All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘Ashtanga Yoga’

Years end at Near East Yoga

 

Dear Friends,

The following text is also the content of my email newsletter. My primary source of communication about Near East Yoga is in person, via email, text or phone. Feel free to sign up for the email under the tab “new students” posted above- most emails will not be “years end letters” in length and mostly reflect what is currently happening in the room or trainings I am involved with outside.

~Thanks for taking the time to read my refection about 2019 ~

Here we are in the last days of fall 2019 and a long way to go before the holidays are fully satisfied, where we can then settle in for winter. With Solstice, Christmas Day (also the new moon day) and New Years falling mid-week, many of our usual activities will take a back seat to a needed and maybe for some, forced, two weeks to care for ourselves and others.

Not everyone will be so lucky though and I encourage you to offer a “hand-in” any place you can. Supporting the homeless during the days around Christmas is especially needed. It is very expensive to live without the amenities of a home, so a few bucks extra helps them have a better time to. 

Sadly, the local community  is saying farewell to Portland Ashtanga Yoga, supported by Jason Stein. Jason has been part of Near East Yoga since his family moved here in 2007, supporting my absence while I visited India for 6 months that year. Our friendship began in 2002 where we were both active contributors in an online forum dedicated to ashtanga yoga leading to spending time both in India and various yoga adventures on the west coast. 

I was surprised when I heard of the closure but not that Jason was taking a step in a new direction. We have been friends for a long while, through many variations of form. I can certainly resonate with the fact that to do yoga for a long while, you are going to change a lot- and so will the need to express the growth brought by yoga practice. 

His departure from teaching gave me a lot to think about both in our shared history with the practice but also what it means to transform via yoga, how we don’t really know what will rise up in us and if we will have the presence to receive and activate in what has been revealed. 

Jason trained to be a firefighter and is taking the empowerment of his many years of practice and bringing that energy to the greater community. I can’t think of person more equipped to shape and serve the world via an institution like Columbia River Fire and Rescue. For those who know Jason, you can imagine the benefit of his energy and personality in a crisis. 

Near East Yoga is going through some changes as well. Not in so much with me personally holding space, as I am more committed than ever. In October I signed a 5 year lease with an extended 5 year option. The owners  actively sought to keep the unique community in the Lithic Building intact rather than evict, teardown then re-develop. We, the tenants, are all grateful to be able to carry on while much of Portland changes quickly and not always for the better.  One of the main perks is they have given me permission to install a mini-split heat and a/c unit, which is nice upgrade for us. Hopefully that can happen in the spring. 

Anyway, I chose this extended route at a place in my life where I could have taken a path out of teaching and holding space, and gone into new territory where I can express myself through different means. I gave serious consideration to retiring. But under the surface, the reason I opened the studio in the first place and became a teacher at all, is because I have a personal desire to remain close to the teachings and to practice and am called to be a support in the world no matter where I am. Teaching yoga has been an amazing experience and I look forward to the next chapter that unfolds. 

To jump off now, right when the energy is so potent, when I don’t nearly feel done with the work, keeps me coming back. And I am finding many ways to both be an artist as a yogi. What the community has allowed me to explore through service and teaching all these years has been a great gift to me and I plan to continue to give that back in and out of the room. In a deeper way my decision to remain was about the needs of the community to have a space like Near East Yoga. My effort can shift gears to make room for others to support as well and the future is opening up as long time practitioners and a new younger crew merge to keep ashtanga yoga in Portland vital and present. 

2019 is closing out to be a year where many things came into alignment for me. A principle feature was I turned 50 and my time spent in the ashtanga lineage grew to 20 years. The positive aspects of aging combined with doing yoga are hard to deny and this is not just about having a useful body. My view and my mind have been altered.  I am being more careful to take my time and appreciate the moment especially in my vinyasa practice but also in how I direct my effort toward life in general. The adage often touted about “taking yoga off the mat” has resulted in me not using a mat at all. A constant practice has more meaning to me without adding any confines of place or time. I am either in, or not- and really, its only up to me to tell the difference. 

Many of my friends had babies in 2019, like more than 10 couples in my immediate circle… including our own Melissa. This mass birth event gave me a lot to think about regarding my role in supporting others but also being supported in return. and holding a stable place as a new generation comes in. AsI don’t have my own kids to support, staying the course is the best thing to do. 

I also was able to complete the building of a tiny home in my back yard with the help of a knowledgable and trusted friend. Between classes actually… It was cool, educational, hard, sometimes grueling, self-defining and revolutionary for my soul, and then it was done;  just like a yoga practice. Except it lasted 5 months and produced a viable home for someone to live. Not quite having a baby I know. Either way the little house reminds me that we all had a big year and as a resulting symbol, the ritual of building it gave a lot of meaning to the changes and reminds me that effort and intention can have beautiful, lasting results.

