An unimaginable Ashtanga yoga pairing

I can’t resist this.

I know the joke embedded here may only reverberate with people in and around Los Angeles — where parking and how you got to whatever place you’re at are two endlessly fascinating topics — but I’m passing it on, anyway. In my Google alert, it popped up as “Ashtanga Yoga Parking“. How could I not click on that and find out what it meant.

I’m not sure that copying parts here will have the right impact, but I’ll try:

Ashtanga Yoga Parking

When:  Sept. 10, 2014, midnight
Where:  University of Illinois Chicago

I know yesterday I mentioned how Ashtanga might be making you more patient (and thus you might be missing your chance to secure a spot in Mysore), but I’m not sure the Buddha himself would be able to keep his composer when trying to find a parking spot in Los Angeles.

And have I mentioned our parking signs? Check them out.

And just so there’s a little sustenance to this post to go along with the empty calories, did you know there is an Ashtanga Ayurveda Expo in Kerala? It’s happening now, and this news came out from it:

The government will take measures to set up a national ayurveda institute in the state with the assistance of the Central Government, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said here on Wednesday. He was inaugurating ‘Ashtanga 2014’, an ayurveda expo organised at Government Ayurveda College here as part of its 125th anniversary celebrations.

The CM said that the demand for the formation of an AYUSH Department would be discussed in the Cabinet.

We’ll see if it gets anywhere.

Posted by Steve

What to do when an earthquake hits during Hanumanasana

The easiest thing is just to pretend the rolling waves in the earth are the rolling waves of the water between India and Lanka.

I was just settling into my (not terribly wonderful) Hanumanasana when the biggest earthquake to hit Los Angeles in years struck this morning, about 6:25 a.m. Here’s some details from the LA Times:

There have been six smaller aftershocks so far and more are expected.

Robert Graves, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told reporters that Monday’s earthquake was the most significant shake in this Southern California area since the magnitude 5.5 earthquake in Chino Hills in 2008.

Graves said there have been a couple of aftershocks already since the magnitude 4.4 earthquake struck six miles from Westwood at 6:25 a.m. Monday. Graves said there is always the small possibility that the 4.4 earthquake was only a prelude to an equal or stronger shake.

“Always the possibility that it’s a foreshock,” Graves said, adding that about 5% of earthquakes are followed by an equal or larger shake and that if it does happen, it would occur within the next several hours.

From my perspective, the quake felt like a bit of a roll (those waves), then a couple second jolt (Surasa?) and then some more rolling.

So, as I said, one rides it out. But if one’s home, and the quake is clearly bigger than normal, one also has to pause and check to make sure all is well in the home. (Someone want to chime in what to do if one’s in a crowded shala room?) But then get back to business.

It does make focusing one’s attention a little more difficult than normal.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga as a sign of hipster gentrification

This week, Politico magazine got away from its roots in Washington, D.C. and came out West to Los Angeles. The story on Skid Row is worth your time:

L.A.’s Skid Row was not the first of its kind but may well have become the worst, a 54-block island of despair west of the L.A. river, stretching north from 7th to 3rd streets and east from Main to Alameda, that has long had the distinction of hosting the largest concentration of homeless people in the country. For decades, it was an economic black hole in the middle of the city, where the helpless and hopeless washed up and would remain, very much out of sight and out of mind.

But what caught my eye for our blog was this description from an accompanying photo essay:

But Skid Row is fast changing, Ed Leibowitz writes, “going upscale” as hipsters and creative classers snap up loft apartments and sign up for Ashtanga yoga.

In this case, the usually “bad” gentrification had its upside: It forced political leaders to address the longstanding (and truly embarrassing) problem of LA’s Skid Row.

Posted by Steve

Mid-90s video of a Chuck Miller led Intermediate demo

This went up on the Facebook on Friday, I believe, and in case you haven’t seen it, we’ll pass it on:

Featured, obviously, is Chuck Miller. But there’s a fairly solid representation of Los Angeles-area Ashtangis, teachers or not. Those commenting on it have fixed it as occurring some time in 1997 at the Main Street Yoga Works in Santa Monica.

Is it fair to say that that is about when Ashtanga’s popularity — such as it is — began to climb? In my pretty wacked out mind, I think that Guruji’s trip to the U.S. in 2001 is a major turning point on the popularity boom. There’s a quieter ’70s and ’80s, certainly. At some point in the early ’90s it starting growing? (Along with yoga in general; I wonder how these two lines — I’ve got a graph in my head, along the lines of a tracking of a president or political party’s popularity — look in comparison.)

Anyone have a better sense of the “popularity curve”?

Posted by Steve

A look at the curriculum for a graduate course in yoga studies

A few weeks back we mentioned that Loyola Marymont University here in Los Angeles was celebrating the start of what it claims (although it may be a stretch) to be the first-ever graduate course in yoga studies.

Just what might that entail, you might have asked. It suddenly occurred to me, too. So here’s the rundown of the curriculum:

Summer 2013 or priorEach student must demonstrate successful completion of one of the following LMU Yoga Studies Extension Certificates: Yoga Philosophy, Vinyasa Krama Teacher Training, Yoga Therapy Rx, or Yoga and the Healing Sciences.

Another option will be allowed, upon review, to transfer six post-graduate credits from another institution in an area related to Yoga Studies.

Fall 2013:  Six semester hours plus introductory language study as needed.

YGST 610 Health Science and Yoga:  An overview of anatomy and physiology from the Western perspective and Ayurvedic theories of the subtle body, health and wholeness.

YGST 615 Foundations of Yoga Studies:  This course will investigate basic methodological approaches to the academic study of Yoga, with an emphasis on the place of Yoga within theological discourse.  It will include a bibliographic survey of primary and secondary sources and engagement with key select resources.  Sikh and Christian approaches to Yoga will be included.

Introduction to Sanskrit: This requirement may be completed before admission to the program or by enrollment via audit in ARCH 205: Beginning and Intermediate Sanskrit.  This course provides the student a foundational understanding of Sanskrit writing and grammar.

Spring 2014: Nine semester hours

YGST 630 Hatha Yoga Texts:  This course in movement and breathing (Āsana and Prāṇāyāma) will draw from classical texts such as the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā, the Gherhaṇḍa Saṃhitā, and the Yoga Śāstra with particular attention to practice applications. Requires demonstration of student teaching skills.

YGST 620 Yoga Philosophy: Text and Practice:  A close study and discussion of the Yoga Sūtra of Patanjali, The Bhagavad Gītā, select Upanishads, the Sāṃkhya Kārikā, the Yogavāsiṣṭha, and other classical literature.

YGST 626 Sanskrit: The Bhagavad Gītā: The Bhagavad Gītā sets forth the primary practices of philosophical and meditational Yoga, including the ways of Knowledge, Action, and Devotion.  We will read select passages, completing the study of various aspects of Sanskrit grammar.

Summer 2014:  Six semester hours 

YGST 641 Jaina Yoga: This course will study the Jain traditions of Yoga including Preksha meditation and its emphasis on nonviolence. This course will also immerse the students in Jainism through philosophy, ethics, cosmology, and art.  Travel to India is included. NOTE: This is generously subsidized by the International School for Jain Studies which will pay airfare, living expenses, and a stipend.

YGST 640 Buddhism and Yoga: Yoga’s relationship with Buddhism will be explored with an emphasis on Vipassana, Tibetan Buddhism and Zen.

Fall 2014: Nine semester hours

YGST 650 History of Modern Yoga: Yoga entered European and North American consciousness through the Romantic poets, the New England Transcendentalists, and the world lecture tour of Swami Vivekananda following the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 1893.  In the 20th century, Paramahamsa Yogananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Sivananda, Swami Krishnamacharya and many others introduced large groups of people to the principles and practices of Yoga. The course will explore this legacy.  Students will be required to demonstrate teaching ability from select traditions.

