Kailua beach

Q: What do you do in the wake of horrific news? A: Yoga

Horrible news today from Paris. When I used to work in television news, I remember this would be one of those events where all hands would come on deck and cover the story exhaustively 24 hours a day until the news stopped breaking. This is a triggering event for many who remember the horrific times of 9/11 and even a handful of other shootings across the US in recent years.

As a mental health counselor, I deal with many traumatized people. If I encounter them shortly after the traumatic event, I see that glazed look of shock. Often times I tell them they are in shock, and they can expect to start going through the stage of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We are all reacting internally at some level to this event. Even if we live far away and don’t have any relatives in Paris, we are still getting second hand trauma like second hand smoke through the constant shouting of the news feeds and TV reports.

While all of this badness is happening around us, one of the best things we can do is our Yoga practice. Stop and do yoga. Give yourself a half hour, or hour away from this madness. I am not saying to ignore it or be indifferent. I am saying don’t traumatize yourself any more than you have to.

When you are doing Yoga, you are not rioting in the street. When you are doing Yoga, you are not calling 911 or going to the emergency room. When you do Yoga, you are not causing more traffic. You are taking a time out from the crazy world to set things straight with yourself. If people would do this on a mass scale, we would have fewer fewer problems in the world.

May you be peaceful during this difficult time. Many blessings for those affected by this tragedy.

Rope sirsasana

Home Yoga Practice Celebrates Two Years!

I would like to thank all in the WordPress blogosphere and beyond for your readership over the past two years. I feel this blog has far surpassed my expectations of being a “community chat” for my Yoga students. At 125,000 hits strong and 1182 followers, my humble blog has clearly gone past the small fraction of the Honolulu Iyengar community and into more than 200 countries.

As a blogger, I always get a bit freaked out when I see that a post is gaining momentum. My phone app alerts me that there is a spike in views. I often think “uh oh” did I upset someone or cause controversy? Ninety-nine percent of the time, is is because my post is getting reposted by my Iyengar peers on Facebook and other blog sites. I find that a humbling honor.

One good example is when I saw a picture of a young Geeta Iyengar in Virabhadrasana II and decided I would show why I felt that is was a brilliantly executed pose (in this age of selfies, such poses are hard to come by). The post took me all of 20 minutes to complete. The post went instantly viral with 2153 views in one day. I know there are some bloggers that get that many views in one hour, but for me that was a personal best.

Conversely, when I agonize over some blog posts which I think will be earth shattering and spend several days revising them before posting, they are often met with just a few views. Worstly, there are no comments!

As a writer you never know what’s going to fly. That’s okay, because I love to write and love to do Yoga. Blogging is the perfect marriage of the two.

As this blog matures, it has seen its share of changes. In this age of selfies, I am trying to present the many other aspects of Yoga to people aside from asana. Lately I have been writing posts about Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Mantras and Sloka-s, and also how I feel some trends in popular yoga are not quite jiving with the purpose and intent of the practice.

I often straddle a thin line of what my opinion is versus what is socially acceptable to say to the Yoga community at large. It is a sensitive bunch! Most importantly, I try to promote the Iyengar practice and its community as a whole. As stated before I am always open to criticism and feedback and don’t feel I have such a large ego that I have to be correct all the time, because more often than not I am searching for answers.

In this next year I hope to add more asana-s, sequences, and more of my adventures as I am working on my Junior Intermediate 1 certification. Not an easy feat with a full time job, three classes, and two elderly in-laws who require caregiving. Not to mention making time for my lovely wife. This should provide enough blogging material for years to come…

Many blessings!


Taming the mighty ego

The ahamkara, or ego, is a formidable opponent in our Yoga practice. It will manifest in a thousand different ways. Whenever we set “goals” for our practice, we measure ourselves by whether we “attained” or “not attained” an established benchmark. Once the goal is attained, then there is another goal, then another. This goal attainment comes from our Westernized thinking of having to succeed.

This works well for awhile. But then what happens when something prevents of from ever attaining our “goal?” Our ego gets badly damaged. We employ Freud’s defense mechanisms to protect our ego. We deny, we rationalize, we may even be sophisticated enough to sublimate. But even the highest level of defense mechanism is still for the ego and not the true Self, the Purusha.

Yoga Sutra 1.16 says “tat-paraṁ puruṣa-khyāter guṇa-vaitṛṣṇyam” or

“Higher than renunciation is indifference to the guṇas [themselves]. This stems from perception of the puruṣa, soul.” Excerpt From: Edwin F. Bryant. “The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali.”

Indifference is an interesting word here. It is a mild form of pratyahara, or detachment from the senses, the fifth limb of Yoga. We must employ indifference to the gunas, or the properties of nature by having a sense of the soul, our true selves.

In our Yoga practice we are constantly striving for a Sattvic state. “Oh I had a stressful day at work, let me do some asanas to calm myself down.” This is our innermost yearning to achieve sattvas. Today I was at Kailua Beach which is a large manifestation of sattvas. People are clamoring to find a parking space to get a piece of this Sattvas. Beachgoers sit and don’t require much inner work to achieve a Sattvic state here.

But what if you don’t have access to Kailua Beach, or any other beach for that matter? What do we do in the face of Rajas? This sutra is asking us to pay no heed and abide in that which is not dependent on nature. To pull this off is far more sophisticated than Freud’s sublimation (doing constructive and creative activities to cope with barbs to the ego). It is realizing that the whole thing is a mere illusion (maya) unless it touches the soul.

In short, indifference to the transitory quality of nature is a great technique to neutralize the ego and its ceaseless wanting. Much like weather, emotions and situations come and go, but only you remain. There is a a beautiful sloka on the nature of the soul called the Atmashatkam. It is translated as:

1) I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of inner self (citta). I am not the five senses. I am beyond that. I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire, nor the wind (the five elements). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

2) Neither can I be termed as energy (prāṇa), nor five types of breath (vāyus), nor the seven material essences, nor the five sheaths(pañca-kośa). Neither am I the five instruments of elimination, procreation, motion, grasping, or speaking. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

3) I have no hatred or dislike, nor affiliation or liking, nor greed, nor delusion, nor pride or haughtiness, nor feelings of envy or jealousy. I have no duty (dharma), nor any money, nor any desire (kāma), nor even liberation (mokṣa). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

4) I have neither merit (virtue), nor demerit (vice). I do not commit sins or good deeds, nor have happiness or sorrow, pain or pleasure. I do not need mantras, holy places, scriptures (Vedas), rituals or sacrifices (yajñas). I am none of the triad of the observer or one who experiences, the process of observing or experiencing, or any object being observed or experienced. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

5) I do not have fear of death, as I do not have death. I have no separation from my true self, no doubt about my existence, nor have I discrimination on the basis of birth. I have no father or mother, nor did I have a birth. I am not the relative, nor the friend, nor the guru, nor the disciple. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

6) I am all pervasive. I am without any attributes, and without any form. I have neither attachment to the world, nor to liberation (mukti). I have no wishes for anything because I am everything, everywhere, every time, always in equilibrium. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Śivam), love and pure consciousness.

Meditate on this for Monday, and may you have a blessed week! (No animals were harmed while writing this blog post).

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.52.27 PM

The striking similarities between physical therapy applications and asanas

A co-worker of mine recently had knee surgery and said he is in physical therapy. I am always curious as a Yoga teacher what what the medical community does to treat ailments via physical movement. He graciously copied his sheet of exercises his physical therapist prescribed to him.

I saw immediately that the actions being taught in physical therapy mimic many of those is asana, with asana being a bit more extreme in range of motion. Here are a few interesting examples:

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.47.32 PM

dandasana iyengar

“Hip and knee strengthening quadriceps sets” and Dandasana (Staff Pose)

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.52.27 PM

urdvha prasarita padasana

“Straight leg raise phase 1” and Urdvha Prasarita Padasana (Upward Expanded Leg Pose)

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.51.16 PM

ardha bhekasana

“Prone knee flexion stretch” and Ardha Bhekasana (Half Frog Pose)

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.49.14 PM

Chatuse padasana 9

“Bridging” and Chatuse Padasana (Four Footed Pose)

The above illustrations are not a sequence, but just a visual of the similarities. I am a yoga teacher and not a doctor or a physical therapist, but in this art I can’t help to recognize the correlation between movements and the therapeutic effect of the asanas. My mentoring teacher often comments on how asanas are therapeutic in and of themeselves if people practice them ardently.

A major difference between physical therapy and Yoga is that physical therapy ends when the injury is healed, whereas in Yoga the practitioner goes on to the next level of asana and then beyond to the breath, mind, consciousness, and soul.

Many blessings to you all!





Courtesy NASA

Finding inspiration and a sense of renewal from the Sloka of Infinitude

There are many resources within Yoga’s literary/oral tradition that help one cope with the maladies of life. Sometimes things can get overwhelming when we try to balance our personal lives with jobs, family, and our Yoga practice. Just like an elixir from the heavens, this mantra is effective for understanding our place in the Universe.


This is the opening verse from Isha Upanishad. It is a deep deep concept. There are many translations of this verse, but the one that resonates with me is:

That is infinite, this is infinite;
From That infinite this infinite comes.
From That infinite, this infinite removed or added;
Infinite remains infinite.
Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!

It almost sounds like a mathematical theorem. Lately in Savasana in my personal practice, I have been repeating this to myself. Much like the self inquiry of the Ramana Maharsi lineage, the more I repeat and contemplate this sloka, the more my sense of self seems to dissolve and is replaced by an ocean of light and hope which I perceive as the “infinity.”

We don’t need to look for resources outside the practice of Yoga to find direction in our practice. We don’t need to find any new books written about the latest Yoga trend. We also don’t need to “reinvent or rebrand” Yoga. It is here for us already in abundance. It has been around for many millennia, perfected throughout the course of humanity for us to pick like ripe fruits from a tree. It is all written and easy to access in this modern age.

May you have a blessed week!

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 7.38.04 AM

Brave New World of Yoga

I took a few weeks off of blogging to focus on taking care of my father-in-law whose health has been poor this past month. In the interim, I explored the underbelly of the internet to see how other people are practicing Yoga. I joined a Yoga chat room on Facebook. It really opened my eyes to the current psyche of Western practitioners today. This information is helpful for me as a Yoga teacher, so I can at least have a frame of reference from which my younger students are coming.

Discussions on this Facebook chat page revolved around three topics: Selfie/Instagram posts, Yoga Teacher Trainings, and 30 day challenges in that order of post volume.

Selfies are so prevalent, that more than half the members of the group thought that posting postures of themselves is what encompasses the whole practice of “yoga.” The standard post would be something like: “This is my Handstand today #goalkiller” and then there would be showers of praise in the comment section. It seems as though people are doing one contortion-esque posture (not even asana), asking for and receiving reinforcement from the FB community. It is doubtful that these are part of a sequence and more just “showing off” the ability to be flexible and balance.

Yoga Teacher Trainings were the next big topic. Between people hawking the next big YTT in Costa Rica, Bali, or Timbuktu, people would either brag or whine about their current YTT experience. The YTT people were not imparting any particular insights or knowledge of their training to the group, but much like the selfie crowd were seeking some sort of approval or status positioning that they were on their way to teacherhood.

One disquieting aspect was the prevalence of online teacher trainings. There were actually a few good discussions on why online teacher training is not appropriate. One theme that came up is when a topic would be questioned, the pack mentality of the group would say that the person is “judging” and that “yoga is whatever you want it to be.”

I tried to introduce some concepts to the group like Aparigraha and even posted my essay about the new prevalence of alcohol in yoga classes. It made for some interesting discussions. Unfortunately the majority in the group saw no problem with it and said that their studio has alcohol events regularly. The Aparigraha post was quickly drowned out by the latest barrage of selfie posts.

Lastly, the 30 day challenges were a ubiquitous part of the group discussion. I understand that these challenges are helpful for new students to be motivated to practice. But after the 30 day challenge, then what? Another 30 day challenge? To me it just shapes the practice like a monkey swinging from  tree vine to tree vine without any direction.

Some may read this post and say “you mean there is another way to practice?” The answer is there certainly is another way. Yoga is made for us to confront and conquer our senses, our ego, our samskaras, and our karmas. Asana can be a powerful tool in doing this. But as we are now seeing, people are using asana to become more deluded and lost in the ego’s trappings.

I ended up leaving the Facebook page. It was causing too much citta vrtti in my own life. This experience has motivated me to re-read the Bhagavad Gita whose verses are refreshing and healing after seeing what Yoga is becoming in the commercialized world.