Live your Truth.

When we are born, we are fully open to all of the possibilities of our truest selves.  We have no boundaries or limitations set in our minds that inhibit our reach or inhibit our potential grasp.  We exist simply through breathing and taking in everything that is present to us in each moment.  We experience emotions as they arise, then we let them go, instead of suppressing the urge to feel. We experience love for most things, especially the organic beings that care for us and provide us happiness, because they are kind, and they are honest in our eyes.  

So how do we get so lost in time as we go?

How is it that we can no longer see all the possibilities of our truest selves?  

How is it that we can shame and blame ourselves more than we can care and love for ourselves and others?  

Well, we stop living our truth.  We come face to face with fear and we hide.  We seek guidance by others who are just as afraid.  We settle into a common standard of living that is widely accepted by others and we stop asking why.  We stop exploring everything that exists outside of those boundaries and limitations we have constructed in our minds.  We have traveled so far down a dishonest path, that we do not recognize clear signs our intuition is signaling at us.  

So now, how do we find our way back?  

Is it possible to return to that pure place of total, unadulterated existence?  

Is it worth facing fear in order to live your truth?  

Only you have the answers to those questions.  
And you'll find that the answers to those questions, exist right back where this all started.  They exist in your truest sense of self.  

The self that is not confined anymore by the walls and impediments of the mind.  The self that feels emotions for what they are, and understands techniques on how to let them go after they arise.  The self that continues to breathe and works to remain present in each, sacred moment.  The self that feels love and gives in to kindness and compassion.  The self that mindfully practices and follows the path of their truth that exists in their heart mind.  

In time, it is here that you will understand how to live your truth.  And it is here that you will be set free.   

Austin Kite Festival, 2012

Yoga History

In order to prepare for a presentation I gave this morning, for a 9th grade Humanities class at the Austin Waldorf School, I have spent the last week researching and diving into the rich history of yoga. I feel compelled to share this history with those that are interested.   In order to discover a righteous path of yoga for oneself, one must understand where it all started, how it evolved, and where it is today in order to fully embrace all that this practice offers.

Yoga, its traditions, and philosophies, date back to almost 10,000 years ago, when the first artifacts depicting yogic-figures (individuals seated in Padmasana, Lotus pose),  were found in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization of Northern India.  It was also during this same time that Hinduism, one of the worlds oldest religions, was being widely taught by priests and Brahmans throughout the region.  Shiva, the Hindu God of destruction and renewal and one of three main deities in Hinduism, became the archetype of the original yogi.  Shiva embodies change, both in the form of death and destruction but also in the form of destroying the ego in order to allow the true, hidden beauty from within to unfold.  

These beliefs and cultures, along with the mishmash of many yogic ideas and stories were beginning to be documented into various sanskrit texts during this period.  The Vedas are among the earliest religious texts of the Brahmans, which is the highest, priestly caste in Hinduism. These texts contain a collection of songs, mantras, and rituals to be used as a guide for the Brahmans.  The Upanishads consist of over 200 scriptures, written by the Brahmans and priests to document their practices as they traveled and taught their studies to new followers.  Finally, The Bhagavad Gita or "Song of the Lord", is the most renowned of the yogic scriptures.  This famous Hindu text, presents an approach to the spiritual path, that is suitable to all and is written as a great epic.  This story tells of a family rivalry, a great battle and the internal struggle of conforming one's actions to the will of God through self inquiry, karmic action, personal wisdom, and the sacrifice of the ego.  

It wasn't until around the second century that we see the first systematic presentation of yoga come about, which was in the form of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.  This refined, yogic text describes an eight limbed path and a step-by-step process one must go through in order to achieve Samadhi (true enlightenment), which is the ultimate goal of yoga.  The Yoga Sutras consists of 195 small, concise Sanskrit words/aphorisms that describe human consciousness in detail.  Patanjali uses yoga and the sutras as a platform, to help transform the way we think, communicate, respond and act, by directing our attention inward and harnessing our own consciousness to free us from suffering and open us up to true happiness.  This text was the main foundation that created Raja Yoga.   

Around the 15th century, we see yoga take a major shift into a postural focused practice, that used physical techniques (asanas) supplementary to the broad conception of yoga.  During this time, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svami Svatmarama, was written and the physical body was now seen as the main device one could work with to mold and transform into a more conscious being.  The main goal of this text is to illuminate the physcial disciplines and practices of Hatha Yoga and intergrate these with the higher, spiritual goals of Raja Yoga and the eight-limbed path towards Samadhi.  

During the early 20th century, we are introduced to the renowned teacher, Sri Krishnamacharya, often times coined as the "Father of Modern Yoga".  He began to influence many populations of people through his teachings of yoga at his Hatha Yoga School in Mysore, India.  Throughout his life, many passionate, and inspired students came to him and developed their own personalized practices in yoga.  These personalized practices that these students developed, helped to created the many styles of yoga we see today.  Of those students we have:  BKS Iyengar, who came to Krishnamacharya as a sickly young man, seeking yoga as a way to improve his health.  He used yoga as a form of medicine, and became the founder and legendary teacher who developed Iyengar Yoga.  He has written numerous books about his life's work and talks in great detail about the healing power yoga can have for the body, mind and spirit. Next we have TKV Deiskachar, the son of Krishnamacharya.  Desikachar used yoga as his form of personalized therapy and developed the practice of Viniyoga.  Viniyoga helps each person create a practice that individualizes and actualizes the process of self-discovery suitable for their own personal needs.  Finally, we have the student and teacher K. Pattabhi Jois, who would eventually be known for developing Ashtanga Yoga, a much more regimented and acrobatic style of asana.  Each one of these styles of yoga, developed by three different students, all taught by Sri Krishnamacharya, create what is known today as Vinyasa Yoga.  

