A risky move

This may be a risky move. This post may not bode well with some who come across it. And that’s ok. It is more important for me to express myself than to keep silent when improvement can be made. Honestly and often, I am sharing my own battles and triumphs simply because it helps to write them down. It also seems to solidify the experience by sharing it with others. There are wonderful moments when, sometimes, others can learn valuable lessons the easy way, via “testimony”…
This is 2013, people! Get your mind right! Ain’t nobody got time for pacifism. We all must churn and wrestle around with old paradigms so we can come out of it better for the experience. In doing so, we can help the evolution of our creative and collective consciousness.

So. We have had yoga philosophy class everyday for two weeks now. We are studying Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Trying to summarize the vast knowledge contained in the sutras is like trying to cram your size 8 foot into a size 7 heel. It ain’t gunna happen. But a few doctors who wrote the book Super Science of Yoga did a fantastic job. First, they describe yoga as being a completely comprehensive process, rendering the entire human experience in terms of consciousness. (Taking note here that yoga is much much more than sweating out last nights hangover in your lululemon capris while Rihanna blasts that we are all diamonds in the sky).
Yoga has eight limbs: cleansing exercises, pranayama {breathing}, asana {poses in lululemon capris}, meditation, pratyahara {withdrawal from sensory organs; Catholics read as thou shalt not covet}, samadhi {ultimate goal of enlightenment, to see your true self, to transcend the physical world; Catholics read as gettin into Heaven}, yama {ethical principles, followed physically, orally, and mentally; Catholics read as 10 commandments}, and finally a continuation of yama, niyama {the rules and regulations to be followed by all}. Unlike almost every other process we have available (psychology, the modern medical field, various religions, etc.), yoga is the only completely comprehensive study. At no point does yoga have a “well, it’s now time for faith to kick in” moment. This was an issue I found very difficult to comprehend growing up, and it wasn’t limited to the teachings of the Catholic church, although that’s what bothered me the most.
As a child, I was surrounded by priests, nuns, and teachers who all responded the same way when I asked a question that didn’t have a clean, logical answer: “You have to have faith”. What that means is very simple: the wonderfully manicured sidewalks of these institutions eventually begin to crumble and then, ultimately, trail off into territory of BIG, DEEP ideas {like consciousness, the soul, why are we here, where do we go, and who is this god person, anyway?}. Yoga answers all of these on the grounds of consciousness; and I mean ALL of it. Physical health, life, death, creation, mental/physical illness/health… Ok, now we are all on the same page about yoga. Lets get back to the sutras:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali succinctly outlines the art and science of Yoga meditation for Self-Realization. It is a process of systematically encountering, examining, and transcending each of the various gross and subtle levels of false identity in the mind field, until the jewel of the true Self comes shining through.

This text is similar to the Bible, but with a lot less ambiguous sonnet-like passages and more to the point revelations. The yoga sutras lay all the cards on the table and no one is left out. No question turned away or left unanswered. everything you ever wanted to know, ever wanted to improve about yourself, every bad habit you wanted to shake…it’s all there with an answer and a solution. Right. So, with that giant ball of knowledge being dropped everyday, for an hour, starting at 11AM, I react like this:

20130216-083930.jpg I ask every question I have because I don’t want to miss any detail or misinterpret anything. Mostly, everyone else sits quietly, patiently and I feel bad for holding up progress. But then, we break for lunch, and I feel confused. As we sit around for lunch, I can overhear, “Oh, the sutras are so easy.” Then in the same breath, I hear: “oh man, what I would do for a beer right now, or a massage right now, or {insert distraction}”. It appears that, for some, the sutras aren’t sinking in at all.
Maybe it is a lack of understanding the relevance of yoga philosophy. Teacher training is not about briefly learning the sutras in order to be tested on them, only to leave that knowledge behind here in Rishikesh. You cannot be a yoga teacher without a sound understanding of what these sutras are saying. Furthermore, imparting this knowledge to your students is essential.

Yoga isn’t about tight pants and vegan cookies. It’s a total way of life.

Shoulder griddle

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Yoga practice is coming a bit easier with every passing day, as I am finding myself catching my fingertips and toes significantly more than I could a few days ago. During the morning break, Julia and I went on a run through the path I found yesterday, determined to reach the temple that is perched at the top of the mountain. After running by the post office, we picked up the trail I found yesterday, running by the back way into our hotel. Soon, we were standing at the foot of the temple, straining our necks to get a glimpse of the top. We began climbing the cement stairs towards the top; there must have been 100 steps total, all winding up the side of the mountain. The temple was beautiful and we were given a protecting prayer by the temples priest, who appeared out of nowhere somewhere near the top floors of the temple. It was a wonderful experience. Maybe it was the blessing we received, or maybe it was being up above the city with a birds eye view. Or maybe it was the sense of accomplishment of finding a secret place by ourselves. But as we left and headed back to school, trying our best not to roll down the ridiculously step hill that lead back to town, we laughed and both agreed that we had just become officially part of Rishikesh, initiated, welcomed. The feeling was similar when a local shop owner asked me where I was from and when I replied “California”, he smiled and said “Oh, welcome home”.

Day one – Pranayama

Today has been a longlong day but jammed with basic yoga information.

The day started off with morning yoga practice from 6am until 9. The wind howled and tried its best to bring down the building during the few hours of sleep I caught between my arrival and morning practice, so climbing out of my warm bed and leaving sunny beach weather in my dreams was my first great challenge of the day. Having not practiced in some time, I was struggling with even the simplest poses. To be expected, I suppose. Breakfast was simple with fruit and toast followed by a break. Classes have been extremely informative and challenging and shift subject matter at the perfect intervals, as to not become boring. My room is all set up with homey things I brought, with a string of tiny lantern Christmas lights running the ceiling, a handcrafted wood painting from thailand propped next to the bed, and a big down comforter to nest in.

fun fact: I was the first of my classmates to be scolded.

Safe Arrival in Rishikesh + ESPN

Landed from Bangkok at 4pm; home for a few hours to wash and repack; on the road to yoga teacher training in Rishikesh by 10:30. 

Slept most of the drive, which was a bouncy, beeping, mess on wheels. The soundtrack was a local Indian pop station…a fantastic listen, actually. I only regret not knowing how to find those songs again. 

Arrival to bridge that connection to Rishikesh around 3:30 AM where I as met by 3 gentlemen and 2 motorcycles.  The bridge is closed during the night so passage was limited to a 25 min walk in freezing rain or 7 min motorcycle ride. After a hilarious balancing act, all my luggage was piled up like a teetering Jenga tower on one motorcycle and was headed across the bridge.  I hopped on the back of the other ‘cycle and off we went.  Even in the dark, the city looked amazing. Much less crowded than Delhi, much cleaner.  

My room overlooks a mountain range, has wi-fi, private bath, and a TV…the only English channel I have come across is ESPN. I guess I can run, but true to the saying, I cannot hide.