YOGA PHILOSOPHY, THE LAW OF KARMA AND WELLNESS – GUEST BLOGPOST BY SUNIL SHARMA

cartoneHave you ever wondered what is the yoga philosophy approach to health and disease?

Sunil Sharma* – my yoga philosophy, pranayama, yoga nidra and meditation teacher at Tattvaa Yogashala in Rishikesh (India) – was recently invited to speak at the National Seminar on Fitness and Wellness at Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education in Gwalior (India) on the topic of ‘Wellness and its view in Yoga Philosophy’. In the hereafter, a first extract from his talk focusing on the law of Karma.

For not Indian people, I believe some of the concepts may sound quite ‘extreme‘, at least they still sound like that to me. Nonetheless, on a milder side, let’s not forget Yama and Niyama – right living or ethical rules – are the first 2 pillars of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.

Thank you Sunil for sharing with us!

All Indian philosophies have some common characteristics despite of all their differences. One of them is the Law of Karma. All philosophies of India unanimously agree that we are product of our Karmas. Hence, one has to always keep an eye on its own karma and exhaust it in order to get liberation.

Yoga philosophy is based on the premise that all actions performed by the body, are first performed by the mind. So, if a disease arises in our body then it has its origin in our mind. Modern medicine has also accepted the fact that all diseases are psychosomatic. And if there is no attention paid on psychological processes (thoughts, feelings and actions) then no therapy will ever cure diseases.

Swami Shivananda puts the same idea in this way: “The diseases we suffer from the births we get here on earth are all products of actions done by us in previous times. Every action has its reaction and no action goes unrewarded in a suitable manner. Evil actions do not go without their bitter effects upon the doer. Here are given some of the many pitiable conditions of life which man has to live in due to his careless sinful deeds.”

Yoga philosophy offers a very clear methodology to cure psychosomatic disorder and achieve holistic health. All schools of yoga whether it is psychological types of yoga (Jnana, Bhakti and Karma Yoga) or psycho-physical types of yoga (Tantra, Mantra and Hatha Yoga) focus on systematic control of emotions and thought processes by the application of asana, pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra as well as control of diet and adherence to certain codes of conduct.

It is very interesting to note that in almost all spiritual discipline highest emphasis has been given on following the righteous way of living rather than living a life guided by reflexes and impulses.

In Bhagavad Gita its very clearly stated that “In the person who dwells upon objects, an attachment is born with reference to them. From attachment is born desire and from desire, anger is born. From anger comes delusion and from delusion comes the loss of memory. Because of the loss of memory, the mind becomes incapacitated, the person is destroyed.” (B.G. 2/62-63)

So one who wants to enjoy health and well-being has to keep an eye on reflexes and impulsive desires otherwise a vicious cycle will start which will not only ruin the physical health but may also cause psychological disorders.

Soon a second extract focusing on ‘Principles of health and wellness in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras’. Don’t miss it, click the ‘follow’ button on the right-hand side to receive the new article directly in your mail inbox!

yoga-Sunil-Sharma-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro

*Sunil Sharma trained in Traditional and Scientific Yoga from Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla (India). He is Post Graduate in Psychology and has International Diploma in Guidance and Counseling from National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi. He has been teaching yoga at various levels in India and abroad since 2001. His areas of specialization are Asana, Pranayama, Yoga Philosophy, Meditation and Yogic Counseling.

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PUSHING YOURSELF IN THE YOGA PRACTICE? A VIEW BY KINO McGREGOR

Are you an Ashtanga Yoga practitioner? Than I bet there have been times when you’ve been pushing yourself too much on the yoga mat! 🙂

Pushing to get your toes in Pascimottanasana or binding in Marychasana D? … or maybe struggling with headstands? I know, sometimes it can be frustrating to repeatedly try a posture and apparently see little progress.

When reading this post by Kino I was caught by the first sentence: ‘The perfection in every masterful yoga posture is actually a demonstration of years of hard work’ and found it so true! You wish you could get it easily, but then would you really be practicing yoga? would the attempt teach you something? Read in the following an inspiring view by Kino on the subject!

Yoganidrasana-Yoga-Sleep-Pose

via doyouyoga.com

Yoga Taught Me How To Laugh At Myself – by Kino McGregor on MindBodyGreen

The perfection in every masterful yoga posture is actually a demonstration of years of hard work. While postures may look peaceful and yogis may appear calm, the reality of yoga involves much more disciplined effort than instant grace. In other words: there’s no magic yoga dust that you can sprinkle on your body to produce ease and flow. These are qualities earned with daily devotion to the practice.

Many new students want to see results fast and they get frustrated when it takes longer than they expect. If you push too hard, you may actually sabotage your progress. Every journey contains some missteps and obstacles along the way. To climb the ladder of yoga into the depth of the subconscious mind is a descent into the underworld of your thoughts and emotions. When you face these things, yoga asks you stay and cultivate a calm, steady mind and a loving, forgiving heart.

I used to push myself really hard every day in my life and in my yoga practice. On days when I faced my biggest blockages and I’d go nowhere, I didn’t accept it. I would fight and struggle with myself and my body. If I did not “win” the battle, I’d beat myself up and get frustrated and angry. Most of that aggression was directed toward myself, but it didn’t make me a nice person. I was self-competitive and I lacked a sense of humor.

After 15 years of practice, whatever ego attachment I had to getting anywhere fast has slowly and perhaps systematically been broken. I do my daily practice and work on many of the same things that I’ve always worked on: getting stronger, going deeper in backbends and maintaining a balanced mind.

The difference between then and now is that when everything goes completely wrong and I fall out the postures or fail entirely, I don’t get mad at myself. I know that yoga is a lifelong practice and what matters most is the peaceful attitude of acceptance, forgiveness and joy. Yoga has taught me how to laugh at myself, especially in moments of epic failure. After all, it’s only yoga.

To read the article and see a short clip of Kino on MindBodyGreen.com click here.

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ELEPHANT JOURNAL AND FEARS ON THE YOGA MAT

elephant-journalWaking up on a heavy rain Saturday morning and finding the news one of my latest articles was just published by elephant journal made me happy :- ) Check it out here!

Overcome fear on the mat in 5 simple steps

Share if you ever felt fearful or anxious on the yoga mat!

 

Read more of my previous publications on elephant journal:

7 Ways to Build Your Home Yoga Practice

Five Reasons to Miss Ashtanga Practice in Mysore.

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MYSORE STYLE: BENEFITS OF ASHTANGA YOGA SELF-PRACTICE

Ashtanga Yoga Mysore style (aka self-practice) or led class?

I still remember the evening when I first did an attempt of moving from an Ashtanga Yoga led class to a Mysore class: I was feeling tense, nervous about the idea I wouldn’t recall the sequence and even though there were other students leading the way, I still felt like ‘I won’t be able to do it!’.

And you know what? I did it! It might not have been my best practice, I felt in a way distracted as I was more worried about recalling next pose than actually letting me go with the flow, but after a few times the sequence was stored into my body, I didn’t have to worry about recalling it any longer and the self-practice experience became a very enriching one!

Led classes tend to create a dependency on teacher’s instructions, while practicing on its own – even though still under the guidance and presence of the teacher – allows attention to be driven from outward to the inner self. So, when I ended up on this article by the Guardian last night, I found it was a proper representation of what a Mysore class looks like and benefits it delivers. Here it is, enjoy it!

ashtanga-yoga-mysore-class-at-tattva-yogashala-rishikesh-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro

Mysore-style yoga: one-to-one practice in a group setting

By Geraldine Beirne – The Guardian

Mysore self-practice is the traditional way of practising ashtanga yoga, and offers a highly personalised approach without the cost of a private lesson

Are you disappointed by the lack of personal attention in yoga classes, or intimidated by the fast pace? There is another way to experience the benefits of yoga, without resorting to private classes.

Ashtanga vinyasa is one of the best-known styles of yoga and has been embraced by millions of westerners seeking a toned body and a calm mind. But the popular “led primary” classes – where teachers call out the postures of a dynamic set sequence – can be intimidating. And all too often, classes can be packed, with students having no chance of their poor alignment being corrected.

But there is an alternative. Mysore self-practice is the traditional way of practising ashtanga yoga and offers a highly personalised approach without the price tag attached to one-to-ones, and with all of the group energy of a conventional class. Here, you will be addressed by name, the teacher will know your practice inside out, and best of all, for me at least, this “class” is quiet – there’s very little talking and no new age music.

Most yoga studios carry mysore sessions on their timetables, but many people are put off either because they don’t know what it is or they don’t fancy the idea of a three-hour class that starts at 6.30am. In fact, you can drop into a mysore session at any time and stay for as long as you wish. For beginners, this could be half an hour, and for the more advanced up to an hour and 45 minutes. It is a wonderful way for beginners and advanced practitioners alike to develop a self-practice that you can then take anywhere. 

