“Sorcerers are convinced that all of us are a bunch of nincompoops. We can never relinquish our crummy control voluntarily, thus we have to be tricked.”
Carlos Castaneda

Tales of Power

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-25

  • if you don't write jQuery/Javascript consistently then every small task is like a fucking riddle – though rewarding when you solve it 🙂 #
  • Yoga may help u improve flexibility or increase strength – but more then anything it can teach u how to better use what u already have #
  • after weeks of reading, writing of "the money" post has commenced! #
  • I am old-fashioned, I still use two characters 🙂 to indicate a smile J #
  • some business cards are destined for greatness … scratching, digging out keyboard-dust … #
  • cryptic messages appearing in my consciousness over the last 24 hours #
  • Counter-postures are unsung heroes of Yoga asana practices: http://bit.ly/bIRWIm #
  • "According2 Yoga psychology, 1st awareness is the realisation after the action that we have not acted skilfully enough" http://bit.ly/8XH74v #
  • "When our perceptual systems jump to unfounded conclusions, we see illusions" Galen Rowell http://bit.ly/asfzbb #
  • Arjuna was a warrior. Do you know your dharma? http://bit.ly/d4Uawp #

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Arjuna and Me


I’ve been thinking of Arjuna again these past few days. I’ve been thinking of him from a perspective I’ve been locked into from my first introduction to Arjuna (not very original). I’ve written before about the settings of the the Bhagvad Gita and Arjuna, but this time I would like to call upon a great summary by Leonard Cohen:

“There is a beautiful moment in the Bhagavad Gita Arjuna. The general. The great general. He’s standing in his chariot. And all the chariots are readied for war. And across the valley, he sees his opponents. And there he sees not just uncles and aunts and cousins, he sees gurus, he sees teachers that have taught him; and you know how the Indians revere that relationship. He sees them. And Krishna, one of the expressions of the deity, says to him, “you’ll never untangle the circumstances that brought you to this moment. You’re a warrior. Arise now, mighty warrior.” With the full understanding, that they’ve already been killed, and so have you. “This is just a play. This is my will. You’re caught up in the circumstances that I determine for you. That you did not determine for yourself. So, arise, you’re a noble warrior. Embrace your destiny, your fate, and stand up and do your duty.”

When I was introduced to Arjuna’s story I felt lost – so in a way I was envious of Arjuna. Sure he had a difficult situation to resolve – but the resolution was right under his nose. Arjuna had a duty, a clear dharma – he was a warrior – all he had to do was follow that track wherever it took him.

2.31: Seeing your righteous duty you should not tremble, for there is nothing better for a warrior than a righteous battle.
2.32: Happy are the warriors who find such a battle that has come of it’s own momentum.

(Translation by Swami Rama)

What was my duty? What path was I supposed to follow? What was my purpose? This was some years ago and though I feel I’ve come a long way since then these questions resurface.

  • It comes up mostly when I experience a volatile combination of free time and shortage of money.
  • I am more vulnerable to it when I go from being engaged with others to being alone again.
  • It has strong vibrations of “survival” thinking that was ingrained into me.
  • I am not trying to answer it anymore.
  • It disturbs me.
  • Thinking about it raises self-doubt.
  • Living with it keeps me vigilant.
  • It reminds me to revisit my actions and the vibrations they have left in their wake inside me.
  • It doesn’t immobilize me (well at least not for long :).
  • It does keep me in the dark about what I should do next (but not for long :).
  • It reminds me to appreciate the space in between and to practice surrender.
  • It reminds me to stay in tune and open to what may come next.
  • If I wait patiently it usually fades away on its own.

Today, right now, there’s a part of me that wishes for a clear and specific understanding, one that would enable to create more engagement with the world. One that I could both carry with me close to my heart and communicate to others. It’s there, but it’s elusive.

I couldn’t find (though it’s out there somewhere) a video with the above quote from Leonard Cohen. I did come across this one:

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Myself – June 2010: Movement


June was a better month. I barely left the house and this, I believe, resulted in settled emotions and an overall sense of consistency. I felt like doing and I did … quite a lot actually:

  • I launched oDharma – after much deliberation I found and was able to communicate a focus for my website work: Purpose.
  • A new design was born for this website.
  • A new design was born fot Feminitate.
  • A few more website projects began to move … at one point I counted 7 active projects … quite a lot of movement.

I spent more time practicing on-the-mat. I was able to sustain longer and fuller practices. I felt a welcome return to my body. I formed a new relationship with Savasana which I had been purposefully avoiding for a long time.

A new direction opened up for Andreea & I in our shared-consciousness. It began when Andreea again brought up, during one of our morning coffee talks, her wish to learn and practice birthing (in additional to her being a doula). As I listened to her something moved in me and a new option appeared before us and excited us. The initial excitement has since settled and I am looking forward to seeing where this goes on a more balanced and grounded energy.

There were no defining events (other then website) in this month – exactly as I had hoped it would be.

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How We See


Following is a quote by Galen Rowell from his book Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape:

“On my way out of the mountains, I saw the most intense color I had ever seen. A blanket of green shocked my eyes more than the brightest sunset or the bluest sky. Hanging meadows next to the glacier upon which I was walking emanated the verdant color of life with incredible brilliance. My companions went ahead while I got out my  camera and shot half a roll of various exposures and compositions. I felt tremendous exhilaration as I integrated patches of vivid color with patterns in the ice below, certain that one of these images would be among the best of my entire career.

Back in the states I was disappointed that the color in my slides bore no resemblance to what I had seen with my own eyes. The meadows in my picture were quite drab, and the images even had an overall blue-gray pallor caused by the veil of rain.

I was deeply embarrassed to admit that the vivid green had been only in my mind. The physics of light couldn’t explain what I saw. For months I had lived without seeing green. My world had been almost entirely blue and white: snow, ice, and sky at very high elevations. To my green-deprived brain the first sight of meadows muted by rain had brought forth verdant images of emeralds, oceans, fresh vegetables, and home.

At the time I had absolutely no inkling that my perception was faulty. Since then I’ve learned that that type of illusion is normal. We generally see what we are prepared to see. When our perceptual systems jump to unfounded conclusions, we see illusions… “

Galen Rowell

When I remembered this a couple of days ago I began contemplating if there are things my consciousness experiences in excess, or things my consciousness is lacking in experience – and how these may be affecting my view of the world.

Then, earlier this morning my teacher published an article titled Learning from Life – in which he highlights the idea that most learning occurs in hindsight:

“It is inevitable that our personal buttons, or old unhelpful and often repressed memories, will be pushed by ourselves, though we might project it onto others with such neat phrases as “look what you made me do!”  …  So rather than the ideal of foresight with skillful responses being in place and in readiness whatever the situation, we have the more realistic possibility of progressive levels of learning options starting with hindsight as our guide for insight.”

Paul Harvey

This article was with me as I was searching through Mountain Light to quote Galen Rowell. Then I noticed this next paragraph and decided to include it here too:

“A photographer may not have control over his individual perceptions, but he does indeed have control over what he chooses to photograph. Reading illusions is just as much a part of reading natural light as reading really physical phenomena. I will probably never repeat my mistake with the green meadow because I studied my results, went back in the field, and learned to predict when and how such faulty perceptions occur. I now know how to make certain illusions work for me, and how to obtain by natural methods, without manipulation, that illusory shade of green I once only imagined.”

Galen Rowell

Enjoy 🙂

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Pratikriyasana: Counter Postures


Physical postures used in asana practices usually involve placing the body in unusual (compared to the day-to-day demands) positions. Though much attention is placed on the physical aspects, asana and practice sequences can (be designed) to have physical, mental, emotional and energetic effects.

Counter postures are in some ways “resting postures” – they are practiced after asana sequences and have opposite qualities. They reduce excessive effects so that they don’t carry over from one sequence to another. They give us an opportunity to approach all parts of a practice with a consistent freshness and readiness. They make it possible to gradually build up intensity throughout a practice without wearing ourselves down or tiring along the way.

Opposite Qualities

Here are some example of opposing practice qualities:

  1. Direction – counter postures will usually be in an opposite direction. For example after a sequence of back bends you may use a counter-posture that includes forward bending (and vice versa).
  2. Soft – counter postures are usually performed with less intensity then the postures they are countering.
  3. Specific – counter postures can be directed at specific areas that may or are likely to carry tension or excess effort (while primary postures tend to involve many areas if not the entire body). The lower back is a common example of areas that may require caring attention. Another typical example, more common amongst men then women,  are the shoulders and shoulder-blades.
  4. Dynamic & Static – if the counter posture is compensating for a dynamic sequence then it needs to be static (and vice versa).
  5. Symmetry – counter postures will usually be symmetrical so that effort is distributed equally between the two sides of the body (this is especially true after asymmetrical posture – where restoring symmetry is a key role of counter postures).

