MPY is an outdated term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Which brings me back to the point of the title of this post: MPY or Modern Postural Yoga is an outdated term.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.

 

 

Anything worth attaining takes patience

I have to admit I’ve been in a bit of a rut of late. After the election, the holidays, and the daily press after the inauguration, I have lost quite a bit of my inspiration. My yoga class this morning made me feel like my teaching has gone to pot, but I am wise enough to know that my critical voice is sometime irrationally loud.

After an unusual hot spell in Hawai’i, followed by a strong windy weekend, many plants in my garden were damaged, and birds ate a good number of my snap peas which were just about to ripen.

In mental health counseling, people who get in bad emotional shape tend to have several stressful events in a short period of time and somehow lump all of these events as coming from the same source. Like it is some kind of fate they had these things happen to them. I caught myself having this kind of thinking and am wrestling my way out of it.

Today I did a few positive things to set me in another direction. After the “bad teaching” yoga class, I gave myself a few minutes in a restorative pose to lengthen my spine which is something I haven’t done for a while. Afterwards, I came home and spent some time in my garden. I felt the soil and it was dry and sandy. The garden in its own way told me what it needed. When the day cooled off I gave it a good watering and pruned a few of the damaged parts of my snap pea plants that were ravaged by those horrible birds.

I realized that I will not have a bountiful harvest after just a few months of gardening with no prior experience, but also saw that it is a process which will encompass many years. Just as I have been teaching yoga for many years and still have a long way to go to have any sense of mastery. This is the way of all things in life that are worth attaining. You may never attain them, but the process is satisfyingly challenging.

Featured image Buddha with a mango

Flowering Fukuoka garden

I am about three months into my Fukuoka gardening project and am starting to see a lot of plants flowering. To bring new readers up to date, this is a method of gardening pioneered by Masanobu Fukuoka, whose philosophy is to allow nature to do the work with minimal interference from human interaction. This is easier said than done, as human nature likes to poke around as I often do to my poor plants in this garden. Keep in mind, I just planted this on my bare lawn without any soil, chemicals, or soil amendments. This is simply from laying down a bed of straw, casting seeds in the form of seed balls, broadcasting White Clover seeds, and just a small amount of pelleted chicken manure. Also keep in mind that I have had very minimal previous experience in gardening prior to this experiment.

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This is the very first cumcumber in the making from the garden. My wife and I hand pollenated it by removing flowers from a male, and inserting the stamen into the open female flower. The female flower has a “tiny” cucumber looking stalk. I believe this is successfully pollenated and growing at a rapid rate.

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This is a healthy looking snap pea plant (above). I added this wooden trellis as the plant started expanding beyond the garden stick.

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A kabocha pumpkin plant (above) produces huge yellow flowers which ants seem to love. Perhaps they will assist in pollination when a female flower comes about. I am finding the ratio of male flowers tends to be quite high compared to female flowers which come later.

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A bright green head of Romaine lettuce is extending its ribs up through the hay. I snapped a leaf off today and it had a rich “lettuce” taste that I haven’t been able to get from the store bought variety.

img_1767If you have been following this gardening project, you will have known that I have had a hard time growing beets. I finally have a batch that made it past the seedling stage under the protective leaf from a Chinese mustard green. To date, I have planted about 50 different kinds of seeds, but many have not made it.

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With a hand sickle, I cut tall grass in the garden and place them on top of other unruly plants. I have stopped using the term “weeds” because I realize that in this method, all plants have a purpose. The biomass from the non edible grass and horse herb provide mulch and suppress the plants in the garden that are bullying the young crops. When decomposed they in turn feed the garden with nutrients.

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The “skyline” of my garden is rapidly changing and getting taller.

 

 

My New Year’s Resolution? No goals

Early January is an interesting time of year. My brother posted on his Facebook page that the week after the New Year is like Black Friday for the gym. As he is a triathlete who trains through the holidays while everyone is Ho Ho Ho-ing, I can empathize with his annoyance of now having to share the stationary bike with someone who will use the gym every day for two weeks, then never again until next January. Resolutions don’t seem to last long.

After teaching yoga class one of my students was chatting with me and asked me what I did all day aside from teach yoga. I proceeded to tell her my “second job” where I go into psychiatric facilities, and substance abuse rehab centers and assess people. After the assessment, I work to get them the help they need in the community. Then after work I told her about my duties as a caregiver taking care of my mother-in-law who is in a wheelchair. She seemed floored.”That sounds exhausting,” she said. I told her I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

I had plenty of goals going into 2016. I even thought toward the end of 2016, I’d better start working on my 2017 goals, but got an unsettling feeling when I started to think about what I wanted this year. After reading Masanobu Fukuoka’s book One Straw Revolution, I reflected on what he considers the fallacy of thinking in terms of “progress.”

