All Posts from January, 2011

Taking Stock in the New Year

January 31st, 2011 | By Bill in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

At the end of last year, the Hindu American Foundation launched a “campaign” called “Take Back Yoga” that essentially encouraged people to recognize the influence Hinduism has had on the modern yoga world.

Launched quite peacefully through its own website and various scholarly publications, the campaign ignited some controversy and reaction from Deepak Chopra and others who took issue with the campaign’s interpretation of the history of yoga–namely when yoga actually began. (Most people, including myself were taught that the creation of yoga began in the Vedic age, long before the start of Hinduism.) How do you take back yoga when you didn’t create it? they asked and then largely dismissed the campaign as a case of misguided Hindu nationalism.

“In a way,” said Dr. Aseem Shukla, the Hindu American Foundation’s co-founder, “our issue is that yoga has thrived, but Hinduism has lost control of the brand.”

Yoga is real, powerful, and mysterious. I can say with the utmost respect that yoga has been a real blessing in my life for many different reasons at different times. I have been fortunate to meet many really wonderful people in ways I never would have without practicing yoga—in its many forms of study, teaching and personal practice.

Yoga has also positively influenced the overall health, minds and bodies of millions of others. At the same time yoga has grown so fast without boundaries that it’s hard to get a handle on what is happening these days.

Someone was bound to say something.

Crazy, Sexy Skinny Bitch Yoga, Golden Buns Yoga Booty, Kick Your Asana, Giggle Yoga, Not Yoga Yoga, Sculptasana, Yoga & Whistling, Hoga, Toga Yoga. I wouldn’t be surprised to be invited to a yoga and Hippity Hop class on Facebook soon.

Yoga has thrived, but yoga has lost control of the brand.

It’s for people who wouldn’t normally try yoga because they aren’t into traditional formalities like Sanskrit language, chanting or rules, People say. Nobody owns yoga so it’s not breaking any law.

True, the great thing about yoga is that anyone can do it and that there are enough caring teachers and places out there offering yoga. There’s nothing wrong with specialty classes, being lighthearted and having fun. But it gets to the point where you start combining any activity with yoga and place it before or after the name yoga and suddenly it’s a new kind of yoga? Or does it start watering down a product so much that it starts to change it into something else entirely?
I want yoga to continue to grow and make an authentic, positive impact on even more people. Twenty years from now, I want to see yoga integrated into health care treatments to help cancer patients not be remembered the same way when you say the words step aerobics today.

I’m glad the Hindu American Foundation said something even though it’s not the way everyone sees it. I’d rather us pay homage to our roots and think a little bit more instead of trying to creatively market yoga into every imaginable activity out there this year.

If we don’t, we may be headed to a place we don’t want to go. In fact, we’re already there.

There is a new Chase Bank commercial of a woman doing standing bow pose, She’s very focused and in great alignment when suddenly, something breaks her attention at the top of her mat. It’s her cell phone of course letting her know her account balance is low. Not to worry, in one graceful move she bends down and transfers money from her phone into her account “keeping her life in balance” as the narrator says and she calmly exits the pose.

B’onlineyoga. Balance your Bills while Balancing your life. Save time. Take time…for yourself.  Bring your own iPhone, iPad or Blackberry.

Think maybe the Hindu American Foundation has a few valid points?


January 20th, 2011 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

When looking up Kiki in the Sanskrit dictionary, I found that it means blue jay. I suddenly thought, wow, my garden is full of kikis. But when we speak of kiki in yoga class, it means something else. In fact, it means two things. Kiki means crisis but it also means opportunity. And that is very exciting because oftentimes when we think of a crisis, we think of it as something kind of bad, something we may not be able to get out of, something that is a huge challenge. But in fact, these seeming huge challenges, like say a certain asana, or maybe even a state of mind, are really opportunities.

