Monthly Archives: April 2013

Misunderstanding Mysore:

5 Common Misconceptions of a Mysore Style Ashtanga Practice

By: Taylor Hunt

The Morning Mysore group was started by Jasmine Grace and me about a year ago.  I had recently moved and no longer had a place to practice at my house. So, I asked Jasmine if I could practice with her at the studio before work. We originally started practicing at 6:00 am, but soon moved the time to 5:00 am so that we could still make our practice a priority in the midst of our busy schedules and family commitments. Word began to spread and a few people started to join us in the mornings until there were about six of us. The Morning Mysore group was born; and I eventually moved my own practice time even earlier so I could teach the class. I never imagined it would get much bigger and to tell you the truth it was a hard sell at first.  “We practice Ashtanga yoga at 5:00 am, everyday!” “Huh, you do what!?” But, more people continued to show up to practice with us in the mornings. A lot has changed over the past year and the Yoga on High community has embraced this new program with open arms.  Morning Mysore has grown into a group of amazing people! And, I feel really blessed to be a part of it all.

Here are five common misconceptions to help everyone understand what happens in a Mysore style Ashtanga class:

1.      Time…You don’t actually have to show up at 5:00 am. Yay! One of the many benefits of a Mysore practice is that you may show up when it suits you.  If you need to be at the studio at 5:00 am to fit your practice in before work, you are welcome to join us at this time, but a lot of people arrive closer to 6:00 or as late as 6:30. You can come to our Morning Mysore classes at any point as long as your practice is finished by 8:00 am.

2.      The sequence…You don’t need to know the sequence before you come. It would be ridiculous if you had to memorize over 50 poses of the primary series before you stepped foot into the Mysore room! Poses are taught one at a time based on the individual’s ability. In the beginning, you start with a shorter practice allowing time to learn the fundamentals of breath and movement. As you begin to commit the sequence to memory and gain understanding in the postures, poses are gradually added in subsequent classes. This is the traditional method of learning Ashtanga yoga and is the safest way to approach the practice.

3.      Commitment… It would be difficult to understand what is happening in the Mysore room by just coming to one class. If Mysore class intrigues you, the best thing to do is commit to practicing for a month. In the beginning, learning occurs gradually allowing you time to adjust as you develop more strength, flexibility, and familiarity with the sequence of poses.  Throughout this time, transformation begins to occur.

4.      Led class vs. Mysore style…Led classes are a great way to learn about the breath and vinyasa, but Mysore-style is where you follow your own breath to deepen your focus and meditation skills. Both styles are beneficial and teach the same postures, but come from a different place.  In a led class, the student follows along to the teacher’s count and everyone does the same pose at the same time.  In a Mysore class, the practice can be tailored to fit each person. Everyone in the room does their own practice and progresses at their own pace.  In a led class, you may just skim over a difficult pose, but in Mysore style you have the opportunity to work one-on-one with the teacher.

5.      Teacher Involvement… In a Mysore class, each person in the room is receiving private instruction within a group setting.  In the beginning, new students receive more attention.  As they become familiar with the practice, they are allowed more independence, getting adjustments and assistance only when needed.

And, this one goes without saying, but just in case you didn’t know…Mysore is open to everyone from new beginner to advanced practitioners.  All levels and all ages are welcome!  Oh, I guess that’s six misconceptions.

Interested in what’s going on in the Mysore room? I encourage you to join us and experience it for yourself. We practice Morning Mysore every Monday through Friday from 5:00 am to 8:00 am; and Sundays from 8:00 am to 11:00 am. We have also recently added a Mysore Beginner Drop-in class on Wednesday at 7:00 am and Sunday at 10:00 am. Check out the online schedule for more details.

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Featured Teacher: Michael Murphy

Why do you practice?
I practice to learn about myself. Using what I learn on the mat to help me live a better life off my mat. I practice to create more space within myself, so that I have more room for prana and feeling.

Why do you teach?
I teach because I love yoga and have experienced how it can improve my life. I want to share this love with my students but mostly I want my students to learn about themselves.

Inspirations?
I am inspired by anyone with a smile on their face. Seeing other people happy makes me happy and inspires me to live with an optimistic outlook.

Who have you trained with?
Devarshi Steve Hartman, Megha Nancy Butterheim, Jovina Chan, Richard Freeman, David Swenson, Cyndi Lee

What style do you teach?
Vinyasa, slow flow, and power flow

What’s your favorite food?
Pho

What’s on your playlist right now?
My playlist is always changing but right now I’m probably listening to alt-j and the xx the most

What’s your favorite yoga accessory?
My 85” Manduka Black Mat!!!!!!!

