Category: Blog
A note on shaucha

 

Your mother always told you that cleanliness was next to godliness and Patanjali agrees. It turns out that your mother is a great yogi!

The word ‘ashtanga’, as many of you already know, means eight limbs. The limbs, as listed by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, are Yama, Niyama, Asana (we recognise that one), Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. If you want to know what they all mean have a read of the ‘What Does Ashtanga Mean‘ article on our website.

The first two limbs (yama and niyama) each have five sub-limbs. Think of yama as being a set of morals and of niyama as being a set of personal observances (together they form a rough guide on living harmoniously with the world both inside and outside ourselves).

The first sub-limb of niyama is often the first one to become most pertinent in a class of sweaty students (and teachers for that matter).

Saucha can be translated as cleanliness or purity, and your mother was right; it is next to godliness.

I have seen and heard so many conversations (online and in the real world) between ashtanga yoga teachers about this subject. Ashtanga yoga is a sweaty practice and some people’s nostrils are more sensitive than others.

Guruji says:
* “There are two types of purification: bahir shaucha (external purification) and antah shaucha (internal purification).
* The first involves washing the body with red clay and water. By rubbing the body with clay, sweat and dirt are removed, and the body becomes soft and shiny.
* The second means viewing everything and every being as a friend, and treating all with affection (maitri). This means engaging the mind with the supreme feeling that all are our friends, and considering everything to be a reflection of God.”

We say:
* Please shower before you come to class in the morning.
* Please wear fresh clean clothes to class (as once you start to sweat in previously-sweated-in clothes they really start to smell; you may not notice this but everybody else does).
* Please air your wet yoga mat after class if possible and wash it regularly (if you sweat a lot then regularly means once a week).

Then, perhaps, you and all of your fellow students (who you now love due to your new-found maitri) might get that little bit closer to the eighth limb of ashtanga yoga: Samadhi (bliss).

Who said yoga philosophy was complicated.

 


South Indian Breakfast at Home

This morning I decided to make my first attempt at recreating the fantastic South Indian breakfast known as chow-chow bath. We ate this most mornings in Mysore at a tiny street-side stand called Sri Durga Bhavan. You may have already seen photos of their breakfasts on our previous blog entries.

First up was the Khara Bath. It’s made with semolina, ghee, onion and a host of spices. Often carotts and peas are added too but we left them out this time. It turned out ok, but maybe a tiny bit on the dry side. Suzanne made the two types of coconut chutney (the recipes for which were given to us by our downstairs neighbours in Mysore last Summer). The chutneys were great.

Khara Bath and Coconut Chutney
The second half of the ‘chow-chow’ is the Kesari Bath. This also is made with semolina and a lot of ghee, but sweetened milk is added so that it is more like a dessert. It should be a deeper yellow colour so I’ll have to work on getting the proportions right. It tasted ok to me. You know; milk, butter, sugar; you can’t go too far wrong. It needs a bit more practice though. Practise and all is coming I suppose!Kesari Bath

Then we washed it all down with a healthy sized pot of masala chai made with a spice mix that we got from Meena Gupta in Mysore. Now this really did taste like Mysore in a cup. Masala Chai


Indian road block

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Cows in India have free reign in the streets. I’ve never seen anyone hassling a cow or getting it to move on.

I came out of our house yesterday and saw this cow sitting happily in the middle of the road. Vehicles which could fit past went around her, and those that couldn’t reversed and went up the adjacent road.

It occurred to me that, if a cow did this in Dublin, it would probably be on the news! But it’s totally normal here.

Going home is going to be quite a culture shock!

John


How I got authorised to teach Ashtanga Yoga

Picture the scene: I’ve just done somewhere between eight and ten backbends and I stand up to try some unassisted dropbacks. I conquer the fear once and manage to get to the floor, from where I try, unsuccessfully, to stand back up. No dice.

I get to my feet again and attempt to drop back again. As I’m preparing myself Sharath comes and stands in front of me (about 6 inches in front of me actually!). I go back and my hands touch the floor again. He doesn’t help me. I walk in a little bit and Sharath puts his hands on my thighs. I stand up with ease, unsure of how it happened.

He says “you can do it”. I’m not so sure.

He helps me to do three of those half-bend drop back thingys and then brings me all the way down (I walk in again) and back up.

I’m physically and mentally drained and, as usual, a little shell-shocked by the back-bending experience.

Sharath says, “You come to the office later and fill out the authorisation form. Actually, come tomorrow, I won’t be there today”.

I say “ok”. Which is all I can manage if I’m honest.

Then I get into the pascimattanasana position on the floor and he presses me down hard. I say “uuugggh”. After 3 breaths he’s gone and I’m thinking, “…..”

And that’s the story of how I got authorised!


The best yoga-related snippets from the web part 4

Ok I haven’t done one of these for a while but here we go.

First up is a great essay written by certified teacher Tim Miller about his first experiences with Ashtanga Yoga, travelling to India and learning with Guruji. It’s easy to read in just one sitting and it’s always nice to hear long-time students talk about their early days with the practice. I highly recommend it.

Rich Roll, two time top-finisher at the Ultraman world championships has written this article on why every athlete should practise yoga. If he says it, then it must be true!

Further to that video that went viral of Arthur learning how to walk again through yoga practice, his teacher (and former pro-wrestler) Diamond Dallas Page has done this interview talking about his DDP yoga programme. Personally I love his slogan; “It Aint Your Mama’s Yoga” but maybe I’m just crass. Anyway, DDP is more of a yogi than he would let on by the sounds of things. Check it out.

Eddie Stern recently included this in his blog. It’s the story of an elementary school teacher called John Hunter in the USA who invented a game called the World Peace Game. It’s an inspiring example of what is possible through proper thought-provoking education, not just book-learning. World Peace and Other 4th Grade Achievements.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more.