Mysore Meeting Place



There may be no words, no looks. No exchange of names. No memories other than bodily shapes in space, movement, and breath. Yet, this is where we meet.

This place where there is no dress code, no make up, there are no formalities. We are allowed to be ourselves, different and at the same time feel as if we are in perfect harmony, no matter what culture we hail from, what body type we have, what age group we belong to, whatever our range of flexibility might be, whatever our skill or talent or experience.

We meet here: in this sacred space of unifying energy, sadhana, practice.  

PHOTOS: Spirit Yoga Osaka, Morning Mysore. These images of Melissa and Naoko practicing remind me of the profound unifying energy of practice. The poetry of what happens in a mysore room. 

Soaking up the inspiration here in Osaka! I am in my second and last month of covering for Veronique Tan here in Spirit Mysore Osaka. Mysore Morning schedule in August: Sunday 7:30am, Monday to Thursday, 6:30-10am. Friday 6:45am Led Primary, followed by Satsang. 

Friday Spirit Satsang: Surrender


We often say the word “surrender” in the yoga world. Surrender to the practice. Surrender to your teacher. Surrender to your mat.

Is it to throw oneself into practice or to relax deeply? Is it to give up or to offer? How does this surrender help our practice?

July 25, Friday Led Primary at Spirit Yoga Osaka (6:45am) will be followed by Satsang. We will continue to work on chanting in Sanskrit. But our topic of discussion will be the Art of Surrender. 

“Satsang” – “Sat” means truth, while “sangha” means gathering. Satsang is a gathering of people seeking and sharing truth. 

PHOTO: Last Friday’s led primary class. A room full of yogic warriors.  






7月25日の金曜日6:45よりSpirit Yogaにてレッドプライマリーのあとサットサングを行います。サンスクリットでのチャンティングを引き続きやっていきましょう。明日のお話のトピックは「降伏」のテクニックについてです。














When Quiet Comes


Morning Monks. Demachiyagi, Kyoto, Japan.

Morning Monks. Demachiyanagi, Kyoto, Japan.

When quiet comes, do not run.
Do not fidget, obsessively filling
the vacuous spaces with this,
with that. None of it matters.
Come into the quiet, though
the world around you continues
its daily churning.
Come into the quiet, though
it pains you with a different
kind of loudness.
Come into the quiet, willingly fold
your hands, lower your head,
look softly on the path before you
and walk on. This too is a gift.
Learn to accept it graciously.


When we’re lucky, practice brings us to a stillness that is precious. We finish practice and lay down and surrender. We appreciate it, resting deeply in its embrace for some five, ten or fifteen minutes. And then, we scramble to get up, get dressed so we can jump through the hoops of our daily lives, some we are duty bound to go through but others are scenarios and dramas that we ourselves create. And then we crave for the next quiet moment but when it comes, we hardly allow ourselves to truly feel it, to truly sink into it.

This is so strange. We crave it, sometimes working so hard to attain it, and, yet, when it’s there, we work even harder to ignore it or avoid it. We should learn to enjoy our moments of peace, of rest, of quiet, forming a new healthy relationship with stillness.



Happy Guru Purnima! Celebrating Guruji!


Padahastasana, standing forward bend, in Ashtanga Primary Led class this Friday at Spirit Yoga Osaka. A beautiful posture of humility and surrender. Satsang today is a celebration of Guru Purinam, in which we remember Guruji, Pattabhi Jois.

Friday led class is followed by Satsang, here in the Spirit Yoga Osaka Mysore Program. It’s a great opportunity to open the practice floor for discussion, answering questions, and exploring the practice in a conference setting. 

Last night, in anticipation of the storm that was supposed to hit Osaka, I was all set to speak about “Weathering the Storm of Life” (I know, I have a penchant for drama!) in the yoga context when Veronique Tan (whose program I am covering) reminded me that tomorrow, the Full Moon of 12 July, is Guru Purnima–an Indian festival that celebrates our highest teachers–and that it might be a good opportunity to talk about Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, known lovingly as Guruji.

It was a good call, as this morning, there was no storm. Only sunshine and the light that a true teacher can bring–guru, after all, often translates to the remover of darkness, obscurity or ignorance. 

I did not expect myself to get emotional as I talked about Guruji. But you can imagine where this is going…

I explained in brief his life, his humble beginnings, how he loved to learn Sanskrit and yoga so much so that he ran away from from home at the age of 14, how he was devoted to his guru Krishnamacharya and to his practice, how one Belgian European wandered into his tiny home-based yoga shala in the 1960s, and how by the 1970’s he was touring to teach workshops for his Western students.

I did not have to illustrate how ashtanga yoga has grown, nor did I have to explain in great detail that Pattabhi Jois lives on through us as we breathe and move according to the system that he introduced to the world, nor did I have to touch on how deeply this man’s work has moved each and every one of us–there was no need! I looked around the circle gathered at satsang and I could see the well spring of emotions that the practice has inspired, that Guruji inspired. How I too was teary eyed, feeling his contribution to my life, how ashtanga has changed me. 

So beyond words, we all understood our connection to the yoga practice, to each other, to our teachers and to our teachers’ teachers, to the yoga shala in Mysore, to Sharath, to Guruji, even though he has passed on. Parampara. This is the lineage. We are a part of that beautiful line of student-teacher, student-teacher, Guruji is at one end and we are at another, we are connected. 

We closed satsang by singing a guru mantra in celebration of a truly amazing teacher. Thank you, Guruji! We celebrate you! 

Swimming Lesson




One of the joys of being a traveling teacher is coming into these communities in yogic flow.

It’s different everywhere: Philippines, Spain, Egypt, Japan…Each is already flowing in its own special way–in a way that suits it, that suits the culture and the needs of the practitioners there, whether it’s swiftly or slowly, softly or intensely…

It’s been a process of discovery, understanding my role when I come into these Mysore spaces for two-three months, finding a balance between being authentic and respecting the the existing stream.

How to contribute to the stream of things flow, respecting that it is not my place to change the currents, to meddle with nature, to build dams and redirect the water. Instead: diving in, swimming with the locals, playing in the water.

It reminds me that practice has its own flow. That when we respect it, when we surrender to it, it opens up to us, and we start a process of recovery, discovery…understanding practice itself as much as understanding ourselves.

PHOTO: Water flowing. Arashimaya, Kyoto.







“Megumi” / Blessings

IMG_5189Last Friday, the Spirit Yoga Mysore students warmly welcomed me to Osaka once again over dinner in a sweet little vegetarian restaurant–an oddity here in Osaka-shi–aptly named Megumi, which means “blessing.”

And so it has been truly a blessing to return to Osaka, where I taught for 2 months between August and September last year. To be able to return, to reconnect, to witness how practices develop, how people change, how Mysore programs can grow is an amazing opportunity!

After dinner, as everyone took their turn sharing a little about themselves and their yoga story, I was struck at how different we all were, how we came from varying fields of work, how we represented a broad range of ages–so like our practice, every person so unique in his/her posture, in his/her rhythm and breath, and yet so connected. You could tell that some students were discovering each other for the first time–however that bond of practice, the family-like ties that form when we meet in that space of openness and deep personal work, was already there.

Half of the group, I’ve had the pleasure to teach before. The other half, well, we are still getting to know each other. Another blessing coming into this evolving Mysore program is seeing how the “veteran” practitioners inspire the newer students, who come into a room already charged with experience. Likewise, how the newbies are also inspiring the older practitioners with their enthusiasm and energy for learning the system. Ah! We are all blessed by the presence of each other. It’s going to be special two months! In fact, it already is!

PHOTO: Welcome Party with Spirit Yoga Mysore was held at vegetarian restaurant Megumi Friday, July 4, 2014. Such a blessings!


Gambatte! Do your Best!


Friday morning led class is followed by Satsang here in Spirit Yoga Osaka. This is a time when the Mysore group can meet to practice other aspects of ashtanga yoga, whether it’s chanting or discussing yoga philosophy. Yesterday, July 4, 2014, was my first Friday here. It was a full power led primary; and I actually had fun counting the vinyasa-s! I particularly looked forward to discussing the Japanese word “ganbatte,” often translated as “Do your Best!” — which I realize can differ slightly in meaning depending on context. I wanted to explore “ganbatte” in the context of yoga and how I mean it when I say it in class. Here is a written expansion of yesterday’s talk.

I ask the circle of students (with the help of Naoko-san translating) gathered after Friday’s led class what they feel when someone tells them: “Ganbatte.” Many nod in agreement that it is a motivation, a cheer to go on, to do better. Hiroko-san, sitting across from me, nods too but also adds that depending on the context it can also come with a lot of pressure.

The Japanese are renowned for their work ethic and discipline, it is deeply ingrained in the culture–and beautiful to see when applied to the yoga practice. When taken to an extreme, it has a dark side. In Japan, karōshi, 過労死, or death from work, is legally recognized as a cause of death. People in their thirties have strokes or heart attacks due to working long hours and suffering from extreme stress–they’re just doing their best, right?!

This, of course, would not happen with the skillful yoga students here attending class and practicing with great awareness. Still, it begs the question: What does it mean to do your best in the yogic sense? What does ganbatte mean for the yogi?

Ganbatte is an encouragement, often translating to Do your Best! or Do well! or Be courageous!

It is supposed to inspire courage. In her famous TedTalk on Vulnerability, my favorite researcher/storyteller Brene Brown speaks about how the root of the word courage comes from the Latin “cor,” which is the heart. That in its early form, to be courageous was to speak from one’s heart.

These days we look at courage as bravery, having guts or gumption, daring to do what is difficult. All well and good. But to be truly courageous we must act according to what is true to our hearts as well, and from that place of authenticity we are able to act with greater awareness and equinimity. When we are true to ourselves, then we are in satya, one of the five yamas, the foundation of Patanjali’s ashtanga, or 8-limbs.

Now: what is best exactly? We often confuse what is best for what we think of as what is perfect. We often look towards some future ideal or goal. In our yoga practice, we often think of perfection as the final expression of the posture the way we see it in some yoga video, on YouTube or on Instagram.

Patanjali’s first sutra in the Yoga Sutras is “atha yoganusasanam.” Yoga is happening now. It does not look towards the future. It exists in the present moment.

Never does Patanjali outline the particularities of what an asana looks like, he doesn’t go into degrees or alignment, but rather on each individual’s feeling in the pose. “Sthira sukha asanam,” The posture is both steady and easy. And this will depend on the truth of each and every person, as they discover the balance between strength and flexibility, steadiness and comfort.

So wherever you truly are in your practice, so long as your put the right effort into finding that “sthira” and “sukha,” the right presence and awareness, no matter what the asana looks like, it is perfect for that particular moment.

So: Gambatte! Gambatte!!! Practice with true courage, practice from the heart! That is already the best practice.

PHOTO: Friday’s Led Class here at Spirit Yoga Osaka.




Blooming Lotus


When we look at a lotus in bloom, we see its beauty, its color in full flush, its petals open, flowering out of a sea of green, so serene, so quietly majestic.

We forget sometimes that it has had its own journey. That it was once a seed in the mud, obscured from our vision. How it has traveled and grown in murky water, how it has sought out sunlight, which called it from shadowy depths, until it peeked out into the surface and breathed its first full breath. How it emerged, a tight bulb, before it unfurled its petals, and shone its light into the world.

Perhaps a lotus does not know the meaning of struggle, that it knows and is fully in harmony with its nature and the nature of the world it lives in, that it accepts itself in every stage.

We humans are not so. We are both keenly aware of life’s journey and caught up in our ideas of an end goal. We look towards how things “should be” rather than embracing how things are. And in that space, we create tension.

Sometimes, we want to perform postures, asanas, as if we were a lotus in full bloom, forgetting that practice, like life, is a process. And when it doesn’t look as it should, we get disappointed.

There are many stages in the life of a lotus. Regardless of whether it is a seedling in the mud, a bud in the murky water, a flower in its fullness or at its decaying end, it’s essence is the same. Everything comes in stages, the cycle of life and death is inevitable.

The question is not how do we blossom into fullness but rather how do we embrace the fullness in each every stage?–in our lives as well as in our practice.

PHOTO: An image can say so many things. I’ve already used this photo–just yesterday–to illustrate the Yama “Satya” for Lara Land’s All Eight Limbs project on Instagram. Looking at it this morning, it conveyed new message. Happy to receive. Happy to share. Lotus blooming at Tenryu-Ji Zen Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan.