Friday, 13 December 2019

OMG, Check out The Sanskrit Channel on YouTube

Namaste Yogis and Yoginis, I hope you and your yoga practice are thriving!

I'd like to bring your attention today to a priceless Sanskrit resource available on YouTube, The Sanskrit Channel.  This channel features a huge selection of Sankrit texts and mantras, all excellently chanted, transliterated and translated.

This particular video features all of the Bhagavad Gita quotes in the Hindi movie OMG Oh My God which is available on Netflix.  

Grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy! 

Happy Sattvic Movie Saturday!

Monday, 28 October 2019

PAC 156, Fall 2019

Namaste, thank you for welcoming me into your class today!

Here is a review of the material we covered and some additional links you may find helpful.

Please feel free to share any questions or feedback you have with your instructor, or in the comments below.

First, a link to the Teacher/Student chant we began with.  The post includes a beautiful classical recording by the late Ravi Shankar.

And here is a full summary of today's guest lecture. 

It was a pleasure to meet you, best wishes on your yoga journey, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi!

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Free Diwali Gift from Sadhguru

Diwali is the Indian "Festival of Light", conveying prayers and blessings for clarity, brilliance and illumination. 

To celebrate, Sadhguru, the founder of Isha Foundation is offering his online "Inner Engineering" course for free only until October 29

Click here to learn more and to register.

Friday, 13 September 2019

For the Love of Marigolds

Photo of Atul Dubey by Ken Hermann
You all know how much I love marigold flowers!

For that reason alone, Danish artist Ken Hermann might just be my new favorite photographer.

His series of Flower Men portraits shot in Kolkata on the banks of the Hooghly River is so spellbinding I had to share it with you.

This video really brings Ken's inspiration and the fascinating city of Kolkata to life.

Also, be sure to check out his series of portraits titled Holy Men.

Ok, I have to go make a marigold mala now, enjoy!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

A Day at an Ashram, Sun Yoga Edmonton

A reading from the Sivananda Upanishad
Have you ever wondered what it's like to spend a day at a Sivananda Yoga Ashram?

Would you enjoy an opportunity to revisit your own retreat experience close to home?

Here is your chance!

I have so many fond memories of my times at Sivananda Ashrams around the world and as a fellow student with Sylvie in the Advanced Raja Yoga and Bhagavad Gita classes in the Bahamas.

I'm really looking forward to attending this unique event.  I'd love to share the experience with you!


Sunday, September 15, 2019, 9:00 am- 3:00 pm

Cost: $108 (Lunch, chai, and snacks are included)

THERE ARE ONLY 12 SPOTS for this unique workshop and it's ALMOST FULL!

Register Online to book your spot. It's only a week away!

This workshop is open to ALL LEVELS AND AGES. No prior yoga or meditation experience needed.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Namaste, 2019 Yoga Teacher Trainees at Yoga Within!

Marigolds, representing "Plasticity"
A heartfelt welcome to the new 2019/2020 class of Hatha Yoga Teacher Trainees at Yoga Within!

I wish you all the cheerfulness and flexibility you will need to navigate this lifelong journey of personal transformation.

I'm aware that in this age of prolific body-centered practice, studying the origin, history, and philosophy of yoga may seem a bit... extra.  

Yoga (or more precisely, the practice of yoga asanas) has become a global phenomenon and a multi-billion dollar industry.  Millions of people in Canada alone now participate in classes, workshops, and retreats.  Remarkably, the numbers keep growing.

While some think philosophy and history are irrelevant to yoga today or that philosophy is something "other people" think about, actually, There is no one who does not have a philosophy.  Learning about the origins and intentions of Classical Yoga can help us to identify and examine our own philosophy (and hypocrisy) in yoga and in life.

Knowing where the teachings come from, how they blended into modern culture, and how experts see them trending in the future can make you a more critical (I don't mean judgemental) and engaged student. It can also make you a more informed and professional Yoga Teacher.

