Dec 15 2010

Family Yoga!

Willis Tant

There is a class at Jivamukti Yoga on Sundays at noon that is called Family Yoga.  It is intended to be for all people of all ages and can be shared by any and all family members.  The teachings are simple and useful, there is a sense of fun, and songs that help students easily learn the movements.

It is my favorite class that I have the honor of teaching.  I am often so touched by family togetherness that I am moved to tears.  There have been students who bring in their sisters who visit from out of town, there have been father-son moments, and grandparents and small children who delight us all.  But most regular has been one family, who, come almost every Sunday, because they make it THEIR Family time.  Their time to BE and grow together!  Their time to stretch, and breathe, and SEE each other.  Often they go on a picnic or to the beach or even to the grocery store together afterwards.  But for that one hour, every Sunday, they practice together.   I revel in their beauty every week. 

Last Sunday they were telling me how they invite other families to join them, how they spread the word because they have experienced such value from the practice together.  They inspire me and I am so grateful to their dedication and enthusiasm.  They humble me and are a living example of light.  So may this, my first blog, be a sincere offering to this family who has shown me so much love.  Thank you. 

And thank you for coming to practice yoga together in my presence so many times over.  We invite more Charleston yoga families to join us! And look forward to growing, being, and seeing you more often.

Apr 5 2010

Tied to a Post

Mark Knowles

Did you know that one of the definitions of  haṭhayoga हठ is “tied to a post”?   It always makes me smile when I hear people talking about how much they love  their calm, peaceful music, gentle, sleepy yoga classes.  What about “Gentle Yoga”, that’s an oxymoron!

According to Wikipedia:

Haṭhayoga हठयोग is a system of Yoga introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a sage of 15th century India, and compiler of the haṭhayogapradīpikā हठयोगप्रदीपिका.   In this treatise, Swatmarama introduces Haṭhayoga as preparatory stage of physical purification that the body practices for higher meditation. The āsanas and Prāṇāyāma in Rāja Yoga were what the Hindu Yogis used to physically train their body for long periods of meditation. This practice is called shatkarma.

The word Haṭhayoga is a compound of the words Ha and ṭha meaning sun and moon ( हकारः कीर्तितः सूर्यष्ठकारश्चंद्र उच्यते | सूर्यचंद्रमसोर्योगाद्धठयोग निगद्यते || ), referring to Prāṇa प्राण and Apāna अपान, and also to the principal nadis (energy channels) of the subtle body that must be fully operational to attain a state of dhyana or samādhi.  According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary, the word “Haṭha” means forceful. It is a strong practice done for purification. In other respects Haṭhayoga follows the same principles as the Rāja Yoga of Maharṣi Patañjali महर्षि पतञ्जलि including moral restraint yama यम and spiritual observances niyama नियम.  Haṭhayoga is what most people in the Western world associate with the word “Yoga” most commonly practiced for mental and physical health.  The word “ha” refers to the solar nadi (pingala) in the subtle body and “ṭha” the lunar nadi (ida). However, when the two components of the word are placed together, “haṭha” means “forceful”, implying that powerful work must be done to purify the body. Yoga means to yoke, or to join two things together, hence hatha yoga is meant to join together sun (masculine, active) energy with the moon (feminine, receptive) energy, thus producing balance and greater power in an individual.  The signs of success in hatha yoga are slenderness of the body, cheerful face, hearing mystical sound, bright eyes, sense of well-being, control over the bindu, increase in gastric fire and purification of the nadis.

The  Bhagavad Gītā भगवद् गीता as well as Maharṣi Patañjali महर्षि पतञ्जलि tell us that the practicing of āsana, prāṇāyāma, and the other four limbs of Haṭhayoga are not necessarily the best way to go about seeking enlightenment.  See “With Intensity of Spiritual Practice” posted earlier.  Yet, if we have chosen this path it makes sense to understand what is expected of us.


This word is frequently translated as conscious spiritual practice.  It is made up of two words: sad from siddh which means to reach, and dānaṁ to give.  So the true meaning of the word is to give oneself over to reaching.

This can seem strange when we think of yoga as stress relief.  What constitutes stress, where does it come from?  If we follow Maharṣi Patañjali’s Yoga sūtra 2.3 we have the answer:

avidyāsmitā rāga dveṣābhiniveśāḥ kleśāḥ ||3|| अविद्यास्मिता राग द्वेषाभिनिवेशाः क्लेशाः ॥३॥

avidyā-ignorance of the true self, asmitā-ego, rāga-attachment to that which is pleasureable, dveṣa-aversion to that which is uncomfortable, ābhiniveśāḥ- fear of death, these are the obstacles to yoga- kleśāḥ

The order in Sanskrit is important, one leads into the other.  Try it.  If I am ignorant of my Divine nature, then I think I’m perhaps a white, male yoga teacher, therefore I like things which support this pleasurable story I’ve created for myself.  So, of course I must not like things which challenge this incorrect view.  Once I’ve spent years creating and re-enforcing this initial avidyā and it has grown to gigantic proportions and more or less things are acceptable in my world I fear losing it all.  This scenario may repeat itself by the second, hour, minute, day, month, or year.  This continuous attempt at controlling the outcome of events is stress.  Sound familiar?  It’s at this point we usually have exhausted a good many efforts to CONTROL this stress.  We may find ourselves in a yoga class (YAY!!  Hopefully a Jivamukti Yoga Class!) as a last resort.

