Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SANSKARAS, VASANAS, AND A FAVORITE NEW OLD BLOG





I first discovered Leaping Lanka's blog in 2004. I was delighted to find a Mysore blog that was intelligent, well-written *and* funny *and* self-effacing - a rare combination on the interweb.

Yesterday, I re-discovered Jason's blog. Like me, he's been posting to the same blog since 2003 (and, like me, he stayed four months on his first trip to Mysore... although I was at the old shala).

Here's an excerpt:

As I continue with this practice, I’ve noticed that my self-illusions and tendencies don’t go away. I can recognize them for what they are, though: illusions, preferences, and tendencies.

Once named, they don’t seem to such power. The skill of the yogi is the skillful manipulation and enjoyment of those tendencies, and perhaps even the realization that those illusions are gifts to be skillfully shared.

I spent four months in India on my first trip, and on my return to the studio in Encinitas, Tim [Miller]padded over to me as I prepared to take baddha konasana. He saw what must have been a transformation. He shrugged, and said, “Well, I guess you don’t need me anymore,” and walked off.

Of course, then came bhekasana, kapotasana ... ghanda berundasana, supta trivrkrmasana, raja kapotasana ... It never ends.

I hope it never does.




Read more here.



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NOTE: I think that these tendencies - Sanskaras and Vasanas - tend to fall away the deeper one goes into their practice (I don't mean just asana practice, but the whole nine yards - including the ethical roots, scriptural studies, pranayama, concentration, meditation, etc). As we empty ourselves, our distractions, hobbies and personality begin to fall away, and God can begin to fill us up.

Of course the Sanskaras don't completely fall away. As Chandra Om says, they are always waiting, like a wildcat, ready to pounce. I agree with Jason that the trick is to make peace with them. I also think it is important to learn how to minimize their influence when they do reappear.

As Sri Dharma Mittra says, we must sit and watch the patterns of the mind - and then fight them with angry determination.

When we fail, we must start over the next day.

"The secret to success in yoga is constant practice," says Dharma.

It really doesn't ever end.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

SPEAKING OF TAMAS...
The Three Obstacles to the Practice of Yoga-Asana







"The obstacles to becoming an adept yogi are sleep, laziness and disease.

"One has to remove these by the root and throw them away in order to keep the body under one's control, to control the senses, and to make the prana vayu appear directly in the sushumna nadi....."


-Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya

Saturday, August 28, 2010

'TIS THE SEASON...FOR CORN AND CORRUPTION
(Summer in the Not-so-Bucolic Midwest)





I recently had lunch with Cousin L, who moved to the East Coast 25 years ago.

She said the first thing she does when she comes back home is load up on sweet corn.

It's what we do here all summer;

We eat inexpensive, locally-grown corn.


(Hence the term, corn-fed).

Recently, it was so sweet and fresh that the kernels were practically falling off the cob.

Dreyfus cooked it anyway.



And it was wonderful.





* * *





'TIS THE SEASON, PART II



I. Chicago is in a deep economic crisis and wants to privatize everything.

The city is nearly bankrupt, and to raise cash the mayor is considering privatizing everything that hasn't already been privatized (they have already privatized the Chicago Skyway Bridge and all of the parking meters on all of the streets). The mayor is considering privatizing Taste of Chicago, the City Auto Pound, and our [nonexistent] recycling - (which is already "done" by Waste Management).

According to the Chicago Tribune article, "Daley provided no details on how much money the privatization efforts could fetch or how many city workers could lose their jobs. And observers noted all of the ideas Daley floated won't balance the budget. They wondered what else the mayor might put in play before presents his financial plan to the City Council in mid-October."

Now, if only they'd privatize the Mayor's Office.

Read more here.





II. I've long stated that Chicago and Illinois are tamasic - and now even NPR agrees.

Weekend Edition Saturday just aired a piece that said Chicago and Illinois are the most corrupt city and state in the nation.

And even though the citizens know it, they keep voting the same people into office.

This is tamas* - the quality of inertia!


From the piece by David Schaper:

The chair of the political science department at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Dick Simpson, has as his area of expertise studying political corruption.

Simpson says there's no question about it, Illinois is indisputably the most corrupt state and Chicago is the most corrupt city in the nation. And he has some eye-popping figures to back up those claims.

"So far, we believe there have been since 1970 about 1,500 people convicted of public corruption. Most of them are public officials, either elected or appointed," he says. "They occur at all levels of government from suburban trustee to the governor of the state of Illinois.

Simpson, who served as a reform-minded alderman in Chicago in the 1970s, led the small but vocal opposition bloc to the machine led by late Mayor Richard J. Daley. He says the first corruption trial in Chicago took place in the 1860s, and they have continued ever since.

"At the most local level, the building inspector might take a $50 bill or a $100 bill to not write up a building violation. An alderman might take $500 for a zoning variance so you can build a high rise instead of a single-family house."

A case in point — while the Blagojevich trial was going on this summer in one courtroom in Chicago's Dirksen federal building, in another, former Chicago Alderman Ike Caruthers was sentenced for taking bribes from a developer in exchange for favorable zoning changes; something his father went to prison for when he was alderman nearly 30 years ago.

"Chicago politicians do not seem to be able to learn," Simpson says. "They repeat the same mistakes over and over."

In yet another courtroom, Al Sanchez, who served as Streets and Sanitation commissioner under current Mayor Richard M. Daley, was tried and convicted....

Simpson says voters here historically have accepted corruption as fact of life, so long as the garbage is picked up on time, streets are plowed and the potholes are filled....

..."The cost of corruption in dollars in Illinois is about $500 million a year."






III. People are leaving Illinois in droves due to bankruptcy and losing their homes - and no one is coming in to take their place.

Mrs. Dreyfus works for a moving van rental company. The vans are in high demand by people who are moving out of state. But no one is moving back to Illinois. So the company must send teams of people to retrieve the trucks and bring them back home - so that more people can move out of Illinois.




At least we still have our sweet corn, internet and cable TV -- nice distractions that will keep us from doing anything about it.





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*Tamas is a force which promotes darkness, death, destruction and ignorance, sloth, and resistance. The result of a tamas-dominated life is demerit by karma: demotion to a lower life-form. A tamasic life would be marked by laziness, irresponsibility, cheating, maliciousness, insensitivity, criticizing and finding fault, frustration, aimless living, lack of logical thinking or planning, and making excuses. Tamasic activities include overeating, oversleeping and/or the consumption of drugs and alcohol. (From Wikipedia)




All photos by CK and Dreyfus (c) 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TIM'S GOT A BRAND NEW BLOG




Encinitas-based ashtanga instructor Tim Miller, that is.

His first post is about inauspicious Tuesdays.

According to Tim, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois did not shave on Tuesdays.

I remember Guruji not giving out poses on Tuesdays.

I have had very few "good" Tuesdays.

In my last post, I included my 2002 ruminations about how I believed, during some desperate times in India, that I was born on a Tuesday. I thought that was the reason my life had been so difficult (I was a broken person when I went to India in January 2002. India fixed me.). Nowadays I believe in the laws of karma and reincarnation (vs. thinking of them as a nice theory) and understand that I was burning off karma from past deeds.

Anyway, Tim's blog can be found here.

It also says that Mercury is in retrograde til September 23.

Oy.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

WORST HEADACHE EVER
(or at least since 2002)




I've had a headache on and off for the past couple of weeks. Usually the neti pot and/or sitting will cure it. Backbends and headstand also help - which makes me think it's sinus-related.

But last night it would. not. go. away.

It got worse and worse.

It kept me up all night.

Each time I'd wake up, I'd do the neti pot. But the saltwater would not go through on one side.

Halfway through the night, The Headache of the Century was joined by The Terrible Nausea.

It was one of those awful nights where you question every decision you've ever made, and curse the cat for waking you up when you finally do fall asleep.

This morning, between finding subs and calling Group Exercise coordinators, I managed to crawl to the toilet for some Dry Heaves.

Subs were found (and the Group Ex bosses did not make me feel bad for being too ill to teach. Of course it's easier finding subs during a recession and when every third person you meet teaches yoga, than it was a few years ago).

Subs were found. Some sleep was had.

After several hours of up-and-down, I could even take some food. Watermelon, of course. It is the perfect sattvic food.

Now that I'm feeling almost human again, I'm remembering the last time I had such a terrible headache.

It was on my first trip to Mysore, in February of 2002. I'd only been there for a week, and The Headache came hot on the heels of a terrible stomach virus and an eye infection.

