Friday 18 December 2009

Happy Holiday

Bonjour tout le monde!
The last class of 2009 will be Tuesday night, Dec 22 at 19h30 a class
for the Winter Solstice. Please book your place if you would like to
come as this is a special evening of meditation and asana and will be
a 2-hr class.
(This class will replace the Tues at 16h00 Hatha II/III.)
Also, there will be no Mommy and Me this week, December 17. Mommy and
Me will resume on January 7 and the full schedule on Monday, January 4.
Have a very Happy Holiday everyone, bon fin d'année tout le monde!
wishing you a warm, loving and bright year's end.

Monday 2 November 2009

Class mantras

Śiva Mantra (from Nirālamba Upanişad)
Often chanted at the beginning of a yoga practice.

Om namah Śivāya gurave
nişprapañcāya śāntāya
nirālambāya tejase.

Salutations to Śiva (the teacher)
whose form is truth, consciousness and bliss.
who is without deceit, tranquil,
independent and illuminating.

Mangala Mantra (Auspicious Mantra)
Often chanted at the end of a yoga practice.

svasti prajābhyah paripalayantām
nyāyena mārgena mahīm mahīśāh
gobrāhmanebhyah śubhamastu nityam
lokāh samastāh sukhino bhavantu.

Hail to the creators! May they protect the earth
properly and justly.
May one and all be eternally fortunate.
May all worlds be happy.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Community Classes and Teacher Training

Dear Everyone,
The first graduating class of yoga teachers from the Centre de Yoga du Marais would like to offer Community Classes at the centre on Saturdays at 16h00 this Fall.  They are offering this class as service and it is by donation to future programs at the centre for workshops, guest teachers and scholarship programs.  The schedule is as follows: Saturdays 16h00-17h30.
October   10 Tanya Greeves
October   17 Maria N. Marin
October   24 Tatiana Abbey-Chartier
October   31 Mercedes Johnson
November 7 Sibylle Siegrist

I appreciate their wonderful spirit in reaching out to the community and their desires to teach.  They are all very good teachers.  Bring along a friend curious to try a class!

In keeping with this spirit I would like to offer my next workshop also by donation to a charity I support.  I would like to give the proceeds of my next workshop to Families For Children, a private, non-profit, non-sectarian agency that cares for over 600 destitute children and mentally challenged children and adults in India and Bangladesh.  This is a "kitchen counter" organization that is run entirely by volunteers and every penny goes straight to the orphanages and schools this agency has set up.  I first visited the school in 2004 and have contributed ever since sponsoring a little girl named Amsaveni.  FFC homes are not institutional and are run like that of a huge family home.  Many older children go on to work for the younger ones in this home, some are integrated out into their communities and some girls even go on to marry.  I have brochures and more info at the centre.

Workshop Chandra Namaskar,  New Moon practice, October 18, 13h30-16h00.
This is an opening yin practice, designed to increase circulation and is especially targeted for opening the hips.  Cost of the workshop 30 euros, more if you would like to increase your donation to FCC.

New Moon Meditation 20h00 October 18.  We will have a seated guided meditation and our usual buffet dinner afterward.  Think of a Fall Harvest.  This event is always free with your delicious contribution to our meal.

Hatha Yoga Teacher Training 2010
The 200-hr certification course is based on teaching and learning the tools to share the knowledge of yoga, but whether you choose to teach or not you will refine and deepen your own personal practice and what yoga means to you.  Your practice will become stronger and the experience of the teachings enriched.  Our curriculum will cover philosophy, developing a home practice, anatomy and physiology ,asana pranayama and meditation, other branches of yogic philosophy and yogic diet.

The program will run from January to June with three breaks for personal study and vacation time.
Part I   January 9-January 30
Part II  Feb 15-March 29
Part III April 10-April 30
Part IV May 3-June 27

Classes are held on:
Saturdays 16h00-18h30
Sundays   13h30-19h30
Mondays   18h30-20h00 (prenatal training)

Classes at the centre in addition to training hours may be taken at your convenience with advance reservation.  Training will be taught simultaneously in French and English.

2700 euro Full Tuition due January 9, 2010.
2650 euro If paid in full before December 22, 2009.
All materials and classes included.
500 euro non-refundable deposit due on December 15, 2009.

For the full description of the program and the application please send me your address and I will post a brochure and application in the mail to you.  You must have studied at least 2 years or one year with me or Joyson at the centre.

I would like to answer a few questions recently received:

1. After the deposit paid in December, is it possible for the balance to be spread out over several post-dated checks?  
Yes.  As long as the last check is dated no later than April 15.

2. In the event of an emergency and missed classes, what is the possibility of catching up?
You would just need to make up the time directly with myself and Joyson and pick up any notes from your classmates.

3. Are the weekly classes at the centre included in the fee for the YTT?
Yes.  A reservation will be required and for workshops and classes from the other teachers, permission will be required.

4. Is there individual supervision of our personal practice and needs as a teacher included in the training.
Yes.  Joyson and I are available for one on one sessions as well.

Finally, to ensure interest and dedication to the program a contract of commitment to the training will be asked of you.  Space is limited to 10.

Thank you sincerely for your interest in all the programs.


Thursday 17 September 2009

Sept news plus yoga mats

Dear Everyone, (francais a suivre)

I hope you are well and surviving the bustle that is the rentree. There is one more thing you may wish to consider. To keep yourself healthy through this flu season you should have your own mat. I will continue to provide mats at the centre for general use until the end of October when you will need to bring your own. For brand new tryouts to yoga I will keep three cleaned ones on hand for the very beginner and will start to stock new mats at the centre for you to purchase if you don't want to find one on your own. There are so many mats and styles available at various prices. Here are some ideas:

They yoga boutique at Sivananda. 140 blvd Faubourg St Martin
Resonance in the Pyramid du Louvre
Go Sport

I am keeping the old ones for you to use as undermats when the weather gets cold for insulation, so no worries, I will not be putting rubber into the landfill! For carriers, I will have a lookout for those, too and you can always fold up your mat and put it in a totebag as well.

On the topic of your health, I am changing the focus of our next yoga workshop to be a practice that will boost your immune system. I will provide a number of ideas to augment your practice to keep you healthy. It will be a strong heating practice.
Sunday, Sept 27 13h30-16h00. Price of the workshop is 35 euros or 30 euros if booked and paid before.

This Sunday, Sept 20 is our meditation evening at 20h00. The meditation will be guided with a sutra study for those of you curious to go deeper in the yoga philosophy. We will have a light tea afterward. The mediation is always open to all.

Looking forward to catching up with you all!

Monday 31 August 2009

Quoi de Neuf...La Rentrée

Cher tous!
Bonne rentrée à tous, après vos voyages estivaux, pour ce nouveau départ de septembre. J'adore l'automne et le changement de saison nous rappelle que nous pouvons toujours recommencer à zéro, essayer quelque chose de nouveau, ou rallumer notre passion pour une chose que nous aimons et que nous avions mis de côté pour un temps.
La rentrée commencera le 1er septembre avec un nouvel agenda que vous trouverez un peu plus bas. Comme d'habitude vous pouvez commencer les cours quand vous voulez et explorer différents cours et différents professeurs. Une réservation pour les cours du soir ou le week end est toujours recommandée.
Je suis heureuse de recommencer les ateliers, de partager avec vous ce que j'ai exploré ainsi que les nouvelles idées que j'ai expérimenté cet été. La prochaine soirée de méditation, qui inclura l'étude de sutras aura lieu dimanche soir 20 sept. Nous commencerons à 20h00. Quant au prochain atelier, il aura lieu dimanche 27 sept, 13h30-16h00. Raviver la passion pour sa pratique avec des séquences créatives, et bien sur, les exercices usuels du travail de respiration. Le cout de l'atelier est de 35 euros, 30 euros si vous réservez à l'avance.
Je serai absente du 3 au 9 septembre. Amanda et Terence me remplaceront pour les cours et vous pourrez bien entendu utiliser vos cartes. En outre, pour l'instant, les samedi et dimanche après-midi sont libres pour des ateliers spéciaux et des classes à thème, alors n'oubliez pas de regarder aussi les nouvelles du centre pour les nouveaux cours qui vont être prévus par nos nouveaux professeurs!
Si vous ne désirez plus recevoir ces lettres, indiquez le moi pour que je puisse retirer votre nom de la liste des mails. Merci.
Je serai heureuse de vous retrouver à nouveau au centre le mardi, 1er septembre. Mercredi 2 septembre, Ulrika et moi nous occuperons des inscriptions pour le programme pour enfants "yoga children's program" de 8h00 à 10h00. Vous-même et votre enfant sont aussi les bienvenus pour venir essayer un cours mercredi 9 sept. Le programme se trouve ci-dessous. Les cours pour femmes enceintes et "maman et moi" commenceront dans la semaine du 14 septembre.
Voici votre programme:
lundi prénatal 18h30-20h00 Michelle
lundi niveau I 20h15-21h45 Zoe
mardi niveau II/III 16h00-17h30 Michelle
mardi Yoga Planète 18h45- 21h45 inscrip. Anne
mercredi parent-enfants 3-6 10-30-11h30 Ulrika
mercredi enfants 6-12ans 15h30-16h30 Ulrika
mercredi niveau II 19h30-21h00 Michelle
jeudi Mommy and Me 12h00-13h00 Michelle
jeudi niveau II/III 16h00-17h30 Michelle
jeudi niveau I 19h30-21h00 Michelle
vendredi hatha doux 18h30-20h00 Michelle
vendredi hatha I 20h15-21h45 Amanda
samedi niveau I 10h00-11h30 Michelle
samedi niveau II 12h30-14h00 Amanda
dimanche Yoga Planète 11h30-13h00 inscrip. Anne
dimanche open level 18h00-19h30 Joyson
ateliers de samedi et dimanche - la prochaine 27 Sept.
Gardez vos pensées positives, car vos pensées deviennent vos mots,
Gardez vos mots positifs, car vos mots deviennent votre comportement, Gardez votre comportement positif car votre comportement devient vos habitudes,
Gardez vos habitudes positives car vos habitudes deviennent vos valeurs,
Garder vos valeurs positives car vos valeurs deviennent votre destinée.


