Pre-registration for the 2016 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence opens

If you’re on the email list, you should have received notification sometime Tuesday morning that pre-registration for the 2016 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence is open.

We’ll still reinforce the details:

  • The Confluence is back at the Catamaran, where the first two took place
  • Dates? March 3-6
  • Cost? Pre-reg is $525 (must also stay at the Catamaran; room rate is $179/night)
  • General registration opens Oct. 1 and is $575
  • Which teachers are going to be there? Manju Jois, Dena Kingberg, Richard Freeman, David Swenson, Tim Miller and Eddie Stern

The link to register is here.

Also, for those interested, here’s an interview at ESPN with the U.S. national asana champion.

Posted by Steve

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

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

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

Ashtanga Yoga Confluence announces 2016 dates and expanded teacher lineup

I was midway through posting about yoga and veterans — already a day late — and an email lands in my inbox from the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, announcing its 2016 dates and the teacher lineup.

As a mural in Varanasi said: Boom Shiva.

Update (as noted in the first comment) — It does say 2016 on the email and online, and it is consistent throughout (including 2016 cancellation dates). But it looks like there are a few different dates — March 3 is a Thursday in 2016, but the schedule notes it starting on May 3, which isn’t a Thursday either day. So… I think it is two years off. We’ll watch for that.

Update Two: Yes, 2016.

Here you go: March 3-6, 2016, and it will back at the Catamaran where the first two Confluences …. confluded?

The lineup of teachers expands, as well. There will be six “Ashtanga yoga master teachers”: Richard Freeman, Manju Jois, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern and David Swenson.

If I’m remembering correctly (and yes, showing some serious laziness), that’s the same lineup as last year with Eddie added back in.

The email promises that registration is coming in “Fall 2015.”

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga Yoga Confluence pictures, Day II

Once again, a Facebook album from Tom Rosenthal. (Apologies for those who can’t view it, but so far, these are what are online.)

Link is here.

Included are Tim Miller’s patented two-person backbend adjustment and, along with the five master teachers, several more, including Leigha Nicole and Noah Williams.

Posted by Steve

Passing on the parampara

For those of you traveling down to San Diego today for the third Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, here are Tim Miller’s thoughts to speed you along your way (but don’t read them while you’re driving):

Friday through Sunday will feature Mysore and guided classes, workshops, lectures, kirtan, and more with some of the best ashtanga yoga teachers in the world—Manju Jois, David Swenson, Richard Freeman, Dena Kingsberg, Dominic Corigliano, John Smith, Noah Williams, Mary Taylor, Shelley Washington, Jack Wiseman, Leigha Nicole, Diana Christinson, and myself. Some of the out of town participants have already arrived and showed up for class this morning at the Ashtanga Yoga Center. My dear friend, Johnny Smith, a bosom companion on many trips to Mysore, was in class at 7am.

[snip]

Pattabhi Jois, our beloved Guruji, transmitted a bit of his essence into the soul of all the teachers at the confluence. The teachers will, in turn, transmit some of that essence to the soul of all the students present. Many of the students participating in the Confluence are teachers as well, and will be passing on what they learn to their students. This is known as the parampara, the transmission of a lineage from teacher to student. In the ashtanga community we are fortunate to be a part of a lineage that includes two of the most brilliant yogis of the 20th century—T. Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois. All of the teachers at the confluence are acutely aware that they have been given something very precious and are blessed with the great privilege and joy of sharing it with others.

Check out all Tim’s thoughts — including more specifics about the auspicious sky above — at the link above. And: Enjoy the weekend.

Posted by Steve

On ‘peaking’ in Ashtanga

One of the panels at the 2013 Confluence was on “Ashtanga Yoga and Daily Life ” This was right up my alley. I’m 48. I’ve just learned Second Series. I wanted to know what to expect.

Much of the panel discussion was on the shifting emphases as we grow older in the practice. Tim Miller has said he’s no longer interested in the “flourishes” that mark a younger person’s practice–he just wants to do it. David Swenson talks about efficiency over expenditure. Eddie Stern said that some days, “practice” consists of three As, three Bs, and padmasana. Dena Kingsberg discussed the effects of having children and menopause. Then, a member of the audience asked about “peaking”; that is to say, when were you at your pinnacle, in terms of Ashtanga asana practice?

