• Yoga & Cultural Appropriation

    I often hesitate to call myself a “yoga teacher.” I prefer to view myself as a student, a lifelong disciple of one of my culture’s most precious gifts, yoga. A tradition of spiritual teaching that has evolved and survived several cultural onslaughts for well over 2,500 years. The latest being its current somewhat distorted avatar. A casual ‘Namaste’ printed at the base of a photograph of a smiling bikini clad woman on an impossibly beautiful beach. A Pincha on a bridge with a quote from Patanjali’s sutras. A pair of $100 leggings with an ‘Om” stylishly embroidered on it.  Lots of ‘Chakra cleansing’ and ‘Om’-ing gleefully bandied about over turmeric lattes and conversations about coconut oil and clarified butter. The question arises, what is wrong with that? Why would the global adoption of yoga be anything but good?

    To answer that simply, it is, and it isn’t. There is nothing more wonderful and heartwarming than watching people of all races from every corner of the globe embrace yoga with so much warmth and enthusiasm. It is beautiful to see bodies of all shapes and sizes feel the benefits of this tradition. Watching as yoga connects people from all walks of life and provides a welcoming place for young and old is wonderful to witness. On the face of it, this is the age of the yoga revolution. The unprecedented numbers of people from the West practicing, learning and teaching yoga like never before in its rich history is exciting!

    What is less exciting, less heartwarming and less easy to process is the way in which yoga is often treated and consumed today. If you were to do a cursory search of your Instagram account, arguably the current haven for yoga practitioners, you would be hard pressed to find many faces that look Indian, wielding any sort of real influence on the way yoga is perceived or practiced. The face of yoga is invariably Caucasian, smiling, thin and dressed in stylish yoga gear doing something impossibly stretchy. A fair number of practitioners are wholly ignorant of yoga’s Indian roots and perhaps a fair number do not care to acknowledge it nor see it as relevant. That is problematic. Ignoring cultural appropriation also ignores the biases and prejudices races like mine have long endured. We have had our curries called “smelly”, we’ve had our gods made fun of, we’ve been called ‘dotheads” and the list goes on. To then have parts of our cultural and spiritual practices sanitized and made palatable for profit with no effort to represent us is hard to watch.

    It is more than a little strange to witness ‘bindis’ becoming a fashion accessory and a traditional greeting like ‘Namaste’ become a trendy graphic on everything from tank tops to coffee mugs. Of course, the argument is often made to normalize cultural appropriation. Which is that every culture learns and absorbs practices from other cultures and that it shouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, a lot of the absorbing comes from cultures that seek to profit from others while removing almost every trace of the people originally practicing it. To cherry pick the things that suit a profit margin and discard the rest. For a community that is more mindful and ethical than most, it is important for the global yoga community to understand the hurt and anger of a lot of Indians. Anger that comes from seeing not one face which looks like theirs on the international yoga stage when the source of yoga is Indian. There aren’t any multi-million-dollar yoga apparel brands rushing to sponsor Indians, no one is asking Indians to host retreats in beach paradises. In fact, no one is asking us to speak – at all! That is problematic.

    At its core yoga is a spiritual practice comprising of 8 limbs – Ashtanga. Only ONE limb of is devoted to ‘asana’, the physical practice of yoga. In today’s yoga context, it’s easy to imagine the hyper physical, athletic portion of yoga is all there is. That it is a glorified cousin of gymnastics in some way. The imaging and understanding of yoga seems to perpetuate this perception. Yoga isn’t a competitive sport that stresses physical ableism. It is at its heart a practice that shows you how to still your mind, to form a deep connection with your breath and body, to inculcate practices in your daily life that teach you to respect and love yourself and your fellow man. To learn to form a detachment from the material world and all its trappings and to learn to associate yourself with the oneness of the universe instead. In fact, Patanjali’s sutras do not contain a single instruction on how to do ‘Urdhva Dhanurasana’ or ten easy ways to enter a handstand. The physical aspect of yoga is almost incidental to what yoga really wants to teach you. The fetishization of handstands is a little incongruent in this light. There is nothing wrong with a rigorous ‘asana’ practice. It’s truly wonderful and does do your body a world of good but to assume that’s all it is, devalues this deeply spiritual practice and perhaps more unfortunately robs you of gaining a deeper more layered understanding of yourself.

    The status of ‘Guru,’ or teacher, is not handed out lightly in the Indian yogic tradition. A teacher is someone who leads you from the darkness of ignorance into the light of knowledge. A 6-week, 6 month or even 6-year study is perhaps only a beginning? The great thing about an ongoing study of yoga is that it automatically addresses the issues of respect, representation and cultural appropriation. Dedicating yourself not just to ‘6 ways to achieving Tic Tocs,’ but also to the study of the history, evolution and meaning of yoga would, I think, automatically make you a better practitioner and a better yogi. You could then go on to ensure that this wonderful source of learning not only survives but thrives. Now isn’t that exciting?

    Namaste.

    By Kashvi Lakshman

    Kashvi Lakshman Aiyar is a 200 hour certified yoga teacher and fitness enthusiast. She is a vegan and proud dog mommy. Kashvi cannot resist a bad pun and is often seen laughing at her own jokes.
    Find Kashvi on instagram @omgomie
  • The Top 3 Things You Need to Know to Start Yoga

    Many, many more people think about doing yoga than actually get around to starting. I’ve often pondered what is getting in the way. After talking to many an interested, but nervous potential student, these are the most pressing 3 things that I have gleaned.

    1. You do not need to loose weight first. I know that all the people photographed doing yoga look really thin, but believe me, there are many, many people doing yoga who do not have bodies that those models do, and they still benefit from yoga, and are still happy doing it. Moreover, many of those people with “regular” bodies come to appreciate the body that they have, instead of longing for to live in someone else’s.

     

    1. You do not need to already be flexible. When I started yoga, my hamstrings were very tight. As I’ve done yoga, they have loosened up.   Many an interested person will say “oh, I can’t do yoga—I’m not flexible enough!” I think that often adults figure that if they don’t already show an aptitude for an activity, then they ought not to waste their time. For instance, why learn to play the piano if you believe you have no musical talent?

     

    The point of yoga is not to excel, but to experience. When you allow yourself the space to do so, you might find that your hamstrings relax, and that you have an aptitude for flexibility that you didn’t anticipate.

     

    1. You do not need to have the right wardrobe. People who do yoga—especially in the coastal urban metropolises—have become their own kind of fashionistas. This can be a bit off-putting to the beginner. When I went to my teacher training—a 27-day immersion—I went with 5 sets of clothes. It worked out—I washed my clothes in the shower. My experience of yoga was not improved or diminished by my clothing choices.

     

    As I’ve grown into a busy teaching career, my yoga wardrobe has expanded considerably, for two reasons: it is my professional attire, and I spend all day wearing it. I have more yoga clothes than street clothes.

    To start yoga, all you need is some comfortable clothes that you can move in. That’s it. Sweatpants and a tee shirt will do quite nicely. Over time, you may choose to wear things that are more fitted, because you will discover that there is a fine line between comfortable clothes, and too much fabric.

    Once you overcome these common impediments, we can fine-tune your approach to yoga, like what style, teacher, level, and how often to go.

    Above all, have fun!

    by Erica Mather

    Originally published in Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine (print version). 

    Start Practicing With Erica On OMstars

    Visit Erica’s Blog for More Content

    Top 3 things you need to practice yoga

     

  • Yoga for Parents

    We are a product of our environments.  We are a product of our parents.  Monkey see, monkey do.  What are your little monkeys observing in the day to day?  Posture is no little thing on the list of providing our children with happy, healthy and safe lives.  But, if we are constantly revolving around a sedentary life, how can we lead by example and show them how to move through this life with healthy posture?

    Since the internet and cell phones became a household and even an individual norm things have shifted, quite literally.  We sit too much, in cars, on the couch, at school and at work.  We are sitters. For the sake of our children, we need to become movers and shakers again.  For the sake of ourselves, we need to change this idea of “back breaking” work and do things with posture and muscular support that allows us to work hard without “breaking your back.”

    Two quick steps in the right direction:  

    1 Sit more. Wait, what?! Let me explain: Not on a chair, not on a couch, not with a screen and not with a slouch.  Dr. Suess rhymes aside, we need to squat.  We need to squat and work the posterior chain that gets neglected.  The backside of the body needs more attention and the spine needs that support. Six packs are pretty and all, but you know all the sayings: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Beauty is only skin deep.  Bark with no bite.  

    2 Posture, posture, posture.  This is where having a Yoga practice gives you an upper hand.  Practice at home and practice in front of your kids.  Their incredible human brain will process and digest what they are seeing.  I’ve always said it is no wonder every mother and father thinks that their child is a genius…humans are amazing!  Lead by example and show them correct posture.  Telling them to sit up straight means very little if they have never seen it before.

     If the above is a rant about the asana of Yoga then below is my little rant about the awareness of Yoga.  

     Processing information is hard, especially when you are learning rapidly, growing rapidly and experiencing heightened emotions that are relatively new.  You might think I’m talking about you at this point, but I’m actually referring to children.  When you stare at them in disbelief because they are reacting with such intensity, remember that it is all very real to them and they are experiencing those emotions inside no matter how irrational it seems to an adult.  It is very overwhelming and takes age and time to process in a more socially acceptable manner.  I know this from personal experience.  I too was once a child.  Seriously though,  often times reflection can be the easiest path to compassion.  You don’t just get off the hook as an adult either, this is a life long battle of thinking before you act or even thinking about how you act.  Yoga teaches us patience and that life itself is a practice.  One more time:  Life itself is a practice.  Practice makes progress.  Practice what you preach.  Lead by example.  Awareness.  I guess I was talking about you after all.

    By Holly Fiske

    Join Holly and Omstars for her #upsidedowniscomingtotown Instagram Challenge starting December 3rd, follow her on instagram @upsidedownmama and check out her website www.upsidedownmama.com to learn more about Holly and her beautiful clothing line!

    Watch this space for the release of Holly’s course Upside Down Yoga

  • Yoga For All

    The practice of yoga means a great many things to a great many people. For some, yoga is just an exercise. For others, yoga is a path to greater spiritual understanding. For me, yoga means a practice of connection and liberation. A connection to myself through breath and movement and a larger connection to the world through consciousness-raising and activism. Yoga has taught me to see wholeness in both the external part of who I am and an internal part of who I want to be.

    A

    ccording to ancient yoga philosophy, Hatha yoga can be a complete journey to wholeness. We can develop a connection to physical well-being through asana (physical practice)  and pranayama (breath work), mental clarity through concentration, meditation and spiritual illumination.

    For a lot of us, the images of yoga have primarily focused on the body beautiful; yoga as a function of beauty and physical prowess instead of an act of spiritual awakening. But do only young, thin, hypermobile or super flexible bodies do yoga?  What about everyone else who are invited to be on the yoga mat? Although you may not always see it, everyone can do yoga. Yoga is for everyone. While not all of us practice in the same way or have the same access to the practice, at the core of this practice is simply a connection to our breath and each other. We all can do that regardless of our abilities, the size of our bodies or our socioeconomic backgrounds.

    Being able to do challenging or complicated poses is not what the practice of yoga is all about. It is about setting your soul free, making a connection to yourself and the world around you. Yoga can be a pause in your day to smell the flowers or take a walk in the park. Yoga can be a moment of quiet, compassionate self-reflection. Yoga can be a meal with friends or intense physical asana practice that gets you out of your head and feeling your body. Yoga can be stillness and quiet. Yoga can be anything that connects you to a deeper understanding of yourself and a feeling of connection to the world.

    Don’t let the images you see of yoga scare you. Know that this is only one way to see yoga, through a lens that values ability over spirituality and unity. Yoga happens everywhere.  Yes, you can do yoga. Find a class or teacher that understands what you want and need from your practice and jump in. You won’t regret it.

    By Dianne Bondy

    Click here to learn more about Dianne

    Omstars will be launching a course with Dianne in early 2018, in the meantime watch this space for more posts by her leading up to the release!

    Follow Dianne on Instagram

     

     

     

  • Do you do yoga?

    As a spiritual teacher and author, people sometimes ask me if I “do yoga.” I never know exactly how to answer that question. There’s so much I want to say and so little time to say it.

    So, I usually just say, “Yes! Yes, I do yoga. Sat nam!” And then I namaste and walk away. Ha ha!

    I’ve always found that question fascinating, though… and difficult to answer. And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized just why it’s so fascinating… and difficult to answer: it’s a loaded question. It’s a question that exposes so many misconceptions – and truths! – about yoga… and Life, too.

    So, what follows is my list of the “Top 10 Myths About Real Yoga” – the pure essence of yoga – as I see it, and the “Top 10 Truths About Real Yoga,” accordingly.

    Of course, we could just as well call it, “Top Ten Reasons Why Rob Has That Funny Look on His Face Every Time Somebody Asks Him the Yoga Question,” but that’s just way too long and way too confusing a title. Ha ha!

    Drum roll, please…

    (Myth #10) Yoga is physical.

    Truth: Yoga isn’t physical – it’s non-physical. It’s not of the body – it’s seeing through (the illusion of) the body to your true Self.

    (Myth #9) Yoga is movement.

    Truth: Yoga is not movement – it’s Stillness itself. It’s not asanas or postures. The real posture and the real asana – Stillness – is inside you. (And there’s no inside or outside, but let’s save that for later…)

    (Myth #8a) Yoga is you doing something.

    Truth: Yoga is not you – or anybody else, for that matter – doing anything.

    Yoga not a doing – it’s a non-doing. In yoga, there is no doing and there is no do-er, either. There’s no-body who does anything.

    Yoga is the “I’m not the doer” consciousness or attitude, no matter what’s being done or not done… with or without the body.

    (Myth #8b) Yoga is effort.

    Truth: Yoga is not effort – it is non-effort. It is effortlessness.

    Yoga is surrender, total surrender. It’s resting and relaxing – resting and relaxing in Self, Soul, God. It’s eternal rest and infinite relaxation.

    (Myth #7) Yoga is mental.

    Truth: Yoga is not mental – it’s seeing through the veil of thoughts, opinions, judgments and beliefs to your real Self.

    Yoga is not thinking – it’s above thinking and beyond thinking. It’s non-thinking.

    (Myth #6) Yoga is knowing something or learning something new.

    Truth: Yoga is not knowing anything or learning something new – it’s UNlearning everything and UNknowing everything. It’s a Cloud of Forgetting, a Cloud of Unknowing.

    Yoga is not a class or course you take with other people, even if you’re in a class or course with other people. Yoga is an UNclass in Life itself; it is the ultimate UNcourse in Solitude itself. And it is a required UNcourse. Nobody can opt out of this UNcourse because it’s the only UNcourse/UNclass being taught. You can’t drop out, but you can, of course, sleep through it… and hence, repeat it over and over again until you wake up.

    (Myth #5) Yoga is mantras and chants.

    Truth: Yoga is not mantras, chants, or japa – It’s Silence itself. And that Silence speaks, that Silence shouts, that Silence sings!

    (Myth #4) Yoga has different forms.

    Truth: Yoga has nothing to do with form – not with your form or with anybody else’s form – it’s formless, Formlessness itself.

    (Myth #3a) Yoga is achieving, accomplishing, or acquiring something new.

    Truth: Yoga is not achieving, accomplishing, or acquiring anything at all – It’s Presence itself.

    (Myth #3b) Yoga is a way to achieve, accomplish, or attain peace, happiness, and love.

    Truth: Yoga is not even a way of attaining, achieving, or accomplishing peace, love, bliss, nirvana, samadhi, or enlightenment.

    Yoga is realizing, remembering, and recognizing that there’s nothing to attain, achieve, or accomplish whatsoever, not even “spiritual things.”

