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Journal Post

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.
When I first began teaching yoga in 1981, yoga wasn't exactly entrenched in the mainstream as it is now. I had been meditating for four years and doing asana out of a book daily. There was never a thought about becoming a yoga teacher, as I had four children, ages 7-14, and it was all I could do to stay afloat and meet my commitments as an Air Force wife and mother. My daily meditation practice helped more than anything else to keep me on a fairly even keel during those challenging days.
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.
The summer after I graduated from college I headed off to fulfill a dream -- I traveled solo through Europe for two months. Sauntering on Parisian streets; sipping vino in Italy; snuggling under down comforters in Switzerland and Austria; and noshing on pastries in Belgium, and Prague -- I was finally free of all the obligations that my schooling had entailed and was embarking on the path of my adult life.
At least that's how things seemed on the outside.
Explore the pros and cons of hands-on guidance and learn to use skillful assists to empower
your students.
By Sara Avant Stover
"Come on! Extend, Karl! Don't be so stingy!" exclaimed Sharon Gannon, cofounder of Jivamukti Yoga, to student Karl Straub, as she assisted him in Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose). Straub, a Jivamukti Yoga teacher himself, as well as a Thai Yoga Bodywork practitioner, recalls the potency of Gannon's assist-one that he revisits every time he practices that
It was a late lunch/early dinner (linner? Or lunner?) with a good friend, and after addressing and quickly solving a number of thorny issues that have troubled humankind for millennia, our attention wandered from swerve of shore to bend of bay and settled on the strange case of the Yoga Sutra. No one knows much of anything concrete about the origins and authorship of this little curiosity of about 1200 words, maybe 100 fewer than the Declaration of Independence. Estimates of its date of composition range anywhere from 200 BCE to 200 CE, its authorship, or more precisely compilation attributed to a semi-mythical figure named Patanjali.
One thing about PYS that may be a little different from many other yoga schools is the plethora of props. If you're a regular student here you no doubt think all the blocks and blankets and chairs and straps and bags and bolsters are par for the course, but there are a good number of schools around that have only a handful of props or-heaven forbid!-no props at all. In 21st century yoga, the presence of all this stuff is usually a sure sign that the majority of teachers on the staff, including yours truly, grew up yogically in or around the Iyengar system, which is widely known for its innovative use-or in some students' estimation, overuse-of props.
The spark of interest in yoga often ignites an inner obsession that infiltrates every aspect of your life. At first yoga is life and you cannot get enough of it. Yoga reconnects you to long forgotten inner realms and you somehow fall in love with yoga. Yet if your yoga practice evolves into a daily, lifelong relationship it is almost inevitable that at some moment you will get bored with it. The insatiable hunger for as much yoga as possible will shift and change to a space where you will be absolutely full of it. This period of lackluster levels of initiative often comes ironically as a result of your full immersion in the yoga world.
From Top Chef to Judge Judy's Courtroom Theater to the Tragedy of Tosca drama sells. At its best drama entertains, teaches and makes people laugh. At its worst it brings out division, hurtfulness and hatred. Yet human beings are somewhat enthralled with the ups and downs of their own emotions. You might even venture to say that we are addicted to them. It is all too easy to get dragged down into the habit pattern of the mind's sometimes sordid past when emotions flare and all too hard to choose the higher, more peaceful ground above. There is truth to the notion that our inner world is a kind of jungle in need of healing.
Our life is short, yet a real sense of time eludes us. It is more common to get hooked on the world of sensory pleasure than to live a spiritual life. E-bay, appointments and shopping consume the grasping mind. Television seems calmer than silence. Pain and loss are more addictive than gratitude and joy.
It's easy to seem peaceful in the quiet cave of your own mind. It's much harder to face the test of integrating your learning with your life. No matter how peacefully you might leave your daily meditation or yoga practice, there is nothing like a seemingly callous or thoughtless comment from a friend to trigger the stickiest habitual patterns.
NAMASTE,
It's such a cliché to remark on the speedy passage of time. Nonetheless, I have to trot out the "how time flies" line to comment on the arrival this year of Unity Woods' 30th anniversary. To tell you the truth, things are tumbling by so fast and there so much going on that I might have missed noticing it altogether had I not been prompted by the ubiquitous accolades to local (and national) media star, Diane Rehm, on her 30th anniversary. That's when I said to myself, "Hey, Unity Woods has been around for 30 years, too."
It's not what is poured into a student that counts, but what is planted.
- Linda Conway It is awe-inspiring to watch how a sequence of poses can infuse students with energy, or calm them down, or engage their full attention, or invoke a deep relaxation response. The way we teach asana (postures) is important and I love to discover what works with teenagers and share it with you. However, many teachers are encountering road blocks in making their classes appealing and wondering why their classes are not retaining students.The answer is complex but there is a fundamental principal to teaching yoga to teens worth discussing and well-timed with the approach of Valentine's Day. Simply put, it's love.
Om Namah Shivaya,
Happy New Year to you all. Salutations to the inmost Self residing in all beings. May this find you in good health and joy.
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.
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.
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.
Read more: http://ncschoolofyoga.com/library/new-year-message-2011#ixzz1Qm2UKvgc
North Carolina School of Yoga
 
Hari Om! At this auspicious time of the new year I send to you all my sincere heartfelt wishes for a bright and successful year ahead. May God bless you with spiritual aspiration, unfoldment and divine peace, bringing to you spiritual light and illumination.
 
