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Richard Freeman: Yoga Chants
Richard Freeman Chants - its a 2 cd set. The first CD is instructional, he explains some of the history and technique, and you sing along by repeating first a word, then a line, of each chant. I think there are 3-4 chants he teaches in this way -including the ashtanga invocation, which I've always liked. He explains things very clearly. The second cd is him chanting and playing the harmonium. He has a good voice, not a great voice, but there is something incredibly soothing about listening to him. -Jane
Cindy Dollar: Yoga Your Way : Customizing Your Home Practice
This is a great book for home practice. It's spiral bound and the pages are split so that on the left the pages are practice sequences and on the right each page is one of 44 asanas. The 31 practice sequences range from 10 to 90 minutes. On the back of each asana page are several modifications with various props. The author is an Iyengar teacher and the instructions are very detailed. What I like most about it is that the variety of sequences will prevent me from doing the same practice all the time which is what usually happens when I do yoga on my own. -Danielle
Andrea Olsen: Bodystories: A Guide To Experiential Anatomy
This book is the most accesible of all the more touchy-feely anatomy books I have - daily exercises of body exploration. -Lianne
A side comment on satya (sutrua II.36) which elaborates on truth or satya, and has a deep personal meaning to me. When I started my yoga teacher training with Ana Forrest in 2006, she talked a lot of be “speaking the truth”. At that time I embarked on telling the truth, no matter how inconvenient, to my children. I realized that for years, I was telling what I considered to be “white lies” to get them to do what I wanted them to do. For example, “Get in the car, that TV show is over now” when in fact it was not. As my kids got older they observed this behavior, and believed it was alright to lie. (As a side note, I began to recall my mother doing the same thing to me, and me realizing that she was lying, and then thinking it was OK to do that. The cycle had to broken).
I started telling them the truth. “That show is not over but we have to go now.” I got into a lot more conflicts. It was difficult. Sometimes I went backwards in my vow but I always returned to truth telling.
When I started Iyengar training, this yama became my most important because I realized all the damage I had done. My now teenage kids were lying to me about where they were among other things. They often accused me of lying. With each time I did not lie to them, they became a bit more trusting that I didn’t lie. This process took years. I am still amazed at the damage I caused by “white lies”.
However onto stealing or asteya: I was aware of this sutra growing up Catholic, not as a sutra, but as one of the 10 commandments: Thou shall not steal.
Would a criminal believe that precious jewels will come if they do not steal? The jewels this sutra discusses are not the worldly jewels of course.
Iyengar: When abstention from stealing is firmly established, precious jewels come.
Iyengar says that if the sadhaka is without desire (the root of stealing), then he “effortlessly attracts what is precious, materially and figuratively, including the gem of all jewels, virtue.” I recently had a discussion about my son about cheating in his high school, which he says is rampant. He says he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. Besides being dishonest, it is also a form of stealing I told him, from others who actually did not cheat. Stealing of their time they studied and perhaps given them a worse grade on the bell curve. As we have further talked about it over several occasions, he told me of a time he had the opportunity to cheat, he didn’t study for a test, and decided to tell the teacher he was not prepared. The teacher made him take the test and he failed. But I told him I was proud of him because he told the truth and didn’t steal a grade. I sensed he felt the integrity he gained from doing so, despite the pain of a bad grade.
Bryant: When one is established in refrainment from stealing, all jewels manifest.
Bryant says some commentators offer a view where we see “jewels suddenly flying through the air toward the accomplished yogi.” One commentator things the jewels are noble hearted people as well as useful things.
Taimni: On being firmly established in honesty all kinds of gems present themselves.
Taimni points out that jewels means that the yogi becomes aware of “all kinds of precious treasures in his vicinity” and this can also represent some kind of clairvoyance or intuition. He also points out that stealing is part of nature. He also says that these desires are binding and cause us misery, which is related to the klesha called raga: reaching for things we desire.
Carerra: To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.
Carerra talks about incessant craving and says this sutra is about being content with what we are given and eventually about generosity. “The more selflessly we give, the more we receive. It’s the law of karma and good business too.” We see this sentiment in the Bible as well. Carerra says “Our wealth is defined not by our material possessions but our relationship to them.”
Iyengar: When the sadaka is firmly established in the practice of truth, his words become so potent that whatever he says comes to fruition.
This is one of my favorite sutras because it reminds me of the magic that appeared in Autobiography of a Yogi, and perhaps has that kind of genie in bottle feel. But Iyengar’s commentary points out that truth must be integrated cellularly and not just in the mind. He uses the example when one says “I will never eat chocolate again”. Unless every cell in your body believes it, it will not be the truth.
Bryant: When one is established in truthfulness, one ensures the fruition of actions.
Bryant says that truthfulness “is cultivated by willpower, the determination never to tell a lie.” He also says this sutra can be interpreted to control actions. So if the yogi who is mastered this sutra says “Be virtuous”, the person will be virtuous. But the yogi only says this if the person is fit to do so.
Taimni: On being firmly established in truthfulness fruit (of action) rests on action (of the Yogi) only.
Taimni says the practice of “truthfulness develops and purifies Buddhi in a remarkable manner”. (Buddhi is intelligence – one of the three parts of the mind). One can feel this because as hard as it is to be truthful sometimes, when you are, calm often comes over you, unless of course you are dealing with the wrath of telling that truth.
Carrera: To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient.
Carrera says “The yogi achieves unity with truth”. And later he says “her thoughts, like feathers blown by the breese, are easily moved by every whisper of the Divine Will.”
My husband has had back problems for several years now. In the past few years, he has experienced numbness in one of his legs. For the past few years, he has given up almost all physical activity because of this which has led him to gain weight and lose a lot of strength. Every time he tried to start an exercise program, he felt his back and numbness getting worse. It turns out he has a pinched nerve (finally! A diagnosis!) but for years, he didn’t know what was wrong and simply didn’t exercise, do house or garden work, or lift anything.
Many students and other people I know with back pain treat their bodies with fragility. That’s why I like this DVD. It is extremely gentle. Each practice is 45 minutes long. The first practice is focused on the neck and upper back and shoulders. The second practice is focused on the lower back. The practices have similar poses but each is very gentle without being meaningless. The movements are done slowly. A beautiful flute is playing in the background. Annie Carpenter emphasizes breath with the movement.
The lower back sequence starts with lying on the back with a hamstring stretch sequence. Cat-cow is next to enhance spine flexibility. A slow vinayasa sequence with a lunge twist next. A prasarita padonttanasna sequence comes after this. A parsvottanasana sequence is next followed by a bridge sequence holding the block between the inner thighs. A lower back sequence ends the practice before savasana.
The upper back sequence starts with a shoulder movement sequence seated, on the back and then with a block. Aslow vinayasa sequence follows with Virabhadrasana 2, Utthita Parsvakonasana, and a chaturaunga sequence. Shalabasana grabbing the hands behind you is next with a sequence of these backbend poses ending in child’s pose. A garudasana sequence is next and Annie gives many modifications throughout the practice. A delicious relaxation ends the practice.
I recommend this DVD to beginners or someone coming off a back injury. It is a relaxing practice for anytime you want a short practice to stretch out the back.
Disclosure: I received this DVD from Yoga Journal for free to review.
Iyengar: When non-violence in speech, thought and action is established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one’s presence.
I’ve certainly observed this sutra to be true in my own life. It doesn’t always work but it works a lot. Iyengar points out that “Peace in workds, thoughts and deeds, whether awake or dreaming, is a sign of goodwill and love towards all.”
Bryant: In the presence of one who is established in nonviolence, enmity is abandoned.
Bryant says that according to Hariharananda “perverse thoughts sucha s violence can take many subtle forms in the mind that are not always readily visible” and recommends meditation. I know that my own meditation practice has quieted violence in me.
Taimni: On being firmly established in non-violence there is abandonment of hostility in (his) presence.
Taimni says that Ahminsa “is a positive and dynamic quality of universal love, and not a mere negative attitude to harmlessness.”
Carerra: In the presence of one firmly established in nonviolence, all hostilities cease.
Carerra points out that “fear breeds anger and that anger ruins our peace and clarity.” He says that if we realize this when we see violence in others, and have compassion, this will continue to “give birth to a love and understanding so pure that it lifts the mind to a place of peace beyond any tranquility we had imagined.”
I’ve been curious about this 2-disc package produced by Yoga Journal, and was happy to receive a complementary copy of it for review. The concept is appealing: 3 beginner’s practices on one disc and 360º views of 35 basic poses on the other. The presentation of the body in space in basic poses, all the way around, in conjunction with practices instructing the poses in general sequences is a great idea.
The practices disc includes a long (60 min.) practice and 2 shorter, targeted sequences (energizing and relaxing) featuring Jason Crandall (familiar from previous Yoga Journal DVDs and web-vids) performing the poses by himself, with voice over. The long practice is a general presentation touching on all the elements presented in standard basic classes: sun salutations, standing poses, twists, backbends, forward bends. The baddha konasana/navasana sequence is especially nice. Jason’s instruction is quite good and the poses are held long enough to give the student an opportunity for exploration and muscle differentiation. (Nice change of pace from the many cursory, flingey vinyasa releases I see these days.)
The shorter practices are fine, very brief by necessity, but not rushed. And, although I don’t love them, it’s nice to see that they aren’t simply repeated footage from the longer session. And I like the clear labeling of the poses in Sanskrit and English throughout.
Although I very much like the classes Jason has presented for yogaglo.com I haven’t been that taken with his DVDs. This one is a pleasant surprise for me. I like the depth of instruction and attention to practice detail.
This DVD is appropriate for multi-level students. I’ve been practicing for over 15 years and I found enough to work with in the material. Admittedly I particularly enjoy revisiting more basic practices now and then, finding it easy enough to complicate things when appropriate. I think some previous yoga experience would be helpful – this one is maybe not appropriate for a beginner’s first look at yoga. There are some very helpful cues throughout to keep the student in touch with proprioception (more or less, the sense of parts of the body in relation to each other), which helps the practice disc function as a nice partner for the poses-in-the-round. And practice progressions are shown as the student becomes more proficcient, for example working on chaturanga from the knees toward full chaturanga.
Production Values: The photography is good: clean and crisp. However I’m not fond of the practice disc setting (I’ve seen this set or one like it on other Yoga Journal offerings) or music. We are presented with a diagonal view of what looks like the furniture display of a department store, without the furniture: distracting dark blue decorator wall with white window frame looking onto fake scenery. The over-all effect is more like being cornered than looking at a corner. The music is also not particularly pleasant: an attempt at Bryan Eno without Eno (doesn’t work for me). However those factors are really minor if you’re paying attention to your practice.
The background for the 360º is a pleasant void.
There is chaptering – not between poses, but between short sections. The 35 Poses are separately chaptered.
In short, I’d recommend this package to somewhat experienced beginners and more seasoned students who are revisiting their fundamental sense of practice. In the best of all possible worlds these two discs would function as one unite like Natasha Rizopoulus’s Yoga Journal Step by Step series (which Jason appears in as demonstrator) with its “chalk talk”. But the quantity of material and the capability of packaging the discs separately obviously made that approach unwieldy.
7 x 14 in.; watercolor, ink, whatever on paper.
Iyengar: When non-violence in speech, thought, and action is firmly established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one’s presence.
Peace in words, thoughts and deeds, whether awake or dreaming, is a sign of goodwill and love towards all, Iyengar says. I’ve noticed that when I do back off and become less aggressive, others do indeed also become less aggressive. That’s in general – sometimes people become more aggressive.
Bryant: In the presence of one who is established in non-violence, enmity is abandoned.
Bryant says that the yogi’s sattvic mind can pervade outward, and sattvicize the minds of the other beings and that even natural enemies like the cat and mouse can be observed doing this. He also points out the ancient stories of holy people taming wild animals (St. Francis taming a wild wolf). His commentary mentions Hariharananda: Dharana and meditation are needed to expose the violence in the mind. To me, this means that violence is hard to suppress if it is there – it should be exposed and processed through dharana and dhyana (mediation)
Taimni: On being firmly established in non-violence there is abandonment of hostility in (his) presence.
Taimni points out that it is almost never “firmly established” and is very hard to master. The student must practice the other elements of yama-niyama as they are intertwined. He likens this to an aura that spreads outwards.
Carerra: In the presence of one firmly established in non-violence, all hostilities cease.
Carerra says that yogis understand what violence causes pain in others and so brings compassion. It’s a study in psychology of what causes violence. He also speaks of the osmosis of non-violence. He points out from the Christian tradition a similar wisdom: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”
This sutra is closely related to 2.33 and continues the train of thought. I love the idea of pratipaksa bhavanam or having opposite thoughts to prevent the thoughts that cause pain.
Iyengar: Uncertain knowledge giving rise to violence whether done directly or indirectly or condoned, is caused by greed, anger, or delusion in the mild, moderate, or intense degree. It results in endless pain and ignorance. Through introspection comes the end of pain and ignorance.
Iyengar comments that pain comes of three types, over indulgence in pleasure, non-deliberate habits, and genetic or hereditary causes. Only through discrimination, that dubious knowledge, vitarka, is curtailed.
Bryant: Negative thoughts are violence, etc. They may be [personally] performed, performed on ones behalf by another, or authorized by oneself; they may be triggered by greed, anger, or delusion; and they may be slight, moderate, or extreme in intensity. One should cultivate counteracting thoughts, namely, that the end results [of negative thoughts] are ongoing suffering and ignorance.
Bryant comments on the various ways violence can be done. For example, killing an animal oneself is first category, purchasing the meat that has been killed by someone else is the second type, and allowing meat consumption to occur in ones sphere of influence, even if you don’t consume it, is the third type. This was a revelation to me as I grew up with the ten commandments and only considered the first type.
Taimni: As improper thoughts, emotions (and actions) such as those of violence, etc. whether they are done (indulged in), caused to be done or abetted, whether caused by greed, anger, or delusion, whether present in mild, medium, or intense degree, result in endless pain and ignorance; so there is the necessity of pondering over opposites.
Taimni points out many of the same points as the other commentators but also says that the yamas and niyamas cannot be practiced separately as they are all tightly interwoven. He says that this sutra describes the factors to transform undesirable tendencies into desired tendencies. How many self help books days could be condensed by meditating on this one sutra ;-).
Carerra: When negative thoughts or acts such as violence and so on are caused to be done, or even approved of, whether incited by greed, anger, or infatuation, whether indulged in with mild, medium or extreme intensity, they are based on ignorance and bring certain pain. Reflecting thus is also pratipaksha bavanam.
Carerra says that yoga provides two ways to counter negative thoughts. Suppression is not one of them as the thought will most likely return. Bringing attention to an opposite thought, for example reflecting on peace when anger emerges is one technique. The second techniques is for after the negativity passes – use self study and self reflection to understand the root of the negativity and try to burn the seed that started it.