Today's yoga teachers need to navigate issues of cultural and spiritual sensitivity.  They encounter students from many backgrounds and educational frameworks.  In order to address the wide range of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social issues students seek out yoga to address, it is essential to be aware of the "big picture".  Having as many tools in your box as possible allows you to excel when preparing and presenting yoga to individuals or groups and have a positive impact on your students and your community.

Many yoga teacher trainees are surprised to discover that this part of their education is not boring or dry.  It does not require a brilliant mind or running away to a cave.  Rather, it is a way to examine and articulate your own values and goals.  It allows you to engage with the purpose behind the practice.  It develops compassion and respect for the ideas and ideals of all Yogis and Yoginis, past, present, and future.

I hope to convey some of my enthusiasm and spark your curiosity about Yoga's original language, oral history, and works of world-literature as well as the fascinating cast of characters who have brought Yoga to Atha, or "this moment" which all of our previous experience, contemplation, education, and practice have prepared us for.

"And now the teaching on Yoga begins." P.Y.S. 1.1


Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Sivananda Bahamas and Hurricane Dorian

Beauty blossoms at the Sivananda Yoga Retreat, Bahamas
Astonishingly, the Sivananda Yoga Retreat on Paradise Island has been undamaged by Hurricane Dorian.  Click here for the update.

However, as you've seen on the news, the rest of the Bahamas didn't fare so well.

Swami Vishnudevananda and all of the Yoga Retreat members since, cherish their Bahamian neighbors, friends, and family. 

If you can, please donate or attend the fundraising concert with Tanya and Paul Hanna on September 13&14.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Sivananda Classes at Sun Yoga, Edmonton

Swami Sivananda watching Swami Vishnudevananda: Source
This summer I had the opportunity to sample the Sivananda style asana classes at Sun Yoga, Edmonton and for me, it was like coming home.

I was so grateful for the familiarity of the practice, the effectiveness of the asana sequence and the soothing voice and expertise of my instructor Manisha.

This fall there are lots of class times to choose from.  I warmly encourage you to visit this beautiful studio and try a class or workshop for yourself. 

Sanskrit at the University of Alberta

Part of the Maha Mantra in Sanskrit.
Over the 20+ years I've been teaching yoga, some aspects of the practice have become mainstream.  Others are still terribly hard to come by.  

If you're serious about learning Sanskrit in Edmonton, your time has come!  

This fall at the University of Alberta starting September 3, 2019, you can study Sanskrit with Dagmar Wujastyk, an Indologist with specialties in the History of Yoga and Ayurveda.

Classes will be held Tuesday-Friday from 10-10:50 am.  For more information online visit Beartracks or contact the Office of the Registrar.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Spring '19, University of Alberta

Sandstone Linga, Central India ca. 900 CE Image Source
Namaste, PAC 156!

Please click here for today's guest lecture notes on the Language and Literature of Yoga.

There are many aspects to the yogic path, including and beyond the postures.  Familiarity with the foundational texts and the original language of yoga can enrich your enjoyment of the practice immensely.

Best wishes for your continued curiosity about all things yoga!

Friday, 3 May 2019

Dixie Carter's Unworkout 2, Yoga for You

This is hands down, my favorite yoga video of all time! 

It was the first one I ever had and long, long ago when my VCR broke from so much use, I still clung to the tape for years hoping that somehow I'd be able to do it again someday...


Now thanks to the miracle of YouTube, here it is!  Dixie Carter's Unworkout 2, Yoga for You

A million thanks and blessings to my dear friend Susanne for spotting it.  I love you, Susi!!!

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Pandit Debasish Bhattacharya, Tonight in Edmonton

Debasish Bhattacharya, Image Source: Edmonton Journal
Edmonton's Raga Mala Society has been bringing the best of Indian music and dance to our local stage since 1983.

Tonight, Pandit Debasish Bhattacharya and Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri are expanding the scope of Indian classical music with their hypnotic, hybrid approach featuring original and centuries-old compositions and Bhattacharya's custom-designed trinity of slide guitars.

Tickets are available at the door for $20 each.

For more information on Panditji's pioneering style check out this article by Roger Levesque in the Edmonton Journal.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Edmonton Resilience Festival

In just a couple of weeks, The Edmonton Permaculture Guild is presenting a great big community gathering for people interested in exploring a sustainable, creative and promising future. 

This year's events include workshops, a local market, food trucks, celebrations, and volunteer opportunities.

If you would like to participate, visit their website for the schedule and contact information.

Iyengar: The Man, Yoga, and the Student's Journey

Demand.Film Canada is bringing another awesome yoga movie to our city!

Tuesday, May 28, 7pm at Cineplex Odeon South Edmonton Cinema, come see a screening of Iyengar: The Man, Yoga, and the Student's Journey

The way Demand.Film works, the show only screens if enough tickets are sold so please reserve your tickets well ahead of time so that we can all enjoy this experience together.  

See you there!

Andrew and the other kind folks at Demand.Film have created a special coupon code that gets us 10% off the ticket price! 

It can be used individually, so we can each purchase our own tickets. 

Please use coupon code "Tara10" to get the discount!

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Tribute to Yogi, Darcy Belanger

Image Source: Parvati Magazine
This morning many, many beings are gathered to pay tribute to Darcy Belanger.  Darcy was a popular member of my high school graduating class, a valued member of our local community and the beloved husband of my friend and fellow yoga teacher Amie.

Darcy was a Yogi in every sense.  He was an earnest seeker of truth, a thoughtful steward of the environment, a generous and kind companion, a dedicated humanitarian, and a cheerful friend.  He had a compassionate glow that knew no limits and inspired others to fulfill their personal potential.  The moment I heard of his passing, I was struck by the "gap in goodness" his absence leaves.

I would like to bring your attention to Parvati Magazine's April/May 2019 issue, titled "Courage", which is dedicated to Darcy and the work he did with the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS).

Also to the work of Amma, the "Hugging Mother", Darcy's guru, who has been inspiring, uplifting, and comforting people around the world with her loving embrace for decades.

Darcy, Noble Soul, may your passing through the in-between be fearless.  May you be as lovingly cherished in the afterlife as you are here on earth.  Om Trayambakam x 108.

Monday, 25 February 2019

PAC 156, Language and Literature of Yoga

Sanskrit Manuscript in Devanagari: Image Source
Namaste, thank you for the opportunity to join your class today!

Here are some notes and links you may find helpful.

The Language and Literature of Yoga

Kali's Kitchen, Sanskrit Page

Sanskrit is the primary classical language of India and the source language of Yoga.

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

Although it is no longer widely spoken on a daily basis, it is used as a ceremonial language and is present (at least sporadically) in the vocabulary of most modern yoga practices.

The beautiful script pictured above is known as Devanagari.

Transliteration vs. Translation

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

When using Sanskrit terms diacritical marks are necessary to indicate sounds which do not exist in English.  Unfortunately, they are inconsistently used in modern Yoga books and websites which can make pronouncing Sanskrit words difficult.

Translation is the act of converting the words of one language into the words of another to facilitate the comprehension of meaning.

In yoga, the original Sanskrit terms are often so nuanced, that it takes multiple words, sentences or even paragraphs in other languages to convey their connotation and intention.

Image Source: The Ten Avatars of Vishnu
Sanskrit in Modern English

English is a member of the Indo-European language family, one of several descendants of Sanskrit.

Many common words in English (jungle, pajama, avatar, suture, bandana, shampoo, cashmere, ganja, jugular etc.) are derived from Sanskrit.

Many Sanskrit terms specific to yoga are familiar to modern yogis in their original language through the names of postures, authors, and texts.

Because their meanings can be obscured in translation, the original terms (asana, ashram, guru, swami, karma, mantra, mandala etc.) have been adopted.

