“The future remains uncertain and so it should, for it is the canvas upon which we paint our desires. Thus always the human condition faces a beautifully empty canvas.”
Frank Herbert

Children of Dune

Yoga Rahasya


During my years of Yoga training I heard numerous times mention of a text called “Yoga Rahasya”. It came to me only in the past year. It arrived on the day Andreea left to Romania as if it waited for a space to open up.

Yoga Rahasya (“Secrets of Yoga”) is said to have been written by Nathamuni a 9th century Yogi who did much for the evolution and application of Yoga. It was lost a few decaded after he died and remained dormant for a long time. It was revived in a mystic occurrence by Krishnamacharya – my teacher’s (Ziva Kinrot), teacher’s (Paul Harvey), teacher’s (TKV Desikachar) teacher.

It is a very dense source of knowledge. When I first read through it I felt as if it was at the heart of all the teachings I had received. I believe it would have been lost upon me had I encountered it in my early Yoga years. Now it is like a well of endless inspirations that sends me back to my teachings and brings them into new light time and time again.

It is a unique source of knowledge about the application of Yoga in a therapeutic context and it’s role in different phases of life. It is also the only text I know that directly addresses Yoga for women and for pregnancy.

I believe it should only be consumed under the guidance of a teacher who knows it, respects it and practices it both as a practitioner and teacher. It contains powerful knowledge that can be easily misused and abused – leading to illness instead of health.

It can be ordered here.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-06


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Wanting to Practice


Not Practicing

Almost all of the people I’ve taught Yoga one-on-one encountered difficulties when it came to taking up a regular practice. They all had personalized (tailored to their needs and abilities) and short (20 minutes at most) practices. I suggested they try to find a regular time in the day for their practices and that they try to practice a few times a week. Still, it was difficult for them to find a place for the practice in their daily routines.

They all came to Yoga and to me of their own free will. They all invested time, effort and money in coming to private lessons. They all came back for more lessons. When they didn’t practice they ended up with a self-inflicted feeling of guilt. One person even said to me something like “I didn’t do my home work”.

Resistance to Change

People usually take on Yoga when they want to change something. People who come to one-on-one Yoga are usually seeking deeper – inviting substantial change into their lives.

Change starts as a confrontation with unknown elements that are appealing. But like most relationships, initial appeals are replaced with a lesser reality. You come to a Yoga teacher seeking enlightenment, you leave with a practice. A practice may be interesting for a few times – but then it loses some of it’s charm. Now instead of enlightenment you have a boring and repetitive practice. You also have a family and a job and worries … and amidst all this you need to make room for a boring practice.

This is the subtle workings of resistance to change. Change always meets resistance. If you are experiencing resistance – then you are probably in change.

… But You Are Practicing

The resistance to change cannot be removed – it is a natural and inevitable force. The feelings of guilt are redundant and can be resolved.

All of the students that came back for more lessons and who had guilt-trips about not practicing were constantly thinking about Yoga. They wanted to do their practices. Wanting to practice is a practice. Wanting to practice should always be the first “posture” in any practice sequence.

Wanting to practice means there is something inside you, a deep craving, reaching out to your awareness. Recognizing it replaces your attention from guilt & resistance into motivation & practice. It is so much better to move towards something you want then to escape something that weighs you down.

This is true both for beginners and advanced practitioners. If all you can today is want-to-practice, remember to see the wonder in that. It may not get you on the practice mat today, but if you let it it can be a rewarding practice.

Tip: It is OK to just go stand and look at your Yoga mat. It is OK to stand by it for a few minutes. It is OK to just lie down on it for a minute or two.

Posted in Getting Started, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Yoga Sutra – Chapter 2 Sutra 46


Have you ever watched someone thread a needle using funny and useless facial expressions – as if that would help to get the thread into the small hole? In a way that’s what this sutra is about

sthira sukham asanam
“Asana must have the dual qualities of alertness and relaxation”

Translation by TKV Desikachar

This sutra is a preamble to sutras which are dedicated to the topic of asana. It is what Patanajali chose to say first and foremost about all asana practices – and on the face of things it seems like a paradox.

  • “Sthira” comes from the root “stha” which can be translated as “fixed place”. “Sthira” can be translated as fixed, stable, changeless.
  • “Sukham” comes from the root “kha” which can be translated as space or ether. “Sukham” can be translated as soft, comfortable, happy.

TKV Desikachar explains:

“It is attention without tension, loosening up without slackness”

Examples in practice may shed some light on the duality of sthira-sukham:

  • For some people raising the arms straight up above the head  is not useful – for an effective practice they may need to bend the elbows and relax the shoulders. The correct position is personal and strikes a balance between active effort in the arms, neck & shoulders (sthira) and softness in the elbows & shoulders (sukham). Stubbornly pushing for straight arms is overdoing (excess sthira)  that compromises other physical aspects. Underperforming by releasing the elbows and shoulders too much (excess sukham) makes the posture much less effective.
  • For some people keeping the legs straight in forward bends severly limits bending in the spine. By slightly bending the knees (sukham)  they can gain access to bending the spine (sthira). Stubbornly keeping the legs straight actually defeates the purpose of forward bends – keeping the  legs straight becomes the focus and effort (wrong sthira) while the spine barely bends and remains largely inactive (wrong sukham).
  • Breathing to your full capacity is another delicate balance. Aspiring to long and steady breaths (sthira) requires delicate attention and adjutsments in breath and asana  (sukham). Over exertion of the breath (excess sthira) quickly breaks it and the flow of practice. Underperformance of the breath reduces the effect and intensity of the asana (excess sukham).
  • A present mind is key to achieving a balance between alertness and relaxation. A mind that wanders off can lead to both slackness (excess sukam – in postures where effort is required) and tension (excess sthira – in postures where forces such as habit or gravity take over). A mind that is anchored in past asana achievements can also lead to both slackness (excess sukham – when past experience indicates an asana is not accessible) and tension (excess sthira – when past experience is attached to successful practices in the past).

How can such a balance be achieved in practice?

Krishnamacharya mentioned two tools: Vinyasa and Pratikriyasana. Vinyasa is about gradually placing the body in a posture – the number and character of the steps required may differ for individual practitioners. Pratikriya-asana are counter postures that are used to counter excess effects of practice and to create smooth flow and transition in asana practice sequences.

Desikachar adds that this sutra is brief because asana practices should be learned directly from a competent teacher. A balanace of sthira-sukham is personal and ever-changing. There are no set rules or recipes for achieving such a balance. It is a pursuit that requires careful observation and attention. It is not so much a result of practice but rather an artful quality that can guide and shape it.

I would end this article with two additional interpretation that have crossed my mind for meditating on sthira-sukham:

  • Well (sukham)  – Being (sthira)
  • Correct (sukham) – Effort (sthira)

I invite you leave a comment sharing your experiences of sthira-sukham in practice.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-30


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