Details from the diary below.



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SUNDAY 10 FEB 2002

The first week in Mysore, everyone wanted to know "Where are you from? How long are you staying?" (By the way, most of the American students are from the coasts or Colorado, and most of the males are named Michael. There are exactly two - Bob and I - from the Midwest). Now the questions are "Where does it hurt? Are you feeling any better?" Everyone has Pollution Cough, and the wait on the stairs is punctuated by sneezing fits. And then there are the sore knees and backs from yoga and the upset stomachs from eating and drinking.

Saturday is our *day of rest* -- there's no yoga and an entire day to fill. So of course THIS week I awakened to a massive, massive headache. I took an Advil and an Excedrin Migraine, had a bucket bath, and went down to breakfast at 3 Sisters. But nausea took over, and I lasted about 5 minutes before going back to my room. Bob brought me oatmeal (over an hour later; there were birds [women] in the restaurant, my dear). An hour after eating it, I was bending over the toiet, face-down. It was a long, sweaty, anxious session -- the kind one dreads.

As the day wore on the head continued to throb with more and more pain, and there was plenty of nausea. But this time a new friend named Jo (who is from Holland but lives in London) brought me toast and made sure I wasn't dead. That was nice.

By the time of my followup doctor's appointment from last week's infection rolled around at 7PM, the pain had lessened a bit and I was able to leave my room. The doctor said it was a migraine, gave me some meds for the next time it happens, and told me to see an eye doctor. The pain was focused around the right eye - the one with the infection -- and ran through the temple and all the way down my neck. She wants to be sure it isn't eyestrain (I've had eyestrain headaches in that eye since I was 10). The doctor also said it could have something to do with the cervical spine, and warned me to be careful in headstand (and that if it keeps up, I should get a neck x-ray). All I know is that I've had migraines in the US, that lasted all day, and which included nausea -- but none that actually caused me to lose my breakfast.

So another Saturday wasted. Although I did get a lot of sleep. Also, I figured out that I was born on a Sunday rather than an inauspicous Tuesday. So instead of being subject to the whims of Mangal-Var (Mars) and having "a tendency to suffer, be accident prone, to be robbed, attacked, put in prison, or have his good name ruined," I was born under the auspices of Ravi-Var, a sun god. Not exactly auspicious, but Sunday is "a good day to start a new endeavor." Now I must look elsewhere for the source of my problems.






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* Photo of CK's headstand in the old shala closing room by Janice D (c) 2002. Hmmmm....my cervical spine *does* look crunched. And the banana-y backbend is not correct. Oy! And it doesn't look so good in Warrior I, below, either:




Photo by Kike (c) 2002. (The spot I'm in is the nearest to Guruji's stool).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

SAD WHEN IT ENDS




That's how I feel about yoga retreats, certain favorite foods, and, of course, the demise of relationships.

It's also how I feel about finishing the book Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students

Now that I've finished the book - which brought Pattabhi Jois back to full, vibrant life for a few weeks - it begins to sink in that his most recent incarnation really has expired.

Of course his teachings stay with me. And I treasure the memories from the five times I studied with him in India, and the six times I studied with him in America (including the last time he taught, in 2008).

But now it feels like he (or his body) really is gone.

Kind of like when you go through your mother's things after she passes; it seems like she's still alive, and may still need them, and you want to talk to her about them.

And then you realize she's not around anymore, and feel rather morose.




* * *


Some things I took away from the book:

-Guruji gave mantra and taught meditation to a handful of students. From what I gleaned, it seems that he gave it to those who were ready/receptive. It seems there weren't very many of them.

-With the exception of Lino (who comes across as a non-native speaker of English and has some GREAT stories that weren't included [such as how/when he realized SKPJ was his guru]), my favorite interviews were with the students who had a devotional nature and "got" what Guruji was doing, using the postures as the vehicle. They seemed to understand things at a higher level, and were able to convey that in the interviews. (NOTE: These were not necessarily the most charismatic or interesting story-tellers).

-From the interviews, it seems that Guruji let people do second series if they were proficient in primary series and could do Supta Kurmasana. It seems that Sharath instituted the stand-up-from-backbend-first rule (which never made a lot of sense to me, since there is very little in primary series to prepare one to do it).