What style influences your teaching?
I blend the mindfulness of Kripalu with a powerful Vinyasa practice

Favorite yoga pose?
Bakasana – I love the lift through the bandhas and balance it takes to come into bakasana. It also takes trust in myself as I move my weight forward out over my hands.

Favorite quote?

“Through practice, I’ve come to see that the deepest source of my misery is not wanting things to be the way they are. Not wanting myself to be the way I am. Not wanting the world to be the way it is. Not wanting others to be the way they are. Whenever I’m suffering, I find this war with reality to be at the heart of the problem.” --Stephen Cope

What is your favorite TV show of all time?
Firefly, and I’m still kinda upset about it being canceled.

Your favorite item of clothing?
For practice and teaching nothing is better than Lululemon Run: response shorts.

What drives you every day?
I absolutely love what I do and know that it brings joy and benefit to others.

Whom do you admire?
David Williams

What books are you reading right now?
I’m always reading “Light on Life” by BKS Iyengar, “Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy” by Gregor Maehle, “The Radiance Sutras” by Lorin Roche, and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The new book I’m reading currently is “The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephan Cope

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OM: An Instant Cosmic Tune-Up

By Marcia Miller

I have just finished 22 days of a 21-Day Immersion in OM, and I’m not done yet. The practice has been simple: I have been chanting OM for at least 5 minutes a day. Some days I have done it twice a day and sometimes, once I get going, I lose track of time and go on for much longer. I’m not ready to stop; the way I’m feeling now I may keep this going indefinitely.

I LOVE the feeling of OM resonating in my body. I can feel the vibration of it especially along the soft palate at the back of the roof of my mouth. When I notice it here I often feel it expanding into my whole body with a resonant inner pulsation. This resonance feels so delicious it attracts my full attention and I am easily and fully engrossed in meditation.

Sometimes when I am chanting the OMs my mind can also be active. This morning my mind was busy throughout, thinking about this blog post that I was intending to write when I got up from my practice. The meditative experience often opens up space for creativity to flow and sometimes that flow is named as “distraction.”  In this instance, I was grateful that my mind was already at work AND I was simultaneously able to ride the waves of vibration that started along the palate and flowed throughout my head, chest and belly.  I didn’t have to become attached to my mind and my ideas—I could let this creative flow move through me as a way of starting the writing process, so when “I” showed up about 20 minutes later I was ready to write.

After my daily practice of chanting OMs for 5 to 10 minutes, I sit in “silence” for up to 20 more minutes. Even though I am quiet at this point I can still sense the pulsations and I feel like I am riding the waves of the cosmos. I feel plugged into something bigger than what I generally think of as myself and oriented in a way that leaves me feeling fresh and energized when I get up.

Here is what Swami Satchidananda says about OM in his commentary in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

“When we vibrate in the same way as the cosmic vibration, we get in tune with the cosmos. That is why when we repeat OM, we feel a cosmic peace. That cosmic vibration vibrates in our own body. It brings a sort of realignment in the cells of the body, an adjustment or a new rhythm.  When the cells of the body run restlessly in all different ways, we feel sick. But, when we arrange that vibration to make it run smoothly, we feel happy, and we get healed. By constant repetition of OM, you will be able to heal many physical ailments and, ultimately, the mind also.  Then you will experience physical health, mental peace and pure happiness.”

There is also an astounding sutra about OM in the Vijnana Bhairava. The translation I love best is from the Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche.  Here are some lines from sutra #16:

“The roar of joy that set the worlds in motion
Is reverberating in your body
And the space between all bodies……
The ocean of sound is inviting you
Into its spacious embrace,
Calling you home.
Float with the sound,
Melt with it into divine silence.
The sacred power of space will carry you
Into the dancing radiant emptiness
That is the source of all.”

If you are inspired to try your own 21-Day immersion, or even one day, here are some tips to make it fun and personal.

1. Use the sound of a tamboura in the background. The tamboura is a fretless stringed Indian instrument used as a drone in the background for singing. Because of the overtones in this instrument, chanting OM with it can feel like chanting with a whole choir and gives you many choices of tones.  I’ve heard that you can get an app for this on many smart phones, or follow along with a YouTube video, or get a CD.

2. Speaking of tones, when chanting OM feel free to change your pitch. Each tone, higher or lower, creates a different sensation in your body. Find the ones that feel most delicious at the time you are chanting. I tend to hit a wide variety of pitches in my practice each time I chant. I love chanting with my husband whose low, sonorous, Zen-monk-like tones create a strong base for my higher pitch.

