News from the Centre (October 2014)

Hello everyone,

Fall's long shadows on the fountain

Autumn’s long shadows on the fountain

Autumn, the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” (from ‘Ode to Autumn’ by John Keats) has arrived in its gentle beauty. This is the month of Canadian Thanksgiving, a time for all of us to join in gratitude for what we have been given: the guidance of our teacher, Baba Hari Dass, the gift of this community of yogis, the sharing of our many forms of spiritual practice, the abundance of organic food. We continue to feast on zucchini and other squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, carrots, beets, chard and other greens, apples and pears. To top this off, the trees along the driveway have again produced an abundance of walnuts.

Fresh, organic produce

Fresh, organic produce

Farewell to Kris!

Last month we said farewell to Kris, our extremely capable programs & rentals coordinator, who has moved back to Calgary. Fortunately for us, she will continue to help us out for a while. Kris, we love you and will be very happy to see you anytime you want to come and visit!

Wedding on the Land

Congratulations to Mamata Kreisler and Kris Gomez on their recent wedding. Mamata, Rajani and Rajesh’s daughter, was born in a cabin on this land, and decided to get married here, her first home. It was a beautiful sunny day for this wonderful celebration on September 27.

Rosh Hashanah at the Centre School

Lining up for apples and honey in celebration of Rosh Hashanah

Lining up for apples and honey in celebration of Rosh Hashanah

In late September Sharada again had the pleasure of celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year with the children at the Salt Spring Centre School. It is a time to review our lives, our habits, and recommit to living by our values and developing positive qualities. And it’s a time to dip apples in honey and wish each other a sweet year.

Also in late September, the community here had an opportunity to do a day-long First Aid workshop. Everyone who participated in the full program received a First Aid and CPR certificate.

In this month’s Newsletter

There are a number of articles I hope you will enjoy. Pratibha’s Ayurveda article, ‘Soup, Beautiful Soup’ contains recipes for nourishing, warming soups for all body types in this chillier fall season. Kenzie, in Asana of the Month, introduces what she calls her new queen of asanas: Pincha Mayurasana – Feathered Peacock, a forearm balance pose. It is a strengthening pose for the entire body (though not for everyone; there are some contraindications listed.) The article ‘What is it you really want?’ explores the possibility of being happy now. It has no contraindications; it is for all of us.

Programs at the Centre

Coming up this month: A Yoga and Cancer Workshop with Chetna is a yoga therapy training for yoga teachers who want to learn how to support people who are journeying through cancer. Later this month there will be another Yoga Getaway, with one more to follow in November – the last one of the 2014 season. We will also be celebrating Thanksgiving at the Centre as we do every year, with a gratitude circle followed by a delicious vegetarian potluck dinner, on Monday, October 13.

As always, Sunday satsang continues each Sunday, as does Wednesday kirtan (for a little longer), morning and evening arati at the temples every day, Bhagavad Gita studies and asana classes.

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

Love,
Sharada

What is it you really want?

babaji-1999What is it you want? If you got the thing you want, what would that give you? How would you feel – relaxed? peaceful? happy? Maybe that’s what you really want, and the thing you’re hoping for is just a means to that end. If what you want is to be relaxed, peaceful and happy, what’s keeping you from being that way now?

It’s pretty easy for most people to come up with an answer (or several answers) to that question:
– I can’t relax because I have so many responsibilities. I have too much to do.
– Maybe I could relax and be happy if my back didn’t hurt so much.
– I’d love to take it easy, but I have to work. I can’t quit my job because I have to earn money.
There are many variations on that theme. Sound familiar?

Is money, work, physical pain what’s keeping you from being happy, relaxed, at peace or is it your response to your situation?

If a person thinks the burden of the world is on their shoulders, they feel the weight of the world and in a few years they become hunchbacked.

Maybe if we could have the things we want, it would help, at least for a while. If you can take a vacation from work, you might find some relaxation and ease. Money can buy you some things that could bring some fun into your life. The problem is it doesn’t last. It’s great when we get what we want, but generally at some point dissatisfaction arises again. The question is: Can you be happy and in peace right now, in this moment?

You have your duties and responsibilities to the world and you can do them with a smile on your face or you can have a sad heart and tears in your eyes. It doesn’t make any difference to the world but it makes a difference in the way you feel.

How can we switch our response to what we see as a burden? If we pay attention we can develop awareness of our thoughts and begin to notice when we’re going down a path that has never led us to peace and happiness before. For example, if our usual habit when we’re upset about something is to get angry and blame someone else (or the world), we might avoid seeing that the problem is in our minds, not ‘out there’, with distractions like overeating or indulging in ‘shopping therapy’. To change our response to suffering, we have to look within.

Switch the mind or learn by burning the fingers that fire is hot.

You cannot control the world (much as you may want to). What you can do is learn from your own experience that the responsibility for your view of life lies with you. You can choose a response that can lead you to peace right now.

