Saturday, August 27, 2011


I liked this invitation to submit a picture of our yoga bookshelves.  Do we all keep our yoga books on a special shelf?  It would seem that way.

Here's my shelf:

Some of my yoga books aren't on this shelf.  I just bought a Gita translation in New York which is lying on top of my stereo.  The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is upstairs on my nightstand.  And Guruji: A Portrait is on my coffee table. 

Items on the shelf that are not books, are my block and eye pillow, my yoga teacher training binder (stuffed with tt materials and other goodies I've found over the years), homemade mat sanitizer, and a statue I picked up in a consignment shop.  I don't know who she is.  Do you?

Apprenticeship & Guruji: A Portrait

In just a week, I'll start my apprenticeship with G.  I'm very excited about this opportunity to deepen my own practice and refine my teaching.  It's been a while since I've assisted in a Mysore room (since I left Boston), but I'm eager to get back to it.  G definitely has a different style than K.  For one, he never, to my knowledge, adjusts downward facing dog.  I've never gotten that adjustment from him and haven't seen him give it to anyone else.  He also doesn't make newcomers observe.  They start suns on their first visit.  So, even though I've been invited to assist right away, I will likely hang back a bit in the beginning to get a sense of what G would like of me in the room. 

At our introductory meeting several weeks ago, he gave us our reading list.  We are to start with Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K Pattabhi Jois through the Eyes of His Students.  It's a book that I've been wanting to read for a while but had put off because of the cost.  Fortunately, Penn had a copy in its library.  I think I'm the first person to check it out.  I've been reading it since Wednesday.  So far, I've read the interviews with David Williams, Manju Jois, Nancy Gilgoff, Brad Ramsey, and Tim Miller.  These are some of the themes that are repeating that resonate with me:

  • The practice just makes sense.  
  • The practice gives you a sense of quiet and serenity.
  • The practice is about moving energy, not bodies.
  • Sometimes the practice will make you cry.
  • Big egos don't do well in this practice.
  • All kinds of bodies can do this practice.
I have taken workshops with Tim Miller and Nancy Gilgoff in Boston.  Both are wonderful teachers and have their own style and their own gems to offer to students.  When I have the opportunity to practice with senior teachers, I notice how at peace they are with the practice whereas some younger people want to make the practice about striving and fighting.  I wonder if the senior teachers always had that ease about them and that's why they have been able to practice for so long, of if it is something that comes over time.

I'll have a lot of time to read over this weekend.  Hurricane Irene is barreling up the coast towards Philly!  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

saturday - day for resting

It feels good to have a day off from practice.  This month without moon days has been kicking my butt.  Today is for lounging, having some coffee, enjoy the sunshine, and lying about.

I'm spending some surfing around in the cyber shala.  I mentioned before that the cyber shala was an important part of my practice when I lived in Kentucky.  Even though I now have a place to practice, I still like to watch videos of other people's practices.  I find them extremely inspiring.  Lately, I'm watching a lot of Pincha Mayurasana as I struggle with this asana.

This is a good one.  This is not what my pincha looks like...yet!

I also read a lot of other blogs.  This week, I found this one particularly provocative. Personally, I don't understand why yogis engage in this kind of debate.  If you don't like ashtanga, don't practice it.  But if you don't practice it, and practice it regularly,  you really shouldn't make proclamations about who else should or shouldn't be practicing it.  Anyone can practice Ashtanga yoga if they want to.  It is not for a particular body type or age group.    I have seen people with all variety of injuries (shoulders, hamstrings, wrists), physical limitations (overweight, severe arthritis) and ages (a woman in her mid-seventies practices daily at the studio I went to in Boston) with beautiful Ashtanga practices.  Sure, their practices didn't look like something from a professional yoga video.  But they were doing the work day in and day out.  That's what the practice is about.

Personally, I can't comment on Bikram, since I don't practice it regularly.  I took one Bikram class several years ago with a friend.  Guess what!  It didn't resonate with me.  My friend loved it.  Who cares?  The only sad thing about it is that my friend and I, while we both love yoga, wouldn't be practicing together.

One yoga is not superior to another. It's a personal choice.  I would add however, that if you find a particular style upsets you in some way, maybe you should spend more time in that style.  Maybe your aversion to this yoga is something that you need to break through and your aversion to it is something to work on through your practice.  Your aversion might be revealing something about your ego, your attachments, your idea of what your practice should be.  But if it's just a matter of preference, knock yourself out. Practice another style!

In my conversations with people who are curious about yoga, I never recommend Ashtanga or any particular style.  As a matter of fact, I'm very reluctant to tell people very much at all about Ashtanga beyond the basics.  I always tell them that they should try many classes and figure out which one they are most likely to go back to and enjoy and that they shouldn't judge Yoga on one class, one teacher, or even one style. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Philadelphia - Ashtanga Yoga Central?

It seems like Ashtangis are suddenly gravitating to Philadelphia.  I can't explain it.  My teacher and his partner recently came here.  There's another student who left Germany to come here, in part, to practice Ashtanga Yoga.  Of course, I recently moved here as well.  There's another shala in the city with another prominent teacher.  He recently decided to settle here and open a shala.  One of his students has a blog where she talks in her first post about moving here to practice Ashtanga with her teacher. 

This has me wondering about the confluence of Ashtanga yoga on Philadelphia.  In many ways, it seems right.  Philadelphia is the "City of Brotherly Love."  Yoga teaches us how to love ourselves and others.  Philly is also a gritty city.  Everyday, you see poverty and hear of violence.  It's a place where you have to learn to live amongst all kinds of people and in a stressful environment with grace.  Philly is also the historical birthplace of our country and was the home of many who were influence by the Enlightenment.  And it's nestled between two amazing rivers.  You can feel all of this in the energy of the place.  

Whatever the reason, I feel blessed to live in a place so alive with the practice right now.  Riding through Center City at dawn in the quiet and watching the first morning's rays light the sides of historical buildings and new ones is one of the highlights of my day.  My practice allows me to see the city from another perspective, before it really wakes up.  It makes me happy to feel that so many other Ashtangis are feeling and seeing the same thing every morning.