Category Archives: yoga

The Iyengar Room

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I recently came out of savasana asking myself, “how the hell did i get here?” “Here” was an Iyengar room filled with men and women, most far older than I. They weren’t the typical 30- and 40-year-olds with chiseled muscles and a million fancy poses in their pockets. Yet, in my mind, these people are the original yogis. And, although they don’t all look like they could grace Yoga Journal, they can hold a headstand like no one else.

Many of them have been practicing since before I was born or at least well before yoga was trending everywhere. The lady next to me had to be at least 75. In the packed room, I could count on one hand how many were wearing lululemon. No one had a Yogitoes yoga towel. Instead they had notebooks and worn out copies of the Yoga Sutras. They speak in sanskrit and tell stories of when they were with BKS Iynegar.

Of course, if I trace my roots, I know how I got to Patricia Walden’s Friday night class. It wasn’t until reflecting on my post-savasna reaction that I realized “here” wasn’t the physical place, but rather the spiritual space to which I was taken. As a long-time closet atheist, this remains alarming. Then again, it’s rare to be in the presence and care of such a renowned yoga teacher as Patricia. A direct disciple.

Having gone to Pune year after year to study with her guru, Patricia talks about the late BKS Iyengar with reverence but also with familiarity. During the Sutra discussion that night, she says that Iyengar taught her not only how to live but also how to die, telling the class that Iyengar told his family before his death that he was “just changing his clothes.” This tidbit came since the discussion centered around abhinivesa, or clinging to bodily life, fear of death. The thought of death is a fear that has plagued me since, at a young age, I decided that if ants and rats don’t go to Heaven, then humans can’t either. So he’s just changing his clothes. His true Self will always be here, but he’s just taking a different form. I thought to myself, “Veeerrrry interesting.”

From that sutra discussion, Patricia led us through a full asana practice. In a yoga world that has become so watered down with all the different forms of yoga, it’s incredible to take a class with such direct lineage to a Yoga guru. In the context of the Sutra discussion, the greater purpose of the asana practice was palpable. I’ve always thought the asana reveals our true personality but that never meant so much as when Patricia said that we die the way we live.

After seriously practicing for more than a decade, I finally had one of those moments you always hear about; where the true Self shines through and everything else it identifies with melts away for the moment. Until then I thought I was broken. Don’t get me wrong, the practice has always been sacred, but never have I had such a reverent experience that left me quiet, truly quiet, and at peace.

I was here — with no thoughts of what had already happened or what may someday happen. But just for that fleeting moment. The tangible take-away was maybe I’m not really atheist. That would be nice.

Diligence + Non-attachment = …

sutraIt’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve updated Straight to Downdog. At first, I was wracked with guilt for letting this go. Two weeks went by, a month. Then six months later I supposed I’d just let it fizzle and avoid it. But now just under a year later, after being re-inspired by my oldest friend’s extraordinary blogging (you’ve got to check out BlogSociety and LittlePaperTrees), I’ve decided it’s time to start again.

I’ve always wanted my posts to have some real content, which was one reason why I struggled with keeping it going. There’s only so much I can say about yoga and living well without being a nag, really.

Another reason was I simply felt I had no bloody time. But, then, to be honest, I always find time to watch Bravo. And though everyone needs some down time, (I hope your downtime is spent doing more enlightening things than daydreaming about having Andy Cohen’s job), I think it’s completely reasonable to commit to at least one post a month.

At HOME we recently started a Sutra Circle and began discussing the sutra concerning abhyasa and vairagyabhyam — crazy sounding sanskrit words which sometimes translate as, “Persistent and diligent effort with non-attachment to the result.”

Do we do things only for what is attained in the end? Do we only practice asana (the physical form of yoga) to nail that arm balance? Clearly, the answer is no, although overcoming whatever obstacle stopped you from achieving the arm balance is quite gratifying. The diligent effort paid off.

In much the same way, for me writing this blog is not about attracting as many followers as possible, although that would be lovely. It’s not about me trying to change anyone’s mind about yoga, which be lovelier. Simply writing about what I love and sharing it is gratifying enough. It’s the practice of sharing and finding more clarity in the process that matters. It’s also a compass that keeps me honest. I’ve got the non-attachment part down, (in this context only). Now, I just need to work on the persistent and diligent effort, without letting a glass of wine and Ramona Singer get in my way.

So here we go again…and hold me to it, because I do truly enjoy writing. It’s what I did in my past life before I made yoga my main squeeze.