Breast Cancer Benefit Class : Saturday October 18th


I’m so thrilled to be teaching to the live music of Javier Rodríguez Huertas this weekend to benefit Breast Cancer International. All proceeds will go to this charity’s mission – to give women with breast cancer the tools to improve the quality of their lives, regardless of race, background or income. Please come and sweat and support! A gong bath savasana and a prize raffle, to boot. Indaba Yoga Studio, 10-11:30am, Saturday 18 October.10661744_890305917654658_7393616449238100219_o

 

Sound Advice


600394_421617931239046_1475004198_nOn October 11 and October 18th there will be LIVE MUSIC in class, provided by Luc Acke and Javier Rodríguez Huertas at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, 10-11:30am. Please come!

Tasya vachakah pranavah
Always chant OM; God is OM, supreme music
-Patanjali

Living and working in London means that all around, there is sound. Police sirens, bus horns, jack hammers and cars whizzing past provide a colorful if not distracting backdrop. Sometimes moving beyond the chaos of the cataclysmic sound waves can be challenging.

The practices of yoga provide a framework of moving from the gross (large) elements to the subtle. We work from the outside, in, so to speak. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outlines and eight-limed path (ashtanga) the provides steps for transformation; transformation from our belief about being rooted in our belief about who we are as a physical form, to being something more subtle, something timeless. The eight-limbed path consists of the yamas (restraints), niyamas (self-restraints), asana (seat/connection), pratyahara (looking inward), dharana (concentration), dyana (meditation), and samadhi (enlightenment).  Throughout these practices, we learn to cultivate our listening skills, ultimately arriving at the ability to hear even the unstruck sound, the soundless sound of Om.

In the sanskrit dictionary, there is a word nadam, which translates loosely to sound. Nada Yoga is the yoga of deep inner listening. The related word nadi means river or stream. Nadis are the channels in the subtle body through which consciousness flows.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that samadhi (enlightenment) is achieved when the anahata (unstruck) nadam can be heard. The ultimate goal of Hatha Yoga is to hear this soundless sound which is Om, the dissolution of all sound and the music of the spheres. To do this the yogi must first perfect the ability to listen.

Sound is the essence of all energy. The first vibration, the Nadam, was “unstruck,” meaning that it occurred at a time when there were no things to strike against each other to make a sound. This first very subtle vibration is still resonating through each and every vibration that has arisen since the beginning of time.

To begin the practice of Nada Yoga, the yogi first practices pratyahara, shutting off as many external sights and sounds as possible and drawing inward. The first stage of pratyahara is to become still and quiet, and allow an inner tranquility to permeate the senses.

This is not easy to do, so a prerequisite might be to refine the ability to really listen. One way to do this is by appreciating good music. Be selective; it is helpful to choose music that induces an inner state of well-being. Practice listening to your own voice and to those around you. See if in walking through a busy city you can look for the sound of Om, even in the jackhammer, even in the car’s horn.

Once external listening is refined, we can cultivate the ability to listen inward. Yoga practices provide techniques for tuning our instrument, for transforming an ordinary body into an extraordinary instrument for Divine Will; for love. Through the practices of Nada Yoga, the yogi’s mind becomes absorbed in the inner sound of Om.

Live Music, Saturday October 11, with Luc Acke


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I’m so excited to be teaching with Luc Acke again on Saturday, October 11th at Indaba Yoga Studio, 10-11:30am. There is nothing like practicing to live music, and Luc’s voice and the harmonium are especially grace-filled. If you have never practiced to live music before, come and experience the live vibrations and incredible sweet bhav (mood). Hope to see you there (to sample Luc’s sound, click on the link below his picture).

Twist and Shout


 

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Twisting plays a vital role in maintaining the health of our bodies and minds. The twisting motion is important because it incorporates so many central points of the body, and encourages movement in the spine as well as the organs. Yoga twists require the work of the abdominal muscles, oblique muscles, spine, neck, shoulders and pelvis. Each twist improves the strength and flexibility in all of these areas, resulting in two distinct and essential benefits:

The Relief of Back Pain and Pressure
The lower back region bears a considerable amount of weight when you are standing or sitting throughout the day. This can put pressure on the lower vertebrae and restrict circulation. Yoga twists can reverse the daily damage to your lower back by restoring circulation, increasing flexibility and correcting posture. These positions rejuvenate the spinal column and improve range of motion. This makes daily yoga twists an excellent way to relieve back pain.

Cleansing and Detoxifying Body Tissues
Performing yoga twists massages inner muscles and organs, essentially wringing out toxins while bringing in a rush of fresh oxygen and nutrients. This flushes impurities from inner tissues and helps organs perform their functions properly. Among other benefits, this is an effective method for improving sluggish digestion.

