News from the Centre (July 2014)

Hello to all of you,

Those of us living in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the long days of sunshine (and occasional showers) of summer. Life is beautiful at the Centre. Happy Canada Day to all the Canadians and Happy Fourth of July to our American friends. We hope to see many of you this summer.

SSCYGarden-July14

Life is beautiful at the Centre

Our YSSI (Yoga Service and Study Immersion) group has been here for a month, and what a great group they are! Everyone is very busy working in their various departments, preparing for YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) which begins on the 3rd of July. They are eager participants in the daily pranayama and meditation classes and evening yoga theory classes.

Centre life. Clockwise from top left: Brands and Jeff  - lunchtime; Brenn enjoying lunch; Lakshmi and Tana; Julia and Sharada; Marianne - grated carrot on toast

Centre life!Clockwise from top left: Brandon and Jeff – lunchtime; Brenn enjoying lunch; Julia and Sharada; Lakshmi and Tana; Marianne – grated carrot on toast

We are delighted to welcome a new group of YTT students to our Centre family on July 3, and we are very pleased that Jeff, a karma yogi working this year in the garden, will be joining YTT this year.

ACYR 40th Anniversary

Later this summer – from July 31 – August 4 – we will celebrate our 40th Annual Yoga Retreat (ACYR). Piet, our creative and energetic ACYR coordinator, has been actively gathering a great staff to help in the many areas of the retreat. The energy is high for this event! Many people have already registered as guests, and I encourage you to add your name to the list of folks who are coming. There’s lots of information – and registration forms – available on the Centre’s website.

In this Month’s Newsletter

This month’s story for “Our Centre Community” is by Jenny Collver. Jenny is well-known and loved at the Centre. She is a popular yoga teacher here (and a great karma yogi). In addition, Jenny has deep roots in the Salt Spring Centre School. She also happens to be an entertaining writer and I’m sure you’ll enjoy her story.

Pratibha has contributed another gem this month – “Developing Positive Qualities: Ayurveda and the Mind”, bridging the line between ayurveda and yoga philosophy. I also invite you to read, “Don’t Give Up”, reminding us that failing at something isn’t the end.

The Asana of the Month features Utthita Trikonasana – Extended Triangle Pose – contributed by Peter Ashok Baragon. The instructions are very clear, and include modifications for those who have tightness in the hips or lower back. Try it!

Aloha, Friends

Aloha to Rajesh, Bonnie and their son, Sage, long-term Salt Spring Islanders and Salt Spring Centre family. They are moving to another island – in Hawaii. We’ll miss you!

May you all be nourished by the light.

Love,
Sharada

Don’t Give Up

babaji-febnewsLife is not always easy, and we regularly fail in our attempts to live with compassion and stay true to our convictions. Each time we fall, we can pick ourselves up and move forward.

Babaji says, Failure is the foundation of success. We learn how to achieve success by failing in our efforts. The main thing is to not stop the effort. In the spiritual path what are our expectations? Probably we want to be on the top of Mount Everest with very little experience in climbing. But if we go on climbing we can achieve success.

The Dalai Lama says the same thing: Never give up. No matter what is going on around you, never give up.

This poem by Portia Nelson tells the story of our lives in a very simple and elegant way. It is an excellent metaphor for our struggles to overcome our habits – and a reminder to keep trying.

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…..I am hopeless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place,
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…..it’s a habit.
My eyes are open,
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.

From Babaji: You start from where you are. Live a disciplined life, which will eliminate the burning desires for sense objects. Try to keep the mind equipoised in the pairs of opposites, and perform actions without egocentric desires.

The world always pulls us to attachment, desires, lust, greed, etc. This is the natural flow of the mind in the world. It’s like a river that naturally flows down the slope of the land. But the aim of life is to get back to the source. So it means we have to climb up.

Don’t give up.

contributed by Sharada

all text in italics is from Babaji’s writings

Our Centre Community: Jenny Shanti Collver

Jenny in 1974

Jenny in 1974

It was 1973 when I first experienced yoga. At the time I thought that it was an accidental meeting. That was before I knew about dharma.

I had moved from Winnipeg that winter. I rolled through the frozen Rockies in my 1957 Rambler Classic, bald tires and all. That first year I kept waiting for winter, but it never came. I still love the rain.

I enrolled in the horticulture programme at BCIT in the fall. Students were encouraged to sign up for a physical education class or join a sports team. I had my choice narrowed down to basketball or yoga. Although I was tall, I wasn’t a team player. All I’d heard about yoga were stories about Maharishi’s flying siddhis. That sounded like fun. I chose yoga.

