Astanga Yoga London

Thur 19th March
19th March 2020

Firstly I’d like to thank all the students who made it to the shala in last few days and weeks for all your support. Hopefully Louise, Anna, Tom and Lauren will be able to join in with these blogs. For those who have promised to keep us supported financially, we have a little reserve to keep paying our staff. (Previously called Talia’s university fund). We will be back. Thanks to all the teachers and assistants for your hard work and just turning up day after day. Thank you to all the cleaners, it felt really sad saying goodbye to Magda as we cleaned together for the last time.

This morning it was good to get an extra three hours sleep and not have to watch the clock, to take my time over practice. I know it can be difficult to practice at home. It took me about five years before I could hold a steady practice. So be content with what you can do, set yourself realistic goals and remember all practice is good practice.

My favourite story is the Mahabharata. It is a timeless classic and being timeless also means there are many places to start. With all good stories there are questions of why did that happen and what were the consequences of that.

Arjuna’s Grandson, Parikshit (unfortunate name) had self isolated in a tower he had been cursed to die of a snake bite within seven days. Without modern technology he relied on his servants to bring his food. But on the seventh day hit bit into an apple (apples seem to get a bit of a bad rap, as do snakes). Inside the apple was a mini snake which immediately sank his fangs into Parikshit, who promptly died (No NHS in them days). His son Janamejaya was overcome with anger and set up a puja to rid the world os snakes. The snakes came and fell into the puja fire. Until someone called out ‘stop!’ It was Astika, half man half snake. ‘Stop all this blood shed you will just cause revenge and more anger’ ‘But didn’t my Great grandfather fight to revenge all the wrong done by the Kauravas, and why does my father have to die from a snake bite’ asked Parikshit. ‘In the past Arjuna destroyed the Khandava forest killing many snakes, this was their revenge. But the war fought on Kuru-ksetre was not about revenge but rather about dharma everyone went to heaven. And your Great grandfather Arjuna learnt all about dharma from God himself.’ ‘Tell me more’ asked Parikshit. Well that will have to wait for another day…

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Small yoga
23rd December 2014

Yoga is such a lovely sounding word and it’s small. Just two syllables. Separately they can mean coming together and going apart. The word yoga has been translated into many meanings. Patanjali says that yoga is stopping the turnings of the mind. But he starts his sutras with a seed mantra, Atha, which means now. If only we could really understand Atha we wouldn’t need the rest. Mantra means something which protects the mind. The difference between yoga and all other philosophy is yoga is discipline. Discipline is tapas, svadyaya isvara pranidhana. Self control, self study and self surrender.In the Bhagavad Gita we find Arjuna, the most disciplined warrior. But he is faced with the hardest decision in his life. Many times we are thrown into a storm, what to do? Yoga helps us do the right thing at the right time. This is Dharma, that which supports.
The first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita is called the yoga of sorrow. It’s like we have to go through turmoil to see the sun. My way of summing up the Gita is find what you are good at, do it well and do it with love.Throughout the Gita Krishna gives advice to Arjuna: it’s not what you do but the way you do it. The Gita is described as Brahma vidya and yoga shastra. Ultimate knowledge and the path of skilful action. What is this ultimate knowledge? As it says in the Mandukya Upanishad. Ayam atma brahma, this soul is the ultimate. The ultimate can also simply be said as OM. When Nachiketas in the Katha Upanishad asks Death about understanding the ultimate, Death eventually instructs him that control of the senses is yoga, but that it comes and goes. Again we are drawn back to discipline. In the story Ramayana, Rama represents soul. He shows not only great sadness but also great discipline when Sita his wife is abducted by Ravana. Sita represents mind, and Hanuman prana. When mind is lost to all-powerful ego, represented by Ravana, only Prana can help Rama recover Sita. That and the use of the mantra, used at the time of greatest need – the Aditya hriyam, the heart of the sun. Surya namaska.

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