Monday, September 22, 2014

Returning to Sutra Study

Back to my current life.  Today, I'm returning to Pada  3.     I am using the  Sanskrit online keyboard  for the diacritical marks.

deśa-bandhaś cittasya dhāraṇā

Fixing the consciousness on one point or region is concentration (dhāraṇā). (I)
Concentration is the fixing of the mind in one place. (B)

The quote I posted on the  Clear  Spring Facebook page today also deals with concentration.

“True concentration is an unbroken thread of awareness.” BKS Iyengar,  Light on Life

 I think my ability to concentrate is better than most peoples, but still it is rather depressing to watch how  difficult it is  to fix our awareness where it most needs to be.    

Things like Facebook and Twitter and  just cell phones in general  are such a huge obstacle to cultivating  concentration.  I was  really aware of how pervasive our addiction to such objections is as I was traveling  home  yesterday.   The focus on that small object is  quite intense, but  it is hardly  an unbroken thread of awareness because what we  focus on in that small object is  a constantly changing morass of  images, links, relationships, and the  like.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

At the airport, heading toward home.

I had a great time at the reunion.  24 hours  turned out to be the perfect amount of time,  even enough time  to go to Time Out and see my old house in  Chapel Hill which now has a new green roof on it. (Wow!)

Unfortunately, the  Time Out  food truck never made it out to the American Legion Lodge so we  went downtown at some point after midnight.  The Time Out is now  located at the old  Hector's location, so it is difficult to imagine a better new home for an old favorite.

It was great to see everyone and hear what everyone is doing with their lives, the weather was amazing, and I'm so glad  I made the effort to go.  It was wonderful to see Laura and Treeby and Becky and John and  also all the  people I knew more casually or  knew even from junior high.  The reunion bullies/ organizers did an amazing job with decorations and organization over all.  Really, it was a perfect night. 

I missed seeing a lot of folks  like  Mike Dessen, Josh Hilberman, Steve Sandler,  Susan Brinkley, Ann Hemmens, Josi Hartmann, and Joel Berquist and all the friends of George Williamson  who were huge parts of  my high school experience.

I am really grateful to have grown up in Chapel Hill and have this town as part of my personal history.  It many ways it is part of what  motivated me to move to Austin.  I grew up loving where I lived and I wanted to have that be a part of my life  again.

So, now I'm at the airport leaving from one town I love and heading home to another.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Heading toward my high school reunion

I'm leaving in a few minutes to catch a plane to Chapel Hill for part of my 30th High School Reunion.  I'm excited about  going.   My two best girl friends from High School, Treeby and Laura,  are picking me up and then  there's a BBQ and the Time Out  food truck will make an appearance at 11:00 Pm.  Time Out is the home of  marvelous biscuits. They are most  famous for their chicken  or chicken and cheese ones.  Though they have bacon egg and cheese, egg,  cheese.   It was pretty much where any evening out  ended back in the day.  I was a vegetarian though most of high school, so I was a cheese biscuit eater.   Chapel Hill is a great food town and I'm a little bummed I won't have time to take those delights in, but I'm very excited to go and  see everyone live  instead of  just on Facebook. 

I had a reasonably fun high school experience, but I have to say life has generally improved with age.    Here's a picture of  me from that  time.

I love this picture  because it  so clearly shows me the effect yogasana and pranayama have had on my body.  I've been doing yoga about as long as I had years on me at that time.  Though I'm definitely young and there's a vitality of youth,  I have a completely collapsed chest  and I swear I look practically deformed in the right shoulder.   My right shoulder is still a little higher and the right trap a little tighter, but  man,  look where I started...

Practice, all is coming.

Sutra study will resume Monday.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Backbend Sequence and Pratyahara Sutras

“Backbends are not poses meant for expressionism. Backbends are meant to understand the back parts of our bodies. The front body can be seen with the eyes, but the back body can only be felt. That’s why I say these are the most advanced postures, where the mind begins to look at the back. Otherwise, it is felt on the peripheral level.” BKS Iyengar

Basically, we  are exploring this insight of BKS Iyengar  Today.  We are opening the front body some but then looking at how important the  backbody actions, specifically, the hamstring/buttock/tailbone actions are for  backward bending.

Get Chest open.
Open Groins.
Hamstring Buttock/ Tailbone

I can't promise I'll do this every week, but I also added the  LOY plate numbers for the poses That most illustrate the  actions I want us to work with.

Bring your own copy of LOY to class for an  even better view. 

Parvatasana in virasana  with calf  mashing   (91)

AMS classic.  (75,76)

Rope work

AMS  (75,76) 

Ardha Sirsasana, working with head off the floor, 

Amvrk,   (357)

PM   (359)

Sirsasana  (183)

Paryankasana with brick, on elbows to head, on head urdhva d arms for more lift and spread, full pose with support for elbows if don’t reach.  (97)

Virasana, arms in baddangulisana behind reaching down then paschima namascarasana arms.

Padmasana Prep  legs up wall

Matysasana  with brick and full pose   (112)

Ustrasana  (40)

Dhanurasana    (63)

Urdhva  D from  two bolster

Urdhva   D  over back of  Chair


Dropping over.    (258)

Chair twists


In terms of  Sutra  study,   I did the pranayama sutras  last sunday,  so  the two remaining sutras in Pada  Two deal with pratyahara. 

svaviṣayāsamprayoge cittasya svarūpānukāra ivendriyāṇāṁ pratyāhāraḥ

Withdrawing the senses, mind and consciousness from contact with external objects, and then drawing them inwards towards the seer, is pratyahara. (I)
Pratyahara, withdrawal from sense objects, occurs when the sense do not come into contact with their respective sense objects. It corresponds, as it were, to the nature of the mind [ when it is withdrawn from the sense objects]. (B)
tataḥ paramā vaśyatendriyāṇām

Pratyahara results in the absolute control of the sense organs. (I)
From this  comes the highest control of the senses (B)

I've been working a lot with the facial relaxation techniques that  Eddy taught at the forgotten pose workshop. They help a lot with pratyahara.  I've been doing them every morning for the past month and can tell a huge difference in how much less  tension there is in my face and my overall encounters with the inner and the outer world.  

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Asana Sutras and an Update on Post Pune Practice

sthira-sukham āsanam

Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit. (I)
Asana should be steady and comfortable. (B)

Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.
[Such posture  should be be attained] by the relaxation of effort and by absorption in the infinite (B).
tato dvandvānabhighātaḥ

From then on, the sadhaka is undisturbed by dualities. (I)
From this, one is not afflicted by the dualities of the opposites. (B)

I realize  I've not been blogging as much lately and that  I have  been going through padas  I and II quickly. Mostly, I have been posting chunks that are related to each other topic wise and not saying much about them.  Once I  get to Pada III  again, I'll slow down because  I will have to start adding in the diacritical marks myself rather than copying and pasting from the work Jeff has done.  I was working a lot with Pada  III  before going to Pune, but took a break  from that while I was there.   It will be good to get back to that work of  learning new sutras.   Pada IV  I've worked with  not much at all.

Also, I have not felt all that inspired about writing about yoga philosophy lately.  Obviously, not having the daily dose of Prashant puts me in a different context,  but I've also been writing more  "regular"  philosophy. 

(As an aside,  even though feeling inspired to write,  having a burning desire to say something, to express ideas that come to mind,  is  wonderful,  in the larger context,   I don't think it really matters if one feels inspired to write or  study. One should still do it and that doing it is a large part of making the inspiration happen.  The muse has to know where to show up each day, so to speak)

Anyway,  I have however,  been doing a good bit of  asana  lately, so   here are some comments on  Asana  two months after two months in Pune.   I definitely have more  ease is some poses that have been ongoingly difficult for  me.  Twists,  particularly on the left side are  coming much better,  Padmasana is more accessible  and my backbends  are  quite a bit stronger.  All the groin work I've been doing has led me to the realization of how important the leg actions are in  backward bending and once I've been getting my legs (hamstrings,  buttock tailbone)  more involved  paired with more open front groins  that's been taking a lot of the effort out of my wrists and shoulders.     Also, I'm more "interested" in practice.   it is  still  a challenge to do  as much yoga as I was  doing there,  but  I am managing  between 2 and 3 hours  plus morning pranayama and whatever I do teaching wise.

I feel like my life has been on a more  even keel  since  I came back from  Pune.  A bit more steadiness in practice,  a bit more   effortless effort  does seem to be leading to being  less  affected by duality. I also think I had a great deal of anxiety about the trip itself,  leaving for that long, the logistics of  travel  etc  and  that's simply not there anymore  and happily some new  anxiety has not emerged in its place.  

Yesterday in  Devon's class  we did a lot of malasana at the  beginning of  class  some  AMS, AMVrk and  a long time in Sirsasana   (Parsva Sirsasana, and Parsvaikapada variations)  and a lot of versions of  B1  followed by M1  and  my M1  was about the best I've ever done.   I've been having a lot of  experiences of  "wow, that's the best I've done that pose"  lately.   Of course other poses,  like the right side of Ardha Matysendrasana seems  still  awful, even though I got the most solid grip on my toe on the left side that I've ever gotten.   Sarvangasana felt  truly transcendent after all those  twists. 

Another benefit of more focus on asana  is that I do find myself inspired about sequencing.  Sequences come to my mind.   I want to explore different relationships of poses and ways to work them and I'm eager to share those explorations with my students. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sutra Study and the writing life.

 "Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful
jewels of wisdom."
James Allen 
As a Man Thinketh
Yesterday was a good day on the writing front.  I got revisions back on my BACAP paper and they are good and also rather minimal.  I also got word about the  Aristotle and Patanjali paper publication details and I worked on the Theaetetus paper.   

Teaching yoga was fun also, though I decided to leave out the belly down backbends.  Will work on those next week  along with some  pranayama.    I realize that  I can really go into detail about two poses in a class  or I can work progressively through a bunch of poses.  There isn't time to do both in  1.5 hours.

Here's the section of  sutras for  today.  The Niyamas.  
śaucāt svāṅga-jugupsā parair-asaṁsargaḥ

Cleanliness of body and mind develops disinterest in contact with others for self-gratification. (I)
By  cleanliness, one develops distaste for one’s body and the cessation of contact with others. (B).
sattva-śuddhi-saumanasyaikāgryendriya-jayātma-darśana-yogyatvāni ca

When the body is cleansed, the mind purified and the senses controlled, joyful awareness needed to realize the inner self, also comes. (I)
Upon the purification of the mind, [one attains] cheerfulness, one-pointedness, sense control, and fitness to perceive the self. (B)
santoṣād anuttamaḥ sukha-lābhaḥ

From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness. (I)
From contentment, the highest happiness is attained. (B)
kāyendriya-siddhir aśuddhi-kṣayāt tapasaḥ

Self-discipline (tapas) burns away impurities and kindles the sparks of divinity. (I)
From austerity, on account of the removal of impurities the perfection of the senses and body manifests.  (B)
svādhyāyād iṣṭa-devatā-saṁprayogaḥ

Self-study leads towards the realization of God or communion with one’s desired deity. (I)
From  study [of scripture] a connection with one’s deity of choice is  established.  (B)
samādhi-siddhir īśvara-praṇidhānāt

Surrender to God brings perfection in samadhi. (I)
From submission to God  comes perfection of samadhi. (B)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sequence and Sutra Study

"The outer conditions of a person's life   
will always be found to be harmoniously related to  
his inner state...
Men do not attract that which they want,  
but that which they are."
James Allen   
As a Man Thinketh

 I  had a great time  teaching yoga this weekend.  A group of  amazing students for the Lessons from Pune  workshop at the Castle.   I also really enjoyed teaching the pranayama in the Teacher Training.  I felt amazingly blessed to be surrounded by so many people interested in teaching and learning yoga.

And there's more  today.   

Here's the backbend sequence 

Parvatasana in virasana  with calf  mashing 

AMS classic.

Padmasana prep  ala  Intermediate course   legs up wall. 


Ardha Sirsasana, working with head off the floor, 




Paryankasana with brick, on elbows to head, on head urdhva d arms for more lift and spread, full pose with support for elbows if don’t reach.

Virasana, arms in baddangulisana behind reaching down then paschima namascarasana arms.

Matysasana  with brick and full pose

Chatush padasana


Parsva  D

Urdhva  D from  two bolster

Urdhva   D  over back of  Chair

Chair  Dwi   Pada 


Dropping over. 

Chair twists


ahiṁsā-satyāsteya-brahmacaryāparigrahā yamāḥ

Non-violence, truth, abstention from stealing, continence, and absence of greed for possessions beyond one’s need are the five pillars of yama. (I)
The yamas are nonviolence, truthfulness, refrainment from stealing, celibacy, and renunciation of [unnecessary] possessions.  (B)
jāti-deśa-kāla-samayānavacchinnāḥ sārva-bhaumā mahā-vratam

Yamas are the great, mighty, universal vows, unconditioned by place, time and class.
[These yamas] are considered the great vow. They are not exempted by one’s class, place, time or circumstance. They are universal.  (B)

śauca-saṅtoṣa-tapaḥ-svādhyāyeśvara-praṇidhānāni niyamāḥ

Cleanliness, contentment, religious zeal, self-study and surrender of the self to the supreme Self or God are the niyamas. (I)
The observances are cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study [of scripture], and devotion to God. (B).
vitarka-bādhane pratipakṣa-bhāvanam

Principles which run contrary to yama and niyama are to be countered with the knowledge of discrimination. (I)
Upon being harassed by negative thoughts, one should cultivate counteracting thoughts. (B)
vitarkā hiṁsādayaḥ kṛta-kāritānumoditā lobha-krodha-moha-pūrvakā mṛdu-madhyādhi-mātrā duḥkhājñānānanta-phalā iti pratipakṣa-bhāvanam

Uncertain knowledge giving rise to violence, whether done directly or indirectly, or condoned, is caused by greed, anger or delusion in mild, moderate or intense degree. It results in endless pain and ignorance. Through introspection comes the end of pain and ignorance. (I).
Negative thoughts are violence, etc. They may be [personally] performed, performed on one’s behalf by another, or authorized by oneself; they may be triggered by greed, anger, or delusion; and they may be slight, moderate, or extreme in intensity. One should cultivate counteracting thoughts, namely, that the end result [of negative thoughts] are ongoing suffering and ignorance. (B)
ahiṁsā-pratiṣṭhāyām tat-sannidhau vaira-tyāgaḥ

When non-violence in speech, thought and action is established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one’s presence. (I)
In the presence of one who is established in nonviolence, enmity is abandoned. (B)
satya-pratiṣṭhāyāṁ kriyā-phalāśrayatvam

When the sadhaka is firmly established in the practice of truth, his words become so potent that whatever he says comes to realization. (I)
When one is established in truthfulness, one ensures the fruition of actions. (B) 
asteya-pratiṣṭhāyāṁ sarva-ratnopasthānam

When abstention from stealing is firmly established, precious jewels come. (I)
When one is established in refrainment from stealing, all jewels manifest. (B)
brahmacarya-pratiṣṭhāyām vīrya-lābhaḥ

When the sadhaka is firmly established in continence, knowledge, vigour, valour and energy flow to him. (I)
Upon the establishment of celibacy, power is attained. (B)
aparigraha-sthairye janma-kathantā-saṃbodhaḥ

Knowledge of past and future lives unfolds when one is free from greed for possessions. (I)
When refrainment from covetousness becomes firmly established, knowledge of the whys and wherefores of births manifests. (B)