Love is Love

Somebody said that even if you only witness abuse, you are a victim. Today with the 24-hour news cycle we are all witness to unthinkable horrors and some of them even happen to us.

Unfortunately, our brains have been wired to vividly remember the traumatic over the good. We evolved this way so that we could protect ourselves in the wild.

However, we are no longer in the wild and our brains have not evolved to be able to handle witnessing ALL the unthinkable horrors on earth at the same time, though this is possible because we are all so hooked into the media!

Our whole species is under psychological strain, we are depressed. My heart is sore and tattered by recent events in Orlando, Iraq and other places. My tears flow.

When we watch and experience the war and violent crime today, we are witnessing the human race at its worst.

B.K.S. Iyengar wrote:

“Before peace between the nations, we have to find peace inside that small nation, which is our own being.”

 

B.K.S.Iyengar Yoga convention at Tokyo American Club

“The goal of asana is doing them from the core and extending out dynamically” B.K.S.Iyengar

You can use yoga to find peace within yourself. Use standing poses and the back bend poses to expand out and open your chest, making space for your heart center. Make space until you have that special feeling of well-being that yoga brings.

Start with yourself and work outwards. Make space for your heart to heal, to be generous, to be tolerant and to love, love, love.  Heal yourself, heal this world.

Love is Love Human Rights Campaign: http://www.hrc.org/

Every Town for Gun Safety http://everytown.org/

http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org/


The Divinity Within

Geeta Iyengar said that B.K.S Iyengar (Guruji) always used to say:

“When doing yoga, break the body into pieces, you have to really SEE everything within, then you will have peace of mind.”

Yoga poses often have an effect on the body. The contact of our foreheads on a blanket in a forward bend makes the mind quiet. Can you “see” the chaos in your mind settle? Can you look at the face muscles, the jaw and watch them relax? Guruji wanted us to understand that we can find peace of mind through the body.

At the workshop I attended in Pune in December, one of the students introduced only as “Eddie” gave a talk that is worth repeating here.

Eddie said that Guruji could do a small skillful movement in just the right way in order to tap into the divine power of the body.

Eddie used the example of Urdvha hastasasna, (putting your arms straight up over your head). If you move the upper arm back behind the ear, the arm is stacked on the shoulder, which is stacked on the shoulder blade and you are no longer working against gravity. The shoulder blades push the back ribs and the chest is opened.  A small skillful movement leads to something important, in this case opening and awareness in the heart center. When you put your forehead on a blanket and get quietude, do you see that the small skillful thing you did produced a huge result?

Guruji let the divine (nature, gravity) work for him when doing yoga. If you use too much of your personal energy you will exhaust yourself. Many older yogis quit doing yoga in their 70’s or 80’s but Guruji did not quit until shortly before he died at the age of 96. Why? Because he was not working only with his own personal energy, he was tapping the divine.

Guruji’s message to us is to understand this and do it.  We should do a small, skillful thing and take support of the divine. The divine will come to help us, awakening every cell that is dormant.

Bringing awareness and intelligence into every part of the body is something that Guruji emphasized.

When we are “seeing” every cell, this is complete absorption. It is meditation. There is no need to force the mind to concentrate, yoga asana are a natural and dynamic meditation.

This is the  “peace of mind” to which Guruji was guiding us.

Quote for the day from Gurujigurujihorse1

 “The body is my temple and asanas are my prayers.”


The Future of Iyengar Yoga

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I took a trip to The Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India in December for a meeting and a workshop with Geeta Iyengar, the daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar (Guruji). It was good to see Geetaji, glowing smile and full of energy. Her workshop was mind shifting!  I am so grateful I could attend. She and Prashant Iyengar, the son of Guruji, are strong leaders. They are giving careful thought about how to carry Iyengar Yoga forward into the future.  Geetaji said:

“ We must preserve what Guruji has given us. Guruji always had in the back of this mind to help people.”

She went on to say that we know that Guruji wanted to help everyone: overweight, infirm, aged, even bedridden people who could not walk. To be able to do this there is so much involved: yoga appropriate to all these groups, props needed, plus each individual is different so must be treated differently. This requires depth of learning for teachers and students alike.

bannerGuruji had compassion for the downtrodden because of his own experience with serious illnesses. During the conference his granddaughter Abijata gave a talk on the use of props. One of the first times Guruji used a prop was on the head principal of the university in Pune. This man could no longer walk so Guruji had him do standing poses while lying on the floor and propped his legs apart with a bar.

geetajiThe props that Guruji used were an extension of his desire to help and support others. Props became an important part of Iyengar Yoga.  Using a prop for support can remove fear or give courage. Props can correct an asana and give access to body parts not yet discovered by the practitioner. Props can help with balance and prevent overdoing and underdoing. Most importantly, props can let a beginner go further or support someone struggling with an illness or handicap .

As Geetaji said,  students of B.K.S. Iyengar must preserve what he has given us. Our mission should be to be well-informed practioners who are compassionate and always striving to help others.

