December Yoga Shala News

December Yoga Shala News

  • Posted by Kaleigh
  • On December 15, 2017
  • Comments

IN YOGA SHALA NEWS

« Enjoy a special Ashtanga Winter Solstice class with Sarah Jane, December 21st from 6:45 - 7:45 pm. We will listen to Hanuman Chalisa, do some extra exploration into our Surya Namaskaras (sun salutations) and practice a short candle gazing meditation.
« Early Bird Yoga Teacher Training pricing ends December 21st so sign up soon!
« We are wishing our wonderful Ashtanga teacher Sammy Brown a fond farewell until he comes back in July. He is going to be teaching Mysore in Beirut, Lebanon! We will miss the presents of his presence very much but we are happy that our Ashtanga friends in Beirut get to experience his talents.
« Get ready to reset your yoga schedules. A brand new schedule is being rolled out January 1st, we will send it out in our next newsletter and also add it as a preview on our website soon. We are super excited about this new schedule offering more yoga options to our members.
« This pollution is terrible, but the air in our yoga room is filtered so come clear your lungs out with deep breathing. Come clear your mind with meditation and clear old patterns in your body with asana and vinyasa.

YOGA AND THE SUN/WINTER SOLSTICE

The Winter Solstice is Thursday, December 21st! The Solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice a year, once in summer and once in winter. Solstices occur on 20th or 21st of June and 21st or 22nd of December. In the western hemisphere, during summer the day of the solstice is the longest day of the year and during winter the day of the solstice is the shortest day of the year. All around the world, people have celebrated the "birth or rebirth of the sun king" after the year's darkest days since ancient times. When the days are short and the nights are long, we have the opportunity to turn our focus inward and explore the darker aspects of our own natures, maybe see what patterns have emerged from dark times we have been through in our lives. Acknowledging these patterns is the first step to clearing them, thus allowing us a sort of rebirth of our own. This can be a time of deep and quiet introspection and inner healing by taking the time to understand ourselves. We may feel the need to spend more time inside at home nesting and perhaps enjoying a bit of extra sleep and coziness.

To celebrate this Winter Solstice, you may want to create a small ceremony alone or with someone special. Light a candle in the dark, sit comfortably on the floor or a blanket, cushion or pillow and mentally note the four directions: north, east, south, and west. Sit comfortably with your ankles crossed, palms on your knees, tall spine, soft belly, relaxed shoulders, chin gently lowered, eyes closed or softly looking downward. Honoring the night, and the darkness of the universe which we could not fathom without the light of many suns.Take time to appreciate your body and your breath; your life, your light...visualizing yourself from a very wide perspective as if from many galaxies away. Take the time and space to appreciate the wonder of your own life and the lives of others; human, animal, plant, even the elemental life of our planet; of rock, water and atmosphere. Appreciate your connection with all of this and with all that surrounds our planet, out into infinity. And beyond! Ask yourself what you can make some time and space for in the coming year as the days grow brighter to let your true nature shine forth into our universe. Then take a few minutes to softly stare into the flame and hold an intention to continually be aware of yourself and others, and who you truly are deep inside when your old patterns and conditioning are allowed to melt away. Maybe set an intention to add more self care to your daily routine, something as simple as sitting quietly for 5 minutes each morning or evening. Yoga is simply awakening. It is said that yoga is mind control- control of the tendency our minds have to swing around from idea to idea like a monkey in a jungle- without paying attention to what we are doing and where we are now. When we are able to develop more focus such as gazing softly and steadily at a flame, we are able to control our minds and be more present. This flame gazing is an ancient yogic technique to practice presence and focus. The ability to hold focus must come before true meditation can occur. This only comes with consistent practice. Our lives are full of distractions. We must take time each day to be quiet and still in order to keep touch with our true selves and hone our focusing skills. Close your simple ceremony by getting into Balasana (Child's pose), kneeling and resting your torso over your thighs with knees together or apart but most importantly with your head on the floor. Your arms can reach out in front of or alongside the rest of your body. Allow your body to relax and soften and enjoy the rooting and grounding feeling of gravity. Stay there for a minute or two. Then slowly sit up, placing your palms together but with a bit of space between them in the middle-as if you are tenderly holding the love in your heart-touch your thumbs to your sternum and tilt your hands slightly away from your body toward the rest of the universe, bow your head humbly to your heart and offer your intention once more out into the universe. Take a moment to just sit quietly and absorb the solstice, then enjoy a nice warm drink like spiced chai or a yummy healthy treat such as a baked apple with cinnamon and honey, signifying abundance and sweetness, and listen to some music that feeds your soul.

In Yoga asana, we honor the Sun with Sun Salutations, or Surya Namaskars. Surya means sun and namaskar means "to bow to". The ancient yogis taught that each of us replicates the world at large, embodying “rivers, seas, mountains, fields…stars and planets…the sun and moon” (Shiva Samhita, II.1-3). The outer sun, they asserted, is in reality a token of our own “inner sun,” which corresponds to our subtle, or spiritual, heart. Here is the seat of consciousness and higher wisdom (jnana) and, in some traditions, the home of the embodied self (jivatman). The yoga tradition is full of fun stories and myths. Here is a story to enjoy about Hanuman and the sun and how sun salutations originated.

HANUMAN AND THE SUN

Hanuman, the great monkey ­hero of the Ramayana, was fascinated with Surya almost from birth. As a baby he saw the sun in the sky and mistook it for a high­-growing, luscious mango. Pushing off from the earth with his powerful monkey legs and stretching up through his long monkey arms, he leapt and soared to seize the sun—and succeeded (even as an infant, Hanuman had supernatural strength). He popped the sun into his mouth and began to eat it, causing the universe to go dark, which of course alerted the gods that something was very wrong. The sun scalded Hanuman’s mouth, but that stubborn monkey held on until Lord Indra hurled his diamond thunderbolt (vajra) straight at Hanuman's jaw.

That did it. Hanuman opened his mouth and dropped the sun, and the universe's light returned to normal. But that vajra hurt him. In fact, it broke his jaw (hanu), giving him the nickname by which we know him today, “the one with the broken jaw.” The gods temporarily took away Hanuman's powers, but, because they were sorry about his jaw (although not about saving the sun), they also gave him special powers of strength, speed, shape-shifting, a gift for celibacy, a prodigious memory, and the qualities of a true devotee, all of which would be restored to him in the future when he would meet and serve Lord Ram.

In the meantime, Hanuman needed an education.

“Why not ask Surya?" his mother, Anjana, suggested. "He drives his chariot all over the world everyday and sees everything, everywhere.He flies even higher and farther than you can. I'm sure he has forgotten all about that little fruit incident when you were a baby.”

So Hanuman asked Surya to be his teacher, but Surya refused. He had forgiven Hanuman for trying to eat him, but said, “I have a strict schedule, and no spare time at all. I must keep moving. I can't stop to teach you, and besides, how can you learn effectively when I am moving?”

“What if I keep up with you?" asked Hanuman. "Will you take me as your student then?”

“You won't be able to," replied Surya, "but all right.”

Hanuman flew up and positioned himself with his face to Surya's, and Surya—who appreciated persistence in a student—began to speed across the sky, expounding scripture as he went. Naturally, this meant that Hanuman was always traveling backward, with his face to his teacher, but isn't that as it should be? You shouldn't turn your back on your teacher, it's rude.

Some say that Hanuman’s backward­-moving trajectory was the origin of surya namaskar (sun salutes). If you think about it, you will realize that as you perform the movements of surya namaskar, you do tend to wind up at the back of your mat and then have to return to the front in order to continue the series.

Hanuman was such a dedicated student that he mastered all the Vedas within a week. And what was Surya’s leaving fee? Surya, who was perhaps a little relieved to see Hanuman go, ­declined any payment. "Watching a devoted student learn was its own reward," he said.

"Well then," said Hanuman, "I can only offer you my gratitude and namaskars(respectful greetings)." And so the surya namaskar series was born as Hanuman's guru dakshina to Surya.

Story credit: YogaInternational.com

BY SARAH JANE 
YOGA DIRECTOR AT THE FRONT CLIMBING CLUB