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September, 2008

The Loss of Sanskrit in Yoga – a modern spiritual tragedy

Ignorance, or in Sanskrit, avidya, is not bliss for the yogi. According to Maharishi Patanjali, it is the mother klesha, the principle hindrance to spiritual growth, and the root of all evils. It gives birth to the other four kleshas: asmita, or ego; raga, attachment; dvesha, aversion; and abhinivesha, the incessant clinging to life. … Replacing […]

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Olympic Yoga Competition – Is it too big a stretch?

I started to notice a buzz on several blogs about yoga competition as an Olympic sport a few weeks before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics. The familiar topic of asana competitions was also revived recently on the Rishiculture Yahoo Group that I belong to. From the discussions, it’s clear to me that […]

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Ganesha Chaturthi

September 3rd marks the celebratation of Ganesha Chaturthi, the birth of the famed elephant-headed God, Ganesha. Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva. Also called Ganapati, he is one of the most popular Gods in the Hindu pantheon. In fact, no matter what celebration or ceremony is taking place, Lord Ganesha must first and foremost be praised, which is why you will find the image and worship of Ganesha in nearly every home and at the commencement of every occasion in India.

About Ganesha
Lord Ganesha represents the call to spiritual power. Soon after his birth he acquired his famous elephant head when the god Saturn — symbol of obstacles, difficulties, and delays — came to salute the newborn child. Saturn’s powerful, fatal glance immediately reduced the head of the baby Ganesh to ashes. At once Vishnu, God of Love, set forth to look for another head and returned with the head of Indra’s elephant, Airavata. From then on Ganesha came to be called Vighnesa, which means “one who removes fear from the minds”, or more simply, the “remover of obstacles”, whose overriding purpose is to help worshippers surmount every difficulty.

Ganesha’s four arms stand for his immense power to help humanity. With the goad, a farm tool in one hand, he can strike and repel all obstacles. Along with removing obstacles, he can also put them in our way to prevent us from going down the wrong path. This is all part and parcel of Ganesha’s seat within the mental plane, where he organizes and clears the mind so that greater awareness may flow into it. It is this clarity of vision and understanding, bestowed by Lord Ganesha, which leads to success and abundance in life.

In any murti, or statue, Lord Ganesh has only one tusk; this is because he tore the other one off to scribe the great Indian epic, Mahabharata. Thus he is also considered a patron of literature.

Ganapati also teaches us that knowledge and dharma, our inherent duty and purpose in life, are of the utmost importance, even worth sacrificing pride and material possessions to attain.

The vahana, or vehicle, of Ganesha is a tiny mouse, which he is always shown upon. It is said that the contradiction between the heaviness of the elephant and the lightness of the mouse is an illustration of Ganesha’s role as one who brings about unity, balance and harmony.

It is fitting that Ganesha Chaturthi also occurs at a time of year which, for many, is a time of transition and change. We now begin to move from summer into the decline of the seasons. Children are off to school and we’re all moving from our active summer lifestyles back into work and a different daily routine. Ganesha Chaturthi signals the perfect time to embark upon new projects, to initiate new learning, to establish new relationships and to breathe new life into our current endeavours.

May Lord Ganesha remove obstacles, steer you onto the right path and guide you through this season to prosperity and success!

My Father, My Guru

My father’s physical body is nearing its end. Some might say that he is dying, but I see that he is evolving, that his spirit is simply outgrowing his body. Plato said, “Death is nothing more than a migration of the soul from this place to another.”

As I looked into my father’s eyes, a man who has given much of himself to others, a man who has been and continues to be greatly honored because of his gentle ways, I knew that he, a man who has never practiced asanas, has been practicing yoga his entire life.

My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease over ten years ago and now lives within the ending stages of it. During my most recent visit with him, he became my greatest yoga teacher. He was always graceful, leading a non-harming life to the best of his abilities. I can honestly say, anyone that has ever come into his presence leaves a better person.

A man once in control of his body, he no longer waltzes smoothly across the dance floor. Over years, his deliberate gentle steps on earth gradually grew to a shuffle. He went from using a cane, to a walker, and then a wheelchair. Now he is confined to a hospital bed. He lives at a constant forty-five degree angle to prevent pneumonia from hugging his lungs. Bit by bit, his physical body sheds parts of itself, like layers unraveling from an onion, but his mind is filled with true importance.

He embraces the disease with a quiet acceptance as his muscles continue to atrophy all around him, yet he still portrays utmost grace. He accepts the changes, what was given and what is taken and though there have been moments of aggravation and anger, he always returns to an infinite state of grace. He doesn’t coin it as such, but it’s a strong yoga practice, a state of grace that is reflective of the heart of yoga.

As I massaged his feet, his eyes closed, I heard him release AUM with each touch. He lives completely within the moment. As I kneaded my father beneath my hands, and needed him within my heart, I whispered, Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu, “may all beings be happy, peaceful and free from suffering.” I hugged him good-bye and all I could say was, “I love you. I’ll see you at home.”

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Yoga instructor raises $2,500 to fund cleft palate surgeries in India

Yoga Instructor John Calabria recently led a yoga class in Framingham, Massachusetts to benefit SmileTrain, a charity focused solely on providing free cleft palate surgeries in developing nations.

SmileTrain helps children who were born both disfigured and into poverty. In many cases, these children are unable to talk, eat properly, or even attend school. Hidden away, they suffer in silence and isolation. The modern-day medical miracle of cleft repair surgery costs an average of only $250 in these developing countries and gives a desperate child not just a new smile, but a new life.

Mystic Fitness owner Amy Karibian donated the use of her Framingham studio for the event. The initial goal of the fundraiser was to fill the yoga studio and raise $500, enough for two surgeries. The donations started to trickle, then poured in. In the end, a total of $2,500 was raised, enough to help ten children smile for the first time. Calabria’s SmileTrain

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