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Guru Poornima

Published on July 14, 2014 by in Religion, Yoga
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Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati & Paramahamsa Niranjanananda Saraswati

On July 12th at the Atma Center, where I study and teach yoga, we celebrated Guru Poornima. Guru (teacher) Poornima (full moon) is considered a very auspicious time for Hindus and yoga aspirants.  It falls in the months of June or July during the full moon and is a time for us to give thanks to our teachers (not just in yoga but in life) for their enlightened teachings by which the darkness of our ignorance is dispelled.

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Traditionally, a Puju (prayer ritual) and Havan (fire ritual) are performed.  Offerings such as lit candles, flowers, or fruit are placed in front and around the pictures for the puja and mantra chanting, kirtan (call and response chanting), etc.take place to assist in making the connection between teacher and student.   For our celebration, and to keep compliant with the city’s fire code, we conducted  a flower Havan instead of a fire Havan  where we offered our gratitude for the untiring work of the guru.

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My Teacher of 15 years and owner of the Atma Center, Swami Atmarupa Saraswati.

Guru Poornima serves as an opportunity to reset our course as yoga aspirants.   Offering thanks to all our teachers during Guru Poornima reminds us that we are not alone on this journey.  There are teachers all around.  We just need to be ready to receive.

So thank you to all my teachers, near and far, in yoga and in life.  May I be open to your teachings and guidance and allow it to strengthen my own inner light, “or guru within” so that I may have the chance to awaken that light in others.

Hari Om Tat Sat

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With my friend and fellow teacher Sue following the celebration.

All  Photos Courtesy of Judy Evans (Jyostna)

 

 

 

 
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More Yoga, More Skating

 

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Exploring Barcelona with friends earlier this month.

Practicing what I preach gets tough sometimes but if I am preaching it I’ve got to live it. I am always telling  people “more yoga, more skating” believing the two are the perfect combination for physical and mental health.  But to be authentic it can’t just be lip service.

In previous blogs I have written about how my yoga practice ebbs and flows.  While I often get discouraged by this I am comforted in knowing that it is always there for me.  It isn’t going anywhere and I can pick it up anytime and anywhere.   After 15 years of study and practice I have quite a few tools that I can pull out when needed and turn any moment into a yogic one.  So really there is no excuse not to practice daily.   Skating is the same for me as I have been skating for nearly 40 years on ice and inlines and in various disciplines.  The only draw back for skating outside is the weather and if it isn’t cooperating  then a 20 minute drive to the ice rink is the easy answer.   There’s no excuse.  So this week, the last of my 46th year, I have decided to get a jump on having a stellar 47th full of both yoga and skating and have begun to incorporate these two loves into my life daily.

For the yoga component, I have been getting pretty good at scheduling time for a daily practice. A little asana upon waking, followed by some pranayama, such as nadi shodhana to balance my often very unbalanced life ,and periodically throughout the day meditation in the form of mantra, yoga nidra, japa, etc. has been a regular source of spiritual nutrition for me.    It may be only 10-15 minutes at a time, or longer if time or patience permits,  or maybe I’ll even take a class.  I would like to do better, meaning spend more time with the physical, breath, and meditation practices, but I know something done regularly is better and more sustainable than a lots of something sporadically so I think that I am on the right track.  The bonus for me is that my older daughter Evan is also a yogini and practices regularly which is a great source of motivation.   While she usually does her own “yoga thing”  every once in a while she’ll invite me to join her for a  class or we will practice together at home-which serendipitously happened this week with a spontaneous session down by the beach!

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Finishing up our practice with side by side inversions.

As for the skating, I have been inspired by a good friend of mine Franc in Slovenia who sends regular updates of his DOS (days on skates)  According to his latest check in a week ago, he had 167 DOS–which, if you look at the calendar, is close to a perfect record as we near the half year mark. Pretty impressive for someone who took up skating as an adult and even more impressive now that he is in his 70′s!  If Franc can make the effort daily, so can I!

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Franc from behind on a sunset skate toward Piran, Slovenia. A much anticipated ritual of ours every time I visit!

This past week I decided to enlist my 8 year old daughter Jade on one of my skates, which made it all the better.  She is a figure skater and been on skates shortly after she could walk so she makes the perfect skating partner.  We navigated the streets of our city quite easily doing errands, eating ice cream and visiting friends, and while I am sure my heart rate didn’t get over 100, I know that I not only met but exceeded my daily goal because I was sharing my love for skating with my daughter.