Adding Counter Postures to a Practice Sequence

Introducing counter-postures in a practice sequence is part of the art of sequence building and is best done on an individual basis. However here are some useful ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Personalized – though there are postures that are well known and frequently used as counter-postures, it is useful to remember that what constitutes a posture or a counter posture can vary amongst practitioners and practice settings. An intense posture for one practitioner may be a counter-posture for another. A posture may be practiced as a primary posture in a morning-practice (when the body is still stiff) and then as a counter-posture in an evening practice (when the body is more flexible and dynamic).
  2. Counter-POSTURES –  are first and foremost postures. The same posture can be included in a practice sequence more then once once as both a primary-posture and a counter-posture.
  3. Counter First –  a practitioner should be able to perform counter-postures before attempting the postures for which they compensate. This is an invaluable lesson for safe and effective practice (on-the-mat and off-the-mat) If you want to practice a certain posture – first make sure you can do it’s counter-postures.
  4. Single/Plural – a counter-practice may be used after a single asana or after a sequence of asanas. A counter-practice may also include a single counter-posture or a sequence of counter-postures – depending on the length and intensity of the sequence it is compensating for and on the needs of the practitioner.
  5. Duration – a counter-posture (or sequence) needs to be approximately one-third the number of breaths of the practice it is compensating for. For example, if a practice sequence is 18 breaths long, it’s counter-sequence should be 6 breaths long. This is assuming that breathing is incorporated into your asana practice.
  6. Preparation & Transition – counter-postures can also be used for gradually preparing and building up to more demanding asana and for transitions between asana sequences.
  7. Practice Sequence – counter-postures can be used to create mild and accessible practice sequences –here is an example of one such sequence.

Following are a few basic example of counter-postures in context.

Example1: Standing Forward Bends

A standing sequence which combines symmetrical and asymmetrical standing forward bending postures is followed by Cakravakasana:

Some of the “counter” qualities are:

  • It includes back-bends (opposite direction to the forward bends in the practice).
  • A stable kneeling position which anchors the legs and feet in fixed positions.
  • Which makes it possible to focus on movement primarily in and throughout the spine.
  • Soft movement (very little weight bearing on the back, nor on the arms – if done properly).
  • It has both mild dynamic and static qualities.

Example2: Leg Lifts

A lying sequence focused on single and double leg lifts (which, if you look carefully, have forward bending qualities) is followed by Dvipada Pitham:

Some of the “counter” qualities are:

  • It includes back-bends – opposite direction to the dominant forward bends in the practice.
  • It provides knee movement to counter the static knee position in the practice .
  • It provides neck movement to counter the static knee position in the practice.
  • It provides upper-back movement to counter the static upper back position in the practice.
  • It provides weight-bearing movement in the legs to counter the gravity-pulling effects in the practice.

If, for example, each asana in the sequence was performed 4 times: [ 4 x Right + 4 x Left + 4 x Both = 12 breaths ] – then the counter posture should be repeated 4 to 6 times.

Example3: Back Bends

A back-bending practice sequence is followed by Apanasana:

Some of the “counter” qualities are:

  • It anchors the spine (especially the upper back and shoulders) to the floor.
  • It provides gentle forward-bending quality in the lower back to counter to the intense back bending efforts of the practice.
  • It provides gentle hip-movement to counter the static hip position in the practice.
  • It utilizes gravity instead of the resistance to it required by the practice.
  • It gently compresses the abdomen (apana) to counter the expansion in the chest (prana) during the practice.

If, for example, each asana in the sequence was performed 4 times: [ 4x 4 variations = 16 breaths ] – then the counter posture should be repeated 6 to 8 times.

Example4: Extensive Sitting

The physical qualities of extended seated practices such as Pranayama or Meditation are often overlooked – yet they too require counter-postures. In this case two relatively dynamic postures counter the static seated position:

Some of the “counter” qualities are:

  • It provides stretching movement in the extremities – arms and legs.
  • It provides gentle and relaxing movement in the lower back.
  • It provides long range movement in the shoulders.
  • It provides movement in the hips.
  • It provides movement in the neck.
  • It you’ve been practicing pranayama it also provides an opportunity for gentle ujjayi breathing supported by opening movement.

More about this sequence here.

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