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Best of Yoga Philosophy

Best of Yoga Philosophy–Past Two Weeks

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Best of Yoga Philosophy
A Virtual Magazine & Forum

The  very best Yoga philosophy articles from all over the Web.

Follow daily on
Pinterest (best browsing), facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin

Please pass the word to your friends who like Yoga philosophy.
Thank you for your interest and support.

Bob W. Editor

*****

My Dinner with Vyasa: The Legendary Author of the Bhagavad Gita Comes Out of Hiding to Answer All Our Questions (After 2300 Years) ~ Bob Weisenberg ~ “Ok, let’s get down to brass tacks. What’s the biggest misconception about the Bhagavad Gita you’d like to clear up for our readers?”

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Reconnecting with Real Yoga: Teaching in Cook County Jail ~ Carol Horton ~ “I hope that more yoga practitioners will be inspired to get real, cut through the crap, and practice in ways that really do open your heart and mind…”

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Ramesh Bjonnes

Who Invented Yoga? ~ Ramesh Bjonnes ~ “Unlike what some contemporary yoga writers claim, there is no need to resort to unsubstantiated mythology or hearsay to prove that yoga is a lot older than 100 years…”

*****

Photo: The Beatles' Guru in an odd but fascinating 1968 film, in which we see the Maharishi strolling the shore of the spectacular Lake Louise, holding a rose in his hand, and invoking the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. http://theuncarvedblog.com/2013/09/24/watch-the-1968-film-of-maharishi-at-lake-louise/

The Beatles’ Guru in an odd but fascinating 1968 film, in which we see the Maharishi strolling the shore of the spectacular Lake Louise, holding a rose in his hand, and invoking the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita.

*****

Dharma in the Christian West – Robert A. Jonas – The Interfaith Observer ~ “In fact, there is a non-dual tradition in Christianity, but most Christians, especially Protestants, know nothing about it…”

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Bill-Mahony-41

contemplation & devotion: an interview with bill mahony ~ Roseanne Harvey ~ “While we live in a world that could not have been imagined in earlier eras, in some important ways the sages, philosophers and teachers of yoga in distant times faced the same challenges we do. Like us, for example, they sought to understand what it means to live a life touched by joy and illumined by compassion, understanding, and commitment, even in a world that can bring disappointment and sorrow…”

*****

Gurus, Seekers, and Being Accountable - Phil Goldberg (Author of

Gurus, Seekers, and Being Accountable – Phil Goldberg (Author of “American Veda”) ~ “We learned a lot about this model of spiritual development in the 1970s, when baby boomers flocked to the gurus who suddenly became prominent on the heels of the Beatles’ sojourn in India…”

*****

The Touch & Taste of Death ~ David Garrigues ~

The Touch & Taste of Death ~ David Garrigues ~ ” I dropped grudges, animosities, everything petty and irrelevant in my mind; nearly everything that was worrying me, all the fearful thoughts that were occupying my attention just moments before, vanished with the speed of a lightning strike…”

*****

Bob Profile PhotoBob Weisenberg is Editor of Best of Yoga Philosophy and former Yoga Editor & Assoc. Publisher of elephant journal. He is the author of Yoga Demystified, Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell, and Leadership Is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology. as well as Co-editor of Yoga in America and a contributor to The Poetry of Yoga. Contact Bob at facebook, Twitter, or e-mail.

 

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Best of Yoga Philosophy

Best of Yoga Philosophy for the Week

Public Domain

Hi, everyone.

As many of you know, I tried my best to retire (again) last year. But then this new project came up that I just couldn’t resist:

a virtual magazine and forum devoted to Yoga philosophy.

Every day I select the best Yoga philosophy articles on the Internet and post the links to Pinterest, facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. You read the articles that interest you, and join in the discussions, if so moved.

Waylon saw what I was doing and generously invited me to post all my recommendations on elephant, and I’m happy to take him up on his offer. Below are my choices for this week.

Please help spread the word through friends and social media. Thank you for your interest and support.

Warmly,

Bob

Photo: Pixoto

Beginner’s Mind, or Why I Got My Guitar Out Again After All These Years.
Jess Hicks ~ Jul 15, 2013
Love this article. –Bob W.

~

Treating Trauma with Yoga. ~ Nicki Mosley ~ July 12, 2013 ~ " Why not invite a person fragmented by trauma into a system of practice which is defined as ‘union’ to support their process re-integrating their fragments?"

Treating Trauma with Yoga.
Nicki Mosley ~ July 12, 2013
“Why not invite a person fragmented by trauma into a system of practice
which is defined as ‘union’ to support their process re-integrating their fragments?”

~

Yoga Wisdom at Work: Finding Sanity off the Mat & on the Job. ~ Marlena Rich {Book Review} ~ Jul 11, 2013 ~ Good review.  See my comment at the end. --Bob W.

Yoga Wisdom at Work: Finding Sanity off the Mat & on the Job.
Marlena Rich {Book Review} ~ Jul 11, 2013
Good review. See my comment at the end. –Bob W.

~

Discussion of the Week:

In Praise of American Yoga ~Carol Horton ~ July 11, 2013 ~ "Of course, it’s tempting to pit “commercial” versus “authentic” yoga (or whatever) to dramatize a valid critique. Yet setting up such hard-and-fast categories carries a cost..."

In Praise of American Yoga
Carol Horton ~ July 11, 2013
“Of course, it’s tempting to pit “commercial” versus “authentic” yoga
(or whatever) to dramatize a valid critique. Yet setting up such
hard-and-fast categories carries a cost…”

~

Practical Magic ~ Martha Beck ~ July 11, 2013 ~ This is why I have a section called "Related Articles & Sites" on Best of Yoga Philosophy--so I can post great "not-Yoga-per-se" articles like this one! --Bob W.

Practical Magic
Martha Beck ~ July 11, 2013
This is why I have a section called “Related Articles & Sites” on Best of Yoga Philosophy
–so I can post great “not-Yoga-per-se” articles like this one! –Bob W.

~

Love Potion: How Yoga Blew Open My Imperfect Heart. ~ Jeannine Ouelletteon ~ Jul 11, 2013 ~ "The love between us was always there—I knew that—but practicing yoga brought it to the surface in a way that made me cry again and again. I began to understand that wonderful need not be perfect..."

Love Potion: How Yoga Blew Open My Imperfect Heart.
Jeannine Ouelletteon ~ Jul 11, 2013
“The love between us was always there—I knew that—but practicing yoga
brought it to the surface in a way that made me cry again and again.
I began to understand that wonderful need not be perfect…”

~

This moved me this morning --Bob W. "my spine is mostly metal now, but I have never felt so human..." ~ Robert Sturman   ~ July 10, 2013.

“my spine is mostly metal now, but I have never felt so human…”
Robert Sturman ~ July 10, 2013
This moved me this morning –Bob W.

~

Classic Article from the Past:

My Art As My Yoga. ~ Katarina Silva ~ Feb 25, 2011 ~ "And that’s when it happened. I let my heartache become my yoga practice: the very experience that reconnects me with my deepest core, my most confident self, the me that always feels loved, my own divine nature, inner bliss!"