You can take a step in that direction by doing something that leads you out of your habitual thinking: go for a walk, do asana, play music, write or draw, help someone else – anything that takes you out of your preoccupation with what you don’t have and takes you out of your stuck place. Getting out of a stuck place involves shifting from negativity to the openness of the present moment. To support this shift, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests asking, “What’s not wrong?”

Life is not a burden. We make it a burden by not accepting life as it is. We desire everything. If we don’t get what we desire, we feel anger, depression and pain. If we do get it, then we get attached, jealous and discontented, which again causes pain. So the root cause is desire. If we put a limit on our desires, there will be a limit to our pain. Gradually we can reduce the limit, and one day the desires will be decreased so much that we will not even think about them. That state of mind is peace.

Wish you happy.

contributed by Sharada
text in italics is from writings by Babaji

Soup, Beautiful Soup – Recipes for Fall

soup-joana-mendez-flickr-cc
Ayurveda has always stressed the importance of serving freshly cooked meals, using fresh ingredients, and cooking with a sense that we are feeding the divine within ourselves. To have the means and the skills to feed ourselves is such a blessing! And to be blessed with the abundance of a home garden from which to draw the ingredients, is a double treat. Even if your ingredients come from the local farmer’s market (or a nearby Costco!), do make sure they’re labeled ‘organic’. Better for you, better for the planet, and so much tastier!

The cool, windy qualities of fall may call us back to the kitchen, with visions of a hearty bowl of warming soup to share with our family during the darkening hours of evening. The soups below (when prepared with ghee) will also help bolster our digestive agni to help maintain the ojas, or vital immunity, during the coming days of winter.

Enjoy either of these soups with your favorite grain dish and an assortment of steamed greens! Nourishing and satisfying as you prepare for an evening relaxing with friends!

Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

One of our favorite blended soups, this sweet and creamy dish is vata reducing, pitta balancing and, depending on how much you eat, can be kapha increasing! Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 2 T ghee or olive oil
  • 1-cup leek or onion
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic (optional)
  • 4 cups soup stock (or water)
  • 2 cups cooked butternut squash (skin removed)
  • 2 cups grated carrot
  • 1 teaspoon (or cube) of vegetarian bouillon
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Steam or bake the butternut squash and mash it a bit.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped leeks (and garlic if used), and cook until leeks are translucent.
  3. Add soup stock (or water), squash, grated carrots, bouillon, and turmeric.
  4. Bring to a boil and cook until carrots and ginger are tender.
  5. When cool, transfer to a blender; blend briefly to desired consistency. Soup is intended to be thick and creamy, so add water only if necessary.
  6. Return soup to pan and heat to just below boiling. Season with salt, pepper and cinnamon to taste.
  7. Serve with a swirl of cream on top, or a sprinkle of parsley. And if you still like to indulge in wheat, some crusty French bread!

Thanksgiving Beans

This festive soup is from Dan Jason’s “The Whole Organic Food Book”. A sublime centerpiece for your Thanksgiving celebration, this dish is especially delicious if the main ingredients are fresh from the garden. Prepared with love, this soup is balancing for all three doshas. Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 1-cup beans (lentil, adzuki, pinto, black-eyed peas are suggested)
  • 4 T olive oil or ghee
  • 4 medium onions (or 2 leeks), coarsely chopped
  • 2 T chopped garlic (optional)
  • 4-6 cups plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium sized winter squash, cooked
  • 1 T green, red, or jalapeno chili, finely chopped
  • 2 T orange rind, chopped
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 large tart apples, peeled, cored and cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Soak the beans overnight or at least 4 hours. Heat to boiling in a large pot and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Sauté the onions (or leeks, and garlic if used) in oil in a large skilled until golden. Stir in tomatoes, squash, peppers, orange rind, raisins and spices.
  3. Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the drained beans and apples. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve with oven-roasted potatoes.

May your appetite be hearty, your pantry full to overflowing, and your heart attuned to sharing the abundance of this life.

– 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.

Soup photo by Joana Mendes.

Asana of the Month : Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance)

Pincha Mayurasana (pin-cha my-your-AHS-anna)
aka Feathered Peacock or Forearm Balance
pincha=feather mayura=peacock

Kenzie demonstrating full Peacock pose.

Kenzie demonstrating full Feathered Peacock pose.

Yogi/blogger J. Brown recently wrote a brave piece dethroning the King and Queen of yoga – Salamba Sisasana (headstand) and Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand). Though he discussed the very real potential for injury, especially in group classes, his greater emphasis was in regards to sticking to an ideal ‘pose’ in teaching and practicing when in reality it does not serve our body or reflect our body of wisdom. We need to teach what we know, and our knowledge must evolve with our practice over time.

