Celebrating Certification

 

Dear LTY Community,

I feel a little uncomfortable doing this, but I feel I must share this with you. On August 26, I successfully completed the assessment process administered by the national Iyengar Yoga association (or IYNAUS) and received my “Intermediate, Junior III” Iyengar Yoga Teacher certification. Those of you who have been in class (both recently and over the last decade or so) were already aware that I have been engaged in this endeavor. In many ways, this certification represents more the beginning than the end of something (which I expect to occupy the rest of my lifetime), especially seeing that there are nine higher levels of certification! 

So, why am I telling you this? Of course I am very happy to have passed. I’m probably bragging a little bit (hence the discomfort). This has also been a big deal in my life! To be completely honest though, I feel lucky to have this certification. It wasn’t my best teaching. I was very nervous (much as I have been the previous four assessments), and I made several mistakes (much like I did in the previous four assessments). In truth, I think the assessors went pretty easy on me, but then again, I can be pretty hard on myself. At any rate, here I am and they said I passed, and I believe them and I know certifications aren’t granted willy-nilly . . . so I am grateful.

I guess I’m telling you this because I hope in some way it will compel you to come to class and learn this incredible practice of Iyengar Yoga with me. I’m telling you this because the process of studying, preparing for “IYNAUS Assessment,” and going through the certification process has, I feel, impacted (and humbled!) me deeply, especially as a yoga student. I want to tell you all about the process and the numerous tests and the time (and money) I have invested in my studies. I guess I just did. My hope is that telling you this will foster your belief that I might have something to offer you, your practice of yoga. My hope is that you might be compelled to seek–not me necessarily, not my teaching, but rather what has been wrought in me by this process. My hope is that you might see the possibility that what you are seeking for yourself might abide in the teachings and knowledge I have been fortunate to imbibe via this immersion in the study of the teachings of one of the greatest yoga practitioners and teachers (in my opinion) of our modern age, B.K.S. Iyengar. Ultimately, I guess I just want you to know I have done my homework (believe me). I may not be the most apt pupil, but I feel I have been persistent and devoted. I have done my homework and I think it will work for you. I am excited for it, in fact.

Finally, some thank you’s are in order. To my regular students, and especially to my wife and son who have spent a fair amount of time without me: I thank you for being there. Without your support and patience, I would not have had a chance to learn and grow, and this never would have happened. Thank you to Tracy, Lucas, Stacey, Nancy, Kim, Jan, Michelle, Jim, Chris, Alessandra, Marla, Tresa, Andrea, Heather, Issy, Kate, Hillary, Michael, Andi, Felicia, Anne and the many others who volunteered for the mocks, loaned a video camera, showed up at the last minute for impromptu lessons, filmings, meetings, tech support, etc. Thank you!

To the students that have yet to come to class, or that I haven’t seen in a while: I’ve been thinking about you. I’ve been getting ready. I’ve been setting the table. I know for certain Iyengar Yoga is a feast. I invite you to it and assure that if you should find any shortcomings in the offering, those are mine alone and, God willing, will be addressed in good time.

Oh, and if you are interested in what it actually means to be a C.I.Y.T. (Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher), Intermediate Junior III, here are some details: First from the IYNAUS 2017 Teacher Certification and Education Manual, “Teachers certified by IYNAUS are educated and experienced in the method of yoga set forth by B.K.S. Iyengar. They have passed a thorough standardized assessment and maintain ongoing education, practice, and commitment to the Iyengar method. In order to be granted a certification credential, teachers must pass an assessment of standards in three categories: a demonstrated practice of asanas and pranayamas, a written exam, and demonstrated teaching skills [for each level of certification they are assessed for.]”

For further information about Iyengar Yoga teacher assessment, please follow this link: IYNAUS assessment

For further information about the various certification levels and their requirements, please follow this link: Certification Levels

For information about the ethical guidelines I and other Iyengar Yoga teachers agree to follow, please follow this link: Ethical Guidelines.

Yours, Truly,
Chris

2017 International Day of Yoga–21 June

Recognizing Yoga’s universal appeal, in 2014 the United Nations proclaimed June 21st as the International Day of Yoga. The resolution by the largest majority of delegates in the his
tory of the U.N.  
Practitioners from around the world have organized a variety of events to celebrate this day. As students of B.K.S. Iyengar’s teachings, Living Tradition Yoga looks to practice as the best means to celebrate this day as it was (and is) practice that brought what we know as Iyengar Yoga to full fruition. We encourage all our students to make time for practice on Wednesday 21 June (and every day, for that matter) to celebrate and expand the International Day of Yoga. This helps to reminds us all that yoga is, first and foremost, a practical subject.
 
In honor of yoga day, the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (R.I.M.Y.I.) of Pune, India has issued a message, and a sequence to honor this year’s International Yoga Day. (For those who don’t know, the R.I.M.Y.I. was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar in the early 1970s. Mr. Iyengar practiced and taught there until his death in 2014. His children, Geeta and Prashant, both highly gifted yoga teachers in their own right, continue to teach there today.) 
 

Here is the message from R.I.M.Y.I.:  “We have received requests from various associations and teachers for a sequence of practice for the third International Day of Yoga. If our large Iyengar Yoga family across continents would practice the same sequence, then it would be our small tribute to Guruji.

Whenever we talk about ‘Iyengar Yoga,’ we talk about precision and alignment. We insist that if the legs and arms are to be straight in any asana, then the teachers insist on the straightness. “Keep the knees firm and tight. Lock the elbows. Make the legs poker stiff” are the instructions that we often give and hear. It  is this sharpness in the asanas in Light on Yoga that has attracted millions. It is the sharpness in the presentation by Guruji that has inspired generations of yoga sadhakas (practitioners).

Why this insistence on straightness and sharpness? Is it merely for the aesthetic appeal? Guruji has said, “crooked body crooked mind.” When the body is straight and aligned, then the intelligence flows. If there are dents and bends, then the intelligence does not flow. When the intelligence does not flow, there is no awareness. There is stagnation; the asana becomes lifeless. And, if so, how can it be healthy? Guruji has often given us the analogy of the flowing river where there is constant freshness from moment to moment.

So, on this International Day of Yoga, we would be doing the asanas that remind us of this legacy, this tradition of our beloved and revered Guruji.”

 
And here is the sequence: 

Tadasana

Urdhva Hastasana

Urdhva Baddhaguliyasana

Uttanasana

Utthita Trikonasana

Ardha Chandrasana

Virabhadrasana I to Virabhadrasana III

Parsvottanasana

Parivrtta Trikonasana

Prasarita Padotanasana

Sirsasana

Parsva Sirsasana

Upavistha Konasana in Sirsasana or Eka Pada Sirsasana

Adho Mukha Svanasana 

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Chaturanga Dandasana

Dandasana

Navasana

Ardha Navasana

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana

Supta Padangusthasana

Parsva Supta Padanguhthasana

Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana

Upavistha Konasana

Parsva Upavistha Konasana

Sarvangasana

Eka Pada Sarvangasana

Halasana

Supta Konasana

Parsva Halasana

Paschimottanasana

Savasana

Viloma 1 and 2 Pranayama

Ujjayi Pranayama

Savasana

For those who would like to print or share the sequence online, here is a link:https://vr2.verticalresponse.com/emails/18691697739115?sk=akYMB2JgRjBLWd0xRAO4F5AtIH9EkkEMkhgsmGIn3JGk=/aHR0cDovL3ZyMi52ZXJ0aWNhbHJlc3BvbnNlLmNvbS9lbWFpbHMvMTg2OTE2OTc3MzkxMTU=/2ZnXvwGLcSRSmeX9vjupQw==

Remember Why?

A conventional wisdom seems to exist, in writings and teachings related to human performance that the “why” behind what we do is equally, if not more important than the “what.” Our so called “why” is touted as having tremendous motivational power and contains within it the needed fuel to propel us beyond the obstacles that might normally stop us from achieving a goal. In yoga, also, the power of intention is seen as decisive in determining the fruits of our actions. So in honor of memorial day 2017, here are some things to remember for yoga practitioners of all types to inspire dedicated and ardent practice (“they keys to the yogic kingdom.”) This list is by no means exhaustive but we hope it is inspiring and, perhaps, even entertaining.

  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga fosters a willingness to strive and a familiarity with change
  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga lowers resistance to change
  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga makes one’s blood healthy via circulation, oxygenation, and secretion
  • Love and joy fill the empty spaces where pain was
  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga makes you humble
  • Humble people are nicer (and nicer to be around)
  • It takes courage to be humble
  • If you can bend your legs and your butt is soft, your back hurts less
  • Good breathing reduces anxiety and inner chaos
  • If you can concentrate well, you can make your life more the way you want it
  • If you are willing to work at it, you can make your life more the way you want it
  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga makes you less reliant on substances to withstand life
  • First: gain the power to withstand
  • Second: Go from withstanding to understanding
  • Third: Go from understanding to OUTSTANDING
  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga can help just about every part of the body
  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga can organize the mind
  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga can connect you more deeply to life’s spiritual dimension
  • Practicing Iyengar Yoga can make feel better . . . forever.

Getting to Heaven Before You Die

Another year is upon us. Or is it behind us? Or ahead? One thing is for sure: according to my calendar, the 366 days of Leap Year, 2016 have passed. Personally, I am a bit shocked by how fast the year has gone, even with the extra day thrown in. Most of the people I talk with agree that it went by quickly. Many (often those older than I) sagaciously nod their heads and them emphatically inform me that, the older I get, the faster the years will pass. So, as I reel from the speed with which 2016 has evaporated, I have been considering the following: 

     If we suppose that our life will span 80 years, that means our life will last 29,220 days. So, even if you were just born in 2016, you now are under 29,000 days. I’ll be honest, yesterday is the first time I actually stopped to do the math. I have to admit I was shocked that it was only tens of thousands of days. I thought a human life was hundreds of thousands, at least. I suspect I am not alone in this, which explains the otherwise inexplicable phenomenon of television reruns.

     Not that I wish to be grim, but I do wish that everyone, this holiday season, in addition to feeling an abundance of cheer, will feel the slight sense of constriction that that number—29,200—brings. This year I turned 43. That means I have roughly 13,515 days left (I didn’t figure out the number of leap years), if I make it to 80. That makes the sense of tightness even more acute. Of course, as Prashant Iyengar quips, I am practicing “I-younger” yoga so maybe I’ll make it to 100. Although I’d really only want to be that old under certain, very specific conditions. But we all know: there are no guarantees.

     So even if I make it to 100, that’s still only 20,819 days remaining. Now why, you may ask, all this focus on the (fleeting) number of days we have/we have left as human beings? Well, first, it is said in yoga that the affliction abhinivesha, or the instinctive fear of death is persistent. Actually, all the afflictions: avidya (spiritual ignorance), asmita (egotism or pride), raga (attachment or craving), dvesha (aversion) are persistent. Abhinivesha however, appears to be unique among the afflictions. B. K. S.  Iyengar, in his translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras states, “Self-preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions. It is found even in wise men.” He goes on to say that, “If even a highly educated, scholarly person cannot easily remain unattached to life, it is not difficult to gauge the feelings of an average individual.” 

     Secondly, though I find the turning of the year to be a bit arbitrary, it is a time when, collectively, we are watching something come to an end and something else begin. It is also a time when we are turning from the darkening half to the lightening half of the year. Just as in yoga, the transitions, the movements are important moments for attentive, reflective awareness and action. For those of us who practice regularly, we experience first-hand countless transitions. We literally embody the fact that our physical form is constantly and endlessly changing, and it doesn’t take holding a posture for too long to have a clear glimpse of the mind’s mercurial nature. This automatically seems to beg the question: If this body and mind are so inconstant and in such a state of flux, what will become of them? A look into the human condition will show there are virtually limitless possibilities, some clearly more desirable than others. But again, there seem to be no guarantees. 

     The fact that there seem to be no guarantees about how we will change leads us to ask another important question: Is there anything I can do to have the changes that are bound to occur be agreeable? This is a key question. To ask it, first and foremost takes courage, and to earnestly seek an affirmative answer, I believe leads to the most extraordinary experience a human being can have. It is a question worth loving, as Rainer Maria Rilke admonishes in his “Letters to a Young Poet.” It is a question worth living in for decades—for however many thousand (or hundred, or tens, or single) days we may have left. This is the question, I believe, that any sincere practitioner of yoga must ask if they seek true alignment. This is the question, I believe, that, if asked, would give rise to the teachings of yoga, in the absence of any existing teachers or texts on the subject. In other words, I believe the whole science of yoga has arisen out of an attempt to forge an affirmative answer to the question, “Is there anything I can do to have the inevitable changes I will experience as a human being be agreeable?” After all, is this not what we seek, an agreeable change of conditions; an agreeable change in our experience of life? Is this not why an estimated 80 – 95% of Americans (and perhaps the world) require some kind of chemical support for their experience in the form of (legal or illegal) drugs or substances? Is this not why we as a species are consuming natural resources at such a rate that we need five planets’ worth of resources to sustain us? Is this not why we have sought out the practice of yoga?

     There is so much more to say, but days go by quickly these days . . . I will end with a call to action and an invitation. First the call to action: B. K. S.  Iyengar acknowledges a longing in us to find our comfort, and the challenges we face in doing it. He also suggests a different approach we might take on our quest to orchestrate more agreeable changes in our lives. He states, 

“As mammals, we are homeostatic. That means we maintain certain constant balances within our bodies, temperature for example, by adapting to change and challenge in the environment. Strength and flexibility allow us to keep an inner balance, but man is trying more and more to dominate the environment rather than control himself. Central heating, air conditioning, cars that we take out to drive three hundred yards, towns that stay lit up all night, and food imported from around the world out of season are all examples of how we try to circumvent our duty to adapt to nature and instead force nature to adapt to us. In the process, we become weak and brittle . . . ”

