Yoga philosophy

When I first started yoga I could not give a shit about advanced postures. I still have little interest. Yoga gave me peace in the mind. You can’t beat that. Only thing putting advanced in your yoga vocabulary is going to do is potentially bring in ego. And that will kill peace every-time.

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Yoga Asylum #4: Adult Yoga

One day, on the way to yoga, I was stopped by a woman walking her dog.

She says, “You’re the yoga teacher at Runyon Canyon,” and I say, “Well yes, but there are 5 of us that teach there.”

She says, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you.” She continues, “The other day in class, you said, if we were facing the building during the beginning of class, that the class was going to be a motherfucker.”

I said, “Well, yes. But you can face any direction you want. It’s just that, if you’re facing the building in the beginning of class, it’s gonna be really hard to do the sun salutations because you’re facing downhill. But you can face any direction you like.”

She says, “Yeah, but ‘motherfucker’ is a negative word.”

I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. That’s just the way I talk. It’s really important for me to be myself during class. I think people are more comfortable when I’m not pretending to be someone I’m not. And I use bad words sometimes.”

She says. “Well, I’m a mother.”

I say, “Well, I try to look around and if I see children, I try not to curse as best I can.” I go on to say, “There are lots of teachers in this town that don’t use the F word. In fact, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Kamala teaches and I don’t think she swears too much.”

She then says, “When you say ‘motherfucker’ it makes me think of rape.”

I hear it in my head like a bell as I finally realize, she is saying that she doesn’t like me saying motherfucker because she is a mother and somehow I’m saying (this is a big jump) that mothers should be—I’m using her words—raped. So I say, “My mother was just at class on Friday. That’s not what I’m saying.”

Then I go on to say, “Frank Zappa’s first band was called The Mothers, which for them was short for motherfuckers, which in the 60s was a term used to say that someone was a great musician. Mostly jazz players, but I think it could work in all styles of music. Certainly I’m not saying anyone should be raped.”

Sarcastically, she says, “Oh great. The next time I meditate, I’ll think of Frank Zappa.” Then she walks away.

One of the other yoga teachers walked up to me just about then. I was a little disturbed and I told him the story and he said, “Did you tell her to fuck off?”

The next day, the “motherfucker” lady is at class and I’m teaching. I see her and she sees me, eyes on eyes like Sam Fuller would do in a film.

My first thought is, “motherfucker,” and she brings her hands together like she’s praying. You know, I don’t think praying to get people to do what you want is really what the gods had in mind… except, maybe, the guy with the horns.

I’m making an ASSumption she’s praying to get me not to say “motherfucker” in class. I’ll tell you this, if praying was meant to be a way to control people, bars would be full of guys dropping to their knees and praying at the sound of the last call bell.

So I’m not really sure what to do. The rebel in me wants to blurt out “motherfucker” and be done with it. But I don’t want to be “The Motherfucker Guy,” like that’s all I do. Did you ever see the Simpsons episode where Bart says, “I didn’t do it,” and becomes famous and goes on TV and everyone’s always waiting for him to say it until they’re finally sick of it? I don’t want to be that. I want to say “motherfucker” only when it is appropriate in my yoga class.

But I really wanted to say it that day.

But then I remember, I told her to come to class Tuesday or Thursday if she wanted to take a class where the teacher would be less likely to say that phrase. And it’s Tuesday (I’m substitute teaching). So I didn’t say it. But we did focus on the face of Frank Zappa in final meditation. Frank-Zappa-deviation-from-the-norm-297x300

It was a very good class, but I couldn’t help but notice, at the end of class, the motherfucker lady did not leave me a motherfucking donation. I did announce that I would be subbing for Kamala the rest of the week. So as they say, fair warning, motherfucker. What’s next? People telling me reverse triangle makes them uncomfortable? Yeah, me too. But we’re still going to do it.

I spoke about this on the social network and the next class, somebody was wearing a Frank Zappa t-shirt. It was awesome and really blew me away and made me laugh.

Also, the MF lady was at class… and I did say it. And she did leave me a donation.

– – – – –

This happened several years ago. Since then, I have taught thousands of yoga classes, some of them in businesses (corporate wellness), schools and retirement homes. When I teach these classes, I do avoid that phrase… mostly. I don’t have fucking Tourette’s, you know.

Yoga Asylum #2 – Tree Huggers and Tree Haters

As most of you know, I teach a yoga class in a park in Los Angeles. These classes started over 15 years ago. We were the first to have regularly scheduled classes in a park. Now everybody does and it’s no big deal.

I walked into the class area one morning and two young men were standing by a palm tree. One of them was punching and kicking the tree. His hands were bleeding and the other guy was egging him on. Some of my students had already shown up and they were watching, with horrified looks on their faces.

I’m going to admit I was a little pissed that this guy was beating on this tree. I definitely wanted him to stop and go away.

I walked up and put my mat down a few feet from the tree (where I always set up) and the guy with bloody hands says, “WHAT? Am I in your way?”

I say, “No. You’re fine. But what did that tree ever do to you?” Which, now that I think about it, was just about the worst possible thing I could have said.

Some of the students laughed out loud and someone yelled, “Stop kicking that tree! You look like an idiot!”

The guy turned to me and said that age-old phrase, “You got a problem?”

I was standing there holding my kombucha bottle. I refill it every day because I hate plastic and it makes less trash. But I’m thinking, “Oh shit, this guy kicking and punching the tree with his bloody hands is going to try and fight me.” My second thought was, “When he attacks, smash him in the head with your kombucha bottle.” I instantly saw a headline: “Local Yoga Teacher Breaks Kombucha Bottle Over Head of Potential Student”.

This seemed like a bad thing to me and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to resolve the situation so I could teach my class. I thought, “This yoga teaching job is getting dangerous.”

I stepped back a little and realized the guy with the bloody hands was not only a little messed up, he was now trapped and possibly embarrassed… all these yoga people looking at him wanting him to leave and stop beating up a tree.

I remembered reading “The Art of War” and it said to always give your enemy an escape. In that moment, I began to understand why. If someone has their back against the wall—even if it’s just an emotional/ego thing—they will fight to the death. I did not want that. Even with my deadly kombucha bottle.

I asked his name and surprisingly he told me. I said, “Oscar, I’m sorry this got out of hand and that I may have seemed confrontational,” then extended my hand and, again to my surprise, he shook it and began to walk out of the class.

As he walked out he continued to look back over his shoulder. I kept thinking he was going to change his mind and run back and tackle me.

But he didn’t. So I taught my class. I felt lucky.

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Written by Daniel Overberger

Edited by Nancy Winebarger

Yoga Asylum

It was a perfect morning for yoga in the park. Warm enough, but not yet the stifling heat of the summer. It was a Goldilocks day.

Class had been moving along nicely and we were about at the halfway point. A young guy walked into class, right to the middle of class. He was a half hour late, which is lame, but I normally don’t say anything because traffic in this town can be bad, worse and most of all unpredictable.

But if you’re a half hour late you don’t walk to the middle of the class and throw your mat down. You stay at the back entrance so you don’t bother people.

He walked to the center of class, brought his hands to pray and bowed to me. I knew I was in for a rough ride.

He starts taking his clothes off. I immediately remember the time the guy walked through class naked and didn’t really want a repeat.

But our new guy, in the middle of class, takes everything off except his tighty whiteys—which were actually green—and I say, “Please tell me you’re stopping there.” He smiles, keeps his underwear on and starts doing yoga. Everything except what I am telling the class to do.

We’re doing a simple forward bend and he’s doing breath of fire and moaning. It’s a public space and I can only be so territorial so I let it go, knowing class will end soon. I stay focused and move ahead. I thought, “Maybe I should say something,” but I was almost certain he would have told me he was a yoga teacher, too. And by the look of the junk in his tighties, I was pretty sure he was on something that included amphetamines. Yeah, I looked. It was right there. He was in the middle of class. I would like to have looked away, but it was not an option.

Class finally ends and everyone is in savasana (laying down). He actually does this, but starts shaking and whacking his arms on the ground and then yells something I don’t understand, like some kind of chant or incantation. At this point, I say in a loud voice, “I am going to need you to be quiet and not move for the next two minutes,” and he listens.

After class, he approaches me. It’s like that person allergic to cats whose lap the cat just can’t stop from sitting on. He wants to introduce himself. First thing he tells me is his shakti is super strong and he has mastered manifestation. He says he is a recent multi-millionaire and doesn’t know what to do with all his money.

I tell him forty thousand men, women and children are homeless in LA and maybe he could start there.

He says, “Oh yeah, okay,” and then tells me how he died at Burning Man and the aliens picked him up and told him he was an archetype. I was kind of sure he didn’t know what archetype meant but didn’t say anything because I was trying to end the conversation.

He then says, “If I give you $500, will you let me do whatever I want in class?”

I say, “Absolutely fucking not.”

By this time, I have my stuff gathered and all the students have left their donations, looking at me and rolling their eyes as they left.

He said, “I guess I need someone to tell me to shut up once in a while.”

I said, “Happy to be of service,” and made my escape.

At least this dog was very well behaved in class. But he looked a little nervous.

At least this dog was very well behaved in class. But he looked a little nervous.

Yoga for your feet

The feet are a delicate, perfectly engineered, high-performance piece of sophisticated walking, standing and running machinery. We should really make it a daily routine to show them our love. This is not a blog about foot fetishes by the way … it’s yoga for your feet. I’m going to give you four foot poses (asanas) that will have your feet serving you like happily indentured slaves. So with no further ado, let’s be nice to our foot soldiers.

