Sunday, July 24, 2011

We've moved! Come check us out

Hey all.

And, yes, I mean all. All hundreds.

We were pretty surprised by that, too.

There's been great response to this blog. A few dozen regulars, it seems, and somewhere near the 100 mark who've dropped by at least once. From all over the world.

So we realized that maybe we could and should be doing a little more. We felt a bit limited here, so we've moved everything (except, sadly, the Confluence Countdown) to a new site:

The Confluence Countdown. At Yes, that's redundant.

We will keep our eyes on news and information related to the Confluence and the five student-teachers who are leading it. Plus, we'll update you on other topics and issues we think are related to the Confluence and Ashtanga yoga.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The wireless Ashtangi -- Nancy Gilgoff

Unlike the other quartet of teacher/students at the Confluence, Nancy Gilgoff doesn't seem to have a regular blog or anything of the like.

A wireless yogini, indeed, in this day of constant Facebook updates, Twitter feeds and, yes, blogs like this.

I'll admit I know less about her than I do the other four -- perhaps as a result of her not being quite so present online. Yes, her site exists, but the "about" page is pretty short. Perhaps on purpose?

That leads, then, to other searches. I know, from a one-day session with David Williams, that he introduced her to Guruji and that she had a serious of ailments. But I was shocked to find out what they were.

This old Yoga Journal piece lays it out in pretty stark detail. (Note to Yoga Journal: It might be good to date these articles; I have zero idea when it is from.)

Here are some key moments:
The earliest of Gilgoff's injuries began when she was a child. She loved horseback riding, but it put such a constant pounding on her lower spine that she was left with chronic back problems. "By the time I was a teenager," she says, "it had manifested in my neck, where a vertebra was jammed forward." Along with this, childhood dental work had been performed with her mouth left open so uncomfortably, she would literally scream in pain, a torture she believes compounded the neck injury. Later, as a junior in college, she began getting severe migraines she believes were triggered by the then-new birth control pills. This experience left her with jaw pain so intense, she couldn't open her mouth for days at a time.


Her pain was so acute, doctors suggested surgery to deaden places in her brain, in effect to numb the pain. But Gilgoff had other ideas. She had watched a close friend go through hospital treatments for cancer, and the idea of surgery appalled her. "I knew I didn't want to end up in that situation," she says, "so I started looking around, taking the first steps to another way of being."

When Gilgoff left college at age 24, she'd already become a vegetarian, and it wasn't long after she took up yoga under Williams' tutelage that the couple traveled to India, where they ended up at Jois's Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore. The challenge of Ashtanga would change her life.
I'll be very intrigued to see how that beginning manifests itself in her teaching and what she has to say about the practice; and it makes me a bit disappointed that I didn't sign up for her Led class.

Her story also reminds me of something else, something that seems strangely common to Ashtangis: A lot of them have had some injury at some point, whether before finding the practice or some time during it. Shoulder and knee injuries are common; I've heard stories about recovering from car accidents; there are those who were athletes who got hurt and then found Ashtanga.

Is it, I wonder, because at its heart it really is a healing practice -- or is there something about it that attracts folks whose dharma passes through injury?

(Photo from Gilgoff's web site and Picasa feed.)

Note: We've moved to

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Music, yoga and Ashtanga

I know I'm pushing the proper boundaries of Ashtanga here, but after thinking earlier about MC Yogi's presence at the Confluence, having this story pop upon on my radar seemed somehow fated.

It's from the Times of India: "When music and yoga combine to heal."

In a traditional Mysore room, of course, there's no music -- maybe just some background chants or mantras. (That's how it is at our shala in LA.) But typically those rules get stretched if a shala also offers flow-type classes, and I'm sure we've all taken at least our share of those, at least at some yoga -- as opposed to Ashtanga -- studio.

I know there's a whole debate or discussion about how yoga teachers pick their class "play lists." And I really don't want to go there.

Because this article doesn't go there. It goes here:

The spiritual nuances of Indian classical music traditions, developed over centuries, are particularly suited for music therapy, he said, but added that a lot of research and developmental work needed to be done.

Interestingly, while the modern world may be just waking up to the therapy, ancient Indian scriptures have a well-documented technique called 'nada yoga' -- or the science of utilising sound vibrations and yogic asanas (postures) to achieve 'salvation'.

According to Sharma, nada yoga has enormous power to heal. It is believed that Indian classical music has very positive effects on human health and behaviour.

"Recent studies on the subject showed that music along with yoga can heal disorders like hypertension, arthritis, problems related to upper or lower parts of the body, mental stress and tension," she said.

In other words, with all due deference to MC Yogi, we aren't talking hip hop here. Nor Tool. Nor Bob Marley, Michael Franti or Jack Johnson.

We aren't even talking Krishna Das or Jai Uttal. Or any of the sources that drive bhakti yoga (and Bhakti Fest).

I don't think I've ever had an asana class that incorporated this kind of music; maybe there was an odd Ravi Shankar song mixed in, but certainly nothing drawing along a "nada yoga" tradition.

It sounds interesting, at least. But I doubt whether it ever could fit into an Ashtanga practice, which is so focused on dristis and pratyahara and, thus, not hearing or noticing the outside world. (I usually stop noticing the background mantras that are playing at the shala, for instance, at least on the more successful days.)

Given the Confluence's emphasis on "Ashtanga in America," perhaps it is a topic that will come up during one of the days' talks. After all, yoga and music now are pretty wedded together in most studios. And not having music is one of the most noticeable difference between Ashtanga and the flow class down the street. I'm sure it is an issue these five teachers have faces and thought about -- I believe I've even heard David Swenson say it was OK, as part of a home practice, for instance. I think his point was it gets you to practice, that's better than not practicing.

Anyone secretly play music when you practice at home? Does it affect your practice in any noticeable ways? And have you ever put on classical Indian music before that first Surya Namaskara?

Note: We've moved to

David's Psyched!

David Swenson just nailed the best thing about the Confluence in his new website post:
"There will be differences and similarities between how we present the system we all so love," he writes. "This will be the beauty of the event. It is a flowing together."
Apropos of Steve's last entry, that will be the best part for me: Seeing these great teachers converse with each other, listening to them compare notes, finding the common ground. And there will also be a "confluence" of students--Richard's students will be practicing next to David's next to Eddie's next to Nancy's next to Tim's. Some of us have spent a great deal of time with one teacher; some have dabbled in workshops with the others. We'll get to see the greatness of the teaching.

During his teacher trainings, Tim was often asked about this or that detail from David's book, or something Nancy or Richard might have said. Tim always treats these differences with respect and humor, never really disagreeing with the teachings of his "esteemed colleagues," as he called them. Check out David's post. You can hear the love and respect.

Note: We've moved to

What's the most exciting thing about the Confluence?

The Confluence website touts a key attraction: The five teachers gathering have 175 years of combined teaching experience among them.

Yeah, that's a lot. And it doesn't even count the authorized teachers who will be assisting in classes and who knows how else.

I'm fairly certain that the essential confluence of these experienced Ashtanga teachers is the main draw for those of us who have signed up already. (Spots, I've heard, are going fast. Probably best not to dally too much.)

But there is more to it than just them. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few other draws:

* MC Yogi's Saturday night music. Think we can count on hearing "Ganesh is Fresh"?
* Potential gathering with old and far-flung yoga friends.
* If you're coming from outside of Southern California, a break from lingering winter.
* The chance to surround yourself with hundreds (I'm guessing) of other Ashtangis.
* The opportunity to discover a new product, line of clothing, food stuff from the promised vendors and sponsors. (I'll admit, I always love wandering through the vendor booths, even if I rarely buy anything.)
* And, as we've posted about already, the asana classes, the talks, the opening puja ceremony.