Saturday 29 August 2009

Quoi de Neuf...La Rentrée

Dear Everyone!
Welcome back from all of your travels and to the annual fresh start that is September. I love the autumn and the change of season reminding us we can always start over, try something new, or reignite our passion for something we love that we have put aside for a while.
La rentrée begins September 1 with the schedule below. As always you can start up anytime and explore different classes and teachers. A reservation for an evening or weekend class is still recommended.
I am happy to start my workshops up again and share what I have explored and some of the insight I have gained over the summer. The next meditation evening including sutra study will be Sunday evening, Sept 20. We will start at 20h00. The next workshop I propose is Sunday, Sept 27 13h30-16h00. Reigniting the passion for your practice with some creative sequencing, and as usual the breath work we practice. Cost of the workshop is 35 euros, 30 euros if you reserve before.
I will be away from the centre from September 3-9. Amanda and Terence will teach for me and you can use your cards of course. Also, Saturday and Sunday afternoons are free now for special workshops and community classes so please watch for the news for more classes coming up from our new teachers as well!
If you no longer wish to receive these letters please tell me to remove your name from the mailing list. Thank you.
I will be happy to welcome you back to the centre on Tuesday, Sept 1. On Wednesday, September 2, Ulrika and I will hold the registration for the yoga children's program from 8h00-10h00. You and your child are also welcome to come take a trial class on Wed, Sept 9. The schedule is below. Prenatal classes and Mommy and Me will begin the week of Sept 14.
Here is your schedule.
lundi prénatal 18h30-20h00 Michelle
lundi niveau I 20h15-21h45 Zoe
mardi niveau II/III 16h00-17h30 Michelle
mardi Yoga Planète 18h45- 21h45 inscrip. Anne
mercredi parent-enfants 3-6 10-30-11h30 Ulrika
mercredi enfants 6-12ans 15h30-16h30 Ulrika
mercredi niveau II 19h30-21h00 Michelle
jeudi Mommy and Me 12h00-13h00 Michelle
jeudi niveau II/III 16h00-17h30 Michelle
jeudi niveau I 19h30-21h00 Michelle
vendredi hatha doux 18h30-20h00 Michelle
vendredi hatha I 20h15-21h45 Amanda
samedi niveau I 10h00-11h30 Michelle
samedi niveau II 12h30-14h00 Amanda
dimanche Yoga Planète 11h30-13h00 inscrip. Anne
dimanche open level 18h00-19h30 Joyson
ateliers de samedi et dimanche - la prochaine 27 Sept.
Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words
Keep your words positive because you words become your behavior
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.


Saturday 4 July 2009

Student Essays Teacher Training 2009 author Tatiana

Buddhism and Yoga
The power of the mind

I have been practicing Buddhism for 9 years now and since the beginning of the Yoga Teacher Training, I have been astonished at the similarities with the Buddhist philosophy. I originally wanted to do my last essay on the Power of Imagination/Mind in Yoga and realized that there was another field in which I experimented each day the power of the mind: in Buddhism. So I thought why not draw the similarities between both of these philosophies! "As we think so we are". Both Yoga and Buddhism teaches us what the mind is truly made of and how to use it in order to create our lives based on faith, devotion, assiduous practise, studies and a new relationship to our True Self, our True Nature, One that is in all of us and in everything. In Buddhism, the mind/spirit and the heart are the same word and "we must be the master of our hearts and not let the heart be the master".

Buddhism was founded by who is known as Shakyamuni Siddhartha. He was the son of a very rich and noble man in India who wanted at any cost to protect his son from the miseries of the world. Therefore he grew up in a palace surrounded by beauty, luxury and abundant private tutors. At the age of 18, he managed to escape from the palace and left through the East door, he saw a very old woman and witnessed aging for the first time. At the South door, he saw a woman giving birth and the pain she was going through. At the West door, he witnessed a sick man. At the North door he saw a man dying. From there sprang what would become his life quest: what are the causes of the sufferings of birth, sickness, aging and death. He left his palace and started his journey. He first decided to be an ascetic and left all worldly possessions behind, meditated, fasted and lived with only a piece of cloth around his waist. In the forests he discovered the mysteries of the spirit, how to control his body, how to quiet his mind. A lot of his first teachings were based on this first part of his life. Then he realized that it was a bit selfish to feel great all by himself so he decided to go back into the world to teach others to find peace and happiness.
"The challenge is to practice Yoga and still live in society. This would be reflected in the Hinayana and Mahayana schools of Buddhism, the first of which preached salvation for the self alone, and the second which denounced this as fundamentally selfish, and espoused delaying your self-liberation and working for the people around you, to give back and pass on some of your good fortune." The Seer and the Self

His teachings are recorded under a numerous amount of Sutras. From those different Sutras sprang many different Buddhisms. As there are many branches in Yoga, so are there many branches of Buddhism. The one I practice is based on the Lotus Sutra, his last teaching, and belongs to the Mahayana schools of Buddhism. The first sentence of the Lotus Sutra is "Then the Thus Come One awakened form his Samadhi and addressed his audience…" Samadhi is the last of the 8 limbs of Yoga and the aim of the Yogi: total communion with All that is, Oneness with all creation. Already  Yoga and Buddhism are associated from the very beginning of the Lotus Sutra! In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni says that what he has to expose now is his essential teaching and that it will be very difficult to understand. He basically announces that everybody regards him as The Buddha, but that everyone is a Buddha! Buddha means "the awakened one", the "Thus Come one" "the enlightened one", but awakened to what? Enlightened to what? Become one with what?! He says to all the bodhisattvas and to all the Buddha's from the Ten Directions that they think that he is a Buddha here and now but in fact he has been here many lives ago and has been a Buddha since the beginning of time. That everyone has the state of Buddhahood inherent in his life and that the difference between them and him is that he knows that and they don't. The only difference between a Buddha and a mortal is the knowledge of Being a Buddha! Some people in the audience were outraged. At that time some had more privilege than others and the idea that all were equals disturbed them, and so they left. Shakyamuni was glad for he said there was no room for the arrogant. What he exposed in this Sutra was a revolutionary idea and very hard to understand indeed! He said, "We are all Buddhas". He wanted everyome to understand the impermanence of all phenomena and liberate people from the sufferings linked to egotistical attachments to things that are by nature transitory. In the Yoga Sutras, Sutra 1:3 "Then the Seer abides in his own nature", "Then" meaning at the time of meditation, "the Seer" is the True You, the True Self, the Knower, The One that Sees, "abides in his own nature" meaning to dwell in his True Self, which in the end means that we are the Seer. We are that infinite being inside. We are not our body or mind, but we are the Self which permeates in everything. And that concept is the same as being a Buddha ourselves.

The Buddhism I practise was founded by Nichiren Daishonin. A Japanese priest in the 13th century, He was a simple fisherman's son. He decided at the age of 12 that he would be enlightened and proceed to become a monk. He studied his whole life and discovered that the Lotus Sutra revealed the ultimate truth that we are all Buddhas. The Lotus Sutra is also the only Sutra saying that women are equals with men. The Lotus Sutra says that embracing "even a single phrase" or the title of the Lotus Sutra would bring out its entire meaning and lead people to enlightenment. Nichiren then practiced himself reciting his devotion to the Lotus Sutra in the mantra "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo". Which means Nam= Namaste "I devote myself to", Myoho means the Mystic Law, the eternity of Life, Renge the Lotus and it also means Cause and Effect  (in reference to the Lotus flower growing in the mud and as it is blooming sending seeds in the water for another flower to grow), and Kyo means Sutra or chanting or a thread. So it means "I devote myself to the mystic Law of cause and effect of the Sutra by chanting" and is also the title of the Lotus Sutra with Nam in front of it, so " I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra". And so this mantra was passed on since the 13th century by priests and later by layman. The belief is that by reciting this mantra you recite the entire Sutra and reveal Buddhahood inherent in your Self. It means that the divine is in everything and that there is nothing more precious than life and that each life (sentient or insentient beings) is owed utmost respect. It is about the inseparability of the self and it's environment, which are one. It is about not looking for happiness (or unhappiness) outside ourselves. We are entirely responsible for our life, our happiness and understanding the True Nature of All Phenomenon. According to Buddhism, the True Nature of all Phenomenons is divine and eternal. If we understand that life is divine and eternal and life is in us, we are life, therefore we are divine and eternal. There is no separation between life and death; it's the eternity of life with its cycles of creation and destruction and creation again. Therefore there shouldn't be any attachment for all that passes which keeps on living.

Shakyamuni said, " We are born to be Happy and Free and help others do the same". This is the goal of the practice. The goal is peace in the world and the happiness of all living beings, including plants, animals, and rocks. We cannot be satisfied with our own happiness alone since we are connected to all. So we need to work towards the happiness of others to be free. In any way that we want, by doing something we are happy to do, by fulfilling our Dharma (duty, what we are here to do), by being selfless and thinking of the greatest good of all. Serving others is like serving our higher self. In Yoga, the true goal is also about serving humanity or God. Total self-surrender. Samadhi Siddhir Isvara Pranidhanat (Sutra 2:45) "By total surrender to God, Samadhi is attained". Isvara Pranidhanam is a life of dedication, of offering everything to the Lord or Humanity. It is not about our well being only. It is about understanding our minds and how it gets in the way of seeing our true Divine Nature and helping others discover it, though "Self Mastery".

In my practise, reciting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo also helps focus the mind and sees it's ever-changing nature and how this is not who we are. Who we are is a Buddha, the Seer, the Knower, and the "Thus Come One". It is about accessing the eternal life inside. It is about transformation, as we get closer to knowing our Self. Just as in Yoga, it is about self-reformation. In the yoga Sutra 1:4, the commentaries say "By changing our minds we change everything […] By correcting our vision we correct everything […] That's why Yoga is based on self-reformation, self-control and self-adjustment" It is about our actions. It is about Karma. Karma means action. With every action, word and thought we plant a seed that will have an effect so we are responsible for what we plant. Just as in Yoga we can change everything NOW. Sutra 1:1, 4:9, 4:10 and 4:11 explain that the only way to change our Samskara, or "habits of the mind" is by choosing to change it now, it not, they will always be there since there is no beginning and no end, the only way to change is to do it NOW. And so how great it is to be here?!  We can change our ways of seeing the world around and inside of us. By changing inside, we can even see the world change around us. In Buddhism, there is another revolutionary concept, which is called ishinen sanzen. It means "3000 worlds in one moment" which really means that one doesn't have to wait life after life on order to become a Buddha, but one can be a Buddha in one instant Just by realizing it. By choosing. By changing the cause now, the effect can also happen in the now!

In Buddhism, there are 3 poisons, which cloud the human being: they are ignorance, anger and greed. Ignorance means ignoring our Buddha nature or true self, anger is considered to be a way of putting all the causes of our unhappiness outside ourselves, and greed, well, is quite self-explanatory!  But greed is also about not taking too much because then you take away from others. In Yoga there are 5 afflictions: Ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and clinging to bodily life. They are the same! Ignorance is ignorance of the true Self. Egoism comes from only thinking about ourselves (not understanding that we and others are One (Self), attachment comes from being attached to the ego's selfish pleasure, hatred comes when people try to take away what we are attached to and then we become afraid of losing our body (we are attached to it).  We become afraid of death- the ultimate attachment. In Buddhism, we learn that if we understand death then we understand everything. This is not an easy concept to grasp! Buddhism teaches that life and death are part of Life. Life is like a big ocean. Our life is a wave rising and in death the wave goes back into the ocean, the big Ocean of Life is eternal. But it doesn't mean "oh so we can do whatever we want if we keep coming back over and over..."  On the contrary, Buddhism teaches also that we choose to come back, for it is only through our body, though being alive that we can grow, evolve and reach Buddhahood. Therefore life is the most precious thing. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo really means Life. And to me is an invocation to Life. In Yoga also, it is through the body, though our practise that we can touch that place connecting us to our True Self, to our Divine nature. The body then is sacred for it is the means through which we can be enlightened.
The most powerful concept for me when I first started to practise was that we CREATE our life. Entirely. The "good" and the "bad", everything we create is to make us grow, to show us our strength, our innate wisdom, our courage to overcome obstacles. When I first started chanting, I was very much a victim of my circumstances. When I first recited the mantra, I felt inside like I was "home". And I didn't even know what I was saying. I just went for it and my life started to change radically, in ALL aspects. Fist of all, it started to change from the outside but then slowly a revolution was happening inside! And of course with it came a LOT of resistance. Because we are attached to our stories and shortcomings and pain, I had to slowly peal myself like an onion and the layers were tough and it hurt a lot. But I thought hurt for hurt I might as well hurt towards a more truthful life. In Sutra 1:30, the yoga sutra talks about the obstacles in the way of the yogi and the comments say "Yoga practise is like an obstacle race; many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through. They are there to make us understand and express our own capacity. We seem to be challenged in order to understand our own capacities. That is the natural law."  The very same concept is in Buddhism. Actually we are taught to THANK our obstacles. To be grateful for challenges because they are there to make us evolve! And so I kept chanting.

Then came the studying. In Buddhism, just as in Yoga, Faith, Practice and Study cannot exist one without the other. They are inseparable. With the studying came the understanding. The 3 roles of a Buddhist are to be a Parent, Teacher and Sovereign for Peace and Happiness of all. Which translates today  meaning: being a Parent doesn't mean to have a child but to consider every person as if they were like your children, caring and loving them with the same love you would have for your own child, with the same desire to pass on, educate and lead them towards their happiness; Teacher means what to teach what you know with all your heart, just as in Yoga. Teaching requires an incredible amount of humility, courage and selfless attitude. Being a Sovereign means to be the King and Queen of our own lives, not expecting anyone to change anything around us not to expect a president or a boss or anyone to change the world for us or our job, environment or anything because WE can change it.  Like Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see".  Buddhism teaches that if we change, so will our environment. That is a key concept. I think sometimes we are also afraid to change because somehow we know our lives will change and that might mean "losing" someone, something or even an idea we had of what succeeding in life means. And so our resistance to change comes also from the fear to lose. And so comes also the fear to succeed. And I know what I am talking about!  I am very afraid to lose. Actually this is unconsciously my biggest fear. I always thought I would be homeless one day… As one of my teachers said to me "you really are afraid to succeed".  And for the first time in my life I dare to say that I want to succeed. But not in the sense of "succeeding" like a social standing, but as in no longer being afraid. And I am ever so grateful for that insight!

Another common point is about desires, which involves non-attachment. In Buddhism, we learn that desire leads to enlightenment. Because we cannot not have desires! Because we have desires, we also dig deeply inside of ourselves to find ways to get what we want. And when we do that, we sometimes realize that what we wanted was not good for us, we let it go, and often realize that when we want something much greater than our wants, than everything starts harmonizing to help us get there! In Yoga Sutra 1:15, which talks about the mastery of craving for objects seen or heard about, the commentaries say " is it possible to be desireless? No. Actually it is not possible. But the secret is that any desire without any personal or selfish motive will never bind you. Why? Because the pure, selfless desire has no expectation whatsoever, so it knows no disappointment no matter what the result. […} The more you serve, the more happiness you enjoy. Such a person knows the secret of life."

