Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Sunday Conference of 2012

Yesterday was the last conference of 2012.  
Here are some notes and thoughts from Sharath's talk:

The name "Yoga" has grown in fame around the world, but the meaning is missing.  
What is the meaning of Yoga?   
Yoga-citta-vritti-nirodha "Yoga is to still the mind."  
Yoga is for self transformation.  
Many people have forgotten this, and are caught up in the asana-s only.   

"Asana for asana sake is just bending your body."
When you are truly established in the asana practice, there will be no disorders of the mind.  You will become totally absorbed in what you are practicing, the senses will withdraw inside, and your concentration will become very one-pointed.

Sharath recalled a great story about a student that asks his teacher, "why have I not gained the experience of Self-Realization" and the teacher one morning takes him to a river and holds his head underneath the water, and the student fights with all his might to come up for air, and when the teacher finally lets him up, the student gasps "why did you do that?"  
The Teacher says, "if you want to experience Self-Realization or Enlightenment, the goal of Yoga, you must want it as much as you wanted that breath of air."
 As practitioners and seekers, we must want to taste the experience of real yoga within ourselves, as much as a drowning man fights for air - a sincere effort must be made in this direction.

He followed this up by saying that a true student devotes his or her whole self to the practice, and as you go deeper and deeper the knowledge will automatically glow from within you.  However, this transformation only comes when we devote ourselves fully to the practice, and do real Sadhana (spiritual practices) for a long time, consistently.  

"Yoga is a life-long study."  

Every month, every year, you should learn something new, experience something new, and go deeper.
This is what the aim should be. 

Sharath also spoke about the six passions of the mind that cover one's true nature.  
The six covers are: kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (delusion), mada (pride), matsarya (jealousy).  These six covers need to be removed through our sadhana if we are to see and understand Reality as it is.   

He said that if you are humble and start to get rid of the ego, then there will be progress in yoga.  However, you cannot just read about Yoga, or memorize texts on Yoga - the mastery will come only when you practice and apply the teachings within your daily life.  Only then will you gain experiential knowledge. 

Sadhana isn't easy though, you must choose one path.  It is a discipline; and often you must struggle within yourself to overcome many obstacles.  A daily commitment to continue to practice must be there, and the more distracted you are with many things in the world, the more difficult it becomes to reach higher levels of Yoga.  You must discipline yourself and limit the distractions in life.  

Through the practice of Yoga, you will become more sensitive to things. As you develop a disciplined mind you can start to feel a connection to a higher cosmic consciousness.  This process, what is happening within you, cannot be spoken about, the changes are internal, and as the effects grow stronger, maintaining your practice will become more central for you.

Happy Continued Practicing into the New Year Everyone!

We want to give a huge THANKS to Nikki & Sebastian, who taught for the month of December in our morning Mysore Program.  It was an incredible month for so many of our students back in Victoria, and I'm sure that everyone looks forward to having you back again some day!
We are also happy to have some time to reconnect with you both here in Mysore now!  
Let the fun begin!   

As we approach the NEW YEAR... we are taking some time to project our vision of what is to come by finding the one word that spontaneously comes to mind when we think of 2013!

You can play along too... 
We'd love to hear what your word for the year past and the year to come are... 
The one word that comes to mind for me that would describe last year 2012 is "Intense".
And my word for 2013... well, that's just going to have to wait until tomorrow!   

Happy New Year!  
We look forward to connecting with you all again soon - Let's make 2013 the best year yet!

Hari Om 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sunday December 23 - Mysore Conference Notes

Last Sunday, December 23, was a really wonderful conference with Sharath Jois.  
There was much discussed, and so I cannot tell you everything; but here are some highlights of things
talked about, and touched upon that I found particularly meaningful. 

I hope that they help to inspire you as well, and continue to find deeper meaning and experience within your own practice wherever you may be!

A Guru is a supreme teacher.  He removes obstacles within the students.  The Guru is your guide towards liberation.  
The Guru is not your friend, he is like a father.  

The Guru puts light, strength, and knowledge inside you, so that you will not commit wrongs.  He helps with self-transformation and ultimately complete liberation.  He tells you how to direct your mind spiritually. 

Mother is the first Guru to everyone.  
A Mother is like 100 Fathers, for Mothers make the biggest sacrifice.  
In Indian culture, your Mother is the first person you should pray for, and give thanks for, then your Father, and then your Guru.  This is the order of importance within one's life. 

* * * * *

In your asana practice, the finishing postures are very important.  You should go into the postures slowly, and move out of them slowly.  The inversions are very good for circulation.  They help you to store more Amrita Bindu within your head, so that you live a long healthy life. 

Tapas - if you want to have higher levels of Sadhana (spiritual practice) you have to sacrifice many things that do not support your practice of Yoga.  

Without devotion it is impossible to understand what Yoga is. 

Jnana Yoga, Bhakti, Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and Raja Yoga are all contained within Ashtanga Yoga - the Eight Limbs.   Ashtanga Yoga is not only asana practice, but it is the 8 limbs of Patanjali.  Asana is only 1 limb.  If you don't practice Yama & Niyama, what is the purpose of doing asanas? 

Practice will become more meaningful when you apply all the aspects of the eight limbs into your life.

Asana helps to bring stability to the mind and body, and without stability, bhakti and jnana cannot happen; however, you need to practice asana with a correct purpose.  If you are practicing correctly, it can become like a meditation.  You will forget everything else because the mind will become focused and centered, and then your mind will begin to change.  

The asana practice is a foundation.  It should be practiced daily, but asana is not the final stages of yoga.  It is just the beginning, where we start... 

A basic understanding of Yoga means that you should become more humble in yourself.  
Yoga is bigger then you. 

Well, there are some notes from conference last Sunday... just in time for tomorrow! 
Happy New Year Everyone!  May you be blessed in 2013!

 Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah! 
Hari Om

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Morning in Mysore...

If you've never been to Mysore, you might wonder what a day here is like.

Well, no day is ever quite the same, and every trip seems to carry with it a different energy, but there is also a rhythm to life here in India that is simplistic and beautiful if you take the time to stop your busy, chattering mind, and just listen...

There is a quiet here in the early morning that penetrates deep into the inner self.
We awake at 2am to start our morning with some tea or coffee, spiritual reading, chanting, and pranayama. The first group of students starts to arrive at the Shala around 3:45am. The gates open at 4:00am, which is 4:15am  "Shala Time".  Everyone in the early shift has started their asana practice by 4:30am.

If you are not starting in the first group, you come at whatever time Sharath gives you.  You can sleep in a little bit longer, or relax at home and hear the Muslim call to prayer at 5:25am and the again at 6:40am.  It is an incredible sound that echos throughout the city.  It is somewhat haunting, and yet, also comforting.

Around that same time you can also hear Chanting start up from the Krishna Temple near by, and Musical Prayers playing from some loud speaker, at an unknown location. Everything early in the morning is focused on taking time to turn the mind towards God. To practice Yoga, Union, in some way.

On the walk home from the Shala, you can see women out sweeping their front walk, men on bicycles  calling out different vegetables or herbs they are selling, and as the sun rises into the sky everything is bathed in a beautiful soft light.
The sound of pressure cookers periodically releasing their steam into space is accompanied by delicious smells of traditional South Indian breakfast.

I feel that this early morning time is especially sacred here. There is an order to things, a peacefulness and calm that insulates everything, before the rest of the day turns into total chaos!
Everything else from mid-morning to evening seems completely unpredictable!
Anything can happen.
This element of sponteanuity creeps into the day, and it can be exciting and adventurous, but it can also be exhausting.
Usually by 6pm we are ready to take an evening bath (clean the dirty off our feet at minimum) and crawl into bed. With any luck we can get Jediah to sleep before 8pm!

The next day... We start all over again...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sunday Conference with Sharath in Mysore

Conference has been so full the past two weeks... students are spilling out into the front foyer.

Here are some highlights from the past two weeks of conference with Sharath...

"What makes a good Yoga Practitioner?"

Sharath spoke about this at conference two weeks back on December 9th.
"It is the student's determination and dedication to continue practicing daily that makes a good practitioner.  It is not about how flexible you are.  Yoga is to help us get rid of the ego, to become more humble and grounded." 

"Guruji (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois), was very special in his simplicity and humility.  He had a very direct way of transmitting the teachings of the Parampara" (the lineage of teaching flowing down directly from teacher to student).  

"The practice of Yoga should not make us more critical of others, it ought to be practiced for Self-Transformation.  When we are able to change ourselves, then the whole world can be changed by us.  We should focus daily on how to develop more deeply the qualities of Yoga within. As we become more established in the Yamas and Niyamas, our perception will change, and society will change as a result of our work."

Japa (mantra / prayer recitation) is good to practice in the evening.
"Twenty minutes of the Maha Mantra (Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare), or any prayer that is meaningful to you will help to calm your mind, and you will sleep very well."

For example: if you are Catholic, you can recite the Holy Rosary (Hail Mary Full of Grace...) or if Protestant, The Lord's Prayer.
Anything that you connect with on a personal level, that can calm your mind, and lift your spirit is good to recite.
The Japa should be meaningful to you, and your thoughts should be focused on good things while chanting, then the effects will be very beneficial.

"Japa can also help to develop Bhavana (Spiritual Development) within you, and this will lead to Ishvara Pranidhana" (Surrender to a Greater Power).

This week, December 16th, Sharath gave the example of Hanuman opening his chest to reveal that only Sita & Rama reside inside.  He said that "this is a good example of full devotion, or Ishvara Pranidhana." 

Someone asked about diet, and a vegetarian diet was recommended for various reason, the food is easier to digest, healthier for your body, and it also upholds Ahimsa (non-violence).

Pain and Fear were discussed.  Sharath said, "new postures can bring fear, but if the practice was very easy, then students would loose interest, so a little fear makes the practice enjoyable."  

"Pain makes you more aware of what you are doing during practice."  However, it is important "not to over-stress your body either in practice or doing extra stretching outside of the practice."  Sometimes it can take a while for a pain to subside. 
Sharath talked about the back pain that he had for 4 years, but with slow, gentle, patient practice, he was able to heal himself fully, through the practice itself.

If you are practicing without focus, there is more chance of injury.  Also, when first beginning new postures, sometimes there can be pain in the body.   The body keeps changing, monthly, yearly, and you should progress slowly in the practice, to allow for this change.  Don't hurry or rush the process, or there is a greater chance of injury.

Sharath told of a time when he waited 3 years before Guruji gave him a new posture, and emphasized that it was good to go slowly and patiently in your daily practice, and keep increasing your awareness in the postures that you are already practicing, rather then always wanting something more.

"Ashtanga Yoga is best learned in the Mysore style.  Only in this format can a new student really begin to understand the correct breathing."  They will receive more guidance in the Mysore style then what can be given during a Led Class.  "The group Led Classes are too fast for beginners, and if you don't know what you are doing, there is more chance for injuring yourself.  The Led Classes are to help students learn the proper Vinyasa counts, how to move correctly with the breath, and to help to build up stamina."

He also talked about how this practice can at times create a lot of heat, and how coconut oil can be put on the head daily to help relieve some of the heat, especially if you are already prone to overheating.  He also talked about how traditionally in South India, they would take a Castor Oil bath once a week, either on Saturday or Sunday, to reduce any excess heat in the body.   

Personally, one of my favorite parts was when he said, "Yoga should keep happening within you day and night, not just when practicing asanas.  Yogic thoughts should be there all the time."
 (Keep focusing the mind more and more on practicing the Yamas and Niyamas)

"Yoga is not simply a physical practice.  It is not about showing off.  The Yoga is what must happen inside, once you try to realize the true inner self, the inner soul."
All our attention is outside ourselves most of the time, and the senses keep pulling us outwards.
"Yoga is learning to withdraw all your senses inside, inwardly, to see the inner self, then the Yoga happens. This should be the goal of Yoga, to realize the True Self, and if this is your goal, you will progress very well."

Conference ended with three of our friends here in Mysore receiving Certification.  A huge congratulations to Gabriele Severini, Tarik Thami, and Kranti!  We love you guys!

Thanks to Max Czenszak for the use of this great photo

Om Namah Shivaya!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Week One in Mysore - Complete

We've been in Mysore just over a week now.  We're settling in nicely, and Jediah is loving it here.  
We had a week of primary series practice, followed by many fresh baby coconuts.  

Today was the first day of led Intermediate series... the good news is we survived! 

It was a little harder then I remember it being, but I guess I did have a baby somewhere in there, and it has been a while since I've practiced a led Intermediate series class with Sharath, and on top of that I have been caught by the cold that is going around here!  
The entire room was full of Intermediate series practitioners, and about 3/4 of them were finishing the series.  There is certainly a high level of practice going on here in Mysore, and that is very exciting to witness and be apart of.

3 Words: Longest Headstand Ever!

Every Sunday there is Conference at 4pm.  Last week the room was fully packed with all the students here.  I would guess there are around 300 students.

 Sharath discussed the importance of Surya Namaskara, and that Vedic Chanting is meant to be used for Self-Transformation, and Svadyaya, as is the practice of Surya Namaskara.  Both chanting and Surya Namaskara helps to bring good health, good energy and positivity. 

He talked also about Sadhana (spiritual practice), and how you must keep practicing and also go through the process of transformation through regular Sadhana.  There are no shortcuts or easy ways to get the benefits of a deep spiritual practice, it is something you must experience for yourself. 

Sharath said, "you need devotion, dedication, determination, and faith in what you are doing if you are going to learn and grow." 
I really connected with the truth of this statement, and was happy to hear him express it in this way.

 Today we will go to conference again, and I look forward to hearing what more Sharath has to say this week.  We are happy to report that he is in great spirits these days, with lots of laughing, smiles and jokes, but also some very intense daily practice accompanying the lightness of his energy.

 Jediah waits patiently outside with all the shoes for Daddy to finish up with his practice.

 Jediah has a new friend Ananda, that he has met here as well.  They love playing together, and even went swimming together yesterday.   So far it is all a lot of fun for him here in India!

 Too much watching of the Goats, makes sleeping like a goat also happen! 

 Jediah discovers what REAL BAMBOO feels like... He tried to eat it like a Panda.

 We have been getting around on a scooter.  We went downtown yesterday - the longest journey out of Gokulam so far, and Jediah was so excited to see all the cows roaming the streets, along with the goats, dogs, pigs, and every other site and sound you could possibly imagine happening all around!

Don't worry... He won't go anywhere without a wand!  This one happens to be his favorite - a wooden kitchen utensil, that looks like a trident - a "Shiva Wand". 

 There is never a dull moment when in downtown Mysore... India is full of non-stop action!

 Since our last trip here, there have been a few developments, like a couple of big malls!  
So we stopped by one yesterday to get some Indian DVDs for Jediah - Bal Ganesha & Bal Hanuman (Baby Ganesha & Baby Hanuman) - Super Cute & Funny!  
On the way into the mall, there was a giant ball floating in a pool with a small child in it - Jediah thought it was super funny (as did we).  
What they will do for fun in India!  Zip a kid into a giant ball and have them roll around in a pool!

That's the update from the week so far... 
This week is Full Intermediate Practice for Jeff and I... 
Let's see what happens after Week 2!

Much Love to All from Mysore... xo HJj

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Arriving To The Arms of Mother India

Here We Go...

We left Calgary around 6pm, preparing for the 20 hour flight to India... Jediah was ready with his luggage and super excited to be going to "IN-DI-A!"  We were not sure how he was going to do on the long long journey to the other side of the world, but luckily we were blessed by God, as he slept half of the first flight, and half of the second flight, and some headphones and a little "Dora The Explore" went a long way to keeping us sane through it all! 

We arrived in India at 2am here, which is the middle of the afternoon for us back on the West Coast of Canada, with a 13.5 hour time difference.   As you can see we were all super happy to be on solid ground once again!  (Holy! - That's a Lot of Bags... )

The first day was so much fun - Even though we were completely jet-lagged!  After finding our house and dropping our bags we went for our first Indian Breakfast - Idily & Vada & Dosa... So Good!  Jediah loved the food, and Jeff and I were loving being back in India. 
It felt like coming home.  Our spirits relaxed immediately into a soft comforting space. 

We also introduced Jediah to his first fresh coconut, and said "hello" to all of our local friends here - the Indian people we've been visiting for the past 10 years...  It's hard to believe it will be a decade in 2013 since our first trip to Mysore!  What a great way to celebrate - here with our son. 

We have registered at The KPJAYI Shala, and start our first practice is tomorrow - with led Primary.
We are looking forward to getting into the rhythm of practicing early in the morning again, and all of the amazing openings we will have as we dive deep into the practice and consequently, deep into ourselves!

Stay Tuned... 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

A Quick Catch Up and Some News!

It's been much too long since I've written a post... Life has been busy needless to say! 

So let's not waste any time (Jediah only naps for so long!)

Here is a quick catch up of some events that happened this year so far...  
and some great things yet to come!

- - - - - - - - - - 

We started the year off with a strong practice and of course with all of you - such amazing and fantastic students - We are so blessed!

In March we hosted David Garrigues 

He taught workshop sessions on Primary and Intermediate Series, with some Mysore Classes and a little Kirtan to lift our spirits.  It was such a great treat to have him here to share with us! 

This of course inspired More Practice for Everyone! 

 Our beloved teacher Sri O.P Tiwari 

Tiwariji joined us here in Victoria at the end of May with his son Sudhir.  He taught an amazing workshop on Yoga Sutras and Pranayama, and it was our most well attended workshop to date! 

