Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Leslie Kaminoff Part 2 of 2: North American Yoga, Who Owns This Practice?

(Leslie Kaminoff)

"This is a major problem with religious fundamentalists of all stripes. They simply don't know how to leave non-believers alone." (Leslie Kaminoff on the Take Back Yoga Campaign, e-sutra 11/30/2010)

I chose to start Part 2 of this Leslie Kaminoff interview by bringing attention to a few of the hot button issues in North American yoga that have been making good copy.
The New York Times recently ran an article entitled, "Hindu Group Stirs a Debate Over Yoga's Soul", that incited its fair share of debate as arguments circulated freely at the Huffington Post, and elsewhere in the blogosphere. The influential group backing the "Take Back Yoga" campaign is called the Hindu American Foundation, or HAF, which is a Hindu Advocacy Organization based in the U.S whose goal it is to reclaim the spiritual roots of Yoga and recouple them with Hinduism. To summarize, the piece outlines the arguments set forth by a group of people The NY Times designates "Indian-Americans" who have started a campaign to "take back yoga".

What the hyphenated term Indian-American designates is not clear. And, as Indian-Americans and South Asians in general are comprised of at least 4 of the world's major religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam... not to even mention Jainism and Zoroastrianism, the designation Indian-American is sloppy and vague. To boot, yoga is also a lovely hybrid of many different strands of religious thought still largely co-mingled and indistinct. Nonetheless, both the New York Times as well as the HAF appear to flatten the pluralist nature of religious identity in the subcontinent and elsewhere, which is to say the least, only one part of a much more tangled problem.
Opponents include the ever popular voice of American Hindu thought, Deepak Chopra, whose take on the matter is made clear on his home page...while those in support of the campaign claim that Chopra's Hinduism is an amiable pushover.

The HAF make it clear that they have no interest in proprietorship regarding yoga; however, they do make it clear that contemporary yoga evades its relationship with Hindu tradition and culture. Unfortunately, the HAF's credo of reclaiming yoga to accord with perceived notions of authenticity flirts most unfortunately with fundamentalist approaches to Hinduism. And, the HAF does not clarify exactly how Hinduism has been overlooked.

And this is exactly the gap into which Leslie Kaminoff has thrown his thoughts; and he addresses the issue directly on his blog, e-sutra, as well as through our interview:

Priya Thomas interview with Leslie Kaminoff October 2010, Part 2:

(Leslie Kaminoff, left; Amy Matthews, right)

Leslie: I believe of course, that yoga was discovered in India; but that doesn't mean that Indians own it. 

Priya: Right.

Leslie: Well, you say right and I say right. But the people who created the database of traditional knowledge would disagree. You're aware of this right?


Leslie: There are a lot of people in India who are pissed off at yoga being appropriated or misappropriated by Westerners; and even more pissed off at it being missappropriated by Indians living in the can fill in whatever name you want there, but it's really about Bikram and his insistance that he should enjoy copyright protection for his sequence, which I agree with. I supported him for that. I still think he's an asshole. But I supported him in that. So you know there's this idea that you can gain patent protection for traditional knowledge, and prevent other people from using it. And that's why they created this database of traditional knowledge, and have filed this database with the patent offices around the world in an attempt to keep people from producing yoga products. It's as if the word yoga itself is something that could be protected. 
And that's pretty much Gary's Kraftsow's perspective. He has no problem with anyone doing anything they want based on yoga teachings or an amalgam of yoga in this or yoga in that as long as they don't call it yoga, he thinks it's misleading. He thinks it's a form of fraud to call these things yoga if they're not grounded in the traditional knowledge. And I would disagree with that because my perspective is that yoga was discovered in India, not invented there.   

Priya: Do you have a basis for saying that? 

Leslie: Well, it's like a force of nature. Like can't invent electricity. My take on yoga is that it is the natural tendency of organic systems to want to function in harmony. And that's something that's built into nature. And we can discover that principle and take advantage of it and align ourselves with it. So that's the perspective in which I view this term "yoga". So it's much bigger, and older and more ancient than India, or even this planet. You know, it's a force of nature. And as such, I have no problem putting the word yoga on it. Yes the word is a Sanskrit word, and it has an etymology and it has a history and all of that. But you know you have to use some word for it. 

Priya: I liked your iteration of anatomical structures to illustrate yogic principles. For instance, I read your use of the word "joint" in your articulation of embodied metaphors for joining. It's as if the metaphors for yoga can be found in existing anatomical structures, and in the structure of language itself.  

 Leslie: Well that's one of the great things from the Indian tradition, is that when you want to understand a term, look at its roots. I mean, that's a whole way of understanding Sanskrit terms. And Krishnamacarya had some unique perspectives on some of these roots. You can do the same thing with an English word, like "joint".  

Priya: Yes! And that's what I found really creative about it. Because it is something that often happens as a way of understanding Sanskrit words; but less so when it comes to understanding words in English. I thought that perspective of looking at the "joint" was a remarkable reiteration of the spiritual underpinnings of yogic ideas through anatomy.  

Leslie: Well if it gives you a new take on something and a new perspective that's useful, I'm all for it. You know, English is not a consistent language like Sanskrit. Its grammar and spelling and pronounciation are all over the place. And yet, there's a lot of Indo-European roots in English, where you can find it in the language, Im always looking for it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Two-Part Interview with Leslie Kaminoff: Making Space for the Universe in the Depth of our Breath

T wo nights ago, I watched a dissected human body, "breathing" - the lungs like a tender anemone, delicately billowing, assuming strange, unpredictable shapes...and I cried. Then I wrote to the front desk at the Breathing Project to ask about it. Is Leslie Kaminoff's online anatomy course supposed to be moving? Because I'm on lesson four, and I feel like I've been struck at the core.

"Breath is about freedom; not about getting it right. The first thing we need to be free of is that idea that we need to get it right". (Leslie Kaminoff)

Leslie Kaminoff, Feb. 2010. Photo: Lydia Mann

I t was a fall day in NYC, the pale wind was picking up as I struggled up west 26th to Leslie Kaminoff's studio. I waited inside on a bench thumbing through my jumble of papers, looking through the door to Leslie's office, opened footwide enough to see the a figure seated in an office chair, facing away from the door, forearms square at a computer. I was early; and Leslie Kaminoff was obviously punctual. He worked right up to the scheduled minute; and then when I politely knocked and entered, he slid the chair away and got up to shake hands. I turned around to fumble through my things and hit record on the iphone. He asked a few questions about the blog and its readership; and my plans for monetizing it. I told him I didn't know; but that this blog was forcing me to read more....He kicked his legs up on the table, ankles crossed one over the other, and leaned back in his chair with his hands behind his head.

Leslie Kaminoff is a yoga educator inspired by the tradition of T.K.V. Desikachar. He is an internationally recognized specialist with over thirty-one years’ experience in the fields of yoga and breath anatomy. He has led workshops for many of the leading yoga associations, schools and training programs in America. Leslie has also helped to organize international yoga conferences while serving as Vice-President of Unity in Yoga, and has actively participated in the ongoing national debate regarding certification standards for yoga teachers. He currently practices in New York City and Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Leslie is the founder of The Breathing Project, a New York City yoga institute dedicated to the teaching of individualized, breath-centered yoga. Leslie is also the founder of the highly respected International Yoga list, e-Sutra, and is the co-author of the bestselling book, "Yoga Anatomy."

(Leslie Kaminoff, photo: Lydia Mann)
Far from being ponderous in this interview, Leslie Kaminoff speaks to us in brief and precise language about his colorful three decade history as a pioneering practitioner/educator who has studied in India, was ordained as a swami in the Sivananda tradition, and later renounced his robes for the world of bodywork and sports medicine. After a period of study with T.K.V Desikachar, he went on to test his understanding of the principles of yoga through a systematic study of anatomy via cadaver dissection and textual exploration.  The circuitous trajectory that has formed Leslie Kaminoff's substantial knowledge is testament to the power of svadhyaya (self-study). And as you will see, if there's a wrangle or a squabble to settle, Leslie Kaminoff certainly has the cowboy bravado and sense of adventure to join the fray. Outspoken, individualistic, and a rationalist, the yoga he loves is one that breathes with a specifically American tenor.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guest Author Kathryn Beet: Evidence Based Yoga Nidra Heals what Ails You

(Lewis Carroll's sketch for Alice in Wonderland)
 "Let's pretend there's a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let's pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze so that we can get through. Why it's turning into a sort of mist now, I declare...And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a bright, silvery mist".  (Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll)

M ost days I forget any one of a number of things: my yoga card, my umbrella, or socks, at my home away from home, Yoga Space Toronto. Maybe that's just because of the sheer number of hours I spend at the studio. Or, maybe it has something to do with the slumbering ease I feel when I walk through those doors. You could call that feeling a kind of "nidra"; a diffuse awareness that day after day, my lost items will reveal themselves in some nook, some basket... and that the front desk will thoughtfully tuck my yoga card underneath their workspace yet again. I've come to trust that Yoga Space is all about making room for restful awareness; even if it means sometimes we're ambling around in a perforated, yoga-induced, dreamstate.

Founder and director Kathryn Beet began Yoga Space 15 years ago in a quiet alleyway on Bellwoods Ave in Toronto. Now expanded beyond its original space, the luminous hardwood floors on Ossington Ave are marked by a continuous, steady stream of staff and practitioners that have been with the studio for years. Kathryn is a sensitive, highly-intuitive and skilled teacher whose teaching style is a powerful blend of intelligent use of energy, and rigorous demand for the hard-facts; the evidence of the therapeutic benefits of asana. She prefers discussions that stay grounded in the physical realities of individual bodies, providing detailed verbal instruction, highly-effective hands-on augmentation, and definitive demonstration. She has been providing Yoga Therapy for individuals in clinical settings for 10 years. Gleaning insight from the many teachers, therapists and artists she has worked with over the years, she has created a unique fusion of yoga therapies in Therapeutic Yoga, which she has been cultivating at YogaSpace for 4 years. 

I had a rainy day chat with Kathryn Beet about her own practice; and discovered her growing interest in Yoga Nidra. I immediately asked if she would be willing to contribute her ideas as a guest author. In the following post, Kathryn explores the mounting scientific evidence in support of the long tradition of Yoga Nidra, its therapeutic benefits, and its transformative potential.
~ ~ ~

Evidence Based Yoga Nidra Heals what Ails You
by Kathryn Beet

(Photo of Savasana, Corpse Pose, covered in a blanket)

Y oga Nidra, which means sleep of the Yogi, is an ancient, sacred yogic practice of meditation that can lead to profound changes in both mind and body.  It is a vital resource for transforming physical health and reshaping personal, interpersonal and professional relationships.  The origins of Yoga Nidra can be traced back to the ancient sacred teachings of Yoga and Tantra.  The practice has been revived over the last half century by Yogis, such as Swami Satchidananda and Nischala Joy Devi, to name a few.  Most recently, clinical psychologist Richard Miller has effectively demonstrated the indubitable healing potential of Yoga Nidra to mainstream North America.

Founder of the Integrative Restoration Institute in California, creator of iRest Yoga Nidra and author of Yoga Nidra, A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing, Miller serves as a research consultant, researching the healing effects of Yoga Nidra on diverse populations including soldiers, veterans, college students, children, seniors, the homeless and people suffering from depression, anxiety, chronic pain, insomnia, chemical dependancy and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD).

In 2006, the United States Department of Defense conducted research on the iRest Yoga Nidra protocol with soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan experiencing PTSD.  Following the study, the Deployment Health Center integrated Yoga Nidra into it's weekly treatment program for soldiers. Yoga Nidra classes have subsequently been set up in treatment facilities throughout the U.S.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Queen Street Yoga Turns Five in Good Health and High Spirits: An Interview with Founder and Director Meaghan Johnson

  "For some reason, I went and looked at it, and the space was just huge, with hardwood floors and high ceilings, and there two rooms like that with change rooms. And I just thought, "Oh crap, we have to start a yoga studio"!
(Meaghan Johnson, Founder and Director, Queen Street Yoga, Kitchener, Ontario)

Q ueen Street Yoga recently celebrated its fifth birthday in its birthplace, Kitchener, Ontario. That's no small accomplishment for a small studio that opened during a yoga boom. But, with an expanding array of classes and workshops in yoga and meditation, and a focus on the therapeutic function of yoga as pertains to stress, trauma and illness, Queen Street Yoga has managed not only to survive, but to grow its reach and impact in local communities.  Part of this buoyant, "can-do" atmosphere owes itself to the high-spirited approach of Queen Street Yoga's founder and director, Meaghan Johnson, whose exuberance and engagement with her own practice is palpable in our interview.

