Christine U in Parsvottanasana

 Christine U in Parsvottanasana

I ground my front big toe mound down into the ground and draw the spiral energy of life force up from the earth into my outer front thigh.

I draw the outer right thigh to connect the two hemispheres of my hips together into centre behind me.

I ground my back outer foot into the mat without lifting its inner line but creating an arch and let that energy spiral up into the outer back hip, meeting the inner thighs pressing up into the outer. This energetic action stabilizes the back hip which is met by the front hip drawing in.

I am stable and strong now.

I draw in the front lower belly toward the spine, I fold naturally and easily till my chin rests on my shin. My hands rest lightly on my back and my elbows lift slightly.

I relax into Parsvottanasana with breath and mindfulness.

DEAR BILL…

William Broad – You seem to poo poo the spiritual aspect of yoga which is the essential part of yoga. When you divorce the physical from the spiritual then you are dealing with the ego only – I won’t get into it, but that’s what gets you into trouble. It’s you, not yoga, that makes you mis-step, feel less than, get injured.
When the ego drives the work in yoga (any part of it – BTW, yoga is not just the physical work – asana), then you get injured. You said it yourself – with all the pretty flexy girls in class doing crazy postures, you said, you couldn’t help but follow and try to match them. I would think that after 40 years of practice you would know better; You would see that you are imposing a structure (your own) onto the practice of yoga that isn’t really there. It’s only there because of your own need to impress or prove or something else – or the teacher’s need to push you for some reason (and that’s a different story).
Any teacher worth their salt would have let you know that you are treading into dangerous waters when you leave your own senses and become an instrument of your own ego. Yoga practice of any sort doesn’t look to highly on that sort of thing. It is you who’s deciding to go there; to deny the truth of your own reality…that your body may be too old or too much a guy’s body and not a young chickidees body to do the things they were doing! In fact, if you did yoga with the spiritual/philosophical aspect in mind you would have known that through your readings/teachings. But you obviously don’t.
Yoga is very scientific – traditionally. There is a reason for everything you do in the more traditional practices. You do get results. But when taught wrong through lack of knowledge or an imposing ego (teacher or you), it all can go horribly wrong.
Yes people have changed the practice of yoga – too much in my opinion. And really if you listen very closely, you will hear the little whine from those that change it for their own needs, into their own image. I say, you don’t have to change a thing.
Just because someone’s a teacher/guru doesn’t mean they know what’s what here or in India. The depth of the practice has been almost lost and we are usually paying lip service to someone else’s ego’s notion of what yoga is. That is wrong to me.
Changing the practice is thinking you know better. Changing the way we teach is recognizing the depth of ourselves. Much different. You can read thousands of books on yoga; they’re out there, go to a million classes there’s enough of those to go around too. If you are still looking without instead of within, in other words, looking for the wisdom outside of yourself instead of within:
“If he (she, my addition) is indeed wise, the teacher does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather he (she) leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” Kahlil Gibran,
if you can’t find a good teacher to guide you to the truth of yourself, if you still think you know better instead of earnestly trying to shed all of your resistance to the teachings, if you treat yoga less than what it truly is and has to offer, you’ll never find what your looking for –  – a deep, meaningful, challenging, mind-blowing, humbling, life-affirming and joyful life.

The True Magic of Yoga…

Throughout the centuries of Yoga practice, not only in our age, but since the dawn of Yoga, practitioners have been caught up with some idea or another of what yoga can do to help them “make friends and influence people”. And one of them is that meditation, the practice of asana, etc., can give you powers (siddhis). I’ve always been quite skeptical of that notion and have been vocal on occasion. Through my years of dedicated practice, I have never come across anyone who could actually do what they said they could (levitate for instance) or have never experienced it myself. What I did experience is a shift in the visceral feeling of my body which is probably the burgeoning connection of body-mind; a leveling out of my emotional body, a form of contentment, where now sadness is really sadness, happiness really happiness, anger is really anger, hurt is hurt; and a shift in body-mind consciousness, a taste of non-duality.

