Monday, January 30, 2012


Don't you wish you lived in Portland and practiced Ashtanga Vinyasa here?

Not only do we now have three places to practice Mysore-style Yoga, but this spring we are awash in Ashtanga Vinyasa events. It's shaping up to be a real Ashtanga Vinyasa spring ...

1. One Year Anniversary Party!

As Captain Marvel says, Holy moley! Portland Ashtanga Yoga turns one in February!

Come celebrate with a pot-luck-slash-BYOB smash-fest on Saturday, February 18, from 4-6:30 p.m.

Cindi and Ted Wilke have graciously agreed to once again host our wild yogini shenanigans at their house.

Please bring yourself, your spouse or significant other, your offspring, however demonic, your friends, prospective significant others you are trying to impress with your profundity and depth, and/or random hungry acquaintances.

(For this last, please ensure they are good conversationalists.)

This will be a pot-luck: for the love of god, PLEASE bring food that you would LIKE TO EAT, NOT what you think "yoga people" would like to eat.

Also, it will be Saturday afternoon. I will not tell your parents if you bring a bottle of wine.

The Wilke Residence
2840 NE Everett
PDX 97232

2. Kevin Kimple Returns to Portland March 1-9!

Kevin is, as we used to say in Southern California, a pretty rad dude — he directs the Eugene School of Yoga, he spent a lot of time practicing this Yoga and living in Mysore, and he's the only Authorized Ashtanga teacher in Oregon (note that the capital "a" means it's legit).

Kevin's agreed to fill in for me while Tara, Rowan and I are at the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence in early March. He'll be handling Mysore classes March 1-9.

He'll also be hosting workshops Friday ( March 2, 6-8 p.m.), Saturday (March 3, 1-4 p.m.) and Sunday (March 4, 1-4 p.m.) at Yoga Pearl.

Kevin's handling the topics, so stay tuned for more details and info on where to enroll.

3. Richard Freeman in Portland May 4-6

The Ruler's back! Richard "Slick Rick" Freeman will be visiting Portland May 4, 5, and 6. This is an occasion not to be missed — Richard is one of the leading lights in both the Yoga world in general and the Ashtanga world specifically.

Apparently Richard is still deciding on specific topics. But for more information, and to sign up online, visit:

This even will sell out, so seriously, don't sleep on this.

5. My Book Is On Amazon

No asana photos. Apparently it's funny. You'll get a kick out of it. I guarantee there's not another book about Ashtanga Yoga like it:

6. David Garrigues at Breitenbush March 15-18

In other Pacific Northwest Ashtanga Vinyasa news, David Garrigues (D-Gar) will be at Breitenbush in March.

David's one of the few Certified Ashtanga teachers in the U.S. (note the capital "c" to indicate it's legit), and he's been teaching and practicing for a long time.

Like many long-time teachers, he's got terrific respect for and experience with the Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition, yet he balances this with the artistry required by teaching.

David's been doing these great "Asana Kitchen" videos lately, so you can get a feel for his style by watching them. He's also been wearing some phenomenal shirts of late. Check out "Asana Kitchen":

More info on Breitenbush:

7. Where To Find Me Online

Yoga is all about conversation and connection; here're some places online where this conversation is happening:

Leaping Lanka:
Facebook Portland Ashtanga Yoga:
Twitter: @leapinglanka

Saturday, January 28, 2012


As Craig Finn sang, "Let's raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer." Becca works at the studio; she also occasionally attends the Monday night led Primary Series class.

I have a habit of asking people what they would like to talk about prior to beginning the physical portion (i.e. the 1% versus the 99% practice), and she always makes a point of bringing in questions.

I appreciate this — I appreciate the conversation because it's another means of connection (yoga), and it enriches the whole process.

Yesterday morning she asked my thoughts on traveling to India: "What's up with this Mysore deal?" This in great synchronicity with the conversation that's been percolating of late and which perpetually arises about 2 years into everyone's Ashtanga Vinyasa practice.

She felt that if Yoga was a language, you need to go where it's spoken in order to learn it the best. This is not a bad analogy.

Yoga is a language, or type of knowledge, and it's also a tool (techne), as opposed to knowledge (episteme). Kriya or karma yoga (yoga of action) versus jnana yoga to parallels these Greek concerns.

