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John & Lise are sharing this blog page and will post current events and news for both entities.

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From John:

“ Behind the Yoga,” is an online community which engages how Yoga addresses issues in our day-to-day lives.

Most yoga teachers take the scientific direction which is fascinating, but I take a liberal arts approach mainly because I have that background, studying religion and philosophy in college and being one of many seminarian drop outs.

My hope is that you will find this an open and safe place to engage in stimulating and respectful discussion about how to live the Yogic lifestyle in the midst of our hurried lives. My recent studies have been the Yama/Niyama or what many call the ethics of Yoga. Some people call them “do’s and don’t’s.” I don’t. I see them as yogas, practices to take on; to explore and question.

From time to time I will write articles and present questions about our lives and about Yoga.

I hope you will explore and question with me.


Yogis are called to non-violence. The whole of the ethical precepts in Yoga is predicated on ahimsa.  “Shanti,” a word in Sanskrit which means “peace” is probably related to the Hebrew word “shalom” (shah-LAWM) or the Arabic “salaam” (suh-LAHM.) It is definitely related to the sound “shhhh,” a sound we make when we want to quiet a baby; a sound that can be both soothing and directive. It is a sound we should collectively use toward pundits and politicians when they bicker about inane things while our world desperately needs more mature discourse.

During the 20th Century we experienced the most devastating wars in history. World wars, cold wars, a sharp rise in civilian casualties and weapons never before imagined shook our most basic securities. Yet, it was also the century of great peace movements. Mahatma Gandhi won a war against the British Empire based on ahimsa, non-violence. Dr. Martin Luther King defied the Jim Crow laws with Christian love and non-violence actions. Solidarity in Poland and freedom fighters in Czechoslovakia helped bring down the Soviet Union with non-violence.  Demark defied the Nazi regime in the 1940s with nonviolence. They each said shhh to the forces that seemed, at the time, to be overbearing.  Yet the power they possessed and used far outreached the force of these regimes. Their foundations reached far deeper and were more grounded in a solid sense of Self. These people were grounded in who they truly are.

Many Yogis chant Om Shanti before meditating. It is a way to shush the mind which does it beautiful work of thinking, but with the switch always left on the mind over thinks,  over plans, over analyses, over litigates, over judges, parses and markets. Nothing we can do about the mind thinking, but if we live solely in the realm of thought we live solely in the calculating part of ourselves and lose our ability to perceive and sense the world around us.

In Hatha Yoga the Warrior postures begin to take shape when we are firmly grounded; our feet solidly planted and the inner ankles lifting. This is the first action before we move into the openness of the posture. In Warriors One and Two the front part of the body, our most vulnerable area, is wide open. Warrior Three we stand on one well-grounded foot, stretch back the other leg and foot, then lean forward making ourselves vulnerable.  The mind will squabble about certain aches and wobbles as we enter this strengthening posture and that is a good thing, because in the mind is where Yoga really happens. We tell the mind “sssshhh” so we can be true to our experience and ground ourselves in our authentic being. We say “sssshhh” in a gentle manner. Here he start the practice of non-violence


How Tender is My Back?

My back is almost out. This morning I did something foolish. I was sitting and stood up. What was I thinking?! Just because I have over 56 years experience standing up from sitting does not mean I can just do it every time. It is like when you jump out a second story window maybe this time you will go up instead of down.

My Yoga is relegated to Sphinx’s posture. Interesting name for an asana in this situation. Why my back came close to going out is a puzzle.(See Yoga Journal’s Sphinx http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/2464 )

There are two traditions for the sphinx. In the Greek tradition the sphinx is a woman with haunches like a lion. Maybe I should add the lion posture (Simsaasana) to my Sphinx. (View H2O Magazine’s Sphinx http://blog.abhayamedia.com/simhasana-or-lion-posture-revitalizes-facial-muscles-relieves-neck-and-back-pain/ ) The backward movement of the lower parts of the body (the Sphinx’ lion-like haunches) creates a nice Sphinx. The Greek Sphinx has breast like a woman which may represent the forward movement of the heart area.

The Greek sphinx also has wings and the lift of the upper body may resemble those wings, but it must be remembered that the lift actually originates from the core muscles in the lower front of  the body.

If you can not answer the riddle of the Greek Sphinx you are in trouble as I am with my tender back. You are eaten whole. This is true of many riddles in life as we try to solve riddles like they are math problems, but not through experiential questioning.

The Egyptian Sphinx is male and less ravenous, even benevolent guarding the entrances of temples. The best way to practice any asana is to show the respect the body deserves, treating it not so much as clay to be molded, but as a sacred temple to be revered.

Kaleidoscope Yoga

Bellingham, Washington, yoga teacher, Logermund “Lo” Nathamundi came up an interesting idea for a community yoga class; Kaleidoscope Yoga. Please watch … http://vimeo.com/22270975

50 People Hold the Fate of Millions

Through periodic hydrogen gas explosions 50 people risk their lives  to crawl through what the New York Times call the  “labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness pierced only by their flashlights.” These brave operators stayed behind to pump seawater on exposed fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station  in Japan. The New York Times reported that Japan’s Health Ministry raised the legal limit of radiation exposure from 100 millisieverts to 250 millisieverts, 5 times the limit for  exposure in American plants.

When saying prayers for the people of Japan say a few words for these brave workers who risk their lives and health to stay behind and help. In dire times people step up.

For more information : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16workers.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha2

“We are all Japanese.”

The earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan have captured our lives and smallness to make us understand just how connected we are. The devastation wrought by these disasters now have been compounded by the threat of nuclear meltdowns. As of this morning, Tuesday, March 15,  there have been reports of an explosion at a third plant and a fire at a fourth in Japan.

Japan is a First World nation with a strong infrastructure, yet human needs still prevail. Their early warning systems may have curtailed a higher number of casualties but still large numbers were lost. In the north winter is still taking its seasonal toll. Thousands are without electricity, heat and water.

People on the West coast of the United States have been buying Potassium Iodine, believed to block absorption of radioactive iodine by the thyroid, due to worries that the radiation from these plants will drift. The same report stated that we are not in harm’s way.

These emergencies point to a deeper, more human issue; we are all Japanese. These are real lives affecting real families and real friends. At times like this our compassion is needed most; not claims that this was an act of God, not a retreat into political finger pointing. These are dodges. What we need is simple compassion for people who, like us, have needs. The only difference is that now their needs are more pressing.

As great as our accomplishments have been in our history, as magnificent as our achievements in our technologies and ideas, human existence is and will always be frail. This we all share

Moveon.org reports that Doctors without Borders is sending highly trained doctors to hard to reach places in Japan.  http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/ and moveon.org also reports that “the Red Cross operates 92 hospitals in Japan and has deployed 700 medical relief volunteers across the country.” http://www.redcross.org/

Yoga for Everybody…

How briliant this practice is. Even one who has lost her leg can practice and teach Yoga. In fact, Yoga helped Marcha Danzig reconnect with her body. More here:


A Look into One’s Eyes

I do not think I would have survived in war. The timing of my birth was the thin shave that saved me from Vietnam. I feel fortunate for avoiding that war but I am in awe of survivors of that and other wars, who answered the call for whatever reason. All were affected. Even those of us at home were then, like now, affected by war although most of us, then as now, did not know it.

In January 1968 Ron Kovic, a decorated U.S. Marine who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, was shot and paralyzed from the chest down while leading an attack in the demilitarized zone. After he returned home Kovic who started out a staunch supporter of the war became a vocal opponent to America’s involvement in Vietnam. His memoir , Born on the Fourth of July, was made into a movie of the same name with Tom Cruise in 1989.

In an article for Truthdig, a Progressive Journal of News and Opinion, Kovic writes of a very human element that pierced his hard exterior during his recovery in hospital in Da Nang. He writes how a look into one’s eyes can melt away  the mind’s categories and dogmatic themes of what makes an enemy.


The World Knows How to Break Our Hearts

The world knows how to break our hearts.

U.S. Representative Gabrielle Gifford is in critical condition because yesterday a gunman shot her in the head at almost point blank while she was meeting with constituents in front of a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona. The gunman also killed John M. Roll, 63, a federal district court judge, Gabriel Zimmerman, 30, Giffords’ director of community outreach and four others.

The heartbreaker was the murder of Christina-Taylor Green, 9, a student at Mesa Verde Elementary in Tucson, who was there because she was interested in how politics works. What was not lost on the media was that Christina-Taylor was born on September 11th, 2001. Vitriolic behavior existed before that fateful date, but it has been amped up since that time to unbearable frequency; a reminder of how we reacted to those attacks adds to the tragedy.

I cannot imagine what her family is enduring at this time.  How do we take this in? How do we mend a heart which has been broken time and again; this time by taking an innocent? What does it take to create a world of nonviolence?

How do we make a world which does not break our hearts?

Please keep the families of the fallen in your thoughts and prayers.

  • John M. Roll, 63, a federal district court judge.
  • Gabriel Zimmerman, 30, Giffords’ director of community outreach.
  • Dorwin Stoddard, 76, a pastor at Mountain Ave. Church of Christ.
  • Christina-Taylor Green, 9, a student at Mesa Verde Elementary.
  • Dorthy Murray, 76.
  • Phyllis Schneck, 79.

Them’s To Blame

In our attempt to live in this troubled world we are battered daily with accusations and finger pointing at groups of people unlike ourselves. We load blame on “them.” In 2010 the US saw an unload onto immigrants in Arizona and Muslims trying to construct a community center a few blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. (Strip joints are closer to Ground Zero than the proposed community center) These are not the only times this has occurred, but they are recent examples that have risen to a fever pitch and it is all because of “them.” It is fortunate that we have “them” in our lives, otherwise we have to look elsewhere for enemies, possibly even (ghast!) to ourselves.

Dr. Sam Richards, a sociologist and award winning professor, addresses “them” in a different manner in his very popular (725 students a semester) Race and Ethnic Relations course at Penn State University. Richards takes the old adage “walking a mile in another’s shoes” to a another level, but with another twist. This class is not about niceties. Some examples of his teaching are here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LBcEp0HZSk

The Race and Relations class generated the World in Conversation Project. http://www.worldinconversation.org/ which Richards co-directs with his wife, Dr. Laurie Mulvey. Their mission is “to create a kind of dialogue about social and cultural issues that invites the unexamined, politically incorrect thoughts of participants to the surface so those thoughts can be submitted to conscious exploration and inquiry.” It challenges to the point of discomfort and shines a light on other cultures.

As this world grows smaller and Yoga grows throughout our world it is important to understand others. We know cognitively that what we see in others is actually ourselves. This process places this seeing on a level of authenticity.

Run through some of Dr. Richards’ use of the Socratic method here: http://www.spokenstories.org/a-radical-experiment-in-empathy/