It seems rude to reproduce here everyone’s age when that happened. It’s enough to say they were all peaking at about at the age I started Ashtanga–with one exception.

Now, you might think I’d find that discouraging. Instead, it got me thinking about why they even had an answer (again, there was one exception on the panel). They were young, able-bodied, and athletic when they met Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Dena called that time, “the time of champions.” There were stories of being totally broken down, unable to move they were so sore, and then of going back the next day to get put back together. At some point in fourth or fifth series, they “peaked” and could no longer “collect asanas.” To be fair, the teachers clearly thought this was a pretty superficial question. But at the same time they had ready answers: “I was 30,” etc.

I listened to this, and pondered over my brand new second series practice. Almost every day I roll out my mat, something new, small, and awesome happens. I have no designs on Third, but hey, I didn’t on Second when I started First.

I think two things have made an enormous difference in my attitude toward the practice: I was older when I started, and I wasn’t hale and healthy. I was never athletic when I was younger. I was a sickly kid, and a sickly adult. I’d had tuberculosis, asthma, and pneumonia fifteen times (that I counted). My spine is disintegrating, as are my joints, and I had arthritis when I was 25. The day I touched my toes in a forward fold, I was pretty sure I’d peaked. Turned out I was wrong.

Everyone on the panel felt they’d peaked, except Nancy. Although she started  earlier than I did, she was very weak and sick. She still suffers, but said on the panel that she feels like she gets stronger all the time. (See Steve’s post for more detail on Nancy’s history.)

This made me think about how the idea of “peaking” might effect the teaching of Ashtanga, when so many of us come to our teachers

One possible peak. Mt. Kailash: Siva! via Wikipedia
One possible peak. Mt. Kailash: Siva! via Wikipedia

weak, sick, and broken. It also made me think about my own job teaching–writing, that is. Part of my goal at the University is to foster excellent teaching–to develop teachers, many of whom have been teaching for years. What if we thought of other learned skills in this way?

To be able to do something might not be as important as the context we put that ability in; the greater context of my weakness and illness has made my practice feel…well, peakless (“topless”? “ceilingless”?). The limitations I had in my daily life give it a kind of openness and limitlessness that is precious to me, so I’ve stopped thinking about peaking.

But back to writing. I tell my students that writing is an unpleasant and ugly process that involves constantly coming up against your mental limitations and pushing beyond them. This involves feeling of inadequacy and awkwardness that only practice can work out–practice in the form of constant revision. I tell them that they should feel as if the thing they want to say is just beyond their ability to say it. And that if they are lucky, it will feel that way for the rest of their lives. The minute they get too comfortable…well, that’s the death of writing. Of learning, and the growth of intelligence.

It seems to me that my Ashtanga practice is the same, that maybe because I always felt that this practice is beyond me, I feel amazed that I’m doing any of it, and that it won’t matter where I am in it, that I can still feel that way about suryanamaskara A. And if I’m lucky, I’ll feel that way for the rest of my life.

Posted by Bobbie

My new mantra: “Wheeeee!”

You walk into the room, and the heavy hitters are on deck. There are giant images of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois: Guruji is watching. On either side, murtis: Ganesha and Hanumanji, decked in flowers, with prasad at their feet.

At the front of the room, Eddie Stern calls samastithi. He is flanked by Nancy Gilgoff, Tim Miller, Dena Kingsberg, and an impressive collection of authorized and certified teachers that are also their students (and in some cases, spouses). The opening mantra begins.

Steve and I are up front. My brand new second series practice will be on display. I have butterflies. I know Steve does, too. The awesome sound of 150 or so Ashtangis thanking the lineage resonates in the room, vibrates in the walls and in my chest. We begin.

I was tense and careful through the opening sun salutes, the first standing poses, thinking about this or that pose to come. Then, something happened. I’m not quite sure what it was, but I stopped for a moment and listened to the room. Lots of breath. But also, I heard Tim’s laugh. It occurred to me how silly it was to be nervous. I mean, it’s just asana. I’ll never be here again, I thought. Why not have fun?