To stretch this metaphor to other instances of technology use to drive home a salient feature of a good tool  — the car was (for the purposes of this argument) invented in Europe; I do not need to travel to Europe to learn to drive. I love the films of Seijin Suzuki; I do not need to travel to Tokyo to love them more or deeper, or even to watch them. I love to play the piano; I do not need to travel to Italy to learn to play it. From a doctor-patient standpoint, a sick patient does not need to travel to England, where Fleming discovered the use of penicillin, okay, you get my point.

I think everyone understands that the the most ideal concept of Yoga-as-technology is that it resembles an artisanal tool rather than an industrial one; that is, one developed by craftspeople and singularly wired up for each individual's use, rather than mass produced (that is, rather than a Bikram factory) — but even so, Eddie Van Halen learned to shred the fuck out of an assembly line guitar, Nicu Vlad trained to win Olympic weightlifting medals on a bent barbell, and your iPod, perhaps the last example of an artisanal item scaled up for mass consumption, will still play the songs you love, and affect you as deeply, as some hi-fi stereo snob fuckophonic sound-system (i.e. fuck vinyl).

If Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is an effective, powerful, transformative tool, this tool must be powerful, effective and transformative for its user/practitioner, full stop, end of statement, not "powerful, effective, transformative only in Mysore." It can't be dependent on a specific location.

A (wise) friend once said to me, "If God is in all things, as all things, you think he cares if you're chanting Sanskrit, Aramaic or Old English?" To accept this requires heroic affirmation, because it requires the acceptance of the fact that those particular chants are, in fact, just a collection of sounds and in and of themselves bear no intrinsic sacredness separate from you. At best we can say that, for whatever reason, they strike a particular chord in you at that time.

In one of those studio talks, Richard Freeman mentioned hearing Bach, or sitting in church, watching light stream through stained glass windows — and then conflating the ensuing equipoise with the church denomination or the specific piece of music, and trying to recreate that equipoise by returning to that church or repetitively playing that same piece of music.

For my part, I realize that for whatever reason (samskaras, karmas) there are certain pursuits and practices in my life (Ashtanga Vinyasa) that I choose to pick at like loose threads on a rug because I find them compelling. As I continue to do so, part of maintaining their relevance and vitality has been to realize how and when I've used the pursuit of these practices to escape other situations in my life, which has usually been relationships, and then to not do that.

For me, a tendency I personally have is to lean pretty hard into ascetism as a means to power — saying no to experiences and relationships is addictive because it allows a sense of control.

So why should Becca go to India, or to Mysore? I think she should be leery if she thinks she is going to have a better, more pure or authentic, plus ne ultra, or most importantly, other experience of Yoga than the one she has here in Portland.

But I can think of a host of great reasons to go there — travel as a value is very important to me, and travel for yoga is a great way to combine two pursuits. Travel as sabbatical or recovery from burnout. A holiday or vacation. Big life changes free up time and present the opportunity for positive periods of travel and deeper/lengthier practices. Finally, curiosity is a great reason.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


It is not a bad idea to articulate some reasons to travel to Mysore.

Is it as a yoga tourist? In the novel Sheltering Sky Paul Bowles makes the distinction between a tourist and a traveler: “[A]nother important difference between tourist and traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization without question; not so the traveler, who compares it with the others, and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

For example, Chef in Apocalypse Now is a tourist. His mantra becomes "Never get off the boat — there are fucking tigers out there."

Bowles’ idea of a traveler dovetails with Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s reinterpretation/revival of Baudelaire’s “flaneur,” a derived meaning of the French word flâneur — that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it.”

(From here we move to the Situationists. Christ, that’s a lot of name-dropping.)

I am compelled by the idea of traveling to India and walking the streets of Mysore, not to consume Indian exoticism or escape my own self back “home,” but to purely and simply let yoga in Mysore wash over and through me. Some kind of yogi flaneur.

That said, my understanding of Ashtanga Yoga specifically and Yoga generally is this: it began in India, has greatly developed in the West, and part of its practice is continually reaffirming its relevance in my daily life.

With that understanding in mind, I think it can be said there are now many “hearts” of Ashtanga yoga. But of course I am biased: five years ago this April my wife and I were married by a guy we consider a “heart” (at least a ventricle) of this tradition.