Mysore is named after the south Indian town in which the late K Pattabhi Jois taught from the late 1930s until his death in 2009. But today, teachers do not lead the students through the sequence with generalised instructions or demonstrations. Instead, experienced students turn up and get on with it. Complete beginners are taught the sun salutations and then the first few postures of the standing sequence. When they have learnt this, the teacher adds a new posture when he or she feels you have memorised the sequence so far and you are competent (in so far as you can ever be competent) in it. And if you forget, the teacher is there to help you.

Practising in this way gives you the space to focus. The cue to move on to the next posture comes from your own breath, instead of a teacher’s instructions. Students can therefore spend a little longer working at their own pace on something they find challenging. In effect, you become your own teacher. If there is something you are unable to do, the teacher will give you an easier version.

Sessions are characterised by the sound of ujjayi breathing – a powerful, rhythmic, “heating” breath. Everyone is working at their own pace, so it might appear – to a novice – that everyone is doing something different. This, arguably, might cut down on the element of competition and comparing which can creep into any form of group exercise. Little verbal instruction is given, and when it is given, it is whispered, for the benefit of the one person it is intended for. 

“Adjustments” are an important part of mysore self-practice. This is where experienced teachers use their hands to guide your body into the posture to correct alignment. You have to really trust someone who encourages you to go up into a headstand for the first time.

The reward for practising at least three times a week is increased fitness and a calmer mind. Many people progress from primary to second series or even third (there are six series altogether, although only a handful of people in the UK practise fourth series).

Students are required to face distractions and the wandering mind in order to come back to a focused state, instead of passively listening to a teacher or watching others. This makes it a more internal practice; a meditation in motion. If the purpose of yoga is the stilling of the mind (as written by Patañjali in the Yoga Sutras), mysore self-practice can help you achieve this.

As a friend and long-time mysore ashtangi said, this practice is a great way to start the day – and once it’s done, you’ll be ready to face anything.

Read it on the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/feb/24/mysore-style-yoga-self-practice-group-ashtanga

If in Milano, Italy, don’t miss your Ashtanga Yoga class. Contact me for details.

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HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN YOGA – DO’s AND DON’Ts

be-happyThere are times in the life of a yoga practitioner when there is a feeling that practice is not improving… or not quickly enough!

Sometime I have yoga students asking why they can’t advance faster in mastering a certain posture, relying on the yoga class to quickly get rid of all types of stress and worries, aiming to find the perfect balance in life through yoga. And the good news is all that can happen… with some effort!

Many times those students are the ones attending the yoga class once a week. While that timing is definitely good in creating a contact with the inner self, in getting some awareness about body, mind and emotions, in finding a balance, I believe that just a single class per week cannot be seen as a panacea, a remedy to all difficulties… though it is much better than doing nothing at all!

Having that in mind, this morning I was reading the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (one of the most important text of Hatha Yoga) and was caught by the following 2 slokas (Sanskrit verses), which can be summarized as the DO’s and the DON’Ts to attain success in Yoga. Let me share them, as a reminder to myself and yourself:

 

“Enthusiasm, perseverance, courage, right knowledge, unshakeable faith (in the words of the Guru) and avoiding contact with common people are the six (factors) which bring success in Yoga” – HYP 1.16

 

500px-Crystal_Clear_action_go.svgDO’s:

1 – Enthusiasm, or positive attitude, allows us to keep up the energy we need to keep going on our path. As such, let’s remind ourselves constantly about why we do yoga;

2 – Perseverance, patience, determination… all factors allowing us to keep up a regular practice. And I love the ‘Bihar School of Yoga’ commentary on this: ‘No matter what happens externally – rain, hail or shine – your sadhana (practice) must be done regularly. … It may take only one more month or it may take a whole lifetime. Everybody evolves at a different rate, so it is useless to compare yourselves with others’;

3 – Right knowledge or ability to discriminate about what is conducive to our spiritual growth, leaving behind what is not;

4 – Courage is required to face all those challenges in life, external as well as internal, trying to keep us away from practice;

5 – Faith in the Guru and the ultimate truth, faith in the fact we can achieve our aim;

6 – Avoiding mixing with those people who can have a negative influence on us, taking us away from the path.

 

“Overeating, exertion, too much talking, strict adherence to rules, contact with common people and unsteadiness are the six (causes) which bring failure in Yoga” – HYP 1.15

 

imagesDON’Ts:

1 – Overeating slows down our both physical and mental activities, causing lethargy and dullness. I remember Sharath in his conferences on Sundays in Mysore reminding us very often that only ½ stomach should be filled with food, ¼ should be filled with water while ¼ should be left to air;

2 – Exertion, too much physical or mental efforts, reduce our level of energy. Than, it becomes tough even to just sit and stay. Have you ever experienced how difficult is to go through practice when you’re tired?

3 – Too much talking… it is a waste of time and a distraction;

4 – Too many contacts with people who do not share the same path, as they can be of distraction or exert a negative influence;

5 – Unsteadiness, as opposite to perseverance, determination, consistency we saw above;

6 – And finally, Strict adherence to rules. Yes, as yoga practitioners we should avoid following rules for the sake of following rules. Again, according to Bihar School of Yoga commentary: ‘Adhering to rules makes one narrow-minded. Yoga is meant to expand the consciousness, not to limit it’. Hence, let’s take all this Do’s and Dont’s as per what they really are, guidelines to help us keeping the track, to further grow in our practice, and always know when it is the right time to make an exception!

So, to all yoga practitioners who want to advance in the practice: ask yourself how are you doing on all these different aspects, what is your behaviour and undergo the changes you think are beneficial to you and your practice… even a small one, today!

 

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More on Hatha Yoga Pradipika? Read PRANAYAMA YES OR PRANAYAMA NOT?
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ARE YOU A PURE ASHTANGI?

ashtanga-yoga-milano-italia-italy-pedigree-Rosa-TagliafierroIs your pedigree of unmixed origin?

Is your ashtanga yoga practice free of any contamination?

If the answer is yes, you’re highly likely a very traditional ashtangi.

Nonetheless, is that useful for you?

I know, I know, another controversial theme in the Ashtanga Yoga World! On my yoga journey, I have met quite a few ashtanga yoga teachers who highly recommend to avoid practicing any other yoga style as that would bastardize your ashtanga practice.

And, notwithstanding the desire of learning more, in the beginning I followed the recommendation! For 3 years of regular/daily practice! Than I met my beloved who is an Anusara Yoga practitioner and – you know how it happens 🙂 – you want to experience what the other does and… a new horizon opened up in front of me.

Ashtanga yoga attitude

The way ashtanga yoga is currently taught, at least quite a few places around Europe where I have attended classes, bring little attention to alignment, little focus on how to enter or exit a posture not to say zero attention at all on preparatory poses for more difficult ones… Sure, it is a matter of prioritizing other aspects of the practice, mainly the rhythm… but I definitely do not share the mindset ‘just try it, eventually it will come!’. Our body is our tool for spiritual advancement and I value those teachers that know about it and do not rely only on the trial-and-error learning process for their students. I believe students deserve more.

Anusara yoga attitude

And this is what I gained from my 2 years teacher training in anusara yoga (and that is independently of all the fuss there was about its founder): a different approach to the body and the asanas, the learning of basic principles to safely enter, stay and exit postures, building on more difficult poses step-by-step. And just applying those basic rules – which are definitely simple though not easy – I found my body opening more and more, in less time and in a safer way. And not only, it worked on making myself more open-minded and more knowledgeable about the bigger yoga family. So yes, it definitely affected my ashtanga practice and my ashtanga teaching, for the better!

Today my choice is to stick to ashtanga tradition and the difference is in the word choice! Every morning on my mat I choose to practice the traditional ashtanga sequence while at the same time applying the principles and the body knowledge I have acquired through other yoga styles and studies and whenever I decide to do something different is with awareness. Same when I teach.

So, don’t be afraid! Go and experience and learn and… if you feel that another yoga style resonates more with you, than ashtanga might not be your call. Else,yoga-quote-ashtanga-yoga-milano-italy-italia

As bees savour the nectar in various flowers, so the sadhaka absorbs things in other faiths which will enable him to appreciate his own faith better.” – B.K.S. Iyengar

What’s your personal experience? Leave a comment.

