Let tapas burn and let go

This has been a year of intense fire for me, as it has been for several of my friends, students and colleagues. When the tapas burn so hot that I think I may burn up along with all the impurities, challenges and sufferings that tapas escorts away, how do we stay open, clear, and really take refuge in change rather than fight or wallow? Danna Faulds brilliant poems on just these subjects give me courage and solace; perhaps her words will help you in your struggles. What gets you through the challenging times?

Be well.

Allow, a Poem by Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.

Try corralling a lightning bolt,

containing a tornado.  Dam a

stream and it will create a new

channel.  Resist, and the tide

will sweep you off your feet.

Allow, and grace will carry

you to higher ground.  The only

safety lies in letting it all in –

the wild and the weak; fear,

fantasies, failures and success.

When loss rips off the doors of

the heart, or sadness veils your

vision with despair, practice

becomes simply bearing the truth.

In the choice to let go of your

known way of being, the whole

world is revealed to your new eyes.

Let It Go, by Danna Faulds

Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold:
the holding of plans or dreams or expectations – Let it all go.

Save your strength to swim with the tide.

The choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts to flee from the very energy you long for. Let go.

Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes
through your days whether you received it gently
or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders.
Take this on faith; the mind may never find the
explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward
nonetheless.

Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry
you to unknown shores, beyond your wildest dreams
or destinations.

Let it all go and find the place of
rest and peace, and certain transformation.

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Making a difference

Attending a talk by the always inspirational, Jack Kornfield last week at Spirit Rock presented the serendipitous good luck to run into friends I had not seen in a long while. Sitting together with them taking in Jack’s message that we can retain our dignity and essential joy within human life’s messiness was a perfect moment…

We were all there to learn from this eminent, humble teacher and all of us in my little group were also involved with education: yoga teachers, meditation teachers, teacher trainers, authors, an elementary school teacher, mentors, one completing her dissertation for her PhD…all of us advancing, developing, sharing, improving ours and other lives through education at all stages of life…but there is more, so much more to do.

I reflected on this wonder of education, how it shapes a life, how so many do not have access to education— basic elementary education, academic opportunities, life skills, and more. We savvy sages are called upon to educate the next generation as part of our seva. Whether you are drawn to help educate youth, young yoga teachers, entrepreneurs, empower girls through education, reduce poverty through education, there are no shortage of opportunities for all of us to make a difference. No action is too small—maybe it’s volunteering to tutor, mentor a young person, write a book, article or op ed piece, perhaps it’s writing a big check to a worthy organization… We can all make a difference—one small action has that amazing ripple out effect.

There are so many ways to help improve access to education, so many good organizations to support that do this work. It immeasurably buoys my spirit to check in with some of the non-profits I do pro-bono and contract work for, fund raise for, or just generally champion – all education based, all working hard and effectively to make positive change. I am particularly committed to empowering young people’s access to education, educating to change global behavior around conservation, and of course championing the tools of yoga to bring substantive life changes for people in crisis! What areas are you passionate about?

I want to give them all a little space on the blog. The organizations range from local grass roots to global in scope — who knows maybe one of them will pique your interest to get involved:

Seeds of Learning www.seedsoflearning.org builds schools in poor communities in Central America. Volunteer groups of North American youth and adults travel to the works sites and work hard alongside community members to physically construct the schools. The benefit received is just as keen on the volunteer’s side as for the local people. The young people from the states we send down to these poor communities have a lesson of a lifetime in empathy, compassion, and cultural awareness and come back forever changed.  I have been on the advisory board of this organization for 7 years and am always enthused by Seeds’ charismatic Executive Director, Annie Bacon. Seeds runs on a very tight budget with most all monies raised going directly to programs. Check them out; maybe you’ll be inspired to join a work group building schools in Nicaragua. I’m going this summer again….

 

Wild Aid www.wildaid.org seeks change on a global scale educating consumers to change buying behavior of animal products to save endangered species. Through international celebrity spokespeople and top flight media campaigns they are fundamentally changing the conversation on conservation to focus on changing the demand for products rather trying to safeguard individual animals. WildAid is the only organization focused on reducing the demand for these products, with the strong and simple message: when the buying stops, the killing can too.  WOW!

Room to Read. www.roomtoread.org. What’s not to love about this amazing non-profit creating life changing educational initiatives around the globe from their San Francisco HQ? They raise scads of money and spend it to educate kids – improving literacy and working towards gender equality. They have special initiatives to educate girls in developing countries as they know that education is the single most important means of empowering girls with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process. Educating girls = improvement in family health, reduction of birth rates, and reduction of poverty.

Headstand www.headstand.org is an innovative non-profit organization that works to combat toxic stress in disadvantaged K–12 students through mindfulness, yoga, and character education. As a public school teacher, Headstand founder Katherine Priore, started practicing yoga as a way to relieve her own work-related stress and knew that yoga and mindfulness could help her young students. Her ideas took form in Headstand and she has grown this innovative nonprofit to a multi-school program that reaches more than 1200 students in inner-city schools in three cities. Headstand offers K–12 school programming, teacher training, and consulting on how to integrate social and emotional wellness strategies through mindfulness and yoga in school. To hear the students tell their stories of fundamental life changing experiences that would not have been possible without this program is truly inspiring.

The Art of Yoga. www.theartofyogaproject.org I have been an Ambassador for this Bay Area non-profit for 4 years, offering yoga events as fundraisers, and am always in awe of Mary Lynn Fitton and what she and her team do. The Art of Yoga Project focuses on early intervention to help at-risk and sexually exploited girls prepare for a positive future. AYP is revolutionizing the rehabilitation of girls by offering trauma-informed, strength-based, gender-responsive services. They are committed to leading teenage girls in the California juvenile justice system toward accountability to self, others, and community by providing practical tools to affect behavioral change. Created by nurse practitioner and yoga instructor Mary Lynn Fitton, the organization sends specially trained yoga teachers and art therapists into juvenile detention centers and rehabilitation facilities to teach a proprietary intervention program. They directly serve approximately 500 girls annually in northern California and they re mission driven to expand nationally! Go AYP!!! 

Namaste

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Angels Among Us

As I enjoyed my habit of coffee house cappuccino imbibing, I caught snippets of conversations from other people’s lives, stories that involve doubt, sadness, joy, betrayal, disappointment, worry and realized again that we are fragile, we are human, we are all connected…we all have similar stories, experience similar difficulties. And, as we get older, we have more stories!

“The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong….Suffering is part of life, and we don’t have to feel it’s happening because we personally made the wrong move.” Thank you, Pema Chodron—what a relief. Not that there is no sense of personal responsibility in life’s events, but it is a little freeing to keep in mind that we cannot control everything that happens to u and are not personally responsible for all that happens.

Thankfully in times of trouble we all have angels…as I wade through my own big life changes this year I need those angels; I am immeasurably grateful for those angels. Angels in the form of a girlfriend only a text message away, generous family members, a stranger who tosses out a random compliment that lifts my spirits, a friend who recommends me for a project, a strategic invitation to just the right event, keys arriving in the mail to my dear friend’s beach house to use “whenever I like,” the delicious time to enjoy an unhurried lunch with a woman I have been friends with since age 7.

Connection, kindness, being where you are and loving who you’re with for the time they’re with you…People (angels) come through for us when we are in need, sometimes without even knowing the effect they are having. Our angels help us transform, to understand more, to embrace our higher selves and, when we lose our way our angels help us right ourselves. Thank you angels of all stripes, sizes and species everywhere.

Lokha Samastha Sukhinho Bhavanthu.

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The sunset from Borobudur in Java, November 2012. Not possible to feel anything but grateful to be alive and experience such majesty.

 

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Transcendence of Bioluminescence

Last night can only be called magical. Tomales Bay was still, calm and warm (a once a decade occurrence) with the water like glass. I chose to go kayaking last night just by pure chance and so fortunate to have done so. I am consciously choosing to do activities that I have never done before but have always wanted to try, have neglected, or are out of my usual comfort zone–maybe even just a little scary. This is my yoga off the mat, taking the qualities to practice the challenging asana, bakasana, pincha mayurasana, drop back in urdvha danurasana off my mat– to practice courage and poise, trust, faith, and bravery in the larger world. Kayaking at night as a novice kayaker with a group of people I did not know qualified on all counts! We can never know if the timing is right, the day right, we just have to take the leap. What magic! In the twilight, I saw rays and leopard sharks — two swam close enough that I could have touched their fins. As deep darkness descended, the stars appeared, and the cormorants settled onto their tree perches of Hog Island with their other-wordly warblings, the thrill of sweeping my hand in the water as we glided through bioluminescent creatures lighting up was amazing. Exchanging my daily urban life for this unique moment in time in the natural world was deeply, even soulfully transcendent and rejuvenating.

