Thursday, 2 July 2015

Just enrolled on Simon Borg-Olivier and Bianca Machliss' Essentials of Teacher Training Yoga Fundamentals Online course

I've just in enrolled in Simon and Bianca's online Yoga Fundamentals course. I had a peek at  their Anatomy and Physiology course last year but was running around without an internet connection while waiting for my japan visa  and couldn't actually do the course, although i have their Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga text book.

A few months back I became fascinated with the Spinal sequence that Simon and Bianca posted on their blog last year and wanted more. That Spinal sequence series of videos makes up part of the fundamentals course.

 The course I'm on actually starts on 6th of July so you may have a few days to sign up if you want to join me, there are forum groups for the classes which you can take part in or not as you wish.

Looking through the materials it reminds me of the Online distance learning course I was doing at Nottingham last time I was in japan. That was an Ma in Linguistics but the set up was similar, online lectures, powerpoint presentations, reading materials, forums etc. This is all very professionally produced but then Simon and Bianca teach a course along these lines at the university so i imagine there is a lot of cross over of materials.

The main reason I'm taking it is that after meeting Simon in Turkey last year I'm fascinated by his approach to practice (we were both teaching at the Rainbow festival so this post where I was lucky enough to Interview Simon and talk about the breath

He has an interesting background but it's how that background interacts with his years of practice and teaching that is interesting, Simon is a great experimenter putting all his research and discoveries to the test on and with his own body, an  explorer in fact and what else where those old yogis of the past

At the age of six, he was introduced to yogic breathing (pranayama) by his father George who taught him to swim underwater, and the main bandhas (internal locks) through a family friendship with Rhodesian Olympian Basil Brown. At the age of 17, he met a Tibetan Lama who introduced him to the philosophy and practice of Tantric Yoga. In 1985, Simon met his primary teacher Natanaga Zhander (Shandor Remete) with whom he studied for almost two decades. He has also studied with such internationally revered Indian teachers as BKS Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois and TKV Desikachar. Since 2007, Simon has been developing his yoga practice and understanding by studying with Master Zhen Hua Yang.

During the past 20 years, as well as running a successful yoga school, Simon has continued to both study and teach at the University of Sydney. Simon has completed a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology, a research-based Master of Science in Molecular Biology and a Bachelor of Applied Science in Physiotherapy. 

( and this link to Bianca Machliss

I'm interested in how I can bring Simon and Bianca's approach/research into my own practice, bring about a better understanding of whats going on in my body with those most subtle of movements, the vinyasa, as much as the asana themselves.

I once wrote a post on what I called the hidden asana, that all the variations of an asana that we often think of as preparation for an asana are asana in themselves and should be valued as such rather than dismissed as a cheat. Turns out that Krishnamacharya thought the same and we can see that in Ramaswami's teaching  But more........, that you could film your vinyasa and asana and then take a screenshot every second to and from the asana and that these would be hundreds of hidden asana, every one with their own subtle differences and I suspected benefits. My suspicion is that Simon and Bianca's course may give a sense of how true that actually is.

I thought it might be nice to do a series of posts as I work through the course so watch this space over the next 13 weeks.

Below are some screenshots.

The first is of the course resources...

The practice videos....

This is an example video from the spinal sequence but see this earlier post of mine where I look at his series  and Simon:s use of the breath in particular in more detail

The breath: Simon Borg-Olivier made me fall in love with asana all over again.


and there are more besides. 

the link below takes you to this page where you can have a closer look at the materials.

My interview with Simon, full post and the transcription here

See also

Preview of Simon's excellent book Applied Anatomy & Physiology of Yoga

Also information on Simon's Online Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga

See also my earlier post on Simon's book

The nine bandhas (yes Nine) in the APPLIED ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY OF YOGA of Simon Borg-oliver and Bianca Machliss

And this just in a blogtalkradio interview today

Five Things that Block Energy and 10 Ways to Move Them With Simon Borg-Olivier

Unfortunately I don't think we cover the unsupported headstand in the course

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

July 2015 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami--Review

My last 200 hr TT program in Vinyasakrama in US starts on 20th of July 2015 at LMU, and there are large open spaces available to spread the yoga mats on. Here is the link to register

I hope to be able to do some shorter programs at LMU in the future.

