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New site sets out to interview Ashtanga teachers

December 19, 2014

There’s a new site that’s come online (this week, I think) with this mission:

Ashtanga Parampara is a collection of interviews with authorized/certified practitioners and teachers of Ashtanga yoga as taught by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (KPJAYI). This platform seeks to archive the background and history of teachers that have been blessed by Pattabhi Jois or his grandson, R. Sharath Jois, to teach and spread the Ashtanga method. This effort is born out of sincere gratitude and devotion to the practice and seeks to illustrate and highlight the wide diversity of dedicated teachers across the world.

You can find the site here. The first interview is with Jessica Walden.

And here’s a little more from the person behind the project:

The seed of this project was inspired and born out of reading Guy Donahaye and Eddie Stern’s book, Guruji, years ago. Like others, I was fascinated by the rich tales and stories of each individual highlighted. I never wanted the stories to end. Some found Guruji and the practice through a search for something transcendental in their lives; others, sought healing from traumatic injuries or diseases. Regardless, each person had their story to share with the world. My goal is to simply record the teacher’s voice and their experiences with this practice. There are hundreds of teachers across the world. As far as I am aware, no platform exists that archives their voice. I would like to do that.

This project is 100% focused on the conversation with the teacher. It may also include their writings. This project will receive no monetary compensation. It is seva to the Ashtanga community. I hope it inspires new and current students.

I like the simple web design.

Posted by Steve

Breakfast, and a few questions, with Manju Jois

December 18, 2014

Below is a short video that went up this week. It’s a quick Q&A with Manju Jois over breakfast:

The voice off screen belongs to Pranidhi Varshney. We know her from the Ashtanga scene — oh what a horrific phrase! — here in Los Angeles. You can check out our posts on her chanting CD and her thoughts on practicing with Nancy Gilgoff at this link.

Posted by Steve

Mercury Day poetry: The Waste Land

December 17, 2014

Regular readers will know that Bobbie teaches a college writing course; for the past couple of years, the central text has been T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. You may have suffered through enjoyed it at some point during your own schooling. Or maybe not.

I re-read it last while flying back home from a business meeting. It’s a bit long, true, but all together wonderful. Below is the last lines, which end with three familiar words. The full poem is at the link above:

Then spoke the thunder
DA  400
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed  405
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms
DA  410
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours  415
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
DA
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded  420
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands
                      I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?  425
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins  430
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
      Shantih    shantih    shantih

 

As it says, these are just fragments. The whole is even greater than the sum of its pretty incredible parts.

Posted by Steve

A reminder of why we do yoga

December 16, 2014

It comes — as it has before — from Robbie Norris, who teaches yoga with a firm grounding in Ashtanga, to those in the Richmond City Jail and at his own studio:

Three years later, on October 21, 2014, while sugaring my coffee at Starbucks, I heard a voice, “Hey, I think you taught me yoga at jail a few years ago.”  I turned and was so pleased to see Logan.  Imploring him to come to Richmond City Yoga, I got his commitment to come the next day.  The following morning when I arrived, he was there waiting.  That boy from jail is now a promising young man.  He wants to acquire the education and credentials to become a mental health therapist; hopefully, he will get help with this ambition, because the occupation would suit him well.  Logan is dedicated to working hard and doing the right things.  He’s funny, intelligent, attentive, and humble.  And his disciplined daily yoga practice is bringing him physical strength, mental resolve, and deserved confidence.

You need — really have to — to go the above link and read all of Logan’s story, including this part:

My wish is that anyone who reads this, who is so inclined and who has the means, will please contact me so that we can join forces to help further this young man’s dream.

Many thanks to RCY student Stacey Scott for paying Logan’s second and third month’s dues.  Thanks to the anonymous donor and theCommunity Foundation for supporting my work at the jail.  Thank you,Eddie Stern, for being the fiscal agent for the grant, and for being a continuous source of inspiration and education.  Thank you, David Swenson, for your generous donations of books and supplies to help inmates and indigent ex-offenders.

It is incredibly fun to complain about one’s yoga practice, to write about how or why you’re giving it up, to joy in the triumphs and to curse the challenges. But it always is critical to remember how lucky you are you can complain in such a way — a real first world problem, no?

Read through Logan’s story and think about contacting Robbie, if you’re so moved. You can reach him via the contact link on his blog.

Posted by Steve

Google says: This is now the most popular Ashtanga video on YouTube

December 15, 2014

For a long time — at least a year, and probably a good deal more — this has been the most popular (i.e. the first to be listed) video on YouTube:

Yep. That one. 1.3 million views and counting.

But in the last couple of days, this video has jumped to the top:

It’s almost at 94,000 views — but clearly many more people are clicking on it lately, shooting it up the algorithms. As you probably would guess, it’s essentially a half Primary class. Just a quick listen suggests she gets the counting right… but I haven’t gone through the whole thing.

It might be save to say this is how most new people lately have been introduced to Ashtanga.

Posted by Steve

Interested in starting Ashtanga and ‘looking for people’ that have tried it

December 14, 2014

Two Ashtanga-related online things popped into my Google alert. Both give a sense of how Ashtanga is represented — probably by those not full-on committed.

