Richard Freeman video: On yoga, Emerson, Pattabhi Jois and practicing

Here’s a good watch for a day off tomorrow (or today, since you’re already practiced, right?):

To get you to watch:

Richard Freeman shares his thoughts on yoga – from his first awareness of early yogic philosophies written about by Thoreau and Emerson to his journey of being a student of Pattabhi Jois and then eventually becoming a teacher to others. Richard reminds us that yoga is all about waking up and seeing how the mind works – and that though we may fall off the path many times a day, if we practice enough, we see what is not conducive to our happiness or the happiness of others. Yoga allows for the natural push and pull of true awakening. It is about gradually falling in love with life, with immediate experience, with reality as it is. Yoga helps you realize that you make yourself happy by making other people happy and that you make yourself sad by focusing on making only yourself happy. Ultimately, Richard finds yoga to be a powerful tool that helps us be nicer to each other.

That about covers it, but I should also add that Richard is taking part in a fundraiser for the Nepal earthquake victims. It’s Tuesday. Info here.

Posted by Steve

Doing time, even if we’re innocent

Another must-read from Tim Miller this week:

Last week I received a letter from a man named Tony Egbuna Ford.  Tony wrote, “I am on Texas Death Row, and I have been doing Ashtanga Yoga for well over a year.  I am pretty proficient with the Primary series and have no problem doing any of the sequences with vinyasa.  However, I’m ‘stuck’ as I wish to find literature not only so that I can enrich myself with Ashtanga Yoga knowledge, but also so that I can begin to practice Intermediate series onto the Advanced.  Here on death row there is a ‘yoga movement’!  And now, since people have been seeing me do Ashtanga Yoga, especially the vinyasa sequences, people have been inspired to take up the Ashtanga Yoga path!”  I was blown away by Tony’s letter and mailed him a copy of Gregor Maehle’s book on the Intermediate Series the next day.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Tony was convicted of murder on the basis of these “eye witness” accounts and sentenced to the death penalty.  No physical evidence linked Tony to the crime and bullets consistent with those used in the crime were found at the Belton’s house.  Victor Belton’s clothing, which was seized at the time of his arrest, had numerous bloodstains on it, but was never tested.  According to the court reporter, during Tony’s trial the prosecuting attorney asked the Murillo’s, who were seeing Tony in person for the first time, if he was, indeed, the shooter.  They looked at each other, shrugged, and said “maybe.”

Find out what Tony’s accomplished during 20-plus years in prison by clicking on the link above. And don’t forget about Robbie Norris’ great work in the Richmond City Jail.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga Yoga New York opening outpost in someplace called Brooklyn

As we’ve happily reported, Ashtanga Yoga New York — and the Broome St. Temple — aren’t moving any time soon — at least until fall. But AYNY is branching out:

Rumor has it, we are moving to Brooklyn… well, the rumor happens to be true. We’ll be opening a small school in Clinton Hill, to be called the Brooklyn Yoga Club: ground floor yoga and meditation rooms, 1st floor library, coffee/tea/juice and light food service, communal tables and a 1,000 sq ft outdoor deck. Our new address is 206 Vanderbilt Ave., and we should be open in late summer. Manhattanites, have no fear, we’ll still keep our school in the city even after Broome St. closes on September 30th. However, the Yoga Club is just one stop into Brooklyn on the B, Q and R trains (well, 2 stops on the R). And then a short walk. The walk will be worth it for the steam room we’re putting in.

I hear there is a Yoga for Fixies class coming, based on some of the SUP Yoga principles.

I kid. But now that I think about it, I’m going to start working on a trademark for that.

Posted by Steve

More good yoga from Richmond and David Swenson

Robbie Norris has highlighted another of the students in the Richmond City Jail — and as always, it is worth a read. Click here.

That story is compelling — how Ashtanga has helped curb a breathing problem. But I also was struck by this:

And thank you, David Swenson, for continuing to send yoga mats and “spineless” Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manuals.  Because hardcover books are not allowed, David sends manuals with the plastic spiral spine removed, so the pages can be tied together like this:


You’ll have to click to see the pic, as well as a photo of the letter from the student.

Posted by Steve

Great read from Tim Miller on the ninth limb of yoga

You should just dive in fully to Tim Miller’s latest blog post — click on through right here. A little tease:

Aside from all the advantages in the material realm that a smart and savvy partner can provide, is the great opportunity for personal growth that marriage offers.  It is the single greatest and most challenging relationship to learn about one’s self through our interactions with our spouse, who mirrors our behavior back to us like no one else.  I like to think of marriage as the ninth limb of yoga.  With the other limbs of yoga we can cultivate strength, flexibility, open minds and hearts, equanimity, patience, and detachment—then we’re ready to take on the ninth limb.

I’ve left all the good parts for you to go find.

Posted by Steve

Don’t expect any Aum with your International Day of Yoga

I’ll assume you know by now that June 21 will be the first International Day of Yoga.

You may not have heard that the day could be Aum-less.

In what sounds very much like the Encinitas yoga-in-schools issue, concerns about making the worldwide yoga celebration too religious apparently is behind the idea. From the Economic Times (which has since doubled-down on the veracity of the story):

To make yoga an aam lifestyle choice in a country where religious symbolism often attracts high-voltage political controversies, Modi Sarkar is dropping all references to ‘aum’ — the traditional mystical invocation related to Hindu spirituality and yoga practice — in its coming high-powered promotion of this ancient discipline.

Senior officials involved in the government’s extensive preparations to celebrate the June 21 International Yoga Day told ET that the brief is to keep the effort “free of controversy”.

Therefore, there will be no reference to ‘aum’ in the 33-minute Common Yoga Protocol that’s been prepared by the department of AYUSH ( ayurveda, yoga & naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy), as well as all literature and video being prepared for the June 21 celebration.

Even more in line with the Encinitas story — where Surya Namaskara was seen as the offending religious act — that pose might be stripped away from the event, as well.

To balance that news off for you, it does look like thousands of Indian schools could get yoga — and at a familiar time of day for Ashtanga practitioners:

The minister said rules were being framed to ensure that the first period in the schools is dedicated to yoga teaching.

“The state government has decided to set up ‘Yogshalas’ in about 6,500 villages. Rules will be framed to ensure that yoga is taught during the first period in government and private schools,” he said at the foundation stone laying ceremony for the ‘Acharyakulam’ school being set up at Dikadala near Panipat. Vij said Acharyakulam is a residential educational institute that would combine traditional and modern educational system.

So there’s that.

Posted by Steve

Saturday rant: Make yoga safe for men!

OK, keep up with me here, we’re going to move at Hanuman-like speed.

I’ve seen an uptick lately of a “yoga issue” I thought maybe had gone away: that yoga isn’t welcoming to men. (Probably it is more about its not being welcoming to dudes, or bros or guys, but men suffices.)

Tim, teaching, as usual. And it's always safe for men. And women.
Tim Miller, teaching, as usual. And it’s always safe for men. And women.

Let’s break it down.

  1. We can agree on the timeline that yoga is 5,000 years old. OK?
  2. During those five millennia (not even just centuries, millennia), yoga was practiced exclusively — or so close to exclusively that it’s fair to say “exclusively” — by men. (Probably well-off or higher class men, too, but we digress and I promised speediness.)
  3. Women have been a majority of yoga practitioners for maybe the past 30 years. And that’s mostly in the West.
  4. So of its 5,000 years, men haven’t been the dominant yogis for just — quick bit of math here — 0.6%. Or close to one half of one percent of the time yoga has been practiced.

Men are in no way in need of taking back yoga or making it work for them.

Posted by Steve

Breaking news: Yoga can continue in Encinitas schools

It’s over. For now.

California’s 4th District Court of Appeal on Friday upheld the trial court’s ruling that rejected the anti-yoga lawsuit by parents who wanted to keep Encinitas schools from teaching yoga. It concluded the program doesn’t violate freedom of religion laws.

The full court ruling is here.

A quick rundown:

Attorney Dean Broyles, who represented the parents in the lawsuit, said he and his clients “are disappointed with the decision and we are carefully considering our options.”

“No other court in the past 50 years has allowed public schools to lead children in formal religious rituals like the Hindu liturgy of praying to, bowing to, and worshipping the sun god,” Broyles said in an email to U-T San Diego.


Paul Carelli, an attorney with Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz who represented the district pro bono in the case, said Friday he was pleased with the appeals court decision.

“We believe the school district was doing the right thing,” Carelli said. “The program is really very good for kids.”

Parents who do not want their children in the school district’s yoga program have the option of keeping them out, Carelli said.

The appeals court ruling “cements the constitutionality of the program,” Carelli said, so the district now could remove that option and make the class a requirement. However that’s unlikely, he said.

“Kids in the program love the program,” he said.

And here’s from the website of the program’s supporters. You can take this, I think, as a statement on their part:

While the yoga opponents will have an opportunity to petition the California Supreme Court for a review of today’s decision, two strong rulings in our favor make further judicial review unlikely.

We hope you and your families are enjoying spring break – your students’ yoga program will be waiting when they return to school.

Thank you, as always, for your warm wishes and continual support.  Coast Law Group has been honored to represent you in this fight.

Is it fair to say it was a good Friday? Do note the possibility of this going to yet a higher court. So stay tuned.

Posted by Steve

‘Yoga has helped me open my mind to the possibilities of good health and life’

It’s always good to see a new post from Robbie Norris at Richmond Private Yoga. Maybe you get tired of his good news stories, but I don’t. His latest:

As the packed room of 20 men rested at the end of the Richmond City Justice Center (Richmond City Jail) yoga class, I realized I wanted to know more about this young man who looks like a track and field star, and whose quiet nature has an element of somberness that often suggests internal struggle.

“Thank you — this is a powerful statement,” I told him.  “If you’d like to share this, so that someone else who can relate to your situation might see it, and be prompted to explore the benefits of yoga, then I can put it on the internet.”  Marcelius brightened, looked directly into my eyes, and said, “I want you to, that’s why I signed it.”

I told him the statement is excellent —  except that it offers no clue of his circumstances or where he learned yoga, and that he might consider giving it some context.  The following class, Monday, March 26, he gave me another letter and said, “This goes before the other one.”

You’ll have to click the link to see the letters — and to get the opportunity to encourage Marcelius to keep at the yoga.

Posted by Steve

Nancy Gilgoff on why ‘didn’t I “change” with the updates’

It’s relatively rare when Nancy Gilgoff puts something out there online, so her response to some comments in a post at the Ashtanga Brighton blog are worth a look:

Another thing to make mention of… While we were shown the primary and intermediate one after the other, Guruji told us that in our daily practice we should take primary one day and intermediate the next. We were not to continue practising both series in one go. The folks I see today are not following this method. They are doing all of both series almost daily and then they even add some third on to that too. So I’m not surprised they experience “burnout”.

In Mysore that is fine to do, but at home when we have “life” happening (jobs, families, school, etc.), we should take one series at a time or split them in the prescribed method. This comes directly from Guruji.

I don’t think there’s anything strikingly new there — no surprise, as she’s reiterating her rationale about teaching how Guruji taught her — but she does discuss what the “perfect” pose is in a terrifically succinct way.

Posted by Steve