In Yoga Sutra 1:32, the commentaries explain that what is important behind any idea or mantram is the Goal. The mantram is a symbol but what is important is the goal behind. So if the goal is Oneness with all, that is happiness of the self and others, peace, then that is the goal of my practice, both in Yoga and Buddhism. Ultimately it is for every single person to realize his true Self, his true nature, and his own self-mastery toward his own happiness. The goal in Buddhism is also not to sit in one's corner enjoying our self-realization but to never separate daily life from spirituality. Which means that everything we do, we do in order to pursue our goal. There is no separation. We need to apply respect for life, dialogue, perseverance, remembering our responsibility in everything happening and continue striving for happiness and serving others every single minute of the day. Whether at work, at home, in the streets. In Yoga also, the practice goes beyond doing the asanas, applying the ethical principles of yoga, it is about living it every day, in everything we do, serving God, Humanity, our True Self which is everything.

 I have found in both Yoga and Buddhism the perfect union of Ying and Yang inside of me. Buddhism alone is so strict that it played the role of a father in my life.  Yoga plays the role of the mother for me as it fills me with spiritual softness. I wanted to find my Dharma when I started this training. I don't know if I could say for sure what it is, but I know for sure that I want to serve. I want to serve so that others can find their true Self, that Divine eternal nature existing in all things and all beings. With a higher consciousness of that, how can there ever be any war? How can you hurt yourself or others if you know we are all One? How can we not love and serve each other for the greatest good if we understand that? It is my goal and I will humbly accept the tasks that come with it. Yoga is one of them, to do everything with that in mind. And keep learning always.

"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, At all the times you can, to all the souls you can, As long as ever you can."  -John Wesley

May your troubles be less, your fortune more, and may nothing but happiness, come through your door. -Joy Sanchez

Only the heart truly matters. -Nichiren Daishonin


The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda
The Lotus Sutra translated by Burton Watson
The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin
The Seer and the Self by A.Nangia

Student Essays Teacher Training author Maria

Let's twist!

''This sadhana is not something esoteric or mysterious. It is simply a way of awakening knowledge about ourselves.''*

I never really liked twists. And I did not know why and did not ask myself why. When I heard the instruction 'twist /turn to your right/left' during a yoga class, I got blocked. Twisting was a torture for me.

Twists are first and foremost about the spine. If you are 'blessed' with a disc injury, like myself, you are certainly  forced to pay more attention to your spine. Now I consider myself lucky to have that injury because from mere pain it transformed itself to a learning process. I had to learn about my relation to my body, to pain and to my practice. And I also had to learn about twists because they are considered to be the 'cure for lower back pains, lumbago and they help to have a healthy spine in general'.

Why are we afraid of performing certain asanas? Why are we afraid of performing anything at all in life? I think, first of all, we are afraid of the unknown and of finding out about our own limitations. This applies to our life in general and also to yoga. Regular practice and yoga studies have taught me that knowing more about asanas helps us to understand more about ourselves too. The relation between practitioner and yoga definitely profits form a regular practice. When we learn more about an asana or certain type of asanas (like forward bend, back bends or twists) our fear slowly diminishes and in the long run we even get to like them. The more you taste it, the more you like it!

What certainly counts in liking an asana is doing it well. To do it well does not mean that we have to do it perfectly but to do it with concentration (ekagrata) and with breath. If you allow your own breath (prana) to penetrate your body during a posture, it creates space and you can almost 'float' into that pose. Movement becomes easier, it happens naturally with the rhythm of your breath.

In twists, it is extremely important to create space in the spine to allow to twist it. Space is created in the vertebrae by elongating the spine before and by deep breaths during the twist. This perhaps seems obvious but we do not always follow attentively our teacher's instructions. Sometimes it is the obvious which is not heard because we are more occupied by other thoughts… But then we really miss out on something  because without the elongation we cannot twist much and we become stiff. We also have to anchor our hips to have a solid base for the twisting spine (both, in seated and standing twists).

If we set ourselves up so with a mindful alignment, we are ready to twist. (Of course we could talk more about alignment; the relationship between head and shoulders and shoulders and hips, for example.) The immediate benefit we feel with twist is that they are really relaxing because they effect the parasympathetic nervous system. By compressing the abdominal organs, in the long run, we benefit from a detoxification of the body without any strain. Furthermore, they are definitely beneficial in the process of curing  back problems (lumbago, slipped discs) and helping to keep the spine healthy.

Twists have other then physiological benefits. I have pointed out these so far, because I think they are more felt by most people at first. When I started feeling the benefits of twists on my own body I started liking them. The more I incorporated them in my daily practice, the more I liked them.

