Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Seer and Seen

I was recently reading some articles on Richard Freeman’s website when I came across this statement:

“As it appears normally, consciousness is always conscious of something. Consciousness then appears as the thing of which it is conscious. What is unconscious then appears as conscious.”

I had to stop at the second sentence repeatedly. First of all, because I did not understand the jump he was making between the two sentences, but then, once I understood what he was trying to say, my mind still refused to read further…

These two sentences represent the crux of the yogic view of a-vidya and maya.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Vairagya (non-attachment), Samtosha (contentment) and the Sweetest Happiness

Following the last post a couple of people emailed me feeling that my view of the modern condition was overly pessimistic. In this blog, I am not trying to put my own views forward, but to present my understanding of the yoga darshana. I am not sure if I completely agree with all the conclusions which are presented, that is my work in progress.

The yoga and ayurveda shastra state that samadhi was once naturally experienced but is almost totally lost today because of the decline in our diet and habits. We may be very good at making sophisticated things, there have been many medical advances etc., but we are no closer to understanding how to be happy - because we are looking in the wrong place.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why yoga is therapy

"...three natural states of being, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, occur in human beings as well as animals. These are natural states and usually require little or no training. However, for human beings alone, there is a fourth and most important natural state; it is the state of samadhi, yoga, or sahajavastha. The word sahaja means, endowed by birth, avastha, means, state. While this fourth state of mind is natural, it is present only when there is total balance and health in body and mind." *

Man seems to be the only creature that does not know its place in nature. Modern man is so riddled with dis-ease simply because of this. Our bodies belong to nature. They do not belong to us. Thinking that we own the body, we believe we can treat it any way we choose. It is true, the body shows incredible resilience to mistreatment but not without consequences - pain, sickness etc.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hatha and Ashtanga - Further Thoughts

Having said that Ashtanga Yoga is not Hatha Yoga, certainly some elements of Hatha Yoga are also found in Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Pattabhi Jois and in the teachings of T Krishnamacharya. In fact, Krishnamacharya used a wide variety of techniques and taught the Hatha texts as well as Patanjali Yoga and many other subjects, whereas Guruji tended to favor fewer techniques and a concentration on the Patanjali Yoga and Advaita Vedanta.

Guruji saw yoga as one. Different techniques for different people in different circumstances. But he was clear that what he was teaching was Patanjali Yoga - so any Hatha techniques he utilized were in the pursuit of that goal rather than vice versa. In fact, although the Hatha texts state that the purpose of Hatha Yoga is Raja Yoga and some passing lip service is paid to the angas of Ashtanga, the development of practice and practices as well as the the culmination of the goal are clearly significantly different.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ashtanga Yoga is not Hatha Yoga

There has been much debate about the origin and development of Pattabhi Jois' system of asanas over the years. There has been much less interest in placing his asana system in the context of ashtanga yoga as a whole, or indeed, the yoga darshana as a whole.

Guruji used to say that his teaching was "original Patanjali Yoga." 

What are the implications of this?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Misty Woods

I recently had the good fortune to attended a retreat with Dr KLS Jois at Misty Woods, in the mountains of Coorg. Dr Jois - known as "Acharya" has a deep knowledge of yoga, ayurveda, sanskrit, the six systems of philosophy and the epic hindu dramas. As he took us through the Samadhi Pada of the Yoga Sutra, he wove a lucid tapestry, illuminating each sutra with a rich interweaving of these various branches of knowledge.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Giving adjustments and stilling the mind through asana - Elise's further questions

What is the point of giving students physical adjustments?  If it isn't about the asanas, then does it matter if one can do it or not?  If one isn't willing to make the effort then why should the teacher bear the burden? Or is more like helping the light shine through and the energy move past someone's samskaras? 

There were some students Guruji would seldom adjust and there were others he helped with every pose. Some students learn verbally and others somatically. Adjustments can help students understand how to get into a posture, take them deeper than they understood was possible and can be used therapeutically.

Friday, January 25, 2013

More Ashtanga Myths: Coffee Prana and Rajasic Practice

As mentioned previously much of what is quoted by Guruji today has been taken out of context. It also has to be realized that he had quite a sense of humor! And, in addition, we have to recognize that Guruji was not a renunciate yogi sitting in a cave but a family man with his likes and dislikes and even pleasures. Guruji loved coffee as well as chocolate, gold, gems and many other material things. That is not to say he was overly attached, but though an extraordinary human being he was also an ordinary one.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Further questions from Elise - what is the role of Teacher in Ashtanga Yoga?

What is the role of the teacher in Ashtanga Yoga?

I believe the teacher's role is primarily that of a therapist. All students start by learning the Primary Series which is also known as Yoga Chikitsa and most students never learn the second or third series. Chikitsa means therapy. The intermediate Series is known as Nadi Shodhona - this is a purifying sequence, so I think it also falls under the category of therapy. From the yogi's perspective, the reason we can not experience samadhi, is because we are sick. Mind and body are polluted - so asana practice along with pranayama and the yama and niyama are designed to heal, purify and strengthen the body and mind, so that the internal aspects of yoga may be experienced.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Is Ashtanga Yoga religious? - further questions from Elise

Is Ashtanga yoga religious?

What do we mean by religious? The word religion comes from the latin re-ligare - to re-bind, re-connect... with God/divinity. From one perspective that is the essence of yoga. However yoga is not a religion in the normal sense of the word, nor are yoga practitioners necessarily religious, though they may be, of course. In fact, yoga is the opposite of a religion in a number of ways.