Monday, January 30, 2012

And now, Yoga begins *. By Ana Paula Martinez

 by Ana Paula Martinez

It has been one month since I came back to Mexico, after the most magical and transforming trip of my life. The return has not been easy, as the changes in me are very profound. And it is interesting to see, once again, how we create our reality according to how much we let our mind participate. But there are many layers. As my yoga teacher Neera told me recently: Now the real Yoga begins.

It is not easy to describe the experience of a Yoga Teacher Training. I haven’t even understood yet how deep the inner transformation goes, and even more, how to manage to stay there while living in a society in which distractions are everywhere and darkness is present.

So when somebody asks me about my experience in the Yogi Nomad Teacher Training in Nepal, my feeling is that as hard as I try to explain it, my words will remain in a superficial level. It is like trying to describe what is impossible to say. In a Yoga Teacher Training we are exposed to a huge amount of information, which is hard to digest in such a short time; a very intense physical challenge; a deep exploration of the mind, going to indescribable places; and a strong energetic management that is hard to understand with our logic. In the Yogi Nomad teacher training, we also learn Thai Massage and Ayurveda. All these practices require absolute awareness, constant observing and discipline. Fortunately, the result from these six intensive weeks is equally positive in all levels: physical, mental, emotional and energetic. In terms of my yoga practice, I feel that it was greatly enriched. I learned that an advanced yoga level is proportionally related to the ability to be present and fully aware during the practice, instead of just being capable of doing complicated postures. I also realized that my practice is always different, it changes everyday, just like my body, and therefore, the experience of my yoga practice is always a new challenge.

 My trip to Nepal was not only to the Yoga Teacher Training, but it was extended to traveling around in this wonderful country, around this sacred land that has magic in the air. Moreover, I was able to see directly many of the matters studied during the course, in the Nepalese culture daily life.

Since the first day that I arrived to Kathmandu, I felt it. I knew that nothing would ever be the same after Nepal. And it isn’t. Describing this experience is not easy either. In this journey I witnessed the most evidently strong peace that I have ever felt as 

I was approaching to the Vajrayogini Temple in Sankhu and its mystery. I spent many hours 
observing life’s impermanence in the beautiful Pashupatinath, and was overwhelmed when I found myself in front of the Himalayas in Bandipur. I spent almost three weeks in Boudhanath, embracing the sense of ‘being home’ and feeling deeply grateful at every step I took in that beautiful place with such a powerful gravitational center.


Thanks to Shannon, a friend I met during the training, I spent one week painting a mural with the kids at an orphan school in Kathmandu, where I was deeply inspired by those beautiful little human beings.

This trip was not only to another country, to another culture, to the other side of the world, but it was also a journey inside myself. The Yogi Nomad team offered me this amazing opportunity through the Scholarship that they gave me,  and I will always be profoundly grateful with Gaby and Val for their generosity. Thanks to them, today I can tell this story.


Mexico, January 2012

* Athayoganusasanam, Patanjali Yoga Sutra I-1

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sail to places you never imagined! By Leah Levinton.

Recommendation to a friend
by Leah Levinton
Hi Elaine!

Very happy to hear from you! Thank you for your patience with my reply...holidays!

I hope you don't mind that I cc'd Val in this email, I just wanted her to know that I got in touch with you. I was in the same boat last year when I decided to sign up for Yogi-Nomad. The website was incredibly helpful because it's a huge leap to commit to a program that takes place across the world and having not spoken to a past participant or to the program directors.
To be honest, I didn't get in touch with anyone to find out more about the program, the thing that tipped my decision to attend Yogi-Nomad TTC was Gaby's goofy fish/kissy face on the website! (click People, then Teachers, under Gaby) I just got a strong feeling that this was where I needed to be.

The program was utterly transformational. Well, 6 weeks with a full schedule, constant learning and education, intense personal insight, physical and at times emotional demand -- transformation, in my opinion is inevitable. 

This is a special program. This TTC is different from others for many reasons; an obvious one being the additional two weeks they offer for free. (of course, you don't have to attend if your schedule doesn't allow, but I highly recommend it!!) During the first 4 weeks of the training, there was SO much information given that having two more weeks for extra practice hours to teach classes was when I actually began the process of assimilating and digesting what I had just learned. And not to mention learning THAI MASSAGE!! A beautiful complimentary healing modality to yoga!! 

Avril, Leah, Tara, Kayla and friends...
Spending 6 weeks with a small group of people is an amazing experience. You will always feel a deep connection to those people, even if you don't see any of them again after the training. It is also possible that you will experience emotional "ups and downs" during such an intense training. Val and Gaby are beautiful facilitators to help you process and grow from these moments, to truly develop as a human being and understand a deeper connection that we can have with ourselves, other people, and our surrounding environment.

The structure of the program is terrific. When I went, the hours were very long (start the day with 5:30 am meditation and finish around 7 or sometimes 8:30 pm). They did this so we had two days off which was nice because we could explore Nepal over the weekends. It was an opportunity to see how you responded to an intense schedule and it showed me that I am capable of much more than I thought I could handle! I'm not sure what the program outline will be like this year. Yogi-Nomad does a wonderful job incorporating all of the Yoga Alliance requirements for a 200-hr TTC. 

And not to mention NEPAL!! Last year's program was held in a facility that overlooked the Himalayas, so we gazed at breathtaking, marvelous and humbling mountains every single day. The people are so beautiful, spiritual and warm. (Their hello/goodbye/how are you/I see you/ greeting is Namaste!) Gaby and Val encourage exploration and have connections and tons of information about Nepal, so you can really see and feel the country for yourself.

I could probably go on for quite some time about this program, so let me end on this note: the Yogi-Nomad TTC, Gaby and Val literally changed my life. I absolutely HIGHLY encourage you to jump on this magnificent ship and sail to places you never imagined. Please email me as much as you'd like with more specific questions as they come to you. I'd love to be a support and connection. You shall have an amazing journey, you're already on it!

Leah, Mandy and more friends...
Love, light, sun, and cinnamon

Anchorage, Alaska
January 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Published by Elephant Journal: Some Like It Hot. By Gaby

Click here to view the article on Elephant Journal: Some Like It Hot. ~ Gaby Tezier
Here there was no performance, no fluorescent yoga mat, no Lululemon clothing, the class was free, everyone was smiling and lighthearted, no one complained.
Please like and comment (if you feel like) it will give us more chances to share...


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Are you a Nomad? By Gaby

At Yogi-nomad, we have been asked many time "Are you Nomads?" or "Do we need to be a nomad to join?" Beyond our travel habits and a life lived around the globe, we had to go back to the basic reason of why we call ourselves nomads.

Tuareg nomad, Sahara, 1986
Early 80's in the Sahara desert. My friend were tuaregs, people who have always been nomads. The only thing they would take when moving was a few goats and their camels. I remember a day when they were moving to another camp, they placed an old worn out  tarpaulin on the sand and everyone threw in their belongings. A couple of recycled food tins, an old plastic water container, a piece of iron bar to stir the fire, some old stuff that in the west would have gone to the dump field. They folded the tarpaulin and hanged it in a tree, they where ready to go.

It was a powerful and decisive moment in my life, these people who had so much to share, an incomparably generous hospitality, who were always joyful and ready to sit for a tea and a chat, were traveling across the desert with nothing more than what they were wearing that day. It was in stark contrast with the world I came from where summer traveller disappear behind the mountain size of their backpacks. Our luggages have become so heavy that almost all of them have wheels nowadays.

It was clear to me that it was fear that was making us travel with so much stuff. My tuareg friend were free. Free from fears. I then understood that being a nomad is an ideal: It is the ultimate expression of your trust that the universe will provide what is needed when it is needed. It is the full acceptation of “what is”, without useless resistance. It is moving with the flow of the Universe like my nomads friends were moving with seasons. It is the recognition of our belonging, total dependence and our need for union and harmony with the environment, both human and natural.

Ascetic and Nomad on the ghats, Varanasi, India, 2011

A few year later in India started my yogic journey. Yoga has long been associated with asceticism, a form of anti-materialism that reminded me of my desert friends. In between, 25 years have passed and consumerism and capitalism have spread to most of the world. All our major  challenges like climate change, corruption, overpopulation etc. find their roots in the choice we have made to consume and capitalize.

We have disrupted the balance. You need 2000 Cal to live a day but a 10 hours jet-flight will burn Cal, each passenger's share being the energetic equivalent to 4 year of food*... Capitalism can be easily summarized: invest little and expect large returns. Consumerism is similarly simple: buy, throw away and buy again. The first feeding the second and vice-versa.
(*Travel responsibly and offset your carbon emission )

This is the exact opposite of being a nomad, this is also the opposite of the yogic life ideal: take from the environment as little as possible, give and share as much as you can and do not worry for the return. My desert friend had taught me my first yoga lesson. This lesson was later expressed by the sanskrit term "aparigraha" (non-accumulating) the fifth of the yama, the ethics rules of self control. 

Aparigraha requires to have the capacity to discriminate (viveka) between what we need and what we want. Consumerism is making its best to fog your vision and make you believe your wants are in fact your needs. Capitalism fuel your fears and want to convince you that "material surplus" will keep trouble away. Being a nomad like being a yogi, signifies your non-attachment to the material world and its cohort of illusions, it is an anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist behavior.