There's a half dozen things. But I'm curious what you -- yeah, you, the one reading this right now -- are most excited about; why did you sign up for the Confluence already, why are you toying with the idea of signing up?

And, just maybe, what else do you hope they add to the weekend?

(Photo from MC Yogi's website.)

Note: We've moved to

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Eddie Stern on the goal of spiritual practice

I joked once to Tim Miller that my most flexible muscle is my brain. I'm sure it must have come after he directed another shake of the head toward me and followed it with a "still stiff" in the Indian accent he puts on when he's about to hurt your feelings, but wants to do so gently.

When you see me at the Confluence, you'll know what I, and he, mean.

But my joke isn't entirely facetious. I'm pretty sure my brain is my most flexible muscle; sadly, Ashtanga only is 1% theory, but it is a 1% I try to give at least 4% of my time to as part of my practice.

And it is why I'm as excited by the afternoon talks at the Confluence as I am the morning practice sessions.

Initially, I'll admit to being most excited about hearing Richard Freeman. I read his latest book, "The Mirror of Yoga," earlier this year, and I found much in it to absorb and contemplate. (Ala Bobbie's review of "The Ramayana," I'll do something more complete on it at some point.) I have a suspicion I might really take to his perspective on the practice and on yoga in America.

But since the Confluence announcement, I've also being paying more attention to Eddie Stern, who may represent the great unknown for me when it comes to the five teachers.

What did I know about him? Well, the usual "rumors": he's super strict and super traditional, in that New York way. And before any New Yorkers/East Coasters jump on me, you know you think we're all laid back and too free with things out here in California. I also know he's embraced Hindu practices. But, really, that's about it. (In the past few weeks, I've gotten more information from a local source, who I'll keep anonymous. But it sounds like Eddie is a great teacher, which is no surprise.)

His blog at the Ashtanga Yoga New York site is great, and it is certainly making me more interested in hearing what he has to say about the 1% theory of Ashtanga. His latest, built around a puja for Guruji's birthday, includes these wonderful words:

The goal of spiritual practice is to awaken inner happiness, happiness that is not caused by the fleeting, changing objects of the world, but is the uncaused happiness of the Self. Purnima refers to the full moon, when the moon is complete and reflects the full light of the sun. In the Hindu tradition the moon is the mind, and the sun is the heart – so when our mind completely reflects the inner happiness of the heart, it is said to be full. The yoga master Krishan Verma spoke this past Friday on this idea, remarking that the Guru is said to be the one to awaken this fullness, hence the special name Guru Purnima – what is fullness, he asked? Happiness. Where does this happiness come from? Devotion to the Guru. The Guru can be a person, but in essence is a principle, called Guru Tattva. The principle of the Guru is the light of knowledge – a light like the sun – which is shining in the heart of each and everyone of us. We can access that principle, and have our own experience of it. But while it is true that the Guru is within us, the need for an outer guide should never be discounted, one who can point us in the right direction – and especially in the cases where this principle shines forth brilliantly, and the vessel has become the embodiment of the principle.

Now, I'll readily admit to being one of those not-so-rare Westerners who are reluctant to "surrender" to a Guru or, really, any authority figure. My embrace of Hanuman is mostly about tapping into his devotion to another.

And I'll also admit to having hesitation to what I'll broadly, and reductively, call "the new age spirituality" of yoga. I don't mean to turn anyone off by that phrase, and don't mean it pejoratively; it is more a reflection on me than yoga or Ashtanga or anyone practicing it. It places me in that grand continuum of American males, I think, who have some sort of ingrained skepticism or even hostility to anything "hippy dippy." On one end is, I don't know, Rick Santorum, maybe? On the other is probably Ram Dass.

As my practice has deepened, I've definitely moved toward Ram Dass. I'm trying to access what Tim Miller has referred to as my "gooey inside." It's not an easy task. But it is part of the practice, and it seems like it is an inescapable one after a certain point. There comes that moment when Ashtanga is either going to stay a really good workout or become something more.

