Thursday, 21 March 2013

New tip for laghu vajrasana...

Just got back from the States and have a new tip... well it's a mix of half a tip from Hamish and half a tip from Todd Boman from Moksha Yoga Chicago. So, I've always had a big problem with this posture, especially going down and touching the floor and then coming back up. But I've got a great tip from the masters...and it's worked.
1) Take your ankles wider than your legs. I can't remember what this does, but Hamish says it works and it does! So there.
2) Press your thumbs into your inner ankles, I don't know what it does but Todd Boman says it keeps your shoulder girdle active so you can come back up!

So there you have it, try it, and let me know what you think :)
Biglove. Mx

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Maitri kuruna - friendliness and compassion... a workshop with Hamish Hendry

Yesterday I took part in a workshop run by Hamish Hendry of Ashtanga Yoga London. It was awesome. Hamish is a great man and very funny. Punctuating selected sentences with swears is always a winner for me! 

Sometimes, the simplest workshops are the best. It began with a Mysore style practice in the morning and a talk and short demo in the afternoon. 

I had one of my best practices ever yesterday, after the past 2 weeks of back and SI pain, I was worried about doing second again, but the whole practice from start to finish was a light and beautiful breeze. (Including the easiest assists in Laghu and Kapo ever!) It goes without saying Hamish and his assistant Louises' assists were spot on and helped to bring steadiness and ease to even the most challenging of postures. 

I'm going to write a few posts on stuff that came out of the workshop, but there is a lot of wanted to ponder before sharing, so will cover these over the next few posts. The afternoon session was great, an in-depth look at the first 12 yoga sutra and learning to chant them correctly. But it was one sutra which he mentioned which I want to talk about here. Hamish said that a student had once asked him what sutra he thought most pertinent as she wanted to get a new tattoo. He reeled off the one below - probably the longest one in the book! I thought this was hilarious and I'd love to see the tattoo one day :)

I think it was 1:33 - please forgive me if it wasn't this one, but he said it so quickly, I just remember it beginning with 'M' and being quite long - anyway, I'm going to go with it for the purposes of this post ;) Anyways, whether or not Hamish did talk about this sutra, other commentators on the sutras say that even if there is nothing else you take from the sutras of Patanjali, 1:33 is very helpful in keeping a peaceful mind in your daily life. (Swami Satchidananda swears by it as his guiding light to keep his mind serene!) (Satchitananda, 1978:54) It goes like this: 

Maitri kuruna muditopeksanam sukha duhka punyapunya visayanam bhavanatas citta prasadanam


By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness. (Satchidananda, 1978:54) 

Another translation I like is..

Consciousness settles as one radiates friendliness, compassion, delight and equanimity towards all things, whether pleasant or painful, good or bad. (Hartranft, 2003:13)

The latter translation is from Chip Hartranft, a great Buddhist teacher and he highlights that in common with Buddhist tradition, Patanjali observes the yogic process is deepened by the cultivation of friendliness, compassion, delight and equanimity - the four 'heavenly abodes' or brahma-viharas. To practice these they should be radiated not just inward towards one's self and one's experience, regardless of its qualities but outwardly, towards all sentient beings. The willingness to greet all phenomena with kindliness is the basis of non-reaction (1:15). (Hartranft, 2003:14) I read somewhere that compassion arises when you realise and accept that people only acting the way they do in order to make them selves happy. I guess that if you can accept that and not judge that person for their actions, then you've kinda made it :) 

This morning I got out my Manorama CD and began learning to chant and memorise the first 12 sutras as Hamish had recommended. I've never really thought it that important before, but he something that captivated my attention. Try learning a few sutras, they are mantras - mantras protect the mind and keep the mind for 'going outwards'. When I practice asana I always think 'sthira sukham asanam' (asana is steadiness and ease), its the basis and foundation of my practice. So why not try remembering the others for steadiness of mind?! 

Friday, 8 March 2013

Going all the way

The following notes are transcribed from a audio talk by Peter Levitt for Centre of Gravity. I fell in love with this short talk. It means so much to me. Makes so much sense. I wanted to share it.

Zen spirit is about not letting things push you off your path. Meeting ‘it’ whatever it is all the way. It really doesn’t matter what you feel, you do it anyway. ‘Intimately’ means all the way. ‘Completely’ means all the way. You’ll soon relaise that your personal life is not very interesting after all. You may be entranced by it but soon you’ll realize that you haven’t done anything with your life, then you’ll have to do something else, and do it all the way.

A lot of times the problems that we have in our lives are caused only by our refusal to go all the way, they are not caused by anything else, they are not caused by any conditions that come at us, they only come when we refuse to meet those conditions all the way. A lot of the time we say ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘that’s not convenient’, what we’re really saying is, ‘I don’t really want to live 100%, I don’t really want to be here completely, I want a vacation from my life’ – a zen spirit doesn’t have a lot of room for that. Because we do it once, then we do it two times, then we do it three times, then it becomes our habit, then it becomes our way of life then we’re at 90 years old and say ‘what was that?’ Instead of having engaged every single moment that we can. So we turn delusion into enlightenment by going all the way. We turn hindrances into opportunities, by going all the way. Its about going 100% completely. Its about not ‘buying’ our story but recognizing the preciousness of every single moment in our lives. And when something does come, like a 4million pound bear or something like that, its faster, its bigger, its stronger, its smarter, its wilder and we are not going to get away from it. The only thing that can be done according to zen spirit is to wrap our arms around that bear and hold on, completely, until we become one with that bear, and that is going all the way too. And sometimes that bear is pretty tough. But when you think about we don’t really have much of a choice. When I think about where the obstacles and where the hindrances come from, by and large they come from our own refusal to engage with our life. Not from any other place.

When we say ‘I will, completely’, something happens inside of us, we become alive. The parts of use that have been dead wake up. And our aspiration to wake up wakes up, and waking up wakes up, if we go all the way through. We don’t have to be specialist human beings to do that. We actually have all the equipment already, right here, and its our nature to do it, its our nature to be alive. If you look at yourself and ask honestly, is any of me dead? You’ll find the answer’s no. None of you is dead, all of you is alive, but some of you is sleeping. Show me a dead part of you. You won’t find it. It’s not based on the usual type of personal willpower that we do this, there’s something about catching what the true spirit of our practice is, that takes care of it. So it’s not like you're in a battle against life and your going to win, that’s the wrong understanding. You give yourself away completely to the spirit and the spirit therefore gives you completely to yourself.

You've gone all the way.