We were so happy to have so many dedicated Yoga Practitioners join us for this incredible opportunity to learn from and sit with a true Master of Yoga.  His energy and enlightened spirit lifted us all beyond belief, and we eagerly await his return next year... for his final year of traveling and teaching!
We expect he will come back near the end of October or early November in 2013. 
Don't miss out on this one!  He is a true gem.

Even Jediah was inspired to start reading a copy of the Bhagavad Gita (a mini sized one), 
while practicing his balancing on the armrest of our futon! 

David Swenson joined us in July!

David Swenson came and taught a weekend workshop, as well as a week long Asana Intensive on the Primary Series.  We had students from all over Canada, and the United States come to learn from this great Ashtanga Yoga Teacher.  
We even had one student come from Australia, just to practice and learn from David!  It was a wonderful weekend of laughter mixed with some hard work, and everyone had so much fun that the time just flew by! 

We were a little sad to have to say goodbye to David, as it was like having family around for us.  His energy and spirit are so true to the Yoga, and his authenticity shines through like a bright light.  
We hope to have him come back again soon!

The summer went by in a flash, as we completed one training program here in Victoria, and headed off to Calgary to start a new training group there.   
Of course we could get through a summer without visiting a park at least once a day so that Jediah could run, slide, swing, spin, jump, dance, and whirl like the wind! 
 Life never has a dull moment these days. 

In September we hosted Devmurti and Hari Amrit Khalsa 

This was our first ever Kundalini Yoga Workshop at Ashtanga Yoga Victoria.  It was a huge hit, with many new students coming to attend from outside of our Ashtanga Community.
Be sure to keep your calendars open for Sunday February 17th in the New Year, as we plan to host them once again!  If you missed out last time, this is certainly a workshop to check out. 

Now we find ourselves at the end of October already!  

The energy in the Mysore room has been incredible the past few weeks!
October has really sparked everyone back into practice, making this month one of our busiest months of the year so far... let's keep that momentum going into November and December, even if the days are getting shorter and cooler - the studio is warm and bright, and your practice will keep away all those colds & flus that start to fly around during this time of year.

So be sure to keep getting on your mat... even if you have to bribe yourself with a Coffee! 
(ha ha ha!)

Nikki & Sebastian will be here in December!

Now to some exciting news for everyone!  Nikki Pichert & Sebastian Arbondo will be here at Ashtanga Yoga Victoria teaching Morning Mysore from December 3 - 24.  It's going to be amazing! 

 Sebastian Arbondo discovered yoga in 1993 and has been practicing with dedication and devotion ever since.  Sebastian has been practicing Ashtanga yoga daily for 8 years with world renowned teachers, such as: David Swenson, Kirsten Berg & Mitchell Gold, Rolf & Marci Naujokat.

Two years ago Sebastian founded his own Ashtanga Yoga Mysore style program in Osaka, Japan, where he teaches traditional morning Mysore practice throughout the year.

Nikki Pichert discovered yoga in 2006 after many years of competitive triathlon racing, swimming, and surfing. Since then she has studied extensively with her Ashtanga Yoga teachers Jeff and Harmony Lichty in Canada, Rolf and Marci Naujokat in Goa, India, Sharath and Saraswati Jois in Mysore, India.  
She has had the fortunate opportunity to teach Ashtanga Yoga in Canada, Australia, India, and Japan and to share what is in her heart with integrity, passion and devotion.  In March 2010 she was authorized by the Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India to teach the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa System.

"So if Nikki & Sebastian are here in Victoria... Where will Jeff and Harmony be?" 

Well... We'll be in Mysore, India! 

Visiting and practicing with Sharath Jois, our Asana Guru...

Trying to reclaim our "Yoga Bodies" of the past... 

Reconnecting with the Spirit and Energy of Mother India, and a deeper part of ourselves...

Taking some time to visit our Respected Teacher and Spiritual Guru, Sri O.P Tiwari...

Remembering Guruji.... 

Paying respect to his family, Our lineage of Teachers, and this wonderful practice of Yoga!

Taking some time to just breath...  

And maybe throw in a family scooter ride or two as well!  :) 

Don't worry... We'll be back before you know it! 

We will be re-inspired, refreshed, and Full of New Energy!  And if you think we're full-power right now... just wait and see what happens after a little sabbatical!  

In the mean time you have some AMAZING teachers here at Ashtanga Yoga Victoria who will continue to teach classes, and help answer any questions you have about this practice of Yoga! 

(If you want to read more about them, check out the new Teachers Page on our website)

It is my hope to write more frequently over the next few weeks and months to keep you current on all that we are doing and learning and planning for next year... so stay tuned! 

Oh... and one more thing...