The feet are the furthest appendage away from our heart, which is the prime source of oxygen, the fuel for our body and feet. So every foot asana (pose) we do will be held for the duration of 3 breaths to send oxygen and fuel from the nose to the toes.

Breathing: Breathe through your nose as you count to 3, then hold for a moment. Breathe out to a 3 count and hold empty for a moment. We will do this simple breathing technique 3 times for every pose.

First Foot Asana: Sit down and clench your feet like you are trying to make fists with your feet. Keep you feet like this for 3 deep breaths (see above), then release. If you get pain, back off … that goes for everything.

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Second Foot Asana: Flex your feet like you’re trying to open them as wide as you can. You’re pulling your toes back in the direction of your shin. Stay like this for 3 breaths, the release.

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Third Foot Asana: Grab your left foot with your right hand. The palm of your hand will be facing the sole of your foot. Put all of your fingers in between all of your toes. Now squeeze a little like your giving a firm handshake. Hold for 3 breaths, then do the other side. Left hand on the right foot, hold firm for 3 breaths. Don’t forget to count slowly to 3 as you breathe in and count slowly to 3 as you breathe out.

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Fourth Foot Asana: You are going to have to get a golf ball. Maybe someone you know plays. It doesn’t matter what brand. You should sit in a chair for this one. It will be easier to do this on a carpeted floor, but you can do it almost anywhere. Put the golf ball on the carpet, then put the center of the sole of your right foot on the golf ball. Move your foot around like you are trying to touch every part of your foot directly on the golf ball. Use a little pressure. As you do this, take 3 deep breaths. Then do the left foot.

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I would do these at least 3 times a week, more if you have the time. Make it a habit and try and do it at the same time every day … and don’t forget to breathe. I know in current society we are spending less time on our feet and more time on our asses. Maybe next time we’ll do some ass yoga. But for now, be cool to your feet and take them out for a walk once in a while.

I have a spiritual name now…

I went to the Golden Bridge yoga studio to get gonged by Harijiwan. I have been checking him out on and off since 2004, when I was checking out all kinds of different yoga styles. I must admit, in my first kundalini yoga class, I was definitely thinking, “Oh shit, I joined a cult. How did this happen?” But when I found Harijiwan, there was something different. He was funny and irreverent and every time I mention him on twitter, a group of Sikhs respond, telling me about his criminal record. What they don’t seem to realize is that is one of the things I like about him. So stop e-mailing me, please.  Let’s face it: at this point, most yoga teachers I know have predispositions towards criminal behavior anyway. One man’s crime is another man’s… path to abundance.

Anyway, I was standing in line to sign up for class. When I got to the register, the guy behind the counter said, “Hello, Daniel,” which surprisingly still spooks me. He said, “I used to take your yoga class.” I teach in a very transient community so people are coming and going all the time and I try to learn their names but there are things I did in my youth that have impacted my memory and sometimes I need a pass. So I said, “I’m really sorry, I don’t remember your name.” And he said, “I have a spiritual name now.” I didn’t know what to say. The pause seemed really long. I heard a lot of things in my head, like… “I just told you I don’t remember your name. Why are you telling me you have a spiritual name now? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.” So he tells me his new spiritual name. (Sorry, I forgot it.) But I remember thinking his parents are going to be pissed and upset when he tells them. They will definitely think he joined a cult. Truly, I get it. The pissing-your-parents-off thing goes way back. I always want to be real forthright and honest with people, but I’m learning it just doesn’t always work. So I say, “That’s GREAT,” and smile.

I get everywhere early. I hate being late. So after I paid, I waited in the outdoor café area for a while, sitting alone, which has been how I always like to have these experiences of spirit and exploration. Eventually “they” tell us to line up and I’m a little confused about where to put my shoes but I figure it out and walk in the room that is already mat to mat. How the hell did this happen?

I find a small spot behind a woman that is dressed just like Harijiwan. She has a blanket laid out in a place that could fit 3 yoga mats. I ask her if she could move a little of her blanket so I can put my mat down and she doesn’t say anything. So I ask her again and she looks at me, avoiding eye contact, and says NO. I thought about asking Harijiwan to ask her to move some but he was running around trying to get things straight because it seemed like maybe they had promised him more space or a bigger room for the night than he was getting. Plus, I figured since this woman was dressed like him, she was probably a big-time groupie that sleeeps on his front lawn and attends every one of his classes… unlike my lack-of-commitment, once-and-a-while deal. So I fold my mat in half and sit down. I look at the back of the woman taking up 3 spaces and I see she has a rash on the back of her neck that is bleeding a little from scratching it. I think about leaving and trying to get my money back but I feel a little bad for her and Harijiwan, who is running around all smiles. He’s a pro.

