Anandena – With Bliss

An Exploration of Yoga

Aparigraha — The Practice of Non-hoarding seen Globally

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— By Special Guest Author Dutzi King

 

Aparigraha is the concept of non-possessiveness, non-grasping or non-greediness. Whereas parigrah (without the a at the beginning) refers to the desire of keeping possessions, the concept of aparigraha is a self-restraint from greed, especially that kind of greed by which others are hurt, killed, or destroyed, for the sake of what we think is our happiness or our convenience.

I was convinced to lead a very reduced lifestyle, possessing only the most important things, by reading Mari Kondos’ book, The Life Changing Magic of Decluttering. This book suggests only keeping items that sparkle with joy for you. I found that I wasn’t in love with many of my belongings and donated most of them. Now for example I own about 20 clothing items, most of them bought second hand. I realized how much easier it is to deal with an uncomplicated set of clothing, and how important is is to make a good use of all my winter coats; namely, not to hang them in my closet, but to get them to others who really need them.

But decluttering doesn’t seem to get the whole aspect of aparigraha. We live in a consumer culture, and somehow we do not seem to realize where our belongings, and therefore our responsibilities start and end. In the US, every person in average creates 4 pounds of trash – no, not recyclables – trash every day. In this country alone we make more than 200 million tons of garbage each year. Seventy percent of that could be recycled, but it is not. The biggest problem seems to be plastic. Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Fifty percent of the plastic we use is used just once and then thrown away. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans. (http://www.ecowatch.com/22-facts-about-plastic-pollution-and-10-things-we-can-do-about-it-1881885971.html)

It seems that living a vegan lifestyle is not enough and is still causing a lot of harm. My greed, my parigraha, shows up in eating pre-packed convenience food. Yummy vegan cheese cake for example, double wrapped in a plastic container. Or a delicious tea or coffee in a wax lined paper cup that can’t be recycled.
Living in Europe, the only place for groceries I went to was a small organic neighborhood grocery store. No need to drive. I took my bike or walked. All liquids were filled up in recyclable glass bottles. Greens and fruit were sold without any wrappers. Everything else I bought on bulk and put them in my own containers (http://www.biolino.net). In Berlin, we had seven different bins in front of our house: One for paper, one for hard plastics, one for soft plastic, one for glass bottles, one for compost, one for aluminium, the tiniest one for waste. I was not aware of what was going on outside my little recycling world.

Now, I have been living in the USA for two years. I am realizing I have to do something about the trash problem and my consumer habits. Through research I found the zero waste movement. French born, California based, activist and writer Bea Johnson is one of the founders of this campaign and my new super hero (http://www.zerowastehome.com). Bea is teaching ways to say no to plastic and packing in the first place. Carry your own napkin, reusable cup and spoon with you at all times. She showed me that I can bring my own containers to Whole Foods, without being embarrassed. I started to make my own vegan cheese cake again (much better anyways) with items I bought in bulk. The next time I fly, I will definitely bring my own re-usable cup. The trash created on airplane flights is enormous. The only thing I can do about the waste problem we have is change my own habits.

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Teaching in Shanghai

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This past week I spent in Shanghai and I was lucky enough to teach some workshops on yoga asana and assisting. Shanghai was amazing: a city of gargantuan buildings, centuries old gardens, crowded alleyways, neon and incense. The pollution is a problem but everyone was very welcoming and I found lots of great vegan food. A great example of the kindness and hospitality that I experienced in Shanghai was at a restaurant where the Mandarin-speaking waitress spent at least fifteen minutes with me and my language app to figure out exactly what hotpot I could eat that would be vegan. (Su-schi). Then she wouldn’t even accept a tip and gave us extra kumquat and watermelon! Teaching there was a pleasure. Students were very attentive and eager. They asked great questions and were quick to assimilate any instruction. It’s funny, yogis worldwide ask the same questions! Mostly about sacro-iliac joints! Even with a language barrier, I felt like we were able to connect about not just yoga asana but yoga philosophy as a whole. These connections spanning the globe between enthusiastic yogis remind us of our sameness — the oneness of being.

Practicing with Manju & Nancy

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This past November, I traveled to Maui (a great hardship obviously!) to practice with Manju Jois, the son of Sri K Pattabhi Jois. He taught a workshop on second series at Nancy Gilgoff’s shala, The House of Yoga & Zen. I had never practiced with Manju before but I was excited to learn from someone who grew up with this practice and has so much experience.