3. You can also experiment with different vowel sounds. All of the vowels are present in OM somewhere and each one affects different parts of you. I like sending the “e” sounds into bones all over my body and “ah” gives me a sense of vibrant spaciousness that seems to open up anything in me that feels compressed. Send the sounds into any injured or sick areas and see what happens.

4. Have an OM buddy. Sometimes you can chant together, other times you can encourage each other to do the practice on your own.

5. Experiment doing your OM practice after practicing asana. You may find that the openness and relaxation of your body changes the way you experience the tones.

It’s also fun to remember the OM practice even when you don’t want to take time for the full 5 minutes. Simply add an OM or three to anything you are doing for an instant cosmic tune-up.

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Featured Teacher: Marianne O’Neil

Why do you practice?
I could answer this question like this:  to build a bridge between the body, mind and outside world; to learn about the body, to relax, to experience the inner self, etc.  But I have really considered the question, and I am not sure why.  Why do any of us do anything?  Can we really answer that question?  I am not really sure if I have a choice about whether to practice, or about any other thing that I do in life.  Although it appears to be a choice, it just may be an appearance.

Why do you teach?
For me, teaching is an extension of and deepening of my practice.  In order to teach, I really have to look inside at the practice and motivation and understand the poses and practices in a way that allows me to make the movements have more universality rather than just for my practice that day.

Inspirations?
Everyone who wakes up each day and keeps the world going.

Who have you trained with?
Rodney and Colleen, Richard Miller and Anne Douglas, Richard Freeman, Doug Keller, Leslie Kaminoff, and Linda and Marcia.

What style do you teach?
Hatha

What’s your favorite food?
Red lentil soup and any Indian Food

What’s your nickname?
Ginge -- a reference to my alter ego on Gilligan’s Island.

Do you own any animals?
Yes!  Two goofy dogs.  Yogi is a black and white maltese-schitzu and Ralphie a black schitzu-cocker spaniel mix.

What’s on your playlist right now?
The High Kings, soundtrack from The Descendents, and Eric Church

What’s your favorite yoga accessory?
Nothing!!  One of my favorite things about yoga is that you really don’t need anything other than your body.  But it is nice that props can make poses more accessible or help us to stay in them longer.

What style influences your teaching?
Currently, Krishnamacharya.

Favorite yoga pose?
Urdhva danurasana and savasanah

What is your favorite TV show of all time?
Probably Seinfeld or Frazier

Your favorite item of clothing?
The boots my sons gave me for Christmas -- I wear them all the time.

What did you want to be when you were little? 
Big

In the animal kingdom, which animal would you be? Why?
Tiger:  graceful, strong, fiercely courageous

Best trip you’ve taken, or dream trip you’d like to take?
I’m not too into travelling, but love Park City, Utah.  Great mountains, food, art and yoga!

What word describes you best?
Dedicated

What drives you every day?
I would have to say coffee has a pretty big role.

Whom do you admire?
Hillary Clinton, Dalai Lama, my mother-in-law Marlene O’Neil

What is your mission?
To leave the world a little kinder than when I arrived.

What books are you reading right now?
The Walking Dead, Compendium Two  -- but I really like the show.

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Spooky Action

By Bernie McKnight

My main concern after breaking my elbow last year was getting back to handstand.

My decision to have surgery & my commitment to physical therapy both were informed by the fact that I wasn’t willing to give up my status as a handstander.

Handstands are great. For me, keeping my balance when I’m upside down is a matter of noticeable undulation. I must be aware of what’s working to keep me from toppling over, and, while perfect balance is rare and fleeting, it cannot be ignored and is completely exhilarating!

Handstands are also very easy for me in the sense that I’m not afraid of inverting. Many people, I’m told, are afraid of going upside down. Because of this handstand can be a way to do what scares them, And as they begin to understand what approaching fear feels like in the yoga room they can imagine how that would look in other parts of their lives.

The scariest part of my handstand practice is admitting that it is very much a pose of ego for me. I don’t need encouragement to come into the pose. I get instruction once I’m there. I’m a person who can do handstands and I let the fact that it is a boundary-pushing pose for some go to my head. Like, I can go upside down, I’m perfectly comfortable outside of my comfort zone.

I recently experienced life changes so big that I questioned if I would ever be comfortable again. That’s what it took for me to understand that just because I am naturally capable of doing something that is a major challenge for others doesn’t make me immune to challenge.

