It’s 4 a.m., so why not the Hanuman Chalisa?

A little video preview for Krishna Das’ upcoming kirtan album, Kirtan Wallah. Available, you won’t be surprised to know, at his website.

A little about it: “This is a preview of the live version of track 5 “4AM Hanuman Chalisa” on Krishna Das’s April 2014 album release “Kirtan Wallah”. This live kirtan was filmed on New York City in October 2013. ”

Posted by Steve

Get your Hanuman on

A few big celebrations of one of our two Ishta Devatas, Hanuman, are on the horizon.

The first is global, the second local.

A Tantric diagram of five-faced Hanuman. Via
A Tantric diagram of five-faced Hanuman. Via

On the global front, and with the support of both Krishna Das and Jai Uttal as well as Sounds True, Shri Anandi Ma has organized a worldwide chanting of 108 Hanuman Chalisas on April 20. Information, including how to register, is here. A bit of the detail:

Event Date: April 20, 2013
Time: 9am – 6pm Pacific
(USA West Coast, California
(webcast 8:30am til event end)

Broadcast live on the web from Antioch CA and other world locations via Skype.

Physical event with Shri Anandi Ma is in Antioch, California

The link above includes some wonderful quotes about Hanuman and the Chalisa.

The local event is down in San Diego, at Tim Miller’s Ashtanga Yoga Center. The Center and Sangita Yoga will be chanting the Chalisa 11 times from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 25. It’s free. The Center, for those who don’t have the address, is at 1905 Calle Barcelona in Carlsbad.

Posted by Steve


A Hanuman Chalisa to benefit Ashtanga teacher’s family

A group of musicians, many of them Ashtanga practitioners at the Ashtanga Yoga Center, have collaborated on a new version of the Hanuman Chalisa.

Rich, through Michelle Haymoz's lens.
Rich, through Michelle Haymoz’s lens.

Why is that news? you ask. Because proceeds from the iTunes sales will benefit the family of Rich McGowan, the longtime teacher at the shala who passed away over the weekend. Rich touched many, many lives, including Tim Miller’s as was clear from Tim’s remembrance this week.

If you read Tim’s post, you’ll know that Rich often accompanied Tim during sacred music performances at the shala, most notably the Tuesday performances of the Hanuman Chalisa.

And so a Chalisa to honor Rich and benefit his family is a natural and appropriate memorial.

Here’s how the Paul Abbott, one of the main artists involved, described it to us:

This version of the Hanuman Chalisa is a collaboration between many musicians, most of whom are also students at Tim Miller’s Ashtanga Yoga Center. It started with the organic seed of acoustic guitar and vocals, and ultimately grew into this electro-acoustic amalgamation with the help of all the musicians, a talented DJ and mix engineer.

Check it out, consider buying it. A link to it on iTunes is right here.

Remember, you can never have too many versions of the Chalisa. And this one just may end up being a favorite.

Posted by Steve

The mystery of an Ashtanga Improv class

I’m sure I’m stealing a little something from Bobbie when I bring up a quip made by Tim Miller during her teacher training. It was something to the effect of, “Yoga’s not about mastery, it’s about mystery.”

I was wrapped up in mystery this morning during Tim’s Improv class.

We’ll first cut to the chase, though: After, Tim told me that I hung in there pretty well. “You gave it the old college try.” A lot of the poses were out of my league, but I did think I made a decent approximation of an Ashtangi. (I do have some trouble with the granthis, though.)

Just down from where I’ve been surfing, after the tide and wind shut it down. World Famous Swami’s.

The mystery was how Tim could weave together a sequence from a half dozen or so separate requests for poses. There was Surya B+, which includes a five breath warrior; there was nauli, which we did in between the Surya A and B, which according to Tim was something they did right when he first started practicing. (That was new. Anyone else familiar with that?)

And there were poses I’ve never seen nor heard of before. (Maybe out there in the Third Series?) Headstand, then dropping your feet down to the ground so you’re in a back bend. Upside down frog, I think. But also more familiar poses like Pincha Mayurasana (which I managed to hold away from the wall for close to five breaths). And a few others from Second Series, too.

I was thinking of this all as a mystery because it seemed a little magic how well it all came together. This was no pre-planned Vinyasa class. I know one old trick magicians use is to have a plant in the crowd, a partner in crime, so to speak. (Or really a partner in crime if we’re talking street betting / magic.) But it’s a bit hard to imagine that all six or so of the people requesting poses were plants.

The poses, themselves, are mostly a lot more difficult, physically, in part because of the unfamiliarity. (If you’re among those who balk at Ashtanga because of the repetition of the same poses and worry your body will get used to those movements, maybe you should encourage your teacher to add an Improv in once a week.) But the pace, ultimately, is a bit slower — with Tim demonstrating at times — and there are fewer vinyasas, thank Hanuman.

Ah, Hanuman! I should note, too, that after the morning Pranayama, Tim led more singing, with a slightly smaller band this time (just percussion). And he pulled the harmonium back out after practice and we sang the Opening Chant once more. Another twist, which was soothing and grounding (a word I’m not terribly fond of, but it seems to fit here.) Hanuman made me think of it because, of course, we sang the Hanuman Chalisa.

Somewhat counter to the mystery, perhaps, is that this improv class shows what’s possible, what’s ahead. In some ways, it removes the mystery from poses you’ve never heard of or just heard of in passing, but without much meaning to them. Now I know what lies ahead. It isn’t terrifying, although it is still mostly beyond my ken.

As is Tim’s mastery over the mystery of yoga. He strung a sequence of poses together from thin air. Magic, no?