My first yoga class was unforgettable, although we didn’t fly. There were about 30 students in the gym and an instructor. Because yoga mats hadn’t been invented we all stood on towels. We started breathing and moving together through strange shapes with unusual names. I loved it. After an hour the instructor invited us to become very still on our towels like corpses. Although that was a little alarming for a 20 year old, I sank into savassana for the first time and felt my body melt. To become so still after all that intense movement was transcendent. I floated out of the gym and came back week after week.

I found a teacher, Dr.Bina Nelson, in my neighbourhood, and started classes with her once a week. She stood at the front of the room in a gorgeous sari and instructed verbally. She never assumed the postures. She described them and then corrected us. She suggested that I read BKS Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga”. I did. Then I obtained Annie Besant’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita. I still have both volumes.

Life got busier. I started a tiny gardening business, which soon expanded to become a bigger business. I began to install and maintain tropical plants in restaurants and hotels in downtown Vancouver. I got married and my husband Chris worked with me. We were working 70 hours a week. Yoga became a cherished memory.

In 1983 my daughter Arianne was born. I kept working. When her sister Melaina was born a year later I decided to work from home. Dr. Nelson was still teaching and I started attending her classes again. I started getting contracts for weekly fresh flower arrangements in some of the hotels and restaurants. Three times a week, at 5am I attended the Dutch flower auction in Burnaby, often with a baby or toddler in tow. I’d arrange the flowers in my basement workroom with the kids close by, and at night, by myself. Chris delivered them and maintained all the tropical plants.

I was invited to meet some devotees of Swami Chinmayananda in 1984. They met every Saturday morning in one of their homes to study Vedanta together. After a couple of hours of study and meditation we would cook and eat delicious Indian food. Suddenly yoga was back in my life and in the lives of my children who were always welcomed and loved by these wonderful people from New Delhi.

Chris built a meditation room for me and I started to spend a lot of time in there, reading and meditating and doing asana. I still worked too hard, but my focus had changed. I took the kids to meet Swami Chinmayananda at the University of Western Washington in 1985, even though they were tiny. Like Babaji, Swami Chinmayananda loved children and he made efforts to connect with them. As a little girl, Arianne often talked about the way he smiled at her as he threw grapes her way.

Our paths diverged and my marriage to Chris ended. I was determined to get off my work treadmill so I started exploring the Gulf Islands. On the second trip to Salt Spring, Arvid Chalmers sold us a house in the north end. I was able to sell our Vancouver home and the business quickly. I moved the children, myself, our dog Maria, and our cat Fern to Salt Spring Island.

Melaina (front) with a friend, 1990

Melaina (front) with a friend, 1990

Arianne was only 4 but she was reading and longed to go to school. Fernwood school told us to wait a year, but then Arvid sold us on the Salt Spring Centre school. His friend Sid Filkow was the director of the Centre and the principal of the school. He accepted Arianne for Usha’s class, offered me a job as Usha’s helper and said that 3 year old Melaina could come to school to play and hang out. The starting salary was $6.50 an hour with Arianne’s tuition included. Our new life was unfolding. We weren’t striving and harried anymore.

Arianne reading, Centre School 1994

Arianne reading, Centre School 1994

 Melaina reading, Centre School 1994

Melaina reading, Centre School 1994

I decided to start making articulated teddy bears from fur coats to sell at the Saturday market. I researched the mechanics of the very first bears which were made in New York in 1892. They caught on and I sold hundreds in the 15 years that I made them. While Usha taught the kids knitting, I taught them how to make their own animals. When the school produced Midsummer Night’s Dream, Satya and I made the costumes.

 Arianne and Melaina in Centre School production of Romeo and Juliet, 1997

Arianne and Melaina in Centre School production of Romeo and Juliet, 1997

While yoga was becoming a bigger part of my life, as I spent my days at the Centre I was still shy about meeting Babaji. His presence was palpable in the Satsang room where Usha taught before the school building was put up. I would have glimpses of him during summer retreats but it wasn’t yet time for me to connect with him.

The years at the Centre school spun out. We celebrated the holidays of many cultures, like Rosh Hashanah, Advent, May Day, Diwali. We had glorious recesses in the swamp (not allowed anymore) and in the bunny homes under the cedars near Sharada and Sid’s house. The school took family camping trips. It was good, but after 4 years I was ready for a change. I left the school. Arianne stayed until she was ready for grade 10 and Melaina left just before grade 9. I sat on the school board for a couple of years.

I went back to school for a short time and qualified as a medical aid. I juggled on-call shifts for 10 years at Lady Minto Hospital, Greenwoods and the vet clinic. We had a farm on Beddis Road with many farm animals and an organic garden. My yoga practice nosedived as I danced once more on the work treadmill. I approached burnout and ignored the signs. My health crashed in 2002. I couldn’t work at all. It was hard to move. I started to meditate again. Arianne had moved to Vancouver to work and Melaina was at University in Nanaimo.

