Annual Retreat this weekend: Drop-in info and Office closure

Annual Community Yoga Retreat
August 1-5, 2013

Dear Members and Friends of Dharma Sara Satsang Society,

We would love to have you attend the Annual Community Yoga Retreat! On-site registration is open:

  • Thursday, August 1: 2pm-7pm
  • Friday, August 2: 9am-7pm
  • Saturday, August 3: 9am-7pm
  • Sunday, August 4: 9am-7pm
  • Monday, August 5: 9am-12pm
  • Benefits of Registration (available on-site)

    Registration is required in order to:

    • Participate in ACYR activities not listed below as drop-in
    • Partake in more than one meal on any given day
    • Participate in yoga classes

    Drop-in participation

    The following programs are available by donation (no pre-registration required):

    Thursday August 1

    • Opening Program: Remembering Community: Thursday 7:30pm


    Friday August 2

    • 6:00 – 6:30am: Arati
    • 1:00 – 2:30pm: Yoga Philosophy Class
    • 5:15 – 6:00pm: Arati
    • 7:30 – 9:00pm: Keeping the Spirit Alive (Kirtan)


    Saturday August 3

    • 6:00 – 6:30am: Arati
    • 1:00 – 2:30pm: Yoga Philosophy Class
    • 5:15 – 6:00pm: Arati
    • 7:30 – 9:00pm: Latte Da Open Stage (Open Mic & Talent Show)


    Sunday August 4

    • 6:00 – 6:30am: Arati
    • 1:00 – 3:00pm: Satsang
    • 7:30 – 9:00pm: Celebrating Babaji 90th Birthday & the Sri Ram Ashram


    Monday August 5

    • 6:00 – 6:30am: Arati
    • 12:00 – 1:00pm: Closing Circle & Evaluations


    Drop-In Meals:
    Guests may drop-in for a maximum of one meal per day: $15 adult (16 years +), $7 child (3-15). To attend both meals as well as enjoy full access to all activities, please register for the day.

    Office Hours

    The office is CLOSED from Thursday to Monday, inclusive. Please visit us at the on-site registration and information table.

    Wellness Treatments

    Treatments at Chikitsha Shala, our Wellness Centre, can be booked on-site from 11:00am – 12:00pm and 6:00pm – 7:00pm during the retreat. (The bookings table will not be available Thursday morning and Monday evening). Please note that payment in full is required to reserve your treatment.

    We thank you for your understanding and cooperation and hope to see you at the retreat!

    The ACYR Committee

Summer on the Farm

photo by Uddhava Tomei

photo by Uddhava Tomei

This month our farm blog is from our newest farm yogi, Leah!

As the newest karma yogi on the farm, I’ve been lucky enough to dive headfirst into the abundance of summer. I arrived at the centre in the first week of June, eager to learn and ready to get my hands dirty. The last six weeks have been thoroughly educational, and recently we’ve really been seeing (and eating!) the fruits of our labour.

My daily routine consists of a 6:00 wake up every morning. Like the other summer-season karma yogis (KY’s for short), I sleep in a tent in the forest. I love to see the dappled morning light as I crawl out of bed and pull on my boots to start a new day. I cook an early breakfast in the community kitchen with the other farm yogis. Then it’s to the propagation greenhouse (the prop house, as we call it) for our morning meet-up to plan the day’s activities. Our tasks are varied and there’s always something new to learn.

Since my arrival, I’ve suckered and trellised tomatoes, collected dried mustard seed, hilled potatoes, and mulched strawberries. I’ve thinned lettuce, seeded carrots and flipped compost. I’ve also learned to use various farm tools and now feel quite comfortable with a hoe in my hands. I’m getting better at keeping my furrows straight and even for seeding. The day Jack taught us to scythe was a memorable one. It is incredibly satisfying to slice through shoulder-high thistles with one swoop after spending days pulling the roots by hand. I’m slowly building up my farm muscles, and I daresay I am even developing some farm callouses on my hands!