    Yoga is the non-striving, non-struggling, non-ambitious Awareness that’s always at home in the Self, always enthroned in the kingdom of God.

    Yoga is the “That which you seek, you already are” consciousness (without the thought as such).

    Yoga is Awareness itself – Christ-Consciousness, Buddha-Mind itself.

    Yoga is Peace, Love, Bliss, Nirvana, Samadhi, and Enlightenment itself.

    Yoga is total non-seeking, non-striving, non-struggling. It’s total surrender of all fear and all desire. And in that total surrender of all to All-That-Is (which you are), there is total fulfillment. In complete fulfillment, there is no fear and no desire whatsoever.

    (Myth #2) Yoga is self-improvement.

    Truth: Yoga is not self-improvement – it’s Self-love, Self-acceptance, and Self-abidance.

    And yet, yoga is not even Self-acceptance, Self-love or Self-abidance, because there’s not two; there’s just One. There’s no-body and no-thing to love, accept or abide and no-body and no-thing to be loved, accepted, or abided in.

    Yoga is practicing the presence of that One, of God, of your Self (God).

    There’s nobody and nothing to improve, nobody and nothing to do the improving, and no improvement at all.

    (Myth #1a) Yoga is about becoming more spiritual.

    Truth: Yoga is not about becoming more spiritual – it’s abiding as Spirit itself. You can’t become any more spiritual – you’re 100% Spirit itself, and you’re simply dreaming you’re not.

    (Myth #1b) Yoga is a way to God.

    Truth: Yoga is not a way or path to God – it is Oneness with God, your Self itself.

    Yoga is so sweet and simple:  It’s simply being – remaining as, abiding as – your Self. It’s remaining as you already are – at home, in the kingdom of God, as thoughtless awareness, as mindless consciousness – and letting the rest be added.

    It’s being what you already are: One with Source itself. You are – Consciousness itself is – the Source of everything.

    (Myth #1c) Yoga is union with God.

    Truth: Yoga is not union with God or anything else, for that matter, because there’s no-thing and no-body outside your Self to unite with. You are already One with All That Is.

    Yoga is simply Being, full-stop. It’s being Everything and No-Thing all at once without effort at all.

    Yoga is the experience-less experience, the state-less state, the pathless path of the Self. It is abiding as the formless, infinite, eternal, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient Self: God Self. And in God – Self, Atman, Brahman, Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses, Lao Tzu, whatever – you find that nothing is desired and nothing is lacking. It contains – is – All. There is nothing that is not included in it.

    Yoga is knowing, “You are not in the world; the world is in You.”

    So, back to the question…In one sense, then, no, I don’t “do yoga.” And neither do you. No-body does. I don’t “do yoga” – I AM yoga.” And so are you. And so is everyone. And in another sense, yes, I “do yoga,” and I’m always “doing yoga,” because I AM always abiding as the Self. There no-thing and no-body else to abide as or be… and there’s, quite simply, nothing else to do! It’s the only game in town.

    In the simplest terms, “practicing yoga” is practicing Presence itself: the Presence of God, the Presence of my Self, the One Self and Soul we all are. I’m always on the mat, as are you, because the mat is the world – our jobs, our relationships, our politics, our religions, our everything. We are always doing yoga; we are always practicing the Presence – the Presence of our Self, God, Awareness – no matter what else we’re doing.

    Sometimes we are consciously aware of this fact and sometimes we are not. Being aware of it – being aware of your Self, of Presence itself – IS yoga. And it IS meditation.

    You ARE yoga; you ARE meditation.

    Just stop and see. Just stop and be!

    Whatever you’re doing or not doing on the outside, on the “inside” just be.

    Just Be.

    “I AM that I AM” – that’s yoga.

    By Rob Mack

    Rob is the author of Happiness from the inside out. We’ll be releasing a new 8 episode course, ‘How to become a rich yogi’ with Rob next week, only on Omstars, so stay tuned!

    Learn more about Rob

    Follow him on Instagram

  • The Yogi Assignment Book Review: Bringing Our Yoga Practice to Life: The Challenge is Real

    It’s not always clear how the asana yoga practice makes us better people or our world any more peaceful. At least, not in a way that is easily put into words.