There is a clear battle going on out-there between to world of the yogis and the consumerist world: a watered down version of Yoga is being turned into a consumer good. Expensive yoga mat and clothes, expensive training and classes, yoga "registered", "branded" and "copyrighted" styles. Check Google trends, Bikram Yoga, Hot Yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Anusara Yoga are leading the race. This neo-yoga is being turned into a multi million dollar business. The business world is trying to convince you that you need that next training, you must meet that famous teacher, you must go to that yoga conference etc. Videos on UTube, front page of Yoga Journal reproduce the perfect image of this new yoga, just like Vogue or Cosmopolitan fashioned our current world, and well trained consuming crowds follow the trend, a trend known as spiritual materialism. A vision of yoga we do not share. 

Beyond these political choices, I remember clearly my friends stoping five times a day and humbly prostrating, forehead in the sand, before the creator. They were muslims of course but they shared many values with the yogis I met later. Further than the material choices there is a deeper link between my early and later teachers: the recognition of the godly intrinsic value in each human, the spark of the divine burning in every heart. This is the treasure they bow to, what they really pay respect to as many time of day as possible.

Namaste: the divine in me bow to the divine in you.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Long pilgrimage, the wonderful story of the Sivapuri Baba. By Gaby

Before I introduce the Sivapuri Baba to those who do not yet know him, I will let his words speak for him:

The Baba at 121 years!
"God has sent Wisdom with you. Wisdom is your friend, your mother. Wisdom plays with Desire and by their unlawful contact they gave birth to Mind. This Mind marries a girl named Chapalata (restlessness) and by this he got the five senses. This Mind has got another wife too, whose name is Hope (expectations) and by this second wife he got two sons namely Anger and Greed. Thus a family is set up and they make a home to live in this body. This unlawful playing of Wisdom and Desire is Avidya (ignorance). And in course of time, as Mind experiences fears and anxieties through the five senses, he becomes much distracted or disturbed, and then turns back to his mother Wisdom and cries for help. Wisdom then comes and consult YOU, meaning Soul, who then tells her you should renounce your family and to remain in communion with YOU or Soul. This communion with Soul, is what we call Realization or Bodha"

From Budhanilkantha, Katmandu, one can walk to Shivapuri easily. At the top you can find the place where the Sivaprui Baba had his hut. The place is loaded with strong vibes, No wonder one would like to settle here for Sadhana. You can also visit his Samadhi in a small forest behind the airport and the golf-course a place called Dhruvasthali. Nothing really special here, just a profound calm and silence, something that quickly invades your meditation.

Born in 1826 in Kerala, he completed his education under his grand father and Guru tutelage. At the age of 18 he becomes Samnyasin and followed his grand father in the forest. After the death of his grandfather, he took the final vows and became Govindananda Bharati, only to return to the forest in complete solitude for the next 20 years. But he had made a promise to his gran father to accomplish a pilgrimage around the world after having reached Rtambhara Prajna or Absolute Realization of God. The pilgrimage was to last another 50 or so years traveling the world, mostly on foot, meeting Queen Victoria, Theodore Roosevelt and many other world leaders. He ended the pilgrimage by finally settling in Nepal, near Kathmandu on the Sivapuri peak, at the age of 100 year where he started to be known as the Sivapuri Baba. The author wrote the book after several interview with the Baba when he was far past 100 years. He died at the age of 137. His teaching are amazingly simple, it was the teaching of "Right Life" or Swadharma that the Baba emphasized most.

Baba-ji tree trunk hut, the large tree has now fallen
Nowadays, when modern self-titled-yogi flock on the beaches of Goa for a new age version of Yoga, you can still find in the Himalayan forest some traditional yogi (they don't call themselves yogi...). In the last month, I was lucky enough to meet "Baba-ji" (the terms just mean father but is used in respect) who has been in the forest for over 18 years, the first 5 living in a tree trunk, Baba-ji is 53, from Haryana (India) tall and really handsome, long haired and long bearded, we exchanged a few lines (in English, yes) then tea and I was invited for lunch. During our discussion we talk about self-inquiry and the nature of the human soul.

More recently I met another amazing soul in the person of a Swami who has lived in his Sivapuri forest hut for 22 years before starting building an ashram on the more accessible slope of Budhanilkantha. Swami-ji is 88 and has long white dreadlocks, his eyes are sparkling, his English his impeccable but he also speaks Bengali (he is from Bengal) Hindi, Nepali, Sanskrit, he is a musician, writer, philosopher, painter and let's stop here as I can already hear you ask, "But how do you learn all this staying alone in a forest?".