The week was incredible. In the morning we had Mysore practice. Manju’s sense of humor was evident and every morning he instructed us to, ‘torture yourselves however you want’. Joking aside, this freedom of practice felt very liberating. Since I felt like I didn’t have to do anything, I chose to do it. I love my Ashtanga practice but it is difficult to step onto that mat ever morning and sometimes (who am I kidding? Most times!) it feels like it would be nicer and easier to just have a second cup of coffee rather than try to reach back for my ankles. Manju was gently reminding me that I am the one choosing this practice and that I’m privileged to be able to do it.

Then his assists were amazing. I felt completely supported. I’m only 5’4” and Manju is shorter than I am but he picked me up off of the floor. His assists were gentle and intuitive, the product of decades of teaching. And he always had a smile for everyone as well as encouraging words. We also were lucky enough to have Nancy in the room helping Manju. She gave great alignment tips, always referencing what she had been told by Guruji. Her assists were gentle but firm, skilled in pinpointing just the right spot to align not just our physical bodies but our energy as well. In a great practice, effort becomes ease and we are moving with the energy flow of our subtle body. With such experienced teachers, it was a gentle and playful Mysore room where we felt obliged to put forth our best effort but without getting too wound up in ego or attachment.

Then in the afternoon, Manju covered the assists for second series. He was hilarious as he demonstrated what not to do. His experience allowed him to be super concise about the movements comprising each assist. He gave one or two assists for each posture and we practiced them on each other. Manju also was very mindful of our own safety as teachers. I tend to injure myself assisting more than practicing. I’m so careful about the student that I forget about myself. I’ve gotten much better about this over the years but I still occasionally slip up. Manju, with his experience, was very careful to teach ways to assist without placing any strain on the back. This was super helpful!

To finish the class, Manju lead us in chanting a long, beautiful series of shanthi mantras – an inspiring way to quiet our minds and connect to the still place in our hearts.

The most fun though was when Manju told stories of Guruji and growing up in India. His story of awakening at 4 am to ‘strange noises from the kitchen’ was super funny – it turned out to be his father in durvashasana, standing up with his leg behind his head.

My magical time in Maui reinvigorated my devotion to this practice.

Holiday Gift Lotus

Satsangatve nissangatvam, nissangatve nirmohatvam, nirmohatve nishchala tattvam, nishchala tattve jivanmuktih, bhaja govindam, bhaja govindam, bhaja govindam mudha mate. —Shri Adi Shankaracharya from Carpata-Panjarika

Good and virtuous company gives rise to non-attachment. From non-attachment comes freedom from delusion. With freedom from delusion, one feels the changeless reality. Experiencing that changeless reality, one attains liberation in this life. I-AM is the ocean of awareness. Realizing this, one feels, “I am not the body and mind, although I have a body and mind.” Realize Govinda, realize Govinda, realize Govinda in your heart, O wise one!Interpretation by Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati

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A good yoga studio is a community. It is a place where we care about and support each other. The community is always in flux – new people coming and going – but there is always a feeling that you are welcome and that others care about you.

This past holiday, I was pleased to feel like we had indeed found that community at Jala. We participated in a holiday gift lotus organized by Naama Gidron, owner of the Motion Center Yoga Collective. A gift lotus is a delightful name for a gift drive, this one to benefit refugee families from all over the world who’ve been resettled from UN Refugee Camps to here in Providence, RI. When Naama asked me if we would participate, I automatically said yes but then the holidays crept up on me. Before I knew it, it was December 10 and I hadn’t even put up a sign yet. I put up a sign and announced it in a few classes, thinking we’d get at least a few donations. I was blown away by everyone’s generosity. Our gift lotus benefited a family from Burundi who have been living in Providence for about a year and have 5 children. The father is now working at a local linen factory but transitioning to a new country and language is still very difficult. Our yogis, especially a few enthusiastic givers, made sure that this family had boots, underwear, sheets, clothes, pots and other essentials, as well as some exciting toys for the children. I feel so grateful to have such wonderful yogis practicing at Jala, who eagerly thought of the needs of others at such a busy time; Jala yogis gave not just financial resources but also their time to make sure the holidays were special for this family. Being in such a wonderful community satsang is inspiring for me and I’m grateful we encourage each other to look to the highest in ourselves and others.

Parivritti Ardha Chandrasana — Rotated Half Moon Posture

 

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Well, it’s snowing outside but hopefully we can all feel that spring is right around the corner here in Providence, RI. We’ve had a few days in the sixties and the daffodils and crocuses are in bloom. This potent balancing pose will help you feel ready for spring! The twist helps aid digestion and feels cleansing — I think we all feel a bit sludgy and slow as winter ends and twisting creates a sense of lightness in the body. The balancing part of this posture is hard work! Rebecca is modeling it below with a block (catch Rebecca Van Laer on Jala’s spring schedule!), which helps to keep the hips square. It’s possible to also do it without a block but you have to work hard to keep that alignment through your hips while also opening the shoulders up for the twist. The key is to reach through the body, that helps the hips not sag and distributes the weight out of the standing leg hip. So reach up through the top hand and down through the bottom hand, press the bottom foot into the floor while reaching back through the lifted leg and forward through the head. Internally rotate your thigh and lift your inner thigh up towards the ceiling. This elongation of the body engages the bandhas and will help keep you rotating open without the standing leg hip shifting outwards.

If you’re having trouble lengthening through the back leg, try doing this posture with your back leg pressing into the wall and your bottom hand on a block. That will give you something to press into and help you keep your hips square. You could also try it with the top hand pressing into a wall to help you rotate further.

Try practicing this twist for five breaths on each side. You can do it anytime to feel springy and energized!

Playlist for March

Hi yogis! I’ve been getting requests to publicize the March playlist I’ve been using in my Jivamukti classes at Jala Studio in Providence.

Here it is!

Superpoze — Opening (Fakear rework)

Orent — Sweetness

Tom Rosenthal — Go Solo (Cargo Remix)

Novo Amor — From Gold (James Carter Edit)

Petros & Friends — Shiva

DJ Drez — Sweet Radha (feat. Kirtaniyas)

DJ Drez — Maha Dub (feat. Kirtaniyas)

Marti Nikko & DJ Drez — Jaya Radha Madhava

Tupal — Angel

Tupal — Seaflowers

Lapsley — Brownlow

Snatam Kaur — Ong Namo

Yogini — Bliss

I’m on Soundcloud as bristolcm if you want to see some of my other yoga music likes!

Surya Yantrasana

 

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This potent sidebend and leg stretch will open your chest and prepare the legs for deeper hip-openers, such as leg behind the head. Often known as compass pose, this beautiful pose translates to sun dial. Slow down and connect to the rhythm of nature through your practice. This is a deep one so make sure you’ve warmed up with lots of standing postures and a few other hip-openers; I especially like parsvakonasana / standing side angle pose & pigeon before this.

Bring your right leg over your right shoulder. If it doesn’t go that high, see if it can stay close to the shoulder and at least above the mid-arm. If not, work a seated pigeon pose with your shin across your chest. If you can get the leg over your shoulder, hold the outside of the right foot with your left hand. Lean the right hand out to the right side and bring weight into that right hand. Extend through the right leg reaching the left arm over your head. Reach through your inner right leg. Hold for five to ten ujjayi breaths, seeing if you can turn your chest upwards and expand through the collarbones and sternum. Change sides. Smile up at the sun!

Yogic Calm in 5 Postures Anywhere, Anytime!

Yoga is great at any time to reduce stress and feel more centered in your body, mind and spirit. When you can’t make it to a full class, here’s five easy postures to help you feel calm and at ease anywhere and anytime.

Warrior 2 Variation

Remind yourself that you are steady, strong and capable with this fierce warrior pose. The shoulder opening arm variation will release tension throughout the upper body.

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Step your legs a full leg length apart and turn the right toes out ninety degrees. Let your left toes turn in slightly. Bend the right knee directly over the center of the ankle until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. (Don’t let the knee go past the ankle or fall inwards.) Keep your shoulders stacked over your hips. Reach the right elbow up and the left elbow down, either binding the hands behind your back or grabbing for your shirt. Breathe for five to ten steady, even breaths through your nose. Then switch sides.

Goddess Pose

This pose strengthens your legs and opens your hips. The hands are in lotus mudra, a reminder that even the beauty of a lotus flower can grow out of the mud. Do this posture and feel open to transformation.

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Step the feet apart about four feet and turn the toes out forty-five degrees. Bend the knees over the center of the ankles without letting the knees fall inwards. Keep your spine straight. Join the hands at your heart with the pinkies and thumbs touching, all the other fingers reach out to form the lotus flower. Hold for five to ten deep breaths through your nose.

Downward Facing Dog

This inversion lengthens the back of the body while strengthening the shoulders, arms and legs. As your head lengthens below your heart, feel your mind quiet.

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Start on hands and knees with the hands shoulder width apart and the fingers spread on the floor. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up and back, trying to reach the hips away from the shoulders while the heels reach towards the floor. Feet are hip width apart. Hold for five to fifteen deep breaths.