The more people do, the more society develops, the more problems arise. The increasing desolation of nature, the exhaustion of resources, the uneasiness and disintegration of the human spirit, all have been brought about by humanity’s trying to accomplish something. Originally there was no reason to progress, and nothing that had to be done. We have come to the point at which there is no other way than to bring about a “movement” not to bring anything about. -Fukuoka pg. 201

2016 turned out to be a personally difficult year where just managing was difficult enough. So this year I am chucking my goals. Perhaps it is because I feel I am at a place of Santosa (contentment) that I am on the right path. Perhaps it is because I am too lazy to stop what I am already doing. Or perhaps I have developed enough confidence in myself that I can “manifest” what I need if I need it. Author Carlos Castaneda is famous for saying “all paths lead to nowhere, so choose a path with heart.”

Right now I am on a path with heart. I enjoy my jobs. I enjoy caregiving. I enjoy teaching, doing, and studying yoga. I enjoy gardening. I enjoy writing about all of it. Although I could do well with fewer of the hardships I face, all of the above provide well for me financially, spiritually, socially, and healthfully. Who needs goals when you have all that?

 

 

 

 

Fukuoka was right: weeds and plants coexist nicely

One nice thing about the holidays is the time off from work has allowed me to spend more time in my garden. But as my mother-in-law likes to point out, I don’t do much in my garden except stare at my plants. Guilty as charged! I find the evolving life mesmerizing.

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You can see from this wide shot how lush my garden has become. The steady rains of Hawai’i in December means all the time I would have spent watering can just be spent in observation. I have added a few large round flat bricks to give me better access to the garden.

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This snap pea plant (above) is using both my trellis and a long grass blade to prop itself up. These can grow up to 6 feet tall (2 meters).

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In my determination, I have replanted new beets which are coming up out of their seed balls. The lesson I learned is not to move the straw around too much as there is tons of new life hiding inside. That decimated my original crop of beets.

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A tiny tomato plant (with the jagged leaves above) has peeked through the ground cover. The “weeds” that my neighbor identified in a previous post in combination with White Clover have proven to be fertile “green manure” for a host of other plants. This proves Fukuoka’s theory that plants can live in harmony in conduction with other plants which many consider “weeds.”

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Underneath this tall grass (above) is a patch of Romaine Lettuce. The grass has protected the lettuce from the onslaught of slug invasions that have also claimed many of my plants. I am finding the more lush the “weeds” and grasses grow, the fewer plants succumb to the slug and snail attacks.

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This bitter melon plant (above) is thriving with its roots in the straw, weeds, and clover underneath.

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You can see this nice row of daikon growing (above). At least I think it is daikon. The constant challenge in Fukuoka gardening is identifying seedlings and young plants as they randomly pop up. Before I thought it was annoying, but now it is fun as it forces me to constantly learn about new plants.

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On the other side of the yard, my wife has a “traditional” garden. As you can see her plants are doing very well. She has had to replant and resoil a few times to keep her garden in good shape. Every night we go on “slug hunts” with our flashlights to keep pests out of both our gardens. It is actually nice bonding time for my wife and I 🙂

A nice Christmas day sequence by Iyengar teacher Hong Gwi-Seok (Peggy)

I want to wish all of you a merry Christmas.

Here is a wonderful sequence by Junior Intermediate III level instructor Peggy Gwi-Seok (aka “Badass Yoga Nun”). She has a very nice message and works to spread Iyengar yoga to the Detroit area.

As Blogspot and WordPress don’t play well together, I simply added the link.

 

Many blessings everyone!

http://stillinsirsasana.blogspot.com/2016/12/a-yoga-sequence-on-christmas-day.html?spref=fb

Helping my friend Evelia in her fight against breast cancer.

I found out on Facebook that a dear friend and fellow Iyengar instructor has developed stage 4 breast cancer. The Iyengar Yoga Silent Dance Center FB page announced Friday that Evelia Pineda-Torres has the illness and will be undergoing specialized therapy and has a crowd funding site to help her with her fight.

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I practiced my early days of yoga with Evelia in the park with our teacher Das. She has evolved in her practice to become a Junior Intermediate I Iyengar instructor. The one thing I always remember about Evelia is that she has a supremely intensive practice, yet is kind and always willing to help her students. She has helped me get yoga teaching jobs over the years and has guided the way for me in many aspects of my journey to become a certified instructor.

Evelia is a fierce warrior. One time her house burned down and she lost everything. While she was going through that she still taught classes without batting an eyelash. Even as she found out about her diagnosis in March 2015, she kept silent until now and her students were shocked as she has not shown any sign of weakness.

For those in the Iyengar community who know Evelia, please wish her support. Again, I will provide the link to her crowd funding site. Many blessings Evelia, and you will conquer this as you have all the other trials I have seen you overcome.

https://www.youcaring.com/eveliapinedatorres-713942