Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.

STRUCTURED IMPROV: Part 2~ Faraaz Tanveer

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Taozi Tree Yoga is so proud to present… a special guest post…


STRUCTURED IMPROV: Part 2~ Faraaz Tanveer

AIR/ Anahata:

To love is to  pay  attention.  If you love something/ someone, you pay attention to them. Meditation is a way of learning various ways of loving oneself. Different ways in which I can pay undivided attention to what’s going on inside and thus be deeply in love with myself.

In my opinion, the ubiquitous presence of the  stereotypical image of a great master  sitting still and cross legged does more harm than good. It diverts attention towards the outer form and gives a misleading impression that everyone should meditate in only THIS way.  Silent sitting may be  the  culmination point of a more active process  for some people and a starting point for  some others.  You may  prefer  a more dynamic form of  ‘moving meditation’ or have a preference  for  chanting or breathing exercises or just sitting  silently. Traditionally in India meditation is always based on initiation by a  master and the practice given by him/  her is as per the student’s  nature and inclination. Bespoke and private.

Meditation, like love, is an ambiguous term. Any technique that helps in integrating  and focusing one’s energies and turning them inwards can be termed as meditative.   Try out different styles and then choose the one that appeals to you  most.  My  own practice has been ‘traditional ‘ chanting and breath & body awareness . Then recently I  came across ’5  Rhythms’ – a form of dancing meditation and loved it!! There is certainly value in sticking to a path once you have made a choice to  allow for  more depth but  at  the same  time I find that my  regular,  disciplined  practice  gains from  the freedom I allow myself in exploring new avenues as well.

Everyone can benefit by adopting meditative practices into  their  lives. Just like going for a brisk walk every day is beneficial , so  is taking 15 minutes in the morning to sit silently and observe one’s breathing. Then one may decide to jog, get good running shoes and maybe even participate in half marathons  every now and then.  Similarly, one can graduate  to a more regular meditative practice and attend workshops,  retreats and community groups on a regular basis.  Then there are those who want to  run on a competitive level.  They will be advised to join a  training school and regulate their diet & lifestyle accordingly. Similarly, if a certain style of meditation really appeals to you, you may decide to  go  deeper and have dedicated, long term training under a certain lineage and also regulate your lifestyle and other practices to support it. Finally,  some amongst us would be interested  in and suited for international competitions  and  make it a life’s  work.  This required mentoring  from an experienced  coach and long hours of carefully  structured  training. Similarly,  those who want to delve  deeper into the realms of meditation and want to make  it the central  focus  of their life will  do  well to  find a  master who  can provide guidance and support.  Meditation is not competitive, but I guess you get the message that  I am trying to  convey! No effort  in this direction goes waste. Even a small ste  bears  fruit and points  one inwards.

Then there are some people  who claim that, “ You  don’t  need to DO anything. You already  are IT! …” and so on. I agree  with  the  philosophical  premise but also  like  to  point out the fact that  it is not helpful  for most people.  These days there  is an influx of  young ‘advaita’  teachers  who talk  for  hours in workshops  and  write  long articles about how useless the  whole process of  putting  ‘effort’  is. This line  of thinking also seem to  subtly imply  that the ‘practitioners’  amongst us are  somehow spiritually inferior . If someone really ‘gets’  the ‘no  effort – already  is’  logic, that’s it!  I  would expect that  person to  have a  much richer and deeper,  moment-to-moment  experience  of  life.  But what  I often come across are  people  stuck  in the  inertia  of  mental  gymnastics,  endlessly wrestling  with  abstract  concepts  and trying to  fit  them into the  jigsaw puzzle of their  personal  spiritual philosophy.

Gyana  yoga ( Yoga  of knowledge)  is  just  one of the paths among many  that are suggested  by  the traditional systems.  Even within this format, contemplation that  leads to a deeper, non verbal  awareness is the  goal.   So watch out  when you  find yourself  slipping into  intelligent and cool sounding  abstractions which don’t make any difference to your day to day, moment-to-moment living. There is value in these words but also a danger of keeping  us trapped in  ‘head trips’.

SPACE/ Vishuddhi:

We often talk of  the  importance of expression and sharing.  I also  believe that  I  gain a lot from genuine, heartfelt and creative communication. This is a  point  that  doesn’t  need any extra emphasis. What I want to  draw your attention to is  the  limitations  and  pitfalls inherent  in the process  of communication.  In my experience, just like  there  is , “ Lost  in translation”,  there is also a very  real, “ Lost in communication”. The  moment you decide to  communicate  an experience by  codifying it with words, some of its original richness and  uniqueness is  lost. This  is especially true for emotions and  feelings.

Don’t be in a hurry  to describe and capture  your experience  during your practice. Allow some time to just experience it.  You  don’t  always have to answer the question, “ How am  I feeling?”. You  ARE feeling it. That’s  enough. In my experience,  when physical and emotional  feelings are  given the  space to  express themselves and to be experienced fully, they  lead to deep insight and direct  action. As soon as I  bring  in the filter of language  and mind,, they  seem to lose some of their vitality and transforming potential.

