Nice review of a weekend workshop with Tim Miller

Nice online look at a recent — late September — weekend workshop Tim Miller led in Chicago. You can find it, coincidentally enough, at Yoga Chicago. A few excerpts:

Tim gave us some perspective: “I’ve been teaching for more than 35 years and I have learned a few things. Time gives you a different perspective about what’s really important. When people are young and first getting into yoga they are physically ambitious, but I have never found a direct correlation between a person’s ability to do asana and how enlightened he is. In America, we tend to be on the superficial side, but yoga is much more than the physical practice; it helps us explore the first layer of the self. Asana is a tool to go deeper, but it’s just the beginning of the journey.”

The themes of journey and balance continued through the weekend, especially in Sunday’s morning session, Liberating the Shakti: An Introduction to Nadi Shodana, the second, or intermediate, series of Ashtanga yoga. During the three hours we spent on the mat, we learned about the pranamaya kosha (energy sheath), the chakras (energy centers along the spine), and the kundalini shakti (spiritual power, or creative force) and worked our way through the first half of the second series.

At the start, he made the practice feel accessible to everyone in the room—even if some of the poses wouldn’t be—when he acknowledged that for some of us this would be a look back and for others a look forward. I was in the look forward category.

And then there’s this sum-up:

Working so intensely on breath had a different effect than the morning asana practice. When Brian and I chatted afterward, we both said we felt really invigorated after the asana practice. I was incredibly relaxed—so relaxed that I went home and slept for 12 hours. I am not sure whether that was part of Tim’s intention, but to me, it was an indication of just how hard pranamaya really is.

Students came to yogaview from all over the Midwest to attend Tim’s workshop, and I can understand why. The weekend was the perfect balance between movement and stillness, and more than being an introduction to Ashtanga (or a chance to go deeper), this workshop was an introduction to a teacher who shares his wealth of knowledge with humility and joy.

Practicing with Tim can knock you out for a while, no doubt.

Posted by Steve

Learn the Ashtanga pranayama sequence

David Garrigues a week ago uploaded a series of videos teaching the Ashtanga pranayama sequence.

The whole series on Vimeo is right here. Cost: $35, and it runs 132 minutes — broken into parts. Here’s DG’s description:

This video series is dedicated to Sri K Pattabhi Jois, who was a Vayu Siddha, a master of breathing, and from whom I learned this sequence. Study the material offered on these discs and your breathing can become a well spring, a main source for tapping the tremendous life force within you. Like Hanuman, the loyal servant of Ram, your breath can become a formidable ally, a most devoted friend that guides you further into the beloved practice of Ashtanga Yoga. Through practice may you attain Vayu Siddhi, perfection of breathing and go inwards to Self.

THIS VIDEO SERIES INCLUDES TWO LEARNING TRACKS:

TRACK 1 consists of the first 6 videos and introduces you to the Ashtanga Pranayama sequence by giving you step by step, detailed instruction in each of the five pranayama’s that make up the sequence. You can study each pranayama separately or all at the same time with the Full Instructed Pranayama Sequence.

TRACK 2 consists of the last 6 videos where you can practice each pranayama separately without instruction or you can practice the entire thirty plus minute Ashtanga Pranayama Sequence without instruction.

Depending on your perspective, this could be controversial, I suppose. Some teachers hold off on pranayama for more advanced students. (There are requirements for being part of the pranayama classes during Sharath’s visit to the U.S. in September, for instance.) While leading us through basic pranayama on our Yatra (while at about 12,000 feet, camping in the Himalayas), Robert Moses recounted a story or two of people doing too much pranayama and having some strong reactions. I think the technical term is, “They sort of went crazy for a while.”

Of course, there are Third Series videos available out there — again, your reaction probably will vary. DG does include this description of his teaching philosophy:

As an Ashtanga Ambassador he bases his teachings on the idea that ‘Anyone can take practice.’ said by Sri K Pattabhi Jois. He is dedicated to sharing the beauty and soul of Ashtanga Yoga with everyone.

David’s mission is to be part of an ever wider circle of people who are dedicated to exploring the living, contemporary, lineage of Ashtanga Yoga. He wants to join with enthusiastic people who are open and committed to learning and applying the teachings in ways that promote physical, psychological, and spiritual growth in themselves and others.

You can get a pretty clear sense of his perspective there. Still, perhaps I’ll make sure to add this caveat: Be careful. This type of controlled, intense breathing can stir up your physical and subtle bodies, alike. If done properly and under the guidance of a teacher, though, it can be a very important piece to your sadhana. (The videos may have similar warnings.)

Posted by Steve

David Garrigues delves into Ashtanga’s pranayama sequence, and so can you

I promised to spread the David Garrigues news, and so here it is:

He’s releasing a DVD/book set about breathing and Ashtanga’s pranayama sequence. It sounds good. You can find info both at his blog and at a dedicated website (where you can order it):

Championing your breath is the key to truly enjoying the fruits of your yoga practice, because it is through caring about your breathing that your tapas, your stubborn dedication and your pointed, daily toil will yield its important inner rewards. Through working with your breath in using this dvd/book set I hope you will turn to and trust your breath during times of celebration and challenge, that you will cultivate healthy breathing habits, and view breath as the key to unlocking the secrets to all yoga techniques.

