Monthly Archives: August 2013

My name is not George, but I am curious.

One of the best accessories you can bring to your yoga practice comes from a children’s book, also an old wives tale. It doesn’t cost you a thing and it looks better on you than those new yoga pants. What is it…it’s curiosity! You need to bring this to your practice more than you actually need to bring a yoga mat. Mat’s are just for comfort, but curiosity is for transformation. It’s the fertilizer for any life changing work you are hoping yoga will facilitate. In the children’s book “Curious George” George, the little monkey was always on some adventure, all because he was curious. There’s also the old wives’ tale that cats are given 9 lives and their curiosity puts them in jeopardy of running out of those 9-lives. I once heard that if you have found yoga in your current life, it’s because you were a yogi in your past life, and that you will keep coming back to yoga until the work is done. Maybe we yogi’s get something like the 9-lives of a cat for navigating this yoga journey.

I see people all the time coming to yoga with the latest yoga mat, coolest yoga attire and the best sweat absorbing rug, along with the latest prop that they believe will help them execute pincha mayurasana. But I don’t see them bringing any curiosity to their practice. Curiosity is evident in people who are experiencing results and progressing along nicely. But I have seen some people practice for 5+ years and their practice is not evolving. The reason is they have no new approaches. They are going about their practice as they always have: wrought with predictability, smothered with unwillingness and drowning in disinterest. Disinterest is like a wet blanket to the fire of curiosity.

Where does curiosity come from? Do we all get our fair share? Look, right now I am being curious about where curiosity comes from. Can’t get any more curious than that. We were all curious at one time. Around about age 3 we start filling our heads with as much information as our little selves could handle. We did this by using the symbol for curiosity, the question mark (?). So that means that when practicing yoga (but really life in general), we should be asking more and more questions. This is the way out of ignorance (Avidya). In the yoga sutra’s the definition of ignorance/avidya is seeing the impermanent as permanent (Sutra 2.5). For all those people who believe they can’t, they don’t understand yet that everything is always changing. Everything is impermanent. The way through ignorance is questioning the state of things. As sutra 2.26 says Vivekahyatir Aviplava Hanopayah – Uninterrupted discriminative discernment is the method of removing ignorance. So here’s your ammunition for a good yoga practice – How? What? And Why? “When” is not terribly important because if your asking How? What? and Why? the “when” will take care of itself. Too many people set themselves up for failure by taking things at face value, believing what they have heard from others. Life is meant to be questioned, and the more you do, the more you grow.

IMG_2688

One example that I can give is my approach to the sensations I feel during yoga. If I run into pain or an injury, I take it upon myself to find out what muscle the pain is coming from and what that muscle’s function is. I identify and examine; the same way a good detective would examine a suspect. I suspect that muscle is the cause of such pain, but I must first gather all the information that I can about it. I always say when I’m teaching a class that you need to approach your yoga practice the way Jacque Cousteau approached his love of the sea, with curiosity and passion. Before He passed away he had been an explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher. All of his great accomplishments were because he was curious. It’s the same thing that had Christopher Columbus sail the ocean blue, and Buzz Aldridge navigating through space. There is endless opportunity for discovery, but only if you question and challenge everything you know and hear.

Next time you want to have a great experience on your yoga mat, don’t try to reinvent one you already had, by wearing the same clothes, or putting your mat in the same place. Do away with predictability. Come at your practice with new eyes. Approach it with what I call the 3-year-old brain. Ask lots of questions, and try a bunch of different approaches. Get used to saying “that was interesting, but what if I did this.” Stay captivated by your body’s adaptability. Be open to uncharted territory. I often say during Surya Namaskar “Inhale and look toward horizon”. Christopher Columbus must have been looking out at the horizon when he thought, “there must be more out there, that we haven’t explored yet.” Keep the horizon in mind, for keeping the dreamer inside of you alive.

It’s probably no coincidence that one of yoga’s fabled character role models is Hanuman, a monkey, just like Curious George. Let your inner monkey do what’s most natural – be curious. Stay open to the idea that ALL things are possible. If you’re not so sure just go roll out your yoga mat and let your teacher and all the students around you inspire you. Dream big, and don’t accept that what seems permanent, is permanent. Curiosity really is your best accessory no matter how good you look in those new yoga pants. Don’t mistake outward appearances, for the real benefit of inner work.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sisyphus has nothing on us Ashtangi’s

Day in, day out, day in, day out, day in, day out, rest day. Day in, day out…get the idea. This is the life of an ashtangi. For most of us, it’s an accurate portrayal of our daily lives, too. On a day-to-day basis, there usually aren’t big changes, but just little ones that pop up. Most of our days have some consistency, or so it appears. But if you do Ashtanga yoga, you know that there can be big differences day-to-day. Because of the sequence being the same, it helps you to realize just how different you really are each day. With the practice having the same format, it’s sort of like a painter always starting with a white canvas. Or you could think of it as being similar to the story of Sisyphus, a character in Greek Mythology.

Sisyphus was condemned to a life of suffering, by the Gods, for his deceitful ways. He was to push a large boulder, up a mountain, every day, just to have it roll down again. Same boulder. Same mountain. Every day. For eternity. He’d find himself standing at the top of the mountain watching the boulder roll back down, and it is believed that on his way down he was left to think about his situation. * It is said by Albert Camus, in the book The Myth of Sisyphus that “when Sisyphus acknowledges the futility of his task and the certainty of his fate, he is freed to realize the absurdity of his situation and to reach a state of contented acceptance.” Camus also says that “[t]here is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” It is that statement, that makes me say Sisyphus has nothing on us Ashtangi’s. Because unlike Sisyphus, we choose to push the boulder up the mountain in what our daily practice. Every morning we wake up and see “the boulder” waiting for us at the foot of our yoga mat. We dutifully accept our fate, without scorn. All Ashtangis know there will be some dukha along the way, as well as some sukha. We accept that, and practice anyway.

I just read a book called The Dude and the Zen Master, by the actor Jeff Bridges, in which he implies that Camus was trying to say that Sisyphus was a hero. Jeff interprets Sisyphus feelings about his fate as such “Instead of just saying, Oh man, what is the use, he [Sisyphus] finds some interest in his job: Oh look at what happened this time! Funny, I never noticed that little shrub before. The rock sure raised a lot of dust this time when it rolled back down, wasn’t that interesting? Oh here it goes again. Oh, there it goes. Watch it.” If Sisyphus were attached to his outcome of getting the rock to the top then his suffering would be great. But IF he was able to do his work without expecting his outcome to become any different, then he would be free to enjoy the process, instead of the result.

Ashtanga yoga is a process, not a result. That is why Pattabhi Jois said “Practice and ALL is coming” the word WHEN, IF or HOW are not in his statement. Because it’s not about outcome, it’s about process. If you do the practice there is bound to be many different outcomes, but any particular outcome never removes the need for the process. The process of ashtanga yoga is till death, or until we can no longer move our bodies. The Ashtangis that I know celebrate the big anniversaries, 10 years, 15, 25 years of daily practice. All the way to Pattabhi who had over 70 years of practice to see what the ALL was about.

Janu Sirsasana C, day-in, day-out.

Janu Sirsasana C, day-in, day-out.

The practice is the boulder. However, it is up to you whether you push it up the mountain. It’s also up to you whether it feels like a burden, or a blessing. Pattabhi was always saying “You do”. Some say it was his limited/broken english that made him say it that way, but maybe he just didn’t see the need to say it any other way. Such as “You have to do this…” or “When you do that…” or “If you do this…”. He knew, for those of us that do, “You do” is enough. Sisyphus did, but he had no choice. Maybe he eventually realized that the God’s meant “You do” and not “You have to do this.” One statement carries burden, while the other sets you free – Jivan Mukta. The God’s probably thought this work would be good for Sisyphus, so that he could see the error of his ways. We yogi’s understand this. Our practice helps to get rid of our samsara halahala.

* Excerpt from Wikipedia.

Categories: For the beginner, My viewpoint | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: