Tuesday, 27 March 2012

New Ashtanga Yoga Confluence Video, also Places to practice ?

Just came across this new Confluence video, nicely shot and with a ver cool David Swenson move in the middle (2:30). How does he do that (legs follow the hips, he says)?

Ashtanga Yoga Confluence from Club Sullivan on Vimeo.

I don't know though, cringed a bit at the shots of the resort, just as uncomfortable with that as with the sardine packed shala in Mysore.

It's me I know, I have some warped and twisted hangup that yoga is a private, solitary practice that belongs in forests or on mountainsides, deer parks and yes, caves, ever the romantic. And if you haven't got a cave handy then you make one yourself in some corner of your abode. A householder you may be but for an hour or so (or four) you get to be a cave yogi too.

But then of course perhaps that's the point of drishti, you get to be a cave yogi while practicing in a shala filled with a hundred other cave yogi's.

'3.1 Places to practice Yoga
The following places are superior; a place with plenty of water, a fertile place, a place where there is a bank of a holy river, where there are no crowds, a clean solitary place _ such places are superior. in such a place yoga can be practiced'.
Krishnamacharya Yoga Makaranda p33.
12. He who practices Hatha-Yoga should live alone in a small math (monastery) situated in a place free from rocks, water and fire to the extent of a bow's length and in a virtuous and well-ruled kingdom.

13. The math should have a small door, and should be without any windows; it should be level and without any holes; it should be neither too high, too low nor too long. It should be very clean, being well smeared with cow dung (a natural antiseptic) and free from all insects. Outside it should be attractive with a small hall and a raised seat and a well and surrounded by a wall. These are the characteristics of a yoga-matha as laid down by the Siddha-s who have practiced hatha-yoga.

14 living in such a monastery (the Yogin), being free in mind of all cares, should practice only yoga all the time, in the way taught by his Guru.'
The Hathayoagpradipka commentary by Jyotsna of Brahmananda


  1. Why do you speak ill of places you've never been and experiences you've never had? For someone who thinks yoga is personal and solitary and private, you sure do post an extraordinary amount of photos and pictures. The time you must spend editing, setting up and posting......for what? You seem obsessed with the external and the shapes. You need to broaden your perspectives beyond books and the internet, you are missing so so so much. Step away from the camera and into a shala. Oh the things you will learn!

  2. thank you grimly, beautiful post...

  3. I like the luxury of having the best of both worlds.

    I love the home-practices, and the fact that asana can be practiced in isolation. Those awesome moments, when you find yourself 'in the zone', that keep flashing back for the remainder of each day.

    But, also love mixing with like-minded people, meeting new, good people, which it must be said, isn't that easy to do when you get out of uni and branch off into professional and/or family lives.

    Not too sure why you get so emotional about practicing with others though Tony. It's not like there's a panel of judges, well, not where I go anyway! Surely it can't be a bad thing to get your practice endorsed by a teacher of your own choosing ie. someone you respect.

    You are quite wrong about the Green Hotel though. With the exception of a few too many car horns, it's generally very quiet, and serves exquisite and very affordable food. The place has an amazing vibe.

  4. I don't think I'm speaking ill of either Mysore or the Confluence Anon, I've written several posts over the last couple of weeks on how much I've gotten out of the teaching that has come out of confluence.

    I hope all I'm doing is bringing up contradictions and questions regarding practice and tradition. Does Yoga belong in a resort? Does Ashtanga need a clothing line? When will you personally feel Mysore has become too much? How thin can Sharath stretch himself and how many more Ashtangi's can Gokulum take at the height of the season, 400 now supposedly, is 500 too many, 600, 1000? Then of course there are all the other yoga studios springing up. Sharath seems to recognise the problem himself and is opening the shala for an extra month, it's clearly an issue.
    For me personally it got to busy probably before I started the practice, but that just my personal feeling.

    if you've read any of my posts you should have noticed that I don't spend long enough editing : ) I'm pretty quick at this stuff now and throw a post together in twenty minutes or so, usually over my pre practice coffee or post practice grapefruit.

    I have a background where I reflect on such things, it's a habit but I kind of agree and several times have thought seriously about closing down my blog.

    I think I probably spend quite enough time in the home shala as it is.

    Thanks for your comment though, I disagree but your raise fair points.

    Thank you J.

  5. Your right of course Steve, i probably should get out more : ) Hoping to take a few workshops this year. I enjoyed the month I spent on Ramaswami's course good people but it was a different context being a TT, I still don't get the Shala thing, have thought that perhaps I should go and spend a month at one but then wonder if I might then end up preferring it (kidding about the last bit).

    Judged and/or endorsed? The first doesn't concern me the second doesn't particularly interest me, i don;t think practice should be concerned with either but I'm sure I'd get a lot out of time with a good teacher, asana can always use some tweaking.

    As for emotional, I got excited at finding a high quality video of confluence but then a bit bemused when I saw the resort and then later the clothing line, that's kind of where this post comes from.

    Sorry to diss the Green Hotel, looks very nice.

  6. Most of my practice is solo...and I like it that way. But there IS something beautiful about the relationships that form when students practice together in small groups.

  7. i agree Kathryn, still feel close to a few of the people I studied with on my course, I imagine there's something of that to a small shala too. But then, you hear of moments of recognition in the big rooms too, in Mysore, strangers connecting for a moment as drishti wavers. I kind of get it but tend to be put off by the idea of a large room, solo practice makes too much sense to me.

  8. Thanks for your blog. It's an interesting experiment.

    I study with my teacher Nancy Gilgoff for extended periods on Maui, but as I live in the UK I also practice at home for most of the year.

    One very important lesson I have learned from her has been Surrender.
    These asanas are very exciting, but on a deeper level I began to realise that my practice has been about loosening the grip of my ego on everything. IHMO.

    I remember Nancy saying that she felt that it's the job of the teacher to break the student's ego.

    Nancy has taken me through fear, even disbelief and at times to a point where my conscious mind seemed to short circuit.

    Be well & Happy.

  9. Thanks for your comment Tony, I like the idea of practicing most of the year alone but then going off to study with your teacher for an extended period every year, I wonder if me it might end up being Boulder.

    I struggle with 'Surrender' and 'Ego' mainly because intellectually I view the ego as illusionary anyway so what is there to surrender. But of course even as an illusion it's...pervasive and habit forming so perhaps more direct approaches to overcome the habit/illusion isn't a bad thing.

    i wonder though whether the practice just does it's thing here too. Just as with the yamas and Niyamas taking hold as you practice (by finding such value in just breathing on a mat ) perhaps the shadows of the ego get chased out of corners also.

    I'm sure I was proud and perhaps a little conceited at times with my asana (although saying that I think I was mostly amazed my old body would do such things) but the longer you practice the less seriously you take them (the achieving of asana). A nice kapo gives some pleasure and amusement but tomorrow it might not be as deep, or next week a little deeper, it's all good as long as you just get on the mat and give it your best attempt. I'll take a little delight in a more elegant posture but I'm more interested in comfort and steadiness. It's as if the attention shifts from what am i doing to what is the breath doing, as if it's the breath that's forming the pose, entering in and out of the posture and your kind of watching it ... a sort of kindly amusement at it's efforts. thinking about it I'm not sure that's a good thing but intuitively it seems a step in the right direction.

    I think that's one reason I question the role of the teacher, the breath, the practice itself IS the Teacher and will do it's job eventually if you let it. Perhaps the good ones (teachers) step out of the way as much as possible and let that happen.

    thanks again for your comment.

  10. Rats, I have to move. Wherever you practice, and whatever you read, don't forget your sense of humor, right?

  11. I am nailing boards across my window as we speak....how does one go about digging a well?

  12. Oh and do you want to borrow my cow after I'm done?

  13. Actually I remember when we were reading the Yoga makaranda on ramaswami's course he said that when he was younger they still cleaned the floors with cow dung a natural antiseptic supposedly that keeps the insects away.

    Now if it'll stop the rudy slugs coming up though my floor boards.....

  14. I am a cave yogi out of necessity and I only go to a class if the teacher is worthwhile. Sometimes in the energy of a big class, or Mysore, you lose yourself and are not really in the class. Very cool experience.

    Joan (yogagodess)

  15. I only go to a group class if the teacher is worthwhile so I get the cave yogi. I have a home shala too. But often there is an energy in a Mysore or group class where you move into your own space and it is also very personal and a great feeling.

    Thanks for the confluence video. I hope they do this in New York next year. I will be the first to sign up.

  16. I love self-practice and the challenges I have to face during each session - challenges that only I can figure out, without the help of a teacher.

    I don't have a regular teacher, but try to attend workshops or a led class by someone who follows the lineage (a layout that I find still varies teacher to teacher). This year I hope to attend workshops by Luke Jordan, David Williams and Manju Jois. It will be interesting how each approach the system.