My Art As My Yoga.
Katarina Silva ~ Feb 25, 2011
“And that’s when it happened. I let my heartache become my yoga practice:
the very experience that reconnects me with my deepest core, my most confident self,
the me that always feels loved, my own divine nature, inner bliss!”

~

Are You a Yoga Slacker? ~ Hally Marlino ~ Love it, Hally.  Note from Bob W.--"I think I need to recite this again out loud just to enjoy the ebullient rhythms of your writing. I don't usually post yoga class articles to Best of Yoga Philosophy, but this is an exception! Thanks."

Are You a Yoga Slacker?
Hally Marlino ~ July 9, 2013
I think I need to recite this again out loud just to
enjoy the ebullient rhythms of your writing. I don’t
usually post yoga class articles to Best of Yoga Philosophy,
but this is an exception! Thanks. –Bob W.

~

Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? ~ Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. ~ July 9, 2013 ~ Though not labeled Yoga Philosophy per se, this is so close to the thinking of the ancient yoga sages, that I consider it a "must read".  What do you think?

Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”?
Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D.,
P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.
July 9, 2013
Though not labeled Yoga Philosophy per se, this is so close to the
thinking of the ancient yoga sages, that I consider it a “must read”.
What do you think? –Bob W.

~

"What do you care about with nearly insane passion? What do you want to give to the world? What do you want to leave behind you when you leave this world?" ~ David Garrigues ~ Jul 8, 2013

Ashtanga as a Path to Shamanism.
David Garrigues ~ Jul 8, 2013
“What do you care about with nearly insane passion?
What do you want to give to the world? What do you want to leave
behind you when you leave this world?”

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Yoga in America: In the Words of Some of its Most Ardent Teachers.

What is Yoga Really Like in America?

Yoga in America, published in early 2009, was a book ahead of its time.  Long before the debate about what is and isn’t yoga heated up in the blogosphere, and all the narrow stereotypes that resulted, this book celebrated the actual wide diversity of Yoga in America, as told by passionate yoga teachers themselves.

There are 46 articles chosen out of over 500 submitted in an open competition, the brainstorm of publisher Deborah Bernstein.  I had the honor and pleasure of co-editing the book with Deborah.  This was the experience that led me a few months later to elephant journal and the development of elephant yoga, which follows in the same tradition of wide (some might say “wild”) diversity.

Today the entire book is available free online, and we have started publishing it article by article on elephant journal.  Here is an ongoing index of those articles so far for easy reference:

“The Downside to Down Dog” ~ Kelly Grey.

“Hot Yoga in America.” ~ Peter Sklivas

“Boiler Room Yoga” ~ Richard Wall

“Yoga Demystified: The Six Big Ideas” ~ Bob Weisenberg

“Reflections: ‘Yoga in America’ While Congress Holds America Hostage.” ~Hilary Lindsay

“You are Divine and Perfect” ~ Karen Pierce

“The Ancient Roots of Modern Yoga” ~ Tony Criscuolo

A Rose by Any Other Name: Indian Yoga & American Yoga. ~ Nina Moliver

“The Ancient Wisdom of Kriya Yoga is Alive & Well in America” ~ Camella Nair

“Learning to See.” ~ Ann Barros

The following Yoga in America co-authors have also published on elephant, although their Yoga in America articles are not on elephant yet (Click to see their work. Let me know if I missed anyone):

Amy Nobles DolanDeborah BernsteinHalli Bourne,

Kino MacGregorTracey L. Ulshafer

I love being able to share these writers with the elephant audience.

Enjoy.

~

~Please follow “best of elephant journal” on Pinterest
and elephant yoga on facebook.~

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Should We Worship the Sun, or Should the Sun Worship Us?

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Imagine you are the Sun.

But, unlike the real Sun,
you are conscious and all-knowing.

Would you take infinite joy
in being the Sun?

Or would you envy human beings
down on earth
because they can walk around
and play music
And give birth
and laugh and love
and do yoga?

Should we worship the Sun,
or should the Sun worship us?

Neither.

Because we and the Sun
are one and the same.
the same universal cosmic intelligence.
the same overwhelming wondrousness,
unfathomableness.
the same quantum physics roots,
the same cosmic dna.

Not to worship
but to mutually rejoice
in the kinship of our molecules
and the ineffable wonder
of the universe.

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The Real Titans of Yoga: Georg & Brenda Feuerstein—the Elephant Interview.

Bob Weisenberg:

Hi, Brenda and Georg. It’s a great honor to have you here on Elephant Journal.

Let’s start by talking about your Distance Learning offerings. What made you choose to do “distance learning” instead of just publishing great books and teaching face-to-face?

Hello Bob. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about our distance-learning program, which has now been going for eight years. I (Georg speaking) started our 800-hour course, because I felt that my book The Yoga Tradition was difficult to access. The course was meant to make this possible, and it did.

But it was still too condensed, because The Yoga Tradition is somewhat like a dense jungle. So, once I had relocated to Canada, Brenda and I worked on a number of other courses: The History, Literature and Philosophy of Yoga, Classical Yoga, Foundations of Yoga, and most recently the Bhagavad-Gītā.

These courses are all meant to unpack The Yoga Tradition book. There may be other courses, but we are undecided about this.

What are the most surprising things you’ve learned in those eight years you’ve been doing distance-learning?

What has surprised us is how many students can stay focused over several years and how many students are making good use of this opportunity to grow spiritually. We are delighted that so many students from around the world want to learn as much as possible about the teachings of Yoga. This is deeply humbling.

It has also been surprising how many students maintain the connection with us through the Facebook core groups, which allows students not only to process the course but also stay in touch with fellow students world wide.

Have advances in technology changed how you approach distance-learning since you began eight years ago?

The most noticeable change has been in social media, which allows us to reach more students. We are now also able to upload files as e-books and digitally delivered courses. Of course, this has brought new problems, because some people either knowingly don’t respect copyright or are ignorant of it.

The fact is that copyright applies to the Internet, and you can’t just steal the work of others. I (Georg speaking) still learned on a Wang computer in the early 1980s, having to constantly change floppy disks to do what are now considered the simplest tasks. In this respect, I feel really spoiled.

How you see the state of Yoga education in the West today, and how do you see your offerings fitting into the big picture?

For the most part (Brenda speaking), I see that Yoga teacher training programs are not educating potential Yoga teachers in the teachings that would be of the greatest assistance to the public, especially taking into account the current state of the planet. I don’t believe that teachers in training are being prepared to teach much more than āsanas. This is one of the main reasons why we continue to develop courses in the hope that all Yoga teachers and students will have access to the philosophy, history, and practice of Yoga no matter where they live in the world.

Amen! (Georg speaking now). After writing fifty some books and studying Yoga philosophy and history for fifty plus years, I would like to ensure that people get good-quality materials and also understand them.

Tell us about this emphasis on social activism, as represented by your recent book “Green Yoga.” Is this a recent phenomenon for you, or has social activism been an integral part of your view of Yoga all along?

I (Georg) have been interested in environmental issues for years and have referred to them when it was still somewhat unpopular to do so. I have always regarded living sanely as part of Yoga. This means making an attempt to live in harmony with the environment.

In 1983, I published an article on “Yoga and Ecology” in the quarterly journal of the Indian Academy of Yoga (Varanasi, India). A decade later, Quest Books released my anthology Voices on the Threshold of Tomorrow: 145 Views of the New Millennium, which included many contributors who wrote about the environment. Hard to imagine, this was 18 years ago.

