One Door Closes and Another One Opens

One Door Closes and Another One Opens  
Today, Saturday, August 29th, 2015 marks the end of the first Third Series Teacher Training with Tim Miller. As the session came to a close there was a feeling of complete excitement and appreciation for the opportunity to be a part of this community. We had our closing celebration last night at a beautiful home in Solana Beach and found ourselves having so much fun that when asked why didn’t we do this sooner we found ourselves wishing we had. When we arrived today at TT session for Yoga Sutra studies it was a bittersweet moment. The closer we came toward the end the deeper we connected together as a group. We spent the first part of the afternoon studying the fourth chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The chapter is called Samadhi Pada and it seemed a very befitting topic of discussion for the last session. The fourth chapter has some very beautiful sutras that, in my opinion, inspire us to enjoy this opportunity we have to make the most of our lives.

   
 Tim then read to us the portion of the Ramayana when Hanuman realizes that he is going to take the leap of faith and jump for Sita in Lanka. As the story was being read I couldn’t help but feel that this was a perfect metaphor for where we are at this transition today. Anytime we encounter new and exciting information there is a zeal that is ignited and serves as a catalyst for change. There is also often a sense of foreboding though when realizing that we will be on our own again and trying to implement the techniques that were introduced. Hence, it is up to us to make up our minds to know that we can achieve our dreams and aspirations. We can utilize our minds to recall the acquired inspiration and use that as fuel to maintain our motivation along the road ahead. In the story Hanuman remembers he has the ability to rescue his teacher’s beloved and sets in his mind that he has already succeeded before he even makes the infamous leap across the great ocean. This story is so wonderful and poignant.  
After having a heartfelt graduation ceremony we dried our eyes and relaxed our jaws from smiling so much as we listed to each student share their thoughts and feelings upon completion. It seemed now the only thing left to close the training was sing the Hanuman Chalisa, and that we did! We put out hearts and souls into it and and there was such an amazing feeling of harmony and connectedness that we were left feeling totally charged up. All I can say is that it blew the doors off of any kirtan experience I have encountered thus far. It was like I could feel the zing in everyone’s voices.

  
We then tied all of the loose ends with a group photo and a chance to give everyone hugs and farewell wishes goodbye. In the past during these type of group events I have felt bummed to say goodbye and like I didn’t want to leave. What was different about today was that I genuinely feel thankful for the time we had and know we are all going to see each other again. Generally there can be sadness when saying goodbye to friends and relatives because we will miss them, and we want to continue to be beside them. I feel though there is a link that binds all of us together and even though we are apart we are connected through love and devotion. I can hardly wait to see my wife and children and feel like they are the most important thing to me. As I was walking to my car I saw a man changing the diaper for his baby in the back of his car with the hatch up. I couldn’t help but stop and contemplate because in that moment I felt that the time we have in each stage of life with our loved ones is so precious. I can actually say that I can’t wait to get home and change some diapers!

Yoga from the Heart

Today there was a grand sense of accomplishment in the shala amongst the participants. We completed our investigation of the Third Series poses.
Today we examined:
Dikasana A&B (some books call it Dighasana but Tim mentioned Guruji always said Dikasanana. Plus a dika is a bird which seems befitting of this pose.)


Trivikramasana (3 Steps Pose which is a reference to the god Trivikrama which is an incarnation of Vishnu)


In 1982 Tim did his first yoga demonstration in India in front of 300 Indians. There were several demonstrations from the men, and then the women. A husband and wife couple practiced the whole Second Series in front of them. Tim was chosen to demonstrate the entire Third Series alone with Guruji counting it in Sanskrit at breakneck speed. Tim said he was in his prime at this time. Guruji claimed that when Tim demonstrated Trivikramasana that the crowd gasped. Guruji said that he had done it so well that the crowd thought the god Trivikrama had embodied him in that moment to enable him to perform it so flawlessly. Tim said that was a long time ago so he hopes that now Trivikrama will come through for us when we practice it. I thought that was really cool.
Natarajasana (King of the Dance Pose)


The picture of this Nataraja(Dancing Shiva) is of a murti, or representation of the divine, that Tim got on a trip to Mysore.


He told us this story about how when in Mysore you practice and the remaining time you have free to yourself. Tim enjoyed shopping and would look for interesting murtis to buy. He had established relationships with some of the local art dealers so that when he would return to India they would come to his door to show him their wares. They would always say, “This one is very special price, very good price for you.” This particular one he found at Lalita Hall which was the old Maharaja’s summer palace. There was a store called Saraswati’s Handicrafts and he went in to visit and see what Saraswati had available. When he saw this Nataraj he said he was interested in buying it. Saraswati replied, “That piece is very rare, not for sale. Not for sale.” Tim continued to persist. Again she said, “This piece is to rare, I am sorry not for sale” in her sweet Indian accent. She then called the boss man and it turns out, “It is for sale, but this one very expensive.” So after bargaining with her he was able to acquire it and he took it to Guruji to see what he thought. He showed Guruji and he asked, “how much you pay?” He told him and Guruji just shook his head as if to say, “you sucker.” Big laughs around the room after this story. A student then chimed in that the last time he was in Mysore some of the vendors will say to the yoga students, “Tim Miller buys his murti’s here.” I thought this was so classic.
Raja Kapotasana (King Pigeon Pose)


  

Eka Pad Raja Kapotasana (One Legged King Pigeon Pose)


Tim writes a blog called Tuesday’s with Timji. You can check it out and follow him by clicking the link: http://timmiller.typepad.com

This Tuesday he wrote,

“The full moon on Saturday August 29th at 11:35am PDT will be at 12 degrees Aquarius in the nakshatra known as Shatabhisha—“the Hundred Physicians”.  On the same day, the first ever Third Series Training will come to a conclusion at the Ashtanga Yoga Center.  Since August 17th I’ve had the pleasure of hosting 40 advanced students of Ashtanga Yoga from all over the world.  It’s quite a dedicated group of practitioners—highly motivated and very hard working—an ashtanga teacher’s dream, really.  The Mysore classes have been huge and very sweaty.  With so many people practicing third and fourth series, the studio almost has a circus like atmosphere—sometimes I catch the local students gawking at some visiting phenom displaying a combination of strength, flexibility, and agility.  It’s certainly the most advanced group of students I’ve ever had gathered together at one time.  Best of all, these people all seem to have some real depth and appreciation of what yoga is really all about.  It seems fitting that the course will end on the full moon in Shatabhisha, a sign associated with healing and expansion of consciousness.  I was born with my Sun in Shatabhisha so I have some familiarity with these themes and have been exploring them through yoga for nearly 40 years.  My sincere hope is that something of real value is being transmitted during this course.  The enthusiasm of the students is contagious—it almost makes me feel like starting to practice the third series again.”
I include this to help explain the general vibe in the space. It is so incredible in there. As we approach our last 3 days here with Tim I think we are all wishing that it wouldn’t come to an end.
Here are some pics from the end of the day surf session. The water was so warm and inviting which is very rare in my opinion in Southern California. There were some fun small waves and I was able to grab a few pics to help convey the stoke.


  

Tragic or Magic~You Choose

Today is Tuesday, August 25th, 2015. We are in the second week of a Third Series Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training with Tim Miller. Here is a brief recap of today’s events.    6:00am Pranayama ~ Seriously challenging! At the Bhastrika, Surya Bhedana and Chandra Bhedana segment the breath holds were clocking in around 45 seconds. I figured this out because I could hear the second hand ticking away. I started to wonder why I was having so much challenge today. I stated to count the ticks as the clock went around and realized, yes, Tim seems to be pushing the edge a bit further out.

  
7:00am Led Primary Assist ~ I had the opportunity to help assist in the Led Primary class that Tim taught this morning. I really enjoyed working with the students from the training and I am learning so much by watching the assists the other trainees are using. 
8:30am Hanuman Chalisa ~ Today we had Tim on Harmonium and guest musicians on, drums, guitar, acoustic bass and I played the ukulele. The choir was enormous and it was absolutely amazing. At the end Tim said, “We should have recorded this one. That was epic!” It truly was so much fun and a complete inspiration.
9:00am Mysore Practice ~ I felt really good today. The energy in the room kicked up a notch and it felt like the students were pushing the limits a bit. I had this feeling like we were all encouraging each other to put more effort into our focus and that Tim was orchestrating something quite wonderful. I feel like I am working harder than ever but in a relaxed way. Hard to explain. It just feels comfortable in the room.

  
12:00pm to 5:00pm Teacher Training ~ I am so sore right now I can hardly lift my arms up. Every muscle is worked to the nth degree. We covered the poses, Viparita Dandasana, Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana, Viparita Salabhasana, Ganda Bherundasana, Hanumanasana, and Supta Trivikramasana. If trying to read those words feels like a foreign experience, all I can say is doing them out of the sequence of the mysore practice is like an exotic escapade. It is an adventure in to the far reaches inner terrain. I am trying to be funny because I feel giddy right now from working my body and mind so intensely. You get so sore that you forget that you can hardly move and you just keep moving. It actually feels quite liberating. It is a very sweet soreness. We got to sing another Hanuman Chalisa after the break. This somehow neutralizes the intensity of the experience.
6:00pm Sunset Surf Session ~ This is not a part of the curriculum but I decided to add it in. It is the best way for me to absorb all of the info and experiences of the day. When I got to the beach it looked smaller than yesterday. I went out and had so much fun catching some baby waves. The swell began to build though and the sun set on the horizon and it was magic.
Today Tim read a quote from the book called Hanuman by Vanamali which said, “We cannot choose our life but we can choose how we live it.” Everything about this quote speaks to me of truth. It leaves the door wide open for us to decide how we would like to view our present reality. We can make excuses and blame others or we can take responsibility and rise to the challenge. This quote encourages us to accept the past and to choose how we would like to interpret the reality of this moment. The beauty is that is a choice that is up to us.

