Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Our story of the week at Shree has many different variations, but this one is my favorite.  As we spoke about last week, Parvati’s question of Shiva is to learn the secrets of yoga, the doorways to the Infinite, the pathways to liberation.  Shiva, adoring her so and wanting to make her happy, finally gives in to her constant requests and endeavors to share all he knows.  They come together to sit on a sacred beach and Shiva begins his discourse into the practices of yoga.  Unbeknownst to them, a giant fish swims nearby and realizes that something remarkable is happening, so he sticks around to listen in.   


This is no ordinary fish – years before he had rescued an infant boy who had fallen into the ocean, and the boy was still growing in his belly as he comes upon Shiva and Parvati.  The boy also overhears all Shiva has to say and becomes entranced by the teachings of yoga.  He spends the next 12 years inside the fish exploring the practices described and demonstrated by Shiva on the beach.  When the fish expires, the boy emerges, fully enlightened, as the sage Matsyendranath. He then spends the rest of his days passing down these teachings through his students and disciples, including Gorakshnath (one of the Nath Yogis, widely accepted as the father of Hatha Yoga), and as such he is regarded as the human originator of yoga.  This is a pivotal moment in yoga tradition because it begins the tradition of passing down knowledge from teacher to student that has been one of the hallmarks of Hatha Yoga for thousands of years, and one that we still continue today as we study and practice yoga with our own teachers.

(Side note, from Yoga Journal: "Matsyendranath appears to have been an actual historical person, not just a figure of myth. Born in Bengal around the 10th century c.e., he is venerated by Buddhists in Nepal as an incarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara. As with most Indian myths, there are many versions of the story of Matsyendra's metamorphosis into a realized adept—and all of them illustrate the radical transformation that yoga makes possible.” So the fish part of the story is probably myth, but the man was real.

I have my own story of eavesdropping to share, a 20th century version.  Last week, while running some errands I was using the voice translate feature of my phone as I was driving to make some notes for myself. As I was doing this, I was navigating a busy parking lot and finally found a shopper leaving a store that I could follow to her spot.  As she pulled out of her spot, someone coming from the opposite direction cut me off and "stole" my parking spot.  Being alone in the car, I had a few choice words to say about this turn of events as I continued on my way and found another spot.  I grabbed my phone to shove in my bag, and when I picked it up the note I had been transcribing was on the screen. It read something like:

Pick up Kiran's necklace, get end of year gifts for Rakhi's teachers, finish writing blog YOU STUPID JERK, DIDN'T YOU SEE ME? WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU??  I’VE BEEN DRIVING AROUND FOR 10 MINUTES, OH, AND NOW YOU'RE LOOKING AT ME LIKE I SHOULDN'T BE HONKING AT YOU WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE….” and so on. 
It was basically the ravings of a lunatic.  Not one of my shining moments.

So the point of both of these stories: You never know who might be listening.  Whether it’s your children, your phone, or just the Universe, every being around you absorbs your energy so it is up to us how we want to share.  As I write this I am sitting on my back patio, listening to my neighbor yell at her husband for the last 15 minutes. And even as I cringe I recognize things I have said before in heated moments.  As we talked about last week, conversation, dialogue is so important.  In my more mindful moments I am much more aware of what comes out of my mouth, so I know that thoughtful person is in there somewhere.

My most beloved and influential teachers are the ones who, just as Shiva did for Parvati, demonstrated and modeled simply through the act of living their lives how to be a yogi.  But as we often speak about, and evoke in our invocation each time we practice, the real guru is inside our own hearts – a good teacher can just awaken that awareness and help draw it out.  Each time we come to the mat we touch on the guru inside, our higher Self, and in making that connection can bring forth more love, light, generosity, compassion, and gratitude to the world around us.  What is your heart teaching today through your words and actions? Is the message clear and authentic and uplifting?  We all have the capacity to radically transform our own lives and the lives that we touch.  It’s up to us what we wish to offer to the world.

Off the Mat:
Leave the voice recorder on your phone on for a while and go about your business.  Listen back later and hear if your words and actions are in alignment with your highest intentions.

On the Mat:
In honor of Matsyendranath, in my classes this week we practiced Matsyasana (Fish Pose) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose), both named for him.  We also worked on hip openers, with careful alignment of the feet to ensure safety for the knees and hips.  We let the feet be the teachers, sending clear teachings of alignment and intentions for deep opening to the student in the hip.

For the Anusara Junkies:
Open to Grace: Breathe in and feel the person you aspire to become already inside you, filling you up and lighting you up on the inside.
Align (your foundation) to demonstrate your highest intention to offer beauty, love and light to the world.

Muscular Energy: Firm your muscles and firm your resolve to send love, light, beauty to the world.
Engage muscles to engage with the voice you wish to share with the world.
Pull to midline to connect to your authentic heart.

Ankle alignment: Let the ankle/foot speak with clarity and truth to the hip (by pulling back pinky toe side of foot, lifting toes and inner ankles, pressing into ball mound of big toe, un-sickling the foot)
Level the ankle bones and let the ankle enlighten the hip.