In June I had the pleasure of teaching at East Side Yoga, Austin,TX for a week. It is run by my friend Steven Ross, who completed the 200 hr TT program at LMU a few years ago after which he started this studio where Vinyasakrama also is taught. I taught a workshop on Yoga for Internal Organs, a workshop on Vinyasakrama and also on Pranayama and meditation all of which were well attended. I also taught a 25 hr sutra by sutra Patanjali's Yogadarshana. Thank you Steven

I just completed teaching a four day workshop at the lovely Breathe Los Gatos Yoga studio in California of Jennifer Prugh. I taught a 18 hour Certificate program in Vinyasakrama yoga and a talk on Yoga for Internal Organs. Both were well attended and participation heartwarming. Thank you Jennifer

The Eye Does Not See
My friend Jaijot Kaur Jennie Eldridge-Benjamin Humans of New York's photo.and wrote in a facebook page
This is what one of the things we studied with Ramaswami Srivatsa last week in the Yoga Sutra immersion. Thought you might enjoy this Steven Ross Tyagaraja M. Welch

"We're eye doctors."
"What's something about the eye that most people don't realize?"
"The eye doesn't see. The brain sees. The eye just transmits. So what we see isn't only determined by what comes through the eyes. What we see is affected by our memories, our feelings, and by what we've seen before."
------------------------------------------- -

Yes Yogasutra agrees with this. All the sensations through the senses, ears, eyes, skin, tongue, nose reach the brain as impulses as the modern science says. Then what goes to the brain is coordinated by manas an aspect of the brain, then colored by feelings by another center ahamkara and also analyzed by yet another center Buddhi and a composite picture is projected in the mental space. Further the brain adds another component. It receives impulses through the hundreds of nerves running through one's body and includes it in the projection as 'I' as we feel ourselves as we see the outside objects . YS does not agree though that the brain which projects also 'sees' the object. It is an instrument very versatile but has no consciousness to see. And that consciousness or unvarying awareness-distinct and different- they call it as the self or Purusha. The totality of our experience—what we see through the senses properly analyzed by buddhi and colored by the ego apart from the feeling of 'I' with this body that one experiences as oneself is the cittavritti or the projection of the mind of citta at a given moment. YS takes us several steps more in understanding how we see or experience.

Review of Bhagavatgota Yoga Program

My friend Anthony Hall has been unfailingly publishing my Newsletters in his very popular blog. This time I am reproducing, rather selfishly, the following review from his blog. Thank you Anthony, Chiara and Oscar.

Workshop Review: 70 hour sloka by sloka, Bhagavad Gita... as taught by Srivatsa Ramaswami (Guest post)

Thank you to my friends Chiara and Oscar for agreeing to share their thoughts on Ramaswami's recent (almost two week sloka by sloka Bhagavad Gita Intensive with Srivatsa Ramaswami.

Ramaswami will be teaching another (shorter) 25 hour  intensive on the Gita in Santa Monica July/August

from Chiara Ghiron. Siena, Italy

I studied with Srivatsa Ramaswami last year, attended the Core Vinyasa Krama week in London followed by a weekend on the subject of building a personal practice. I loved him, the way he explained the matter interspersed by small stories and his way of conveying an incredible amount of information in such a simple and understandable way.
So as soon as I heard of the Bhagavad Gita course organised by Steve Brandon at Harmony Yoga in Wells, I booked my place there.

It was going to be a real marathon, 13 days non stop, no āsana practice, no prānāyāma, nothing else but the full Bhagavad Gita śloka by śloka.
I wanted to attend mainly to be able to study more with Ramaswami and also because I was hoping he would make all possible connections with the Yoga Sutra and with Samkhya, since I had missed the opportunity to study these two texts with him the previous years.

I had read the Bhagavad Gita before, as it was a required text for my initial teacher training. We had to read a very simple and poetic version, the one by Stephen Mitchell, which was for me a real discovery. Ramaswami recommended the Annie Besant version for the course, which can be
downloaded free from the internet.

The basic story of this old text (400-300 BCE?) is the dilemma the prince-warrior Arjuna finds himself in, having to face the battle against his cousins and 
teachers to reconquer the kingdom which has been unjustly taken through deceit.
His charioteer reveals himself to be Krśna and he leads the reluctant Arjuna through the many reasons why he should fight the just war.
At the end of 18 chapters, having heard argumentation's based on Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jñana Yoga, having seen the immense power of Krśna in an almost Bollywoodian parade of lives and deaths, Arjuna is finally convinced that he should fight.
While following Krśna patiently persuading Arjuna, we learn something about the underlying Samkhya philosophy, particularly how the qualities of matter influence our behaviours. We are explained that each should keep a behaviour in line to one's own inclination and law, and how Yoga practice can support us throughout our lives.