  

The Grandfather of Vinyasa Flow

The Grandfather of Vinyasa Flow    

Tim Miler is one of the first people in the United States to begin to create Vinyasa Flow sequences. Born out of continuous practice of the Ashtanga Vinyasa routines, the exploration of unique and intelligent sequencing became a seed that has sprouted to tremendous proportion. It is important to note that this innovative enthusiasm evolved from having a dedicated method of practice for many years. His theory is that it is absolutely essential to have a consistent routine to serve as the kernel of authentication within the realm of alternative sequencing.   

If you are not a musician and someone hands you an instrument, you can begin to bang away on the instrument and make sound. Yet the sound that comes out won’t be very harmonious. That is because a proper foundation needs to be laid in place first. You need to learn the notes, scales and chord patterns primarily and then you can start to piece together the beginnings of a song. When someone becomes proficient at playing compositions that other master musicians have arranged then there might come the desire to try to compose their own song. Yet always the underpinning of the rudiments are drawn upon as the bedrock of creative orchestration.  

This analogy applies to Yoga in exactly the same way. Can you take a few poses that you see in a magazine, try them, and then put them into some order and make a sequence? Yes, exactly the same way that you can pick up a guitar and pluck the strings and make a few notes sounds relatively pleasant. That is about the extent of it however. To make real progress, mastering the fundamentals can be extremely beneficial for being able to develop in a safe and harmonious manner.   

With all of that being said, today I practiced Vinyasa Flow with Tim in his 7am Improvisation class. True to the class name, Tim takes requests from the students, and then creates a routine based on those requests. Much the way jazz musicians improvise from a heart centered, creative space. The practice is rooted in Ashtanga Vinyasa so that the foundational elements are inherent. Today we practiced poses from all of the 4 series and one of them even came from the 5th. That doesn’t mean all of us could do each and every one (of course), yet through the experience of the collective group we attempted to try them to the best of our ability. It was the most fun that I have had in a long time! The idea is to think outside the box and explore things that we have perhaps never investigated before. Tim practiced all of the poses with us and had some of his extremely talented students demonstrate the truly ‘off the planet’ ones. Before going into the class I had bit of a dilemma(albeit a good dilemma to have). I felt like I should practice Mysore because that is what a good ashtangi does. I have been learning that sometimes the greatest chance for growth often comes from doing the opposite of what we think it is we should do. Someone had requested the pose where you go into handstand and then slowly lower your chest down to the floor with the chin forward and bend the body into a scorpion shape to touch the toes to the head in a backbend. Yes, I’m not kidding. One of the students made it look like child’s play. The essence of the practice seemed to take one to a new place and see how that enhances or challenges one’s own concepts of what is possible. In this case I was completely inspired to the point of genuine stoke.   

At the end of the practice we took a long savasana and Tim put on some soothing music. I felt so alive in my body and when I least expected it I had tears of joy flowing down my cheeks. I had such an overwhelming sense of connection and appreciation that it brought me to tears of happiness. I have had this happen before when practicing with Timji. I never know when it is going to hit but I have to admit it feels cleansing. There is something to be said for letting down our defenses and allowing emotion to move though us.  

Yoga comes from India. So learning yoga the way it is practiced in India brings an element of authenticity to the procedure. Traditionally yoga is in place to help humanity realize peace and liberation. If independence from suffering is the cornerstone of the practice then perhaps we might be able to merge with that goal.

