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Ashtanga Yoga New York announces final day on Broome Street

August 3, 2015

This is news I wasn’t expecting to have to share for a little while still: Broome St. Temple and Ashtanga Yoga New York’s last day in its current site (which Guruji dedicated and taught at after 9/11) is Aug. 31.

Eddie Stern has posted the news on AYNY’s website:

It seems that our time to vacate 430 Broome Street has come a little early. We were given notification on Friday that there is a new tenant coming in, and the owner would like us to vacate 30 days early, as he is entitled to do. So, as of now, barring any bizarre twist of fate, our last day on Broome Street is August 31st. It is of course kind of brutal and crushing.

Eddie goes on to list seven more points, which you might want to check out even if you aren’t a regular (or occasional) student there.

This space — which Eddie describes as “our ever changing, humble, little yoga school” — is extra high-profile because of the post-9/11 classes that Guruji led (captured in the documentary Ashtanga Yoga New York). I think it fair to say it is one of those Ashtanga shalas that have extra juice, due to the teachers and students.

I can only imagine the range of emotions that regular students there are feeling — let alone Eddie and his wife Jocelyne. Bobbie and I had the lucky opportunity to practice there for a handful of days two winters ago (when winter was in full effect in New York). I’ll admit, I first wrote “last winter” because it seems so recent — it actually is 18 months or so ago. But being there, in a crowded and dedicated space, remains a very present memory, if that makes sense. I think during those days — we were there for a workshop with Eddie and Robert Moses — that Robert described how holy sites are all linked by whatever thread or line or connection you prefer. The Broome St. Temple was one of those spots, because of both the dedication, power and persistence of the yoga being practiced there as well as the temple, itself — Ganesh, Siva, Hanuman and more.

The really meaningful yoga spaces I’ve been fortunate enough to practice in share that … oh, what to call it? Energy? Vibration? Hum? It build up, as day passes after day, and more tapas seeps into the bones of the place. That tapas, I suspect, will be one of the things people miss — even if they don’t precisely know that’s what they’re missing.

But the good thing is this: There’s more tapas to come. So whenever AYNY ends up — Eddie promises it will be downtown — it will once again be a place where that tapas, that heat, that dedication builds up.

Here’s hoping they have a smooth transition.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga, Poetry, and Ganesha’s Eyebrow

August 3, 2015

On our home altar we have a murti of Ganesha that I got a number of years ago. This is the Ganesha who received Vyasa’s dictation of the Mahabharata. He is standing contrapposto with his notebook in one hand and his broken tusk in the other. If you don’t know the story, it’s Ganesha who wrote down the epic, and so inspired was Vyasa that when the pen broke, Ganesha snapped off his own tusk and used it instead so as not to interrupt the poet. His hand with tusk is poised lightly just above the page. His trunk hangs down in an elegantly relaxed “S.” He is looking at you, head tilted to one side, elephant ears perked, and something like a smile implied in his demeanor. Above one eye, his eyebrow is cocked, as if he is waiting for you to utter the next words…

I nearly emptied the bank account to buy this image of Ganesha. I loved it the instant I saw it, but I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, until today.

The summer means a break from teaching for me, and as a result I spend it writing as much poetry as I can. I try to make the most of each day. But here’s the thing about poetry writing. You can’t really clock in, sit down, crank out a bunch of words, and then clock out.

“If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree,” wrote John Keats, “it had better not come at all.”

That process is shrouded in mystery. In the West, it’s long been compared to demon possession (“daemons” in ancient Greece were in an intermediate state between god and human); or at the very least, to possession by the Muse, something poets ardently sought and tried to magically evoke at the start of their poems (“Sing, Muse…”). So, basically, I sit around and wait for inspiration. “Inspiration”: from the Latin inspirare, “divine guidance.” (Also, interestingly, another name for the inhalation breath.)

But I’m under a certain amount of pressure not to waste my time. To make the most of my leaf growing. When something magical doesn’t happen, I get pissed. Which in turn insures that something isn’t going to happen at all, and makes the whole non-process difficult. Which, as Keats noticed, it’s not supposed to be. But of course it is, in turn making me more pissed off.

This was not the case today, however. I sat down, and I waited without waiting, and something like poetry came. In the moments following that odd phenomenon of creation, there’s something like relief: “To me alone there came a thought of grief,” wrote Wordsworth, “A timely utterance gave that thought relief, / And again I am strong.”

When I was done, and the poetry pathways were clear, and the work of poetry was finished, I grumpily rolled out my mat to practice. Because, you know, that’s what we do.

Ashtanga, as has been noted, is also hard. Not particularly wanting to practice doesn’t make that any easier, and a deep-seated sense of insecurity about whether or not one should even be doing Ashtanga can make that difficulty…well, more difficult. Combine that with the fact that you know exactly what’s coming, and what’s coming is hard, and you encounter a lot of mental resistance. Which does not exactly get you ready for yoga in the greater sense of the word: The calm mind. I was not ready. But as I put my palms together for the opening mantra, I looked into Ganesha’s eye with its cocked eyebrow, and had a vision.

The vision took the form of a scene from the 1969 film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Sundance: [Cocking his gun for the fight.] “Ready?”

Butch: [Inspiration striking.] “No, we’ll jump.”

Sundance: [Looking down the cliff at the raging river below.] “Like hell we will.”

Butch: “No, we’ll be okay. If the water’s deep enough and we don’t get squished to death. They’ll never follow us.”

Sundance: “How do you know?”

Butch: “Would you make a jump like that if you didn’t have to?”

Sundance: “I have to and I’m not gunna.” [This is exactly the way I feel before I practice, by the way.] [Snip.]

Butch: “I’ll jump first.”

Sundance: “Nope.”

Butch: “Then you jump first.”

Sundance: “No I said!”

Butch: “What’s the matter with you?”

Sundance: “I CAN’T SWIM.” [Pause.]

Butch: [Laughing.] “Why, are you crazy? The fall’ll probably kill you!”

Unable to resist in the face of Paul Newman’s impeccable logic, Robert Redford shouts film’s most famous “Woooooah shiiiit!” as they jump together. End of vision.

Standing there on my mat, I was laughing. The very act of poetry writing is in essence impossible; the very act of trying to write a poem is in fact the very thing that will keep you from writing a poem, which suddenly seemed, in the eye of Ganesha, very much like the impossibility of Ashtanga. I laughed, and had a delirious practice. I fell into it, like I fall into a poem, because the fall will probably kill me. But it might not. There’s only one way to find out. This, I suppose, is what surrender feels like, and I’d been doing it all along as a poet.

My murti of Ganesha so captured my attention years ago because of course he embodies the perfect state of artistic surrender. He’s waiting to receive, without anticipation and without expectation. He’s prepared, but in no way suggesting that anything must be done with all that preparation. And it’s in the absence of all those things that inspiration comes.

Posted by Bobbie

‘He gave away more of himself then most people could give in a thousand years’

August 2, 2015

Eddie Stern, not surprisingly, wonderfully sums up Pattabhi Jois’ life with the phrase that’s our headline — and he has parts of an interview with Guruji that he and Sharath did about 10 years ago up at his blog.

Here’s his full thoughts on the Full Moon anniversary (leading at his website):

July 31st is the auspicious occasion of Guru Purnima, the full moon of July that is dedicated to the worship and expression of gratitude to all of the Gurus. The full moon of July is also the birthday of Sri K Pattabhi Jois, who popularized and revolutionized the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. In fact, today would have been his 100th birthday. To reach one hundred years is the crowning achievement in the Hindu tradition, for each being is granted 100 years of life, that is measured as well by how many breaths a person takes. Guruji fell a little short of 100 years, but he gave away more of himself then most people could give in a thousand years. His life was well lived, and the effects of his presence are as powerful now as when he was alive.

And from the interview:

He agreed to teach me, and we started from the next day. By the time he taught us ten asanas… sometimes we couldn’t do them… he would beat us. And the beating was unbearable, that’s how it was. We were about 10 or 15 boys who didn’t care. We carried on unmindful of the beatings we got from him. We learnt for one or two years, he taught us certain asanas. Then my father conducted my thread ceremony towards 1929/30. I hadn’t yet gone through the ceremony, you see. After the ceremony every time I opened my books to study they would sarcastically comment that I was some scholar in Ramayana or Mahabharata… ‘Go tend to the cows’, they would say.

I was fed up, listening to all this and left for Mysore. I had never seen Mysore. I was a small boy who had never seen Mysore. I was imagining all kinds of things. Two of my brothers had spent a fortnight in Mysore. They would tell me all kinds of stories about Mysore… about some Chatra (free pilgrim house). I had heard of these things but had never seen anything. So, I decided, I am going! There was a railway station here in our village.

But then I was apprehensive that the stationmaster would inform my family if I boarded the train here – and so, I decided to walk to Ambuga, the neighboring village. I got on the train in Ambuga and arrived in Mysore. I had heard that there were some two or three railway stations in Mysore… you had to get off only at the main station and not anywhere else… I had heard such things being said. At Mysore I remained in the train even at the so-called big station.

There is plenty, plenty more. Thanks to Eddie for posting it.

Posted by Steve

‘Guruji lives here’ video is now live

July 31, 2015

Here is the video that will be shown tonight at the Yoga Workshop. Chances are you’ll see one of your favorite gurus in it.

Worth breaking our new Moondays off plan. (We called the full, blue moon at about 3:45 a.m. Pacific time.)

We’re about three weeks off from finally getting a lot of time with our guru.

Thanks to those who took the time to put the video together. And find more at the website.

Posted by Steve

‘The greatest gift I ever received was the blessing of my Guru’

July 30, 2015
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With tomorrow’s being Guru Purnima, you’d have been right to expect Tim Miller to recall Pattabhi Jois on his blog this week:

It was my good fortune to meet Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, better known as Guruji, in Encinitas 37 years ago.  In addition to teaching Mysore style classes six days a week for three months at the old church in Encinitas, Guruji also generously agreed to teach yoga theory classes at his son Manju’s house three nights a week. At that time Guruji’s command of English was limited, so much of the talk would be in his native Kannada, interspersed with lengthy chants from the scriptures in Sanskrit.  He would go on at great length regarding the given subject, sometimes laughing and occasionally moved to tears, then turn to Manju and ask him to translate.  Manju would then provide us with a very brief synopsis of what his father had said.  I couldn’t help but think that we were losing a lot in translation.

Read it all at the link, if you haven’t already.

Posted by Steve

Here’s what I’m most looking forward to at the 2016 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence

July 29, 2015

If you missed it, the schedule for March 2016 dropped on Tuesday. (Apparently, giving out “new” schedules isn’t a bad thing to do on Tuesdays!)

A few things caught my eye: Led with Richard Freeman, which I don’t think I’ve done yet. David Swenson and Tim Miller, together, talking about teaching the standing poses. There’s opportunity for some interesting dynamics there. But what most caught my attention was this one:

4:00-6:00 pm – Intermediate Series and the Nervous System taught by Eddie Stern (lecture/chanting)
The theory behind the postures of the Intermediate Series has fascinating correlates in modern scientific findings. Consciousness, according to Yoga, expresses itself through the functions of our physiology, including the nerves of the brain and nervous system, sense organs and subtle channels. Because of sensory overload, stress and poor living habits, our nervous system becomes taxed, and stress hormones and other chemicals flood certain areas of the brain and body, effectively preventing the nervous system from signaling properly and allowing for a clear perception of the world around us and our place in it. In this lecture, we’ll look at how the intermediate poses (and many primary ones), breathing and bandhas help remedy this.

Now, before you say it: No, it isn’t because it’s a lecture and chanting, which I’ll take to mean no asana. And, no, it isn’t because of my poor living habits. It’s that Intermediate, in the modified and muddied way I am trying to practice it, is what’s out there, just beyond my reach. (First Series is, too, but it is a familiar set of graspings.) Plus, there’s the whole comboing up with science.

And I know beg the question: What are you most looking forward to next year?

Posted by Steve

In time for Guruji’s 100th birthday, here’s Ashtanga Yoga Confluence 2016 schedule

July 28, 2015

This may have landed in your inbox, but if not — or if, anyway — the 2016 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence’s schedule is out today. Link here and the schedule:

THURSDAY, MARCH 3RD

4:30-5:30 pm – Ganesh Puja performed by Eddie Stern
In India, the elephant headed god is known as the Remover of Obstacles and the Lord of Beginnings. He is honored at important ceremonies to insure an auspicious beginning and successful completion of the event.

5:30-7:00 pm – Catered Opening Ceremony
A light vegetarian meal will be served with a live music performance.

FRIDAY, MARCH 4TH

 7:00-9:00 am – Guided First Series taught by Manju Jois (asana)

 7:00-8:30 am – Mysore taught by Richard Freeman, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern and David Swenson with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

8:30-10:00 am – Mysore taught by Richard Freeman, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern and David Swenson with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

11:30 am-1:30 pm – Panel Discussion: Consulting the Jungle Physicians with Richard Freeman, Manju Jois, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern and David Swenson moderated by Dominic Corigliano (lecture/discussion/Q&A)
An open forum where the teachers will field questions from the students in regard to asana, pranayama, yoga philosophy, injury, diet, aging and more.