That's something we've all experienced, right? It is something I'm still trying to put into words. (One of the goals of this blog.)

I'm looking forward to the Confluence, in large part, to help push me further down that path toward "something more." And I'm very interested to hear Eddie, and Richard, and find out if anything they say gives me a firm shove.

(Photo from

Note: We've moved to

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An even better Tuesday explanation

As promised in our first post, we'll highlight the writings and goings-on of the five teachers who will lead the Confluence.

Tim Miller posted his weekly "Tuesdays with Timji" piece a short time ago, and this week's is a good primer on what Tuesday is all about and what the Ashtanga practice means, too:
Regarding Tuesdays, Guruji used to say, “Tuesday is a bad day.” When I asked him why he replied, “Some fighting.” In Vedic astrology, Tuesday is associated with the planet Mars. Of the planets, Mars is known as the “lesser malefic”—Saturn being the “greater malefic.” In Roman mythology Mars is the God of War--one of its primary associations has been with conflict, and accidents as well. Guruji would never shave on Tuesday because of this association of Mars with accidents, particularly accidents involving the head, since Mars rules the sign Aries, which is linked to the head. In Mysore, Guruji never gave anyone a new pose on a Tuesday, because of this potential for accidents.
I tend to think of Tim as as much Vedic astrologer as Yogi, if one can unwind those two. Check out his thoughts if you haven't already or don't normally.

He gives a little shout-out to Hanuman, too.

Note: We've moved to

If it's Tuesday, it must be Hanuman

Those of you who follow or are at least familiar with some Hindu practices know that Tuesday is a day when we worship and remember Hanuman.

Hanuman, to be all too brief, is Rama's great, devoted servant. A vanara, a monkey-like race, Hanuman is the one who (spoiler alert!) finds Sita after she has been abducted by the demon Ravana. That story is from the Ramayana, a version of which Bobbie talks about below.

Often, I think, we have an image of Hanuman that emphasizes his "monkeyness." Yes, we know he's brave, we know he's a great warrior, but he's still just a monkey -- not even a more powerful looking ape.

In Ramesh Menon's Ramayana, however, when we first meet Hanuman, he easily picks up and carries both Rama and his brother, Lakshmana. Menon describes him as "tall as a tree." The monkeyness isn't downplayed, but it is clear that the description is really just our -- humans' -- best approximation of what a vanara is. We are, after all, hearing a story from two yuga ago -- the treta yuga, when things weren't nearly as messed up as they are now. How are we supposed to grasp the nuisance of Hanuman's nature and being?

That's one of our great challenges, of course: to understand the meaning of those ancient stories.

For me, thinking of Hanuman as much more than just a monkey, but certainly not as an ape, helps mightily with grasping the complexity of his devotion, his faith, his service and, yes, his strength.

And his strength is awfully attractive come Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Note: We've moved to

Confluence Homework--Suggested Readings

You might notice, looking at the schedule (or, for that matter, the Confluence website), that there’s a good deal of philosophy woven into the subject matter. The last day of the Confluence, Eddie and Tim will be discussing Patanjali’s Sutra II.44: “'Swadyaya Ishta Devata Samprayogaha' – Union with the chosen deity comes from the study of self through the sacred texts.”

Although I’ve been pouring over the Yoga Sutras for years now, it wasn’t until Tim’s Mt. Shasta retreat last year that I found a real fire for the classics of Indian literature.

Tim closes every evening session with a story, and last year he read the first few chapters of The Mahabharata, translated by Ramesh Menon. I ordered it as soon as I got home, and could not put the it down. It was better than the best epic fiction I’d ever read, beautifully paced, with glamour, love, death, and redemption. I was hooked. That led me to Menon’s sensitive and elegant translation of The Ramayana. And of The Siva Purana. Then The Bhagavata Purana. I can’t stop reading the guy.

