“A ‘no’ uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Tears

n

In my memory there is an inspiring description of crying. I do not recall where this came from, if I read it somewhere or if someone told it to me. When there is an intensity inside that we cannot contain – it overflows and manifests as tears. It is an experience of something that cannot be contained.

I have been granted knowledge of an intimate relationship with a soul that is in the process of leaving a body and returning to a new one. Over recent weeks every time I play Shakuhachi, a recurring melody appears and connects me to this soul. When this happens tears flow, every time. I play to communicate with this soul. I play so that this soul becomes familiar with the sounds. I play so that this soul can find a way through the transition it is facing. I play so that this soul can find a familiar comfort when we meet again.

It is a divine experience. There is no sadness, and no happiness. There is peace and a sense of wholeness and purpose.

Posted in inside, Shakuhachi, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-11-22

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-11-22

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Sound & Silence

n

As a Yoga practitioner I have experienced being both student & teacher. As a student I have learned that it takes years of persistent practice to assimilate, realize & appreciate teachings. I have heard my teachers repeat ideas over and over, many times over the years, and I am still in awe every time my experience catches up with their teachings. Ideas can float in my mind indefinitely with very little substance – and then, after years of practice, there is some crystallization and the ideas gain body.

As a teacher I am blessed to be in situations where I resonate in the presence of a student and then make a choice and offer a teaching. It is humbling to realize that what I offer as a teaching in the present will take years of patience and movement to manifest. I am reminded again and again that teaching is sowing seeds. It is then in the hands of the student to nurture those seeds and create the conditions for them to grow and bloom.

As a Shakuhachi player I am again a student. Yet, due to the nature of the Shakuhachi and it’s place in my life, it is not just an instrument I am learning to play, but also a spiritual practice. So, musically I am a complete beginner – I meet myself every time I try to get & hold a note in Kan (the second register on the Shakuhachi). But “myself” that I meet already has some experience as a spiritual practitioner. I am less prone to confusion, frustration and over-exertion.

I know that my Shakuhachi teacher has sown seeds within me. I still have expectations to enjoy the fruits of my practice every time I play, but when those expectations are not met – I do not experience disappointment. I step back from the practice, create a new empty space and then step back in to practice some more… again and again… day after day. A part of me is looking forward to experiencing fruition of my Shakuhachi training – both for the sounds and the silence.

Posted in inside, Shakuhachi, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to add your comment

Yoga Asana: Dvipada Pitham

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The name Dvipadapitham literally means “two foot support”. It is a fairly involved asana because almost all parts of the body are involved in some kind of movement. The starting point for the posture is lying on the back with the arms alongside the body, the legs bent at the knees and the feet on the floor. As you inhale you simultaneously raise the arms and the hips (by pushing down on the feet), as you exhale you bring everything back – the arms return to the floor alongside the body and the hips are placed back down on the floor.

dvipadapitham

This posture introduces an interesting challenge when it comes to coordination of breath and movement – since there are two movements happening at the same time. One movement is the arms – they have a fairly long journey to make. Another movement is the hips which have a relatively short journey. It takes caring attention to coordinate these two movements. The arms and hips need to begin moving together and reach the end of their path together – this means that the arms are moving much faster then the hips. The two coordinated movements need to be aligned with the breath … and over time refinedover … and over … and over

You may find that there may be a natural tendency to compress the neck due to incorrect effort and the dynamics of the movement – this can be prevented by (1) placing the neck in a correct (chin tucked in) position when you start practicing; (2) remaining attentive to it throughout the practice; (3) checking yourself every time you come back down to the floor (making sure the chin is still tucked in and not rolled back).

neckonfloor_range

This is also a great posture for practicing correct placement of the arms every time they reach the floor above the head. You may even experience more reach in the arms – due to the opening and raising of the chest.

armsonfloor

The feet should be placed apart from each other – at a distance that is approximately the width of your hips (if you have narrow hips they should be closer together, if you have wide hips they should be further apart). Your feet are your base in this posture – so they should be firmly rooted both in the starting position and as you practice.

dvipadapitham_feetTry to avoid placing your feet too far apart, too close together , or, when in the correct position from letting your knees fall open to the sides.

