Monday, August 18, 2014


Cat is the very embodiment of yoga.
Pure grace
Blissfully relaxed and totally immersed in the present,
No regrets about the past or planning of the future whatsoever.
Similarly to the way asanas should be practiced– cats get into any situation with ease, dwell in elegance and leave gracefully.
Their  body is light, flexible and soft, 
An elastic spine makes them somehow destined for hatha yoga.
Body gospel

Mysterious, and possessing some special connection with the Sublime,
they used to be cult animals in ancient Egypt.
Hatha yoga pradipika teaches us to keep our practice a secret and so cats always have their feline mysteries keeping themselves to themselves.
They can see in near darkness.

Cat's meow meow or purring voice is pleasant to the ear and brings comfort.
No matter what a cat will say - it will make people jubilant!
Their words contribute to general happiness.

Blithe spirit
Their presence is enough.
Their presence evokes warmth and peace.
They’re loving and dedicated healers by being capable of consciously taking their owner’s sickness upon themselves.
Loners by nature, cats can be very loyal and generous – will happily share a bird or mouse they've just caught.
Well-known for their cleanliness and dignity.
Wise and rather aloof – one has to earn their friendship.

Being a cosmopolitan species they’re found across much of the world.
Wandering yogis.

No borders whatsoever but those of the mind.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Yoga and desire - on five disturbing thoughts

So there came a day when you stepped on a yoga mat and started doing all those weird poses with a wish to calm your mind down... 

As Patanjali put it: "Yoga is the suspension of the fluctuations of the mind" (Yoga Sutra 1.2), which means that we take up practice in order to sublimate all that's dissonant and reduce (or ideally: transcend) our suffering. Yoga is to bring us back to our true nature, pure unconditional love, crystal clear state of mind, sheer bliss. However, in the modern world yoga in not any more exclusively practiced somewhere in the Himalayan caves under an enlightened guru. And although its universal dimension and ultimate goal, that is self-realization, haven't changed, yoga nowadays, to a big extent is a well operating industry. In the fifth Sutra Patanjali goes on speaking about the causes of our suffering enlisting five types of disturbing thoughts, called kleshas, namely: ignorance, egoism, desire, aversion, and fear. Having given it a closer look, one may intuitively understand that there's not a single sphere of life kleshas wouldn't penetrate. This also includes the so called "yoga world". Me myself  at times feel haunted by those very five distractions, which turn out to be inseparable from my yoga lifestyle and this path of personal involution. 

1. On ignorance

The more I practice the more I'm concerned about gaps in my knowledge, which I find really bothering. There's still a whole lot of disharmony in my primary ashtanga series and some asanas from secondary and tertiary series just seem to be totally beyond my reach. Those are such poses as mayurasana, confident handstand with no wall support, and other arm balances... I'd like to have a good command of Sanskrit so that I would be capable of reading yoga scriptures in their original form. I wish to know more about Indian history and culture, be able to recognize each and every deity and their myth, give accurate diagnoses and prescribe ayurvedic treatments, go back to my harmonium and Indian singing classes... I just feel I know so little and that awareness of my limited knowledge is really getting me down.
Gosh - will my life be long enough for me to learn it all?

2. Egoism

Why do I do yoga and why do I teach? Is it happening for the sake of showing off and demonstrating how flexible I am? At one of the gyms I used to sub they asked to be their exclusive face just because my slim body would attract more people. Do I teach because I enjoy to be in the center of attention, do I remember that I am there, in the yoga hall to change people's lives for the better?
Do I neglect house chores treating them as something completely uninteresting? Well, much as my place's clean, I really do.  If I have a choice to go and see my grandparents, roll up my sleeves and prepare some home-made meal and do some asanas, I will obviously go for the latter, more obvious option.
Most of the money I make and save goes for my journeys to India or yoga trainings. I live by myself, have no kids to spend money on - everything goes for myself - it that what we call egoistic?

3. Desire

Does my desire to take part in a pricey weekend yoga workshops arise from my genuine wish to deepen my practice and advance or do I just want to mingle with the people that are worth to mingle with, take a snapshot with that yoga superstar, upload it on facebook and happily count all the likes it' s going to earn me afterwards? What if the desire to do another yoga TTC or go to practice in India, in my case Mysore specifically, is simply consuming me? Trendy yoga garb with that little label that is there to somehow define my status, a brand new American yoga mat that's been all the rage recently... Such things only stimulate one's desires instead of curbing them.

4. Aversion

I find a considerable number of things off-putting and gross, for instance meat, eggs, and fish. I just can't imagine how come people can eat something which is dead body or chicken's period...
At times I catch myself thinking unfavorable thoughts and saying negative things about one or another yoga modality or teacher. I dislike it when a class is unchallenging or when a teacher overuses yoga props. In such situations my silence is really gold. And well -  just because I feel no connection with some particular hatha yoga style doesn't mean it's not going to work for somebody else.

5. Fear

Oh yes... those tiny prickles and bristles that will occasionally let one know they're still there. The fear of not being a living example of the shanti shanti state of mind I teach. That distressing uneasiness I may not be able to do all those fancy asanas, fear of an empty yoga hall and that people will not join my classes, of not being able to afford workshops and journeys to India... If you're a sincere practitioner, you can be sure that all your apprehension will sooner or later be brought to the surface. Some people fear exercising barefoot, others are scared of inversions.

Here are three tips on how to deal with the yoga-related kleshas that may definitely cause some discomfort and a sense of unfulfillment:

1. Be mindful
Even noticing a disturbing thought will contribute a whole lot to our daily awareness of what's behind our actions. Am I buying this yoga bra or tight pants because I really need them, or do I want to look sexy for that cute guy next mat I have a crush on? There's nothing wrong with the desire to look attractive, just acknowledge your intention behind the purchase. 
2. Let go
Ok, so you've put a lot of your effort in your practice and see no fruits so far. What fruits were you expecting in the first place? Ask yourself how you'd be feeling if you were not practicing at all. Would you feel better? An ability to perform an elaborate asana is a measure of our progress only to a certain degree. The fact that somebody's body allows them to do splits doesn't mean their mind is calmer than yours. And you may find it really liberating to abandon any fixed idea that your yoga should take any particular shape. 
3. Enjoy 
No matter if it's pascimottanasana or scorpion you're struggling with - you might either approach it with irritation and impatience or with amusement. Ok, you still don't touch your toes in forward bend. So what? I bet there are worse dramas in life ;) Just take it easy and go with the flow. You're practicing yoga! Hey - how great it that!!!

Yoga is about living a happy life.
Yoga is about harmonious relationships with others. 
Yoga is about having no fear to open our heart.
And it has definitely nothing to do with self-imposed frustration!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Big children havin fun

Somewhere in wild parts of eastern Poland right in the middle of the woods in a tiny village there's this magical place...

A fancy gingerbread house...
but if you taste it, a wicked witch will catch ya!
And so the ordeal begins!

No mercy!

She's got a huge oven for misbehaving kids
 I want to be a witch too!
 I already got some sorcerers friends!

Thank you Mirek & Andrzej for the best Sunday ever!

Chatka Baby Jagi, Sosnowka, near Bialowieża, Poland

Monday, July 28, 2014

Happy Yoga Birthday

I'm 31 now.
It feels good to live my own life story in my own body

Happy Yoga Birthday, my dear Ania!

A bunch of roses from the one who's far
Yoga in the park
Hello Kitty balloon
Shanti shanti shanti
Blowing a candle
Tibetan incense
Ink-blue stone with a hole
Chai masala
Painting together in my yoga studio
A delicious dinner at a Hungarian restaurant with my parents

Happy Yoga Birthday!
My own birthday creation. It's gonna be just another awesome yoga year in my life <3

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Difficult asanas

A yoga teacher I practiced with said that a difficult asana is like a problem in life. 
Even though he didn't elaborate on this very idea, it gave me some food for thought for the next couple of days.
Problems might seem acute, insoluble and thorny, apprehension showing its bloodiest fangs and filthy claws...
With this theoretically vast knowledge of the mind and emotions, the nature of suffering derived from years of studying and exploring yoga, Buddhist teachings and modern psychology, I myself still fear and experience long periods of pitch darkness in my life.
I take my practice off the mat one more time.
Again and again - same flow of asanas almost every singe day. 
Inhaling and exhaling in the flow of changing the poses,
ashtanga-meditation-like-dance-body prayer-breath
If there's anything I can be certain in life is that I totally love Ashtanga Yoga.
How do I approach difficult asanas that seem to be beyond my reach?
With frustration, a sense of challenge, awe, patience and ambition.
I try to work them out, technically, proper angles, alignments, specific gravity and balance.
Sometimes I'll succeed, sometimes I won't. 
Perhaps it just needs some more time, or perhaps it will make a life-time adventure.
And perhaps Yoga is not about performing those most impressive asanas ;)

Thank you Przemek Nadolny for the awesome yoga camp!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Myths of a yoga teacher

And here they come – this mesmerizing person radiating with bliss, ethereal and flexible-beyond-limits. A living example of what they teach. Eternally young, intuitive, shapely and spiritual, the embodiment of the sublime. Every sentence they say must certainly have some mystical underpinning. And surely they can perform all those amazing asana-acrobatics one sees in Facebook feeds…

Well, if you’re looking for this type of ideal teacher it is definitely not me… And I personally haven’t met a single instructor who’d live up to this very description. Much as teaching yoga may seem to be a dream job (and in my case it really is) there are many peculiar myths regarding this profession I’d like to debunk here. Some of them are as follows:

          Yoga teachers have no problems
 Have no inner conflicts or conflicts with people
 Have no  injuries
Have no money issues
 Never make mistakes in life

To begin with, yoga instructors definitely do not constitute a somewhat privileged elite, never haunted by any problems whatsoever. We’re not 100% healed (whatever that means), and normally we’re not clairvoyant. We often struggle financially, and put aside for months in order to do a yoga workshop or one more yoga teachers’ training (just to be better teachers and advance our own practice). Have you ever seen a yoga teacher driving a Ferrari? Highly unlikely…  and it’s not a general aim anyway. I myself ride a bike or use public transportation most of the time (well, yes, there’s some ecology there too).

And as for conflicts – we’re no different – the biggest battleground being our own families. The wheel of samsara spins happily no matter where you turn to, be it big competitive companies, Buddhist centers and yoga studios (which are also competitive). We have injuries resulting from unmindful practice and sometimes we just overstrain ourselves (forget ahimsa, non-violence). We’re no saints either. We don’t live on prana, we happen to swear, order a pizza (no organic ingredients involved) and have a glass of wine. Or three.

Knowing that all our yoga students want after a hard day at work is to feel better and unwind, we have to leave all our personal crap behind the yoga hall’s closed door. Even if I’m myself having the worst day ever, or a painful period. As a practitioner I remember myself crying in savasana, as a teacher I just pull myself together and smile because I want people leave my class relieved and light-hearted, instead of overwhelming them with my stuff. It’s not what they’re paying for after all…

I genuinely love this job. 

This magical moment, just before the class when everybody comes spreading their mats in rows on the floor. There’s silence or soft music playing in the background.  The alchemical process is just about to begin and I have the honor to be the moderator.

You know it’s worth it when you see someone using instantly less and less props, finally grabbing their big toe in seated forward bend (paschimottanasana). Or effortlessly coordinating their breath with the flow. Or when you know you have inspired somebody, alleviated someone’s suffering if a little bit, and made their day a better one. When you establish a long-lasting friendship.When you leave the studio with this sweet sense of contentment and fulfillment.

I don’t believe in yoga. I have faith in yoga. It helped me all the way through depression, eating disorders and was a safe and stable raft to cling to during my divorce. If everything’s in life is said to be generally impermanent, yoga itself becomes this very secure thing. Thrilled or despondent – you just step on your mat and so the inner-outer journey begins. The body prayer, which reconnects one with their very nature that is sat-chit-ananda (truth-consciousness-bliss). 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Morze jest blisko

... przypomina mi się anegdota o pewnym mistrzu, który rozpaczał po śmierci syna. Uczniowie przyszli do niego niejako z pretensją: "Cały czas nauczałeś nas, że ja i cała rzeczywistość to iluzja, dlaczego więc tak rozpaczasz?" 
"Tak, zgadzam się, to jest iluzja, ale to bardzo bolesna iluzja - odparł.

Tylko zranione sercejest sercem otwartym, bo przyjmuje wszystko.
rabin Don Singer

... wejdę w stan śmierci spokojnie i bez bólu, łacząc się z Wielkim Umysłem, Pustką, Bogiem chrześcijan i Żydów, i muzułmanów, albo Oceanem i znowu stanę na jego brzegu oniemiała z zachwytu nad jego bezkresną nieskończonością.

Fragmenty książki "Jabłoń w ogrodzie morze jest blisko", 
Małgorzata Braunek w rozmowie o życiu z Arturem Cieślarem