 

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More on controversial ashtanga items? Read the following ones:
LEARNING ASHTANGA YOGA SECOND SERIES – THE UNCONVENTIONAL WAY
PRANAYAMA YES OR PRANAYAMA NOT?
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YOGA PRACTICE AT HOME? 3 WAYS THAT WORK TO KEEP IT UP

I’ve previously written about how to build a home yoga practice, giving the hints and tips that helped me in setting it up (read it here: 7 ways to make your yoga practice at home easier). Nonetheless, there are times in life when a yoga practice is more difficult to maintain, i.e at the beginning, whenever we undergo important changes in life, sometimes just because of lack of commitment over time. To help on those occasions, here 3 ways that you can apply so to keep it up. Choose the one that suits you the most and… enjoy your practice! 🙂

1/ Build a Mala – a Mala is ‘a string of prayer beads‘, as defined by the Oxford dictionary. Let yourself build one, where every practice you make is one bead. And to build a full one, string together 108 practices and sealed it with 108 sun salutations once you have finished. Why 108? because in Hinduism that is the sacred number of beads to be used in building one mala. Take one day off every week and try to stick to it to build a routine and rest on moon days and women holidays (if applicable ;-)). This method was taught by Yoga Kamal Singh during my 500hrs Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Course I did in Rishikesh and it has been working with me for the past 4 weeks. Why is it so powerful? When you start the mala you will need to set an intention, a purpose you want to attain (personal, social or universal… just recall that the wider, the better) and that intention will bring you back on the mat every day. So, choose your purpose carefully, remind yourself of it daily and… keep practicing!3-ways-to-keep-up-yoga-home-practice

2/ Give it 100! – What do you know about the online community ‘Give it 100’ curated by Karen Cheng? Last year, Karen recorded her progress as she taught herself how to dance in 100 Days, and soon after that, she started Give It 100 as an inspiration to others to fulfill their goals, from dancing to losing weight, from drawing to touching their toes. So, why don’t use it to increase your commitment to your home yoga practice? You’re not requested to upload a video per day, though I would recommend you make a submission plan such as once a week or once every 2 weeks or whatever suits you the most… and by the way, the video you upload can be just a few seconds. Remember, the purpose is not to show off, it’s a commitment to the community on top than to yourself.

3/ Get a buddy – While building a Mala is mainly a personal commitment and Give it 100 is mainly a community commitment, a perfect way for those whom these 2 extremes wouldn’t work is to get a buddy. Ask a friend of yours or anybody you respect and love to become your coach, to remind you of your objective, to likely give you a call and check on how you’re doing with your home yoga practice. Sharing the commitment with supportive family and friends can give you the additional spark you need to keep it going.

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3 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE TAKING A YOGA TEACHER TRAINING COURSE

Assuming you’re a passionate yoga practitioner who is looking forward to deepen the personal practice or transforming a passion into a living, make sure to answer the following 3 questions before enrolling to whichever Yoga Teacher Training Course (TTC):

1/ What do I want to get out of the TTC?

Out there you will find tons of different offerings. Do you want to focus on asanas or pranayama, meditation techniques or yoga philosophy? Though I believe that a good teacher has a deep knowledge on many of the yoga limbs, it is also realistic to know that to acquire that knowledge takes time, study and dedication… and limiting the talk only to time, most likely 200 hrs or so won’t be enough to go through all that you need! Hence, ask yourself which area(s) you want to focus on and take that TTC that covers it/them appropriately. (And, by the way, if the answer to the question is ‘the certificate’, ask yourself if you should be teaching and how you can serve your students…)

closing-pooja-ashtanga-yoga-teacher-training-tattvaa-yogashala-rishikesh-theprimerose-photography-rosa-tagliafierro

After 200hrs Ashtanga Yoga TTC graduation ceremony in Rishikesh

2/ What do I know about the teacher(s)?

Many TTC programs looks very alike when you see them on paper… or better, on your monitor 🙂 though they can be rather different once undertaken. So, if you can, get to know the teacher or teachers beforehand, take classes with them, see what’s your feeling towards them. In yoga, it is highly recommended to study with teachers who inspires you, whose teachings resonate within you. You don’t want to spend time and money to realize there are no connections with the one who is supposed to transfer knowledge to you. And if you can’t get to know them personally, then ask your friend, find somebody who has taken that TTC before you and spend some time in making your personal opinion. Today the web is very helpful for that… blogs, Facebook, website, communities… you can find almost everything!

3/ How familiar I am with that style of yoga?

If you choose a TTC in a specific style of yoga, make sure you have been practising it for at least 1 year regularly. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding out once you start the TTC that kind of yoga is not meant for you! A TTC is supposed to be a source of delight as you’ll be able to deepen the knowledge of that practice, not a cause of frustration… though it often happens when not selected properly. And especially if you take an intensive TTC (i.e. 200 hrs in 1 month), make sure you intensify your practice before starting, so to make sure your stamina and strength are increased… they will serve you nicely 🙂

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IMAGES OF YOGA, INSTANTS OF LIFE… IN RISHIKESH

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see   –   Henry David Thoreau

For the past 3 months I’ve been writing about my intense time of Ashtanga Yoga studying at Tattvaa Yogashala in Rishikesh and regular readers know I didn’t have much time left for whatever else as the study program kept me busy on average 12h per day, 6 days a week. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stay away from my camera and photo shootings each time I had a little spare time. Here a few of my favorite images of yoga taken over that time. Hope they can be of inspiration!

What are your preferred ones?

yoga-photography-theprimerose-Rosa-Tagliafierro yoga-photography-theprimerose-Rosa-Tagliafierro-3 yoga-photography-theprimerose-Rosa-Tagliafierro-4 yoga-photography-theprimerose-Rosa-Tagliafierro-5 yoga-photography-theprimerose-Rosa-Tagliafierro-6 yoga-photography-theprimerose-Rosa-Tagliafierro-7

Did you enjoyed them? If so, I’d appreciate you liking my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/theprimerosephotography. Thank you! 🙂

 

Portrayed:

Miluse van de Kant http://www.omkarayoga.nl

Patricio Moralo Rueda http://www.yogainbound.es

Jatta Kristiina Tjurin

Victoria Avane

Ida Danewid

Michael Baierl http://www.feelinghands.at

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WHAT’S THE POINT OF CHANTING OM?

Whenever you are starting or ending your yoga session, most likely you will chant at least one Om. And if you are a traditional ashtangi, than you will definitely chant Om to open and close mantras both at the beginning and at the end of your practice. Have you ever wondered why? What’s the point of reciting Om?

OM-ashtanga-yoga-theprimerose-rosa-tagliafierroBut let’s start with ‘what is Om?’

All is OM. The entire universe is the syllable Om. (…). Everything in the past, present and future is verily OM. That which is beyond time, space and causation is also OM – Mandukya Upanishad

His name (of Ishvara, the Divine) is Om – 1.27 Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

OM is considered the most sacred, mystical and powerful amongst mantras, where a mantra is a particular combination of sounds arranged in a specific way to produce a specific kind of vibration so to produce a particular state of consciousness.

It is considered the most sacred as it is said to be of the same nature of the Divine, meaning that – when recited in a specific manner – it can reveal the consciousness and release the power of the Divine itself. In fact, Patanjali associates 2 direct benefits to the practice of Om chanting:

From that comes realization of the Atman, the individual Self, and the removal of ostacles – 1.29 PYS

that is to say:

a. turning of the awareness in – encompassing the whole aim of yoga, i.e. the withdrawal of consciousness from without to within;

b. overcoming the obstacles encountered on the path of yoga.

Than, what is that specific way of chanting Om? Again Patanjali comes to an help:

Om should be constantly repeated and meditated upon – 1.28 PYS

Constant repetition and meditation on its meaning… well, sounds like it is required a lot more than just a couple of Oms included in a yoga session. I. K. Taimni says:

They (many people) believe that by merely repeating a mantra a few times they can obtain the desired result. They cannot. A mantra can no more give in this way the result for which it is devised than a seed of a mango tree can satisfy a man who is hungry – The science of Yoga

And this is because the power of mantra is potential and to get activated requires time and dedication. I know, it can sound a bit disheartening but if we think about the promised results, it seems like it’s really worth a try 🙂 And, to my personal experience, even a single Om can be very helpful if we have built a little reservoir from which to draw. What is yours?

om-ashtanga-yoga-rosa-tagliafierro

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2013 IN REVIEW

Just got in my inbox the 2013 annual report for this blog by WordPress.com. Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,500 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2013.

   Where did you read from?

   99 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. Italy & India were not far behind.