This became apparent slowly through years upon years of practice. My practice of either asana, meditation, and pure present-centeredness did not come without struggles, disillusionment, frustration and in some instances, real joy. It was a quiet unfolding which after years of arduous practice, on a retreat (my last at this particular place) something was revealed to me which altered everything and life has never been the same. The practices of Yoga can transform you and draw you in to catch a glimpse of Non-Dualistic reality, our true condition.

Yoga is not Magic; it’s Alchemy. It will not give you powers. You’re not about to bi-locate (although that would be fun), turn someone into a toad, or make the one you love yours just because you did an hour of asana, and some meditation. In fact, it won’t happen at all (but only for those who are to be true adepts). And if someone claims to be a great yogi because they can do such things, turn around and run! Yoga unfolds and unravels you slowly without a tremendous amount of hoopla!

Yoga is Alchemy where, like the quest to transmute lead into gold, your practice is the flame which transforms the raw material of – your body, emotions, and thinking mind into the Diamond body. To fan the flame of your practice, you immerse yourself into no-mind which together with the breath is the fuel for the flame. As Georg Feuerstein says: the traditional purpose is the radical one, not the one for the pursuit of a good looking body and becoming forever young, but rather, where the use of asana is to assist the development of the transubstantiated body – the Diamond Body (…no it doesn’t have “yoga butt”). But, he says, there are very few of us who have the determination and stamina to develop this mastery of the practice. Because of this – Are we left with what he calls “garden variety yoga”? No luckily we’re not. Through asana practice, one can “taste” the existence of non-duality, which is essentially like Samadhi. We can flow in and out of this state . It’ll happen, whenever it is to happen. You have no control over it, can’t predict it or plan it. Although, if in fact you do have expectations of developing some extraordinary powers, they will surely be shattered or dissolved – depending on the strength of the expectation. With sincere and constant practice, self-evaluation and observation; engaging in alchemy with the breath and no-mind, one can achieve this state and experience our true condition, the Non-Dualistic Nature of Reality. This is the true Magic of Yoga.

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I’M NOT PERFECT IN MY YOGA PRACTICE . . .

Christine U of Shama-Bhakti Yoga Centre

I used to try to be perfect in my practice. I’d look to others to see what I was doing wrong and try to mimic them…well, that’s ok. When you first begin your practice there is definitely a form of emulation. It can be very instructive…shows you the how and the what.

As I got deeper in my practice, I learned that if I continued to do this, I was not listening to my own body…I have very subtle twists and turns in my body that tells me we are not all created equal. These subtle variations  didn’t allow me to easily fall into a back bend (even after years of sincere practice), for instance, without tweaking my back or shoulder, or not be able to do it at all… It took a concerted development of my inner eye, of body/mind awareness to tell me if I was misaligned or moving unevenly…even then when I have the body consciousness, I have to  recognize my own body’s limits and be all right with that! It was a difficult road; one I still traverse every time I get on my mat… It has changed the way I practice… I no longer want to be perfect. Just Authentic…in my own body, my own organism, and my heart and soul. It has certainly deepened my Yoga practice, on and off the mat, and now there’s a Peaceful feeling of Equanimity which is the flavor of my practice these days… most of the time.  🙂

A lot of people applaud perfection – or what looks like it. It’s easy to look at a person doing a perfect looking posture and admire the person and their ability thinking that’s where the Divine lies. I’m sure this comes from thinking that we need to be perfect (at least look like it) in order to know the Divine; to be able to touch enlightenment or god. In this perfect posture then maybe the person’s perfect and they must be closer to god then any of us imperfect beings?

But this isn’t so. The more work there is, the more unraveling we do. As Suzuki Roshi said, “Everyone wants to be the best horse, but it’s better to be the worst horse than the best horse.” The work is essential, and it’s good to work with sincerity. First for some of us the work is physical, that’s why we do yoga. Together with the work on the mind, psyche, and the emotions, we’ll be finally deep in the heart. Open and honest! In the moment . . . There we will find god!