Hints for Pronouncing Sanskrit Words and Names

Here are a few basic tips for reading and pronouncing Sanskrit:

- Sanskrit is a phonetic language.  There are no silent letters, and each letter makes just one sound.

- The transliterated letter "a" is pronounced like "up" rather than "at".  If there is a horizontal line above the "a" (ā) it indicates a long "aa" sound. In the example, Saṃsāra, we see two short and one long vowel.

- There is a short "a" sound following each consonant unless modified by other vowel sounds as in the word yoga.

- Sanskrit features unaspirated and aspirated consonants ("b" vs. "bh" and "t" vs. "th" etc.).

- Sanskrit has no voiceless or voiced digraph "th" sound, as in "think" or "this".  Therefore the word "Hatha" (haṭha) is pronounced: "Ha-tha" ("hu" similar to "hut" + "tah" similar to "Utah", "t" with aspiration) as opposed to the common mispronunciation, "Ha" (as in hat) "tha" (as in thug).

- Transliterated "c" will always sound like English "ch" as in "church".  This "ch" sound may also be aspirated, sometimes indicated with an extra "c" or followed by "h".

- Sanskrit contains retroflex consonants produced with the tongue curled to the roof of the mouth.  Such sounds are absent in English and present a challenge for native English speakers.

- Long words are frequently compounds of two or more short words.  Knowing some words that appear frequently in yoga vocabularies such as asana meaning "posture", pada meaning foot", ardha meaning half and ananda meaning "bliss" will make it easier to understand and articulate longer words and names.

Image Source
Foundational Literature

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

Following are a few of the foundational texts of yoga.  There are others specific to the various paths of yoga, like Hatha Yoga, so please consider this short list to be an introduction.

The Foundational Texts of Yoga

The Vedas and Vedangas

Meaning "wisdom" or "knowledge", the Vedas are widely considered authoritative as representing 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 emphasized formal ritual and rites of passage like marriage, birth, and death.  They include peace prayers still chanted in yoga classes and ashrams today, and propitiations for promoting harmony and avoiding suffering.

The Vedangas are auxiliary Vedic disciplines including ritual instruction, astrology, linguistics, phonetics, and mudras important for maintaining the accuracy and aesthetics of oral recitation.

Teachings from the Upanishads: Image Source
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 stories, philosophical theory, ethics and virtues like satya and ahimsa.

Major themes include consciousnessbrahman, atman and maya, or the Source, the Self and the cosmic illusion that keeps us from seeing them as the same.

Of several "great statements" or mahavakyas , the one mentioned in class today was:

Aham Brahmasmi, loosely translated, "I and the Source are one and the same."

The Pavamana Mantra which we chanted at the end of class,  also featured in the song Navras in The Matrix Revolutions comes from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Arjuna and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: Image Source
The Bhagavad Gita

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

It highlights themes like Dharma (social duty and heroism), Yoga ("union" and the paths or practices that lead to the state of "unity", KarmaJnana, and Bhakti), and Moksha or liberation from suffering experienced on the "battlefield" of life.

Yoga and the attributes of one who practices yoga are described many times in the Gita.  

For the sake of simplicity, the key definition of yoga I have chosen to highlight from this text is:

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

Patanjali, Author of the Sutras: Image Source
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Written nearly 1600 years ago, Patanjali was the first to codify the teachings of yoga into a written format known as Sutras.

New evidence shows that the first and most authoritative commentary on The Yoga Sutras known as the Yoga Bhashya was likely written by Patanjali himself.  See 2016, New Light on Patanjali, in which Dominik Wujastyk, and Thomas Maas assert that the two works should more accurately be referred to together as the Patanjalayogashastra.

Patanjali's key definition of yoga is stated in the second line of the first chapter (PYS 1.2):

Yogaschittavrittinirodhah or "Yoga is the state in which the disturbed waves of the mind have been stopped."

In the second chapter, Patanjali outlines an "eight-limbed" path of practice to stop the disturbed mental waves, including external strategies (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara) and internal meditative experiences (dharana, dhyana, and samadhi).  This prescription is well known in modern yoga as Ashtanga or Raja Yoga.

