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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Helped A Little Old Lady Today

I am so honored to have this guest entry by someone I admire for her raw honesty and for this both inspiring and heart breaking story that teaches us it's never too late to help others and to apologize to those we have harmed, even if it means we can only forgive ourselves for those we have harmed.We must dig deep into the heart wounds in order to grow and this expresses this beautifully.

Warning: Have a tissue ready.....
I helped a little old lady at the grocery store today.  I pulled up 2 spaces away from her (Front Row Joe!) and as I walked past her car, I saw her getting her cane ready.  But, there was something in her hesitant manner.  So I asked if I could offer her a hand.  She accepted and told me that she’d hurt her knee again this morning.  Her hesitation was bracing for the pain that was about to come exploding out of her knee when she stepped up on the sidewalk. 
I hooked my arm under and around hers; giving her another moment to psyche herself up, then we both stepped up on the curb.  The weight I bore was next to nothing.  She was a tiny little white haired thing.  I touched her hand and left her to walk into the store alone.
I was immediately reminded of the day I beat my dog.  Yes, the day I beat my (elderly) dog for shitting all over the floor and not getting her ass over the papers.  There were eight square feet of papers available for her to shit on, and she still managed to get her diarrhea all over the floor.  I was livid.  And I beat her.  Five times, hard, on her ass.  I didn’t care that she was arthritic.  I didn’t know that she was cancer-ridden at the time and just didn’t make it.  In fact, she was probably humiliated by the fact she couldn’t control her bowels…and I beat her for it.
I wanted to cry.  For the dog, long dead from cancer, for the rage-filled woman that I once was.  For my own mother, who will never be assisted by a stranger because her body is so large, no one would want to bear that weight to help her up onto a sidewalk.
Why was I so angry?  I have no answer.  I can justify, sure.  We all have “things” in our past that totally mind-fuck us.  But…why was I so angry?  How did I allow myself to become that awful, mean, vicious person?  I still want to cry.  Oh hell, I am crying.  I’m unsuccessfully trying to choke back the tears because I work in a cubicle in an office.  My nose is dripping.  I wonder who will be the one to beat me.  When I’m old and alone and cancer-ridden and unable to make it to the bathroom in time.
I do the yoga.  I’ve done the therapy.  I read the books.  I do the meditation.  I’m still working on it. I’m really sorry, Erin.
By~Julie Tijerina

Monday, April 2, 2012

Is Old School Yoga Becoming Extinct?

 Is Old School Yoga on it's way to extinction or can the more modern methods and Old School methods coexist?  It reminds me of the 80's when snowboarding started to become popular.  Skiers and Snowboarders butted heads for many years and still occasionally do, but both are surviving on the Mountain together. (I'm Old School here too...Snowboarders test my yoga patience).

I attended The International Yoga Festival in Early March, where in 2007 I came to meet one of my primary teachers Vamadeva/Dr. Frawley. This year he and Yogaini Shambhavi did not speak there and for students like myself, I felt this year, there was little there for me. As I gathered from the locals and attendees through the years, the word was that things had become too "Hollywood"....and too physically focused. Personally, I attended Kundalini Yoga, one Iyengar cass, and the rest was lecture. The lectures were not well attended, while the asana classes were so packed, many people were turned away. I then realized how blessed I am that my studio does as well as it does because of what and how we teach and where we teach it.

Old School studios and teachers frequently mention their frustration concerning the Boom of yoga as a popular exercises (substituting asana class as Yoga), one that may harm the practitioner or creates the impression on beginner "yogis" that, often times, is one that gets them accustomed to focusing more on the external rather than the internal. Truth be told, it's more difficult to work the mind, which requires healing the aches and pains of the heart that many people do not feel safe tapping into (because our culture is so external), but one thing I know is...this is where Yoga (by definition, not by asana brand) is found and where personal growth and compassion is cultivated. I'm not writing about yoga asana injuries here, as that has been beaten to death already, I am simply bringing this up because so many beginners hurt themselves and never give yoga a second chance (the tragedy). This is why us Old Schoolers get our yoga mats all bunched up in a wad. Asana alone is not yoga, but yoga can be taught through asana.

Through the years my attitude has gone back and forth on the subject of the Old School or Modern approach, usually concluding that we are all on our own path and who are we to judge what path is greater than the other? I support people practicing whatever physical practice they wish to practice and the only thing I might change is what we call our classes (and maybe hunker down more on the quality of education yoga teacher are receiving...which is another topic altogether). Asana Class is more appropriate or even Inspired Asana Class in many cases. I even feel like this regarding my studio if the class is more than 50% asana (which are most of them). I have been to power vinyasa yoga classes, Iyengar classes, or any hybrid class you can imagine (except Bikram since I know I can not handle the heat) and if the class is void of pranayama, then to me, it's not yoga (my opinion). Otherwise, if the teacher teaches us to breathe and offers modifications that help calm and center our bodies and minds...then this is Yoga (no matter what the style). Yoga is everywhere if we are taught what yoga actually is, unfortunately, those lessons are fewer and fewer because it is the rare student who will sit and listen to a 15 minute lecture on yoga philosophy before asana class begins.

So, what IS disturbing to me and why I am writing this, are the amount of articles and Blogs I read regarding studios just like mine shutting down and teachers just like me giving up teaching altogether because they do not feel they have an audience and therefore, can not pay the bills. At my studio we call the majority of our classes Hatha Yoga Classes because this is the branch of yoga that takes the physical route as a stepping stone to self-realization which is where most modern people choose to start.  All asana-based classes are formed from the umbrella of Hatha Yoga, one of the Six Branches of yoga. Unfortunately, many people assume calling a class Hatha Yoga means "Yoga for the old and injured". This is not true and mildly irritating if I allow it to be. When I was a teacher at a popular fitness facility, teaching a watered-down version of what I believed in, my classes were packed. Today, taking the step to be more authentic in my teachings (as I desire to teach), I find my classes, while well attended, are  a 1/3 the size they were at the other place (which I actually prefer because I feel it is more safe and easier to make a connection with my students). It is also true, that since our classes attract those using Hatha Yoga as their spiritual practice, we become like church, people attending once a week only. This makes it more difficult for us to fill classes and keep a schedule that compares to other studios in the area who offer more fitness-style classes where their people attend 3-5 times per week. This also requires us to locate in an area that is undesirable so we can afford rent. So what happens? Only the most dedicated to the deeper components of yoga will make that drive and those who would actually enjoy the practice don't bother to make the drive because we are a culture of convenience.

 So, this is an educational blog entry for those who love Old School yoga. If you wish these kinds of studios to stay in business and these kinds of teachers to keep teaching, then you need to support them. I see and hear a lot of talk from individuals regarding being "into" the deeper teachings, though the physical body still seems to rule because why else would the Old School studios and Old School teachers be shutting down and giving up? We say we want a more Sattvic mind, though we take most of our classes that feed the Rajasic mind that already rules us and causes us frustration and suffering.

It has always been my wish that we could all work together, to cultivate Unity in the yoga commUNITY and I am seeing some of this, though we still have a long way to go. There are studios we regularly refer who offer what we do not and they also do the same for us, but this is rare. What I see more often is studios and teachers trying to be all things to all people and this leads to a break down in community and expertise in certain areas.

That said, students of yoga and teachers of yoga, support what you say you want or know that, in the end, if these studios or teachers can not pay rent/their bills, they may end up being a Fossil.