Friday, July 30, 2010

Yoga Sutra 2.4-2.5: What is Real?

Yoga Sutra 2.4-2.5:
"Lack of true knowledge is the source of all pains and sorrows whether dormant, attenuated, interrupted or fully active."

"Mistaking the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure, and that which is not the self for the self: all this is called lack of spiritual knowledge, avidya."
-Iyengar translation

B.K.S. Iyengar says this in the commentary on 2.5:
"Naturally we make mistakes, but when through want of understanding, we fail to reappraise or reflect, error becomes a habit."

This brings up a question in my mind. What is real and where has "error become a habit"? In what situations have I moved through with a fair try at equanimity and grace and when have I reacted out of habit instead of reflection?

These two sutras really parallel my asana practice at the moment. I'm finding that second series is a very different kind of work for me than primary. Second series asana practice is digging right in to every fear, vulnerability and insecurity. As layers of carefully constructed "self-protection" unravel, I'm asking these same questions more often. Am I that?...or is this a habit, another layer to peel off? Have I been mistaken avoidance of insecurities and vulnerabilities as strength?

It brings to my mind again the zen proverb on Beryl Bender Birch's website "Only when you can be extremely pliable and soft, can you be extremely hard and strong."

...Ah, lots of work to do here...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Random Practice Thoughts

At some point during a happy practice yesterday afternoon, the teacher who's class I was dropping into mentioned that I smile a lot in practice. I hadn't really thought about it until he mentioned it....but having thought about it, yes, I do smile a lot in practice. I'm happy in practice.
Add in my joy at practicing with a group and I'm really happy. After 4 or so years of primarily home practice, I don't take practicing with a group for granted anymore. The constant sound of ujjai is calming and I always have an easier time settling into practice with the sound of others breathing. Throw in the occasional adjustment or assist and the chance to share with other people the one thing I am most passionate about and what's not to smile about? :)

Practice Notes:
It seems I'm being revisited by the backbend vs. leg-behind-head tug of war. This has come and gone twice now and it seems it has returned for round 3. Currently, leg-behind-head has the rope on it's side. Backbends feel stuck and INTENSE! Easy dropping into kapotasana has disappeared and been replaced with dropping with a thud and clawing my way in. Likewise, comfort is gone from drop-backs. Lots of rocking and bent knees required just to drop back and come up. I've been adding the first few poses from second to my twice weekly primary practice to see if I could even things out a bit. No luck yet, just sticky backbends and achy hips.

Thoughts or suggestions from any of you out there in Cyber Shala World?

some extracurricular backbending maybe?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

David Keil Returns to Gainesville

I've been really blessed to have found amazing teachers along the Ashtanga yoga path. They have all provided insights and invaluable encouragement along the way. Now that the time I spend with them is limited due to distance, I especially look forward to the few weeks/weekends I spend with them each year.

The next circled dates on my calendar are at the end of August (Aug. 30-Sept. 3). David Keil, my primary Mysore teacher is coming to town. For 5 days, I get to turn my studio and my students over to David...and I get to be a student myself. The night before a week of Mysore classes with David is like Christmas Eve for me. I'm so excited for the next morning to arrive that the alarm can't come early enough!

Stay Tuned for a Guest Blog Post by David on what Mysore style Ashtanga practice is all about!

The mental countdown of weeks has already begun...and I'm storing up a mental list of questions about practice and teaching. I'll be blogging during the week and sharing it here. :)

If you're in the area (or not) and want to join in the fun (August 30-Sept. 3), the details are on the workshop page of the website....only 4 spaces left!

If you can't make it to Gainesville, catch David in Tampa at the beautiful Treehouse Yoga, Sept.27-Oct.1

Friday, July 16, 2010

Yoga Sutra 2.3: The Things That Get in the Way

In sutra 2.2 Patanjali says yoga reduces the sutra 2.3, he names the afflictions:

"The five afflictions which disturb the equilibrium of consciousness are: ignorance or lack of wisdom, ego, pride of the ego, or the sense of 'I', attachment to pleasure, aversion to pain, fear of death and clinging to life" --Iyengar translation

so I'm pondering on where each of these show up in my practice...where do I have a chance to work on them?

