Updated: Sep 6
I was in Arizona at the end of August for two weeks and during that time I got to discuss with some of my favorite people a few of the subjects, principles and ideas that have been hugely supportive to me on my journey.
I was paying a visit and homage to my old shala, a place I called home for 12 years and spent nearly half of that time cultivating my spiritual practices as a yogi and yoga teacher. Bridge the Gap Yoga in Chandler, AZ.
While I was there, I wanted to offer a mini-retreat experience for the tribe there so that these practitioners could receive some skills, tools and refinements that would support their ongoing practice, experimentation and spiritual exploration.
This looked like two days of practice and discussion.
In my experience, these deep dives are incredibly helpful (if not imperative) for the student's mind to remain sharp and for them to keep growing in their sadhana.
Simply taking a day, two, or a week out of our life to dedicate to spiritual practice (sadhana), spiritual discussion (satsang), and connected with people on a similar path as you (sangha) is very, very helpful for what is a never-ending deepening process of spirituality.
I was very grateful to come to Arizona and share some of what I've learned with my people here, and in this blog post I want to encapsulate and share some of the discussion with you all. This will be helpful if you attended, as review of the material, or it will serve as insight into the work that was done and that we often do on retreats.
Workshop Part I: Principles of Hatha Yoga: Asana, Vinyasa & Pranayama
In our first workshop, we had to identify and refine our understanding of the points that must be understood before we can move forward. The primary one, and most fundamental, is the often over-looked question -- what are we trying to achieve with spiritual practice? And the follow-up question -- how we will know that what we are doing is effective?
It is from these two questions -- WHAT are we doing and WHY.... and HOW is it supposed to work? From here, all the other questions arise and find their answers.
My workshops are not a place to come and have pre-existing narratives be confirmed. They are place to excavate patterns, to examine our WHY, and come up with better solutions moving forward. They can be an interactive and humbling experience... because it is through our openness and humility that real learning and growth can occur.
Basically, in order to progress on this path.... we need to know -- I mean, really know -- why the f*** we would even want to engage in any form of yogic technology in the first place such as asana, pranayama, etc.
So our workshop started here with these main questions and unpacked them over the course of two long, 12+ hour days.
What ended up unraveling over the course of these two days was pretty awesome.
By the end of the weekend, we had summarized the FIVE following main concepts or ideas:
Principles of Yoga:
1) The definition of yoga: the cessation of the fluctuating patterns of the mind (aka excess mental drama).
(Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah Yoga Sutra 1.2)
2) Yoga is both a STATE and a PROCESS (both the experience of ultimate harmony between the individual and life.... and the process of moving in the direction of that unified state).
3) Evolutionary activity is any movement that takes you away from stagnation and towards greater harmony. This is what is known as Kriya Yoga, which is comprised of three particular qualities: tapas (heat, discipline, or effort), svadhyaya (self-study), ishvara pranidhana (surrender to God).
(tapas svadhyaya ishvara pranidhana kriya yogah Yoga Sutra 2.1)
4) Repeating the past is called karma. Identifying where your "work" is and then doing it is a kriya (an evolutionary action).
5) Sadhana is the systematic application of methods and techniques which takes you beyond your perceived limitations (karmas) and towards the goal. ("Moving from point A to point B in our life requires TRANS-formation, not IN-FORMation.")
We also recorded two of our pranayama practices. Each practice consisted of a combination of three main kriya practices: Double Breathing Kriya, Bhastrika Kriya, and Kapalbhati Kriya. Keep this in mind if you choose to engage in these techniques. See the links here:
This post is merely an overview and summary to record and document our work. I find it valuable to keep track of what is being done. Having submitted my paperwork for the production of my first teacher training program (more info here), I am in a constant state of my own inquiry about how to refine our processes.
If you wish to share this space of refinement with me and the sangha, then there are opportunities to do so. Hopefully through these writings you get a sense for what we are about. This is not an attempt to scare any one away -- it is an attempt to strengthen those who really wish to keep doing this work. An immense amount of inner strength is required to walk the spiritual path. Here's to getting stronger.
With love and prana,
Grant T. Ifflander