dvipadapitham_escapes1Also try to avoid having your feet too far or too close to your body – a middle-ground is usually a good place to start. You may try a few variations until you discover a placement that gives you good support and good mobility.

dvipadapitham_escapes2

Posted in Asana, Basic Movement, Yoga | You are welcome to add your comment

Yoga Asana: Apanasana

n

Apanasana is a very accessible posture. If you have very little time to practice – this is a great posture to do. Lying down on your back, bend your knees and bring them over your chest, placing a hand just above each knee. As you inhale let the knees move away from the chest (up to a 90 degree angle between your torso and thighs), as you exhale let them come back towards the chest. Lengthen the neck and use Ujjayi breathing to create space and attention. That’s all there is to getting started with this posture. Some possible focuses for this practice are soft, long, refine & center.

apanasana

Since the head and torso are supported by the ground and fairly static, most of the work is in the legs and arms. Make sure your hands are placed very lightly at the end of the thigh, just above the knee. There should be no tension in the joints of the fingers – there is no need for gripping.

apanasana_correct

Gripping tends to occur when the hands are placed too far down the leg, as if holding the knee. This invites tension in the fingers and that tension tends to quickly radiate up the arms and shoulders. Gripping also creates a tempting opportunity to pull the knees closer to the chest – which is an excessive tendency.

apanasana_escape1

Try to keep the legs parallel and if possible close together. Try to avoid overlapping the legs by placing one over the other or by letting them open to the sides.

apanasana_escape2Apanasana is a gentle practice. It carefully works the lower back. If you stay within your boundaries then you should experience very little effort in the abdominal area – which also relaxes and softens. It is an opportunity to practice a long and peaceful exhale.

Posted in Asana, Basic Movement, Yoga | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

Chanting – Panca Maya

n

Chanting is one of the more intriguing tools in Yoga. In my first years of practice I was uncomfortable with chanting – it took me time to overcome my fears of letting my voice be heard (I don’t even sing in the shower). Since then, I have had an opportunity to learn only the basics of voice and chanting and know only a few chants. I would be happy to learn much more.

It is said that a practice of Asana & Pranayama is an effective preparation for meditation. My experience of chanting is that it can pierce directly into the heart of meditation and beyond. Over the past few days I have re-opened my chanting resources and re-introduced some chanting to my practice. Tonight I also made a short recording and was surprised to (1) thinking of uploading it and (2) actually doing it.

Placing the sound of my voice online feels like a whole new dimension of exposure. Especially now, when I am alone and on some days almost completely silent:

click to play

I don’t have the tools to present a proper transliteration of Sanskrit – so this is as close as I can go for now.

Panca Maya

ma aham – ahama annam
me I am – I am the body

ma aham – ahama pranam
me I am – I am energy

ma aham – ahama manah
me I am – I am the mind

ma aham – aham vijnanam
me I am – I am the personality

ma aham – ahama anandam
me I am – I am the emotions

ma aham – aham sarvam
me I am – I am all

ma aham – aham aham
me I am – i am I am

Posted in Chanting, Yoga | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-11-15

