“You see all of us go through the same doubts. We are afraid of being mad; unfortunately for us, of course, all of us are already mad.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

A Change in Breath

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I found a paper in my Yoga teachers training pile – and on it is a short phrase written in large capitalized letters that cover the entire page. If memory serves, I wrote it down during  a retreat as my teacher was talking. I don’t recall if it was a sponatenous phrase or if he was quoting another source – but it is a gem of wisdom:

A change in breath can diminish the experience of limits. A breathing pattern is usually committed to memory and the limits are associated with it. When the breathing is altered, the memory of the limit disappears and we can explore beyond.

Posted in Breath, Pranayama, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-20

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Myself – May 2010: Settle

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May was mostly about rounding corners and shedding extremes. Emotionally it was a bland month. Depression had moved on, and in it’s place was a feeling of emptiness, lack of motivation to be or to do. Which seems to have been the right thing for me. I spent more time resting, staring out the window in the mornings … I occasionally visited my  Yoga mat for short practices. There wasn’t yet any steadiness … but there was much less unsetadiness.

I made a conscious choice to move as little as possible, I didn’t leave the house unless I had to (once a week shopping for food). In the mornings I would sit next to the big window in our livng room – and look outside. We had some of the best weather in the year and yet I didn’t go outside to sit on the porch. I would ask myself “Would you prefer to sit outside?” and the answer was constantly “No, I’d rather be inside.”.

My choice not to move also led to the defining event of May – my sister’s birthday. My parents invited us to join them for a typical family celebration. Andreea chose to go, I chose not to. It wasn’t a stubborn choice, I considered the invitation and felt that it was better I didn’t. I could feel myself moving towards better and leaving the house would have taxed me and probably set me back again. It wasn’t a difficult choice – but it did have it’s own resonance. First there was my parents who were offended by me – but I have grown used to that. I try to communicate my reasoning when possible – but my reasoning mostly does’t make sese to them. There was more difficulty in the fact that Andreea chose to go without me. This put her in the center of our family frictions. We felt this in the days before she went to my parents.

My sister seemed fine with this. She came to visit us soon after and we enjoyed a pleasant weekend together.

These words were written well into the month of June – so I can say without a doub that my choices were to good effect.

Posted in About, Myself | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

A Refreshing Breathing Practice

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It is common knowledge that taking a deep breath is relaxing – how about taking a few deep breaths?

For this practice you will need a place to sit, a few quiet minutes and familiarity with Ujjayi breathing:

  • Find your quiet place and a comfortable seated position with your eyes closed.
  • Sit quietly for a minute or two and observe your natural breathing.
  • Gradually move into Ujjayi breathing – let it build until the length of your exhale is longer then (or at least equal to) the length of your inhale. Do this until you have a steady pace of breathing.
  • Count 8 breaths.
  • Count 8 more breaths adding a short pause after exhaling.
  • Count 8 more breaths adding a short pause after inhaling (in addition to the pause after exhaling).
  • Count 8 more breaths without any pauses (like the first 8).
  • Resume natural breathing and stay for another minute or two to observe.
  • Gently open your eyes.
  • Resume life 🙂

If you have a tailored pranayama practice you can ask your teacher for a shorter variation you can use instead of this general sequence.

Posted in Breath, Practice Sequences, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Yoga Sutra – Chapter 1 Sutra 1

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atha yoga-anusanam
“Now begin the authoritative teachings of Yoga”

Translation by TKV Desikachar

This sutra has been on my mind for a few weeks now until a recent conversation with my teacher brought clarity to my thoughts.

This is the sutra that opens the Yoga Sutra – a text that is well known for it’s concise form and sparing use of words – and it opens by saying “this is the beginning”? duh!

Literally it is pretty straightforward. Atha can be translated as “now”. It indicates that this is a text that has a quality of prayer to it. Anusasanam can be translated as “teachings”. So “now come the teachings of Yoga”. My teacher suggests that it is a metaphor where “atha” represents a student, “yoga” represents a teacher and “anusasanam” represens teachings. An “education” requires that all three be present.

Anyway I read it – it is as if this sutra draws a line in the sand – on one side is everything I’ve known so far, crossing over it leads into something different altogether – the realm of Yoga. Why does the primary text about Yoga – which is about unity and integration start with a separation between that which is Yoga and everything else?

Then I recognized the word “anu” – which wasn’t individually acknowledged in any of the translations I consulted. It was always coupled with “sasanam” into “anusasanam”. I remembered the word “anu” from reading about Vaisesika philosophy:

Consider a point, defined as that which has neither parts nor extent, but position only. It occupies no space, has no inside or outside, no parts and is not produced and cannot be destroyed. Therefore it is eternal, has no magnitude – no length, breadth or thickness. This positional reality is what is implied by Anu and Paramanu.

I couldn’t a find a reliable definition for “sasanam” – the best I’ve been able to come up with is that it means “teaching” (I still wonder about it’s relationship with the word “asana”). This means that Anusasanam is not just any teaching. It is a core/root teaching – a teaching that is at the heart of everything.

This led me to another interpretation of this sutra “Now begins the linkage with the root of all teachings” – which led to a train of thought:

  • I came to this text because I was seeking something.
  • I didn”t know what that something was but I knew it was missing from my life.
  • This wasn”t a beginning of a journey – I had been on it for a long time.
  • It brough me to a teacher (the Yoga Sutra is not meant for reading, but to be transmitted by a teacher to a ready student).
  • My teacher and the teachings I received acknowledged my search.
  • This sutra was a marker on my path – it was telling me I was heading in the right direction.

When I was working my way from the outside in, the separation was clear to me. I had finally arrived at something that started to resonate with my questions. Things started to make a new kind of sense – a sense that is a result of a a new, less disturbed sensing.

When I was starting to move inside and looked back to where I came from – the separation was still very clear to me. There was no doubt in my mind I was in a better place and that “outside” was a lesser place. During my early practice years, I had a very hard time coming back from retreats and engaging my day-to-day life.

The farther in I travel into this “better” place, the boundary between it and everything else seems to fade – things seem to be integrating. This is off-the-mat Yoga. This is the Yoga I find in pulling weeds or doing dishes, or facing my fears or living in relationships. The “boundary” is in a way still useful – it reminds me when I stray off my path – it says to me “this is not in the spirit of Yoga, make a change”. From this I can deduct and speculate that there is a place where everything is truly integrated in the spirit of Yoga. Maybe this is “Samadhi”? I am not there yet, I don’t know if it is humanly possible to “arrive’ at such a place? I can and do continue to live my life aspiring to stay on my path – swinging back and forth between friction and peace, identifying more separations and arriving at better integration.

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours