Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Breath bandha, drishti..... Guru? Plus “Buddha & the Yogis: The Vajra Body”. Robert Thurman, Richard Freeman and John Campbell Video and podcast

Perhaps I understand why Sharath stresses the Guru idea (see this video where he compares the Guru to God as in if you found God surely you wouldn't then look elsewhere.... or would you).



Sharath's grandfather Pattabhi Jois played such an important role in his life, for Sharath he seems to have been guru first grandfather second, of course he wishes such a relationship for everyone.

Pattabhi Jois was a Sanskrit scholar, a devoutly religious man and had practiced Yoga for many years. When the western students turned up at Pattabhi Jois' door in Mysore, many of them came with Autobiography of a Yogi in the back pocket of their Levi's, some came looking for a Guru others it seems just started to refer to Pattabhi Jois as Guruji out of fondness and respect and perhaps reverence. With Pattabhi Jois' passing newer students, brought up on stories of Guruji and no doubt Sharath's stress on the importance of the guru, of parampara, seem to be at a bit of a loss. I read and hear Sharath himself referred to as The man, Boss, Sharathji....., Guruji is perhaps next if it hasn't begun to happen already.

A good thing, a bad thing, does it matter..... is a guru necessary for this practice? Breath, Bandha Drishti.... Guru?

Does parampara or a passing along of the practice require a guru, are teachers that we respect enough, is the practice itself enough, doesn't it teach itself?

Ekam the arms follow the breath go up, dve, they follow the breath down.

Practice leads to the yama/niyamas and working at those along with your practice are perhaps sufficient for several lifetimes.

My suspicion is that too many teachers get in the way of practice, whether intentionally or not they make/create students dependent upon them...., the better teachers provide tools then shoo us out the door or into the mysore room to discover/explore our practice for ourselves.

Krishnamacharya was Pattabhi Jois' Guru as he was my own teacher Ramaswami's . I've never felt urged by Ramaswami to seek out a guru myself or to consider him as such. I respect him immensely as a teacher as I do Pattabhi Jois' son Manju, who strolls into the Shala singing out "Never fear Guru's here" a parody to overcome our first day clumsy reverence.

Reverence for a teacher ( note Reverence rather than merely respect) is a characteristic of tantra upon which hatha yoga relies heavily. Krishnamacharya seemed to strive for a balancing act between Hatha and the pre tantric Yoga Sutras of Patanjali although clearly his preference was for Patanjali but also Yogayajnavalkya, he seemed to turn almost reluctantly to the hathayogapradipka.

Modern Ashtanga seems to have tipped over more towards the hatha camp although many hatha yogis I've met may feel that Ashtangi's merely dip their toe in those murky waters, hatha lite as it were.

Tantra.... my temptation is to reject it altogether and just turn back to Patanjali and his early pre tantric commentators, to Samkhya. Patanjali's yoga seems to have been enough for the old Yogis for many hundreds of years before the hatha yogis turned to tantra and how many more hundreds of years did Yoga do very nicely thank you very much without tantra, before Patanjali constructed his sutras.

Tantra.... now there's labyrinth to get lost in a tantric Ariadne may well need a bigger ball of string.


Isn't Patanjali still plenty to be going on with, for this lifetime at least.

If I look at Anthony Tribe's defining features/characteristics of tantra there are few if any I have any leanings towards.

Characteristics of Tantra( from here)

"André Padoux notes that there is no consensus among scholars which elements are characteristic for Tantra, nor is there any text which contains all those elements.[5] And most of those elements can also be found in non-Tantric traditions.[5] According to Anthony Tribe, a scholar of Buddhist Tantra, Tantra has the following defining features:[19]

Centrality of ritual, especially the worship of deities
Centrality of mantras
Visualisation of and identification with a deity
Need for initiation, esotericism and secrecy
Importance of a teacher (guru, ācārya)
Ritual use of mandalas (maṇḍala)
Transgressive or antinomian acts
Revaluation of the body
Revaluation of the status and role of women
Analogical thinking (including microcosmic or macrocosmic correlation)
Revaluation of negative mental states"

If I were to seek out a Guru, I might well make the trip to Boulder, Colorado, I'm sure Richard though would hate the idea but what a wonderful teacher and I must confess to some reverence, I was quite tongue-tied when I attended his intensive in the UK a few years back.

Here he is talking tantra and kundalini with Robert Thurman first in 2011 (video) and again in 2013 (podcast). thank you to Angelo for the heads up on this, fascinating stuff. Richard makes for a quite dashing Ariadne.

Robert Thurman and Richard Freeman discuss the intro to what Freeman describes as the “handbook to Kundalini yoga,” Thurman’s translation of Tsong Khapa’s Brilliant Lamp of the Lamp of the Five Stages: Practical Instructions in the King of Tantras, The Glorious Esoteric Community. In this video, filmed during Buddha and the Yogi’s: The Vajra Body retreat at Menla Mountain Center, June 12, 2011, Robert Thurman, Richard Freeman and John Campbell explore how Nagarjuna transcends time and space and get to the root of the tongue.




This podcast below was recorded at the annual summer lecture series called “Buddha and the Yogis: The Vajra Body” given by Robert Thurman, Richard Freeman and John Campbell at Menla Mountain Retreat in July 2013.

Flowing Through the Knots – Ep 26



Also with Richard freeman and John Campbell

Buddha and Yoga – Ep17


LINK

Bob Thurman's blog and podcast https://bobthurman.com/

Richard Freeman's website as well as this interesting discussion of dualism

*


And here's another intro to Tantra if I have Angelo to thank for the podcast above i have Angela to thank for this, I particularly like the 

"Thoughts Are tools, not Truths." 
- Christopher Wallis



My own turn to Tantra rabbit hole is this one by George Feuerstein- Tantra, the path of Ecstasy



by way of a preview...
this from the end of Chapter 6 on The Guru Principle








Monday, 27 July 2015

Purpose of (hatha) Yoga Postures. "Traditional yoga for modern body" - Simon Borg-Olivier. Plus sweating less during practice

As mentioned before HERE, I'm currently registered on Simon Borg Olivier and Bianca Machliss' Yoga Synergy Fundamentals course. The first week, was kind of an introduction, History and Philosophy of Yoga but also the purpose of yoga postures.

This week is the main anatomy section on the nine bandhas ( nine joint complexes)
see these earlier posts

  http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2011/11/nine-bandhas-yes-nine-in-applied.html

 http://grimmly2007.blogspot.jp/2014/10/employing-simon-borg-olivers-ha-and-tha.html

Simon Borg- Olivier- What do we call this ardha baddha padma mayurasana?

Wildyogi magazines interview with Simon Borg-Olivier give us a bit of an insight into Simon's view of the purpose of yoga postures and I thought it would be nice to share, it(s a better write up than my course notes.


"The traditional yoga postures were not designed to stretch or to tense muscles. They were designed more to achieve some sort of union in the body, and that union would be done primarily by increasing the movement of prana and chitta to the body. In more scientific words - moving of energy and information in the body along the different energy channels. Those channels include blood vessels, nerves, lymphatic vessels, meridians. And the energy that flows in the body includes, for example, the heat in the blood, or electrical impulses that move through the nerves". 


He's the above paragraph in the context of the interview.








My highlighting in Bold


Wild Yogi: Describe your method please in more details.

Simon Borg-Olivier: The traditional yoga postures were not designed to stretch or to tense muscles. They were designed more to achieve some sort of union in the body, and that union would be done primarily by increasing the movement of prana and chitta to the body. In more scientific words - moving of energy and information in the body along the different energy channels. Those channels include blood vessels, nerves, lymphatic vessels, meridians. And the energy that flows in the body includes, for example, the heat in the blood, or electrical impulses that move through the nerves. So we than made our practice to enhance the flow of these things.

What I was feeling during yoga practice - that I was in yoga. It didn’t feel like I was stretching, tensing, breathing or thinking. Yet what we observe with most people’s yoga practice in the modern world, that they are trying to tense, stretch, breath too much and think too much or not to think at all.
So we’ve redesigned the sequences in such a way that people without thinking too much would make their bodies do what automatically normal indian traditional body would do. For example, what a modern person would do to get into a lotus position. He would take one leg, grab it and pul it on the opposite thigh, the same with the other leg. When you do this you cause the muscles between a knee and a hip to stretch as a result of a stretch reflex. But if you do this posture in the way that traditional Indian body would do - they do it the same way we cross our arms - they put leg on the opposite thigh without using their arms. You must do it in the same way while you are in the head or hands stand, for you can’t do it with your hands. So legs are moving due to the action of the muscles. It is a simple nerve reflex - in order to bend your knee you have to switch on one muscle and switch off the opposite muscle. So by moving actively into a position, using forces of the internal body, it automatically gives you strength on one side of the joint, relaxation and length on the other side of the joint. It looks like you’re having a stretch, but it doesn’t feel like you’re stretching. And because one side of the joint was tensed and compressed, while the opposite is relaxed and lengthened, this causes change in the blood flow - from high pressure to low pressure. And this improves circulation. Working in such a way you feel warm very quickly. I can practice in a freezing cool room or walk outside in the winter and my body in a couple of minutes becomes very warm. Or if I practice in a very hot conditions I would not feel overheated because of good circulation process in my body.
So the most important aspect of the practice I teach is - can you move energy and information through the body in a way when you don’t feel like stretching and tensing. But as a natural byproduct of the practice you end up very flexible and very strong, and fit, while feeling like you were meditating and your mind is at peace.

Wild Yogi: Is this what makes your method unique?

Simon Borg-Olivier: Well, if our method is unique, it is only in the world of modern yoga. Because this is exactly what traditional yogis do. And that’s why they achieve the results they do. That’s what my teachers taught me, I had very good Indian, western and Chinese, Tibetan teachers.

full interview here http://wildyogi.info/en/issue/interview-simon-borg-olivier-traditional-yoga-modern-body

****


on sweating less during practice

Did you pick up on this in the above quote....

" I can practice in a freezing cool room or walk outside in the winter and my body in a couple of minutes becomes very warm. Or if I practice in a very hot conditions I would not feel overheated because of good circulation process in my body".

This has been of particular interest to me, I blame my first and second experience of kidney stones on sweating too much, the first time due to a Kyoto summer, the second, hot sweaty, practice, ideally the extra water we take on in summer should pass through our kidney's rather than our yoga towel (in case your curious the second kidney stone was most likely due to green (spinach) smoothies).

Like many I assumed that we were supposed to practice in a hot room, not Bikrum hot perhaps but pretty hot. Many Ashtanga teachers seem to want to make their room as hot as a Mysore afternoon in May. Where did that idea come from, we seem to be getting passed that now (see Gregor Maehle http://chintamaniyoga.com/asana/why-overheating-the-yoga-room-is-not-a-good-idea/) but there are still a lot of hot shalas around. Hamish's room in London was sweltering I remember but then he used to practice with Derek Ireland at The Practice Room in Crete, I imagine that was pretty hot.

I used to sweat a couple of kilo during practice at home and in Crete also, Kristina threatened to did a trough between my mat and Niko's for the following summer.

After 2nd series UK

Above was a typical sweaty summer practice in the UK but the picture below is of full Ashtanga Primary although more in line with Krishnamacharya's presentation in Yoga Makaranda (1934) that I've been practicing for the last two years or so; longer, slower breathing, kumbhaka, some longer stays. As well as Krishnamacharya's slower breathing I've been incorporating Simon and Bianca's focus on abdominal breathing, it does seem to keep one more relaxed.... and seemingly cooler. I've also started incorporating some other approaches of their's that gives a more relaxed practice (more to come on that later).

The yoga towel doesn't lie, almost sweat free in Osaka, in July




Here's the Osaka temperature this morning, around 32 degrees and 70% humidity, we have no Air Conditioning in this old house but we do have a fan.





The Yogasynergy fundamentals course I'm enrolled on.


http://fundamentals.yogasynergy.com/

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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta

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