Let me give you an example of his style:

The Demon rode in Brahma’s flashing chariot, yoked to unearthly steeds; though Rama’s bow steamed fire, Ravana was never in one place so they could find their mark. Quick as wishes, his chariot bore the Lord of evil over land and though the air.

That’s some breathless prose! Steaming fire: a fantastic and impossible image, perfect for Rama's bow!

There are many virtues to Menon’s method of translating, but the best part is its ease of reading. Menon subtitled The Mahabharata, “a modern rendering.” “Rendering” a great word for it—boiling it down to its essential elements. The Ramayana he subtitles, “a modern retelling.” Menon knows how to bring the action alive, as in this excerpt, while still keeping its symbolic meaning (which he leaves to the reader to discover). He keeps the ancient and epic flavor without alienating a contemporary reader.

His renditions of the important figures of each epic are sympathetic and also awesome. Rama is brave, but sorrow-struck. Hanuman’s devotion develops over time, and his humility is touching, a model for us all: “Forgive me,” he says to Rama, “I am a monkey and my curiosity gets the better of me.” In The Mahabharata, Menon fleshes out Krishna so well, The Bhagavad Gita will come alive for you, a moving conversation between God and his disciple (it’s at the start of volume two).

The act of a translator is never easy, and Menon knows when to translate, when to leave the original alone—his meaning is clear in context (sometimes it’s a “chariot,” sometimes a “ratha,” depending on his purpose). But both the Mahabharata and Ramayana come with glossaries in the back to help the reader with the Sanskrit, as well as the huge cast of characters and deities.

Like me, you may not be able to stop with these two epics. The Confluence will begin with a puja to Ganesh. Menon has a starkly beautiful account of Ganesh’s origins in his translation of The Siva Purana that explains Ganesh’s role as the Lord of Obstacles. There’s also the two-volume Bhagavata Purana, the complete story of Vishnu (which I’m reading now). And a translation of The Devi Bhagavatam waits for me on the shelf.

If you get started now, you may be done by the time Eddie and Tim discuss "Swadyaya Ishta Devata Samprayogaha." And, boy, will you have studied the ancient texts!

Note: We've moved to

Monday, July 18, 2011

Open registration is... well, open

For those who have been waiting to register for the Confluence until after the "hotel package" was done, now's your chance.

I just saw the announcement that open registration has begun.

You can get there from here, if you want.

Now, personally, as I noted below, I think staying at the hotel will be a great part of the experience. It feels like you will be less at the "confluence" of things if you are not at the confluence, if you get my drift.

But, it could mean a savings of $400 or $500, so I get that. And for all of Tim Miller's students in and around San Diego, it might be hard to justify staying down at the beach.

Anyway, we'll try to keep our room open as much as possible for everyone.

Note: We've moved to

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yeah, you should be able to surf

I know I'm not the only Ashtangi who comes back from morning practice and heads to the beach for a surf session. (Example: Today, although there isn't much surf here in LA.)

So it didn't take me long to look at where the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence is being held and think, "Umm... maybe I can just walk a few blocks and do a little surfing, too."

Turns out, I -- we -- can. There are a few different types of breaks to choose from. And given it isn't going to be summer yet, it might not be totally crowded. (I'm eying Friday as the best day to paddle out.)

Pacific Beach and Mission Beach includes longboard heaven at Tourmaline Surfing Park, which is a little trek from the Catamaran Resort, maybe 1/2 mile. Much closer, but a bit more aggro, is Crystal Pier. North past Tourmaline is Pacific Point.

Or, really, you will be able to walk across Mission Boulevard, a whole beach block -- we're talking 400 feet -- and be on the beach, and walk from there until you find a little peak. That's probably my plan.

Given it will be March, the water temperature will be in the upper 50s; San Diego has a fairly deep water shelf, so although it is south from LA, Orange County, etc, it doesn't necessarily reflect it in the water. (Much like northern Baja Mexico.) Full suit, in other words.