My Teacher śrī David Life said at a workshop I attended said “If you’ve made it to a yoga class, something in your life isn’t going the way you would like.”  This is important.  Many people think that their lives are perfectly under their control.  They will inevitably become angry at God if they don’t receive something they have pleaded for.  Even worse, they may become violent towards others who they mistakenly believe deprive them of something they feel deserving of.

Many people use alcohol and drugs, shopping and sex, food and exercise to TEMPORARILY relieve this stress.  It transports us away from the uncomfortable place.  Yet, as any addiction specialist will tell you (or any alcoholic for that matter!) when the distracting substance is used up, the feelings which drove the person towards them will return, sometimes hundredfold.  The person may even form a resistance to the substance, requiring even more to escape.

If we go to a yoga class to blow incense, wave candles and only engage in postures which stroke our ego, or that we have lulled ourselves into thinking they’re all we’re worthy of, we are missing out on a great benefit of yoga; the ability to change our perception of the world and our relationship to it.   However, it may be take a little effort.  Everything is initially uncomfortable, challenging maybe.  Your High school degree was challenging, your climb up the corporate ladder, your desire to become a Vegan may have been especially challenging (congratulations!).

This is why Maharṣi Patañjali tells us:


अभ्यास वैराग्याभ्यां तन्निरोधः

abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṁ tannirodhaḥ

Mental modifications are restrained by practice and non-attachment

Remember the order of YS 2.3?  If you cut the root of a plant all the growth above the cut dies.  If we practice this sūtra we cut very close to the root-ego, and this in turn will help us realize our divine nature.


स तु दीर्घ काल नैरन्तर्य सत्कारासेवितो दृढभूमिः

sa tu dīrgha kāla nairantarya satkārāsevito dṛḍhabhūmiḥ

Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness

To do be able to attend to the practice for a long period of time (at least 12 years) we have to remember to offer the practice each time.  Almost always the students who come religiously for a while and then give up have been expecting some sort of gain from yoga.  My Teacher śrī Jeffrey Cohen says “What can you do for Yoga, not what can Yoga do for you.”  Try this, next time you practice, take a variation (if the breath allows you to) but before you do, think of a being who may be experiencing a difficult time in their life.  Then, as you move through the posture notice how they are very similar to you in that you too are trying to overcome a challenge, that as soon as this one is over, another will come, and above all how YOU created this challenge.

We don’t have to do funky postures.  Sometimes just being present for each breath and offering every posture to the Divine is enough to make it a very demanding class.  Whether it’s Primary Series, Open Level Class, or Candlelight Waffle Yoga, you can turn each class into an opportunity to grow.  You can lean against your post , or beat yourself up with it.  Or untie yourself from it.

I humbly bow at the lotus feet of my great Teachers

ॐ शान्ति शान्ति शान्तिः

om śānti śānti śāntiḥ

Aug 13 2009

A warm welcome from Charleston Yogi!



Hello and welcome to!  We are so excited to introduce this resource to the Lowcountry yoga community, and are happy that you found us!  Are you ready to enhance your yoga lifestyle?

We both know how quickly those day planners can fill up, and how easy it can be to let your yoga regimine slip through the cracks.  That is why we created this site: to make finding the right yoga class at the right time as quick and easy as possible!

So go ahead–click around, see what we have to offer! Not only does Charleston Yogi unite all local studio schedules into one, but we are also here to educate!  We want you to know all about the latest yoga trends and don’t want you to miss out on any exciting yoga events this city has to offer.  And be sure to check back regularly, as we’ll be filling your brains with tips, secrets, recipes and stories  from our local health, fitness and yoga experts who will be blogging with us! 

New to yoga and nervous to give it a try? That’s okay!  We’re here to help!  Under “Yoga Basics” you’ll find everything you need to know to get started!  From descriptions of the different styles of yoga to what to bring to your first class…it’s all in there!  We’ve even included a list of studios that offer free community classes or a free class for first-timers.  By taking advantage of these opportunities, you can explore the Charleston yoga community and find the style of yoga that is right for you without a dime out of your pocket!

So whether you’re a regular yoga junkie, a newbie, or even just a health nut, this is the site for you!  A stronger, healthier and more peaceful you is just a click away!

Peace, love and yoga,

Kara and Megan