Ashtanga Yoga Moon Days 🌙

The "Ashtanga Yoga Moon Days" and why we rest is a question that often comes up during my weekly philosophy lectures. The foundation of the Ashtanga Yoga method is daily (6 days a week) asana practice. We also take rest from practice on the days of full and new moon. There are many interpretations on why it is that we take rest in such days. Any Hatha yoga practice, such as the Ashtanga method, works with seemingly opposing energies that eventually over a long period of sustained practice begin to balance each other out bringing stability and harmony in our own body-mind-consciousness systems. As we become more balanced and integrated in our own selves we begin to discover the interrelation, not only within our Selves, but also with all other systems in the planet and eventually the universe, thus coming to the realisation that there is no separation either between all the components of our own Self or between our our own individual self and any other aspect of the planet or the universe. The main pattern that we utilize to balance opposites in this method is the movement of Prana or life force in our bodies through the breath. As we inhale, Prana moves in what is called a Pranic pattern moving energy up and outwards in an expansive way stimulating, creativity and expression. With the exhale, Prana changes it’s direction moving down and inwards, this movement is experienced as more introspective and maybe contractive force. In the Ashtanga Yoga method, we use the breath to guide our movements and so we connect with these patterns as we move through all the Vinyasa that compose each asana. Eventually we find that in between each movement and in between each inhale and/or exhale as we come to the end of every vinyasa we encounter a tiny moment of silence. The inhale and exhale merge into each other, movement stops and even the mind becomes quiet for a fraction of a second. If we are observant of nature we might find similar movements and experience all through nature: In the change of seasons, the tidal movements of the ocean and even in our bodies in the waking and sleeping patterns and as we feel the gravitational pull of the earth interacting with the intelligence of our body to  lifting up and keeping us erect and preventing us from squashing in to…

Protect your heart

Always, but especially this year I've been torn between the options of living with an open giving and completely vulnerable heart and also preventing it from being hurt. In my opinion you couldn't  really do both at the same time. As much as avoiding pain seems the easier and less hurtful option sometimes, I strongly believe that you can't really choose what comes in or out of your heart so by avoiding this harmful energies we are also blocking love, joy and beauty coming in as well as diminishing our capacity to give. A heart that doesn't give or receive to its fullest potential, starts to weaken, just as any other muscle that we don't exercise  enough. This is not how I want to live my life. I have spent a lot of time working on myself to be more open, loving and happy and I don't want to go back to being less open and vulnerable in order to avoid  being hurt sometimes. It seemed like a lose lose situation. This year to me has been all about this question and finally I think I've come up with a satisfying answer. A good friend said it to me very simply: "Protect your heart" The way I see it now,  protecting your heart  is not about keeping it in an iron box or a crystal cage, or about creating filters to choose which energies it gives or receives. In order to live fully and wholeheartedly, your heart must remain wide open giving all and receiving just as much with each heartbeat. This means that we are going to get hurt and sometimes give what others might say is too much. I don't agree there is too much, but that's another question. Some people will receive and honour what your heart has to give while others will simply dismiss it and even ridicule it. Your wide open heart will receive love and beauty from others and the world around it but it will also receive the hardest blows, stabs and wounds. It will be torn and ripped and left to die. This is just life. The only way to really protect your heart then is not by trying to choose what comes in and out of it or try to prevent it from being hurt. The only way to protect your heart is by making it stronger and more resilient. How do we do this then?…

Ashtanga Yoga, A Pantheistic View

From a very early age I've been fascinated with life and what it means, the universe and its wonders. The desire to answer all these profound questions have shaped my journey through this planet. I was raised in a catholic family and very quickly I became disappointed with organised religions. This led me to become an atheist and for many years I dismissed any kind of spirituality and believed all answers would come from this "reality" and our ability to scientifically understand it. This approach made much more sense to me for many years. But, after a while, I couldn't deny some more profound and in a way subtle phenomena that I was aware of and that were happening around me all the time. For all I knew, science was right. However it was missing something... As I became more interested in these "mystical" aspects of reality, I started looking back at ancient traditions and the way they saw Nature and the universe. Particularly looking at human beings as an intrinsic part of nature and not just separate, dominant entities. Realising this interconnectedness between all forms of life and even the seemingly inert objects around us seemed to be that missing link. The Ashtanga Yoga practice quickly became a very important part of this search. Contrary to what many people believe, Yoga is not a religion, but is very much based on spirituality, which is definitely not the same. Unfortunately, this makes it much easier for people to attach their own spiritual and sometimes religious beliefs into it. Yoga is simply a method to help us find this missing link and make sense of reality, our existence and the subtler, maybe spiritual aspects of it while looking at all these aspects without filters or distortions. We have all heard how Yoga is the union of body, mind and spirit. This seemed very fitting with what I had discovered and was just starting to tap into. As I dived deeper into this system, the connection between my own self realisation and the realisation of a more interconnected universe became more apparent. I was re-discovering my own body, mind and; maybe for the first time, my spirit. Slowly, slowly I realised that I wasn't just discovering my self but as I discovered my own body I was connecting with all the matter that shapes our reality, every single rock, river, animal, planet, star and galaxy. My mind became the…

On Integrity and Forgiveness

  Integrity has always been a quality I value  most and that I try to keep as much as I can.  In the past couple of weeks, however I feel like I have been tested on it. We all have values in which we base our moral guidelines or honour codes we follow. Ideally as we become more conscious, we discover these truths, guidelines or honour codes as they appear more from within, from our spirit, and less from social conditions. To me integrity means adhering to these guidelines no matter what. Each time we discover one of these sacred truths we make a commitment with ourselves,  with our spirit and each time we fail we are only failing and damaging our most important relationship, the one with our spirit. In the Ashtanga Yoga  tradition these guidelines come in the form of what we call Yamas and Niyamas. Also that's why the concept of Sadhana is crucial to success in any spiritual practice. The commitment of daily practice no matter what is, again,  done with our spirit. One of these truths I try to follow is seeing all beings as one and loving all unconditionally. And this is the one I'm usually tested the most on. See, the thing is, it is very easy to say we love all and one. Sounds great as an idea. But in the real world,  when we feel betrayed by someone we love the easiest reaction is anger or hatred. The problem here is that this goes against the sacred truth that we are all one and thus we should love each other the same, without conditions. And whenever we get angry at someone or pretend hating someone, we are just hurting ourselves. Here is where forgiveness comes in to save the day. It is not easy though, because forgiving means opening up again to being hurt. Becoming vulnerable. We are so silly that we don't realise that after forgiveness being hurt is just a possibility but without it hurting and suffering become constants. [caption id="attachment_209" align="alignright" width="336"] "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." - Mark Twain[/caption] Forgiving someone doesn't mean coming back to a failed relationship or hanging out with someone that may or may not hurt you no matter what. Forgiving happens and stays within. It is self love and self respect healing you from inside. It has taken me…

The Spiritual Seeker: The Ultimate Rebel

Spirituality is the unending hunger for finding who we really and truly are. One day some of us realise that we’ve been believing a lie. A lie constructed by the thoughts of who we are, the ideas of who others think we are, the way we want to portray ourselves. The way society wants us to be, etc… We’ve been living in a cell and all of a sudden something appears,  a tiny crack in the wall that lets us see a tiny part of the real universe outside. And so, spirituality awakens. We realise there’s something else and we want the truth. All of it! Spirituality is first manifested as rebellion. We rebel against all false ideas, conditions and misconceptions of who we really are, against rules, society and everything that limits us and keeps us from awakening our awareness and expanding our consciousness. Then it becomes a quest, a constant search for truth and Self. We become spiritual seekers. Spirituality is an internal battle, and the biggest fight is always against ourselves. Rebelling against imposed ideas, others and society is easy. But questioning yourself your ideas of truth, love and happiness is a whole different beast and it really hurts. Standing against yourself, the people you love and care for is not easy. You have to choose between the truth or being complacent. And either way it’s going to hurt. Because once you’ve had a little taste of the truth, even the  littlest compromise  will burn you from inside. Your blood will become molten rock as your heart screams at you, calling you a liar, a hypocrite. But even this is not as painful as living in the lie, locked inside that prison of ignorance and unawareness. Now there is no other option; we have to break free. And thus, we become outcasts, misfits, hermits, the crazy ones. The others won’t like us. They will feel threatened as we stand against everything they are and they believe in, everything we were and we believed in. They will laugh at us, ridicule us, attack us and even criminalise us. We travel far trying to find others like us, we walk unchartered territories drawing our own path and creating new realities, new ways of living. Not because we don’t want part of humanity, but because we know there’s nothing human about the current disconnected paradigm. We want humanity not society, community not…

There’s always a first time…

About two years ago, I took what I though was the biggest hit I had ever taken (This is probably subject for another post). Little did I know it was actually the biggest blessing I have received. When I was at my  lowest point, Yoga came and saved my life. Then, it changed it. And, eventually, slowly slowly, it became my life. Last year, I realized it would be a sin not to share with the world all the Love and Happiness that flows through me because of Yoga and decided I wanted to teach my beautiful practice. Again, little did I know this decision had already been taken long before I could even imagine. It has not been an easy path since. It definitely has had some beautiful and magic moments, but also others full of doubt and fear. But if there’s anything Yoga has taught me is to surrender, trust and let Love guide. Tonight I taught my first class in a real studio. It is just a small step in a long path, but  a very meaningful one to me. I'm sure it was not the best class but it was special and honest. At some point when fear and doubt started to take the best of me. I surrendered again, thanked for the opportunity to teach, asked Love for inspiration and just let Love speak through me. I taught from deep within my heart. It was beautiful to feel the presence of some of my own teachers and fellow practitioners help me get through in those moments of nervousness and doubt. I can only hope that the students left with a little of what I felt tonight and that I was able to touch their hearts and inspire them in some way. To close the night off, after everyone had left the studio I sat in front of the altar to integrate my experience and thank. After a couple of minutes I was crying like a five years old girl. It was humbling and beautiful. Love and Happiness, Mannu