YGST 682 Comparative Mysticism:  In this course, Christian mysticism as found in the writings of Teresa of Avila and Meister Eckhart is compared and contrasted with the interior traditions of India and East Asia including Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Taoism and Yogācāra Buddhism.

YGST 625 Sanskrit: The Yoga Sūtra: In this course students will translate the sutras and commentary from Patanjali’s seminal text, the Yoga Sūtra.

Spring 2015: Six semester hours

YGST 695 Comprehensive Exam Seminar:  In this course students will be taught study tactics and will work together in preparation for two comprehensive exams.  The first question will demand a demonstration of the breadth of knowledge they have learned while the second question will focus more specifically on an area of particular interest to the student within Yoga Studies.

YGST 696 Writing and Research Seminar: This course will guide the students as they write their final thesis.  The course will aid them through the process by introducing research methods and writing techniques in order to complete a clear final thesis or research project.  Students will be able to help one another as different phases of their given projects will be shared in class.

Here are some things that jump out at me:

  • The Christian approach to yoga, given the Jois-related lawsuit. But this isn’t a major surprise because LMU is a Catholic school.
  • Subsidized trip to India!
  • The requirement that students demonstrate teaching ability from different yoga traditions. I wonder how much of the focus throughout is on yoga teachers — as opposed to people just wanting to study. (Given our Ashtanga focus, the distinction between teacher and student is of particular interest. How much does one inform the other? Does one have to teach for all to be coming?)
  • Seems to be a lack of mention of Bhakti yoga (kirtan, despite there being a ton of kirtan/Bhakti yoga in the ara) and the Tantric tradition.

Anything else jump out at you? Anything important missing? How does it compare to “teacher trainings” with which you are familiar?

Posted by Steve

A couple of chances to share in sacred music

This one’s a bit of a provincial post. Apologies. But both of these events seem worth some highlighting.

First up, tomorrow — Sunday — in celebration of the full moon, the Pancha Vayus will be performing at the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Encinitas/Carlsbad. The free event begins at 7 p.m. Directions for those who need them are right here.

Secondly, and with a little more lead time, Naren Schreiner of Sangita Yoga — who performed at this year’s Confluence — is giving a class in Los Angeles this coming Friday, June 28. It’s happening at InYoga Center. Here’s how Naren describes it:

Next Friday, June 28th, I’ve been invited to give a class at InYoga Center on “The Yoga of Music” to their students, followed by a Kirtan and Bhajan presentation at 8:30pm.

I will present some beautiful traditional Indian bhajans and also lead the group in sacred kirtan.  The Center has a large and beautiful space, and so we’ll create a very sacred environment there.  My friend Robin Sukhadia will play tabla.

If you’re out in that part of LA, give some thought to attending.

Posted by Steve


A Bukowski poem, on moving to LA

I don’t know too many writers — male mostly, I’ll admit — who didn’t go through their Bukowski phase. The question more tends to be whether, maybe how, they come out of it.

Charles Bukowski is, arguably, Los Angeles’ great poet. Ray Bradbury may have him beat as LA’s great writer, and any great number of great writers passed through here, perhaps doing a bit of work in Hollywood. But living, breathing, fighting in LA — that’s Bukowski.

His writing is raw, bare and stark. You can almost hear the clanking of the typewriter.

It’s writing that, for me at this point, doesn’t resonate so much. But yes, I went through the phase. I tend to take my poetry these days a bit more formalized and explicitly crafted. (Look through our old Wednesday poems to see what I mean.) The commonalities, if they ever were real, are largely gone, although the move to LA got me thinking again about his tales of race tracks and bars and alleys.

To learn a little more, here’s one site. And here’s a poem of his that feels relevant on an Ashtanga blog.



there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do


Posted by Steve