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expand theme: growing our hearts in the face of disaster

heart quality: willingness

action: inner/outer spiral

purpose: chit

pinnacle: bound parsvkonasana/EPK prep

Honoured and excited to teach a more advanced class. It’s always great to come into Leena’s classes and work with her students because she has cultivated strong studentship. Easy to teach you because you and she have created such a strong foundation.

Because you are a more advanced class, I want to share with you the founding verse of Anusara as our theme today: Shaktinipata anusarena shisyo nugraham arhati Translation: By entering the current of Divine Shakti’s descent into the heart, the true disciple becomes capable of receiving Grace.

Divine Shakti = power

Descent into the heart = already happening

True disciple = openness, willingness

Capable of receiving Grace = recognizing the flow of the universe as grace, in all its myriad dark and difficult forms

Our work: enter the current that is already flowing into our hearts, willingness and openness to recognizing and dancing with grace of universe. This week we are faced with a difficult to reconcile event – earthquake in Japan. Hard to see how this can be “grace”. I feel helpless to even look at the newspaper because I know I will get emotional. I don’t know how to reconcile this kind of suffering. I’m not there yet in my understanding, in my experience. So what I want to offer is the opportunity to try this out. To test, to stretch into this idea that if we align with the flow that is mainlining into our hearts, if we have the willingness to look, to explore, then we will receive the grace, we will recognize it.

The closest thing that I can see as grace is that, when I open myself to difficult information about the world, I have an opportunity to grow my heart. It trembles, it shakes, it hurts, it threatens to close. But if I am aware of it, if I stay close to my practice, to my purpose, then it grows.

Centreing: Open to flow, current of breath. Always already there, waiting to be noticed. The breath flows into us, a current of power, of Shakti. Enter the current of your breath. Everything changes when we do this. Enter the current of your breath and watch your mindbody respond.


Downward dog

DD>fire hydrant>utt>tadasana

SN – SLL>parsvatonasana>half moon
SN – hip opener>triangle (top arm forward)>parsvakonasana
SN – full stretch > gentle twist > mod vasi (foot in front)

SN – silver surfer > parsvatonasana > half moon


Parsvakonasana with bind    *strap if needed

Child’s pose with active arms


EPK prep

pigeon *with thigh stretch if wanted
janu sir * back leg in virasana, reach under grab ankle
marichyasana * with strap



theme: honouring the shiva and ganesh in ourselves
heart qualities: creativity and determination
action: ME – muscle to bone, OE – focal point out
pinnacle: utthita hasta padangusthasana (standing leg = elephant leg, leg of determination. extended leg = dancer leg, leg of creativity)

Today I want to channel Shiva and Ganesh in our practice. You might have heard of them before. Shiva is one of “the big three”, he is the creator, the ground of everything, the all. He is often pictured dancing, in different poses. Ganesh is his son, he is an elephant headed god who is the remover of obstacles. Hindu deities are ways of personifying or imaging abstract qualities that exist in the world, in order to make them easier to relate to. It’s easier to relate to an image of a dancer than to the abstract quality of “creativity”. We see a dancer and experience that. It’s easier to relate to an image of an elephant than the abstract quality of “determination”. An elephant is such a strong image of that, moves forward, nothing gets in its way.

So when we invoke or honour Hindu deities in our practice what we are doing is invoking the qualities that they represent. The qualities in ourselves and others. So today we are going to call the qualities of creativity (Shiva) and determination (Ganesh) into our practice. And we can use the images of the dancer, of the elephant to make those qualities more concrete and real.

So as we practice we can think about what we might want to channel our determination and creativity towards. What would you like to happen for you in the coming months that you could use some help from Ganesh and Shiva? That you could channel your determination and creativity towards?


warmups – noodle arms/shakedown/shakti flings

SN – straight leg lunge, holy ham > starfish
-anjaney prep, full stretch > eel (arms and legs in line, lift up)
-three legged dog
-gentle twist into mod. vasi (foot on floor) > thigh stretch
-full stretch > half bow (thigh stretch lift up)


turn front rows back to face back rows, be steady and determined together, help each other balance, see creativity reflected in each of us

-baby natarajasana
-tree – focus on standing leg “elephant leg”

-uttitha hasta padangusthasana (three times, in stages)

  • prep = knee bent, hold outside of foot (or use strap)
    (determination in standing leg – GANESH, creativity in top leg – SHIVA)
  • straighten leg to front
  • knee bent, widen knee to side, play with straightening

navasana crunches
happy baby
supta padang/jathara pari


Refining Our Hearts

Samskara can mean many things, in this sense it means the process by which we refine something. Move from the grossest sense to its essence. Samskara is a methodical practice, like refining a diamond from coal.

