On February 25th the Virgo full moon illuminates a group of stars called Purva Phalguni. It is symbolized by a swimming hammock that harbors the seed of creation. This implies the destruction of old thought patterns and the ability to recreate and learn.
It is a wonderful time to open yourself up to wild creativity and be receptive to learning new concepts and theories. New teachings and methods of living are challenging our old ways of thinking. Virgo is constantly reminding us that we are part of an infinite whole. Try to access the right hemisphere of the brain. The side that sees everything as perfect, whole and one to retain this new cosmic knowledge. The influence of the Sun and watery Pisces helps us to spread new healing techniques and blessings to the world. Move beyond selfishness into unity through compassion so we can evolve spiritually. This will make our lives happier and the world a better place.
Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the year of the snake. It is a year of metamorphous. The snake encourages us to shed our dark outer layers (all of our fear-based habits that do not serve us). This allows us to emerge out of dormancy into a more fulfilling and abundant life. It seems like everything is pointing toward positive expansion. Jupiter, the guru, went direct on January 30th granting us good karma and is guiding us toward greater physical, mental and spiritual well being.
The new moon occurs on February 9th PWT in coordination with a group of stars called Danistha, known as “the wealthiest.” The new moon is in coordination with Capricorn so feminine power and energy is at a high point during this lunar cycle. It is a wonderful time to set goals that embrace and honor your intuition, adaptability and creativity.
Most new moons are excellent for meditative inner contemplation, however, this new moon ignites communication and telepathy. By engaging verbally with others we problem solve together to find new enriching ways to live our lives. Be highly present and listen. With the help of others, the answers will appear in front of you.
Embrace transformation and allow yourself to emerge into a life of fulfillment.
We must use asana to stabilize the body and mind to prepare ourselves for the more refined levels of yoga. Stability increases with consistent practice, determination and dedication. Once we reach stability on all levels, only ease and presence remains. Patanjali states, “posture is when effort ceases and meditation on infinity occurs.” (Sutra 2.47) What is this immersion into infinity? Infinity is the divine light, pure joy or spirit that lies deep within you; it is essentially who you truely are. Patanjali describes this infinity as Ananta. Ananta is universal consciousness.
Interestingly enough, Ananta is another name for the mythological, thousand headed serpent king, Adishesha. He guards all of earth’s divine treasures. His thousand heads symbolize Jnana (knowledge) and omnipresence. Adishesa also serves as Vishnu’s bed or couch according to Hindu mythology. This is of importance because he is often depicted sleeping. Vishnu is the preserver of the universe in the Indic trilogy of Gods. He restores moral order (dharma) and embodies vastness. Vishnu also represents our individual self (Atman). Ananta/Adishesha, his bed, is seen as the perfect yogi. He unites the opposing forces of sthira (strength) and sukham (ease). This perfect union of opposing qualities allows Ananta/Adishesha to always embody and practice true posture or asana.
The great Sage Patanjali is thought to have been an incarnation of Ananta/Adishesha, the thousand-headed serpent king. In Indian tradition, Patanjali is considered the author of the Yoga Sutras, Mahabashya (the treatise of Sanskrit grammar), Nidana-Sutras, a text of Vedic ritual literature, and medical texts that are associated with Ayurveda. (Historians claim that Patanjali is in fact many different persons who lived between 200bc-500bc)
Many yogis bow to the great Guru, Ananta/Adishesha/Patanjali before yoga practice. This is why we chant Vande Gurunam before practice in the Ashtanga yoga tradition. We thank our thousand headed serpent guru for giving us the tools (the practice) that brings stability, happiness and light into our lives.
Vande Gurunam charanaravinde
Samsara halahala mohashantyai
Sahasra sirasam svetam
I pray to the Lotus feet of the Supreme Guru who teaches the good
knowledge, showing the way to knowing the self awakening great
happiness; who is the doctor of the jungle, able to remove the poison
of the ignorance of conditioned existence.
To Patanjali, an incarmation of Adishesha, white in color with 1000
radiant heads (in his form as the divine serpent, Ananta), human in
form below the shoulders holding a sword (discrimination), a wheel of
fire (discus of light, representing infinite time), and a conch
to him, I prostrate.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, asana, the third limb of the 8 limb path, has a mere 3 verses dedicated to it. (interesting that asana has popularized yoga in the past century) The first of the 3 verses states asana should have firmness/strength, sthira, and sukham, ease/relaxation. Sthira implies that one will have to utilize effort and inner strength and sukham implies that one must surrender and utilize softness and no effort. So what Patanjali is saying is that we must simultaneously reach both directions in the center to achieve a state of true asana.
Firmness and effort is needed to free the mind of distractions so that we are able to create ease and thus absorption on the infinite.
So where does pain fit in here? When we first attempt challenging poses our firmness overrides the ease. We don’t find ourselves in the center of sthira and sukham. So mind and body are unsteady to say the least. We must practice over and over again to create this balance. Sharath said, “Guruji told me if you want to do asana, do 1000 times for perfection.” So in the beginning, we really are not practicing true asana and that’s ok. We need tremendous dedication, patience and discipline to the practice to reach this level. You may have some bruises on your body or on your ego in the early stages. With practice these bruises heal and ease takes over. This allows our practice to unfold as a beautiful, meditative dance and your body becomes a dynamic, moving prayer dedicated to the infinite.
“The light is where we belong. Everyone who is not in the light is looking forward to being there. So we leave the light and to go experience the need for light, and thus come back to it anew.”
-Malidoma Patrice Some, from his book Of Water and the Spirit; Ritual, Magic, and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman
The Cancer full moon falls on Saturday January 26th and illuminates a group of stars called Pushya. Pushya is derived from the sanskrit word, pushti, which means spiritual nourishment. Pushya also implies strength, expansion, replenishment and fortification. This urges us to examine and nurture our connection to ourselves and others. Pushya pushes us even deeper into this contemplation when we feel the need to nurture our inner child. The light of Pushya helps to increase good karma through compassion. It is a time to experience extreme tenderness toward yourself and others. So bring out your gentle warrior. Practice karma yoga, be kind to each other and celebrate unity.
Garage yogis! Greetings from Mysore, India, the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga. It is here where I have the amazing opportunity to study at length with Sharath Ragaswamy, the grandson of the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, Guruji Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Instead of only boring you with details of the physical practice I will provide you with some Garagi philosophy and practice inspiration for the next 3 months. So get excited.
On Tuesday Laci and I visited the great bull Nandi on Chamundi Hill in Mysore. Nandi is the revered ride or sahana of Shiva, the destroyer. According to the Natha tradition, (remember the origins of Hatha yoga are attributed with the Natha sect) Nandi is the most devout discipline of Shiva and is considered a primal guru. From the yogic perspective, Nandi is the mind dedicated to Shiva. He is the inner guru that exists within all of us and ultimately, Atman, the individual soul. Nandi is also the chief guru of the 18 siddhis or masters including Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras. Nandi represents brute power and unbridled sexuality in men. Shiva rides the bull to prove that he has the power to control these forces. Nandi is the gatekeeper to Shiva and Parvati’s abode. There is always a bull in front of sanctums for Shiva guarding the sacred place. Thus cows in India are tremendously sacred. They roam freely through the streets (often stopping traffic) and are well fed, friendly, adorned with flowers and incredibly calm. In Hinduism curd, milk, urine, dung and butter from the cow is believed to cleanse the body and purify the soul. So muster up your brute, bull-like strength in my absence by practicing hovering bakasana. Use your strap, the wall, a block; but most importantly use your Garagi sthira(strength), grace (bhaga) and determination.
Remember as Guruji said “practice and all is coming”
ॐ ॐ ॐ ॐ ॐ
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” – Lucius Anneus Seneca