Home Made Goodness

Home Made Goodness  
Pranayama

It felt like a memorable practice this morning. Pranayama to begin first thing. At his time of the day it is dark outside and the lights are off in the room with just a small candle in the center. Everyone maintains relative silence in a combination of still waking up and to honor the tranquility of remaining introspective. Tim is taking us through the full pranayama routine every day. I am so grateful for this. For obvious reasons, when Tim teaches pranayama in workshop settings he often does an abbreviated routine and with gentle breath holds, so that when one is learning this for the initial time it is beginner friendly. I enjoy those elemental sessions with him because you have the chance to have him give explanation regarding the technique and philosophy behind the art of breathing. The first time I joined into Tim’s pranayama circle here I was so unbelievably nervous. Here in his shala he practices the full routine and you just begin and see what you can do. He does use hand gestures to explain whether to inhale or exhale, and he uses his index finger to point the direction of which nostril to breath in our out of. Mainly you listen to the sound of his breath and try to follow his routine. He does explain that if you are having a hard time that you just need to squeeze moola bandha more. This often seems tongue in cheek to me because when your whole body is sweating profusely and you are quivering and just staring at his hands waiting for the transition to come, moola bandha is last thing I can think about. Herein must lay the secret! Often we hear in the asana practice that really it is a breathing practice with some movement incorporated in. It seems to me that the pranayama practice is a moola bandha practice with a some breathing thrown in. When you try to not cheat and actually follow the routine it can really bring so much emotion to the surface. 

  
As a child I was blessed enough to grow up free diving with my family around Florida and I always enjoyed the experience of holding my breath under water. I remember bringing my watch into the pool and timing how long I could hold my breath for in the effort to train for diving deeper. I also enjoyed the practice of holding my breath for as long as possible and just floating face down on the surface with my eyes closed and body completely relaxed and just enjoy the feeling of silence in the water. I say all of this because I feel drawn to the pranayama practice. I love the moment after a big inhale and you use your right hand, thumb and ring finger to close off the nostrils and tuck the chin in deep to the throat and just sit and hold. The thing that I never did as a kid was try to hold my breath after exhaling all of the air out of my lungs. That just never occurred to me as a very good idea. I enjoy taking a deep breath and floating and then exhaling all of the air and letting the body sink down to the bottom but then coming back up pretty quickly. So the pranayama routine takes things to a whole new level with exhaling the air out and holding close to the same amount of time as the inhale retention. This is when things get really interesting and I must say, some panic can arise. Today I felt a bit more brave and pushed the edge and feel kind of stoked right now from the experience. I can’t wait for tomorrow morning to give it another go.

  
Mysore

Today felt really sweet in the Mysore practice. I am so sore that I had to slow down a bit but that was helpful because I felt a little more calm in the breathing. Yesterday when I got to Kapotasana I got so close to catching my heels. I mustered up the gumption to ask for some assistance and Atsuro, Tim’s instructor (who is amazing by the way) came over and pulled me all the way in. So when I got to Kapotasana today I decided I would do it on my own. I got to that intricate point when you are so close but the most tiny bit more seems like it is yards away. This is one of those precipice points where you either give up or you give it that little bit extra, and then even a little bit more, and bam you nail it. It is these little moments that are so entertaining.

  
After Kapotasana Tim assisted me in Supta Vajrasana. That is the one where you put your legs in lotus and then cross your arms behind your back and grab a hold of the feet. Then your teacher holds down your knees so you can back bend and touch your head on the floor and you don’t let go of your feet. Midway through I struggled to keep my grip and lost it. When I came up Tim made joke and asked if I ate to many cookies? I said, Tamara’s grandma is an incredible cook. Check out this photo of some key lime pie she made for us. Being a Florida boy I am a sucker for some homemade key lime pie.

  
When I got to Kasyapasana, Atsuro assisted me perfectly. It is one of my favorite poses. You put one leg behind your head and then lay on your back and try to straighten the extended leg so the leg comes down to the ground and simultaneously extend the spine and open the hips as much as possible. It is one of the poses that assistance seems so essential to make some progress in. This is a key ingredient to the Ashtanga practice. Hands on assistance done intelligently is a truly a form of art.

  
In our Teacher Training session we covered the details of the remaining standing poses from Ardha Baddha Padmapaschimottanasana (Half Bound Lotus Intense Pose) through Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose). Typically nowadays if one is going into the second or third series you would make that entry after Parsvottanasana (Side Intense Pose). So there were many questions as to why is Tim is having us cover the remaining standing poses after that. His thoughts are that they are very beneficial poses and that it could be a good idea to still do them. He made reference to the point that we think that there are these hard cut in stone rules that actually don’t really exist. I took from his points that he is encouraging us to keep an open mind. I really appreciated that fact that he took the time to include them into the study. I learn more each time and hear different things when the details are explained again and again.

  
Today we began our foray and investigation into the poses of the Third series. We covered Viswamitrasana and Vasisthasana. Tim has such an wealth of knowledge regarding the mythology of yoga and can recall these very lengthy stories in a concise way that cuts to the essence and conveys the deeper meaning behind the names of the poses and how they relate to yoga as a whole. Plus we get to sit and listen to these stories after taking a lunch break and avoid the inevitable…..practicing these poses and possibly getting adjusted in them. After a full day of practice I started to wonder, how in the world are we going to pull this off. I have faith Tim has a few tricks up his sleeve.