Monday, October 15, 2007

Finding Happy Guy...

We all go through periods of darkness, where we feel that in every direction we are facing an uphill battle. In these times of inner struggle and conflict it is reassuring to think about something positive... like the true story about finding “Happy Guy.”

Some of you may have heard this story before, but it is one that brings a smile to even the saddest of faces.

Seven years ago, my cousin Nate found a photo in the rubbish bin of a hotel room in Banff, Canada. He kept the picture with him, and returned home to Melbourne, Australia, where he posted the photo on his family's kitchen fridge, and ever since that day "Happy Guy" has been smiling at the family from his spot in the kitchen. Everyone who visited the Sturdy house would always ask about the photograph, inquiring: "Who is that?"
"It's Happy Guy" the family would respond, and then the story of how the picture of a complete stranger ended up on the fridge would follow.

So, why did Nate feel so attracted to this particular picture of a smiling stranger? For no other reason then simply looking at the picture made him feel happy, and how could it not?-!
Earlier this year, Nate and his brother Devin, started a group on Facebook called "Who Is Happy Guy?" The goal of this group was to find and meet the man whom they had formally nicknamed.
They started a "Happy Guy" website (, and made "Who Is Happy Guy?" tee-shirts, and awarded them to anyone who made an extra special "Happy Guy" effort, and that was the beginning of their Global Search.

The result: Making millions of people happy!

Folks from all over the world started to post Happy Guy's picture up and would take photos of it to show all the different places that Happy Guy's smile had reached, and with each new photo you just couldn't help but smile also, proving the age-old saying that "a smile goes a long long way."
Recently, Happy Guy was found!

Although the search has ‘officially’ come to an end, like all good stories the journey is at least as important as the destination, and the tale about how one man's smile made millions more smile is a message in itself:
When we are happy we spread happiness, and when we are in pain we spread suffering.

So, when you're feeling down on your luck, try to think of Happy Guy, and hopefully that inner smile will start to grow, and light your way home.
For it is only when we are able to let go of our feelings of lack and distress that we can open ourselves to participate in the liberation of all living beings.

Thanks for the inspiration Nate & Dev, and thanks to Happy Guy for sharing his smile with the world!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In The End There Is Always A Beginning.

We are preparing to leave Mysore, our home for the past eight months. We have one week left in India before returning to Calgary, Canada, where we will begin to reintegrate into North American life after our last three years living abroad. As our time here starts to draw to a close, it seems natural to reflect upon the friendships we've made and the experiences we've had.

It is difficult to put into words all the changes we have been through, the places we've seen, or the people we've met. Each person and place has imprinted their own uniqueness upon our hearts, and dance through our memories in beautiful colors. We will probably only realize how much we have changed and grown once we are placed against the familiar background of the city we left and again return to.

We attended a beautiful concert here in Mysore last Friday performed by Nick Evans and Colin Zak. There was a wonderful feeling in the air. So many students gathered to listen to their friends sing and play together, and enjoy a night of dinner and communion with each other. It was a fabulous evening. The last song they played summed up the general sentiments of all who were present: “The power of love, a force from above… healing our souls.” The presence of love was palpable in the air.

This is one aspect of being in Mysore that we will miss the most as we start our journey back to the West - the bonds of the friendships we’ve made here are strong. They are fortified in the intensity of this practice, and forged through our sweat, tears, struggles, and triumphs every morning. As we strive to create yoga within ourselves, we find that we’ve also established a deeper connection and union with others.

So although we realize you can never really say goodbye to those you love, we will give a big hug, and say, “see you around” to many amazing people as we leave. We will have time for one last chai at our favorite “dirty dog” chai stand, and remind ourselves that every ending is only a porthole that opens into a new beginning.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Goddess of Magic, Love and Life.

Some images of Mother India.

May she inspire us to believe in magic, to love unconditionally, and to live as though there were no tomorrow.

For I am the first and the last
I am the venerated and the despised
I am the prostitute and the saint
I am the wife and the virgin
I am the mother and the daughter
I am the arms of my mother
I am barren and my children are many
I am the married woman and the spinster
I am the woman who give birth and she who never procreated
I am the consolation for the pain of birth
I am the wife and the husband
And it was my man who created me
I am the mother of my father
I am the sister of my husband
And he is my rejected son
Always respect me
For I am the shameful and the magnificent one

Hymn to Isis, third or fourth century BC,
Discovered in Nag Hammadi

Isis is the moon goddess of Egyptian mythology. Like Mother India, she is an expression of the inherent power of the divine feminine. She embodies great strength and a fierce spirit. She holds a capacity to love deeply, to give life and take it away, and represents the source of sustenance and protection for all of humanity.

May we allow her presence to nurture our hearts and minds as we live, love, learn, grow, and practice peace in our daily lives.

Jai Ma!
Victory and praise to the Divine Mother!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Guruji's Birthday

Today is a very special day in the Hindu calendar. It is called Guru Purnima. It is the full moon day in the Hindu month of Ashad. This auspicious day happens to be the day that our beloved Guru, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, was born. Today marked the end of Guruji's 92nd year, and it was an especially touching celebration, in light of Guruji's illness earlier this year.

The morning festivities started early with a two hour fire puja in the main shala. Most students started to funnel in near the end to observe the traditional rituals. Following the puja, several students performed for Guruji and the large audience that had gathered at his feet. The performances included traditional South Indian singing, Balinese dancing, and a special song composed on guitar and sung by students. Dr. M.A Jayashree was also there to perform a song about Krishna, dedicated especially to Guruji. Guruji laughed brightly as the whole crowd sang Happy Birthday in Kannada (the local language of Karnataka). The cake was cut, and then students began to line up to give gifts and well-wishes to Guruji as he sat happily in his chair in the center of the stage. He greeted every guest that wished to approach him, patiently smiled for photos, and spent a special moment with each person.

Traditionally, Guru Purnima marks a new beginning for spiritual seekers to commence or intensify their spiritual 'sadhana' (studies and practices). It is a day for students to reaffirm their devotion to the Guru, and express their gratitude and sincere homage. As Swami Sivananda expresses, "the Guru is the only guarantee for the individual to transcend the bondage of sorrow and death, and experience the Consciousness of the Reality." Let this be a day for all of us to renew our commitment and fervor to the practice of Yoga, and honor those great teachers who have passed these ancient teachings and practices to us.

Today, Guruji was both strong and jubilant. It was a very touching day. We feel very blessed to be here to study with him, and to celebrate this special day with his family, students and friends. Blessings to you Guruji!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Profound Simplicity

I spoke to Guruji about fear, he told me to concentrate on my breathing. I thought, “come on man, give me something else to chew on, give me a secret”, but there is no secret, there is only profound simplicity...

To me the power of the Ashtanga System as taught by this great man is transmitted in insightful broken English:

“You take Practice, You think God!”

“You... BREATH... You!”

“You taking Practice... Practice, Practice, all is coming!”

To me this is the heart of the Ashtanga system; it has nothing to do with radically advanced bodily contortions, yet everything to do with them... “The practice itself is the teacher”. And gratefully, with the guidance of Sri K, Pattabhi Jois (including Sharath and Saraswathi) and the great teachings of Sri O.P. Tiwari, I have a personal practice to learn from.

Any teachings I can offer come from these great yogis. Om, Sri Gurubyo Namah.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Memories from Dubai

I know we're a little late in posting our pictures and giving our thanks to all the students in Dubai that attended our workshop at the beginning of June, but here they are now, so enjoy…

Dubai is an incredible experience. It is a juxtaposition of the extremely traditional and the super-modern. It is a huge pseudo-metropolitan city that is growing up in the middle of the desert. This vast plain contains bustling extravagance where you can shop and find absolutely anything you could possibly want or imagine, as a friend of ours said, “you can get anything you want in Dubai!”

It is like a mirage manifesting out in the middle of nowhere, a city where every whim and fantasy is becoming reality. As you can imagine it was quite the place to see! We are so happy to have had the opportunity to spend some time there, and to get to know some of the very wonderful people who are living and practicing yoga there.

Beautiful Big-Red. The desert is the most amazing and enchanting place!

Jeff and his new friend!

Having fun in the desert! Lots of Sand and Camels.

After a wild ride through the desert in a deluxe "corvette-engine" dune-buggy.

Soon to be the tallest building in the world.

Building the City of Dubai - 15 sky-scrapers at a time!

Sharon showing us the indoor ski-hill complete with Chair-lift and all!

Students learning some basic breath-work exercises early on a Saturday morning.

Weekend Workshop discussion time and practice.

Students practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

Students visiting after practice.

Sharon, Jim, Dylan and Jake at Dinner.
Thanks to this incredible family we had an amazing visit!

A Big Thanks to All the Students in Dubai, and to Sharon Sim and her family for the amazing experience, and for the opportunity to share and practice yoga with you!
We hope to come back and see everyone again some time soon!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Guruji Update

Here is our friend Shirley's account of last Thursday and Friday (June 7 & 8) in Guruji's Yoga Shala in Mysore. What spectacular news! We are so happy to be able to share her thoughts and impressions with you since we were away in Dubai during this time...

"On Thursday, June 8th, Guruji came out and said the opening prayer before the Mysore class. He walked up to the front of the room and chanted it as powerfully as he always does. I found out later that he was so excited to get down to the shala, he was dressed and ready by 4:30 am. Sharath and Saraswathi had to tell him that he had another hour to wait! After class he was sitting in the office, and it was the first time since being sick that I was able to bow to him and touch his feet. Then without me even asking the question, he told me in a very determined voice that he was going be be back teaching in one week!

This morning, (June 9th) for usual Friday led-primary class, Guruji was back again to say the opening prayer. Then, it seemed to everyone's surprise, he started to count, without missing a beat, he moved right into leading the whole primary series class. He call the whole thing with all the vinyasa-s, and didn't forget a single posture or side for even a second. It was so powerful. At the end, he stood up without help, and said the closing prayer with such strength both in his stance and his voice. It was an amazing experience to witness. He's back!
I just can't express in words how inspired I am by him. I feel truly blessed to have him for our Guru!
With Love,

We too feel truly blessed to have Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois for our Guru. He is a true Yogi, and a living example of how powerful this practice really is.
Pranams to Guruji.
We humbly bow at your lotus feet.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Kalutskikh Brothers

Here is something to really knock your socks off!
Just incase you thought you were practicing yoga to increase your flexibility... think again!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Morning Darshan with Guruji

This morning students at the AYRI received a rare Darshan from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois-Guruji. Rising from their own 'savasana' a long line of students cued up to bow to Guruji from the shala floor as he sat in the office. To me Guruji radiated a new and very profound peace and strength, perhaps as one who has faced death and been able to reconcile his personal experience of 'abhinivesah'.

We have been blessed to study Ashtanga Yoga with this great master.
Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah Harih Om!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cosmetic Yoga

This is an advertisement we saw in Bangkok prior to arriving in India. I've been thinking about its implications a lot lately and just what exactly is this "yoga" that we're doing.

Is it just a trendy fad that can be distilled down to a catch phrase like "Natural Bliss," and another means of selling anything from books and clothing to make-up, cars, and computers.

What do cosmetics have to do with yoga anyway? Or more pointedly, what does society's idea of "being beautiful" have to do with real yoga?

It seems to me that this picture actually highlights something quite profound about how yoga is being approached today. It seems that more and more people are merely practicing yoga for its "cosmetic value" and nothing more. To us, Yoga is not about getting a more beautiful body, tighter abs, or a sexier ass. It is not about creating some image of external beauty, or trying to "fit-in" with the latest trend. It is about seeing and experiencing your inner beauty, the reality within. It is a pertinent issue to ponder, in light of a recent article on “yoga masters” that came out in Vanity Fair Magazine. Are we really practicing and living the teachings of yoga in our daily lives, or are we just buying into another superficial image that is trying to sell us something else we don't really need?

Yoga means to 'yoke' or 'create union'. It can be described as both the process and the goal of becoming completely whole. It is a method for connecting all aspects of oneself and integrating them into a unified being. It is also the act of reaching out and creating union with other people, with the environment, and with the Oneness of all things.
The process of yoga starts to strengthen qualities of truth, sincerity, and integrity within the practitioner.
It is about getting Honest with yourself and living in Reality. It leads to a complete acceptance of oneself and others. Yoga is not about putting on more layers to cover-up who we really are. It is about peeling off all the layers that cover our True Self. It leads to the realization of how completely perfect and beautiful we all are - just as we are - AS IS.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Our Interview with Alex Medin

Alex is one of the few teachers in the world officially certified to teach Ashtanga Yoga by Pattabhi Jois and the AYRI (Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute) in Mysore. In 2004, he completed his post-graduate degree in Sanskrit and Indian religions and has since taught yoga all over the world. Currently, can be either be found practicing in Mysore, or teaching for Pure Yoga at one of their many studios in Asia. It was our honor and pleasure to answer a few questions for him and to be included in his blog for Pure Yoga.

If you are interested to see a current photo of us, and to read our interview with him, please see: Alex's Pure Yoga Blog.

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Back In The Swing Of Things!

Well, it has been a while since we've last written anything. We've been all over the place this last month! Now we're back in the sleepy little city of Mysore taking classes with Sharath and Saraswathi in the big shala, while Guruji recovers.

Pagoda at Chennai Vipassana Center

Here are some photos of our adventures over the month of April. We took a couple of weeks and went to Chennai, where we sat a 10 day Vipassana course at the center there. It is a very beautiful center, and the intense 10 days of meditation were exactly what we needed to help to process all the changes that the occurred over the last couple months.

Dhamma Hall at Vipassana Center in Chennai

The Beach where the Tsunami hit in 2004

While we were in Chennai we visited the Vivekananda House (Swami Vivekananda is the most famous disciple of Ramakrishna and he introduced Yoga to the West in 1893).
The Vivekananda House is a place where Swami Vivekananda stayed for a short time, and it has been turned into a museum in honor of Vivekananda. It is located right on the beach that the Tsunami had covered in 2004. The house itself has a long and interesting history. It used to be called the "Ice House" because it was where the Indian people would store the Ice that they purchased from the English before they learned how to make ice themselves.

After visiting the Vivekananda House we went to see the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

Then we were taken on a little pilgrimage to the tomb of the Apostle St. Thomas (doubting Thomas of the Bible). St. Thomas brought Christianity to India and was Martyred in a place just outside of Chennai.

A relic of St. Thomas the Apostle of Jesus

After visiting the tomb of the Apostle Thomas we went to a cave where he lived and preached outside of for several years. There is a cross engraved on the cave, and it is said that he carved it with his own hands. Apparently the cross used to sweat blood every year on the anniversary of his death.

Jeff in the cave where St. Thomas used to live

We have also been to 2 huge pujas. Here is some pictures of the first one we went to in the house of our friend Dr. Shantala, who is a Doctor of Ayurveda.

Puja offerings being made

The opening of the Puja

We've also been teaching yoga every morning to the kids of our house keeper Rathna.
Here are some photos of the children learning some yoga in our house.


Magna (age 4)

Radhikha & Kiran (age 12 & 14)