Sharada’s March Update

Welcome to spring at the Centre – a typical west coast spring: weather a little warmer, green and wet, some spring bulbs popping up, and above all, longer hours of daylight. Time to wake up!

Jack, Tanya and Stacey preparing the centre for a new season

Jack, Tanya and Stacey preparing the centre for a new season

Our program season begins this month with a Yoga Getaway, March 22-24, by which time our karma yogis for the first term of Karma Yoga Service and Study (KYSS) will have arrived. We are ready for them! On March 1, several full-season yogis arrive. They will be welcomed with a Bhakti evening: arati, a puja, kirtan and the chanting of the healing mantra, led by Shantam, whom we’ve had the good fortune to add to our community for the past month. During his time here, he has developed a registration software program for us, not to mention singing and drumming at satsang and leading rituals such as the full moon puja we recently celebrated. It’s been a delight to have him here. However, work – and above all, Stephanie – are calling him back to Mount Madonna.

ShivaRatri-VancouverShiva Ratri is right around the corner. On March 10, into the early morning of March 11, there will be prayers, mantra and kirtan all night, the night of Shiva. Follow this link for details. Because Shiva Ratri falls on a Sunday this year, satsang that day will be cancelled. Come for the evening – or the whole night if you like, for chanting and prayer. For those in the Vancouver area, if you’d like to participate in Shiva Ratri, you can come here and sing all night or you can go to the shorter version, 7 – 10:30 pm, celebrated by the Vancouver satsang. It will be held at ‘The Yoga Practice’, 2170 Marine Drive; West Vancouver. Details are on the poster which you can download here.

the winners

The winners, Beira kale

The big news from the farm is that the greenhouses are planted, and Jack reports that the winner of this year’s first-sprout competition is Beira Kale. Let’s hear it for the little seedlings! The farm yogi team will be arriving mid-March, and there is plenty for them to do. In other farm news, the farm now has a truck, perfect for taking produce to the Saturday market and for on-land chores. Thanks to Stacey, Jack and SN for arranging the purchase.

There are a number of articles I’d like to draw your attention to. This month’s Founding Member Feature is not a founding member, but is by the daughter of two longtime students of Babaji and former residents at the Centre – and the only child born on the land (at least while it’s been a yoga centre) – Mamata Kreisler, daughter of Rajani and Rajesh. Read it and learn what it was like for her to grow up in a yoga community – definitely worth reading.

This month’s Meet our YTT Grads features Jessica Encell, one of last year’s Yoga Teacher Training grads, who also happens to have a longstanding connection with this community, although none of us (including Jessica) knew it until last summer. Jessica was visiting her grandmother, who was instrumental in in the purchase of this land. We all have our own routes to the Centre – and to our own centre.

The Asana of the Month is Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle, aka Butterfly), presented by Clare Blanchflower, a YTT grad and one of the teachers at the Centre’s Yoga Getaways. Many of you will have had the pleasure of experiencing her classes, and the warmth and caring of her teaching style. Her instructions are both clear and inviting.

March is a short month at the Centre School, since spring break takes up half of it. Before the break, though, there are report cards and student-led conferences. Often when kids come home from school, their parents ask them what they did that day, but the kids have already moved on to what’s happening right now. (We have so much to learn from children!) During student-led conferences, parents actually get to see and experience some of the things their kids have been learning, and the kids get to be the guides and teachers.

In this newsletter there is an article about karma yoga that I invite you to read. To whet your appetite, here is a song written a by Sanatan a number of years ago, when the ‘mountain-fountain’ was being built during a summer retreat. Here are the lyrics. Perhaps you can persuade him to sing it for you one day.

Salt Spring Centre has been built by hand
By the magic and the mortar of the karma yoga man,
The magic and the mortar of the karma yoga woman.

Yes, that long rock wall has been built by hand
From the magic and the mortar of the karma yoga man,
The magic and the mortar of the karma yoga woman.

Listen to me, children, here’s a riddle and a rhyme
About a man who built a mountain that the angels could climb.
He built it with the skill and the magic that he learned
When he found that holy river and those old samskaras burned,
When he found that holy river and those old samskaras burned.

Karma yoga woman, karma yoga man,
We’ll care for you and feed you the best we can.
We want you to come here and have a good time
And know that karma yoga gives you peace of mind.
Karma yoga gives you peace of mind.

