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.
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).
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.
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.
I 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.
Pi organized a two-day offering during my brief “stopover” in Manila– giving me a chance to see the babies and catch up with him and his wife Daniw, to take a refresher course and see what new things he has been trying out with Energy School, and giving me time and space to stop and dance myself.
Though it’s only been a little over a year and a half since I last saw Pi Villaraza, the young Filipino healer, at the forefront of the Inner Dance movement, it felt like a lifetime since I saw him last.
At the heels of the much anticipated end of the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012, we had just barely concluded a three-week free-flowing Inner Dance immersion/training, when Pi announced that he was going for a walk.
Now… the last time Pi went on walkabout, he disappeared for years from society at large. He lived as hermit on a remote island and drank only coconut water, emerging with the healing inner dance process, which he then began to share across the Philippines and South East Asia, and to the many global healers and seekers who have sought him out in Palawan, Philippines.
So as a group of us, who were at the Maia Earth Eco Village at the time of his departure, watched as he walked away, there was no knowing what to expect, other than things were changing. That was the only certainty. I didn’t feel sad exactly, seeing this dear friend go, but felt strongly that something was ending.
Inner Dance, the community as much as the process itself, was like a serpent, at this time. It was renewing itself, shedding its old skin in order to move forward with fluidity and grace, and, most of all, with a new lightness.
Pi returned. Much sooner than anyone might have anticipated. Some might have thought he was never to return. Life went on. But differently. Daniw, Pi’s wife, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Issa, growing their family.
Seeing Pi last weekend, I realize that he too has been giving birth to something new. How inner dance continues to evolve under his stewardship. How in essence the process is the same, if not more authentic than its ever been but also how the methodology is developing, how there is more logic in its form, particularly in its facilitation. And how more than ever it is a marriage of science and mysticism–and I only use the word “mysticism” for the lack of a better word to explain the presence of the divine in our lives that isn’t necessitated by a leap of faith but rather of actual experience.
The two days were a deep exploration on the ID process. It was exciting to see how the methodology is inspiring both deeper and more authentic results. I saw people swirling in movement, singing, crying, speaking in tongues, wriggling on the ground, releasing blockages by screaming–all kind of typical of the deep release work that happens with inner dance. What was new could be found in Pi’s facilitation. The ID process is finding a balance between form and fluidity, Yin and Yang, Shiva and Shakti.
It was also affirming to see how certain things have come to me during my own facilitation these two years, through the traveling, exposure to other tools, and through my own experience as a student of yoga and as a teacher, that are very much aligned with the direction that Pi is moving in. A testament, I think, to the great universality of Inner Dance; that it has It’s own energy, that It will move its practitioners in the direction It needs us to go.
Furthermore, it was a great to meet some of the Manila Inner Dance community. Having sought Pi out in Palawan and returning there often, I have never danced in Manila, though it is where I am from. So it was a great opportunity to connect with this segment of the community I have no experience with.
Lastly, I am so grateful to Pi for believing in me all these years–even when I had no belief in myself–for supporting me in my own process and for encouraging me to move forward in this work. I feel truly blessed to have this beautiful soul in my corner, reminding me who I am, lest I forget it again.
Food by Asha, Pi’s sister, who runs Dahon Kusina, a source for raw food products, raw food workshops, and a favorite at the Sunday Legaspi market.
I love that precious time in the morning, when everything is quiet, and the teacher self practices, breathing his or her energy into the space, laying down the blueprint for the class to come…
Things have gone full circle again as I return to Osaka, this time to cover for Veronique Tan, who took over the Spirit Mysore program after I subbed for it 9 months ago. For the last three mornings, I have worked the mysore room with Veronique, assisting some familiar practitioners but also a lot of new ones.
And I am inspired–just as I imagine many of the students (there was a record number of students today at 27) who came to class this morning to send off their teacher. It’s amazing what one person can do in 9 months. And while Veronique herself relates that the program did not begin to grow until the spring months and humbly points out she’s not done much out of the ordinary–as an outsider with an inside seat I see things differently.
Barring certain logistical restrictions and external factors, for students to show up, the teacher must shows up first. And mere attendance will not do. For a teacher to truly show up they must practice in the same way they want their students to attend to class, with consistency and dedication, with flexibility and also compassion. First and foremost, the teacher must practice, really truly wholeheartedly practice–not for the student but for one’s self, not with any attachment to any particular goal other than to simply practice. Ideally, he/she must teach as he/she practices; ideally, he/she must live as he/she teaches–at least, as best as humanly possible.
In the last year, I have learned a great deal from not just the experience of teaching and the interaction with students but also from the teachers I have had the good fortune to cover for and learn from. I know I will continue to learn in this space even with Veronique all the way in Mysore, India. Lots to look forward to here at Spirit, where I will be subbing the Mysore program from July 1 to August 31.
We are all dancing.
We are always dancing.
We are dancing with ourselves.
Dancing with our friends, colleagues,
family, even strangers we meet on the
We are dancing with our work.
We are dancing with our practice
and in our playtime.
We are constantly dancing with this/in this
Whirling Wonder we call Life.
PHOTO: Nataraja, Shiva dancing with Osaka City in the background. It’s a pleasure to be back in Japan. I will start teaching for Veronique Tan here at Spirit Yoga on Sunday as she goes to India. Will be teaching the Mysore program here until the end of August.
No schedule yet for Inner Dances but am excited to offer the moving meditation and healing modality as well!