For me, a crisis to a certain extent, is tree pose. For some reason, I find tree pose super challenging. When I hear we’re going to be going into tree pose, I start becoming a little worried. How will I be able to stay up, will tree work for me this time, a lot of the Vritties start coming into my mind. But then I think to myself, this is an opportunity, another chance at something I find difficult, an opportunity for change. In fact, these kikis are often gifts.

So next time,. try and think of it as that. When a crisis comes up, be it an asana, a thought or something else happening, remember the idea behind crisis which is opportunity.

The Vritties

January 20th, 2011 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

One of the most amazing things about the practice of yoga, and the most challenging (at times) for me to wrap my head around, is the power of concentration that comes with practice. In yoga, we are invited to be very focused, on our breath, on our movements, where we settle our eyes and, of course, our thoughts. Our minds are always swirling with thoughts, about work, about friends, about loved ones, about food, about where we’ve been and where we are headed. Yoga invites us to be right here, with our breath, with our movements.

What sometimes comes in the way of this, and what many Bernal Yoga practitioners have probably heard, is the Vritties. Vritti is a Sanscrit word meaning fluctuations of mind or “waves of mental activities (chitta vritti) of thought and perception”. It literally means whirlpool and sometimes when we’re lost in thought our mind really does feel like a whirlpool.

The practice of yoga allows us to quiet that whirlpool and to connect with our body, to form that union, that bond, that yoga.

But one thing I realized the other day, and something brought to my attention by my teacher, was that Vritties don’t only make themselves apparent through wandering thoughts but also through other actions, like fixing your hair (I do this all the time), adjusting your pants (also something I do), playing with your jewelry, or other distractions. So it’s important to be vigilant in these ways, watch the mind, watch your movements, be kind to yourself when Vritties present themselves and know that this is a practice of being aware of those, refining them and letting them go.

Getting ego out of the way

January 11th, 2011 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

That is one of the biggest challenges in yoga sometimes, getting the ego out of the way so you can get down to business. The ego is often there, suggesting how you could do something better, how great you are at something else, and sometimes you just have to breathe and let all that criticism and praise go because the next day, you may have the same exact class and all the things you think you were brilliant at are different.

The ego becomes particularly apparent to me when the teacher suggests one pose for level 1 students and a seemingly deeper pose for level 2-3 students. I have been doing yoga for some time and my ego will tell me, you are definitely a level 2 Tania, you can do this! It happened the other day with handstand. It’s been many months since I have done a handstand (and I have never done it without the wall!). So in class the other day, we were offered two different ways to begin and since I was so determined that I was ready, and “good enough”, to do a handstand, I just jumped right in. But I wasn’t prepared so I never got my legs up really and realized that my ego didn’t just guide me in the wrong direction but it actually cheated me out of an asana, so to speak.

There is nothing wrong with getting down to basics. In fact, without a strong foundation, how else can you grow. Level one is level number one! So next time when you’re tempted to go further, check in and see where the temptation lies and really ask yourself what would be best for you, not your ego.

A little goes a long way

January 11th, 2011 | By Tania Ketenjian in Uncategorized | No Comments »

You know those adjustments teachers always talk about in class like move your inner thigh muscles together, or point your pinky finger upwards, or bend your knees and get those hips up in the air, all of these, as minor as they seem, go a long way. It’s amazing how the smallest movement, be it spreading your toes, or getting your arm that much straighter, can make such a big difference. And that is one of the things that keeps yoga so interesting. It’s a constant process of trying things out, making an adjustment here, a move there, and observing what happens. Sometimes we think this can only happen when we’re moving slowly and taking our time, but really any asana at any speed offers an opportunity for change.

So when you seem to be breezing through a vinyasa, even if it may seem to be going by quickly, take the time to adjust. When you’re in downward facing dog, make an adjustment you may have never made before or you know you often forget, like rolling your shoulders out. Or when you’re going down for chatarunga, make sure to have that chest open, even if it’s a little change. Play with it all because while this is a serious practice, it is also a playful one. Have fun with it, and see what works and remember that in this practice, a little goes a long way.