Well, this mountain and this fountain have been built by hand
By the magic and the mortar of the karma yoga man,
The magic and the mortar of the karma yoga woman.

Listen to me, children, here’s a word from the wise,
I got it from the man with the sparkling eyes.
Take it with a chuckle or a grain of salt –
If your foundation buckles, then it’s all your own fault.
If your foundation buckles, then it’s all your own fault.

Salt Spring Centre has been built by hand
By the magic and the mortar of the karma yoga man,
The magic and the mortar of the karma yoga woman.

Thank you all for the magic you bring.

In peace,
Sharada

Founding Member Feature: Mamata Kreisler

This month’s Founding Member Feature is not a founding member, but is by the daughter of two longtime students of Babaji and former residents at the Centre – and the only child born on the land (at least while it’s been a yoga centre) – Mamata Kreisler, daughter of Rajani and Rajesh. Read it and learn what it was like for her to grow up in a yoga community – definitely worth reading.

Growing up at the Centre

Mamata and her mother Rajani

Mamata and her mother Rajani

I was born at the Centre in 1985 – in the cabin that later became the Phoenix Cabin – and I grew up there. It was my home for 12 years. It was a great place to grow up. 70 acres as your backyard, other families living just minutes away and fun trails to lakes and creeks never left a dull moment. I have so many memories of being a kid at the Centre:

At the piano, 1986

At the piano, 1986

Most mornings when I was really little, I would wake up in the cabin alone and have to walk up to the main building to see my mom, who managed the kitchen and was always up early getting breakfast ready – or go to Sharada’s to bang on her piano. Having sleepovers with Sammy and Leala (Satya’s daughters) in their teepee down by the woodland trail was a great memory, and walking through the orchard to see my dad at the nursery was a daily occurrence. I remember riding my bike down the mound – when it really was a mound – with Leala, each of us sticking one leg out and thinking we were so cool. I liked the mound like that. Many of you won’t even know what I’m talking about, but what we call the mound now is nothing like it used to be. It really used to be a mound, that is, a big hill. That’s before the rock walls were built and the top was made flat.

I got to do lots of things that other kids would never have had the chance to do. My dad taught me to drive the ride-on mower when I was four years old and I used to mow the grass all over the land. I remember getting into trouble when I let other kids ride on it with me when I was mowing.

Wheelbarrow full of kids, 1989  Joah, Chrisana, Mason, Mamata, Soma

Wheelbarrow full of kids, 1989 Joah, Chrisana, Mason, Mamata, Soma

Some other special memories are of Leala and I sneaking into the walk-in cooler – with the lights off – to scare ourselves, which is ridiculous because I’m afraid of the dark. Another daring escapade was when Lisa (Chandrika and Harvey’s daughter) and I snuck into the staff kitchen during the summer retreats to make mint tea with Inka (now called Krakus); we thought we were cool because we were sneaking around.

My other “jobs” at the centre always included helping. Sharada used to joke that one day I’d run the Centre because I liked to walk around with a clipboard. I liked to organize things (still do) so people could actually find them when they needed them. My mom taught me how to do facials for Women’s Weekends, so I could help when there weren’t enough therapists. I also helped her build the swedan box, and I remember the building of Chikitsa Shala.

On her bike, 1990

On her bike, 1990

I remember the mama cat who showed up one day and had kittens in the top shop. Asia (Bhavani Chlopan’s daughter), who was around two years old at the time, named the mama cat Dipsum, and I named all the others. We gave most of them away at the Saturday market in town, but we kept Dusty and Smokey. Lots of you may remember Smokey because she lived in the main house. Dipsum and Dusty eventually moved in with Sharada.

It’s almost Shiva Ratri time at the Centre again. Shiva Ratri was one of the kids’ favourite times. Sammy, Leala and I, along with Mason (Cynthia and Peter Bennett’s son) and Joah (Ramanand and Bhavani Chlopan’s son) – and later Jesse and Ayla (Savita’s daughters) – got to have a big sleepover in the yurt. The adults were staying up all night, so we stayed up, too. I remember it snowing on Shiva Ratri and going outside during the night to dance around and make snow angels.

