Monthly Archives: November 2015

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.

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).