Stories and Songs, Enhancing the Practice and Presentation of Yoga

Yoga was originally an oral tradition, passed live from person to person.  This method effectively kept the teachings dynamic and engaging for centuries.  Eventually, the teachings were preserved in a written form, but the living tradition or parampara is as important today as ever.

As such, art, dance, music and storytelling are widely employed as teaching tools for students of all ages.  Chanting, singing and other forms of sacred sound are employed to attract attention, maintain focus, reset dissonant physical and mental vibrations and uplift the individual and 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 other artistic expressions.

In Conclusion

Both the language and literature of yoga are accessible and relevant to the modern practitioner with a little effort and an open mind.

Modern yogis can access original manuscripts, translations, and commentaries as well as classes and videos on the foundational texts of yoga to gain knowledge and awareness of the roots, history, and practices of traditional yoga as well as yoga today.

Many source materials are available for free at Internet Archive.

Additional resources at the University of Alberta:

Yoga is an interdisciplinary study at the University of Alberta.

You can register for classes which examine the history, philosophy, religion, and language of yoga in various departments.  For more information contact South Asian Studies.

Trailer for Neil Dalal's film, "Gurukulam"

Thursday, 31 January 2019

The Lullaby of Queen Madalasa

Image Source and Selected Readings
Several years ago, I wrote this post about the beautiful teachings Yogini Queen Madalasa gave her infant sons when they cried.

In the cradle, she reminded them that they are not this body, this mind, and these emotions.  She taught them Atma Jnana or the Wisdom of the Higher Self.

When I heard this rendition of the song I was brought to tears and knew it was time for an update.

Sanskrit Song from the Markandeya Purana

Gabriella Burnel is a Sanskrit scholar and accomplished musician.  To learn more about her and to read the full story from the Markandeya Purana click here.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

PAC 156, Yoga and the Chakras

I'm honored to be a guest in your Yoga class today to introduce an asana practice which focuses on the pranamayakosha.

It is adapted from the "Yoga of Lady Niguma" which was taught to me directly by Geshe Michael Roach.  Through postures and meditation, we will concentrate on the movement of prana through the nadis and chakras.

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, there are 72 000 channels in the body through which life energy flows.  They intersect at hubs referred to as chakras, meaning "wheels".  These chakras are knots which prevent the rising of Kundalini.

Tibetan Buddhist practitioners of Yoga have their own unique interpretation of this system of subtle channels which you can read about herehere and here.

Geshe Michael describes the history of this series and the life of Lady Niguma here.

And teaches the first series in full here.

I hope you learn something today which is of help to you in your studies and in your daily life.

I look forward to seeing you next month for an Introduction to the Language and Literature of Yoga.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Goddesses of Creation at the Art Gallery of Alberta

She is devouring, ferocious, and awe-inspiring. She is nurturing, tender and benevolent. In Hinduism the Goddess (Shakti) enacts the cycle of creation as envisioned by the Gods Vishnu and Shiva. The Goddess is represented in various forms throughout the history of art in India, and in classical Sanskrit religious literature, like the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Recent scholarship asserts that many important characteristics of the female divine are derived from folk and oral traditions, as well as from aristocratic and literary ones. For example, the Goddess Kali can be seen to have roots in the fierce Goddesses of village traditions, and as such has been called by revered Hindu scholar A.K. Ramanujan a "Goddess of the Tooth". In contrast, he calls the benign and motherly Lakshmi and Bhudevi "Goddesses of the Breast." Featuring the return of the AGA’s 12th century Shiva Bhairava, the exhibition encourages the viewer to discover the multiplicity of forms and meanings in these images of the Goddess.

On Now:  December 1, 2018 – March 24, 2019
Thursday, January 10:  FREE Bharatanatyam Performance from 6-7 pm
Organized by the Art Gallery of Alberta. Curated by Elizabeth Herbert.