Octavio's Articles

The Unlikable Road to Freedom

by Octavio Salvado.

Imagine a yoga world where people automatically assumed that when you go to a ‘yoga’ class you will also practice meditation. Imagine a yoga world that taught classes without music, recognizing that silence and single pointedness of mind are the pre-requisite for the deeper inner experiences that yoga promises. Imagine a yoga world that valued tradition and ancient wisdom over innovation and creative sequencing. This is the yoga world that I dream of, and it is coming.

The new paradigm starts with us, the teachers. There is no point us complaining that students these days lack the desire to go deeper. If there is a lack of desire in students, then it is merely a reflection of something lacking in those that are sharing it.

Nowadays I feel that teachers are afraid to lose students, or disappoint them. We would prefer to be liked, followed and paid more than respected and as a result, we seek to entertain students rather than educate them. Class numbers and big followings do not make a great teacher. A great teacher, in my opinion, is forged in the fires of tradition, discipline, loyalty, obedience, failure and humility, shaped over decades of relentless study and practice… and scrubbing toilets.

We live in a yoga culture weakened by entitlement, impatience and a general dislike for hard, unsexy, behind the scenes work. If we can’t post about it, it doesn’t exist and it certainly doesn’t matter. Teachers want name and fame without realizing that there are no shortcuts in the yoga world. Peripheral, quick popularity is an illusion and an obstacle on the path to real progress as a teacher. If you’re a newer teacher, avoid it like the plague. The Masters of the tradition see everything and in the end, it is them pulling the strings from behind the veil and them pulling the rug out from under our feet when we get ahead of ourselves. Their timing is usually exquisite.

There is a wonderful term that addresses this, called ‘Adhikara’, often translated as ‘studentship’. However, the literal meaning is ‘the right to know’. It speaks to the idea that each of us earns the right to receive the teachings based on our own genuine dedication to practice and study. In truth, the age old axiom isn’t ‘when the student is ready, the teachings will appear’, more accurately, its when the student is prepared. In the end, only time, effort and reverence can properly prepare us to move beyond the periphery and share something truly meaningful as teachers.

Furthermore, this progression should be total. Its insufficient to merely evolve our practice and study and discount the importance of simultaneously evolving our relationships, our mental steadiness, our patience, our parenting, and our professional life. To truly earn the right to know and call ourselves yoga teachers, we must courageously seek out constant progress in all areas of life. Then and only then do we become more capable of receiving, assimilating and ultimately sharing the deeper and more profound practices and teachings of yoga.

Maturity, both on and off the mat takes time. I am very familiar with immaturity in both of these areas and believe me, it comes with a lot of karma, so don’t rush. Don’t be in a hurry to be somebody, or to be a visionary, develop a yoga style, or start a movement. If that is your destiny, then the Masters will organize it. Just keep on practicing, dedicate your whole self, your efforts and devotion in a straight, unwavering line along a singular path and don’t deviate from it. Earn your stripes over years and decades, not months and fearlessly commit to improving all dimensions of your life and being.

If we want to see changes in the yoga world and in our students, then as teachers we must be willing to make a stand and make the hard, unglamorous choices, sacrificing fun, insta-fame and numbers to do the right thing. Turn off the stereo and practice at home in silence. Meditate everyday without fail, regardless of whether you ’feel like it’. Remain grateful and open in the wake of one-star reviews. Teach a class of two students with as much passion as you’d teach a class of one hundred. Give zero shits about being popular. Relate to your yoga on the inside.

We all know what the right thing to do is. We just need to stand down from our pedestals and do it and trust that the tradition will support us and that the merits of our own hard-earned efforts will keep us afloat in the chaos that inevitably comes with regeneration and the glorious cycle of death and rebirth.

Ellen's Articles

Remembering Mantra

by Ellen Arthur.

Mantra is unique, as in, unlike anything else.. and I couldn’t think of a better way of describing the magic that is mantra, chanting and kirtan. All of these three definitions express different ways of using mantra in order to heal, inspire or awaken dormant energies within our very own bodies and mind.

For me, it all began in a modest little yoga shala, in Canggu, Bali years ago, where my teacher (Octavio) lead us through a mantra that would, unbeknownst to me at the time, change my life forever. That mantra was Om Asatoma. A peace mantra that takes us away from the false, illusion filled patterns of life and leads us toward our truth, moves us from the misunderstanding of our “darkness” and guides us to our light, and lastly transforms us from our fear of death and allows us to perceive ourselves as immortal, as beings who never die. Ultimately asking us to become the most embodied and empowered version of ourselves possible. To say that this Yoga Teacher Training changed my life is an understatement.

It took me at least a year to remember that time in Bali when I was exposed to Mantra, and once I remembered, I haven’t stopped chanting, sharing and singing since. I believe that the practice of mantra and self-discovery shows up when you need it the most, when you are ready for a transformative shift to take place. Be warned, that a committed mantra practice will, without a doubt revolutionise the way you perceive not only yourself, but the very world that you are a part of.
At that time, I wasn’t ready for my life to change, there were still a few weeds that needed to be removed and a few past experiences that needed to be revisited so that I could make peace with them. Hence why it took a solid year for me to recall the power of mantra, and specifically Om Asatoma. (Let me be clear, I still have a lot of weeds and overgrown terrain that I am constantly working on, but each day the garden of my life looks a little tidier and somewhat less chaotic.)

As a daily practice along with asana, mediation and pranayama, I would utilise the momentum (the momentum is the fact that these mantras have been used and chanted for thousands of years, in ceremonial practices, so that alone amplifies its impact and its magnetic pull) and the power of this mantra to help relieve my suffering, my ignorance and my self sabotage. After some time marinating in my own mantra practice, the need to share was overwhelming. I began to share mantra with my students in classes and also sharing through regular community kirtans.
Kirtan is typically accompanied with narrating or story telling and then chanting mantra melodically, usually in a call and response manner. I have been lucky enough to be able to see first hand the beauty and the reach of mantra. My students and community would often say to me that mantra feels familiar, like an old friend, even if you’re new to the practice. Technically as a species we have been singing, celebrating and purging our troubles through ceremony, dance and ritual since the beginning of time. So no wonder mantra feels nostalgic and sentimental.

Through Mantra in the Hindu and Buddhism traditions we chant to the gods, deities, figure heads and higher beings with the belief and the understanding that these Gods and Goddesses aren’t outside of ourselves. In fact they represent the very nature of our being, showcasing our vast array of human qualities and emotions. These qualities include, strength, will power, determination, compassion, unconditional love and having the courage to over come our many hurdles/obstacles/heartbreaks. Always changing and evolving, our nature can sometimes be loving and passive, and in some circumstances we need to be more assertive and direct. In these times of shift and transformation mantra can be used as a tool to keep our two feet firmly planted on the ground, to bind us to the infinite possibilities within the present moment. We were designed to awaken, to thrive and to understand that beyond the rollercoaster of everyday life and emotion, there is a part of ourselves that is calm and at peace. Mantra speaks to that very part of ourselves that is beyond form, religion, gender, political views and social construct. When we chant we are liberated, and the heart is directly pierced and touched ever so sweetly.
For me, it’s a real sense of relief knowing that there is mantra, and where there is mantra there is a deity to call upon in times of need. In these times of despair, mantra becomes an incredible ally. Over time and dedicated repetition, mantra helps guide us away from negativity or uncertainty and points us in the direction of rebuilding our inner reservoir of contentment that comes from self-fulfilment, not from an external source, but right within your own heart.

I can happily say that asana is a big part of my daily practice but it is through daily repetitions of the names, that has bought about the biggest transformations in my life. The commitment to a practice that enables me to connect to something bigger than “I”, bigger than “me” has given “me” great perspective on my life, my purpose and overall happiness. I see myself as a fully formed reflection of the divine… I am and you are perfect, nothing needs to be fixed or manipulated, we are enough exactly as we are. Asana (as incredible as it is) can only take us so far along this winding road that is the spiritual path. It wasn’t until mantra and sharing mantra through Kirtan – community Satsang – that my yoga/my life truly started to shine.

It has been through sitting in contemplating and reverie, and using mantra as the metaphorical gateway, that has offered me this beautiful uncovering of self and the constant discovery of how magnificent life truly is.


Octavio's Articles

It Was Never About The Bones

by Octavio Salvado.

When Ice Cube rapped “Better check yo-self before you wreck yo-self” he wasn’t speaking to modern Yogis, although he may as well have been. Because unless every traditional text on Hatha Yoga, including Swatmarama’s quintessential expose on the ancient science, the ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ are wrong, Yoga has never been about the body. It was never about the bones.

To begin with, bones don’t even exist. Not really. As soon as we take an electron microscope to a bone and dial in a few clicks, an intricate web of neatly ordered, vibrating, crystalline molecular strings appear. These, upon closer inspection transform into clusters of atoms sweeping back and forth, dancing in unison to a silent melody like a green ocean of grass blades in the wind. If we then zoom in again, the seemingly solid electrons dissolve revealing a vacuum of space supporting a tiny nucleus that upon even further magnification, similarly dissolves into what could best be described as an oscillating field of energy.

The reality is that bones definitely do not exist, at least not as we typically understand them, and neither does anything else. So why would an ancient culture spend thousands of years developing a science to study a non-reality? Exactly. They didn’t. The ancient Yogis understood that life is the intelligent dance of interlocking, pulsating fields of energy occupying the vast infinity of space, simply giving off the illusion of substance via the bonds created by resonant frequencies interacting with one another. They called this field the ‘Nāda’, the ocean of silent sounds. Meditative absorption into it, Swatmarama suggests, is the very purpose of Hatha Yoga. Not surprisingly, the chapter on Asana is way back in the beginning and the syllabus of postures is slim and primarily seated.

Asana certainly plays a role in Yoga, if and when its done well, which currently it isn’t. The great Yogi Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern postural Yoga, never intended for adults to practice Vinyasa the way it is taught today, as it runs counter to the fundamentals of Ayurveda and therefore, Yoga. There are exceptions of course. For example, if a student’s primary constitution is Kapha, or if they are in the Kapha years of their life (between birth and age twenty) or if a Kapha imbalance needs treating, then a dynamic, heating practice could be a beneficial strategy to address the inherent qualities of Kapha.

What’s frighteningly obvious today however, is that the integrated knowledge that truly empowers practice, such as the non-negotiable connection between Yoga and Ayurveda is not there. One glance across the sweaty sea of bright lycra reveals a distinct absence of the Kapha constitution. One or two (God bless their souls) will show up and do the honest work perfectly suited to them and the rest, being a mix of intense Pittas and up in the clouds Vatas will both suffer in different ways the wrath of heated rooms, perfuse sweating, loud music, lack of space between poses, competitive environments and unscientific sequencing. The result? A culture of Yogis burning through Ojas like cheap incense sticks. Yogis destroying their immune systems, disturbing their sleep cycles, destabilizing their digestion and sabotaging any real chance of ever achieving deep states of meditation. Instead, the coating covering the nerves keeps getting thinner and thinner until the 40 year-old Yogi’s personality reverts back to one of an over-reactive teenager. Yes, I said it. Sometimes Yoga can take us backwards.

The complimentary issue is that to an imbalanced system, an imbalanced practice will feel healthy, in the same way that a drink will feel relieving to an alcoholic, but just because it feels good it doesn’t mean its good for us. Raw food and our modern obsession with smoothie bowls are other examples of this insanity. Interestingly, these seemingly separate issues tend to show up in the same circles. Both go completely against the fundamental teachings that Yoga has been trying to get through our skulls for several millennia – that in order to thrive, we need inner fire. If we put cold, wet things into our digestive system, the digestive flame will fizzle out, lose its power to process and assimilate food and in many cases, completely extinguish. And to be clear, inner fire, Agni is not generated by turning up the thermostat or by increasing the intensity or complexity of practice.

Again, there are certain constitutions that manage raw food and cold, wet piles of pink and purple mud more efficiently, however generally speaking they suppress the digestive fire which, digestive issues aside and perhaps most importantly, results in a dimming of our mental fire. We become less able to process information, extract nourishment from our experiences and convert it into wisdom. We become less mentally bright.

