Letting Go


P1230587Letting Go

I am walking down from one of the short walks (Camino de San Miguel) right off the monastery in Montserrat, at the top of which is a crucifix overlooking the Basilica and Monastery, when I see the embellished trash bin. It makes me smile, this bit of graffiti.

Practice is like this. We all have our crosses. We bear these things, carrying it laboriously up the mountain. And then we mount them, making them into monuments of our suffering, reminders of our sacrifice–which is, to a point, fine, when it’s all part of a process.

Because we must eventually come down from these peaks and return to where we and others live. And when we do, we must ask ourselves, is there more to leave behind, what subtle energy or feeling is piggyback riding its way down with me?

Up or down, this road of surrender is not easy, but it is also littered with opportunities to let go, to throw away that which is no longer necessary, and to lighten the load on the long walk home.

Snakes & Ladders, The Game of Practice


Surely as we develop strength and flexibility, both in the body and in the mind, the practice should get easier. Right?

Practice doesn’t always work that way; it isn’t black and white; it isn’t so straightforward.

Since last week, for example, I’ve been struggling with kapotasana (pidgeon pose), a posture that I had thought I’d gotten to know, gotten comfortable with. Kapo and I made friends, I thought…

But between deepening my relationship with my leg behind the head and the winter weather here in Barcelona (it’s mild I know, but I am have been living many many many years in the tropics), what was once manageable has gotten a whole lot harder. In fact, backbending in general, which I really love, has changed so dramatically over the last two weeks, it’s been startlingly humbling.

I realize, however, that I have a choice: I could despair, I could get frustrated or angry, I could give up this crazy leg behind the head business and preserve the postures that I’d worked so hard  for, that I was admittedly very attached to–the later of which may be one of the reasons, along with tight hips, why it’s taken me so log to get here, this awkward place–

Or I could just practice; practice with acceptance that my body is adapting and that it’s not always easy; practice with patience that these openings take time; practice with understanding that moving forward sometimes comes with its share of backsliding–that practice is an interesting game of snakes and ladders; practice with trust, with faith in this system which has just about turned around every limited thought I have even had about the bounds of my own physical body; practice with love, showing up everyday with an open heart and mind…

Guruji, Pattabhi Jois, said it best: “Practice, practice, all is coming…”

PHOTO: This photo–like practice, like life–taken in “black and white” is full of subtleties in tone and shades. We will be talking more about the struggles that come with practice on the Sunday, March 1 workshop on the Bhagavad Gita, Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga, Barcelona. More details on www.pazzifica.com.




This is a time to fill your cup and drink.
Drink as much as you want,
feel free to quench your thirst.
Like the moon, this cup is
is always full,
is never empty.
PHOTO: 14 Febrero 2014, Full Moon & Valentine’s Day. Fitting for a day of fullness to come during a celebration of love. Full on, full power Mysore-class schedule this week. Mornings are Monday-Friday 7am-9:30am. Evenings Monday/Wednesday 6-8pm; Tuesday/Thursday 6:30-8:30pm.

Practice: The Lonesome Road


Practice: The Lonesome Road

Yesterday, Full Moon Day/Valentine’s Day, I took a day trip to nearby Montserrat, famed mountain of Catalan dotted with sacred sites, hermitages and churches, as well as the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria de Montserrat. I got up the easy way, taking the Aeri, which just zipped a cable car full of us tourists up the mountain.

In the late afternoon, an hour and half before sunset, I decided to walk down to the pueblo of Montserrat, where I could take my train back to Barcelona. Easy enough, I thought.

It’s interesting how I little understood the hugeness of Montserrat, the height of it, until I took the time to walk it.

Not even a quarter of the way down on a narrow, zig-zagging dirt path on edge of the cliffside of the venerable mountain, looking at the dot-like municipality of Montserrat far far down below, I start to freak out just a little bit. I start to wonder: can I get there before sunset? What if something happens to me, what if I trip and twist my ankle? I am out here on my own and have not seen another soul on this little road.

I debate whether I should scale back up the path, take the Aeri or the furnicular down, like the rest of the reasonable tourists–none of whom seemed to hatch up the same plan as myself.

This is when the yoga kicked in for me. This is when I start to breathe slowly, when I start to bring mindfulness back into every step. I reason with myself: isn’t this, after all, what I wanted when I set out that morning, to spend time with myself, myself and the mountain?

Like yoga practice, some paths are meant to be walked alone. There are times when we have companions and times when we have guidance. Then there are the other times: when practice is a lonely road. It is useless to panic and counterproductive to back track. We simply need to move forward and enjoy the gift of isolation.

Had I not moved forward, I would not have seen the view from the side of the mountain, not seen the beauty of the world below, not understood the scale and grandeur of Montserrat or have developed the reverence I have for it now. And then, there’s the relationship with myself, with my self-belief and trust in my own abilities…

Practice can be a wonderful community experience, one connected to the collective. But it can also be a lonesome road. When that time comes–and it is a sacred and precious time–we must be brave to walk that path alone.

PHOTO: Spectacular view from Montserrat, as I start to make my way down this awesome mountain.

Danza Interioir en La Floresta // Inner Dance in La Floresta


Danza Interioir en La Floresta // Inner Dance in La Floresta

INNER DANCE – DANZA INTERIOR es una practica que tiene el proposito de ayudar el ser humano a desmantelar patrones de pensamientos y comportamientos, alcanzar la expanción interior y cultivar una relación sana con el YO, su entorno y el planeta.

A través de la ciencia de la musica, la vibración y la meditación en movimiento, utilizaremos esta poderosa practica con el objetivo de cambiar y eliminar bloqueos físicos, mentales y emocionales de nuestro cuerpo energético.

La musica y la conexión con el nuestro interior, nos permitirá observar los movimientos sin pensar. La danza no tiene una estructura, forma o reglas. La danza puede ser dinámica o estática, silenciosa o ruidosa, suave o intensa. Cada danza es una apertura y una invitación al aprofundamiento personal y universal a la vez.

La practica será impartida en LA FLORESTA – BARCELONA, por KAZ CASTILLO.

16 Febrero, Domingo

11:00h – Encuentro.
14:00h – Comida.
15:30h – Paseo en el bosque de Collserola.

Aportación: 12,00 euros

Comida: Invitamos a cada participante traer comida para compartir.


Lugar: La Floresta – Barcelona
Punto de encuentro: Estación de Ferrocarriles – La Floresta (FGC)
Hora de encuentro: 11:00 – Se ruega puntualidad.

Para más información e inscripción llamar al teléfono:
639 059 919

o escribir un correo a : js.julianasimoes@gmail.com.
(Las plazas son limitadas que se reservarán por orden de inscripción)

To JOIN or see FB EVENT details: https://www.facebook.com/events/365800606891115/e

Poco a Poco


Poco a Poco

“Poco a poco” is a Spanish phrase that I’ve used noticeably a lot in class here in Barcelona. Translated in English it means “little by little.”

I’ve used it in all sorts of contexts, referencing the pace that we learn to practice, the depth in which the postures are taken, the time it takes for the body to open, the steps one takes as we move forward in practice.

The essence of the words, however, are the same. With practice, we want to go slowly, take a little at a time, savoring each soulful step. This is a sound way to practice.

PHOTO: Panoramic view of the Espacio Vacio, the daily setting for Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga mysore classes here in Gracia, Barcelona. I take time with Marta in the end. After a month of practice, she is learning janu sirsasana. It’s a joy to teach the series in this way. It feels really right to be able to help someone grow their practice slowly with a lot of care and love over a period of time.

The Mysore Movie


The Mysore Movie

The mysore space is like a movie. The independent kind with its own special narrative woven into one frame, a unified theme: practice.

Each mat contains a different story, a different protagonist. A different antagonist too. Some are dramas, others are comedies, and since this is ashtanga, the thriller and action variety are very much alive in the mix.

I am not the director, though I come to assist here and there. Somehow, I have been tasked to piece the montage together, to hold the space in which all the stories can run their course, tell their tales.

Really, though, each story is independently created. And together, as a whole, it is a collaborative process, act of co-creation.

And like many art house films, it does not have a typical ending. It just goes on and on…epic little stories, both continuous and totally new each and every morning!

PHOTO: Second day of the month of February here at Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga, Barcelona. It’s always exciting to see the room fill at the start of the month. It’s a joy to see more and more of the regulars recommitting to regular practice.

Event Teaser… Ashtanga in the Desert: A Yoga Retreat


Event Teaser... Ashtanga in the Desert: A Yoga Retreat

PHOTO: White Desert, Egypt. Save the date announcement was posted today on Facebook. Very excited to be planning my trip and class offerings,not to mention the chance to reconnect with students, friends, and adopted family. More details to follow soon!

The Leap


The Leap

Take the leap! Hanumasana in Cairo’s Gazira Club.
Photo by Zeinab Lamloum.

On my first trip to India, I didn’t quite get the fascination with Hanuman. Here was this monkey man looking somewhat supercilious to me. Everywhere I went, there he was. At the corner store, there were stickers for sale. And at kirtan, chants for the legendary character in Indian mythology. What was the big deal, I wondered?!

Then, over time, as I heard and read more about him, my love for him also grew. He captured my imagination, not so much for his incredible super powers, but for his incredible humanity.

It’s been over (as of this writing) a week since the recent bombings, demonstrations and arrests in Cairo marking the anniversary of the revolution in Egypt. Seeing the resulting sadness and frustration that the not-so-past and all-too-recent events have caused  friends and students in Cairo, it feels like a good time to share his story. 

This is not just for the folks in Egypt, this is a story for all of us. Its themes are universal. We can all learn a thing or two from a not-so-little monkey called “Hanuman.”

(I’ve taken some artistic license, here, piecing this together from stories I’ve heard and read.)

** ** ** **

There once was a time when aspects of the divine walked on Earth and humans were not exactly the way we are now and, well, monkeys, hmmm, monkeys were not like the monkeys we know today…

The vanaras were mostly bipedal, human-sized or larger, they could be incredibly strong, they were intelligent and educated, and some–descending from some celestial beings– had very interesting powers that we might today call supernatural. They had complex organized societies, at the top of the social strata was a monarchy. In all, they were an extraordinary people–I say people, because they were more like people than our idea of monkey.

One particular valorous vanara was extra extraordinary, though he would be the last to know and, if he did know, would probably be the last to admit it.

Hanuman was a strong soldier, a born leader, a loyal friend, a devoted student, a kind and thoughtful being. True to his monkey nature, he was also fun-loving and mischievous when it was appropriate. And sometimes, when not entirely appropriate. Those around him, valued his presence deeply, they saw in him a brilliance, though, some would argue that he had not yet come to his full shine.

When he was a wee little monkey, Hanuman was a great deal bolder than he was in adulthood. As a little sprout, he had no concept of the constructs that often define and limit one. He had a whole lot of wind in him–literally, too, because without him knowing the Wind himself had sired him and was constantly blowing on his sails.

One day, young Hanuman, noticed an orange, so juicy and bright hanging above him. Oh, how his mouth watered at the sight of it. He had never seen such an orange! It seemed so ripe! So full of the blazing flavor of summer! His vision narrowed. Hanuman was determined to taste it.

He reached up but found that the orange was beyond his reach. Hanuman hadn’t learned the so-called scope of what one could or could not reach. He took to his toes and stretched his arm as high as he could, but no, he could not touch the fruit. I will jump for it, thought Hanuman. He was a good jumper, the best amongst his playmates. And so he hopped up, but still could not reach.

Hanuman, however, was not dissuaded. He crouched down and sprung up so lightly, so very high. But not quite high enough.

Undeterred, again and again, he pulled in and leapt up and up and up. He was getting much higher, much, much higher each time he jumped.

Hanuman did not notice that he was jumping higher than the tops of the tallest trees, then higher than the neighboring hills, then higher than the tallest peaks of the biggest mountains. So high was he that he was jumping into the clouds.

Indra, the King of the Heavens, however, noticed and was first amused, then perturbed, then affronted.

Why this babe of a monkey was trying to reach for the Sun! And if he let him go on, would most likely pick it out of the sky! The Sun, Surya, himself was getting anxious because he could see clearly that Hanuman was getting closer with each attempt. Surya looked to Indra with alarm, asking him for assistance.

Now, Indra ruled his domain with a great deal of gravity and was not impressed by this crazy little monkey. Known for his thunderous personality, and occasional quick temper, Indra drew on his bow, and struck Hanuman down with a bolt of lightning.

Now if Hanuman were an ordinary monkey with no heavenly connections, then that hit would have been fatal–and, it was for the most part. The bolt hit his jaw and knocked him down, and Hanuman’s lifeless body fell back to earth with a thud.

His father, Vayu, the Wind, sensing that his son was in trouble, flew frantically to his side. Indra, upon realizing the trouble he would have with Vayu, quickly apologized and breathed life back into the struck down monkey.

Hanuman gasped, not quite understanding what had just come to pass, just that his jaw was broken; it hurt badly. He must have fallen from a tree or somewhere…he could not rightly remember.

Over time the pain in his jaw faded, and the already fuzzy details of the incident sunk into the deep recesses of his memory.

In truth, more than Hanuman’s jaw was broken that day. A part of Hanuman’s true nature has been shocked and silenced. He forgot, not just about his great desire for the bright juicy orange in the sky, but also of his natural ability to leap, to reach for the sun, the stars, anything he put his mind/heart/soul/body into.

Until one day, when the brave varana was all grown up, he met the honorable Prince Rama, who inspired in him such great kinship and devotion. For Rama was also not an ordinary human either, but an avatar of great Vishnu, the Preserver of all things, sent down to live a human life so he could vanquish the great 10-headed demon Ravana.

Ravana had just kidnapped Rama’s wife Sita. And the vanaras offered to help Rama recover his beloved. Hanuman especially pledged his support to the young prince and went off with a troop of monkeys and bears–yes, bears, too, were different as they are today, following the faint trail left behind by Ravana, which led them to the great sea. Somewhere out there, beyond the water, was Lanka, the island domain of this great demon, and hidden within its walls, Rama’s other half, Sita.

At present, Hanuman was beside himself. Someone had to cross the ocean. But who? Who could continue this search? There were several very talented varanas among the group and they discussed who might be able to cross the ocean to Lanka. Some could make themselves really small, some very big, and many could jump incredibly high and far. But each one’s strength and prowess seemed to fall a little short of the task.

Now, among the bears, there was a great, wise old bear, who had seen Hanuman in his youth, and who saw the monkey as he really was. He cleared his throat and said with authority that he knew of one varana that was up to this huge task, because he was just as great as the task at hand. No, the bear corrected himself, for in fact, he was even greater. Hanuman looked at him eagerly, full of hope!

“That vanara is you, Hanuman,” the wise bear said. Hanuman was taken aback.

“Yes, you,” the bear, prodded. “Think back, dear friend. Remember who you are, remember yourself. You can make this leap. You have the power within you to do this. But you need to have courage.” Hanuman’s eyes glistened. Courage he could muster.

“And you need to believe…” Hanuman’s gaze faltered. “You need to believe!”

Hanuman took a breath. Closed his eyes, and looked within himself. He remembered a deep sense of joy and freedom as he leapt into the air; he could see clouds. Clouds!

The old bear was right. He had forgotten. He had let external forces and his own fears and failures dull his sense of self. He had buried his own power deep within his being. But it was there. He may have forgotten it, but nothing could take away what was always his.

It was up to him now. He would not let Rama down, he would help reunite the husband and wife. He had the courage and he had the vision. Hanuman decided: Yes, I will make the leap….

Thus, Hanuman drew back, making himself very very small, and then launched himself into the sky with such force that parts of the mountain behind him also swept into the air, a spray of trees, and dirt, and flowers following Hanuman, as if they themselves were reluctant to be without him.

A now very large, almost giant-like, Hanuman was flying! Flying over the sea of forgetfulness, overcoming various obstacles threatening to steer him away from his goal. His airy path, albeit filled with friend and foe, was clear: he would unite Rama with his Sita, the masculine with the feminine, bringing together that which had been wrongly separated. And this is how Hanuman leapt over the sea to the island of Lanka, where egoic Ravana held Rama’s beloved Sita hostage.

** ** **

Life can be tough on us and we might loose sight of who we are. Certain events, people, powers might cut us down, frustrate our hopes, make us feel small or helpless. The story of Hanuman reminds us that yoga is about remembering who we truly are. And from that place of authenticity, we can start to make the leap towards better integration/union, lasting peace and harmony.

And the great epic giant leaps… they do come–but they come with practice; with diligent whole-hearted work; with dogged perseverance, with dedication, with–at times, wavering, but ultimately–well-grounded belief that whatever it is we have lost or forgotten, whatever dream or goal deferred, it is there, waiting for us to reclaim it, waiting to boost us up into the air.