Guru Pournima

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The first full moon after the summer solstice is a time in India known as Guru Pournima or Purinima. This year it falls on July 27, 2018. It commemorates the birth of Veda Vyasa who authored the epic Mahabharata, Vedasa and Puranas. It is also a time to honor your Guru. Guru is a Sanskrit word that includes two root words Gu or darkness and Ru removes. A Guru being someone who removes our darkness or ignorance. Click on Times of India to view a video that tells us more about this holiday and suggestions on how best to celebrate it.  In the Iyengar tradition, we chant the Guru Mantra with the following slokas:

 

Guru Brahmaa Guru Vishnu
(Guru is Brahma, Guru is Vishnu)

Guru Devo Maheshwarah
(Guru is Maheshwara [Shiva])

Guru Saakshaata Parabrahma
(Guru is Supreme Brahman Itself)

Tasmai Shri Guruve Namah
(Guru is Supreme Brahman Itself)

Prostration to that Guru
 

IYNAUS FIRST LIVE-STREAMED CONTINUING EDUCATION COURSE.

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Victoria Austin lead the first IYNAUS Live-Streamed Continuing Education course on June 30, 2018 with 186 participants representing countries all over the world. An Intermediate Senior I CIYT and an international Buddhist Priest of the Soto School, Shosan Victoria Austin began the practice of both yoga and Zen in 1971. She has studied extensively in Pune with Guruji BKS Iyengar, and the Iyengar Family. She continues to study in San Francisco with Manouso Manos.

The course entitled: Ethics for Iyengar Yoga Teachers challenged us as Patti Martin described, "[...] to embrace issues, obstacles, and difference as the means to develop skill in instruction, observation and correction, and interaction. Starting from a strong foundation, we can integrate our individual teaching practice with the needs and responses of those around us, opening and deepening the experience of interpersonal, institutional and cultural peace."

Utilizing the IYNAUS Ethical Guidelines (the basis of which is the universal and personal moral disciplines of the Yamas and Niyamas as taught by BKS Iyengar), we explored areas of citta-bhavana or moral development. Victoria sited the recent Yoga Samachar article, The Yamas and Niyamas, Training Principles, Not Commandments, by Stephanie Quirk and encouraged everyone to read it. 

Victoria presented several ways for us to gain a broader view of an ethical issue so as to better align our internal sense of what is right with our external expression to assure the most positive impact on our students and peers. A lot of content was covered and for this writer, it will require much review, contemplation, and of course practice. However, it is easy to see how the "new tools" can be added to our toolbox to help us move beyond our habitual, imprinted (samskara) and inherited ethical styles to create a more positive expression and outcome.

As a new medium for servicing IYNAUS Continuing Education, CrowdCast enabled interactivity such that students could ask questions via a sidebar chat area. While there was a glitch or two for some folks with a few frozen screens and audio issues, the live-streaming vehicle seemed to accommodate the group well. If you attended, please comment below, so students can learn from your experience. If you were unable to attend, look for the next course or email IYNAUS Continuing Education to find out how you can attend an upcoming course.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY

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International Yoga Day is a concept BKS Iyengar suggested in a talk in Bangalore, India sometime between 2011-2012. The United Nations proclaimed it a special day in 2014 on December 14th, BKS Iyengar’s birthday. On that day, Geeta Iyengar acknowledged the day of recognition during her first Birthday Intensive in Pune, adding that for practitioners, every day is International Yoga Day. IYNAUS and IYASE members have received a sequence in their email  to practice in celebration of this day.

Yoga means union. BKS Iyengar has unified students all over the world. As we draw closer to his centenary year, consider how many lives he has touched. We have all experienced some kind of transformation as individuals and as a group. He has taught us the power of grace and compassion. We have experienced that the Yamas and Niyamas are not meant to keep us bound, but to serve as a framework for freedom. We have learned that every moment on the mat and off requires some level of tapas svadhyaya Isvarapranidhanani kriya yogah, discipline, self-study, and faith.

We are not afraid of opposition. We have a visceral understanding that opposition is required to find equanimity and balance. We are learning again and again how abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah, Practice and detachment are the means to stilling the fluctuations of the consciousness, which Patañjali summarized as the meaning of yoga through his Sutra 1.2 Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah: Yoga is the cessation of the movements of the consciousness.