Fridays are often my favourite day of the week, because Friday is harvest day. Lately we’ve had such bountiful harvests that we’ve even added a second harvest day, which means twice the fun. We’ve been picking, washing and bunching heaps of kale, chard, lettuce and collards. More recently we’ve gotten our first summer squash and tasty bucketfuls of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. The snap and snow peas are in high production, and this morning we picked an impressive 92 pound of beans! It is so wonderful to sit down to dinner and see all the delicious farm veggies on my plate. I’m certainly living the good life as a farm KY, and the food is even tastier because I know exactly where it came from!

Sharada’s August update

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re enjoying summer wherever you are. We are in the midst of our annual hot, dry summer on Salt Spring Island. We wait all year for the sun and heat, and then suddenly, it arrives. The sun is shining, the sky is clear blue almost every day and the lakes are very inviting. The farm is producing an abundance of fresh produce, and the cooks are serving huge salads and other delicious dishes from farm harvests.

Summer gardens

Summer gardens

All the karma yogis continue to work hard to keep the Centre going – weeding and harvesting, cooking and cleaning, answering phones, keeping everything running smoothly – truly a wonderful team!

[clockwise from top left] Uddhava and Joe sitting in one of the chairs they just painted; Paramita hard at work; Lisa battling the morning glory; Kali in the kitchen office

[clockwise from top left] Uddhava and Joe sitting in one of the chairs they just painted; Paramita hard at work; Lisa battling the morning glory; Kali in the kitchen office

Within the continuity of life at the Centre, life, as it does, brings changes; at this moment some of those changes are in the office. Julie, our wonderful Karma Yoga Coordinator, is going back to school for a masters program at Naropa University in Colorado. The program is a perfect fit for her, and we’re getting used to the fact that she’s leaving at the beginning of August. We wish her well. Jack will remain till October, then join her in Colorado. Fortunately a new Karma Yoga Coordinator was selected, and arrived here mid-July to learn the ropes from Julie and get to know the community. I’m happy to report she’s a great fit, and I’m sure she’ll do an excellent job. Welcome Georgia.

Thanks to both Georgia and Julie

Thanks to both Georgia and Julie

One more of our office team is leaving shortly as well. Monique, the Centre’s Office Manager and Rentals Coordinator, is also going back to school, to study acupuncture in Victoria. I’m delighted to report that Claire Barratt, a current participant in our KYSS program, has been hired. She is already familiar with the Centre, and will now bring her considerable skills and experience to the office. Everyone in the office is delighted she will be joining them. The Centre is also looking for a new Farm Manager; ads are posted and applications are coming in.

Thanks to Monique; Welcome Claire

Thanks to both Monique and Claire

We recently celebrated Guru Purnima in the pond dome, as the program house was in use by a Zen meditation group for the full week. Guru Purnima is a special time to honour Babaji and all spiritual teachers. As always, it was a beautiful and moving event. Jai Gurudev!

Guru Purnima celebration at the Centre, 2013

Guru Purnima celebration at the Centre, 2013

On the first day of August we begin our 39th Annual Community Yoga Retreat. We held our first retreat in 1975, at a camp in White Rock, BC. In subsequent years we rented a children’s camp in Oyama, in the interior of BC. The retreats back then were much longer than they are now, and larger – 300- 400 people. It’s undoubtedly a good thing we didn’t know what we were getting into; we probably wouldn’t have done it. But Babaji kept us going, and after a while, encouraged us to buy land and start a yoga centre. For many years now, our annual retreat has been held here at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga.

Following the retreat, we will welcome this year’s group of YTT students and teachers back to the Centre for the second half of YTT. Meanwhile, regular classes for the karma yogis and others from the island community continue. Satsang remains strong every Sunday afternoon, held in the pond dome when the program house is full. Wednesday evening kirtan also draws many people. It differs from satsang in that everyone sits in a circle, and a peacock feather gets passed around. Upon the arrival of the feather, each person is invited to lead a song. Not everyone does, but everyone has the chance to lead; it’s a perfect opportunity for anyone wanting to try a new song or sing in front of others for the first time. It’s a very supportive group.