Vikalpa means the way that we see the world.

Here he has applied Vikalpa Samskara to the loops! These secondary currents/refinements that enhance the UPAs.

Back body=inner transformation
Front body=outer manifestation
Initiate from back body, but don’t forget front body!

inner edge of foot=universal
outer edge of foot= individual

from Paul Muller Ortega, description of Vikalpa Samskara

“Vikalpa Samskara reveals the sequence of liberative attainments, of penetrations into the meaning of anything whatsoever, beginning with contracted, unclear and limited states of awareness and thought, it leads progressively and systematically toward the liberative attainment of both the most clear, expanded and refined levels of thought.”


kidney loop

  • puff kidneys up, top of sternum moves down toward belly
  • kidneys lift you forward to plank

thigh loop

  • tops of the thigh bones move back in space
  • firm DOWN the back of the hamstrings
  • lift forward through top of shin bones
  • quads reach up towards top of thigh bones
  • this resets the femur back, ending at the top of the thigh bones


pelvic loop

  • inhale back thigh up
  • tuck tailbone strong under front seat, like putting a stool under your butt
  • front belly lifts away from front thigh
  • pelvic loop has to move faster on that front leg


kidney loop

  • fingertips to wall, kick up
  • bring kidneys to wall, sternum lifts up towards ceiling


inner spiral/pelvic loop

  • lift back knee up, inner edge of leg widens out out out, outer hip of back leg rotates around to floor
  • lower knee, tuck tailbone, belly lifts off of front thigh


  • hips stay facing the side while heart spins up


  • press toes into mat (like reverse ‘lift and spread toes’ in tadasana)
  • look down at thighs, top of the thigh bones move back, tailbone lifts up to pubis
  • puff up kidneys, sacrum flows down, head of the arm bones back, heart forward, reach back


  • hands give active muscular energy to legs by drawing outer edges of feet down
  • organic energy reaches up through inner edges of feet, big toe mound

via leanna:

The top five tattvas, or principles of existence, are Shiva, Shakti, Iccha Shakti, Jnana Shakti, and Kriya Shakti.

Shiva is pure consciousness, it is like the sun, and Shakti is the creative power of that consciousness, it is like sunlight. They are the same but different aspects of the same.  In the top five tattvas there is Iccha- the will of the consciousness. It is will that comes before action- we have an idea before we can create. Jnana is the knowing of that will and Kriya is the action- a spontaneous action that has no condition or expectations- it is action for the sheer delight if it. In with all these five tattvas is a fine “trembling”. So from this pure consciousness it the trembling that causes the Iccha to wilfully pulsate from fullness to contract part of itself- it creates the screen of prismatic crystal unto which and into which all the possibilities of diversity and colour then manifest. Shiva/Shakti loses nothing of itself in the process- it stays completely unaffected in  the unmanifest.

Iccha, Jnana, Kriya, then become the aspects of the wheel- the shaktichakra.  The wheel starts with Kali- the Goddess of destruction. She is the consumer of time (kala being time and kali meaning the one who consumes time) she represents the blank state of your mind, no form or colour from which everything grows. She is the dark ground where the seed of the tree is planted. She represents Iccha. Saraswati represents Jnana, she is the deep order, the sequence that the growth follows- she is the tree that sprouts from the seed.  Finally at the apex of the wheel, at the height of the cycle before it moves downward again is Lakshimi, she is Kriya, the final action that is the fruit or flower of the tree- that which decays and falls to the ground, into the dark and back into Kali. Kali who seems to represent chaos, and darkness and destruction then is just part of the wheel- she is the ground upon which all ideas sprout. (I know Sjanie will love that….)

Via Jessica:

The top five Tattvas, or principles of nature, as outlined by the Tantrics are:

1. Shiva – the one energy, Consciousness, stable and unchanging, the vibration of potential:

Shiva is the masculine principle of stability, stillness, and that which never changes. Out of his own freedom, Shiva, often pictured dancing, chooses to take the forms of the universe just for the fun of it – to experience and revel in the goodness of existence.

