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Eddie Stern and Deepak Chopra unite for One World Yogis

November 29, 2014

If you can’t get to New York City — and we all can’t — there is a new way you can connect and take classes from Eddie Stern.

It’s called One World Yogis, which Eddie is involved in with Deepak Chopra. This is from a HuffPo piece about the endeavor:

Eddie also just launched a series of yoga sessions with Deepak Chopra titled ONE WORLD YOGIS with original music produced by his friend and well-known music producer MOBY. Recent advances in the field of neuroplasticity and epigenetics have revealed that the regular practice of yoga can literally change the structure of the brain to optimize physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. These ancient practices upgrade genes that involve self-regulation and healing, and have been shown to delay aging and inflammation. In ONE WORLD YOGIS Deepak and Eddie merge the wisdom of yoga with the findings of Western research to create a rich and subtle experience for the whole being.

Check around there and you can see how to sign up. There also is a whole One World YouTube channel with tons of short video interviews.

Posted by Steve

Yatra news: Study with Sharath in the Himalayas

November 28, 2014

Big news from Namarupa. Sharath will be involved with a section of next year’s Yatra — appropriately enough the Ashtanga Yoga Sadhana part.

All the details are at Namarupa’s site. You really need to check it out. This time, Robert Moses — co-founder of Namarupa with Eddie Stern and twice our Yatra leader — has arranged a variety of possible yatras to fit, I suppose, both time and budget.

Here’s a little description, but the real bounty is at the online brochure:

Yatra, Tirtha and Darshan The ancient Puranas of India are huge volumes containing stories of the makings of the universe as well as thrilling tales of innumerable gods and goddesses. The geography of the Puranas coincides with that of the entire Indian sub-continent. Countless places mentioned in these ancient texts are alive today and are important places of yatra (pilgrimage). Within their sanctums, worship of the resident gods and goddesses is performed daily in a tradition that reaches back to antiquity and beyond. These places where the sacred stories unfolded are sometimes called tirthas. A tirtha is a place of crossing over and most literally refers to fords of rivers. It also refers to a spiritual crossing place, where the divine is more easily intuited, recognized or experienced. Daily, vast numbers of yatris (pilgrims) visit the sacred places to have darshan of their favorite gods or goddesses. Darshan is both seeing and being seen by the deity. It is a source of spiritual renewal. Namarupa Yatras are centered around the experience of darshan.

As Robert would expect of me, I have to note that Radha-kunda Das will be among the leaders. He’s my favorite thing in and about India.

According to the brochure, Sharath will be teaching two Led Primary classes each day as well as leading discussions. This part of the Yatra — the full one runs Oct. 1 to 30 — runs from the 12th to 17th. But, as I noted, there are multiple — seven in all — variations you can consider.

Posted by Steve

For Thanksgiving, Tim Miller on gratitude

November 27, 2014

A good piece to read today, if you haven’t already gotten to it. Tim Miller’s blog post for the week:

The expression of Gratitude is the first step to creating a Spiritual Life.  Webster’s Dictionary defines Gratitude as:  “An appreciative awareness and thankfulness, as for kindness shown or something received.”  Gratitude is the appreciative response to the recognition that we live in a Universe that is both created and sustained through Divine Light and Love, and that we are receptacles for these Divine Gifts as long as we have Faith in and are receptive to Divine Influence.  When we express Gratitude we are expressing our Faith in the inherent Goodness and Perfection of the Universal Intelligence, and by so doing we open ourselves to the certainty of Divine Grace entering our lives.  When we practice Ashtanga Yoga, we always begin with a prayer of thanks to all the Gurus who have come before us to show us the way—“Vande gurunam charanara vinde”.  It is this attitude of Gratitude that allows us to approach the practice with humility and receptivity, and ensures that our practice will be beneficial to both one’s self and others.

Read more at the link, and have a happy and fulfilling Thanksgiving (even those who might be reading from places that don’t celebrate it).

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga Relativity

November 26, 2014

E=MC2. The mass of our practice is definitely relative to its energy. (Yes, I know that scientific metaphor falls apart somewhere—probably in that we don’t really practice at the speed of light).

I’m thinking long-term now. I’m thinking “lifelong practice,” a phrase oft repeated, but rarely considered.

It’s certainly true that Steve and I have some excellent role models for a lifelong practice: Tim Miller, Diana Christinson, Nancy Gilgoff, Eddie Stern.

But let’s face it. These are yoga teachers. Shala owners. Professionals.

I’m an amateur. A dabbler. A dilettante compared to them.

What’s it going to take for an amateur to fully commit to a lifelong practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga? I mean, really commit.

One of the most difficult decisions we made, I think, was to start a home practice. We did the math, and we figured long-term, the amount we were paying our local shala would buy us an extra room in our house, one dedicated just to practice. The thinking was that we’d be much more likely to keep practicing—long term—if it were logistically easier to do so. So we made that happen.

Even that level—just making space—is tough. I have a few friends that you might call private clients. They have jobs like writer, real estate agent, general contractor. It wouldn’t matter how many rooms they had dedicated to yoga. They just don’t have enough time. And that’s not even factoring in kids. Of which, they have quite a few.

I run a writing course at UC Irvine. I have students and staff who demand my time and attention.

I’m starting to stress myself out just thinking about it.