Holding Near East Yoga as the stable entity we all know and love comes naturally for me many ways. I really enjoy the dynamic of leadership through service and I do well with routine. The work is  not without some stresses and is not entirely accomplished by my own power. So here are a few gratitudes I like to send out and also shine a light on what the next year will bring. 

First off, let’s all thank the cleaners, our dedicated members who make the effort between class times, deferring to the devoted straggler, only to come back later to complete the work. Throw your hands up in joy over the luxury of possessing the means of  self-practice, a soft start time with dependable keyless access now.

Regarding the teaching support in the room, made possible by long years of  dedication, I’m bowing to the others who share in the practice and help us tend to our focus, the official and unofficial alike. You know who you are. I hope you think of all of us when you need the power to be in your yoga. I have thought many times about this community when it was really needed.

In 2019  I began curating classes to fill the times adjacent to the Mysore classes.  People dedicated to a useful niche are coming in to offer teachings and methods that are worthy of support. I am also aware how hard its for a teacher or healing artist to make an offering. Space is hard to come by and expensive. So the folks you see offering classes are ones I asked personally to be in the space. They bring community in an organic way that shares and grows slowly rather than overwhelms.

Even though there is a dedicated sangha supporting the entity, Near East Yoga needs to add people regularly to continue. As 2020 comes into focus, I am hoping the extra classes offered will help Near East Yoga be better known and well attended. It’s not lost on me the precious and soft vibe of a sparsely filled space. That said, I’d like to add 20 regular ashtangis this year and hope the stable base of people here remains. 

Advertising about yoga seems counterintuitive as I would rather  meet a person who feels called rather than compelled.  The idea of “attraction rather than promotion” appears in the form of a guaranteed room and teacher supported times for Mysore, a robust and informed exploration fo the Yoga Sutra and other vital texts, medicinal singing via the Reunion Kirtan, a pending 5th iteration of the 28 Days of Kirtan and the lasting dedication of the Pranayama cohort. My goal has been to vertically integrate many aspects of a yoga experience in a one room schoolhouse. 

In addition these in-house offerings I have been scheduled in 2019 by four yoga teacher training programs to provide the yoga theory aspect of their curriculum and believe this growing trend will continue. This kind of work means a lot to me. People deserve to be more informed but it takes a practiced attempt to convey the information. Considering what I have put into my study I feel well suited for this role. 

A situation that requires a light that I have needed to communicate and publicly address is the lingering issue in the ashtanga community regarding the sexual abuse perpetrated by Pattabhi Jois, the founder of the ashtanga yoga method and who I learned from starting in 1999. Yes, him too. Sort of a downer for a holiday email. You may have noticed the removal of his image from the studio earlier in the year and the absence of the regular invocation (there are few layers here that I will explain later). 

In a follow up to this email, after the new year I will write something about the issues related to Pattabhi Jois and how I have been addressing them, immediately and for a long time. I was not aware of him being a sexual abuser until 2017, although I  intuitively omitted many of the boundary crossing and possibly inappropriate adjustments he was prone to offer.  I do have first hand knowledge of his power to injure his students. This might offer an understanding regarding the origins of my own adjustment style.

Jois’ teachings were not just positive, he damaged a lot of people under the banner of yoga and lineage. People allowed him to get away with it for years because they were attached to an outcome based on the false idea of reciprocating powers projected on to him. The issue is grounds for a deeper study which hopefully can come to pass early in 2020. As it stands, I never brought the role of Jois into our room and kept my distance from Mysore and what changes came about there,  so I don’t have much of a voice of influence in the greater community of ashtanga yoga. But for us, I’d like to see the Jois Abuses be a teachable moment pointing toward actively seeking knowledge from within as self-ownership of the power seat in anyone’s experience of yoga. 

For now please be aware that the topic has been covered extensively during the Yoga Sutra discussions on Fridays and I will be covering the topic in a future email. Your thoughts and feedback are wanted and appreciated. 

Beyond what is going on in the room, my personal life is very full in partnership with Mandy, tending to our home, 3 dogs, 3 cats and our community outside of yoga . My desire to make music and collaborate with others has good roots and branches (years of kirtan has helped) but needs to be explored to fully manifest in me feeling satisfied. Maybe this will be the year I finally take the stage and share whats been wanting to come out all these years. I am a trained builder now and love working with all materials and hope to create more either in forms or sounds. Maybe there is a poet in there someplace. I’d like to find this part of myself as the years pass. 

My wish for you, in the classic version of wishes made in the  holiday season, where the potency seems high and the intention strong- is that you remain uninjured in your body and can see perfection in whatever stance you take. That as the physical world of things and movements unfolds, you remain stable in your self and can roll with the changes. That you feel safe in your homes and personal identities, free to be with whomever and whatever you love. That you have the poise to be the support in the needs of an aging parent, an ill friend or a troubled child. That your yoga practice brings you to both an understanding of both personal power and peace in the present state, where doing and accomplishment reside in the same moment. 

Happy 2020 to everyone. The space at Near East Yoga is open  for you and I hope to see soon and often- 

Casey 

Hanuman Finds Sita In The Ashoka Grove And Shows Her Ramas Ring

Notes on Hanuman Chalisa Practice

Last Tuesday at 6am, roughly approximates the 6 month mark for the current version of the Near East Yoga Hanuman Chalisa sadhana. After a well attended start the practice has dwindled down to the most devoted. we have taken to singing in harmonies and even recored a session. Since its a permanent addition to the schedule and a remaining part of “28 Days of Kirtan” dating near the end of the lunar year 2015, it’s never to late to come join us who hold it dear.

As a personal practice, the song has been in my body, speech and mind for 13 years, coming to prominence as I began my study of the deeper connections of chanting, yoga philosophy and Sanskrit. The Chalisa or 40 verses, a Hindi poem about the auspicious deeds of Hanuman, attracted me, like many others, due to the resonating tones of Krishna Das and the mystery surrounding yoga as a workable philosophy hidden in a foreign language. It is still a work in progress that never fails to reveal itself as I grow with it.

When it finally dawned on me that to learn Hanuman Chalisa would require a lot of effort,  I took to chanting it 7 times a day, every day for 7 months until I could sing along unprompted and eventually learn in by heart. In the beginning it was nearly impossible to shape my mouth to make the right sounds but eventually I learned and have been helping others work with it in different incarnations for a decade. Many of you hold it dear as well and it’s a part of how our group practices.

Our tradition of Ashtanga yoga holds it in its heart do to a New York City  connection that the folks I learned the method from brought to Portland back in the late 1990s. Krishna Das and the Jivamukti Center in NYC were instrumental in establishing kirtan as a vital part of Ashtanga Yoga. Tim Miller, one of the founding American teachers of Ashtanga Yoga holds the Hanuman ethic in the form of “Service to God” through yoga teaching and support and he has been an inspiring light to many Ashtangis through his unswerving dedication.

For me, in my early service to yogis, the fables of Hanuman, his discovery of his latent abilities though his service and devotion to Rama related in the Hanuman Chalisa became a personal code and a secret mission I continue to this day. Having just completed my college years in the time leading up to the start of Near East Yoga, one of the final classes I took was a seminar on leadership. The resonating feature of this experience was that to lead was to serve. Holding space for Ashtanga Yoga allowed me to serve without really knowing where it was all going. The adage of Sri K Pattabhi Jois “do your practice, all is coming” allowed me to focus on the method and keeping the room clean and open. The rest, Yoga Sutra, Kirtan, Bhagavad Gita, the nature of the sangha and how my life unfolded has developed on it’s own, naturally over time.

The Hanuman Chalisa opened me up to keeping the work pure and simple, to protect the door and support the yogis within. Two verses, 21 and 30 have been like mantra to me as they describe how Hanuman guards the door of Rama and protects Sadhus or holy practitioners against demons- take the later part as metaphor for distraction or dilution and you can understand the effects of 15 years of just a simple practice. I always say thanks Guruji at this point. When it comes to service, his ethic to serve the practice and all is coming continues to reveal his shining face smiling down on us. As it often feels like this whole yoga thing is just getting  traction, I look forward to serving anyone who finds benefit in what Near East Yoga has to offer however simple.

Lastly and what inspired me to write this post, relates to the photo below of Hanuman revealing to Sita, imprisoned by Ravana in his luxurious garden in Sri Lanka, Rama’s ring that signified that Rama was searching for her and she should be inspired to be soon found and not give up hope. He appears to her (9th verse) in what the Chalisa states as Shooksma-rupa or “tiny-formed” referring to one of his many powers of manifestation. As a student of the hidden meaning in ancient verses, Hanuman here teaches that sometimes small is the most potent form when a special meaning is being passed among intimates. For me the teachings of of yoga and dharma are so soft and subtle that often we only find them out when we have grown quiet, maybe lonely, waiting in the garden of our own oppression wondering why we have been forgotten, when in that very moment a small gesture from a devoted being saying be not afraid, I come as an emissary from the Beloved who right now is looking for you- which to me says a lot about integrating our inner-self with the moment and being right sized in our expectations of the aggregate of the human condition.

Hanuman, the ultimate shapeshifter, also grows big when the time is right, which we will save for another day-

For now, may we all grow small and be powerful and open to revelation in our own way.

Blessings- Casey

 

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