Re-opening Survey

Happy Sunday Everyone!

If you have not received YiY newsletter this morning with the survey, please take a moment to fill out our short survey on what’s important to you for the in studio classes to happen. Please go HERE.

Thank you very much!

Yoga as Sovereignty and Civil Disobedience

In this Harmony Slater podcast, she and Russell Case talk with Professor Shyam Ranganathan. They discuss how the Yoga Sutras can inform what we should do in the world about injustice. It also goes into detail about Ishvara pranidhana, surrender to the divine.

Note that the first 18 minutes are a bit heavy going philosophically.

That’s why it’s a practice of transformation, because you’re not judging the practice in terms of whether you’re good at it, you’re judging it in terms of your devotion to the ideal which allows you to then sustain practice even when you’re not good at it.

Ashtanga Yoga and Pranayama

(from a Facebook post of Guy Donahaye)

Pranayama is an essential feature of Ashtanga Yoga, occupying one of the eight steps or practices of this integral yogic method.

Even for those who do not associate the physical practice of asanas with the comprehensive system that integrates all eight steps as explained by Patanjali and others, breathing is an essential feature.

Pranayama is a composite of two words: prana – breath and ayama – to increase or control. Even in asana practice, lengthening, co-ordinating and controlling the breath is a key characteristic of the method.

While the focus on breath in asana is a clear factor in Ashtanga asana practice, what are the features and purposes of pranayama as an independent practice?

On the one hand pranayama greatly benefits asana practice by specifically focusing on control of breath in isolation – something that can then be applied as an enhancement to asana practice, on the other hand, pranayama is a bridge to meditation.

So often, in our tendency to project our Western values and preferences onto Eastern practices, we fall into the trap of assuming that intensity and extremes will take us to the next level. Pattabhi Jois did nothing to undermine this idea – if anything he seemed to support it.

Just as we erroneously tend to think of Samadhi as an ecstatic state, a highly exalted and difficult to attain state that requires intense effort and dedication, we also tend to believe that the practices that might lead there should be characterized by this intensity.

This is nothing but the projection of our own character and prejudice!

The first principle of yoga is ahimsa. Not doing harm is characterized by gentleness, softness, peace, quiet – not by intensity, extreme effort and “feeling the burn”. This intensity is a feature of our character, not of the practice that will take us to the next level.

On the one hand, KPJ was an intense individual and the emphasis of his teaching was on the physical, not the subtle. On the other hand he was confronted by intense and toxic Western individuals who were competitive, athletic, stressed out and distressed – he concluded that these individuals wanted or needed extreme methods.

KPJ only taught pranayama to students who attained advanced asana practice and neglected to share this practice with students who did not show the ambition to attain peak physical fitness.

His teaching of pranayama was also characterized by extremes and the intentions behind his sequencing of pranayama exercises have to be questioned.

Rather than leading towards a quiet and introverted state that moves the mind towards meditation, the practices he put forward were more focussed on energizing and extraverting the mind.

There are a few individuals who have dedicated long term practice to the method he put forward, but most most have recognized that this method is not effective in moving the practitioner towards the next steps of ashtanga yoga. There are even individuals, who having dedicated decades to these practices have experienced serious negative health outcomes.

Even Sharath teaches pranayama differently. KPJ would have mocked Sharath’s teachings – not intense enough! You can see his views on simple pranayamas such as Sharath teaches here (at 2:45):…

Putting aside the question of intensity, the pursuit of a sequence that does not expressly intend to take the practitioner deeper into meditation is also dubious. While it may be valuable for teachers to learn an array of practices for the benefit of teaching, without a specific intention or insight into the means of guiding the student deeper, these practices can be at best meaningless and at worst actually harmful. The warnings about the potential harm are evident in the hatha literature.

Sutra Discussion this Sunday June 14

Dear all,

We’ll be meeting from 10:00 to 11:30am (PT) on Sunday June 14 in a zoom room, link here:

We plan to discuss the second sutra of Book III, sutra 3.2, about the seventh limb of Ashtanga Yoga, dhyana:

Sutra 3.2: tatra pratyaya ekatanata dhyanam

In that place (of deep concentration, Sutra 3.1), is the basis of one continuous, uninterrupted meditation (dhyana).

Hope to see some of you then!

help for an elderly

hello everyone,

I wanted to post this for one of ours, from Philadelphia, Jackie, who comes once in a while with her husband Kirk, to practice. She is looking for help for her Mom who lives here, in Palo Alto.

Here is from Jackie:
“My family has been hiring an “elderly companion” for my Mom in the afternoons – someone to just hang out with her, go on walks, pick out her clothes for the next day, etc. But the friend we’ve been using is not comfortable with the new regulations at the retirement home (which involves weekly COVID tests, a TB test, and a background check) so doesn’t want to continue. Before we hire a Home Health Aide – which she doesn’t really need since she’s already in Assisted Living at Channing House, and it’s much more expensive – we are asking around in case we can find someone locally in the area that might be interested in that kind of gig. And so wondering if you know anyone in the area (Palo Alto) that might already be doing that kind of thing or would feel comfortable doing it? “

please email me if you have any leads, sabina at yogaisyouth dot com.

thank you and hope all are doing well under watchful and masterful leadership of Beata, Philippe and Anne :).