-Of course all of this could be BS. Some of the interviewees contradict themselves - often in the same paragraph. Others tell that which is not true. So, the interviews must be viewed with discrimination.

-What stands out is that Pattabhi Jois was a great Guru. And like all great teachers, what he taught was simple but profound ("Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory." "Do your practice and all is coming." "Think God. Be God."). And he gave each student exactly what they needed - whether they liked it or not. Like all yogis, he was like in pleasure and in pain, in heat and in cold, and with good students and disrespectful ones (like the woman who entered his home during a coffee break and demanded he and Sharath come back to the shala and adjust people); and regarded equally a clod of dirt, a stone, and a piece of gold (actually, he probably preferred the gold - but was not attached to it). May we all live up to his example.








Photo (c) 2004 by Bindi

Thursday, August 19, 2010

DHARMA MITTRA VINYASA MAHA SADHANA WORKSHOP WITH C.K.
THIS SATURDAY




August 21, 1-4pm at YogaNow



This amazing session will help to deepen your yoga practice.

Maha Sadhana means “The Great Practice”, and this asana-based intensive will include chanting, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation and deep relaxation - as well as direction toward the true goal of yoga.

Dharma Mittra Yoga is a classical, flowing hatha style originated by New York City-based yogi Dharma Mittra, creator of the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Poses. Dharma’s energizing Shiva Namaskar sequence focuses on opening the hips, shoulders and upper back and includes variations for every level of student. Poses are repeated so that students may go deeper into them each time. Many options are given, so that all levels will feel challenged/comfortable. The emphasis is on practicing in a playful, relaxed manner.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"DON'T DELAY!"




In one of the interviews near the end of the Guruji book, an interviewee mentions that Pattabhi Jois often said, "Don't delay."

In other words, don't put off doing the pose.

I'm a big fan of this, in practice and in life. (In life, it's even more profound than on the mat).

During backbends - which is prime futzing time - I urge students not to procrastinate or start thinking about other things. (I often say, "There's no crying in baseball - and no thinking during backbends!").

For awhile I had No-Futz Fridays in Mysore class. On Fridays, students were encouraged to move in and out of poses with correct vinyasa and no extraneous movement.

It didn't go over very well.

People like to futz, fidget, fiddle and procrastinate.

(Nowadays I have Freaky Fridays, during which students are encouraged to cross the legs, arms, etc., opposite of the usual way - ie; left over right in Supta Kurmasana, left foot first in lotus, etc. This is a bit more popular than No-Futz Fridays - perhaps because it's a form of futzing).

Anyway, I love and respect the ashtanga vinyasa system, and try to move in and out of poses correctly whenever possible. I also try not to futz while practicing Dharma Yoga.

Recently, I've been doing some research before Kapotasana, in the form of Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana with-a-strap. (Research is a form of futzing). But it merely seems to have messed up the right shoulder/wrist/neck. So I'm going back to what Dharma told me to do - which is to perform the pose at least three times. Without too much futzing.

Dharma likes to say that the class should "move together like a school of fish - even if you have to pretend - so that we can create a collective mind." (The word "collective" seems to put off students who grew up during the Cold War - at least when I use it). He also says students should move in and out of the poses gracefully, as if you're performing for an audience.

The way I see it, this is similar to saying "Don't delay."*

I think that the delaying/futzing is often a form of ego indulgence - as is moving at one's own pace in a led class. (And doing whatever pose you like during a led class).

What do *you* think?






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*There are times during Dharma's class (and my class!) when students are doing different poses at the same time - and it looks like anarchy. But, somehow it's not.

Monday, August 16, 2010

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAAI




Until last night, Chicago was in the throes of a long, humid heat wave - with heat indexes topping 100 degrees.

On Saturday I fought back by going to the area's only all-Indian cinema in Niles.

Big Cinemas shows Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and other Indian-language movies on several screens (only the Hindu films have English subtitles). It's got stadium seating with super-comfortable seats, and the vending area features Indian snacks. Plus the intermissions are real intermissions (as in India, they stop the film for 10 minutes, so you can run to the lobby, use the w.c., get a chai or samosa, and run back in....only here in America the samosas are six dollars, not six rupees).

I'm a sucker for a tall, handsome man wearing white, which is what lead actor Ajay Devgan, who plays a mob boss with a conscience (and is loosely based on Haji Mastan), does throughout the film. Kangna Ranaut is his stunning moll. Plus it's set in Bombay of the 70s, before drugs and guns and widespread communal violence.

The perfectly-cast Emraan Hashmi plays a sullen, up-and-coming smuggler with a six-pack and is loosely based on mobster-cum-alleged-international terrorist Dawood Ibrahim.

Kangana Ranaut is the cop/narrator who hopes the two will duke it out and leave a small mess for the police to clean up.

It all blows up in his face of course.

I thought it was well-acted, well-directed, and well-written and perfectly set-up for a sequel. The sets, songs and costumes were all spot-on. Plus it was lacking the usual extraneous exposition and histrionics, coming in at just over two hours.



And the AC was wonderful.










* * *



As I was paying to see the fillum, a gentleman behind the counter asked, "You are going to the cinema by yourself?"

"Yes," I said. "I do everything by myself. I eat by myself, I live by myself...."

And then I held my tongue and braced myself for the worst.

But it was not forthcoming.

After a pause, the man said,

"Me also."




Thursday, August 12, 2010

JAI HIND!




The war jets for this weekend's Air & Wa(te)r Show are flying overhead today (which means that the cat is hiding in the closet). The annual show of military might is not my cup of chai.

But Sunday is Indian Independence Day. The main event is Sunday's 11:30am parade on Devon Avenue.

Last year's was a lot of (solo) fun.


In celebration, Big Cinemas is screening recent Bollywood hits all week - for free (including Three Idiots and Rang De Basanti).

Learn more here.











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Photo of the Zam's Hope float by CK (c) 2009.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

AHEAD OF THE CURVE




I spent much of Saturday hanging out with Mr. and Mrs Dreyfus in their yard. Sitting there, doing nothing, watching the cats, catching up, spotting the female Cardinal, was so much fun..... so healing.

We also ate some fresh cucumbers that a neighbor had brought over because they had too many from their garden. Unlike in the city, the Dreyfuses did not have to spend big money at a Farmer's Market or join a CSA to get fresh, organic produce. People just brought it over, unasked (see photo above).

While sitting outside, we mused about how wonderful the simple life is - and what would happen if the rest of America started living that way; clearly, the economy would completely fall apart.

The next day the New York Times ran a big article by Stephanie Rosenbloom, about people who are living la vida simple, buying less and treasuring experiences over material goods.

Here's an excerpt:

“There’s been an emotional rebirth connected to acquiring things that’s really come out of this recession,” says Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of WSL Strategic Retail, a marketing consulting firm that works with manufacturers and retailers. “We hear people talking about the desire not to lose that — that connection, the moment, the family, the experience.”

Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness. (Academics are already in broad agreement that there is a strong correlation between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness; hence, anything that promotes stronger social bonds has a good chance of making us feel all warm and fuzzy.)

And the creation of complex, sophisticated relationships is a rare thing in the world. As Professor Dunn and her colleagues Daniel T. Gilbert and Timothy D. Wilson point out in their forthcoming paper, only termites, naked mole rats and certain insects like ants and bees construct social networks as complex as those of human beings. In that elite little club, humans are the only ones who shop....


....Another reason that scholars contend that experiences provide a bigger pop than things is that they can’t be absorbed in one gulp — it takes more time to adapt to them and engage with them than it does to put on a new leather jacket or turn on that shiny flat-screen TV.

“We buy a new house, we get accustomed to it,” says Professor Lyubomirsky, who studies what psychologists call “hedonic adaptation,” a phenomenon in which people quickly become used to changes, great or terrible, in order to maintain a stable level of happiness.

Over time, that means the buzz from a new purchase is pushed toward the emotional norm.

“We stop getting pleasure from it,” she says.

And then, of course, we buy new things.






Sounds to me like people are starting to do the real yoga (realizing that as soon as one fulfills a desire, another one appears - unless one learns to control the senses and the mind).


Finally.









* * *


On Sunday I caught Jeremy Rifkin on the radio, discussing his latest book The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis. The show was riveting, and you can hear it here. Among other things, Rifkin mentioned in passing that America is focused on the accumulation of wealth, while Europeans value quality of life. We could learn a thing or two from them.



* * *


Sri Dharma Mittra says it best:

"Reduce your wants and lead a happy and contented life. Never hurt the feelings of others and be kind to all. Think of God as soon as you get up and when you go to bed."



I think the second sentence is one of the hardest practices there is.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

GURUJI BOOK




I’m working on the book review for Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students. I cannot put it down. It has gotten me excited about the practice again, and about all of the possibilities of yoga. And it makes me even more grateful for my time with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. I cannot possibly give it a higher recommendation.

That said, I did find a couple of small factual errors. They are not the fault of the editors, but are contained within the context of the interviews. Here they are, with corrections:


One interviewee (DW) says that one of Guruji’s first foreign students was Indra Devi in the 1930s. If I’m not mistaken, she was Sri Krishnamacharya’s student.

Someone else mentions that Sri Ramakrishna was a drunk. That is not correct. From what I understand, Sri Ramakrishna was a saint who often went into a state of Samadhi. One of his favorite disciples, the great Bengali dramatist Girish Ghosh, would often visit him while drunk, and/or drink in his presence. This would often put Sri Ramakrishna into an ecstatic state, and he would begin to dance and mimic Girish's actions. Read more about the fascinating story of Sri Ramakrishna and Girish Ghosh here.





One of my favorite interviewees is French student Brigitte Deroses – one of a handful in the book who seems to believe that Samadhi or self-realization is possible for us, in this very lifetime (I was actually chided at a workshop with a famous American Ashtanga teacher for suggesting that concentration leads to meditation, which leads to Samadhi – the ultimate goal. [The way I learned it, concentration equals 12 seconds of focusing on a single object; 12 concentrations equal one meditation; and 12 meditations equal Samadhi]. Apparently I got it wrong, and was corrected: concentration makes it possible to direct our single-pointed attention wherever we need it in our lives. Period).

Anyway, here is the quote from Brigitte, who seems to have a wonderfully devotional nature:

“I would like to say that Guruji has completely changed my life. He brought peace into my life when, at the time I met him, It was total chaos because I had a sick child and I thought life was just not possible. Now nothing has changed, my daughter is still sick and there are many difficulties and I bear it not without difficulty, but not as a burden. He took away the burden from me, he took away something that was heavy, that was weighing on me, and he made me light again. I thank him every day.”


I agree wholeheartedly; since starting ashtanga in 1997, I have not put my fist through a wall or window or windshield or kicked down a door. Not once.

And I used to do it all the time.


And then, once I learned about the rules of karma and reincarnation from Sri Dharma Mittra and really started to believe them, I stopped feeling like I had been singled out for abuse my whole life. I felt like there was a reason for everything that had happened to me - and I stopped taking it personally. A huge weight was lifted, and the anger really began to go. The amount of relief I felt is indescribable (although I have to keep reminding myself about these rules over and over again; as Dharma says, "The secret to success in yoga is constant practice." Or, as Pattabhi Jois says, "Do your practice and all is coming." In other words, you can't just stop and slack off - or it all goes to hell again. You have to keep at it, every day).



So.....How has yoga changed *your* life?





Tuesday, August 03, 2010

OLD SCHOOL





I'm working on articles about Manju Jois and Tim Miller - who were a couple of the first Ashtanga teachers in Encinitas, California (the first was of course David Williams, followed by Brad Ramsey and Gary Lopedota [pictured with Guruji, above]. You can read about four of these fellows in the heavy, hard-to-put-down new book Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students).

Here are a couple of choice bits from my upcoming workshop reviews:





Manju Jois...

During a Q&A, someone asked how to practice when you don’t want to. Manju said you have to have a passion for it. “No matter what your mind says, go and do your thing, and be glad you did it.

“Once the mat goes on the floor, the hands automatically go up” into the first sun salutation.”

He said he could never talk his way out of practice with his father. “He’d get me up at 3:30am and we’d do the work. He’d bribe me with coffee in the morning.

“Some postures were tough for me. I wanted to be excused. It was me and my sister and one guy – it was like boot camp. Baddhakonasana was a problem for me. Every time it came to that posture, I’d have to go to the bathroom and I’d hang out there and I’m come out and everyone was still in the posture. ‘We’re still waiting for you,’ my father would say.”






Tim Miller....


He first met Pattabhi Jois in 1978, on Guruji’s second trip to America.