You may know, Dear Reader, that I’m a classroom teacher. I teach writing to college freshmen. I was at one time what you might call a serious academic–tenure track, publishing, conference papers on British Romanticism, etc. etc. I quit that gig because it wasn’t fun. It was stressing me out. I teach writing to freshmen now because it’s fun, and I’ve said for a long time now the minute it stops being fun, I’ll do something else. So I go out of my way to keep it fun.

Let there be light!
Let there be light!

The thought flashed through my head, Why should this moment be any different? Nobody in the room cares about how perfect my trikonasana is. Perfection isn’t the point of the practice (“They call it ‘practice,’ not ‘perfect,’ Shayna used to say). I’ll never be here again, I repeated in my head. Have fun. So I did.

I lighted up. I breathed. I practiced. Leigha Nicole gave me an awesome eka pada adjustment while saying, “Look at you: business in the front, party in the back!” Tim wandered by and cracked a joke, and we laughed together. I fell out of pincha mayurasana and Dominic came to my rescue, saying, “Hey, no shame, no blame!” Eddie had Steve laughing and maybe crying a little in backbends. David Swenson had wandered in (even after teaching his led class) and flashed me a big smile as he dropped me back. It was a non-stop party in my head.

My big take-away from the 2013 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence: Wheeee!…Again!

Posted by Bobbie

Some ruminations on a “confluence”

We’re gearing up for this weekend here in The Confluence Countdown house: wrapping up loose ends at work, taking the pet parrot in for boarding, gassing up the car, packing.

Because this is our Second Annual Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, and thus an “anniversary,” I’m looking back. It’s hard for me to believe the First Annual Confluence was only a year ago.

I’m thinking mainly about the concept of “confluence,” and how that word has deepened in meaning for me, and how I’m bringing that meaning with me down to San Diego this weekend.

The Sanskrit word for “confluence” is sangama. In English, a “confluence” is simply the place where two or more rivers meet. While this is also part of the meaning of the word in Sanskrit, both the denotation and the connotation of the word are more complex. If one of those rivers is the Saraswati River, for instance, it’s invisible to the naked eye. And all confluences are considered tirthas, sacred places. This is true at the Trivini Sangam, the meeting place of the Yamuna, Ganga, and Saraswati in Allahabad in India. Immersion in the water of a confluence is, as in the case of many cultures, a sacred act, both a literal and a figurative washing away of sins (see the recently completed Kumba Mela for more on this).

So by calling this the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, it organizers are certainly denoting the meeting of Ashtanga’s Senior Western Teachers: Nancy Gilgoff, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern, David Swenson. As well as the meeting of us, their students: Certainly we’ll be seeing some old friends, and making new ones. The waters will join, and combine.

But what about the mystic Saraswati? What about the meetings that run deeper than the eye? My own sense of the practice has totally changed, and I suppose it began a year ago. When I returned to Los Angeles last year, my friend Lila Russo asked me what was my favorite moment, and I didn’t hesitate: “The Ganesha puja,” I said, and surprised the both of us. “Really?” she asked. “Yes,” I said.

Even as my body gets stronger, as I get healthier, feel physically better and more confident in my asana practice, I’ve become more

A different confluence. Photo by Michelle Haymoz
A different confluence. Photo by Michelle Haymoz

interested in the other seven limbs. My study with Tim Miller last summer, our journey to India this past winter, my talks with Robert Moses (our pilgrimage leader) has my asana attention span waning.

As I ponder my expectations for this weekend, I find myself thinking about a woman I met outside the Tirumala Venkateswara temple while I was waiting for Steve to emerge from his tonsure experience. She spoke no English, but understood I was waiting–as was she.We had both been through the long temple line and had darshan with Lord Venkatesh.  She introduced me to her son and daughter. And then she asked if Michelle would take our picture.

So we stood next to each other and posed, laughing together. Michelle came over and showed her the photo on the camera’s screen and she clapped her hands together in pleasure. Understand she wouldn’t have a copy of the photo, or ever see me again. That moment was enough for her, just to see it briefly, to clasp my hand. That was a confluence. I suppose it’s my hope that I can bring that sort of wisdom with me as I once again meet these great teachers, old friends and new.

Posted by Bobbie