Where are these hearts? Well, the big ones of course: Encinitas, Boulder, Lower East Side … then there’s Hawaii, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, London, Tokyo, Barcelona … again, you get the picture.

How is the practice of Ashtanga Yoga different depending on geographical location? I have been to Mysore and other places in India (and I tell you, practice with Rolf and Marci in Goa will blow you out of your socks). It is magical to practice there, yes, but no less magical than anywhere else on earth.
In a large part this "magic" arises as an aspect of pilgrimage. Someone travels to Mysore and makes a pilgrimage marked by sacrifices big and small — financial, personal, familial, work-related — that are required in order to undergo the journey.

Then there’s the often tremendous distance, discomfort, and cost experienced en route.

Meaning, by the time you get there, you've seen things. The familiar has long since disappeared out the back of the rickshaw window.

During a pilgrimage you’re subtracted from well-grooved responsibilities and roles within family, work, and culture.

Once in Mysore you become part of the coming together of hundreds of like-minded travelers, all practicing together in one room. The shala breathes and pulses with a tidal hum that you can feel in your bones. It’s intense.

Given this understanding, there is nothing intrinsically magical about the Jois Shala or Mysore at all. The walls are not made of candy canes and gum-drops, and Sharath bless him does not levitate into the room and shoot lightning bolts out of his eyes.

(In 2005 he was fatigued and in pain due to back injury, yet still with light touch and quick humor. That is, he was warmly human.)

You can’t cut a piece of the rug off the shala floor, take it home, and expect it to confer the same experience. No saints’ fingerbones or virgin’s tears to collect. 

(You can however purchase logo T-shirts to commemorate your experience and communicate to others your journey.)

Rather, it is the collective endeavor and communal undertaking of practice together that makes it special. The intention of the practitioners and teachers — the sankalpa — is paramount.
Danger and trouble appear when the pilgrimage becomes enshrined as the Grail through which all that is unpleasant in your life will magically disappear: the death of a loved one or family member, the bitter break-up, recent job loss, eating disorder, alienating/alienated parents … perhaps even the mundane disquiet or dissatisfaction with current choices in life.

(See: Trungpa’s Spiritual Materialism)

I did one time hear Sharath say, jokingly (half-jokingly), “Do the yoga — now go home!”

There's also a "big" Sanskrit word bandied about as justification of such a pilgrimage: parampara.

"Parampara" generally means lineage, and in Sanskrit takes the flavor of "order" or "succession."

It's often suggested that Mysore is the location of this parampara, which of course begs several questions: I can only receive or take part in this parampara in Mysore? Is my experience of this parampara greater in Mysore than on my home yoga mat?

The experience of taking part in the living, breathing tradition as expressed through its community is very much a vibrant aspect of practicing Yoga in Mysore, so in that regard there is a healthy experience of parampara available there.

Wedded to this idea of parampara is the Vaidika idea of purity (and pollution). From within this perspective, as a practitioner I want to practice the purest form of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and to do that, I have to participate in parampara, which, I am assured, is an unchanging (and therefore eternal) system of techniques handed down from time immemorial. In this case, from an ancient text called the Yoga Korunta by Vamana. The Indian tendency, as has been noted, is to whenever possible push the dates of teachings, systems and texts as far back in history as possible, as the older (and more unchanged), the better.

Setting aside the issue of whether the Korunta is apocryphal, this idea of the purity of Ashtanga Vinyasa is important because it's what determines value and meaning in this system — by agreeing on behaviors, attitudes, techniques, sequences of asanas performed like this (and not that) (foot to the side, not in front, etc.) value and meaning are created, and following from those agreed-upon values, what naturally follows are notions of identity and place in society, family, and culture (dharma).

I think it's also useful (cynical?) to observe the idea of parampara from a power dynamic perspective. That is, lineage holders often do just that: hold or maintain the lineage. In order to do so and for reasons altruistic or otherwise (see: Bikram), it's in their interests to maintain control over their system or school of Yoga. This expresses itself through maintenance of purity, authenticity, values, etc.

