Menu du Jour: Love

IMG_3708

The best practice days aren’t necessarily the ones where you are flying or when you’re so limber that tying yourself into a knot is as easy as tying your shoelace–though I suspect those days are pretty darn good too.

For me, the best days are the days that are just plain loving. It’s the day you love yourself enough to be kind to your–at times poor, tired, beaten up–body or spirit. They are the days that you look around loving the people you practice with, how they awe and inspire you with the gracefulness and graciousness. They are the days you get to bow and be grateful to your teacher, as he/she watches carefully, choosing just the right moment to guide you. They are the days you realize that you are simply in love with your practice–not attached, but truly in love, and really, really grateful. 

No matter what it looks like, no matter what it feels like, if it’s full of love, it is full of that integrating light of yoga.

PHOTO: I am feeling full of love and gratitude to the practice and to the path as I get ready to fly from Manila to San Francisco, where I will be teaching starting May.

Being Builders

IMG_3887

A good question: what are we building today?

The Ashtanga practice teaches us how to be builders, how to build strength, stamina, how to build our focus and a steady foundation on which to stand, on which to live.

Sometimes this building comes with a fair amount of destruction, retrofitting. It is necessary to pull things down in other to build up properly.

But the essence of the work is the making of ourselves, our growing, externally, yes, but mostly a deep kind of construction. How do we expand our breath, our minds, our spirit? How to we grow beyond our perceived limits?

PHOTO: Children really know where it’s at. A lunch with Manila friends and their children in Shangrila-la Edsa led me to this Lego store. We are surely born to build things.

Living Color

Image

2015/01/img_2662.jpg

The vibrancy of life here is catchy.
The spontaneity of vehicles,
conversational honking, traffic
softly swerving around tumeric-colored
cows that seem to own the street,
jangling bells of sadus, slapping
of laundry–all fireworks of day to day living.

My appetite for color grows in India.
Everyday I choose to wear more color,
and each day more colors on top of each other.
My eyes do not grow tired of it, just as
my stomach is everyday adjusting to
an assault of spices. India is
that perfect balance of hard and gentle.
It is always too much and never too much.
A perfect place for yoga to happen.

PHOTO: No prose–for that matter, no poem–could possibly verbalize the month that I’ve spent here already. I can only say it continues to unfold beautifully, colorfully, mysteriously, with a lot of joy and also struggle. It is a blessing to be here as a student, to humbly bow to my teacher each morning after class, to use this time to heal my travel weary body and rebuild my personal practice.

 

 

The Wonder

20141010-015522-6922497.jpg

We seek out these moments, where we stand before these massive monuments of wonder. And we stand with awe, speechless, feeling the thing that appears greater than the self.

We want to be shaken. We want to stir that something deep within the self. We want awakening.

In the beginning, our yoga journey is filled with such a-ha! moments. But later, over time, as practice steadies, they come with less frequency. And we long, oh how we long for such moments, for such great openings.

What if we looked upon the everyday with as much wonder? What if we celebrated each and every seemingly insignificant moment? What if we felt the wonder of the act of waking up each morning, felt the reverence of standing before our mats with the sun shining in, the sanctity of simply moving, of simply breathing, of simply being, of simply living, glorifying the wonder of everyday things?

PHOTO: Dashoor’s Bent Pryamid. My visit there last week reminded me of the power and mystery of life, but also reminded me that I should look at my life, in all of it’s greatness and ordinariness, with a similar awe–how amazing it is to be alive, to simply be. Looking forward to a month of weekly classes at The Shala here at Maadi in Cairo starting tomorrow till the end of October.

The Distance

Image

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

IMG_6753 IMG_6758 IMG_6762

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

P1250814

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.

Sky Is the Limit

20140803-055917-21557797.jpg

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. 

Friday Spirit Satsang: Surrender

IMG_5786

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!