I relate to this because these two poses have never served my body. Maybe it’s my long neck/short arms/long torso combo but I have intuitively refrained from practicing these poses. Since having kids my home practice has migrated to evenings and my full inversions have been traded for partial ones. Now that my children have begun full time school I have again claimed morning (and full inversions) for my practice. In doing so I have found my royal couple! I crown Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) and Pincha Mayurasana (fore arm balance) my new ‘King and Queen of the Asanas’!

Let me tell you about my Queen. She is less intimidating than her husband as she has a firmer base with the head not as far from the floor.

Pincha mayurasana is technically a symmetrical inverted balancing arm support pose. While the lower body is designed for carrying weight and balancing, the upper body is less well designed to do the same. This pose is not only perfect for strengthening the entire body, but having the hands, arms, shoulders and upper back co-ordinating support for the lower body counteracts the negative postural effects of the ubiquitous forward slumping default pose of our digital age.

As I begin the journey towards my fullest expression of feathered peacock pose I see myself working through three kramas (stages) to get there. The kramas are meant to be practiced very slowly and deliberately over time to build up the physical strength and proper alignment in order to eventually perform the full pose safely. Start by staying in the first krama for 15 seconds and working up to one minute. Finding ease in one pose is an invitation to move on to the next one.

Krama 1

Krama 1

Modified Adho Mukha Svanasana

Modify Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog) by placing palms and forearms on the floor shoulder distance apart. This ‘dolphin’ pose allows you to become familiar with the composition of the upper body while only in a partial inversion. You can begin improving your ability to hold the arms parallel and shoulder distance apart by hugging the shoulder blades against your back and pulling them towards your tailbone. Hug your forearms inward as you rotate your upper arms outward to keep your shoulder blades wide, then spread fingers, engage hands and press your wrists into the floor. Try ‘dolphin push ups’ by bringing your nose to the floor between the hands and then back and between the elbows while maintaining the integrity of the 90 degree angle between torso and thighs. This will help build up the strength needed to perform the next krama.

Krama 2

Krama 2

Ardha Pincha Mayurasana at the wall

Ardha (are-dah = half) Pincha Mayurasana at the wall will build up even more strength and confidence for the full pose. While sitting in dandasana (staff pose) with your feet against the wall make an imaginary mark on the floor at your hip. Kneel with your back to the wall and place your elbows on this mark and lift up into dolphin pose. Step one foot high up the wall, then the other, walking both feet down until they are parallel to the floor and your torso is upright. Press upper thighs and tailbone towards the ceiling as the feet press firmly against the wall. Play with shifting the weight between elbows and hands, perhaps finding the sweet spot for balancing just ahead of the elbows and towards your forearms. Allow your head to hang down between your shoulder blades and find your drishti (focal point) across the room from you.

Krama 3

Krama 3 - using the wall for support

Full pose using the wall for balance

The final karma is to practice the full pose using the wall for balance. Kneel and bring your fingertips to the base of the wall and press into dolphin pose. Step one foot toward you while pressing through your opposite heel and take a few practice hops while exhaling fully. Once the legs make contact with the wall press through your heels to straighten your legs and hug your inner thighs together. If the low back is arched due to tight armpits and groin hug your front ribs into your torso, reach your tailbone towards the heels and press the heels higher up the wall. Keep shoulders lifted and broad as you come down one foot at a time on an exhalation. Practice moving yourself further and further away from the wall, using it only to guide you into balancing on your own.

Extra tip

To encourage proper shoulder action, especially if your elbows keep sliding away from each other, press your hands onto the opposite ends of a foam block with wrists perpendicular to the floor. Alternately have palms face up and press pinkies into the ends of block. If this isn’t enough, buckle a strap over your upper arms just above the elbows at shoulder width.

Contraindications

back, shoulder or neck injury; headache; heart condition; high blood pressure; menstruation, third trimester of pregnancy or if not a part of your regular practice.

About the Instructor

Kenzie-headshot

Kenzie Pattillo completed her 200 hour YTT at Salt Spring Centre of Yoga in 2002. She is a householder yogi/mama living in North Vancouver, B.C. and presently teaches yin, hatha and flow yoga in her community. En route to completing her 500 hour YTT designation she has recently begun practicing one on one restorative therapeutics.

News from the Centre (September 2014)

Hello everyone,

As I write this, the sky is cloudy, and although there may yet be many days of sunshine, fall is definitely in the air. Just a short while ago, we were in the midst of YTT and ACYR in the heat of July and August. Both programs were uplifting and deeply satisfying on many levels.

YTT participants, 2014

YTT participants, 2014

ACYR2014

Group shot at this year’s 40th Annual Community Yoga Retreat!

