Give up the cocoon and know you are a butterfly

We all, knowingly or unknowingly, are searching for lasting peace and happiness in our lives. The instinct of finding peace and happiness is inherent in all sentient beings, we humans are no different. I mean, who doesn’t want to be happy and peaceful, right?

Just as this search for lasting happiness is inherent to us all, the actual state of lasting happiness is also inherent to all of us. That happiness that we are looking for is at the core of our existence, the core that is understood as the ‘spirit’ (atma). The atma is the base, the ‘Being’ within the human form. It is as fundamental to our existence as an apple is to an apple pie. If this happiness weren’t so fundamental to our existence, we all wouldn’t be looking for it. Instead, we would be willingly looking for other things like sorrow and suffering. But we don’t do that because sorrow, suffering, dejection, depression and limitation are not core to our fundamental nature.

If this search for happiness is so basic to our existence where does one go looking for it?

Well, it is not difficult to find happiness these days, especially when sensory stimulation and excitement is viewed as happiness. Eating a sumptuous meal, watching a favorite movie with loved ones or even getting more than expected ‘likes’ on your Facebook post can give happiness. In all fairness, such experiences of happiness are valid but it is seen that they do not last, prompting an urge to repeat or duplicate those experiences. Life then becomes a constant pursuit of seeking excitement and even a moment’s pause generates a wave of anxiety of missing out on happiness that is somewhere out there.

The search for happiness can venture in two directions, finding happiness outwardly, known as Bhoga and/or finding happiness inwardly, known as Yoga. When one stops looking for happiness and peace that is derived from external sources and focuses the search inward, it is then that one truly starts practicing Yoga and becomes a Yogi.

The modern discourse on Yoga is fractured into two. Yoga is either seen as a practice of becoming physically fit by doing some physical movements or Yoga is considered as a practice of breath work and relaxation leading to meditation. Though both these views are correct in themselves, yet they do not individually convey the entirety of what Yoga truly is. Especially, keeping in mind the overemphasis that modern Yoga lays on physical practice it has become more than important to set the discourse straight in relation to what Yoga truly is in its traditional, broader sense.

Yoga is not entirely a physical or relaxation practice but an extensive philosophy and methodology of orienting life to become the best that one can be. This “best” as understood in traditional Yogic understanding is not a stage (out there) of being highest-strongest-fastest-longest but  a state (in here) of undisturbed peace and happiness which is reached through dedicated self-work and letting go off all that opposes inner peace. The nature of this state is undisturbed inner calm, self-empowerment and a broader perception of the self and the world.

The positive assurance of Yoga is that the state of inner happiness is not something that we gain from outside but is the very core of our Being that one discovers by practicing Yoga. We are all, in the heart of our hearts, Love, Freedom and Peace, this being the promise of Yoga.

The journey of Yoga is our voyage through stormy seas of life to discover an inner island of peace and calm. This voyage is guided by the light house of steady practice and faith only to come home to the island of True Self that thrives as a sanctuary of lasting peace and happiness.

As the Bhagavad Gita says, Yoga is a journey of the self into the self by the self. It’s the process of discovering the best that you are. The product of this process is starkly different to what goes into the process at the start. Like the larva that becomes a butterfly is the same individual, yet is completely different in its shape, size, color and capability, the journey of Yoga too metamorphosizes a new you out of you.

This metamorphosis requires hard work, focused attention, faith and divine grace. Like the hungry larva that eats many times its body weight, the practicing Yogi too has to consume spiritual nutrition from the right sources. Like the larva that becomes still to allow the process to work internally, the practicing Yogi too has to cut down on external distractions and become still within. Like the transformed larva that uses its own inner strength to tear down the bondage that it had spun around itself, the practicing Yogi too has to be strong and knock down all the tendencies that keep her limited.

Such is the process of Yogic metamorphosis. Are you ready to be centered and still? Are you ready to tear away what you are not? Are you ready to open your wings and fly? Are you ready to give up your cocoon and know you are a butterfly?

Don’t let your ideas stop your journey. 
Don’t let your fears stop your discovery. 
Don’t let your mistakes deter you because the only way out is through.
Your limitations are not the end, 
they are the challenges you have to transcend. 
With wings of Faith prepare to Fly. 
Give up the cocoon and know you are a Butterfly...

What does it take to be a Yoga Teacher ?

So, what does it take to be a Yoga Teacher ?
– Knowledge of anatomy ?
– Expertise at headstand ?
– Hyper-flexibility ?
– Yoga Alliance accredition ?
– Repeated visits to India ?
.
What if I said none of the above ?
Yes, the points in the list are optional but not core to becoming a Yoga Teacher. They are the feathers in a cap, but the cap per se is made of something completely different.
.
To become a Yoga Teacher one must know how to be a Yoga Student. The Yoga Student has to have some essential qualities, which have nothing to do with the list above. A true Yoga Student is,
– Sincerely Disciplined & Committed to Sadhana.
– Never doubts the process of Yoga.
– Is humble, considerate and energetic.
– Understands Yoga as a pursuit of Self mastery and not Asana.
– Honours the culture and living tradition of Yoga.
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Only when the Yoga Student has a well rounded approach to the process and practice of Yoga he/she can be an efficient channel of transmission and inspiration. .
A Yoga Teacher then is nothing but a living inspiration, a reflection of what the practice and faith has become.
.
Do You, as a Yoga Teacher see yourself as a Yoga Student ?

Yoga Teacher’s Training 300 hours – India, 2015

Yoga Teachers Training 300 - 2015

Yoga Teacher’s Training 300 Hours – India 2015

“The 300-hour course with Prasad Rangnekar went beyond my expectations. The course itself helped me to go deeper in my own emotional and spiritual growth, which was the main reason I decided to participate. The teachings on physiology, exploring gross and subtle energy awareness in asanas, developing a consistent sadhana through the daily practices during the course, understanding how the mind, body, and energy body are intertwined, and deepening my understanding of yoga philosophy continues to guide me on the spiritual path daily.

My work as a yoga teacher has changed as I have gained confidence in what my intent is when I teach, as well as strengthened my knowledge and ability to meet my students where they are at and what they need. My work as a mental health therapist has also grown, as more and more people I work with are interested in learning yoga techniques to manage mood and stress. I have only gained more and more with each class, workshop and training I have had the pleasure of attending with Prasadji. If your intent is to deepen your yoga practice, incorporate it into daily lifestyle, and walk on the spiritual path, I highly recommend this course.”

– Twyla Gingrich (USA)

Yoga Teacher’s Training – India, 2015

Yoga Teachers Training India 2015

Yoga Teacher’s Training – Mumbai, India 2015

“Training with Prasad was a truly transformative experience, beyond asana mechanics. Yes, the course definitely gave me the understanding and tools of functional anatomy, kinetics, alignment, guiding principles of safe and effective asana practice – all essentials to evolve into a good yoga teacher. In that respect, Prasad is a fantastic teacher, very knowledgeable, lucid and clear, and targeted in giving us the core knowledge we needed. However, the course is much more than that. Prasad worked with us to explore a deeper experience of yoga – of integrating the mind, breath and body, of aligning inner and outer worlds. He guided us in using our practice to examine, challenge and nurture not only our physical body but also inner selves – the mind, the emotions, our patterns of behaviors. We approached our practise from physical, experiential and intellectual perspectives. The lessons learnt are applicable in life situations for anyone, from yoga teacher to CEOs to homemakers. These learning allow us to work through our roles and demands more effectively, gracefully and with far less stress. As we went through our processes, Prasad was always there, compassionate yet firm, always listening but nudging us to find our own answers – never allowing for any dependence to form.

Going through his program has not only made me a better and more compassionate person, spouse, mother & daughter, but also a much more effective leader and manager, with greater clarity and impact. Prasad is that teacher who gives you the greatest gift of learning to be your own light! And that is the first real step in yoga.”

– Urja Shah (Mumbai, India)

Gorakhnath – The spiritual revolutionary

The middle age of Indian spiritual thought was a truly a remarkable time and can surely be called the beginning of a golden age. This was the dawn of age of Saints (Sant Parampara). These Saints, backed by their own Self-realization, fearlessness, equal vision, compassion and missionary zeal have contributed much more towards guarding and transforming the society than the politicians, governments and monarchs of the last 1000 odd years. They brought in a fresh paradigm that shook the basis of rotting Indian society infected by religious bigotry, strong Brahminical authoritarianism, caste system, gender inequality, oppression of the poor, slavery and spiritual hedonism.

The sole credit of planting the seed of this oak of apostles goes to Guru Gorakhnath. Gorakhnath, through his inner radiance, fullness of heart and unending zeal has managed to leave a mark on Indian spiritual thought and inspire spiritual revolutionaries over last millennia like no other mystic. Gorakhnath and his Natha lineage (Natha Sampradaya) has not only left its mark on Indian society at large but also greatly influenced the spiritual thought, methods and orientations of mystics, saints and spiritual traditions spanning the entire Indian sub-continent. From Kabir to Nanak, Meerabai to Muktabai, Dadu to Dnyanadev and from Baudhas to Jainas, the reach of his thought and depth of his influence on other spiritual traditions of India and the world is awe-inspiring.

Who was Gorakhnath?

Gorakhnath was a leading exponent of the spiritual order of Yogis known as the Natha Yogis. In fact, he is the main propagator and organizer of the order of Yogis that mainly practice Hatha Yoga. No one has yet been able to exactly pin point his place of birth (origin) but stories about his birth in various regions of India not only show his popularity but also demonstrate how his Light has made a home in people’s hearts. Some sources suggest He was born in Nepal, some suggest He was born on the banks of river Godavari, Bengal, Punjab, Nasik, Kutch, Odisha while some scholars mention that Gorakhnath is born in every Yuga (eon) in different places.

Scholars have a slightly better idea about his time though, hence, Gorakhnath is said to have been around during the 11th century A.D and was the primary disciple of Maha Yogi Matsyendranath. He is said to be the incarnation of Lord Shiva. Because of his mystique, charm and spiritual prowess he is traditionally known to be “Jyoti Swarup” or manifestation of “Divine Light” itself.

