Tag Archives: Iyengar

Saying bye to an old friend

Tonight I attended services for Evelia Pineda Torres, who succumbed to breast cancer two weeks ago. The event tonight was a celebration of Evelia. There were about 250 people who gathered at the Elk’s Club in Waikiki in a beautiful sea side ceremony.

Even though it was a somber occasion, I was happy to see a lot of faces I haven’t seen for years and a whole lot of new ones. I was in sheer awe of the breadth of Evelia’s influence on not just the O’ahu yoga community, but other communities as well on our island. For example, there was a large contingent of Ultimate Frisbee enthusiasts. Evelia was a massage therapist and would offer the frisbee participants massages during competitions. She was well remembered by that group.

She was also an avid hiker and many who shared the trails with her were in attendance as well. Not to mention her neighbors, and family who flew in from her native Mexico. Her husband was surrounded by love and and support from her large community.

I have know Evelia since 1999-2000 when she was a student with Daws, my original yoga teacher. I remember her back then doing yoga-nidrasana, which is a pose where you have both legs behind your head lying on your back. That was her practice back then, and she had evolved even more through the years.

Many at the services said they were shocked when they found the news that she had stage four breast cancer which was announced in December. She continued to teach classes until just after Christmas. Her students remembered her as a strong teacher who challenged them, but also showed a tremendous amount of compassion and was encouraging to new students.

One of the ceremony’s speakers said that a theorem in physics is that energy never dies, it just gets transformed. Evelia’s light burned brightly in this plane, I’m sure she continues to radiate her divinity on her next journey. She will be very missed here on Earth.

*featured image courtesy of Iyengar Yoga Silent Dance Center Facebook page

 

Nose to the grindstone

My teachers are in Pune for March and that means subbing for me. I was not able to sub as much this month as I did when they went to China six months ago because of new care giving duties. The woman who was helping back in October found another job, and my wife and I have been tag teaming like parents to get my mother-in-law to daycare and other duties.

I do have to admit I got a bit burned out when I subbed last October which meant I taught upwards of eight classes per week. Of course that was coupled with a lot of personal loss. Now I will be teaching about 5 classes per week. Not as intense.

The good thing about my studio is that the next crop of teachers in training will get opportunities to assist with classes which takes a lot of pressure off. They are the cream of the crop of my teacher’s classes and it will be exciting to see how they develop as teachers themselves. Teaching is an entirely different skill set than practicing.

My teacher Ray left us all a nice note at the studio to take time to work on our own Sadhana even when we are subbing. It was a gentle reminder. As yoga teachers we have to take care of ourselves. It seems like a no brainer that we would, but I have seen a lot of teachers neglecting their own health and relationships to teach insane schedules in addition to having a job and families.

Balance is always something I try to fight for. The universe can sure flick a lot of responsibility your way. A good practitioner can manage, but must be constantly vigilant about conserving one’s energy.

So I am looking forward to the challenges of this month. I look forward to seeing students I haven’t seen for a while in addition to new faces. Hopefully I can maintain the standards of my teachers and even teach their students something new. But the main service is keeping our humble studio moving ahead in the absence of my teachers.

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.

 

 

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.

evelia_web_2

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

 

An early birthday recognition for Geeta Iyengar

Geeta Iyengar turns 72 in a few days. I would like to take a moment to recognize some of her many contributions to yoga.

geeta-n-iyengar-krounchasana

Being trained intensely by her father, BKS Iyengar, Geeta has helped in the development of a systematized curriculum for certified teachers. This has allowed for high standards to be maintained while utilizing an apprenticeship model mirrors how yoga has been traditionally taught for centuries.

