Manju Jois: Day 3 My Embarrassment Comes Off As Humble

I got a good night of sleep and decided to go into 3rd series after 2nd. The beginning of 3rd has many fancy leg behind the head postures. For that matter 2nd is fun to watch. For that matter its fun to watch anyone do asana. People manipulating their body into mudra. Trying to heal themselves. Trying to keep themselves healthy. Great stuff. And when someone does some mixed feat of strength and flexibility, wow.

I do get a little embarrassed when someone comes up to me and says, “Your practice. Inspiring. You’re so good. I could feel the energy from it.” I nervous chuckle and say thank you or make some excuse like I’ve just had time on my side. Not to say that I don’t appreciate the compliment but I wish I could own it a little better. Or not. Would that then come off as cocky and send a wrong message. I don’t know what I’m doing. So many people I meet seem to know what they’re doing. All I can do is jump around and throw a leg over my head from time to time. Then I don’t really talk to people and worry that I come off as an asshole or send of to much of a mysterious vibe. There’s not much mystery here.

Then the psychologist talks with me about how great it was to practice beside me. She tells me such nice things that I have to hold back tears. Then I feel bad that I didn’t notice her at all. I don’t notice much other than my practice when it goes well. I guess I feel a kind of energy in the room. At least I can tell if it is a calm, up, down, or serious feeling in the atmosphere. Perhaps I’m not as aware of practice as I think I am. I do know that I need to be less serious.

“Why so serious?”

I have no good answer for that. That’s a lie I do. So serious because I have found out that less people interact with you when your serious. I think I fear interaction a bit. Yet I crave it. So much good gains come from it. So much.

Less bird on the way home today. Hope your day was well. And your puppies learn and behave.

Manju Jois: Day 2 You My Bird Buddy

Stayed up way too late. I was tired. Thought I would go to sleep but then I’m wide awake. I decided to watch a show. Not a good thing before bed. Oh boy. Ah, whatever. I can sleep when I’m dead.

Beautiful morning in the glory that is South Florida in January. Coming back home...what a mental chore. I’m filled with memories and nostalgia. I wonder why I’m not here. And that feeling is quickly changed by people filling the streets. Pastel walls of struggling to move flesh. Blind to what happens around them. Blind to what happens to Florida. Why are these people driving giant pick-ups that aren’t for work. Why are you so unconscious to those around you. Why does your pale polo-shirt drive me mad. My own bias. My own bias. We’re all ignorant in our own special way. I should have eaten more yesterday.

Another day another practice. I brought myself through second today and it was smooth despite it being not a great breath day. Tomorrow will be different. Maybe worse maybe better. I’ll have to wait and see. I’m not quite sure I let second series work its magic on me completely. This opening up I resist. I’m strong, my leg wants to go behind my head most days, and I can work on the breath moving me from asana to asana. The deep emotional work of second becomes the trail. I’m supposed to ball up those feelings and pushed deep inside.

Maybe I’m over analyzing. Maybe I want problems so I try to find them. Maybe I’m not as relaxed I let on. Maybe I am.

New stuff! At the last breathing exercises of practice I am told I’m skipping some things. What? After baddha padmasana Yoga mudra Manju(his helper mostly) adds a few more seated breathing tasks. Interlace fingers, palms pushing away flat, and straight arms over head. Ten breath. Arms stay but fold. Relax hands. Ten breath. Sit up. Hands come to dhyana mudra. Ten breath. Continue as “normal.”

Interesting, I hope I can remember to ask what these new breathing task are all about. My default is to just listen and do without asking why. Is this a struggle for others? I see the benefit to both and I see the destruction that not asking why could bring. If I follow a bad person blindly there’s no benefit to this until I learn to see. When sight is never granted my blind faith will spread the teacher’s ill faith. What harm can a question bring? It takes time? I have time.

Practice was nice. I don’t think there has been a time I didn’t enjoy practice after I finished. “After” being the key word. Colon, space, close parenthesis.

Break time. Eat an apple and take myself for a shoeless stroll through the empty city with a full parking-lot. Where are all the people?

Today’s assisting lesson begins with dandasana and a nice massage and ends with janu sirsasana and no hands. Manju’s all about the person in the asana being relaxed as much as possible. And his assists do this. I would say that someone a teacher doesn’t know may feel odd or worse when the teacher trots over and rubs their trapezius. It does feel nice though and the teacher can simply ask the student how they feel about that. A teacher should ask the student if pushing, pulling, rubbing, hands-on is okay always. I know I don’t but I am getting better at it.

Neck relaxing and into Pashimattanasana.

A bit of a confidence buster today. The assist for all these sitting postures are more or less what I do in my own classes. I always have a worry that I don’t know what I’m doing. Or worse that I haven’t learned or retained any knowledge. There it is. Ground the student. Move in the direction of the asana. Don’t over do it. Not all asanas need physical assistance and props are fine. Plus the added reminder of the teacher should not be hurting themself by assisting. Got to keep that in mind.

I don’t remember if I was told to not assist physically in janu sirsasana B or if I came up with that on my own. Either way this is a great posture to not touch a student. The heel of the foot is already in a sensitive area and you could have been helping them on less sensitive forward folds before B. Same goes for C. The student has been folding for eight asanas prior. If their head is not down yet help them next class. Let the heel do its healing on its own. Let the student work on finding comfort on their own. A teacher will not always be around. Teachers come and go but practice stays. The more comfortable practice is the easier it is to want to do it.