In Anusara yoga we choose to see even our limitations as opportunities to experience our own divine nature. All parts of our being, including our physical body, our thoughts, our emotions, and even the aspects of ourselves that limit us, are actually this vital, divine energy revealing itself in ever-changing form, or

2. Shakti – the infinite expressions of the oneness, in all the infinite, ever-changing forms of the universe:

Shakti is the expression of that one spirit in the multiplicitous forms of the world, the feminine principle of freedom and all that changes and is in constant motion. Shiva can only be seen in some form, the forms we see all around us in the trees and the wind: always in movement.

Why does Shiva become Shakti? Why would such vast spirit take form in such limitated ways such as a tree or our breath? Because…

it wants to experience itself
it is free
it is playful

The challenge of Tantric yoga is in seeing Shiva within Shakti, and Shakti in Shiva: seeing oneness in diversity, and diversity in oneness; experiencing freedom within limitation, and limitation within freedom; playing in a serious way, and finding playfulness even in serious times.

And the next three, from which come the 3 A’s, are:

3. SadaShiva – “I am this,” or Iccha Shakti: Desire (Attitude):

The One takes on the limitations of form out of a deep longing to experience its own goodness. Our deepest intentions arise from this same desire to experience our own true nature- what is often referred to as our heart. When we start a day, a practice or a project from this deep intention, we have access to immense power.

If our fullness is hidden from us, it becomes desire for fullness (raga), bringing feelings of unworthiness (anava mala). When we open to the deepest desire that beats our heart and breathes our breath, this is Attitude.

4. Isvara – “This I am,” or Jnana Shakti: Knowledge (Alignment):

We can learn how to open to and support this current of energy within us, and give it expression in our bodies and our lives. When we believe we can’t know this, we get ignorance (avidya), where we make judgments based on difference, i.e. , “that object is separate from me” (mayiya mala). Even taking steps toward opening to the flow of universal energy within is Alignment.

5. Suddha-vidya – “I am this, this I am,” or Kriya Shakti: Action (Action):

As the great epic the Baghavada Gita advises, “Perform your obligatory duty, because action is indeed better than inaction.” Yoga is about taking action. When the power to act is hidden from us, we feel impotent (kala) and anxious (karma mala).

When rediscovered, we remember the immense possibility of even our subtlest action to affect the world in a positive way, and delight in even the smallest action as an expression of the highest good within ourselves.

Thus, from the tattvas come the 3 A’s: Attitude, Alignment, and Action. In Anusara yoga, we:

1. Remember our connectedness,

2. Align with the bigger energy that flows within us, and

3. Express our inherent goodness.

When I began to follow these steps, my poses transformed like magic. Soon, I realized life is simply a series of poses, and I began to notice this magic everywhere.

via Leanne:

We chose to focus on Spanda for this training but we still talk about all of them as we go along because they are qualities of something that is not just ever one thing. The reason pulsation, or Spanda, is so important is because the place between these pulses- the place of seemingly stillness- is the place of the middle. That place of the middle becomes a point, a “bindu”, and a gateway to the Absolute. It’s the pause at the top of the inhale and at the bottom of the exhale.

Everything pulsates – down to the smallest atom- and pulsation can’t happen without two things in contrast. (Think sun/moon, light/dark, and open/close.) How can you know light unless you have ever experienced dark? The pulsation arises from the dark and goes to the highest pinnacle of light, the apex, and from there slowly fades back into the dark to wait for the next pulse.  Spanda exists in the cycles of the day, the year in our own life. We are created, we reach the pinnacle of life and then we return to the dark.  Contrast increases our knowledge; it doesn’t have to be a seemingly negative thing. Diversity helps us understand our own world better. So even in diversity there is a place of the middle and around it from that core line everything expands out into ever increasing complexity. Think of a tree- from a trunk, to the major branches, to the smaller branches, to the leaves and then finally the flowers- ever expanding complexity all from the middle.

After the morning talk we went into a basic practice that worked on seemingly simple stuff but it was all down in a way to work with the Spanda, to start from the place of the middle.  Things like aligning your feet and your hands rather than going all the way to skull loop right off the bat. It made me feel better about how I teach because I seem to talk every class about choosing to align and how we even set our feet and our hands in a way that is full of desire to know ourselves better- to know the One in us. Maybe it really is just that simple.

After lunch and buying a new pair of yoga pants- left all my clean ones at home by mistake- we settled into an afternoon of deep discussion.  John launched into the second stanza which mentions the shaktichakra- wheel of Shakti. John described the wheel as literally the wheel of time, of climbing apex and dissolution. So when the Absolute manifests, time is the result of the Absolute becoming aware of succession: the passing of time. Therefore everything manifested has a sequence-how does that happen? How out of pure consciousness which has no limit, no time, any sequence- comes this deep order of nature?

