This on-going discussion examines our experiences in asana and life through the lens of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Through reading, experimentation and the sharing of our experiences, we work to deepen our awareness and appreciation of life and increase the effectiveness of our actions. If you are new to this discussion, please begin by reading our Introduction to Yoga Philosophy.

more balance

Not to fall. Not to lose autonomy, pushed by gravity, out of control. This is the most basic role of balance, and we have complicated physiological systems to tell us when we’re leaning and vulnerable to the pressures of gravity. As yoga students, we up the ante and make balancing ever more difficult by assuming more precarious poses. Why do we flirt with falling? What role does refined balance play?

When we balance, we are exploring, and equalizing, the relationship between parts. We may be balancing something visible and external, like our body, but as we do so, we must be attentive to the invisible fulcrum. Balancing helps us do more than just discover our center. Balancing creates the center. The more precarious the balance, the more we must refine our center.
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Many years ago, in a big meadow in Central Oregon, I went for a horseback ride. I was fourteen and glad to be out of my parents’ house. I didn’t have anywhere to go, but I wanted to go fast. The evening was cool; the horse was fresh. She thought going fast was a great idea.

As my horse picked up speed and found her rhythm, my body drew in, concentrating toward the horse’s center of gravity. I could feel her lungs moving rhythmically as her hooves beat a faster tempo. Then, to my astonishment, two barn swallows flanked us. In a tag team kind of relay, they took turns diving beneath the belly of the galloping horse. And so the four of us rocketed through the evening until we ran out of meadow. As the world flew by, as the swallows dove and hooves thundered and my heart pounded, we moved together in a bubble of stillness, an organized engagement of symmetry and rhythm.

The experience was exhilarating, but also enlightening. We three species played together spontaneously, with shared goals and understanding. And shared responsibility. continue reading »

applying our understanding

Preparation for Philosophy Class Discussion
Sunday, October 11, 2009 (2:30 – 4:00pm)

Is there something you would like to change about your life?

Yoga is a practical science, designed to increase satisfaction and enjoyment of life. As such, we come to understand its true power through application rather than theory. This fall, we will apply our understanding of yoga in an effort to improve some aspect of our lives.

To prepare for Sundays meeting, think about what you might like to alter in your life. Be as specific as you can. Observe the problem and consider possible alternatives. Through lecture and discussion, we will explore how the science of yoga understands the problem of behavior change. Following the practical recommendations of those yogis who have gone before us, we will experiment with different methods for initiating change.

finding the way: pairs of opposites

Preparation for Philosophy Class Discussion
Sunday, June 14, 2009 (2:30 – 4:00pm)

Goldilocks did not set out on a quest for porridge. She happened upon the porridge, some too hot and some too cold, before she discovered that there was porridge that was just right, and ate it all up. Most of us are like Goldilocks, not looking for anything, in particular, sampling what comes our way. Yoga would say we are wise in our ignorance, that we cannot know what is right for us. But we can tell what is wrong. Too hot. Too cold.

So, finding our way in yoga is like traveling down a dark hallway. We cannot see the way (which is faultless, infinite and indescribable); we follow it by bumping into the walls. Too hot. Too cold. All the philosophy of yoga is based on this idea of duality. Physically, in asana we move parts of the body in opposition to other parts to understand their relation, their range and connection. Emotionally, we negotiate our path between sukha continue reading »

on the path

Preparation for Philosophy Class Discussion (5)
Sunday, May 17, 2009 (2:30 – 4:00pm)

The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali tell us that anyone can reach their full potential with dedicated practice. The Sadhana Pada lays out a methodical sequencing of skills to master in order to achieve this. These are the eight limbs of yoga. This month, we will begin to experiment with the first limb, Yama, meaning restraint.

Review sutras II.29- II.39. Think critically about what you read and experiment with these ideas in your asana practice and life. continue reading »