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Summer is finally here and I am looking forward to spending as much time enjoying it as I can.  After the winter vortex we had here in Cleveland, spending time outside in the warmth and sunshine is a no brainer.  Also, living near Lake Erie makes the perfect backdrop.   Whether I am inside or outside, I have the perfect venue for a yoga practice with a sound track of lapping waves.  As for the skating. I can skate right out my door or hop onto the next ice session while my daughter is practicing.

More yoga and skating. No excuses.

 

 

 
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Bikram Yoga is HOT!

bikramFor the last month I have been practicing Bikram Yoga and I like it.  Well actually, I love it.

It’s true.  Those who know the “yoga me” and know my dedication to the study, practice and teaching of Satyananda Yoga, may be surprised at the above statement.  However, no one is probably more surprised than me.

As I started with the attitude  of “This is VERY different yoga.”  I have now moved toward “Well, there actually are quite a few similarities.” Instead of focusing on the differences, which are obvious if you know anything about Satyananda Yoga and Bikram Yoga, I decided to make an effort to look deeply and find the commonalities instead.  Probably a good approach for this new yoga experience and all of life, actually.

Bikram Yoga is a fixed set of 26 postures performed in a 105 degree heated room and was developed by Bikram Choudhury from Hatha Yoga.  And prior to the last month, my only exposure to Bikram were three classes I took outside the US last year.

The first was in Madrid, Spain where I only knew the word “cambio”(“change”) which came in handy between postures, but not for much else.  Luckily my very experienced friend was with me and I just followed her lead as well as my own limitations and made it through.  Although it was touch and go for a while, I finished the class and as gross at it was, I LOVED THE SWEAT!  The “pouring off of you, absolutely soaking wet” sweat.  Can’t even remember when I worked so hard that I sweated so profusely and it felt GREAT!  The next two class were a month later when I was in Singapore for a skating program and while I wasn’t yet sold on the practice, I loved the intensity and again, the sweat!

It took me almost a year to get to the local Bikram studio www.bikramcle.com which is one of only a handful of Bikram studios in all of Ohio and a short 25 minutes from my house.  Pretty lame of me considering the proximity, and even more lame given that I am actually distantly related to the studio owner. What kind of 4th cousin am I?

As of today  I have taken class 14 out of the last 30 days and I feel very inspired. Not inspired to abandon digging my “Satyanada hole” (See previous  “One Path, One Hole” post) and become a Bikram devotee, but inspired that I can still “dig deep” (hmmm…digging in a different way…maybe it can be the same hole?) and push myself, while still listening closely to my aging body.

That is where I really feel the benefit and the power in the Bikram practice.  I feel like an athlete again.  Something I haven’t really felt since I ran my last running marathon almost 25 years ago.

So I started the day today at 4:45am with a morning meditation practice and spent time reading from the plethora of Satyananda Yoga books on my shelf and by 10:00am I was a third of the way through the 90 minute Bikram class soaked to the bone.    Although I’m still not sure what to make of my new found “love”,  I feel some kind of positive shift happening.

Is my body getting more fit and flexible?  Probably.  Afterall, I read that the average person burns 800-1000 calories per class plus, I’m holding postures longer and experiencing deeper range than ever before.

Am I becoming more mentally strong?  Probably.  I don’t think  there is any other way to get through a Bikram class but to stay focused with present moment awareness-a definitive sign of mental fortitude.

But in addition to the above, and of course the sweat, which I believe I have made abundantly clear that I love, I am also learning new information and “teaching cues” for many of the postures that I have taught for years.  This benefits not only my personal practice but improves my yoga “tool box” so my students will benefit as well.  Another check in the plus column.

When it comes to study, practice and teaching, I am still very committed to Satyananda Yoga and to “digging one 10 foot hole, instead of ten 1 foot holes” as Swami Niranjanananda would say.  I am also well aware of the controversy that surrounds the man Bikram Choudhury and do not believe a safe and optimal Bikram Yoga experience is accessible for everyone.  But for me, the Bikram classes  have jump started my very stale physical yoga practice in a way that I did not expect and for that, I am very thankful.

So there you have it.  I am learning something new about yoga and about myself.

And it’s hot.

 

 
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