The first is a Reddit:

I’ve practiced yoga on and off for about 7 years. I’m 27, in pretty good shape, fairly active and limber, and I’d classify myself as intermediate, yoga-wise. I’ve started getting interested in Ashtanga yoga after following Kino MacGregor on instagram.

[snip to replies]

I’d go with the Cody App course, I have it and it’s great. She goes through each pose in extremely thorough detail and includes instruction on even the most advanced transitions (that you will skip/modify at first) so that you will be able to use the course for years as you grow in your practice. She also includes a guided full length practice (the segmented videos are much more drawn out and detailed than a traditional primary series practice) which is awesome…

The better one is this, from something called myfitnesspal:

About a mile from my place is a wellness studio and they teach ashtanga yoga. I was wondering if anyone has tried this and if so, what was the experience like. I have thought about trying it for myself, but I’d like some feedback.

[snip again to answers]

Have you done any yoga before? If so, you’re probably fine. I love ashtanga yoga, kind of depends on the studio how seriously they take it. Most places I’ve experienced don’t do a super exact form, but rather just emphasize the vinyasas (movement from pose to pose), very “flowy.” But if it’s serious ashtanga there will be specific vinyasas on certain days, possibly even everyone at his/her own pace. But I feel that that’s not as usual.

[snip]

Yeah, holding the poses for a while like that means it’s a form of hatha yoga, which emphasizes precision, getting into the pose and staying there. Ashtanga yoga emphasizes moving from pose to pose, usually with your breath. It could be a little overwhelming to jump right into ashtanga yoga–if they are basically just saying, “Inhale, upward facing dog! Exhale, downward facing dog!” and you don’t know how to flow from pose to pose, it could be a little difficult.

[snip]

There’s a lot of movement in Ashtanga yoga. Yes, I would check the studio’s schedule and see what type of classes they offer. Like Allie said, if you can find one that says “Introduction”, that’s what you should try.

Sometimes Ashtanga yoga studios are heated to 90 degrees or so.

For more information, go here: http://www.ashtangayoga.info/practice/

Also, a side note regarding the term “Hatha Yoga” – all forms of the physical practice of yoga are Hatha Yoga – Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Viniyoga, Iyengar, Intergral are all a forms of Hatha Yoga. When studios or gyms mention something as “Hatha Yoga”, it usually means the class/instructor does not have a specific training in one of the types (Ashtanga, Iyengar, Viniyoga, etc) of Hatha Yoga. Hope that makes sense.

A little reminder from Richard Freeman:

Vinyasa means sequence—which is where the modern idea of “flow” comes from—but the word vinyasa does not mean a flowing kind of asana practice. More accurately, in terms of a yoga practice, vinyasa refers to the proper sequence of movement, form and alignment that creates safety and balance within a practice.

For what that’s worth.

Posted by Steve

Even we don’t go this far with our coffee

December 13, 2014

No coffee, no prana, right?

Apparently, for some, it should be “no coffee, butter and MCT oil, no prana.” Per the New York Times:

It seems these days everyone is a coffee evangelist, but there are perhaps no proselytizers more fervent than those of Bulletproof coffee, a creation of the technology entrepreneur and biohacker Dave Asprey.

The recipe — a riff on the yak butter tea Mr. Asprey found restorative while hiking in Tibet — calls for low-mold coffee beans; at least two tablespoons of unsalted butter (grass-fed, which is higher in Omega 3s and vitamins); and one to two tablespoons of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, a type of easily digestible fat. Mr. Asprey claims having the 450-plus-calorie cup of coffee instead of breakfast suppresses hunger, promotes weight loss and provides mental clarity.

[snip]

Fans insist the beverage tastes like an amazingly creamy latte, though Mr. Rubin was more exclamatory: “like crisp toasted rye bread slathered with lots of butter blended in hot coffee,” he wrote in an email. “A wild classic-tasting breakfast in a cup.” For best results, the chef Seamus Mullen, another enthusiast, advised a hand blender instead of an electric one, because the electric blade heats up the oil, denaturing it and changing the taste. And start small with the MCT oil, which used to be given to hospital patients lacking enzymes to digest fat. “It can wreck your digestive tract,” Mr. Mullen said.

Being Bulletproof means never traveling light. After a MacGyver attempt to make coffee in a Chicago hotel room, Brandon Routh, who plays the superhero The Atom on the CW show “Arrow,” now carries ground beans, containers of clarified butter, a silicone squeeze bottle of MCT oil, plus a hand blender and Aeropress filter.

“My energy levels are through the roof compared to what they used to be,” said Mr. Routh, who learned of the drink at a bachelor party, of all places. He added: “My lines just kind of sink in and they’re there when I need them.”

Dr. Frank Lipman, an integrative doctor, recommends Bulletproof coffee to clients (who include the actress Gwyneth Paltrow) for “mind clarity and a bit of pep,” but cautioned that the drink is not nutritious because it lacks much protein and a variety of vitamins or minerals.

And we found a loose Ashtanga connection. That’s because my mind is so sharp — thanks just to black coffee.

Posted by Steve