As we practice the sequence together today, may we be mindful of our journey so far and our part in the journey of others. Let us honor our choice to follow this path from innumerable life paths that are just as valid, because we have witnessed the possibilities Yoga has to change the world through the efforts of one man: BKS Iyengar.

Namaste.

 

To reinvigorate your practice read or re-read Taking the Next Step by Patricia Walden and Jarvis Chen

 

FROM THE PERIPHERY

                                                                                                                                                              By Rhonda Geraci

                                                                                                                                                            By Rhonda Geraci

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Over the course of the five-day event, Abhijata Sridhar, the granddaughter of BKS Iyengar led the convention with humility, humor, and fearless authenticity, demonstrating under no uncertain terms that the next generation of Iyengar Yoga is in safe hands. 

The Convention theme “From the Periphery to the Core and From the Core to the Periphery” was present throughout her teachings. The Sadhana IYNAUS 2016 convention magazine offers a nice piece on the theme by Nashville’s Gary Jaegar, an Intermediate Junior III Iyengar Yoga Instructor and Philosophy Professor at Vanderbilt University. Mr. Iyengar delineates the path inward and back again with the eight limbs or Astanga Yoga of Patanjali we follow:

“Yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama together belong to the path of evolution as they connect the Self to the Periphery (nature). Dharana, dhyana and Samadhi belong to the path of involution. Here the intelligence makes a return journey and moves from the skin towards the Self. “  [Iyengar, B. K. (2000). Aṣṭadaḷa yogamālā: Collected works (Vol. 1). New Delhi: Allied. Pg. 306]

Abhijata instructed by, as her Grandfather might say, using the ‘needle of consciousness’ to ‘fasten the body to the Soul.’ She explained that her Grandfather said that asana is a prop to penetrate to the Self. Her article in the convention magazine tells the stories of how the other props in Mr. Iyengar’s toolbox came about to serve us. 

Her aunt, Dr. Geeta Iyengar, spoke to us from Pune, India in the beginning, middle, and end of the conference to encourage us each step of the way and left us with a seed of inspiration to plant at home. Her interview with Joan White in the convention magazine shares her history of learning yoga from her father.

BKS Iyengar, who many call Guruji stayed ever present in Abhijata’s daily stories and teaching. When she shared a few of her asana lessons with her Grandfather, she had us enact the scene (which we attempted with humor) so we could feel the depth of his teaching. 

Senior Instructors were scattered throughout the Global Hall at the Boca Raton Resort & Spa where 1169 students held space for one another to learn. The Senior Teachers shared their stories on the stage and in the convention magazine, and like Abhijata, opened our hearts to their personal journeys. 

As Mr. Iyengar has said, “Caught in the web of words, it is rather difficult to define ‘yoga’ so as to satisfy everyone,” [ Iyengar, B. K. (2000). Aṣṭadaḷa yogamālā: Collected works (Vol. 1). New Delhi: Allied. Pg. 100]. However, Abhijata did an amazing job explaining to the vast number of levels with respectful authority her specific lessons. Everyone seemed to honor her presence in kind by coming into the Hall with a beginner’s mind. 

2.28 – yoganganusthanat asuddhiksaye jnanadiptih avivekakyateh,
“This means that by adherence to the practice of yoga impurities of body and consciousness are destroyed and the pure light of knowledge and wisdom is kindled, [
Iyengar, B. K. (2000). Aṣṭadaḷa yogamālā: Collected works (Vol. 1). New Delhi: Allied. Pg. 102].

We listened to her well thought out discoveries of what she felt her Grandfather meant by his idea that “Habit is a Disease.”  We learned by her personal examples about boga yoga (ego yoga) and the limitation that comes by using check lists in our poses. More importantly, we learned what our own process needs to be when trying to understand or interpret Mr. Iyengar's words. 