Of course, that wouldn’t have been possible without you all! THANKS A LOT!!! and looking forward to meeting you again in 2014. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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BACK TO THE PATH OF ACTION

“To attain the purpose of life, it is necessary to do one’s duty, whether one lives in the world or outside it. The path of renunciation and the path of action, though 2 diverse ways, are equally helpful for attaining self-emancipation. One is the path of sacrifice, the other the path of conquest.”  –  from ‘Living with the Himalayan Masters’ by Swami Rama

yoga-photography-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro-ashtanga-yoga

myself – first practice back home

After 3 months and the most intense yoga time ever, I’m now back home…

After an amazing time spent at Tattvaa Yogashala under the brilliant guidance of Yogi Kamal Singh for what pertains the body, of masterji Sunil Sharma for what pertains the mind and prana and all my fellow companions for what pertains the heart, it’s time for me to be back to my householder’s duties. Every time I’m back from India is kind of a shock, this time even more…

Though I’m lucky to be able to re-start it softly, smoothly, taking my time over these Christmas holidays and enjoying it all with the One person I’ve missed the most, there is a little sadness in my very deep, a sweet sadness that goes beyond what is perceptible… it’s a nostalgia for that home that is uninterrupted practice, for that path of renunciation that is tapasya, for that single-pointed mind that is the lamp shedding light on the path of inner search… And in all that, I stay.

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WHO ARE YOU? A VEDANTA APPROACH TO THE SELF

One day a boy of about 8 years old was wandering through the Himalayas when he met an old sage. ‘Who are you?’ he asked the boy.

The little boy was Sri Shankaracharya, who according to the tradition mastered the Vedas by the age of 6, and he gave the following answer, considered a condensed version of Advaita (non-dual) Vedanta teachings.

 

Lord-Shiva-night-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-TagliafierroI am not the mind, the intellect, the ego or the memory,
I am not the ears, the skin, the tongue, the nose or the eyes,
I am not space, not earth, not fire, water or air, 
I am the form of pure consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva…

Mano buddhi ahankara chittani naaham
na cha shrotravjihve na cha ghraana netre
na cha vyoma bhumir na tejo na vaayuhu
chidananda rupah shivo’ham shivo’ham

I am not the breath, nor the five pranas,
I am not matter, nor the 5 sheaths of consciousness
Nor am I the speech, the hands, or the feet,
I am the form of pure consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva…

na cha prana sangyo na vai pancha vayuhu
na va sapta dhatur na va pancha koshah
na vak pani-padam na chopastha payu
chidananda rupah shivo’ham shivo’ham

There is no hatred or attachment in me, no greed or delusion,
I know not pride or jealousy,
I am not within the bounds of dharma, artha (wealth), kama (desire) or moksha (liberation)
I am the form of pure consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva…

 Shiva-at-night-Parmarth-Niketan-Ashram-Rishikesh-India-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierrona me dvesha ragau na me lobha mohau
na me vai mado naiva matsarya bhavaha
na dharmo na chartho na kamo na mokshaha
chidananda rupah shivo’ham shivo’ham

I am not bound by virtues or vice, pleasure or pain,
I need no mantras, no pilgrimage, no scriptures or rituals,
I am neither enjoyment (experiene), nor an object to be enjoyed (experienced), nor the enjoyer (experiencer)
I am the form of pure consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva…

na punyam na papam na saukhyam na duhkham
na mantro na tirtham na veda na yajnah
aham bhojanam naiva bhojyam na bhokta
chidananda rupah shivo’ham shivo’ham

I have no fear of death, no caste or creed,
I have no father, no mother, for I was never born,
I am not a relative, nor a friend, nor a teacher nor a student,
I am the form of pure consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva…

na me mrtyu shanka na mejati bhedaha
pita naiva me naiva mataa na janmaha
na bandhur na mitram gurur naiva shishyaha
chidananda rupah shivo’ham shivo’ham

I am devoid of duality, my form is formlessness,
I exist everywhere, pervading all senses,
I am neither attached, neither free nor captive,
I am the form of pure consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva…

aham nirvikalpo nirakara rupo
vibhut vatcha sarvatra sarvendriyanam
na cha sangatham naiva muktir na meyaha
chidananda rupah shivo’ham shivo’ham

(NIRVANA SHATAKAM composed by Sri Adi Shankaracharya (788-820 CE)

English translation from Istha website modified at times based on AYTTC course material)

 

During last couple of weeks, an introduction to Vedanta was given as a study subject in the Ashtanga Yoga TTC I’m doing at Tattvaa Yogashala, and really loved chanting this as taught by masterji Sunil Sharma.

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NANCY GILGOFF AND… ASHTANGA YOGA AS IT WAS

Lately I’ve been thinking and writing about learning and teaching Ashtanga yoga in the traditional way (adding one posture at a time, moving on the sequence overtime, as taught in Mysore tradition) versus the more unconventional way as taught at Tattvaa Yogashala (a more tailored-made and discovery approach – see it here) and I still believe there are pluses and minuses in both approaches. But after reading this article by Nancy Gilgoff last night, something is now finally clear to me: Pattabhi Jois used to be non-traditional!

logoashtangamauiFrom Nancy’s website, the way she learned primary and secondary series over 4 months and the changes in the practice made by Pattabhi Jois over time… pretty different from today tradition: http://www.ashtangamaui.com/article_1.html

Ashtanga Yoga As It Was
(The Long and Short of It)

The following is the way in which Guruji taught me, Nancy Gilgoff, the Primary and Intermediate series of Ashtanga Yoga during my first trip to Mysore, in 1973. David Williams and I stayed for four months that trip, and had two classes per day (excluding Saturdays and Moon days).

In the first class, I was taught to do five Surya Namaskara A, plus the three finishing postures – Yoga Mudrasana, Padmasana, and Tolasana. The second class, later that day, was five Surya Namaskara A and five Surya Namaskara B, plus the three finishing. In the next class, Guruji told me to only do three each of Surya Namaskara A and B, and to keep it that way in my practice, and then began adding on at least two postures per class, always with the three finishing at the end.

Guruji taught me the standing postures through Parsvottanasana, with no Parivritta Trikonasana or Parivritta Parsvakonasana. After Parsvottanasana he had me jump through to Dandasana.

In the seated postures, there were a minimal number of vinyasas. There were no vinyasas between sides. Moreover, there were no vinyasas between variations – so all of Janu Sirsasana A, B, and C were done together (right side, left side of A, right, left of B, right, left of C), then a vinyasa before Marichyasana. Then all of the Marichyasana variations, A, B, C, and D, were done together, without vinyasas between sides or variations; then a vinyasa before three Navasana. Baddha Konasana, Upavishta Konasana, and Supta Konasana were also grouped together without vinyasas between them. Ubhaya Padangusthasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana were also done together, with no vinyasa between – we were taught to simply change the hand position after Ubhaya Padangusthasana and go right into Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana.

After Setu Bandhasana, Guruji added in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana – but to be put in the series back in the standing sequence, after Parsvottanasana. (Utkatasana and Virabhadrasana were not in the series at this point, nor were Parivritta Trikonasana or Parivritta Parsvakonasana, all of which were added in later.

Once Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana were taught and added into their place in the standing sequence, after Setu Bandhasana, Intermediate began immediately with Pashasana. In fact, David and I had no idea that there were two separate series until the end of that first four-month trip, when we were leaving, at which point Guruji gave us a sheet of paper with a list of the postures, which were listed as Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, and Advanced B. At this point he told us to practice one series a day, and only once a day. While we had been with him in Mysore, we had learned both Primary and Intermediate series in the first two months. He had us practice both series, together, in entirety, twice a day.

Intermediate Series also contained fewer vinyasas back then. There were no vinyasas between sides (in Krounchasana, Bharadvajasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Eka Pada Sirsasana, Parighasana, and Gomukhasana). From Shalabhasana through Parsva Dhanurasana, the asanas were done in a group, with a vinyasa only at the end. Ushtrasana through Kapotasana also were done all together, with a vinyasa only after Kapotasana. The same went for Eka Pada Sirsasana through Yoganidrasana – there were no vinyasas until the Chakrasana after Yoganidrasana.

The Intermediate series, as Guruji taught it to us during that first trip, included Vrishchikasana after Karandavasana. We were taught to hold Pincha Mayurasana for five breaths, bring the legs into lotus and lower down into Karandavasana, hold five breaths, inhale up, and then exhale right into Vrishchikasana for five breaths. The series ended with Gomukhasana. David asked for more, and so, per his request, Guruji added Supta Urdhva Pada Vajrasana as well as the seven headstands – Baddha Hasta Sirsasana A, B, C, and D were taught first, with Mukta Hasta Sirsasana A, B, and C following. Guruji said these were from Fourth Series.

Backbends from both the floor (Urdhva Dhanurasana) and standing (“drop-backs”) were taught after Intermediate Series, as was the rest of the finishing sequence (Paschimottanasana, Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana, Karnapidasana, Urdhva Padmasana, Pindasana, Matsyasana, Uttana Padasana, and Sirsasana). Up until this point, we had just been doing Yoga Mudrasana, Padmasana, and Tolasana at the end of our practice.

Guruji taught us Pranayama after we had learned the entire Intermediate Series (at the end of our third month in Mysore, about a month after learning all of Intermediate).

I think it was when Guruji came to teach on Maui in 1980 (in Paia) that he added in so many vinyasas, while teaching led classes. When I asked him whether or not to do them in my own practice, as I had been practicing without Ð as he had taught me, he told me to add in the vinyasas to build my strength. By that trip in 1980 there was still no Parivritta Trikonasana, Parivritta Parsvakonasana, Utkatasana, or Virabhadrasana in the practice. (During another, later trip to the States, Guruji added in Parivritta Trikonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana. The next time he came back to Maui to teach, he saw us doing Parivritta Parsvakonasana, asked why we were doing it, and said that this was “crazy posture” and that we should take it out. But the whole Maui crew loved it so much that he said we could leave it in. (Utkatasana and Virabhadrasana were perhaps added in at some point in the late 1980’s.)

Originally there were five series: Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A, Advanced B, and the fifth was the “rishi” series.

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PRANAYAMA YES OR PRANAYAMA NOT?

In the Ashtanga Yoga world the discussion about Pranayama is almost as big as the one on Adjustments: pranayama yes or pranayama not? And if yes, when?

On the path of yoga you may have encountered 2 different approaches:

  1. “do not attempt pranayama till you can sit in an asana for at least 3,5 hours” – typical of Ashtanga yoga as traditionally taught in Mysore, though often mitigated in ’till primary series is mastered’;
  2. “pranayama is for everybody, also for beginners” – often found in Hatha yoga world, at least in this part of the world (currently in Rishikesh, India).

I believe both approaches have plus and minus. Talking about the minuses, waiting to sit sthira sukham (firm and pleasantly) in a posture for such a long time before attempting pranayama might require all life and beyond, hence missing pranayama benefits, for part-time yogis as ourselves (well, if you are reading this, you likely are a part-time yogi :-D). On the other side, teaching control of prana to somebody who has developed no breath or body awareness yet, seems to me a bit stretched.

So what is the correct approach, if there is one correct approach?

According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika (one of the main yoga text), pranayama is to be practiced after being established in asanas and… learn it from a guru!

Thus being established in asana and having control (of the body) taking a balanced diet, pranayama should be practised according to the instructions of the guru” – 2.1 HYP

And… why to learn it from a guru?

By proper practice of pranayama, all diseases are eradicated. Through improper practice all diseases can arise” – 2.16 HYP

Does it stop you from wanting to mess around with your pranayama practice? 🙂

Pranayama-KundaliniI personally believe a certain awareness of breath has to be developed before starting playing with your nervous system, as pranayama strongly works on it, hence I do share the mitigated traditional view. In addition, approach it gradually as recommended by the texts:

Just as lions, elephants and tigers are gradually controlled, so the prana is controlled through practice. Otherwise the practitioner is destroyed” – 2.15 HYP

But even more, ask yourself why you want to practice pranayama. There is no reason to do it just for the sake of it. If it is for therapeutic purposes, most likely breathing exercices can help. Pranayama is something more, a spiritual practice whose aim is well defined:

When prana moves, chitta (the mental force) moves. When prana is without movement, chitta is without movement. By this (steadiness of prana) the yogi attains steadiness and should thus restrain the vayu (air element)” – 2.2 HYP

Therefore pranayama should be done daily with a sattvic state of mind so that the impurities are driven out of sushumna nadi and purification occurs‘ – 2.6 HYP

This is the belief I’ve developed based on my experience. What is yours?

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LEARNING ASHTANGA YOGA SECOND SERIES – THE UNCONVENTIONAL WAY

Practice scales before trying to be a composer.  …

Tradition can be a stumbling block if it is taken as the entirety of yoga. It is merely the wrapping in which it is presented… Now and than it is useful to experiment, to move beyond the accepted form and play outside the square.  

At some point just give it a go, even if the practice is a little rough around the edges. Do not fool yourself, however, that you are doing it correctly or that you have mastered a posture or a sequence when the reality might be quite different.”

Matthew Sweeney – ‘Ashtanga Yoga as it is’

 

ashtanga-yoga-second-series-posterAfter 8 weeks of practising asana about twice a day since I joined the Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Course at Tattvaa Yogashala, and after 2 weeks of introduction to 2nd series, last week was high time to essay full Ashtanga Yoga 2nd Series!

Building up strengh and flexibility so to develop the physical and mental stamina to work on more advanced asanas has been a high time of this TTC up to now… and though I’ve always been very traditional in the way I have learned, practiced and taught Ashtanga, I’ve been enjoying every moment of this continuous discovery in the world of asanas and yoga.

Over these weeks, we have been working on and attempting almost all postures in 2nd Series, so when on Friday Kamal stopped us after the standing postures with the request to move straight into 2nd Series and practice it fully, it didn’t came as unexpected.

But what was kind of unexpected was my reaction during the practice… Frustration because of my tight hips, dissatisfaction because of the poor transitioning between postures and a little irritation just to close it overall. Yeah, I know, not my best yoga practice! And useless to say, I didn’t enjoy it.

Last 2 days I’ve been constantly looking at that reaction and the question that came with it: ‘what is the point of attempting a yoga pose for which you’re not ready yet?’. In other words, I was putting under discussion the unconventional way I’m learning Intermediate Series… till this morning, when I finally saw it.

Moving from something that you master, at least to a certain degree, to something that makes you feel a beginner again has a lot of implications on the way we perceive ourselves. And, I was rejecting this new state, not accepting it for the way it is while at the same time failing to see all advancements in my asana practice that have taken place over the last 4 years as well as 8 weeks.

Now I feel ready for my next practice!

And you, how did you learn ashtanga? what are your thoughts on the topic?

 

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FEARS IN YOGA – HOW TO OVERCOME THEM

Have you ever been on the yoga mat and felt fear?

Fear of falling down, of injuring yourself in a specific posture, of dropping back? Well, I have… And as you progress in your asana practice, you will probably face more challenging postures that will trigger more fears. So you might be asking yourself: why is all this yoga for? Why all this jumping back and forth?

During last 7 weeks, Sunil – the yoga philosophy teacher at Tattvaa Yogashala – has constantly reminded us of the final aim of yoga, the purpose behind the jumping, the sweating and the daily practice. He would say: ‘Aim of yoga is the voluntary control of our involuntary functions. How to reach that? Train your mind!’

quote-replace-fear-of-the-unknown-with-curiosity-yofaWe all have natural reflexes and they have a purpose, linked to surviving or making our life easier, though sometimes they become an obstacle on the path of yoga. Have you ever tried Jala Neti (cleansing the nostrils with water) or Sutra Neti (same cleansing but with a catheter)? How did it feel when for the first time you tried to push an external element up thru your nose? I was scared like hell by the idea of injuring myself. But the good news is… you can learn how to overcome fears!

Here in India many children runs barefoot without any worry while we as westerners tend to avoid it, each time very careful so to not step on anything that might harm us if we really have to. Than, what has gone wrong between being a child and being an adult? We develop fears, fears that come from conditioning, from experiences that leave a samskara (an imprint) in us. During last weeks I had great fear of falling from pincha mayurasana or handstands while practicing ashtanga 2nd series, and I felt limited. Day after day I started looking at that and finally realized that as fears come out of conditioning, we can learn to deconditioning ourselves… and made it! This is a beautiful effect of practicing yoga.

In your life, you wouldn’t put yourself upside down normally, but, when you practice yoga and do headstand, for example, your mat become your deconditioning playground. And you do it by training your mind. How to allow it to happen?

1/ start slowly – allow yourself the time to experience, to feel the emotions your fear arise, to be aware of them;

2/ do it often – do not allow too much time to go by between 2 yoga practices, so that the memory of what you are working on stay fresh in your mind, body and soul;

3/ do it regularly – remind yourself of your purpose every time you are practicing;

4/ do it gradually – you’re not fighting your fears, you are learning how to overcome them. So allow yourself time and use supports for that: you might need a wall to feel more secure at the beginning but than ask a teacher or somebody else you trust to assist you… and when you get more confident, give it a try and face your fear. Is it falling from shirshasana that scares you? Than fall on purpose and experience that there is nothing wrong in it and there are safe ways to do it… you may even discover that it can be fun. And once you experience it, that won’t have a grip on you any longer! This is a matter of freedom, this is breaking a chain, this is a matter of growing on the spiritual path of yoga as than it will become easier to bring this attitude from the yoga mat playground to your life!

5/ Have faith, you can do it!

 

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STIFF? HERE HOW TO STILL HAVE A GREAT YOGA PRACTICE

Is this one of those days when you get off the bed and you realize your body is not responding and you know already you will have a tough time on the yoga mat? Or is it one of those days when you get on the mat and than you realize you’re a lot stiffer than usual?

The latter is what happened to me this mid-week. Since I got to Rishikesh exactly one month ago, the weather has been changing a lot: very hot and humid at the beginning of October, it is now cold and windy during the night though nicely dry and sunny during the day.

What the weather has to do with it?

elephantMany of you might have experienced how the body changes according to the weather temperature and the degree of humidity. So, these days I wake up and my body feels soooo stiff! And when I get on the mat, it takes me all 10 surya namaskaras (sun salutations) to get my body kind of warm. Being sweated and already dripping at the end of the first surya namaskara is now just a memory of my first days here :-/

During my yoga practice on Thursday, I went through all the ashtanga standing poses and when sitting in dandasana I strangely felt my body was not warm yet. There I started having a low…

‘How can I get through my second series teacher training being so stiff?’ I started asking myself.

As my mind started lingering on it, I kept loosing my intimate connection with the asana practice and started feeling lower and lower.

So I had to make an effort to be present, at least trying to see the process going on on my mind, recognize it… and while looking at it, I decided I would not give up on him! That was thanks to Sunil’s words from the previous day yoga philosophy lecture that came back to rescue myself: ‘Despair caused by failure is one of the 9 obstacles on the path of yoga. Be aware of it!’ referring to Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.30. And than the solution as reported in Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.32: ‘Those obstacles can be removed by the practice of concentration upon a single truth.’

So I decided to come back to being present on the mat, on that moment, no despair for what still had to come, facing the reality of that very morning: my body was stiff, that was a fact. ‘How can I still work on my asana practice?’ I asked myself. Than I changed my focus and started working on strenght instead of looking for a flexibility that was not there.

When my focus shifted, my practice changed dramatically. I was no longer feeling a victim of external circumstances, I was doing something usuful to myself. And that brought me all the way through my practice up to kapotasana, I took the time to work on my backbendings and when I was done with the closing sequence, instead of moving to shavasana, I felt so reinvigorated that I decided to work on a few postures from second series I hadn’t been through yet and… after a few tries, I got mayurasana for the first time ever!

I know all happened because my attitude changed… and this is true on the yoga mat as well as off of the mat, in the rest of our life. Often obstacles are there and can’t get removed by our wish, but we have many other ways to go. Just don’t allow those obstacles to make you blind, so that you can still see the beauty in all the rest…

Have you ever faced similar moments? How do you have overcome them? Would love to hear that!

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WHY YOGA IS ALL ABOUT LETTING GO

This week has been my worst as well as my best week since I started the Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training at Tattva Yogashala. Why?

Pooja-AYTTC-200hrs-Kamal-Singh-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-TagliafierroOn Wednesday, as the afternoon was passing by, I started feeling weird, small things getting on my nerves and becoming bigger and bigger, my ego raising and looking stronger and stronger for internal and external fights… By dinner time, I only wanted to be on my own as I couldn’t look at anybody in the eyes without feeling an intense urge to cry. So, when the group moved to ‘the Office’ – a cute shabby restaurant in the nearby – for dessert, I just decided I would have a better time being alone in my own room, getting some sleep.

The next morning I woke up at 4.30am still under strong emotions, so instead of struggling in bed, I just decided to get out of it and study. Soon it was 6am, time to move to the big shala near the Ganges where since the beginning of this week we’re having our pranayama and asana sessions. The streets were very quite, cows chewing undisturbed half asleep, few of us walking down the hill strangely on our own instead of small groups. At each step I felt like breaking, struggling to keep all my pieces together. So, once on the mat, no way to do the usual small chatting before starting and I felt so grateful to Sunil for starting the pranayama session with meditation: it was balm to my soul! And when unusually the monkeys started badly fighting outside the shala, their screams felt like giving voice to my feelings. It lasted for about 10 minutes.

shiva-lingam-parvati-ganesh-on-the-way-to-Mussoorie-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-TagliafierroWhen meditation time was over, Sunil introduced the Gayatri mantra. I went full lungs in the first round, just to find myself completely broken in the middle of the second one: couldn’t stop sobbing and crying till the chant was over. Nonetheless, I was afraid of disturbing the class, so I tried with all myself to suppress it. At the end of the mantra, Sunil made a point about lot of emotions in and outside the class that day and mentioned the fact that full moon was approaching and to take it easy (I later discovered I was not the only one sharing tears that day).

The session kept going with kriyas and pranayamas and it was so difficult for me, though I felt like soothing a bit more after every practice. And when the end was approaching and we chanted Maha Mrityumjaya mantra – beautiful mantra for conquering death, where Shiva is invoked to liberate us for the sake of immortality – I chanted it full lungs, feeling stronger and stronger, feeling without any emotion left, just like an empty shell, while tears were warmly running on my cheeks, down to the mat. And than it was time for Anandoham mantra and the only thing I could do was to surrender… to surrender to all my emotions, my sadness, my desires, my attachments, my ego… and crying as that was the only thing it really mattered, merging with tears till I could feel them running though I was no longer the one who was crying.

Than the chanting came to an end, but I was not ready for that yet. So, I stayed on my mat, still avoiding others till Monika, a fellow student sitting just next to me, started to talk to me in such a sweet way, inviting me to let it go without trying in any way to force it. And when she hugged me, I couldn’t refrain any longer, I had to release ALL of it! I was crying like a little baby… and it all came… I felt loved, I felt welcomed, I felt I was not alone and that I was ok, I was in the place I was meant to be, experiencing what I was supposed to experience… and 5 minutes later, I was feeling so light, joyful, in love with life and eager to start my asana practice.

I don’t know exactly what brought all of that up: it might have been the trataka kryia, the most intense ever asana practice, the strong minor fascia release session we had on Wednesday, the upcoming full moon or the approaching lady holiday. But I’m glad it came out… it was cathartic!!

And than no time to even think of what was next: Jonatan asking me to assist in the shala as Kamal was sick that morning, me being fully in adjustments for almost 2hours in a row, unexpectedly teaching my first ashtanga class in English at noon time so to get ready for my next week real class, working deeply on learning adjustments all afternoon long and feeling myself 100% in each of those activities, feeded by them, light hearted by them… but to get it all, I had to release first so to make space for all those blessings. This has been my own experience. What is yours?

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ALL YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE TAKING AN ASHTANGA YOGA TEACHER TRAINING AT TATTVAA YOGASHALA

October 13, 2013 – Sunday, such a welcomed day!

german-bakery-RishileshThis is my very first day off from the Ashtanga Yoga Teaching Training Course since started on Friday, October 4th.

After 7 days of asana practices in a row, the alarm going off regularly at 5.30 am, all the pranayama and other sessions along the days, to wake up without the alarm, taking the time for writing and working on some pictures, enjoying breakfast at the Germany Bakery overlooking Laxman Jhula bridge, going for a massage to give relief to my sore muscles was just all that I needed to recharge the batteries… yessss!

I already mentioned in a previous post (read it here) this TTC at Tattvaa Yogashala is very intense, but what I realized is that it has been the most intense yoga training I’ve ever taken! And I feel soooo good! And I’m learning a lot and that makes me very happy 🙂

I was asked to share more about the schedule and the studied topics; here it is what has been going on in my life for the last 10 days, in a very quick way.

5.30 – 6.15 am: Alarm goes off. Time to get the body ready with a hot shower and Jala Neti cleansing;

6.15 – 6.30 am: Ready on the mat to warm up;

headshot-collection-Tattva-Yogashala-AYTTC-Ashtanga-Yoga-Teacher-Training-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro6.30 – 8.15 am: Asana class with Kamal starts. On some days it has been led class (often by ourselves, the students), on some other days it has been Mysore style (self-practice) receiving Kamal’s and Jonatan’s adjustments. In both cases, better for you to know the sanskrit names for each asana, as Kamal will keep asking them to different students all time along;

8.15 – 8:30 am: Time for a quick shower, as you will have sweated the hell out of yourself in the asana class 🙂 ;

8.30 – 10.30 am: Pranayama session with Sunil starts. We either begin chanting OMs for 21times or will start directly with Kryias such as Kapalabhati and than we go through different pranayama, i.e. Ujjay pranayama or Surya pranayama. And than every session includes about half an hour chanting mantras, beautiful mantras;

From 10.30 am to 12.00 it’s time finally for breakfast, the washing or run quickly errands.

