ka, reading, practice, awakening: ashtanga updates from #yogawithsandi

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Currently, I’m reading the eye-opening book Ka Stories of The Minds & Gods of India by Roberto Calasso. It was recommended by my teachers Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor, whom I’m excitedly preparing to study with this summer in their Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Intensive in Boulder, Colorado.

My first impression of the book is that it’s like Monty Python doing the Mahabharata! I have only seen a bit of the brilliant Monty Python, and I have only read a little bit of the epic Mahabharata, but this was the impression (and I’ve been watching more Monty Python clips on youtube ever since reading this book – genius).

In terms of storytelling, Ka, so far, is surreal, sometimes hilarious, awkward, uncomfortable, blatant, mysterious, insightful, and totally giddy. The stories are full of resonance from a space beyond logical sequence and conclusion.

In this post, I have no intention of doing a complete book review (I’m only in the middle of the book) but simply of sharing how reading is resonating with practice, and how, in general, reading can infuse our lives with a nourishment and perspective that is palpable if we pay attention to the words, images, and ideas in our circulation.

Ka takes my mind out of conventional patterns and expectations. So refreshing! It feels like I’m tripping on magical mushrooms while reading, though caffeine is the only drug I’ve been on. The stories are like gifts of insight into how the mind can, in seeking to understand its own nuances, conjure beauty and terror, how it can flow into far-out expanses and far-in embellishments to seek to explain why it is flowing at all.

This dual awareness is something that we can perceive when watching our thoughts in meditation, too. Reading Ka is like a kaleidoscopic meditation that brings to mind the very movement of mind, a mind that is contemplating its furthest forms: divinity, absurdity, and the dance between them – humanity.

Sometimes I am asked for recommended reading. Despite the number of my books sitting on a shelf in my mother’s basement, I’d like to believe that libraries are living creatures, shedding skin and reinventing themselves over time. Here on my website library, I have compiled a list of a few books that I recommend reading as an ongoing reference and resource for Ashtanga yoga practice. Without claiming to have fully grasped these books at all, they are the books that I often refer to and quote from or recollect when posting clips from my practice on my insta-feed #yogawithsandi.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is often quoted as saying that Ashtanga Yoga is 1% theory & 99% practice. Perhaps this highlights the underlying question:

our thought bodies & our physical bodies, how do they bind and/or free each other?

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Practice evolves with a daily commitment. Every day is different. Some days are smooth. Some days are rough. Some days are both. Some days are rest days (7th day of the week, plus moon days and menstrual days) and those days are important too. Binding in the Marichyasanas took a long time for me. I used to think I would never get past these poses, and that there was something uniquely “wrong” with me, preventing me from doing them. “Why does it look so much easier for others?” With practice, we discover that our obstacles are not so unique, and that they are not so solid, either. Everyone goes through something. It’s a blessing in disguise to find our something, because this is where we discover the meaning of practice. Without obstacles, we would have no need to practice! Without practice, we would believe too much that our obstacles are real! In this way, practice and obstacles are like Yin & Yang – interconnected, one exists inside the other. One obstacle disappears and another arises. How we relate with practice determines the power of the obstacle. ☯️ . . . . . . . #yogawithsandi #twist #bind #marichyasanac #mysore #ashtanga #vinyasa #yoga #sadhana #yogachikitsa #healthandwellness #healing #transforming #yogastudent #yogateacher #yogadaily #plantpowered #vegan #veganflexy #veganstrong #health #wellness #meditation #movingmeditation #yinandyang #playfulyogispace #yogarocklandcounty #yogabergencounty

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“If the Buddha is he who leads toward awakening, his Vedic precursor was the young woman who comes forward, ‘like a girl without a brother who walks toward the men,’ visible from afar: Ushas, sovereign of awakening. Before it became a noun, Bodhi, ‘the awakening,’ which was Buddha’s revelation – and which the fainthearted translate as ‘illumination’– was actually an imperative – ‘Awaken!’ – issued from the lips of Ushas. But there was a duplicity about Ushas that enchanted men and distressed them. The Buddha wanted to put an end to it. And this, not the awakening, was the novelty of his doctrine.” ~ Roberto Calasso, Ka 🌅 2nd Photo: depiction of Ushas from mygodpictures.com ✨ . . . . #Ushas #SovereignOfAwakening #RgVeda #Vedic #Goddess #GoddessOfDawn #Awakening #Bodhi #Buddha #Buddhism #Hinduism #YogaStories #Mysore #Ashtanga #Vinyasa #Yoga #Backbends #Kapotasana #Sadhana #Plantpowered #YogaWithSandi #RobertoCalasso #Ka #MindAndGodsOfIndia

