Like many other entrepreneurs, we yoga teachers get together to share business and life stories. When I met Erinbell Fanore, a fellow yoga teacher in Berlin teaching hatha and yin yoga, at one of these casual get-togethers, I was most impressed that she made her own yoga DVD on the sunny island of Malta. She talked about it like it was easy to pull off, so I had to ask how how she did it with such ease as one of my Yogis of the Month.
Even if you don’t want to make your own yoga DVD, listening to how simple and easy it is to tackle a big project once you break down into steps and ask for help is helpful for any project. You would imagine that producing a DVD would take months to do, right? But knowing that Erinbell produced hers in just two weeks completely changed my mindset of what’s possible. And expanding possibilities is always a good thing.
Listen to my interview* above with Erinbell (or download it!) to find out about:
her introduction to yoga through…Cindy Crawford in the desert?!
retraining your muscles through two somatics exercises she shares
I’ve been diving deep into yoga history by reading. One book I recently read, The Poets of the Powers: Magic, Freedom, and Renewal by Kamil V. Zvelebel, has translations of Tamil Siddha poetry. It’s a thin volume, only 144 pages with footnotes included, so it was a good introduction to this group of yoga practitioners I had only heard of in passing before.
Tamil is one of the languages in South India and refers also to the culture of the people who speak the language. The Tamil Siddha school of thought is a branch of tantric yoga, with a distinct character of social radicalism and an emphasis on magical powers. A distinction of tantric yoga is the belief that liberation is possible in your human body and not just at death, which lead to technique of yoga to ensure a healthy body. The body is the seat of the experience of liberation. If your body was weak, in pain, or unbalanced, how could you experience bliss or become liberated?
What is the sign of absolute and true liberation?
The physical body aglow with the Fire of Immortality.
(Uroma risi nanam 12) p. 58
Even though Zvelebel says that the first Tamil Siddha poet was active between the seventh and eleventh centuries, it would be a mistake to think Tamil Siddhas were only active in medieval India. Zvelebel claims that the Siddha doctrines are still a vital undercurrent in modern-day South India albeit hidden from public view.
Written in an intentionally enigmatic language, where words embody multiple meanings, the Tamil Siddha poems can be mystical or vulgar and direct. For example, Civavakkiyar who was writing immediately before the tenth century wrote (p. 87):
Why, you fool,
do you utter mantras,
murmuring them, whispering,
going around the fixed stone
as if it were God,
putting garlands of flowers around it?
Will the fixed stone speak–
as if the Lord were within?
Will the cooking vessel,
or the wooden ladle,
know the taste of curry?
The misogynist language in some of the Siddha poems really bothered me. All of the poets translated in the book were men, and women, specifically the bodies of women, were temptations for them.
9. Breath deeply, rhythmically, slowly, regularly and relaxedly. Be conscious of the speed and rhythm of your breath.
10. Walk at least two hours daily.
11. Regular and frequent sexual intercourse is beneficial. However, be master, not slave of your sex-life. Oral-genital sex is not harmful; on the contrary, it is often desirable. Visualize yourself as the creative Siva, and your partner as your (i.e. Siva’s) sakti, energy. Let her lie on you, and drink your sperm; let you suck her discharge of pleasure (curatanir).
12. Never give up. Never be idle. Try to maintain always a cheerful and positive attitude. There is no harm in satisfying a desire, when the satisfaction destroys it. Do not suppress forcibly any desire. Liberation is always here and now with you. If you cannot believe in god, it does not matter. Believe in yourself, in your own existence. Find out the source from which you came.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meditate for ten days on a silent meditation retreat? I definitely have.
During my yoga teacher training in India, we were not supposed to speak during meals. The idea was that we were supposed to be fully conscious of our food rather than getting distracted by socializing. Some people took it further and did not speak for an entire day, wearing a little sign around their neck that they were observing silence aka mouna. Some people say observe silence so that you save your energy to turn inwards rather than focusing outwards in idle talking. Once you quiet speech, the mind quiets down too. Others say that there is no need for communication if you realize the great truth that there is no other–’they’ are no other than me. Whatever the reason, observing silence is a powerful practice especially in conjunction with meditation.
I decided to connect with Alessandro Aliosha Pedori, teacher of contact improv and yoga in Berlin, who meditated in Thailand for ten days at the Buddhist International Dhamma Hermitage of Wat Suan Mokkh. Even though their website is quite comprehensive, even giving out a detailed 11-page description of their yoga classes, I wanted to know what it was really like to experience and live there for a silent meditation retreat.
Listen to my interview* above (or download it!) with Alessandro to find out:
What he would have done differently at Wat Suan Mokkh knowing what he does now (hint : bring a pillow!)
Who would be your fellow meditators and the leaders / facilitators?
Was the food good?
The lasting effects of meditating for ten days in Thailand
If you want to meditate for 10 days at Wat Suan Mokkh, here are your ACTION STEPS:
Pack a yoga mat, a pillow, tiger balm, and some paracetamol. No pretty clothes allowed, so leave them at home.
Get yourself to Thailand by plane, train, automobile, boat, foot in outside the months of January and February.
Make it to the Buddhist hermitage by 3pm on the last day of the month to register for the next ten days.
Meditate, practice yoga, soak in the hot spring, and eat delicious Thai food for ten days.
Celebrate with a Thai iced tea upon your ‘graduation’ from meditation.
Stay at the main monastery in the woods for a few days.
Escape to a tropical island in Thailand.
Interested in finding out more about Alessandro? His soon-to-be-launched website is aliosha.info.
* I apologize for the poor sound quality. My skype-to-skype interviews sound fine, but my skype-to-phone interviews get a lot of static and interference. My new microphone is in the mail; stay tuned to hear the difference with a Zoom microphone.
Have you attended a silent meditation retreat or ever wanted to?
Share your experiences–critical and cynical or blissed out–in the comments below please.
Photos (from top to bottom): Hot springs at Wat Suan Mokkh and Alessandro Aliosha Pedori
Recently I made a custom yoga video for a vegan chocolatier so that she could get in 30 minutes of yoga whenever she gets a chance rather than going to a scheduled class. I designed the yoga practice to challenge her and address her needs, and so she had a question about one of the yoga poses that challenged her : How can she keep her balance in mermaid pose?
If you’re curious too, watch the video below to find out. Even if you’re not interested in mermaid pose, the 3 tips I share in the will help you with pigeon pose and its variations.
Plus, I got some great compliments on my gold leggings–watch them in action!
This video is for the ladies. Not one? Send the following video to one or two of your favorite ladies.
Period time affects every woman differently. Some notice no difference. Others feel tired, cranky, sluggish. Other than avoiding inversions, I’d suggest you listen to your body. When I was younger, I practiced a vigorous active yoga even on my period days. These days I ease myself into restorative poses like the ones in the video below. They’re also good when you just want some yoga postures to help your energy go downwards.
Let me know if these yoga postures help you during your time of the month or if you have any other questions about yoga, meditation, or living well.
I was really anxious when I interviewed Penelope Trunk. Not only is she internet famous, I had no idea what the conversation was going to be like. Actually, I had thought that talking to her would make me squirm uncomfortably.
Penelope Trunk is a big name in career advising. She’s got a start-up funded doing exactly that. So it’s no surprise that even though I called her to talk about her humane goat cheese project, we ended up talking about my career as a yoga teacher around 8 minutes in.
She told me right away that people don’t want to read about yoga. And it’s a waste of time to blog as a marketing tool, because only people in a three-mile will come to my yoga class. So she tells me I should quit blogging.
No one wants to read about my yoga successes, because it’s boring. She told me to force myself to fail and then to blog about that. Or else blog about how yoga can help you get a boyfriend, or how yoga can save your marriage, or how to make more money by doing yoga daily.
Instead of reading about yoga, people want an interesting experience. She, for one, started doing Ashtanga yoga because movie stars went to the Ashtanga studio. Any movie stars out there who want to come to my class? I teach yoga to the movie star equivalents of the Berlin start-up world. Does anyone get a thrill from doing yoga right next to successful start-up founders?
Listen to my interview above (or download it!) with Penelope to find out:
Why Penelope thinks I should go work at McDonald’s
Is it yoga if you’re pissed off while you’re doing it?
The difference between struggle and failure
Here’s what I wanted to tell Penelope on the phone but couldn’t: Penelope will grow in yoga by accepting the reality of her yoga practice. Her struggle with her current practice is her path of growth in yoga. It’s inner, not outer physical, work. Yoga is not just about putting your feet behind your head or holding headstand for 3 minutes. Yoga is also about how much you try and how much you fail and–the most important part—how you treat yourself after your failure. If you berate yourself and push your bodytowards injury during yoga practice, that’s not yoga. The yoga is in the compassion.
Be grateful for your limits. If we didn’t have physical limits, we’d have no opportunity to listen to our body telling us where our boundaries are for today. Maybe that’s a better way to describe yoga: playing with your physical and mental limits to keep expanding them.
Around minute 12 Penelope asked me how I got the courage to email her. I sent her an email without expecting any response whatsoever. The importance for me was in thanking her, not in getting any kind of acknowledgment. That’s how I do yoga too—I’m not doing it for weightloss or stress management. I do yoga for the sake of doing it—to connect my body, breath and mind. Does anyone want to buy that? The more I write about yoga, the more I think it’s unmarketable.
ACTION STEPS TO BEING COURAGEOUS:
Do yoga to feel strong inside.
Take a risk like sending an email to someone you admire.
Frankly, I hardly missed sugar. I was fine without sugar as long as I kept eating fat and didn’t ever get ferociously hungry. As long as I kept my body fed and happy, I could decide whether to say yes or no to sweets. Finally, I’m in control rather than sugar.
My sensitivity to sugar has increased. I eat half the amount of cake as I would before. I never found milk sweet before, but now I can taste its natural gentle sweetness from lactose.
I’ve learned that sugar is hidden everywhere : Dijon mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, pasta sauces, salty chips, sushi rice, almost everything in a package.
People either found it totally weird and extreme that I wasn’t eating sugar or else they thought it was awesome but not something that they could ever do.
That said, doing something hard with other people makes it way easier. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one who’s lapsed into a sweet indulgence or being inspired by their sugar-free recipes kept me going after I got off track.
If you want to quit sugar too, follow my journey of quitting sugar week by week :
Week 1 where I explain the entire program of quitting sugar
If you buy through my link–THANK YOU–I get $6 from her, and it’s the same price for you but you also get my bonus PDF detailing where to get some of the supplies that’s hard to find outside of Australia. Once you make your purchase through my link, please contact me with your order number, I’ll send you my bonus PDF.
Lately the yoga world has been really stirred up about the misdeeds of John Friend, leader and founder of Anusara Yoga. Even though I am not affiliated with Anusara, some really amazing yoga teachers have come out of that school from whom I’ve learned. I’ve also personally studied under John Friend in a three-day workshop. It was a good workshop where I took away many good things, some of which I shared on my video about John Friend.
All of the conversations about how to go forward as a community or simply breaking away made me start thinking about the role of a yoga teacher.
Watch my video below for my thoughts…
And I totally did not mean to make a pun, which I only realized after I made the video and am only now writing it up for this post.
QUESTION FOR YOU :
What do you think the role of a yoga teacher is? Let me know!