Catching Wind

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The wind of practice–how to explain this, how even in the most humid of rooms (such as the one I am currently practicing in here in Mysore, India) there is this light energy that sweeps one up, and we fly, breezing from one posture to another, flowing through the different layers of body: the physical body, the mind body, the pranic body.

It is the energy of the room, we are lifted by the breath, our own and the collective breath, as well.

For some years now, I have relished this phenomenon here in Mysore. I have enjoyed being blown about; surrendering to it has been a journey, and I have often greatly delighted and surprised at where this wind has taken me. Furthermore, this wind blows quite far and has propelled me to all sorts of places, all sorts of life lessons and experiences.

The time comes, however, when we must pilot these winds, when we must actively participate in our own flying, when we must take responsibility for determining our directions, for the strength of our own breath, when soaring whichever way is a choice not a matter of happenstance.

And when this time comes, do unfurl those sails, do allow the wind to power you, as you steadily take the wheel, steering yourself to wherever new or old lands you feel compelled to go to, taking support from the wind but– all the same– doing your own flying.

PHOTO: Among the toys and trinkets for sale at Nanjangud’s Shiva Temple during Shivaratri last month. Karnataka, India.

Reconstruction

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Sometimes, we break down. We wear out our bodies with habitual misuse and patterns of misbehavior, which more often than not sneaks into even the most-mindful of asana practices.

I arrived in India all set to dig deep into my personal practice but also incredibly worn out. My back spasmed, an early warning sign, I feel now, asking me to reassess my approach to my body’s habits amd movements. And since then, practice here in Mysore, India has been about slow and steady healing, rebuilding and reconstructing a practice–so that it might be better than before, more sustainable, more long-lasting.

The great lesson of this time has been about the healing properties of practice, particularly primary series, which is apply named “yoga chikitsa” or “yoga therapy,” the space that the breath creates, the heat that slowly allows the body to mend. It has been a great exercise in patience and acceptance, an amazing opportunity to observe the pull of the ego and my own attachment to the physical aspect of practice.

There has been pain of all sorts: body, heart and mind–though what remains is this: a great sense of reconciliation and harmony between the three. Of course, there are all sorts of pains and varying degrees of injury, but this recent experience is a reminder for me that each difficulty, each challenge is a gift, that we are called to have courage enough to unwrap it.

PHOTO: Tower on Kukkarahalli Lake, taken nearly 2 months ago. Today, scaffolding is already off the renewed structure. My back is also very well now, after 7 weeks of practicing only primary series, I returned to practicing intermediate poses pain free . Everything changes with time–so long as we give it space enough to do so.

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. 

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

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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

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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

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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. 

Mysore Meeting Place

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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

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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.  

— 

ヨガ界ではよく「降伏」という言葉が使われます。「練習に降伏する」、「先生に降伏する」、「マットに降伏する」。

 

これらは練習に没頭するということでしょうか?それとも深いリラクゼーションのことを意味しているのでしょうか?これらはあきらめるということでしょうか?それとも自分を捧げるということでしょうか?この「降伏」は私達の練習にどのように役立っているのでしょうか?

 

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。

 

 

 

サットサング: 

 

サットは真実を意味し、サンガは集まりを意味します。つまりサットサングとは真実の分かち合いを求めている人達の集まりです。

 

 

 

写真は先週の金曜日のレッドプライマリークラスの様子です。ヨギックウォリアーズでいっぱいですね!