I invite you to read the articles in this edition of Offerings. “Our Satsang Community” features Mark Classen, known to us as Om PK (Om Prakash). He’s been part of this community for many, many years, in varying roles, several of them teaching in the Salt Spring Centre School. The YTT Grad article, as well as the Asana of the Month, are by Sarah Russell, a graduate of our YTT who is now on the YTT faculty. I encourage you also to read “It’s not what’s happening, it’s how you respond”. It is for and about all of us, an amusing story to remind us that life can be a lot lighter than we often think it is.

May we be filled with loving kindness.
May we be well.
May we we peaceful and at ease.
May we be happy.

Love,
Sharada

It’s not what’s happening, it’s how you respond

Babaji

Babaji

Babaji has written, “Accepting the present is happiness.” Although we may understand this on some level, some of the time, very often we want things to be different from how they are right now. If it’s unpleasant, we want it to stop or go away; if it’s pleasant, we want more of it or we hold on tight for fear of losing it.

Recently I came across a wonderful story shared by Tara Brach, an American Buddhist teacher and author of the book, “Radical Acceptance”, that illustrates beautifully how we create difficulties for ourselves by not accepting situations as they are.

This story took place a number of decades ago when the English had colonized India and decided to build a golf course in Calcutta. Apart from the fact that the English didn’t belong in India to begin with, the golf course was not a particularly good idea. The biggest challenge was that the area was populated by monkeys.

monkeys-playingThe monkeys, it turns out, liked playing golf, too – except their way of playing was to go onto the golf course, pick up the balls that the golfers had hit and toss them around in all directions. Of course, the golfers didn’t like this at all, so they tried to control the monkeys. First they built high fences around the golf course – and they went to a lot of trouble to do this! Now, monkeys climb…so of course that solution didn’t work at all.

The next thing they tried was to lure the monkeys away from the course – maybe by waving bananas or something – but for every monkey that would go for the bananas, many others would come onto the golf course to join in the fun. In desperation they tried trapping and relocating the monkeys, but that didn’t work either. The monkeys just had too many relatives that liked to play golf!

Finally, they established a novel rule for this particular golf course: The golfers in Calcutta had to play the ball wherever the monkey dropped it. Those golfers were onto something!

Tara Brach goes on to say: We all want life to be a certain way. We want the conditions to be just so, and life doesn’t always cooperate. Maybe it does for a while, which makes us want to hold on tight to how things are, but then things change. So sometimes it’s like the monkeys are dropping the balls where we don’t want them.

We have our habitual ways of dealing with these kinds of situations – blaming others, blaming ourselves. We may become aggressive, or see ourselves as victims and then resign. Or sometimes we soothe ourselves with extra food or drink. But clearly, none of those reactions is helpful.

If we are to find any peace, if we are to find freedom, we need to learn to pause and say, “Okay, this is where the monkeys dropped the ball. I’ll play it from here as well as I’m able.” Whatever the situation, whether in a relationship with another person, a work situation or any one of the many things that come up in our day-to-day lives, what would it mean to play the ball from here?

It doesn’t matter what is happening. What matters is how we respond. How we respond is what determines our happiness and peace of mind.

From Babaji:

Your mind is the creator of everything. You create heaven and you create hell. Both are in the mind.

You are in bondage by your own consciousness and you can be free by your own consciousness. It’s only a matter of turning the angle of the mind.

The world is not a burden; we make it a burden by our desires. When the desires are removed, the world is as light as a feather on an elephant’s back.

Contributed by Sharada

Meet our YTT Grads: Sarah Crawford Russell

YTT Grad, Sarah Crawford Russell

YTT Grad, Sarah Crawford Russell

With her encouraging and positive personality, Sarah Crawford Russell, E-RYT 200, inspires others on their journey, both on and off the mat. Sarah reminds her students to take their yoga practice one breath at a time, to let go of judgements and expectations, and to find more compassion towards themselves. In 2008 Sarah completed her 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training program at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga. For Sarah, this experience ‘changed her life’ as she began to see yoga not just as a physical practice but as a philosophical way of life. That same year she also finished her degree in Contemporary Dance from Simon Fraser University. In 2011 Sarah finished a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Apprenticeship with Michael Gannon, studying Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. While dramatically deepening her personal practice, this apprenticeship also provided Sarah with a greater sense of confidence in her ability to teach Vinyasa Yoga to all levels, intelligently and safely. Sarah’s passion for helping others find more comfort and ease in their bodies led her to study Restorative Yoga with Judith Hanson Lasater in the fall of 2012. As a certified Relax and Renew Restorative Yoga teacher Sarah intends to give her students the support and space that they need to breathe, explore, observe, release and truly listen to their bodies. In 2012 Sarah was honoured to join the teaching faculty at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga’s Teacher Training program.