Do the Traditional texts speak about lightening our intake of food? Yes, in terms of quantity, definitely they do. Existing on nuts and berries on the other hand only applies if we are forest-dwelling ascetics who have the liberty of sitting in ashrams and under banyan trees meditating for 12 hours a day. We are house-holders, mothers, fathers, business owners, students, life-livers and the reality is that to live an extraordinary life, we need the inner fire burning brightly. So check yo-self before you wreck yo-self because smoothie bowls ain’t good for your health, and for the most part neither are hot, sweaty practices, even if they feel good. As a superior yardstick for balance, check your immune system, check the genuine depth of your meditations, check your digestion, check your sleep patterns and check the way you show up in emotionally charged situations. These are the measures that matter.

Its time for Yoga to return to Yoga and ditch the addiction to feel good, flip your dog and flow Yoga. Sweat til you drop, twenty-day Yoga-shred Yoga. Tone your muscles and not your mind kinda Yoga. People ask, ‘Isn’t all Yoga, good Yoga?’ But this is the same as asking ‘isn’t all sex, good sex?’ And we all know the answer to that. Transcendental experiences, whether on the mat or in the bedroom require a serious slowing down, flavored with love, care, patience, presence and in my opinion, no soundtrack. If what we are seeking are the subtle, inner frequency-rivers of the Nāda that connect us to the electro-magnetic ocean comprising all things, then a human playlist becomes a deadweight, anchoring us to a mundane experience of an illusory, peripheral reality.

Yoga’s future depends on the past. A return Tradition, starting with balancing the food-body with a constitutionally sound diet that for the most part, you guessed it, will not include smoothie bowls. Supporting smart food choices will be intelligent Asana practices that don’t over-heat the body or agitate the mind. Practices with space, stillness, silence and slowness built into them, fleshed out with deep seated twists and folds, belly-down backbends and the occasional elbows thrown in the abdomen. Medicine for the modern mind. These are the game changers for the majority of modern Pitta and Vata dominant Yogis. Not hand-standing, not grand-standing, not hollow back anything. Asana is there to pave the way for Meditation by clearing energetic blockages that tend to coalesce in the area between the navel and the pelvic floor, again, the home of Agni, the abdominal fire. When the navel is free, the mind is free. Then we can we evolve the presently backwards moving Yoga dialogue to include the more advanced methods that pulse at the heart of the tradition.

Kriya Yoga and Raja Yoga are two such suggested methods that speak to Swatmarama’s opening verse regarding Yoga’s intended trajectory. The author begins with his praise to the original Yogi, Lord Shiva, who he then tells us instructed his wife, Parvatti in the teachings of Hatha Yoga, considered the ultimate stairway for those who wish to ascend to the highest state of Yoga, Meditation. Hatha Yoga, including Asana, Pranayama, Bandha and Mudra are merely a stairway guiding the mind towards absorption into the vibrating waves of the Nāda, the ocean of primordial sound-currents.

Kriya Yoga as a higher octave of Hatha Yoga, involves the consolidation of Hatha’s Prana-driven practices. It is considered the ideal form of Yoga for modern Yogis who genuinely aspire to advance towards the sublime heights of meditation. For Sattvic minds, namely those people who don’t have jobs, homes, families, partners, pets, parents and worldly lives to attend to, Raja Yoga is the suggested road. The Raja path is not for people like us. Our minds are too Rajasic, too busy, they are constantly moving because our lives are full of activities and responsibilities. Therefore, we must meet our minds where they’re at and skillfully guide consciousness towards the Nāda through the systematic manipulation of energy.

Kriya is a dynamic form of meditation designed for active minds. It appropriately opts to bypass working on the mind directly at the risk of splitting it open even further into duality and instead uses simple, accessible postures with inner visualizations and mantras to guide energy into the spine and upwards to awaken the latent areas of the brain. In doing so, through consistent effort, a refined sense of self arises and a corresponding expanded understanding of a non-solid reality.

Our constant obsessing over the body, putting the bones into increasingly more complicated shapes, shredding the body, sculpting it, flipping it, popping it and ignoring the subtle body is no longer serving us, or humanity. ‘Meditate. Meditate. Meditate’. This is the mantra of the future of Yoga. Same as it was in the beginning. The time has come to evolve the conversation and move beneath the periphery and beyond the shallows. The Masters are calling us from the deep and only in stillness will we hear their call. So pause, be still and listen, because in the silence, we truly can hear the entire universe.

Octavio and the team at The Practice deliver weekly Kriya and Nidra meditations on a Tuesday and Thursday at 3pm. Plus at The Practice Online you can get to experience Kriya and Yoga Nidra classes with Octavio and The Practice Teachers.

Octavio's Articles

Let Us Be Respectful and Intelligent Also

by Octavio Salvado.

Modern Yogis have been handed the keys to the kingdom and instead of using them to unlock the door to higher consciousness, we’ve made them into flimsy, plastic replica keys, fashion accessories. We’ve mass-produced them and attached them to strings of cheap mala-beads that will never see the light of real Sadhana. Some people say that all Yoga is good Yoga. I don’t hang out with those people.

When my beloved Sat Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda addressed the American crowds gathered to hear him speak in the 1920’s, his message was clear, “God is in your Spine. Yoga is the science of realizing this truth. Do not fail to take full advantage of what I am telling you.” Yet here we are, a century later and Yoga has been watered down so much that it is barely recognizable as the Royal path it once was. We have taken something sacred and precise and made it mundane and chaotic.

Imagine taking the traditional ceremonial practices of the Indigenous Australians and making sixty-minute fitness classes out them. THURSDAY NIGHT ‘HOT’ CORROBOREE PRACTICE or LEVEL 3 DREAMTIME CORE FLOW CLASS, with live DJ and a real-life didgeridoo player!

It would be a fucking outrage. A concept so outrageous and obviously inappropriate that undoubtedly every major newspaper countrywide would plaster it over their pages and without hesitation, rip it to pieces, and rightly so. Yet this is exactly what we have done. We have taken an ancient culture’s spiritual practices and transformed them into a trendy, commercially driven exercise cult. Yoga is about God. It always was and always will be.

It is estimated that 90% of human cultures have ritualized ways of achieving higher states of consciousness. A clear indication that innately we sense there is more to life than this depressing story of birth, going to school, getting a job, starting a family, old age, sickness and death. Deep inside we know there is more.

As a white Australian male from an agnostic white Australian family I was never taught rituals to help me connect with the divine part of myself, so like most kids, sensing I was being lied to at some fundamental level, I turned to drugs and alcohol to achieve altered states. The correct intention was there, but the correct means were not, so instead of switching on dormant areas of the brain, which is the intention of Yoga, I destroyed brain cells. Rather than increase serotonin levels, amplifying my motivation, inspiration and ability to deal with stress, I intoxicated myself and achieved the opposite.

This is my culture, well intended but method-poor. Somehow however, through fluke or divine providence, the scientific map of God-realization landed right in our laps. So, my friends let us not fail to take full advantage of this blessing. It is time we put aside misguided and disrespectful notions about Yoga and started taking the gift of this life a little more seriously.

Even from the vantage point of Darwinian evolution, the purpose of life is clear. The bodies of Earth-bound organisms are getting smaller, yet brain size seems to be increasing. We are not here to get fit, flexible and accrue followers. We are here for one reason, to evolve our consciousness.

The other side of the argument for re-routing Yoga’s current peripheral trajectory is more self-serving. As long as we are practicing Yoga as a body-based system, the results of our practice will never pierce the subtler layers of our being, make lasting changes to the state of our minds, let alone positively impact our destiny.

The Worldview that birthed these practices was a spiritual worldview, therefore, if our own personal way of seeing the world is not spiritually oriented, any positive affects will simply rise for a few brief moments before fading back into the ethers, lacking a resonant belief structure to bond with.

Practicing a spiritual discipline in a non-spiritual way is like trying to run new software on an outdated operating system. It won’t work. The old system won’t allow it. This is why many practitioners will be positively impacted by their Yoga in the immediate short term after a session, however at the first sign of post-practice conflict or confusion, be it an unfavorable text message or getting cut off in traffic, the old and well established belief programs will kick back in. The result is a short-circuiting of the newfound, short lived altered state.

Whether we look at things from the perspective of respecting an ancient culture’s spiritual practices or just maximizing our own returns, using Yoga as a fitness modality, or worse, a fashion accessory is not ok.

Not all Yoga is good Yoga. So let us be respectful, and for our own sake, intelligent also. Let us grow some spine for this science that enlivens our own.

Octavio's Articles

Be Ordinary and Do Great Things

by Octavio Salvado.

Surprisingly, of all the social media posts I’ve made over the last few years, these five simple words posted last week gained the most traction: NEVER DRESS LIKE A YOGI. For that reason, I thought it was a worthy subject to flesh out a little further.

I think about my two teachers. I consider both of them to be modern day masters of the ancient path of Hatha Yoga. If you were to see them walking down the street there is absolutely no way you could tell that they were advanced Yogis, because they wear their Yoga on the inside. If, however, you stopped them and looked into their eyes, then you would know. They have eyes like lightning, eyes that pierce the layers of mind and personality and penetrate straight to the soul. It’s simultaneously very confronting and profoundly liberating to be in their presence. They see everything and love you anyway.

So why aren’t these men dressed in robes, draped in malas and sporting fancy Indian names? The answer is simple; it comes back to the Yamas and Niyamas. Not those set out in Sage Patanjali’s Classical Yoga, but the Tantric Yamas and Niyamas, Hatha Yoga’s own ethical guidelines. These assist both in purifying the Yogi’s character so that only the best of their being gets vitalized and simultaneously they are a means of gaining insight into progress, a kind of map for living Yoga both on and off the mat.

Tantra does include the five Yamas and five Niyamas of classical Yoga, however it adds an additional handful into each category, such as Forgiveness, Compassion, Authenticity and perhaps the most pertinent addition to this conversation, Humility. What you may notice if you read back through those words (or better yet, feel into them) is a common theme – they all soften the ego.

Hatha Yoga is not like Classical Yoga. The orientation is entirely different. They are complimentary paths, however, they are not the same. Classical Yoga (Patanjali’s 8 limbs system) is a path of Insight, a way of coming to understand the nature of the mind and ultimately move beyond it. What is beyond the mind? The mind’s own source known to the ancients as Purusha, the changeless one, the one who is eternally at rest in the city of our body, our mind and our usually very busy lives.

Tantra, or Hatha Yoga on the other hand, is a path of Power. It sees the value, even necessity of a calm, steady mind (hence it includes the Yamas and Niyamas of the classical system), however the emphasis is on Prana, energy, also known as Shakti. Perhaps this already gives you some insight into why qualities such as humility and forgiveness are not just suggested, but considered fundamental requirements for advancing in practice.

Here is the reality; as we deepen our practice beyond the peripheral and preparatory modalities of Asana and Ujjayi and move towards the more transformative techniques of Hatha Yoga, we will begin to cultivate more power. The Tantric Yamas and Niyamas are there to keep the spiritual ego in check. They ensure that we never get to a point where we feel, or demonstrate, that we are special. Like my teachers told me (and continue to tell me, God bless them, whenever my own ego gets out of check), “Be humble enough to be like everyone else. Relate to your Yoga internally”. In other words, the only time anyone should know you’re a Yogi is when you’re practicing it.

This theme is reflected back to us in so many of the myths rooted in the Yoga tradition and perhaps nowhere more potently than in the story of the Yogi-Warrior Monkey God, Hanuman and the pivotal role he plays in the Ramayana. His power and humility are instrumental in the success of Lord Rama’s mission to rescue his Queen, Sita, after she is stolen away by the ten-headed demon, Ravana. Many consider Hanuman to be the true hero of the story. I would have to agree.

Like all myths, the Ramayana is a mirror into our own lives. Each character represents a unique aspect of our multifaceted mind. The separation of Sita and Rama is the separation of the self from the Self, lost in the forest of life, stolen away by our own ignorance and in the case, the ‘spiritual ego’, anthropomorphized by Ravana, a powerful Yogi in his own right. Hanuman, on the other hand, is the Yogi supreme. More loyal, devoted, courageous, capable, powerful and humble than any other character in the story, Hanuman is the invitation to show up in every single moment as the highest version of our self, minus any pomp or fuss.

His journey is our own journey deep into the heart of practice. When it’s time for him to stand up and show his worth, he summons his power, overcomes his fears, his demons and does what needs to be done, yet does so completely absent of any pride or ego, filled only with humility and devotion. This is what makes Hanuman impeccable; his ability to do great things and simultaneously remain completely ordinary. Hanuman shows us that the deeper we go into Yoga, the more ordinary we must become, as ordinary as a monkey, as relatable as the most common man and avoid at all costs, getting wrapped up in the story, wrapped up in the robes or changing our name to Swami.

Hanuman’s message is simple; get ordinary, simplify, stay humble and then, when it’s time leap, time to fight and overcome, when it’s time to step onto the mat, the meditation cushion, the uncomfortable conversation and practice our Yoga, give it everything you’ve got. Rise up against the darkness, rip open your chest and let the dual light-streams of courage and humility explode out, merge and consume every action, thought and word.

This is Hanuman as the Yogi. No one would know of his immense capacity if they saw him walking down the street, or swinging in a tree, because his Yoga is inside of him, its his personal quest. Yoga then, more than anything is our own private bridge between the mundane world and the spiritual. It speaks to our relationship between the Sita and Rama within, our self and our own Source and no one other than us needs to know what goes on in that world.

So, back to the point, ‘NEVER DRESS LIKE A YOGI’ is another way of saying ‘beware of the pitfalls of practice’. It’s not necessarily about no longer wearing mala beads or white dhotis. It’s more about checking our motivation for doing things (and in this case, wearing things), because as we increase our personal power the ego will seek out new and fascinating ways to express itself, outwardly.

This is the reason for Tantra’s addition to the Yamas and Niyamas. This is why my teachers just look like regular dads. This is the reflection offered to us by Lord Hanuman; just do the inner work, for you. Lean into humility, lean in ordinariness, lean into ‘I’m not special’, then let the light of your own truth shine out of your eyes and be done with it.

Octavio's Articles

The Marvels of Meditation

by Octavio Salvado.

As published in Yoga Journal Australia Meditation Special Edition (July).

Our current paradigm of yoga is keeping us stuck.

As yoga has become popular in the West the mistaken idea that yoga and asana are one and the same has become widespread. For as long as we believe this to be true we will remain stuck practicing in ways that lack transformative power; stuck in cognitive and behavioural patterns that no longer serve us and, as a result, remain stuck in lives, jobs and relationships that do not serve our highest potential.

It’s time to move on. Asana alone is not enough to evolve our consciousness. While great for clearing blockages within our gross body and subtle energetic networks (blockages that may have been created through past choices and actions), if we genuinely want to commit to a practice that will shape our future and ultimately our destiny, the master key is not asana; it’s meditation.

Think of asana as the opening to a grander and ultimately more interesting conversation about yoga and life; that is, as an introduction to humanity’s ultimate guidebook to a life well lived. If this is the case, the question begs, why are so few yogis turning the page? Is it because we’re afraid? Or because the structure of the yoga industry is such, that our teachers lack the depth of training and personal practice to lead us boldly into the depths of our consciousness?

Tell the average Hindu in India that you’re a yoga teacher and they will assume you teach meditation. Being an asana teacher and a yoga teacher are not the same thing. The world has thousands of asana teachers but few yoga teachers. Let’s face it, as a teacher, it can take courage to portion out ten minutes of a 60 minute class to lead students in a practice of stillness. Yet, without meditation, yoga is little more than exercise.

For the most part, modern asana sequencing is not consistent in its cultivation of a calm and stable mind. To clarify, being exhausted at the end of practice and being stable and calm at the end of a practice, are not the same thing. Did you know, for example, that asana categories (of which there are six – forward folds, twists, laterals, backbends, extensions and inversions) are not designed to be merged (except under specific circumstances in advanced asana practices). Why? Because each pose category has a unique affect our pranic landscape and, through this, a unique effect on our psychology. We cannot condition one without conditioning the other. To mix pose categories without proper understanding of their pranic impact will actually keep the mind stuck in, or perhaps even amplify, existing patterns of agitation. Health benefits aside, asana’s primary purpose is actually to leverage prana so we can then use prana to leverage the mind.

Asana. Pranayama. Meditation. In that order. It has been laid out this way in texts for thousands of years. It’s time for teachers to honor the privilege of teaching the ancient science of yoga by being courageous in our willingness to move against the grain of popular practice. A grain which does not currently serve the highest potential of practitioners. Its time for asana teachers to become yoga teachers. The tradition deserves that and so do our students.

From the yogic perspective, meditation can be broken into three progressive stages. The first stage, Dharana is the development of concentration power by training the mind to move beyond a distracted state. If we are unable to focus our minds for an extended period of time we will end up spending long times sitting on the floor daydreaming without ever really approaching a meditative state. In Dharana, a specific object of meditation is chosen as a point of focus, however, at this point the object is less important than the development of concentration itself.

In the second stage, the thinking mind stops fluctuating and awareness begins to flow in a single, effortless stream. The intellect falls away and pure presence arises. Dhyana is the name given to this phase. It signifies that a line of energetic transference has opened up between mediator and object. Yoga (and now quantum science) takes the view that beneath the illusory sheath of matter everything is made up of one unified energy field. We live in a world of spinning electrons and sub-atomic particles that appear as solid, separate forms yet in truth are simply unique energy flows within this unified field. Both the science of yoga and the science of quantum physics suggest that this field can be manipulated with the mind. As such, through successful single-pointed concentration, the qualities inherent in our object of meditation will begin to impart or transfer themselves to us and that is why here, with the practice of Dhyana, the object becomes more significant.

Over time, whatever we merge our minds with we will become more like. Concentrating on negative concepts like disease (or fear of disease), for example, will manifest a like-vibration in the body, whereas meditating on the Gayatri mantra, an ancient ode to the pure essence of light (which has a much higher vibrational frequency) will cause our own vibration to raise. The choice is ours. And choose we must, because we are always choosing, if not consciously then via our subconscious patterning.
If we are diligent with our meditation practice and show up daily (regardless of whether we feel like it or not), we will arrive at a point where the qualities of our meditation object will endure within us and continue to transform us even after our meditation session has ended. Through repetition, the mind gradually becomes like that which we are meditating on and we will begin to see and experience the world through this new lens of perception.

Mantra is considered the most potent of all concentration tools. Other tools can yield the sweet nectar of meditative absorption but mantra, because of its vibratory nature, is honored as a fast track into the infinite ocean of electro-magnetic energy known to the ancients as Akasha, a hidden world of inaudible sounds and unseen lights just outside the reach of our flesh-born ears and eyes.

The full flowering of meditation takes place in the final stage of meditation, Samadhi, the highest state of perception and mental clarity resulting from the complete merging of the mind with its object of meditation until any personal sense of ‘I’ is obliterated. Once in Samadhi any comprehension of self as separate from the world disintegrates. We are no longer our name or the roles we play. We are no longer sitting in a room waiting for the sun to rise. We are simply ‘existence’; we are pulsing awareness in a sea of infinite energy.

As practice progresses, the moments we spend in this ‘time beyond time’ begin to extend and by consistently touching this place, where a limitless truth beyond the confines of our human identity exists, we start to recalibrate our future. Each day we practice, the vibrational legacy of our meditation deepens and starts to influence the choices we make. We begin to make choices from a place of embodied wisdom, knowing that beneath that which we can see with our eyes, we are all connected. We are united within the one-song of the uni-verse.

Meditation is the master key to forging a new destiny. There is no way more effective to re-groove the mind, to learn how to show up in the world or how to see it in a brand new way. Think of meditation as being the deep root from which the tree of your practice grows and at the same time, the sweetest fruit born of that healthy tree.

Start where you are. Plant the seeds of self-effort today and let the rest of your practice, over time, lead you higher into the clear blue sky of meditative silence because there, beyond the limits of the mind, in that place of pure connection, you will come to understand your sacred reasons for coming here.

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Why Meditate?

by Octavio Salvado

Namaste Yogis,

The time is now.

Out of necessity, the time has come for us to stop kidding ourselves that practicing Asana alone is sufficient in regards to evolving our consciousness and lives. It isn’t. Asana has value when it comes to clearing old energy accumulated through past choices, however when it comes to shaping our future and ultimately our destiny, Meditation is the Master Key.

Why Meditation? Very good question.

We will explore the answer to it in this video-blog, along with what the Yoga tradition considers to be the number one tool for Meditation.

Hope you enjoy.

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I Meditate On The Fire

by Octavio Salvado.

The opening words of the world’s oldest existing spiritual text are: “I meditate on the fire.” The Rig Veda dates back approximately 4500 years comprising channeled hymns received and recited by the ancient Seers in deep states of meditation. The access point for those deep, spiritual states was through a doorway – a doorway of fire.

We have been extremely blessed this past weekend, hosting Sri Rajasekaran and his son, Selvaganesan, two deekshitar priests from the Sri Nataraja Shiva temple in Chidambaram, South India who have been at The Practice sharing traditional Vedic knowledge through Agni Hotra (fire ceremony) and Mantra chanting. A ‘deekshitar’ is a hereditary priest, meaning that Sri Rajasekaran and Selva’s family have been tending the fires at India’s largest Shiva Nataraja temple since its time of origin over a thousand years ago.

In the spirit of keeping the tradition of Yoga alive in the modern world, it has been a great honor to host them at the Practice. This intention of maintaining authentic ties to lineage-based Yoga runs through the very center of The Practice and all that we stand for.

Yes, we are on a mission to keep the sacred torches of ancient times burning and yes, for now at least, we are perhaps a school of fired-eyed fish swimming against the collective current. That is ok, because we also believe that the tides are changing and that people are now beginning to tire of the body-based, call-anything-yoga culture that has all but drowned out the very thing giving Yoga its foundational integrity and potency.

One of the things I’m often asked about is the relationship between traditional Vedic Yoga involving fire worship and mantra, and what we practice today on the mat. The answer is a surprising one, as although it may look like modern Yoga has little semblance to the fire ceremonies and Yoga of old, in actuality, when practiced correctly they mirror one another perfectly.

What the ancients found is that the elements and energies that comprise nature and the universe are also the elements and energies that make up our own being. The macro mirrors the micro. If you can worship an external fire then you can worship an internal one, if that is, you know where to find it, how to activate it and most importantly, how to respectfully and devotionally honor it.

The essence of ‘practice as fire worship’ has largely been incinerated in modern times, usurped by the misguided desire to cultivate a peripheral, body-based heat. One of my teachers always says “Think about it, if Yoga – the science of awakening was about sweating and working out, wouldn’t every aerobics instructor be enlightened?” That is the current thinking of the majority – that the value of practice can be measured in sweat and external effort and complexity. Yet this approach to practice is moving us away from stillness and therefore away from sacredness.

Fire, both the inner and outer represent the height of sacredness. The Vedas go on to say, “I meditate on the fire, which allows me experience all of life as sacred. Here, within this sacred moment, I am both the ceremony itself and the priest dispensing the sacredness”. These sublime words resound from deep within the heart of the traditional Tantric Hatha Yoga path that states that through our own devotion and deep desire to reconnect with Source, we can become the priest through the ceremony of practice and systematically dispense the sacredness internally.

Yes, there is a system. The priest doesn’t carelessly throw the wood into the ‘Kund’ (fire-pit) or offer anything he likes into the flames. No, there is a wise progression to it, just as there is with practice. We cannot simply link poses together in any way we like (as is the case with a lot of modern vinyasa) and expect profound results. That is not how science works. If we truly want to activate the ‘inner’ Kund at the base of the spine (the sacrum) and the dormant power within it (Kund-alini), then we would be wise to know the rules of worship.