    Certainly, in looking back over the past decade plus I’ve been practicing, the changes are far more than just physical – still, it’s not so simple to explain that connection. Add social media in there, and now the whole idea that yoga asana is even remotely spiritual … well, it’s more than just confusing.

    For example, I made the mistake of watching the start of the first awful episode of Yoga Girls, a show that is not a parody (as much as I’d hoped) and rather, an attempted reality show, pitting the Instafamous yogis (as in, legends-in-their-own-lunchtime kind) with Traditionalists (the kind that apparently don’t mind reality T.V. shows). I only lasted 15 minutes, but it was really a terrible 15 minutes I can never get back.

    Anyway, then I pick up Kino MacGregor’s new book, The Yogi Assignment.

    Kino MacGregor

    THE TRUE-TO-LIFE YOGA GIRL.

    Kino happens to be one of the most celebrated Ashtanga yoga teachers on social media, with over a million followers on Instagram alone. In fact, the idea for the book actually came from Instagram and so accordingly, the cover plays like a post: Kino smiling, doing her signature backbendy handstand … in a bikini … on the beach.

    I won’t lie. Part of me sighed heavily. But that was before I cracked open the book …

    Of course, I should know better simply because I know Kino better. And sure, she is beautiful, charming, and physically talented – but also incredibly smart, disciplined, well studied, and dedicated to the Ashtanga yoga practice.

    Which is precisely why I have turned to her for advice in the past, during moments of unfocused weakness … and also why I invited her to contribute to the Ashtanga Dispatch Magazine as well as be a guest (twice now) on the Ashtanga Dispatch Podcast.

    Because the true brilliance of someone like Kino – she can lure us in with her winning Insta-package – but then also knows exactly how to draw that line, connecting the physical practice to something much deeper. And in language we all can understand.

    Kino is the original Yoga Girl. Only she understands that in today’s world, tradition and the various social mediums aren’t to be pitted, one against the other. They both have a place, so long as we know ours.

    ‘Each day is actually a journey in itself and should push you to question your emotional, physical and mental limitations. It is my hope that these thirty days of Yogi Assignments will elicit hope and change your life.’ Kino Macgregor

    The Yogi Assignment

    SIX DAYS OF CONNECTING THE YOGA PRACTICE TO EVERYDAY LIFE.

    The Yogi Assignment presents as a 30-day program, though it also doesn’t have to be read that way because every chapter is meaningful all by itself. So I took the liberty of jumping around, choosing the topics that personally resonated – creating my own mini-week of yogi assignments and learning:

    DAY 1: PRANA // THE BREATH BODY

    “There may be times when you will not be able to perform asanas, but there will never be a time while you’re alive when you are not breathing.”

    If you know me, you could already predict that this is where I’d start. I’m a bit obsessed these days. As someone who suffered from asthma most of her life, to hike without an inhaler now is a tremendous and meaningful connection between my yoga practice and life. Such a gift to be able to breathe!

    Interestingly enough, the asana is often what distracts us from our breath – but if we can stay stubbornly committed to it, it’s the breath that can also unlock the yoga’s magic.

    While I generally skipped the homework and asana portion of each day/chapter (and yes, I have always been that kind of student!) I made time for Kino’s Constructive Rest Pose. You lie on your back with your knees bent, hip-width apart, and belly breathe for ten. I did this every evening before bed. Crazy how something so basic can quickly calm and put me to sleep. Like I said, magic!

    DAY 2: TAPAS // HOLDING MY HAND TO THE FIRE

    “Only with consistent, sustained effort will the real work of yoga happen; that is, old negative thoughts are replaced with positive ones.”

    There isn’t a teacher or friend (including Kino) who hasn’t said this (or yelled it across the practice room – thank you, David Garrigues): Discipline! You need discipline. It’s the story of my life, though I’ve definitely gotten much better. Like most things, staying focused takes practice.

    abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyāṃ tan-nirodhaḥ   (YS 1.12)

    According to Patanjali, we need to practice (abhyāsa) not attaching (vairāgyā) to all the thought distractions. And through a sustained, devoted, and committed practice – over time, we might find the stillness to see my own true nature. Or at the very least in my case, I might muster up the determination to actually finish something I start.