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Asanas can be an inner movemental pharmacy – offering preventative (as well as curative) medicine for the mindbody’s many possible imbalances and ailments. Here is this morning’s Garbha Pindasana (embryo in the womb pose) into Kukkutasnaa (rooster pose) 🐣🐓 from the Ashtanga Primary Series. 🌷🌸🌷🌸🌷 “Garbha Pindasana dissolves the fat of the lower abdomen, purifies the manipura, or third, chakra, and wards off diseases of the liver and spleen. … By means of Kukkutasana, the intestines are purified, the fat of the lower abdomen dissolved, and diseases affecting the bowels and urinary tract, as well as excess phlegm, are cured.” ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Mala 💐🐘📿 . . . #yogawithsandi #mysore #ashtanga #vinyasa #yoga #ashtangayoga #primaryseries #yogachikitsa #yogamala #srikpattabhijois #krishnamacharya #patanjali #8limbs #asana #movementalmedicine #healing #shamanism #balance #sunrise #garbhapindasana #kukkutasana #plantpowered #vegan #veganflexy #veganstrong #yogadaily #sustainability #longevity #liberation #healthandwellness

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So close yet so far 🌸💕 #springing

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Who’s got your back? … Your legs! Backbends have a lot to do with awakening the engagement with our thighs – particularly the front and inner thighs, quads and adductors. This progressive series of 3 backbends from the Ashtanga Intermediate Series (ustrasana -> laghu vajrasana -> kapotasana) brings attention to this as we anchor into the earth through our shin bones and extend back in increasing degrees, asking our thighs for strength, flexibility, steadiness, support. We can hold a lot of emotion in our thighs, so backbends can take us into what false beliefs about ourselves we may be holding in this area of the body – inviting us ultimately to let that sh*t go so that we can hold the space for our true self and our trust of this self, our “ground of basic goodness” as Chogyam Trungpa called it, to emerge. 🙏🖤☮️ #yogawithsandi #backbends #emotionalholding #bodywisdom #yogaofthesubtlebody #mysore #ashtanga #vinyasa #yoga #healing

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Open House at Playful Yogi Space

Free classes this weekend at Playful Yogi Space!

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Join me on Saturday for a free Ashtanga Led 1/2 Primary Series class from 11am-12:30pm. Stay for Animal Flow with Naomi from 1pm-2pm, followed by an Indian Bazaar, Kirtan, and Playtime from 2:30pm-5pm. 

Get to know the PYS team of instructors, enjoy healthy refreshments, check out some cool items for sale, join in open chanting/kirtan and connect with community. Kids welcome!

Full Schedule & Register Here! 

Address: 103 S. Greenbush Road in Orangeburg, NY (Map)

EarthFest Overpeck 2018

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Honored to join Bergen County Parks and the Hackensack Riverkeeper to bring you Yoga under the Tent on Sunday, May 20th from 2:30PM – 3:00PM at the 5th annual EarthFest Overpeck in Ridgefield Park, NJ: a celebration of clean water and a healthy environment!  From 10am to 5pm, there will also be Live Music, Green Vendors, Family Activities, Environmental Demos, Kayaking, a Recycled Regatta… and you can join me for 30 minutes of Breathing, Movement, and Meditative Bliss in the middle of the Fest!  Find out more about the Hackensack Riverkeeper and ways to get get active with their cleanups and environmental protection. RSVP here and share the word!

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The Dirty Easter Egg Hunt

“It’s like a dirty Easter egg hunt!” exclaimed one of my fellow volunteers during the 2018 Riverkeeper Sweep in Piermont, NY. I cannot think of a better description! It was fun and encouraging to be part of a united, enthusiastic effort to clean up the environment around our part of the Hudson River. We are all someone’s upstream and someone’s downstream!

Thanks to Riverkeeper, Keep Rockland Beautiful, The Piermont Pier, and Tallman Park Pool for making the cleanup experience feel like a party. In addition to a cleaner environment and a fun time, I received new gardening gloves to pick up the trash with, Morning Glory flower seeds to take home and plant, coffee and a bagel, information to read further about Rockland County and composting, not to mention pool passes to Tallman Park Pool Club! Apparently, there were also local bars serving free beer for volunteers in the afternoon, but I had to be at work so I missed that part of the party.