Meal Circle at this year's Annual Community Yoga Retreat

Meal Circle at this year’s Annual Community Yoga Retreat

Now the nights are crisp and the days are a bit shorter. Kids are getting ready to go back to school and the karma yogis in the YSSI program are preparing for the next step in their lives – some going to school, others embarking on travels, some heading home, others stepping into unknown adventures. I’d like to take this time to acknowledge the huge contribution made by the people who have joined us for the summer season. Jai community!

Brenn, Anne and Hannah

Brenn, Anne and Hannah

David threshing

David threshing

This is the season for harvesting fruit from the Centre’s orchard. Most of the apples have been picked and taken to a local farm to press into juice – hard work, but fruitful (pardon the pun). We now have over 300 litres of apple juice to take us through the year! The pears will be next.

A truck-load of apples!

A truck-load of apples!

Brenn and Tana making apple juice

Brenn and Tana making apple juice

In this Month’s Newsletter

Two of our recent YTT grads have agreed to write personal reflections on their YTT experience: Kim Gillett and Ginny Kloos. I am grateful for their openness in sharing their experience.

Babaji altar in the kitchen

Babaji altar in the kitchen

The kitchen, meanwhile, continues to provide delicious meals to Centre residents and guests. Raven Hume, the Centre’s kitchen coordinator, has shared his reflections on the practice of Kitchen Sadhana, bringing the aim of finding peace to all our activities.

This month’s Our Satsang Community story is by Glenda Saraswati Garcia. Saraswati is an integral part of both the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga and Mount Madonna Center. Along with teaching, she also serves on Dharma Sara’s Board of Directors. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading her story.

Pratibha has again contributed her wisdom in the article Balancing Vata Dosha in the Fall Season. This article is full of immediately useful information for responding to the changes that fall brings.These suggestions can help us keep our balance during this time of year. One way to keep our balance is through asana.

Peter Ashok Baragon has contributed Upavista Konasana, wide-angle seated forward fold, in Asana of the Month. This asana helps in letting go and decompressing after a stressful day, something we could all use.

There are a few more opportunities to enjoy a visit to the Centre during the fall season, with Yoga Getaways in September, October and November. For those who live close by, Wednesday evening kirtan and Sunday satsang continue every week.

With wishes for health and balance,
Love,
Sharada

Kitchen Sadhana

Babaji altar in the kitchen

Babaji once wrote, “The main aim of life is to attain peace. On the land, we are doing various things, but underneath it, that is our main aim.”

The generosity and wisdom of this statement has been feeding me for the past many months as I have lived out my role as kitchen coordinator here at the centre. I return to that quotation again and again. I have a laminated copy of it posted on the fridge.

Attaining peace… Babaji doesn’t let us off the hook. Attaining peace is more than what we think it is. In the midst of this life with it’s demands and challenges, the ego’s projected version of peace is generally one of pleasure… sitting in a deck chair on “paradise island” sipping something fruity – far removed from “the things that bother ME.” Babaji make’s it clear that the peace of which he speaks includes both pleasure AND pain. That it is found when we stand up bravely in the context of our country, society, family and personal struggles, and choose to develop positive qualities regardless of our circumstances.

He says that the best way to attain this peace is through Karma Yoga. “It serves two purposes,” he says, “First it takes care of the world and second it creates non-attachment to the world.”

So what is Karma Yoga? For people who are called to a life of great meaning, it’s a way of attaining that. A way of emptying our life of its negativity by doing the things that we do – the daily tasks, obligations, opportunities, encounters, moments, distractions – without advancing a sense of self importance. It’s about caring for the world without personal attachment to that process.

At the centre, we have abundant opportunities to take care of the world. Providing a place for people to study, practice, be clean, warm and fed is an arena which takes great care… great practice.

For me, these days, that has meant working to uphold and celebrate the beautiful legacy of kitchen work which has been brought forward by hundreds of compassionate hands over the decades.

Through it all, I feel a yearning. I can’t let go of Babaji’s invitation. I’ve got to pick up on this opportunity to live the teachings. I’ve got to find out what that means to attain peace in the context of my daily tasks.

The days begin early. I like to check in with the kitchen first thing. It is clean and quiet as I begin to prepare for practice and Arati… melting the ghee on the stove. Placing the wicks in the lamp. Already, I’m working to connect with the presence… the quality of Selfless service that changes seemingly mundane tasks into the ultimate spiritual practice. I like Babaji’s suggestion (paraphrased): “Take your actions as though they were a duty.” I place the wicks in the lamp. I notice the sensations and smells of the hot ghee – the gold shimmer of the lamp.

Kitchen Sadhana2

Once morning practice is over, the daily meal practice begins to unfold. Looking at the clock, when should I start the oatmeal? I want to chop some fruit… how should I coordinate the timing? Who’s coming in to help me today and when? A subtle flurry of planning takes place, all in the context of this work as a duty. When I take it like that, there is ample interest and ability to make the food as naturally tasty and beautiful as it can be, but my sense of ownership drains away from the proceedings. My sense that “I’m gonna be somebody special by making this meal” doesn’t figure in to the arrangements. I find fairly quickly that it doesn’t need to – things are just happening, and the beauty of the process is allowed to show itself. If I’m worrying about life, I miss the smell of the oatmeal, the shine of the berries, and the golden hue of the granola. Once I put the food out, beyond getting a sense that the meal is meeting people’s expectations and needs, I don’t need to have any connection with it. I don’t need to see myself as “a chef”, or a “good cook.” The realization comes naturally that I don’t need to see myself as any-”thing”. There’s just this moment, unfolding.

I think some might hear the notion of “duty” and think that it means “cold and sterile.” On the contrary, I find that releasing experience from having to feed my ideas about myself frees it up! All the sights, smells and experiences of cooking are experienced fully. When I’m chopping cucumber that David has brought in right out of the garden, I’m delighted and amazed that we are to be nourished by local water, soil, weather, and hard work. I love their smoothness, and the way they separate into fresh, crisp chunks. Flaking the rice out of the pot after cooking, the steam carries a sweetness, and I’m entranced by its seemingly endless weather … sometimes it’s more moist than other days. Sometimes it’s drier. Sometimes it’s fluffier.

KitchenSadhana3

After a certain period of time preparing food, some dishes need to be cleaned. I collect them, placing them by the sink. I do so with as much care as I can muster. When I agreed to take on this role, there was a book in the Centre library that seemed to be calling out for me to read it. I was amazed to find that it was a translation of a five hundred year old text written by the principle cook of a Buddhist monastery. One of the key messages was to cultivate mindfulness and care in regards to kitchen equipment and ingredients. It says, (perhaps losing a little in the translation) “handle the equipment as though handling one’s own eyeballs.” “When you bang the pots around, don’t you hear them shouting in pain?” Bringing care to the movements of daily life in the kitchen is said to be very auspicious, crucial to creating a climate from which good food – and a good life – can emerge.

Being in the kitchen is like stretching out into an asana… there’s always something to learn, something to strive for, something to be present for. Indeed, also like asana, the task is to come to it regularly, and with the attitude: “This is my duty.” Then the learning, the witnessing, the breathing, the space is all abundantly available… there’s no energy going into the vitality-sapping vortex of “me and my story,” and the fullness of experience – the vitality of this moment – can express itself.

– Contributed by Raven

Balancing Vata Dosha in the Fall Season

fall-leaves-flickr-KarenRoeSeptember brings us the change of season – summer turning to autumn. Evenings become chillier; winds rustle the drying leaves and bring them floating to earth. A bounteous harvest fills the kitchen with rich, earthy smells of fresh fruits and veggies.

The air element predominates during this time of year. Light, dry and cool qualities of vata prevail. These qualities in nature tend to increase vata dosha in the body-mind complex and we may notice increased skin dryness, insomnia, and dry constipation. Vata dosha is also associated with the nervous system (including our thoughts and emotions). So autumn is the time to care for our internal air, providing grounded and stable factors in our life to keep vata from spaciness and excessive movement.

The recommendations below are relevant for everyone this time of year, but especially so for those who have a vata dosha predominance in their make-up. If you are vata, vata-pitta, or vata-kapha predominant by nature, you’ll feel the seasonal effects of fall even more keenly than others.

Lifestyle

Our vata nature benefits from a regular daily routine, where we begin with cleansing and spiritual practices first thing in the morning. Include regular mild-medium exercise (such as yoga, swimming, or fast walking) in each day’s schedule. Eat at regular mealtimes, preferably every 3-4 hours. Daily elimination is important to keep vata balanced; a little additional oil in the diet can assist that process. Stay warm, especially in dry, cold, windy weather. Be sure to get a full night’s sleep (8-9 hours per night), aiming to be in bed by 10 pm. Avoid stimulating beverages and conversations, especially just before bed.

Dietary Suggestions

You may need a larger quantity of food than you ate in summer, but be sure to eat only as much as you can digest well. Focus on warm, oily, cooked, soupy foods, like gingery vegetable soup with olive oil. Favor grounding, nourishing foods (root vegetables and grains) that incorporate the sweet, sour, salty tastes. Reduce light, dry, cold foods and the pungent, bitter, astringent tastes. Reduce dry (crackers and rice cakes) and raw foods; use a little more oil in your diet.
Dairy products help reduce vata. Warm your milk (whether dairy, bean, seed or nut milk) before drinking. Favor heavier fruits like avocadoes and bananas. Reduce all beans, except for mung and tofu.

Herbs & spices

Helpful digestive spices include ginger, cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, cloves, mustard seeds, and black pepper. Ayurvedic herbs for vata include turmeric, hingwastok, triphala, ashwagandha, brahmi, haritaki, and guggulu.

Nourishing Treatments

The fall season is an especially good time to practice self-massage with sesame oil. Take 2 tablespoons of warm sesame oil in a small bowl, and massage it into your skin (particularly the joints of arms and legs) before your morning shower or bath. Medicated oil (nasya) in nostrils and ears, oil basti (enema), warm epsom salt baths are also suggested.

Yoga Practices

Yoga practices to maintain our vata balance in autumn include nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breath) and ujjayi (victorious breath). Be sure to include them in your morning practice. A focus on balancing poses such tree pose, gomukasana and squats is helpful for vata, as are forward bends (standing or seated). Shavasana and other restorative poses are also essential for stabilizing our vata nature at the change of season.

Maintaining our own healthy balance using these basic techniques of Ayurveda and yoga is a birthright that’s been long denied by our modern western medical system. Bringing these simple suggestions into our life can become part of our 24/7 spiritual practice that honors the divine nature dwelling within each of us. It requires intention, attention, and remembrance, as well as desire for a long and healthy life. As we walk this path of yoga and Ayurveda, we manifest these positive qualities for ourselves and for others. May all beings walk the path of 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.

Fall leaves photo by Karen Roe

Our Centre Community: Glenda Saraswati Garcia

Beckoned by a Teacher and a Community

Saraswati

Saraswati

You might think that the remote, cold, north of Saskatchewan is a most unusual place to find a yoga Guru, but in the winter of 2008, that’s exactly what happened to me.

Living in Northern Saskatchewan

Living in Northern Saskatchewan

At the time I was living in La Ronge, Northern Saskatchewan, working as a dietitian and enjoying a sweet and humble yoga inspired life. Earlier that year, when I arrived for my post as Regional Dietitian, I had wasted no time to share my love of yoga, and in turn, to establish a yoga community. I started off by teaching fitness classes on the weekends at the local elementary school. Actually, the fitness classes were yoga classes in disguise, and the students were no fools to my trick. When I told them that I was actually showing them how to do yoga poses, which required not only physical movement but also connection with the breath and mind, they were quite interested and surprisingly started to ask for more. I openly started teaching yoga in the evenings at the community centres, and even managed to convince my boss to allow me to hold classes in the boardroom of the small hospital I worked at. I quickly became known as the “yoga lady” (there were no other yoga teachers in the area) and was teaching classes several times a week, and holding weekend workshops regularly. I also began teaching yoga programs for children in the schools, and later went on to create a diabetes prevention curriculum for elementary schools based on yoga and nutrition.

With a group of yogis in the North

With a group of yogis in the North

Though I had been practicing asana for several years and had taken a 200 hour yoga teacher training, my own practice was just developing. As I dove into teaching a community of dedicated students, I realized that to serve them well I needed guidance. I feverishly read books on yoga and was diligent and dedicated to my daily practice, but I felt a void that needed to be filled by a teacher. There was only so much revealed wisdom that I could conjure in the cold, remote north! Luckily, one morning as I sat reading at my kitchen table, I remembered an excerpt from a magazine article that I had read a few years before. The article had been about Yoga Retreat Centres, and the excerpt had mentioned Mount Madonna Centre (MMC). It was barely a paragraph long, but it stated that the centre had a Guru teaching onsite. That morning I felt summoned to Mount Madonna Centre to meet Baba Hari Dass, even though I knew nothing about him. For some reason, I thought that he could help fill my void for guidance.

Mount Madonna

Mount Madonna

For the next six months I worked hard to arrange my life so that I could spend two months taking part in the Yoga Service and Community (YSC) program at MMC. In June of 2009, I arrived at Mount Madonna Centre and instantly knew that I had arrived home to my family. That first day I had dinner in the Community Building with Babaji and felt completely at ease. I knew that I had found the teacher that would guide me in sharing yoga with the world.

Devotion at Mount Madonna Centre

Devotion at Mount Madonna Centre

I filled my cup of knowledge with yoga, and after the two month YSC program returned to Northern Saskatchewan to continue teaching yoga. Empowered by my teacher and his teachings, I began to teach pranayama and meditation. To my surprise, these offerings were well attended and frequently requested. I will never forget the class when one of the native elders of the community came up to me after a discussion and said this about Ajna Chakra: “you know, that is the same point on the forehead that we concentrate on in our traditional rituals.” I realized the universality of the practice and why it could be so well accepted even in the remote north.

Mask making for ytt 500

Mask making for ytt 500

At the end of 2009, I returned again to MMC, this time for 6 months. During this time I was able to become even more integrated in the community and to learn even more about yoga. I was able to experience a variety of yogic celebrations, ceremonies, rituals, and classes. I also embarked on furthering my yoga teaching skills by enrolling in the first modular YTT 500 program at the centre.

Burning of masks at tantra ceremony

Burning of masks at tantra ceremony

That year while enjoying my time at MMC, I met Lakshmi McPhee from the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga (SSCY). She encouraged me to come up to Salt Spring Island and visit the yoga centre. She presented such a wonderful picture that I simply felt I had to go. That summer I ventured to the Salt Spring Centre and took part in the Karma Yoga program. Similar to my arrival at MMC, when I stepped onto the property at the SSCY, I felt Babaji’s presence and knew that there I was also home.

8 teaching ytt at SSCY

Teaching YTT at SSCY

 YTT at SSCY

YTT at SSCY

The following year I returned to SSCY as an assistant for YTT. It was such an honor be a part of that program, to see the transformation that students go through as they integrate the teachings of Babaji. The YTT programs at SSCY and MMC are so special, and I feel that it boils down Babaji’s inspiration. Though he is no longer teaching for these program, his presence is felt. I have had the amazing fortune of teaching at several YTT programs and am continuously amazed at the power of his teachings.

Ramayana preparing to be Sita

Ramayana preparing to be Sita

7

Birthday at SSCY

In 2011 I decided to move to Victoria, BC in order to be closer to my SSCY family. Since then I have dedicated myself to being of service both at SSCY and MMC. Additionally, I have dedicated myself to sharing yoga and starting up little yoga communities wherever I go. Upon moving to Victoria I started a workplace yoga program for the hospital I work at. I started humbly with one class per week, but filled up quickly and had to turn people away. The program successfully expanded to ten classes per week! Many of the students have been practicing with me for three years now, and we have created a community of yogis at the hospital. Babaji’s teachings present a foundation that resonates with the students and I am so honored to be a medium through which these teachings can be shared.

I feel that I have been blessed in being called to the teachings of Babaji and to the centres that he has inspired. This calling not only allowed me to further my knowledge and practice of Yoga, but it also united me with my spiritual family. The people at MMC and SSCY are my brothers and sisters and I love them immensely. In 2012 while at the New Year’s Retreat at MMC, I was also blessed to connect with Piet, my wonderful partner in adventure and fun. He is a beautiful soul who is a long-time member of the community, and devoted student of Babaji. We seem to be on the same path.

Piet and I

Piet and I

This year, Piet and I decided to become more involved with our SSCY community. He coordinated the 40th Annual Community Yoga Retreat (it was a blast!!), and I became a member of the board of directors. We have many plans for the future, and our connection to our MMC and SSCY families is always integral in them.

SSCY Board, 2014

SSCY Board, 2014

I am eternally grateful for that morning in La Ronge when I found my teacher and my community. With a heart full of love, I look forward to a lifetime of involvement!

Asana of the Month: Upavista Konasana

Upavista Konasana
Wide Angle Seated Forward Fold

Upavista Konasana

Upavista Konasana

I love forward bends! We know forward folds relax and calm the mind and body, and this pose is no exception.

This asana creates the openness to really let go and decompress from a stressful day. A nice restorative variation is to assume the pose against a wall, think of it’s as a “Wide-Legged Viparita Karani.”

Benefits
Upavista Konasana stretches the inner legs, the groins and hamstrings, strengthens the spine, and promoting a healthy pelvis and lower body. The pose also stretches the spine and stimulates the abdominal organs. Forward folding poses are known to calm the brain and promote relaxation, and as such, can be therapeutic for stress and insomnia. Massages the spinal column and strengthens the nervous system.

Contraindications
lower back injury
*modifications are indicated below in the ‘Getting into the pose’ section

Counter pose
Cobra/Bhujangasana

Getting into the pose

  1. Begin in Dandasana (stick pose) with your spine tall, your legs together straight out in front of you, and your back tall.
  2. Take your legs as wide apart as you comfortably can, keeping the feet flexed and active so that the inner legs don’t collapse inwards. Your kneecaps should point straight up toward the ceiling and your heels should be rooting firmly into the ground. If your inner legs begin to collapse, it’s a sign that you’ve taken the legs too far apart.*(Keep the legs active going into and out of the pose).
  3. Place your fingertips on the ground in front of you, between your legs. Maintain the length along the spine, keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest lifted. Inhale here.
  4. As you exhale, slowly begin to walk your fingertips forward until you find an edge that feels appropriate for your body. Avoid moving so deeply that your spine begins to round and your shoulders collapse. *(Keep the emphasis on lengthening evenly through the front and back body, avoid bending from the waist, and avoid forcing towards the ground. If you have trouble bending from the hips or sitting with legs wide apart, use a block or blanket under your buttocks).
  5. If it feels comfortable, you can come down onto your palms, a block, forearms, or take your torso down onto the ground between your legs. Otherwise, simply remain on your fingertips. Continue with 10 or more breaths here.
  6. To come out of the pose, keep the legs engaged and use an inhale to come upright with your core gently engaged to protect your spine. If you like, you can bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together as a counterpose for your legs, or bend both knees into your chest and give yourself a hug.

Props help deepening the pose with ease
Upavista Konasana1

Upavista Konasana3

Upavista Konasana with props

Upavista Konasana with props

If you can’t bend forward without rounding your back, use a chair to rest your arms on to, gradually getting lower with other props like a bolster, blocks.

If your knees don’t straighten, and slight bend forward at the hips is awkward for you, then try placing a rolled towel or yoga mat under your knees.

Using the breath is important in getting in and out of the pose… follow each breath, notice the body and your sensations. Enjoy!

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

Reflections on the Centre’s Yoga Teacher Training Program: Ginny & Kim

Ginnys’s Reflections on the Centre’s YTT Program

Ginny-YTT

YTT Graduate, Ginny Kloos

“I feel…” were the only words I could get out before the tears took over. Finally I managed to add “I can’t even get out the word ‘blessed’!”

It was the closing circle at the end of our 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training at the Salt Spring Centre. Emotions had taken over in a huge wave throughout the circle. We sat in a group sharing our experience, the changes we’d faced, the fears we’d overcome, and our intense gratitude and appreciation for the centre, for our teachers, and for everything in our lives that led us to this training.

The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga truly emcompasses the qualities of Yoga. Love, compassion, care and devotion flood from the people, the building and the land to create an atmosphere that moves everyone who is lucky enough to find themselves there. It was an immense honour to have begun my training and my journey as a teacher in a place with such a pure lineage of teachings.

I have been practicing yoga for seven years. Yoga was my rock through a lot of difficult times. It slowly guided me down my path even when I didn’t feel connected to it. I now see it was leading me to this centre the whole time, where I could connect with a true yogic community, a family and solidify a foundation underneath me, at a time when I really need one. Once you open your life to yoga it is with you forever. Baba Hari Dass said many times “if you work on yoga, yoga will work on you.” It’s true. Once you set foot on that path, it stays with you, holding you. The Salt Spring Centre provides to perfect framework of practice and teachings to help us understand and feel that support.

I am amazed at the depth and structure of this program. As you work your way through this training, it becomes more and more clear how much time and effort went into designing and tweaking every aspect of the course. It creates a very solid foundation of teachings to understand and practice yoga from many different perspectives. But the experience of this training is so much more than that as well. It provides a detailed and well-rounded knowledge basis for new teachers, but beyond that, it creates the perfect environment for self-discovery, healing and connection. It is a place that brings you home.

Thank you to my teachers. Thank you to my fellow students, who are also my teachers. I am forever grateful. Namaste.

Kim’s Reflections on the Centre’s YTT Program

Kim Gilette

YTT Graduate, Kim Gillett

If you have ever visited sacred space in the world, including your own, you may recall a certain magical feeling that arises from being present in such a place. Perhaps a warm sense of peace washes over you, or calm subtle grounding lands you gently in its roots. You may find yourself captivated by its beauty, or notice a feeling of being home when you have never been there before. The Salt Spring Centre of Yoga holds all that and more and its offerings are true gifts to the world.

Over the months of July and August I was blessed to participate in the SSC 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program and I could not be happier. From the moment I applied I was gently guided and it was clear the Center was a place of love. Even before I set foot on the property it felt as though it was calling to us all. As we began to gather on the first day, I found myself feeling like everyone looked familiar. At first it surprised me and I had to take a second look to make sure I was wrong, but as it continued to happen I realized something profound: we all looked familiar because we were already connected, and we all felt at home because we were. The students, teachers, and supporting staff are all so devoted to the program that it was as if we were one family embarking on a journey together. There was no feeling of strangeness, no separation, only one community living, breathing, and practicing together in the name of yoga, union, and peace.

The YTT program is founded in the Classical Ashtanga and Hatha Yoga systems and the curriculum incorporates the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. Inspired by the Center’s guru, Baba Hari Dass, the teachings begin at the birth of yoga and reflect its pure nature by referring to the sacred texts and practices of its origin. All of the facilitators and supporting staff practice Karma Yoga and devote their time freely to the cultivation of the Centre and its visitors. They are yogis in their own rights, with deep personal practices that reflect in their joyous and humble actions daily, and they wholly embody their mantra of “teach to learn”. Like skillful gardeners they carefully tended our soil, nourished and protected us, and raised us from seedling students to flowering teachers, all the while receiving their own lessons through personal studies and applications. Each day was carefully crafted, layering lesson upon lesson, so we had a perfect balance of powerful learning and were never overwhelmed. Though the schedule was full and the hours intense, we were continuously reminded to listen to our bodies and rest as needed. Incorporating sadhana, satsang, kirtan, asana classes and clinics, theory, history and much more, the teachers of this sacred place bestowed years of knowledge upon us in just several weeks and empowered us to go forth and share this wisdom with the world.

Through their embodied practice, each member of the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga showed us the meaning, purpose, and result of yoga, and what we could be if we wished to dedicate ourselves to love.