Padasana at wall
Parsva Utthita Hasta Padasana at wall
Utthita Hasta Padasana-full pose
Baddhakonasana-brick in between feet
Upavistha Konasana
Parivritta Janusirsasana
Upavistha Konasana
Ardha Baddha Paschimottanasana
Upavistha Konasana
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasna
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Padmansana going forward
Matsyasana prep-on back bolster for knees to rest on-doing multiple times, holding sticky mat to fix tailbone, then lowering knees to bolster
Chatush Padasana

Doing laundry by hand and hang drying is no easy thing. Wringing out bath towels will make your hands very strong!