    Ironically, Kino’s three example postures are perhaps the very three I like to come out of early: chaturanga dandasana (low push-up), urdhva dhanuarasana (wheel), and pinchamayurasana(fore-arm balance). And for the homework, Kino took on cursing. I think I better stick to chaturanga first.

    DAY 3: VIRA // A BRAVE HEART

    “Essentially we must become like Arjuna in our daily lives – filled simultaneously with the strength and magnificence of a warrior prince and the peace and sanctity of a spiritual aspirant.”

    More and more lately, I find myself turning to the Bhagavad Gita as a way to understand my place in the world today. The battle is real and it’s inside me. How do I stand up for what’s right without being consumed by the injustice? How do I maintain a righteous relationship with God all the while, staying humble and open?

    I have been in real life situations where I have been personally threatened – a victim of abuse. Part of changing this was in fact, learning to stand up and fight for myself. Not exactly the peaceful warrior extolled in typical vinyasa classes, you know? And yet, cultivating my own sense of power was vital – as was having the grace later to forgive (not forget).

    It’s all very complicated sometimes and Kino makes no attempt to simplify. Which I appreciate.

    DAY 4: PRATYAHARA // SENSIBLE TRAINING

    “While it may be tempting to think you can just turn of your senses, much like you would switch off a television, the yogic training of pratyahara is achieved through a conscious redirection of the faculties of the senses to the inner body.”

    My daughter, Meghan, was trying to withdraw her senses (as pratyahara is often defined) and concentrate on a black hole. It didn’t work – but did give us both a good laugh!

    Of course, the cool thing is, our practice is that yogic training by limiting the distractions that take us away from the real work at hand. The drishti gives a looking place … the breath, a sound to follow … the shapes and movements bring touch … and provided we showered and have empty stomachs, there is no smell or taste to distract. The method shows us how to shift our perspective from the outside world to within.

    DAY 5: SANTOSHA // I AM ENOUGH

    “Busyness is addictive … Most busyness operates from a sense of emptiness; there is a void that drives you to throw yourself into activities and achievements to prove you are ‘worthy.’”

    People who are truly busy never complain about being busy – because they are usually too exhausted to complain. You never hear a single mom, shuffling her kids from school to daycare, working two jobs trying to pay a stack of bills or put food on the table, complain about being busy.

    No. Our busy schedules are by choice. They make us feel important. I know, I do it too. Finding contentment where I am, as I am, is a full time practice. But at least it’s one I am privileged enough to enjoy.

    DAY 6: SHANTI // FINDING PEACE

    “Try to bend someone to your will, and it always goes wrong. Try to bend the world to your will, and it will fight back.”

    We can’t will or force peace. Not on ourselves and not in our world. It’s like trying to will yourself to sleep – the harder you try, the further sleep becomes. If you want to sleep, you have to simply let it come and trust it will.

    This is the piece (or peace) I’ve been missing. I keep thinking I have more control than I actually do. Of course, our actions hold meaning and make a difference but the outcome is something we need to allow, and not force. It’s like at the end of every practice, we take rest. Do what you need to do, then rest.

    Which on Day 7, I did.

    + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

    The universe is funny sometimes. Here I am, forever struggling with the whole social media scene that I’m also very much a part of – even going so far in making the decision to step away my personal Facebook  … and then just this past week, three students show up to their very first week of Mysore practice because they follow Kino.

    Seriously, one of them traveled all the way here to Montana from upstate New York. These are the kinds of students Kino inspires to practice Ashtanga through her posts, videos, and books.

    That’s pretty freaking amazing, right? And perhaps a bit ironic, don’t you think?

    Well, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
    And life has a funny way of helping you out.

    By Peg Mulqueen

    Click here for more Peg’s writing and her podcast on Ashtanga Dispatch

    Click here to get your copy of The Yogi Assignment