Sometimes I feel that not much has happened since then. But while I have been busy with “consciousness-raising” projects like this, I regretfully admit, that full-fledged social activism entered my Yoga practice only with Brenda’s complementary activist approach.

Good question! (Brenda speaking). I guess I have been a social activist since I was a little girl. I remember being 4 years old and seeing an image of starving children, I couldn’t believe this was happening in the same world where I had an abundance of food to eat.

It was during that time that I encouraged my parents and teachers to support organizations that fed hungry children. I started practicing postural Yoga during those early years but it wasn’t until years later that I read about the yamas and niyamas and made some deeper connections in regards to Yoga and social activism.

For numerous years we have supported organizations that we felt passionate about, and this year I was asked to be an Ambassador for Shanti Uganda. After taking on the position, I decided to start a project called The Journey of 108, and in 2011 started the Journey of 108 Beads project to assist in the fundraising and building of awareness for Shanti Uganda.

I believe it is our responsibility as Yoga practitioners to be compassionate activists and set an example for others to follow.

I noticed that your wonderfully informative website, in addition to featuring your distance-learning courses, is filled with free articles and papers for all levels of students, including beginners.

How should potential distance-learning students go about deciding which is the right course for them? Let’s say they’ve looked at the site and have a strong interest, but they’re not sure what to do?

Generally speaking, students start with the 800-hour course. I (Brenda) like to refer to this course as our umbrella course and the shorter courses are under that one although all of our courses can be taken as stand-alone courses.

After students have completed the 800-hour course, they usually take one of our other courses that allow them to go even deeper into an area of study that interests them. Many of our current students have completed at least two of our courses and are continuing their studies with us either in a course or in the mentorship program with Georg.

If students feel they simply don’t have the time to commit to the 800-hour course, I usually suggest they start with the Classical Yoga Course which is very user-friendly and requires approximately 250-hours of their time to complete.

Potential students are always welcome to email me if they are unsure where to start and I’d be happy to try to find a course that fits their needs.

That’s very clear. I’m sure our readers will appreciate your offer to personally help them figure out the best course for them. (I can also personally attest to the quality and depth of the Bhagavad Gita course, although I’ve had to put it on hold ever since I became Elephant Editor).

What’s the more interesting question I haven’t been smart enough to ask you yet?

What, if any, are the limitations you have encountered in distance-learning programs?

I (Georg) will field this question. There are indeed a few limitations that one ought to bear in mind. The first set has to do with the students themselves. And the second set relates to me as a teacher.

As you know, everyone learns differently. Some people depend on having the teacher in front of them. This is not the case in distance-learning programs, and so people of this kind need to have a lot more motivation to make up for the tutor’s personal absence.

I spent many years, traveling from center to center, from event to event. In 2004, I stopped doing this. Some of my former students are still lamenting that, as they see it, I withdrew from them. I see things somewhat differently. I am still writing books, am tutoring our courses, and mentoring a group of students online. I grew tired of all the traveling, and I took the opportunity of relocating from America to Canada to end my lecturing and workshopping.

Some students like to listen to a recording, and I have several recordings, including at least one video recording. Those who need me in front of them can easily avail themselves of the video recording. I might do another one in the future, but this is not my preference.

I see myself in semi-retirement at this point and feel that I should be allowed the luxury of privacy. This could be regarded as one of my limitations.

Definitely, the other limitation is that I don’t have the knack of making things easy on students. The simpler I have to make a presentation, the more difficult it is for me. I prefer the academic discourse if it is also relevant to life.

But this middle path is not popular. Academics want purely academic presentations. Yoga students want most practical stuff, which I don’t find easy to cater to. So, I am somewhat in limbo, if you like. I don’t have a problem with this, but some students find my books and courses overly challenging. But I tell them that they will learn if they can stick it out, and many do.

Some students have learning limitations or don’t have English as their mother tongue , and I greatly admire their stamina. Studying, as I often remind them, is a Yoga in itself. Svādhyāya-Yoga. In some way, I am trying to resuscitate this approach, which is traditional.

Great question and great answer. Makes me want to try it again.

What’s the second most interesting question I haven’t been smart enough to ask yet? (Maybe I should start my interviews like this. Charlie Rose often starts his interviews by asking “What is it you most want people to know about…?”)

Every course I have designed is the best I could make it. Because of the financial situation in the world, we have lowered our prices substantially. Each course comes with an extensive manual. So, what you are getting is the best for very little. I would make the most of it. I wish I had had this kind of course when I was teaching myself the ropes in Yoga. Honestly.

I (Brenda) would like for students to understand the Yoga teachings well enough to apply them in all aspects of their life. I think I speak for Georg as well when I say that especially Yoga teachers who have taken one of our courses should acquire the ability to articulate what they have learned and be able to motivate their own students to respond to all of life’s situations in a meaningful and compassionate way.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this interview. Thanks for being here. Now let’s turn the discussion over to the readers and see what questions they have.

~

Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D. became interested in Yoga in his early teens and has increasingly studied Yoga philosophy and history since then. He did his postgraduate studies in England and has authored over 50 books—not all on Yoga and including a couple of poetic titles. His major works are The Encyclopedia of Yoga and Tantra (Shambhala 2011), The Yoga Tradition (Hohm Press 2008), Yoga Morality (Hohm Press, 2007), The Deeper Dimension of Yoga (Shambhala) and The Bhagavad-Gītā: A New Translation (Shambhala 2011).

Georg created and at present is the main tutor of several distance learning courses, which are made available through TYS, his wife’s Canadian educational company. He officially went into semiretirement in 2004. But in 2011, he agreed to make himself available in a TYS mentorship program to encourage those who are seriously interested in digging deeper into Yoga philosophy.

~

Brenda Feuerstein, Georg’s wife, started practicing Hatha-Yoga postures as a young child, which primed her for her later path as a Yoga teacher. Over a period of twenty-three years, she operated a health business offering training and educational programs in Canada. She conducted numerous workshops specializing in stress management, positive lifestyle, and motivation.

Since 2003, she has been involved in getting TYS’s distance-learning program off the ground. She now serves as director of Traditional Yoga Studies and also teaches Yoga classes, workshops, and retreats.

She coauthored Green Yoga and Green Dharma with Georg Feuerstein and contributed to his book entitled The Bhagavad-Gītā: A New Translation. She is the author of The Yoga-Sutra from a Woman’s Perspective and an audio entitled Yoga Nidra/Yoga Sleep (forthcoming).

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Yoga Demystified: Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.

Hi, everyone.  I’ve published two major articles aimed at understanding the sublimely simple, profound, and livable philosophy of Yoga:

Yoga Demystified: The Six Big Ideas
and
Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell

Below is a companion collection of my own supporting poems and articles.   (See also the many book and website recommendations at the end of Yoga Demystified.)

~

Poems & Musings

Bhagavad Gita for a Fish.

What Is It That Brings Us Happiness?

What If Every Breath You Took Was
Like Eating a Bite of Chocolate Cake?

Should We Worship the Sun,
or Should the Sun Worship Us?

Six Short Poems About Joy.

