YOGA THANKSGIVING BREAK CHALLENGE 2013 #YOGATBC

Hello darlings!

I freaking love Thanksgiving break. Every year it comes reluctantly — and then arrives with a yeehaw and a party. I can’t believe I have a whole week to figure out my life– This is a serious win!

Fortunately for us at CU Boulder, we are supremely blessed to have an entire week of break, none of those two-days-off crumbs for us. When we break at CU, we mean business. Well, I certainly mean business, anyways. I’ve got loads of my own research and writing to do. And a mountain of papers to grade.

However, none of that is going to stop me from getting out and taking Yoga classes here in B-town!

That’s why I’m initiating the Yoga Thanksgiving Break Challenge 2013

#YogaTBC !!!

The challenge is to get out to a Yoga class other than your personal practice. Now, for me this can be tough, cause I have an ongoing love affair with my practice, and often it just doesn’t feel right to cheat!– However, it’s truly more polyamorous situation. You can attend an actual, in-person class, or even check out an online class.

Again, the point is to get out of your usual practice and dive into the awesomeness of community, the local and the online. Then tell me how it’s going by tweeting at me.

I’m @inasahajaa  and use (#hashtag) #YogaTBC so we can start this new practice revolution!

Feeling grateful for the practice and our growing community!

Love,

Ina

(art by Eliza Lynn Tobin of Art Asana)

ŚRĪ ŚĀRADĀ CEREMONY — HER THOUSAND NAMES

It’s 4:45 on Friday afternoon, the eighth day of the lunar month of Aśvin, second to last night of Navarātra, the nine nights celebrating the Goddess, Śakti. I have worked on a team to transliterate, translate and edit a text recently rediscovered in the Oriental Research Library in Śrinagar, Kashmir and reconstruct its ritual recitation of the thousand names of the Goddess Śāradā. Finally, the culmination of countless hours of textual editing, translating, supporting, organizing and fundraising has arrived — marking yet another paramount reason for exalting the victory of the Goddess, as the Hindu holiday proclaims — the deep psychological celebration that occurs in the wake of completion. As I take my seat next to the fire and tune my tamboura (a four stringed Indian ‘drone’ instrument), I feel the gradual settling of our thirty plus guests into one meticulously marked ritual space among the golden leaves scattered across the backyard, merging into a kaleidoscope of interrelated entanglement.

            As we begin the recitation of the “Thousand Names of the Goddesss Śāradā,” together, after finalizing the edited translation merely hours before, our diverse spectrums of human experience come together as one unified collective consciousness fixated upon one shared object of meditation. After many moments, hours really, of observing my own fluctuating consciousness through the melodious chanting of the names, the rhythmic offering of black and white sesame seeds into the fire, the drone of my tamboura as I struggle to play continuously, despite the necessary shifts around the cracking popping fire, I locate myself settled, peaceful, open, alert. Following one exceptionally sublime moment of absorption into the totality of the ritual, an ineffably profound sense of oneness, a colossal question dawns: is this the direct and personal experience of the non-duality I am willing to ‘entertain’ (but not necessarily advocate) as the ultimate and absolute ‘reality’? Further, is this an experience I even can share in academic writing, and moreover do I even want to? That is to say, will sharing my personal experience of an extolled sense of infinite non-dual consciousness be my most effective offering of service for the benefit of all beings?

These are just some of the burning questions arising from the center of my independently co-originated position, as I read and examine the critical analysis of spiritual practices, and explore my own connection to both those processes of examination and the practices themselves. So far, many relevant yet antagonistic views have arisen, which I am constantly attempting to reconcile to the extent that I may craft my own most insightful and relevant approach to the academic study of religion. In this case, the more cognitive investigation naturally leads me to a concern for the authenticity of this practice, the recitation of the Thousand Names, and the implications of ‘reviving’ this lost text for the people most allied with its historical and soteriological importance; specifically the Pandit community exiled from Kaśmir and resettled throughout the globe. Is our ‘revival’ of the Goddess Śāradā through this ritual re-enactment (despite a meticulous attention to detail in recreating her ceremony in exactly the way the text itself prescribes), simply additional forms of orientalist appropriation? Or, conversely, are we actually helping the Pandits in exile redefine their sense of cultural identity, now reestablished within an online cultural arena (this entire ceremony was broadcast live over the internet), after hundreds of years of violent persecution and in light of the eventual exodus which transpired over the last forty years?

In the context of the Thousand Names of Śāradā ceremony, the precise recreation of ritual elements are certainly of upmost importance, in addition to my experience and interaction with the Kaśmiri Pandit community and its individuals– investigating how they feel about this project, and, beyond that, looking deeper into the implications of my ethnographic analysis and presentation of this material.

Naturally, I am curious to investigate in what ways am I advocating the Pandit’s political stance, as a people in exile, and their religious and philosophical heritages. I am also interested in the reasons why this particular Śāradā ceremony fails to be remembered in the contemporary Pandit tradition. Further, I wonder if there are more critical systems of power within the philosophical underpinnings and ritual itself that contribute to this omittance — beyond the usual jump to Muslim invasion and suppression. Of course, I’m in no position to explicitly answer any of this here and now. Alas, I can merely offer my ponderings and ask for yours too….

Peace,

Ina

MY STORY WITH SANSKRIT

So in my last video, Amanda Jade Fiorino, of Empower Shakti International (ESI) and I talked a bit about the importance of personal experience, in embodying the role of a Yoga teacher or  practitioner in service of the life force.
I’d briefly like to state for the record that I don’t see these two terms (Yoga teacher and Yoga practitioner) as mutually exclusive.
In my experience, even if you don’t teach in a studio, you end up teaching, in some way or another. Even if it’s just how you deal with your relationships at work, with your children or father, or whatever…
Anyone on her path is on the path.
So I want to share a little snippet of my personal path, my experience with Sanskrit and sacred sounds, with you…
I was always interested in texts, and language since I was little.
Indiana Jones had a lot of appeal, too.
The excitement lay in discovering something unknown, unique and different…
something of seemingly no value to a whole lotta people,
 but, in reality, absolutely priceless
(kind of like the unspoken gems of spiritual practice).
So my first self-appointed initiation into sacred sound was in my teens, as a student of Kundalini Yoga in Austin, TX.
Later I became more deeply immersed into mantra and classical rāga (Hindustani) singing, while studying Sanskrit at university. This led to discovering a whole new way of understanding the postural Yoga and Ashtanga invocations I was so extremely fond of.
Sanskrit at university, as anyone who’s done it can affirm, wasn’t such an easy-breezy ride.
There was lots of academic grammatical jargon, and prescribed texts that rendered me choiceless in the matter… There was a real rigor to it, a tapas, a discipline.
But this experience is what fueled my passion for continuing the great trend of Modern Yoga — making Yoga more accessible to all — by developing Embodied Sanskrit, as a body-based, movement method of learning the essentials of Sanskrit for Yoga.
Not everyone wants to translate the Rāmāyaṇa.
Most of us will settle for being informed, well-educated Yoga teachers and practitioners —
– which on its own requires a great expanse of knowledge:
from Sanskrit and philosophy,
to anatomy and sequencing,
to knowing how to tell a joke while everyone’s butt is in the air.
Truly, it’s an art.
And so is the Sanskrit language.
Learning the paradigms, the declensions, the rules – and the exceptions – led me to deepen my experience with the language, specifically the vowels; which are frequently seen as the starting point, the building blocks for learning any language, and for good reason…
These vocallic syllables are anāhata, or unstruck.
As in, the tongue does not actually contact the mouth when pronouncing them.
And, these are the same life-affirming seed vowels (bīja) mantras, that make up the constantly rumbling, vibrating source of sacred sound.
These are the eternal unborn (“unstruck”), liberating  vibrations of Shakti.
When we practice movement (āsanaʼ) while chanting, these vowel sounds are sequentially placed in the body (nyāsa), a corresponding and related innovation of the Tantrik tradition.(read more about that here)
For me, learning Sanskrit and diving into sacred sound has been a game changer.
It is an academic project, a creative process, a constant journey
– and ultimately, an offering,
so that I can contribute to the badass, radiant brew we’re cooking up here in the Modern Yoga world.

 

So, I want to invite you to tell your story…
How does sound resonate for you, in your body, and,
        what aspects of that experience intuit more exploration?