Archive for May, 2020

Jane Munro’s Glass Float

Glass Float
A Book Review
by Leslie Hogya

A glass float used to hold Japanese fishing nets in the sea is fragile, but yet, not. Some make their way across the whole Pacific and land on our shores in British Columbia.

Glass Float is the appropriate title of the collection of poems recently published by Jane Munro. As we are living now without physical gathering and actual meetings, Jane held her book launch from her own living room to mine and many others a few days ago.

The image of a glass float from her poem stays with me. I am conscious of my breath, of making sure I practice pranayama daily. It is a time to be quiet and listen within. Of the glass float, Jane says, “…it’s handmade. Actually mouth made. Someone’s breath formed it and is inside it.”

This phrase strikes me and lands in my chest, at my heart. The breath of the glass blower is still held inside the glass ball.

In this time of physical distancing we are in, I seek support; the support of breath, of kind words from friends, of my asana practice, of reading inspiring words. I think of this glass float holding breath and holding me up.

In the book there are many references to yoga, to the members of the Iyengar family, to practice. In one poem called the “Scandal of Particularity,” Jane is preparing to go to the yoga hall in Pune with her clean handkerchief tucked into her shorts, and she says: “…looking forward to three hours of yoga practice, That’s the luxury here: in a hall with others, alone with your body and its memory. Time to make yourself visible to yourself. Stretch. Discover what you’ve got to work with, and work on.
Do what only you can do.” p.28

This message resounds with the messages we have been receiving from the writings in our recent Yog-e News articles, from Shirley Daventry French and Ann Kilbertus. We don’t have the comfort of others with whom to practice, but I can take out my own mat to make time for myself and work on only what I can do.

This is a book for all, that will especially appeal to yoga practitioners. We will have one in our library when we reopen, and probably for sale. In the meantime, it is available at Munro’s Bookstore.

Jane Munro is an award-winning poet, and former member of our yoga community here in Victoria. She had been one of our newsletter editors. Currently she lives in Vancouver.

Early Morning Musings

Early Morning Musings

For fifty years I have practised yoga: all over the world, in all kinds of weather. In spaces large and small: quiet and noisy, cluttered and uncluttered, clean and not so clean. For fifty years yoga has been a major resource for my body, mind and health. There is not one part of me that has not benefitted. I have many tales to tell arising from this experience. And so do you: each one of you who opened up a window of a time, chose a space, stood, sat or lay down on a mat and practised a few asanas!

Story telling can be a potent resource for any yoga student as long as we develop the understanding that our stories are myths created by our own minds for a variety of reasons. Who has not thought from time to time: did that actually happen or did I make it up? Listening to someone else’s story about an incident where you were also present did you wonder whose memory was faulty: yours or theirs! Our body, mind and senses all develop differently.

One of the benefits of learning in classes is that that you follow a prescribed series of asanas not chosen by yourself so there is a different pattern which can break through some of your defences. These defences use up a lot of energy, and energy is one of our most treasured resources.

One of the benefits of practising on your own is that you can begin to unravel the reasons for these seeming contradictions. In my early days in yoga a book came out which was not specifically a yoga book but very helpful to me in my yoga. It was called The Body has its Reasons by a Frenchwoman called Thérèse Bertherat. Sometimes you discover that the reasons for one of your limitations comes from an experience of many years ago, was helpful then but serves no useful purpose here and now today.

Another influential book of my early days was Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass. He made a suggestion which I followed for some time to post a couple of questions on your refrigerator as reminders to ask yourself frequently during the day: –
“Where am I? — and the answer is always “Here!”
“What time is it?” —and the answer is always “Now!”

Prompts and reminders are valuable. A good teacher will make use of such tools to bring your attention to something you are missing. And you will not always be grateful, particularly at that moment. Gratitude is another potent tool to be cultivated on the spiritual path along with opening your hips or lengthening your hamstrings.

The teaching may vary but truth does not. In all students there is a need for direction along with a need to find a good teacher who has walked further on this path than you and learn what they can teach you about making this journey. You will need to procure tools and develop skill in making use of them. And these tools need to be used or they will rust whilst your newly acquired skill atrophies! You will be clumsy at first but gradually become more adept with practice so you can discover the truth for yourself.

And what better way to end than with some encouragement from The Buddha:
There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth;
not going all the way, and not starting.

Shirley Daventry French

Stay in Touch with your Higher Self

Health is the state when the soul is given
the key of the body to roam at will.

– B.K.S. Iyengar

Health, of our loved ones, our self, our world! This is at the forefront of everyone’s mind in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even the deniers one reads about are caught up in these concerns.

Most of us are following the advice of our health officials, washing our hands frequently and social distancing or self-isolating. If you are reading this e-News you are acquainted with yoga in some way, more than likely in a class setting. Now, with the lockdown, the only classes available are virtual ones.
Coming up with a sorely needed vaccine is out of reach for the majority of us; we need to leave this to the scientists and researchers and be patient. Meanwhile in yoga we have a variety of tools available. One of these is personal practice. The value of this cannot be emphasised enough: but how many of you have established such a practice?

For a majority of yoga students today, their interest was awakened by taking classes. If their curiosity has been aroused they may start to delve deeper into the subject: the symbolism, tradition, purpose and meaning behind these weird postures they are learning. Possibly the teacher points them in this direction. Perhaps not. Both students and teachers can easily become attached to each other and attachments are contrary to authentic yoga practice.

One thing we are very confident about at the Iyengar Yoga Centre is that our teachers are well-trained and continue to study, practise and deepen their knowledge of yoga. Such accountability is essential if they wish to retain their accreditation. As a student of yoga the accountability is to your higher self, which is often simply spoken of as the Self.

In the first chapter of one of my most treasured books, God in All Worlds, an anthology of contemporary spiritual writing compiled by Lucinda Vardey, I came across the following statement by the psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl :

The concept of God need not necessarily be theistic. When I was fifteen years old or so I came up with a definition of God which, in my old age, I come back to more and more. I would call it an operational definition. It reads as follows: God is the partner of your most intimate soliloquies

This definition continues to work for me in my old age too, reinforced by my morning practices of asana, pranayama and dhyana (reflection).

I know I am going on and on about the importance of establishing a personal practice of yoga particularly during this pandemic, but I can truthfully say that a home practice is a means of defining your own purpose in life and staying in touch with your higher self—and it won’t do your health any harm either!

And when classes resume you will value them more than ever whilst sustaining your home practice!

Written in gratitude for my teachers who taught me the value of the practice of yoga,
Shirley Daventry French

NOTE: In the early days of the Centre a small group of members gathered together in one of our homes to help each other establish a practice. Gathering is definitely not in favour at present, but if you are practising on your own and questions arise, send them to Gary Wong gwong@sbd.ca.