Bhagavad Gita-Book of the month

Illustration of the battle of Kurukshetra, Arjuna (far right), with Krishna as the charioteer, is battling the Kauravas as the gods look down.

Illustration of the battle of Kurukshetra, Arjuna (far right), with Krishna as the charioteer, is battling the Kauravas as the gods look down.

“Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”
-Bhagavad Gita, Eknath Eswaran-

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Selfless Service & Wisdom in action

Our IYCD book of the month the Bhagavad Gita.  We will be sharing short excerpts from other blogs, from teachers, and from the book itself.  Here is the first one.  If you have an interest in submitting for our blog, please send us an email and let us know!Image

 

Selfless Service & Wisdom in action
I have been keeping up with a blog written by Lisa Walford who spent the last 6 weeks in Pune studying with the Iyengar family. Her posts were inspiring, her words are thoughtful, I felt as though I had nothing to write after reading about the classes happening at the Institute right now.

I also realize that I have been sorely using my excuse of not being in India as the source for my lack of inspiration or inner fire, tapas. Excuse after Excuse I have been finding. Not having Prashant to push these thoughts into my head, to really make me think about why I do and teach yoga anyways.

I think of all the people right now in my life I can use for the inspiration. Students who week after week come to class, my teachers who teach even when they feel a bit down. The ladies in my women’s group who pay dues to this educational non-profit, come to meetings, do many different fund raising events year after year with very little $ to work with. They never complain, they always smile, laugh and support each other through the good and the bad. The IMIYA board members who every month meet and discuss how we can spread the teachings of Iyengar yoga purely out of their love of the subject and the Iyengar family.

One thing I have learned the last few months, is this path of yoga can be a lonely one. You are truly on the path to self-realization, not a path to popularity and masses of wealth. It is so funny, I think of all the times where I only had 1 person in a class or no people in a class. Wondering why I still do this? I do it because this yoga has changed my life. It has the potential to change anyone’s life who chooses the path. I also find that when you teach from the heart, teach from the place of being humble, students come, they multiply even (not in the Gremlin sense…). Even the ones who challenge you, ask hard questions, have physical issues, those are the ones we learn the most from.

This brings me to the wisdom in action part. Even if I don’t have the teachings of the Institute at my fingertips, I have to make myself study. It is not easy to sit down at 7 am and read the Gita. I do however realize if I am to continue teaching and learning, this is a part of the process. Not just the physical asana part. Yes, that part in important, but the real reason I do yoga is to become more open. Open to new possibilities, open to new people, new ideas. All this studying and practice I do to build a strong foundation of purpose and meaning in my life.

From the reading have I done this week in the Gita, Chapter 4. Arjuna is wanting a quick fix, to get out of his current situation fast. Krishna is teaching him ancient mystical secrets and Arujuna just does not understand that it is not just the physical action that can lead him on the path to fixing his issue, but a path of Spiritual Knowledge. Of knowing the Self, of being Selfless, giving of ones self with no attachments. At the end of this chapter, Krishna leaves Arjuna with this last piece of wisdom,

“Those established in the Self have renounced selfish attachments to their actions and cut through doubts with spiritual wisdom. They act in freedom. Arjuna, cut through this doubt in your own heart with the sword of spiritual wisdom. Arise; take up the path of yoga!”

Closing thoughts: My mind feels so bouncy these days. Not quite as focused as I would like. These busy times during the holidays can often times cause me (and everyone else for that matter) distress or depression, or the opposite, giddy and hyper. Even if you do not get caught up in all the craziness in the holidays, you are around people who do. Can we learn to find a balance between all of this? Not get caught up in the buying aspect, but in the giving aspect?

-Angie-

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Pose of the month-Sirsasana

Pose of the month-Sirsasana

This is Kelly! Kelly is a certified Iyengar teacher here at the center and she is also the owner of two businesses, amassage practice and she co-owns a studio in Denver with her husband Steven.
Join Kelly Thursday mornings from 8-9:30am for class!

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Sirsasana-with John Schumacher

Pose of the month is Sirsasana.
There are many different videos and books that can teach you Sirsasana.
We chose this one for the simplicity of John’s teaching. He shows the correct actions of the shoulders and shows exactly how to work up to it and how to eventually go up into the full pose.

Enjoy!

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The Inward Journey

Learning to Live in the Natural World
Excerpt from Light On Life by B.K.S. Iyengar: IYCD Book of the Month

“Before beginning this journey inward, we must clarify its nature. There is a frequent misunderstanding of the journey inward or the spiritual path, which suggests to most people a rejection of the natural world, the mundane, the practical, the pleasurable. On the contrary, to a yogi (or indeed a Taoist master or Zen monk) the path toward spirit lies entirely in the domain of nature. It is the exploration of nature from the world of appearances, or surface, into the subtlest heart of living matter. Spirituality is not some external goal that one must seek but a part of the divine core of each of us, which we must reveal. For the yogi, spirit is not separate from body. Spirituality, as I have tried to make clear, is not ethereal and outside nature, but accessible and palpable in our very own bodies. Indeed the very idea of a spiritual path is a misnomer. After all, how can you move toward something that, like Divinity, is already by definition everywhere? A better image might be that if we tidy and clean our houses enough, we might one day notice that Divinity has been sitting in them all along. We do the same with the sheaths of the body, polishing them until they become a pure window to the divine.

A scientist sets out to conquer nature through knowledge- external nature, external knowledge. By these means he may split the atom and achieve external power. A yogi sets out to explore his own internal nature, to penetrate the atom (atma) of being. He does not gain dominion over wide lands and restless seas, but over his own recalcitrant flesh and febrile mind. This is the power of compassionate truth. The presence of truth can make us feel naked, but compassion takes all of our shame away. It is this inner quest for growth and evolution, or “involution”, is the profound and transformational yogic journey that awaits the seeker after Truth. We begin this involution with what is most tangible, our physical body, and the yogasana practice helps us to understand and learn how to play this magnificent instrument that each of us has been given.” Pg. 18-19

lotus reflection

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On Being an Iyengar Yoga Student

natureiyengar

I studied several different methods of yoga before finding Iyengar yoga.  Intrinsically, I knew a yoga practice was just what I needed.  What I didn’t know was what kind of yoga was needed to ease my path to Samadhi.  And somehow, after practicing Iyengar yoga for a short while, I felt I had discovered that path.

First of all, a yogi must leave her ego at the door.  This is very hard I know but it is essential.  The good news is, if you make it a point to do this and keep practicing, it gets easier.  There is no shame in asking for or accepting help in aligning our poses from the teacher.  That is what they are there for; to guide us on our yoga journey.  The same goes for props.  Even Mr. Iyengar uses props every day.  The props are there to help us get the alignment of the pose.

A yogi must also remember there is no competition in yoga.  This is true for all yoga, not just Iyengar.  Don’t worry about what the yogini next to you is doing.  While you might think she is doing the perfect pose, that pose is hers!  If there is jealousy in seeing someone else in a complicated pose, you must learn to let go of this emotion.  Whatever pose you are doing on that day, in that class, in that moment:  it is your pose!  And it is perfect just the way it is.

An Iyengar yogini learns what her body is capable of doing and how far to go in a pose.  An Iyengar teacher always asks if anyone has any issues before class.  If you have a sore knee or had surgery on your shoulder in the past or any other injury, you should let the teacher know.  Even if you slept in the wrong position the night before and have a stiff neck, tell the teacher.  If you don’t want to bring up your issue in front of the class, talk to the teacher before class starts in private.  The teacher will let you know how to modify any poses or even suggest an alternative.  The most important thing is you don’t go beyond your capabilities and get hurt.  After practicing for a while, you will learn if there are poses to avoid, if you should modify or use a prop on your own.

While practicing yoga, you will find you might get a pose one day but not be able to do it the next.  This is perfectly fine.  Yoga is like life.  Some days, life goes smoothly and some days it doesn’t.  This translates over into your poses.  I like to remember at all times that yoga is a practice.  Like practicing piano, a sport, or a language, the more you do it the better you will be.  It’s really more about the journey of yoga than arriving at the perfect pose.

As Iyengar yogis, we must practice with “tapas” or burning zeal.  This doesn’t mean we go all out and take our bodies past what we are capable of.  It just means we set an intention for our practice each time we go to the mat and then concentrate, meditate and practice pranayama with great attention.  It’s always good to listen to the teacher too.  Some days you might hear the instruction and some days you might not.  You might not even know what the teacher is talking about!  But if we do the best we can and listen, one day the understanding will come and we will know what the instruction means and why the teacher is urging us to practice in the prescribed way.

By practicing with tapas, sometimes we can burn away emotions, fears, anxieties or even loosen up areas of our body that are stiff or tight.  You can stretch a shoulder or a hip and get the muscles to loosen up.  Sometimes breathing into the area helps too.  We can work on moving our bodies and try to dissipate our fears.  If you think about it, if we can do headstand and turn our world upside down, we can do anything.

You might find in Iyengar yoga, different teachers teach the same pose in a different way.  While this may seem confusing, the teacher has their reasons for doing this.  For example, you might practice a standing pose in one class with a straight leg and in another class, the teacher might have you bend your leg.  Each teacher works each pose with a purpose for each class.

Iyengar yoga is very alignment based.  There is a reason for this.  Mr. Iyengar believes if we align our bodies, everything else will fall in place.  Yoga means “union”.  This union means that our bodies, our minds and our spirits are all one.  By practicing our asanas in a mindful and meditative manner and associating our movement with our breath, practicing pranayama, we can work toward this powerful union of body, mind and spirit and maybe reach a glimpse of Samadhi.

The more we practice yoga, the more glimpses of Samadhi we get.   And then we can reach more sustained alignment and experience more Samadhi.  Samadhi is the ultimate goal of yoga.  When we work towards this goal, our journey helps us realize who we really are; our true self.

By Susan Abernethy

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Sutra 1.5-1.11-Musings From a Student

yoga-sutra

When I was invited to write this blog with a focus on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I recognized the immediate sensation of doubt that I have in certain asana. I am a novice with yoga philosophy, so I decided to approach the sutras like a challenging asana.  So here goes, I’ll set aside my doubtful thoughts and see what happens!  Then I’ll set aside any sense of success or failure, and try again with openness the next time.

I was immediately taken with Sutras 1.5-1.11 about the five changing states or fluctuations of the mind also called movements of consciousness (which can be detrimental or not, painful or not).  The five changing states are:  correct knowledge, illusion, delusion, sleep and memory.  I was particularly curious about the concept of illusion in Sutra 1.8:

“Illusory or erroneous knowledge is based on non-fact or the non-real” (Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali). Another translation uses the language “Error is false knowledge stemming from the incorrect apprehension [of something]” (Bryant, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).

I’ve been pondering how pain can sometimes be an illusion.  Or if not an illusion, I can misconceive the pain messages and memories that my body sends.  This is a kind of error or falsehood and it can lead me to completely misjudge my abilities and overlook opportunities for growth and healing.

I first began exploring yoga in the late 90’s, but only returned to yoga classes several years ago, partly because of my experiences with pain.  I’d had two herniated lumbar discs and a year’s worth of serious pain.  By the time I entered the yoga studio again, the pain had mostly retreated which is an entirely different story. The memory of pain, mingled with current discomforts and stiffness, still shadows me daily.

I realized through my recovery that pain is terribly complex and that I really only have a cursory understanding of my own experience.  Of course pain is very real.  Not an illusion.  But it also seems that it can take on a life of its own.   Pain wants me to think it is solid, immutable, and maybe even all powerful.  Perhaps, though, my perceptions and interpretations of pain are in error?

During my year of recovery, I found that I had some power to influence pain. I wasn’t doomed to simply cope.  I learned that pain creates a self-reinforcing cycle, if I let it.  Pain leads to avoidance and fear of certain movement, which leads to inactivity, which leads to a stiff and inflexible body, which further complicates my pain and creates more fear.

I also found that it is often difficult to name the pain.  Is it sharp or dull?  Muscle, joint, nerve?  Buttock, hip, back?  I’ve had a very hard time sorting out what is pain to worry about and what is pain that I can work with and possibly improve.  Even worse, though, is not knowing when pain is rooted in my fear.  When is my mind and my body memory the culprit, not physical injury?  When is pain a “distortion of reality”?  When do I have an “erroneous apprehension” of its nature?  It’s actually sort of a relief that this sutra helps to point out that I need to consider if pain is an illusion, an error, something I don’t have to always trust.

I came back to yoga for many reasons, but one of those reasons was that I wanted to learn what was “real” and what wasn’t about pain and my body’s abilities and limitations.  I didn’t realize that yoga would also help me understand pain in a larger communal context.  Pain has seemed like such a solitary experience, but when I attend class, it is clear that this, too, is an illusion.  So many of us bring our injuries and limitations, pain and fear into a group of people, most of whom we probably don’t really know.  Sometimes we even talk about the pain in front of these “strangers” and then we test out our limitations beside strangers.  At least that is what happens when I am truthful.

I’m thankful for the skilled and compassionate teachers, and other dedicated students at IYCD. I watch and learn from you as we all choose to try new things (things that scare me, and I’m guessing sometimes scare you).  Your example and presence has allowed me to explore what is real and what is illusion, and to continue to find freedom in my body and mind that I didn’t know existed.

Bettina Harmon-dedicated IYCD student

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