Go do that which challenges you, intrigues you, even scares you a little bit. We never know when that bit of transcendence will occur but we can cultivate practices and experiences to open to the possibility!

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Love at all ages….

While most will know Bonnie Raitt as a talented musician, songstress, composer and multiple award winning artist, she is also a keen yogini and has been known to pop into  yoga classes in Northern California….But I’m noting her here not just because she is a graceful yogini still at the top of her game at 63 but to give a shout out to the  octogenarians in her video, my parents, yogis in spirit if not in practice. How you may wonder could my parents, not in the entertainment or music worlds, be connected to Bonnie Raitt? Raitt released her single and music video last year of Right Down the Line, a song that celebrates love between couples — couples of all ages, races, and sexual orientation. The elderly couple in her video are none other than Mary and Ed! Check ’em out! You have to stay attentive as they just flash on the screen a couple times at :45, 2:49 and 3:42…

With inside knowledge, I know that when they received the call from a friend of ours who is the entertainment business, my folks did not know who Bonnie Raitt was, had never watched a music video and did not have a clear idea of what this “gig” would entail; they did not know what to expect. But, they said yes. I love that state of being open to possibility for new experiences, a bit of adventure at any age…..Go Mom and Dad.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T_aMNbXVdA

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Tao Porchon Lynch–still going strong at 95

Imagine doing and teaching yoga for over 70 years and still being vital strong and gracious…..

“Don’t procrastinate,” she advises. “If you want to do something, remember that one minute after midnight, it’s already today.”

Check out this lovely interview with her.

/http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/07/18/meet-94-year-old-yoga-teacher/

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Musings on Aging and Yoga–the Importance of our Elder role models

Teaching my weekly Tuesday class, I was reminded of the sweetness of yoga at any age. Barbara, 82, who never misses a class, was next to my new student Hallie, 22—learning, exploring, enjoying the benefits of practice. Age in many ways is truly just a number for yogis – how fortunate we are to have an embodied practice that helps us remain healthy and agile as we age.

Practicing for over twenty years and teaching for eighteen, yoga brings ever-deepening joy, skill and knowledge to my practice. Yoga has brought me community with cherished friendships and fulfilling opportunities for studentship and inquiry. Practice has been my path to retain health, vitality, life balance, and the courage to be out in the world as I am, especially now, on the cusp of a new stage of life. In my 30’s yoga asana were fun and challenging; yoga studies, new philosophical territory that I only skimmed. Today, my practice is essential to feel good, really good, physically and emotionally. I still love the big poses and rigorous practice. With time the physicality of the practice will change but this isn’t daunting as I am confident other aspects of yoga will offer sustenance. That may already be happening; recently my interest in yoga history and philosophy bloomed so vigorously that I returned to graduate school to pursue this quest.

There remains a vastness to explore in my personal practice and to learn from more senior teachers. Perhaps really fine yoga teachers must be advanced in age (or wise beyond their years) because there is so much practice, reading, experience necessary to really know our subject. In this, there is no substitute for time. Elder yoga role models show me the way into my next decades. Indra Devi (1899-2001) and Vanda Scaravelli (1908-1999) are my icons as pioneering women teachers who moved into their 90s with indefatigable energy, wisdom, and presence. Dona Holleman, 70, helped me find courage in a difficult time and through her example, I realized that it is OK to be a fierce female teacher. Chad Hamrin, 62, demonstrates the wellspring a strong, inquiring practice brings to keep pedagogy fresh. Chad’s 36 years honing his teacher’s eye in Los Angeles inspire me to keep observing ever more deeply. Alice Rocky, 76, teaching yoga at the college of Marin for 32 years with no intention of retiring, offers an example of longevity in personal practice and career. Jaki Nett, 67, the most senior African American Iyengar yoga teacher in the world, offers great inspiration in living a fully integrated yoga life.

Every community has seasoned yogis in their midst; don’t miss the opportunities to study with them, and mine the formidable knowledge and inspiration you will find there.

 

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So Important to Honor joints

Thank you Charlotte Bell for this article. I regularly encourage my flexible students to practice “containment;” they don’t need to become more flexible for all the reasons you cite….http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/09/yogis-be-careful-with-your-joints-charlotte-bell/

And, for older yogis, strength and balance are the key. Sure flexibility is important to stay supple and moving, but the other two bring stability, confidence and fearlessness. The triumvirate keep us vital in our practice in our lives.

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Yoga for Healthy Aging

Inspired by some of the yoga community’s senior teachers — their wisdom, longevity, vitality….I delved into the history of some of these teachers who have been sharing their wisdom for decades. The result was an article on Healthy Aging that appeared in Yoga Journal, November 2012 edition, featuring Jaki Nett, Dona Holleman, and John Schumacher….Hope you’ll be inspired too!

From flexibilty to peace of mind, yoga develops qualities to keep you young at heart.

By Anne O’Brien and Grace Rubenstein

jackie nett

For Jaki Nett, a 68-year-old Iyengar instructor and former Playboy bunny, yoga at first was a path to salvation. “It gave me an escape from my wild life,” she says with characteristic bluntness. Over the decades, it has sustained and enriched the trailblazing practitioner through marital strife, illness, menopause, weight gain, and, now more than ever, the process of aging. Today, Nett is grateful for her practice and feels quite comfortable in her own skin.

“Yoga is absolutely essential to my aging with grace—physically, emotionally, and socially,” Nett says. “Now, I’m moving into that role as an elder teacher, maybe even a role model for older women, and I take pride in that. I accept the role with relish!”

In a culture that frames aging as a process of loss, a lifelong yoga practice offers myriad benefits. On a physical level, yoga can give you a strength and a suppleness that make it more likely you’ll enjoy an active life as you age. On a deeper level, it can provide a sense of self-acceptance and gratitude that is often missing in one’s younger years, as well as a gradual quieting of the ego as perfection ceases to be a goal.

The physical benefits of the practice over time—maintaining flexibility, lowering blood pressure, easing chronic conditions such as back pain and arthritis, and potentially helping to prevent major health crises like heart disease and strokes—are matched by an equal number of benefits that are less tangible. Yoga sharpens the mind, helps cultivate acceptance, hones discipline, and fortifies a sense of self.

As they reflect on their lives, dedicated yogis point to the internal gifts of practice as the ones they have come to value the most. Flexibility, skill, and vitality continue to sustain their bodies as they get older, but the self-acceptance, self-knowledge, and forgiveness that deepen and grow through yoga practice make aging a process of more, not less, enjoyment.

“I believe I’m practicing now for my old age—to keep movement and suppleness in my shoulders, my hips, my spine; to retain strength,” Nett says. “The intensity of practice that I sought in youth isn’t as appealing to body or mind, but I can still play in my body and enjoy my asana.”

Coming Home

Jaki Nett’s life in yoga began decades ago while she was in the midst of nearly a dozen years of serving drinks at the Playboy Club in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and 1970s. She had a shapely size-zero body and a snappy style, but she led a chaotic life of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” She says, deep down, “I knew I had to get out of the lifestyle.”

Driving to work every day, she would pass a little studio with a huge sign that said, simply, “Yoga.” It always caught her eye. Finally, in 1973, Nett went to a class and began to let go. “I cried in every class for two months,” she says.

“It came from that surprising depth where tears of joy flow. It’s like when you reunite with an old friend or return to the comforts of home and realize how much you have missed it,” Nett explains.

Coming home to yoga can exert a powerful, positive influence from the beginning, overwhelming habits that conflict with yoga philosophy. In Nett’s case, her self-destructive desire to dabble in drugs and alcohol was replaced by a desire to deepen her practice.

She went to Mexico for teacher training with Indra Devi in 1977, and in 1978, Nett met a man at a Kripalu Yoga teacher training in Pennsylvania. They fell in love and were married eight months later. She and Allan Nett settled in California’s Napa Valley, where they opened a private Iyengar studio in their home.

Eight years ago, she became an intermediate senior Iyengar instructor, the highest certification of any African American woman in the United States.

“Yoga became my rudder and, ultimately, my way of life,” says Nett. “It was a part of me I was looking for.”

Yoga grants no immunity from life’s inevitable calamities, but the practice cultivates the courage and calm, as well as the acceptance and humility to help transform rocky moments or full-blown crises into periods of growth. Nett credits her practice, and her belief in yoga, with getting her through a difficult time in her marriage and for helping her to maintain a sense of self through a bout of physical and emotional health issues.

Emotional Rescue

When she was in her 50s, Nett recalls, her marriage was on the brink of collapse. She went to India to continue training with Geeta Iyengar and poured out her troubles to her teacher. She told Nett, as they planned for her to return in a year, “Come back with your husband.”

Nett realized that she had to reconsider her position and accept Geeta’s suggestion in the same way she had learned to accept adjustments in her asana. The willingness to let go and to stay with an idea without judgment is a foundation of yoga philosophy that applies on and off the mat. Her teacher’s instruction “made me stop and look,” Nett says. “It was the turning point when I could say, ‘I’m going to see this through.'”

Around the same time as the marital rift, Nett hit menopause. She reeled from that double punch emotionally and physically, and her weight soared. She grew from a slender 135 pounds to nearly 200. “I was not feeling good about myself,” she recalls. “I ballooned so much that I would go into stores and people would ignore me, like I had disappeared.” In her practice, Nett says, “I would do poses, and I would run into my own body.”

Once again, Nett turned inward and saw a need to reconnect with her teachers. She prepared to make a retreat to India and to use her practice, as she always had, to make deeper contact with her body and her Self. When she got there, Nett immersed herself in yoga, finding the time and desire for only one meal a day.

Fed by her practice, sated by rich spiritual sustenance, she shed her extra pounds rapidly. “It made me feel good about myself,” Nett recalls. “I saw that having that weight on my body got in the way of my even wanting to practice.”

Going Deep

These days, Nett no longer has the tiny waist and Playboy curves of her youth, but that is perfectly OK with her. “Each era of life presents something to let go of,” she says, “and letting go with grace is what aging, and yoga, is to me.”

Just as the body, supported by yoga, adapts to limitation, the practitioner’s mind accepts the inevitability of aging less as something to fear and more as an experience with the potential to strengthen the true Self. Nett, like so many of her peers, focuses less these days on physical prowess in her practice and more on the value of going deep. A regular vigorous Ashtanga class “would kill me,” she says. “But I can do—and prefer to do—hours of my yoga. I can do very strong poses. Practicing in the precise anatomical way of Iyengar Yoga continues to serve me.”

When she teaches, Nett encourages her students—young or old, supple or stiff—to accept their bodies and reap the benefits of asana. She invites them to look squarely at their feelings on aging, to consciously place their awareness there, as they would on an injured shoulder, even if they don’t like what they see. If you feel angry about aging, she says, look openly at that anger. Over time, Nett predicts, your frustration will give way to acceptance.

The Iyengar instructor can easily offer herself as proof. Just a few years shy of her 70th birthday, Nett is physically strong and spiritually grounded—proud, she says, “of my best, authentic, 68-year-old self.” For this, and for the fullness of her life so far, she credits yoga, a practice that she believes will help her become “a spry old woman” full of energy and poise.

Interview With John Schumacher

Home: Washington, DC
Age: 66
Teaching for: 39 years

John Schumacher is a certified advanced junior I Iyengar Yoga teacher who founded Unity Woods Yoga Center in 1979 in the Washington, DC, area. It is now one of the largest Iyengar Yoga centers in the US, with three locations serving more than 45,000 students.

Yoga Journal: What are the key ways that yoga has helped you in life?

John Schumacher: Most important, yoga has clarified my purpose in life—the process of awakening to what is real and true and aligning myself with the flow of Being. It has provided a means to maximize my physical health and well-being. Many of the minor ailments I had as a younger man—colds, headaches, strep throat, seasonal allergies—have disappeared. I experience health as a positive state. Breathing is sweet, and I have plenty of energy.

My practice also tunes me in to my physical, mental, and emotional states and provides tools to respond effectively to what I perceive. If I’m tired, stressed, or depleted, the right sequence of asanas, pPranayama, and sitting can help me find my balance. I still get a bit wacky at times responding to stress—the balance between family, practice, and teaching continues to be challenging. But my practice has given me much more of a sense of equanimity. I deal with what I have to deal with and move on.

YJ: How has your practice changed as you’ve aged?

JS: I don’t do as many of the whiz-bang poses I used to do. I can’t. I am not as strong as I was and lack the stamina. I still work hard, still do advanced asana and pranayama, and still love and enjoy my practice, but now I’m studying the effects of my practice on my state of mind and my nervous system, as well as my physical body. I guide my practice toward developing awareness of more subtle and internal actions and states, and I adjust my practice to balance intensity, depth, and inner equilibrium.

YJ: Has your teaching changed as you have matured?

JS: I am much more patient with students now, especially beginning students. All students come to yoga for different reasons. They all have challenging circumstances in their lives about which I am unaware. I try to take all but the most advanced students into poses more gradually now, taking time to create openings and supports that will allow the final pose to come with less physical and mental resistance.

YJ: How do you imagine your life would be different if you had not found yoga?

JS: As a child of the ’60s, I was curious about the more cosmic, mysterious aspects of life. I was a musician, and yoga appealed to the more organized aspect of my nature. At the same time, yoga addressed the transcendent quality of experience that music provided. I doubt I would be as healthy or focused now had I not been introduced to yoga.

Interview With Dona Holleman

Home: Soiano del Lago, Italy
Age: 70
Teaching for: 50 years

Deeply influenced by Krishnamurti, B.K.S. Iyengar, and Vanda Scaravelli, Dona Holleman began teaching globally in the 1960s, and she has instructed many of today’s senior teachers. She is the author of Dancing the Body of Light.

Yoga Journal: What early lessons have served you best?

Dona Holleman: Fortunately, I had early preparation to make me independent: I grew up in war zones, lost my father in childhood, and was moved between schools, countries, and languages several times by age 14. I was lucky to meet Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1961 and to spend many summers at the Krishnamurti gatherings in Switzerland. He urged me to explore life and myself on my own terms, to follow my heart, to own my head and take good care of it, and to be responsible.

YJ: How is yoga most helpful in aging?

DH: Hatha yoga is one of the best methods to keep the body healthy, the joints moving, and the muscles pliant, but we must be careful not to overdo it, especially in the joints. The body likes to move in a way that respects the tenderness of the tissues. I believe yoga asanas are not enough for many people to maintain strength as they age. Older people can benefit by adding weight training, guided by an expert, to their yoga practice.

YJ: Tell us about your practice today.

DH: My career has been that of a yoga teacher. I’m now exploring balancing out that specialization to reconnect with early passions, to dive into unknown waters. I took up horse riding, a love from my youth, at 60. For my 70th birthday, I began working with a piano instructor again. The definition of yoga is skill in action; that is my yoga now. All of life can be yoga if you make it so—it takes conscious attention. Now I am more interested in nature and the metaphysical side of life and in keeping my life simple.

YJ: Is this shift present in your teaching?

DH: I still teach the asana—not in such a strict way as I used to, but in a way with more vitality. The perfect Trikonasana doesn’t exist. Everybody is different and must interpret the idea of Trikonasana in a unique way. Someone might say, “I do Iyengar Yoga.” I say, “Not true!” Only Iyengar does Iyengar Yoga. I do Dona Holleman yoga—I take the idea of a pose and then have to fit it to myself. Students, too, must find their own expression.

YJ: What intrigues you now?

DH: The idea of becoming more heart-centered. I believe the next step in human evolution is to raise the heart intelligence to the same status as we now hold the brain intelligence.

Anne O’Brien teaches yoga and practices daily. She is currently writing a book about the role of Western women in modern yoga. Grace Rubenstein is a journalist and multimedia producer in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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The Yoga of Poetry

Sometimes poetry is our yoga. How I love John O’Donohue’s and Mary Oliver’s poetry:

For Beauty
by John O’Donohue

As stillness in stone to silence is wed,
May solitude foster your truth in word.
As a river flows in ideal sequence,
May your sould reveal where time is presence.
As the moon absolves the dark of distance,
May your style of thought bridege the difference.
As the breath of light awakens color,
May the dawn anoint your eyes with wonder.
As spring rain softens the earth with surprise,
May your winter places be kissed with light.
As the ocean dreams to the joy of dance,
May the grace of change bring you elegance.
As clay anchors a tree in light and wind,
May your outer life grow from peace within.
As twilight pervades teh belief of night,
May beauty sleep lightly within your heart.

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

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