Each Moment is Like a Precious Diamond

10 Things I Learned from Listening
to All 27 Mozart Piano Concertos.

~

Articles

How To Live an Extraordinary Life
~ Kripalu’s Stephen Cope.

True or False? Physical Yoga Has Influenced America
More
than Spiritual Yoga.

“Effortless Wellbeing”: Meditation as Everyday Life

How Yoga Has Transformed American Spirituality:
An Interview with Phil Goldberg, “American Veda”.

Bob vs. Buddhism: The Satisfying Conclusion.

Georg & Brenda Feuerstein—the Elephant Interview.

 Yoga Can Change the World. Get Yourself Out of the Way!
~ Kripalu’s Stephen Cope, Part 2.

~

Enjoy best of elephant journal on Pinterest

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Yoga Demystified: The Six Big Ideas.

Yoga philosophy is sublimely simple, profound, and livable.  Yet it can be difficult to grasp because of its unfamiliar language and complex history.

My aim here is to capture the essence of Yoga philosophy in plain English, with a touch of fun. I hope beginners will be inspired to learn more and experienced Yoga practitioners will come away refreshed and energized.

Let’s begin by talking about the Six Big Ideas of Yoga Philosophy.

It took me awhile to fully appreciate the truth and depth of these six simple gems, but now I’ve kind of internalized them and they have made my life immeasurably richer.

1) Each of us is already infinitely wondrous—miraculous, awe-inspiring, unfathomable.  (This is well hidden beneath the distractions and emotions of everyday life.)

2) Our wondrous nature is the same as the infinite wonder of the universe.

3) The way to experience our wondrous self is to fully experience the present moment, since each moment of consciousness is infinitely wondrous in itself.

4) The mind, body, and spirit are inseparable.

5) Experiencing our wondrous self leads to an abundance of joy and goodness.

6) The techniques of Yoga, leading to enhanced awareness, are one method for discovering our true wondrous nature.

Let’s take these one at a time.

1) Each of us is already infinitely wondrous–miraculous,
awe-inspiring, unfathomable.

(This is well hidden beneath the
distractions of everyday life and emotion.)

Ask yourself this question:  “Which is more wondrous, the entire universe or an individual human being?”

Think deeply about this.  Most people can’t honestly choose between the two.  The question is, of course, unanswerable.  The entire universe is so wondrous (miraculous, awe-inspiring, unfathomable–whatever words you choose to use.)  Yet, when seen objectively, so is a thinking, breathing, feeling human being.

dnaThe fact that it’s not easy to choose is fascinating in itself.  And it’s a dramatic argument for the most basic Yoga idea that just being alive can be infinitely wondrous, if we let it.

For me this is a blockbuster, mind-blowing insight, and undeniably true.  I had always thought of the individual human being as small and insignificant, like a grain of sand on the beach.  And we are, in a way.

But each of us is also infinitely wondrous–so wondrous, in fact, that it’s hard to decisively declare even the entire universe to be more wondrous.

The universe is complex and unfathomable, indeed.  But a human being, in body alone, is equally complex and unfathomable, and, in addition, we are conscious.  We are able to perceive the miracle of our own being.

(Yoga often uses the word “divine” for this.  The most basic finding of Yoga is that each of us is already divine.  I prefer the word “wondrous” instead of “divine”, because “divine” has too many other religious meanings, some of which Yoga doesn’t necessarily intend to convey.)

According to Yoga, this wondrous, blindingly amazing self is the “true self” referred to in the title of Cope’s book, Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, and the process of self-realization, or “enlightenment”, is not the process of “becoming” something, but rather simply “discovering” the joy of who we already are, buried beneath the pressing distractions and emotions of everyday life.

For me the conclusive, objective realization that each of us is as wondrous (“divine” if you prefer) as the entire universe is like a light switch that changes everything about the way I think about myself and my life.

2) Our wondrous nature is the same as the
infinite wonder of the universe.

What fills you with wonder and awe? Is it the staggering beauty of the Grand Canyon? A Mozart opera? Walking through a garden blooming with flowers? A jumbo jet passing overhead? The birth of a child? A Brett Favre touchdown pass?

The big things are obvious. We all know what that kind of wonder feels like.

The wonder of a galaxy is obvious. Think about its hundreds of millions of stars rotating around a central axis, and the whole galaxy itself barreling at an incredible speed through space. And then think about the fact that there are millions and millions of galaxies!

What about a paper clip? In many ways a paper clip is as wondrous as a galaxy.

To begin with, like the galaxy, a paper clip consists of millions and millions of things (molecules, atoms, and the even smaller quarks) interacting with each other in complex ways. Then consider what happens to all these tiny elements and how they have to interact with each other. They’re not spinning around an axis like the stars in a galaxy, but, then again, a galaxy can’t bend and spring back into shape like a paper clip can.

If you were small enough to stand on the nucleus of an atom within a paper clip, it would be a lot like standing on earth surrounded by stars.

Now, consider what it took to design and make that paper clip–the metallurgy and engineering that led to the precise formulation of just the right flex, the mines that had to be dug to extract the raw materials, the processing plants that transformed the raw materials into the right metal, the machines that had to be designed and built to manufacture thousands of paper clips a minute.

Somewhere in the world, there is a person who is an expert in paper clips, for whom the whole world revolves around the design and manufacture of paper clips. He or she can tell you the entire history of the development of the paper clip, and what people did before there were paper clips, and who invented it, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of all the different possible designs and materials for paper clips, and the future of the paper clip, and where we go from here, etc. etc.

Convinced yet? In reality, everything within our perception is utterly fantastical and pretty much unfathomable. If a paper clip is wondrous, is not everything wondrous? What’s surprising is that we are not in a continual state of gaga just perceiving whatever is in front of us at any given moment.

Really, living is like walking though an incredible kaleidoscope. Consciousness would be like a perpetual hallucination if we didn’t have automatic mechanisms for just getting used to the pure wonder of what we see, hear, and feel. But instead, most of the time we are simply oblivious to it.

Yoga seeks to put us back in touch with the infinite wonder of just being alive, starting with the wonder of ourselves, then the wonder of the universe. And then Yoga wants us to understand that these wonders are one and the same, because our wondrous selves are an integral part of that infinitely wondrous universe.

But if we and the universe are so wondrous, why don’t we experience life like that most of the time? How do we turn this blockbuster insight into an everyday experience?

3) The way to experience our wondrous self is to fully
experience the present moment, since each moment of
consciousness is infinitely wondrous in itself.

One of my favorite Yoga stories is the one about the young American who makes an arduous journey to the farthest reaches of the Himalayas, seeking to learn the secret of life and happiness from one of the greatest Yoga gurus.

Once in the Himalayas, he travels five days up into the mountains, through many trials and difficulties.  Finally he reaches the high mountain pass where the great old man in a white robe and long flowing grey hair sits in lotus position, staring peacefully off into space.

The young man sits down next to the guru and assumes a similar pose, waiting for his words of wisdom.  An hour goes by.  Then several hours.  Then a day, then several days.  Finally the young man says to the old man, “What happens next?”

image004The guru answers, “Nothing happens next.  This is it.”

Every moment of life is precious and magical.  We experience this not by striving to be happy, but by focusing, in a relaxed way, on the present moment.  Most unhappiness comes from regrets about the past or worries about the future, both of which are greatly diminished by gently focusing on the present moment.

Yoga makes no attempt to change the regrets, worries, or other suffering we face, but merely to provide a different perspective on them by making us aware of the wonder of life beyond our current preoccupations, no matter how important or serious they are.

Focusing on the present moment, we cannot help but become tuned into the wonder that is just being alive and conscious.  No effort is required, just a relaxed shift in consciousness–a simple receptivity to the indescribable wonder of being alive and conscious at this very moment.

We don’t need to try to force ourselves to feel good, as in “positive thinking”.  When regrets and worries occur, we don’t need to fight them.  Instead, feel them just as they are, without judgment, then gently refocus on what’s going on right now in the current moment.  The current moment is rarely unhappy in and of itself.

You might say, this is all well and good if one is already content and happy, and one’s problems are relatively small.  But what about the truly serious pain and anguish that happens in everyone’s life, to one extent or another?

It would appear that the more stressed and troubled one is, the more helpful Yoga might be.  Yoga and Yoga-like techniques are being used today for the treatment of even the most overwhelming grief and health problems, including tragedies like terminal illness and the loss of a loved one.  Like acupuncture before it, “mindfulness” meditation is starting to be studied and proven scientifically in the West.

You might think if one is “present-focused”, one would just sit around like a wet noodle all day and do nothing.

Surprisingly, I find the opposite is true.  Since my regrets and anxieties are reduced to relative insignificance (still all there, but put into perspective by the awareness of continual wonder) I find myself with more pure energy to do everything.

I’m able to give myself more completely to other people in conversation.  I find myself enjoying or easily tolerating things that would have made me very unhappy before.  I am more objective and creative about solving problems.

And, without being false, forced or even effortful in anyway, I do have a much more constant and abiding appreciation of the everyday incredible magic that is being alive.

4) The mind, body, and spirit are inseparable.

Yoga in America is best known as a popular exercise program and health club fitness class.  This is what many people think of as Yoga in the U.S.  However, just because Yoga poses and movements are popular doesn’t mean they’re not important to Yoga philosophy.

Yoga has always taught that whatever we think affects our body, and whatever our body feels affects our mind.  The poses of Yoga are nothing more than a unified meditation involving both the mind and the body.  And much of Yoga literature describes the body as though it were one big brain, with its “chakras” (energy centers) and energy flows.

Today the “mind-body connection” is pretty well accepted as part of our thinking about psychology.  But it was still a fairly radical idea 15-20 years ago, much less 5,000 years ago when first proposed by Yoga gurus.  (Actually, maybe it wasn’t a radical idea back then.  Maybe it just became a radical idea more recently with all our emphasis on the intellect.)

Before this starts sounding too abstract, let me give you a very down-to-earth example.  Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little stiff, stressed, or worn out, I get up, spread out my Yoga mat and just run through some basic Yoga poses for ten or fifteen minutes, focusing on the present moment.

This leaves me feeling completely invigorated in mind and spirit.  My Yoga routine is like a cup of coffee for me.  It works every time, no matter how lifeless I feel before I begin.

Let me give you another simple example, this time how the mind affects the body.

I am a serious tennis player.  You might recall that all this Yoga stuff started for me when I took Yoga classes to improve my flexibility for tennis.  Yoga was great for this.  I did become much more flexible and it did improve my tennis.

What happened next was unexpected.  I found that the philosophical practices of Yoga, especially focusing on the present moment, and detaching my ego from the results, had a far more beneficial impact on my tennis than the flexibility.  The Yoga of the mind had a bigger effect on my tennis performance than the Yoga of the body.

Many religions (and even some Yoga traditions), treat the body as though it is something to escape from, into the purer world of the spirit.  The body is treated almost like the enemy to be overcome in one’s spiritual quest, particularly in the ultra-traditional Catholicism I grew up in and struggled with as a kid.

Yoga is the opposite (at least the branches of Yoga that appeal to me).  The mind, body, and spirit are inseparable and the same.  We are unified beings, and our physical presence and actions are an integral part of our quest for happiness, not separate and distracting.

5) Experiencing our wondrous self leads to an
abundance of joy and goodness.

“What did the Yoga Guru say to the hot dog vendor?”

Answer:  “Make me one with everything.”

Good joke.  But this is, in fact, kind of the way we feel when we’re most happy–one with everything.

The great gurus of Yoga and other Eastern traditions achieve inner peace and experience the ultimate joy in life by cultivating the boundless wonder of a child. For them every moment is the occasion for innocent amazement, even in the middle of the most trying circumstances.  They still experience all the ordinary pain and difficulty of being human.  They just process it differently.

There are certain types of experiences that can suddenly thrust anyone into truly appreciating the utter joy of being alive.  The most dramatic example is a serious illness or a near-death experience, in which we are suddenly on the verge of NOT being alive.  Another example is temporary blindness.  Imagine being blind for a while and suddenly being able to see.

But we can also be moved to this kind of ultimate appreciation of being alive by great music, or overpowering natural beauty, or reading about an amazing scientific discovery, or by the experience of great art.

I’m relatively new to Yoga, but in a way not so new if the subject is “transcendent consciousness” rather than Yoga itself.  One of the reasons I’m so attracted to Yoga is that I’ve had semi-ecstatic “one-with-the-universe” experiences all my life.  They are like the experiences Cope describes in his book as the initial basis for his interest in Yoga, but far more plentiful.  I seem to be prone to them, in fact, with or without Yoga.  I consider this a great blessing.

I’ve had them in music, in nature, in literature, in relationships, in tennis, occasionally in religion, in business, in my family, in windsurfing (especially in windsurfing, where one must focus intently on the wind and the angle of the sail for hours at a time), etc.

I know Yoga is a different kind of pursuit, but I believe it is closely related to, and encompassing of, these other experiences I’ve had with transcendent consciousness.

The practice of Yoga seeks to make this type of ecstatic, wonder-filled, one-with-the-universe consciousness commonplace and readily available in our everyday lives.  In a nutshell, it seeks to give us unlimited joy.  (Sound ambitious enough?)

Yoga knows it doesn’t have a monopoly on this kind of joy, of course.  Yoga assumes itself to have discovered universal truths.  If you look at almost any moment of pure joy it usually has this character of total absorption in the present moment, where all other concerns and preoccupations fade into insignificance.

So it’s not surprising that one can come up with countless examples of Yoga-type present-focused joy in every aspect of human life.  Yoga is just a powerful way of discovering and exploring this aspect of our existence.  Yoga didn’t invent it.

That’s the joy part.  What about the “goodness” part.  Why would all this self-absorbed consciousness-raising necessarily lead to goodness?

Yoga scriptures have strong and clear moral teachings, which are similar to any religion’s.  Yoga assumes that when we see ourselves and the universe in their true natural wonder, we will be moved to act in a highly moral way.  We are much more likely to do the right thing in any circumstance if we see ourselves, our fellow human beings, and the entire universe as wondrous, divine and inseparable.

6) The techniques of Yoga, leading to enhanced awareness,
are one method for discovering our true wondrous nature.

You might have noticed that I haven’t even mentioned Yoga techniques so far, except in passing.  This is because, while they clearly have a lot of value in themselves, the techniques are also the means to a philosophical end.

The poses, meditation, and breathing techniques of Yoga all have a central aim–to move toward enhanced awareness.  Enhanced awareness is non-judgmental, egoless witness of ourselves and our emotions.  It is what allows us to experience the full spectrum of consciousness–the universe and the “universe within”.  Enhanced awareness is how we experience more fully all the wonder and awe I have been talking about.

If you are unfamiliar with Yoga, try this deceptively simple Yoga approach to see what I mean:

Focus on the current moment – what’s going on right now at this moment.

Breathe deeply, relax all the muscles in your body.

As a thought or feeling enters your mind, let yourself feel it as deeply as it goes (whether it is a regret about the past, a worry about the future, or just a neutral thought).

Accept and completely allow yourself to have that feeling.

Mentally step out of yourself and watch that feeling as though from the outside.

Gently focus back on the present moment.

You can see this is the opposite of “positive thinking”, which involves pushing yourself to think certain positive thoughts, and to push out all negative thoughts.

In contrast, Yoga philosophy involves not trying to think anything in particular, and not controlling your thoughts at all, except to gently focus on the present moment, or to focus your mind on one particular thing.  This is actually not that easy to do at first, hence the many branches of Yoga that teach a variety of techniques.  With time and habit, however, it becomes truly effortless.

When we are able to do this, the magic often just happens on its own because we truly are all already indescribably wondrous (“divine” if one feels comfortable with the term). The wonder becomes obvious when we pay relaxed attention to what’s going on right now, both within us and around us.

You might find, as I have, that this simple habit eventually starts to bring out the amazing nature of everyday existence, without the often counter-productive effort associated with trying too hard to “figure things out” or searching for something outside ourselves to “turn us on”.

Most other Yoga techniques are just expansions and variations of this present-focused philosophy.  Poses help us become more aware of our bodies in the present moment.  Meditation helps us get into the present moment more and more deeply.  Breathing exercises get us in touch with our most primal source of energy–our breath.

Some Yoga techniques have you focus for an extended period of time on just one thing, anything.  It could be your breath, or your heartbeat, or a mantra, or a single leaf on a tree (or even a paper clip, I guess).  By focusing so completely on one thing, you not only become super aware of your object of concentration, but also kind of clear out your brain to be more receptive to every other sensory perception.

Other Yoga techniques are the opposite–they expand your awareness to take in everything at once instead of a single thing.  I call it “ultra-awareness”.  You become very still and allow yourself to be ultra-sensitive to all the immediate sights, sounds, and feelings around you.

Yoga techniques can have a strong impact on everyday emotions.  My own experience, paradoxically, is that I tend to feel an emotion more directly and strongly than I did pre-Yoga, but I don’t struggle with it as much.

This is because, while I’m struggling with it, I can often shift into non-judgmental awareness, and this helps me see the struggle in perspective, and thus deal with it better without diluting it or avoiding it.

In this way, Yoga enhances and informs all our human feelings and actions.  It does not replace them or mask them.

If you decide to delve deeper into Yoga, you need to pick and choose what is most meaningful and useful for you.  The whole picture can be overwhelming and intimidating.  The insights you get are more important than the specific practices you adopt.  And, even though it has a sprawling 5,000 year old history, ultimately Yoga needs to be about simplicity, not complexity.

For a broad discussion of Yoga techniques, just pick up a copy of Kripalu Yoga–A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat.  And remember what I just said about picking and choosing.

In a Nutshell: Continual Wonder and Awe

For a simple renewing meditation, I often just recite these same six key points in my head as I relax all my muscles and breathe comfortably:

1) Each of us is already infinitely wondrous—miraculous, awe-inspiring, unfathomable. (This is well hidden beneath the distractions and emotions of everyday life.)

2) Our wondrous nature is the same as the infinite wonder of the universe.

3) The way to experience our wondrous self is to fully experience the present moment, since each moment of consciousness is infinitely wondrous in itself.

4) The mind, body, and spirit are inseparable.

5) Experiencing our wondrous self leads to an abundance of joy and goodness.

6) The techniques of Yoga, leading to enhanced awareness, are one method for discovering our true wondrous nature.

As persuasive as I hope these cosmic truths are after reading this essay, it really takes considerable (but relaxed) practice to work them into one’s habitual everyday life and consciousness.

I once wrote to a friend:

Just relax, breathe deeply, and experience each moment, non-judgmentally,
as it’s happening, no matter what is happening.

That’s a summary of 5,000 years of Yoga wisdom in a single sentence.

The central message of Yoga is that just being alive contains infinite and unlimited wonder (and meaning) all by itself, regardless of what else is happening in your life.

Yoga reduces the complexity of our lives to the elegant simplicity of continual wonder and awe, without losing any of the other things we treasure about being human.

RECOMMENDED READING

The Ancient Texts

To further explore Yoga philosophy, I urge you to go directly to the ancient texts.  Although they have a reputation for being difficult, I personally find them to be exceptionally direct and inspiring, often mind-blowing.

It does take a little getting used to the rich metaphorical language they use. And they contain some ancient beliefs that won’t necessarily make sense to you today.

But it’s well worth the effort, and you’ll find it very useful to refer back to The Six Big Ideas as you read these texts.

A great place to start is Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations, which is my own loving thematic overview of this most central of ancient Yoga texts.  It will work with any translation, but is based on Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation by Stephen Mitchell.

Whatever text you choose, it’s important to find an accessible version with great commentary.  They are not all the same.  These are my preferred versions of the other two most important ancient texts:

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, beautifully translated and explained in Part III of The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar.  ( The rest of the book is good, too, but I’m including it here for the Yoga Sutra.)

The Upanishads, lovingly introduced and translated by Eknath Easwaran.

For a quick feel for what these texts are about, see What Is It That Brings Us Happiness?

Yoga Practice

Yoga postures and techniques are best learned in classes.  But reading can be very helpful, too.  These days you can also find a wide variety of videos on the Internet.

If I had to recommend a single book for Yoga practice it would be the one I mentioned earlier:

Kripalu Yoga–A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat by Richard Faulds and Senior Teachers of Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.  The title is self-explanatory.  It covers a very wide range of topics in an accessible and “browsable” manner.  You can get whatever you need from it right now, and it will continue to serve you for a long time to come.

Websites

My favorite Yoga philosophy website is Rod Stryker’s parayoga.com.  This is a rich and wonderful synthesis of ancient Yoga for modern devotees.  Click on LEARN and thoroughly explore all the menus there.

Rod also now has a wonderful book The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Prosperity, Happiness, and Freedom, which will soon be the subject of a new online book club on Elephant Journal.

I highly recommend Georg and Brenda Feuerstein’s Traditional Yoga Studies for college level distance learning courses on the sprawling history of Yoga and in-depth analysis of the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutra.

See the delightfully rambunctious Yoga 2.0 for a  revolutionary contemporary interpretation of traditional Yoga, created by Matthew Remski and Scott Petri.

Other Great Books

Here are some other books you might find interesting and useful:

Yoga and the Quest for the True Self  by Stephen Cope.  An inspiring exploration of Yoga philosophy, and its relationship to Western religion and psychology–the book that got it all started for me.

Babar’s Yoga for Elephants by Laurent de Brunhoff.  Now the truth can finally be told–Yoga was originally developed by elephants in prehistoric times, and only adopted by humans many years later.

Effortless Wellbeing by Evan Finer.  My favorite book on meditation.

~

I always enjoy talking about Yoga philosophy with anyone.  If I can be helpful to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

~

See also:

Yoga Demystified: Poems & Articles.

Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell: Big Ideas & Best Quotations.

~

~Please like elephant yoga on facebook~

 

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RIP, Georg Feuerstein, the real deal when it comes to Yoga.

In memory of Georg Feuerstein, who passed away yesterday in Saskatchewan. Our deepest condolences to his family.

The Real Titans of Yoga: Georg & Brenda Feuerstein—the Elephant Interview.

Bob Weisenberg:

Hi, Brenda and Georg. It’s a great honor to have you here on Elephant Journal. 

Let’s start by talking about your Distance Learning offerings.  What made you choose to do “distance learning” instead of just publishing great books and teaching face-to-face?

Hello Bob. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about our distance-learning program, which has now been going for eight years. I (Georg speaking) started our 800-hour course, because I felt that my book The Yoga Tradition was difficult to access. The course was meant to make this possible, and it did.

But it was still too condensed, because The Yoga Tradition is somewhat like a dense jungle. So, once I had relocated to Canada, Brenda and I worked on a number of other courses: The History, Literature and Philosophy of Yoga, Classical Yoga, Foundations of Yoga, and most recently the Bhagavad-Gītā.

These courses are all meant to unpack The Yoga Tradition book. There may be other courses, but we are undecided about this.

What are the most surprising things you’ve learned in those eight years you’ve been doing distance-learning?

What has surprised us is how many students can stay focused over several years and how many students are making good use of this opportunity to grow spiritually. We are delighted that so many students from around the world want to learn as much as possible about the teachings of Yoga. This is deeply humbling.

It has also been surprising how many students maintain the connection with us through the Facebook core groups, which allows students not only to process the course but also stay in touch with fellow students world wide.

Have advances in technology changed how you approach distance-learning since you began eight years ago?     

The most noticeable change has been in social media, which allows us to reach more students. We are now also able to upload files as e-books and digitally delivered courses. Of course, this has brought new problems, because some people either knowingly don’t respect copyright or are ignorant of it.

The fact is that copyright applies to the Internet, and you can’t just steal the work of others. I (Georg speaking) still learned on a Wang computer in the early 1980s, having to constantly change floppy disks to do what are now considered the simplest tasks. In this respect, I feel really spoiled.

How you see the state of Yoga education in the West today, and how do you see your offerings fitting into the big picture?

For the most part (Brenda speaking), I see that Yoga teacher training programs are not educating potential Yoga teachers in the teachings that would be of the greatest assistance to the public, especially taking into account the current state of the planet. I don’t believe that teachers in training are being prepared to teach much more than āsanas. This is one of the main reasons why we continue to develop courses in the hope that all Yoga teachers and students will have access to the philosophy, history, and practice of Yoga no matter where they live in the world.

Amen! (Georg speaking now).  After writing fifty some books and studying Yoga philosophy and history for fifty plus years, I would like to ensure that people get good-quality materials and also understand them.

Tell us about this emphasis on social activism, as represented by your recent book “Green Yoga.”  Is this a recent phenomenon for you, or has social activism been an integral part of your view of Yoga all along?

 I (Georg) have been interested in environmental issues for years and have referred to them when it was still somewhat unpopular to do so. I have always regarded living sanely as part of Yoga. This means making an attempt to live in harmony with the environment.

In 1983, I published an article on “Yoga and Ecology” in the quarterly journal of the Indian Academy of Yoga (Varanasi, India). A decade later, Quest Books released my anthology Voices on the Threshold of Tomorrow: 145 Views of the New Millennium, which included many contributors who wrote about the environment. Hard to imagine, this was 18 years ago.

Sometimes I feel that not much has happened since then. But while I have been busy with “consciousness-raising” projects like this, I regretfully admit, that full-fledged social activism entered my Yoga practice only with Brenda’s complementary activist approach.

Good question! (Brenda speaking). I guess I have been a social activist since I was a little girl. I remember being 4 years old and seeing an image of starving children, I couldn’t believe this was happening in the same world where I had an abundance of food to eat.

It was during that time that I encouraged my parents and teachers to support organizations that fed hungry children. I started practicing postural Yoga during those early years but it wasn’t until years later that I read about the yamas and niyamas and made some deeper connections in regards to Yoga and social activism.

For numerous years we have supported organizations that we felt passionate about, and this year I was asked to be an Ambassador for Shanti Uganda. After taking on the position, I decided to start a project called The Journey of 108, and in 2011 started the Journey of 108 Beads project to assist in the fundraising and building of awareness for Shanti Uganda.

I believe it is our responsibility as Yoga practitioners to be compassionate activists and set an example for others to follow.

 I noticed that your wonderfully informative website, in addition to featuring your distance-learning courses, is filled with free articles and papers for all levels of students, including beginners. 

How should potential distance-learning students go about deciding which is the right course for them?  Let’s say they’ve looked at the site and have a strong interest, but they’re not sure what to do?

Generally speaking, students start with the 800-hour course. I (Brenda) like to refer to this course as our umbrella course and the shorter courses are under that one although all of our courses can be taken as stand-alone courses.

After students have completed the 800-hour course, they usually take one of our other courses that allow them to go even deeper into an area of study that interests them. Many of our current students have completed at least two of our courses and are continuing their studies with us either in a course or in the mentorship program with Georg.

If students feel they simply don’t have the time to commit to the 800-hour course, I usually suggest they start with the Classical Yoga Course which is very user-friendly and requires approximately 250-hours of their time to complete.

Potential students are always welcome to email me if they are unsure where to start and I’d be happy to try to find a course that fits their needs.

That’s very clear.  I’m sure our readers will appreciate your offer to personally help them figure out the best course for them.  (I can also personally attest to the quality and depth of the Bhagavad Gita course, although I’ve had to put it on hold ever since I became Elephant Editor).

What’s the more interesting question I haven’t been smart enough to ask you yet?

What, if any, are the limitations you have encountered in distance-learning programs?

 I (Georg) will field this question. There are indeed a few limitations that one ought to bear in mind. The first set has to do with the students themselves. And the second set relates to me as a teacher.

As you know, everyone learns differently. Some people depend on having the teacher in front of them. This is not the case in distance-learning programs, and so people of this kind need to have a lot more motivation to make up for the tutor’s personal absence.

I spent many years, traveling from center to center, from event to event. In 2004, I stopped doing this. Some of my former students are still lamenting that, as they see it, I withdrew from them. I see things somewhat differently. I am still writing books, am tutoring our courses, and mentoring a group of students online. I grew tired of all the traveling, and I took the opportunity of relocating from America to Canada to end my lecturing and workshopping.

Some students like to listen to a recording, and I have several recordings, including at least one video recording. Those who need me in front of them can easily avail themselves of the video recording. I might do another one in the future, but this is not my preference.

I see myself in semi-retirement at this point and feel that I should be allowed the luxury of privacy. This could be regarded as one of my limitations.

Definitely, the other limitation is that I don’t have the knack of making things easy on students. The simpler I have to make a presentation, the more difficult it is for me. I prefer the academic discourse if it is also relevant to life.