What board to bring will depend on where you think you'll go, and maybe any last minute checks of the surf.

At the worst, we can hope that the rumor about San Diego turns out to be true: That's it's always 70 degrees and sunny. At least we can go lay on the beach post-two Ashtanga classes and before the afternoon talks.

(Photo of Crystal Pier via Surfline.)

Note: We've moved to

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New to Swenson?

David Swenson, the wandering yogi. If you'll be meeting David Swenson for the first time at the Confluence, then perhaps a short summary of his role as a senior Western student is in order. His DVDs, particularly the First Series DVD, are the mainstay of home practitioners and new learners. Swenson is famous for breaking down the practice with his affable, approachable style, removing a lot of the intimidation factor. This is true even though his demonstrations of poses are jaw-droppingly awesome. Somehow, he manages to radiate humility, make you feel like the impossible is possible. His practice manual has the same tone, sturdy and spiral-bound for ease of use. Forget where a drishti is? You can look it up in the manual. Can't get your feet behind your head? Here's what you do until you can.

But it's the workshops that make him the Johnny Appleseed of Ashtanga. David travels the world, giving Ashtanga to all walks of life. In the workshop I took with him, he was asked about "personal space" in the practice room. For an answer, he described demonstrating at a workshop in Japan. His students were crowded together to watch, with their toes practically touching the edge of his mat (count your spacial blessings was the subtext). He brings his travels to each workshop. Google for videos of David Swenson, and you'll see a wide range of faces in the background of videos shot all over the world.

You may not know, however, that he has a website that answers a lot of the nagging questions of practice, like Ashtanga and age, drinking (as in booze, not water, which is a different question), and my personal favorite, Where Does the Spirit Live?. You can't get a bigger Q for your Q & A than that.

Note: We've moved to

Wait, don't have all the facts?

At risk of having put the cart before the elephant (see the great book "The Hindus" for much information about why horses are/were so important in early Indian culture), here's the information for the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence.

Right. Makes sense to have that here. Although there is a link over there to your right.

Here's a more pronounced link, and below is the schedule:

First Annual Ashtanga Yoga Confluence Schedule

Thursday, March 1st
6:00 p.m-6:30 p.m. – Ganesh Puja
In India the elephant headed god is known as the Remover of Obstacles and the Lord of Beginnings. He is honored at important ceremonies to insure an auspicious beginning and successful completion of the event. The Ganesh Puja will be performed by Eddie Stern.

6:30 p.m-8:30 p.m. – Catered Opening Ceremony

Friday, March 2nd
7.00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. – Guided Intro Class taught by Richard (asana)

7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. – Mysore taught by Tim, David, Nancy and Eddie with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. – “Working In”– The Art of Breathing taught by Tim (pranayama)
Pranayama, literally “the extension of the life force,” is an important practice that cultivates clarity of mind, longevity and pratyahara (the inward turning of attention). Tim will introduce pranayama techniques to explore aspects of the pranamaya kosha (subtle body) such as the chakras and the pancha vayus (the five pranas) and to serve as the vital link between external methodology and internal experience.

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. – Flying, Floating and Handstanding taught by David 
(asana with partner)
Flying, Floating and Handstanding: In this fun-filled exploration of vinyasa and arm balances, we’ll break down the vinyasa into its components and explore handstands and arm balances through the avenue of partner work. All levels can attend – even if you’ve never done a handstand. 

3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. – Panel Discussion with Tim, David, Richard, Nancy and Eddie for the entire group to attend together (lecture/discussion)
Q & A discussion, stories about Guruji, etc.

Saturday, March 3rd
7:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. – Guided Intro Class taught by Tim (asana)

7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. – Mysore taught by Richard, David, Nancy and Eddie with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. – Intro to the Second Series taught by Nancy and assisted by Tim Miller (asana)
An introduction to Nadi Shodana (purification of the little rivers), the intermediate series of Asthanga Yoga.