Twists effect the vayus, the animating force of prana. They touch the Apana (pelvic floor), Samana (navel, abdominal area), Prana (heart area) and Udana (collar bones and throat area) regions in the body along with the Svadisthtana (base of the spine), Manipura (navel, solar plexus), Anahata (heart) and Vishuddha (throat) chakras. (I have to mention, that the Prana Vayus** have several different interpretation in yoga literature, regarding their place in the body and their functions.  Here, I'm using one of them.) Of course, these can vary from asana to asana. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines one of the aims of yoga to draw Prana (+energy) and Apana (- energy) together in the Samana (neutral) region and merge the energy of these two vayus. When they are brought together in the Manipura Chakra (Samana region) '' there is an explosion of energy and the energy forces its way through the Shushumna Nadi '' (p. 84). That's what can happen in Matsyendrasana according the HYP. When the 'vital capacity of Manipura' is increased, Kundalini wakes up and can rise up in the Shushumna Nadi***.

If one can experience the physiological benefits of an asana, one may experience the spiritual benefits also. However, the spirituality of an asana is probably less obvious than its physical aspects. In my personal experience, all asanas have a certain spirituality or rather emotional or mental effects. However, at this stage of my practice, I have to truly admit, that I have experienced little spirituality of an asana (here, twists) and this does not happen all the time. Nonetheless, during a twist practice, I feel more centred and more close to 'True Self' or 'Purusha', if you like, and this is one of the  spiritual aspects of twists. I am content with what  twisting practices have given me so far and I am patiently waiting for more. If twists will help me with untying 'the knots and problems of life', they are welcome. If they simply cure my back problem, that's fine too. Recalling the beginning, if "it is simply a way of awakening knowledge about ourselves'" that is great.

The beauty of yoga is that is a continuous learning process which includes welcoming new experiences and letting go of attachments, pains, Samskaras****.  I am not scared any more of twists and I am not afraid of snakes either, though I have not yet tamed them. Kundalini? It may arise one day.       


*the quotation is from Coulter, H. David: Anatomy of Hatha Yoga;
Tapasvi Baba, from a lecture given at the Himalayan Institute 
Prana Vayus**:  Current pranic air. Prana: smallest unit of energy; vayu: force or wind. 
Shushumna Nadi***: Main energy channel in the body along the spine between Muhladara and Ajna chakras. Ida Nadi on the left, Pingala Nadi on its right cross the Shushumna Nadi.
Samskaras**** : Memories, habits, emotions stored, imprinted in body and mind. 

Iyengar, B.KS., Light On Yoga; Schocken Books, 1966
Hatha Yoga Pradipika, commentary by Swami Muktibodhananda; Bihar School of Yoga, 1998
TT of Yoga du Marais handout on twist

Monday 22 June 2009

Student Essays Teacher Training 2009 author Sibylle

My personal Yoga Interview by sibylle siegrist

Thinking about the last essay was quite a challenge; there were so many themes to talk
about, from sutras to poses, pranayama and meditation etc. Then I began to start from the
beginning, how this all started, looking at my journal, notes and the people around me. This
is where it struck me, to write about and compose a complete essay, as in a summary of how
the people nearest to me think about yoga. So this has developed to become "the interview
on yoga", giving myself insights on how this has affected the people around me.
I have actually started out soft, trying to hear from all sides, what yoga was for many friends
and family, without asking them directly, their only knowledge was that I started a teacher
training. Feedback was then usually, "wow, and so you'll be doing yoga everyday now!?", or
"oh nice!" (with no further comment) or "oh, I have done yoga before, but stopped….." or
"great, now you'll be a yoga master!"…..for some until today, they call me 'yoga master', (but

these are just the French speaking). But do they really know what this is all about, so I

started asking….What do you think yoga is, what comes first to mind?
"Well, it's something to do with poses and you hold it for a long time."
"It comes from the east and now they have them in all fitness centres."
"You burn smelly sticks and light candles and sing"
"You relax and stretch in different poses and sing"
"There is a guru that tells you what to do, really all just spiritual"
"Great exercise for back pains and relaxation when you are stressed out"
"People singing and raising theirs butts and hands to the sky"
"A place where you go with other people, and do breathing exercises and do poses"

"The 3rd eye plays a big roll, you Om and do poses; you start to become a yogi"

"A way of life, meditating and doing poses to feel good"
"A practise people do to become focused on themselves and do the poses of whoever is
standing in front of them: There is teacher to guide them, they feel taken care of and maybe
the will chant and meditate."
From here I have chosen my candidate to interview whom I thought gave me the insights and try to understand more:
"Yoga is a philosophy, where body and spirit unite; there is a connection with oneself, they do poses and meditate."
Why do you think people go to yoga, do yoga?
"In the western world, this is more of a trend; a lot of people have tried it. They go for the
curiosity about it, wondering if this can bring them to a different place for a while, to space

out. They would go to want to find out about themselves, being attached to themselves and

concentrating on themselves for the next hour or so, they most probably do meditation. Of

course it is something physical too. Some might be more aware of their bodies and feel
better after a class. People who are stressed would go, wanting to be calmed down. But I
really think it is something people do on their own and for themselves. They maybe want to
find out something more about their lives and find maybe a "higher Self", in our current world
where people are all egocentric and stressed out, going to do yoga to balance their body
and spirit is what they think will help them. It offers an exchange for and to themselves. (sic.)
Honestly the meditating part is the critical part in the yoga world, they seem to tell people
about a "higher state", but this can be impossibly described at  length, as I imagine someone
in the state of meditation could not remember his or her experience, since they are not
conscious of what or where they are. There is an emptiness and in emptiness there is
nothing, just empty space or light".
Where do you think yoga comes from?
Surley from Asia, most probably from India. There they would use yoga in a different way,
more a 'way of life'. There must have been some spiritual people like the gurus to have
shown the people how to practise this.
What do you think 'OM' is?
"Om is a sound that the people of yoga make, surely something similar to 'amen' in the
church. This again, to maybe give thanks to "whomever" and be in touch with themselves."
How do you feel, when you hear the word Yoga?
"It is surely nothing bad; I am just a very sceptical person. As I mentioned I imagine people
somewhere doing poses and meditating, but I am someone who wants to find out
things on my own and I definitely do not like it if there is someone out there to show me how
its done.
Which poses do you think are done in Yoga?
"I think there is a 'sun greeting' thing that they do. Positions that bring the hands into a prayer
position and there is a position about a 'dog'. I think in general there are poses named after
most animals. Of course there is that seated cross legged position, where they would sit for
meditation as well. Then even different poses that bend and fold the back into various
positions, which looks painful by just looking at it.
How do you think a person who does Yoga lives?

Maybe just like any normal person would, only maybe they are more aware of their
environment. They would sit on the floor more and do their ritual everyday, eat vegan food
and nuts and other grains. Have incense candles and play spiritual music; of course they
would seek centres where people meet and talk about and do yoga.
These were questions asked during the first two months into the teacher training, already the
candidate is being very thoughtful on the idea of yoga and not giving just any radical
answers, even though I did ask to answer "what comes to mind first, not thinking too much
on the question". After a few weeks into the training I began to place subtle remarks about
yoga and its definition; bringing more awareness about the body and the diet of the different
poses and when and why they are done. Even mentioning meditation of being a "place of
peace" within oneself. Of course never drawing the full attention to me and making a "big
deal" about it. The remarks I have seeded, I can see only now are growing, I have realised
to some people it is not easy to talk about something, that in our western world has so much
cliché! Different sorts of people can take things from yoga, without being the "full yogi".
People want to make their own choices and pick out what is best for them.
Some, I have realised I have touched slightly and the effects are slowly grounding, as for
a good friend from England, who has been so touched about this whole yoga experience, she has
now signed up to do an extension to her yoga knowledge, she is willing to learn more on the
sutras, pranayama and meditation. Of course she has done a workshop on yoga years ago
and has given meridian (sic.) yoga classes since then herself, but realises what has been missing;
to know the Sanskrit and to deepen in the sutras. I am happy to at least have touched one
person deeply and also because I have always sort of looked up to her about things in yoga
and have shared thoughts over the last months,seeing that I have given her a great
impulse, touches me. I look forward to our future talks!
Coming back to my primary candidate on yoga, I have sensed a subtle understanding
between us and have asked my following question:
What do you think about me practising yoga?
"Maybe you are like one of those people who are looking for an entrance to something,
maybe there are open questions you would like to have answered. This I am not quite sure
of, but I think you are looking for something physical as well. But I know that you do not get
too carried away about the whole "yoga way of life"! You seem to be very interested in your
training and I see you practise, but I do not sense that you are "Zen" yet! Your studies seem
to be more stressful and nerve breaking the last few weeks; I see you set priorities but this
has gotten intense over the past weeks. 

How do you see Yoga now?
"Still I see Yoga as an individual thing people do or want to do. I understand the whole nondoing
stuff about not stealing or harming or wanting things, and still think that people have to
put this into their own experience, either in life or in the practise. I know that there are
different types of yoga out there, either more meditative or more core-working yoga. I respect
people's choices and for myself know; I prefer Pilates than Yoga. I just need to work the body
and not the mind."
Pascal, my life partner has given me these answers and I am actually glad to have such an
opposite pole around.  His counter reaction to things
in yoga has helped me to understand it more and see it in a different light. I think it is all
about him being ever so sceptical about Yoga; that I need to express myself more too and to
stand by to my arguments on Yoga. This exchange helps me a lot. I am very grateful for him
to help me through the asanas too, being there, doing them with all his might and then
comparing it to his Pilates (which he still thinks is the best sport ever for him).
Finally to conclude, this experience for me; intensive for the past months, dealing with it
day in and out and with friends and family I see the difference in the people, who know yoga
or think they know yoga or do not care about yoga. I have met with friends too just coming
out of a yoga class and all I get is the funny remark: "feeling all relaxed and Zen now!?" but
they do not wait for an answer. I think I know how to proceed with this training, I will surely
want to go deeper into the sutras and read many books about it (my list is endless, but the
summer is long!) My plan is to teach, but only after I have really understood the sutras fully,

or to my knowledge of "fully", when I feel it peeling off my skin! I feel to share this more, but
want my back supported of this knowledge…otherwise, I end up dealing with someone like
Pascal and the talks can be never ending with Yoga ending up in a cliché again.
One never knows how things can turn out, but there are always things to learn,
as in my new beginning to yoga, this new creation when it survives the turbulences will be an
experience too. The best way I like to express this simply to all and what I think is true is the first sutra 


And my favourite interpretation of it is: Now is the time for Yoga

Ref: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda