Corine Biria Intensive March 2015

 

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Corine is a senior teacher with a wealth of technical knowledge and experience, which she imparts with passion, energy and generosity. It is a combination of her love of yoga, her solid grounding in its moral code and her constant emphasis on precision that makes her an excellent and well-respected teacher. She has written a book on the sages in India mythology and has run the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Paris with her husband Faeq since 1984.

Early march brought a flurry of activity as Corine Biria returned to Cape Town after 5 years.  My memory of the previous intensive with Corine was that she was strong, knowledgeable in a way that made learning old and new poses interesting and accessible.   After the first session I was reminded that she is indeed an incredible teacher.  In 5 wonderful days, we were brought closer to the muscles, ligaments, joints, organs, and skin.  Every part of the body became alive with energy and awareness.  With humility, compassion and many years of experience, she guided us through the poses that we have done so many times in a way that they felt as if they where being done for the first time.  Time to rethink the regular paths of moving into, staying and coming out of the poses.

The collarbones (groins) of the legs will be well remembered by those that attended the course.  We where made to become intricately aware of this area in each standing pose.  The afternoon sessions of restorative poses and pranayama where equally enlightening.  By taking the few props that where available, she made whales out of the blankets, blocks and blankets.  We were kept in the poses for long restorative times.  Using the baby being fed as an analogy for pranayama guiding us to use the breath to feed the body in a gentle, nutritious way.

In her gentle humorous way, students where chosen to demonstrate areas that needed attention.  Everyone learnt and integrated the lesson once back on the mat with repetition and intricate attention to detail.

It is always wonderful to come together as an Iyengar community.  We are reminded of our Guruji, to whom we owe the wonderful gift of this method of yoga and the teachers that come into our lives to guide us to a practice that is not harmful to our bodies.  To intricately understand how the body comes together as bones, muscles, ligaments, organs and an awareness of how all the parts work together.  Having Corine in South Africa is a wonderful reminder of the work of our beloved Guruji as she brings to us her devotion to this path of yoga and guides us to our own center.

 

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Beginners yoga course 5 November – 10 December 2014

 

I will be running a beginners yoga course over the next 2 months.  The course will run every Wednesday evening from 5:45 – 7:15 over 6 weeks starting on the 5 November and running till the 10 December.

The course goes back to basics from standing poses to Sirsasana (Head Balance) and Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulder Balance).

The course is aimed at beginners but as most long time practitioners know, it is always good to go back to basics.

The course costs R500 which is payable at the beginning of the course.

Should you be interested in doing the course, please contact me riva.hirschowitz@gmail.com

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Tribute to Mr BKS Iyengar

 

14 December 1918 – 20 August 2014

“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”
― B.K.S. Iyengar

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Finding my path

I was recently asked to give advice to someone on the type of yoga teacher training to do.  I wrote this while I was studying for my Yoga Alliance course in 2008,  before I embarked on my Iyengar Teachers training.  I hope you will find it interesting and useful.  I have since qualified as an Iyengar teacher and I am incredibly proud to be qualified and to teach in this method.  I am grateful to my teachers and their teachers for guiding me in my practice.  I have found an incredible sense of love and compassion in the Iyengar community which has brought me to a sense of stillness and peace to my being.

I came to this teacher’s course, wanting to do an international yoga certificate so that I could teach overseas. What I have experienced is so much more. All the basic concepts of what I feel and believe about yoga are being put to the test.  With my Iyengar background, my knowledge of yoga has centered on awareness of the body down to the skin, muscles and bones and cells. If I move the skin in this way, the muscles and then the bones will move in that way. The Ashtanga based course has given me insight into the meditativeness of yoga. But where does the spiritual side and philosophy fit into all of this I asked myself?

A metaphor that unfolded at the yoga teachers training weekend, was an incident that happened to me early one morning. I was walking along the gravel road to the retreat center for the morning yoga class. It was still dark, but my eyes had become accustomed to the dim light. A car full of well meaning yogis’ approached me and stopped to ask me if I would like a lift in the other direction. I said no thank you that I was not going that way. The light of the car had blinded me and disorientated me. I soon discovered that I was no longer on the road. I became aware of walking into bushes as well as the road had becoming very uneven. I was able to find my way back to the road and then to the retreat center, but I was left with a sense of what I had been grappling with. Is Ashtanga yoga my path or is Iyengar yoga my path and why was I feeling so confused by the polarities between these very different practices of yoga.

Has Ashtanga “blinded me” and led me away from my Iyengar path? How did the philosophy that I was now being exposed to, fit in with the yoga that I was experiencing? Many questions left me feeling quite confused.  In essence I was able to use the above metaphor to find the truth in my life. I  have been going along the path of Iyengar yoga for the past 6 years. I have found the yoga as well as the yoga teachers very challenging. My teacher in Johannesburg often challenged my ego fiercely when I tried to do something that was beyond me at that point of time. Now I come to the Yoga Alliance teacher’s course. What I what I find are new yogi’s going in a particular direction. They are friendly and helpful, but the light of their car blinds me when I try to find my way to where I need to be. It takes me off my path for a while. But it is ok, I am able to find my way back to the road and eventually back to where I need to be.

Having read “First there is a Mountain” by Elizabeth Kadetsky I became aware of that the question of which path is the right path is possibly never answered. Her romance with yoga started early in her life and lead her to meet with BKS Iyengar and was able to ask Guruji many questions.  She was also exposed to a month of Ashtanga yoga with Karen Haberman towards the end of her stay in India. Karen had left Mysore after many years with Pathabi Jois because “she did not trust him any longer”. Both Kadetsky and Haberman had come to understand that their Guru’s where not infallible. Even if Haberman no longer followed the messenger, she still revered the practice. Kadetsky found that the Ashtanga yoga took her further into the Asanas than she had been able to reach after many years of Iyengar yoga. But is this the goal? To be able to experience the perfect asana? Surely the goal is far more that this?

Iyengar says in his biography Light on Yoga that spiritual realisation is the aim that exists in each one of us to seek and experience our divine core. He says that the yogic journey guides us from our periphery, the body, by moving through the 5 sheaths or kosha’s to the center of our being, the soul. Iyengar suggests by focusing to the deepest level of the body whilst doing an asana, awareness not only envelops but also penetrates.

But perhaps the most important practice is not the one that you do in a class but he practice that is done on your own. Iyengar says in light on yoga says that when you practice at home on your own, it is your own intelligence that is the master and the progress that you make is yours and will be maintained. “It is not derived from the power, the charisma, the strength or the fieriness of the teacher. It comes from you and its effects are profound. This is not yoga by the body, for the body but yoga by the body for the mind.

This is the saddhana or path of yoga. This is the path that I choose. Even though I am exposed to the different forms of yoga, it is the sense of calm that I find when I go back to my mat to discover for myself the focusing of the mind which may allow me to experience a deep meditative state. This is what yoga does for me. It brings me and my very rajasic mind into the present awareness. It helps me to find peace.  Sometimes, when I sit very quietly at the end of a yoga practice, I have a sense of love that pervades my whole being. It is in this state that I feel that I love all.

The course has brought to me some knowledge of the concepts of the Vedanta and Bagavad Gita, which has allowed me to put my feelings into words. Having never read or been exposed to the Veda’s, Upanishads or Bagavad Gita, I am amazed by the depth of what I still need to learn. I am a raw student. That is the way I will stay. That is the way I will continue to learn. This course reminds me of what is still to be investigated.

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The time is now, and that is the very best time

 

 

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Winter is approaching in the Southern Hemisphere, the past few days brought rain, mist and cold.  With the coming of winter comes the opportunity to do more active postures, jumping’s and arm balances that are difficult during the heat of the summer months.

Just as we change our practice to be in tune with the seasons, so we change our day to day routine to accommodate the weather almost unconsciously.   There is a need to reflect on the past year and make adjustments if necessary.

Even though we take time to reflect on the weather and the seasons the past and the future, take time to be in this moment right here right now.

When asking my partner: What is the time, this is the response I received from him:

The time is now …

And that is the very best time.

Namasté

Riva

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Creating sacred space for practice

 

And now the teaching on yoga begins. Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness. Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind. — The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translated by Alistair Shearer 

As a yoga teacher and student, my first impression of either giving or attending a class is always the creation of sacred space in which to practice.

Creating sacred space is about taking time at the beginning of the meditation or yoga practice to find your center.  Taking time to find the rhythm of the breath and to come into the moment.

So much of our day moves our energy away from our center.  Taking a few moments at the beginning of the practice to set your intention, allows the movement into a safe practice space and with that comes the healing needed.

For me this is what is so sacred about doing and teaching a yoga practice.  As a student, the teacher guides the student to find that stillness.   It is in this very vulnerable state that you are in the hands of the teacher and  have to trust that the teacher has the highest intentions.

From this quiet space the practice can begin.

The sequences of Asana’s are like a string of mala beads.  Moving you from one asana to the next, like the repetition of a mantra.  The final posture, Savasana, the culmination of all the poses, brings the sadakha (practitioner) to a point of resting awareness.  The stillness from where you started the class has expanded.  The student now has the energy to move back into the world with serenity, and a deeper sense of self.

 

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The healing capacity of yoga

Just about everyone around me (including myself) is dealing with a major or minor crises. To each one of us, it seems to take endless mental, physical and emotional energy to deal with. Some deal with it through “chemical” assistance, therapy of different types(both mental and physical) even denial. Through all, I have found that the constant reassurance of yoga asana and pranayama have been welcome companions. The yoga asanas continue to keep my physical body strong. The pranayama, keeps my mental body calm. The silence of meditation quietens the endless mental chatter (even if it is just of a small time).

My yoga community supports me with care and love. This together with the welcoming arms of my family and friends helps me to understand the incredible capacity of humanity to love and support one another especially in times of need. It feels like a wonderfully, soft warm blanket that I wrap around myself to hibernate and heal.

I invite you to become a part of a yoga community. To continue your practice. The rewards are numerous. In Patanjali’s sutra 1.21, “tivrah samvega asannah” which translates as:- those that peruse their practices with intensity will achieve the fruits more quickly. Find your daily practice whether it be pranayama, asana or meditation so that you may experience the yug (joining) of the body, mind and soul. That you may be at peace within yourself.

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Attachment causes suffering

The second of the 4 Noble Truths of buddism is “the origin of  suffering is attachment”.  For me this is not only the attachent to material things, but also the attachment to the idea of how things should be.

When I was young (er), I had and idea that I would grow up, have a husband, have 2 children, a lovely home, live to eighty, be healthy.  Now that I am old (er), things have not worked out as I planned.  The controlling part of me would want to fix and the more I fix, the more unhappy I could be, or I could practice non-attachment to the outcome and enjoy what I have.

Life does not turn out quite what we expect.  We get divorced, we experience dis-ease, our life circumstances change.  We try to hold onto a idea, a vision of something that is not real.

Take time to acknowledge gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life, big or small.

What I do have is a wonderful man in my life, whom I adore, a wonderful safe place to live in.  I am surrounded by loving, caring family and friends.  The home we share is small but comfortable.  It  keeps me dry in the rain. Safe from the elements. I feel truly blessed.

Things may not be how you expected, but they are perfect, right here, right now.

Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Riva

 

 

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Ryoanji Temple, Japan

During a recent visit to Japan, we visited the Ryoanji Temple.

Quietly sitting in front of this rock garden, it is easy to see the simplicity of Zen.

The rock’s come in and out of focus, the mind becomes busy.  Then, return to what is in front of you.  The simplicity of the rock’s sitting on their beds of moss in the ocean of white pebbles.

While focusing on the islands, it is possible to see the patterns raked into the ocean of white pebbles like ripples in a lake when you throw a stone in to it.

 

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Geeta Convention May 2011

 

I had the fortunate experience of attending Geeta Iyengar’s convention in Johannesburg last week.  This is my first exposure directly to Geeta Iyengar and I can honestly say that it was an inspiration.

The first hand experience of her simple instructions which brought attention and awareness to the body, where incredible.

Her knowledge on the subject of yoga extends beyond the Asana’s.  I was amazed and she quoted Patanjali’s sutra’s specific to a posture we where working on.

Her understanding of the human body was able to assist many medical problems but the eagle attention to how the person was standing as well as in depth knowledge of Ayurveda where amazing.

There have been many who have been taught by the Iyengar’s over the past few decades.  I have benefited from their teachings through my teachers.  I feel deeply grateful to them for passing on their knowledge so freely.

I reread this post and hope you will not be offended by the number of superlatives used, but do truly feel humbled.

in love and light

Riva

 

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