The westward movement of yoga began around the same time as Krishnamacharya's teachings began taking effect in India, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Practitioners, teachers and scholars of yoga began speaking about the benefits of yoga to several universities throughout America and Europe.  We see yoga gain a lot of attention in Hollywood in the 1940's, when a handful of celebrities began practicing with gurus and brought these sacred, yogic traditions into the lime light. The popularity kept up into the 1960's, with the counterculture movement due to the influence of musicians/artists such as, The Beatles, taking yogic beliefs and rituals and incorporating them into their music and livelihoods.

So, a super long story short, and now here we are today.  Taking all of that information into thought, combining it with the current capitalized yoga-for-profit market, and the attention yoga has all over the media, we can get a better idea why yoga, for many people, is so convoluted.  Yoga, today, is being used for all kinds of purposes: physical, mental, spiritual, cultural, social, etc.  For me, I have found that yoga is my form of therapy.  I feel intrigued to study it.  I feel better about myself after practicing its traditions and ceremonies. It inspires me to be healthier and cherish this life I've been blessed with.  It has helped me connect with like-minded individuals, who continue to inspire me through their own personal practices.  Whether its your own personal therapy, your way to achieve fulfillment through acrobatic poses or maybe even ironically enough, your way of boosting your own ego through Instagram posts, in the end the beauty of this practice is that you can transform it to fit your needs.  So, whatever it may be for you, well to each their own.  From me as a student and a teacher, I can only hope that the truth of the practice and its history helps you see through all the labels and misconceptions placed on what should be an honest approach of self-discovery.

Like always friends, Namaste.  ~       

Meditating Shiva - By: Pieter Weltevrede

Meditating Shiva - By: Pieter Weltevrede

Indus-Sarasvati Artifact - Yogic figure sitting in Padmasana, Lotus Pose

The Beatles with yogi guru, Maharishi Mahesh - 1968

Yoga Today ... How am I to live in this world?

 

 

 

   

Atha Yoganushasanam - A Committment to the Now

Atha, the first sutra in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, is a bold and empowering sanskrit word that represents the here and the now.  This word opens up the sutras in a way that allows you to feel like you are about to begin a transformational process, and in order to fully understand, one must be ready to commit themselves to the path and practice of yoga.  It asks the questions: Are you truly ready?  Are you willing to practice this everyday for the rest of your life?  Are you willing to study and discipline yourself around the scientific approach of finding your true nature?  Like I said its a bold word because its a bold idea.  The idea to begin a life long journey into the self by starting with the only place a journey can truly begin: the present moment... the Now.  

I stepped onto a yoga mat, in a crowded yoga studio, early in college around 8 years ago.  My practice then was much more of a social way to stretch and work out with my peers.  Growing up as a competitive gymnast, the physical aspects of yoga were very similar to the stretches and postures I had been doing since I was 5 years old.  I used yoga to help relax and stretch out my worn gymnast body, but didn't really get much further into it than that.  I researched into the philosophy a bit back then, but didn't understand the true scope of what yoga could be for me in my life.

My true yogic journey began at the beginning of this year.  My personal journey into yoga, is nothing dramatic; like stories you hear about people hitting rock bottom and them describing how yoga helped them climb out and restore their purpose in this life and the world ... (which it definitely has the power to do so if you are ever in that place).  For me, I was in a decent place honestly.  I was surrounded by people that I love and care for, had a decent job, lived in a great home, and was seemingly happy.  However, I knew something was missing.  I kept having this longing feeling in myself that I needed a change.  I felt like my life was focused around a center point that didn't have any forward momentum.  I was revolving but I wasn't evolving.  I was at the quarter of a century mark in my life and I still felt like I hadn't learned the kinds of lessons I knew I was destined to learn.

I listened to my intuition, I responded, and I took action.  I signed up for a teacher training here in my hometown of Austin.  It was during this 8 week intensive course that I really began studying the ancient, scientific discipline of yoga and meditation.  It wasn't too long after fully diving into this practice that I began to see a small flicker of light and got a glimpse of how this practice was beginning to shine down on my existence.  My amazing teachers at Nadi Yogi Austin helped me realize what yoga is at its core.  They helped me realize that the hype of yoga in the media is just what western society likes to do to anything that potentially has capital gains.  They also helped me see what yoga is not.  They showed us that its not what you necessarily see on Instagram.  Its not what you remember from that crowded studio 8 years ago.  It's not about how strong you are or how flexible you are in relation to others.  It is simply about the now.  It's about what you see in the now.  It's about how you feel in the now.  It's about what you hear and taste and move and do in the now.  It's the mindful practice that you work at every day to help bring you back to the now.  It's nothing more or nothing less. 

My work at understanding how to exist in the now, in a world where we are always striving for something in the future or clinging on to something in the past, had just begun.  It was hard work to say the least.  The kind of mental work no one really wants to do.  The work where you dig up those skeletons in the closet, and you face the big elephant in the room.  The work that is honest and true and raw through and through.  Its the work of letting go.  It's the work of trying to free your self from the all of the walls we have built up around us that separates us from our true selves.  The work of peeling away all of the labels and divisions that inhibits us to consciously and mindfully connect with other living beings. The work every person needs to try and do to understand what true happiness is.  There are individuals on this planet who have been studying and practicing this type of work for years and years, and they will be the first ones to tell you that it never really gets easier... it just becomes your norm.  It's what gets you out of bed in the morning and it's what eases you into sleep every night.  Its the foundation you can always come back to and it will always accept you back with no judgement.  I am so thankful to have found this path and I humbly look forward to where it might lead.    

Namaste ~  

"The flower doesn't dream of the bee.  It blossoms and the bee comes." -Unknown
Lady Bird Lake, Austin Texas 2011