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Vinyasa, a Metaphor

I can really feel the garden coming to life now. New shoots and roots come quickly, especially on the young ones. Some plants have been in the soil for a long time; they are mature and in some cases, gravity bound. Still, they are responding to nature's vinyasa; winter's long exhale is over and the earth is slowly filling its lungs. 

For me, vinyasa has long been place of poetic repose. Moving and breathing together is a meditation on the cycle of life. Can you feel how inhaling is exciting? It is a birth and a rising up to fullness. Exhale is settling, slowing, dropping into emptiness, a death of sorts. This cycle is occurring in us all the time. It's also occurring all around us, in other beings, in the seasons, the moon cycles, the rising and setting of the sun, in the plants, the stars. 

A gardener becomes wise about the nature of life. So does the yogi. Neither fullness nor emptiness is something to panic about. Our joy upon finding new shoots pushing out of the earth in springtime is a guaranteed as our down brows, empty flower beds, and introverted moods in winter. Again, this is nothing to freak out about. It is vinyasa. It is life. 

Meditative practices, like Ashtanga yoga, offer us steadiness and perspective. We can go on living, loving, acting out our many roles and fulfilling our responsibilities with spaciousness and sensitivity to the vinyasa of life. We can learn not to get stuck preferring and hanging onto only the fun stuff....grip hard and you will get in your own way. Or, put differently, it is impossible to inhale forever. Eventually, you must exhale. Or, again, put differently, no-one is in top form all the time. Even the garden needs to rest sometimes. What I am saying is that through practice (sensible, daily practice) we can learn to hold space for all of life within us. Inhale and exhale, fullness and emptiness, heaven and hell, happiness and grief. None of this need trouble us. This is life. 

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Sun and Starlight

Can you feel the sunbeams growing stronger? It's still cold and wintery here in Melbourne, but I can feel the sun's intensity slowly rising. My daily suryanamaskaras are a meditation on the sun and it's life giving energy. It stirs something inside me. A few sunnier days turn me (a sunflower) towards the light and it seeps in through my squinty lashes. My winter vegetables seem also to be stirred inside, looking suddenly robust. And I swear the grass is standing prouder, more tufty.   

I find that practicing yoga draws me simultaneously into and outside of myself. I'm not talking about just one day practicing yoga on the mat. I'm talking about what is now nearly two decades of earnestly attempting to live yoga. Sustaining my sadhana over this period of time has required me to learn to be with myself and all sorts of internally arising sensations and challenges. It has also, required me to learn to sit comfortably with life...which appears to offer an endless parade of externally arising experiences and challenges (and thank goodness for that, as this is how I grow and evolve). Practicing yoga, long term, offers me a meditative repose, from which I observe what arises both internally and externally. After some time, as my vision grows clearer, I not only see what arises, but also I see my mind do it's seductive, reactive thing...demanding centre stage, persuading me to believe that EVERYTHING is a big deal (maybe even the end of the world).  Without my yoga practice, I fear I would be only a mind, gesticulating and dancing a terrified, electric and anxious dance. Through yoga, I have come to know myself as more than a mind. I am a being of the earth, a receiver of sunlight and moonbeams, one who rides a planet, orbiting a star, in the company of other beings, (some of whom, like me, turn like sunflowers toward the sun-starlight). There is peace, connectedness and sanctuary in knowing oneself to be vast. Mind is beautiful, important, and necessary, but it is not the home of my experience. It is only one of it's inhabitants.  

We live in a vast universe, populated by stars, galaxies, planets. We are under the influence of stars. Our planet is slowly turning its Southern sunflower face towards the sun. We begin to stir and awaken from our wintery slumber. Our stiff bodies will begin to thaw, energy moving in our joints more freely. 

See you in the morning, Sunflower.  

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Solstice Draws Near

I get the feeling I'm not the only one who feels like staying under a blanket with a plate of cookies. My cat seems to be sleeping more than 20 hours a day. My 7 year old is actually keen (!!!) to go to bed at 7:30pm. And, morning practice sessions at Mysore Melbourne are a little quieter than usual. It's only natural that we, in the Southern hemisphere, feel like hibernating, and pulling our energy and attention inside at the moment. The winter solstice is only a few weeks away and each day is a little darker than the last. 

