I read a hilarious article on the Internet this morning. It was about a yoga student who opened a studio – an official franchise of a popular style of yoga. He argued with his “Guru” (in this case, the owner of the franchise) about the carpet. Yes, the carpet. He thought the carpet was disgusting and attracted colonies of germs. The guru insisted on conformity in his yoga empire with regard to teaching method, sequence of ãsanas and carpets. The story ended with the resourceful man leaving the franchise and starting his very own style of yoga.
This story is just one example of how the modern world has become obsessed with the external aspects of yoga. I have come across articles questioning the ethics of a company that makes yoga pants for only thin people, articles that describe how yoga can “wreck the body”, fights between ‘under the knee cap yogis’ (who focus on the anatomy) and ‘dancer yogis’, who flow from one ãsana to the next, each claiming that theirs is the only authentic yoga.
It hits on an old point here: That the Yoga Sutras don’t focus much on asanas:
There are no ãsanas described in the book. It shows us that yoga is not just a practice for the body but something that touches the physical, mental and spiritual. Through this book we are given the tools to live a purposeful life.
It’s fun to jump around on the mat and to achieve ãsanas that we never thought were possible; it is wonderful to lose weight and feel strong. But as yogis, we would be cheating ourselves if we missed out on the true gifts that yoga has to offer – discovery of the true self.
It occurs to me, as it should have before, that Patanjali is our best argument against picturing asanas — or at least against lionizing it.
Anyway, the Hindu provides a fairly succinct argument as part of the “value of yoga selfies” debate.
Anyone who has taken a workshop or teacher training with Tim Miller knows that he roots the study of Ashtanga in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. (I know he isn’t alone in this.)
To be honest, it’s one of my favorite parts of the “expanded” learning with Tim. (As I’ve told him, and I am sure written here before, it’s because my brain is my most only flexible muscle.) Bobbie’s been hearing more depth as Tim relates the Sutras to Second Series practice. And while I was down in Encinitas last week, I read a commentary on the sutras and went through all four chapters.
Typically, discussion is just about the first two chapters. And that’s true of a discussion coming next week at our Los Angeles shala, Omkar 108. It is happening Fri., Sept. 7 and Sat., Sept. 8. Here are some details of the two people who will be leading the chanting and discussion:
Dr. M.A. Jayashree, Professor of Sanskrit, Mysore, Karnataka has been teaching all aspects of Sanskrit for the last 30 years. She holds a doctorate in Sanskrit from Bangalore University on the topic, “Concept of Mind in Indian Philosophy.” She has authored many books in the fields of Sanskrit, Ancient Sciences, Indian history, Indian Culture and Music. She has presented papers on Sanskrit, Indian knowledge systems and culture in many national and international fora. She has also conducted a number of workshops in India and abroad. Her workshops are generally in the fields of Sanskrit language and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
M. A. Narasimhan, Director of the Anantha Research Foundation in Mysore, is a science graduate holding Masters in Education with specialization in advanced psychology and research methodology, and also in Sanskrit. He has specialized in the Indian philosophical systems and the various practices of yoga, and is a disciple of His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He is a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, having taught the TM technique to more than 20,000 people and trained more than 1,000 teachers of Transcendental Meditation. He has held many responsible posts in the then Mahrishi Institute of Creative Intelligence. As the director for the TM operation in the entire south India, he had more than 600 teachers helping him to spread the message of TM.
I’m going to admit right now: Bobbie and I can’t make it; familial duties call. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, if you’re around the greater Los Angeles area. Omkar is located near the 405 freeway on Washington Boulevard.
If you’re intrigued, you can sign up at the link above. I mean, you should sign up at the link above.
Our post last week showing various video instructions on the “dreaded Kapotasana” ended up focusing on a different point than I would have expected.
It wasn’t about Kino MacGregor’s approach versus Heather Morton’s. It wasn’t about what makes getting into this pose easier.
The focus was on the word “dreaded.”
As I wrote, I don’t dread Kapo because it is still so far off in the distance for my practice. But I sure see a lot of people making a huge deal about it in their practice and I often hear it talked about as “the dreaded Kapo,” as if that were its Sanskrit name.
The comments on the post were, I thought, really terrific — thoughtful, open-minded, measured and respectful of the practice.
As commenters rightly said, the dread is something we all bring to that pose — or any other we might rather avoid. (Reminder of a Tim Millerism: “Avoidance is not the answer.”) And we all know that reaction is what we are seeking to move beyond, or perhaps through, via our Ashtanga practice. If dread has never been part of the translation of Sutra 1.30, it maybe ought to be. (Perhaps it is better than “doubt”?)
And so, perhaps as an attempt at a collective or crowd-sourced way of getting us all through our dreaded poses, I ask this:
What pose do you dread (maybe seek to avoid)? Why? And what do you think you could or should be doing about it to overcome this particular obstacle to your yoga?
I’d offer to go first, but I’m not sure I can narrow it down. Right now, anything with a half-lotus bend to the knee or even a really extreme bend scares the prana right out of me. I try to be thoughtful and mindful and carefully push myself to my perceived limit, in the hope that limit will move further and further on. It probably is just a struggle with avoidance. I also try to sit in Virasana as much as possible — but it is never enough.
Something has been bothering me about my Ashtanga practice lately, and today I realized what it was: Too much asana, not enough “theory.”
I’ve been reading books related, in a loose way, to the yoga path. (As much as something called “the poison path” can be, at least.) And I have a book on Hanuman awaiting its time at the front of my reading queue, and I’m in the middle of “Autobiography of a Yogi.”
But it’s been practice, practice, practice, think about what you’re eating (or not!), work on pull-backs, work on headstands, work on backbends.
This is a problem for someone whose most flexible muscle is his brain.
So, to alleviate this problem, for me at least, and maybe offer you some reminders, a series of video talks on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Nithyananda.