We are very happy and grateful to have hosted Tim Miller this past weekend. We learned so much from his 35+ years of work as a devoted practitioner and teacher of Ashtanga Yoga. See below for some of our favorite workshop takeaways. Continue reading
by Bibi Lorenzetti
One of my favorite winter foods is dhal. Dhal is a type of legume, usually split yellow or orange lentil. There are many different ways of making dhal soup, which tends to be nourishing and balancing for all doshas, depending on preparation.
I learned the following recipe from my cooking teacher in India, who is known to Westerners as Tina. She works on a camping stove set on a big rock in her living room. We gather around as she talks us through each step of cooking traditional Indian food. When the meal is ready, we—Tina, her students, family, and dogs—go outside to sit and eat together on big floor pillows in the shade of colorful fabrics.
For a while, I was making Tina’s dhal for special order at the Shala. I would pack a cart full of jars and wheel it from my Greenpoint apartment to the Bedford L, all the way to the Shala fridge. It was fun, but a lot of work! For those of you who enjoyed it and ordered it weekly, follow these steps.
You will need:
- A Dutch oven, otherwise known as a cast-iron pot
- A wooden spoon
- Measuring cups
- Pan or small pot
- 1 1/3 cups of yellow or orange dhal
- 3 1/2 tbsp ghee
- 1 tsp turmeric (I like to buy it fresh and grate, so I do 2 tsp turmeric; if you use powder then 1 tsp is enough)
- 1 tsp coriander, ground
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 cloves
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds
- Pinch of asafoetida
- 1 garlic cloves, mashed
- 4 dried red chili peppers (broken up)
- A few stems of cilantro (to be chopped and added at the end)
Soak the dhal in a bowl with cold water for an hour. Drain and wash under cold water until water runs clear.
Transfer the dhal to the pot together with water, and turmeric. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, remove the residue that rises to the top. Reduce heat. Add salt. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until you see the dhal is getting mushy and soft, a paste-like consistency. Stir frequently throughout this process.
In a separate pan, melt ghee over medium heat. Add dried chilis, garlic, mustard and coriander seeds, grated turmeric and ginger. Stir seeds pop, then add the rest of powdered spices and fry for a few more minutes, stirring. Make sure the flame is low enough that seeds don’t burn and ghee does not dry up. You can always add a little more ghee if needed!
When dhal is ready (mushy, and water has been nearly completely absorbed), add the ghee and spice mixture to dhal and cook for a few minutes on low flame. Cover and let sit. Add cilantro as garnish upon serving.
Depending on your predominant dosha, you may want to add more or less of the following:
Grounding spices for vata: cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, asafoetida, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilis.
Cooling spices for pitta: cardamom, coriander, cilantro, fennel, cumin, turmeric, mint, parsley.
Warming spices for kapha: black pepper, cardamom, cayenne, cloves, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, turmeric, asafoetida, cilantro, coriander, cumin, parsley, cinnamon.
By Julie Peacock
Are you using essential oils for your health and wellness yet? It’s amazing how healing and beneficial essential oils can be for your body, mind, and spirit. They have the power to lift the spirits, conjure up powerful memories, boost your energy, calm your nervous system, assist in healing the body, clean your home, and so much more.
I’ve been using essential oils for years, but once I discovered the certified pure therapeutic oils (CPTG) that doTERRA makes, I have experienced their many benefits—in my practice, with my kids, and with my clients. Consider peppermint. Peppermint not only freshens the breath, but can be used to soothe digestion, cool the body, help with focus, and relieve various aches and pains.
The other day, right before my Mysore practice, I was experiencing a tension headache. Instead of popping a couple of Advil, I dabbed a drop of peppermint on each of my temples and at the base of my skull. My headache was gone within minutes. And that’s just one way to use peppermint—there are so many others!
Check out my November 5th workshop (12pm-2:30pm at The Shala Union Square), where we’ll practice getting grounded using yoga, nutrition, and essential oils. See more information here.
our fort greene garden has come a long way!
thank you to all the students and teachers who kept our garden watered and cared for this summer. it looks beautiful and well-loved!