In Latin, sacrum means ‘sacred’. This is not a coincidence. Interestingly, the sacrum is the last bone in the body to burn. It can hold incredible amounts of heat and power – which is exactly what it does. The sacrum holds our dormant spiritual capacity know to the ancients as Kundalini Shakti. It is our spiritual essence and despite what you may have heard, it is not asleep. Divinity is never asleep. ‘We’ are asleep. Kundalini is waiting for ‘us’ to wake up. And that is what the fire ceremony is all about.

The progression is as follows:

First the Moon must be made steady, meaning that the mind must be made still. There are exact methods for achieving this in Hatha Yoga. There are specific poses, breathing ratios, meditations, bandhas, mudras and mantras to stabilize the Moon. Interestingly, these methods are essentially the opposite of what most modern yoga is teaching. Today’s yoga (for the most part anyway) does not build practitioners into solid meditators and here is the simple truth: if we don’t meditate, then we have no seat at the sacred fire-pit.

So awakening and stabilizing the Lunar-force is foundational – the first stage. Once steady, then the Sun can be made to rise. In other words, when the mind is made calm and clear through right application of practice, then we can begin to invoke and direct the higher energies (which of course requires a separate set of precise solarizing practices). It’s a science and each step allows us to collect the necessary offerings and tools required to prepare for the ceremony. Now, Moon steady and Sun shining bright, we can begin.

How is the inner fire worshipped? The same way the outer fire is worshipped, with wood, with wind and with ghee. Within the fire pit, the wood is placed. The wood symbolizes our mental and emotional debris – the stuff of the first three Chakras. The wood is the subconscious-mind; all of our worn out pattern, void of life and taking up space, weighing us down, keeping us tired, sick, lazy and uninspired. Between the abdomen and the tailbone we find our greatest obstacles to Self-realization and the kindling we need for the inner fire. This is why traditional Yoga postures and practices targeted this area so specifically. They were chopping the wood.

Once collected, it is the work of the out-breath along with the root lock, the navel lock and a mind skillful enough to visualize downward moving energy (Apana Vayu) turning upwards to offer the wood into the flames. Through these practices, the denser energies stored within the subtler layers of our being are drawn up into the psychic flames within the solar plexus – The Manipura Chakra.

The in-breath then fans the fire. Prana Vayu – the vital wind collected in the chest is contained by the chin lock and mentally directed downward. Together the wind, the wood and a heat birthed from the compression of opposites begins to ignite and the inner world enlivens. The truth of a sacred world engulfed by holy flames is revealed.

The ceremony has begun. Yet a ceremony is not a ceremony without ghee. Ghee is the blaze-bringer, the temple space illuminator. Once that pure, golden nectar slides from the wooden spoon into the lapping flame-like mouth of God, everything, absolutely everything lights up.

The ghee symbolizes and expresses our pure devotion, our unrefined-longing for God. Nothing in creation burns brighter than a Yogi’s deep, unflinching desire to touch the feet of the infinite. This is the highest purpose of practice and when we approach the ceremony of sadhana from this place, we ourselves become the priest and understand the truth of those opening words of the Vedas.

We also come to understand the innate connection between fire and mantra. As the holy text goes on to say “In the beginning was Brahman (God) with whom was the word.” Vibration (mantra) is right there at the beginning of it all. It is the first cause, the energetic blueprint of the universe itself. Even science now asserts that beneath the illusion of matter, there exists a vibrant sea of energy in motion.

What the Yoga tradition suggests is that once we activate the inner fire, we will hear the music – the inaudible sound currents supporting material life, giving everything its unique form holding every single atom and molecule in place.

To be clear, Yogis didn’t create mantras. We can chant them and perhaps if we practice devotionally, we can hear them echoing through the ether, but we did not create them, anymore than we created sunlight. Mantras predate us and everything else. Mantra (vibration) is the spine of life and the essential energetic emanation of the sacred force of fire. If there were no mantras, there would be no universe.

Meditation on the fire is the means. Mantra is the result.

The whole path of Yoga, yoking the Moon and Sun, stoking the ceremonial Fire, all of it is a movement towards meditation and ultimately the absorption of the mind into the silent sound waves of mantric code. Verbal chanting is powerful, yet it is only the first stage.

The essence of Mantra-meditation is getting quiet enough, pure enough (pure as golden ghee) and devoted enough to experience the mantras in their original form – their purest form – right there, pulsing out of you, out of your eyes and heart, reverberating as you and everything around you. This is what it means to Meditate on the Fire. It is about getting silent enough to hear the eternal love song of God and the sublime whisperings of your own beautiful soul.

So if the sacred ceremony of your practice isn’t sinking you deep into the sound of silence, then let it burn away. Liberate it. You are designed and destined for more. You are a spark of the Infinite One and your dharma, your fundamental reason for being here is to ignite.

So burn, baby, burn and watch the world light up around you.

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The Love of Your Life

by Octavio Salvado. Published in Yoga Journal Australia – March 2017.

Yoga is not about flexibility. Yoga (at least in the traditional sense) begins with consideration of the following question:

Do I want to be flexible or do I want to be free?

This critical question is an invitation to a radical state-shift from Yoga student to Yogi.

What does this have to do with love?


According to Tradition the cultivation of stability is paramount when it comes to our practice both on and off the mat. According to both the Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, there is nothing that rivals stability. Each text in its own way claims that it isn’t until body and mind have been made steady that the real world of Yoga opens up.

Why? Because stability is the precursor to self-knowledge. Tradition says that love exists at the deepest level of our Being but in order to access its quality we must first sift through more superficial layers of personality; only then can we understand what stands in the way of an open expression of love. Without self-knowledge real self-love cannot occur. Without stability self-knowledge is out of reach.

The idea that Yoga is about flexibility is a new one; a misunderstanding birthed by modern minds – modern minds with legs under coffee tables nervously twitching, minds that are addicted to scrolling on smart-phones, minds that find solace in Yoga practices that distract those same minds from looking at how distracted they truly are – don’t buy into the modern-yoga-hype.

Yoga begins when we slow down, get steady and deal with what needs to be dealt with; namely, ourselves. Then, once the fluctuations of the mind have ceased, we can glimpse that aspect of Self that exists beyond the mind and beyond all things that change. Then, we can sit in remembrance of our pre-Prakritik state of Being, remembrance that we are the One beyond the many whose home (according to Tradition) is the almond-sized flame within the heart itself, the Vishok Jyotir, the light that allows no suffering to enter. Love is our source-point.

Self-knowledge is self-love and self-love is the source of all love. The system has been laid out for thousands of years. It’s a shame that so few Yogis nowadays follow it, instead choosing busy, Rajasic practices over those that promote stability.

Personally I know first hand the devastation caused by a Rajasic mind amplified by Rajasic practices. I have the divorce papers to prove it. Not all practices are good practices. Not all practices move us towards the light in our heart. Not all practices suit all people, because the forces that govern the universe and therefore us, calibrate themselves differently depending on our specific reasons for being here.

We are all here with a grand spiritual purpose to live out. The Tradition is clear on that and also that every person’s mission, set in motion by the indestructible essence of our own pure nature, is unique. This being the case, how could all Yoga practices suit all people all of the time? This is not good science and Yoga, to be clear, is humanity’s oldest science, the science of awakening. In my opinion, it is best we don’t water it down.

Whether we like it or not, in this Guna-bound dimension of manifest reality we are subject to universal laws, laws that govern the turnings of our life. The first is the Law of Alternation, which states that everything we do, say, eat, believe, think, surround ourselves with and expose ourselves to (including other people), effects us. The Gunas, or attributes of nature, are in everything. There is nothing that they are not in, including our minds.

Heavy words, dense, lifeless foods, dark thoughts and habits will become us. They will not touch the truth of who we are, but they will become our conditional experience nonetheless. Likewise, fast-paced lives and habits will sculpt an agitated nervous system and a mind that will never find the peace afforded by the silence of meditation. It can be no other way. Mental clarity stems from clear choices, including practices that lead us toward meditation, which is considered the direct path to self-knowledge and therefore to self-love.

The second law, the Law of Continuity, can be summed up by the age-old axiom, ‘like attracts like’. Whatever attribute is most dominant within us, be it clarity, momentum or inertia, will continue to be reflected in the things, people and choices that arrive within our orbit because this is what allows us to maintain the status quo. If we are out of balance then we will be drawn to the things that keep us out of balance: foods, people, practices, environments, professions and partners. The Law of Continuity states that the reverse is also true; being in balance inspires us to make choices that keep us in balance.

The issue is that the majority of us do not know (or want to accept) that we are out of balance and so most of the time we know what we want but not what we need. Here is the inconvenient truth; the majority of modern Yogis are Rajasic in nature and therefore would benefit most from slower practices than the ones they most likely do.

The vast ocean of modern Vinyasa and Power Yoga is evidence of an unstable, unbalanced Yoga culture. The absence of Meditation in daily drop-in classes only further highlights this point. Perhaps hard to hear but true all the same. The upside of this, however, is that we are at least up for doing the work. The will is there, just not the knowledge. Nor are the teachers that are willing to stand up and give students what they need, not what they want. Being a Yoga teacher is a big commitment. It is not about making friends or being popular. It’s about service, it’s about serving the core of people, not the condition.

So, back to love and the path we must tread to access it. That journey must be a slow and steady one. When we humbly yet tenaciously address the fast-paced state of our practices and minds and choose freedom over flexibility, stability over style, actual work over just working-out, then we will arrive back to our Self, a Self that is primed for love because it is love.

Love is our nature and to touch it we need to do less, not more. Don’t take my word for it though, put down your phone, pick up the ancient texts, find a teacher that cares about Yoga and cares about you, then sit still and remember yourself, your real Self. The invitation has been there all along: slow down to the beat of love and everything else will fall into place.

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Parampara – The Heart of Tradition

by Octavio Salvado.

Parampara means ‘from one to another’ and speaks to an essential aspect of the Yogic path: Tradition. These days there are many new innovations within the field of Yoga and although innovation has its place, it cannot, it must not drive the chariot. We are evolving as a species, no denying that and therefore certain elements of spiritual practice must likewise evolve, however, when innovation usurps lineage-based knowledge the wheels fall off the chariot.

We rely on the evolution of knowledge for all of our sciences, why should it be different for the science of Yoga, the science of awakening? To cut away from the wisdom gained over thousands of years of data-driven enquiry is akin to throwing ourselves into the ocean minus a life-vest, worse, covered in blood. The situation is that dire.

There are two fundamental reasons why Tradition is indispensible. One is practical and the other, mysterious.

On the practical front, the ancient Yogis took a lot of care encoding, encrypting and straight-up concealing a lot of the deeper insights and teachings of Yoga, lest it fall into the wrong hands. Yoga is power and power corrupts those who are not yet whole enough to wield it skillfully and in the spirit of Dharma.

What many don’t realize is that of all the knowledge that has come down to us through the sutras and sacred texts, much of the more valuable (and potent) information was held back, communicated orally, from master to student, from one to another. In this way, sacred knowledge was brought forward through time and protected. The bones of the information we can find in books, but bones are lifeless and useless unless accompanied with heart. Tradition is the heart. Tradition brings practice to life in a meaningful, time-tested way, a way that we can depend upon for our own personal evolution.

In this morally-degraded time, even Google has become a Guru. Google is not our Guru in the same way that Google is not our doctor and our Facebook friends count for sweet Fanny Apple. If even the information expressed through sacred Sanskrit, Pali or Hindi texts is portioned out, can you imagine the corruptions birthed through the process of translation into English and then further dissected by any Tom, Dick or Harry before being uploaded?

So find out not who your teacher’s teacher is, but their Grand-teacher, their own teacher’s teacher. This will give you insight into your lineage. If you can’t find that information because your teacher doesn’t know or because it does not exist, then perhaps it’s a good idea to question the philosophies, practices and insights being offered to you.

The second reason explaining the value of Tradition is harder to communicate, particularly to a rational mind unversed in the subtle language of the soul. Nevertheless, this is how it is, so take it or leave it. Tradition provides an avenue for transmission to take place. It provides a way for us to ‘plug into’ the energy field of the Ancients who birthed this knowledge into being.

