Monthly Archives: December 2015

My wish for Yoga in 2016

It has certainly been an interesting year in the yoga world. We have seen an unprecedented rise in the selfie craze, commercialized yoga websites, and disturbing trends of mixing alcohol with yoga practice.

In all this craziness, some good has come out of it. There are more people than ever practicing some form of yoga and the practice has been absorbed into mainstream Western culture. And there is more access to yoga information now than in any other time in history. You can simply find and read the main yogic texts online from where you are sitting without paying a dime.

That is both good and bad. Because information is now so readily available, we tend to assign less value to it. There used to be a time when knowledge and information was something you had to work hard to get. The trick was that when the information was obtained, the actual information did not matter as much as the process to get it. It is one thing to gloss over the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, but another to commit them to memory in Sanskrit.

One of the authors I “grew up” with in my spiritual path was Carlos Casteneda. He has since drawn much criticism about being a sham. However, in my opinion his writings reflect the true hardships of what is needed to attain spiritual knowledge. He says:

A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war: wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it might never live to regret it.
Read more at http://www.quoteoasis.com/authors/c/carlos_castaneda_quotes_2.html#5QdDoVc6cbGrXrAC.99
and..
Nothing in this world is a gift. Whatever must be learned must be learned the hard way.
Read more at http://www.quoteoasis.com/authors/c/carlos_castaneda_quotes_2.html#5QdDoVc6cbGrXrAC.99
We are now in an era where one can be a yoga teacher less than a year after walking into a studio with no experience. Old teachings are being devalued in this information age. “Learning the hard way” is now becoming outdated in this time where everyone gets a medal for participating, and people are quick to take offense. There is even a movement to devalue yoga as “modern and postural” from people who don’t even practice.
So my wish for Yoga in 2016 is for people to simplify their practice. Go back to the old texts and re-read them. Study with teachers with over 10 years of experience. Relearn the poses in the front of the book, and don’t be in too much a rush to do the fancy ones.  Don’t get caught up into the social-mediaization of yoga. And most importantly, remember Yoga is a deeply internal practice…a practice designed to destroy the ego, not bolster it.
Many blessings in 2016!

Thank you for your readership in 2015

May you have a happy new year. Looking forward to posting more in 2016!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 94,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Google to recognize Iyengar on his 97th birthday

I ran across this on my feed today. Google made a special “doodle” to honor Guruji who would have turned 97 tomorrow. Google is asking for those who knew him to comment on Youtube.

This is a special time of year for the Iyengar community, with Geeta Iyengar finishing up the second Yoganushasanam which began on her birthday, and just finishing the event right before Guruji’s birthday. The Iyengar community still has much to celebrate as the teachings continue to thrive and take thousands of practitioners worldwide deeper into their true selves through this uncompromising practice. Although Guruji has passed, his teaching remain alive through his family, certified teachers, and his writings.

Happy birthday Guruji, may your vision be realized!

Mind/body interventions reduce personal healthcare costs by almost half: Harvard Study

Research is confirming what Yoga instructors have been telling you all along: Yoga reduces illness. Harvard Researchers published this study stating that participants in Mind/Body groups which included Yoga had reduced 43% of billable encounters with health providers versus the control group which actually had a slight increase in needing to see providers.

When this study came out over a month ago, I reached out to Harvard’s  John Denninger, who headed the research. “This study will create many more studies from the medical community about mind/body interventions,” Denninger said.

Participants met in groups for 1.5 hours every week for 8 weeks and did rational/emotive/behaivoral therapy as well as mind/body exercises like Tai Chi and Yoga. These Mind/Body groups were used in a series of studies.

In this study, people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) were able to reduce pain associated with their symptoms as a result of these Mind/Body groups. In another study, gene expression was measured as a result of relaxation response. The study shows that regular relaxation practices in participants yielded tremendous health benefits which included improved insulin secretion, decreased inflammation and reduction in hypertension, anxiety and insomnia.

Denninger said that because of the overwhelming evidence that the relaxation response is highly correlated to good health, he recommends that all people take of some type of mind/body practice (Yoga, Tai Chi, repetitive prayer, breathing techniques, and body scanning.) From my perspective, most of the aforementioned are part of a well rounded yoga practice that includes Asana, Pranayama, and Japa Sadhana (repetition of mantras).

The one kernel of wisdom I got from Denninger is that stress is an incredibly destructive force against our physical and psychological well-being. By taking time out each day to create a relaxation response, your body puts itself into repair mode as evidenced by these studies.

Many blessings to you John for your interview and your wisdom to bring this data to to the forefront in the medical community.

 

Yoganushasanam, my Superbowl

I’ve never been much of a sports fan since I graduated college in the mid 90’s. I don’t think I’ve sat through a whole NFL game in this millenium. But there is one event that keeps me at the edge of my seat: Yoganushasanam which is now becoming an annual event at the Balewadi Badminton Stadium in Pune, India.

Beginning from last year, during the second week of December, Geeta Iyengar has been holding this event starting on her birthday. Like an early Christmas gift, I am showered by gems of wisdom from the teachings at this multi-day event. I get flooded with posts on my Facebook feed and various blogs about sequences, actions, philisophical concepts, and how direction on where the Iyengars are taking the practice. This year’s event started with a beautiful Patanjali Invocation and Guru Mantra chanted in unison by 1500 participants (courtesy Maria Luisa Basualdo).

Unfortunatley, I am not able to attend due to family duties, so like the Superbowl, the next best thing is to watch it being “televised” via the internet feeds.

It is especially interesting reading how two different practitioners, at two different levels of certifications, from two different countries interpret and write about the same event. In one of Prahantji’s talks on Guru Poornima, he says that there is a special type of guru who says one word, but the word has different meanings for each person attending the lesson. As a result, the person receives the grace of the teaching no matter which level they are currently practicing. That is the beauty of the the Iyengars’ teachings–each instruction yields fruit on some level.

In last year’s event, Geetaji taught different dimensions of approaching seated poses, particularly Dandasana and Upavishtha Konasana. Even though I did not attend, the teachings were retransmitted in the two workshops from senior teachers at our studio.

To follow this event, it is best to check the Facebook news feeds of your country’s Iyengar association.

Happy birthday Geetaji! And many blessings to those who are there, and may you transmit the teachings worldwide to your students.

Photo courtesy of livetheiplife on Instagram

Review of Yoga blog trends in 2015

A while back, I wrote a “wish list” of Yoga blog trends I would like to see in 2015. Much to my delight, many of them have come true: The selfie trend is taking a sharp nosedive (thank goodness), there are fewer “wild thing” and ridiculously dangerous poses out there (most likely because people are getting injured doing them). There is less profanity and playlists postings are rapidly becoming passé. And happily, Lululemon’s stock is dropping rapidly now that people see that the company is not only a huge misappropriation of Yoga, but is just a downright rip off. For the moment, it seems as though yoga in the West is finally emerging from the 5th grade mentality, but not by much.

The second part of my list is still under development: people are still scratching the surface with their posts about how yoga is transforming them. And my dear friend Irish Asthtangi/1979Darryl has deleted his blog (miss you man!)

We are still seeing some good posts coming from male practitioners. J.Brown has a fantastic blog. He discusses struggles of old school practitioners and studio owners in the age of “Big Yoga.” Although we practice different styles, I can resonate with his frustrations about how yoga is now becoming “gentrified.”

We are also starting to hear from more over 50 practitioners and Iyengar bloggers, and a surprising fresh crop of new-to-yoga bloggers who are trying to get past the superficial. Here are a list of up and coming and solidly established blogs I follow regularly:

Still in Sirsasana Iyengar blog by Detroit Junior Intermediate III instructor Hong Gwi-Seok.

Babycrowyoga Newish yoga practitioner from the UK who actually took a university level Sanskrit class to further her yogic knowledge.

Roads to Bliss Upstreams of instructions and interview with senior Iyengar teachers.

Yogaspy The blog that inspired me to create this one from Hilo native and Canadian resident at the Junior Intermediate I level Luci Yamamoto.

Yogabound Canadian Junior Intermediate II instructor Stephanie Tencer discusses her journey and gives wonderful instructions and insights on her blog.

fnyogi A French Iyengar blog. Even if you don’t understand French, Fanny produces some of the best illustrations and graphics of the practice I have seen in a blog.

anonymous sadhaka A barefoot runner who studies regularly at RIMYI offering beautiful insights to the practice that goes beyond asana.

There are many more which I may add later. It’s late and I need to get to bed.

Many blessings to you all!

Photo courtesy of https://shizincolor.wordpress.com