4:00-6:00 pm – Rhythm & Balance: Seeking Transformation not Perfection taught by Dena Kingsberg
BHAVANA: Reflection – Unrealistic expectation leads to discontent. The acceptance of all – dark and light, smooth and rough alike with open heart and pure intention leads to genuine transformation. Inspiration can be found in nature’s organic irregularity. Inspiration and beauty can be found within the unique irregularity of you. We practice, not for the sake of a perfect pose, but for the prana that stirs the blood and inspires change. This class will be a combination of conscious movement (asana), conscious breath (pranayama), conscious intention (pratyahara), sound (chanting), and sweet surrender.

4:00-6:00 pm – Thread of Nectar: The Art of Subtle Alignment taught by Richard Freeman (asana)
Ashtanga Yoga is the art of following an empty thread of awareness through and between postures, breaths, thoughts and techniques. In this class we will learn to use core techniques like Dristi and Bandha to awaken a subtle intelligence. This intelligence allows us to enter into each pattern of our awareness and technique, to experience it in context and to then release it. We can then play with the paradoxes of breathing and the complementarity of technique to open the central thread of the body. Experiencing therein a subtle kindness and joy, allows us to bring a new degree of freedom, technical skill and compassion to our everyday practice.

SATURDAY, MARCH 5TH

 7:00-9:00 am – Guided First Series taught by Richard Freeman (asana)

 7:00-8:30 am – Mysore taught by Manju Jois, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern and David Swenson with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

8:30-10:00 am – Mysore taught by Manju Jois, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern and David Swenson with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

11:30 am-1:30 pm – Women’s Panel Discussion with Diana Christinson, Kathy Cooper, Dena Kingsberg, Leigha Nicole and Mary Taylor moderated by Shelley Washington (lecture/discussion/Q&A)
Each teacher will share the profound gift of yoga they received from their beloved teacher, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and one of their favorite stories relating to Guruji. This discussion will offer an opportunity for students to ask questions of the teachers.

1:30-1:45 pm – Yoga Gives Back Presentation with Founder/President Kayoko Mitsumatsu (presentation)
Yoga Gives Back is helping mothers and children in India to build sustainable livelihoods. This presentation will show the newest exciting short film that documents how the programs implemented by this Los Angeles based non-profit organization are making a difference in many lives in India.

4:00-6:00 pm – Teaching with Your Hands: Standing Poses taught by Tim Miller and David Swenson (asana)
An introduction to the art of adjusting standing poses, including: making a visual assessment of a student’s pose; entering someone’s space with awareness and sensitivity; and adjusting safely and intelligently.

4:00-6:00 pm – Intermediate Series and the Nervous System taught by Eddie Stern (lecture/chanting)
The theory behind the postures of the Intermediate Series has fascinating correlates in modern scientific findings. Consciousness, according to Yoga, expresses itself through the functions of our physiology, including the nerves of the brain and nervous system, sense organs and subtle channels. Because of sensory overload, stress and poor living habits, our nervous system becomes taxed, and stress hormones and other chemicals flood certain areas of the brain and body, effectively preventing the nervous system from signaling properly and allowing for a clear perception of the world around us and our place in it. In this lecture, we’ll look at how the intermediate poses (and many primary ones), breathing and bandhas help remedy this.

8:00-9:30 pm – Ananda Rasa Kirtan led by David Estes
David grew up in India, has studied music since childhood and spent several years completely immersed in the practices of kirtan, swadhyaya chanting and meditation as a resident in daily ashram life. Ananda Rasa Kirtan is rooted in traditional sanskrit chants sung to original melody compositions in light classical Indian ragas. Additional musical influences include Qawwali and reggae. www.anandarasa.com

SUNDAY, MARCH 6TH 

 7:00-9:00 am – Guided First Series taught by David Swenson (asana)

 7:008:30 am – Mysore taught by Richard Freeman, Manju Jois, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller and Eddie Stern with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

8:30-10:00 am – Mysore taught by Richard Freeman, Manju Jois, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller and Eddie Stern with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

11:30 am-1:30 pm –Ashtanga Yoga As It Is taught by Manju Jois (vedic chanting/pranayama)
Manju began learning Vedic Chanting and Sanskrit at the age of seven from his father Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. After several years of instruction Manju began to practice Vedic Chanting on his own. These simple Vedic mantras create a vibration that result in a feeling of well-being. Manju enjoys sharing his favorite chants with anyone who is interested in chanting to help with memory, mental peace and relaxation.

3:00-5:00 pm – Panel Discussion: Q&A with Richard Freeman, Manju Jois, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern and David Swenson moderated by Dominic Corigliano (lecture/discussion/Q&A)
This discussion offers an opportunity for students to ask questions of the teachers. Questions submitted in advance will be addressed.

Pick your highlight.

Posted by Steve