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‘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

How are you celebrating Pattbhi Jois’ 100th birthday?

July 28, 2015

This week marks the various anniversaries of Pattabhi Jois’ 100th birthday. I mean various because if you want to count it Western style, his 100th was on Sunday, the 26th. If you’re going more Vedic, it comes on Thursday or Friday, with the Full Moon. (Most but not everyone is putting Guru Purnima, this month’s full moon when Guruji was born, on Friday, it seems. You know how that moon is fickle.)

We noted that the Yoga Workshop is holding an event Friday to celebrate. But the question is:

How are you celebrating the auspicious day? (Or how did you?)

Posted by Steve

Blame the U.S. for reinventing ‘namaste’

July 27, 2015
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It feels like there is a little mini focus on yoga as cultural appropriation going on lately. The latest sign is a piece from Sunday from NPR:

If you take a yoga class in the U.S., the teacher will most likely say “namaste” at the end of the practice. It’s a Sanskrit phrase that means “I bow to you.” You place hands together at the heart, close your eyes and bow.

That’s not the namaste I know.

[snip]

In the past few years, namaste has reinvented itself. And the U.S. gets a lot of the credit (or blame). After moving to the United States, I went to a yoga class and heard the teacher say namaste. She had her hands joined in front of her, elbows sticking out. Her namaste sounded different than the one I knew. I say, “num-us-teh” vs. the Americanized “nahm-ahs-tay.”

After the class, I started paying attention to what Americans mean by namaste. I got the feeling that they didn’t think of it just as a greeting, but it had a spiritual connotation — a Hindu mantra, a divine chant, a yoga salutation. Using namaste in India never made me feel spiritual in any way. Even in the yoga classes I took in India, the teachers never uttered a namaste.

I suppose someone might argue that the American “nahm-ahs-tay” has a deeper, richer meaning, if you agree with the assessment of the writer, Deepak Singh. Or it is another example of the West squeezing something into its own definition and for its own purpose.

Maybe that’s good, maybe it isn’t.

It’s an aspect of yoga practice that I struggle the most with — well, second to asana. OK, third to asana and quieting my mind. I’m uncomfortable with taking on the trappings of something that isn’t really “mine,” even if someone wants to argue that yoga’s for everyone. And I’ve taken those trappings on, including in some of India’s most holy places. Perhaps it is an uncomfortable fit. At best, I suppose, it is a pull of opposites for me, which I’m more or less OK balancing, as I do much or most of my yoga practice and mostly failed attempts to better myself this go around.

My experience has been there’s a lack of understanding among Western yoga practitioners (serious or less so) of how these trappings came to be part of yoga in the West — and I think that’s the basic point of Singh’s piece.

Posted by Steve

Yoga Journal calls it: Pattabhi Jois among ‘master influencers’

July 26, 2015

When we posted the interview last week in Yoga Journal with Maty Ezraty, we didn’t mention it was part of the magazine’s 40th anniversary.

And that one’s official. Yoga may be 5,000 years or old 500 or 100, but we know for sure that YJ is 40.

As part of its celebration of its hitting the big 4-0, it has posted a list of 14 pioneers of “Western Yoga,” people without whom our practice today “wouldn’t exist.” And Pattabhi Jois, no surprise, is among them:

Krishna Pattabhi Jois

(1915–2009)

Also a student of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, Jois visited the United States in 1975 and set off a wildfire of Ashtanga Yoga. After he was featured in 1967’s Yoga Self-Taught, Westerners flocked to his Ashtanga Yoga Institute in India.

Also on the list: Iyengar, Swami Visnhudevananda (guru to Robert Moses at Namarupa) and Thoreau.

Posted by Steve

This person read 50 studies on yoga so you don’t have to

July 24, 2015
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We fairly consistently cover the cross section of yoga and science because we figure both sides — if you want to set them as counter to each other — can benefit from the strengths of the other. Yoga that takes scientific findings into consideration isn’t going to be worse; science can perhaps learn that there is more than meets the eye.

Apparently we aren’t along in our thinking. This reporter at Vox delved into 50 studies to satisfy her curiosity:

I wanted a more objective view on the health effects of yoga, so I turned to science, reading more than 50 studies and review articles and talking to seven of the world’s leading yoga researchers. Almost immediately, I was struck by how weak the research on yoga is. Most studies were small and badly designed or plagued by self-selection bias. Making matters worse, there are so many varying styles of yoga that it’s tough to say how meaningful evidence about one style is for others.

Still, what I learned is that there are a few things we can say about yoga, based on the available research. Yoga probably won’t hurt you, despite what haters claim, and it appears to be just as good for your health as other similar forms of exercise.

Yes, the New York Times article you recall gets mentioned. You’ll be happy with her conclusion: “But that piece was largely based on cherry-picked anecdotes, exaggerating these horrible cases to suggest they were representative of the broader yoga experience when they simply aren’t.”

You may be at times frustrated, though:

4) Does yoga have long-term health benefits?

Possibly. To be clear, there’s currently no direct evidence on yoga’s long-term benefits. Researchers simply haven’t tracked yogis over a span of 20 years or more and followed up to see whether they get diseases at a lower rate than non-yogis.

We now will await the report on 50 studies about coffee’s benefit.

(And speaking of a beverage, you saw the Lululemon beer story?)

Posted by Steve