6 Attributes of the Divine, the Absolute, Spirit, The One:

Chit:  the power of consciousness

Ananda:  the highest bliss and joy

Svatantrya: unlimited freedom

Purna : fullness- lacking nothing

Spanda: a stillness that is trembling

Shivaya/Shri: auspiciousness- goodness, absolute benevolence

2. The attributes of the Supreme (Shiva-Shakti) at its absolute, unbounded essence are: • Chit (Self-awareness/Supreme Consciousness) – Shiva • Ananda (Bliss/creative power) – Shakti • Goodness or Auspiciousness (Shri/Shiva) • Purnatva (fullness, which includes peace) • Svatantrya (ultimate freedom) • Spanda (pulsation/polarity of energies)

Todd explained the 6 attributes of our true nature (absolute nature):
1. chit: consciousness-universal energy is awake
2. ananda: pulses with joy
3. spanda: pulsation (dynamic energy pulses like your heart beat and breath)
4. purnatva: there are no missing parts (we are whole and perfect)
5. Svatantrya: unique freedom (we are free to choose)
6. shri: goodness, auspiciousness (divine beauty and life is constantly becoming better)

The Malas defined:

  • The malas are like impurities. The dust that covers the mirrors of our hearts. It creates confusion and suffering and yoga is then the means to clean the dust , the malas, away and allow the true heart to shine through.

From Amy: In this case mala being a “cloak” or a “veil” rather than mala like the bead.  These veils are like coverings which conceal our true nature, like a film that settles on the mirror of our hearts, obscuring clarity. Like a floor which collects dust bunnies, or tarnish on silver that dulls its shine, the malas collect on our consciousness.  Yet, the silver is still shiny underneath, the mirror at its essence is still reflective, and the floor can be “swiffered”.

Yoga is the swiffer for your heart.

Dust bunnies are going to accumulate just by the very nature of you being alive. Every time we forget how miraculous we actually are, more dust bunnies arrive. Life is just that way, we forget. And shit happens. We get hurt.

We say that the Malas are God-given, for every time we forget our greatness, we get to delight in re-remembering again. You are supposed to forget.  And each time you remember, you grow, you expand, you become even more of yourself.

Anava-mala: feeling of unworthiness, longing, insecurity, feeling of separateness, low self-esteem.

  • located in the heart
  • caused by cloaking of desire (iccha shakti)
  • If our fullness is hidden from us, it becomes desire for fullness (raga), bringing feelings of unworthiness (anava mala)
  • “Impurity of smallness; finitizing principle.” The individualizing veil of duality that enshrouds the soul. It is the source of finitude and ignorance, the most basic of the three bonds (anava, karma, maya) which temporarily limit the soul.”
  • When Iccha ( you also can use the term Sat) gets covered by Anava-mala then our sense of fullness becomes impure. We suddenly feel we are lacking; we feel fragmented.  The natural outcome of anava-mala is to then to increase the water element and increase Kapha which can cause depression.  When Anava-mala is then lifted by polishing the mirror through practice, we feel our natural state of Iccha which is peace. We are full again. From Leanne’s Blog
  • water
  • kalpha
  • when cleared> peace

Mayiya-mala: too much object, only seeing difference, inability to see unity, can’t reveal self/be vulnerable

  • located in the 3rd eye
  • We can learn how to open to and support this current of energy within us, and give it expression in our bodies and our lives. When we believe we can’t know this, we get ignorance (avidya), where we make judgments based on difference, i.e. , “that object is separate from me” (mayiya mala). Even taking steps toward opening to the flow of universal energy within is Alignment.
  • When Jnana ( you can also use Chit) gets covered by Mayiya-mala our sense of connectedness becomes impure. We see difference- we become prejudiced. Mayiya-mala is related to the fire element and when it increases then Pitta increases and we become angry. When Mayiya-mala is lifted we feel love. From Leanne’s Blog
  • fire
  • pitta
  • when cleared> love

Karma-mala: inability to take action, feel powerless

  • located in the pelvis
  • Caused by cloaking of kriya/action
  • When Kriya ( or Ananda) is covered by Karma-mala, then we lose the agency to act- we feel powerless. Kriya is related to Air and when it becomes out of balance then Vata is increased and we experience anxiety. When Karama-mala is lifted we feel joy.From Leanne’s Blog
  • As the great epic the Baghavada Gita advises, “Perform your obligatory duty, because action is indeed better than inaction.” Yoga is about taking action. When the power to act is hidden from us, we feel impotent (kala) and anxious (karma mala). When rediscovered, we remember the immense possibility of even our subtlest action to affect the world in a positive way, and delight in even the smallest action as an expression of the highest good within ourselves. From Jessica’s site
  • air
  • vata
  • when cleared> joy