Last night in yoga class I attempted handstand for the first time since my injury. My teacher told the class to strap the arms ‘if you are afraid your elbows will buckle’ as my titanium radius head gave way and I found my self grounded.

I am a person who can’t do handstands. But the pose still poses no fear for me. I’m not afraid that my elbows will buckle; I know they will and I know how to take care of myself in my practice of the pose until they don’t.

I’ll continue to practice and I’ll get that sense of balanced freedom some day and it will be great, but it won’t be the same kind of great that someone who never thought they could get upside down experiences when they come into down dog with their feet at the wall and walk their legs up until their torso is to vertical.

One of the things facing fear means is to tap into power. I’m coming off of six of the most brutal months of my life. I never thought I wouldn’t survive, but spontaneous bursts of ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger’ shepherded me through many moments and today I am mighty.

Today I am ready to go into the yoga room and approach something that scares me. I don’t know if I’ll ever stand so tall that my hands touch the floor, but I do know how to try with all my honor.

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The Dvâdashânta – Deep Watching

By Linda Oshins

The practice I’m about to describe is actually a meditation practice, but since it involves closely watching an aspect of the breath, I teach it in pranayama class. It is one among several practices that I think of as “deep watching” or “deep listening,” ones that can teach you to “hear” or “feel” subtle body landmarks or to question your very nature. It is a meditation upon the dvâdashânta.  The inner dvâdashânta is located in the heart center and the outer dvâdashânta is located about 12 finger-widths from the tip of the nose along the line the breath takes as it leaves the nostrils. In my case that ends up being about 4 inches in front of the breast bone. There is also an upper dvâdashânta above the crown of the head, but it is not a focus in the particular practice described here. Regarding the inner and outer dvâdashânta, “When the breath pauses in each of these two spaces, the activity of prana and thus the mind ceases for a moment, and your breath will seem to vanish.[1]

Verses from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra as translated by Jaideva Singh[2]

25. If one fixes one’s mind carefully on the two void spaces of the breath, one internal, when the inhalation pauses momentarily inside the Heart; and one external, when the exhalation pauses momentarily outside in the dvadasanta then, O Goddess, the Bhairava (the experience of the Absolute) will reveal herself, the marvelous and essential form of Bhairava.

26. When the energy in the form of the breath neither goes out from the center of the body to the dvadasanta nor comes back in to the center from the dvadasanta, then it simply expands in the center into a non dual, non discursive awareness. This is the attainment of the condition of Bhairava.

You could focus your attention on any one of these three points, but in this practice you “watch” the outer dvadashanta on the exhalation and the inner one on the inhalation.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position, either cross-legged on the floor, on props, or on a meditation cushion or bench. You may also sit in a chair, but sit upright without leaning against the back of the chair.
  2. Begin by watching the breath just as it is without criticizing it or yourself. Just watching. Just accepting.
  3. Find the internal point, which is about 12 finger-widths from the tip of the nose to the heart. Sense this point. Sometimes it pops right into your awareness and is distinctly felt. If that is not the case, just imagine its location and focus there.
  4. Find the external point, 12 finger-widths below the nostrils and external to the physical body. Again, if you don’t feel an external point, just imagine it’s there. In working with the subtle body, acting “as if” is useful until the practices become more concrete for you. Act as if you have a distinct sensation of these two points. Don’t worry about whether you are doing it “right.”
  5. On the inhalation, sense the internal dvâdashânta.
  6. On the exhalation, sense the external dvâdashânta.
  7. Move from one point to the other as the breath enters and leaves the body.
  8. Do this practice for at least 5 minutes or as long as you like. As in all such practices, if the mind wanders, simply bring it back to the point of focus.
  9. At the end of the meditation, return to the natural breath. In this case, the natural breath is defined as the breath your body takes without you applying any given technique. The body breathing itself.

What is inner? What is outer? Do you have boundaries? Are you boundless?

This is a practice that, for many beginners, introduces the variation in the boundaries of the physical body and the energy body. On a more profound level it invites us to expand beyond our concept of ourselves as bodies at all.

25. Attend to the skin
As a subtle boundary
Containing vastness.

Enter that shimmering pulsing vastness.
Discover that you are not separate
From anything there.
There is no inside.
There is not outside.
There is no other,
No object to meditate upon that is not you.[3]


[1] Refining the Breath, Doug Keller
[2]
Vijnanabhairava or Divine Consciousness, translated by Jaideva Singh
[3]
The Radiance Sutras, translation by Lorin Roche

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