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stadium

 

 


Staying Young

When my hair first turned white in the front, I was glad. It lightened up my color and made it clear to all that I am older. I was hoping it would give me some street cred and a bit of status: “older and wiser.”

There have been times when my feelings have wavered on this however. For example, the time that a woman who I had met only once before came to visit me and  knocked on my front door. My husband happened to answer the door and she asked him “Is your mother at home?” My husband later, rather too gleefully, told me this story. My husband looks forever youthful though he is a year older than me. Gosh I felt old and hunched.

But here is one of the best secrets of Iyengar yoga. It is a fountain of youth of sorts. It allows us to age with dignity. The work of the poses brings good posture,  strength and flexibility. The inversions and backbends bring much needed circulation and flushing as well as opening the mind to new horizons!

Stay young with yoga. I have heard that you are as young as your spine is flexible. Here is the quote of the day:

“The body soon decays like unbaked earthern pots thrown in water. Strengthen and purify the body by baking it in the fire of yoga.”   G. Heranda


Our Relationship with the Universe

Many years ago a wild Japanese macaque came to our central Tokyo neighborhood to live (really). He was quite destructive to the trees in our garden and would splash around in our little pond outside the den window. My husband was enraged. He said “It is my pond and I have to show him its mine!” He fought the monkey off with a ski pole on more than one occasion. We got the city of Tokyo to bring us a dog trap and he fiddled around with that in various set-ups. But the monkey would just reach into the trap and take what food he liked without stepping inside. Oh, our monkey was so much smarter than a dog for whom the trap was designed. My heart ached for the monkey because he needed to be captured and let loose in the forest, but he was too clever for that!?  My husband and the monkey battled it out, pitted against each other, as is their nature. Hilariously, my husband lost to the monkey again and again but finally the monkey disappeared from our neighborhood after about a year.

The human species has fought, destroyed and devastated nature. But to be fair, nature has not been kind to us either (earthquakes, tsunami and other natural disasters, predators, monkeys who randomly show up in Tokyo).

Now we are looking for a way to live in harmony and peace with our world because of global warming. This is not a new idea. Buddhism, American Indian cultures, and countless others have passed this idea on for thousands of years. Can all humans become sophisticated enough to accept our earth as the treasure that it is and live symbiotically?

Samedhi, the last petal of yoga, is the state where one becomes one with the Supreme Spirit pervading the universe, where there is a feeling of unutterable joy and peace. How can we find this bliss?  We can start by replacing aggressiveness and anger with benevolence, acceptance, and surrender. The yoga poses help us towards this. Forward bends quiet the mind especially if resting the forehead on a blanket, backbends open the chest and heart making it easy to be generous and benevolent, inversions give us a feeling of well-being, balance and equanimity.

The quote of the day is from B.K.S. Iyengar:

“By asana practice we can know how to face the ultimate relinquishing of all our attachments and addictions. In Savasana we begin to train and educate ourselves for surrender. “

Asana practice is practice of the poses. Savasana is the final resting pose of the class.

Would we ever have been able to live in peace with our destructive monkey? Our Japanese grandmother wanted to feed him– just a few snacks. My son named the monkey “Stevie.”  And a friend suggested my husband wear a gorilla suit…

.gorillasuit


Resolve

Years ago I remember I caught site of a composition that my seventh-grade son was writing for school. The first line started out “I got home, pushed past my parents, and went upstairs to my room.”

“Pushed past my parents”? Those people that were just getting in the way? (We were simply trying to find out how his day was, I am sure.)  I realized that I was now an obstacle to him, though I was putting my heart and soul into raising him. My point is: The jobs of “Mom” and “Dad” are not always immediately rewarding.

Yoga is like that too. Iyengar Yoga is especially concentrated on correct alignment, movement and form. It will take time, but each day of yoga there will be a quiet one-centimeter movement of muscle and bone that is moving you towards a beautiful pose….. someday.

Here is the quote for the day:

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest that you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

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Unconditional Love

ShadowkissIn 1986 I lost a baby girl named Ema to stillbirth. (Bereaved parents see http://www.sids.gr.jp for support and information.) After that I had two rambunctious sons and raising them to adulthood was a challenge. Yet no matter how frustrated I got, I never, ever lost site of the fact that I loved them. Losing my beloved Ema taught me to always be thankful for my boys and to love them like mad. My love for them was unconditional.  The great thing about little kids is that they give unconditional love right back to you! Pets do that too!

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross writes:

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is “unconditional love” which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”

Unconditional love for yourself is so important too! Treat yourself well and give yourself the gift of yoga. Yoga strengthens and purifies your body and your mind. Do not be critical of your yoga. Make space in your body bit by bit, at your own pace.

Here is  a poem describing the joy of love by Hafiz, a great Sufi master who wrote poems in the 1300’s. Translation by Daniel Ladinsky.

The Sun Never Says

Even

After

All this time

The sun never says to the earth,

“You owe

Me.”

Look

What happens

With a love like that,

It lights the

Whole

Sky.