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Journal Post

Over twenty years ago I walked into my first Ashtanga yoga class, a fairly stressed-out, exhausted, toxic, and depressed individual. An hour and a half later, I walked out, feeling relaxed, energized, happy, and cleansed from the inside out. Ever since that first class I've been fascinated by this transformative power of the practice, what I call the alchemy of Ashtanga yoga.
Encinitas holds the distinction of being the American birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga. David Williams began teaching here in the early seventies and sponsored Pattabhi Jois and his son Manju to come here for the first time in 1975. Brad Ramsey and Gary Lopedota, two of David's students, opened their own yoga shala, called the Ashtanga Yoga Nilayam, after David moved to Maui.
India! How can one begin to describe the experience of two weeks in this challenging, energetic and sacred land? Eight adventurous students, plus my husband, John, daughter Kate and I, embarked on our second Yoga Pilgrimage to the foothills of the Himalayas in December 2007.
Landing in the New Delhi airport after a 16-hour flight, we were immediately confronted with new and strange sights, sounds and smells. With our large bags stuffed into and on top of the small taxis, we were driven to a Delhi hotel for our first night in India.
I write this from the vantage point of 37,000 feet above our earth, looking both up at the bluest of blue skies and down at cloud patterns of marshmallow fluff, and am seized with a sense of gratitude for the supreme beauty of our planet, and all that is in my life since I embarked on a spiritual path over 30 years ago.
After a month's hiatus, we return to the story of Yoga in the US. In the July newsletter we looked at one of the unsung female Yoga pioneers of the 20th century, Sita Devi Yogendra, and I promised you then more about our female trail blazers. So this month we'll visit with a woman whose life spanned the entire 20th century, and whose followers lovingly called her the "First Lady of Yoga."
I'm just back from my third annual Yoga workshop in Hailey, Idaho. When I asked the folks up in Hailey what they wanted to work on this year they set me an interesting task: a weekend workshop based on poses named after Hindu gods. After digging through Iyengar's Light on Yoga (200 asanas), Yogeshvara Paramahamsa's First Steps to Higher Yoga (300 asanas), and the Lonavla Institute's Encyclopedia of Traditional Asanas (900 asanas), I decided to open things up and include in the workshop poses named after Hindu sages and one famous monster. And so we had a Virabhadra Class (the hideous demon created by Shiva to punish his father-in-law), a Sages Class, an Avatars of Vishnu Class, and a Shiva Nataraja Class.
Whenever you practice or read about Yoga, you'll inevitably run across Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the classical language of India, much like Latin is the classical language of medieval Europe. Nowadays Sanskrit is pretty much a dead language, and though it's still one of a dozen or so official languages of India, even in its heyday Sanskrit was spoken only by a relatively small circle of academics and priests.
I teach because I am inspired to do so. I teach because I feel compelled to share what I've discovered with others. I teach to learn. I teach to serve. I teach because I want to understand. I teach to give back all that has been given to me. I teach because it makes sense. I teach to know my Self better.
We are all student and teacher at the same time. No matter how big or small, we all continuously learn from one another. At the end of each class I thank my student's for their time, but really I thank them for the exchange that has just taken place. I thank them for the opportunity to impart some of this great wisdom to them. I thank them for all that I learn while I am teaching.
No sooner than I heard the words "you already know" then I realized that becoming a yoga teacher would change my life forever. A light bulb immediately went off during my training and the sheer power of this statement resonated so deeply with me that I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. When I am faced with the fluctuations of life, the anxieties of the unknown, and the temperance of ambitions, I stop to breathe and listen, and remind myself that "I already know."
A great sage has withdrawn from this physical realm to go back to the Infinite Source, but his spiritual presence will now be everywhere and will continue to help, guide and inspire all. On May 6, 2011 on Manikoot mountain, deep within the Himalyas, beloved Master and the parapara Guru of our school and lineage, Sri Swami Kailashananda Maharaji entered Maha Samadhi.
From the Preface His Holiness Sri Yogi Dharma Mittra is a precious gem and a jewel among the highest and most exalted Yogis of time immemorial. For decades, seekers who wish to awaken to the Supreme Self through the Holy science of Yoga have turned to Dharma. In Sri Dharma, all aspirants find a remarkable simplicity and complete humility—a true friend to all and the most shining example of living Yoga.
Asteya may be achieved through simple living. Steya (stealing) is the result of the inability to control desires for sense-pleasures. Desire is the root-cause for all stealing. When the mind and senses seek enjoyment, thoughts of theft arise as a means of obtaining and satisfying those desires. Desires lend an imaginary attractiveness to the object sought, slaying discrimination, and soon destroy the Yogi’s ethical foundation.
Stealing can occur on many levels. You may steal knowledge, without asking permission to use someone else’s ideas or forms of expression. Overeating or waste is stealing. Taking over a conversation or taking someone’s privacy is stealing.
"May the Lord bestow upon us the Divine way to obtain Ahimsa" Of all the virtues involved in the science of yoga, there is none higher than ahimsa. Ahimsa is the golden thread that runs through all yoga practice and is the foundation on which all Yogis build the inner spiritual life. The one message of all saints and sages is the message of unconditional love. Practice of ahimsa develops this pure, unconditional and universal love, and is the highest of all traits found in the mind, speech and actions of all perfected souls. There is only one religion—the religion of love, of peace. There is only one message, the message of unconditional and universal love.
Tapas is the individual process of intense, self imposed purification. Tapas is a burning desire for spiritual development—an intense faith that cultivates endurance, willpower and fortitude.
One of the literal translations of tapas is heat or fire. There is no greater purifier than fire. Fire removes the impurities and allows the golden radiance of what is true to remain, unclouded and unmasked.
For over 40 years, legendary and humble yoga Master Sri Dharma Mittra has been promoting a live food diet to students around the world. A Disciple of Sri Swami Kailashananda, Dharma Mittra has spent his life in service to humanity, and has been personally responsible for the advancement of healthy living through a live diet as taught to him by his own Guru, Yogi Gupta. From his days in the Ashram, preparing live food and juices for the Guru and Ashram residents, to his earliest days in the 1970’s as a celebrated teacher in NYC, sprouting almonds and juicing vegetables and fruits for his students, this saintly Yogi has been living and spreading the knowledge of a live diet long before it gained the popularity of today.
Of all the qualities to be cultivated by the Yogi, there is none higher than Satya. Satya is complete truthfulness, in which thought, word and act should agree. Satya does not twist or modify in any way.
God is truth. Truth alone prevails. Whatever you have heard or seen, it must be spoken of as it is. By living truthfully, the mind is purified and the Divine light dawns. A Sadhaka is of noble countenance—nobility is truth.
Presented by Chandra Om to her Guru, Dharma Mittra, at the Guru Purnima Celebration, 2007
Discipleship of an enlightened sage is an amazing journey. Dharma Mittra is such a being.
Brahmacharya is not merely the life of celibacy and spiritual study, but the purification of all the senses. The practice of brahmacharya is the vow of abstinence for all sense objects, in particular mentally. Overeating, oversleeping, overtalking and dwelling on, or longing for sense objects are all breaks in brahmacharya. Purity and freedom from lust in thought, word and deed is an essential part of the vow, however. It is freedom from sexual thoughts and sexual urges.
Arise, Awake, approach the teachers and know the Truth. The person who is blessed with a Guru knows the Highest. He whose devotion to the Lord is great, and who has as much devotion to the Guru as to the Lord, Unto him, that high-souled one, the meanings of the sacred texts stand revealed.
Beloved Family, Om Namah Shivaya! Salutations to the Supreme Being who is the indweller in all hearts. It is with great joy I send this note to you. The Lord has blessed us again and again.
