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bio: a bit of a biography. i have practiced yoga and meditation at different points of my life. my most recent practice has been pretty consistent since 1999. i practice iyengar yoga. i certainly do not consider myself an expert, though it is a topic i take very seriously and have studied. i am not a yoga teacher, although, i have filled in for my teacher on a few occassions. i am keeping this yoga blog for a number or reasons. first of all, to experiment with a different style of blogging, next, in a hope it will enrich my practice - by focusing my reading and by keeping my focus on my daily practice - on and off the mat, and lastly, in an attempt to provide a resource for new and experienced yoga practitioners - a resource that will contain links to what i find interesting, informative, etc., about yoga admittedly, filtered through my own biases. i keep another weblog _monk in case you are interested in the more mundane events of my life, or a potpourri of random thoughts.
Sunday, February 29, 2004
I have practiced yoga consistently for close to five years. It has had a profound influence in my life. I began practicing yoga as a way to deal with issues of depression and anxiety. It has helped me control those issues. In addition, it has helped me reconnect with my body after living a very sedentary lifestyle. I have also become a vegetarian since I began practicing yoga.
For a long time, I have been intrigued with t’ai chi. I have read about it, but like yoga, you can’t learn much about it by just reading. So, I was very happy to finally be able to take a class, which I have enjoyed immensely and feel like I’ve already been able to get a taste of some of the benefits.
I have found t’ai chi and yoga to be similar in some respects and dissimilar in others. I am going to compare the two based on my understanding of both. First of all, t’ai chi is a martial art while yoga is not. Both, however, are forms of meditation and include mediatation as part of the practice. Both my t’ai chi teacher and a recent article of Yoga Journal have stressed the importance of meditation to the respective practices. Both practices yield similar benefits and seem to be ideal for people of all ages and abilities.
The most striking difference between yoga and t’ai chi in terms of the physical component is that yoga asanas (postures) are held without moving whereas the t’ai chi forms are always in motion. There are vinyasas in yoga, which are flows between postures, but these are the exception and not the rule.
In addition, especially in the style of yoga I practice (Iyengar) the focus is in the asanas is to have very precise alignment. In most postures the goal is for everything to be straight. This is very different than the approach to the t’ai chi forms, where a more natural, flowing approach. As my t’ai chi teacher has stated, “Nothing is perfectly straight in t’ai chi.”
One similarity between the physical aspects is that both yoga asanas and t’ai chi forms is a sense of balance. In asanas, there is always a balance between forces in opposite directions. For example, in utthita trikonasana (the triangle pose), one arms pushes into the ground while the other reaches up. The back heel is rooted strongly into the ground, while the body bends to the other side. The chest is to roll open and the front sit-bone is pulled in. If any of these actions dominate over the others, the alignment of the posture is incorrect. Most every asana is like this; to execute it one has to be aware of one’s body and the pose and balance the conflicting forces. In this way, the asanas are a meditation in which the subject of the meditation is the body and the asana. Yoga asanas were a way for people to prepare their body and mind for meditation. I have practiced seated meditation and with my “monkey mind” – always hopping from thought to thought, I have found it very difficult. By engaging my body as the subject of my mind’s focus, I have been able to train the monkey mind at least a bit.
I get the same sense from t’ai chi, except that the forms are dynamic and this provides an additional dimension. Chungliang Al Huang writes: “In Zen Buddhist zazen when you sit in lotus position, you find your center. In hatha yoga postures you also put your body into a closer position so you can really sense where you are. All these ways are basically static. Tai ji is slightly different in this one point: It helps you find a moving center. It’s a movement meditation; you move the center with you. Although you are constantly in motion, you retain that quietness and stillness.” In that way, the practice of t’ai chi is a great metaphor; the goal of retaining my center as I move through life is indeed the goal of my spiritual practice.
Where I see the biggest similarities is that in yoga and t’ai chi, the physical practice is a means to a higher end. Yoga is a system of spiritual development developed by the Hindus. Given that t’ai chi is influenced by Buddhism, which sprung out of Hinduism, it is not surprising that there is common ground. Most people in the USA equate yoga with the physical postures, however, in yoga, the physical postures (asana) are only one of the eight limbs, the others being yamas and niyamas (ethical rules), pranayama (breathe control), pratyahara (control of the senses), dharana (concentration on a single point), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (enlightenment). The asanas are just one part of a complete practice. Although they have physical benefits, they are a means to an end. I get the same sense with t’ai chi. The goal is not to perfect the forms for their own sake, but as a way of focusing and purifying the mind.
I see yoga and t’ai chi as similar and complimentary practices. I hope to enjoy the benefits of both and learn more about both for years to come.
What I recall from my teachers’ instructions. Although I have read a lot about both topics, my teachers are the main way I have learned about them. For anything I have written which is true, they deserve the lionshare of the credit. For any inaccuracies, I take all the blame.
Light on Yoga: BKS Iyengar
Numerous issues of Yoga Journal
Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain: Chungliang Al Huang
posted by Mike at 11:39 AM
Friday, February 20, 2004
iyengar yoga, bikram yoga, now bush yoga?
thanks to jen
posted by Mike at 8:09 AM
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
ABC7Chicago.com: Yoga class offered to dogs
my comment is that i have no comment. perhaps you do.
posted by Mike at 10:01 PM
A yoga primer of terms, styles, distinguishing features
nice, albeit very short list of yoga terms
posted by Mike at 9:59 PM
Friday, February 06, 2004
Bikram Choudhury being sued
from the article:
The eccentric Calcutta-born yogi who popularized the form of yoga known as "Bikram" is being sued over his claims that he owns the copyright to a 26-posture series used in the practice, which is done in a heated room.
The suit asks the court to rule that his copyright and trademark claims are unenforceable because his series of poses stem from postures that have been in public use for centuries.1 James Harrison, a lawyer for the Open Source Yoga Unity.)
"All he is asking is that they teach (Bikram yoga) honestly and purely, and that's not too much to ask," said Lynn Whitlow, co-owner of Funky Door Yoga in the bay area. "If you want to change it, don't call it 'Bikram.'"
i am not a fan of bikram, and the notion of copyrighting yoga poses or sequences seems totally antithetical to yoga to me. that being said, i can see bikram does not want his techniques misapplied by those using his name. of course, bikram may also be concerned with loss of revenue. who knows what the law says about this...the right thing, imho, would be for yogga teachers to teach whatever they see fit, but cannot use the name "bikram" without permission.
posted by Mike at 10:11 PM
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Yoga and High Blood Pressure from the American Yoga Association
from the article:
Yoga has been recognized for some time as being effective in reducing high blood pressure, particularly the diastolic (lower) number, which is the most crucial. You can experience the relaxing effects of Yoga by committing to a short daily routine of breathing, exercise, and meditation. Yoga techniques improve your body’s strength and flexibility, teach you how to relax mentally and physically, and show you how to better manage stress reactions such as muscle tension (most commonly in the face, stomach, neck, shoulders, and breath), rapid heart rate, constricted breathing, and anxiety.
of course, as always, consult with your physician.
posted by Mike at 7:06 PM
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
lower cholesterol and unblock arteries with yoga
"It's not about postures and breathing. I would say it's more about inner self-empowerment," said Dr Satish Gupta, the Indian cardiologist who founded the Coronary Artery Disease Regression through the Healthy Lifestyle therapy programme that is offered to patients at the Global Hospital and Research Centre in Rajasthan, India.
personally, i believe my yoga practice has increased my awareness and i think that has had an impact on every aspect of my life, including diet.
posted by Mike at 10:30 PM
Sunday, February 01, 2004
THE SPEAKING TREE - Unlock Your Energy With True Yoga - The Times of India
from the article:
The term ‘yoga’, for many, means physical postures, and that too twisted, impossible ones. But that’s not what we’re referring to as yoga.and
There is a whole techno-logy of applying this energy for higher possibilities. Each one of us must explore and know this. Otherwise, life becomes limited and accidental; you get to do only what you’re exposed to. Once you start activating your inner energies, your capabilities happen in a different sphere altogether. Yoga is a tool to find ultimate expression to life.
posted by Mike at 6:33 PM