As science now affirms, the nature of reality is vibratory. Life is a play of energy posing as matter and as energy never dies, the field of Yoga, through the connective wire of Tradition can be harnessed. Having this kind of support backing our personal, spiritual endeavors is a gift that cannot be expressed in words, not only because English does not provide a sufficient word for it, but also because the magnitude of the gift is profound beyond the scope of everyday gratitude. Only tears can express it, seconded by an indestructible commitment to personal practice.

Why re-invent the wheel when the wheel worked perfectly in the first place? Yoga is a flawless science and the only reason it is no longer fulfilling its promise of waking people up, is because we are no longer practicing or teaching it in a way that’s aligned to its original blueprint. Instead, we are looking to innovation over legacy and trend over true tapas and this is why we are circling instead of spiraling upwards.

Now is the time. We are being called to action – to keep Tradition alive. Are we willing to sacrifice into the blazing fires of spiritual-integrity whatever mod-cons, perks and popularity contests are necessary to ensure that Tradition keeps burning bright as we march forward into the uncertain years ahead?

We are all being asked to wake up, stand up and move to the frontlines of the revolution, the battlefield of human evolution, bayonets in hand, ready to do whatever it takes. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Life and death are not nearly as important as how we live. Only dharma gives our life meaning.”

So stand up, Yogis, stand up and fight for this great Tradition. If you do, I promise you, this great Tradition with its vast and inexhaustible etheric armies of Dharma will stand up and fight for you.

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A Vital Life

Above all else, Yoga is about thriving in all areas of our life, not just on the mat. Yoga, in its fullest expression is both a transformational toolkit and a measuring stick that allows up to weigh up the efficacy of our choices.

Tradition states that although we come into life full, as we move through life, make choices and experience things (some helpful and some not so helpful) our ‘Vital Essences’ (of which there are three) flux and at times, will run low. Furthermore, that it is the depletion of these master forces within the body that creates the gap between what we ‘want’ to experience in life and what we ‘do’ experience.

One of the things that I love most about the science of Yoga is that as a science, it is systematic and pragmatic. Yoga clearly outlines the hurdles we will face on the path and then the practical solutions to overcome them. No wishy-washy, airy-fairy nonsense. Ambiguity has no seat at the sacred table of Yoga. The stakes are far too high for that; our vital health is far too important.

 People who have a mate (the right mate) in their life live longer. So find someone to love!! Even if it’s a dog! Love builds Ojas. And love for God…. well, that’s just the ultimate ?

I hope this has been helpful and given you some insights and strategies for leading a vital life and likewise in regards to adapting practice to support this common goal.

Much love,

For an on-going conversation and a chance to ask myself and the team specific and relevant question, make sure you check out The Practice Online to evolve your practice and to evolve You. Hari Om.

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Firm New Year’s Resolve

by Octavio Salvado.

Not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I figure if you really want to change something then you’ll just fucking do it. Having said that however, as the year draws to an end, there is one thing that I intend to address more tenaciously in 2017, because if you don’t know this about your Yoga…. then you really don’t know much.

This conversation revolves specifically around ‘Traditional’ pose categorization. In many modern circles, poses are classified in a way that has no relevance to their Pranic effect.

For example, take STANDING POSES, ARM BALANCES, SEATED POSES, HIP OPENERS. All of these, although they may be beneficial in terms of understanding general sequencing, they are ‘Pranically inconsequential’ and play minimal role in relation to using Yoga to its fullest capacity.

The 6 categories of Traditional Hatha are:

  • Forward Bends
  • Twists
  • Laterals
  • Backbends
  • Extensions
  • Inversions

Side note: When it comes to inversions I’m only talking about Headstand and Shoulderstand. Handstand and Pinchamayurasana do not belong in this group. If your teacher ever says to you something like, ‘class, there’s 10 minutes to go please do an inversion’ and includes either of the latter two, then you know that they have not done their homework or is suffering from some kind of severe head trauma. Because in terms of both the Pranic and mental effect of these two inverted hand-balances when compared with true inversions, the results are worlds apart. But lets save that conversation for another time.

The bigger story is that ALL of the six pose categories trigger a unique response in one or a combination of the Prana Vayus. This was always the key purpose of Asana, because the follow on effect of influencing Prana is that it allows you to then influence perception in a systematic, dependable way. Mind and Energy, Moon and Sun always move together.

Lets take the example of Lateral poses. Biomechanically these stretch and strengthen the muscles along the side of the body, they also tone the lungs, kidneys and adrenals. Great. We want all of that, yet the subtle effects are much more interesting and profound when it comes to understanding the complete reach of Yoga.

Lateral poses initiate three separate movements of the Prana Vayus: 1) Pran Vayu 2) Udana Vayu and 3) Vyana Vayu.

Pran Vayu creates a vitalizing yet internalizing effect. Udana Vayu, responsible for moving energy up the central energetic column within the spine also has an internalizing effect yet is also uplifting and Vyana vayu produces a sense of energetic expansion.
In other words, the result of a ‘Laterals’ focused class is mental internalization coupled with a radiant sense of energetic expansion. It’s very specific, incredibly powerful and generates a meditative state different from states produced by any of the other categories, each having their own unique effect.

There are definitely times when combining categories is advantageous. When the focus is on Inversions, for example, all pose categories are utilized to prepare for them both physically and energetically. For the most part however, combining pose categories, as we see a great deal these days, creates a total mish-mash of Prana and as a result, Meditation remains elusive.

The image my Teacher uses is this: if you have a glass of water and squeeze a drop of yellow food colouring into it, then the water turns a brilliant yellow colour. But if you then squeeze a drop of red in…. and then a blue drop, the water becomes more and more murky and before long the ‘pure colour’ is unrecognizable.

Essentially… everything turns brown. Modern Vinyasa is mostly brown. Please enjoy.

So this is what I mean when I say, ‘Poses for Prana, not vice versa’.

To reiterate, the poses are there to influence Prana in a unique and individual way that then guides our minds towards a very specific meditative state. Unfortunately this knowledge has largely been lost over time. I’m almost certain that the great Yogi, T. Krishnamacharya is looking down on us from the upper Lokas, scratching his bald head wondering what the hell we are doing with all of this craziness, smashing around like a Pranic demolition derby.

So, Yogis, this is why it’s our firm New Year’s resolve here at The Practice to commit above all things to KEEPING TRADITION ALIVE, because if we lose Tradition, we lose everything. I believe that if what we truly want in life is to excel, to break free of the confines of mental mediocrity, then this information is not only helpful, it is indispensable. It is nothing short of the single concept that will change the way you experience your entire existence.

Wishing you an amazing New Year… and an amazing new LIFE.

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The Big Idea That You Are

by Octavio Salvado.

What if someone told you that you were here on earth in your exact body and life for a very specific reason, on a very important spiritual mission and that creation was counting on you to fulfill that mission? Well, that’s exactly what Yoga is telling you.

The Tradition suggests that inside all of us is a dormant power waiting to unleash our highest potential so that we can become a vibrant force in the world and participate in the grand spiritual unfoldment of humanity.

Unfortunately, Yoga also asserts that we don’t have free access to that hidden power, that all of us come into life ‘bound’ and that these bindings limit our perception and disallow us from experiencing who we truly are.

In their universal expression these limiting forces are known as the Gunas, often translated as ‘attributes’ (as in attributes of nature), however whenever we see the Bija (Seed) sound ‘Gu’ we can be sure that something sticky is being communicated. For example, the word ‘Gu-Ru’ is a two-part word that translates to ‘The one who unsticks us from our ‘Gu’, our limitations’.

So it’s an Interesting one, the Gunas act as the limiting factor that keep things stuck and simultaneously the container that allows life to happen. Without the Gunas life would be all molecules and sound frequencies absent of any kind of cohesion…. and that’s not going to be good for anyone.

The Gunas also work through our physical, mental and energetic bodies. When they are well configured and in balance, the realization of our higher reasons for being here surface very naturally. We know ‘why’ we are here and ‘what’ we need to do in order to bring that vision to life. When the Gunas augment however, through our poor choices, our beliefs, our diet, our environment, our upbringing or education, then we lose sight of the ‘Big Idea that we are’ and default instead to mediocrity.

The Traditional term for the way the Gunas internally bind themselves is ‘Grunthi’ or ‘Spiritual Knot’. These obstacles along the spiritual path are said to develop within the subtle body locations of the first, third and fifth Chakras and inhibit our process of awakening. These knots keep us living out our ordinary day to day lives, passing time away in the material world, eating, sleeping, desiring, avoiding and growing old.

In addition to doing the work of building and containing more vital force within the body, the three primary Bandhas (a set of powerful practices belonging to Traditional Hatha Yoga) were use specifically to unravel these Grunthies. Each Bandha targets a specific Chakra center along the spine, either the Root, the Navel or the Throat, where the Gunas become bound. Unfortunately, Bandhas, along with Mudras and many other traditional practices that add significant value to Hatha Yoga have been overlooked and ignored in modern Yoga circles.

In regards to the binding forces themselves, the first Guna is called Tamas and is likened to inertia but really represents all the things ‘we’re not seeing’. Essentially, Tamas equates to darkness, and the more of it we have, the less capacity we have to align ourselves to our destiny, our Big Idea.

When Tamas augments inside of an individual it is called Brahma Grunthi and is directly connected to the Muladhara Chakra, our Root Center. It is like a weightiness that dulls motivation and our capacity to simply ‘get things started’. Laziness is an expression of Brahma Grunthi. The traditional Yogic practice of Mulabandha, or drawing the pelvic floor muscles upward works directly on unbinding this knot and releasing previously stagnant energy from around the base of the spine.

The second Guna, called Rajas is the quality of movement and momentum in nature, it is the agent of change, that which mobilizes. Imagine a ball that starts rolling down a hill. This ball is not going to stop on its own. The nature of reality is ’change’, so we are always moving, and we use Rajas to get where we’re going, either towards more darkness or towards more light, those are our choices.

Rajas has an association further up the spine with the third Chakra, Manipura and expresses its augmentation as the spiritual knot known as Vishnu Grunthi. Manipura means ‘City of Jewels’ due to the navel’s position as the body’s biggest storehouse of immense power and some of the greatest ‘Mind-jewels’ required by the Yogi on the path of awakening. Qualities such as confidence, courage, enthusiasm, assimilative power (both physical and mental), vitality and clear perception all arise from the navel center.

When Vishnu Grunthi is influencing us however, we lack the will to change our habits and behaviors and continue to act according to old, worn-out, pre- programed patterns. Uddiyana Bandha, drawing the abdomen and inner organs inwards and upwards works specifically on this particular binding, empowering the third center and in turn developing our will power and capacity to make the transformative life-changes required.

Thirdly we have the force of Sattva – Balance. However, it is important to note that Sattva is not a combination of 50% Tamas and 50% Rajas. Sattva is an independent quality of light and clarity. This clarity brings more capacity to choose the higher choice because we begin to ‘see’ more and sense more of the innate interconnectedness between all things

Just as important to note however, as Lord Krishna clearly states in the Bhagavad Gita, is that all Gunas are binding, even Sattva and although in one sense the goal of Yoga is to cultivate more Sattva, the supreme goal is to move into the space of limitlessness that exists beyond all three of nature’s sticky attributes.

This subject raises an interesting question: How can clarity be binding? Simple. When it turns to judgement. When we are completely absorbed by ‘what we think we know’ to the point of being incapable of recognizing that life is asking us to evolve our worldview, then our once clear understanding has been tainted by mental patterning – Shiva Grunthi, the third spiritual knot.

Shiva Grunthi is related to the throat Chakra, Vishuddha and deals specifically with our unchecked thought tendencies, our beliefs and the stories that we run. Vishuddha means ‘Center of Great Purity’ and its energy governs both our verbal speech and simultaneously the ‘voice inside our head’. When the thinking mind is not brought under control, then, like a broken record stuck in a groove, we keep on playing the same inner dialogue despite what life is actually trying to communicate to us from the here and now.

