Monday, August 27, 2012

Kunga Yoga, Kunga Running. (still in edit, but whatever.)

As cosmic collaboration would have it, I found myself registered for a 220hr yoga teacher training program three days before the commencement of a three week immersion program.  New to the art and practice of yoga, my connection to the power, the medicine & synergy, the joyful work of disciplined movement, all was aligned sufficiently to alter life-rhythms (my own and many others) and embark upon the journey.  Welcome to Kunga Yoga Teacher training at Shell Island Resort in Wrightsville Beach, NC.

Kunga Yoga is a yogic belief-system central to Wilmington Yoga Center, the hosting studio of the ytt school.  At the philosophical core of Kunga Yoga is the belief that Yoga is a service, is an act and offering of compassion, and that practice is an opportunity to reconcile. Kunga yoga believes that everyone is a yogi, that yoga is accessible to every body.  In serving our bodies in asana and pranyama, we build a personal strength that can translate towards a communal power.
Kunga yoga brings a monthly theme to its classes, and that theme is introduced into each Kunga class, often connecting the category and flow of postures.
Kunga yoga classes donate a percentage of proceeds to a charity, annually chosen. The young girls of the Home for Hope in India are 2012's recipients, and there is a trip organized at the end of the year.

Rather than write anecdotes and vignettes describing the three weeks of ten hour days of practice, posture work, reading, studying, refueling and resting (rich days my friends!), I persuade you to check out a class or a workshop ( for those in the area).  Yoga practice is a transformative, expansive, magical thing, and every yoga experience can be a gift to yourself and others. 

Yogic philosophy is a direct complement to kicking out distances.  Burying the mind in the solitude of miles makes yoga feel more elegant, more nuanced, more subtle.  Braiding in both, in yoga as in running, is the idea of space, openness, breath, heat, and, most importantly, a strong communion with the earth beneath you as well as the clay that composes you.   Clay and breath and light, light that emits various levels of heat.


I came to yoga from a spectrum of injuries.  Yoga was a gentle, a healing or nurturing meditation; a preventative, in-the-meantime deal. Soccer stretches.  I quickly learned that yoga can be equally physical, massively challenging to strength and mind and endurance. Forgotten areas of my body struggled with basic movement & patterns of movement. Tensions poured through muscle thicker than blood. Slowly, a new body, a waking body, merges into breath through posture, distills mind into focus, a calm, engaging meditation towards inner-stillness,.  It is a process, a gradual process.  A journey.

Yoga contains running and running contains yoga.

Moments in my trail running have a sacred lucidity.  Likewise, I have fallen deep into my body and inner-bodies during shavasana, exploredvast mad spaces during cycles of surya namaskar B... felt fires in core and legs while holding warrior 3... yoga and running are acts that open the body to new aptitudes, open the heart to new experiences, nurturing a healthier, happier person.  Both stabilize the body and mind.  Each is an action rooted in gratitude.

I think all creative actions can be an ascetic.  Drop labels and the cultural models, let fads fall away, minimize the noise of a thing, transcend to your own expression of an act and search out the ascetic root.  Find a mindful connection to the act.  Sculpture, masonry, cooking, writing koans, cleaning, story telling, sketching a rock, skipping a rock, reading, meditation .... in every creative act is an ascetic potential.  More to this later...

Yoga, the physical elements (only two of the eight branches of Yoga), is a meditation that moves through postures and patterns of breath.   Asana and pranyama are powerful practices, but I would extend Yoga to include running, cycling, swimming, jumping rope, dancing, eating, having sex: anything can move towards a yoga-based practice.   Anyone can find some form of yogic practice and celebrate that immediate place. Start here and now by noting the here and now.  Breathe into the three spaces of your torso's cavity, filling the belly, expanding the ribs, lifting the heart, and then pouring that breath out mindfully from the belly. . . . yoga dirgha breath.  A mindful nodding of the head, a roll of the lower spine,  scorpion pose, walking to the mailbox, any mindful movement can capture the spirit of yoga.  Everyone is a yogi, and it does not require a mat to find your yoga.  to move consciously, to feel the weight of one's body on the support of an earth, to yoke the love and heat and strength of a challenging posture, to remember the steadiness of breath and the awareness of body and mind, and then to project that as an energy into our relationships and community, it is an offering. movement as prayer. an exalted, basic Act.

We do not learn yoga so much as we excavate the yogi within us.


Interestingly, noted Yogini Sharon Gannon argues that asana does not mean posture, but translates as "seat."  Meaning a stable connection to the earth, to the processes of the earth, to the dynamics of a moment, to being still and conscious, reaching from within with compassion.

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