The foundation of yoga is Yama and Niyama. These are the moral and ethical guidelines of yoga; the first and second stages. The ethical and disciplinary precepts that serve as the Sadhaka's guidelines for right conduct in life. Applying these principles helps to purify the Sadhaka's actions and thoughts by removing Rajas and Tamas, so Sattva may prevail. The Yamas and Niyamas Click on any Yama or Niyama to read more. Yama Ahimsa (non-violence)Satya (truthfulness)Asteya (non-stealing)Aparigraha (non-hoarding)Brahmacharya (continence/celibacy) Niyama
Of all the virtues involved in the science of yoga, there is none higher than ahimsa. Ahimsa is the golden thread that runs through all Yoga practice and is the foundation on which all Yogis build the Divine life. Practice of Ahimsa develops pure, unconditional and universal love. The one message of all saints and sages is the message of love. Ahimsa is the highest of all traits found in the mind, speech and actions of all perfected souls. There is only one religion—the religion of love, of peace. There is only one message—the message of unconditional and universal love. Ahimsa is the supreme duty of a Yogi. If you are established in Ahimsa, you have attained all virtues. All virtues spring forth from Ahimsa.
All branches of yoga are in essence very similar. They are each suited for various temperaments. Their goal is the same, Self-realization. The inner silence of God communion is the goal of all the various paths. When identity with God is achieved, all distinctions cease. The Forms of Yoga
From a talk given by Bo Lozoff at a meditation center in Tallahassee, FL, December 11, 2005.
Transcribed from a sermon Bo preached at the Ainsworth United Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon.
Many of us say we have faith in God. We say we believe in prayer, we believe that God loves us and has a plan for our lives. But do we actually walk through the day feeling comforted, protected, and secure in those beliefs? Do we go to sleep at night knowing God is with us and is guiding us? Jesus said, "Take comfort and be of good cheer. I am with you always." Notice the two verbs, "take" and "be," suggesting that it is up to us. We must take comfort from His presence, not wait for it or hope for it. He is delivering the good news to our doorstep, but it is clearly up to us to open the door and let it in. So this practice is to take comfort in an active way.
Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again. Chinese inscription cited by Thoreau in Walden
It's not too late to start over! Did you rise on January 1, 2012! with the best of intentions and then life just started to take over and you lost some steam? This is just a reminder that you can start your new year over anytime you want! In fact, it may feel more authentic to you to take this time now between the full moon and the upcoming new moon to reset your intentions. This is when the Chinese New Year is celebrated on the first new moon of the year.
Like many Sanskrit words in the Yoga lexicon, the word guru has both a literal and symbolic meaning. Literally it means "heavy, weighty; heavy in the stomach (as food), difficult to digest; excessive, difficult, hard; important, serious, momentous; valuable, highly prized; venerable, respectable." The guru is the venerable "weighty one," heavy with wisdom, that's both highly prized but at times difficult to digest, often because teaching seems to contradict everything we hold true, or because we're told things about ourselves we don't especially want to hear.
Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1923 - 2009) RAM RAM SATYA HAI OM NAMAH SHIVA http://www.yogavision.net/home.htm
A Guru is a person whose very presence imparts truth and awakening in the disciple. When I traveled to Mysore for the first time at the age of 22 I asked Sri K. Pattabhi Jois where I could find the illusive state of inner peace that all yoga practice seeks to instill. Known as Guruji to his students, he said "You take it practice many years, then Shantih is coming... no problem" and my heart opened to the grace of his teaching. It is my great fortune to consider this amazing man my teacher and I attribute the depth of my personal practice and teaching to the light that Guruji's fire ignited within me.
I've been intending for a couple of months to pick up our story line with Sri Yogendra, one of the unsung heroes of modern yoga. Born Mani Desai in 1897, he became in his late teens a disciple of Paramahamsa Madhavadasa, who at the time was reputed to be 118 years old. Paramahamsa, which means "great swan" (or "goose") is an honorific title given to highly enlightened beings (why is an enlightened person compared to a swan? That's a long story for another time). Mani's father threw a fit when he found out his son-a bright kid destined for great things in the world-had dropped out of college to become a yogi, which in those days meant a life of renunciation and celibacy.
In quintessential west coast style, fifteen hundred people will gather together in Vancouver, BC to practice Yoga at the 5th Annual Yogathon and Blissfest on Saturday July 21, 2007 to raise money for Camp Moomba, an organization that provides Canadian children impacted by HIV/AIDS with an unforgettable summer camp experience.
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