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Sunday, January 14, 2007

a visit to an ashram in malibu

Kali Ray TriYoga
6449 Merritt Drive
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 589-0600
website: www.triyoga.com

TriYoga is a complete and revolutionary system based in ancient Yoga.

Experience the kundalini-inspired sequenced flow of yogasana (postures) synchronized with pranayama (rhythmic breath) and mudra (focus).

The result is increased energy ... physically, mentally, and spiritually. This gives the mental clarity to manifest one's life with greater awareness.

when i first started looking into the triyoga/tryoga/truyoga issue, i happened upon the website of kali ray triyoga, a style of yoga that was founded in 1980 by kali ray, or kaliji as she is called by her followers, and which continues to be developed and guided by kriyavati siddhi, or kundalini-inspired hatha yoga.

according to their literature,
TriYoga Flows (Prasara), a complete hatha yoga method, is the union of posture, breath and focus -- that is, asana, pranayama, and mudra. The art and science of yogaflow, TriYoga fundamentals include relaxation-in-action, wavelike spinal movements and economy of motion. With the systematic approach, students can remain with Basics or continue to Level 1 and subsequent levels. Within each level, students increase their knowledge of posture and flow, as well as strength, flexibility, endurance, and breath control. Through sustained awareness on all aspects of the practice, the movement of body, breath and mudra harmonize and the inner flow naturally emerges.

hence, the "tri" in triyoga stands for the three important facets of the triyoga practice: asana, or physical postures, pranayama, or breathing techniques, and mudra, or hand gestures. students focus on all three during the course of their practice.

triyoga is a recognized style of hatha yoga, according to many sources, including the ABC-of-yoga website which lists it among other styles such as ananda, anusara, ashtanga, bharata, bikram, integral, iyengar, jivamukti, kripalu, kundalini, sivananda, svaroopa, viniyoga, and yes, even nude yoga (!).

with triyoga having centers all over the US and even in other countries such as denmark, germany, india, and the ukraine, it was surprising that they had only one in southern california -- their ashram in malibu. and there was going to be a level 2 class that evening with kaliji herself.

on whim, since i didn't have any plans for the evening, i decided to give triyoga a try. a level 2 class with kaliji? i could handle that. or could i? i left the office and started on my 15 mile journey through malibu canyon to the ocean. once i reached pepperdine university (right around the site of the recent malibu fire), i turned up pacific coast highway and followed the coast up another 7 miles to zuma beach, where the triyoga ashram is located.

if, according to the website of siddha yoga meditation in india, an ashram is "The dwelling place of a Guru or saint; a monastic retreat site where seekers engage in spiritual practices and study the sacred teachings of yoga," then i was on my way to a sacred space, a place where i was going to meet the guru and the students who follow her yogic path. it was a long drive out along a dark and isolated road, and i had lots of time to worry. after all, i hadn't done much research on triyoga, and here i was, skipping past the basics and level 1 classes to attend a level 2 class! how much of my current knowledge of yoga asana, pranayama, and mudra would i be able to draw from to get through the class without feeling totally lost?

when i turned onto morning view drive, i immediately spotted the brightly-lit home perched on the hill. i drove up the steep driveway and easily found a spot in the parking lot. i followed the walkway lights that guided me through the darkness to the house's front door.

there were a few students in the office who greeted me when i arrived. i was asked to wait there while the classroom was being readied. i spent the time trying to learn as much as i could about triyoga, wanting to find out what made it different from any other form of yoga. it was a crash course, in some way, not that i expected it to help me any at that point.

once the space was ready, i was allowed to make my way to class. i walked past a room with an altar, where candles were burning in front of the different statues of deities that were in the room. moving along, after catching a glimpse of the kitchen and the living room, i made my way down the stairs to the asana room. someone in the room pointed out the available spots; i picked one right beside where kaliji would teach, just to make sure that i would be able to see and hear her.

once the class was settled in, someone walked in and told us to practice infinity breathing (or something to that effect) while we waited for class to begin. i obviously had no idea what she was talking about, so i watched the students around me and still couldn't figure out what they were doing. instead, i just sat there with my eyes closed, trying to concentrate on my breathing, trying to convince myself that things were going to be OK.

when kaliji walked into the room, she walked directly to me, called me by name, and said that she had been told that it was my first triyoga class. she said that while most students follow the basics-to-level1-to-level2 sequence, i was free to watch the other students and follow along as best as i could. this was going to be a different experience for me, because while i tend to ignore everyone else and focus on my own practice, now i had to keep looking around to figure out what i needed to do.

and while many of the moves were familiar, the names that were given them as well as the hand movements and breathing that went along with them were not. for example, "earth touch" is a standing forward bend, "mountain" is downward dog, "natural seat" is sitting on your heels, and so on. most of the time was spent in a very slow flow; we moved from one pose to another, integrating our breathing and the proper hand gestures. there were many times when i would sit back and watch kaliji as she moved, just to realize that i was being left behind as she transitioned to the next flow sequence.

besides the different terminology, i noticed that this form of yoga was quite prop-dependent. the idea was to keep the alignment as correct as possible, so if you had to raise your torso with blocks or level off your hips with blankets, you did so. at one point, the man in front of me had a tower of blankets, blocks, and bolsters under his hips as he held in monkey pose (or whatever the triyoga terminology for the pose is).

kaliji was especially attentive to me, at times leaving her spot in the middle of the room to put a block under my back or to give me more specialized instruction.

i emerged from class, not only a bit more knowledgeable about the triyoga style itself, but also a bit more curious about learning more about what i didn't do and/or what i did incorrectly. i'd like to drop by again to try out the basics class, although i should probably wait until the summer, when i'll actually be able to enjoy the coastal view during that long drive instead of being barely able to make out the distant lights along the horizon.