Monday, 20 June 2016

This is Perfect

The Isha Upanishad begins with a beautiful verse sometimes called the "Perfect Prayer":

Om Purnamadah Purnamidam
Purnat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya
Purnameva Vashishyate
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Purna may be translated as perfect, but also, whole, complete, infinite.

This is a beautiful sloka to chant when we feel gratitude for the synchronicities in life.  

Alternatively, it is also valuable in those moments when we feel our experiences are imbalanced or imperfect.

Here is a sweet and soothing rendition by Shantala.

And here is beautiful traditional version for those of you interested in learning to chant along:


It is an exceedingly rare event.  For most us, maybe even our parents, and certainly our children, it will only happen this once, here, in our lifetimes.

Tonight the full moon rises on the longest day of the year.

Here in Edmonton, the "longest day" is a whopping 17 hours, 2 minutes, and 47 seconds, nearly two hours longer than Toronto!

What am I drawing from this?  Besides the spectacular cosmic display, the long warm hours for wild rose petal picking, memories of treasured childhood books read late, late into the evening by the light of the setting sun...

Hatha, ha/tha, sun/moon, balance in the pairs of opposites.

And purna, fullness, wholeness, completeness.

Potent cosmic forces reflecting the potency of the prana in our own nadis or inner channels, and all the opposing and complementary qualities of our Selves.  Or perhaps more accurately, our microcosmic experience reflecting the macrocosm.

It seems to me, this is an opportunity for meditation on the universe and my place in it.  For contemplation regarding what "balance" means and how to achieve it.  For acknowledging that there is a time to every purpose.

I'm also recognizing that my experience of life is purna/full/complete/whole only when I acknowledge the value of both lightness and darkness, good and bad (whatever those mean), activity and stillness, and the divine timing that allows it all to "Turn! Turn! Turn!".

As you draw down the moon and bask in the sun today, what are you reflecting?  What are you reflecting on?  How do you embody union/yoga?

Friday, 17 June 2016

International Yoga Day 2016

June 21, 2016 marks the second International Day of Yoga!

All around the world yogis and yoginis will be participating in events that honor and celebrate this ancient practice.

Even if you can't attend a live event in your city, you can join in by doing your own Sadhana, or by checking out the Indian Government's Official Yoga Protocol.

You can even watch this statement from India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and share in the following practice:

How will you be celebrating International Yoga Day 2016?

Chant the Gayatri Mantra for Enlightenment

As the solar energy approaches its peak for the year, it's the perfect time to chant mantras that salute the radiance, warmth and brilliance of the Sun... and of our own highest Selves.

I've featured the Gayatri Mantra previously here, but it's time to share a few new links to keep you shining.

Listening to them will brighten your day, singing along will illuminate your intellect and uplift the world.  Try it and see for your Self!

The ideal times for chanting the Gayatri are dawn, noon and sunset.  For maximum benefit, chant 108 times, and when pressed for time, 3, 9 or 12 times with devotion.

I recommend the first link in the morning, when your mind is bright and uncluttered, the second in the mid-day to maintain energy and enthusiasm, and the Deva Premal version to soothe you to sleep.


Thursday, 2 June 2016

University of Alberta, PAC 156 Guest Lecture

Mahamantra written in Devanagari
This is a special post for the students of the University of Alberta PAC 156 class.

Welcome to Kali's Kitchen!

Thanks for having me in last Thursday to guest lecture on the Language and Literature of Yoga!

I hope you find these reminders and resources helpful in your studies, it was a joy meeting you!

The Language and Literature of Yoga

Sanskrit is the primary classical language of India, and the original language of Yoga.

The word Sanskrit means "perfected" or "refined" and has a rich tradition of creative, scientific, philosophical and religious texts.

Although it is no longer widely spoken on a daily basis, it is still used as a ceremonial language.

The beautiful script (pictured above) is known as Devanagari, or the "vehicle of the gods".

You can see and hear the individual letters pronounced here.
You can find a short glossary of 108 yoga terms defined here.

Transliteration Vs. Translation

Transliteration is transposing the sounds of one language into the script of another.  The use of standardized diacritical marks allows for accurate representation of sounds unique to a language.

Translation is converting the words of one language into the words of another to facilitate understanding of the meaning of words or phrases.