This is an obvious observation; the corollary that follows is that those who receive their authority from this authority then have a vested interest in maintaining the parampara — a byproduct or residue of fostering the importance of purity and authenticity also insures their authority (and often prosperity).

As someone who teaches Mysore style Ashtanga Vinyasa, I try to be very transparent when it comes to the presentation of this system. It's had a tremendous impact on my life (to it I owe my wife, daughter, and current peace of mind), so I try to be cognizant of what I understand to be the tradition, why it works the way it does, and most importantly, when it needs to flex (and when to remain firm) to meet the needs of the person on the mat in front of me.

I also hope to invite conversation on the subject, too (that is, I'm too blabby). These sequences and techniques aren't tablets handed down from the mount. But they work, they work for me and they'll work for you.

To return to the issue of parampara: to paraphrase Del The Funky Homosapien, what is my parampara, and how do I know if I'm shaking it? What does it mean, really, to take part in parampara?

For my part, it means to quite simply have a heart connection with a teacher who has a teacher within the Ashtanga Vinyasa tradition; in this case, Tim considers Pattabhi Jois his teacher and I consider Tim my teacher. I'm lucky in that I know Tim, and more importantly, Tim knows me. There's something vital about that relationship and conversation. It's at once intimate yet politely distant.

Finally, do I think you should go to Mysore? It depends largely on the context — I wish I could just give an orthodox answer (yes or no) but I really think it depends on a person's situation in life, such as your family obligations, work commitments ... even your interest in travel generally and travel to Asia specifically.

I know for example Tara had a great time in Mysore but doesn't really care to go back. She had a great time at the shala and she liked Sharath, but she's just not compelled to visit India — she'd rather see Europe (we still haven't been together).

More t importantly, many years ago she "came home" to the idea of Tim as her teacher. The interest to find other teachers is just not there. For her, taking part in the parampara occurs in our bedroom every morning when she practices and in Encinitas.

When I told Tim I planned to visit Mysore on my first trip, I asked if he had any advice. All he said was, "Go, and have a great time." He was pretty laid back about it.

Still: India will blow your fucking mind. Just don't run away from your life. Be a yogi flaneur.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

'ASHTANGA YOGA: Stories from Beyond the Mat' IS OUT NOW


'Ashtanga Yoga: Stories From Beyond the Mat' is now on sale at Amazon:

It's a collection of stories, essays, sketches, how-tos, and comedy bit-lets, all written during the last 10 years, and all relating to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.

It's one of the first of its kind in the Ashtanga community: no asana photos or "Intro to Yoga Philosophy 101," just writings about Yoga filled with reverence, humor, and the occasional artfully employed f-bomb.

(Also, perhaps the occasional gratuitously employed f-bomb.)

The practice of this Yoga has profoundly changed my life --- I hope I shared a glimmer of that in the pages of this book.

1. International Amazon

Unfortunately, at the moment I'm unable to list it on Amazon's international sites. This means it's still available to those outside the U.S., though you have to pay shipping.

HOWEVER: I have just found that Amazon UK does print-on-demand, and so I'm gonna get this ball rolling. 

Please note: I am not changing any "whiles" to "whilsts" for my UK audience, though maybe I can work in "havin' a slash" or "dogs bollocks" somehow.

2. Kindle, eBook, Versions
There will definitely be one. But not until March.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

INDIA 2008.

Just unearthed some pics from our trip to practice with Rolf and Marci in early 2008. I am the one wearing glasses.

Also, with regards to my wife, I believe the saying is that I am "punching above my weight," or that she is "dating down." My secret: constant yet mild hypnosis coupled with blackmail.

This is Rowan at the local Goan market, which was around the corner from our first house. The kid is such a ham. During our last few weeks in Goa, I was purchasing and consuming copious cans of Pepsi from this shop, driven by some strange but deep culture-shock homesickness-impulse only mitigated by an ice-cold can of brown sugar syrup.


"I caught the darkness/ It was drinking from your cup/ I asked, 'Is it contagious?/ You said, 'Drink it up.'"

Guy's 77 and only getting BETTER.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


There is, from time to time, discussion among the Ashtanga community about when to begin the pranayama sequence — Pattabhi Jois (Guruji!) used to suggest students practice the Intermediate series prior to beginning instruction.

Over the years, that prerequisite stretched to completion of Advanced A (or nowadays Third Series).