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. – Backbending on the Current of Breath taught by Richard (asana)
An energetic exploration of integrated whole-body patterns found in backbending. We’ll work with the internal alignment mirrored in the pelvic floor as it moves around the central axis of the body. Using these patterns, combined with integrated muscular patterns within the hamstrings, abdominal wall, shoulders and arms, we’ll construct a series of deep backbends that are grounded, open and free of pain.

3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. –The Symbolic Meaning of the Hindu Deities: Ganesh & Hanuman taught by Eddie and Tim for the entire group to attend together (lecture/discussion)
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra II.44 states “Swadyaya Ishta Devata Samprayogaha – Union with the chosen deity comes from the study of self through the sacred texts”. Eddie and Tim will shed light on their chosen deities Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and Hanuman, the dispeller of afflictions.

7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. – Music by M.C. Yogi

Sunday, March 4th
7:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. – Guided Intro to Ashtanga taught by Nancy followed by Loving Kindness Meditation (asana)

7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. – Mysore taught by Tim, David, Richard and Eddie with certified and authorized teacher assistance (asana)

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. – The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga with Tim, David, Richard, Nancy and Eddie for the entire group to attend together (lecture/discussion)
The first five limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are known as the external limbs. Pattabhi Jois said “The first five limbs of yoga are very difficult-the last three are easy!” Each teacher will illuminate a yama and a niyama, as well as discuss the the lager context of the first five limbs, or even all eight if time permits.

3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. – Ashtanga Yoga and Daily Life with Tim, David, Richard, Nancy and Eddie for the entire group to attend together (lecture/discussion)
All of the teachers will reflect on what it means to be a yogi in the modern world, as a westerner and a householder and how one’s practice changes over time in relation to the aging process. Questions submitted in advance will be answered.

The toughest decision for me was the Friday 11 a.m. classes. I knew "Working In" meant Tim; I've seen him call his teaching that, before. And I don't lightly miss an opportunity to sit with him. (Side note: Two weeks from now we'll be in Mt. Shasta with Timji; we'll see how the blog posting goes from there. At worst, we will try to have lots of pictures. Shasta is wonderful if you ever get the chance.) But I've also done pranayama with him, so I chose -- reluctantly -- the other course. And while I've had a weekend course from David Swenson before, I think his jumping and handstanding lessons will come at a perfect time in the Spring. I'll be much more ready.

I also assumed Tim would be involved in the Second Series intro; again, something I've done though Second is a bit beyond these stiff bones. So it was hard to go against that current, too. But I'm very excited to get a chance to have some teachings from Richard Freeman, whose books and thinking on Astanga and yoga are very interesting to me -- and I think, very different from the strand from Guruji I've received so far.

So that will be one of many highlights, even though right now my backbends are more "backthings."

Note: We've moved to

Friday, July 15, 2011

So what's the hotel going to be like?

A lot of the initial talk I heard about the AYC -- besides overall enthusiasm and excitement -- was about having to book a room at the hotel.

Right off, I'll get this out of the way: The price seems pretty reasonable to me. And I think staying there -- being in the chaos of all those Ashtangis -- will be part of the fun.

But not everyone was enthused about that. So I thought, "Well, how good is the hotel?"

The answer: Seems OK, to pretty good.

At least that seems to be the consensus from the Yelp reviews, which I've run through so you don't have to. (See how we are helpful that way?)

As with any Yelp, there are always the outliers who absolutely hate the place or have a bad experience. And there seem to be an equal number of people who just gush and gush over it.

All said, from 94 reviews it gets 3.5 stars, but I'd say it's fair to say that a few really bad reviews probably pulled it down from being closer to 4. I will warn, though, that some of the poorer reviews are from 2011. So I don't know if the place had a bad run this Spring.

If anyone's stayed there or knows about it, comment away.

