Tag Archives: Iyengar

Ducks!

Hi all! I had taken about a month or so off writing when my dear friend Sonia encouraged me to start posting again in a kind email. The nice thing about not writing for a living is you can take a hiatus when your inspiration is lowered, or you simply have ran out of ideas to post about. In the past month we had unusually hot weather and low rainfall in Hawaii. I am finding a symbiotic relationship with my garden and my writing habits. In short, when my garden isn’t producing, I get writer’s block. Happily, a cold weather front came through the islands bringing lots of rain. So here are my fingers flailing on my keyboard again 🙂

As far as my yoga practice, I bit the bullet and signed up to take my Junior Intermediate I assessment this year. It is a bit scary to be going up for assessment this year. Compared to how I have been normally practicing for the past several years, this year would definitely land more on the mrdu end of the meter. I will let those who study the sutra-s figure out what that means.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t practiced though. I still teach all my classes and take some time when I can to get through a sequence or so. And I just got finished with a workshop with Laurie Blakeney who is now the IYNAUS assessment chair. In addition, I still do my mantra practices in the morning and evening. I honestly don’t see how I can get through the day without them.

My mentoring teachers are gracious and wrote me recommendations which are needed for the applications. They have been understanding of my family and personal needs this past year which has drastically changed my ability to regularly practice evening classes at the studio with them. I will post updates about my progress towards this goal. Just don’t be too hard on me if things don’t go the way they should. The J-one syllabus is tough!

As far as my garden, it continues to enrich my life in ways I never realized. I remember reading one of Masanobu Fukuoka’s books and he said that he would regularly get visits on his farm/garden from ducks who would graciously poop on his plants providing wonderful fertilizer. I felt kind of sad when he said they built a big highway by his property and the ducks could no longer cross safely, so he was subjected to spread his own pelleted chicken manure in their abscence.

Yesterday I went outside in my garden and found these two hooligans (see picture above) waddling about in my garden. They are ducks from the nearby marsh. My wife ran and grabbed some bread and fed them heartily. Don’t worry Home Yoga Practice fans, I won’t
“duck” out on another month without posting 🙂

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!