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  • once they've been committed to memory you can't tell apart perception & imagination: http://twurl.nl/53jq5u #
  • getting to know your pulse in life and in yoga: http://bit.ly/vt5f0 #
  • @DinoSoldo watched it a 2nd time (http://iLike.com/t/L2YI), very different, very demanding … looking forward to hearing more in reply to DinoSoldo #
  • Life extension with Yoga http://bit.ly/3dpcMA #
  • we lived in an age where everything was explained, but little was understood #
  • ripping of my Dave Mathews Band cd's! http://twurl.nl/ibxfvl #
  • OK – I had to have more DMB and now u-do-2 http://twurl.nl/jy8lao – make 16 minutes of your life vanish… poooof… #
  • Happy 5th birthday, Firefox! http://bit.ly/Fx5yr1 #Firefox5 #
  • RT @SaraJChipps: rt @bradygaster: RT @NathanRichie: "Holding a grudge is like taking arsenic and waiting for the other person to die." #fb #
  • RT @t: "Cynicism as an attempt to appear cool is just sad. Create, build, invent! Critcizing is too easy. … Take a risk!" – @stubbornella #
  • how can I get off a twitter list I don't want to be on? #
  • sometimes removing hairs from the shower drain seems to go on forever… that I expect a surprise 2 appear at the end #
  • @Yariv6s אנא הסר אותי מהרשימה … תודה מראש #
  • RT @ronenk: סיעור מוחות עם מטומטמים זה בעיה. #
  • quick look… this is what the sky looks like right now!! http://twurl.nl/mio6gr #
  • אולי יש למישהו דיסק קשיח כזה שמלפני כמה שנים למחשב נייד? ברכות 🙂 #
  • חומוס מבושל, טעים ככל שיהיה, פשוט לא הולך עם אטריות עם כרוב! #
  • @ronenk מקאווה לטוב? in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk אין לי אפילו מושג איך להגות מקאווה – בטח ובטח אין לי מושג מה זה 🙂 in reply to ronenk #
  • ultimate weather – cool enough to enjoy wearing long clothes while sitting outside 🙂 amazing! #
  • its been many months since I wrote a glimpses – i was happy to find it's still moving inside: http://bit.ly/334gDG #
  • RT great stuff!! thank u @ronenk: http://bit.ly/12Hi1i #
  • off to condense http://twurl.nl/riwhli my prana http://twurl.nl/nq00ey #
  • cooking dinner with Nick Cave – Do You Love Me? ♫ http://blip.fm/~g8qgh #
  • @ronenk אהבתי איך שיצא לך "קבל עוד" באנגלית 🙂 תודה על ההפניות… אני בדרך… מתאים לי מוזיקה חדשה in reply to ronenk #
  • casualties, refuge, unknown, faith, surrender, surprise, wonder, presence #
  • "When Gandhi 1st heard thesound of the shakuhachi, he supposedly wept&said he had finally heard thevoice of thedead." http://twurl.nl/ri3leh #
  • I'm in the shower and iTunes does a radical switch from shakuhachi to robbie williams' new album! woah! #
  • RT @yogawithluc: Complete guide of barefoot running http://bit.ly/1ft9uu #
  • working on a series of posts on counter postures, processing images #
  • you're alive – is it really you?: http://twurl.nl/k73faq #
  • @CambridgeYoga thank u liz 🙂 looking forward to publishing them … getting it right in writing is always more work then it seems at first in reply to CambridgeYoga #
  • some great chanting guides from Srivasta Ramaswami who studied extensively with Krishnamacharya: http://twurl.nl/c4vdhj #
  • @ronenk חיים טובים ידידי 🙂 in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk אתה קולט כמה אנשים נחשפו בפעם הראשונה לצ'נטינג בזכות הגלגול שלך לאור הילד? in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk הבאת לי צחוק… חיפשתי וזה מה שמצאתי – דווקא נראה לי מתאים http://twurl.nl/abfmrz 🙂 in reply to ronenk #
  • מישהו זוכר איך מנביטים גלעין של אבוקדו? איזה צד למטה? בתוך מים? כמה זמן זה לוקח? #
  • if you copy from Photoshop and paste into a document editor and it crashes … you know it's Microsoft software! #
  • a preparation for upcoming posts on #yoga counter postures – correct placement of the neck: http://twurl.nl/f4vzar #
  • @yogawithluc not easily (unless there is a pathology). excess chin-lock requires much focus&effort… eventually evolves into a bandha in reply to yogawithluc #
  • RT @SirKenRobinson: Love this-thanks LM. Imagination meets the pleasure principle. http://bit.ly/3uQwz #
  • another great one http://twurl.nl/patavb from http://twurl.nl/m7mcv7 #
  • Moon: http://twurl.nl/lhdbmh #
  • another step in preparing for basic #yoga postures – this time placement of the arms http://twurl.nl/5pvpvh #
  • @CambridgeYoga @yogawithluc Ive created a Paul Harvey students list http://twurl.nl/nnrk38 pls let me know if u know of others on twitter 🙂 #
  • image of today at redbubble: http://twurl.nl/2xps07 #
  • when someone comes to you outlining a problem and offering a solution – you are being used – walk away! #
  • does anyone have any idea why transform in the photoshop menu would be disabled when there is an active layer with content selected? #

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Arm Placement in Yoga Asana

n

I touched on placement of the arms when I introduced the idea of coordinated breath and movement. I would like to revisit this with some images to reinforce some of the fine points as a preparation and reference for upcoming posts on postures. The base posture for this explanation will continue to be lying on the back with the feet on the floor and arms alongside the body. The movement is simply raising the arms above the head all the way to the floor and then returning them back alongside the body.

supine_feetstand

supine_feetstand_armsraised

There is a tendency to stretch the arms straight above the head when actually there is a better and more effective position. This position is unique for every person, so you will need to find it for yourself. Here are some focuses to help point you in the right direction. You are looking for a position in which the arms are placed completely on the floor – something like this:

armsonfloor

The first thing to focus on is your elbows – you want to get the elbows on the floor. It you insist on stretching your arms too far you may find that your elbows are raised from the floor. Avoid this by releasing the shoulders and bending your arms enough to enable your elbows to settle on the floor.

armsonfloor_escapeelbows

Next check your fingers – all 10 of them (count – you’d be surprised how much the mind is willing to cut corners). They should be stretched flat on the floor – all 10 fingernails should be touching the floor.

armsonfloor_escapefingers

Finally bring attention to the backs of the hands. They too should be placed flat on the floor.

armsonfloor_escapewrist

Take some time to find the correct place for  your arms. You may find that your position is far from straight arms – this is fine. Practice from your position and your posture will improve. Over reaching will create strain, stiffness and deplete your energy – leaving your body and consciousness with very little space for observing, learning and improving.

Here is a simple practice sequence for assimilating this:

  1. Lay on your back, feet on the floor and place the arms above your head – remain in this position exploring until you find your position.
  2. Add Ujjayi breathing – and remain static – feel the affect of the breath on your selected position for 8 breaths.
  3. Return the arms alongside the body – begin a dynamic practice –  using Ujjayi breathing – inhaling as  your move the arms to your selected position, exhaling as you bring the arms back alongside the body – repeat this 8 times.
  4. Sit on your knees with a straight back – repeat the movement another 8 times with Ujjayi breathing. Be attentive to the position of the arms – there is no floor to provide a reference.
  5. Stand up, feet together, arms alongside the body – and again repeat the movement 8 times with Ujjayi breathing.

Correct arms position is a healthy habit to form early in your practice – it will resonate with many (if not most) of the postures you will practice in Yoga. Unlearning an incorrect position will take much longer and will limit the effectiveness of many postures.

Posted in Basic Movement, Yoga | You are welcome to read 4 comments and to add yours

Moon

n

Wonderful, unique, surprising, insightful movie. Almost important to watch. Enjoy 🙂

Posted in AltEco, Enjoy, inside, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Neck Placement in Yoga Asana

n

The neck is the most mobile part of the spinal column – it can twist and bend extensively. Therefore it is also sensitive and fragile and deserves caring attention. This article will focus on movement with the head centered – which is where it is most of the time (in life and in practice). It is comfortable to explore this range of movement by lying down on your back – where the floor provides a clear reference. Even though it maybe a small range of movement – you will find that there are numerous positions for the head even while it is resting on the floor:

neckonfloor_range

The white line on the image illustrates changes in the length of the neck. When the head is rolled back the length of the neck gets shorter – the vertebrae in the neck are pushed together. When the head is pulled forward – the chin pulled in towards the chest – the neck lengthens and the vertebrae are stretched apart.

The latter position, with the chin pulled in towards the chest – is the position you want to maintain most of the time when practicing asana. It is a natural continuation of the stretching we usually work at in the back, it relieves pressure from the shoulders and upper back (which in turn provides more range of movement) and it improves the flow of blood to and from the head.

There is a natural tendency to compress the neck, especially when performing strenuous postures. There are mostly downsides to this:

  1. It doesn’t help – the neck is optimized for mobility not for load bearing (when compared to the rest of the spine which has a more rigid structure).
  2. It interferes – a compressed neck locks the shoulders, upper & mid-back areas – which may actually be useful to the posture you are practicing. By compressing the neck you are limiting their mobility.
  3. It wastes energy – the effort & energy you are expending in the neck comes at the expense of other muscles better suited for the job.

The general idea is to lengthen the neck. Try it first on the floor – so you don’t need to deal with the front and back movement. Then you may try it in standing and seated positions – without the floor as a guide & reference.