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If you can’t find a suitable space on the floor, do this at the wall instead. Start with your feet hip-width apart a leg-length away from the wall. Lean forward and place the hands shoulder width apart on the wall. Lengthen your spine, reaching the hips away from the wall. Relax your head down.

Warrior 1 Variation

This posture strengthens the legs and opens the hips. The arm variation will open the tops of the shoulders and stretch the upper back. The gentle backbend helps you to feel the openness of your heart.

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Start with the feet hip-width apart. Step the left foot back about a leg-length apart from the right foot. Turn the left toes out to a forty five degree angle and ground the left heel. Keep the hips facing forward and lift your lower belly to lengthen the tailbone and keep the torso upright. Bring the right arm underneath the left arm, crossing above the elbows. If possible, join the palms together. Lift the arms up and wrists forward, finding a backbend and looking up. Hold for five to ten steady breaths through your nose, then switch sides.

Standing Twist

Twists neutralize the spine and help release any tension held in the belly. Use this balancing posture to bring yourself back to feeling centered.

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Stand on the left foot and lift the right knee. Hold the outside of the right knee with the left hand. Reach the right hand behind you. If you can, look back at the right hand. Hold for five breaths and then switch sides.

These five postures are a quick, easy practice to bring yogic calm and joy to your daily routine.

Sequence for a Long Spine and Happy Belly

This sequence was created for a dear friend who wants a short routine to practice daily to improve flexibility and relieve stress held in the belly. It’s a nice sequence for anyone short on time and hamstrings who wants better digestion and a long spine.

Start in a comfortable seat and become aware of your breath. Try to breathe through your nose with ujjayi breath, gently lifting the back of the throat to make a ha sound. Dedicate your practice to an uplifted intention. Chant Om three times.

1 Supine Twist
IMG_3724Lay on the back. Bend your knees and move your hips two inches to the right. Draw the knees into your navel and drop the knees to the left. Extend the arms and look over your right shoulder. Hold for five to ten breaths and then twist to the left. This pose is beneficial for digestion and will neutralize and lengthen the spine.

2. Blissful Baby

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Draw the knees into the armpits and reach around the sides of your feet. Let the knees soften towards the floor outside your armpits. Relax the shoulders and jaw. Hold for at least five to ten breaths. This posture opens the hips, stimulates digestion and lengthens the spine.

3. Seated twist

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Sit up and extend the legs forward. Bend your right knee and place the right foot flat outside your left knee. Inhale to lengthen the spine and use the exhale to twist and reach the left elbow or shoulder outside the right knee. Gaze over your right shoulder. Hold for five to ten breaths then switch sides. You guessed it — this posture lengthens the spine and improves digestion. Do this if you’ve been stuck at a desk!

4. Tabletop

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Bend both knees and place the feet hip width apart. Take the hands one foot behind you, fingers facing towards your body. Inhale and expand your chest, lifting your hips up. Hold for at least five breaths. This posture opens the shoulders and strengthens the back and legs.

5. Cobra

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Lay on the belly and extend the legs. Place the hands next to the chest muscles. Press down through the legs and lift the chest up. Hold for at least five breaths. Rest and then repeat again. This posture strengthens the back muscles and the gentle backbend gets the spine out of its usual slump!

6. Squeeze leg into chest / Pavanamuktasana

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Lay on the back and squeeze the right shin into the chest. Lengthen the left leg long on the mat. Squeeze the right leg in deeply but without creating tension in the shoulders or jaw. Hold for five breaths and then switch sides. Then squeeze both legs in at the same time and hold for five breaths. The pressure of this posture massages the organs and benefits digestion. It also feels great on the lower back!

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7. Supta baddha konasana

Lay on the back. Bend the knees and open them out in a diamond shape with the feet touching. Place padding under the knees for support. Relax for as long as possible! This posture is great for the digestive and reproductive organs and resting here allows the body, mind and spirit to feel nourished and restored.

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July Jala playlist

For those yogi music fans — here’s the playlist we’ve been jamming to all last month at Jala:

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Mystical Om 1 — Indian Classical

Mountains — Srikalogy

Sun Light — MC Yogi

Three Aums — Nada Sadhana

Om Namah Shivaya (Sonicturtle Remix) — Thomas Barquee

Zindagi — Spy form Cairo

Celeste — Bicep

Market — Ara Koufax

Brumes — Petit Biscuit

Feet Like Fins — Cocteau Twins

It’s Peaceful — Dj Drez & Marti Nikko

Asha — Bill Laswell

Invocation — Sri K Pattabhi Jois

Shantimantra — Sanjeev Abhyankar