Her book Yoga: A Gem For Women in an excellent companion to her father’s seminal work Light On Yoga. In reading this book for my certification and training, I have found it beautiful weaves philosophy with asana practice. She has also developed wonderful teaching materials in the Yoga in Action series which recently added an intermediate course.

gem-for-women

She has graciously taught many Western Iyengar instructors (including my own teachers) which has helped build the Iyengar method of yoga worldwide. She is still active in the certification process and has been signing diplomas of newly certified teachers since her father’s passing in 2014.

geeta-and-lois

She has developed many methods on treating issues specific to women’s needs through asana. She has also written many books aside from “Gem” about sensible practice for women at every stage of life. She now leads the medical classes at RIMYI in where people with specific medical conditions are given prop intensive asana treatments and sequences to help them manage their illness and conditions. She also trains teachers on the therapeutic Iyengar methods during these classes.

geeta teaching

In the past few years, her birthday celebration has been concurrent with the Yoganusasanam event in Pune where she and her niece Abhijata teach hundreds in a large badminton stadium.

geeta stadium

What is dear to my heart about Geeta is how she did much of the above while being a caregiver for her father during when he was ill. As a caregiver and yoga teacher, her example is an inspiration of what can be done as an ardent yoga practitioner. Happy birthday Geeta!

 

A tribute to my blogger friends

After blogging regularly for three years, one acquires a group of like minded writers who travel with you on your journey. Some get off on stops and get on to other things, but seem to keep in touch in one way or another. Here are some of the precious blogs from my friends who contribute mightily to the internet. Also shout outs to my friends who don’t have a blog, but read and comment regularly on my feeds.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-8-58-14-pm Anonymous Sadhaka is authored by an Iyengar practitioner/barefoot runner who lives in Pune, India. I have learned so much from So…’s posts about the true meaning of spirituality from the perspective of an Indian woman. She has recommended many good books to me and her posts burst with wisdom. She has been a good friend and often thoughtfully reads and comments on my posts.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-8-59-34-pm  Sweetreecrone is an Asthangi blogger who follows Richard Freeman of whom I’ve always been a fan. k8macdo is an ardent yoga and tai chi practitioner who is also deeply spiritual. Her comments have helped encourage me to write more and she has been very supportive during my difficult year of loss.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-01-02-pm  Mishedup is a blogging friend who has a Gravitar that simply says “sober, widow, mom, warrior” Coming from a counseling perspective, each of these words hold tremendous power. When I have been at my worst this year, Mishedup has given me tremendous encouragement. For that I thank you!

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-09-41-pm babycrowyoga is a prolific blogger out of the UK who has recently graduated teacher training and is finding her sea legs in the ocean of yoga teaching. I admire her for having the courage to try Iyengar Yoga at the Maide Vale Institute in London, and even more for the courage to say that the Iyengar style didn’t resonate with her at this point in time. She has been a tremendously supportive friend.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-11-34-pm Yogaspy I always have to give props to my long time blogging friend Luci Yamamoto who is from Hilo, but now lives in Canada. She has been busy assisting in the administration for the Iyengar Yoga Assoiciation of Canada. I always say she is the person who inspired me to start my blog.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-02-47-pm  Sthapati Samanvayam has a unique perspective as a devout Hindu from the LBGTQ community. He has taught me tremendous insights about Hinduism in his blog. He has interesting tales of traveling through Midwest America looking for Hindu temples (and finding them).

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-08-02-pm The Awkward Pose Comes from another traveller. Paul Fallon is riding his bike across the US and visiting all the lower 48 states asking one simple question to everyone he meets: “How will we live tomorrow?” and publishes the replies on his blog. He is quite steadfast and even had an accident which hospitalized him. The responses give me hope for this country which appears very divided after the election that we are all basically the same.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-13-47-pmAmber Foxx Mysteries Is a fellow New Mexican who is an accomplished author and also practices yoga. Sometimes I am in awe of people who actually read my stuff. Amber has been given me wonderful feedback and comments.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-06-26-pm  The Dragon Journal of Taijiquan Tim Richard’s blog is the Tai Chi version of what I would like to do with my blog. It is deeply philosophical and reflective. He founded a tai chi center in Durango and respects the lineage of his teachers. Tim is also a talented guitarist.

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-9-15-20-pm Peakmemory is a blog by Dr. Jeremy Genovese who authored the book “Remembering Willie Nelson: The Science of Peak Memory.” He has reblogged a lot of my posts and has been a supportive commenter over the years.

I would also like to mention Felicity Green, Marjorie Erway, Yoga Cat, Aparna, FN Yogi, Yoga Marcia, Laurie Freed and Aziani Ismail for their support. Please forgive me if I forgot to mention you, but I appreciate all of my readers and commenters.