Meaghan Johnson was first introduced to Yoga in 1992, and has had a dedicated practice for the last 8 years. She began teaching yoga in 2002 after completing a 250 hour teacher training in Toronto. She completed a second teacher training with Hart Lazer in 2004 and has been studying with him ever since. She is influenced and supported by the yoga teachings of Ramanand Patel and Donna Farhi. Meaghan also maintains a regular meditation practice, and completed a month long silent retreat in the Tibetan tradition in India. A self-proclaimed arts enthusiast, she's actively involved in running Queen Street's operations, as well as overseeing its increasing reach in several communities. In our interview, Meaghan talks about her own encounter with yoga in her early teens, and its mitigating influence on her later struggles with bi-polar disorder. We also chat about what it's like to run a yoga studio in a city that sits in the quieter shadows of the big-smoke, Toronto; and, her interest in taking yoga into art galleries to explore the relationship between therapeutic body practices and art.

(Meaghan Johnson, Queen Street Yoga)

"Often there's a lot of rhetoric in yoga and meditation that doing these things is going be blissful and relaxing. And for many people, that's really not the experience they encounter. You're actually going to be thrown back into this body that remembers everything that happened to you."     (Meaghan Johnson, Queen Street Yoga)

Interview with Meghan Johnson of Queen Street Yoga, Kitchener, Ontario: 

PT: What was the actual anniversary date for QSY? 

Meaghan Johnson: I'm not really sure actually. It's funny i'm just not very nostalgic that way, but I think it was at the beginning of September 5 years ago...So our actual birthday is over - but we consider it a long birthday. In some ways it's been an amazing five years. I often say, you know the community must want this yoga studio because I'm just flying by the seat of my pants trying to keep up (laughs)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Syrinx and Systole, Guest Author Matthew Remski Introduces his New Book of Poetry

(Syrinx 2, Marion Dunleavy)
"She will recede with each increment of
light, with each syllable you find in your throat like a cave
painting. The reverberation in the bark is the stutter of your
hand letting her go.
The choir of earth. Over the reeds, the long exhale of don’t
know anything. The shiver that cracks the spine as more
apples blossom, turn red, turn cider, turn vinegar, turn ash." 
(from Syrinx and Systole, Matthew Remski)

M ost of you know Matthew Remski as co-director of Yoga Festival Toronto, an Ayurvedic Health Educator and Practitioner, and adjunct faculty member for many Yoga Teacher Training Programmes in Toronto. Many people are also familiar with the Matthew Remski, who, along with fellow yogi and author, Scott Petrie, co-authored the wildly imaginative and iconoclastic text on re-embodying yoga, entitled Yoga 2.0. But perhaps you are not aware that he has also published several novels, and founded Scream in High Park, a literary festival that has since grown into the 2-week-long crowning event of alternative Canadian literature. Now, on the heels of unleashing Yoga 2.0, Matthew will be releasing his first book of poetry in fifteen years. A book launch will be held at the Supermarket (in Toronto's Kensington Market) on Tuesday, November 16 · 7:00pm - 9:00pm. 

I asked Matthew if he would like to contribute a piece of writing about the launch of his new book, and he responded,
 "Sure. should it be manifesto-style?"
 And Matthew, oracular and enigmatic, offered us this arrangement of words.
(The Unknown Potter, Arthur Boyd)

on launching syrinx
by matthew remski

the pages are lined with consciousness and birdsong, orality and aurality, the oscillation of separateness and communion, space and its filling, the dissociation of seeking, the pervasion of being found, loving the identity-trauma of learning.  learning as terrible pleasure, learning as food.  learning is food, so we are fed by what we have yet to know.

content is paramount: form serves it like a dish serves food.  sleep washes the dishes.

the structure of this book saddens.  not because of its sentiment, which chirrs and clicks between the oriole and the occipital.  not because it is this book, as opposed to any other, it is sad because as a collection of meditations it does not like the prison of a book generally.  it cannot understand the mathematics of a print run, why its words cannot change.  it flutters confused and now resigned against the papers, against the spine.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

When Discipline Sets You Free, The Beauty of a Dogmatic Practice: David Robson on Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga

(David Robson, right. with pilgrims at Sravanabelagola)
"The beauty of the practice is that, inside of the structure of it, there is still room for interpretation." (David Robson, Co-Owner and Director of Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto)

(David Robson, photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)
T o be honest, it makes little sense to hear David Robson, co-owner and director of the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto, talk about struggling with focus. He wakes up at 3am each morning in order to do a few hours of asana practice before he heads out for his teaching day which begins at 6am. But then, it's often the people who have a measure of focus that know how disconcerting it is to work without it.

After completing a degree in Comparative Religion, David Robson made his first trip to Mysore in 2002, where he initiated studies with his teacher Sharath Rangaswamy. Since then he has returned annually to deepen and enrich his practice and teaching. In 2008 David was Authorized to teach Ashtanga by the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute of Mysore, India.

I first saw David Robson speak at Yoga Festival Toronto, in a workshop he provocatively titled, Dogma and Discipline. In our hour-and-a-half workshop, David put about thirty practitioners through their paces, slowly and deliberately teaching a sun salutation, followed by standing poses from Ashtanga's first series. Words like regulation, prescription, numerical breathing, dharana, and drsti filled the air; sibilant, measured and consistent as the clock's tick on the back wall of the studio. Each pose was meticulously explained, adjustments were made, we were instructed to find stillness in each pose, and to submit to the discipline that each posture promises.  Furthermore, each student was clear by the end of the class that there were to be no extraneous gestures; no cycling of feet in downward dog, no flicking back of hair strands, and no readustments of spandex, in the repetition of this traditional sequence.

But, as is obvious in our interview, you would be making a mistake if you assumed David Robson was a dogmatic personality, or a rigid teacher that measures out generic prescriptions from the topsoil of his yogic life. Instead, David's approach is the result of years of mining his own search for realization. As David says, "the body is your laboratory"; and, he's taken a look at the substrata of his own makeup, and its fairshare of competing and contradictory inclinations.

In our interview, we have the privilege of observing David's map of complex choices, as he searched for something, "a spiritual high", he couldn't quite name. From his first self-taught encounter with yoga from a nameless book of poses, to playing in an improv post-rock band with Peaches, to travelling the world seeking out his version of Maslow-inspired "peak experiences",  and teaching Bikram Yoga, Robson's early experiences with yoga are energetic and restless. Not until he met Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his grandson, Sharath Rangaswamy, did Robson feel he had found a powerful diagram for transformation: Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga.

(David Robson at Yoga Festival Toronto, 2010)
 "I was pretty irreverent in my approach to yoga initially. But, you know in some ways, the seriousness with which you approach it, seems to be proportionate with the change that it can effect".  
             (David Robson, Co-owner and Director of the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto)


Dogma and Discipine, Interview with David Robson of Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto:

 Priya Thomas: Hi, is that David?

David Robson: Hi Priya, how are you?

Priya: good thanks, thank you for doing this...So when did you start practicing yoga?

David Robson: I started doing asana classes about twelve years ago. I started with Sivananda style. A friend of mine knew I liked yoga; I had been doing it out of books and things like that..but very infrequently. And so she brought me to a class. And I had no idea actually that were yoga classes.

Priya: Really??

David: Yeah (laughing)

Priya: So where did you find books from?

David:  You know I can't even remember the books that I had. I had books with different pranayamas, and things like that; and simple asanas. But I didn't know that people were in rooms doing it together! I thought it was just something you always did alone.

Priya: oh wow.

David: Yeah I had no idea. I guess I was just out of it! (laughing). So anyway, this friend brought me to a Sivananda class in Toronto; the one at Spadina and Harbord. And I was amazed that all these people were in a room together doing it! And there was a teacher walking around; and it was so relaxing. I immediately fell in love. And at the time, I had just come back from a long trip away, and I had just started studying religion and U of T. So the week after that, I went back twice; and then before I knew it, almost right away, I was going every day.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Great Times are Waiting, Shivers up the Spine 5 Days in NYC: Leslie Kaminoff, Tom Myers, Robert Mahon and IDP

I opened the window from my hotel room to a warm chinook blowing in to Manhattan's lower east side. Thank god the window actually opens, I thought. I could see the alley below, announcing a small market, and folks were in and out of the passageway all day long. I had planned to get a good amount of writing done; but there was no internet access at the hotel...or at least not an internet that could stay connected consistently. The front desk looked at me quizzically when I mentioned it; but I knew from his blank, rapid blinking, he was well aware of the problem.

One small room, with a window, and a squirrel that was eating the floorboards underneath me...a shared bathroom down the hall, and walls paper thin so that I could hear the writer rooming next to me talking about her next screenwriting project. It wasn't much; but it was New York City, and I was within spitting distance of everything I needed. So, apart from seeing bands at CMJ, I was going to make it my business to get out and do as much yoga as possible.

This is my recap of Yoga NYC; but it also gives you a bit of a taste of what's upcoming on Shivers Up the Spine heading into the cold season.

O n Thursday afternoon I met with Robert Mahon, whose photographs had formed the basis for the post, "Into the Slipstream; The Yoga of Chance in the Photography of Robert Mahon". We had lunch and chocolate in Chelsea; paid quick homage to the Chelsea hotel; spent hours lounging on the lawn chairs of the Episcopal Seminary Gardens in the warm sunlight of autumn. We never made it to MOMA; but for any of you out there curious about seeing more of Robert's work in the flesh, you can go to the AKA hotel Times Square; and on every single floor is one of a series of stunning photographs of New York City's most recognizable landmarks entitled, "The Liberty Series". Of these, the photos of Lady Liberty remain with me; her form under tender veils of reconstruction scaffolding, a vaulting iceberg in repair over black sheets of water. The images are striking enough to make you want to ride the elevator up and down all day. This is an excerpt from the Hotel's guide to the series:
AKA Times Square is pleased to present Liberty Series, a selection of 12 photographs by Robert Mahon, on display in the hallways facing the elevators and in the fitness center.  Printed in 2010 by the artist especially for AKA, the original photographs of the Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center, Ellis Island, and the New York Harbor were taken by the artist in 1983 and 1984.  Many of these archetypal images having the theme of arrival and departure are aerial photos taken from a helicopter flying close to the Statue of Liberty.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

There is No Such Thing as a Dead End: Two Burmese Monks Describe the Saffron Revolution

(U Pyinya Zawta, All Burma Monks Alliance)
"hatred is never appeased by hatred...only lovingkindness"
(U Pyinya Zawta, Burma, Buddhism and Non Violent Revolt, University of Toronto, Oct 18, 2010)

What makes a movement move? This is a question that has been with me ever since I attended the talk Buddism, Burma and Non-Violent Revolt at University of Toronto last week. I mean, it's an oddity that movements happen at all; since most of them begin with a dedication to the impossible, the implausible, and sometimes, what many would call, "the lost cause".

There was a hum of fluorescents that ran through the room on the 7th floor of University of Toronto's Oise building last Monday. The "Peace Lounge" sounded bright, animated by shuffling of feet, paper handouts, and pamphlets rustling...microphones humming, clipping, and then petering out. Across to my right were two batik room dividers, and then a row of volunteers flanked by tables of books and petition papers. As people took their seats, the cyclopic eye of a camera turned to a tall figure standing in front of a wall of windows.

 "Hello, it's good to see so many of you out".

Michael Stone delivered a warm welcome to the attentive group of 100 or so gathered in support of the event. Co-presented by Centre of Gravity Sangha, Amnesty International and Shambhala Toronto, the evening featured two Burmese monks, U Pyinya Zawta and U Agga Nyana who were invited to tell their stories about their experience in the Saffron Revolution of 2007. In addition to detailing the events associated the uprising, the event was intended to expose the continued plight of Buddhist monks amidst the sustained brutality of the military regime in Burma, as well as the difficulties faced by monks who have relocated to North America.

Thanking those assembled, Michael talked about the importance of getting real people and communities involved. He cited Malcolm Gladwell's recent article in the New Yorker entitled, "Small Change: the Revolution will not be Tweeted", in order to illustrate a growing sense of the shortcomings of social networks as pertains to disciplined, social engagement.  With a nod to Bernie Glassman and the First Symposium of Engaged Buddhism this past summer, he also cited the importance of the evening's talk as part of a larger dialogue on Buddhism as social action on North American soil; and reminded people that getting movements to "move" really depends on interdependence. On the heels of this brief introduction, Myanmar Coordinator for Amnesty International, Brian John, articulated a synopsis of the political context in Burma, and outlined Amnesty's determination to increase public awareness of the current military regime's long list of human rights violations.

These very human rights violations were detailed through the first-person narrative of two Burmese monks, as all eyes turned to  to U Pinya Zawta and U Agga Nyana. Both spoke of imprisonment and torture at the hands of the military regime with a curious combination of softspoken intelligence and straight-talk. In a particularly moving moment, U Agga Nyana described the lasting influence of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's opposition politician, who is still living under house arrest, in saying:

"She is still in our hearts".

Monday, October 11, 2010

Transnational Yoga Part 1: An Interview with Blogger Roseanne Harvey of "It's all Yoga Baby"

The community portals have been hacked. Advertisers have your home number; and now they're calling at dinnertime. Yoga blogs, once the independent voice of an online community, are now the locus of increased corporate sensibility; your discussions will be interrupted for "these special messages from our sponsors".  In this 3-part series on Transnational Yoga,  I interview 3 writers with regard to their own research on yoga and commodity, the practices that comprise contemporary yoga, and the origins of our asana-heavy, posturific, yoga culture.

I went into this interview assuming I would write a piece about what it means to be a blogger; a critical, independent voice in the yoga community, armed with the wit and candour to observe the fascinating negotiations that are happening between yoga and capitalism the world over. After all, my interview had been scheduled for over a month, and it was with the fabulous blogger, Roseanne Harvey, of It's All Yoga Baby.

Kamloops-raised, Roseanne Harvey came to yoga at University, originally as an attempt to manage the stress of a busy workload. Over time, however, the practice took root; and Harvey found herself settling in at Yasodhara Ashram, B.C, upon the advice of close friends. By the end of her stay, Harvey had found a deepened passion for yoga, and a new community newsletter to write for the ashram. Eventually, Ascent Magazine, an independent, not-for-profit publication dedicated to spirituality and yoga, was born through Yasodhara; and Roseanne Harvey was at the helm of its editorial functions. The publication ran from 1999 through 2009; and, when the much-loved magazine closed it doors, Harvey turned her attention to blogging.

In our interview, Harvey talks about the importance of resisting corporate interest, and how she hopes to serve as an example of an independent, anti-commercial voice for the yoga community; and, how yoga partnerships with corporations that propogate an idealized vision of the female body are problematic. Yet, by the time I reached her, late last week, Roseanne Harvey had signed a deal with Wonderbra for her blog. Furthermore, in our conversation, she details the contractual restrictions on her blogging voice inherent in this relationship.

Blogging for Yoga, Interview with Roseanne Harvey:

"I realized that I resist the commercialization of yoga because I resist the commercialization of everything. I don’t believe that yoga deserves special treatment; I believe that the commercialization of everything, from food to sex to art, is unhealthy for people and our world."
("WSJ Stefanie Syman on how Yoga Sold Out", from It's all Yoga Baby, by Roseanne Harvey) 

 PT: So Roseanne, you started a blog, would be a year and a half ago now?

Roseanne Harvey: Yeah I started the blog after the magazine closed. While I was at the magazine I was responsible for the magazine's blog, along with so many other things with editing etc. So it was always a pain in the butt. I always hated doing it. I had to handle that as well as so many other things. But then once when the magazine closed it was much easier as an independent person, to publish a blog, than to publish a magazine. So I just needed a space where i could continue to explore yoga and maintain the connections that I made while i was at the magazine; and, do it in a place where it was on my own terms, where i wasn't representing anyone else's interests.

PT: Do you find that a lot of yoga conversations, whether they happen through blogs, books or magazines, have been co-opted by something, or somebody else's interests?

Roseanne Harvey:  I find that in the blogging community it's not co-opted. There's a very independent spirit within the blogging community; and most people who blog do it for themselves. Most of them are yoga teachers or just yoga practitioners so they're not representing any other system or whatever. And in terms of being co-opted, I mean yeah, there's no kind of formalized system to really co-opt these voices, other than blogs like the Yoga Journal blogs and some others...If a writer/blogger is really ambitious and wants to contribute to the Huffington Post, then, sure it's been co-opted. But generally, I find there's a lot of independent voices.

PT: What would you say the difference is between writing for the the Yoga Journal blogs, or Huffington Post, and being an independent blogger?

Roseanne Harvey: Yeah, it's hard to say, because I haven't had the experience of writing for Yoga Journal etc; but I think that there's a different mandate. And Yoga Journal has several high profile teachers that are currently blogging for them and yeah, most of the writing I see is not critical and analytical or whatever. It tends to be experiential and anecdotal. 

(photo by erin vosti lal)

PT: Ok. I guess that leads into my question about magazine culture re. yoga in North America. What do you think of the kind of yoga advertising we're seeing in magazines? Where is it all going?

Roseanne Harvey:  Uh hmm... Yeah, well i think that a communication vehicle is good for the yoga community. I think that it's good to provide accessible information for people who are simply curious. And all magazines are fuelled by advertising because that's how the industry works.  In terms of yoga magazines I think that they're an essential part of the evolution of yoga in North America. If we look at yoga magazines now, there are only two I can think of in print right now; Yoga Journal and Yoga International, and then a handful of other spirituality magazines. But what I see there is not a lot of diversity, a big emphasis on the physical aspects of the practice, a certain kind of representation that's soft-focus, fuzzy, women-in-spandex, lotus flowers and candles.. this very idealized image of spiritual practice...which doesn't always represent the whole story of the practice.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Into the Slipstream, The Yoga of Chance in the Photography of Robert Mahon

(John Cage Portrait, Series 3, #22, Robert Mahon, 1980)
“Through chance the possibilities of photography are expanded beyond the limits of individual bias.  The work is experimental; the resulting images become a discovery.  Any moment and any place is as good as another for the making of a photograph.” 
     (Robert Mahon on his work, John Cage: A Portrait Series)

(Embrace, from Yoga and Trees: Glimpses of Satya Yuga, Robert Mahon 2001)

("Malasana" from Yoga and Trees: Glimpses of Satya Yuga, Robert Mahon 2001)
If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dreams
Where mobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me?
..To lay me down in silence easy
To be born again, to be born again
Van Morrison, Astral Weeks)

It requires a fair stock of bravery; to participate in the play of light and dark, to venture into the slipstream; to trust in the processes of chance, as life dispenses and assigns its cargo without preference. But this is exactly what we do with yoga practice.

