Birds of a Different Feather



Birds of A Different Feather Flock together. Led Primary Class just this last Friday here in Spirit Yoga Osaka. Will miss these beautiful “winged” creatures.

It was during “ardha badha padmottanasana” that I mused, we are “strange birds”… The posture reminding me a little of these majestic graceful birds, strangely long legged with their head stretching down into the water, like a flamingo or a crane. It’s kind of true, who does this kind of stuff? Day after day? Who finds joy and pleasure in it? Who discovers in these postures a metaphor for their real-life living world? 

 We are strange, colorful birds. Each so different. So bright. Each ready to fly in their own direction. 

And for a brief moment in time, we flock together, traveling without moving–well, except for within the space of our mats, breath of the body. 

In these two months in Osaka, we have shared so many quiet adventures, discoveries, the pulling apart and putting back together of unseen, unspoken things. 

In two and a half hours, I will be teaching my second to last mysore class in Japan. And it is a challenge not to mourn my departure, not to grasp at the moment, but to simply love, to love these strange birds, to enjoy the moment of “being” together, and when time comes, to enjoy with the same fervor and grace, the spreading of my own wings and taking off into a different direction–until we meet again.  

PHOTO: Led Primary last Friday. Two more classes, one this morning and tomorrow. Happy to announce the return of Veronique Tan, who comes back fully recharged after two months in a special program in Mysore India with our esteemed teacher Sharath Jois. 

Aditya Hrdyam: Shine Your Light


This morning before class, the sky was like a gray soup; the air unusually chilly. Hours later, the sun shines, melting the early autumn coolness. Once again, it is summer.

The power of the sun. Energizing. Warming. Nourishing us with light.

Today’s satsang topic, Aditya Hrdayam, the Heart of the Sun, is all about this. How when we shine the light of presence and awareness, we are able to dispel the shadows, so that we might see ourselves in our fullness.

How it is with such light that we are able to destroy our own egoic demons, just as Rama does the 10-headed demon Ravana, by calling on the powers of the sun.

Over the last week, leading up to the satsang today, I have been chanting this hymn at the start of each class. And some students have commented that they feel something different when they hear it.

I too feel something when I chant this. It’s like a clearing of the clouds in my mind and my heart, and having the warm sun shine on my face.

Even in the foreign Sanskrit, the hymn has the power to move, touch, inspire–without even knowing the words or meaning.

Perhaps the Aditya strikes an internal chord, we recognize in its vibrations our own heart and history, we recall some deep memory that we too, like the sun, are light beings destined to shine.

Aditya Hrdayam.
The Heart of the Sun.

PHOTO: Rest and shine. Students taking rest after led primary. It was a pleasure to share a part of the Ramayana with the students today. Excited that some have expressed an interest in learning the Aditya and reading the Ramayana! This makes me happy.

Save the Last Dance, Osaka: Inner Dance Sunday, August 31, 11:30am


Inner Dance. Again, so hard to explain. It’s best to simply experience. 

So….Set your calendar, Osaka: Sunday, August 31, 11:30am. Spirit Yoga International School, Osaka, Japan! 

Last month, we had a powerful and evocative dance here in Spirit Yoga. Now, coming to the final week of my two-month teaching stint here, am very excited to offer ID one last time. 

ID is a moving meditation with the guidance of music. It is a process of inquiry, and a tool for releasing energetic blockages in the body. It can be quiet or loud. It can have a lot of movement or be very still. It can be fun. It can be healing. There are no rules, it has no set form. It is whatever it needs to be.

Am excited to work with students, particularly after two months in the mysore space here, a.k.a. the yoga boiler room. Time to let out steam! 

PHOTO: Last month’s Inner Dance was a beautiful and moving experience.




For the ashtanga practitioner, the word “catching” spoken in a Mysore space has its very own meaning. It defies our ideas of normalcy. It challenges imagination. It inspires. And it frightens. 

Whether it refers to the just-mind-boggling-movement of taking one’s ankles from urdhva dhanurasana (or backbending) or catching the heels in kapotasana (pidgeon posture), it relays a level of difficulty that is truly extraordinary. 