“Education is that which teaches us first to know thoroughly the parts so that one moves on to know the whole. The art of learning begins compartmentally, working clearly, in order to experience the whole, one day. Education is complete when it makes one realize one’s ignorance and light the lamp of inquiry for progress. Education brings about the realization of what one does not know and how much has been left out of the known.”  - BKS Iyengar

We could ‘collect’ the intelligence Abhijata offered because her precision in timing, sequence, repetition, and challenge assured it. She broke down lessons into parts we could remember. Concepts like hinge of the ankle, depth of the groin, the importance of finding equanimity and totality in our movements: shin to calf and calf to shin, tailbone to pubic bone, and upper thoracic (~T7/T8) to sternum. We studied the four corners of the feet and knee. We centralized the head of the humorous and femur. We circularized the upper thigh and weighted our ankles, and much, much more. Abhijata pricked our intelligence to penetrate our mind and body deeper and deeper with each class.

“We use our intelligence to see external things, but we do not know how to use the intelligence to penetrate internally. This internal movement of the intelligence begins through the practice of yoga and it travels from the body to the mind, mind to intelligence, intelligence to consciousness and consciousness to the self, so that you are drawn towards the core of Being- the Self. [ Iyengar, B. K. (2002). Aṣṭadaḷa yogamālā. Vol 2. New Delhi: Allied Publ. Page 212]

When moving us from what at first seemed like an 'all-level' Prasarita Padottanasana into Utthita Parsvakonasana, she warned us not to try this with beginners because the deep bend required a potentially harmful rotation in the hips for that level. It echoed the many warnings her Grandfather expressed in his written works. 

“I am very wary about recommending exercises for physical conditions, because many people might say, “I will also teach that,” but what is important is how it is taught. If you don’t know how to do it, don’t teach it.[…] do not do it if you do not know. It is dangerous.”  [Iyengar, B. K., & Rivers-Moore, D. (2002). The tree of yoga: Yoga vṛkṣa. Boston, MA: Shambhala. Pg. 97-98]

The films and stories of Mr. Iyengar’s teachings helped many of us better understand how he taught and why he taught the way he did. His student’s trusted him implicitly because they experienced such amazing changes in their mind and body -- despite disconcerting processes in between like what Mary Obendorfer shared about having numbness in her arms after one of his lessons. 

“The light inside the pot cannot spread unless the pot is broken. Similarly, the guru breaks the cover that enshrouds the pupil's intelligence and makes it shine and spread. The moment ignorance (ajnana) is eradicated, awareness (prajnana) takes its place.” [Iyengar, B. K. (2002). Aṣṭadaḷa yogamālā. Vol 2 New Delhi: Allied Publ. Pg. 301 ]

It is abundantly clear to newer students of his work (like this writer) that Mr. Iyengar always put his students first -even if he injured himself in the process.

“You know that Mr Iyengar sometimes hits his pupils to help them in their postures, but perhaps you do not know what I get from my pupils! I also get the pupils’ imprints on my body.” [Iyengar, B. K., & Rivers-Moore, D. (2002). The tree of yoga: Yoga vṛkṣa. Boston, MA: Shambhala. Pg. 97-98]

In his explanation of the invocation below (chanted at the convention after the invocation to Patanjali), we learn that our first Guru is a teacher who helps us find the Guru within ourselves. Mr. Iyengar's body of work is now in the hands and feet and every part and particle of Geeta & Prashant (along with his other children), his granddaughter, and his students. And every day is a new day to review our interpretation of his lessons, so we can use them to help ourselves and others begin to know the Self from the inside out, and back again. 

Gurubrahma gururvisnu gururudevo mahesvaraha
Guru saksata para brahma tasmai sri gaurave namah
 [Iyengar, B. K. (2002). Aṣṭadaḷa yogamālā. New Delhi: Allied Publ. Pg. 301 ]

The closing ceremony of the event offered beautiful demonstrations with the likes of U.S. Iyengar leaders like Patricia Walden, talented voices like Jarvis Chin and Leslie Dillingham Freyberg, and the inspiring Lighting The Way award given to Lois Steinberg, one of the bright light workers among us. We left the halls ringing with a message from Patanjali: 

Sutra 1.33 maitri karuna mudita upeksanam sukha duhkha punya apunya visayanam bhavanatah cittaprasadanam, “Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favourably disposed, serene and benevolent.”

We ended grateful for Abhijata and the Iyengar Family, along with the many volunteers who helped make the event happen. We filled the place with an energy that is sure to affect guests of the resort for years to come, and a vibration of compassion from our closing Sutra that we can only hope will penetrate into the earth and reverberate outward across the land.

SPRING RETREAT WITH KQUVIEN DEWEESE

                                                                                                                                                                      By Rhonda Geraci

RETREAT has military connotations as in a withdrawal of troops from the battlefield. It could be said that each of us has an ongoing internal and external battle that we wage at various levels of intensity depending who we are, what we do, where we live, and what we believe. A Yoga RETREAT is a retreat from the battlefield of life to a more secluded spot where we can gain a new perspective and are better able to bring about a dedicated focus inward - a focus that reunites us with the wholeness of our being. It pulls our energy back in from all the places we've allowed it to scatter. 

Kquvien DeWeese's SPRING RETREAT came at the tail end of tax time with presidential debates blaring blame and throwing the energy of the nation all over the place like the solar flares of the sun. Yoga practitioners new and old chose to retreat from it all. We weaved our way up to Dahlonega Resort and Spa.  There we reunited our energies and bonded with each other in true Yogic form. Kquvien teaches The Iyengar Method of Yoga, which was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. The method could be described as a systematic retreat. It is a slow involution from the gross to the subtle. It brings our awareness from the external to the internal. Kquvien began her lessons with simple poses that focused on our arms and legs; and then, she added props like chairs, blocks, and straps to support a deeper understanding of our body and its tendencies.

Once she shifted our focus to retreat inward, we were more receptive to the guidance of a few of the 196 Yoga Sutras of the sage Patanjali. Patanjali describes yoga as "Citta Vrtti Nirodha," Iyengar translates this in Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as "Yoga is the cessation of the movements in the consciousness." We discussed several other translations of this sutra (1.2) along with a more recent translation by Rohit Mehta's from his book Yoga, The Art of Integration. Mehta explains Citta Vrtti (read monkey mind) as a comparing or contrasting reaction to any stimulus. The reaction perpetuates itself into a chain of reactions.

We might react to a cup of coffee with a comparison of the warm milk we got as a child that made us feel loved then contrast that reaction with a reaction of pain brought about from an imprint of when our father spilt hot coffee and burnt us. The cycle can go and on and on and follows the same groove as every other set of chain reactions. We can trap ourselves into this endless pattern our entire lives. Or we can learn to see each experience as new  -- void of any comparison or contrast. Interestingly, it was about here in our discussion that Kquvien brought up Albert Camus' Myth of Sisyphus (I encourage you to click and read it, along with this Elephant Journal article) and consider the last line that imagines Sisyphus happy. 

The Yoga of Patanjali's Sutras teaches us how to retreat from this chain reaction of thoughts. In retreat, we gain strength of awareness of a part of us that is separate from the meat suit where we live. Kquvien discussed Sutras 2:26-2:27 where Patanjali explains that there are seven stages to this awareness. Iyengar Yoga guides us through them systematically from the external body and senses to more internal areas of breath and prana (energy) to mind/intelligence and consciousness and finally to the innermost part of us that is none of that - what some call the soul. As we grow strength in the awareness of this innermost part of us, we learn to stay there. And staying there, with uninterrupted awareness,  Nirodha Parinama (a transformation that reduces the power of our reactions) results in growing moments where we experience the "Incomparable joy" that "comes from self-containment" [Mehta: Sutra 2:42],  and a steady (Sthira) stream of happiness (Sukham).

Kquvien will have another SPRING RETREAT. Until then, consider that your thoughts are merely a chain of reactions. That what's behind your eyes are your own Samskaras or imprints and you are constantly comparing and contrasting them, ad nauseam, against any new information or experience. Therefore, perhaps you don't need to take your chain of reactions so seriously. If you're not an Iyengar practitioner, I encourage you to find an Iyengar Studio near you. There you can begin to learn how to retreat from the chain of reactions, so you can see all your experiences with fresh eyes. And who knows where that could take you.

 

To learn more about Kquvien DeWeese visit her website at http://kquvienyoga.com/