Martha Marcom

The Timeless Wisdom of Sanskrit

The lease on the space that would become Yoga on High was signed on October 13, 15 years ago. To mark that occasion, this blog is a reprint from YOHI’s first newsletter and schedule. Those newsletters always contained one through provoking article, this one by Martha Marcom. It’s about the timeless wisdom of Sanskrit, a thread back through YOHI history and a nod to the fact that the studies and practices done at Yoga on High are indeed timeless.

Atha—now is the time for an auspicious beginning.

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Joy to the World and Thanks to You!

By Martha Marcom

Yesterday I met with my surgeon, Dr. Floor Backes, who outlined the final steps of my treatment and I have some joyful news to share about my cancer treatment. My tumor markers, reflected in a C125 score, have returned to normal. They went from 106 in September, just after the debulking surgery, then to 13 in November after two heavy-duty rounds of chemo were administered directly into my peritoneal cavity. And the blood work for yesterday’s treatment indicated a score of 6, which is normal. I happily agreed to the IV chemo Dr. Backes suggested for yesterday and for my final treatment on December 31. I will need a small surgery to remove that peritoneal port.

So, I will be finished with treatment this year and start my recovery on New Year’s Day of 2015!

Dr. Backes did say I shouldn’t travel until after that last treatment, and surgery, which means Jerry and I won’t be able to join our family in Mexico over Christmas. We already feel great joy knowing their happiness in being together in a beautiful warm place. The thing we most wanted to see was the three little toddler cousins playing together on the beach. And being with all of our loved ones relaxing and catching up with those who live far away. I will be following my brilliant and wise doctor’s orders, stay home and enjoy from afar.

Sanskrit has a specific word for the kind of joy you feel when enjoying the happiness of others--mudita. Celebrating mudita, finding happiness in the glad hearts of others, is a way to increase the amount of joy in your own life. Who couldn’t use a bit more joy? Why not an unlimited amount more?

Mudita is some of what you’ve been sharing with me, along with shouldering my suffering. I don’t doubt the power of your good will, prayers, sending me light and love and Reiki and Blessings of all kinds and from a beautiful variety of religions. I credit my success in healing to your constant flow of energy-- that I can feel in my body and soul. I am grateful and humble for the power of your prayer and attention.

May you have the unlimited version of happiness this holiday season, and rest and ease and deliciousness in food and company with lots of light and love in your heart.

With gratitude, and love to each of you!

Originally posted on CaringBridge.

 

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Why I Love Doing the Same Old Practice Every Day: Why I Love Ashtanga

By Martha Marcom

Let me count the ways in Sanskrit:

Ekam: I love the ritual. We begin with an Invocation. We submit to the sacred fire. We build the breath and the sweat. We warm our bodies up with Surya Namaskara, ground them in the standing poses, open them deeply in the heart of each series and conclude the practice with the purification of the classical finishing asanas.

Dve: I love the guru. Our sweet teacher, Guruji, Pattabi Jois, was an incredible Sanskrit scholar. In answer to a question he would begin to chant a passage from the Gita, the Vedas, the Sutras, the Uppanishads--he knew all of these and many other sacred texts. He was infused with holy knowledge and he transmitted this through the teaching of the asana practices.

Trini: I’ve come to love every pose. I love that you have to butt up against asanas that seem inaccessible at first in your body, and how they demand the humility and determination required to work through both physical and mental resistance. Ashtanga requires us to embrace those poses that are unpleasant at first. Those difficult poses hold many openings for us. If we hang in there with a daily practice, over time, they become another flower in the mala.

Catvari: I love the energetic flow of the practice and the state I’m left in after Savasana. The morning practice readies us, steadies us for what the day may bring.

Pancha: It’s true for me that this practice is yoga chitiska, yoga therapy, and it works on all levels—physical, emotional and mental. I have conclusive proof of this. I am increasingly at home in my body and more skillful in working with my mind and emotions.

Sat:I love that the sequence is a known quantity. There is freedom and spaciousness for me in knowing exactly where I am, what comes next and where I’ll end up. After many years now, the Primary Series has become reliably comforting.

Sapta:I love and deeply admire the teachers of this system who have been practicing for decades—and I want what they have! Of the teachers I have studied with who will be at the Ashtanga Confluence in March:

I love Tim Miller’s huge grounded presence, his intimacy with the sacred texts, his connection with the movements of the heavens, and especially, his humor.
I love David Swenson’s joyfulness and kindness, his lightness of being, how he makes our practice so user-friendly and the fun and humor he finds in almost everything.
I love Richard Freeman’s immense mind and philosophical understanding, his generous sharing of the subtle aspects of the practice and his dry wit and humor.

Our teachers are filled with the good humor, dedication and wisdom that Guruji transmitted!

Though I’ve not yet studied with Eddie Stern, I love that he published Yoga Mala, and that I was fortunate to be at the Broome St. Shala with Guruji during one of the pujas that transformed his shala into a temple for Ganesha—a dedication full of beauty.
I love that Nancy Gilgoff was the dauntless pioneer who cleared the way for all of us ashtanga yoginis.

Ashtau:I love that some of the postures are humbling—a perfect balance to those that feel triumphant.

Nava:I love the meditative quality of the practice, and the physical ease that can arise out of resting in the breath; I love the ujjayi breath

Dasa: I love the invitation to keep progressing through the various series. There is no end to the challenge. But also there’s no end to the primary series—to just practicing the same ole thing every day, with love.

Martha is headed to the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence this March.  We look forward to hear about how her experience of studying under many of the world’s master teachers alongside over one thousand other practitioners deepens her love for Ashtanga.  If you are excitedly awaiting the Confluence stay connected with The Confluence Countdown.

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A Meditative Experience of Teaching Yoga Class

By Martha Marcom

Drawing on her lively and joyful relationship with Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine, Marcia arranged a meditation Teacher Training program with them via telephone. I am very lucky to be a participant along with some of our YOHI Teacher Trainees. One of the liberating things Lorin and Camille teach is that we are meditating when we are in a state of elation doing something we love. We can build a meditation practice on the framework of natural bliss! One homework assignment was to describe a situation where we experienced such a state of grace. For me, that state comes in teaching an ashtanga yoga class at YOHI. I offer it here:

I am teaching a yoga class. We have chanted the invocation and felt its reverberation in our bodies and hearts, and now we are underway and there is a feeling of being comrades, kindred spirits, traveling together through the poses. There is a sense of conviviality, of lightness--I am nominally leading but also we are moving together though a set sequences of poses. We are all focused and working hard, but there is a group sense of humor, satisfaction, and enjoyment along with the physical effort.

The words that come through me function to sustain these qualities, and to keep everyone in this very moment, moving efficiently, but not habitually. I’m inspired by the sacredness of each breath and my words offer a reminder of this precious moment--a rhythmic and continuous returning to presence.

The breath is just loud enough that we are all aware of its pulse throughout the room, a sound-awareness that connects us. We bask in the heat of the room and in the humidity created by our sweat.

Our sweat mingles--I’m touching my student, baptized by her sweat on my belly when I merge my front into her back and take her a bit farther into a forward bend. Through her breath I can experience her enjoyment of her deeper release, her surrender.

I’m delighted—feeling mudita—to see the students’ beautiful practices, their openings and mindful alignment within the rhythmic flow. I’m filled with love for them. I am in a flow of offering—I’m looking intently to see where I can be of service—grounding a leg here, lengthening a spine there, offering a more aligned drishti to another.

In one part of my brain I’m keeping an eye on the clock so that we can move through all of the poses within the allotted time and yet have a luxurious amount of time in each asana.

I’m keeping the beat, sustaining the rhythmic quality of the practice, so that we are all drawing energy from that shared pulse, and we can keep coming up with more strength and endurance for another vinyasa and another. The transitions are so juicy that they give back as much energy as they require.

I am aware that I am representing a lineage. My beloved teacher, Pattabhi Jois, often comes to my mind/heart while I practice and teach. Guruji said that the practice itself is the teacher, “Practice and all is coming.”

The poses become more profound as the practice rounds around to the end--Sarvangasa, Sirsasana, Padmasana. Finally Savasana, surrender into the support of the earth, float on the wings of the breath, touch into the deeper aspects of our being, maybe moving beyond the illusion of the separate self—what we’ve asked for in the invocation. I am the witness. I am privileged to share the exquisite experience. As I offer the Reiki symbols, sending love to each student, the exquisiteness intensifies.

In the end, when we chant to offer our merit to all, and bow to salute the divinity within each other, there is an exchange of gratitude that swells my heart, while completely humbling me. Just writing this down takes me to this lovely, holy place.

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