Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fast Yoga?

Fast Yoga? 

Since 2002, Rodney Yee (the backbend-boy above) has been leading me toward understanding yoga. He is a popular TV personality known for his excellent yogic health and motivational prowess and I have been copying his "way" of doing yoga on and off over the course of the last 10 years. I have not questioned any pose or considered any other implications that may or may not have been associated with his "way". 

This year, though, I began studying to become a certified yoga teacher. What I found in my new experiences with my new yoga master is that the "way" of doing yoga has changed from what I thought was THE way. As a group, we move from asana (pose) to asana, pausing frequently to align our bodies and engage our muscles. We spend a lot of time in each pose.

Before, in my Rodney days, I had moved quickly, from asana to asana, using the breath as a measure of how long to take between poses and sometimes how long to hold a pose. This equates to a fast-flowing dance that gives me little time to think about how squared-up my hips are or if kidney loop is in the correct position. 

So, I went to the internet to research why some yoga sequences are so danged fast and why some are so darned slow. 

Yoga Journal names this rapidly-paced style of yoga as Ashtanga Vinyasa. Right away, it was apparent that it came down to "style". Rodney Yee's "way" wasn't just his...it belonged to a school of yoga which he practices. It is meant to be practiced after a yogi understands how each pose is correctly formed. Once a person understand the proper form, he or she can move quickly and really work up a lot of body energy.

The slower type of yoga, that I have recently been exposed to, is called Hatha, according to the Sanatan Organization, and it is a style of yoga that focuses on alignment and desensitization of the senses while holding a pose. 

To me, that focus on alignment and pulling away from the discomforts of a pose gave me the reward of a glowing vibration deep in the core of my self that feels like a store of energy. This store seems to last throughout the day, which I need as a busy mother of three. I helps me keep going with power.

Thanks, Rodney, for the ten-year introduction to Ashtanga Vinyasa. I'll be focusing now on a more slow and inwardly-focused "way" of yoga. Maybe, someday, when I'm feeling really firm in my knowledge of the asana's, I'll revisit your fast yoga.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012



My homework for this week was to study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Specifically, my task was to look through the second chapter and be ready to discuss a sutra. The sutra that stuck out like sharpened object in a bed of pillows was II.30.

This sutra describes one of the eight limbs of yoga, which is a fairly well-known list of eight tasks which leads to liberation or enlightenment. This first limb is a list of abstentions, or actions of self-denial, that are, due to their position as the FIRST limb, the most important to practice in order to move across the limbs towards the central goal.

The FIRST word on the list of abstentions, again being the most important on that limb: nonviolence.

Let me back up here, just one moment, and explain that so far, the sutras have suited my beliefs well. I have been practicing many of the limbs without even knowing they were LIMBS. I practice virtuosity, austerity, asanas (yoga postures), & meditation. All of them have led me to the place I am now…working toward gaining a yoga teacher certification so that I may lead others toward the path of enlightenment. In order to do this, it is necessary to understand yoga, its history, and its current indications as practiced in the west.

Back to that sutra of nonviolence. According to Patanjali, the sage who took many ancient scriptures of India and collected them as a manual towards becoming a yogi, nonviolence is not harming any creature at any time. Of course this meaning was shared not by Patanjali himself, but by a scholar who is commenting on Patanjali’s sutras. Patanjali just says practice “nonviolence”.  It is the commentator today, and according to him, other commentators dating back to the fourth or fifth century, that divulge what Patanjali really means by the word.

So, the word, “nonviolence”, was especially sharp to me as I read through the sutras that describe the limbs. The commentator, Edwin F. Bryant, explains that “one can be very clear about the fact that eating meat, nourishing one’s body at the expense of the flesh of other living beings, is completely taboo for aspiring yogis” (p243).

This is where I put my book down in my lap and looked out over my middle-east-inspired carpet with great uncertainty. Can I abstain from eating living beings? Does it make sense to not kill things for the nourishment of my own body? How much discomfort will I endure if I practice this abstention? Is this commentator correct? Are the commentators before him correct?

This morning those questions still need answering. Killing things to eat them does, in fact, bring a sense of sadness to my heart. I have always tried very hard not to know about the life associated with my meat-food. Just recently, I moved to only eating meat from farms, where animals are “happy”. Is it any better to kill happy animals than it is to kill unhappy animals.

In a state of unrest, my mind will continue to ponder. I will certainly be speaking with my master Anusara yoga teacher regarding the issue…and I am left to wonder…A year from now, will I look back upon this as a pivotal moment in my spiritual and physical journey?

Bryant, Edwin F. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New York: North Point Press, 2009. Print.