12.00 – 1.00 pm: Workshops with Jonatan (assistant teacher). They can include from reviews of previous day adjustments, time for homeworks (such as working on bandhas, jumping trough and back, etc.), exercise teaching;

1.15 pm – 2.15 pm: Yoga Nidra with Sunil, so welcomed, so looked for! It brings you in a very deep relaxation, such a state where you can work on your own samskaras. But to be honest, I haven’t been able to stay awake for a full session yet, but haven’t lost hope yet 🙂

2.30 – 4.00 pm: Yoga Phylosophy with Sunil. This has been one of my favorite time of the day, when Sunil has been taking us through what is the purpose of yoga, what is the purpose of asanas, trying to let us think about WHY are we practicing yoga, sweating and jumping… all that quoting so easily Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika as well as bringing to us stories from ancient Indian tradition to modern times;

4.00 pm – 6.30 pm: Adjustment session with Kamal. I’ve already written about how amazed I am each time I receive or see Kamal giving adjustments. This has been the time to understand what leads him to choose an adjustment for a specific student instead of a different one, to learn how to perform those, to try them on other students though I know there are adjustments I will never be able to give, at least for a few years (i.e. standing straight on somebody in urdhva dhanurasana, the wheel pose, and still being able to look around and give indications to other students!!). But, apart from Kamal’s ability with adjustments, what has struck me the most is the fact he has always a good reason why he is doing it that way or the other, and he generously share with us.

Now it’s time for the third shower of the day as well as dinner time.

8.30 pm – 9.00 pm: Group meditation sitting with Sunil or on our own. I’ve been learning different kinds of meditation, such as Brahma Mudra meditation or OM meditation.

9.30 pm: Light is switched off in my room for some well deserved rest.

So, after 10 days, Yes, I’m still in love with it all!!! 🙂

You’re planning to join a future training at Tattvaa Yogashala? That’s a very good plan, just make sure you’re very committed to your practice and learning schedule as those are very demanding… and so rewarding in return!

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DON’T JUST DO IT, FEEL IT!

Anandoham anandoham

Anandam Brahmaanandam

I am bliss I am bliss

Bliss I am Supreme bliss

Pooja-AYTTC-200hrs-Kamal-Singh-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-TagliafierroOne week ago, in the evening, the orientation meeting for the Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training with Kamal and Sunil took place and we were requested to pick up one of the Yama and Niyama so to practice it while here in Rishikesh, so to make it part of our daily life.

My choice came all by itself: Santosha – that is Contentment, Gratitude.

During the bulk of my life I’ve always seen me as a very optimistic and positive person, smile and hope in the future always present, sure that if you really work hard you can get almost everything. But for some reason, I don’t know when and how, I developed a certain ‘tendency to complain’… not too bad maybe, but still there… you know when you start putting ‘but’ in your own speaches? When you have all reasons to be happy but still there is a ‘but’?

I don’t know how it came, but on that orientation meeting all that was so clear to me. And actually I have no reasons for ‘buts’ only reasons to feel immensely grateful for what I’m experiencing, for the chances that occured during last 2 years, the people I’m sharing all those with…

So, when Sunil (one of the AYTTC teachers at Tattva Yogashala) taught us the mantra above, again I started feeling an immense joy within, not even knowing the meaning of it. And this mantra is accompaning me all of these days, together with Santosha, and this is making me happy for whatever I have, for whatever I feel, for whatever I’m experiencing. And this is giving a new light to my physical asana practice as well, expecially with Kamal reminding us constantly: ‘Don’t just do it, FEEL it!’.

Blessed, this is the way I’m feeling, deep in my heart…

What are you grateful for today? Are you feeling it or just doing it? We all can do it, sometimes it just takes a little reminder…

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ASHTANGA YOGA TEACHER TRAINING – BACK TO BASICS

Third day of my 3 months long Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Course at Tattva Yogashala in Rishikesh with Kamal Singh and Sunil Sharma and I have the impression to have already been here working/studying for weeks!

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Yogi Kamal Singh at the pooja to kich off the AYTTC

First 2 days have been pretty intense, the schedule is pretty intense… it sees us on the mat from 6.30 am to 9.00 pm, with only 1.30h break for brunch and 1.30h break for dinner. The program includes about 2 hours asana practice to start the day with, followed by about 2 hours kriyas and pranayama. At noon time, we start again with a 1h workshop, 1h yoga nidra, 2h yoga philosophy and between 2 and 3 hours of Adjustment session. And we get homeworks as well!!

In just 2 days, I’ve been doing so many new and different things far beyond whatever expectation I might have had. I’ve been pretty traditional in my ashtanga practice up to now (yeah, though I took a 2 years TTC in Anusara Yoga), I mean the way Ashtanga Yoga is thought in Mysore, where you actually mainly do a self-practice and no pranayama, kriyas, yoga nidra or other yogic techniques are taught. So you can imagine myself freaking out when yesterday morning I was given all the necessary for Jala Neti (water cleansing) and Sutra Netri (cleansing with a thread) to be performed just before the asana practice!!! (Not so bad in the end with the support of the teachers!!). And that was followed by learning Yogic Breathing, Kapalabhati, deep Uddhyana Bandhas, Nauli, Vastrika, Sheetali pranayama, etc… as well as chants linked to Chakra energy circles.

And I won’t touch here the amazing experience of Yoga Nidra, with lot in common with Vipassana meditation in the way Sunil teaches it.

As to asana class, the level of students is rather different, from beginners to more advanced practitioners, and Kamal has made all of us start from the basics… you would than imagine that to be less work, but… well… that’s not! Starting with more than 20 sun salutations (both A and B) on the very first day was definetely a sign of what was coming next. Kamal is really amazing when leading the class and extremely generous when teaching adjustments, covering all possible situations a teacher can face when students go into a posture; on the other side, he expects us to work very hard on every single aspect of the yoga practice and to be 100% here and now. And this is giving a new light to what might be called ‘basics’.

So, my feelings and impressions after 2 days are: ‘I’m the right place, this is exactly what I was looking for though what I found is far above whichever expectation I might have had’. That’s the first time I have the feeling of plunging myself fully in ‘yoga’, though I’m well aware Yoga is a lot wider than tools and techniques, but that was my vivid feeling last night during the meditation session hold in the night on the banks of the sacred Ganges.

Here a few pictures from this morning Pooja to kick off the AYTTC:

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Pooja-AYTTC-200hrs-Kamal-Singh-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro

Pooja-AYTTC-200hrs-Kamal-Singh-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-TagliafierroPooja-AYTTC-200hrs-Kamal-Singh-theprimerose-photography-Rosa-Tagliafierro

 

 

 

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MOTIVATION MONDAY – OPS, ON A TUESDAY – THE WAY OF THE INNER HEART

‘The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.’    –   Buddha

GOA-Beach-at-ram-jhula-rishikesh-india-theprimerose-photography-by-Rosa-TagliafierroAnd today, I’m following the way again… though, sometimes, I believe it might just be easier looking at the sky…

I have mixed feelings. Joy in the expectation of working further on myself, on that path I can only walk on my own, and sadness from leaving my beloved ones.

Leaving to Rishikesh, India, in about 3 hours and for 3 months. Will post from over there once settled.

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KIDS OF INDIA, A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

I’m leaving in 3 days to India for a 500hrs Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training (I know, I know, this is a sensitive matter within the Ashtanga community but it is the subject of another post ;-)). So, this morning I couldn’t refrain from finally having a look at the pictures from my last trip to Rishikesh, North of India – where I’m heading again – and would love to share a few of them with you. Subject? Kids of India! Why: kids are my favorite subject when I’m not portraying yogis/yoginis.

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I was walking around Tapovan, opposite Lakshman Jhula in Rishikesh, when I run into this beautiful little girl sitting just behind a stall where her mom was selling all sort of trinkets for tourists. She had been on the point of crying for a reason I couldn’t figure out and for a little while till she got somewhat interested by my camera 🙂

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Her mom got so exited by the idea of having her little daughter portrayed, that she also wanted to change her hat for different pictures, while I was completely lost in the eyes of this little angel…

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another day, just before sunset – that in this area of India it’s about 7pm all year round – I was walking up Ram Jhula quarters trying to find a good spot to take a snapshot of the bridge just below. While doing that I was attracted by the sound of prayers and mantras raising not faraway from where I stood. I knew there was a Sanskrit school in the nearby, so I gave it a try and went to look for what was going on… here it is! evening rituals and chants in the courtyard of a brahmin college!

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In the evenings,  just before the Ganga Aarti (the fire ceremony that takes place on the holy river Ganges banks), kids are busy with preparing poojas, spiritual offers made of flowers and little candles to be offered to the divine Mother Ganga (Indian name for the Ganges). They start mid-afternoon in preparing little baskets containing flowers and candles and spend the evening selling them around. Here a little boy who has already filled a big basket. He used to prepare them along with his father and his little cute sister. I used to run into him almost every evening, looking at this picture I realize how much I miss him trying to sell me flowers and his big smile!