It is heartbreaking to see how much waste we as a human population still produce and mindlessly dispose of, harming our ecosystems and ourselves in the process. I am as complicit in this wasteful consumption as the next person. I have eliminated plastic bags from grocery shopping! However, I still have a long way to go. For example, I spend way too much money at Starbucks on coffee/tea to-go each month, and I’m always losing my reusable cup…

At the sweep, I picked up so many forms of washed up pollution on the ground and in the reeds along the water, from the large and undeniable to the small and seemingly negligible (but still there – and relatively big to other creatures): plastic bags, bottles, caps, straws, tampon applicators, styrofoam in all forms, fishing wire! Way too much fishing wire, really….

I left reminded of this throbbing question: How can we be more proactive and reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place? This must be one of the most critical questions of our time on this Earth.

If we want to share a beautiful and healthy environment with each other and our children, and all the oncoming generations – if we want them to have access to clean water and air, as well as all the other beings on this planet – how can we make choices everyday that move us individually and collectively into a sustainable lifestyle?

Botany side note! We also found water caltrops (also known as bat nuts, buffalo nuts, devil pods, bull horns) at the Piermont Pier during the sweep. Interestingly, these plants are classified by some as an invasive noxious weed and by some as an edible, valuable, even religiously important, nut-fruit. More on Water Caltrop

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Join me for Free Yoga in the Park with Get Fit Bergen

Go Health & Wellness in Bergen County, New Jersey! I grew up in Bergen County and when I was looking for yoga classes as a teenager here in the 1990s, I couldn’t find any – except in someone’s basement and the class didn’t really click for me at that time.

How exciting that governments and corporations worldwide are today waking up to the valuable role that Yoga & Meditation can play in public Health and Wellness. 🌻 Especially when sustaining a Yoga practice can seem as unaffordable as sustaining a healthy diet. Why should the healthiest and most natural foods and practices be the most expensive? 🌿 I thank my local government in @bergencountynj for partnering with the @pascackvalleymc to sponsor Free Yoga in Pascack Brook County in Westwood, NJ every Wednesday night this May 5:30pm-6:30pm. I also feel fortunate to have my friend @jonesingyoga accompanying me on the magical handpan for our first class on May 2nd. 🎶 We will be sure to connect with the soft and melodious vibes of the blooming Nature all around, and therein, with our own, blooming Body, Mind, Breath, and ultimately, Shanti. ✌️ Thanks to the Community Health Improvement Program (CHIP) for this initiative. Please share the word and come on out to join us and show your support for a healthier tomorrow which starts today! Namaste x S 🌸🌜🧘🏼‍♀️🐰🤸🏽‍♂️🧘🏽‍♂️🌼🤸🏻‍♀️🧘🏻‍♀️🌳🍃🦆🤸‍♀️🧘🏿‍♂️🐛🤸🏽‍♂️🧘‍♀️🤸🏿‍♀️🍃🧘🏻‍♂️🦋🌦☀️🤸🏽‍♂️🧘🏿‍♀️🕷🤸🏼‍♀️🦌🧘🏼‍♂️🍃🤸🏽‍♀️🐕🧘🏽‍♀️🌳🤸🏿‍♂️🕊🌛🌸

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Riverkeeper Sweep 2018

MAY 5th : Join me to volunteer at 9am in Piermont, NY to help Riverkeeper clean up our Hudson River! Then come to Ashtanga Yoga class with me at 11am at Playful Yogi Space in Orangeburg, NY to clean up our inner rivers (in Sanskrit: nadis)!  🌊💓🌊

Registration:

➡️ http://keeprocklandbeautiful.org

➡️ http://www.playfulyogi.space

 

Photos from the Piermont Pier by Wendy Higgins

 

Coloring & Uncoloring the Mind

Yogis, Yoginis, Musicians, and All Creative Warriors: join us on Saturday, April 7th for a special Ashtanga Yoga class and classical Indian Music workshop! We are going to have some fun learning about Coloring & Uncoloring the Mind while connecting these two ancient traditions. So honored that Sitar maestro Purbayan Chatterjee will be joining us at Playful Yogi Space! Slightly terrified to accompany him for the music workshop on Tabla, but maybe I will play better with my legs behind my head. ; ) Travellers from NYC : feel free to message me if you have transportation questions. Nearby train stop is Pearl River and we can try to help you find a lift from and to the station if needed. See you soon!

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