Madhuri Martin At Telluride Yoga Fest 2013: ShamMa Yoga

Madhuri Martin in "Dragonfly"

Madhuri Martin in “Dragonfly”

Where does shaman come from? Not the priest or priestess who can divine what is hidden. The word itself. Its root is “sham,” the origin of which yoga teacher and scholar Madhuri Martin assigns directly to the northern nomadic influences that moved into the Indus Valley around 1500 BC. In fact she attributes the original practices of yoga to these Indo-European peoples, before the yogic art form was documented by priests and scholars centuries later.

“At the time these peaceful, nomadic peoples (the original speakers of Sanskrit), entered the Indus Valley, there was an intact but declining urban-centered culture of extraordinary sophistication. We now know that the people of the Indus Valley were the most advanced culture of their time, more advanced then the Egyptian, Mesopotamian or Chinese cultures of the same era. And that, my friend, is saying something! Yet, due to a number of factors, not the least of which is thought to be detrimental environmental shifts, the culture was on its way out when the Indo-Aryan people arrived. Here is a key point. Those people did not decide to settle down and become urbanized, but kept their nomadic, earth-centered, cyclical-time lifestyle for another 800 years. These are the people whose practices, stories and traditions are at the roots of modern-day yoga. Yoga is often attributed to the sedentary urbanized culture of the Indus Valley, but that is not the case.”

Sham is often chanted in Sanskrit and connotes “auspiciousness.” It describes the raining down of blessings, or the moment of surrender combined with profound awareness that connects us to Spirit.

And Ma? Yes, the person you invoked as a child when you needed milk and cookies – or a hug. Ma in Sanskrit is mother too. The root of matrix and matra, the Divine Mother.

“I use Ma in ShamMaYoga to set us firmly on the goddess-centered traditions of ancient shamanistic practices, that have been so beautifully revived with the much more recent tantric practices and teachings. I use Ma to express an orientation toward shakti. The metaphoric female-centered creation of manifest universe. “

Voila! A new form of nourishment (like a Ma) for body and soul, but a methodology based upon magical mystical ways, some ancient.

When she began practicing about 30 years ago, yoga was the “miracle food” she consumed to keep mind and body healthy enough to engage in extreme sports.

“There was, of course, no other purpose for yoga. Weekly classes kept my joints strong and nimble for climbing, mountaineering, telemarking, mountain biking and all the rest.  I kept this my secret as I hauled 100+ pound packs over mountain ranges throughout the world, listening to the writhing and moaning of my companions.  “No pain no brain”, they would say as they reached for their cool light-weight graphite ski poles, a necessity to stop their hopelessly damaged knees from completely giving out under the weight of their packs and the demands of our adventures.”

Madhuri went on to study Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with Richard Freeman for two years before doing a three-month intensive with Pattabhi Jois in Mysore. During her time in India, she embraced the breadth of asana practice and the extreme depth of yogic philosophy. Madhuri became a certified teacher of Anusara in 2000. Today, she offers ShamMa teachings.

Peter Churchill

Peter Churchill

At the Telluride Yoga Festival 2013, Thursday, July 11 – Sunday, July 14, Madhuri will be teaching with Peter Churchill.

In 1975, Peter was initiated into a 15-year apprenticeship by an American spiritual master. Since then, he has served the healing empowerment of more then 40,000 people and taught medical students and physicians for 10 years at Harvard Medical School. He now focuses primarily on serving the well-being of beings who are suffering from chronic pain or who are at a crossroads of spiritual crisis in their lives. Peter’s unique form of meditation, healing and heart-centered life is chronicled in his book, “The Way Lightning Splits the Sky . . . Tales of A Modern Medicine Man.”

At Yoga Fest, Madhuri and Peter are scheduled to teach three classes based on “The Sacred Healing Equation.” Their workshops include a combination of therapeutically based, yet challenging asana and hands-on healing (manual adjustments, guided understandings and teachings from Peter’s book).

To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to my conversation with Madhuri Martin.

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