A look at devotion via both the kirtan/Hinduism tradition of Krishna Das and Buddhism. As promised, we’re mining the Internet for some weightier pieces when possible.
Sit back and enjoy, and think:
Posted by Steve
We’ve passed on a few of the times that mainstream media picks up the story that yoga can help veterans with PTSD as they heal from their wounds. The latest — and maybe the biggest — came earlier this week in the Los Angeles Times. Here’s the story from San Diego:
Army 1st Sgt. Chris Montera, who lost both legs above the knee and suffered third-degree burns over 60% of his body in a mortar attack in Afghanistan, is doing a headstand, guided by yoga instructor Sunny Keays.
“It takes a lot of pressure off my back and spine,” said Montera, 33, who was on his fourth combat tour when he was hurt. “It helps with the pain.”
To help military personnel overcome the physical and emotional wounds from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, hospitals run by the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs are increasingly turning to the ancient Hindu practice of yoga and other alternative therapies, including tai chi, transcendental meditation and Reiki.
Although not a cure-all, such therapies can be helpful when used in conjunction with Western methods of counseling, medication, and physical and occupational therapy, according to military officials.
Preliminary military studies have found that the calming effect of yoga can assist PTSD patients in dealing with the hypervigilance, flashbacks, depression and anxiety common to the condition. For veterans with traumatic amputations, yoga can help strengthen muscles and increase flexibility, the studies suggest.
The story goes on in the way these do: It probably will feel thin to you, who knows perhaps too much, but for those who don’t it offers a quick bit of insight. Oh, and isn’t there something else going on in San Diego involving yoga that this might be a counter to…? Although the instructors in this piece are Iyengar teachers.
Posted by Steve
For those of us who need a little extra juice, a little extra Ojas, there’s probably nothing that quite fits the bill than music and chanting. We’ve passed on a few words of wisdom from Naren Schreiner of Sangita Yoga. Here’s some basic instruction for you harmonium wanna-plays:
Posted by Steve
One of the exceptionally cool things about taking a short (unintentional) hiatus from your Ashtanga practice is that when you come back, you find a new appreciation for the little things.
Partly, it’s a new point of view, I’m sure. Steve and I have a new, freshly-painted room in our house just for practice. The angle on things changes when you have a dedicated place to ponder.
So it was my last practice when I reached down and took my big toe in padanguthasana. The voice of Tim Miller popped into my head (as it often does): “Grab that thing like you mean it.”
I’m a firm believer in the magic of the mudra on the big toe: First two fingers meeting the thumb. It gives me a sense of security and connectedness. It’s the big toe that was the key to my happiness in Ashtanga. It was also the key to a lot of injury-wisdom.
When I first started practicing, I was (as so many are) hamstring-obsessed. I was convinced that there was only one way and one way only to open up my hamstrings, and that was by grabbing my big toe every chance I got and giving it a good solid and continuous (well, for five breaths, anyway) yank. In the Primary Series, there are a lot of chances to do this: padanguthasana, trikonasana, prasarita D, utthita hasta padanguthasana, paschimottanana A, supta padanguthanana, etc. Much attention paid to that toe in the Primary.
The result of all my pulling was pretty predictable. I tore my right hamstring at the insertion point. Five times.
On the up side, I did gain hamstring flexibility. On the down side: Five times. It’s probably the most common Ashtanga injury, and I wonder if that isn’t partly because of all the chances a beginner has to use the leverage of the arms, shoulders and back muscles while holding the big toes. And the fact that holding the big toe is such a tangible goal to reach for (so to speak)–at all costs.
However, it was also my gustha that saved me. After six years of struggle with that hamstring, I was in utthita hasta padanguthasana A when something else I’d learned from Tim came back to me: “Mula bandha begins in the big toe.”
I had looked this up in my trusty yoga anatomy books, tracked the fascinating set of connections that run all the way up the internal muscles of the thigh, but I’d never really made that extra connection with intention—that I could actually go after mula bandha by using my big toe.
So I did. Like magic, this solved my hamstring problem, redistributing the work away from that poor, overused insertion point. I became aware of the connection my big toes have to internal rotation. I began sending energy down (or out) through my big toe.
The ultra awesome thing about that is that once you locate mula banda this way, you stop yanking, and access a whole new set of muscles to bring yourself forward (or to bring it closer to you). You begin finding the earth in all sorts of unexpected places (like virabhadrasana B, for instance).
Hallux, it’s called in anatomy: Old Latin for “the great toe.” And so it is. So put your hastas together for the gustha.
Posted by Bobbie
It looks like this app to help you sort your way through Ashtanga got its release on Saturday. Anyone know the source? Anyone tried it? Anyone know who Amy Cheung is? We’ll assume it is her, but at the time of this writing the site is still under construction.
Anyway, here’s what this app features:
While it takes discipline and dedication to practice Ashtanga Yoga, this unique app is designed to remind you to smile, have fun and enjoy the flow of the practice.
•Learn sanskrit pronunciation of poses
Ashtanga apps aren’t really our thing, we’ll admit. Books can even feel like they are pushing too far away from the proper student-teacher relationship.
But you can’t stop progress.
Posted by Steve
We promised to seek out a little more substance to go along with the Lululemons, Ashtanga police and sundry asana styles.
Today is Bloomsday. James Joyce’s Ulysses is one of those books — heck it may be that book. Here’s one description of it, from a recent Daily Beast piece on books every college student should read before graduating:
The one book everyone should read before leaving college is Ulysses by James Joyce. It is without doubt the seminal novel of the 20th century. But Ulysses makes such intense demands on the reader—and requires such a deep engagement with the history of English literature—that if you don’t read it in college as part of a fiction course then the chances are you won’t—and even if you were to, you wouldn’t understand half the allusions.
—Amanda Foreman is a historian whose A World on Fire was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
That seems a pretty solid, short description of the novel. It is that to which so many others are judged, from Don DeLillo to David Foster Wallace. (I’m not sure that’s a wide stretch, but you get the idea.) So our encourage of your yoga practice today is, however briefly, make a little union with this work. Online it’s here. Try even the first episode/chapter, or maybe give episode 15 a go. I read it one night — one of many readings — when I wasn’t able to sleep, and it was both the most vivid and most kaleidoscopic experience with the text I’ve ever had.
Posted by Steve
He wasn’t at this year’s Confluence, but I suppose we still can be nudged to share MC Yogi’s latest video: “Breath Control.”
We all could use a little of that, right?
Posted by Steve