Practice contains more than just asana. A student needs morals, pranayama, mediation. All together making up Yoga. Chant to bring words into your spirit. Mudra to connect to a higher self. Pranayama to face death. Asana to live. We all do Yoga. I may go about it different than you but we’re the same.

The drive home. Along the Indian River intracoastal and full of bird friends. The turkey vulture I saw yesterday soars in the same spot today. The ibis flock grew. The sandhill found a friend. Of course a pelican or two. The whole drive a solitary vulture would fly by from time to time. I like to think it was the same one just traveling down the road with me.

Manju Jois: Teaching Primary(1st) Series Day 1

Some of you may know that I’m in my hometown participating in two Yoga workshops. My hometown is the once beautiful Palm City, FL but I will not be getting to much into that. The workshops are two five day trainings on how to teach and assist. The first five days are focused on the Primary Series of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and second on Second Series. Makes sense so far. One Yoga Planet in Fort Pierce hosts the workshop. They have a second location in Vero but I will probably not be heading to that one. Margarida, the owner?, brings Manju Jois down to our little piece south Florida once a year for a few weeks of training. This year the first week was Mysore with Manju. I had to skip that. I can’t pull off three weeks away from home these days. The next to the the assist workshops.

With that quick preamble done, Day 1 of the workshop is complete and thought I would do a short recap.

It’s about a half hour drive to the studio and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Better said, the way I thought I had to drive to get there I was not looking forward to. A road full of traffic and traffic lights or the highway. I was wrong. Maybe the holiday of the great Dr. King had a little to do with it and also my mother enlightening me about another road to take but the drive was great. Only a short trip up US 1 then onto the back roads that bring me to the intercoastal waterway road, Indian River Drive. A slow speed limit but no lights and no traffic. Hoping that stands true tomorrow. We’ll see. I miss the water. I miss the saltwater. Growing up here I told myself and others that I hated it but now looking back it was a grand time. Special.

So with this great way to start a workshop, a pleasant drive with the temperature in the 60’s and tunes turned up loud, day one begins. The little, I’m sure “historical,” downtown is as sparse as an abandoned mining town. The free parking that won’t get you towed is in the multi-level cement garage just a block or so down from the studio. Easy walk through this empty village. And I’m not to early to find the studio still lock. The door opens with ease.

Tall ceiling, large colorful not my taste but some interesting paintings cover the walls, warm, and a super friendly greeter. Students wait on their mats while others arrive and pick out their spot before I can remember what I supposed to do when I come to a studio.

Sign my life away on the waiver. Sign in on the workshop attendance sheet. Spin in circles. Put my shit in a cubby. Spin in circles. Wonder if I should ask for a toilet or look around for one. I spot the sign. Shorts replace pants and I join the rest of the eager beavers on the mats. I take in the wall art. My eye lids shut and I sit quiet and rest. I have had a couple long nights before this day. Not as used to that as I used to be.


Everyone’s standing. I might have fallen asleep. Opening mantra. Here we go. Call and response. Of course. Oh. One word at a time. That’s a bit confusing. I’ve only done that twice before.


Let’s workshop! Wait. Why are people Surya Namaskaring? Everyone is. Are we practicing first? Mysore before the workshop? I guess I’ll just practice till I’m told different. Maybe I should have read the workshop email better. I bring myself through first series. A wondrous experience. I was not expecting to practice this morning and planned on trying to get up early the next several days to practice before heading to the workshop. Another pleasant surprise. We’ll be practicing first thing before the workshop everyday. Starting the day with practice has become a joy. It releases me of burdens that I want to hold onto so that I suffer. Don’t ask me why I want that. The day seems clearer after practice, freer. Warm, close, and not to wet. I could probably wear the shorts I practiced in tomorrow. In fact I’m gonna. I’m not going to practice in them tomorrow but after practice for workshoping. They’re good

The workshop will focus on hands-on assists for primary series and today we go over the standing sequence. Padangusthasana till Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana. The foundational asanas(postures) of ashtanga. “What about Surya Namaskar?,” you ask. That’s yours. That’s your “prayer.” Time to bring one’s self to practice. No assistance necessary. Of course the teacher still teaches the movement, breath, and focus of the Sun Salutations but this time is for the practitioner to come into practice. Set their intention. Worship the Sun. No need to bother them with hands and feet manipulating them. Let them find a center for the days practice.

Hands can help when padangusthasana starts. The hand becomes a focus. Manju brings the warmth of the palm into the assist. Manju brings the three great goddesses the reside in the hand to the assist. Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Govinda directing the direction of the spine with a massage up the strong muscles of the back. First of course finding evenness and stability with a pull that might be a little strong for someone blind to ashtanga. I’ll come back to that later. Secure the student in their asana. Move their spine in the direction it wants to go. And keep the student wanting the assist with no threat of falling over and a massage towards the heart. There’s more. Hands push hips one way. Legs help the student’s balance. Simple movements remind the student to give up on holding shoulders so tight. An arm around the ribs helps twist.

In the end the student needs to feel secure. Needs to feel assisting not assaulting. It needs intention not tentative limp fingers that show no direction.

And I come back to it. But what about those that are super tight, scared, injured, or recovering. Simple, if the student is uncomfortable enough in the asana they need to come out of it something is wrong. “Pain is not gain. Pain is pain,” Manju said. The assists he showed are the end point of the help. The teacher needs to know how far a student can be assisted. Which is why hands-on assist can work in ashtanga. During a mysore class the teacher and student build a relationship. They learn about each other so no harmed comes.

I look forward to tomorrow and my nice waterside drive to practice.