Harijiwan always talks before class. Like I said, he is funny and also informative. I think he’s been doing this yoga teacher thing since ’74. Which means he says a lot of stuff that if I heard another teacher saying I would only believe about 25%, but Harijiwan definitely has me nearer to 75%. He tells us about a planetary alignment and talks a little about Bob Dylan. He is very engaging and I hope he gets his own reality show. Russell Brand interviewed him once on TV, so it may only be a matter of time.

When the gonging begins, we have to lie down. So I fold my legs up so I can lie down and fit on my half mat. Good thing I’m a yogi. Mr. Jiwan delivers as he always does. I know it seems like a strange thing to go lie on a floor with a bunch of people and listen to a guy hit a gong. But I enjoy it almost more than lying on my floor at home listening to Exile on Main Street. Both are truly moving—if not spiritual—experiences. As Mr. Jiwan gongs us, I have many moments of realization. I think about all the things I did to piss of my parents and I realize how they caught on so much faster than me. I knew that if I changed my name to a spiritaul name, at this point, they would both pause and then say, “That’s GREAT,” and smile at me.

You can get your spiritual name today. Just click here: http://www.3ho.org/spiritual-names

If you don’t already have Harijiwan’s album or Exile on Main Street, you should definitely pick them up. A spiritual experience can be had anytime. Enjoy.

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Become one with the LIGHT…Brite

light-brite

Satan’s Search for Enlightenment #2

Satan’s Search for Enlightenment #2

Satan’s Search for Enlightenment #1

I do yoga everyday and still I feel so EVIL.

I do yoga everyday and still I feel so EVIL.

Ashtanga Vinyasa with BNS Iyengar – The lost Asana

I went to Mysore, India in 2010 to study with BNS Iyengar. I wanted to study with him because he was my teacher’s teacher (Sri V. Sheshadri), a direct student of Sri T. Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois, and a local legend. He is also one of the few Indian teachers still teaching both the western and  Indian community. Plus, a few friends called him crusty and I found that appealing since so many Western teachers are like cheerleaders on ativan.

I was looking for roots and I was looking to learn. BNS teaches a little differently now than I had heard he taught previously. He taught Primary Series in a blazing 55 minutes as a led practice rather than the traditional silent practice I was familiar with. It was sometime brutal and primitive. The way I suspect it was taught 50 or 60 years ago, like I had heard  Sheshadri speak of in 2006.

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I liked that BNS’s  Primary Series was a little different. It was unexpected. When people think of Ashtanga they think of it in one way, never to be altered. I know a lot of people will scream that it IS only one way. I always found this attitude as surprising as I found the conservative and conformist attitude in the punk rock community disturbing. But remember that when Pattabhi Jois was asked by a student,  “you used to teach it this way and now you teach it different, which way is right?” he  said, “the way I teach it now is correct.”

Some differences I noticed with BNS:

On page 1 (above) you will see that the Namaskara A + B are shorter in repetitions than I had practiced with Sheshadri (I will post the Sheshadri cheat sheet from 06′ in the future) or Manju Pattahbi Jois.

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The differences I found on page 2  start with Janu Sirsasana B. It is replaced with what I have heard people call “Open Janu Sirsasana” or Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana nine were you stack the shoulders and open to the side like in Utthita Parsvakonasana. Most interesting was the first pose of column 5 listed as Supta Parivrtta Padangusthasana were you lie down put you right arm behind your head – or as BNS would say “surround the head” – and grab your right big toe on the bent leg that is across your chest. I hadn’t see this pose ever before in the 8 years I had been practicing yoga. When I Googled Supta Parivrtta Padangusthasana I got 18,000 results for the first pose you see on line 4 of page 2 (above)… not the pose I was looking for. When I couldn’t find it easily, I got very interested in this pose. After asking a couple of people who had studied with BNS longer than me and still getting no info, I found this pose listed as the last part of a three-part pose called Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen in BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” (BKS Iyengar is no relation to BNS, but both were students of Krishnamacharya). When I Googled Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen in quotes to limit the search to only this pose, I got only ONE result. It is on a page that lists a bunch of asanas (poses) and little else. When I Googled it as Supta Padangusthasana 13, I got 7 results, one of which was Polish and another in  Chinese. According to “Light on Yoga,” Supta Padangusthasana Thirteen is of great benefit for people with sciatica and stiffness in hip joints.

I LOVE that BNS is teaching this pose that the rest of the world has nearly forgotten. This is why I went to study with him To get to the unfiltered, non-westernized, un-corporatized yoga.

I learned a lot in my time with BNS, some good, some bad, just like life.  Like the dark and the light, I see with clarity through my practice ever-shifting  glimpses of samadhi समाधि and the terror of the veil of Maya माया being lifted.   BNS showed me a man who could be gentle and fierce in one movement and one breath.

“Do good, be good. Be good, do good.” ~ BNS Iyengar

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