Friday, November 11, 2011

Training For Students Grand Finale

Artist: Sanjay Patel, via MC Yogi
Saturday, November 12th is the final session of my Training for Students program. (Saturday, Nov, 12, 1:30-3:30 at Hudson River Yoga, Poughkeepsie Thank you to all those who have attended the first three! I have saved the best, well, at least my most favorite topic, for last: The Ramayana.

We’ll follow The Ramayana mostly in order, concentrating on stories which have characters/themes/objects which lend their names to modern yoga postures.  Some you may be familiar with, such as bow (dhanurasana) and bridge (setu bandhasana).  Some you may recognize under a different name, like side plank pose, Vasisthasana, named after one of Rama’s teachers, and crescent moon, Anjaneyasana, named for Anjaneya, another name of Hanuman.  The poses will be practiced along with the stories.

The Ramayana can be read on many levels. It is a love story.  It is a story of good versus evil.  It is Fantasy (and Science Fiction—some have sought to prove that the flying chariot and the gods in the story are ancient aliens).  It is also a devotional work, illustrating all of the ancient teachings of The Vedas in a way that the general population can easily understand. Our physical practice parallels this.  We can do asana practice purely to work out/sweat/burn calories.  We can do it as a warm up for meditation.  We can treat our bodies as temples, and asanas as prayers (nod to Mr. Iyengar). 

No matter how we view our practice or this story, the most important thing is that we find inspiration to keep returning to it.  If it’s your workout, keep doing.  If it’s your prayer, keep doing it. If you like the love story, keep reading.  If the stories help you to make moral decisions, keep reading. 

Everything we need for your practice is already within us.  Asanas, stories, teachers are all just tools to help us realize this. 

Some technical points:
  • My favorite translation of The Ramayana is by William Buck.  It is written for Westerners and has a nice list of characters and map for reference. Unfortunately, it is not in the public domain, so I cannot share it for free.  If you have itunes, you can purchase this version with Ram Dass reading.

  • Some of the poses will be quite difficult.  As always, there is no need to push yourself to the point of injury.  Intention is more important than actualizing someone else’s ideal of a posture.  We will build everything in stages.  The story is primary, not the posture.

  • Come with an open mind.  Yes this is a Hindu devotional text.  Yes it talks about gods from the perspective that the events actually happened.  No, I am not asking you to believe or convert.  The concepts are universal, even though the characters are most relevant to another culture.

This is my absolute favorite story of all time.  I enjoy sharing it, and am excited to share it in this way.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll chant the Chalisa for you at the end. 

As always, please contact me if you have any questions.

Looking forward to sharing the world’s oldest epic with you!

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