A woman in conference asked him once when to begin pranayama, and he told her that when she could sit in padmasana for one yama (three and a half hours), he would teach her.

Of course, at another conference, someone asked when they could start pranayama, and he said, “Yes yes, you start pranayama,” which took everyone by surprise.

Since December I have offered to those who practice with me the chance to practice the Ashtanga Vinyasa pranayama sequence.

I have always thought Tim Miller has the right idea when it came to pranayama — he quite simply sits down at the studio every morning (Monday through Friday) at 6:15 a.m. and begins the practice.

Anyone is welcome to join. There are no explicit prerequisites, just a couple implicit ones: you have to be comfortable on the floor for 45 minutes and with minimal verbal instruction.

In this way Tim doesn’t fry himself out explaining to dilettantes again and again the sequence itself and/or the many nuances to the practice.

My “prerequisite” is based around the fact that the best time for me to do the practice is before Mysore — so if interested, people have to be at the studio at 5:30 a.m. Hardship!

Still, in the last six weeks a couple of people have ventured in to do the deep breathing.

I developed a pranayama practice in 2003, after my introduction to it in Tim’s two-week teacher training in Encinitas. I realized all I had to do was show up at the studio at 6:15.

(Nowadays that time seems so late that it borders on decadence.)

For those of you who’ve turned up to practice the pranayama with me, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the matter from the Siva Samhita (SS), considered one of three seminal texts on Hatha Yoga (the others being the Hatha Yoga Pradipika ((HYP)) and the Gheranda Samhita.)

I consider this or any other Yoga text a basis for conversation and inquiry, as opposed to commandment. What are these texts claiming as truth, and what do they offer us?

The pranayama sequence is built around kumbhaka, or retention. The SS characterizes four levels of intensity with regards to breath retention, each of which manifests external characteristics. 

If you’ve done the sequence, you may be familiar with these:

During the first stage the yogini’s body perspires profusely; the sweat produced should be rubbed into the skin (SS 3.40; HYP 2.12-13).

The second stage involves trembling of the body, the third, ‘jumping like a frog’ and the fourth is called gagane-cara, literally ‘moving in the sky’ (SS 3.41).

At any rate, if these sound interesting to you — Sweating, trembling, and hopping around? How could that not sound like a great time? — I’ll once again resume my seat at 5:30 a.m. tomorrow (Monday). I thoroughly enjoy the practice, and I think you will, too. All welcome to join.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Where to begin with this one?

 1. I don't know Briony, but she is a marketing genius. This definitely one-ups Kathryn "Naked Yogini" Budig.

 2. Setting aside the amount of ass on display in this video, she is a perfect illustration of why it's more advantageous to have short legs when doing your pressing to handstand.

 3. She is beautiful, she moves (mostly) with grace and fluidity (some arm bending, some falling and not lowering (she needs to practice more), but still, the panties make it forgivable). I can dig that.

 4. Porn set hotel location?

 5. Who or what the fuck is Equinox? A yoga studio? A gym? Spa? Resort? I am unclear.

 6. The comments section reaffirms my faith in the random and rabid hilarity of people everywhere. My favorie comment: "Boner achieved." Which leads me to point seven ...

 7. Haters gon hate.

8. Reminds me strongly of Krishnamacharya's approach to promoting Yoga in the '30's and 40's — the parlor tricks and showmanship — he directly referred to it as "propaganda" and it used to be contortionist poses and fakir-like heart-stopping, also entombment — now it's cute women in sexy attire. Get 'em in the door!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Seriously? Glow sticks and fluouro face paint?! It is surprising yet entirely inevitable. Also, clearly this early morning Mysore thing is bullshit. (Didn't see any E-puddles or nitrous tanks, though.)


Ordered the proof on Friday morning; it arrived Tuesday.

Just finished last-minute tweaks and resubmitted to the press.

I've written books before, but nothing personal like this.

Feels weird to hold it.

Stayed up late actually reading it last night. I really liked parts of it. There are a few clunky parts, probably would've helped to have a professional editor eyeball it.

There are also some hilarious parts. Well, parts that I find hilarious. I find myself hilarious. However, as I told Tara last night, I am unfortunately much funnier on paper than in person.