Moonday Mythology: Misuse of Siddhis (Yogic superpowers)

The 3rd chapter of the Yoga sutras is about Siddhis, Yogic superpowers, which a yogi experiences along the path to liberation.  Patanjali also warns about falling into the traps of these Siddhis, when one gets carried away by them, hence losing the opportunity for further progress and sometimes backsliding in one’s path of progress. 

When one does asanas or pranayama for a long time with dedication, certain exalted states of mind result and feelings of power and confidence sometimes, verging on arrogance, may ensue. Many a modern-day yoga teacher has fallen prey to this and without adequate mindfulness have committed acts of sexual abuse and greed. BKS Iyengar describes the amount of sheer will power he had to use to fend off “overly friendly” students in this talk at 45:20. 

This is a story of how the legendary Matsyendranath (of ardha-matsyendrasana), supposedly one of the greatest yogis, fell into the trap of these Siddhis and how he was rescued by his disciple, Gorakshanath. This story is as relevant to modern times as it is to those ancient times even if the extent of Siddhis are far less in the times we live in.

Once upon a time, there was a king, who was given to excessive drinking and as a result his kingdom was in disarray. A wise sage foresaw his death and approached the great Yogi Matsyendranath to ask for his help to revive the kingdom. Said the sage, “O greatest of yogis, Lord Matsyendranath, our kingdom has fallen into disarray due to the vices of our king. Death is fast approaching the king and upon his death his evil son will be crowned the king. The kingdom will fall further into disarray. Therefore, O Lord, take mercy on the inhabitants of our kingdom and with your yogic powers enter the body of the king upon his death and restore prosperity to the kingdom”. Matsyenranath, out of compassion to the people in that kingdom, agreed.   

    With his Siddhis, Matsyendranath performed parakaya pravesha (entering another’s body) and entered the king’s body at the time of death. Soon thereafter, the kingdom attained prosperity. However, Matsyendranath, started identifying himself with the body of the king and indulged in all the luxuries that a king would indulge in. Gorakshanath, his chief disciple, became concerned at this and one day came to the kingdom disguised as a female dance instructor and got access to the king’s chamber. He quickly made Matsyendranath realize his original identity and made him remember his yogic powers. The student taught the teacher and with his help, Matsyendranath was able to leave the king’s body and enter his own.  

    This story is often told to illustrate the dangers of exhibiting Siddhis. 

New class on Sunday – led primary

Starting this coming Sunday June 7th Anne will be teaching a new class: Led Primary Series 7-8:30 am. She will finish in time for pranayama with Philippe at 8:30. Philippe will be still teach led intermediate 6:30-8:00am. Now you have options so no excuses;-)

Here’s the info for the class or you can always find it on YiY website. To protect privacy of all the participants please contact Anne via e-mail or Sabina to get the password:

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 870 6533 1524
Password: please contact Anne or Sabina

Led Primary Friday and Nauli Kriya

This Friday June 5 we will have our usual 6:30am Primary Series led class.

Also I plan to do a mini workshop on Nauli Kriya just before the class, from 6 to 6:30am. Feel free to join:

Zoom Link

I’ve been doing Nauli Kriya before starting my own asana practice for two decades now and it only takes a couple of minutes. I find it has benefits in helping digestion, preparing for pranayama and establishing the bandhas. It’s the perfect preparation before the first sun salutation.

If you want to learn about it more, here’s a good place to start. I would recommend reading the whole page and watching the videos prior to joining the mini workshop. We will go to step 2 or 3 on Friday.

Note – have an empty stomach.

Pranayama benefits as described in ancient yogic traditions

During this time, while Pranayama is recommended as a breathing exercise to improve lung capacity and immunity, there are many other far ranging benefits as described in ancient texts. One can believe it as such or take it as a hyperbole, but here is what ancient yogic traditions say about Pranayama as described by this Yogi living in the Gangotri.

  1.  Pranayama results in cleaning of the nadis (the pathways along which the prana flows). This is called Nadi Shodhana. It opens up the mind and the heart.
  2. It clears the latent negative impressions left from previous lifetimes
  3. If you practice for 5 minutes everyday for a week with mindfulness, you get a better understanding of the control of the breath and which nadis are active (among Ida, Pingala and Sushumna) at any instant.
  4. If you practice for 10 minutes a day for a week with awareness, you get several insights and inner strength. Your vocabulary becomes rich and you use apt words in your speech that you never have heard of before. 
  5. After half an hour of daily practice for a month, unwanted stuff (Ama) in the body is shed.
  6. After one hour of dedicated daily practice for a month, the body is cleansed and it develops a divine smell.
  7. After two hours of daily practice for a month, one enters beautiful states of mind and identification with the body and sense objects is diminished significantly.
  8. After three hours of daily intense practice for two months, one is able to cut through the identification with the body. This is the beginning of self-realization.