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Yoga

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18March 2014
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In honour of Ammaji’s Bheemaratha Shanthi (pages 32-35), we dedicate this issue to Mother. I know that she would prefer to have all attention given to Swamiji, but for this one issue she must indulge us in our desire to put all attention onto her. In truth, however, the energies of Ammaji and Swamiji are everywhere, as one cannot exist without the other. In the Gitananda photo archives, there was a severely damaged photo of Swamiji with Ammaji. I have digitally repaired the image (page 6), although I kept the feel of it painterly, so as not to mask the fact that it has been reworked.
  • At first glance, read through the articles and the many quotes about Ammaji.
  • On a second pass, look at the images in a two-page view.
  • Look at the eyes, the direction of each gaze and where they lead you (pages 6-7).
  • Look at a mother’s playful hands (pages 12-13).
  • Consider the contrast of meaning in image and text (page 18).
  • Look at the layout for archetype shapes, especially the triangle. The power of Sri Yantra is everywhere, intersecting upward and downward triangles, representing both male and female energies. An obvious example is on page 46, the image of the lioness represents the female principle while its shape is that of the upward triangle, the male principle.
  • For the first time, included in the magazine is a quick reference guide (page 17) and glossary of a specific yoga practice (pages 19-23). In keeping with the theme of ‘Mother’, this issue focuses on pre-natal and post-natal yoga.
One of the great joys of doing research for the magazine is making new discoveries, like the beautiful sculptures by Norwegian artist Emanuel Vigeland (pages 14-15) and German artist Rudi Hirt (page 36). Enjoy this issue and keep in touch. I look forward to collaborating with you in the near future.
01March 2014
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“What past merits we must have earned to have landed into Ammaji’s nest.”

During the time of training her young ones to fly, the mother-eagle nudges the eaglets out of the nest. Because they are scared they soon jump back into the nest where it is comfortable and familiar. Next, the mother-eagle removes the soft layers so that the nest is less comfortable.  The thorns are left bare and the eaglets shriek in pain when they jump back into the nest.  They do not understand yet the purpose of this perceived cruelty. The mother-eagle is steadfast in her resolve to teach her eaglets how to fly.  She proceeds to push the fledgelings off from the top of the cliff where the nest is built.  The eaglets shriek in fear but before they hit the ground, they are caught by one of their parents. This process is repeated until the eaglets start to flap their own wings, and get excited in the new found knowledge and experience that they can fly.

“Every Spring, a new batch of eaglets leaves the nest at Ananda Ashram.  They spread their wings and fly into the world – continuing to grow and glow in a wonderful yet challenging Yoga Life.”

During the training at Ananda Ashram, the student quickly understands that they are there to learn more than a bag of tricks.  The toolbox they leave with contains more than just a list of asanas and pranayamas, they leave with knowledge on how to be a better person and live a better life – a Yoga life. There is a reason why Ammaji is selective of the students she accepts into the inner sactum of Ananda Ashram and the inner circle of the Gitananda family.  Anyone she feels who could not take direction to fully appreciate the ancient knowledge of the Rishis, or who are unwilling to commit themselves fully to the challenges of the gurukula – do not enter the front door. When the student is ready, the teacher appears with wings outstretched, inviting a tender embrace, and a place with the others in a comfortable nest, where guidance and opportunities for spiritual growth awaits them.  But when the student is READY, the teacher pushes them out of the nest so that they can fly on their own.  A few lost feathers, scrapes and bruises along the way is inevitable, if not required, but if everything goes as it should, the student soars upward on the path of enlightenment. The teacher, the guru, always knows what the student needs, at any given time, whether it be gentle or not.  The intention however, is always that of ‘profound interest’ in one’s conscious evolution.

“Let all the eaglets of Ananda Ashram imbibe and transmit the knowledge and the Light that Ammaji has so generously shared.”

 
01June 2013
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This edition of the RishiCulture Yoga Magazine has received the most individual submissions to date!  Sincere thanks to all contributors. This issue is packed with the theme of Krishna: poems, flutes, mantras, Arjuna and a butterball. On page 15 is the last article of a trilogy on Tantra, Yantra and Mantra by Dr Swami Anandakapila Saraswati, “Mantra: The Psychic Elevator”.  I would also like to highlight the thought provoking article by Yogacharini Danielle Prohom Olson “The Great Belly: A Yogini’s Lament” on page 23. The next issue is dedicated to “Mother”, in celebration of Ammaji’s 70th birthday. We all recognize that she is a beacon of light in this world, and it is my hope that your expressions of gratitude and love will manifest in a contribution to the next issue of the Magazine (article, poem, photograph, artwork etc.).  Commit to a trilogy, or to a longer series if you can.  Make it part of your sadhana.  All sincere contributions are welcome.  This Magazine does not exist without you!
01May 2013
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The power of thought and the mind. ‘You think, therefore you are!” “You only accept the amount of love you think you deserve.’ “It is the nature of thought to find its way into action. “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” It is true that most of our limitations are imposed by our own self, whether it be for love, wealth, a job, relationships etc. At the same time, doesn’t someone who think that they are ‘entitled’ or ‘deserve’ this or that, not coming from a place of ego? Being self-confident and assertive is a good thing, but can one be too self-confident and too assertive, where a positive quality becomes a negative one? When someone says:  ‘I knew that (bad thing) was going to happen!”  Did this person invite the bad thing to happen by focusing on that bad thing instead of the postive outcome? Or does intuition have any place in the equation? Is intuition a form of thought? A crossroads where thought and feeling intersect? Not listening ‘to your gut’, results in a cosmic ‘smack on the head’, a wakeup call to a lesson that needs to be learned and is being ignored. Is this cosmic hand the hand of karma playing its role in our conscious evolution? Of which our perception is that of intuition?  Or does intuition exist as a separate concept in and of itself? I always say that it was intuition that connected me to my Yoga family and cemented my life journey towards one of conscious evolution. How a bank robbery (yes this is true), actors playing on a cosmic stage for me, was the trigger I needed, to eventually bring me to India and introduce me to Yoga and Gurukula living. One morning I woke up with the feeling that I should not bring my purse with me to the bank, which logically made no sense at all.  But since I knew my bank account nunber by heart and all I wanted to do was deposit a cheque, I left my house that morning with a cheque in one pocket and my bus pass in the other.  I did not know that there was going to be a robbery at the bank, at the exact moment I was to be there, but somehow my gut knew. Since then, my gut and I have become very good friends.  
01February 2013
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This edition of the RishiCulture Yoga Magazine is the best one yet!  Sincere thanks to all contributors. This issue is packed with the theme of ‘three’.  Over 60 concepts are presented, but I am sure that we did’t list them all.  Let us know of any others that you can think of, and if we get enough feedback we will do a follow up article in the June issue of the Magazine. Of particular interest is the article “The Triune Teaching of Swami Gitananda” written by Yogacharya Shantideva (William H. Phillips).  He tells us about his interactions with Swami Gitananda back in the 60’s, when Swamiji was practicing medicine and living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  It is particularly insightful for those of us whom never had the opportunity to meet Swamiji. This edition of the Magazine also sees the second article of a trilogy “Tantra, Yantra and Mantra” by Dr Swami Anandakapila Saraswati.  It arrives in time to coincide with the Yantra course in February at ICYER. Please consider contributing content for the upcoming issues of the RishiCulture Yoga Magazine as we are getting dangerously low on content.  All sincere contributions are welcome.  Remember that this Magazine does not exist without you.  
15January 2013
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Pranayama by Saagara Amma would probably say that this app is an unnecessary prop, but I have found that on those days that I am not motivated to practice Pranayama - this app has helped me to stay on track. No need to count your breaths!  Use the breathing pie animation to see when to inhale, exhale and hold your breath.  The advanced settings allows you to set the breath ratios - so any of the Pranayamas learned during the Teacher’s Training can be practiced but what I really love is the audio.  Each breath type has a different sound as the app silently counts down, which means that you can practice with your eyes closed, which is preferable. Trace Sanskrit Alphabets by Balabharathi.com While doing the Teacher’s Training at ICYER, the weekly Sanskrit class was my favorite.  But how soon one forgets after the course is over.   Although the graphical interface is meant for kids - this is an excellent tool to re-learn how to write and pronounce Sanskrit.   You can trace any vowel (swag) or consonant (vyanjan) in the Sanskrit alphabet. The app even shows you where to start and end writing the letter.  With a touch of a button, you can also listen to the phonetic sound behind each letter.   Once practice is complete you can test yourself to see how well you have learned the letters in each section.  It does not replace Devasena... but it is the best tool that I have come across. All-in YOGA by Arawella Corporation During the Teacher’s Training, one of the things I did was create index cards, different colors for pranayamas, asanas, kriyas and mudras, and on each card I wrote Sanskrit and English names, definitions, explanations and drew images to help me remember all the techniques I was learning.  Since acquiring an iPad, I have been trying to find an app to replace my index cards.  I have seen many, but this app is the best of what is out there. The app contains over 300 asanas with photo, video and audio guides, plus there are 3D muscle models for every pose, and over 30 pranayamas with detailed how-to guides.  You know you are on the right track when each entry is labeled by their correct Sanskrit name.  The best thing however is that the app is completely customizable.  You can add  pranayamas, asanas, kriyas and mudras and create your own programs.  What is an excellent app to start with can be transformed into a uniquely Gitananda Yoga inventory.
01October 2012
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Newsletter or Magazine?  Historically, this publication has been refered to as a newsletter but with the recent changes in its scope and design, is it still a newsletter or has it evolved into something else? At it’s root the word magazine refers to a collection of written articles.  It is believed that the word originates from the plural of the Arabic word ‘makhzan’ which means storehouse.  Magazine is used figuratively to mean a ‘storehouse of information’. A newsletter is defined as a written report, a regularly distributed publication generally about one main topic and limited in its number of pages. Bulletins and leaflets are types of newsletters. Let me know what you think. Enjoy this issue and I look forward to collaborating with you.  
01September 2012
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One of the organizations I support is Kiva.org.  It is a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.  I came across an application they developed to visually show the connections between lenders and borrowers. The video is an animation that shows the development of the organization from their beginnings in 2005 with 7 lenders to today, a community of  more than 620,000 lenders funding more than 615,000 entrepreneurs , students, and other microfinance borrowers from around the world. Watch the very interesting 4-minute video.

I started thinking... as part of our own Yoga Sadhana, if we were to inventory the impact of our thoughts, words and actions and develop our own ballistic animation... what would it look like?
01June 2012
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A while ago, Dr. Ananda suggested that the Gitananda Association Newsletter could be more international in scope.  This is our first attempt in that transition.  More changes are sure to manifest as we develop and organize ourselves to  advance towards that goal. As Amma expresses her profound interest in us by writing letters and publishing ‘Yoga Life’, her ‘eaglets’ in return, share their thoughts, stories, artwork, photographs and experiences as they move forward on the Yoga path.  The Gitananda Yoga Association Newsletter is an excellent forum for this.  It also expresses our gratitude to the Guru for the Yoga teachings that have been imparted to us. The qualities of a different deity / mantra will preside over each issue to provide inspiration and guidance over its elements.  Personal contributions by sincere sadhaks will be published. Your input is needed as we fine tune our process and structure.  Your comments in this endeavour are always welcome. Enjoy this issue and I look forward to collaborating with you.
01May 2012
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Last year I had the opportunity to go to Kenya to work with our sister organization in Nairobi.  I was very excited because this was my first trip to the African continent. One evening, our hosts’ graciously invited us to dinner to the most famous restaurant in Nairobi I was told.  Upon entering the restaurant, we were confronted with a huge charcoal pit.  This must be hell I thought. Carnivore is a meat specialty restaurant and it is referred to as the ultimate ‘Beast of a Feast’.  Whole pieces of meat are roasted on traditional Masai swords.  Carvers then move around the tables carrying the Masai swords laden with different prime meats and carve unlimited amounts onto the plate in front of each guest.  The feeding frenzy doesn’t stop until defeat is signaled by lowering the paper flag perched in the middle of the table. What was I going to do?  The sight of all the roasting animal flesh was making me nauseous, yet I knew I was being watched and I did not want to insult our hosts.  They were excited to see me try delicacies not available in Canada: camel, ostridge, alligator etc.  Do I adhere to the principle of ahimsa and not participate in the meal or do I follow the principle of santosha and accept what is put in front of me? In this case, my conscious choice was that contentment takes precedence over non-violence.  This is what I did to mitigate the effects of my actions.
  • Made a statement before the meal started that I am not a big meat eater but was looking forward to trying something new.
  • Asked for my own flag, as I was sure that I would be the first ‘to surrender’ and did not want to interrupt everyone else’s meal.  To my relief, this made everyone laugh.
  • Engaged in conversation, to extend the time before I lowered my flag.
  • Accepted only very small portions of each meat variety so as not to waste but did try every one.
  • Had my hand over my plate most of the time so that the servers would not give me any additional unwanted portions.
  • When asked, made a statement about which new delicacy I enjoyed most.
  • Having ‘saved face’, I finally lowered my flag.
The universe, having put me in this situation also allowed me to observe the behavior of others.  The word that immediately comes to mind is ‘overindulgence’, the unchecked desire of excess. It is true that the sheer amount of food that was available was staggering but more importantly was the amount of food that people were eating… frantically, greedily. The sheer overindulgence in food in a country where there is so much poverty was disturbing. Perhaps this experience then had more to do with self awareness through restraint rather than ahimsa or santosha?  
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