This  is one of the reasons why in the traditional yogic system  the students are advised to keep their personal  practice private  and to  only discuss its details  with  their Guru/  teacher.  You are encouraged to  share the  merits of the  practice with others but discouraged from gossiping/ boasting about the details  of  the experiences. Now I  can see  the  value of  this advise.

This  chakra also represents creative  expression. In terms of  creative ideas, I recently  came up with a flowing, moving  meditation sequence that  is  derived from the Ashtanga Vinyasa Sun Salutation A and  the movements in  the Namaz, the Muslim traditional prayer.  These are the  two  most popular vinyasa sequences in the  world, so  I  thought why not combine them! Most students loved it while it  didn’t  do a lot for  some.  That’s the best that you can expect for any creative idea, so I  was happy!

I also  like working with  combining principles of Tai Chi and Reiki  with  Yoga. And new ways  of  structuring classes, like the Chakra  based Yin sequence that I’ve been sharing for the last few months. I think once the basic principles  have been understood,,  there is a lot of  room for  creativity. Creative breadth  and creative  depth.

One of my ideas that I would like to materialize some day  is a vision for  a Mysore  style  practice studio that  offers asana, movement, energy  work and meditation. This is how I  would like  to  run my studio, if/  when  I do  so in the future.

This place works on a membership model. Every new member gets a one-on-one consultation with the teacher, who assesses their goals and requirements and gives them an initial  set  of  practices, spanning asana, breath work, energy work and/  or meditation.  All members  come in  during the ‘self practice’ time slots ( morning and evening). Teachers are available at  hand to  supervise, adjust and support. The class starts  and ends with a group prayer  and chant.  For rest  of the time, all  students are on their mats,  doing their own thing.   There are mid-morning slots available where members  can  drop  in any  time while the  teachers do  their  self  practice in the same  room. There is a review  one to one session for the members every  month.

Having a set  sequence makes Ashtanga Vinyasa Mysore style classes easier to  conduct,  but  I am sure  it can still  be done with a varied  set of  practices. The image  of a  community of practitioners, doing varied self practice sessions in the same room and supporting each  other with  their presence is very  beautiful and powerful to me.  Also,  since  it is not a set  sequence,  there  is no comparison or competition.  We all come together, start  and finish together, while working as per our own nature  and capacities.  This is real structured improv.!

There  are some led classes on weekends, when walk in students  can  have a  taste  of  what is on offer. Also, internally, teachers can work out a loose framework to help  them decide how  to  use their individual strengths to maximum effect and to ensure smooth  progress for long term students.  But corporate style sterile ‘consistency’ is  neither a goal nor desirable.  This system will  invariably be influenced by  the individual  styles of  the teachers. It  will  also foster deeper  student-teacher relationships.

I am sure there are ways in which this idea can be refined. If any of you would  like to  work along these lines, please go ahead and make  it happen!  I  would be happy to brainstorm and give my inputs  if required,  but I don’t expect  to  be involved. My main concern is  with the  materialization of the idea,  not with  WHO does it!  I think this is  a concept  whose  time has come.

LIGHT/  Aagya:

One of the main intuitive insights  for  me  recently has been the realization  that  opposites can simultaneously be true. Free will and determinism.  Unity and duality. Activity and receptivity. And that truth lies in the space  that contains both.

If waves in the ocean represent our individual selves and  various other forms  in the  ocean of  existence,  does a wave have free will?  YES, from a wave’s point of view. It moves around  ‘interacting’ with other waves,  influencing and  being influenced by the  whole  system. And NO, from the  point  of view of  the ocean.  There is  just ONE  movement in this moment, being expressed in the  form of many  waves.  The very  existence  of a wave  as a separate entity  is  in  question here,  so  the  question of free will doesn’t even come up. Which view is  correct? Both. Which view  is wrong?  Both. What is  the truth? It is the space that contains  both ‘views’.  Which view is more helpful in improving the quality of my  life?  Relatively, depends on the situation.  Ultimately,  neither.

So  instead of trying to find definitive answers to existential questions,  I  like to  stay with  the questions themselves. Sometimes that gives  me a glimpse ( for lack  of a better  word) of the space  that contains the questions and  ‘answers’. That,  for  me,  is the real answer to  all  such questions.  Such insights bring about lasting transformation,  even  without  aiming for one.



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Please feel free to get in touch. My e mail id is: faraaz.tanveer@gmail.com,

Thanks. Namaste!

***This has been a special guest post by Faraaz Tanveer. He was one of my yoga teachers at Rishikesh Yog Peeth, in Rishikesh, India, in November-December 2012. He is truly an amazing teacher, so full of wisdom. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness in this post!

faraaz 2

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Author: taozirae

Theresa, known as Taozi 桃子(Peach)to her Chinese students, has been teaching yoga since 2008. She has studied many types of yoga with world renowned teachers from all over the planet. China, the United States, Australia, and India. With over 1000 hours of YTT experience she is thrilled to have the opportunity to share the sweetness of her eclectic practice with others. Her life philosophy is that “The seeds we water are the seeds that grow “…wherever we decide to put our energy, our thoughts, and our actions are the areas of our lives that will grow. Life is about learning to water the right seeds!

One thought on “STRUCTURED IMPROV: Part 2~ Faraaz Tanveer

  1. This is really beautiful, thank you both for sharing! Xo

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