Leala and Mamata, temple dancers in the 1991 Ramayana

Leala and Mamata, temple dancers in the 1991 Ramayana

Another thing we all loved was Ramayana. I started out at age 5 as a temple dancer in the invocation to Saraswati, the first scene at the beginning of the play. I played other roles over the years, dancing and acting. We all looked forward to getting bigger parts each year.

I went to the Centre School from grades one through nine. We did lots of theatre in school as well, ones we wrote, lots of Shakespeare and lots of musicals. I got to play Maria in the Sound of Music and Wendy in Peter Pan.

Mamata and Asia, May Day at the school, 1995

Mamata and Asia, May Day at the school, 1995

My mom was the school bus driver (yes, we used to have a school bus), and I’d go on bus runs with her. Our bus only went down Cusheon Lake Road and Beddis Road. For the south end route, though, you’d have to connect with the public school bus to go further. I did that once in awhile when I was going to the south end to my dads. I sat next to a kid who asked me, “Why do you go to that school?” I think he thought it was weird, but that had never occurred to me. It wasn’t weird; it was fun. Apart from the regular school stuff and theatre, I played a lot of sports. I was a tomboy and played mostly with the boys.

Mamata as Pippi Longstocking and Sharada as a clown, Halloween 1993

Mamata as Pippi Longstocking and Sharada as a clown, Halloween 1993

In 1993, when I was 8 years old and in Usha’s class, someone came to the classroom to get me, saying something had happened and I was to come right away. They took us to the cabin – the one my mom and I had been living in, the one I was born in. There had been a fire. My mom was already there, and so were the firefighters from the Fire Department. There was a strong smell of smoke. Even now, the smell of smoke reminds me of that moment. After that, we lived in the main building until a new cabin was built for us.

Summer retreat at the Centre was so much fun! When I was really little I was scared of getting candy from Babaji, but it got easier as I got older. The kids were always excited for tea time when Babaji would give out candies. You’d get to hang out with Babaji and obviously (in our world) we felt cool when we got to sit next to him. The other thing about retreat time that made it so much fun was that all our cool, older guy friends (Toby, Jai, Susheel, Jesse, PK, Yogi, AJ, etc.) came and did Power of Pranayama demonstrations, and hung out with us. We played Capture the Flag every night. (AJ, if you’re reading this, I hope you are sufficiently honoured to be included in this group of cool guys). Volleyball was always a must and basketball tournaments became a regular occurrence for awhile. I thought for sure I was going to be trampled on multiple occasions during those tournaments but somehow, I made it out of them alive.

Hanuman Olympics was the highlight of the retreat. It was held in the front field (before the garden went in there). The big tent would be set up for the event. There were so many events – real events that everybody competed in. So much fun! In the evening there’d be a big talent show. My friends and I always did dances.

My memories of growing up at the Centre mostly have to do with having fun. I didn’t really take advantage of the learning possibilities, as I didn’t realize the “outside world” wasn’t the same and not all people grew up that way.

After we moved off the land, I went to high school, got into dance, and began to learn about the “real world.” I was planning to go to university to study dance, and then I got into a car accident. That was on October 1, 2003. My ability to continue what I thought my journey was going to be changed completely. I was unable to do anything I had put my mind to for the past few years, and my excitement for the future slowly vanished. I couldn’t picture what I was going to end up being able to do.

Mamata11
I stayed on Salt Spring Island for another year and a bit, did physiotherapy and other treatments, but nothing seemed to work. I moved to Victoria, enrolled in a business administration program and got a government office job. That was it for a while. Then my friend started talking about yoga, asking all sorts of questions about how I grew up and wanting to know more about what asanas can do for you. So I agreed to take him to a yoga class at Yoga Shala, and slowly but surely I started to realize how much I enjoyed asana, and how much I could simply focus on my body instead of everything around me. I started going more and more often. It was hard at first because I found myself comparing my current flexibility and strength to how I was before the accident, but that changed over time. When I got a roommate to start practicing with me, I quickly noticed how much her attitude started to shift, becoming more positive. This gave me a huge push toward wanting more yoga in my life – and the possibility of sharing that positive lifestyle with others.
Mamata9
In 2011 I decided to do Yoga Teacher Training. I was so excited – until I got to the airport, at which point I sort of freaked out. I had never done anything on my own before. I was going to a place in Costa Rica where I knew no one, and I don’t speak Spanish very well. It turned out to be the best time of my life – a huge shift for me. I opened up and allowed myself to really let go and to get in touch with my emotions and explore how I really felt about things. I actually made myself – with the help of my two wonderful roommates – spend time alone to see what it was really like. This, of course, didn’t happen too much as I quickly got to know the group I was surrounded by and loved every one of them. I got to share it with people I hadn’t known before, and with whom I’m still in contact. As the month came closer to the end, all I was missing was my boyfriend, Kris, and would tell him, when there was finally internet service so we could connect by skype, to fly down and bring my bed.

With Kris and their dog Biggie

With Kris and their dog Biggie

Kris and I have been friends for six years, but we haven’t been together that long. Last May we went to California and I took him to Santa Cruz. On our last day there we went to Mount Madonna Center and were lucky enough to see Babaji, again. I had seen him the previous year, and he still remembered me.

Sammy, Leala and I still talk about Babaji, and wonder what will happen when he passes away. I can’t imagine him not being here. For me and for all of us kids, I think this has been the best way to grow up.

Teaching yoga

Teaching

Currently I’m still living in Victoria, in a cute little house we bought last year, and now we have a dog, Biggie. I don’t think we will stay here, but where we will go hasn’t been decided – somewhere smaller, more community based. I’m teaching three yoga classes a week in Victoria in addition to working full time for the government. Yoga alleviates the stress of my government job, and teaching yoga doesn’t feel like work. I like to help people, to support them in accepting themselves as they are, with whatever they can do. It’s a joy to be able to share yoga with those who are open to receiving it.

Mamata10

Karma Yoga – a Practice for Daily Life

Babaji working on a rock wall project in the spirit of Karma Yoga, 2000

Babaji working on a rock wall project, 2000

The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga is rooted in the practice of karma yoga, the practice of selfless service, or at least holding the intention of the practice of selfless service. Until we’re no longer identified with our own individual stories – our bodies, our thoughts, our relationships and our ‘things’ – we are not fully practicing selflessness. Yet if our intention is to be of service, we’ve begun the practice.

In his essay Selfless Service, the Spirit of Karma Yoga Babaji writes:

In Karma Yoga you are engaged in actions all the time. Actions to maintain your body, to support your family, to help the society and your country, all come under Karma Yoga. One may ask, “How is the practitioner of Karma Yoga different, since everyone in the world does all these activities?” The difference is that a karma yogi has a different intention and aim than the ordinary person. The karma yogi works with the intention of doing selfless service, maintaining awareness that the ultimate aim is liberation. Moreover those who work with the spirit of Karma Yoga feel no action is a burden because all actions are simply a duty.

Although Karma Yoga is usually understood to be merely a path of action, it is truly a path of inner development.

Babaji has taught us through his writings and formal teachings, and very largely by example. He works at whatever needs doing, he gives freely of his time, he engages with every person who approaches him, he listens with compassion and he jokes and plays with children and adults alike. Whatever he does is for the benefit of others. That is the classical teaching of Karma Yoga.

Babaji’s teachings are direct and practical:

Any work which does not directly fulfill your ego is Karma Yoga. If someone’s tire is punctured and you stop to help, that is spiritual work. If you remove a nail from the road because you think someone my step on it, that is Karma Yoga. Anything done with good intention is Karma Yoga.

In sorting through some archives recently, I came across a copy of Offerings from 1994 (printed version, long before we had a website) which contains writings on karma yoga from The Teaching of Buddha, published in 1984 by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokal, a Buddhist teacher from Japan, and selected for Offerings by Ma Renu, the woman who first sponsored Babaji to come to North America in 1971. Following is an excerpt from these writings:

There are seven kinds of offering which can be practised even by those who are not wealthy. The first is the physical offering. This is to offer by one’s labour. The second is the spiritual offering. This is to offer a compassionate heart to others. The third is the offering of the eyes. This is to offer a warm glance to others which will give them tranquility. The fourth is the offering of countenance. This is to offer a soft countenance with a smile to others. The fifth is the oral offering. This is to offer kind, warm words to others. The sixth is the seat offering. This is to offer one’s seat to others. The seventh is the offering of shelter. This is to let others spend the night at one’s home. These kinds of offerings can be practiced by anyone in everyday life.

Very practical advice, much like Babaji’s. We can all practice karma yoga, whatever our life situation.

From Babaji:

To serve others with no selfish motive is sacrifice. To give what others need with no strings attached is charity. To live a disciplined life is austerity. Sacrifice, charity and austerity together in action is called Karma Yoga.

Contributed by Sharada

Meet our YTT Grads: Jessica Encell

YTT 2012 Graduate, Jessica Encell

YTT 2012 Graduate, Jessica Encell


Hello!
My name is Jessica and I am a 22 year old graduate of the Summer 2012 YTT at the amazing Salt Spring Centre of Yoga.

Where do you live? What do you do in your life apart from yoga?

I live in Santa Monica, CA. I graduated from college (university) in September where I was studying Sustainability and Environmental Awareness. I am currently teaching one yoga class a week (thank you SSCY!), working with the nonprofit 5 Gyres to educate people on marine plastic pollution and playing as a nanny for two beautiful 8 year old identical twin girls.

What attracted you to the SSCY YTT program?

This experience seemed to magically sneak into in my life. It was a wonderful synchronicity that I happened to be visiting my grandparents on the island at the beginning of summer. I was planning to work as a children’s surf instructor in Los Angeles…. until…. My amazing grandmother Phyllis Coleman took me to see the centre and introduced me to Shankar. We walked through the property – which at the time was covered in caterpillars- and as he told me about the program that was beginning in a few weeks I had an inkling that I might not work as a surf instructor after all. I left the centre feeling totally enchanted: the land was magnificent, Shankar was wise, welcoming and humorous, and there was a quote in gold letters from Babaji that really grabbed me, “Dream is real as long as you are asleep. Life is real as long as you are not awakened.”

A few days later I signed up for the program!

What aspect of yoga has had the most transformative effect on your life?

The most transformative aspect of yoga has been the continual changes in perspective and mindset that it manages to bring about. It is relentlessly teaching me to shift states from scattered to aware, rushed to present, reactive to responsive, and is constantly filling me with a sense of gratitude and joy for life.

What surprised you the most about the practice of yoga? How has your understanding of yoga deepened?

Joseph Campbell said, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” And so it was in the program, where the most challenging aspects, the ones that brought up the most internal resistance, were the most rewarding. For me these were: A consistent and lengthy pranayama practice and the teaching components at the end of the program. It turns out these were the gifts that kept on giving!

Now I have taken these things and integrated them into my daily life. I came to the program with little understanding of the non-physical aspects of yoga but left being most positively impacted by the philosophies and mental tools. It is largely a process of making friends with the mind – whether it does not want to sit still and cultivate focus in pranayama or whether it fears inadequacy and offers self imposed judgment before teaching a portion of a class – the mind is always presenting challenges and the program provided a wealth of tools to meet these challenges with awareness, positivity and a smile. I’ve realized how beneficial a consistent practice is.

Please share some memorable moments from YTT. A favourite memory?

Great conversations and lots of laughs. Before the program began, I wondered if the atmosphere would be somber and serious. Instead, large amounts of joy, laughter, humor and positivity filled my experience.

A few more highlights…

  • Lying in the meadow at night snuggled up with Kandace, Katie and Shaun watching the meteor shower.
  • The surreal feeling of being in a family and community with a group of people that you have only just met.
  • Walking barefoot through the tall soft grasses of the beautiful field before jumping naked – optional 🙂 – into Blackburn Lake.
  • Chetna’s shelf yoga class.
  • Challenging and rewarding daily pranayama and meditation with Divakar
  • Delicious farm fresh meals prepared with so much love (thank you KYs!)
  • Living in the presence of people who are older and have only grown wiser and more vibrant with age. A lot of the elders I have encountered throughout my life seem to have grown stuck and tired with age. At the centre it really struck me how, rather than hardening with time, everyone had blossomed.
  • The amazing and inspiring collection of beautiful wise women – Kalpana, Chandra Rose, Sharada, C.P., Julie, Chandra, Chetna, Kishori, Sarah, Shilpa, Sam – I’m talking to you!

What can students expect from the yoga teacher training at the Centre?
They can expect to have an amazing and transformative experience with compassionate, knowledgeable and down to earth teachers.

I have so much love and gratitude for each and every person in the program who made the experience exactly what it was.
Thank you
Jai!

Asana of the month: Baddha Konasana

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle – Butterfly)

Baddha Konasana

Baddha Konasana

I find myself in this posture in almost every practice as I love the deep hip opening and the gentle elongation and release in the lower back and sacrum. I share it regularly with my students, who are mostly women as it is a great posture for menstrual health and pain, preparation for child birth and for ovarian health as it increases circulation and brings vitality to the whole pelvic area. But Baddha Konasana has lots to offer men too – everyone benefits from opening the hips and releasing tension from the pelvis and this posture is also great for prostate health. It is also good for strengthening the lower back, inviting deep surrender into stillness and calming the mind. The variations with this posture make it very flexible in a practice on its own or as a counter posture and it in it’s reclining version (Supta Baddha Konnasana) it’s a favourite restorative posture of mine too.

Coming into the posture

Starting in Dandasana (stick pose) seated with legs straight out in front, if needed ensure that the hips are supported in a slight anterior tilt by placing a prop (foam block or blanket) just under the buttocks so that the pelvis is neutral and the spine can lengthen straight up through the crown.

Bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together, resting them about 6-8 inches from the body and allow the knees to fall out to the sides.

Take a few deep breaths all the way down the spine to the root chakra. With each exhalation allow the hips to soften as the knees fall away. With each inhalation gently elongate up through the spine feeling subtle spaces between each vertebrae. Allow the shoulders blades to come down the back and gently lengthen the neck. The chin is parallel to the floor. Widen the chest but take care not the arch the back or open the front ribs keep the spine neutral.

Baddha Konasana

Baddha Konasana

Once you have taken a few breaths and settled into the posture feeling the pelvis rooted and stable, take a deep inhalation start to come forward as you exhale all the time gently enlongating the spine out of the hips. You are bending forwards from the hips not the waist and visualising the navel coming towards the feet. The breath remains free and not restricted by the spine curving forwards, elongate to ensure the freedom of the breath. Move slowly and gently. Stay slow and mindful and don’t rush to get anywhere… there is no goal or destination!

Rest half way down and take some breaths and lengthen. Then slowly start to bow forward coming into your full expression. You are guiding the navel towards the feet not the head. Keep the breath flowing freely and continue to elongate. I personally feel that elongation constantly during a practice is integral. Not to overdo it but to gently and consistently bring space into the joints, opening and widening the body while slowly moving towards the posture.

Rest in your full expression of the posture and if it feels appropriate for your body at this point there is an invitation to let go into releasing the spine into a curve and the had point towards the feet. Feel the surrender and openness in the body and in the hips.

Keep the breath smooth and slow and when complete on an inhalation slowly release and come up to sitting. Gently support the knees to release out of the posture. Straighten and shake out the legs.

Modifications

If there is discomfort in the knees due to injury you can support them with blocks or bolsters so the hips are able to relax more.

If the hips are very inflexible sit on something higher to raise yourself right up to assist the hips soften with more support.

Variations

  • Bring the feet further out away from the body so the shape inside the legs is more of a diamond which will change the stretch away from the adductors and more into the glutes and lower back.
  • Try raising the feet onto a foam block to access a different opening in the hips.
  • With the hands turn the feet so the soles face the sky. Take care if there are any twinges in the knees and if so leave the soles of the feet together to protect the knees.

As spring shares it’s promise with little signs around us in our environment and more regular glimpses of sunshine, we can use this posture to ground and root and create strong foundations from which to spring forth open up from our deepest essence ready to sow our seeds and create beautiful amazing things in our personal lives and communities.

Namaste

Clare Blanchflower

Clare Blanchflower

About the instructor

Clare Blanchflower has been a practitioner of yoga since 1996, when she found herself drawn to the devotional practices and community at the Sivananda Ashram in London, UK. She is a grateful graduate of SSCY YTT and a regular member of the centre sangha. She is committed to truth, service and living with presence and joy. She shares a practice that brings deep body awareness, curiosity, quietening, connection, balance and invites access to the deep knowing wisdom body where healing and transformation can take place. Teaching is her greatest place of learning.