News from the Centre (August 2014)

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all enjoying the sunshine and warmth (and heat) of the summer.

Here at the Centre the summer season seems to be flying by. The first part of July was full and rich, with the first session of Yoga Teacher Training alongside the Yoga Service and Study Immersion program. Meanwhile plans for the Annual Community Yoga Retreat were in full swing. Following the retreat, YTT students will return for their second session, graduating as yoga teachers in mid-August.

Circle on the mound

Circle on the mound – Mark, Piet, Brian, Lakshmi, Cara, Mieke, Lisa, Arron, Tana

Arron, Brian & Divakar

Arron, Brian & Divakar

At this moment, the beginning of August, ACYR – our 40th annual yoga retreat – is underway. The retreat program includes many wonderful classes and other offerings. In the midst of preparing for retreat program offerings, a late entry emerged – a mini Ramayana!

For those who aren’t familiar with the story of the Ramayana, here’s a brief introduction: It is a symbolic tale, full of adventure, of Prince Rama, symbolic of the God-principle in every human being, and his wife Princess Sita, symbolizing human consciousness, the embodied soul. The demon king Ravana, symbolic of the deluded ego, captures Sita. It is an allegory of the individual soul losing contact with the the higher Self. Hanuman, the monkey hero of the story is the epitome of faith and devotion. He finds Sita, leading to Sita’s being reunited with Rama. Thanks to Piet and Brian and a talented group of karma yogis who were inspired by the idea (and the costumes and music), it grew into a play, with music and dance, complete with a final battle in which Rama defeats Ravana. All this in a twenty minute mini extravaganza!

A recent satsang

A recent satsang

Satsang and Wednesday evening kirtan continue as always, and the music has been awesome! We have so many wonderful singers and musicians here! On Wednesday evenings, those who want to try leading a kirtan are invited to try, often for the first time. It’s a great opportunity for people to overcome their shyness and learn to feel comfortable leading a song for others.

Vidya, Jonaa and baby Priya

Vidya, Jonaa and baby Priya

Our satsang community – both those at the Centre and those living elsewhere on the island – are delighted to welcome our newest satsang addition. Welcome to Priya, Vidya and Jonas’ beautiful baby girl.

In this month’s Newsletter

As part of our ongoing introduction to people in our satsang community, I’m pleased to introduce Emily Rose in the article, “Our Satsang Community”. Emily grew up in a satsang family in Hawaii, California,Texas and Quebec (read the story for details), and later met and married Gabriel Rose, part of our satsang since his birth. The two of them play a big role in the Vancouver satsang.

As always, Pratibha has shared her wisdom in this edition. This month’s article is called “Keeping your Cool”. It is full of practical, immediately applicable tips for dealing with heat (in our bodies, in our minds). It will be useful for everyone who’s experiencing heat, whether internal or external.

Kris Cox, the Centre’s programs coordinator for the past two years, shares “King Arthur’s Pose” (yes, it’s an unusual name) in the Asana of the Month series. Kris, an ardent runner, has been teaching asana here at the Centre, and has managed to get folks from her running group to come to classes and do yoga. Apparently, runners need yoga. Check it out, especially if you are into running or other forms of fitness exercise.

Tolerance, compassion and contentment are the focus of Babaji’s teachings in this edition. He has recommended this simple (though not always easy) shift in focus in our daily lives to support us in developing a life of peace. Wherever we are in our life’s journey, this practice is always accessible – and it works.

With wishes for peace,

Love,
Sharada

Tolerance, Compassion and Contentment

BabajiAbout forty years ago, I wrote a letter to Babaji complaining about someone in my life (my husband), and asked what I should do. In his response, he told me to practice tolerance, compassion and contentment. I sort of understood, but not fully.

I had some understanding about what tolerance and compassion were, but I didn’t understand contentment at all. I thought contentment came when you got what you wanted. I’ve since learned it doesn’t work that way. In fact I had a lot to learn about all three.

Tolerance is more than just putting up with someone or something, although that’s a good beginning. On a deeper level, it means recognizing that your way of seeing something or someone is just that – your way of seeing, which is not the same as the truth. We are so identified with our body/minds – and our opinions – that it seems quite obvious to us that we’re right. The problem is that our version of reality is limited to and skewed by our own viewpoint. Tolerance means recognizing that others have the same experience from their point of view.

If we hold on tight to our view and the other person holds on tight to his view, both people become frustrated and angry, and nobody’s having a good time. Tolerance is lightening up and letting go of having to be right. If we can do that, there is a greater possibility that understanding can be reached and hearts can be restored to ease.

To find fault with others becomes a habit. But if we are capable of finding our own faults in everyday activities, we can really progress. In fact, what we see in others are our own weaknesses and faults. Everyone becomes everyone else’s mirror but we don’t want to accept our own faults, so we do not use these mirrors to improve ourselves.

By letting go of our habitual judgements, compassion can arise. Then we are able to recognize that suffering is occurring – in ourselves, in the other – and we can let go of blame. We can hold our hearts – our own and the other person’s – with care, with softness.

Compassion evolves to love for all beings, including ourselves. Instead of focusing on the dramas of our lives, particularly all the things we don’t like, and blaming others for our own unhappiness, we could let go and lighten up. We have to pay attention to our habit of closing down, and remember to choose a different way of seeing and responding.

Ammachi says “The first step in spiritual life is to have compassion. A person who is kind and loving never needs to go searching for God. God rushes toward any heart that beats with compassion – it is God’s favourite place.”

Contentment is recognizing that things happen as they happen, and that events don’t have to destroy our equilibrium. Unlike my earlier idea that contentment would come If I got what I wanted, contentment is unrelated to what’s happening ‘out there’. It is an internal experience of ease and peace when we can stop arguing with how things are and and find peace in this moment, whatever the moment holds.

It doesn’t mean shrugging your shoulders and saying, “There’s nothing I can do so I’ll surrender to my miserable life.” It doesn’t mean you don’t take action, but it means accepting that this moment, this situation, is the reality of the moment. Responding from a neutral (that is, nonreactive) place, more possibilities open up.

Nonacceptance of life causes resistance and pain. Why do that? Why cause pain for ourselves? It’s a habit that can change if we remember our aim. Do we want to be right or do we want to be happy? Do we want to live in pain and misery or do we want to live in peace?

If we accept life in the world, it creates contentment and all conflicts fall away.

The mind can switch in a moment from contentment to negativity. What makes us forget to remember divine presence? Distraction and desire will always come, but the aim should not be overtaken.

Yoga gives people the strength to stand on their own feet. It develops positive qualities such as contentment, compassion, tolerance and acceptance every day.

Cultivate a sympathetic heart, humility in dealings and selflessness in actions. If these are practiced with earnestness and sincerity, then you will win the race of life.

We will continue our habitual patterns until we realize that they’re not bringing us the happiness we long for. When difficult things happen, when relationships are challenging, how we respond can change our world. The teachings of tolerance, compassion and contentment show us a way to peace.

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

OM

contributed by Sharada
all text in italics is from Babaji’s teachings

Keeping your cool in the summer heat

GreenJuice-flickrCC-WildTofuSummer is the time of year when pitta dosha predominates both in the body and in the outer world. For vata and kapha predominant folks, this is a great blessing; they’re going to feel warm and cozy at last! But if we have pitta predominant in our nature, any excess of inner heat can become reactive, can settle into the tissues, and wreak havoc with our metabolism. When it accumulates in the summer season, it can then lead to dryness when the autumn winds kick in.

So how do we recognize excess heat or pitta in our system? Here are a few of the signs: fever, inflammation (such as sunburn or painful joints), indigestion (including constipation and diarrhea), skin rashes, sores or ulcers, bad breath & body odor, excessive sweating, and hyperacidity in the GI tract. As you first begin to notice feeling too warm, that is the best time to take action (after peeling off excess layers of clothing, of course).

The weather plays its part in creating excess pitta in the system, to be sure. But other causes can come into play as well – a pitta-provoking diet, for example, or too much sun exposure, and even emotional distress from a challenging relationship.

Food Tips for Keeping your Cool

To antidote pitta, we choose both cooling and reducing methods. First, here are some dietary suggestions to keep our internal heat in check:

• Plenty of cool, fresh water will help flush out excess heat and toxins. Aloe vera – 2 T in your first water of the day – can help keep you cool well into the afternoon.
• Green juice is such a great refresher to soothe the inner fire. Green juice can include any dark leafy greens and herbs, as well as watery summer squash. Blend quickly with water and season with ginger, turmeric, coriander, or any favorite spices. It’s easy to digest, encourages detoxification and provides absorbable vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Many people like to dilute the drink with more water, or you can enjoy it as a quick, short shot!
• Choose sweet, juicy fruits like melons, plums, nectarines & peaches.
• Include bitter, astringents vegetables like summer squash, dark leafy greens (collards, kale) and asparagus in your evening stir-fry.
• Limit hot spicy chilis, garlic, salty and fried foods. Alcohol and caffeine are both sharp and hot; reduce or eliminate them.

Cooling Herbs & Spices

• Digestive spices like cumin, coriander, fennel and turmeric are helpful to cool and support the digestive track.
• Neem is one of the most powerful anti-pitta herb in the Ayurvedic pharmacy. It cools a fever, reduces inflammation, and is both anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Neem is used in combination with other herbs that support balanced liver function, such as guduchi and bhumyamalaki.
• Amalaki (one of the 3 ingredients of Triphala) is helpful to cleanse excess pitta from the GI tract. This vitamin-C rich herb helps support regular bowel function as well.

Lifestyle Suggestions

• Take a cool shower, or a dip in the lake, pond or ocean. Or after a warm shower, simply rinse off under a cool spray.
• Slow the pace of life enough to take breaks – meditate, chant, sing or walk along the river for an hour.
• Bring spontaneity into your life. Release yourself from your own expectations; let friends and colleagues off the hook occasionally, too!
• Surround yourself with cooling colors – blue, green, white – in your clothing and environment.
• Plan to exercise in the cool of the morning or evening hours, never in the heat of a summer’s day.
• Try moon-bathing. The moon’s cooling light is a perfect antidote to the heat of the sun.

Staying Cool on the Mat

• Bring softness and compassion to your practice. Include cooling forward bend as well as restorative poses. Spinal twists massage the liver and spleen, where pitta does its work to cleanse and purify. The Moon Salutation series is ideal for keeping pitta in check.
• Shitali (or sitkhari) pranayama is cooling for body, mind and spirit. It can be practiced at any time of the day when cooling winds are desired. Making a pipe with the tongue (or placing the tongue behind the front teeth), inhale slowly through the open mouth; then pause a few seconds before exhaling through both nostrils.
• Lunar Breathing (chandra bhedana) is another simple breathing practice that cools. Blocking the right nostril, inhale through the left; after a full inhalation, exhale through both nostrils (or alternatively, exhale through the right).
• In our meditation practice, bring forth the qualities of patience and compassion, allowing rajasic emotions (like anger and envy) to return to neutral, encouraging sharp judgments to soften, and letting go of any excessive sense of urgency.

And here’s a refreshing treat!


Limeade with Rose Water
¼ cup lime juice
6 cups fresh water
4 T rose water
2 T organic maple syrup (or other sweetener)
Squeeze the lime juice (use fresh, if possible).
Strain the pulp; add maple syrup or sweetener of your choice. Serve with a smile!

And the best antidote of all . . . bring sweetness to your heart, and share it with a smile!

Peace, ~pratibha

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.

Green juice image by Wild Tofu.

Our Centre Community: Emily Vimala Rose

The story of my connection to Babaji begins before my birth, and is perhaps more of a story about my family than about me. My parents met in university, and upon graduation, they began to search for some land. Their dream was to build a home and start a farm, and in the fall of 1980, they purchased 104 acres in Quebec. My dad’s family was from Hawaii, so my parents would spend the winters there and return to Quebec in the summers to work on building their home. My older sister was born the year after they purchased the property in Quebec, and shortly thereafter, my parents read the book, Be Here Now, and met Babaji. A year later, they spent some time working on building the Community Building at Mount Madonna Center in California. They had been hoping to see Babaji but didn’t know that he returned to India at that time of year. My parents were both vegetarian and were studying yoga practices and philosophy already, and Babaji became their guru. I was born in Hawaii in 1984, and in 1986, my younger sister was born in the newly completed home in Quebec. That was the only full year that we spent in Quebec.

My mom and her girls, fall 1986

My mom and her girls, fall 1986

My childhood was spent between Texas and our beautiful home in Quebec. My dad had gone back to school to complete a master’s degree in Architecture and Land Development, and my sisters and I loved school and our activities during the school year. Every May, we would return to our home in Quebec. We worked hard during those summer months helping in the gardens and raspberry fields, and in whatever chores were invented for us. Our summer job was picking strawberries for a neighbor’s strawberry farm at 65 cents for a 4L basket. I remember picking berries for a whole season and earning less than $100.

Although we were working hard, we also had a tremendous amount of fun and freedom. We had a playhouse that my dad built where we would spend hours playing. The local children all spoke French, so we learned to speak French in a true immersion setting in order to have any friends to play with. Long summer days were spent picking wild strawberries, swimming in our pond, and having campfires outside under the stars. Our life was connected to the Earth and my parents were our teachers, sharing the yogic teachings with us. They were devoted and gave selflessly to me and my sisters. We were living in a happy, warm and loving family. On our return to school in the fall, we would occasionally attend the Toronto retreats, where we would participate in the kids’ program. I remember particularly liking the See’s candy sticks that Babaji always gave us.

Our home in Quebec

Our home in Quebec

We moved to Colorado in the fall of 1995, as my dad had started his own company there. We loved the access to the outdoors, and almost every weekend was spent outside hiking or snowboarding in the mountains. In the spring of 1998, my little brother, Johnny was born. It was such a happy change for our family!

I attended Smith College for my undergraduate degree in Massachusetts. This was my first time away from my family, and I was thankful to have my older sister also at the same school. My little sister also attended Smith a couple years later. It was during my third year at Smith that we attended the New Year’s Retreat in California at Mount Madonna Center for the first time. Babaji still gave my sisters and I candy like he had done at the retreats in Toronto, and seemed interested in our lives, asking many questions. This was the last time we would have a family darshan with him, all together.

Sisters

Sisters

After graduating, I taught Spanish at an all-boys school in Connecticut, and pursued a master’s degree the year after at Boston University in Education with a specialty in foreign language education. I moved to Dallas, Texas in the fall of 2008, and began an amazing job teaching Spanish and coaching. With extended family close by and an inspiring job, I felt challenged and fulfilled. It felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be for a while, and after years of moving constantly, I felt ready to put down some roots.

Meeting the love of my life… New Year’s Retreat 2009/2010

Meeting the love of my life… New Year’s Retreat 2009/2010

Our family returned to the New Year’s Retreat in California in 2009. On the first evening, I smiled at Gabriel, and we spent a lot of the rest of the retreat smiling at each other. It felt like meeting someone whom I knew already, as if a previously unknown space was filled in my heart. Six months later, in July of 2010, I moved to Vancouver to begin sharing life with Gabriel, and a year later, he proposed under the most beautiful sunset at my family’s farm in Quebec. We were married in 2012 in Mexico, surrounded by family and friends.

Our families at our wedding

Our families at our wedding

Now, Gabriel and I help with the Vancouver satsang on Sundays here in Vancouver. We are thankful to Babaji for his teachings that are part of our daily life. We enjoy the time we are able to spend at Mount Madonna and Salt Spring Centre, as these places will always hold a sense of belonging for us. And most of all, we hold our family in a special place in our hearts and in our lives, knowing that our loving and supportive families have brought us to where we are today.

Emily Vimala Rose, part of our Centre community

Emily Vimala Rose, part of our Centre community

Asana of the Month: King Arthur’s Pose

King Arthur’s Pose

Kris-KingArthur3

Kris demonstrating King Arthur pose

King Arthur’s Pose is not one of the most common poses. I have yet to even find a Sanskrit name for it or why it’s named so. As it uses a wall, this pose is not usually found in a flow class unless the instructor has planned ahead. Since the wall is one of my favourite props, this is one of my favourite poses to both practice and to teach. King Arthur’s pose targets the front of the quadriceps in a deep, delicious way. The lunge variation stretches the iliopsoas (what people commonly refer to as the hip flexors). Both variations are great general poses for runners, walkers, those who sit at a desk, those who drive … pretty much everyone. Both are also wonderful preparations for backbends.

I often say this is a pose I ‘hate to love’. The sensations can be intense but the benefits are well worth it. Keep in mind the intention of the pose is the stretch in the front of the leg, so it ultimately doesn’t matter how close your hips are to the wall or how deep your lunge is. Everyone will find their own sweet spot in both variations. Remember to keep breathing and let the muscles slowly open over time.

Before you begin:

• This pose is best with some height under your knee. Even if you don’t need to cushion the knee on the floor, the height levels the hips. A thin foam block, tightly rolled yoga mat or folded blanket can all do the trick.
• If the tops of your feet don’t like a lot of pressure, you can use another foam block (as shown), a yoga mat, or even a spare article of clothing, to add some cushion between the top of your foot and the wall.

To come into the pose:

• Start facing away from a wall, on your hands and knees (tabletop), toes curled under and the soles of your feet touching the wall. Have your props within reach.
• Bend the right foot towards your right hip and start to bring your bent right knee to the base of the wall. Place a foam block or folded blanket under the right knee.
• Slide the right shin and top of the foot up the wall vertically, toes pointing straight up. If you’d like, place a second foam block or cushion between the top of your foot and the wall.
• Step your left foot out onto the floor, stacking the ankle directly under the knee. Put slightly more weight in the heel of your left foot to keep the left knee energy from moving forward over your ankle.
• On in inhale, lengthen the torso and find a neutral pelvis.
• While pressing the top of the right foot into the wall and keeping the weight in the left heel, on an inhale, use your pelvis to lift your torso off your left thigh.

Using your pelvis to start the movement keeps the pelvis neutral and avoids compression in the lower back.

Lunge variation

Your fingertips can remain on the floor

Lunge variation 2

Your hands can move onto your knee

Your fingertips can remain on the floor (1) or on blocks, your hands can move onto your left knee (2) or you can move deeper and bring the hips toward the wall, raising both arms over head (3).

• On each inhale, continue to lengthen the torso. Relax into the sensations in the thigh.
• To move even deeper, work towards bringing the entire back body against the wall and taking the right foot just outside of the right hip (like in Virasana). Be mindful to not just arch your back and press just the shoulders to the wall.
• Hold the pose for 5-20 breaths

Lunge Variation:

• Bring your hands back onto your left knee, onto blocks or bring your fingertips back onto the floor.
• On an inhale, lengthen the torso. While keeping the weight in your right heel, on an exhale, press your hips towards the floor as in a low lunge.
• On each inhale, continue to lengthen the torso, keeping the pelvis neutral.
• Hold the pose for 5-20 breaths.

To come out of the pose:
• Bring your hands down to the floor and take your right shin off the wall. When ready, repeat on the other side.

About the instructor

Kris Cox

Kris Cox

Kris started ‘dabbling’ in yoga in 1998 but her practice really started in 2006. Completing her YTT 200 in Calgary in 2012 under Kevin Elander and Hart Lazer, Kris’ focus is on alignment, breath and stability to create grace and strength. She encourages her students to practice, try, tip over, try again, smile, play and laugh in her classes.