 
Happy New Year to you all. Salutations to the inmost Self residing in all beings. May this find you in good health and joy. As we approach the commencement of another year in this physical realm, the order of the day is clear. Worldly relations are transient, imperfect and impermanent. It is when we identify ourselves with these changing and impermanent relations that we experience attachment, pain and restlessness.
Svadhyaya is often translated as scriptural study, the actual reading of and reflecting upon the sacred books, as in the Vedas, Upanishads, Yoga Sutras, the Bible and other holy texts. This is preliminary Svadhyaya.
When done with concentration and faith, this form of Svadhyaya helps the student to maintain a psychic connection with the Masters who have authored these holy texts as well as the living link of the Gurus. These writings continually show the yogi the goal of yoga, and the practical steps that will lead them from the borrowed world of mortals and into the exalted spiritual state of God communion.
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.
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.
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
Occasional periods of silence are recommended by every wisdom tradition. Modern life (and prison life) can be extremely noisy, and this constant noise can keep us from experiencing life as honestly or clearly as we may like. Sita and I have found great value in many periods of silence. For several years, each of us spent one day a week in silence. There are two main types of the practice of silence, and they are both very valuable in different ways.
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.
Dear Family,
All of us at Human Kindness Foundation had a rare privilege when we brought the Vietnamese Buddhist master, Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tic Not Hon), into his first American prison to talk with inmates and staff about the practice of deep mindfulness. We chose Maryland Correctional Institution at Hagerstown for this special event because Bo had been there recently and had been very moved by the spiritual sincerity and strength of the prisoner community. Many of the prisoners have taken the Alternatives to Violence Project training and have been involved with our books and tapes as well. (Special thanks to Emma Lou Davis, of CCSC in Hagerstown, for coordinating the whole event).
I looked at the jail that secluded me from men and it was no longer by its high wall that I was imprisoned; no, it was God who surrounded me. I walked under the branches of the tree in front of my cell but it was not the tree, I knew it was God. It was God whom I saw standing there and holding over me His shade. Or I lay on the coarse blankets that were given me for a bed and felt the arms of God around me, the arms of my Friend and Lover...It was not the magistrate whom I saw, it was God, it was God who was sitting there on the bench. I looked at the Prosecuting Counsel and it was not the Counsel for Prosecution that I saw; it was God.
- Sri Aurobindo, 1908
Yoga offers us a fascinating lens through which to view our lives. Yoga philosophy tells us that the core of our being is conscious pulsating energy. This reality is hidden from us by five layers, or sheaths, called koshas, that are made up of increasingly finer grades of energy. The outer layer is the densest and is made up of matter. The other sheaths are energy states, invisible to the physical eye, although as we develop greater sensitivity we can become aware of their presence. To live a fully balanced and healthy life, yoga urges us to keep each layer strong and healthy through various yoga practices. From the yoga perspective the game of life is to penetrate these cloaks, so that our true nature can be revealed.
Today I am thankful for experience because it is rare and somewhat miraculous to be in the presence of a teacher with more than 40 years experience. You always know an experienced teacher because they are not always trying to provide you with the answer. They often want to know, "What is your experience?" Last night with John Schumacher, we worked on fundamental standing poses, because it was the only class in the workshop that was open to all levels of students. But we addressed the standing poses from a completely different perspective.
Support Your Spirit
There is no one pose that is the most feminine pose. Some poses are more feminine than others and some poses make you feel more feminine on different days of your practice. Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose, always feels very feminine to me. Perhaps it is because when I practice it on a good day, I feel extremely graceful and elegant. And while the name, camel pose, may not sound very feminine, Ustrasana, is very uplifting and powerful.
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.
My thanks to our conference co-coordinators and my dear friends, Patricia Walden and Linda DiCarlo, for their tireless efforts and their deep devotion that made this conference possible. Thanks also to all you workers and volunteers, in front of and behind the scenes for your invaluable and essential assistance. And, of course, thanks to all of you attendees for being here. Without you there wouldn't be any conference.
Fine tune your approach to Corpse Pose through an exploration of varying teaching philosophies.
By Sara Avant Stover
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