Where do you live? What do you do in your life apart from yoga?
I live in Vancouver and teach full-time in Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond. When I’m not in a Yoga studio, I’m at school studying Counseling Psychology. When I’m not at school I’m either hanging out with family and friends, dancing to reggae music or at a performance. When I’m not doing any of that I enjoy watching a good movie and eating a huge bowl of popcorn!

What motivated you to begin practicing yoga? How did yoga come to be a part of your life?
When I was 18 years old I started practicing yoga to complement my dance training. At the time, yoga was a physical practice for me, a way to gain strength and stamina for dancing. It wasn’t until I became a Karma Yogi at the SSCY at the age of 20 that I started to see yoga as a “philosophical” way of life.

What attracted you to the SSCY YTT program?
I fell in love with the SSCY over the two summers that I worked as a Karma Yogi. It was the first time in my life that I experienced a real sense of community, a community of resect, compassion and selfless service. I felt at home at the SSCY and I just knew that I would do my Yoga Teacher Training there.

What aspect of yoga has had the most transformative effect on your life?
For me, the aspects of yoga that have been the most inspiring are the Yamas and Niyamas. I believe that the ancient teachings of Yoga can nourish and inspire us in today’s contemporary world. I draw daily inspiration from these teachings, particularly Ahimsa (non-harming), Santosha (contentment), and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender to a higher source). In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we learn that the ethical practices of Yoga must come before Asana (yoga postures). As Babaji says, “when one says, ‘I want to become a better person’, that is the start of Yoga.” Yoga begins with leading an ethical life.

What surprised you the most about the practice of yoga? How has your understanding of yoga deepened?
I love that Yoga is multidimensional. There are numerous types and styles of yoga and there is literally something for everyone. The more studying I do the more I realize that the practice of yoga grows and extends well beyond the mat, cushion or yoga studio. Yoga is everywhere in life. Yoga is treating others with kindness and compassion. Yoga is self-acceptance and self-respect. Yoga is standing up for what you believe in. Yoga is honoring the trees, the oceans and the equality of all beings. Yoga is working honestly towards a common good for all.

Please share some memorable moments – or a favourite moment – from YTT.
YTT was a very special time for me because my sister, Heather, and I did the program together. It was so lovely to be able to share this life-altering experience with her, and we grew much closer because of it.

What can students expect from the yoga teacher training at the Centre?
From my experience of both taking YTT and teaching on the faculty, I can say with certainty that the YTT program at the SSCY will change your life. This program is unlike any other training available. It is a comprehensive program that provides students with a solid foundation in the teachings of Classical Ashtanga and Hatha yoga. Students also study the teachings of the Yoga Sutras and Philosophy as well as Ayurveda, Physiology and Anatomy. Students will complete the program feeling inspired, full of knowledge, personal strength and an eagerness to ‘teach to learn’.

How has your practice evolved since completing the YTT program? Are you sharing yoga in your community? If so, what inspires you to share the practice?
I completed another 200 hour YTT in 2011 studying Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga with Michael Gannon in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. While dramatically deepening my personal practice, this apprenticeship also gave me a greater sense of confidence in my ability to teach Vinyasa Yoga to all levels, intelligently and safely. In 2012 I studied with Judith Hanson Lasater, gaining my qualifications to teach Restorative Yoga. Currently, I am studying Counselling Psychology and training to be a Yoga Therapist with Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. I am fascinated by body somatics, psychology, and the mind-body connection.

