The Perfect Path by Peter Ashok Baragon

Peter Ashok Baragon, part of our Centre Community

Peter Ashok Baragon, part of our Centre Community

My “Salt Spring Centre experience” began in 1995 when I was introduced to the Centre by my friend John while visiting the island that summer.

John had a picture of Baba Hari Dass on his fridge. I remember asking him, “Who is that man in that picture?” He replied, “Babaji. He is a yogi, he is enlightened and is the master teacher to the Dharma Sara Satsang Society”. John told me that Babaji visits the Salt Spring Centre and that in fact he was arriving next week!

Sitting on a chair - 2.5 years old

Sitting on a chair – 2.5 years old

As he continued with the story of who Babaji was and more about yoga, I became more intrigued. The next day we attended a beautiful yoga class at the Centre and I was instantly attracted to the magic of the land and the house. I remember telling John when leaving, “That was amazing – my first yoga class!” Over a week later I arrived back on the island and again visited the Centre as the Annual Family Retreat had just begun.

We arrived while Bhagavad Gita class was happening in the Satsang room. That room was so packed with islanders and visitors from abroad that it was hard to believe it was the same room I had taken a yoga class in. At the front of the room was Baba Hari Dass, perched on his low bench, wearing all white and using a small chalkboard to communicate. I remember as I walked in he looked over in my direction and I felt he noticed me, as he did when others walked in and out of the room. He was aware of everyone in the room and took note of people coming and going.

25 years old

25 years old

He answered questions using the little chalkboard, and I listened carefully to both the questions asked and his replies. Some of his replies were short and simple and others more complex, giving the group a moment to pause and ponder. I remember I felt confused, lost in this foreign topic and the devotion the men, women, and children in the room seemed to feel. As strange as this was to me, it resonated deeply and I knew I needed to learn more. It wasn’t my intelligence that wanted to know; it was my spiritual curiosity.

When we left that afternoon I eagerly asked John, “When can we come back?” He said, “Tomorrow, for Satsang,” I had no idea what that was, but again I was intrigued.

When we returned the next day, there was a huge crowd of people gathered in the main room again and Satsang had just begun. I was drawn in by the sound of the harmonium, drums and tambourines being played, and everyone singing the beautiful songs in Sanskrit. I didn’t know what my eyes and ears were taking in, but knew it was ancient and truly sacred.

That day was lifechanging for me. I left the island for Vancouver, knowing that a connection was there for me. I felt ready to return home and nurture my spirit and learn more about yoga.

Peter (Ashok), Bryan and Sarah strike a pose

Peter (Ashok), Bryan and Sarah strike a pose

I continued to visit the island and the Centre whenever I could to take yoga classes and sit in on Sunday Satsang, to absorb as much as I could, feeling like I had to make up for lost time in discovering myself, love, and a true devotion for spirit.

When I was asked in class one day by a student who was always beside me if I was a yoga teacher because of my dedication and continued attendance in class, I laughed and said “No, are you kidding…I don’t know how to teach a yoga class.” My teacher at the time overheard this and started a discussion that would peak my curiosity about the possibility of exploring teaching. The many reasons why I thought I couldn’t teach started with “I’m too shy, I don’t have the knowledge, etc.” In spite of all of the negative reasoning, I started to consider the real possibility of learning to teach, and through my personal practice it became more and more real.

In 2001, I decided to look for a yoga centre where I could complete my YTT and start teaching.

I looked as far New York and Quebec, but then realized the training was right here in my backyard, at the Salt Spring Centre.

I attended the first YTT offered at the Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, in 2002. I was part of a lovely group of men and women in the first program, to learn, and to deepen the path and our roots in yoga. It was beautiful. Some of the friends I met then are still with me.

With YTT grad Andrea Mueller

I visit the Centre as often as I can, to teach at the weekend Yoga Getaways and at the annual YTT program. Practicing selfless service, helping when I can, serving the spiritual community. Jai!

The wonderful stories that I remember from all my visits to the Centre flood my mind – the yoga classes, the food, walks on the property and through the garden, the people who arrive curious like I was, the cycle of karma yogis who come and go, the elder members I love to sit with and prompt them to tell their stories. I love the stories of the search for the land (near and far) and their inquiries of Babaji on what to do. What to do! My personal story continues from my heart and on my path… JAI!

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

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

Asana of the month: Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani (legs-up-the-wall pose)
Viparita = inverted, reversed; Karani = doing, making

Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani is a wonderful yoga posture and a favourite of mine, one that I share with students any time of the year. This asana is particularly refreshing in the long dark months of winter. It is a nice inversion alternative
 to savasana pose and it’s calming for the mind and gently stretches the back
 of the legs, neck, and low back.

Benefits of  Viparita Karani

During the winter season when mild depression can affect some 
people, this asana practiced daily from 15 to 30 minutes can 
bring an overall grounding sensation while balancing the nervous 
system and introduces relaxation response. Tired legs and feet will
 definitely feel restored after Viparita Karani.
 The restorative nature of this posture gets blood flowing to parts of 
the body that need it, making it good for many ailments, including
 arthritis, menopause, high and low blood pressure and respiratory 
ailments.
Asana-February

Getting into the pose

To begin you’ll need two firm folded blankets or a firm bolster for 
support placed about 5-6 inches from an unobstructed wall. As
well, eye-pillows can be used for over the eyes and forehead. If 
you are stiffer in the hamstrings you will want to place the props 
further away from the wall, no more than 10 inches. To start, sit
 sideways on the middle of the prop with your right side close to the 
wall. As you begin to exhale turn to the right and let your legs
 move up the wall as you lower your torso and shoulders to the 
floor, looking up to the ceiling. Keeping your pelvis centred on 
the prop and comfortable for the lumbar, keep your legs relaxed 
and settled against the wall. Let your arms rest on the floor slightly 
lower than your shoulders or resting overhead on the floor. Your head should be positioned so that your forehead is slightly higher
 than your chin. For additional comfort use a small rolled towel for
 under your neck (without letting the head tip back) while following 
the breath slowly. Find the quietness of your belly and the
 spaciousness around your heart as well as the sensation of feeling 
held. Other props that you can use are a heavy blanket for covering 
the torso or a sand bag for the soles of the feet.

Coming out of the pose

When ready to move out of the pose, slide away from the wall 
coming off of the prop, and rolling onto your side. Take a few soft 
slow breaths before lifting up while exhaling.

Variations on the pose

Here are some variations to make this asana your own. Bend
 your knees and bring the soles of your feet together (like baddha
konasana) with outer feet against the wall. As well, try elevating
 the lower legs onto a chair with a foam block under your hips and a
 thick blanket under your calves. Alternatively, use what you have
 to support the lower legs horizontally and the feet touching the wall
 and a blanket or sand bag on the legs.

This is my favourite winter asana to help restore and strengthen mind
 body and breath. Include Viparita Karani in your personal yoga 
practice.

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.