    I think too many people take the system as "this way or no way". Was the system not originally taught and adjusted accordingly to suit an individual's abilities and needs? I believe some (not all) Ashtanga students/teachers can have a little snobbish attitude towards the system. Surely the important thing is that someone is practicing to the best of their ability.

    On another note, is it wrong that I can't wait to move house with my family, knowing that I will actually have space to create my own little yoga corner? All I need is the cow dung - not sure my wife will approve though. :-)

    Great post G.

  17. I attended the Confluence. It was a profound experience. I was in a haze for a week following.

    The lobby and vendor booths made me uncomfortable and claustrophobic. But stuffing yourself sardine-style into the Mysore room was liberating on a different level - I felt like I was wholly anonymous. Perhaps 2% of the people in that room would recognize me, and only one of the teachers would. So in a sense, it was more pure than practicing alone, where I am focusing very much on my self. A huge crowd let me slip into something a little more detached from myself and that iteration of my practice.

  18. Thank you Anon, think those are the best couple of lines I've read on Mysore, If I ever get around to going it'll most likely be with those lines in mind. Hope you don't mind if I quote you.

    Yes, anonymity in a crowd and somehow from yourself also (why/how does that happen I wonder), used to love 'losing myself' in foreign cities in my traveling days, perhaps the anonymity reflects inward. You give clues...
    '...it was more pure than practicing alone, where I am focusing very much on my self'.

    Rilke comes to mind, '..to some strange unrelated land where one neither understand nor is understood' (something like that , a riff on Corinthians 14 I believe).
    I read it as not being understood, not recognised, not existing which is then reflected back, inwards.

    Thank you again for this will be reflecting on it for a while.

  19. I agree dtw, no one system, no one 'correct' way to practice. One of the things I'm enjoying about Richard Freeman's approach is that there is no suggestion that this is how it was or how it has to be but rather how he's developed his own Ashtanga practice over time.

    M. asked me last night if Richard freeman teaches Ashtanga . I went with yes but needed to pause for a moment.

    Have just seen your cave joan, very nice : )
    I kind of figured there was a turning inwards whether in a large room or at home, Anon's comment I find interesting in that there's the suggestion of something else gained other than just the energy, an anonymity we don't find in home practice, slept on it and still find the idea curious.

  20. Grimly, the Ashtanga-shala-cave controversy reminds me of the same conversation that exists in Christianity as far as worship styles go. There are conservative, contemporary, emergent, naturalistic variations, etc.

    The fundamentalist advocate of each tradition will defend their liturgical environment with zealous determination. In the end, many of these traditions lose their usefulness to the act of worship and become psycho-archeological remnants of a purer original intention.

    Here in, IMHO, is the heart of the matter which is the heart...where does it point in the practice?

    Yoga for me is a kind of liturgy that I use in my devotion to God. I prefer to worship alone...it is my nature... I have close friends who prefer more public environments and liturgies. I bless them.

    It is all in the drishti for me as I set into motion an intentional act of devotion...

    I thank you for the example and inspiration you have been to me in this beautiful adventure as a fellow yogispelunker...

  21. I finally got around to check out this video. Very well shot. I will tell you that it is so well shot that the "resort" looks a tad more glamorous than it really was. Don't get me wrong it was great,but along with the neighborhood where it is located, it stands still in time circa 1972. Very retro, very funky, the decor a little frayed around the edges, but I thought that was kind of cool. Perfect for nostalgic ashtangis.

  22. Interesting Job, thank you for commenting, I've been reading recently at the Christian mystics and the kind of modern revival e.g. Thomas Keating and centring prayer, can imagine there are some tensions there within the church. But has you say, the sincerity of practice rather than how and where.

    i like that "it;s all drishti'.

  23. I find it somehow comforting Serene that the convention centre was a little...if not tatty then tired , looks posh from the video, which is fine of course, just my leanings towards hair shirts : )

    In NYC it'll probably be in some old loft in Greenwich

  24. Sounds like you really have an impulse to connect with Richard Freeman, as yogi philosopher and teacher. Why not go with that and see where it leads you.

    It has taken me many years to learn that I font have to know where I want to end up, but only where I am going now. And just - you know- put one foot in front of the other. Practice- live- study- love and all is coming.

  25. Thanks Anon, am looking at an intensive with Richard in the UK in August



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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included. "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta