Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yoga and Physical Health

There is a lot of talk about the benefits of yoga beyond the physical. Yoga is, after all, defined in the Yoga Sutra as "controlling the mental chatter" or "quieting the mind". Some days though, the physical health benefits of yoga are enough. Here are some more great words from B.K.S. Iyengar about yoga and health...and at his age (92? I think?) he ought to know whether there really is anything to this yoga stuff!

"Most people ask only from their body that it does not trouble them. Most people feel that they are healthy if they are not suffering from illness or pain, not aware of the imbalances that exist in their bodies and minds that ultimately will lead to disease. Yoga has a threefold impact on health. It keeps healthy people healthy, it inhibits the development of diseases, and it aids recovery from ill health."

-B.K.S. Iyengar from 'Light on Life'

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Practice, and all is coming"-Pattabhi Jois

If I had to be labled as either the turtle or the hare in a race, I'd definitely be the turtle. While I may set out to be the hare some days, it never works out. If things are going to happen for me, they're either going to come along slow and steady or not at all. Yoga practice is much the same. Pattabhi Jois famously said, "Practice, and all is coming". B.K.S. Iyengar said in 'Light on Life", Success will come to the person who practices". You can define success however you like, but I don't think what Mr. Iyengar said applies only to practice on the mat. It's a great thought to take with you through the rest of the day.

One of the things I love most about Ashtanga yoga practice is that there are no short cuts. There is no faster way to "get" any pose, any transition, or any other aspect of practice. You just go along doing daily practice and aspects of practice evolve at their own pace. I've spent years just doing what I can do in particular poses or transitions and they do come along in time. Once you arrive at any particular "place" in practice, however, some new understanding comes along and changes everything! It forces me to work with what is going on right now and let go of thoughts of what might or might not happen later.

After 80-some years of practice, I suppose Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar know a little something about practice. As a friend very wisely reminded me recently, just keep at it.

Now, onto the real practice, as I try to live in this moment for the rest of the day.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Concentration in Practice

As promised, more eloquent words from Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar:

"If you want a simple way to remember the relationship between asana and concentration (dharana), it is this: If you learn a lot of little things, one day you may end up knowing a big thing."

from his book 'Light on Life'

In the Ashtanga tradition, asana is only one limb of the 8-limbed practice. Ashtanga literally means "8-limbed". Concentration (dharana) is another limb of the practice. Yet, the way in which we practice asana is also the practice of dharana, concentration. We bring our attention to what we are doing right now. When we notice that our attention has wandered (maybe when we wobble out of a pose :) , then we bring our attention back.

I love the suggestion in Mr. Iyengar's choice of words, that this work takes time! Concentration is not easy, but I know everything else is easier for me when I put in the work on concentration. As Mr. Iyengar puts it, I hope that one day I too "may end up knowing a big thing"!

Monday, October 12, 2009

I occasionally get asked whether yoga is a religion. The short answer is no. While, yoga may reflect the cultures that it came from, it is not a religion. I was very interested to come across the following paragraph in "Light on Life" by B.K.S. Iyengar. He puts it much more eloquently than I could, so here are his words:

"Yoga is not meant to be a religion or a dogma for any one culture. While yoga sprang from the soil of India, it is meant as a universal path, a way open to all regardless of their birth and background. Patanjali used the expression sarvabhauma -universal- some 2,500 years ago."

Thank you Mr. Iyengar
...more great quotes from "Light on Life" in future posts!
...a great book, definitely worth a read, and reread

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Moon Days

Traditionally, Ashtanga yoga is not practiced on the day of the full moon or new moon....but why??

The best explanation I have read comes from Tim Miller's website. Tim is one of the most senior Ashtanga teachers in the west.
Here's a link to what Tim has to say on moon days:

In my own practice, sometimes I do practice on moon days and sometimes I don't. I try to be mindful of my energy level and let that dictate how much asana practice I do on those days.

I am curious how other practicioners feel about practice on moon days. Anyone want to chime in on this?