The malas then in some way help move the spanda back and forth between these states of emotions. The yoga practice helps create longer periods in the higher vibrations of peace, love and joy but we all feel the negative emotions sometimes too. It is very natural. What is really amazing about tantra metaphysics is that they have a method to get from the lower, darker, vibrations to the higher ones. We don’t have to stay angry, we don’t have to stay depressed. We can learn to recognize that as part of the spanda and use techniques to help us get back to a more desirable plane of being. From Leanne’s Blog

anugraha shakti: (Sanskrit) “Graceful or favoring power.” Revealing grace. God Siva’s power of illumination, through which the soul is freed from the bonds of anava, karma and maya and ultimately attains liberation, moksha. Specifically, anugraha descends on the soul as shaktipata, the diksha (initiation) from a satguru. Anugraha is a key concept in Saiva Siddhanta. It comes when anava mala, the shell of finitude which surrounds the soul, reaches a state of ripeness, malaparipaka. See: anava, grace, Nataraja, shaktipata.

(See also: Anugraha shaktiHinduismBody Mind and Soul)

Grace is not only the force of illumination or revealment. It also includes Siva’s other four powers – creation, preservation, destruction and concealment – through which He provides the world of experience and limits the soul’s consciousness so that it may evolve.

“Grace is the revelatory power of spirit” – John Friend


Below is an excerpt from an interview between Krista Tippett (Host of “On Being” and Ms. Keshavarz a scholar on the beloved Sufi poet from the 13th century, Rumi.

In the “Song of the Reed,” Rumi reflects on the human spirit through the metaphor of the ancient reed flute or ney that is popular in Middle Eastern music. This poem opened the Masnavi, Rumi’s compendium of rhyming couplets that explored Sufi theology and the spiritual journey.

Ms. Keshavarz: [Reciting] Listen to the story told by the reed of being separated. Since I was cut from the reed bed, I have made this crying sound. Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say. Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back. At any gathering, I’m there, mingling and laughing and grieving — a friend to each, but few will hear the secrets hidden within the notes. No ears for that. Body flowing out of spirit, spirit out from body, no concealing that mixing. But it’s not given us to see, so the reed flute is fire, not wind. Leave that empty.

Ms. Tippett: There’s a theme that is part of that, that runs all the way through, about separation and longing as part of — well, not just the spiritual life, but being human, and also a kind of sense that the separation and the longing themselves are a kind of arrival.

Ms. Keshavarz: On one level, you have to get on the road. You have to get started. You know, just like the earth that, you know, have to plow the earth, you have to get moving. On another level, time and again, he reminds us that the destination is the journey itself. So there isn’t a point where you say, ‘OK, I’m here, I’ve reached, I’m done, I’m perfect. I don’t need to do anything anymore.’ In the incompleteness of that, the need to move forward is inherent in that incompleteness, in the process of going forward, that you make yourself better and better and you, in a way, never reach. So the separation is the powerful force that keeps you going. If you ever felt that, ‘I have arrived, I’ve reached, this is it,’ then you wouldn’t go any further.

Ms. Tippett: You know, and I think it is counterintuitive in our culture — not that we necessarily think this through very often, but we think of desires and longings as something that we need to find something to meet, right?

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, yes.

Ms. Tippett: And …

Ms. Keshavarz: And we want to meet it really fast and perfect. Yes.

Ms. Tippett: Yes, because, somehow, the feeling of longing and separation from whatever it is, especially if we don’t know what it is we want, that that is unsatisfying and there’s something wrong with that.

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes.

Ms. Tippett: And yet, what Rumi is saying is that, you know, the longing itself is redemptive and is progress, kind of.

Ms. Keshavarz: Yes, and the longing itself — and also not to understand exactly what that longing is in itself is very productive. I think one idea or major concept that the Sufi tradition and Rumi in particular have to contribute to our current culture is value in perplexity, the fact that not knowing is a source of learning, something that propels us forward into finding out. Longing, perplexity, these are all very valuable things. We want to unravel things and get answers and be done, but as far as he’s concerned, it’s a continual process. We can’t be done, and that’s good.