Join me on Sunday, October 5 to learn more about twisting and the relationship of twists and front, back and side bending in the Central Column: Architecture of Asana Series at Indaba Yoga Studio, Marylebone, from 1:30-4:30pm. There will be twists aplenty and backbend merryment too. Please come!

Jivamukti Focus of the Month, October, 2014: Serene Intelligence, by Sharon Gannon


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Mayy eva mana adhatsva / mayi buddhim nivesaya /
nivasisyasi mayy eva / ata urdhvam na samsayah Keep your mind on me alone, your intellect on me; thus you will dwell in me from now on.

Bhagavad Gita XII.8

In this age of struggle, known as the Kali Yuga, it can be very difficult to maintain a serene mind. Conflict between nations, conflict at work, conflict with enemies, conflict with friends, conflict at home, and even conflict within oneself can disturb one’s mind and destroy one’s happiness. It is common to be suspicious of someone who is happy and calm, thinking they must be ignorant, uneducated, living in a bubble or even mentally ill, and that to be an intelligent, caring human being one must be disturbed and filled with anxiety, and further that if you seek solace in spiritual practices you are an escapist living in denial and burying your head in the sand.

Buddhim or buddhi means “intelligence.” The highest and most important aspect of the intellect is its ability to grasp and understand the truth. Many people focus their minds on relative truth, that which is bound by the transient comings and goings of temporary existence, while the spiritual practitioner aims to comprehend or dwell in absolute truth. Absolute truth is knowledge of the supreme Self or God. Krishna in this verse from the Gita tells Arjuna that if he is able to focus his intelligence on Him, on God, then without a doubt (samsayah), he will gain access to the heart of God. God is Love. God is Great. With great love all is possible. To know God is to love God, and this is the yogi’s purpose. To realize that purpose one must devote their whole being to that aim. As Patanjali advises, Ishwara pranidhanad va (PYS 1.23), and for those who do, success will be guaranteed absolutely (va).

Chitta means the “content of the mind”—the mind’s intelligence—and prasad means “blessed.” A blessed mind is a serene mind. Because so much of the anxiety we experience seems to us to be caused by other people—they make us mad, they act in deceitful ways, they are unfair, they are unkind, and on and on—Patanjali tells us in chapter 1.33 of the Yoga Sutra that chitta prasadanam, or serenity, is our mind’s innate state. Hey, that’s good news! We should have faith in that truth and do all we can to protect that blessed condition from defilement. Patanjali gives some advice as to how to accomplish that: be happy for those who are happy, compassionate for those who are unhappy, delighted for those
who are virtuous and indifferent to those who are wicked. If we choose to ignore this advice, we will become entrenched in our own negative emotions and be unable to remember God or devote ourselves to His service. Our intelligence will be consumed by anxiety, and we will be unable to enjoy anything in this world or in any other.

Finding fault with others is a sure way to disturb your mind and destroy your intelligence. When judgment of others arises, strive to let it go. Let God take care of things. If you remember that He is the supreme doer, you will be able to surrender and let go of your ego’s tendency to try to control the outcome of a situation. Your job is to protect the serenity of your mind. As my teacher Shri Brahmananda would say, “mind, your own business!” Follow the dictates of the yamas and relate to others with kindness, truthfulness, caring, respect and generosity. Rid your mind of the diseases of pride, envy, anger, laziness, lust, greed and gluttony. No one is saying that this is an easy task and that we can accomplish this alone, so to provide help in times of need we would be wise to contemplate the practical suggestions given to us by holy beings and do our best to put them into practice. Help is available in the form of satsang, and satsang can appear in the form of holy teachings written by holy beings, like the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutra as well as contemporary teachers, like Shyamdas.

Another meaning of intelligence that I found in the dictionary is “secret information.” I think Shyamdas thought of intelligence like this when he spoke about the importance of protecting the most secret information, your devotional bhav: “The age of struggle has arrived and can destroy everyone’s intelligence. Be careful! This Kali Yuga can swindle you, so secure your devotional mind, guarding it like you would a precious jewel. Safeguard your bhava.” (Shiksha Patra 29.1, translated by Shyamdas and Vallabhdas). The Path of Grace outlines practical means to protect one’s chitta prasadanam: only eat prasad, food that has first been offered to God, and even water should be offered before drinking; keep good association (satsang); listen to accounts of Shri Krishna’s lilas; sing His praises and always chant the refuge mantra, Shri Krishna Sharanam Mama.

As you can see, there are many sources of holy advice. It seems like if we were able to incorporate at least some of these precious jewels offered by blessed beings into our daily lives, we could experience a little serenity during these difficult times. I certainly hope so!

—Sharon Gannon

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