The course was not packed but I must say that there was a good number of people, 13 attendants for the full course length and a few additional ones for the initial weekend. People came especially from Brazil, the USA, Italy, Spain, plus of course from the UK. 'Foreigners' made up almost half of the participants. I must admit I was a bit perplexed at not seeing more people from the UK for such an important and unique event, but there you go.

Ramaswami kept a very tight 
schedule, 5 and a half hours a day, a couple of short breaks in the morning and the afternoon and a long-ish lunch break.
Every morning I had to re-tune my brain to sentences which were half Sanskrit and half English, but after 10 minutes words were starting to flow fluidly and were easy to follow. Ramaswami used a Bhagavad Gita text with just the Sanskrit ślokas and a transliteration, translating and commenting all along.
He first sang each śloka then translated it, then commented it.
I had the recently published translation by Georg and Brenda Feuerstein with me, which has a word-by-word translation at the end. It proved very useful in saving me from taking too many notes on the translation, allowing to focus on Ramaswami's comments.

I felt that the Vedantic influence of Ramaswami's background showed quite strongly in his reading, although he was very open to other interpretations and actually also recommended other commentaries, including Ramanuja's.
But he said that 'the best commentary of the Gita is the Gita itself' and I also appreciated the exhortation to always read a text with an open mind.
First read, try to see what the author has to say, do not let your preconceived ideas veil the original text.
Then, at a second reading, perhaps bring in your experience, your ideas.
This was very important advice for me, given the bad habit I have of already interpreting, forming an opinion, often before even completing the reading.

One aspect which Ramaswami stressed over and over, was that there is a time for everything.
We should prepare our passage towards a more introverted and speculative life after we have
completed our duties.
We should restrain from always starting new things, otherwise we'll find we never have time to stop and contemplate and prepare for our last days.
And given that our preponderant samskaras are the ones which will inevitably reappear at the time of death, better starting to work on them as soon as possible!

Ramaswami was incredibly accurate and very very good at timing the lectures. He always left enough time for discussion when time was needed and reined us in when we had to move faster on areas which had been covered already with different words. We finished right at the end of the last day, but we had some time to ask a few more questions.

Overall, it was an excellent course, very intense and it will take months before we can go through the whole text again and find the jewels which are hidden in the myriad of notes we all took.
It was never boring, and I could not believe how fast almost two weeks went by.
You may or may not resonate with the concept of a One and Only Underlying Reality, but the life-coaching that Krśna gives is invaluable, whichever your approach is to what is beyond this body.

It was an unforgettable experience and I think that whoever has the opportunity to study with him on the more theoretical aspects of Yoga should take it.
from Oscar Montero. Leon, Spain

The Bhagavad Gita is a very easy way to explain the philosophy, for this reason it became a popular text. All the text tries to dissolve avydia in order to understand the consciousness. They don't talk about the soul, they talk about the experience we have just now. Thank You
The Gita has three sections: first six chapters talk about myself, second six about god, and the last six the relation between myself and god.
My personal experience of the workshop
I didn't know much about this book, I read it 18 years ago, just the slokas, without comments.
I feel really lucky to study for the first time with Ramaswami, who constantly give the relation between Bhagavad Gita, Samkhya, Yoga sutras, Vedanta advaita and other important text coloured by Indian stories to make it more clear.
At the beginning it was a little bit difficult but, everyday my understanding grew. Ramaswami taught each sloka, word by word, but always he came back to the main ideas, to be clear and relate with different sections of the books.The main difference between Bhagavad Gita and The Yoga Sutras is that the Yoga Sutras explains the means to develop a satvic mind. 
A very nice moment was the last class, when Ramaswami chanted all the slokas of the last chapter, and I could understand the sanskrit and relate to the meaning we have studied hours ago, that was awesome
Some quotes

"Do all your actions "karmas" before become a yogui. Do whatever it require to be done without letting the mind associate with the benefits of the actions. If we act in this way, we are free from the actions, if not, we become slaves of the actions".
"Everything we do if because we want to be happy. But, until I know myself, how can I know what i'm doing is right"?

"The senses are more powerful than the body, because they connect you to the outside world. Manas and ahamkara are more powerful than the senses. Buddhi, the intellect is more powerful than manas and ahamkara. And the most powerful is atman".

"The mind is like a plough, it needs to be very sharp in order to create a straight line in the earth. The mind that is not sharp, goes in different directions, never straight. The way to become the mind sharp is yoga".* Oscar.

Srivatsa Ramaswami


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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