Can you hear the call to action? It is simple. It is yoga. It is Iyengar Yoga. I declare that now is the time for us to take up our duty and adapt to nature. Now is the time to give it a break from our incessant demands that it adapt to us. Were that the solution,H. O. P. E.  we would be living in paradise, given our ability to cause nature to adapt? I declare that paradise lies in a different direction, the direction we take when we seek to adapt to nature, when we seek an answer to the question, “What can I do create agreeable changes in my life?” The first requirement in seeking such an answer is discover what agreeable changes truly are. For this we must address our afflictions. We must address the avidya, asmita, raga, and dvesha that we face as human beings. If these afflictions govern our perception we have no way on knowing what is truly agreeable—not to use, not to our own egoistic sense of self, but to Life. Human history up to this point confirms that. We have never lived in times where the ego’s desires could be so extensively satisfied. Trouble is, the ego’s desires can never be satisfied. 

     Now for the invitation: This is where yoga comes in. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, it is clearly stated that the practice of yoga reduces the afflictions and leads to samadhi, the experience of knowing the absolute reality of life. It is with this knowledge alone that we can successfully answer the question, “What can I do create agreeable changes in my life?” You could say that the whole science of yoga exists as an answer to that very question. It’s guidance is expert and comprehensive. So the invitation is: start somewhere. First, let us ask the question. Or perhaps we need to back up and start with a preliminary question: “What exactly is an agreeable change?” I am confident that, if asked with sincerity and loved wholeheartedly, these questions can and will empower us to fill however many days we have left in a worthwhile way. I am sure that they can guide us to enjoy a “happy life and majestic death,” to quote Mr. Iyengar. I also have a feeling they might just help us find  H. O. P. E.. That’s Heaven On Planet Earth. Aren’t you ready for some of that? I know I am. 

Healthier by the Minute

Most people in our culture lead busy lives. You will rarely meet a person who says, “You know, I have these two or three extra hours every day and I just can’t figure out how to spend them.” At the same time, you will rarely meet a person who doesn’t have numerous “idle moments” peppered into their daily activities. Waiting in line at the bank or grocery store, lingering on hold for tech support or with a service department, watching a commercial on television. Each of us have hidden moments when our activity stops . . . or at least seems to. 

For example, according to a company called All Over Media, a self described “market leader in the ever-changing Out-Of-Home media industry” and provider of Gas Pump Advertising, “The average person stops at a gas station 5-7 times a month . . . While standing at the pump, consumers have 3-5 minutes of refueling time when they are able to view and pay attention to your advertisement.” So, if we do the math, that means the average person spends 15 – 35 minutes per month (that’s 3 – 7 hours per year) standing at the gas pump. 

Now, consumers (that’s us) surely are “able to view and pay attention” to advertisements during these minutes (and hours) at the pump, but I have been thinking there’s surely another way to spend this idle time. When confronted with his student’s struggles to fit yoga practices into their busy schedules, B.K.S. Iyengar is alleged to advise them to “just do one posture.” So, that’s the idea behind Living Tradition Yoga’s “Healthier by the Minute,” campaign. Each idle minute is an opportunity, true, for a business to advertise to you. It is also an opportunity to put your well-being first and add another 3 – 7 hours (at least) of yoga practice to your life this coming year. I say at least because the gas pump is not the only place we have so-called idle time. 

So, here are some quick ideas about how to spend this time:

First, you could do as my friend and colleague, Clayton Winkler–a Certified Financial Planner with the firm Wiklund and Bond in Auburn Hills (pictured here)–and take the posture known as “Urdhva Hastasana” (more affectionately known between us as “Gas Pumping Posture”).

Additionally, if you want to be more discrete, you can simply bring your awareness to the way you are standing, ensuring that your weight is evenly balanced over both feet, your thigh muscles are firm and pulled up, your chest is lifted and your shoulders rolled back; or you could feel the gentle touch of the breath naturally coming in and out of the nostrils; or you could take a full, complete deep breath–starting with a complete exhalation, then a deep full inhalation followed by a deep, complete exhalation (please be sure to do this away from the gasoline fumes, though); or you could simply stand and feel the life–the breath, blood, secretions, sensations, etc–pulsing through you in a state of profound silence and awareness. 

There are many other options to consider (they are vast). But I will end this post with one last suggestion  . . . really more of a prayer, come to think of it. Perhaps your utilization of your idle time to elevate your well-being will be noticed by someone. Perhaps–through your example, through conversation, or even through asking them to take a photo of you that you can then send to us for sharing with our community–your actions might inspire them toward the same; might inspire them to put their well-being first and thus know that ecstatic state for themselves.

Why is it a prayer? Because people in an ecstatic state of well-being bring beautiful experiences into the world. What might it be like to fill up on that the next time you stop at the pump?