"ignorance or lack of wisdom"
I'm not sure there are specific parts of practice that come to my mind when I think of lessening this affliction. Much of practice is a regular reminder that I have so much to learn! Time itself may be the best teacher when if comes to "lack of wisdom".

"ego, pride of the ego, or the sense of 'I'"
Hmmm...lots of work to do here. This makes me think specifically of Uttitha Hasta Pandangustasana. It's the moments when I think "I've got this!" or "I'm good at this!" that I inevitably fall over. Ego has a tendency to metaphorically "knock me over" in life off the mat as well. A willingness to laugh at myself is definitely helpful here.

"attachment to pleasure, aversion to pain"
The method of samavritti (literally means same waves) or equal breath makes me more and more aware of my tendencies here. I notice that in asana practice, I tend to let the breath get longer in the places of comfort (a nice forward bend) and shorter in the places of discomfort (chataranga or anything requiring strength to hold). If I hold the rest of my life up to the same light of awareness, the same is true. Lots more work to do here on the mat and off.

"fear of death and clinging to life"
I've heard it said more than once that all fears are ultimately a fear of death or "non-being" (though at the moment, can't recall just who actually should get the credit for saying that). The daily work of doing something that brings up fear (the particular fear triggers keep changing as my practice evolves) has been one of the greatest gifts that I have gotten from this practice. All the things in my life that have brought the greatest amount of joy have started with a moment when I made a choice to "take a deep breath and jump!"

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yoga Sutra 2.2

Yoga Sutra 2.2 "The practice of yoga reduces afflictions and leads to samadhi."
-Iyengar translation

B.K.S. Iyengar has this to say in the commentary on this sutra: "The purpose of this yoga is to minimize all impediments to meditation and thus bring the intelligence to full, vibrant life."

I really like what Mr. Iyengar has to say in the commentary on this sutra. This practice really is "householder yoga", a practice to teach me how to live in the world with greater equanimity and joy. It is not a way to escape from the world. The long-time teachers and practitioners set good examples of what is possible here by maintaining practice and all the "householding" responsibilities with admirable grace and light-heartedness. It is definitely something to aspire to.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Some random thoughts on balance in life...

This past post from Jason apparently hit home when I read it because it's still on my mind 2 months later...

When I'm faced with two equally good options of how to spend my time or when I'm faced with one activity I feel obliged to spend time on and one I want to spend time on, I tend to have the same initial response...I'll do both! Unfortunately, the decision to do it all does not in fact change the available number of hours in the day...

As an Ashtangi with a day job and teaching responsibilities, I'm still wrestling with this. When I'm running a little short on hours in the day, I tend to steal them from sleep.

Some creative schedule management has resulted in squeezing an extra 30 minutes or so of sleep into my morning and I'm definitely feeling it. More sleep = a stronger and more alert practice = a more alert day = better decisions made during the day.

All the same, I think I'd love to be one of those people who can really function on say 5 hours sleep...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Blog Anniversary!

I'm celebrating's my 1-year blog anniversary!

I started this blog a year ago in my continued efforts to both take part in the wider Ashtanga community (hello "cyber shala"!) and build a local Ashtanga community.

This day comes nearly 9 years after my first Ashtanga class. I remain as passionate about, in love with, and fascinated by this practice as ever. The opportunities to share that as a teacher and as a fellow student mean the world to me. a spirit of gratitude, a heartfelt thanks to every student who has come through my Mysore room. I have learned as much from each of you as you have from me. Thanks to my teachers who have patiently nudged my practice along and who have been so supportive of me stepping out and sharing the practice as a teacher.

A thanks as well to all the readers who have stopped in and visited my blog....and if you've never commented before, leave a comment!...say Hi!
Looking forward to see what the next year of blogging will bring. :)