We can look at it physically. We can make it a goal. We can measure the catch. 

Or we can treat it as a verb, as an action, as karma–not fixating on some projected outcome–but rather reveling in the act itself, riding the waves of desire, of attachment, of fear, of strength and of courage that inevitably comes when we meet such incredible challenges. 

We can look beyond the “catching” of heels or ankles or calves or (eeks!) thighs, and see it for the unfolding mystery of facing our demons, our own limitations, whether it be in our mind or in our body.

Perhaps what matters more isn’t how far one goes, but how deeply we dive into the process, that what matters more is not the bend of the body but our ability to breathe and stay steady and calm through such crazy intense moments (no matter where it comes in one’s practice). 

Ever Growing Practice


Just yesterday, I was having a conversation with a fellow Ashtanga teacher how Friday led class has by far been the slowest day of the week here in Osaka. We attributed it to difficulties in making the set schedule, ready to accept that numbers drop this one day a week.

Today to my surprise, I had to draw back the curtains to the changing room at Spirit Yoga Osaka to make room for late comers to the class. At 20, mat space was still spacious but covered the length of Spirit’s quite large room.

I love moments such as these, where my own limited ideas are challenged–As if the universe took a moment to correct my faulty judgement.

Perhaps it’s a fluke.


People are coming to led, defying old trends, setting new patterns, reminding me that Ashtanga is growing and evolving; things change quickly when yoga is involved, andthat with yoga there are no limits.

PHOTO: This morning’s full power led primary class. Gambatte! One Friday led class to go before I turn over the Mysore program to the lovely Veronique Tan, returning from a special 2-month month course with our teacher Sharath Jois.

The Distance


Sometimes, we see only what is directly in front of us. Rarely do we see the entire picture clearly. 

Many times, we see faintly the shapes and shades ahead. It is obscure and hard to grasp. But we know that something is there awaiting discovery, we just need to turn the corner, get past the horizon. 

At best, we feel excited and hopeful about the prospects. Although, more often than not, what we do not know fills us with fear or uncertainly. 

It is like this in life. It is like this in practice. 

Just keep on walking the path, keep on practicing, keep on living. Glance out if you must, let the eyes seek out the distance for familiar landmarks or important signposts to keep you on the right track, but, then, bring them back into the moment. One day, everything will become more apparent. 

PHOTO: Dashoor “Bent” Pyramid in the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. I am happy to announce that I will be returning to Egypt in October and November to lead several yoga retreats with various partners who I enjoyed working with last year. Egypt has been one of the big surprises of my life. It will be my third trip there within a year. For those interested in coming on retreat with me in Egypt, please be on the look out for retreat announcements.

Lila, Play of Practice

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Looking at the photos above, one cannot escape the physicality of the ashtanga practice. Yes, our bodies take shapes in space. Yes, we move up and down the mat, tumbling back and hopping forward. It can look acrobatic. It can look a bit–at times, a lot–like the play of a contortionist. 

And at times, we get stuck in this play, in what appears like a sportive drama. We get preoccupied with the form, in what the asana looks like, instead of what it feels like. But this too is a part of the “lila”– in Sanskrit, “lila” is used to (depending on the tradition) describe the play between the Divine and the human world, the Absolute consciousness and “prakriti” or nature. And this play exists for our benefit, for our own awakening, so that we may go beyond the drama, that we may go beyond the physical. 

We do not practice sport. In Mysore, India, when I myself study, our teacher often reminds us, sometimes reprimands us! that practice is our “sadhana.” It is a “spiritual practice.”

And that all this play, this lila will lead us to remembering–to remembering who we are; that we are Conscious Soul-Full beings.

PHOTO: Led Primary two Fridays ago here in Spirit Mysore Osaka. Spirit students embodying that beautiful play between the physical practice and deep personal work that inevitably happens along with it.

Found in Translation: Surrender


Osaka, Japan. More than one month down, less than one month to go.

Being in Japan, wandering the streets, unable to access the overabundance of information, which translates into–for a foreigner like myself, anyway–white noise, reminds me of Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation.” How he navigates Tokyo with a charming sort of disconnect.

Despite the language barrier, teaching here, reminds me how universal the language of yoga is. And thank goodness, because my embarrassingly rudimentary Japanese just barely includes instructions on breath and straightening knees.

My moments of Lost In Translation, well, they’re not too bad. If anything, they’ve been great opportunities for greater understanding .

Two weeks ago, during Satsang, we looked at the word “surrender”–quite possibly one of the most overused and often misunderstood words that pours forth from the mouths of yoga teachers. I admit, I am a fan of this word! It works so well at capturing the spirit of letting go, of relaxing into the moment.

In Japan, however, the word doesn’t translate so well.

Telling a Japanese student to surrender can be a little confusing, especially when it translates to “kofuku” or “to give up fighting.” Translated thus, surrendering seems like a strange suggestion. Give up?! But why?!

Another word, I’ve been told, that fits better is “yutaneru,” which means “to let it go.” In the yoga context it is the letting go of our tension and of our expectations and attachments; it is allowing for flow.

In Satsang that Friday, I explained that surrendering is letting go of the ideas and the patterns that do not serve us–that we give up, not a fight, but all the things that limit us, that keep us from expanding.

Truth: understanding surrender isn’t easy for any culture, for any person. We all have our holding patterns. It hasn’t been easy for me personally either. Surrendering is a constant challenge; and learning it has been at the core of my own yoga practice and life journey. Maybe that’s why student/teachers like myself keep going back to it. We know that’s what needs to be done, we also know that it’s pretty damn hard to really do it. We are all just learning.

I always remind myself that surrendering (like yoga) is a process. It’s not about achieving an end goal, but just allowing ourselves to embody the action, allowing ourselves to let go little by little and to flow more and more. Like Guruji said, “Practice, practice all is coming.”

Grateful for the lessons in surrender here in Japan. Thank you to teacher and fab assistant Tomomi Takeuchi for sharing her spot-on translation of “surrender” in Japanese. 

PHOTO: Gion Matsuri, Kyoto, Japan.

A Different Kind of Knowing



This morning as I looked around the room, watching the students who I’ve been working with for at least one month now here in Osaka, I could not help but feel amused as I mused how little I know about them. 

What are their jobs, for example? What are their likes and dislikes? What is their story and their family drama? What is their life like outside the mysore room which we share for an hour and half or two hours for six mornings each and every week. And yet, there is this common ground: the practice. And for me, as a teacher, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to see and experience and assist in their incredible personal process called yoga. 

As I looked around, I could not help but feel joyful knowing a person in this way. To know nothing of the roles or the back-stories that color one’s identity and to simply experience one in action. How full each one is as he or she moves with intention, embodying the practice in each breath and simply be-ing. It is experiencing people, not as nouns, but as verbs. 

And then, there are those exquisite moments, beyond verbs, where there are no words…

PHOTO: Spirit Mysore students heating up the room this morning AND inspiring me with their practice! 

Incredibly grateful to have one more month here, teaching these dedicated practitioners here in Spirit. Mysore Classes: Sunday 7:30-10am; Monday-Thursday 6:30-10am; Friday Led Class 6:45am followed by Satsang.

IMPORTANT SCHEDULE ANNOUNCEMENTS: To offset Obon holiday on Monday, we will be having Saturday Mysore, August 9. Sunday, August 10 is a Moon Day and there will be no class.  

Sky Is the Limit


Often, we look at practice as a physical form. We are in the body. We perceive ourselves in both our expanding abilities and our physical limits.

We get stuck, more often than not, in the asana and we identify with the boundaries of our body. We frustrate ourselves. And that “stuckness” spreads into our mind and into our hearts.

We forget that the real challenge is not within the body but to go beyond the body. That true expansion comes through self-compassion, love and acceptance, by learning that the so-called limits of the body are lessons for the soul and the spirit. That going deep within is as much a journey of expanding outside ourselves, breaking down all the walls of separation. 

Like the photo above, the practice is seeing beyond the limits. It is seeing the sky that goes on and on and on…and being struck by the wonder and miracle of it as it transforms dramatically moment to moment.

PHOTO: Sunsets, a beautiful metaphor of the unending cycle that is life and practice, always amazes me. Kyoto, Japan.