Monthly Archives: February 2017

Darkness and light cannot coexist

With each day’s headlines, I feel we are indeed in dark times. Even though Hawai’i days are bright in February, I feel the collective chilly mood of winter from the Northern Hemisphere.

I attended a talk from Buddhist nun Rev. Lekshe Tsomo a few months back when I was coping with my then ailing father-in-law who eventually passed last May. She said many things that brought me comfort, but the main kernel of wisdom I gleaned from her talk is that darkness and light cannot coexist.

You can take take this literally, but it works well in metaphor. One must shine one’s own light on dark things that come our way to shepherd us though this time. Even Iyengar felt “light” should be shown on yoga which was lurking in the darkness before his teachings brought the best of yoga to the forefront.

When you come across bad news, summon the power to ask “is this really true?” “Does this really affect me, or am I just reacting to the collective madness?” Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty collective madness to go around these days. That is why we have to learn what our practice has taught us during the “easy” times.

Even in the yoga world, there is mass chaos. In fact I would argue that there is even more than in the non-yoga world. We have egoic yoga celebrities writing misogynistic rants, engaging in thought and tone policing, and selling the practice out for every last dime. There are even those who deny the practice is even legitimate and was “made up” for political purposes.

As we sink into our practice, we have to ask “are all of these things making my life dark really true?” and we get an internal shout back “NO!”

Shine on!

 

Chisai (small) harvest

The first “bumper” crop came in from my garden. Let’s just say it was a bumper from a Mini Cooper instead of a Hummer, but at least I’m keeping it green 🙂 Chisai (small) is the word my Japanese mother-in-law used to describe my harvest. Although these plants are tiny compared to the one’s seen in the store, they are indeed some delicious delicacies. I’d like to share them with you.

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Above is how the cucumber from a few posts ago turned out. It was near the ground and grew into a circle. This was probably the first bona fide vegetable I grew from seed, so I am extremely fond of it. As Fukuoka’s theory of gardening was based on the concept of “mu” or “nothingness” this cucumber reminded me of an enso circle in Zen Buddhism which symbolizes that we are nothing and everything. In a strange cosmic way, I felt this was Fukuoka’s way of giving me his blessing for my garden. I also harvested this near his birthday on Feburary 2 (he would have made 104 this year). After showing this to my family, I cut it into three pieces and we all enjoyed it.

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Below are some Romanine lettuce mixed with daikon leaves. The daikon leaves were spicy and mustardy and mixed well with the mild Romaine. As you can see this is about a tenth of the size of the variety that comes in your caesar salad. But we ate these without any dressing and they were delicious!

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Below are snap peas. These have come from a confused plant which has tried to latch on to anything it can to trellis itself upward. I thought the windy dry weather had done them in, but they rebounded nicely and produced these beautiful pea pods. Sweet, crisp and succulent.

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Below is a “preemie” daikon. If you have ever seen one of these in real life, you’d know that they are huge with a root the size of toddler’s leg. This little guy was growing right next to another daikon and was competing for space, so I decided to pluck him and add him to my stir fry. When they are small and young like this they pack a spicy punch much like horse radish or wasabi. Bold, assertive flavor from this pint sized offering.

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A few haricot verts from my bush bean plant. These grow quickly. The beauty of bush beans is they magically keep giving and giving. In fact is in encouraged to harvest often so the plant does not flower and go to seed.

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And last but not least, this wonderful Kabocha pumpkin plant is snaking through my garden like a dragon complete with scales. I’ve never grown a pumpkin before and didn’t realize what a regal and dynamic plant it is. It uses its tentacle like vines to secure it to the ground like staples and behind the “head” large yellow flowers bloom on the body like fireworks. A female flower finally emerged but has not opened. The large black bees which circle overhead will certainly pollinate this plant once the female flower opens.

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Although the plants are small, these mini harvests have given me hope. As one of my Facebook friends said “Don’t be put off if things grow smallish this year. They will grow bigger and better each year.” There is a nice quote from Audrey Hepburn: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” With all the craziness in the world right now, my garden and my yoga practice have kept me grounded and optimistic about the future regardless of world events. Although you couldn’t taste these, I hope they were a feast for the eyes. Many blessings!

MPY is an outdated term

Seven years ago, Mark Singleton published a made-for-the-average-Joe version of his thesis in Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice which states in so many words that yoga as we know it today is less than 100 years old. This has started a whole wave of thinking that yoga is some kind of scam dreamed up by Hindu nationalists who pirated asana-s from Kerala wrestlers and Swedish gymnastics manuals. Sadly, this has also inspired a new wave of yoga commentators in pushing a hate-filled anti-Indian agenda that is critical of teaching techniques by Krishnamacharya and his disciples. It has also given a slew of yoga teacher trainings self made license to do what ever kind of contortions they want to do and call it “yoga” which has led to an epidemic of yoga-related injuries. I have been reticent to delve into this debate as I had to educate myself more on the issue before having an intelligent voice in the matter.

Recently Singleton has teamed up with researcher James Mallinson to go on a fact finding trip to India to really find out where yoga came from. In the forthcoming press about Mallinson’s recent book Roots of Yoga, he states that yoga is not exclusively Hindu, but draws from Buddhist and Jain practices as well. Just like in a rainforest, a botanist finds a mysterious leaf peeking out of dense foliage and tries to find the root of the leaf only to find it is part of much larger matrix of life from which it is impossible to find a single source, it seems as though Mallinson et al. have found themselves in a similar conundrum. I have yet to read the book, but the press that has come from the findings of this team is leaving one with more questions than answers.

Which brings me back to the point of the title of this post: MPY or Modern Postural Yoga is an outdated term. We are not sure how old asana-s are and if what we are practicing today even resembles asana-s of yoga past before photography. What some of us know who are Iyengar practitioners is that the asana-s that our teacher taught have given us far more than we bargained for when we first stepped foot in class. Iyengar’s method of teaching and asana-s that he presented are transformative to one both physically and mentally. For those of us who stuck with it for several years, the practice continues to bring us more fruit with each consecutive year. At least that has been the case for me.

I am not a scholar, but a practitioner. But being a good practitioner means one has an element of scholarship in one’s sadhana, particularly in reading the classic texts like Patanjali Yoga Sutra-s. I read several translations as I am not fluent in Sanskrit so I can get a better gist of what the Sutra-s are trying to impart. The one truth I continually glean from my readings is that when one’s mind is silent from practice, one gains insight based on one’s own reality. The true yogic knowlege is gained from direct experience. Just like when you first learned to tie your shoes without help from your parents, you were forever empowered with that skill. There are many “tied shoe” experiences with continued uninterrupted practice.

So may the term Modern Postural Yoga find its way into the lexiconic trash bin of tired phrases. The yoga we practice today is from the same body infrastructure of humanity’s several millennia. The body of 2017 reacts the postures the way the body reacted to it in the times of the Upanishads. In case you didn’t know, that is far more than 100 years old.