Steady routines, warm food and drinks, comfy socks, an early bedtime, daily yoga practice, and love will nourish your body and soul in these cold, quiet times. Without proper nourishment (on all levels, not just food), its pretty easy to get sick, or sink into the winter blues. Whilst it can be really difficult to get out of bed on a cold wet morning, practicing in the toasty warm shala is nourishing. The heaters, candles, chants, breathing sounds, practice mates and soft adjustments warm the mind and heart. And, if you need friends, you can always head over to Little Henri after Saturday led class and hang out with your Mysore Melbourne practice buddies.  

Something that helps me through dreary winter weather, is an annual habit of attending a solstice bonfire. Weeks ahead, I begin to plan and anticipate the night. I can hear the sound of the fire in my ears. I imagine the feeling of its warmth on my skin. I close my eyes and see the ash and sparks rising up into the starry sky. When the night comes, I take my little boy and disappear into the crowd. My heart sings in the collective joy felt in welcoming back the light. In the days afterwards, I watch the plants. They seem to know of the change in the light. 

As Ashtanga yoga practitioners, we follow the cycles of the moon. I see this as a vinyasa. The moon grows full, so does my breath. The moon slowly grows dark, my breath fades out. This is a pattern occurring around me all the time. The sun rises and sets, life blooms and fades, and the seasons change. The winter solstice in the end of an exhale. It is time to pause, feel the darkness, and then let the breath and the light return. 

Cultivating a steady practice, year round, will bring insight into both your own energy cycles and those occurring in the greater world around you. Learn to be steady without resistance. This means practicing in a way that is open and responsive to whatever is arising. It's perfectly appropriate to practice asanas with great energy and enthusiasm at times, and with tenderness and quiet at others. The same sequence of asanas can be practiced with a totally different approach and feel from day to day, according to your current state. It takes time and practice to become self-aware, and to learn how to be be soft at the right times and strong at the right times. Keep practicing!

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A New Home For Mysore Melbourne

A Sneak Peek of the Quan Yin Temple

A Sneak Peek of the Quan Yin Temple

31 August 2016 is Mysore Melbourne's 2nd birthday! A steady and delightful practice community has formed and continues to evolve. I'm grateful for the space and warmth that AKA Studio has provided for us to conduct our program in. I'm also excited to announce that Mysore Melbourne is moving! From 1 September 2016, we will be practicing in the Quan Yin Temple at beautiful Prana House, Level 1, 885 High Street, Thornbury.  Its going to be great!

If you would like a sneak peek of the new digs, come to Chai and Chanting on Sunday 21 August. We will be meeting at Prana House for our usual chai and chant session from 10am-11am.

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Guru Poornima

My Home Altar

My Home Altar

Its Guru Poornima, which occurs each year on the full moon in July. This is a day of double significance in the Ashtanga tradition. it is a day for honouring our teachers and its is Pattabhi Jois' (my guru) birthday.  This morning we did a puja at my home altar.  My son and I offered flowers, sandalwood, incense, light, and fruit to Guruji and Sharath. I spent time conjuring up the sound of their voices in my mind. I visualised their feet. I chanted the guru mantra.  I am awash of gratitude to my teachers.  Om

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Guruji Lives Here

Its Guru Purnima, a day of double significance for Ashtanga practitioners as it is not only a special day to honour one's guru, but also Pattabhi Jois' birthday.  This would have been his 100th birthday!  I just received a link to this lovely short video narrated (mostly) by my mentor, Dena Kingsberg.  Follow the following link:

https://vimeo.com/133070430

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Yoga is Being Diluted

I have often heard my teacher, Sharath Jois, speak of how yoga is becoming diluted, and how the spiritual aspect goes missing.  There is indeed a problem, particularly when yoga is inappropriately arranged in Western systems of training and achievement where one can become a "yogi" or even a "yoga teacher" by merely attending brief courses and ticking boxes to earn a certificate.  How can you measure an internal process towards stillness?  As Sharath puts it:

"Yoga is a way of life...A practice, which needs to be mastered by practising it six days a week rigorously in its purest form..."

Go on, read for yourself...

How Yoga is Being Diluted World Over

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Winter Mini-Break 3-7 July

Mysore Melbourne will close for a brief winter break in July.  Following the full moon on Thursday 2 July, we will remain closed 3-7 July and reopen on Wednesday 8 July.  All active passes will be paused for 4 days, ensuring that you have 30 or 60 days to complete your pass.  

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