TIM MILLER: THE BIRD IS THE WORD
The last time I wrote about Tim Miller was 2001, and the last time I went to his workshop was a few years ago (yet somehow he remembers me). Anyway, I'd forgotten how knowledgeable he is - not just in Sanskrit and yoga philosophy, but also in terms of the physical practice (especially when it comes to anatomy, adjustments, research poses and using the practice to heal the body). No surprise, considering he was the first American certified to teach ashtanga vinyasa yoga.
Yesterday's exploration of Second Series was a sweaty, wonderful practice through Eka Pada Sirsasana that include ample research before each of the "roadblock" poses, such as Bhekasana, Kapotasana and Eka Pada Sirsasana. The research poses made the body feel GOOD. There was a lot of focus on pulling the elbows together and moving the scapula apart, which can be done in many, many poses. And instead of the usual closing seated postures, we chanted the Bhija Mantra (with Tim on harmonium) and did pranayama as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in Yoga Mala (in our 2001 interview, Tim said that way-back-when, Guruji taught pranayama to students who were doing second series. Interesting....). And of course he read Rumi to us while we were in Savasana.
The evening practice was an exploration of The Mysterious and Elusive Bandhas, and included Nauli Kriya / Agni Sara and prananyama. In the main ashtanga pranayama, you begin and end on the right, and there are holds at the end of the exhale (as well as at the end of the inhale). The last makes it incredibly easy to find the locks. Tim's explanations of the locks, etc. were wonderful, of course. I generally can't stand too much Bla bla bla , but Tim is economical with words and gives exactly enough so everything makes perfect sense. And then we would do a practice. I loved all of it - especially the demonstration/discussion of the difference between SKPJ's and BKS's Downward-Facing Dogs, and our practice of both followed by an attempt to find the middle way *and* keep the locks (SKPJ's spinal position makes it much easier to find the locks).
Also at one point Tim demonstrated Mulabandhasana - not bad for not being warmed up.
I think my favorite part, though, was his retelling of the bird story from the Sri Mundaka Upanishad.
Two birds are sitting in a mango tree. One is eating everything in sight. It keeps searching for the plumpest, most ripe mangoes, and eats all of them. It cannot stop eating. Even while eating, it is looking for the next mango. It is the Eating Bird.
The other bird just sits, watching and witnessing. It is peaceful and content. It is the Watching Bird.
Of course the Eating Bird is the conditioned mind, full of attachments and jumping from one thing to another. The Watching Bird is the Atman or real Self - the witness who is always at peace.
We are all the Eating Bird. And we are all also the Watching Bird.
At various points last night, Tim asked us if we were the Eating Bird or the Watching Bird.
It was amazing - and such an easy, accessible way to think about these things.
Tim's yoga studio is in Encinitas Californa, and his workshop runs through Sunday.