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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?

Everything.

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,
Octavio

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.

AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA. AUM SHARAVANA BHAVA. AUM.

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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,

Octavio.

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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?