Both these saint men exude vitality, happiness, wit and by no means show their age as they are so active and fit. Many modern yogis under the comfortable excuse of following a "tantric" or an "integral" route are often critic of the renouncers. But meet Baba-ji or Swami-ji and you will start asking yourself who has renounced what? Materialism is the renouncement of Life they would probably tell you as the Hindu proverb goes "They who Live have all things, they who withhold have nothing".

Don't look for the truth in Goa or to Rishikesh, the self declared "Capital of Yoga", serious seekers come to the Himalayas and get the book:

"Long Pilgrimage, The Life and Teaching of Sri Govindanda Bharati known as the Shivapuri Baba" from John G. Bennett, ISBN 99946-956-7-3, really worth reading...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Samudra Manthan: The churning of the Milk Ocean. By Gaby

(a modern interpretation)
Dear yogis, you have probably heard the story of the churning of the milk ocean, one of the most famous story of the Puranas. If not let me recall here a summary:

The Devas (demi-god) made an alliance with the Asuras (demon) to jointly churn the Milk Ocean in search for Amritam, the nectar of immortality. They used mount Mandarachala as a churning rod and Vasuki, the king of serpent as the churning rope. But together with Amrita also emerged Halahala a poison so toxic that it could destroy all creation. Shiva was called and, out of compassion, kept the poison in his throat to protect the world form destruction (in the process Shiva’s throat turned blue hence one of his many name: Neela-Kantha, the blue throated God). When the heavenly nectar of immortality emerged, fierce battles ensued between Devas and Asuras for its possession.

I always loved this story, it had an incomprehensible appeal, something more real than its mythological exoticism. I could not stop to compare this ancient myth to a more recent story. Here is another summary:

Homo Sapiens have been digging the earth and the ocean floor to extract pockets of Sun (coal, oil, gas...). Two liters of oil provide energy equivalent to the work of a single bare-handed-man for a year. Today humans consume in a year the energy from oil alone, the equivalent of 400 years of their bare handed work. For example, we can now travel around the globe in a day, allowing us to live in a single lifetime what may have taken hundred of life time before the age of oil.

As a specie, this energy has allowed us to grow from a 2.5 billions in the 50’s (when oil digging really started to get serious) to 7 billions by the end of 2011 (almost 300%!). In a single year we extract from the earth energy captured during millions of years by millions of plants and this more than a hundred million years ago. During this recent period our life expectancy has doubled.
Doing in a life time what could have only been done in a thousand lifetime may not be “immortality” but it comes very close. I would dare to say that oil is our modern “Amrita”.

Further parallel with the myth: since the industrial exploitation of oil, there is hardly a conflict in the world which does not find its source in the dispute for its control. The demi-gods and the asuras are still fighting today.

So tell me where is Halahala?

A confluent of the Bishnumati Khola, Buddhanilkantha, Nepal
 All the toxic products derived from the oil industry, all the plastic bags polluting our rivers, our oceans, all the toxic chemical and pesticides killing animal life at a rate 1000 time the natural rate, the air pollution and acid rains destroying forests. All the carbon that we are returning to the atmosphere and that was once absorbed by the plants to make life on earth possible. Everywhere we can see destruction due to a model imposed by our dependance on oil.

Shall I go further? I think the Halahala of our modern time is for all to see.

In Kathmandu, Halahala is so obviously present that people wear mask for air pollution. In a city of around 1 million inhabitant still surrounded by a lot of nature, it is unusual. Kathmandu won the sad honor of the most polluted city in Asia in 2006, with 6 time more air pollution then the maximum healthy international standard. For the water, the picture above speaks for itself and Nepali specialist Govind P.S. Ghimire calls this a "major crisis" in his 1985 environmentalist report. Any one living in Kathmandu will tell you that it has only gone worse since. But other burdens are also very obvious, traffic has become hell and crossing the city at rush hour is a true challenge for such a small city.

Halahala is everywhere in Kathmandu, catching the city at the throat and asphyxiating it. What was once an exquisite urban mandala, built to honor the Divine Absolute and to respect cosmic harmony, is falling into the darkest pit of the Kali Yuga (The age of loss) in total disconnection with the environmental awareness that should sustain the city.

Back to our mythological story: Kathmandu protector God is Bhairav, a wrathfull form of Shiva. But the benevolent Lord Shiva must be busy somewhere else these days, and it seems we are missing the compassionate yogi who is ready to protect the world from destruction.

May be we need to do more penance and meditation to call him back to this place he once loved so much that he was hiding under the form of a deer in its surrounding forest (see previous post). 

For more information on yoga in Nepal:

Kathmandu, Nepal
January 1, 2012