I think many of us would agree that those conversations about yoga that circumscribe our experience to bodily practice, as if it were a kind of 20-minute workout, narrow our vision. Some would say those discussions about yoga miss the point altogether. Because, for many of us, yoga has changed our lives. And once our lives have changed, we notice that yoga is not about falling in love with the medium, of growing ever more fond of the body; but a way of seeing the world, and a means of perceiving ourselves. This yoga, this path, has a far deeper reach; one that perforates the boundaries between the practices of the body, and the practices of other instruments of vision, such as the camera, until it finally moves beyond the instrument altogether.

"Chance-process" has defined, mapped and shaped New Jersey based photographer Robert Mahon's lens on the world for several decades; ever since he came under the influence of both Buddhism and yoga philosophy in the late 70's through his close mentorship with composer John Cage. A practicing yogi, whose work resides in the permanent collections of the MOMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and, amongst others, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Mahon talks to us about how his yoga practice began to influence his willingness to play with the even, cool-handed, allocations of "chance"; so much so, that the theme of chance would dominate his work.

I first came across Robert Mahon's yoga photographs in an article by Anne Cushman entitled, The Yoga of Creativity in Tricycle, The Buddhist Review. That's when I decided to contact Robert Mahon about his series, Yoga and Trees: Glimpses into Satya Yuga.
The wispy bodies in familiar yoga poses, are but amorphous orbs bathed in diffuse light, interlaced with textual fragments; and then, juxtaposed are vertical strokes, lithe trees, that look like they've swallowed glowing halos. They evoke a sense of both observation and process that are reflective of yoga itself. Furthermore, there was a silence, an internal process to the images that caught my eye. This certainly wasn't photography that intended to document the correct aligment of an asana. What it was doing was evoking an inner space; alluding to a process or a practice; and creating intimate relationships between forms that seem otherwise unrelated.

(Merce Cunningham, Wesbeth Studio, Robert Mahon, 2007)
And this, to me, seemed to be the essence of yoga practice itself. The process of coming to know, through attending to each moment without attachment, was so central to my experience and understanding of yoga, that I had to ask Robert Mahon about his work and find out what was motivating this kind of process in his work. Through several emails and many transfers of biographical background back and forth, I came to understand that the decision to participate openly with "chance" was a means of interrupting the preferential choosings of the eye that is hungry for the object, and possessed by the outcome of practice.

All of our instruments rely on the inner eye and its conditioned perception. So what happens to the inner-eye when you remove your own preferences, your likes/dislikes, your attractions/aversions from this equation of perceiving? What if you choose not to cling, to or control the outcome of your observations?

These questions are the spinal column, the backbone of research into "chance processes" in art; as well as, the exploration of chance and possibility in yoga and meditation. Tapping into chance is the ability to slip into the slipstream, wade into the unknown, the potential and unmanifest, by attending to the present moment.
     “The question of how a photographer can profitably
      collaborate with chance - how to preserve its surprising
      felicities within an order of structure and stability -
      has been a major preoccupation of photography this
      century, I think Mr. Mahon’s work is among the most
      interesting and potentially rewarding of current
      explorations in this direction." 

(- John Szarkowski, Director, Department of Photography, 1962 - 1999, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City)
("Standing Firm" from Yoga and Trees: Glimpses of Satya Yuga, Robert Mahon 2001)

It wasn't long before I realized that I had accidentally bumped into an artist of enormous significance, both in terms of the work he has produced; but also in terms of the strides made in the methods by which he explored chance process. The body of his work is broad, and spans many years; as such, the interview I had with him only considers a few of his photos as a starting point. Namely, Yoga and Trees: Glimpses into Satya Yuga, first exhibited in 2004 at PhilosophyBox in New York City; his 216-image portrait of John Cage, which is now part of the permanent collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and, his work entitled Two Children, a large scale work of 80 photographs made from a single inherited negative, which was exhibited in 1993 at The Museum of Modern Art. Two Children was purchased by MOMA for its permanent collection in 1983.

What follows is our interview about working with the yogic process and the use of chance processes in the body of his work. He talks about his long mentorship with John Cage, and the history of Cage's transition into chance processes, through contact with yoga philosophy and Buddhism. In his agile responses, Mahon proves that yoga is best when it's kept close to us; when we dare to travel with it in our carry-on luggage; when it comes with us to the baseball game, and when it lives on and off-the-mat...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Rubin Museum of Art, NYC presents: "Grain of Emptiness: Buddhist Inspired Contemporary Art"

David Byrne in discussions at The Rubin Museum of Art NYC
"poetry makes nothing happen..."

My late friend John used to quote his great-uncle W.H Auden; he, like Auden, I suspect, had a deep respect of the void.

 It wouldn't be the first time an artist considered his/her relationship with "nothing"; or cited "nothing" as the source of a more profound, unfathomable "nothing". Nor is this news to yogis; the stillness of the void has been the wellspring of asana, or seated practice, for thousands of years. As for whether art makes nothing happen, or nothing is the deep wellspring of all else; well, that's a topic that The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City is willing to take on.

Atta Kim, The New York Series, Times Square, 2005

The forthcoming exhibition entitled: Grain of Emptiness: Buddhist Inspired Contemporary Art, which begins November 5th 2010 and runs through April 11, 2011, features five contemporary artists -Sanford Biggers, Theaster Gates, Atta Kim, Wolfgang Laib, and Charmion von Wiegand- all inspired by the Buddhist notions of emptiness and impermanence and Buddhist ritual practice. These artists are from disparate backgrounds and explore a range of artistic mediums, but all have inherited the practice of incorporating Eastern religious beliefs into their works. The exhibition's paintings, photographs, videos, and installations will be complemented by performance art.

This is another opportunity for those of us a plane-ride away, to take a look at contemporary artists' musings on "nothing"; as well as, take in the other "nothingness" programming that the Rubin has arranged to complement the exhibit. Talk about Nothing, is a new series of dialogues being presented beginning in late October at the Rubin, that brings together personalities to discuss the void. Running between October 27th and January 29th, the Rubin presents talks with a diverse group of thinkers ranging from writer/musician Amit Chaudhuri, performance artist Laurie Anderson, to Tibetan lama Traleg Rinpoche.

The Red Book arrives at the Rubin, 2009

I stumbled across this exhibit while I was looking for events based on Carl Jung's richly illustrated, and posthumously published journal, The Red Book; which, I ecstatically received as a gift from my brother and sister-in-law, last Christmas. And as it turns out, the Rubin had presented a similar series of talks about Jung's undiscovered tome called "The Red Book Dialogues" last year. The picture up top is lifted from the Rubin Museum website; and features David Byrne in conversation with psychoanalyst Sherry Salman about the mysterious and wonderful Red Book.

Programming at the Rubin Museum is worth bookmarking.
Tickets for Talk about Nothing are now on sale to members at the Rubin Museum of Art website.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Brooklyn's Body Actualized Control: Building a New Yoga Tribe from the Rooftop of the Market Hotel

Among the instructions on the website of Brooklyn based lifestyle community, Body Actualized Control, is a list of what to bring to a B.A.C yoga party. It reads:

 BRING YOUR! singing bowls, gongs, prayer flags, harmonium, drums, candles, antlers, bear fang, crystals, kale, hummus, quinoa, poetry, tarot, sculpture, spirit books, spiritual devices, new age technology, archetypal objects from the forgotten works, incense, love, positive vibe, compassion etc.
For Body Actualized Control, offering up the yoga-party is an essential in the yoga community toolbox. Along with weekly classes, this tribal gathering of Brooklyn's young subculture,  influenced by post-rock, the new age movement and the good vibes of DIY happenings, puts on numerous artistic, literary and yoga events at its proudly independent hub, the Market Hotel. In this truly tripped-out, yoga cosmos, there  are no justifications of BAC's yoga existence through direct or indirect inheritance of any specific yoga tradition, or lineage. And, to anyone noticing, there are no references to India, the Yoga Sutras, or anything ordinarily deemed "traditional" about yoga. In short, BAC's philosophy is very "here-and-now" driven, and very American in character.

Somewhere in its chaotic explorations of yoga libations under their "healthy hedonism" section of the site, are visions left by the 60's musical "Hair", art pieces made by friends and community members, (my personal favorite is the creep-eyed, zany fox covered with plastic flowers, chomping on wild bark), and youtube posts of Thich Nhat Hanh. To be sure, it's a wild collage of age-of-aquarius dreamstates in hyper-saturated technicolor, driven home with snippets of Robert Anton Wilson, mindfulness meditation, and casual mentions of Heidegger. And, of course, for pure, weird-on factor, there's a blog post on horseback yoga, or "Equiyoga/Cowgirl yoga", as it's variously called.

But wait, there are no mentions of Patanjali??! Or Hatha Yoga Pradipika?

In my interview with BAC staff member and yoga instructor, Austin Samsel, we discuss why BAC overlooks any overt mentions of Patanjali, and opts instead to "taking on reality" in New York City.  We chat about how BAC likes its collisions with its environment, and uses yoga to confront the vital signs, sounds, and energy of the city, by practicing yoga on the rooftop at Brooklyn's Market Hotel. We chat about BAC's existence as an artist-run, not-for-profit, community organization, that combines various forms of artistic output in awareness of health, spirituality, and social responsibility; and whose past events range from late night dance parties, various literary gatherings, and everyday yoga classes. We even talk about a poster on their site for a past yoga party entitled, "EVIL Yoga"...

I think when you come here you end up being friends with us, and it's a relationship. I'm not trying to get anything out of you. We just want to see people having fun, and people coming into their better selves.  

 - Austin Samsel, Yoga Instructor & member of Body Actualized Control

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

YOGA 2.0: Mala 1, by Matthew Remski and Scott Petrie - A War-Cry Manifesto for Deconstructing the Yoga Body

Matthew Remski and Scott Petrie's new book is a must-read

"The doors of life must be broken to test the hinges and the doors."
Andre Breton, 1922
wrote eccentric, dissident artist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, in the Futurist Manifesto of 1908, as he announced a brand new art movement that was daring forward at breakneck speed into the unknown. In a wholescale rejection of the past, he affirmed that the basic structures of the day must be destroyed in order to be put to the test. In 1924, Andre Breton put out an inflammatory piece of writing called Le Manifeste du Surrealisme in which he proclaimed: 
 "The purest surrealist act is walking into a crowd with a loaded gun and firing into it randomly"
 In Yoga 2.0, Mala 1: Shamanic Echoes,  authors Matthew Remski and Scott Petrie declare:
"...all yogis must resist Yoga. If you meet the "Yogi",  kill the "Yogi".

In the art-world, this kind of hyperbole may be commonplace. But in the tenderfooted, deferential, and well-mannered world of contemporary yoga, this kind of statement carries a tenor decidedly more sweeping and incendiary. As if that is not warning enough, this book comes with an additional warning. Namely, that this is not a book at all.

Matthew Remski
Scott Petrie
It is not a textbook, or a guidebook, or a warm and fuzzy personal account of the trinkets and prizes hard won by the soul through earnest yoga practice. There are no anatomical drawings; or prescriptions for specific asanas. In fact, by the latter part of the book, the book admits it does not want to be a book. In fact, it's suspicious of book culture altogether. Then you notice that all its careful observation is countered by equal proportion of wild hypothesis and adventurous suggestion. Well then, you think, this is not the work of a neutral observer, or a cool academic, or worthy scientist, is it? And, from the quote above, anyone can see that it doesn't shrink at provocation. So what is this colorful piece of writing... this delinquent, prodigal text written in grand hyperbole and rich allegory?

Yoga 2.0 is nothing short of a yoga manifesto, replete with similar hallmarks, props and literary devices. By the time Matthew and Scott are done with their narrative of yoga, as it ticks through the timeline of evolutionary biology, "Capital Y" Yoga, as a permanent entity, with appeals to scriptural authority and authenticity, is, if not demolished, at least knocked around a bit. By the end of the book,  contemporary yoga practice looks rickety enough that it might be little more than an elegant acropolis built from toothpicks.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Guest Author: Michael Stone on Freeing The Body, Freeing The Mind: Connecting Yoga & Buddhism

Michael Stone, Centre of Gravity summer practice 2010, photo Andrea de Keizer
Michael Stone is a yoga teacher and psychotherapist who leads yoga and meditation workshops and teaches internationally on the effectiveness of yoga and Buddhist meditation in clinical psychotherapy practice. His approach to yoga focuses on the integration of theory and practice in a way that is rooted in tradition yet responsive to contemporary culture. He is the founder of Centre of Gravity Sangha, a community of yoga and Buddhist practitioners based in Toronto, where he lives. He has published several books including, The Inner Tradition of Yoga, and Yoga for a World out of Balance. His newest publication, Freeing the Body, Freeing the Mind is a collection of writings by prominent teachers in Yoga and Buddhism, that investigates the common threads in both traditions.

I had a hard time finding Centre of Gravity on my first visit; that's despite Bellwoods Avenue having been a street I lived on for many years. It's nudged quietly in between the residential rows; and I think there was something on the website about finding a red door. And then, Michael had also said something about arriving early. Inside, on wooden floors in a long hall, lined by low lying book shelves, people spread their mats alongside one another in two careful rows; leaving about an inch of space in between. It was intimate. This was the closest I'd been to anyone else in a room while practicing. Intimacy and community is something Michael likes to talk about; he brought it up again this weekend in a few workshops at Yoga Festival Toronto. As guest author of the following post, he traces the intimate connections between Buddhism and yogic practice, so that we can find our way through otherwise cryptic maps to the red door; and to the helix that marks the communal meeting spot of the body and the mind.

~ ~ ~
Freeing The Body, Freeing The Mind: Connecting Yoga and Buddhism
by Michael Stone

Over the years, I’ve found it increasingly frustrating that Yoga is continually reduced to “a body practice” and Buddhism “a mind practice.” This makes no sense at all. Anyone who has practiced deeply in both traditions knows that the Buddha gave attention to the body, Patanjali the mind, and both traditions value ethical precepts and commitments as the foundation of an appropriate livelihood. I organize a community in Toronto called Centre of Gravity Sangha, a thriving group of people interested in integrating Yoga and Buddhist Practices.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Who" is the Final Destination? The Looking Glass and Sister Elaine MacInnes

It really depends on how you look at it. But you can see a wave forming before it actually comes up. I mean, you can see it underneath, before the surface rolls over.  There's an introduction, a pre-amble, a subtle shrinking almost in the opposite direction that happens a split second before the swell.  Something that hints at what's really going on.
Extraordinary people are wonderful to watch when they are doing extraordinary things. That's obvious. But extraordinary people at rest are also a revelation; because they look empty until something comes through them. And they appear aware of that fact...of that ground zero....Resting in some steady neutral...
Sister Elaine MacInnes, Yoga Festival Toronto 2010

Sister Elaine MacInnes is sitting in an S-shape. At eighty-something, she is curved gently over the clay colored metal chair in the mirrored room at the National Ballet. The light is peppered unevenly, glowing grey in the early evening, coming through the slender rectangle of a window on the far left corner. Sister MacInnes' chair is tilted to the right; and the floor, a smoke-blue, is covered is washy streaks left by toe ice-skates, the geometric shapes, half-arcs, scratched into the reflective surface of its rubber.

And then with a few words everything about her unfolds, quite literally, as she opens her shape across the chair and leans into the small gathering at this weekends Yoga Festival Toronto.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Matthew Remski, Co-founder of Yoga Festival Toronto
Matthew Remski is the co-founder of this weekend's Yoga Festival Toronto, which runs August 20th through 22nd, at the National Ballet School. Matthew and I first met when I was fifteen. We were both part of a week-long intensive held in Ottawa designed for politically-inclined youth from across Canada called Forum for Young Canadians. I think in our mock parliament, Matthew was the anarchist. As you can see from the Q&A, some things don't change...some fish swim upstream. He had a few minutes to type out his thoughts about this weekend's Yoga Festival and his involvement in Yoga Community Toronto. Our conversation below:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

YOGA: The Architecture of A Trojan Horse, An Interview with Ravi Ravindra, Phd

Yoga is like a Trojan Horse. You can do yoga simply as a physical practice. Some people do yoga because they believe it will increase their sexual potential...or make them more beautiful. All this is ok. But eventually the practice will generate its own effects.” (Ravi Ravindra, Phd)

 “Do not rush through the book”,  read the email.

Fair enough. There are times when it’s worth following instructions. I read Ravi Ravindra’s cogent and lucid translation of the text that is the spiritual cornerstone of yoga practice entitled, The Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, with 50/50 contemplation and leisure. And, because I was suffering from minor wrist strain at the time, I had the fortuity to immerse myself in the book’s inquiring momentum for a few hours at a stretch, and then follow it intermittently with lazy august naptime; only to get up and digest some more. It was lovely summer afternoon reading, rich and elastic in its depth of insight culled from sources as diverse as Sufi mystics, Christian theology, Puranic lore, threads from Rainer Maria Rilke and British artist William Blake. For someone supine, slightly injured, and looking for yogic transformation through a good read, this book was a no-brainer. 

(The Wisdom of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Ravi Ravindra)

Ravi Ravindra, PhD is a spiritual visionary, scholar, and leading international speaker on religion, science, and spirituality who has written fourteen books; several of them on the practice of yoga. He is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, where he was Professor and Chair of Comparative Religion and Adjunct Professor of Physics. Known for his ability to communicate with and inspire students, he is recipient of several awards and research grants and author of more than 100 papers in physics, philosophy, and religion. The latest of his many books is The Wisdom of Patañjali's Yoga Sutras. Ravi’s spiritual search has led him to the teachings of J. Krishnamurti, G.Gurdjieff, Zen, and a deep immersion in the mystical teachings of the Indian and Christian traditions. He shared a personal friendship with J. Krishnamurti about whom he has written several books. He has also received blessings and instruction from Sri Krishnamacarya, and studied with Sri TKV Desikachar at the Krishnamacarya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai. 
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

In this first post for the Examiner, Ravindra has been kind enough to chat at length about the roots of his own personal practice, and how he came to study with, and later befriend Sri TKV Desikachar. In addition, he talks about his personal choice to renounce the practice of teaching yoga in the 1960’s, his upcoming work in October at the Yoga Crib in Ojai. And, he describes the enormous transformative potential of yoga through the metaphor of the Trojan horse; a weapon of stealth, as it pervades a person's interior battleground, despite anyone's best efforts to resist. 
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