if you’ve visited our union square location in the last month, you’ve had the pleasure of viewing artist and shala student adam dougherty’s intricate, exuberant, and reverent animal portraits. shortly after the show went up, fellow shala students jonathan and alene herman reached out to adam to commission a piece honoring their beloved cockatiel, rocky. jonathan shares rocky’s story here.
a dharma talk by Braeden Lentz
Our focus for the month of February at The Shala is Virasana. The two Sanskrit components are “vira,” often translated as hero, and “asana,” which yogis know well to mean seat, shape, pose, or the way we arrange our body building up from the ground. The names of poses evoke imagery to consider as we make our shape.
The first things that come to mind when I consider the term “hero” are superhuman qualities. I think of someone who engages in unusually daring but necessary actions. A hero might be a charismatic, especially self sacrificing, or visionary person. There might only be a few in my lifetime.
How would you describe Iyengar Yoga?
When I started the Iyengar teacher training, I felt like I needed a foundation as a teacher. I had that as a student, because that’s what I was practicing. So many schools of yoga say different things about the different poses. I expected to go into the Iyengar teacher training and they would tell me, this is how you do it. We asked them, In Urdhva Hastasana, should the fingers be spread wide or should they be together? They said, Both. There are times when you spread the fingers wide, there are times when you bring them together. They told us that you are going to have to do both again and again and again and again until you understand what’s happening when you do it this way versus when you do it that way. When you teach class, you’re going to know when to tell the students to spread the fingers wide and when to tell them to bring them together.
What I learned in the teacher training is that it was all about experience. That’s where the props come in. That’s where the different ways to do the poses come in. There’s no one way. When you practice asana, you’re finding yourself. You’re finding yourself in the classic shape, and then you change that up a little bit. It’s finding yourself in this pose but then there’s kind of looking back to, what does that tell you about who you are as a person, or where you are right now in your life, or where you want to be, what this whole thing is to you?
Tapas is not just on the mat. It’s how we live our life: An Interview with Genny Kapuler
photo: the all watch
How are you inspired in your practice at this point in your life?
Genny Kapuler: It’s like the siren song. It calls me. It is my inspiration. I get up and practice. On the weekends I just practice in the morning. During the week I don’t have enough time in the morning to also do the inversions, because morning class starts early. The older I get the longer it takes me to do everything. I need more time to practice. During the week I separate the inversions in the afternoon, and the inversions energize me for the evening classes.
What do you think are the most important elements of practice?
GK: Commitment. Over and over, every day, day in and day out. Then it creates a path.
How do you understand yoga as a method for transforming the body and the mind?
GK: It is very mysterious, the way the threading of the mind and the weaving of our own experience into the body creates so much resonance with our world. Even now when we are living in such a difficult time politically and environmentally, I find that yoga supports my trust in life and people. Continue reading
The following is an excerpt from a longer passage from Pema Chodron’s The Places That Scare You. Ashley Dorr shared these words in a recent dharma talk.
“Chitta means ‘mind’ and also ‘heart’ or ‘attitude.’ Bodhi means ‘awake,’ ‘enlightened,’ or ‘completely open.’ Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love…Bodhichitta is also equated, in part, with compassion—our ability to feel the pain that we share with others. Without realizing it we continually shield ourselves from this pain because it scares us. We put up protective walls made of opinions, prejudices, and strategies, barriers that are built on a deep fear of being hurt…But fortunately for us, the soft spot—our innate ability to love and care about things—is like a crack in these walls we erect…With practice we can learn to find this opening. We can learn to seize that vulnerable moment—love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, inadequacy—to awaken bodhichitta.”
shala teacher jenny campbell reflects on her recent west coast vacation, and provides helpful advice on how to practice self-care on the road.
An open-level donation class with Ashley + Domenick
to benefit the True Colors Fund
with music by DJ Lenny Stein
followed by dancing, mingling, snacks + drinks!
Join us in practicing proudly, celebrating diversity + building community.
Come prepared to practice + dance. Please bring a beverage of your choosing.
Friday, June 2
$25 suggested donation
Sign up here!
Next up in our series of Shala gatherings: a screening of Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock, brought to you by Shala teacher Alystyre Julian. In belated observance of Earth Day, we look forward to snacking on popcorn, viewing this brand new documentary from director Josh Fox, and engaging in a consciousness-raising conversation about the intersections of social justice, environmental justice, and climate change.
The Shala Union Square
$20 suggested donation (all donations go to benefit the Pipeline Fighters Fund)
Book 1: Sadhana Pada, Verse 33
1.33 Maitri Karuna Muditopeksanam Sukha Duhka Punyapunya Visayanam Bhavantas Citta Prasadanam.
“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” — Sri Swami Satchidananda
This is a pivotal verse in Book One of Master Patanjali’s sutras. He devotes the first verses to describing how the mind tricks us into a state of constant craving and aversion, like a 24/7 ping-pong between what you like and what you don’t like. In fact, we define ourselves by what we like and what we don’t like. Master Patanjali suggests this is our great mistake, that we are missing something finer, deeper, more pure. We are beyond our likes and dislikes, but it is extremely hard to change this habit of mind.
Swami Satchidananda suggests that if you are to learn one verse, verse 1.33 is the one to know. We understand restlessness, we understand dislike. What we don’t realize is if we give into these states we just experience more unease in the mind.
In verse I.33, Patanjali provides us with the four antidotes to feelings of judgement toward others. They are maîtri (love), karuna (compassion), mudita (joy), and upeksanam (equanimity). In Buddhism, these attitudes as The Four Immeasurables or Four Infinite Thoughts. They are referred to as infinite because ultimately the wish for our own happiness has to include the wish for everyone’s happiness.
Master Patanjali then presents the four ways in which the mind gets stuck in judgement. Known as the Four Locks, they are sukha (happy), dukha (unhappy), punya (virtuous), and apunya (wicked).
If we are to have a clear and undisturbed mind, we must apply these four “keys” to the four “locks.” It is a practice, a daily checking in with how you are feeling and a practice of shifting that feeling if necessary. We shouldn’t be thrown off balance by how we feel. Instead, check in with how the mind feels when you center your mind on “infinite love,” “infinite compassion,” “infinite joy,” or “infinite equanimity.” There is a opening, an expansiveness. You step out of the reactive mind and drop into a calm, expansive mind.
We are in challenging times. Can we go through the ups and downs of life with more peace? A yogi uses the template of life to constantly apply these practices. When one notices agitation, take pause. Allow the sense of the immeasurableness of love, compassion, joy, or equanimity to enter into your feeling body.
The focus in chapter two is meditation, or steadiness of mind. In order to have steadiness of mind we need to enhance lucidity. In order to cultivate lucidity we have to interrupt the habits of mislabeling our reality and experience. Change the habit and steady the mind. Practice ensures that at all times, no matter the circumstances, we have the four keys in our pocket.
Wednesday, March 8, marks the International Women’s Strike, which coincides with a Day Without A Woman. These events emphasize the intersectionality of race, gender, and class, and the complex ways in which inequality and injustice are woven through our social, cultural, political, and economic structures and systems.
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.