Last weekend at Amaravati Monastery in Hemel Hempstead was the celebration called ‘Kathina’. It’s a robe offering ceremony and the day sees enormous generosity from the lay community and mountainous donations of necessities for the lives of the nuns and monks.
I asked Ajahn Amaro, the Abbot of Amaravati, how to write about Kathina and relate it to yoga. He told me that the word Kathina actually means frame on which cloth to make the robe is made. To make a robe in the Buddha’s time, his disciples collected bits of cloth from rubbish piles, cemeteries and any other discarded fragments they could come across. The Buddha asked his first disciple, Ananda, to arrange the pieces of cloth in the pattern of the paddy fields of Mahavagga which were divided into short pieces, rows and boundaries. Robes are still made in this pattern. Ajahn Amaro tells me it’s the oldest style of dress still “in fashion” after 2,500 years.
Does this relate to yoga? Well, the Buddha was from Yogi times. He was a yogi. Yogis inhabited the outskirts of society and scavenged cloth for clothing. The Buddha determined on making something beautiful out of something unpromising. I feel completely like that with some postures! This’ll never happen, I think, and then the posture comes only because of the strong framework that supports our practice, the breath. It’s the framework on which we pull all the pieces, all the postures together. Kathina can also be translated as ‘difficult’ which reminds us that our practice is not easy.
Kathina is also about tremendous generosity and we’re coming up to Christmas, a festival of generosity. (Imagine a life with no provision in our calendar or in our culture to celebrate giving!) Generosity does us good. It will debilitate those self-defeating qualities such as selfishness, greed and lack of compassion and therefore can only strengthen us. The more we practice generosity, the more we can meet the more demanding acts of self-sacrifice that life demands.
I’ve been teaching some Iyengar stretches. I have to admit, I’m not sure Iyengar himself would recognise them but I fashioned an Iyengar-style fixed rope. I’ve attached some of the stretches used in a pregnancy class. You don’t need the bump to give them a go. You can see what classes are available on my website. Also attached on this email.
David Swenson sessions start tonight and last all weekend. See if there are any spots left and come along! The Centenery of BKS Iyengar’s birth is coming up. On the 14th and 15th of December at the Iyengar Institute there will be two events: a ‘100 Asana Practice’ interspersed with readings and poems by or about Iyengar and an evening of music, dance, song and storytelling.
Yoga in the news
The Times asks the most important question of all: ‘Will your bum look better in £200 leggings?’. Whereas yogis in ancient times scavenged for scraps of cloth, The Times tells us in tabloid-hyperbole that: ‘in the workout world there is nothing that tells you more about a woman’s fitness ethic than what is worn on her legs’. There is apparently ‘legging rivalry in New York’s gyms’.
The Evening Standard tells us: Black Friday 2018: The best fitness class deals in London this year. There are some good deals here – even a couple of free offers. firstlightcycle.co.uk. in Westfield looks good as does bloklondon.com in East London.