(I suppose one measure to how “hard” the improv class is is that I had three people, I think, say some version of “brave man” to me. Four if you count Tim.)

I was considering taking Tim’s Intro to Second tomorrow, but I think I’d rather get in one final Mysore — Sunday will be Led First — which means up and out early. I might try to sneak back into the Pranayama class, which Tim promised would be more difficult. We’ll see if discretion proves the better part of valor.

And final note: Did get into the water, before the surf shut down on the high tide. Four days in a row — that’s the first time since 1991. Tomorrow, we will make it five in a row.

Posted by Steve

Mt. Shasta: one guy’s awakening

In a few hours, our little car will be packed full of a week’s worth of yoga outfits; hiking clothes and gear; multiple yoga rugs and mats; and bottles of wine to share at dinner.

Then we’ll hit the road for the 600-mile trip to Mt. Shasta for our week with Tim Miller.

That means it’s been a year since we last made that trek. And while I’ll admit I’m as excited as can be about the coming week, it’s really because of that week a year ago.

Mt. Shasta. Doesn't do it justice--go see for yourself.

For me, Mt. Shasta in August of 2010 was when “it” all clicked.

At the risk of showing my hand too much as a “newbie,” I’m not hard pressed to trace my Ashtanga timeline. Dabbling with some classes (as well as some flow ones) for a few years as part of the overall exercise program, a couple of days of workshops with Tim (I’ll share my first Tim story at some point, I’m sure) during that … and then a slow, but inevitable move toward more and more yoga, less and less running and lifting weights.

In March of 2010, David Swenson came to Los Angeles for a two-day workshop. I just did the first day (I mean, second series, come on, get real!), and some of the seeds he tossed my way clearly sprouted. But I don’t think they ever were going to grow into mighty trees on their own.

Two months later, Danny Paradise swung through town. That definitely watered what David had left (especially the pranayama). And it was about that time that the local yoga studio began offering a morning Mysore program that I actually could get to, and not just one from 4 to 6 p.m.

Things are starting to click at this point.

And then Bobbie throws the eephus ball. “We should go to Shasta.”

We’d heard about Shasta from various friends and teachers, and Bobbie by now had gone through both Tim’s Tulum retreat and his two-week first series training. She was familiar with Tim. Me? Not so much.

But, as they say, the teacher comes when the student is ready. And everything was conspiring to make me ready.

So… I was game. What was the worst thing that could happen, right? (I actually had a pretty thorough list.)

Tim Miller
Tim at a recent teacher training.

This is where I think I have to step back and add some more details: I’m pretty pragmatic, pretty regular, pretty mainstream. In Tulum, Tim referred to me, nicely I’m sure, as the “archetypical stiff white guy.” You probably can hold that image with you for reference; just give me the benefit of the doubt that the worst 10%, maybe 20%, of what that means to you doesn’t apply to me. I don’t hunt or spend all my fall Sundays watching football, for instance.

But going off for a week to a yoga retreat? That doesn’t really fit my profile.

But off I went, anyway. Sometimes you just have to go, right?

Here’s the second spot where I need to step back. This is where it gets difficult to put into words the “yoga experience,” in part because I’m loathe to do so in the terminology you often see – how something manifested, descriptions of bliss, talk of chakras, you know what I mean. Again, this is just me – there’s nothing wrong with any of that (I kind of wish I could use those words, but those words still don’t come naturally for me). One of the things that attract me to Tim is how he is able to talk about yoga, yoga philosophy and his experiences in such plain, simple terms. Swenson is that way, too.

How then, do I describe the Shasta experience?

I’m still, honestly, working on that. (Another intent behind this blog; help put “it” all into concrete words.) Something, definitely, “moved,” though. I’m mean, I’m there singing the Hanuman Chalisa, I’m hanging on every word of the Mahabharata, I’m working my butt off on my mat. Something’s happening, right?

And we get to Saturday morning, the week’s end. It is time for what Tim calls – obviously jokingly – “the circle of tears.” Everyone gathers to sum up their week.

And it’s going fine. People are sliding what amounts to a “talking stick” across the floor and taking their turns. (That “talking stick?” A box of tissue, but totally unused.)

Then, to not give anything personal away about someone else, the person before me goes, and the story is incredible. Really moving. Scary even. (Those there last year will remember who I’m talking about, I’m sure.)

So, of course, I think this is the perfect time for me to talk.

That decision may prove that along with being an “archetypical stiff white guy,” I’m not too bright.

I am sure I don’t make it 20 seconds before I’m the one to start blubbering. Me. We’re a quarter, maybe a third of the way through the “circle of tears” and I’m the one to help it live up to its name.


The goodbyes and farewells stay more teary after that, although a lot of people hold it together. (Maybe the ones who keep coming back!)

After it was all over, I think I went up to Tim with every intent of apologizing. How could I do otherwise?

And what does he say? “Well, now we know that Steve has gooey insides.”

Again, I’ll repeat: Great.

So, how do I describe the Shasta experience? It was a constant, painless (maybe even delightful) tap, tap, tapping on my hard, outer shell, an attempt to break that away and let the “gooey insides” out.

These fissures on my shell only got significantly more apparent and wide and gapping during my week with Tim in Tulum. There’s a certain “coming apart” that easily can happen during practice. Maybe in surya namaskara. Perhaps in supta kurmasana. Almost for sure in urdhva dhanurasana.

How and why, I’m still not sure. I just know it is happening. And because I won’t have to go into work after I’m done practicing – or do anything other than nurture what happens on the mat, and hike, and drink wine with dinner and friends – there’s no telling what might happen in Shasta this time.

So for those with us, friends and people we are about to meet, my apologies in advance.

Posted by Steve