These days, my yoga practice is a combination of different techniques and methodologies that I have been influenced by. Some days my practice is powerful and fast-paced, whereas other times I just roll around on my living room floor using massage balls and foam rollers. However, most days I practice what I refer to as the ‘mandatory’ legs up the wall pose! I love that my practice can reflect my needs, moods and requirements for each day.

I am inspired when I hear that yoga has changed someone’s life. That is huge!

Do you have any favourite quotes?

Yup! It’s incredibly profound and amazingly simple: “Peace of Mind = Peace on Earth”

sunbird-thumbPractice Sunbird Pose with Sarah in our August instalment of Asana of the Month.

Our Centre Community: Mark Om Prakash Classen

Om Prakash, part of our Centre community

Om Prakash, part of our Centre community

The first time I saw Babaji, I was seventeen years old. I was in high school, eating from the Hare Krsna Cookbook, doing hatha yoga using Richard Hittleman’s books, and reading Autobiography of a Yogi and Be Here Now. I was an annoyance to my family with my dietary demands, sleeping on a mat on the floor in an empty bedroom. One day I was walking past Flying Monkey Store in Toronto and saw a magazine on a rack out front: Dharma Sara #1. I thought it was free, so I took one. On the cover was the image of a man who represented my ideal of the Himalayan yogi, beautific in features with an ascetic bearing. After reading the magazine from cover to cover, I put it aside.

OmPK (age 19) with sisters Wendy and Carelyn

OmPK (age 19) with sisters Wendy and Carelyn

I was a student of Yogananda at the time and often visited Song of the Morning Ranch in Northern Michigan which was run by Yogacharya Oliver Black, Yogananda’s oldest disciple. On moving to Calgary a few years later, I began working in Ambrosia Restaurant where we were deeply interested in Findhorn, akashic records and Alice Bailey. I also became good friends with Terry Willard, who taught me about tipi living and Native American herbs. I heard a rumour about Salt Spring Island and loaded my tipi poles to visit.

OmPK at Shyamspace Ashram 1979 with Ravichandra

OmPK at Shyamspace Ashram 1979 with Ravichandra

I remember arriving in Vancouver and hearing that Babaji was in town before the Oyama retreat. I went to an address in Point Grey and knocked on Ravindra’s door late in the evening. I asked if I could see Babaji, but they said he was asleep (I was not a socially astute individual). After a short stay on Salt Spring at Tassaday Farm, and then on Gabriola Island I began living at the Shyamspace ashram in Vancouver. Mayana lived next door and she introduced me to the Dharma Sara Satsang. At my first satsang I heard Anuradha sing and that was it. I signed up! We were looking for land all over BC, when finally Sudarshan found the property on Salt Spring and we all chipped in for the down payment. That summer I finally met Babaji at the Camp Elphinstone retreat.

At a chai shop in Kulu with Govind Shyam

At a chai shop in Kulu with Govind Shyam

Pitambar and Sumitra started farming at the Centre and I moved onto the land soon after, staying for about six months. At one point Anuradha, Vidyasagar and I decided to make a tape in the Centre library of all the kirtan in the Wings of Breath book (which had recently been published) using two mikes and a cassette deck. We sold those tapes for decades. In the fall I fulfilled a dream and travelled to India, visiting places like Ladakh, Kulu, Rishikesh, Badrinath and Almora. I crawled into Hariakhan Baba’s cave in Pandukoli, met Lahiri Mahasaya’s grandson in Varanasi, and meditated in Yoganada’s attic in Calcutta.

My mother Savitri in the SSC garden

My mother Savitri in the SSC garden

My sisters and niece came to retreats over the years and my mother, Savitri, stayed on the West Coast for several years. She helped me buy a VW van and I decided to teach her how to drive. We were on Blackburn Road, trying to turn around when she hit the accelerator instead of the brake and we smashed into the big fir tree by the driveway entrance!

Oops!

Oops!

In 1985 I moved to Santa Cruz for a year, visiting Mount Madonna each week, learning to play beach volleyball, African drumming with Arthur Hull and building houses with Govind and his crew. I fell in with the artists down there and started taking drawing classes at Cabrillo College, finally returning to UBC to get my Fine Arts degree.

Vedic wedding with Sanjivani (Rameshwar pujari)

Vedic wedding with Sanjivani (Rameshwar pujari)

It was up at the Whistler retreat in 1988 that I met my wife, Sanjivani. We moved to Salt Spring and had our first child, Sierra, in a portable yurt on Rameshwar’s property. Sanjivani was the administrator for the Centre School and one year they needed a teaching assistant, so I applied. I liked the work so much that I got my teaching certificate and taught the older kids at the school for the next six years. Usha was my teaching mentor and influenced the foundation of my educational philosophy.

Teaching at the Centre School (stepdaughter Mamata front row right)

Teaching at the Centre School (stepdaughter Mamata front row right)

During that time, our family had a second daughter, Ashé, and bought property on Sky Valley Road while working daily at the Centre: I designed several of the buildings (the school, garden house and isolation cabin), did lots of plumbing and electrical, and served on the executive for a few years. I recall one year we had a big debate about dishwashing. I tended to avoid dish duty and researched the purchase of a commercial dishwasher, but suddenly there was a big resistance to this idea because dishwashing by hand was recognized as a social event.

Several satsang members were in a marimba band that played around the island and at Saturday Market.

Shungu Marimba with Bhavani (2nd from left in front) and OmPK (back right)

Shungu Marimba with Bhavani (2nd from left in front) and OmPK (back right)

My marriage took a sad turn and my ex-wife and children moved to Nelson. I went back to school to get my Masters degree and became a principal, initially in First Nations communities in Klemtu and Kincolith and then in Harrison Hot Springs. That’s where I have been working for the last seven years. I have been blessed with Rajani’s companionship for the last 16 years and we like to travel the world, tend the garden on a small property on Mount Belcher and spend time in the wilderness on our little boat. I stay involved with the Centre as a sound technician, facilitating events, and telling tales at the Latte Da Stage.

OmPK and Rajani, 2009

OmPK and Rajani, 2009

Although I was often on the fringes, I feel like the Centre has always been my root and my home community. I felt that Babaji’s teachings were simple, clear and concise. In the early years, I thought it was my duty to be “official questioner” during Question & Answer, but with time my mind settled down and I could abandon that compulsion. With the assistance of my Centre friends and the buffeting of life’s events, I feel that I have softened the arrogance of my youth and feel comfortable slowly becoming an elder.

Shraddha ceremony for niece Saxon 1994, daughters Sierra (left) and Ashé

Shraddha ceremony for niece Saxon 1994, daughters Sierra (left) and Ashé

Babaji demonstrates sword technique at SSC Retreat 1982, SN and Mahesh behind

Babaji demonstrates sword technique at SSC Retreat 1982, SN and Mahesh behind

Asana of the Month: Sunbird Pose

I absolutely love this pose! I offer it to my students in almost every hatha and flow class I teach. Sunbird is a great pose for beginners as it builds core strength and helps improve balance and co-ordination. For intermediate students this pose offers many variations to make it more challenging and can be used as prep for another asanas.

Benefits include
Strengthens core, arms, chest, legs and glutes, stabilizes pelvis and stretches the spine, massages kidneys and abdominal organs.

Sunbird pose

Sunbird pose

Getting into the pose
From hands and knees, stack your shoulders over your wrists and draw them down your back away from your ears. Make sure that your hips are stacked over knees, and legs are hip-width apart. Bring your awareness to your core by drawing your navel towards the spine and feel your hips, pelvis and lower back square. Extend your right leg straight behind you, parallel to the floor. Imagine pressing your lifted leg into a wall behind you as you flex the foot and make sure that your knee and toes are pointing in the direction of the floor. Reach your left arm forward (opposite arm to leg). As you reach the left arm forward make sure that your left shoulder is still in line with your right. Continue to breathe as you find a steady gaze. Feel one long line of energy from your left fingertips all the way to your right foot. To protect your lower back, continue to use your abdominals and draw your navel towards the spine. Stay for 5-10 breaths. Repeat other side.