Posted in Basic Movement, Yoga | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

Glimpses 08 – November 2009

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towards the end of the year-long hunch program, numerous sessions were dedicated to site-specific work. one of the sites we visited was dizengof center –  a large and established shopping center in the heart of tel-aviv. i remember worrying about getting my photography equipment in – many places in israel give you a hard time because of an unhealthy mix of security and privacy paranoia. i was relieved when i went through smoothly by parking in the underground garage, instead of walking through one of the main entrances.

i wasn’t really happy about this location. i am not a big fan of shopping malls, especially big and busy ones like this one. we gathered on one of the top floors and i recall shahar inviting us to look out and down at the space. at first I saw the noise i expected to see, but then, rather quickly, i felt as if all of my senses were softening and  coming slightly out of focus – and the noise became peaceful. the place became a single living & sensible organism – and i was inside it, no longer an outside observer. my body became soft & relaxed and my anxiety and opposition faded.

shahar spoke about a place having its own resonance and how we can relate to this resonance. we can resonate with the place and become a part of it and we can resonate in another frequency and stand out – we can appear and disappear at will. it sounds magical and it is. the group split into smaller groups of two or three people and went to explore and work in the space. i traveled the vast space – sometimes visiting shortly with a group and other times joining and working for a longer period of time with others. on numerous occasions i recall looking around and wondering how can people ignore some of the weird and crazy stuff that we were doing. people were walking past us as if we weren’t there. magic.

for me the main event took place around these stairs. ilay and yael were grazing the space and tamar was tagging along with them. i spotted ilay walking on these stairs from a distance and i ran to a vantage point on the opposite side just in time to meet this image.

00107016

then an amazing story began to unfold with tamar. i am not inclined yet to write about it – i still feel it is a very intimate story, more hers then mine. maybe i’ll ask her permission to write about it. this image of fear, yearning, craving, surrender and friendship is a beginning of that story – at the end of which tamar commanded the attention of people as far as two floors above us.

00107024

Posted in Glimpses, Images, Photography | You are welcome to add your comment

The Sky Today

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This is what the sky looks like right now!

skytoday

This is what it looked like during the last storm

skybefore

and this is my chest

mychest

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Jimmy Thing – Dave Mathews Band Central Park

n

OK… another Dave Mathews Band post… this is from the Central Park concert – one of the more neighbor-abusive concert DVD’s I have – I simply can’t listen to it in a decent volume. See how they carry on for 15+ minutes (in two parts) … and how it evolves – watch it to the end and see Dave Mathews explode on stage… trust me watch it 🙂 Enjoy!

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Life Extension with Yoga

n

When we are relaxed our breathing is slower – each breath is long and relaxed. When we are stressed, anxious, worried, fearful our breathing is faster – each breath is short and sharp. This is common knowledge. Consider this:

  • An average adult person breathes 16-20 breaths per minute – each breath is 3-4 seconds long.
  • With just a few yoga lessons most people can easily bring that  down to 8-10 breaths per minute – each breath is 6-8 seconds long.
  • With consistent practice (weekly lessons) many people can bring that even further down to 4-6 breaths per minute – each breath 10-15 seconds long.
  • With a personalized and consistent practice (~daily) practitioners can bring it down further to 2-3 breaths per minute – each breath 20-30 seconds.
  • Given time (years of practice) that number goes down to 1-1.5 breaths a minute – each breath 40-60 seconds.
  • … and this goes on

Now consider this:

“As per the traditional view, all human beings are endowed with a constant number of breaths. This is equivalent to living for one hundred years at the rate of fifteen breaths per minute. The total number of breaths per day is 21600. If one breathers more than 21600 times a day, his life span will obviously be lowered.

We all know that breathing becomes faster, when one is unwell or disturbed. This shows the importance of Yoga practice in regulating the breath and thus prolonging the life span.”
(Krishnamacharya commentary  from “Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya” 1.35)

Assuming this is true, we are, as a species, under-performing. Krishnamacharya lived to 101 years old. My teacher tells a story that on Krishnamacharya’s 100th birthday he was asked to say something – so he uttered “Om” for one full minute (that would be a 60 second exhale). When asked how he managed to do it he replied that when he was 60 years old he could do 5 minutes.

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

Know Your Pulse

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“the pulse rate reflects whether  a person is calm or has mental illness. A pulse rate ranging from 65 to 72 represents a calm mind. A pulse rate of more than 72 implies physical illness. If the pulse rate is more than 90, then the person has a combination of physical and mental illness”
(Krishnamacharya commentary on Visnu Purana 6.5.6
from “Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya“)

Your pulse (the number of time your heart beats in a minute) will provide you an additional perspective on the state of your body & energy. It is useful to familiarize yourself with it. To do this you will need to take it at regular times and similar circumstances (such as first thing in the morning, before lunch, etc.). In addition to counting your pulse, you may discover changes in its quality – it can be throbbing, gentle sharp, soft, steady, erratic,etc. This will give you a general reference point.

Then, there are numerous points  in a Yoga practice in which you may want to measure your pulse:

  • At the beginning of a practice.
  • At the end of a practice.
  • At a mid-point of your practice.
  • After an intense sequence in your practice – before & after resting.

You may find that exercises that challenge your breath cause your pulse to rise, after which a short rest should bring it back down.  Generally, your pulse at the end of a well-balanced practice should be equal to or less then your pulse at the beginning. You may want to make a list or a chart to write down your findings – so that you can observe change over time.

How to feel your pulse:

  • Find a comfortable seated position where you can relax your arms.
  • Turn one palm facing up.
  • Use the index and middle finger of the other hand to feel the pulse.
  • Trace the fingers along a path from your thumb – following the bone structure towards your wrist – until you reach a soft area into which your fingers can sink deeper.
  • Use the tips of your finger (just before the fingernails) to feel your pulse.
  • If you can’t find it you can apply more pressure, and then when you find it, release to a more gentle touch.

Practice finding your pulse. You should be able to find it quickly and without applying too much pressure (which may affect the pulse itself and give you an imprecise measurement).

To measure your pulse you will need a clock or timer that clearly shows seconds:

  • Place your fingers in place and find your pulse.
  • Look at the watch/timer and choose a round starting point to count.
  • Count the beats of your pulse for 20 seconds.
  • Multiply that number by 3 (to get the number of beats in a minute).

I find that taking the pulse can be both informative and meditative.

Posted in Anatomy, Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-11-08

n
  • Ubuntu 9.10 finished downloading … now installing. #
  • "it's not that we're scared, it's just that it's delicate" ♫ http://blip.fm/~fpm7v #
  • there really is good in everything, but sometimes it's very well hidden #
  • contents of a yoga practice can change to match tendencies and needs in phases of life: http://bit.ly/2eWu0o #
  • RT brilliant @SirKenRobinson: Ricky Gervais probably is a genius, as he says himself. This is very funny:http://twurl.nl/aucihz #
  • tea anyone? #
  • great song for a winter-day 🙂 ♫ http://blip.fm/~fqzlq #
  • Intent, Breath, Motion: http://twurl.nl/p8ydpa #yoga #asana #
  • OK… this is what I've been thinking about my eggs: http://bit.ly/rKC12 #
  • גלגלו לתחתית המסך וראו תמונה "טרנר מימין וימין משמאל" http://twurl.nl/qsu7f6 ענק #
  • liquids left over from cooking lentils – great as soup or even better for cooking rice! #
  • turned on the heating for the first time tonight #
  • What is there now? http://bit.ly/1td2LJ #
  • our order of wood for the winter arrived yesterday http://twurl.nl/t7xmj6 #
  • @ronenk קודם העץ… ואז נראה… וזו חתולה 🙂 איזו יפה אההה? in reply to ronenk #
  • "What is wrong with me?" If u r asking – then the answer is "nothing", if you r not – then the answer is "something" #
  • my "low down" reflection, to date, on the first chapter of the Yoga Sutra: http://bit.ly/2lFgg6 #
  • the fruits of not pushing and the consequences of not paying attention: http://bit.ly/1At8KF #

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The Morning After

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The morning after I decided not to push myself began with a special quality of practice. Seated postures (forward bends) had a long and soft quality which I usually manage only in evening practices; so was the Pranayama – I was able to practice a soft and refined Nadi Sodhana (which is usually not available to me in the morning). It led into a morning with a pleasant pace. I, again, witnessed, how doing less can sometimes be more.

Then some surprise physical work came my way. I enjoyed the work greatly but I lost track of time and I failed to eat and drink properly. By the time I realized this it was too late. I spent the remainder of the evening with a painful headache and bad digestion. I had to force myself to eat and drink to quiet and replenish my energy, against the wishes of my digestion. I woke up the next morning feeling better but close to the edge. I spent the next day mostly cooking and eating, barely able to focus on anything else. It took until the next morning (a total of 36 hours) to bring my system back to health.

“Living in this hut, free of all anxieties,
one should earnestly practice Yoga as taught by one’s guru”
(Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.14 – translation by Brian Akers)

These past few days reminded me about a subtle, often overlooked, aspect of the relationship between Yoga and everyday life. People today often come to Yoga for relaxation, for relief from the stresses of life. But originally it was the other way around – a prerequisite for Yoga practice was a life free of anxieties. I spent 36 hours rejuvenating my system to a point where I could effectively practice again.

This  also sheds light on the ideas of practice “on-the-mat” and “off-the-mat”. Usually I touch on this subject in asking how on-the-mat practice can reach out and extend off-the-mat. Here it is encountered the other way around: how can off-the-mat practice effect on-the-mat practice. My relationship with Yoga (as I think is the case with most people) started on-the-mat. I now believe that beyond  a certain point, a practice on-the-mat cannot continue to evolve unless it resonates off-the-mat as well. At one point you will have to make changes in your life, to create conditions for your on-the-mat practice to continue evolving.

Posted in Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to add your comment

Low Down Yoga Sutra – Chapter1: Clarity

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What is Yoga?

  1. Now begins the teaching of how everything comes together
  2. It’s all about the ability to focus steadily on one thing without any distractions
  3. Then that thing appears for what it truly is
  4. Instead of what you want to make it out to be

Activities of the Mind

  1. There are five activities through which you relate to the world around you – each can support or obstruct you
  2. They are:
    • correct understanding (based on what is before you)
    • misunderstanding (based on what you think is before you)
    • imagination (based on what you think with little regard to what is actually there),
    • deep (dreamless) sleep
    • memory (recalling what was once before you)
  3. Correct understanding is based on:
    • what the senses report directly  to you
    • mental processes which you use to make sense of what the senses report
    • what other (trustworthy) people (sources) tell you

    Where you get your understanding is up to you – there are times when direct experience is best and there are times when asking or pausing to think are better.

  4. Misunderstanding is a temporary understanding that expires when it is replaced by a better understanding. You can live your entire life in a satisfying misunderstanding or you can stay open to new experiences in which cases misunderstanding may be a seed that grows into learning.
  5. Imagination is a mental process that sprouts from understanding and goes beyond it – it can stay imaginary and it can evolve into correct understanding – associated with reality. Imagination is a seed from which both  insanity and creativity can grow.
  6. Deep sleep is  a heaviness that overcomes the mind and brings it to rest. Heaviness is great when it helps you to sleep, it can be irritating when you are trying to focus.
  7. Memory is an impression left by experience – ideally it is a clear and true impression, but often it’s not. Memory is tricky because once its there – you have no way of telling where it came from – you can’t tell apart memories of understanding or imagination. Precise memory helps you move forward and build upon past experience – otherwise gaps between what you remember and what actually was, can get in your way.

Practice

  1. There are two things you can do to achieve steadiness and clear perception:
    • Practice, practice and then practice some more
    • Distance yourself from dogmatic opposites such as likes and dislikes, good and bad… this will come to you almost naturally if you practice.
  2. Practice should be something you can sustain consistently and over a long period of time. A teacher can help you find a correct practice.
  3. A practice will be effective if you can really get into, if you are passionate and eager about it.
  4. Such a practice will moderate cravings that lead you away from practice, it will pull you in.

Clarity & Focus

  1. Until eventually you will understand your true nature and will no longer get caught and distracted by it’s constant shifting and changing.
  2. Then when you focus on one thing – you totally get it, you will gain a new and deep perspective that goes beyond anything you’ve known before.  You will feel at one with the object – so much that nothing around you distracts you.
  3. But even then you carry with you your memories – beware,  they can arise and affect you at any time.

Faith & God

  1. Some people are born with the gift of clarity – they don’t need to practice for it.
  2. The rest of us need to have faith that this is possible – and though it may be against the odds it is possible. It takes time.
  3. Intense faith will propel you closer to clarity.
  4. Intensity of faith is different for people. It also changes over time – this change is in our nature. These variations and changes are reflected in the practice.
  5. If you don’t have faith – praying to God, if you are so inclined, may help.
  6. God is not some idealized religious symbol – it is simply that which never misunderstands, is not bound by suffering and therefore always acts based on clear & correct understanding.
  7. This concept of God represents something that is all knowing. Connecting with it is connecting with that knowledge.
  8. God is timeless – an eternal (past, present and future) source of spiritual guidance.
  9. Call God whatever works best for you, just make sure that you can relate to it with respect.
  10. When you do find this timeless, spiritual quality – try to connect with it as often as possible – spend time in its presence.
  11. This will be your practice, and eventually you will find clarity.

Handling Interruptions

  1. You may encounter 9 distracting interruptions on your path to clarity: sickness, lethargy (“stuckness”), doubt, careless action, fatigue, overindulgence, delusions, low motivation and regression.
  2. You can tell that you have been interrupted if you experience any of these symptoms:  disturbed thoughts, negative thoughts, disturbed body (can’t find ease and comfort), and difficult & unsteady breathing.
  3. Practice one thing, just one thing that supports you, practice it regularly.
  4. Practice calming social attitudes(instead of disturbing ones):
    • Be happy (instead of envious) when you encounter happiness in others.
    • Be compassionate (instead of gloating) when you encounter unhappiness in others
    • Be joyful (instead of critical) when you encounter virtue in others.
    • Be calm (instead of angered) when you encounter evil in others.
  5. Practice breathing with an emphasis on holding the breath and long exhalations.
  6. Inquire about the senses. They are your window to the world – control them so that they don’t control you.
  7. Inquire about the nature of life. Is there a bigger picture before me – something that goes beyond me and the things occupying my mind?
  8. Find inspiration. When you can’t find your own way, try to be in the presence of someone who has. Sometimes, just thinking of such an individual can help.
  9. Rest in sleep. Inquire into dreams that may occupy your sleep
  10. Meditate on something that shimmers for you – something you care about.

Clear Perception

  1. Infinity is revealed when clarity is attained – your will have mastery over the infinitesimally small and infinitely vast – everything will submit to your will.
  2. When there are no distractions, your mind can focus completely on one thing. Then gradually, as you sustain this thing in your mind you become totally immersed in it. Your mind becomes like a clear diamond – filled with nothing but reflections of this one thing. This is a gradual process – it doesn’t happen all at once.
  3. At first, your perception is clouded with echoes of past experiences. Their reflections mix together with the reflections of whatever it is you are trying to hold in your mind.
  4. As you sustain your focus, your past experiences will settle down and the mind will become clear. Then it is as if you are not there – there is only clear perception.
  5. This kind of perception can be achieved with anything you choose – gross or subtle.
  6. There is only one thing the mind cannot comprehend – and that is the source of perception. That is the one place the mind cannot go.
  7. Whatever you choose to focus on – that will be the seed – the starting point for this process of evolving perception. You have to have an object that interests you for this to happen. Your interest in it will help you get over any initial distractions you may encounter. Without interest you will not get past them.
  8. When you have experienced such total immersion and pure perception you will experience not only the object of your perception but yourself as well.
  9. Now your experience of knowledge is the absolute truth.
  10. It will be a spontaneous and immediate knowledge. This knowledge is different from anything you have been told or anything your reasoning may have uncovered.
  11. As you practice this kind of immediate and direct perception – it will become a natural experience. It will keep you from reverting to your old habits. It is like a one way train – once you get on, there’s no getting off or turning back.
  12. Eventually the mind reaches a state where there are no more distractions. It remains open, clear and transparent.

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Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

For a Warm Winter

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Yesterday our order of  burning wood for the winter months arrived. It’s a first for me. When the truck left this huge pile was left on the street near our house.

wood01_arriving

Shortly after I started tossing pieces down to our house some kids from across the street came and asked if they could help – which was a great help. Soon other kids appeared and it turned out to be quite a celebration.

wood02_kidsarriving

wood3_tossing

I arranged some bricks that are lying around into a small, closed storage space which I will cover once it’s filled.

wood04_filling

wood05_filling

There is still some work left to place everything inside.

wood06_filling

… and this is Tree!

tree

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours