Monthly Archives: August 2015

…one year later


It’s hard to believe almost one year has passed since Guruji left this earth. I remember the afternoon vividly. Guruji had been hospitalized and there were many keeping vigil. I was frantically checking the news feeds for news all day in between working.

Then there was a message on HS Arun’s Facebook page:  “It was great to have Guruji in our institute. It’s hard to believe that he is no more with us.” At that point I called my mentoring teacher. He had just gotten off the phone from a friend in India confirming the news.

Soon afterwards, news spread like wildfire, first on the yoga blogs, then the Facebook feeds, then the mainstream news. News of his death even out trended Nikki Minaj’ latest publicity stunt. There were many beautiful tribute posts. Notably, detailed accounts came from Luci Yamamoto’s Yoga Spy blog. She was at RIMYI at the time of his death.

Kofi Busia wrote healing words as well:

 I have to say, however, that I find it difficult to be sad. Of course I would like to see him again. But I also know that I only ever need to look for him in the place that he taught me to look for him. I can see him again there any time I want. After all, he was a great teacher because he taught constantly that that which is not here should always be a part of what is, otherwise we will never be content.

Today I had a student new to Iyengar Yoga. He was amazed (like all of us) of all the postures Guruji could do in the plates surrounding our studio. He said he enjoyed the class, enjoys the style and plans to be a regular student. There is always doubt that once a leader passes if his legacy will hold. But because of Guruji’s integrity and uncompromising standards in not only his teaching, but in how his teachers are taught, I am confident his legacy of Iyengar Yoga will endure the test of time.

Disturbing trend: booze and Yoga classes

There are plenty of yoga “blends” out there now that the practice is becoming mainstreamed in Western culture. There is Stand Up Paddle Yoga, Yoga with weights, spinning class yoga, the list is tireless. At least these yoga strains are working toward a healthy end. But now things have taken a turn for the worse: the proliferation of combining alcohol with yoga practice.

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Ty Ku Sake has a new campaign #ApresYoga which is a spinoff on the Apres Ski where after a nice day of skiing, there is an unwinding which involves a hot tub and alcohol. They make it sound “fun”: do yoga and drink up. The only problem is that Yoga is supposed to be a practice of awareness and not to be combined with substance use (yes alcohol is considered a substance). They have even brought in a yoga celebrity, Erin Motz, to spearhead their campaign. I suppose everyone has their price.

As I have been blogging for a while, I am aware that there is a sizable segment of the yoga community who is in recovery from substance abuse. Many have come to yoga as a solace from mainstream culture. Now Big Alcohol has identified yoga as an untapped marketing mecca and is wasting no time in exploiting the practice to increase alcohol sales.

The Facebook page for is pushing this product, interlacing it with articles about yoga practice. This isn’t the only mainstream yoga outlet pushing drinking…

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Yes, everyone’s darling Lululemon is even producing its own line of beer. Granted this was for a limited event which involved running, it shows how a company who tells you how committed they are to certain yogic principles quickly take to low road for a quick buck.

A studio in New Mexico, a state which has one of the highest DUI and drinking and driving related fatality rates in the US, recently started this event which actually has people drinking beer during Yoga practice.

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And it doesn’t help that celebrities like Nick Lachey are using yoga to to promote alcohol, as he is here drinking beer after a hot yoga class. That sounds like a nice recipe for severe dehydration.

Lastly, the new editor of Yoga Journal Carin Gorrell endorsed “brewery yoga” during her interview on Elephant Journal last year. Calling yoga in a brewery “perfect.” You can see the interview at the 6:40 mark. What is a yoga community to do when even the editor of one of the largest yoga publications endorses drinking and yoga?

I am not here to preach abstinence or be a tee totaler. My point is that yoga is sacred to me and that combining yoga with alcohol goes against many concepts of Patanjali’s teachings: namely ahimsa (non harming), saucha (cleanliness), and sutra II.16. Heyaim dukham anagram “The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided.”

If you don’t think consuming alcohol is potentially life threatening, here is what the Centers for Disease Control have to say about it:

Drinking too much can harm your health. Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2006 – 2010, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years. Further, excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20-64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion, or $1.90 a drink.

I hope this blog post generates awareness and discussion on the topic. My views come from my “mental health counselor” lens in which I see the devastating effects of alcohol dependence daily in my work. It seems as though this trend of drinking and doing yoga has taken the evolution of Yoga back a few steps.

Why this is a perfect Virabhadrasana II

In this age of selfies we are inundated with people doing “advanced” yoga postures. This is a picture of a younger Geeta Iyengar taken years before digital photography. She is doing  Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II), a “basic” standing pose. But she is doing it with mastery few could match. I will show different segments of her posture that show why this one of the best Virabhadrasana II photographs I have seen….

The Base:

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The first thing that comes to mind in her posture is how wide her stance is. It seems infinite.

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Notice the outer edge of her foot is pressing down. That is keeping her from slipping on this oriental carpet. No sticky mat needed.

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The knee is at a 90 degree angle and the femur bone appears parallel to the ground.

The Torso:

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Despite the asymmetry of the legs in Virabhadrasana II (one straight leg, one bent knee leg), her torso is even and side ribs are lifted and shoulders are down.

The Arms:

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The level wall makes a nice point of reference for the arms. Notice how one arm is slightly above the other. That is not a mistake. The slight elevation of the arm gives the pose a sense of lightness. In your own practice, try level arms versus the bent leg arm slightly lifted and you’ll notice a huge difference in the prayatna shaithilya (effortless effort) aspect of the posture.

The internal practice:

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Virabhadrasana II is a strenuous pose. If it is held for more than a minute, fatigue rapidly sets in. It is not known how long she has been in the posture, but the softness of her countenance shows that she could stay for a long time. Her posture not only shows effortless effort, it shows the iconography of the spirit of a warrior. Geeta is certainly a warrior as today she continues to teach at 70 years of age.

Thank you for sharing this photo with the world!

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