Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Photo by Kelly Lynn Hubert!
The book is quite cleverly called Ashtanga Yoga: Stories From Beyond the Mat.

It has 50 stories, essays, how-tos, and the occasional naughty word about Ashtanga yoga, all "with reverence and humor," as I believe the back cover says.

Actually, I know that's what the back cover says, because I wrote it.

This whole process has been like the extended labor of child birth, wrapped in an Ultimate Fighting cage match, sprinkled with Bergmanian Winter Light-style existential despair and angst. "The Chinese! The Chinese!"

I like Ashtanga yoga a lot, so I didn't (and don't) want to fuck this up, you know?

Anyway, I sent the whole package off (actually, just clicked buttons), and now it's under formatting and print review.

The book will be offered print-on-demand, most likely through the services of Amazon. I will have more details very soon.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


 I have been guiding and leading Primary Series (and the occasional Second Series) since 2005, and in that time. I’ve watched quite a few people move through the sequence, just as I’ve practiced it myself, week in and week out, and in that time I’ve had the occasion to discuss, speak about, and answer questions about the series.

The Primary Series takes root and flowers in bed of soil that is the tristana, techniques that emphasize that we are going to work with the breath, the body-mind, and our attention.

This emphasis says several things: first, we work from a fundamental, internal point — the breath — and move outward.

Second, everyone and anyone, of any economic class, physical disposition and background, gender, class, caste and inclination, can use these techniques. They are scalable and adaptable to all.

Third, the tristana are a pyramid — all three form fundamental points of the foundation. There is not one part of the breath, body-mind, and attention or consciousness that is superfluous or irrelevant.

This is an implicit and structural acknowledgment that we are multi-layered beings whose embodiments are not limitations or impediments, rather gifts and tools that can be used to experience and savor ever deeper realizations.

So Guided Primary Series classes are unique among Yoga classes in that they’re absolutely prescribed — every breath, movement and looking point is directed. At first glance there is no chance or opportunity for spontaneous free will or expression to arise.

One way to look at led Primary is as an overly formalized ritual. The tristana and the established sequence create a set of rules, boundaries and limitations (thank you, Cesar Milan) that in effect form a container or vessel.

The Sanskrit root “dhri” generally means to carry, to bear, to hold  — “dhara” is “the one who bears” (or the earth), while “dharanam” can mean prop, support, pillar, stay, hold.

You see where this is going? The practice of Tristana plus Primary Series can be thought of as dharana itself. This versus dharana as a byproduct or result of the two.

I am indebted to Dr. Douglas Brooks for this more esoteric notion of a collection or grouping of the last three limbs of Ashtanga.

This vessel creates and sustains value and meaning, and therefore relationship and intimacy (Holy shit, Yoga!) — value and meaning are never inherent, and rise from the delimiting of choices: by choosing to practice this posture and not that one, in this order of postures, and not that one, we say that this posture and that sequence have value and meaning to us.

Even the most freewheeling and loose hippy-dippy types (“No limits, man! No boundaries! Freedom! He's Captain America, man, and I'm Billy!”) create implicit value and meaning through kala and desha, space and time.

Meaning, we choose to begin practice at 10 a.m. at Yoga Pearl, not in the parking lot of a 7-11 at midnight. At first glance this seems arbitrary, but the consequent value and meaning of these details play a powerful role in creating deeper relationship and connection.

However, the conception of tristana plus Primary Series as a rigid container of dharana, like all large, firm structures such as skyscrapers and suspension bridges, paradoxically also contains a tremendous amount of flex.

The expression of the shapes/seats/asanas, the individual expression of the transitions, the length of breath, all vary from person to person, day to day, often moment to moment.

It's this inherent flex that allows the series to be so "rigid."

What follows from this conception of dharana-as-vessel is the question: with what do we fill this vessel? 


Again, this is an esoteric understanding of this meaning. The vessel of dharana collects the “single flow” of attention in one direction (as Patanjali says, “pratyaya-ekatanata”). We fill this vessel with our object of contemplation, be it devata or otherwise.

Samadhi becomes then not so much an ecstatic one-ness but a deep and abiding savoring (svada) of this “single flow.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011


I'm once again in Encinitas. Why keep returning to the Ashtanga Yoga Center? It seemed fitting to unearth this quote:
"It is said ... that a man once came from a great distance to study under Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the founder of the Lubavitcher Hasidim ...
To this distinguished tzaddik ... came the distant visitor. On learning of his quest, the villagers of Ladi all asked with pride if he wanted first to hear their great rabbi read Talmud or to hear him pray. 
Neither, he said. He wanted only to watch him cut bread or tie his shoes. 
The villagers were stunned as the visitor simply observed the rabbi sitting absently in thought in thc light of the afternoon sun, and then went away edified." 
—"The Ordinary as Mask of the Holy," Belden C. Lane, Christian Century October 3, 1984, p. 898
Lane goes on to add: "One begins to suspect that the contemplation of any ordinary thing, made extraordinary by attention and love, can become an occasion for glimpsing the profound."

Ashtanga Yoga Center: shoe-tying, bread-cutting. That is all.