Living Color

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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.

 

 

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). 

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.

Do Your Homework

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Kaz Castillo assists Veronique Tan at Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore

Kaz Castillo and Veronique Tan with the dedicated practitioners at Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore.

Last week, Veronique Tan, whose program I am covering here in Osaka, distributed a sheet explaining “homework” to each regular student. I was with her, as she explained to each student what she recommended they work on over the next two months that she is away in Mysore. And how I would be here to help.

On Thursday, one student, Akemi-san noticed that I had my own sheet–actually, sheets plural! A neat stack stapled together, on each page was the profile of two students, each a regular Mysore pass holder, their current posture, their work in progress, their challenges and their “homework.” She pointed with delight and laughed!

“Yes,” I smiled and laughed too, explaining that I also had my own “homework” from Veronique-sensei!

And so work begins. Homework in tow, I will be going to Spirit tomorrow morning, my first day of a two month covering stint here at Spirit Yoga Osaka.

The Mysore program here is not new to me. Past teachers that have taught here are friends. The first to hold the program, Ursula Scott was instrumental in inspiring me to make my first ever trip to Mysore, India. Then, last year, I became the interim covering teacher here between August and September. Returning now after nearly 9 months of teaching in Egypt and in Spain, of traveling and having what I can best describe as an epic romantic adventure with myself, I feel a little like I’m returning to the classroom after having done quite a bit of homework myself.

Sure, it’s been a little “off book.” There’s been a lot of practice–but a lot of the prime yoga  experiences lately have happened off the mat. Self-study is not an isolated activity that is happening at home, it is happening all the time in life.

One never really knows what to expect or what our practice will be like or what the class will bring each morning. And it’s best not to have any expectations. But we certainly can come to class, to our mats, to our lives a little more prepared each and every morning…

The Schedule of Morning Mysore: Monday-Thursday 6:30-10:00am. Friday 6:45-8:45am Led. Sunday 7:30-10am.

PHOTO: Spirit Yoga Morning Mysore. Photo by: Veronique Tan.

Oh, My! How They Grow!

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IMG_4748I recently came home to Manila after a year of travel and teaching. The most striking of changes were seeing my nieces and godchildren, two of whom were newborns when I left the Philippines. I was shocked and delighted to see them walking, talking (though the words are not formed yet).

Returning to Osaka after nearly nine months, I feel a little similar, seeing how things have changed and how the program has grown.

It was a beautiful and easy re-entry to Spirit Yoga last week, as I assisted Veronique between Tuesday and Thursday. I loved seeing some of the older students with whom I had worked with grow deeper in their practice. And I was thrilled to see how many new faces there were also. It is a real joy to see one’s practice evolve. It is likewise so heart warming to see a whole program become bigger, more robust.

It’s a real pleasure to be back. It’s an honor to hold this space once again, in the teacher’s absence, this time Veronique Tan, who has been guiding the program here since October 2013. I feel blessed and inspired to see how much a program can grow!

PHOTO: Thursday’s class was an all time high: 27 practitioners. We had to draw open the curtains to the changing area to make space for people to finish. I love the enthusiasm I see here in Japan. Could clearly see how happy the students were to send Veronique off so she could herself study with her teacher. I start leading the Mysore mornings tomorrow, Sunday, June 29.