Tag Archives: yoga sutra

Using modern technology to learn ancient teachings: an app review


I called “uncle!” The kind you call when your older brother has you in a wrestling hold when you are a kid. After my cassette tape player broke, I was forced to try learning the yoga sutras via Youtube. Although there are beautiful selections of chants on Youtube, most are so fast that you cannot learn them step by step. I was forced to seek other methods. Since you cannot summon a Sanskrit scholar to sit and teach you like in olden times (at least not without having to travel to India), the next best recourse is an app.

One fellow blogger guided me to Patanjali’s Yogasutra by TKV Desikachar. This sells for about six bucks on iTunes. What sold me on this app is that Desikachar himself said that while this is a good start, this should only be considered a very basic introduction to the sutras. In other words, he is not promising you the moon like other apps.

Desikachar is the son of  T. Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya taught both Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar. Desikachar’s daughter Mekhala leads you through the chants. The novel part of learning via the app is the simplicity of just pressing one button to have the chant repeat. I find that it is helpful to listen to the chant 20 times without any other intentions except to listening to the beauty of the line. Then I try to repeat parts.

This app has two speeds: classical and simplified. The simplified is slower and breaks each sutra into easily digestible parts. The app also lays out the Padas (chapters) in an easy to access format.

The few downsides to this app are that Mekhala’s voice can be a bit adolescent sounding and that starts to be an issue after repeating a line many times. It would have been nice if TKV Desikachar would have chanted them himself. Also, the verses are written in one straight unbroken line, so it is difficult to read along when you chant.

Three weeks into my sutra study, I am on line 8. I am continuing to enjoy this learning process. Thank you Swtspontaneous for the tip!!

Chasing rainbows…the never ending quest to attain perfection in asana


Winter is Hawai’i’s rainy season, and there are rainbows to be seen daily during one’s commute. While my wife was driving over the Pali Highway, I was lucky enough to see this low flying rainbow and snap a photo. This rainbow would disappear and reappear around every bend. It was a delicate play of light and speed to be able to capture this rainbow on film, ultimately for a fleeting moment before we hit the tunnels leading to the Windward side.

This dance with the rainbow reminds me much of my daily yoga practice. I have certain postures that elude me. I have glimpses of the posture, but the reality of how my body is today and the vast chasm in between. Patanjali says in Sutra 11.47:  Prayanta saithilya ananta samapattibhyam or “Perfection in asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.”

I reflect on this sutra often.  If I am struggling too much to attain an asana, perhaps it is not my time to go there yet and I need to work on more fundamental actions “lower” in the clan until I can perform them without effort. Although this may not be in the time that I want, this assures that I will not get injured, that I can continue practicing yoga into my old age, and it keeps my ego in check. Practicing yoga is not about the physical postures, it is about the full conquest of one’s ego. The asanas just happen to provide a valuable tool in doing so.

Perhaps one of my most frustrating times as a teacher was when I was preparing for the Intro I assessment. The syllabus of poses appeared “too easy” for my “advanced practice.” The poses included Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose), and 30 other “basic” asanas with the target being Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported All Body Pose or Shoulder Stand). I had to work on these poses for two years. I would see others in different yoga teacher trainings do arm balances, drop backs, and other “advanced” asanas. Meanwhile I was “stuck” with these asanas I had learned 10 years prior when I started yoga.

Then a magical thing happened. I came to the realization that these were not “basic” asanas at all, but were very complex once I peeled the thin veneer of the “shape” of the pose back. When you apply the correct actions to any pose, it becomes more difficult by an order of ten. I often refer to one of Kofi Busia’s two hour class where he taught 2 postures: Tadasana and Dandasana.

T and D

He held each pose of one hour. That experience takes one beyond what the asana is and introduces one to the other other aspects of yoga: namely Dharana (concentration), and Dhyana (meditation). Asana means “meditative seat” and as the name implies, it is a vehicle for meditation.

I am reading about people who are injuring themselves preparing for yoga competitions. I have much compassion for these people as they feel a need to show off their asanas in front of others to gain approval and “win” something. What exactly does one “win” when achieving Vrischikasana at the expense of dislocating a rib?


We all want to have “perfect postures” to instragram to the universe. We all want to attain the most difficult poses in the shortest amount of time. Does it do us any good? There will undoubtably be someone who does it better and with less effort.


This is Alice. This is what I aspire to be as a yoga practitioner. Alice is well into her 80’s. She has difficulty seeing with her glaucoma and cannot do inversions because of that condition. She needs a wall to support herself in Utthita Trikonasana. Alice has a daily yoga practice, and has had one for many years. This woman is unstoppable. She does not give a rip about what she looks like in her postures. The only thing she cares about is doing the proper actions so she does not injure herself. To me, she embodies what true yoga is all about.

Like the Rainbow on the Pali Highway, our asanas will shine and disappear just as quickly. Injury, old age, life events, will all get in the way of our yoga practice. But what we don’t realize is that these life events “are” the yoga practice. Sometimes asanas just get in the way.