Jalandhara Bandha, often referred to as the ‘chin-lock’ begins to release the mind from repetitive thoughts as the intellect becomes systematically pacified. ‘Jalan’ means ‘to net’ or ‘catch’ and refers to the netting of Prana below the collarbones before it has a chance to pass through the throat and into the frontal lobes of the brain where it will empower and in most cases ‘over-empower’ the thought producing functions of the mind.

The modern practice of lifting the chin on inhalation during Vinyasa Yoga has a ‘very’ specific application and traditional Yoga strongly suggests that it should be avoided by people with busy minds…. Which these days means basically everybody.

It’s a shame that so many traditional teachings and techniques have been overlooked in the modern age of Yoga. When practiced correctly and with the right attitude, they are the exact tools that do the inner work of clearing the internal obstructions that bind our perception and stop us from seeing who we are and how incredible life in its essence truly is.

This is one of our biggest missions here at the Practice, to safely yet sternly re-infuse these powerful, ancient practices back into the Yogic mainstream, back into the heart of Yoga where they belong.

Yoga is not interested in us playing small. The technology brought forward by the ancient science of Hatha Yoga is based on the recognition that we are all designed for illumination, not subordination. To be clear however, the Tradition also suggests that the path will ‘not’ be easy and that ‘going with the flow’ is not part of the Hatha Yoga worldview.

In fact, the Tradition tells us that the road will be long and full of challenges and that in the end, only the wholehearted will cultivate the necessary subtle heat to unstick themselves from whatever ‘Gu’, calamity or sub-extraordinary situation they find themselves in. The ‘Gu’ exists for all of us. No way around that one unfortunately. The only way beyond the ‘Gu’, is through it. Which brings me to my final point.

If we genuinely decide to pick up the ancient torch of Yoga and make it our life rather than our hobby, then Tradition would ask one final thing of us: to broaden our perspective. To hold to the vision that each and every obstacle we encounter is not a problem to be solved or a concept to be judged, but rather a ‘fundamental’ piece of our own self-implemented design, without which, we would never get the chance to fully reveal and experience our hidden gifts and true nature as spiritual beings.

To clarify, It’s about holding to the higher principles of Contentment and Gratitude throughout all the trials and challenges we endure, knowing that it is specifically because of these bindings that we can come to know liberation in all of its ‘experiential’ splendor and remember for ourselves, beyond all concepts, why we are here and ultimately embody, with radical authenticity, the Grand Idea that we truly are.

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Ride The Peacock

by Octavio Salvado.

I am ruled by the God of War.

At least that’s what Vedic Astrology suggests. In Hinduism, Mars is called Mangal and is seen as the planet responsible for the sheer, raw energy that powers our actions. Unfortunately for me however, Mars represents the specific actions we perform that have no reasoning behind them, our animal instincts and often ‘poorly thought out’ reactions.

Hindu’s also associate the planet Mars with all inflammable products.

I can relate.

Lord Murugan, second son of Shiva is the major deity associated with Mars, Lord of the Celestial Army, God of War. I feel him in my blood.

So when I learned that the neighbor was building a 2 level, 15 meter high, brick shit-house… I mean home-stay basically right on top of us, my initial reaction was to go over there and punch him in the face. Namaste.

I simmered down after a few minutes (ok days) and my next thought was to build a 30m high statue of Lord Murugan with the tip of his spear pointing at the back of my neighbor’s building. I mentally designed the whole thing, complete with a very elegant peacock-shaped water fountain to drown out the construction noise and surely get a few extra likes on Instagram.

Hindu Gods always have a vehicle. When I first learned of Murugan’s, I have to come clean that I was not very impressed, in fact I felt embarrassed for him. There was Shiva, good-old Dad riding a giant white bull, the symbol of virility while little Murugan was left trotting around on his shiny, green bird.

But here’s the thing about India, you have to dig a little deeper than the periphery. What you see is not always what you get. Quite often it’s the crooked, hunched over, old man serving chai that gives you the download that will change your destiny.

So in the case of Murugan, I knew I had to keep my 3 eyes open and take a deeper look.

In the Yogic tradition the Peacock symbolizes our own capacity to inwardly alchemize poison into nourishment, like the peacock does with the venom of the Cobra. In this way, the combination of Murugan and his prissy, yet very powerful bird present us with a choice. No, it’s not the choice of fight or don’t fight. As the Bhagavad Gita assures us, life is a battlefield, hiding and shrinking away from living a life of meaning is not an option.

Backing out of the confrontation is not the choice. We can’t control life. Believe me, I’ve tried. She’s relentless! And she knows that it’s her duty to prod us, lovingly (sometimes) and gift us the opportunity to sharpen our tools. No, the choice is about how we manage ourselves in moments of confrontation and more interestingly, in times of outward defeat. Can we alchemize the situation so that it becomes nourishment?

Do we lay down and die. Or do we transmute adversity into excellence, into wisdom, into humility, growth and compassion?

The struggle ‘is’ the nourishment, it’s built in. Every obstacle presents the opportunity to refine our authenticity, to deepen our Yoga and become more of who we truly are.

So at The Practice, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Alchemizing. In October we will be smashing down some walls (I think I’ll help Kadek with that one) in order to reposition the studio to the East. Honestly, this is where it should have been facing all along, the direction of the rising Sun. The direction of self-accountability and taking responsibility for the choices we make. East is the direction of Yoga.

The construction next door typically starts around 830am, which pokes me in my edgy bits a little but again, there’s genuine nourishment in it. As of next month we will begin greeting the rising sun in the East and hour earlier. Practice will begin at 7am. This is a truly supreme time to practice. Catching the morning light, taking it deep inside and using it to consciously create the day ahead. Life is refining our authenticity.

The Practice, I have to say is a pretty strong battalion. Not because outwardly we always get what we want, but because internally we know how to alchemize, we know how to ride the Peacock. We’re ready for everything. Alchemical Engineers. Smashing down walls to build bigger dreams.

Lets see, we still might build that 30 meter statue of the God of War, but at least the urge to punch my neighbor in the face is gone.


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Music, Awakening and A Little Divine Madness

by Octavio Salvado.

I’m not sure when we stopped singing in circles or why we moved away from celebrating music for its potential to purify our minds. The ancients knew about it – the pure power of sound. They believed that beyond the Maya – the illusion of matter, everything was sound, even ourselves.

After practicing Yoga for 15 years with an enthusiasm that occasionally borderlined obsession, i can tell you that the bulk of my deepest experiences have bloomed up from the fertile garden-bed of wild, unrefined devotional music circles known as ‘Kirtan’ or ‘Bhajan’.

Kirtan is a meeting place for our raw, vulnerable hearts and often shaky voices and because of that, because of the very transparent contextual field it creates, real Yoga, which is Union, flourishes. I have never been to a kirtan that didn’t leave me feeling more positive about life.

I remember a time, sitting in the Indian dust for hours as music poured simultaneously into and out of me. Harmoniums droning. Bells, drums and sweaty palms banging like heartbeats. Rough and devoted voices melding. I was a rookie back then. I had no idea about Shiva or Krishna, but the mantras hit me like lightening and left me completely unable to contain my tears of longing and joy or control my body that shook like a thundercloud.

That inner storm lasted for weeks. Pulsing in and out of what must have looked like madness to someone unable to feel the melodies of clarity and love streaming through my body.

Sometimes I wonder if the only difference between mental breakdown and spiritual insight…. Is geography? In India if someone hears voices in their head, sees visions or shakes uncontrolably, the first trip is to the temple, not the nuthouse.

Perhaps that’s what scares us about Kirtan? The fact that we don’t yet have a society that undrstands or supports awakening. And Kirtan can do that. Music can do that – Wake us up. These bodies are built for awakening, designed for it, encoded with the unavoidable inevitability of going mad…. With love.

Music is the ON switch.

And that is why the simple act of singing together with intentionality is so powerful. In that space we are held and supported regardless of our stories, the quality of our voice, our name, our beliefs, the way we dress, how much money we earn, how we spend our nights. None of that matters and in that kind of freedom, awakening naturally springs up from the underground and teaches us something that book knowledge never could.

The one unmistakable truth resounding from the teachings of all the ancient Sages – that we are all in this together, and furthermore that each of us has the potential to truly meet ourselves and each other in our purest form, beyond the flesh, as pure, divinely inspired music.

“What makes us feel drawn to music is that our whole being is music: our mind and body, the nature in which we live, the nature which has made us, all that is beneath and around us, it is all music.” 

– Hazrat Inyat Khan (Sufi Master 1882-1927)

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The Times They are A-Changin’

by Octavio Salvado.

The entire Universe turns in cycles of nine, in case you were wondering. At the completion of each cycle, be it nine days, nine months or nine years, everything starts over again. Life goes in circles for those who are not on their dharmic path, and spirals upwards, evolving and expanding for those who are.

I had a realization about a year ago, nine years after meeting my teacher, that I had drifted a long way from his impeccable teachings based on the ancient science of traditional Yoga and was practicing in a way that wasn’t evolving my mind or my character.

At a fundamental level, although I was practicing everyday and from the periphery, working hard at it, I was still making poor choices and reacting to things in ridiculous ways. This realization led me to question EVERYTHING… even the validity of yoga itself.

And then the light switched on, ‘its not yoga, its HOW I’m practicing it that’s not only ‘not’ helping, its making me worse’. So I stripped everything back to the bones and returned to the beginning, my beginnings, and recommenced practicing Yoga the same way I had originally learned it – slowly, with an emphasis on the subtle, inner world rather than the dynamic external.

I went back into my old books and studyied everything over again, with fresh and desperate eyes, as if I knew nothing, simply compelled forward by the fear of constantly repeating my mistakes and the undeniable truth that I was in trouble. There it was, highlighted in orange, a single sentence beaming back at me from the beaten pages of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

“Once the Moon has been made steady, the Sun can be made to rise”.

These fourteen encrypted words are now the basis for our entire Yoga program at The Practice. The Moon is a reference to the MIND and the Sun it’s complimentary opposite, PRANA, here yoked together in one worldview obliterating Sutra from one of the oldest Hatha Yoga text on the planet explaining: Unless we slow down, calm down, get mentally stable first, then cultivating more Prana through practice is a recipe for disaster, because like Sunlight, Prana shines and illuminates everything it touches. Whatever is in the mind and nervous system it will amplify, essentially, Yoga will make us ‘more’ of whatever we already are and will not discriminate between our positive and negative qualities. That is our job.

And that’s exactly what I was doing – Pumping myself with Prana, which is pure power. Trust me. The practices work and so positive parts were becoming more refined and negative parts more exaggerated. My personality was splitting in half.

At a brand new pace, I dove back into the study of everything that I had once known yet somehow forgotten. I stopped practicing the way I had and anytime my intensity seeking, unconscious practice habits swayed me, my body would break out in a rash. I stopped teaching that way too. A lot of people when we opened The Practice were expecting something from me based on what they knew of me previously. However what they received, are still receiving and will continue to receive is something very different.

I’m very proud of us for that – For making a stand in support of the true science of Yoga in a world awash with mostly mindless Vinyasa. Likewise I’m deeply grateful for all those who stand with us.

Don’t panic! We still teach Vinyasa at The Practice, which falls into the SUN category, however the emphasis has shifted from the periphery to the subtle. Here, we use the practice to deepen our relationship to the energetic world of Prana, to that dynamic current of power and love within us, rather than the dynamic hustle and bustle of muscles and bones.

Did you know that from the little understood perspective of Kundalini Tantra, the Sun is considered Feminine? Actually, to be more specific, everything in nature is both Masculine and Feminine, however as we go deeper into the energetics of yoga (Tantra), the Sundial slides towards woman.

Woman after all, like the Sun, ‘is’ that force in nature that ‘gives life’ and at their fundamental core, both are about energy, feeling, expansion, radiance, joy and essentially, love. This puts a very different spin on our Vinyasa practice and Sun Salutes doesn’t it? These practices were never meant to be aggressive or competitive, in this, so much of the Yoga world has it backwards. I had it backwards.

