Tag Archives: yoga culture

Yoga Resume?

It’s 2014, ya’ll. I’ve seen so many modern clashes with yoga, especially in the last four years or so, I’ve had to take a step back and contemplate whether or not to remain a part of it all.

Twerking in a “yoga” class (for real, though?? Another blog is coming of that one…), America’s cursed classism/racism divides, yogi-preneur courses, and the iconoclasm of asana (my unintentional contribution below! Please definitely read some of my posts on asana if these images lead you to believe I equate asana with yoga ;)).

But I can’t stay away from sharing a practice that’s not just transformed me for the better, it’s literally saved my life. That and … the universe keeps talking to me, “Teach again, Jogini, it’s time!”

Back when I was friggidy fresh out of teacher training, I always had a yoga resume handy. For a good few chapters in my life, I moved countries or states almost every year, so re-establishing myself became a fine art and science.  I still have a yoga resume, though I haven’t really needed to use it much since coming home. This time ’round, I made a conscious decision to work at a non-profit full time and not pursue teaching opportunities.

Now, those opportunities are pursuing me, through friends, family, new acquaintances, and other teachers I’m meeting along the way.

First of all, I’m honored. And at the moment, I’m not sure how necessary a yoga resume is any more. Going through the latest iteration of my resume, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m missing something, some training, or experience . . . some crucial part of the story that’s not being told. It doesn’t specify that each class includes pranayam and meditation. Nor does it really say all the places where I’ve taught. There are no images (though I use them in online mediums), and definitely no stories.

Then again, let’s face it, resumes are fairly limited in their narrative capacity, and is a “resume” even an appropriate summation of a yoga teacher’s ability? Is a resume too Western or modern a way to present a yoga teacherʻs skills?

Whatever the answers to those questions may be, as part of the process of transitioning from “consciously not teaching” to “opening to teaching again,” I’m posting the short version of the resume, along with my asana photo album, as a symbolic gesture 🙂 And it feels really good to do it!

JoanneOSKellyYoga

 

Advertisements

More Meditation for NYC Yogis!

Something I’ve noticed, having just moved to New York from studying in India for five months, is how body-oriented and almost militant the method of teaching yoga can really be here.  It’s as though teachers want to cram as many asanas in a class as possible – more bang for your buck! – a typical American approach to, well, just about everything.  In India, pranayam & meditation are still quite prominent, and other forms of yoga, like Bhakti and Karma, are just as popular – if not more so! – than Hatha.

It had me wondering just where I fit into the big picture here, how I could contribute something beneficial to my new community …

Hiking Yogis in Central Park.

And then, voila!  This hope-filled article from the NY Times discusses a “new trend” in bringing meditation back to the mat here in NYC.  I find this both thrilling and kinda funny for a few reasons.  For one thing, meditation has always been a part of yoga.  The earliest scriptural evidence we have (the Rig Veda, written between 1700–1100 BC) discusses yoga as a meditation – in fact, asana is not even mentioned for hundreds of years later.  So, the yoga scholar (read: nerd) in me scoffs at this notion that meditation was ever not a part of yoga.

Then again, when you look at the way so many schools have popped up here, and how the physical aspect of a yogic lifestyle came to be so central in the definition of yoga in the West, indeed, many people have lost sight of the “real yoga” on this side of the world.  Recent publications have highlighted yoga’s modern body-oriented history, like Mark Singleton’s Yoga Body, and Elizabeth De Michelis’s A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericism.

Yogis gathering before Rodney and Colleen Yee's class at the YJ Conference.

At the Yoga Journal Conference here in New York last weekend, I noticed the master teachers’ language had really changed.  Their verbiage was a kind of response to this accusation/observation that American yogis had become all-too obsessed with the body.  Rodney Yee even came right out and said, “Yoga is not just about acrobatics, it’s about more than that,” the frustration in his voice unmistakable.  He led the class through a sushumna-focued asana class, referencing ahimsa (one of the yamas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the first document to comprehensively outline yoga as a practice and philosophy, though it had been cited in several scriptures previous to its compilation somewhere between 500 BC and 300 CE).

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

In any case, here’s the article from the Times.  Get ready for some meditation, NYC, lawd knows you could use it!

April 20, 2012

Putting Meditation Back on the Mat

By CAREN OSTEN GERSZBERG

SEATED cross-legged on a black cushion atop a yoga mat, I struggled to keep my eyes closed and repeat the Sanskrit mantra in my head: ham-sa — I am that. Outside, on Third Avenue, police sirens wailed and cars honked as I tried to sit still in a room with eight other meditation students, keeping my breath slow and steady. Just as I was about to lose the focus on my breath, a soothing voice nearby chimed in: “You can hear the noises without getting attached to them. The attention comes from the inside.”

The voice belonged to Michael Bartelle, a tall, slender yoga and meditation teacher. The city kept up its racket, but for the next 18 minutes, Mr. Bartelle thoughtfully guided our midday meditation, occasionally offering encouraging comments. It was part of a one-hour class at Ishta Yoga that included movement and breathing exercises.

Ishta Yoga, with studios in Greenwich Village and on the Upper East Side, is one of a growing number of yoga centers in the city that are reporting increased meditation on the mat.

The asanas, or poses, of yoga are traditionally meant to prepare the body for meditation. But as yoga has been consumed by the gym and physical fitness industry in recent years — to the tune of an international yoga championship — many people have come to yoga for the workout, period.

Still, once they are there, they are often introduced to meditation, as well.

“Yoga is the gateway that opens the door for people to try modalities that they normally wouldn’t,” said Beth Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit, a fitness education program, based in Los Angeles that trains many of the yoga teachers at the city’s more than 50 New York Sports Clubs. A team from the clubs recently discussed with YogaFit the possibility of a meditation workshop at its annual conference for fitness professionals, which will be held in November in New York.

Cyndi Lee, the owner of Om Yoga near Union Square, which recently announced it would close its studio in late June, has an explanation for the seemingly greater enthusiasm for meditation among yoga students.

“The yoga community in New York City has matured,” Ms. Lee said. “I remember a time when we started with five minutes of meditation and a woman got annoyed and said: ‘I want to move. I want to sweat.’ Now they want to meditate.”

In August, Om Yoga introduced a meditation teacher-training program and has been running twice-weekly meditation classes. The Integral Yoga Institute, Jivamukti Yoga School and Pure Yoga, all in Manhattan, are among other centers reporting more students in their meditation classes.

At Ishta Yoga, Alan Finger, the founder and co-owner, said: “There’s a flood of more people wanting more meditation. I used to have about three classes a week — I stepped it up to five.” (A sixth is taught by Mr. Bartelle, alternating with Peter Ferko.)

Mr. Finger says that students often get a sense of what meditation is like by being in savasana, or corpse pose, at the end of a yoga class.

“At first, when people are in savasana, they may have a little snooze, but as they come and get more into it, they start to feel a different presence and say, ‘That was like meditation,’ and they start to explore more.”

Though most studios charge a fee for meditation classes that involve instruction, some, like the Jaya Yoga Center in Brooklyn, include meditation on their schedule simply to provide a time and space for people to come and sit, free.

“When people come in after a day of work or wake up in the morning, they are happy to shift their attention to something that’s a little more relaxing,” said Carla Stangenberg, who owns one of Jaya’s studios and co-owns the other. “Focusing on the breath and some phrases just calms you down, especially in New York City, where everything is just spinning around.”

A staff member keeps the time, and the rest is up to you and your breath. But why not just do it at home if you’re not getting guidance?

For many people, meditating in a group provides a deeper, more satisfying experience.

“Meditation is kind of like a dance class in that it’s better with other people,” said David Grotell, a student at my Ishta Yoga class. “There’s something about the energy. It would seem that if you’re not talking to people you’re not in contact, but you somehow feel close to others when you are meditating in a way that is not obvious.”

The heightened interest in meditation in yoga studios may be part of a larger movement toward the practice, which is clearly more mainstream than during the transcendental meditation craze of the 1970s.

When Sharon Salzberg, a meditation expert and teacher, began giving meditation workshops at Tibet House in the Flatiron district in 1999, about 30 people were in attendance. This winter, her class filled the room to its capacity, 135 people, with the overflow crowd finding space to sit on the floor.

“Meditation is no longer seen as fringe, esoteric and weird,” Ms. Salzberg said. “Its main association is now its link as a stress-reduction modality, and not just for coping, but also for flourishing.”

The Art of Living Foundation, an educational nonprofit organization, once offered a single meditation workshop a week at its office in Midtown; it now has four a week because of rising demand.

In addition to offering workshops at its Manhattan office, I Meditate NY, an initiative of the foundation, has teamed up with partners to offer meditation at various branches of the New York Public Library and at Whole Foods’ Wellness Club in TriBeCa. The next event, currently in its planning stages, is a meditation workshop in Central Park.

City College of New York is scheduled to begin a 10-week evening class next month called Introduction to the Organic Meditation Process. Part of CUNY’s Continuing and Professional Education Program, it will be open to those with and without meditation experience.

“Meditation helps you learn how to not be controlled by your emotions,” the teacher, Antonia Martinez, said. Or as Ms. Lee of Om Yoga put it, “People are realizing that meditation is a way to work with your mind, and the benefits are said to bring strength, stability and clarity.”

Anusara Scandal No Big Surprise

I found this article on the NYT and had to repost … there are some interesting references to Hatha’s origin that are rarely addressed, and to be frank, I was always a little skeptical of Anusara since my unfortunate encounter with their posterboy when I lived in Tucson.  Check out the NYT article for a nic balance of yoga goss and history …

By WILLIAM J. BROAD for the NY Times

The wholesome image of yoga took a hit in the past few weeks as a rising star of the discipline came tumbling back to earth. After accusations of sexual impropriety with female students, John Friend, the founder of Anusara, one of the world’s fastest-growing styles, told followers that he was stepping down for an indefinite period of “self-reflection, therapy and personal retreat.”

Mr. Friend preached a gospel of gentle poses mixed with openness aimed at fostering love and happiness. But Elena Brower, a former confidante, has said that insiders knew of his “penchant for women” and his love of “partying and fun.”

Few had any idea about his sexual indiscretions, she added. The apparent hypocrisy has upset many followers.

“Those folks are devastated,” Ms. Brower wrote in The Huffington Post. “They’re understandably disappointed to hear that he cheated on his girlfriends repeatedly” and “lied to so many.”

But this is hardly the first time that yoga’s enlightened facade has been cracked by sexual scandal. Why does yoga produce so many philanderers? And why do the resulting uproars leave so many people shocked and distraught?

One factor is ignorance. Yoga teachers and how-to books seldom mention that the discipline began as a sex cult — an omission that leaves many practitioners open to libidinal surprise.

Hatha yoga — the parent of the styles now practiced around the globe — began as a branch of Tantra. In medieval India, Tantra devotees sought to fuse the male and female aspects of the cosmos into a blissful state of consciousness.

The rites of Tantric cults, while often steeped in symbolism, could also include group and individual sex. One text advised devotees to revere the female sex organ and enjoy vigorous intercourse. Candidates for worship included actresses and prostitutes, as well as the sisters of practitioners.

Hatha originated as a way to speed the Tantric agenda. It used poses, deep breathing and stimulating acts — including intercourse — to hasten rapturous bliss. In time, Tantra and Hatha developed bad reputations. The main charge was that practitioners indulged in sexual debauchery under the pretext of spirituality.

Early in the 20th century, the founders of modern yoga worked hard to remove the Tantric stain. They devised a sanitized discipline that played down the old eroticism for a new emphasis on health and fitness.

B. K. S. Iyengar, the author of “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965, exemplified the change. His book made no mention of Hatha’s Tantric roots and praised the discipline as a panacea that could cure nearly 100 ailments and diseases. And so modern practitioners have embraced a whitewashed simulacrum of Hatha.

But over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense.

Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms. In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. More recently, scientists at the University of British Columbia have documented how fast breathing — done in many yoga classes — can increase blood flow through the genitals. The effect was found to be strong enough to promote sexual arousal not only in healthy individuals but among those with diminished libidos.

In India, recent clinical studies have shown that men and women who take up yoga report wide improvements in their sex lives, including enhanced feelings of pleasure and satisfaction as well as emotional closeness with partners.

At Rutgers University, scientists are investigating how yoga and related practices can foster autoerotic bliss. It turns out that some individuals can think themselves into states of sexual ecstasy — a phenomenon known clinically as spontaneous orgasm and popularly as “thinking off.”

The Rutgers scientists use brain scanners to measure the levels of excitement in women and compare their responses with readings from manual stimulation of the genitals. The results demonstrate that both practices light up the brain in characteristic ways and produce significant rises in blood pressure, heart rate and tolerance for pain — what turns out to be a signature of orgasm.

Since the baby boomers discovered yoga, the arousal, sweating, heavy breathing and states of undress that characterize yoga classes have led to predictable results. In 1995, sex between students and teachers became so prevalent that the California Yoga Teachers Association deplored it as immoral and called for high standards.

“We wrote the code,” Judith Lasater, the group’s president, told a reporter, “because there were so many violations going on.”

If yoga can arouse everyday practitioners, it apparently has similar, if not greater, effects on gurus — often charming extroverts in excellent physical condition, some enthusiastic for veneration.

The misanthropes among them offer a bittersweet tribute to yoga’s revitalizing powers. A surprising number, it turns out, were in their 60s and 70s.

Swami Muktananda (1908-82) was an Indian man of great charisma who favored dark glasses and gaudy robes.

At the height of his fame, around 1980, he attracted many thousands of devotees — including movie stars and political celebrities — and succeeded in setting up a network of hundreds of ashrams and meditation centers around the globe. He kept his main shrines in California and New York.

In late 1981, when a senior aide charged that the venerated yogi was in fact a serial philanderer and sexual hypocrite who used threats of violence to hide his duplicity, Mr. Muktananda defended himself as a persecuted saint, and soon died of heart failure.

Joan Bridges was one of his lovers. At the time, she was 26 and he was 73. Like many other devotees, Ms. Bridges had a difficult time finding fault with a man she regarded as a virtual god beyond law and morality.

“I was both thrilled and confused,” she said of their first intimacy in a Web posting. “He told us to be celibate, so how could this be sexual? I had no answers.”

To denounce the philanderers would be to admit years of empty study and devotion. So many women ended up blaming themselves. Sorting out the realities took years and sometimes decades of pain and reflection, counseling and psychotherapy. In time, the victims began to fight back.

Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002) was a superstar of yoga who gave the invocation at Woodstock. In 1991, protesters waving placards (“Stop the Abuse,” “End the Cover Up”) marched outside a Virginia hotel where he was addressing a symposium.

“How can you call yourself a spiritual instructor,” a former devotee shouted from the audience, “when you have molested me and other women?”

Another case involved Swami Rama (1925-96), a tall man with a strikingly handsome face. In 1994, one of his victims filed a lawsuit charging that he had initiated abuse at his Pennsylvania ashram when she was 19. In 1997, shortly after his death, a jury awarded the woman nearly $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

So, too, former devotees at Kripalu, a Berkshires ashram, won more than $2.5 million after its longtime guru — a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity — confessed to multiple affairs.

The drama with Mr. Friend is still unfolding. So far, at least 50 Anusara teachers have resigned, and the fate of his enterprise remains unclear. In his letter to followers, he promised to make “a full public statement that will transparently address the entirety of this situation.”

The angst of former Anusara teachers is palpable. “I can no longer support a teacher whose actions have caused irreparable damage to our beloved community,” Sarah Faircloth, a North Carolina instructor, wrote on her Web site.

But perhaps — if students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do — they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.

William J. Broad is the author of “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards,” published this month by Simon & Schuster.

image: YogaNet.co.uk

Yoga Mat Culture on Elephant Journal

To read the full article, click here!

A little appetizer . . .

Within minutes of laying down my mat carefully on the cold cement floor at my teacher’s tiny studio in the back alleys of Varanasi, he walked right across it, leaving a foot-shaped trail of dust, dirt, and a healthy dose of dried up cow poop.

Hm.

Here comes the ‘yogi in a cave’ voice – this time with a hint of desperation in her tone:

Just let it go.

We’re all One anyway, right?

Now you’re closer to Mother Nature.

None of these words of wisdom in the back of my head could stop me from sifting through my bag for the package of wet wipes I always keep on me in sanitation-challenged countries. “One” or not, do I really want poop on my face?

To read the full article, click here!