Note: We've moved to

Bad Yogini!

Most practitioners of Ashtanga have experienced it. You get settled, happy with your practice, and life intervenes. You have to move. Now, you need a new teacher. Or your job means you can't practice at your shala anymore (no shower? stinky yogi!). Or you have to go to school and can't afford it. You practice at home, go to workshops, or wander around in a new town looking for a new teacher.

My first Ashtanga teacher was Pamela Ward at Yoga Path in Irvine, CA. I'd just gotten comfortable with the practice, and bought a year's membership, when I showed up for class one day and the doors were locked--the studio went bankrupt.

I found Shayna Liebbe at YogaWorks in Mission Viejo. Shayna's life ended tragically, but through her amazing teaching I found Diana Christinson and Tim Miller. I was home. I had not one shala, but two.

Then, we had to relocate to Los Angeles. I was lost. I had shoulder surgery. I wandered around. I wanted to love. I went to retreats and teacher trainings with Tim, drove for two hours to get to Carlsbad whenever I could. Finally, Jorgen Christiansson opened Omkar108. A new shala, a new home.

It seems to me that this is part of being an American Ashtangi, why the Confluence seems so right, so needed. There are many different paths to practice, one Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. I remember Tim saying to me, "Two gurus, bad yogi!" The amazing thing, really, is that all my teachers have taught the same practice, the same breath, the same drishti, bandhas, asanas.

At the Confluence, we will get a chance to see the incredible continuity Guruji gave the practice, across teachers, across continents.

Note: We've moved to

Guru Purnima

Over the course of the past 24 hours, we've entered Guru Purnima, the full moon in June and July. (Some called it yesterday, some today. It is the very definition of the inconstant moon.)

I'll defer to Eddie Stern on the weighty meaning of the day:

Sri K Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) was born on the full moon day (purnima) of the month of June-July (Ashadha) in 1915. In the Hindu tradition, this day is called Guru Purnima, named so because the sage Vyaas, the compiler of the Vedas and author of the Mahabharata was born on this day. Guru Purnima is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists alike, and is the traditional day for honoring one’s Guru. It also marks the beginning of chaturmas, the four months of the rainy season when sannyasis (wandering ascetics) would halt in one location to give teachings, blessings and advice to the public before commencing their wandering again. For householders, it is a time of engaging in renewal of spiritual practice, practicing austerities (such as increased repetition of mantra), giving charity, and listening to spiritual discourses.

It is very fitting that Pattabhi Jois, who was a staunch believer in adhering to traditional practices and following the teachings of ancient lineage, was born on this auspicious day. Please join us as we celebrate his birth with sacred pujas and chanting. It is not necessary to attend the entire four hours, any time that you can come is great.

At our local shala, Omkar108, Jörgen Christiansson led a Guru Puja for Guruji that was wonderful in its simplicity. The highlight, without doubt, was Jörgen's playing a version of the invocation call and response by Guruji before the Led class.

I would definitely encourage people to pick that up as a yearly, at least, remembrance of Guruji and his gift of the practice.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

The dreaded first post


That's probably as good a way to start this blog as any. It works, after all, for Ashtanga.

I suppose you might be wondering what this blog's all about, or supposed to be all about.

Well, it's simple. We're hoping to be a one-stop shop for all things related, however loosely, to the March 2012 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, featuring five of the West's senior students of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. We're excited about it, and so we want to be able to keep a running tab of things as the date grows closer.

What's that mean?

Well, we'll link to Tim Miller's weekly blog, Tuesdays with Timji. (Warning: Tim's our teacher from this handful.) Eddie Stern also blogs, and Richard Freeman's shala has one, too. We'll share updates on the Confluence as well as anything that strikes our interest, on the theory that if it interests us, it will interest you.

We'll try to have some fun, maybe be serious occasionally and work to keep the enthusiasm high.

And all the while we'll keep our practice going.


Note: We've moved to