Sanskrit in Modern English

English is a member of the Indo-European language family, one of several great (great great...) granddaughters of Sanskrit.

Many words in English (jungle, pyjama, suture, jugular etc.) are borrowed or derived from Sanskrit.

Many Sanskrit terms specific to yoga are becoming well known in English through the names of postures, authors, teachers and gurus.  Because their meanings may become lost in translation, more and more often the original words are simply being adopted into our modern language.

Here is a list of English words of Sanskrit origin.

Hints for Pronouncing Sanskrit Words and Names

Here are a few tips for wrapping your tongue around long unfamiliar terms:

- transliterated letter "a" is pronounced "a" as in "around" rather than "a" as in "after"

- there is a short "a" sound behind each consonant unless modified by other vowels

- recognize the difference between unaspirated and aspirated consonants ("b" vs. "bh" etc.)

- Sanskrit has no "th" sound, as in "think" or "th" as in "this".  Therefore the word "Hatha"is pronounced "ha-tha" (aspirated "t" with a puff of air) rather than the common mispronunciation of "Ha" (as in hat) "tha" (as in thug).

- longer words are often compounds of shorter words, try breaking them down.

Here is a helpful guide which reiterates the tips above plus several we didn't have time for.

Foundational Literature

Foundational texts are works of world literature which achieve a certain status for their presentation of ideas representative of a culture or philosophy.

The Foundational Texts of Yoga

The Vedas

Meaning "wisdom" or "knowledge", the Vedas are the revelations of sages during deep meditation carefully preserved and considered to be the roots of Indian philosophy.

They are among the oldest sacred texts in the world, written approximately 1700-1100 BCE.

They were transmitted by oral tradition alone until around 1000 CE and emphasize formal ritual and rites of passage like marriage, birth and death.

They also introduce dana (compassion), karma (action and reaction), sacred dance and Ayurveda (sister sciences of yoga).

The Upanishads

Upanishad means “to sit at the feet” [of a guru]).

There were approximately 200 Upanishads written between 1000 BCE and 1500 CE including sections on philosophical theory and the practice of virtues like satya and ahimsa later elucidated in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

The main topics include consciousnessbrahman, atman and maya, or the Source, the Self and the illusion that keeps us from seeing them as the same.

Of the great statements or mahavakyas, in our class we focused on Aham Brahmasmi, or loosely translated, "The Self and the Divine are one and the same."

Arjuna and Krishna, the main characters in the Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita

Written approximately 400 BCE, this text is just one chapter of an epic poem called  The Mahahtarata, which I affectionately refer to as "the original soap opera".

It highlights themes like Dharma (duty and heroism), Yoga (and the paths of yoga, Karma, Jnana and Bhakti), and Moksha or liberation from suffering and the cycles of suffering or the "battlefields" of life.

The key definition of yoga in this text is:

Yoga karmasu kaushalam (Yoga is skill in action.) found in Chapter 2 verse 50.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Written approximately 2000 years ago, 200 BCE – 200 CE, Patanjali was the first to codify the teachings of yoga into a written format known as Sutras.

Patanjali's key definition of yoga is in the second line of the first chapter:

Yogaschittavrittinirodhah (Yoga is the stopping of the disturbed waves of the mind.)

He also outlines a strategic "eight-limbed" path of practice which moves from external practices (yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, pratyahara) to internal experiences (dharana, dhyana, and samadhi) known as Ashtanga or Raja Yoga.
Krishna playing his flute

Stories and Songs, Enhancing the Practice and Presentation of Yoga

Yoga is an oral tradition, traditionally passed from person to person.  This method keeps the teachings both alive and lively.

Storytelling is used widely as a teaching tool for students of all ages.

Music and sacred sound are often employed to attract the attention, maintain focus, reset dissonant physical and mental vibrations and uplift the environment.

You can enhance your own enjoyment of yoga, and in teaching make your lessons more motivating and memorable through the use of instruments and voice.

You can read more about my Shruti Box here.

In Conclusion

I hope that I have passed on to you some of the reverence and enthusiasm I feel for the roots and traditions of yoga.

Each person is unique, and different approaches are suitable for different students.  I wish you a lifetime of curiosity and exploration into the techniques of yoga that appeal most to you.

Please post your questions and comments, your feedback is precious.