Some of our animals

Some of our animals

I discovered Restorative yoga. I attended Celeste’s Restorative Yoga classes at Ganges Yoga Studio. I was humbled in my practice. Celeste kept us in long holds while she read from sacred texts. I started attending her sadhana classes. I met Lee Mason (Loknath), a brand new yoga teacher who taught Sunrise Yoga at Ganges Yoga Studio. He was so young that he thought that everyone could have strong healthy bodies like his body. His classes were small and he spent a lot of time coaching me back to an active yoga practice. He challenged me to take yoga teacher training in 2007, at the Salt Spring Centre. That summer I finally met Babaji. It took me over 20 years to seek him out. He gave me the Sanskrit name – Shanti.

I have a huge respect for Restorative yoga. It brought me back to life, and to my practice. I was accepted for Restorative teacher training by Judith Lasater in 2008, in Dallas Texas. I teach a weekly Restorative class at the Centre.

I worked at Ganges Yoga Studio for 4 years, independently for 2 years and I have been teaching at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga for almost 2 years.

In 2013 I completed one year of Cathy Valentine’s Traditional Yoga Apprenticeship. I have been blessed with inspired yoga teachers.

Jenny Shanti Colver, part of our Centre community

Jenny Shanti Collver, part of our Centre community

My yoga practice, study and teaching are at the centre of my life. I teach mostly in the Satsang room, and so many memories are there. I love to teach Sunrise Yoga, usually after attending Arati with Christine and Raven at the temples on the land. I also wash a lot of dishes at the Centre. It’s all yoga.

I hope to teach yoga until I am very old. It is my best job yet. Om, Shanti

Developing Positive Qualities: Ayurveda and the Mind

lotusBabaji was once asked, “I have a hard time meditating; I don’t have much devotion; I don’t have time for karma yoga. What can I do?” Sometimes he replied, “Develop positive qualities.” Other times he answered, “Live a virtuous life.” Both these suggestions point to enhancing sattva in our lives.

Last month, we talked about bringing sattvic qualities into our Ayurvedic dietary habits. This month, we’ll shine the light of Ayurvedic understanding on our efforts to develop a sattvic mind. Through the purification practices of yoga, we gradually purify the mind of negative qualities – like lust, anger and greed – and learn how to promote the sattva principle in our yogic life.

The three cosmic gunas – sattva, rajas, tamas – are subtle energies that permeate the entire universe. They describe the forces at work that mysteriously bring creation into being. These three infinite forces are also constantly at work to continue the creation and sustenance of the universe. The constant state of interplay between the three gunas allows for the continuous creation throughout eternity.

Sattva is the force of balance, purity, equilibrium, wisdom, light, truth and peace. The light of the sun and keen intelligence are examples of the force of sattva. Rajas is the force of action, passion, energy, will, dispersion. Rajas manifests as activity, movement, and engagement with the world. Tamas is the force of stability, cohesion, resistance, dullness, inertia. The darkness of ignorance and the staying power of bad habits are ways that we see tamas manifest in our daily life.

In the daily activity of life in the world, we see primarily the interplay of rajas and tamas. At night we rest; during the day, we are active. After each breath, the breath pauses, suspended in the interval between the inhale and the exhale. This cycle of activity and rest – rajas and tamas – goes on throughout out life of engagement in world activities.

In our spiritual development, however, our goal is to enhance the sattvic qualities that we all possess as human beings. Love, compassion, generosity, patience, non-violence, peacefulness, wisdom, positivity. These are the qualities of a sattvic person, who is capable of living a virtuous life and manifesting positive qualities.

In order to develop a more sattvic lifestyle, we gradually reduce the worldly forces of passionate rajas and lethargic tamas, and to increase the force of sattva in our lives. We modify our diet to include more calming, balancing foods. We avoid activities that kick our passions into high gear. We use the practices of asana, pranayama and meditation to turn our attention inward.

And thus we begin by reducing the downward pull of tamas in our lives – to overcome any tendencies toward lethargy, depression, and dullness that may creep into our nature. Next we gradually develop the power to transform our aggressive, negative, rajasic tendencies into positive qualities, to see others as friends and fellows, rather than as rivals or enemies. We expand our daily concerns beyond our own self-interest.

Our vata nature expresses its sattvic side through qualities such as enthusiasm, delight, inspiration, devotion to others, expressing divine love. Sattvic qualities in pitta predominant people come thru as clear perception, brilliance, dedication, and keen insight. Kapha people express their sattvic nature through patience, compassion, generosity. Remembering that all of us have all three doshas in our make-up, we watch these positive qualities develop as we grow in our self-development.