And here, on Ram Jhula bridge, one of my favorite spot in Rishikesh. The bridge looks like a modern tibetan bridge, it’s long 140 meters and pedestrian only, though that includes motorbikes, cows and monkeys 🙂 and it resounds with amazing vibrations, beats and throbs of Mother Ganga (the Ganges) gliding just below. Each time I was walking on it, I couldn’t refrain from stopping in the middle of it and taking all that in. This is the place I wanna be as first thing on Wednesday 🙂

kids-of-India-Ram-jhula-rishikesh-rosa-tagliafierro-theprimerose-photography

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MONDAY INSPIRATION – LIFE IS MOVEMENT

Life is movement. The more life there is, the more flexibility there is. The more fluid you are, the more you are alive – Arnaud Desjardins

ife-is-movement-photo-rosa-tagliafierro-theprimerose-photography-MONDAY-INSPIRATION

 

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5 WAYS TO CREATE TIME FOR YOUR YOGA PRACTICE

images3Did you try that yoga class and would love to continue, though your day is already sooooo busy?

Or do you have already a daily asana yoga practice and would love to add chanting, meditation, studying of yoga philosophy or sanskrit?

The ultimate question is: how to find the time?

When I met ashtanga, I was going to the gym about 4 to 5 times a week. Soon I started swapping gym time with yoga time and that allowed me to create space in my week to attend yoga classes. After a few months, yoga practice became a must in my life and I took it up every morning before going to the office. That meant waking up a couple of hours before my usual time and, as a consequence, I started going to bed earlier at night. Some other changes were involved as well. And now, finished with my second Vipassana meditation retreat, I faced again the same issue… how to add extra time to my day for regular meditation? We’re talking about a couple of hours more…

I’m a photographer, a yoga practitioner and teacher, a householder, a partner to my other half, I have friends and I don’t live as a hermit on the Himalayas… I also have a blog! 🙂 So I need to take care of clients, students, the house, the writing, my beloved relationships and all that comes unexpectedly. Amongst all that, I still find the time to dedicate between 2 to 3 hours to my daily personal practices.

images1How? Here the process I went through and… beware, it’s a circle process!

1/ Jot down how you allocate time in your day to different activities. Than, see which ones are a pure waste of time and cut on them; see which ones you could optimize and do it. i.e. That brought me to live without a TV (Yes, it is possible! :-D) and over time to go out a bit less.

2/ Be more efficient! Many times we waste a lot of time for different reasons, mainly because we don’t want or we don’t like to do a certain activity. In those cases, consider if it has to be done, then don’t hesitate and do it or, if you can avoid it, drop it. Worrying about something requires more energy than just doing it.

3/ Prioritize! Not all that you do is of the same importance. Do things that matter first! i.e. That led me to do my practice first thing in the morning, and I got the unexpected benefit of recharging my batteries for the rest of the day 😉

4/ Build ‘adhitthana’, strong determination! If your practice is important to you, you will find the way to do it but, at the beginning, it needs special care. Fix your goal about your practice (i.e. ‘2 asana practices per week’) and then stick to it. After a few weeks, it will become just natural. And this applies to other practices as well.

5/ Don’t struggle! There will be days when unexpected things will happen and you’ll be prevented from practicing. Don’t get upset, rearrange your plan / schedule for the week and work around it. And sometimes the better answer is just to take a day off 🙂

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THE (WELL-KNOWN) SECRET FOR STILLNESS OF MIND

Jan 14th, 2012 – Dhamma Giri centre, Igatpuri (India) – It’s about 11.30am on the 10th day of a Vipassana meditation retreat and silence precept has just been removed. I walk around in search of my boyfriend, who I haven’t seen for the course duration as men and women are kept in different quarters. ‘Never allow me to do this again. If I ever suggest something similar, you have the right to physically prevent me from undertaking it!’ Those are my (almost) first words to him.

And than?

Sept 10th, 2013 – Milano (Italy) – I’ve just completed my second 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat. Yeah, you’re allowed to think I’m crazy but I did it again 🙂 You wake up at 4am every morning and start meditating at 4.30am and that will go on for about 10hours each day, with short breaks for breakfast, lunch and tea time. In the evening, it’s time to listen to teachings which means you sit again. The code of discipline – that includes no talking, no physical contacts, abstaining from eating after midday, etc – is rather strict. But than… something happens.

The word Vipassana means ‘seeing things as they really are‘ and, if you are patient enough to wait a few days so you adjust to physical pain arising from being on your meditation seat so many hours and you follow the instructions, that something will start happening within you. I did not realize that till my first course was over and I was back to ‘normal’ life. The more days were passing, the more I was realizing the value of the teachings.

via globalpagoda.org

via globalpagoda.org

In my own experience, and in terms of benefits, sitting in such a course is like condensing in 10 days months of yoga asana practices. Going through it is a tremendous incubator of internal changes that inevitably leads to external changes as well. And in the craziness of all the thoughts that arise in your mind like thousands of monkeys jumping from a branch to the other, learning how not to react to them, you will discover precious moments of stillness: the monkeys disappear exhausted by all their own running and jumping. Those moments brought me back to it!

And you? I’d love to hear about your experiences so to learn more myself!

 

PS: If you want to know more about Vipassana as taught by S.N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagji U Ba Kin, here the link: http://www.vridhamma.org/VRI-Introduction

PSS: if you’re a daily ashtanga yoga practitioner who is afraid of not practicing for 12 days in a row, I can bet you will have your best practice the day after the course. I’ve never found my body soooo light and bendy. In fact, Vipassana is a lot of work on the body and you won’t regret the break 😉

 

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BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO YOGIS AS WELL… BUT THEN?

That’s when yoga starts!

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myself
photo credit: R. Portesani – all rights reserved

You practice asanas regularly, maybe even daily, believing that will keep you healthy on top to everything else. And if you do ashtanga yoga, highly likely you will be even more careful during your practice, listening to your body thoroughly so to avoid any injury… but than something stupid happens. It has nothing to do with yoga but will affect your yoga practice!

In my case, that was a little cold draft air from an open window in my bedroom on an early morning. It took no more than 5 seconds while I was getting ready to wear my yoga cloths and… I’ve been now stuck for 10 days! Well, don’t tell me anymore that ashtanga yoga is dangerous!

I managed that morning to still go through primary series, but I couldn’t practice for the rest of these days, except for small restorative sessions. I don’t like medicines, so I avoided those till 2 days ago, when a night without sleep because of pain convinced me to see a doctor. And still, I wouldn’t if I were not due to attend my longed for 2nd 10-days vipassana meditation retreat in 3 days.

Yes, tomorrow I’m due to start!

I’ve been waiting for it for last 8 months!

Last night, pain woke me up again at 2h15 am…

Over the last few days this question has often come up to my mind: ‘Why right now?’

I don’t have the answer but what I know is I’m going to that much waited for retreat, ready to take whatever will happen. Call me stubborn, call me crazy, but this is where life and practice has taken me…

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TEACHING YOGA: AS EASY AS IT SEEMS?

Here I am lying down on the couch, legs up and feeling drained 😦

Who knows me personally also knows that I’ve always been bursting with energy. Than, what’s happened?

For the last couple of months I’ve been on an intense yoga teaching schedule and today, last day before the break for the month of August, I feel so exhausted, so empty… Was it too much yoga? Don’t think so. Too much physical activity? Maybe yes!

During that period, a chain of events brought me to teach vinyasa flow yoga in addition to ashtanga yoga and what happened is I’ve been doing my personal yoga practice in the mornings for about 2 hours, sometimes I’ve been practising up to 5hours per day with students, preparing the classes and working on new asanas I wanted them to try and feel, all that in a framework of African hot weather (though I’m currently in the North of Italy!) while still working as a photographer as well. A time of my life vey intense, wonderful, extremely enriching from a personal standpoint as well as from the yoga teaching perspective, full of excitement and novelties, that has gifted me with a new approach to practice and has pushed me to experiment more, to play more, to feel more.

Italian-Alps-theprimerose-photography-by-Rosa-TagliafierroYet, all that hasn’t come without a toll… my batteries are at a low and I feel happy at the idea of having one month ahead only for my photography work, my personal practice and time to rest! And this because I’m aware the physical exhaustion veils the hearth and the mind as that thin layer of humidity that sometimes dims the sun making heavy a hot summer day otherwise wondreous.

Therefore, here a piece of advice for all those who plan to become a yoga instructor or have just started: be aware that teaching yoga requires a great load of energy, both at physical and subtle level, and to avoid burning out (and then run out of gas even before beginning seriously) start gradually and take all breaks needed in order to recharge, so to delight in the wonderfully crisp summer sun that you can enjoy on the top of a mountain.

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TIM MILLER: WHO IS THE REAL YOGA TEACHER?

TimMiller2Earlier this week I wrote about teaching yoga (Is it a job or more than that?) and a very interesting discussion on the role of the teacher followed with friends. Today I was reading Tim Miller’s blog – Tuesdays with Timji – and I was caught by his own presentation:

“My goal as a teacher is to inspire a passion for practice. The practice itself, done consistently and accurately, is the real teacher.”  Tim Miller

That is so beautifully said!

 

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