The Heirloom Yoga Project is dedicated to sharing and preserving traditional Yoga teachings while also making them accessible and meaningful to modern spiritual seekers. In addition to written reflections and Yoga instruction that is attended for all Yoga practitioners, from the complete beginner to instructors, this blog will share recorded Kirtan sessions and interviews that are intended to inspire ongoing spiritual inquiry and a deepening of love of Yoga. While this endeavor will primarily explore the lineages in which I have studied - those of Krishnamacharya, a 20th century Yoga luminary, and Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a 16th century Bengali Saint renowned for teaching Bhakti Yoga, it will also touch upon related practices, including Yoga Therapy, Chi Gong, Embodied Movement, and other mindfulness-based, meditative practices.
In trikonasana, as in many lateral or side-bending poses, one should try to be aware of their sacroiliac, hip, and knee joints. I recommend trying to prevent strain in your hamstring, hips and lower back in order to ensure safety in the posture.
A cluttered pile of books, dust bunnies and dirt collected on the floor, or, in those instances when I practiced in my kitchen, cabinets that were unspeakably dirty. Inevitably, I would decide that these distractions were unbearable and I would do enough cleaning that I felt more relaxed. From there, I would return to downward dog and breathe a sigh of relief. But I would simultaneously feel a bit defeated that I had been distracted from my practice.
Krsna in the form of sound, sweeps away what we do not need, clearing our hearts of the desires and attachments that limit our capacity to see the world and spirit as they truly are - full of profound wonder, beauty and abundance.
While the held variation of this pose is typically called Setu Bandhasana, the Vinyasa for this pose is called Dwi Pada Pitham, two-legged table pose. The many variations one can choose with regards to foot and arm placement will be explored in future posts. For now, try starting with the feet at a comfortable width apart with the heels placed approximately under the knee and the arms alongside the body. Once you have the feet in place, give yourself the opportunity to take a few breaths to feel the connection between your body with the floor.
The Practice as Process series focuses on Vinyasa Krama sequences that are intended to help us navigate entering and exiting various yoga poses. In addition to still-photos that help practitioners better understand variations of each asana, each post includes short videos that are intended to help practitioners experience an increase in support and integrity and a decrease in unnecessary effort and strain.
What then forms the foundation of a Yoga practice? Though the answer can vary, I have found that a sustainable Yoga practice is supported by proper movement mechanics, awareness of the breath, and a philosophical orientation that considers the relationship between ease and effort. These three concepts have become the bedrock of my own approach to yoga, and have made my personal practice has become both more rewarding and interesting.
Around this time I made a simple commitment to myself – I will try to find time and space to write, and I will continue to take note of those topics I would like to explore more in depth. Rather than deciding that I could not add anything extra into my schedule and withdrawing from the process, I set the intention to write more frequently and practice patience with regards to when and how that might happen. I have tried to leave space for grace to reveal the openings where writing might be possible.
The first thing that comes to mind for me is a set of questions – Why do we practice Asana and Pranayama? Why do we sit in meditation? Why do we practice Yama and Niyama? Why do we engage in any spiritual inquiry? Indeed, for me, the answer to these questions is quite similar as to the one you brought up about chanting – I want to love God, I want to serve God. Chanting the names of Krsna is the very center of that equation within my lineage, Gaudiya Vaisnavism.
During guided meditations I have often been asked to visualize a still pond and I have never quite been successful. I was always trying to see within my mind's eye a pond where the water was not moving. This past time I was on vacation I walked around a medium sized pond twice daily and I noticed that the water within the pond was never still - insects gently landed on the water, fish jumped to catch them, ducks swam and dove all about, and children tried to skip rocks. Even though the water moved the overall feeling was peaceful, quiet. Perhaps then, a still pond is not an image to force into the mind but a feeling to invite into the heart.
These nine practices are discussed by Prahlada Maharaja in the Seventh Canto of the ancient text, Srimad Bhagavatam. They are meant to be guidelines that will help the Bhakta, or Bhakti practitioner, cleanse his or her heart and cultivate pure, selfless love of God. Though some of these practices are more accessible than others, they are not necessarily progressive steps as is the case with practices in other systems of yoga.
Yoga is not about staying the same and repeating the patterns of thought and movement that do not encourage our continued growth. To a large measure, it is about change, finding the softest part of our being in the most uncomfortable of situations and fundamentally altering the way we interact with the world at large. This transformation happens at its own pace, typically with fits and starts. But with consistent and prolonged practice it occurs, and perhaps then we slowly, but more fully, begin to embody and honor our highest ideals.
While I was fortunate enough to have some great advice and association of a loving Sadhu along with the moments of clarity that followed, the hard work of integrating this advice into my life fully had hardly begun. In the weeks and months that followed I began to notice that my ideals for spiritual life and family life were falling short of where I would like them to be in practice, with perhaps the biggest challenge being how to accommodate an intelligent, willful three year old and the full range of his age-appropriate, boundary-testing behaviors.
I first wondered how long that flower had been there without me noticing and how it had manage to weather the Portland rains of late while even its neighboring Japanese Maple had lost most of its orange-yellowish leaves.