The Journey by: Mary Oliver

Just wanted to share one of my favorite poems =)

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began, 

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice-

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen 

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do-

determined to save

the only life you could save.

Ashtanga Yoga Conference 2015

The conference was such an amazing and fruitful experience. Amazing, because I had the privilege of being in the presence of Ashtanga yoga’s most senior teachers. One of whom is Nancy Gilgoff, one of Guruji’s first students back in the 1970’s.

The conference was held in Ubud, Bali in collaboration with Ashtanga Yoga Bali Research Center (AYBRC). The other teachers for this conference were Manju Jois, David Swenson, Anthony Carlisi (Prem), Heather Duplex (Radha), Danny Paradise and Eileen Hall.

In that week, the teachers each shared their own yoga journey and experiences to all of us. It was very clear what yoga meant to them and they were sharing with such earnestness that you immediately get an idea of how dedicated they are to their practice. It was also clear that their practices have evolved through the years. And it is because of the maturity of their personal practice that they are able to inspire, help people and continue Guruji’s work.

So, here’s just a few points from each one’s talk:

Manju

It’s about the quality of the yoga not the quantity. 

Nancy

It is important to have a self practice – listen to own self rather than depend on a group dynamic all the time. Practice is about independence. 

David

Vinyasa – precise synchronization of breath and movement; every movement has a prescribed breath; “it is an attempt at aligning ourselves with the inherent continuum of motion that permeates the universe in which we reside”  

Prem and Radha

Get in touch with your energy- manage it. Find the ebb and flow in the practice.

Danny

4 Questions to ask yourself:

Am i happy with what I’m doing?

Is what i’m doing adding to the confusion in the earth?

Is what i’m doing contributing to peace?

How do I want to be remembered when I die?

Eileen

Allow the physical form to fade away and become the breath, the energy. 

In that week, I learned that my 8-year old Primary Series practice is not entirely healthy in a way that I am causing an imbalance through all the forward bending that I have been doing for that long period. It’s been said in one of the panel discussions that we should put less focus on the binding or perfecting a pose before moving on to the next, but more on the dedication and earnestness of the student. According to Nancy, Guruji said that, “the next pose helps the last”. So in line with this, I got the first 6 poses of the Intermediate Series from Manju. I also got advise from Nancy to always start the week’s practice with Primary Series and practice up to the Intermediate poses for the rest of the week, or stop at Navasana followed by Intermediate if I’m tired. She also advised that I can do this alternately depending on my energy.

I asked about Friday led classes and she said that it’s a new thing and that she does not practice or teach that way, because that is not how she learned. Anyway, I will do my best to integrate the old and the new as a practitioner in this tradition.

Another thing I got is that it is urgent that I have one teacher that I keep going back to. Hmm…time to seriously consider this.

Here are some photos from the conference…

Ananda Cottages, venue for conference

a lotus pond

first day welcome into the shala

Manju Jois

David Swenson

Nancy Gilgoff

addho mukha svanasana

Prem and Radha

waiting to chant the opening mantra

last day of practice – teachers

last day of practice – practitioners

Danny Paradise and friends in concert to end the conference

A Beginning

So, I’ve decided to start this by posting about my first ever month-long silent retreat. It was a very challenging time for this person, yet a very good opportunity to unfold into a deeper practice in the safety of amazing beings who held the space beautifully.

The retreat was called Being Dharma led by two former monastics, named Kittisaro and Thanissara, and the venue was at Dharmagiri Hermitage in Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa. It was mainly a meditation retreat with yoga. I usually go to retreats with a bigger focus on yoga, or just plain meditation. So, this was something truly different – a lot more integrated and one month long! It was a good way for me to start this year’s travels to deepen my practice.

The hermitage is a beautiful space and I’m glad it’s in the backyard of the country that I’m currently living in. I really appreciate what Kittisaro and Thanissara do as their life’s work, for it helps lost (or feeling lost) beings like myself to have more clarity in the ways things are.

Here are a few pictures I took to try and capture the serenity of that space where I committed to spend a month of this life.

angelic sunset

angelic sunset

the end of the walk

the end of the walk

a clear day

a clear day

the Castle

the Castle

upper shrine and Vulture's Peak

the upper shrine room and Vulture’s Peak

a sunrise

a sunrise

meditation room

where the work is done

outdoor dining, accommodation, shrine room/ meditation hall

outdoor dining, accommodation, shrine room/ meditation hall

shadow

shadow

bench with tea cup

a good spot to contemplate and drink tea

angelic sunrise

angelic sunrise

the view every time I exit the house and the road I walk up to the common area

the view every time I exit the house and the road I walk up to the common area

sign post on the road

sign post on the road

the house I stayed in for the month

the house I stayed in for the month