And in the process we learn to live a virtuous life through developing this positive side of our nature – learning enthusiasm, dedication and patience, developing insight, compassion, and devotion to others’ welfare. This is the sattvic side of our nature. One that is an essential part of who we are, but also the side that is often buffeted about in the striving and struggle of our daily lives. Our spiritual practices – sadhana, selfless service, rituals of devotion – all provide an avenue for us to develop and enhance the purity of mind that resides in our sattvic nature.

Wishing you peace as we come to see ourselves as the divine sattvic being we truly are.

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen

Pratibha Queen is a yoga instructor and Ayurvedic practitioner, who attends Salt Spring Center of Yoga retreats on a regular basis. Feel free to email with any questions that arise as you engage in health practices to support your yoga practice: pratibha.que[at]gmail[dot]com.

Asana of the Month: Utthita Trikonasana

Extended Triangle Pose:
Utthita Trikonasana
(A standing pose/lateral bend)

Peter demonstrating Utthita Trikonasana

Peter demonstrating Utthita Trikonasana

It’s the feeling of wringing out the back and spinal muscles while creating space for breath in the corners of the torso, that keeps this pose a staple in my practice.

I remember enjoying this pose in a yoga class years ago, when my back muscles felt tight and knotted from weight training and swimming. Triangle pose for me was a soothing and relieving posture to the tension in my back and spinal column.

When this pose is performed with care and attention to one’s own ability and physical restrictions in the hips and shoulders, it can be the most rejuvenating posture to find.

Before you begin, recognize the areas in your body that are tight and less flexible, that are open and more mobile. With this in mind, accept that some modifications maybe be needed. They are indicated here.

To Start:
1. Stand in Tadasana pose (Mountain pose) facing forward (the long side of your sticky mat).

2. Step your feet apart, approximately 1 metre or the length of your leg. The length of space between your feet determines the ease for folding laterally with the torso over the leg.

3. Keep your feet parallel to each other and the big toes aligned. Firm the legs and feel an anchoring sensation through the feet; gently tip the hips up and down (side to side), to feel your mobility in the pelvis. Feel your balance.

4. Turn your right foot to 90 %, keeping that foot parallel to the long side of your mat. Turn your left foot slightly forward to the right. As you adjust your feet, perhaps you will notice the turn made with the legs, torso and hips. Keep your hips and torso facing forward. Press down through your feet and lift up with the knees and thighs, creating a solid foundation.

5. Inhale to lift the arms up to shoulder height parallel with the floor, palms facing down. Soften the neck and shoulder muscles and notice if you create tension in this space.

6. Inhale and lengthen up. On the next exhale, bend to the right, lengthening over the right leg while pressing the left hip up and back, and folding at the right hip crease. Notice a comfortable reach over the front leg. Bring your right hand to the thigh, shin, ground or block. Note: Try not to turn the hips or over reach and bend forward; stay in the lateral plane. This means find a comfortable lateral movement over the leg without strain, with the right hand giving the pose stability and length. Breathe!

7. Left arm reaches toward the ceiling with the chest open and the palm facing forward. If you feel the chest collapsing and the left side ribs compressing, then walk your right hand up the leg to a higher spot to lift and lengthen the left side. Take the left hand to the left hip and encourage space across the torso. Breathe!

8. Look forward or turn the head to see your thumb. Assess the sensation through the legs (foundation), the spine, and your balance.

9. Keeping the thighs firm, roll gently back while moving the left hip back and opening the chest.

10. Inhale to extend the neck and spine. On the exhale notice the depth in the right hip crease. Breathe!

Coming out of the pose:

1. Firm the legs and press strongly through the feet and inhale while lifting upright; reach through the left arm.

2. Turn the right foot forward parallel with left, and step legs together into Tadasana.

3. Repeat on left side.

Benefits:

• Develops strength in the legs, back and abdominals.
• Relieves backaches and neck tension.
• Tones the respiratory, urinary/genital systems and spinal nerves.
• Stimulates the digestive and circulatory systems.

Using a chair for a supported modification

Using a chair for support in the pose

Modifications:

Keep legs closer together if you’re tight in the hips and lower back.
• Stand with your back to a wall, using the wall to support and guide the lateral bend.
• Keep a block near for your hand to reach to for support, or take the hand to the shin or thigh.

About the instructor

Peter BarragonPeter Ashok Baragon graduated from SSCY’s Yoga Teacher Training ten years ago  and has been teaching in Vancouver and West Vancouver ever since.  He enjoys teaching at community based centres for the variety of participants and the opportunity to offer different styles throughout the week. Rooted in classical ashtanga yoga and hatha yoga, he also teaches yin, restorative, chair-yoga for seniors and power flow vinyasa. Teaching for him flows from a place of love, compassion and gratitude.

Read more about Peter’s experience as a student of the Salt Spring Centre’s Yoga Teacher Training program.

Other postures taught by Peter