In presenting this material I aim to transform your ideas about the role that your breath can play in your daily practice, to see how the consciousness that you develop through breath awareness leads you into the greater spiritual context of your life. I aim to set your imagination ablaze on the vital subject of breathing as your principal source of Self knowledge.

There are two DVDs and a book. The first DVD explores breathing practices to help with asana practice; the second “introduces you to the Ashtanga Pranayama sequence by giving you step by step, detailed instruction in each of the five pranayama’s that make up the sequence.”

I want to make sure to quote from the dedication on the site:

This DVD/book set is dedicated to Sri K Pattabhi Jois, who was a Vayu Siddha, a master of breathing, and from whom I learned this sequence. Study the material offered on these discs and your breathing can become a well spring, a main source for tapping the tremendous life force within you. Like Hanuman, the loyal servant of Ram, your breath can become a formidable ally, a most devoted friend that guides you further into the beloved practice of Ashtanga Yoga. Through practice may you attain Vayu Siddhi, perfection of breathing and go inwards to Self.

Jaya Satguru Natha Maharaja Ki Jai!
Bolo Sri K Pattabhi Jois Guruji Ki Jai!

For those who were at the Confluence and heard David Swenson tell the story, or just have heard the tale of Hanuman and the ants, let me say: I think my breathing is more of the ant variety. But it could be worse. It could be like a grasshopper.

Finally, the video DG has posted:

Posted by Steve

The Timji Report–Lessons from the Mysore Room

Hanuman's not in the logo for nothing!

I’m on my break between terms, so I took advantage of the extra time to drive south and roll out my rug at Tim Miller’s Ashtanga Yoga Center for morning Mysore practice.

Tim’s there early for his pranayama circle, but after bobbing and weaving on the 105 to the 405 to the 5, I slid quietly through the doors a little after 7 a.m. I was stiff, sore and hungry, but I forgot it all as soon as the sun came through the windows of the shala and I was greeted with a big smile and a hug from Timji.

As always, no Mysore practice happens at Tim’s without learning. I thought I’d pass a few things along.

–Pranayama in a full Mysore practice room is sustaining and musical. Since Tim teaches pranayama, his students are dedicated to their ujjayi. It’s like an Ashtanga fugue in there.

–I know nothing about utthita trikonasana, parvrtta trikonasana, and utthita parsvatanasana. I’ve been doing them for fifteen years, and they’re still a mystery to me. Tim puts a hand here, a foot there, opens up my stance, and the mystery begins all over again.

–The range of noises you can make when adjusting should not be limited to actual words. This is from my perspective as a teacher, of course; but I was once again amused, humbled, and encouraged by Tim’s little expressions. They’re hard to describe: hisses, chuckles, snorts, grunts, humphs, what have you. All very quiet, all just for you at this moment. They’re awesome.

–The lesson I always learn when I practice with Tim: There’s what you can do, and what you thought you could do, and these are not the same thing. I’ve had trouble binding in marichyasana D on the left since the knee surgery. Tim showed me that’s not true anymore.

–There is an astounding amount of precision among the students as Tim moves (constantly) around the room. Precision, but also practice. As I walked out (after another hug, of course), it suddenly struck me that we don’t call what we do in a Mysore room a “class.” We call it “practice,” every day, embracing the incomplete self.

Thanks to Tim, and to his wonderful assistant  Atsuro Chiba.

Posted by Bobbie

Breathing in paradise, er… with Paradise

A few years ago, Bobbie and I had the opportunity to practice with Danny Paradise, another one of the very first generation Western Ashtanga practitioners.

Danny’s certainly not your traditional, by-the-book Ashtangi. (I think of him as being Hawaiian-based, so unless I’m wrong, he isn’t listed at the Mysore website as one of its authorized/certified teachers.) He’s studied many styles and may be most known for bringing in Egyptian yoga to his teaching.

At least, that’s how I think of him. Well, partially — I also think of him as the guy who really made pranayama “click” for me. (Tim Miller’s made it stick, I think, although I don’t get enough change to practice it. And David Swenson is terrific as a pranayama teacher, too.)

And when that “click” happened, I was still early in my Ashtanga practice. This was months before I first went to Mt. Shasta with Tim, for instance. And just a couple of months after taking a day’s workshop with Swenson.

So here, for those of you with half an hour to kill, is some great footage of Danny teaching pranayama. I highly recommend attending at least one workshop with him. He’s an open person with a big heart and, I think, he represents one of the handful (or so…?) lines of Ashtanga / Yoga in the West.

Note: We heard from Danny; apparently the video we’d seen was supposed to be private to whomever filmed it. I’ll pulling it down; not sure if it still is floating around as a “public” Youtube vid. Thanks for understanding!

Posted by Steve