The Offering

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Honoring Guruji, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, on his 100th birthday. Of course, Hanuman too.

Today a student brought flowers for Hanuman and Guruji–a beautiful offering. The real offering, however, is the simple and, yet, at times, difficult task of coming to class. The sacred act of showing up, no matter what that looks like, no matter what it feels like, no matter whether we are completing first, second, third, part of standing, turning up on our mats each morning is the offering we make to our teacher, to ourselves, to our deepest purpose. To practice is to bow respectfully as you lay freshly picked flowers before your teacher. It is a kind of work/prayer that is continuous, that doesn’t ask for anything other than to be allowed to be in existence, in gratitude and in love.

PHOTO: Hanuman and Guruji, honored with flowers in Mysore SF. It has been a beautiful and challenging opportunity teaching on my own here these few weeks. I am grateful to all the students who did the simple and yet sometimes so difficult task of showing up. (Guruji would have been 100 years-old this week).

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Feet on Ground

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The great art of grounding. It seems like the most simple and natural thing in the world, right? After all, don’t we all stand on two feet? Yet, how many of us find it challenging to be truly steady?

I must admit, having lived the last few years on the road, this is not strong point. But as I ground here in San Francisco, I am rediscovering my land legs and reassessing what it means to be grounded. My relationship with the ground is changing because it is no longer constantly shifting underneath me. For years I sought strength from my center in order to be spry and flexible and to find steadiness in a world of movement. Presently, without all that whirling, I am surprised to find that my relationship with the ground is not what it should be. In this relative stillness, I am finding my feet, the whole feet, the weight, how it engages the legs and feeds into the center–all of which existed before, but now, with solid ground beneath me, I feel both the support and, well, the challenge of it. The ground does not give. Push on it and it pushes back–and that’s even more supporting.

As a result I’ve been on the watch for it, not only in my own practice but in the practices of those who are in my care at present–which I suspect makes me kind of a pain sometimes. I know what it’s like to be standing on two feet and not really interacting with the ground and I’m starting to understand what it’s like when that relationship is strong and active and how it makes a huge impact in the integrity of every pose, of every vinyasa, of walking, of standing.

These days, each time I get on the mat, I ask myself, am I fully grounded, am I fully interacting with the ground beneath me, or am I just going through the motions, my feet and the floor beneath me, just barely touching.

PHOTO: Finding my feet in San Francisco. Mural Room, De Young Museum.

Moon Day Practice

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Today, as I sat having tea with some beautiful devi-friends at the Hagiwara Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, which was preceded by a lovely morning walk around the grounds, which was preceded by a much appreciated lie-in (anything past 4:15am is a luxurious sleep in for me during the week), I could not be more grateful for Moon Days–full moon and new moon are rest days in terms of practice, thus, I also do not teach on these days.

This New Moon felt both restful and nourishing. The opportunity to engage with the morning differently, to seek out community outside the practice space, to be outdoors and enjoy the summer sunshine–a scarcity here in San Francisco until recently. To observe moon days are a practice in themselves, and an extension of our yogasana practice. It is the practice of rest, of honoring the needs of the body to rejuvenate itself, of honoring the needs of our subtle bodies–the nervous system, the mind, the emotional body–to integrate the information that is gleaned during yogasana practice.

It is a practice to calibrate ourselves with the cyclical nature of the moon–and, thus, with nature itself. This happens naturally when we observe the moon days. We allow for the depth of practice to move beyond the rubber mat into the greater world we live in.

Particularly with this moon falling on a Wednesday, it feels like a holiday midweek. We often return from holidays with more energy, greater clarity, deeper resolve. This is an important part of practice; we ought to observe it, enjoy it, embrace it.

PHOTO: Buddha bathing in sunlight at the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park. It seems inseparable these days, yoga practice and life. Even during my break from practice, the trajectory was all to familiar: the balance of the Japanese garden, the use of elements to draw one into meditation, the discourse the ongoing journey to find the self in equanimity. Makes me smile. There is no real break from real practice.

Hidden Alleyways

The ashtanga system is known for its succinctness. The practice itself strips things down to the most basic of units, the precision of movement, the inhale and exhale, and beyond, well…something…call it stillness, or peace, or some manifestation of the divine. It is simply there, these hidden alleyways, and there is no need to seek it. The moment that we do, we end up on a diverging road and we are lost.

It is so simple and yet so ridiculously hard to focus our seeking hearts and minds, to commit to meeting ourselves on the mat without judgement, to do our wholehearted effort without any desire for external gain, and yet in those rare moments when these acts align, we simply melt down, ease into such secret sacred places, which we ultimately realize are neither narrow nor hidden.

My time here in San Francisco working in Mysore SF with Magnolia Zuniga–an incredible guide in this practice–has been about self-study as much as teaching. The more I study the ashtanga system, the more I see how the practice when reduced to it’s purest condensed form is incredibly expansive. And while most of us who maintain a daily practice, of course, know this experientially already, to see it in minute detail, well, it is incredible. I find myself just “geeking out” on it.

There is so much to distract us, in our lives, and yes, even in our yoga practice. “Yoga, the industry,” the crazy unwieldy presence that it is becoming, is in itself massively distracting. Return to the basics. Come to your mat and breathe. Reduce it, allow it to reduce you. And breathe at the incredible space that is.

PHOTO: One such physical hidden alleyway in Sausalito, Marin County, California. When I was passing this little passage, over a month ago, I could not help but photograph it, feeling that practice felt like that–for me, at that precise moment. This scene must have some iconic feel to it–whilst writing this article, I searched “alleyways” in Google, only to find pop up immediately a photo of this exact alley on Wikipedia. How funny and small the world is, how it all boils down to the same places.