Organic Energy: Let your pose be an offering of beauty to the world.
Let your pose speak your heart’s radiance to the universe.
Make an offering of light from your heart to everyone in this room in the form of your breath.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Getting Spiritually Naked

Since very early in our relationship my husband and I have had what I call a super-conscious connection.  When we were first dating he would often arrive to pick me up wearing the same outfit I was wearing (no, he’s not a cross-dresser, I mean like jeans and a white button down and black boots kind of thing).  On a practically daily basis for the last 15 years at some point during the day I have the thought “I should call Arj”, reach for the phone and it is already ringing.  Or we’re sitting in silence in the car and I’ll think, “gee I’m kinda thirsty.” just as he turns to me and says “hey, you want to find a Starbucks?” And then we look at each other and say "Did you send or did I?"  It's never clear who was the first to think it, it’s just like we share a brain sometimes.

This is what I think of as sacred dialogue. I have this most often with my husband, but also with other people in my life as well.  It is not something that can be forced or you can "try" to achieve with someone - it just happens naturally with those you trust and allow yourself to be vulnerable and open with.  There are lots of names for it actually: coincidence, synchronicity, etc. but it is really an opening up of yourself to the greater wisdom of the Universe that comes from both beyond and inside yourself, and when you’re with someone who is willing to open up to this wisdom as well, the communication that passes between you is seamless and seems to come from beyond just the two of you. It’s like when you walk into yoga class and your teacher starts talking about exactly what you need to hear that day when you haven’t talked to her in a week.  

Shiva and Parvati’s marriage is the archetype of sacred dialogue.  Dialogue always starts with a question or inquiry, in their case usually of Parvati’s asking.  And the answers come not because of a concentrated intellectual conversation, a “figuring out”, or a hierarchy of knowledge on Shiva’s part, but because there is such a strong mutual love and trust that wisdom simply arises.  Parvati wants to know the secrets of the Universe, how to know Shiva’s (and hence the Universe’s) essence in the most intimate way possible, and in turn she awakens in Shiva the inspiration to reveal that Truth.  In Awakening Shakti, Sally Kempton describes this sacred interaction this way: “Dialogue happens when, like Shiva and Parvati, we recognize our fundamental unity, our interdependence. Instead of being a conversation between separate individuals trying to find solutions with their minds and from their egoic selves, dialogue happens in a shared space of presence. It comes from the inspired, revelatory, transformative energy that shows up when a group of people allows boundaries to come down and real mutual vulnerability to emerge.”

Asana practice is the opportunity to awaken this level of intimacy with our bodies. I am often asked if yoga can help you lose weight. My answer is always yes, but not for it’s calorie burning abilities. Much of the time we are required by jobs, families, and general cultural pressure to ignore much of what we feel. When we come to the mat, we become more sensitive to our bodies, which spills over into other facets of life like eating.  We can judge more easily when we’re full, how certain foods make us feel later on, and in this way become more discerning about what we put into our bodies, which can lead to weight loss if that is what is needed.  In this same way it guides us to more life-affirming, healthy practices in all aspects of our lives. We let the boundaries down, release our self-imposed and society-imposed thoughts about what our physical form should look and feel like, and move guided by our own innate wisdom and intuition, whether it is to find a deeper pose or heal an injury. 

Likewise, meditation practice is the opportunity to cultivate sacred dialogue with with our breath and the One who breathes us. When we are truly open and receptive, wisdom spontaneously arises, and meditation practice is what can guide us there.  On a purely scientific level, meditation moves us beyond our sub-conscious and into super-consciousness - it’s the direct line to the Divine, from where all wisdom flows.

Again, Sally Kempton: “We replicate Shiva and Parvati’s conversation every time we sit together as lovers, as teacher and student, or in a group and seek revelation, transformation, or the insight for change. Shiva and Parvati symbolize the moment when we get spiritually naked together, when our love and trust is great enough to let us be vulnerable and thus make space for revelation to arise.” Each time we come together in a yoga class or sadhana, we open ourselves up to sacred dialogue.  We lower our defenses because we are in a safe shared space, and our collective intention to transform and be transformed, to expand beyond where we even thought possible, is matched by those around us, and consciousness grows exponentially.   In this blessed place we more easily open ourselves up to how we are actually feeling in the given moment, both physically and spiritually, and truth emerges within that opening.

Off the Mat:
Invited sacred dialogue in all your relationships, starting with your relationship with yourself. Get spiritually naked!  Begin each day with an inquiry, ask the Universe for guiding wisdom in some facet of your life, and be open to the answer in whatever way it might come to you.

On the Mat:
Be in deep, honest conversation with your body.  So often we have the same conversations, whether they are with our beloved or our hamstrings, and we hear only what we expect to hear.  Be really open in your practice, don’t assume it will be the same old thing.   In my classes this week we worked on waking up the sahasrara or crown chakra, which is the gateway to wisdom. It is the energetic opening that invites connection with a higher intelligence. So we practiced several poses with hands interlaced on top of the head, guiding a natural inward curve and length to the neck, moving towards Sirsasana (headstand) and Dwi pada viparita dandasana. 

For the Anusara Junkies:
Open to Grace: Open to a deeper breath and….
a deeper conversation with your body, your heart .
open to wisdom that wants to download itself into you. 
open to the dialogue, a conversation, not about being right or selling your opinion, but a real honest discourse with your body, your breath, your heart.
Be in conversation with your breath and with your body.

Muscular Energy: Firm muscles inwards, into a place of inner wisdom.
(In Dog pose or other arm balances) Draw from hands into heart, the seat of your inner wisdom.

Shoulder/Skull Loop: Extend from the palate back and up to the top of the head, waking up the crown chakra to wisdom from the universe. 
Extend the vertebrae in your neck, making space for wisdom to flow in

Organic Energy: Send your inquiry out to the Universe in the form of your pose, let your whole body reflect your opening to divine knowledge.

Popular Posts