II.55 tataḥ parama vaśyatā indriyāṇāḿ
tataḥ: then, from that
parama: the highest
vaśyatā: subdued, controlled, governed
indriyāṇāḿ: of the senses
Pratyahara results in the absolute control of the sense organs. (Source: Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, B.K.S. Iyengar)
Pratyahara is the fifth limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of practice. It is the process of withdrawing the senses (indriyas) from objects of distraction, desire, or aversion, both outside of and within the mind. This prepares us for equanimous concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana). Like tributaries moving toward a greater body of water, the busy, individual trajectories of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin are redirected for the purpose of reflection and insight.
— Melanie Jane Parker
with our next book club meeting slated for october 1, we are excited to announce paul beatty’s the sellout as our summer reading selection.
described by Kevin Young of the New York Times as a “metaphorical multicultural pot almost too hot to touch,” the sellout most certainly stands on its own. we have, however, selected two powerful supporting texts to be read alongside beatty’s brilliant satire: citizen by claudia rankine and between the world and me by ta-nehisi coates.
please read one, two, or all three books in preparation for our discussion and potluck in september! date and time TBD.
David Swenson is a wonderfully warm, skilled teacher and practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga. We can’t wait to study with him next month.
What do you hope people take with them into their daily practice? What does the yoga community need to do to take the practice of yoga to the next level?
Hopefully people will leave with a renewed energy and inspiration. Ashtanga is a lifelong journey, and one will move through many phases of relationship with the practice. By spending time with people that have been doing this for decades, they should come away with tools to keep them moving forward in their own practice.
The next level really means the weaving of the practice into other areas of life off of the mat. The next level does not mean more flexibility or strength but rather a deeper understanding of the realms of yoga that cannot be seen. The subtle aspects and their applications are the real next level. This can be achieved through the development and fostering of patience, awareness of our actions and interactions in daily life, and the willingness to make changes in our life to suit the most current needs of our situation. Weaving yoga into everyday experience is the goal. When we can blur the lines between practice and daily life we are moving in the right direction!
Yoga International, February 2014
A big thank you to Maria Rubinate for organizing the garden restoration project, and to Maureen, Claire, and Calvin (among others), who aided in the transformation of the Shala’s green space. It took a tremendous amount of work (which is still ongoing) to dig up and remove decades of debris. If you are interested in lending a hand, please speak with Maria Rubinate or sign up on the Fort Greene Shala bulletin board. Gardening season is near!
Drawing for Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake, Utah, Robert Smithson, 1970
1.4 वृत्तिसारूप्यमितरत्र ।।४।।
At other times (itaratra), it takes the form (sarupyam) of the mental activities (vritti). or: Conformity to the operations elsewhere.
It is natural for our minds to identify with our thoughts and with the objects around us. This is the basis of avidya, or ignorance of our real Self — confounding all the changeable things around us with our own true nature. This true nature (atman, purusha, soul, the seer) is said to be eternal and unchanging, and is pure awareness.
This sutra tells us that when we lose touch with our own being, chitta (the mind, or thinking faculty) manifests itself in place of the seer. We then become bound by time and space.
When the mind is not resting in its own true being, it takes the shape of the vrittis. We think the thoughts we have are who we really are. This avidya, the source of all suffering, clouds our perception. When we ‘clean’ our minds our thoughts and actions are not colored and dictated by our misperceptions.
With practice, we can avoid behaving in ways we don’t intend, and can stop ourselves from saying things we regret. Practice allows us to make a habit of being true to ourselves. This intention becomes a habit of awareness. Though we will fluctuate back and forth, identifying ourselves with our mental activities, we can catch ourselves and let go.
Vyaas Houston of the American Sanskrit Institute has said:
“If I don’t remain the seer, continually aware of the field; if nirodhah is not occurring, there is conformity to the vritti. I never lose my original identity — I just think I do.
One or the other is taking place. Either yoga is taking place or there is identity with vritti.”
— Jenny Meyer + Barbara Verrochi
We kicked off the Shala Book Club redux with Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies. Next up is Paul Kalanithi’s “great, indelible” memoir, When Breath Becomes Air. Book club discussion facilitated by Melanie Parker and potluck on Saturday, April 16th, from 5:45 to 7:15pm.
by ashley dorr
The following has been adapted from one of Ashley Dorr’s dharma talks. Ashley gave this talk before she left for her annual trip to the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. Ashley will return from Mysore at the end of this month.
In preparation for my trip to India, I’ve been making a checklist of things I need to do: get my visa (check), buy toiletries (check), clean my apartment (check), exchange dollars to rupees (check), chocolate for the plane (check!!). All these things I need to get me where I’m going.
At the same time, I’ve had another list running through my mind, a list of all the people who have helped me to get where I’m going. The obvious ones: My boyfriend, who is watching my dog. The girl who is subletting my apartment. All my teachers and friends at the Shala. My students, who inspire me to gain more knowledge. Barbara and Kristin, who first inspired me with their own stories of India, and who introduced me to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. The teachers I first started practicing yoga with.
The more I thought about it, the more the list grew, until it came to include the less obvious people. I’m thinking about the woman who exchanged my rupees, and the guy in the visa office who really helped me out during my 6-hour wait to process the paperwork.
There are a lot of people who help us get to where we are going. Strangers, even. I thought about this during the blizzard when I saw people I didn’t know shoveling sidewalks, and when I took the subway and noticed the subway workers and thanked them for being there. I would never normally thank them for being there, but they are always there.
There are a lot of people helping us all along our journeys. Maybe we only think of them during a big trip or a blizzard, but we can think of them everyday. When we do that, we realize how connected we are to the larger world. How there is yoga happening all around us all the time.
Sharon Salzberg puts it really beautifully when she talks about lovingkindess meditation, that just bringing awareness to the way others help us is an act of lovingkindness and gratitude: “Today doesn’t exist apart from the network of relationships and influences that brought us to this moment in our lives. How many people were involved in some way in your decision to meditate? How many people loved you or prodded you? Told you about their own meditation practice? Challenged you so that you decided to look for more inner calm and understanding? What about even those who hurt you, who brought you to an edge of some kind so that you thought, ‘I’ve really got to find another way’ or ‘I’ve got to look for another level of happiness’? They may be a part of why you’re reading these words. We are each swept into the here and now by a confluence of events, causes, and conditions. A larger community brought you to this moment. And you can make your sense of that human community even larger.”
A traditional rangoli by Ashley Dorr
excerpt of speech on Civil Rights, Segregation & Apartheid South Africa, london 1964
I’m not talking about a weak love. I’m not talking about emotional bosh here. I’m not talking about some sentimental quality. I’m not talking about an affectionate response. It would be nonsense to urge oppressed people to love their violent oppressors in an affectionate sense, and I have never advised that. When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” I’m happy he didn’t say, “Like your enemies.” It’s pretty difficult to like some people. But love is greater than like. Love is understanding creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. Theologians talk about this kind of love with the Greek word agape, which is a sort of overflowing love that seeks nothing in return. And when one develops this, you rise to the position of being able to love the person who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. And I believe that this can be done. Psychiatrists are telling us now that hatred is a dangerous force, not merely for the hated, but also the hater. Many of the strange things that happen in the subconscious, many of the inner conflicts, are rooted in hate. And so they are saying, “Love or perish.” This is why Erich Fromm can write a book entitled The Art of Loving, arguing that love is the supreme unifying force of life. And so it is wonderful to have a method of struggle where it is possible to stand up against segregation, to stand up against colonialism with all of your might, and yet not hate the perpetrators of these unjust systems. And I believe firmly that it is through this kind of powerful nonviolent action, this kind of love that organizes itself into mass action, that we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation and the world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. Certainly this is the great challenge facing us.
….in countries like India or Burma or Tibet, where meditation practice is more widespread, practitioners are counseled to look for qualities like kindness and compassion as the metrics of whether their practice is proving effective or not. And, as I was taught in each of those places, look not towards your formal period of practice — your retreat experience, or the time you might put into meditation each day, however long or short — look to your everyday life to see signs of the possible efficacy of the practice: How are you with yourself when you’ve made a mistake? How attentive are you when meeting a stranger? How rigidly do you categorize people, and then cease to pay attention to them altogether? How might you be creating an “other” that you then discount or disdain?
Read more from Sharon Salzberg’s weekly post on On Being.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Guru Pūrṇimā is a day dedicated to paying respects and expressing gratitude to our teachers. Guru translates as the heavy one or heavy teacher, the one who is steady and grounded in any circumstance — who is never swayed by external events.
This year the festival falls on Friday, July 31st, the first full moon after the summer solstice. That full moon day is when life on this planet is at its most receptive to all possibilities.
Shiva the First Yogi (Adi Yogi) was also the Adi Guru (First Guru). It is said he transmitted the yogic sciences to the Saptarshis (the Seven Sages) on this day,around 15,000 years ago, high up on the banks of a lake in the Himalayas, It may have happened like this:
One day Shiva woke from his usual deep meditation to see seven men waiting in front of him. They begged him to be their teacher. In what would become a long tradition of guru/shishya (teacher/student) parampara Shiva refused them.
The aspirant must prove himself — prove that he is worthy. That he really wants the teaching. So after ignoring them for a very long time, the Adiyogi tested then by giving them some simple instructions. Then he closed his eyes again.
The seven men did as he said, And they continued for many days, and many weeks. The weeks turned into months, the months into years, and the Seven men, who would become the Seven Sages, followed Shiva’s directions.Finally after 84 years of this sadhana, Shiva opened his eyes. He looked at the aspirants again. And saw that they were ready — they were shining.
So on the very next full moon day, Shiva, the Adiguru, expounded the yoga sciences to the seven men. The Seven Ṛṣis went on to spread this knowledge to all: that a human being can evolve consciously, beyond all limitations is possible for everyone.
Our guru, Śrī K Pattabhi Jois, was born on the full moon day of July, 1915 — Guru Pūrṇimā. Guruji loved his birthday and always wanted his students to attend his birthday festivities. He enjoyed celebrating life.
In the 1990’s when we first traveled to Lakshmipuram, India to study with Guruji, we would practice in the mornings and return to his home later in the afternoons to visit him and his family. We would sit around him in his small living room for a few hours while he recited and translated sacred texts, examined what jewelry we bought that day, or answered our questions about life. Sometimes we would sit silently with him while he read the paper and drank his tea. We liked to sit down near him because his calm and stable presence would help us feel grounded.
In the mantra from the Guru Stotram translated below, the line, ‘guru sākṣāt’ means the guru is nearby, visible and true, is embodied before us. Paraṃ brahma is translated as ultimate consciousness or God. Guruji was fond of saying, “Everywhere you look you see God.” And sitting next to him reminded us of that.
gururbrahmā gururviṣṇuḥ gururdevo maheśvaraḥ ।
gurusākṣāt paraṃ brahma tasmai śrīgurave namaḥ ।।
The guru is Brahma the creator.
The guru is Vishnu the sustainer.
The guru is Shiva the destroyer.
The guru is clearly the supreme spirit.
I bow to that guru.
Translation by Jenny Meyer
1.3 तदा द्रष्टुः स्वरूपेऽवस्थानम् ।
TADĀ DRAṢṬUḤ SVA-RŪPE ‘VASTHĀNAM
tadā — then
draṣṭuḥ — of the seer (draṣṭṛ — the seer)
sva — one’s own (as in ‘swami’ — boss, owner)
rūpe — in being, (rūpa — form, body)
avasthānam — established, abiding, standing
from ‘ava’ — a prefix meaning away, down, off
and ‘sthāna’ — standing, from root ‘sthā,’ to stand’
When the vṛttis, or turnings of the mind, become quiet, when we are no longer bound by the patterns of our mind (Sūtra 1.2), we can fully connect with our inherent stability.
The seer (draṣṭṛ, pure consciousness) is unchanging and not subject to the vṛttis.
In the Bhagavad Gītā, the seer is called the Ātman, and is described by Kṛṣṇa in this way:
Neither is this (the embodied self) born nor does it die at any time,
Nor, having been, will it again come not to be.
Birthless, eternal, perpetual, primeval,
It is not slain when the body is slain. bg 2.20
Weapons do not pierce this (the Embodied Self),
Fire does not burn this,
Water does not wet this,
Nor does the wind cause it to wither. BG 2.23
It is said that this is unmanifest,
Unthinkable, and unchanging.
Therefore, having understood in this way,
You should not mourn. BG 2.25
—translation Winthrop Sargeant
— jenny meyer + barbara verrochi
Yoga means stopping mental activity.
Patanjali defines yoga as nirodha, or a quieting of the vrittis (fluctuations) of the citta (mind, intelligence, and ego). ‘Nirodhah’ literally means ‘stopping,’ so ‘stilling’ is a good way to understand this sutra. The word ‘nirodhah’ is cognate to ‘erode.’ ‘The root is rudh — to obstruct. And it seems the vrttis (the whirlings of the mind) are gradually worn away like that — eroded as we become established in our own being.
— jenny meyer + barbara verrochi