June 24, 2010

I-anger (Iyengar)

That's another term for Iyengar, an alignment based yoga method taught by the renowned, late, Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois. I went to Yogaworks last night for a class and while it was amazing to be there with all the state of the art, posh-bling features that the studio possesses. I couldn't quite move past my own judgement.

Ok, ok, whoah.. hold the phones here. But Brandon, YOU are a yoga teacher and why the heck were you judging in the first place (Oy, this may take a while). First, I'm still practicing, learning, practicing, learning. Second, I'm a human being and let's face it, we ALL judge, everyone, even YOU, the person reading this right now. But so what if we judge. What comes first and foremost as my own practice is discernment. I judge, then discern, then the judging wanes and opens to being compassionate. That's been my own path. I can see that I am judging and when I do this what gets cut off is love, self expression (my own), affinity, laughter, lightness, being, breath, all of it. But it's natural to judge so naturally we must notice this and move into a space of looking at where the judgement is coming from, what we are getting from it and what it's costing us.

Back to last night's Iyengar class. Where was the connection of posture with breathing? It didn't show up. "Open your chest by lifting your ribcage, tuck your tailbone in, suck in your stomach." I was dying to teach that breath will naturally move everything into alignment, how could he be missing this and more-so teaching this! 'Move my body into a dome?'-What the heck does that mean? 'Make my leg a square?'-Huh? Then when the teacher taught us to outstretch our arms from the socket by pulling our shoulder blades in, I have to say I killed him off, right then and there in that moment. But why?

I noticed myself being a statue of grey toned stoicism hiding all the thoughts, including 'externally rotating the shoulders at the joint is what holds the arms and shoulders in the socket so why are you teaching this way b/c it's wrong.' But again, not important b/c I was still portraying a grotesque Rodin-like statue, yogi in disguise, and that's not who I want to be.

In yoga and in our lives, what really is important here. Getting it right? Probably not. Teaching it correctly? I would say yes but then what is it to teach 'correctly?' So maybe not that either although it's still important. Being with breath, present, alive and inspired. Come on, totally yes.  At least for me it is. And maybe this is the yoga that I realize I want to teach?

I could understand that the teacher was doing his best, giving his all and only knows what he knows. So why should I judge silently pretending to be happy? Ok, I gave that up. I wasn't too happy in class last night. I allowed the cynicism to come out. I didn't like it. But I didn't hide it either, and that may have been the gold. To me I conceptually get that everyone and everything is my teacher if I am willing to be open to the lesson. Whethere I get the lesson or not is a different story. I was willing last night. I learned that when I allow myself to be true to myself, even if it's by showing resignation and cynicism, I will eventually move into a compassionate place. Eventually, it passed and I began to consider all the different styles and ways one can learn, practice and teach yoga. There are many, especially in New York. I began to see the teacher in a new light where I could be compassionate and a contribution to his class just by being present. And what came next was the best. I saw my deep commitment to teaching yoga and how I am at the next level of the journey as a new teacher and what I am sure to bump up against as a teacher.

Because if I was this way in this guy's class, someone is sure to be that way in mine. So how can I empower myself as a teacher and my students? How can I teach so everyone is taken care of? I'm not sure exactly, not just yet. Although, I'm stoked to teach this lineage and modify my own teaching practice to empower students with movement and breath with what inspires them and how they can remain more present and compassionate with themselves. Ready?


June 23, 2010

What is this.

Yoga, god, enlightenment, breath, righteousness, prayer, postures, yoga, the west, India, religion, chanting, the way, which way, the right way, one way, no way, wayward, yoga, practice, guru, teacher, student, practice, yoga, teach, self, god, enlightenment, parents, child, prayer, questions, question, answers, answer, you.

What is yoga really about? Really!?

June 18, 2010

Didgerido-ing My Thing

Some of you may know that I have thrown myself into the magical world of playing the didgeridoo. Here's whats been going on. I went to Australia in 2000 to study printmaking. I bought a didgeridoo there. It was in Cairns (prounounced: Cans) that I purchased this didgeridoo. I ran into a man playing one of these didgeridoos for minutes on end. I was mesmerized watching him play and listening to the drones, crackles, twangs and buzzes flowing from the instrument. He stopped, looked up at me and said, "It's an amazing journey." That was pretty much it for me, I had to get one.

I learned different sounds, but ran into a blockade trying to understand this 'circular breathing' stuff. How do people breathe in AND out at the same time. I couldn't do it. I gave up and my didg' became an ornament for showing friends and impressing girls.

Fast forward to April, 2010. I am in Kauai, studying yoga, right,.. you guys know this. One of the girls in the training with me has this boyfriend named Jim who has a didgeridoo. And I don't know what it was about this guy, or this didg' or what, but something in me said, "it's time to play this instrument again." So, I bought one at the local music shop, a plastic version, painted in the traditional Aboriginal way of the dreamtime serpent. 

I practiced and practiced, the sounds came back to me. I expanded on more sounds. Still the circular breathing wasn't there, although I became committed to learning so I can fulfill on this dream I had of playing in the New York City subway system. I first became aware of this dream after I saw this, check it out. 

I left Hawaii still practicing. Practiced more at the Dharma Siddha Buddhist house in Berkeley, CA. They were happy I was playing. I was happy too, but I knew I had lots left to learn. I came back to New Jersey and watched countless circular breathing tutorials on YouTube, it still wasn't helping b/c I wasn't circular breathing, which basically means I can play well, but for only 15 or so seconds at a time, maybe. To circular breathe would mean I could go out into the streets and fulfill my dream and mission of playing in the subway and being a busking musician, an artist but only once I get this breathing technique.

When I was in Berkeley I met a woman who could play and circular breathe. She said it was all feeling. That wasn't good enough for me at the time though. I needed linear, concrete examples on how to breathe, move my cheeks, flicker my tongue. All of it. I also met a man at the same house I met this woman at and he was giving me all kinds of equations for breathing circularly. But that didn't help either. Was I ever going to get this!

Yes I was! I got it. I got it last friday night! And, I have to say the woman who taught me to just feel my way into it was right. It's a total feeling instrument and my teacher. And last friday night, one week ago right now, I was playing in the W4th subway station on the B,D,F,V Downtown and Brooklyn platform fulfilling a dream. How did it happen?

Didg'in da' subway from brandon waloff on Vimeo.

Earlier that night I was in my room around 8:45 playing, probably just going to stay in and drink a beer with Doug and Olivia when it just clicked. Just like that. I couldn't believe it. I was now ready to go play in the subway! And good thing for me b/c with my recent financial shortage I was planning to play the next day, even if I didn't get the breathing down. Perfect!

It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I have had in a while, different than Hawaii. This was me on my edge, as a man and I was SUPER ALIVE!  I made a few duckets but the best part was talking to a 10-year old girl and her mom as they gazed in curiosity.  

Since that night the interactions remain to be the best part of this whole new endeavor I have taken on. West 4th street, Broadway/Lafayette, Central Park (that was a free concert I gave to the people), Washington Sq. Park, Madison Sq. Park and Union Square have all seen me to this point. Coincidentally at the same time I have begun to teach yoga. I've played 6 times now in New York City and have taught yoga 3 times last week. Since playing I have met 3 yoga teachers also who want me to play with them in their class as well as some other juicy opportunities that have surfaced where I can play music.  

I feel I am living out of my heart and am completely in alignment with my passion right now. I want to create music. I want to develop this sound with inspiring mantra's and trance-like effects and play across the lands and be a yoga teacher and didgeridoo player for my students. You don't think I'm serious? Oh, I am. Just you wait. 

Throughout this past week I have felt more connected to yoga, to it's practice and how much of an honor it is to teach this lineage. How does the didgeridoo connect to yoga besides playing for classes? I am playing. Yoga is a practice that can loosen up the tightness of everyday living, lighten up our outlooks and enlighten our souls. Naturally playing didg' in the streets has come from lightening up and living day by day, listening to my heart, shutting up my head and remaining present to my dream. Yoga means union. Yup, that's how.


June 15, 2010

Where does the time go? Nowhere=Now Here and Yoga.

Where does the time go? It doesn't go anywhere, we are and it is always 'now here'. Maybe the question is 'where do you go' when you realize time has 'flown' or 'passed by'?

Moving onto yoga. The physical postures are a small portion of what yoga actually is. The physical postures are just a way to continue the practice of yoga which can be summed up in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra's as 'the science of mastering yourself over your mind.'

What is there to master? How can you master the mind? Is it counter intuitive to attempt to overcome the mind?
The mind, in my opinion is a machine. It's like 'Hal' from 2001 you know? It gives you information even when you don't ask for it and can hijack any situation. It also obviously is useful and can work with us.

To master the mind is to throw out the garble and keep the gold, be present in the chaos and have the capacity to know and sink into your own stillness.