Which brings me to my point. I think when we begin the practice of Ashtanga, we catch on pretty quickly that “improvement” is directly related to the amount of time we devote to the practice. And in the beginning, there’s no doubt that’s very true. The day you finally commit to six days a week at a shala is the day your practice really takes off. And that can cause a huge amount of pressure on just about everything in our lives, this looming sense that we could make it all happen if we just put in more time and energy.

But I’m looking back down the years of my practice, and looking forward from where I now stand. I’ve come to realize that “commitment” does not equal (as in “the same as”) “time.”

Steve and I have been practicing at home somewhere around two years now. We’ve learned stuff. While we have nobody to adjust us other than each other, pacing has become the key to happiness. From that lesson, I think I’ve learned what “lifelong practice” means.

It means that there are some days when the series is a shining beacon of peace. A refuge. Sanctuary in an insane world.

There are other days when Ashtanga is a total pain in the ass. A chore. Insanity in your otherwise sane day.

And on every other day, it’s everything in between.

All these observations are floating around the internet lately (which has also revealed the somewhat short attention spans of readers who can’t make it to the last line of an essay), and nothing new to you, no doubt.

But I encourage you to see each practice as a moment (and as such, momentary), not a task–a continuum running through not against the other moments in your life. And to see that what happens now won’t be the same as tomorrow, and it will always be there tomorrow, as will you.

In other words: It’s all relative.

Posted by Bobbie

What are you thankful for this year?

November 25, 2014

We’ll get a little ahead of the curve and ask the question of the week: What are you thankful for this year? It can be Ashtanga-related, but doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t even have to be yoga-related, really. Although that probably would help.

One answer might be: Not getting caught up in online debates about others quitting or not quitting Ashtanga.

And in keeping with the theme, here’s a whole bushel of vegetarian recipes for Thursday. Plus a piece about the militant vegetarianism in Mumbai.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga in the evening

November 24, 2014

A bit more than a year ago, Bobbie wrote a post she titled, simply, Ashtanga P.M. A key takeaway:

In the evening, I am done with the day. I have nothing else to distract me or detain me. This is what I have come for, and all that remains. My joints are more open, my muscles less stiff, and whatever else I may have done that day—like drive, or sit for hours; or fretting over some of the day’s drama—I can now work out and release.

This, for me, is when the mind is most quiet, most calm, and the practice can come with my complete attention. The Sun now is on the other side of the Earth, and while I wait for it to return, in the morning, in the Spring, I practice.

This fall — since the time change, really — our schedules have colluded so that, for the first time since I’ve been practicing Ashtanga, I’m joining her for evening practices.

Typically, she’s partway through by the time I make it home from work, giving our duo practice room the tiniest of Mysore feels.

But I suppose not much else is “traditional” about it. Still, here’s what I’ve found over a month or so of evening practicing:

  • The central thing it, not surprisingly, the difference between practicing while facing the day vs. when the day’s winding down. In the excerpt above, Bobbie described it as a lack of distraction. My experience is that my practice, at least, is much more reflective. Dare I even say: meditative. The practice becomes part of the slowing down, of the letting the day go instead of the ramp up to what’s ahead. I’m able to reflect — when those reflections intrude — on what I’ve accomplished rather than worry about what’s to come. (I think reflection intrudes a lot less than worry.) It might be like the difference between the moment preparing for a difficult pose — kapo is a favorite to cite, right? — and the moment just after moving out of it. The evening Ashtanga practice seems to be more the latter than the former.
  • The approach can be quite different. There certainly is a great relief and even exhilaration with having practice done by 7 a.m. or so and knowing the rest of the day is for living. But the evening practice has nothing after it (beyond maybe fixing dinner) for which one needs to save reserves. If you want, and if you are able, you can bust out the big practice without worrying about falling asleep during that long, sure-to-be-boring meeting. (A little like the benefit and pleasure of a yoga retreat.)
  • As Bobbie wrote, the body, joints and muscles are certainly looser. And I’d describe, for myself, that the above reflective state means the mind is looser, too. It seems easier to find the tristana of the practice.
  • You do have to think about practice all day — what you’re eating and when, notably. But it’s really not too much different than being mindful of eating too late or too heavy if you will be on your mat by 6 a.m. But there is a matter of managing energy; I feel like I need to have a little peak as practice starts.
  • The tough thing is when the day really intrudes on practice. A late, unexpected meeting or call that pushes the end of the work day back 30 minutes or an hour can foul up the start of practice (see managing energy above). For me, though, there are enough mornings when I have to be heading to work by 7 or 7:30 a.m. that this probably all balances out — there are equal numbers of mornings and evenings that might only allow for sun salutes and the trio of finishing poses. Evening may even prove more conducive to getting practice in.
  • And, finally, probably the most important thing: Coffee. It’s easy to suck down a cup right after you wake and charge the body with prana. It’s harder to balance a surge of energy against the desire to, you know, get to sleep before midnight. So the coffee drinking is finished hours earlier, and I may be having to call on my own reserves. We may also need to explore the benefits of a nice glass of whiskey following savasana.

Those are a few thoughts, at least.

Posted by Steve

New: ‘Guruji’ — Tribute piece to Pattabhi Jois

November 23, 2014

Here’s something to check out, maybe after your practice tomorrow morning. (More on P.M. Ashtanga coming soon.)

It’s a new upload, apparently from a concert this past week. You can upload the song and other pieces via links at the YouTube site.

Posted by Steve