“He looked kind of ordinary – a smallish man wearing black loafers and horn-rimmed glasses and a white lungi [sarong] and white dress shirt,” Tim said in an interview. “Once he took off his shirt and lungi, you could see he was a powerful little guy. He inspired some fear. At that time, he was 63 and still quite strong and vital.”

The classes were self-practice, and Guruji’s adjustments were strong. “When he came into close proximity, we would put forth superior strength to avoid being adjusted,” Tim said. “We lived to avoid being adjusted – but we also loved it.”

Pattabhi Jois’s residency in Encinitas, California included theory classes at the home of his son, Manju, who acted as translator. “We could see that he was extremely well-educated and deeply immersed in the yogic texts and was a deeply spiritual man,” Tim said, “He had a very devotional nature. When he recited the text he would become so emotional he would laugh and cry.”





(c) CK 2010






The full workshops reviews will appear in the September/October issue of Yoga Chicago magazine.

In the meantime....

-Read excerpts from the Guruji book here.

-More on the old days in Encinitas here.

-David Williams will give a workshop at YogaNow August 5-8. Read my 2003 article about him here.

Monday, August 02, 2010

LINO MIELE:TRUE TO THE TEACHINGS OF PATTABHI JOIS




My new article about senior astanga vinyasa teacher Lino Miele is up at the Yoga Chicago website.



Here's an excerpt from the article:


In the old days, there was one book that explained the Ashtanga vinyasa yoga system as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois at his Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (AYRI) in Mysore, India. There was no Internet, DVDs, or other books (Pattabhi Jois's book, Yoga Mala, was not translated into English until 1999). There was just direct experience, word of mouth, and the sole book, Lino Miele's Astanga Yoga (1994 ), which covered the primary and intermediate series. I remember sitting around in 1997, drinking juice at the Whole Foods after Suddha Weixler's Saturday Mysore class, when a student brought it out and showed it to us. We were transfixed, and passed it around and wrote down the address where we could order it.


“When you start to understand this book, you understand the yoga system, the state of the asana, and how to move in and out of the asana; the movement leads you into the pose,” said Lino at a week-long workshop he gave with partner Désirée Trankaer at Yogaview and Moksha Yoga in April. While writing the book, Lino spent many long afternoons with Pattabhi Jois in Mysore learning the correct number of vinyasas (movements linked with breath) for each of the poses in Ashtanga's primary and intermediate series. He would ask Guruji about each pose again and again until he got the same answer three times. Then, he would write it down.

“Before the book, no one knew the vinyasa system,” Lino said. “Pattabhi Jois only gave led classes outside of Mysore.” [“Led classes” are those taught by the teacher as opposed to self-practice where each student practices on his/her own and the teacher adjusts them.]

Chicago's splintered local Ashtanga community came together for Lino's first local visit since Pattabhi Jois passed, and he regaled us with stories about his guru.

The moment I stood on my mat and brought my palms into prayer for self-practice at YogaView, I felt the energy and presence of the late Pattabhi Jois filling the room, and tears started streaming down my cheeks....


....The body felt like new at Saturday's final self-practice at Moksha. Lino knew this better than I did, and adjusted me for the first time in bhekasana (frog pose), which includes an intense foot stretch. He also gave me my first foot-on-foot adjustment in supta vajrasana (fixed firm pose), which didn't hurt at all. A few poses later, I pulled off the ankle brace and threw it away.

Later, when I asked Lino why my body gets healed when he teaches, he replied, “That is the experience of the teacher.”

When I asked what makes a good teacher, he said. “Gray hair. Experience makes a good teacher. Guruji was always repeating that yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory. You can read hundreds and hundreds of books, but it does not make you a good teacher. You have knowledge from your life and your body, and then you can teach.

“Instead of wanting to be students, people want to be teachers right away. I am against it. This is not a job. This is a passion. Tradition is important. Whatever my guru taught me, I am teaching you.

“He taught me how to act, how to be with people. How many people had the chance to speak with our guru, eat with our teacher, live with our teacher? Otherwise it becomes ‘Bla bla bla.'

“Everything I know, my guru taught me.”






Read the rest here.
















*Did you know....
-There's no mula bandha in Kukkutasana?
-Yoga Mala does indeed say to do nauli in the pose?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

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Thanks to Grimmly for the heads-up.