By Chad Balch

chad

Dear Yoga Friends,

Recently my suddenly-teenaged daughter asked me: “Who decided that life should be like this?” My family is like many others. We’re perpetually busy with work and things that need to get done. My daughter has the typical assortment of activities for a kid her age: school, homework, sports, music lessons, socializing, etc. It took me a moment to realize what she was asking, and then it dawned on me that this was one of those “big” questions. She quickly painted a picture of an alternative life, filled with time spent in nature, listening to music, hanging out with friends, and relaxing. As my father used to say, “nice work if you can get it.”

Two things have happened in my life that inform my perspective on her question. The first is my finding the path of yoga. The second is taking 13 months off from life as I knew it, to travel with my wife. This was before the internet kicked in, when it was possible to wander in some hinterland, out of communication for weeks or even months at a time.

During that year, among other things, I read every book and essay by Krishnamurthi that I could get my hands on. I also wrote, not so much a diary, but descriptions of special experiences, such as sitting for a couple of hours on a porch overlooking terraces of rice fields, witnessing transitions from a tropical night to dawn to a bright morning. Krishnamurthi used a term “choiceless awareness” to describe a certain meditative state of consciousness. Immersed in an often-hectic life filled with family, community, and work obligations, I am long back from that year of exploration and introspection. But I still find its essence in my yoga practice, which in turn informs other moments of my life.

Krishnamurthi studied some yoga with B.K.S. Iyengar, and although the two men walked different paths, they had much in common. In The Tree of Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar writes:

You may practice meditation and develop awareness when you are sitting quietly in a park, and it comes quite easily. But when you are busy working, your life gets dominated by thought and it is hard to have total awareness. When you practice asana, pranayama, and pratyahara, you learn to be totally aware – you develop awareness in your whole body while you are engaged in action. Then you can become totally aware in all circumstances. In a park, while you look at a tree, you forget yourself and you are one with the universe. Why can’t you learn to be one with the universe in your own world – that is to say, your self and your body? This way of looking at daily life is total awareness, total integration, and total meditation.

These two men, J. Krishnamurthi and B.K.S. Iyengar, are both shining examples of meditation in action. Yes, I feel meager and crude by comparison, but I’ve seen a glimmer of what they are describing. Enough to know that my daughter is onto something.

Namaste,

Chad

By Rachel Quinlan

You may have seen Rachel’s smiling face as you walked in our new lobby. Rachel shares her journey to yoga and to the Institute:

Rachel

What’s your connection with yoga and when did your journey began?

I truly became connected to the practice of yoga when I took my first class in 2008 at my university.  Since I had always felt uncomfortable in my body and I had never been able to commit to other forms of physical activity I thought I would give it a try… after 2 classes I was hooked and I had a realization that the practice of yoga is more than toning the physical body, it was a practice of calming the mind, where in all truthfulness was the root to feeling uncomfortable in my own skin.

After I completed a semester of Hatha Yoga courses I began to practice Bikram yoga pretty regularly and found myself enjoying the challenge, along with the fact that I was so exhausted after class I didn’t even have the energy to think.

Once I graduated with a BA in entertainment and tourism management I felt my educational journey wasn’t over. I then applied to an international university in Switzerland, in the lovely city of Lugano, just on the boarder of Italy. I was accepted to an International Tourism masters program and moved my whole life across the world. While living abroad I began to deepen my meditative practice and eventually decided to write my master thesis on something I was personally connected to. I wrote it on yoga tourism in Rishikesh India.

I chose Rishikesh because I found it has been known to be one of the top yoga destinations in the world and well of course The Beatles studied there so I was slightly swayed because of that. I stayed in an ashram for 2.5 weeks and joined a 2-week intensive Hatha Yoga course… it changed my life. I met the most amazing people from all over the world and got to interview them on their deep-rooted motivations on why they traveled to Rishikesh to practice yoga and meditation.

Rachel in India

Attaining a master’s degree was one of my biggest accomplishments, but to be able to have tangible learning experiences through travel and yoga brought more value to my life than sitting in a classroom listening to lectures. And for this I am grateful to the amazing master’s program I was apart of.

 How did you end up at IYISF?

My work experience and educational background is in marketing, event coordination and sales.  I knew after moving back from Switzerland I wanted to be in San Francisco and when I discovered the position of sales & student services coordinator for the Iyengar Yoga institute I thought what a great pairing of my passion for yoga and experience.

Although I didn’t have a regular Iyengar Yoga practice before working at the Institute I have now developed a fondness for it. What I connect with most in my Iyengar practice is that I experience the perfect blend of eastern spirituality and physical aliment. I was meant to be here and meant to discover this practice, I am grateful for the opportunity.