But this middle path is not popular. Academics want purely academic presentations. Yoga students want most practical stuff, which I don’t find easy to cater to. So, I am somewhat in limbo, if you like. I don’t have a problem with this, but some students find my books and courses overly challenging. But I tell them that they will learn if they can stick it out, and many do.

Some students have learning limitations or don’t have English as their mother tongue , and I greatly admire their stamina. Studying, as I often remind them, is a Yoga in itself. Svādhyāya-Yoga. In some way, I am trying to resuscitate this approach, which is traditional.

Great question and great answer.  Makes me want to try it again. 

What’s the second most interesting question I haven’t been smart enough to ask yet? (Maybe I should start my interviews like this.  Charlie Rose often starts his interviews by asking “What is it you most want people to know about…?”)

Every course I have designed is the best I could make it. Because of the financial situation in the world, we have lowered our prices substantially. Each course comes with an extensive manual. So, what you are getting is the best for very little. I would make the most of it. I wish I had had this kind of course when I was teaching myself the ropes in Yoga. Honestly.

I (Brenda) would like for students to understand the Yoga teachings well enough to apply them in all aspects of their life. I think I speak for Georg as well when I say that especially Yoga teachers who have taken one of our courses should acquire the ability to articulate what they have learned and be able to motivate their own students to respond to all of life’s situations in a meaningful and compassionate way.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed this interview. Thanks for being here. Now let’s turn the discussion over to the readers and see what questions they have.

~

Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D. became interested in Yoga in his early teens and has increasingly studied Yoga philosophy and history since then. He did his postgraduate studies in England and has authored over 50 books—not all on Yoga and including a couple of poetic titles. His major works are The Encyclopedia of Yoga and Tantra (Shambhala 2011), The Yoga Tradition (Hohm Press 2008), Yoga Morality (Hohm Press, 2007), The Deeper Dimension of Yoga (Shambhala) and The Bhagavad-Gītā: A New Translation (Shambhala 2011).

Georg created and at present is the main tutor of several distance learning courses, which are made available through TYS, his wife’s Canadian educational company. He officially went into semiretirement in 2004. But in 2011, he agreed to make himself available in a TYS mentorship program to encourage those who are seriously interested in digging deeper into Yoga philosophy.

~

Brenda Feuerstein, Georg’s wife, started practicing Hatha-Yoga postures as a young child, which primed her for her later path as a Yoga teacher. Over a period of twenty-three years, she operated a health business offering training and educational programs in Canada. She conducted numerous workshops specializing in stress management, positive lifestyle, and motivation.

Since 2003, she has been involved in getting TYS’s distance-learning program off the ground. She now serves as director of Traditional Yoga Studies and also teaches Yoga classes, workshops, and retreats.

She coauthored Green Yoga and Green Dharma with Georg Feuerstein and contributed to his book entitled The Bhagavad-Gītā: A New Translation. She is the author of The Yoga-Sutra from a Woman’s Perspective and an audio entitled Yoga Nidra/Yoga Sleep (forthcoming).

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Join the Raving Corps of Elephant Yoga Volunteers.

You’re probably wondering how we keep such a prolific Yoga site going with just a handful of people.

The answer is, we don’t.

Elephant Yoga is actually created by an army of dedicated volunteers:

First, and most obviously, is our team of  100+ regular writers and a steady stream of guest writers.  They are the heart and soul of Elephant Yoga.

I’m a 50-60 hr. per week volunteer myself, just because I love Yoga and I love working with Elephant writers and readers.

Tanya Lee Markul is our new Associate Editor, my partner in running the day-to-day operations of Elephant Yoga.

Esther Liberman works with guest writers to prepare their articles for publication and conducts guest interviews.

Bethany Eanes has agreed to become the discussion moderator for our new experimental Open Yoga Blogging Community.

~

Lauren Foster and Angela Arnett are getting the word out about Elephant Yoga through all forms of social media.

Lacey Rae Traebol is compiling the Best Elephant Yoga Blogs of All Time. (For republishing classic blogs,  topical “best of” articles , a “Top 25 countdown”, and perhaps even an eBook.)

I’m in the process of matching up five other enthusiastic volunteers with important projects for your benefit.

Just recently we started to set up special interest groups on Facebook for Elephant writers. Here are the groups we’ve identified so far, many of which are already Elephant strengths:

Social Activism / Yoga & Art / Yoga & Kids / Yoga Philosophy

Yoga & Health / Anusara Yoga / Ashtanga Yoga / Hot Yoga /  Yoga Business

Yoga News & Popular Culture / Yoga Books & Reviews / Yoga Music

(These groups are for writers only right now, but once we have group leaders
we’ll start creating open Facebook pages for many of them.)

So as you can see, in reality, Elephant Yoga consists of hundreds of volunteers, all dedicated to bringing you the best possible Yoga content.

If you would like to join our Raving Corps of Elephant Yoga Volunteers, I’d love to hear from you by comment below or by Facebook message.

And, as always, please tell us how we can serve you better and what you’d like to see.

Bob Weisenberg
Yoga Editor

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Can Yoga Cure the Common Cold?

This is one of the very first blogs I ever wrote for the Yoga Journal Community over two years ago.  I’m sure I don’t live up to the unbridled enthusiasm I had for the powers of Yoga back then.  But I certainly had the right idea!  (I was inspired to repost this by Heather Lounsbury’s recent Tis the Season to Catch a Cold.)

Can Yoga Cure the Common Cold?

I have a really bad cold–the kind of cold that wakes you up in the middle of the night with coughing and sneezing and makes your whole body sore.

OK, Yoga from the earliest days was an effort to relieve suffering, right?  A little old common cold should be a pushover for Yoga Philosophy, right?  Let’s match up the key points of my philosophy with my effort to get through this cold.

The Present Moment–Instead of bemoaning my discomfort and mentally trying to escape from it, I settle into calmly experiencing what is going on at this very moment.  I let myself relax toward the discomfort rather than fighting it.

The Wondrous Self–After awhile, since I’m paying attention instead of escaping, I start to marvel at what’s going on inside my body.  It’s almost like an action/adventure movie–the white blood cells are rushing in to fight the evil virus cells.  What a scientific wonder that the virus doesn’t just take over and destroy me.  There is a lot going on in this movie.  I’m rooting for the good guys.

The Wondrous Universe–I can’t help but notice, since I’m paying attention, that the rest of the universe is still out there and still wondrous.  I’m still part of that wondrous universe, and the vast majority of the atoms and cells and systems in my body are still functioning in their indescribably wondrous way, cold or no cold.

Mind, Body, and Spirit–My muscles are really sore.  I get up and run through my usual Yoga neck, shoulder and torso routines, focusing, as usual, on fully experiencing the sensations of each movement.  This makes my muscles feel much better, and my mind and spirit, too.

I start to experience a version of Enhanced Awareness–My cold is becoming more and more vivid while simultaneously getting smaller and smaller in relationship to the wonder all around me and in me.  I find myself able to experience An Abundance of Joy, even in the face of this very uncomfortable cold.

Can Yoga cure the common cold?  No, but it sure can help with the symptoms.

~

See also

Yoga Demystified: The Six Big Ideas.

Yoga Demystified:
Poems, Musings, and Related Articles.

Gita in a Nutshell:
Big Ideas & Best Quotations.