Variations on the pose
For a variation add movement to this pose to further challenge your balance. Keep the leg extended behind you and the arm reaching forward as you inhale and on the exhale bring your knee towards your chest, your elbow towards your knee and round your back. Next inhale breath extend your leg back and arm forward and again exhale bring your elbow and knee in as you round your back. Repeat 3 more times. Do this movement slowly and mindfully, emphasizing fluidity and the movement of your spine.

Sunbird variation

Sunbird variation

Once you feel confident with the first variation, try the second (super-duper challenging) backbending variation. Start with the back leg extended and the opposite arm reaching forward. Bend your lifted leg so that the sole of your foot faces the ceiling. Keep the leg there as you internally rotate your lifted arm so your thumb points to the floor. As you exhale, sweep the arm out to the side and behind to you. Without straining or losing your balance see if you can touch your lifted foot (if not, don’t worry about it!) On an inhale kick your leg back and reach your arm forward and as you exhale, round your back and bring your knee toward your elbow, hugging navel to spine. Repeat 4 more times.

Sunbird backbend variation

Sunbird backbend variation

Modifications
There are many modifications for Sunbird Pose. If lifting your leg off the floor is challenging, try keeping your toes on the floor. Another modification is to separate the arm and leg movements. Start by just lifting your leg, and then lower your leg and lift the opposite arm. A third option is to keep both hands on the floor and lift just the leg. With this variation you may add the knee to chest movement on an exhale while you round the back. For wrist problems use fists, instead of flat palms.

After Sunbird pose I usually move into Child’s Pose for a few breaths to gently stretch the lower back and release the hips.

This pose is great for all levels and it fits nicely into most hatha, flow and power classes. In a hatha class, it is a great foundational pose as it helps to build shoulder, core, leg and glute strength as well as improving balance and co-ordination. For flow and power classes, it is a great way to warm up (especially the super-duper challenging variation) and gets students really connected to their breath. The back-bending variation is also a great prep pose for other backbends such as Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, King Pigeon, Upward Facing Bow (Wheel) and Dancers Pose.

About the Instructor
sarah-russell-thumbWith her encouraging and positive personality, Sarah Crawford Russell, E-RYT 200, inspires others on their journey, both on and off the mat. Sarah reminds her students to take their yoga practice one breath at a time, to let go of judgements and expectations, and to find more compassion towards themselves. In 2008 Sarah completed her 200 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher Training program at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga. For Sarah, this experience ‘changed her life’ as she began to see yoga not just as a physical practice but as a philosophical way of life. That same year she also finished her degree in Contemporary Dance from Simon Fraser University. In 2011 Sarah finished a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Apprenticeship with Michael Gannon, studying Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. While dramatically deepening her personal practice, this apprenticeship also provided Sarah with a greater sense of confidence in her ability to teach Vinyasa Yoga to all levels, intelligently and safely. Sarah’s passion for helping others find more comfort and ease in their bodies lead her to study Restorative Yoga with Judith Hanson Lasater in the fall of 2012. As a certified Relax and Renew Restorative Yoga teacher Sarah intends to give her students the support and space that they need to breathe, explore, observe, release and truly listen to their bodies. In 2012 Sarah was honoured to join the teaching faculty at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga’s Teacher Training program.

Read more about Sarah’s experience in our Yoga Teacher Training program.

Sharada’s July Update

Hello everyone,

Happy Canada Day – and Fourth of July if you’re American – and happy summer, everyone. The sun is shining (on some days), the grass is still green and the sky is light into the late evening. We hear the song of the frogs at night and the birds early in the morning.

The pond at the back of the mountain-fountain

The pond at the back of the mountain-fountain

Added to the ongoing daily tasks that keep the Centre running – and asana classes, yoga theory study and kirtan – this is a time for swims in one of Salt Spring’s many lakes and naps in the hammock. As always, we are blessed to have an awesome group of karma yogis here to keep everything on track.

Laundry sadhana; Lucille with a bouquet of parsley

Laundry sadhana; Lucille with a bouquet of parsley

Yoga Teacher Training is coming up this week, always an exciting time, followed by our Annual Community Yoga Reteatour 39th consecutive yoga retreat! – at the beginning of August. If you plan on joining us please read the information online and register. The retreat is filling up quickly. The early bird registration date has now passed, and late registration closes July 15; to ensure that there’s a space for you, register now! The retreat is always a wonderful time for strengthening our learning, deepening our practice, and connecting with family and friends. You can see some beautiful photos of past retreats here and here.

Self-development is supported by practice, whether we’re talking about learning to play a musical instrument, become a skilled athlete or make progress on our spiritual path. This month’s teaching from Babaji, called “Regular Sadhana” is a reminder of the importance of regular practice.

“Our Centre Community” this month features Markus Vikash Knox, whom many of you know from Sunday satsangs and Wednesday kirtan evenings; you may also know him as the maker of the rose petal beads. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading his full story.

July’s “Asana of the Month” is Half Moon pose – Ardha Chandrasana – contributed by Peter Ashok Baragon, an early graduate of the Centre’s Yoga Teacher Training program, who teaches at both Yoga Getaways and YTT. He has also contributed this month’s YTT Grad feature. He is one of several people who have graduated from the Centre’s Yoga Teacher Training program who are now teaching at the Centre, either at Yoga Getaways or YTT (or both).

On July 22 of this month, we will be celebrating Guru Purnima, an ancient Vedic ceremony (Yajna), to honour Babaji and all spiritual teachers. Please follow this link for more information on this year’s event. We welcome you to join us at 8:00 am on the 22nd for this auspicious ritual in honour of Babaji and all spiritual teachers who have inspired and supported us in treading the spiritual path. If you are interested in offering at the Yajna, or would like more information, please contact Rajani at 250-537-9537 or rajanirock@me.com.

I wish you all a sunny summer, filled with light, joy and peace.
Love,
Sharada

Regular Sadhana (Spiritual Practice)

Baba Hari Dass

Baba Hari Dass

Over the course of many years Babaji has often responded to students’ anxious questions with the recommendation to do regular sadhana, later shortened on his chalkboard to RS.

Sadhana, or spiritual practice, comes in many forms. Many people have a committed asana practice, and that is one expression of sadhana, as is the practice of karma yoga or developing positive qualities.

Generally, when Babaji uses the term ‘regular sadhana’, he is referring to the daily time that one sets aside for a meditation practice, a time each morning that is designated to withdrawing the mind from its preoccupation with the outer world, holding the intention of being still within .

Most of us, when we sit, are not actually practicing meditation. What happens when we first begin to sit is that we notice we are not sitting in stillness; rather we are quieting down enough to notice how out of control our minds are. Our thoughts wander all over the place, bouncing from one subject to another – very disconcerting.

All the limbs of classical Ashtanga Yoga serve as supports in becoming able to sit and still the mind. A daily practice of asana along with mindful breathing can develop flexibility in the body and concentration in the mind. Pranayama (breath control) helps steady the mind, which in turn supports pratyahara, the withdrawing of the mind from its preoccupation with the senses. This leads to the ability to practice dharana (concentration), leading to dhyana (meditation) and eventually samadhi (merging with the Self or source).

For a regular meditation (or at least sitting) practice, it is more useful to sit for a set period of time every day, even if it’s only 10 minutes to begin with, than to sit for an hour one day and none for the next several days. Sitting regularly develops the habit of sitting regularly. The commitment and discipline alone create changes that we may not be aware of, and over time we may begin to notice that we’re calmer, more tolerant, less reactive – maybe not every day, but increasingly over time. In “Silence Speaks” Babaji says, Regular sadhana works inside the body and mind very slowly. One should not be disheartened by apparent lack of progress in sadhana. There is always progress but we can’t feel it, just as when an airplane is high in the sky and going very fast we can’t feel its speed. The progress is felt at takeoff and landing.

From Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, book 1, sutra 14: Persistent practice becomes firmly grounded when it has been practiced for a long, uninterrupted time with earnest devotion.

There is no definition of “long, uninterrupted time”; all we can do is commit to a practice and then do it regularly. As Babaji says in Everyday Peace: Keep the lamp lit, walk on step by step. You can’t go astray, but will merge in the light.


contributed by Sharada