The counterpart to this concept, or we could say the counter-path is the way of the Moon, which according to the traditional teachings is the symbol of the Mind, also known as Chitta and considered the Masculine principle. This is why the Crescent Moon sits atop Shiva’s head. Moon energy, combined with asana or simply as an expression in nature brings meditation, calmness, steadiness, presence, awareness, focus and perseverance, true qualities of a balanced and empowered Man and Mind-qualities that set up a base of integrity for the deeper work of cultivating more Prana, more Sun.

To be clear, Moon classes are not like Yin. Yin is a different system and an exceptional tool in its own right. Moon Practices use asana to provoke a mental challenge, calling our focus and steadiness into action, working with longer holds, forward folds and twists and constantly seeking out that part of our mind that simply ‘witnesses’. For example, think about holding Warrior 3 for 1 minute, carefully transitioning to Revolved Half Moon for another minute and then carefully back to Warrior 3 for another half minute. Wow… for most people the mind, not the body (although we sometimes blame the body) is screaming to escape.

Good, let it scream. That’s the point of Moon Practice: Developing an indestructible resolve to stay steady coupled with an unflinching focus and a deep connection to the inner part of us immune to all changes.

As previously mentioned, Sun practices including Vinyasa are about deepening our relationship to Prana, energy. It takes a very subtle, calm and skillful mind to be able to sense the unseen. If the mind is active during Sun Practice, Prana will make it more active, so even our Vinyasa classes are tempered with a steadiness and moonlike quality of calm. I see the unquestionable value in this now.

For a ‘work-out’ go to the gym, go for a jog, or call it what it is – gymnastics. Yoga is something entirely different. I’m committed to making this distinction clear, even if that means stepping on some toes. I’m not here to make friends or please people. My mission, our mission here at The Practice is bigger than that.

So that is how we are breaking the classes up here at the Practice – in the traditional way, following the ancient map of MOON SUN FIRE.

Fire Practice, just briefly, is the culmination of the entire path of Yoga. I’m sure it wont be too surprising when I tell you that its not about cultivating peripheral heat through dynamic movement. Fire Practice is the unifying of Sun and Moon, code for Energy and Mind, to systematically melt away the subtle limitations that bind our perception and restrict us from accessing our highest potential.

In order to do that, the deeper layers of practice are required because asana alone cannot do those things. Asana, Bandha, Mudra, Mantra, Pranayama, Concentration and Meditation come together to spark an inner illumination that literally changes the way we see ourselves and the world around us – What the ancients referred to as the awakening of Kundalini-Shakti. This is ultimately where the path of Yoga is leading us, and the path we are committed to here at The Practice.

When I self reflect, to be honest, I sometimes feel guilty about how many minds I must have disturbed during my teaching career due to my lack of understanding and respect for what yoga truly is and does.

The Practice as a Yoga School is my way to make it right again, to wipe away some of the karmic debt I’ve incurred through my teaching. I want to help people evolve, not in terms of poses, but in terms of personality, in terms of attitude, so that their whole lives can become more beautiful, radiant, peaceful and harmonious and I truly believe that yoga, practiced and taught correctly can do that.

Much love,


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Tantra as Service

by Octavio Salvado.

When Ram Dass asked his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba how to find God, Guruji’s answer was simple, “Feed people. Serve People.” Essentially, practice comes to its fullest fruition only when the fruits are offered to the world. Yoga will make you more powerful, that’s just the reality. It would be lovely to think that yoga in and of itself cultivated love, but just take a look at the disarray and debauchery in the modern yoga scene and you’ll quickly dismiss the idea.

The Pranic energy cultivated through sustained and committed practice is not ‘like’ the energy of the Sun, it ‘is’ the energy of the Sun, and as such it empowers and illuminates whatever it touches. If you don’t purify your mind and intentions, those impurities will also get charged. Sexual frustration, violence, deception, Shiva doesn’t judge you for those, He showers His grace on the Gods and the Demons both, whoever worships Him through dedicated practice receives a little portion of His infinite power.

This is why a mindset of Service is essential. Service is the sword that slices off our head and removes any ideas about getting more powerful for our own sake.

I call this the Macro Universe of Intent. Are your day to day choices in line with the bigger picture? Honest self-reflection is a must. Are your practices in service of the whole? And if not, you may want to check that, because there are far too many stories, both ancient and modern of good men turned bad by power to ignore. Even if the ‘Macro’ is your family or your relationship, great! Practice your heart out so you can show up and be a better Dad, a better partner, or a better example for your community.

Whatever the goal, let me give you some advice, ‘place it beyond you’. Expand the light beyond the confines of your little, singular self. Then not only Shiva but all the Gods and Goddesses will bless you with their smiles and support.

‘To expand beyond our limits’, this is one translation of the word ‘Tantra’. Another translation is ‘Technology’. So we could say: Tantra is the technology that moves us beyond our limitations or limited views’. For me personally, Tantra is the ultimate tool and technology for Service.

First lets get on the same page. Although the birthplace of Asana is Tantra, most people these days don’t practice it that way. Modern yoga is primarily concerned with the body rather than energy and presence, the two pillars of true Tantra. And for the record, Tantra is not about sex. Again, its about clarity and energy. 99% of Tantra deals with understanding and cultivating the dormant energies within our own bodies. Only a minute fraction of the Tantric Path incorporates the addition of a second person. Because lets be honest, its hard enough managing our own energy let alone someone else’s!

Either way, the rules of physics apply. You have to give energy to get energy. No escaping that one. However, what makes the tantric approach, combining Asana with Pranayama, Bandhas and Mudras for example a more intelligent and dare I say it, elegant way to practice, is that you expend ‘less’ energy while cultivating more of it.

With a regular asana practice, for sure, you get some prana in your tank…. but you also spend a lot at the same time, at least in regards to the way most of the modern world practices asana today. Trust me, I know about this from years of personal experience. Or did you think all of those Chaturangas came for free?

The long story made short is this: The true essence of practice and cultivating more energy is that it empowers us to be able to share our authentic gifts in a way that serves the world. The less energy we spend and the more energy we generate, the more we can give to the whole and the further our reach as yogis, partners, parents, friends and teachers.

Like cells within a body, we are all in this together. If the liver cells are thriving but the kidney cells are malfunctioning…. well, we have problem. The collective has a problem. So that’s the deal. Become a vibrant force in the world. Light up the darkness inside of yourself using the least amount of energy possible, then in your own unique and magnificent way, light up every single heart, mind and moment that you touch.

Nourish it. Feed it. Serve it. Simple.

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Lead Me to What?

by Octavio Salvado.

Mahatma Gandhi said it perfectly, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. It starts with ourselves, and quite often the crusade is a silent one.

I remember when I first got into Yoga. I thought I needed to change the world one annoying speech at a time, but all I did was piss people off and lose friends. Not a very successful outcome given that what I really wanted was to help people find more freedom and joy in their lives.

We live and learn…. Hopefully.

My first genuine mentor put it in a way that I never forgot. If you enter a restaurant and notice that the guy sitting next to you is drinking water from a dirty glass, chances are that if you say to him, “mate, your glass is dirty,” you will either offend or embarrass him. If, on the other hand you simply order your own glass of water and position it on your table in a way that he can see it, then most likely, he will make his own comparison and call the waiter over to change his glass for a cleaner one.

In essence, what I’m getting at this. Often the best advice we can give is the advice not spoken, it’s the advice we embody. Put another way, shut your mouth and simply BE the radiant example. If people are inspired and compelled to change their ways based on who you are being, great. If not, also great! But serving up sermons when people don’t ask for them is asking for discord. Trust me, I was an expert once.

Leadership is an inside thing. It doesn’t need to justify or prove its worth because its value can be felt, just like peace can be felt if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to be in the same room as a true Master. The Master doesn’t need to say anything, you can feel their presence, you can sense who they are.

What is this silent, inside power that true leaders seem to accumulate and radiate outwards like the rays of the Sun? The Yoga Tradition calls it Prana, the pure creative potential that gives everything in the universe life. With the right practices and attitude, Prana can be generated and stored like a battery stores charge. The Yogis of old encoded the concept of Prana with the symbol of the Sun, the giver of life. Who is the giver of life? Woman gives life. Not man. Man is simply the witness.

Isn’t it fascinating that modern Yoga teaches the exact opposite – That Sun is masculine. It raises the question – ‘Where is modern, innovative yoga disconnected from tradition leading us’. Perhaps this is one reason why yoga has become a sex and ego infused billion-dollar commercial beast instead of its original function as a science, designed to guide people towards a deeper capacity to radiate the energy of love.

It is true that the ‘Sun’ refers to the dynamic principle in nature, but the ancient texts don’t talk about dynamic hips or hamstrings, or active muscles powering through vinyasa transitions. The Yoga Tradition is not interested in those things. It is interested in the dynamic power of energy. The energy that sustains us and allows us to function in the first place.

In Tantra, Prana is often anthropomorphized as different forms of the Goddess or ‘Shakti’. There is a wonderful story about the birth of Goddess Kali, a controversial and fierce Devi representing a strong expression of pranic movement. At first glance she is utterly terrifying! Holding high a bloody head freshly severed from the neck of an unlucky demon. Her tongue is out, lapping up the spilled blood, eyes blazing, bare breasted, adorned with a necklace of 50 skulls. Its easy to see why this Goddess is often associated with sexuality and violence, but that is only on the periphery. The true essence of Kali is love. Again, everything depends on how deep we want to dig. The same can be said for dynamic practices such as vinyasa, the external movements of the body are only the means to cultivate and connect with the energy within. Yet somehow, looking outwardly sexy and throwing limbs around violently has become the international status quo. It’s a shame, because the heart of this practice is the heart itself. The mission of movement is to sensitize ourselves to Prana, generate more of it and then direct it towards the heart. Because its not until we have enough Prana in the heart that we can genuinely hold our awareness there and live from that place. The battery has to charge before the lights can switch on.

Returning to the mythic narrative, Durga, the Mother and protector Goddess is doing battle with the demon, Mahisa. Durga becomes furious and her anger crystalizes into the dark Goddess, Kali who bursts out of her forehead. Kali, wild as lightning starts swinging her swords and taking off the heads of whoever is unlucky enough to be near her. She does away with the demon and his demon army but her blood lust cannot be contained. Kali rages on and even the Gods are powerless to calm her. Eventually the God’s pray to the Great God, Shiva – Lord of Yoga for help, who awakens from meditation and travels to Kali’s battleground. Seeing her state, Prana gone wild, Shiva lays his still body down on the earth and eventually, Kali in her frenzy stands on him. As soon as she feels Shiva’s steady frame under her feet, Kali immediately simmers down and returns to her loving, motherly form.

And be sure, Prana ‘can’ and ‘does’ go wild, just like sunlight can burn. To avoid this catastrophe, it is suggested (if you have a good teacher) that all pranic cultivation is to be done on a solid base of mental stability and calm. Notice what icon Shiva wears on his head – The Crescent Moon, representing Mind (Chitta). Yogis who focus only on dynamic practice without stabilizing their minds through meditation and self reflection first will have a very hard time sensing themselves as pranic beings. The focus will stay on the periphery and energy will continue to move along the paths of least resistance, empowering all of the pre-established tendencies and behavioral patterns, be they in service of growth or against it. Prana, like sunlight, does not discern.

Over the last 15 years I have heard many yoga teachers teach that the essential nature of the masculine is dynamic, when in actuality, the Yoga Tradition teaches the opposite. The pure masculine, according to Yoga is pure presence, consciousness, stillness, Shiva wearing the Moon. Yes, we men move rocks and build things and like to show off our muscles, but that is only on the periphery. The true power of man is deep inside a still and silent core. My guess is that any woman centered in her own authentic, love-infused power would agree – Real masculinity is about presence, and presence is a state of mind.

Perhaps this changes the way you approach your Sun Salutations?

Ha and Tha. Sun and Moon. Prana and Chitta. Energy and Mind. Woman and Man.

