Philosophy Corner

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This past week we discussed the yogic outlook on the structure of the universe.  Recognizing there are two distinct aspects, the natural world and the spiritual world that can be called Prakriti (nature) and Purusa (soul).

The yogi endeavors to unite the two for clear understanding and connection to Purusa.     Part of the details regarding this project is to recognize that things in nature, (including our own selves and minds), can be calm and balanced or quite disturbed and murky.

We discussed the Trigunas – qualities of nature which are sattva (illumination), rajas (active), tamas (dormant or inert).  Knowing about these qualities, and recognizing the need to balance rajas with tamas to reach a balanced calm state is a basic precept of why we practice.  If they are balanced we may be able to view the Soul clearly.

We worked hard in standing forward bends to use the stability needed, and the fluidity required to calm the experience of these asanas towards a quiet experience.  And…well with screaming hamstrings or wobbly balance there is always a lot of obvious reasons to carry on with our practice!

 

Opening the Jan 2015 session of Classes at AASY was a wonderful homecoming after a long Holiday Season break.  Classes began with a short conversation regarding “Why” we are here doing our yoga.  When  I asked the students what brings them to class and to their home practice many different answers were shared.  Quite a few reported the initial reasons they were attracted to the study were not actually the same reasons they continue.  We must be doing something right!

The practice and study of Yoga should be transformative and so as we develop and mature in our practice the attraction to, and effects of, our practice will evolve.

So with an opening week of classes where stiff cold hips were visited by moving fluidly into leg positions that led to forward bends, and some standing asanas paired together to continue the idea of fluidity and stability we began a new year of ongoing study.  Some folks really liked the double block work we did in Adho Mukha Svanasana and Sirsasana (other’s not so much).  But on it goes as we continue to ask ourselves why we study and practice, and what happens when we do.  And who exactly, which layer of who we are at any given moment, is practicing?  And can our practice transform us towards understanding ourselves more intimately and honestly?

Of course it can, how could it not?

 

 

I began my study of Iyengar Yoga at age 19 in 1971. I was immediately hooked. Six years later I began teaching classes, and since then I have been even more enthusiastic with the challenge of teaching the subject. In 1983 I began annual study trips to our parent institute, RIMYI in Pune India. Being a student at our Institute has been a huge blessing in my life!

What I love about the study, practice and teaching of yoga the way the Iyengar’s have guided us is that it helps us to live an artistic life. Guruji has written often about the art, science and philosophy of Yoga. These three intersecting aspects, or perspectives, intrigue me and I try to share that curiosity with my students.

I love to study and share the philosophy of the Patanjali Yoga Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanisads among other texts. These works add color and texture to the asana and pranayama we practice. I also am amazed by, and try to share the science of the practice as it has been developed by our Guru BKS Iyengar. His penetrating understanding of human minds and bodies, and his innovative approach with props and sequences has us all appreciating the “laboratory” approach as we investigate the subject.

To live artistically we must all be acute listeners and appreciative watchers. We need to learn to be expressive – expressive and clear with our words, our movements, our actions, and our thoughts. And as artistic as the study and practice of yoga is, it is only on rare occasions a “performance art”. So there is no pressure to perform, and the ego need not worry itself over that possible strain. Yoga is for our own evolution and satisfaction.

As a teacher now with over 30 year’s experience, I am honored to have been given an Advanced Jr. 1 Certificate by BKS Iyengar. I am excited to share this focus of artistry with every one who attends my classes in the coming year.

Namaste,

Laurie

September in Ann Arbor is the New Year, when most of us rearrange our schedules with great plans and goals. My hope for all of us at AASY is to have a very satisfying year of practice and study. The subject of yoga is so huge, and encompasses so much, that at times it is a daunting endeavor. The biggest benefit is that the study of yoga organizes our self cultivation. It disciplines us towards better health, calmer nerves, sharper intellect, and content spirits. Our studies provide a pragmatic system for this self cultivation. As we exercise our limbs, joints, muscles and lungs we develop our sense of balance with respect for agility, strength and endurance. And even though the qualities of balance, agility, strength and endurance seem on the surface to be physical skills, they extend to our management of personal maturation. We grow emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Our families and friends appreciate and benefit from our efforts as well – we become the stable, strong, reliable, creative and fun people in their lives.

The first 4 sutra’s in the Patanjali Yoga Sutra explains our mission and what we can expect to gain, without really giving away all the mysteries we practice to reveal. The definition of “Yoga is the cessation of the movements in the consciousness”, (PYS I.2). We are promised that if we succeed in this quieting of our chattering monkey of a consciousness “then, the seer dwells in his own true splendor”, (PYS 1.3). And we are warned that when we have not quieted that pesky mind we are left with, “other times, (when) the seer identifies with the fluctuating consciousness,” (PYS1.4).

We still have the big job of finding out for ourselves who exactly is our own Splendid Seer. The technique is to discipline, stabilize and quiet the mind to start the hunt. The snake pit we might fall into is false identification with the unstable mind. The search is the fun. The insights are hopeful. The challenge is rewarding.

Welcome back, looking forward to our Fall 07 Session together.

Laurie Blakeney
AASY Director