Birds of a Different Feather

 

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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

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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

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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.

 

Catching

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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

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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.

Or…

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

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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.