Sound a little different to what you’ve been told? The crux of it is this. Neither perspective is wrong. It simply depends on where you want to focus your attention – on the inside power or the outside power? We are always free to choose.

My take on it is this. You can take it or leave it. True leaders aren’t the ones who make the most noise, or have the most followers or headline the biggest festivals. True leaders are the ones who have taken up the inevitable silent crusade we eventually all must take, leading themselves first beneath the peripheral luster of what’s popular, deep into their own unique and essential core.

A good question for contemplation, I’ll place it where you can see it:

Where is your yoga leading you?

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by Octavio Salvado.

Belonging is an essential part of being human, a fundamental thread that weaves together some of the sweetest moments of our strange little lives. It has taken me a long time to figure this out and even now, it terrifies me. Because being a soloist is so much easier, there is a lot more room to hide.

In my twenties and early thirties i used my practice as a means to sidestep facing up to the fear of being fully seen. I felt imperfect and unworthy of being accepted for my totality. After all, i was a yoga teacher! Weren’t they meant to be flawless?

So rather than risk the pain of humiliation, i hid inside meditation and mantra, early nights and internal judgements until i did a fairly remarkable job of building myself an impenetrable fortress. The only issue was that i accidentally built mirrors all along the interior walls, so every time i closed my eyes, all i saw was myself. Fantastic irony isn’t it? But thats the thing about meditation. It works.

The more i sat and truly looked, the more i saw how afraid i was, how much i desperately wanted more connection in my life, more community, more love and that secretly I longed to feel the deeper sense of belonging that exists below the shallow waters of just fitting in. Fitting in is easy. Belonging takes real courage.

I think what it comes down to for a lot of us, is shame. A feeling that our authentic, unrefined selves aren’t worthy of acceptance. So we hide, we Tweet, we Facebook, we touch up our photos and botox our faces. Shame is a big word. Its hard to vocalize, let alone claim. Yet almost paradoxically its in the vulnerable owning of it that the door to real connection unsticks and opens up.

There’s a beautiful (and brutal, as shame stories usually are) story from the Puranas that speaks about one man’s shame and his resulting public decapitation. Its a Shiva myth. A good one.

Daksha is the father of Goddess, Sati who has chosen the unconventional, yet completely authentic Lord Shiva as her husband. Shiva is like the girl at the party who’s wearing a t-shirt with fluorescent green geckos stitched all over it and for some reason is carrying a kettle. Although you’re unquestionably curious, surely its not going to go unnoticed by the hipsters if you strike up a conversation. So what do you do? You do nothing. You play it safe.

Thats exactly what Daksha does. Rather than risk his reputation, he hides the fact that his daughter has chosen to wed the long haired, mostly naked, ash-smeared, skull carrying yogi. Dear Lord! What would the Jones’s say? This is what we do whenever we pretend we’re not hurting when actually we are. When we say we’re fine but actually we’re falling apart and seriously need a hug, or when we have a drug problem or an eating disorder or some other skeleton in the closet that we’re too ashamed and afraid to speak up about.

The result is never good, particularly if what we’re actually craving is to connect and feel a genuine sense of being held and supported by a collective, by a community existing beyond the shores of the little island we’ve escaped to.

There’s many elements to this story, however i’ll jump right to the point. Sati, the feminine principle representing our prana, our vitality makes a rather dramatic statement and publicly throws herself on the sacrificial fire. This is the depletion of our energy, health issues, think exhaustion as a result of the supreme effort it takes to carry on an identity facade, particularly a public one. Shiva who is authenticity, but also the highest aspect of our awareness will only tolerate self deception and self sabotage for so long before stepping in. Im not sure if you noticed, but life is self correcting that way. One way or another it always moves towards balance. We can make the adjustments ourselves, or they will be made for us.

Daksha chooses to play his hand and hope for the best. It doesn’t end well. In fact, it ends with his head on a stake. It ends with a public and painful leveling. It ends, as it usually does – all coming to light in the bright, uncompromising, unflinching glow of unavoidable transparency.

The good news is, eventually Sati is reborn as the divine yogini, Parvati and once more unites with her Eternal Love, Shiva. Consciousness and energy, beliefs and vitality absent of shame and fear are once again free to fill the world with a love born of authentic connection. As it should be.

We say we want connection, we say we want community, but what are we willing to show for it? Because nothing less than everything will suffice. True belonging first requires radical authenticity, to ourselves and to others, otherwise the best we can do is fit in, and there’s no real love in that… only likes and follows.

The path of Yoga has taught me that. So have the honesty and often painful reflections of my friends and my amazing partner. That if we want it all, we have to be willing to risk it all. Before we can move outwards, we first have to move inwards.

In the dark little corners of our mind, real courage is born. Armed with that, we can reveal our totality – our ugliness, our fear, our imperfections as well as all of the ways we shine and contribute. We are never going to be perfect. Not perfect people, perfect partners, perfect parents or perfect yogis. But we are still worthy of love and belonging. We all still deserve community in our lives.

Nevertheless, community is not something we get for free. We have to earn it.

Im learning that.

Practicing with the right attitude, the right intention, getting humble enough to ask for the right kind of help, meeting others as we truly are – fear, shame, insecurities and all, are the first steps. Because even though it may seem the contrary, community, connection and love are not born and do not exist outside of ourselves.

Like everything else worth living for, the epicentre of belonging is deep inside.

Octavio's Articles

Principles of The Practice

by Octavio Salvado.

Life certainly looks complicated, just as physical reality certainly looks physical.

In both cases however, subscribing to these ideas simply indicates that Maya has you by the balls.

From the vantage point of Yoga, Maya is the concealing force that covers the truth of the way things are with an illusory veil. We don’t like to admit it, but most of the time it’s for our own damn good. Flashback to Arjuna, chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita who has his tender little mind blown after demanding that Krishna remove the curtain and gift him a vision of the Undifferentiated Absolute. It’s too much for Arjuna, far too much at once. So Maya is a shield as much as a sheath, a blessing as much as a covering.

Regardless, the point is, things are rarely as they appear. Reality, as science is now proving is vibratory in nature and notphysical like we once believed. Likewise, life isn’t, or doesn’t have to be that complex either. It’s just a case of simple mathematics, and whether we are talking about taking care of our health, nurturing our relationships or laying down the guiding principles to build a thriving business, there is only one meaningful equation to attend to and one final digit to arrive at – The number 9.

These are the secret teachings of the almost forgot science of Yantra Yoga. The peripheral science of Yantra deals with Mandalas and pretty pictures in sand, shimmering images on the backs of new-age T-shirts, yet underneath all that is a numerical code that holds the entire cosmos in place and governs every single aspect of our ordinary, everyday, absolutely incredible human lives.

Yantra is such a beautiful word, so potent in meaning. In Sanskrit, when a word ends in ‘tra’, as in man-tra, it is typically an indication that the thing itself has the capacity to protect. From one stand point, Mantra means ‘mind protection’, which is why it is considered a safe way to awaken our energy and peel back the layers of mind. Pranayama on the other hand, which does not end in ‘tra’, has a higher likelihood of disturbing the mind if not approached in the right way or facilitated by a skilled teacher.

Yantra is often translated as ‘Holding Device’, therefore, a holding device that protects reality from falling into chaos. Yantra is the mathematical blueprint behind everything, a combination of forces co-existing and inter-relating giving us the contextual field called life that allows us to play out our karmas and manifest our highest visions and sometimes our nightmares. When these forces are in balance, things naturally evolve towards the highest expression possible given the situation.

Personally, I am a product and student of Tradition. I love my teachers and likewise possess a deep gratitude for their teachers and the wisdom brought forward from some long-ago era of exquisite depth and understanding. The following is a map handed down to those who care to peer beyond the veil.

Simply stated, this universe and everything in it is governed by 9 fundamental forces. These forces run through life in every conceivable way, from the unfolding of our bodies on their journey from seed to death, to the orbits of planets as they hurl themselves around the Sun. Even our thoughts becoming words and then manifested realities move through an energetic flow chart which can be tracked from its source to its destiny along 9 single points.

Six of these forces have specific pooling points along the human spinal column where the nervous system bundles together into clusters called nerve ganglia. Here, they directly affect the way we show up in the world because they impact our glandular system and therefore the chemicals that get released into our bodies. When these forces are in balance, we are in balance, our beliefs, our thoughts, our words, our actions, our health, our relationships, our finances, our endeavors, everything. The system is protected, allowing it to thrive.

Forces 7, 8 and 9 are subtler and less tangible than the other 6 and although the essence of each can be found in everything, they have more to do with the contextual field through which the other 6 operate and co-mingle. In the Science of Tantra Yoga, forces 7,8 and 9 are considered ‘higher’ universal energies that exist outside the body, creating the stadium where the game of life can be played out.

To bring it down to the personal, right here in this moment, I am perched on the cusp of opening a community center for yoga and evolutionary learning on the Island of the Gods, Bali. To say that my wildest dream is coming alive before my eyes is a radical understatement. The game is ON. Therefore, to keep things balanced and protected I repeatedly turn my attention to the wisdom of the 9 forces; what the ancient Mayans referred to as the 9 Lords of Time and the Tantrikas understood as the energies of the Chakras. In this way I give the project every opportunity to flourish and follow its natural course, becoming the fullest expression of what I know it is capable of becoming.

A few days ago my Business mentor, Carl asked me to develop the ‘Guiding Principles’ of the business, the things that ‘The Practice’ will live and breathe by, so naturally I went straight to the underlying map of everything to construct a game plan.

Here they are, the guiding principles of The Practice Bali numbers 1 – 9. The first 6 relate more to our everyday operations and motivations, the final 3 are loftier, grander intentions. We may not post these on Facebook or paste them on the studio walls, yet you can count on them being there, as a part of the environment, as a part of the atmosphere that we breathe together.

1) Integrity. You can have confidence in the integrity of what we offer. We are dependable. The yoga system from which The Practice springs is connected to a lineage unbroken for thousands of years. Everything we do, from teaching yoga to cleaning floors will be infused with this same integrity and respectfulness.

2) Community. We are open-minded and community spirited. Our doors are wide open to everyone. Look forward to free Community classes and regular events beyond the yoga schedule that bring people together to share ideas, laughter, music and more.

3) Leadership. We strive to be positive role models within the local and global communities. We are leaders in the field, risk takers, freedom lovers, doers that make shit happen. We want to contribute to raising the bar in regards to practice and teaching standards worldwide.

4) Service. The currents of compassion and generosity will carry us out into the world. We are here to serve. Community outreach programs and charity events will be a focus.

5) Studentship. We are progressive because we are always learning and growing, never satisfied that we have all the answers. We are humble truth seekers and transparent truth speakers, no bullshit, no fluff. We own our flaws and strive for growth in all areas.

6) Mindfulness. Bringing both perspective and awareness to everything we do. At all times we endeavor to respond from our highest place, where our hearts and our minds connect.

7) Harmony. Within our self, with each other, with the local Balinese community, with the environment, with the planet, we work towards sustainable, harmonic relationships in every way.

8) Gratitude. We recognize the incredible privilege that it is to be here – to have these bodies, to have these lives, these finances, the gift of yoga, all of our teachers and the opportunity to serve and make a difference in the world. Every moment we are giving thanks for these opportunities and gifts.

9) Universal Trust. We surrender. We trust that we are here for a purpose and that we are guided along the way. We trust in our own and each other’s capacities and when things get challenging, our trust in the universe will keep us positive, calm, grateful and in harmony with ourselves and all those around us.

These principles will be our measurements. They represent both our support beams and our guiding lights as we bring forth our vision into the world, keeping it safe as it blooms open towards fruition.

There is nothing new here, as Carl says, “No point reinventing the wheel,” because after all, there is only one system to govern everything, our business lives, our personal lives, our spiritual lives, everything. This is why you can affect your kidneys by pressing parts of your foot, or points on the lobes of your ears. Everything that exists in one place, must as a byproduct of reality, also exists and be accessible in all other places. Like a child’s ‘color by numbers’ activity book, all we have to do is learn the codes, grab the markers and create our own picture of beauty, because the reality is, life was always meant to be that way.