Even though the origins of Gorakhnath are shrouded in mystery the reference of his birth and work is expressed extensively through stories and narratives in popular local literature like Nathaleelamrut, Navnaath Bhaktisaar and Siddhacharitra of Shripatinath. His name and activities have also been mentioned in the Puranic literature like Skandapurana, Naradapurana, in the Tibetan Tantric list of Siddhas and in mainstream Shaiva Tantric literature like Kaulavalitantra, Shyamarahasya and Sudhakarachandrika. Beyond the popular narratives, most academic scholars believe that Gorakhnath was born in a pious Brahmin family. According to the scholar and researcher Mohan Singh, Gorakhnath was an illegitimate child of Hindu woman. Gorakhnath is described as a handsome youth with awe-inspiring radiance, who was intelligent, well versed in scriptures, creatively brilliant, musically talented, super powerful, morally disciplined, purposefully focused, totally detached from sense pleasures, devoted to his Guru and compassionate towards the wellbeing of others.

Gorakhnath’s work

Gorakhnath, through his wisdom, compassion and spiritual might managed to bring home the message of inner divinity not just amongst sections of Yogi monks but also into the minds and hearts of the laypeople. He was a powerful organizer and established monasteries and study centers across Indian sub-continent. His reform work spanned across the length and breadth of India, Nepal stretching upto the boundaries of regions that now fall in the vicinity of Afghanistan. His is a living tradition because his teachings have been translated and disseminated through widely available literature, stories, poems, prose, songs and a thriving saint tradition that has kept his message extant in the hearts and minds of Indian people. Sadly enough, vast amount of literary works ascribed to Gorakhnath and his life that are available in Sanskrit, Prakrit and other local Indian languages have hardly been translated in English and that’s why the awareness of Gorakhnath and his work in the West, especially in the main stream modern Yoga culture is minimal.

Gorakhnath through his writings exclaimed his philosophical premise in a well-defined manner. Some of the books that he is said to have authored are, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati, Mahartha Manjari, Yoga Bija, Yoga Martanda, Goraksha Paddhati and Goraksha Samhita. Gorakhnath may not have actually written these books himself but the books may have been ascribed to him by later authors. Whoever the author may be, it is evident that the philosophical thread is common amongst all these scriptures and in line with the core teachings of the Nathas, especially Gorakhnath himself. Even a brief glance through scriptures like Mahartha Manjari and Amaraughashasana indicates Gorakhanth’s astute scholarship based on personal experience of Self Realization.

Saint Dnyaneshwar, a great Yogi himself describes Gorakhnath with two adjectives, “Yogabjinisarovar” and “Vishayvidhvansekveera”. A close look at these two adjectives can gives us more detail on Gorkahnath’s spiritual work. [Source: Dnyaneshwari chapter 18]

By the 10-11th Century the influence of occult leftist Tantra on Indian spiritual systems reached its helm. Even though this influence was percolating into the fabric of Indian spiritual thought since the 6th Century, by the 11th century it reached its peak. The spiritual fabric was being dominated by diverse sects like Tantric Baudha, Shakta, Kapalika, especially the ones that advocated the Pancha-Makara method of using and indulging in wine, fish, meat and sexual intercourse as a method of spiritual liberation. Yogic principles based on realizing the True-Self by cleansing the mind, sense control, detachment and devotion were replaced by perverse techniques that advocated overt body cultivation, alchemy, black magic, sacrificial killings and sexually hedonistic practices that were far away from the basic Yogic premise of transcending the senses and moving towards the inner Truth. The purity of Vedic injunction was also under attack. One can say that the Indian society at that time was torn between the dogmatic caste system dominated by Brahmins who kept spirituality only for the chosen few and the free for all hedonistic, leftist Tantric cults that advocated sensual extremism and outwardly indulgent practices. Apart from this the influence of Islam due to constant attacks from the West by the Moughals since 9th century had started throwing the social fabric off balance. Bloody wars, forceful conversion, attacks on pilgrimage places, fundamentalism and looting had become a regular occurring.

Against such a background Gorakhnath took it on himself to purify and bring together best of both, Yogic and Tantric systems by weeding out the influence of externally oriented, object-based practices and re-establishing an inwardly directed, experience based spiritual path. This is why, Gorakhnath as a revolutionary mystic is known as “Vishayavidhvansekveera” which means the courageous one who destroyed objectification and “Yogabjiisarovar” means the original source stream of Yoga. Thus, Gorakhnath and his lineage’s contribution to the Indian and global spiritual thought is no less than revolutionary.

Sources:
1) Excerpts from the treatise “Swanubhavdinkar” of Dinkar Swami who was a disciple of Swami Ramdas of the 17th century. Even though this writing is 500 years post the age that we are talking about yet one can see that even then the left hand Tantric influence was still around.
2) Lilacharitra – Mahim Bhat (Mahanubhav Panth)
3) SiddhaSiddhanta Paddhati and other works of Natha Yogis – Dr. Kalyani Malik.
4) Dnyaneshwari – Sant Dnyaneshwar

YTT India 2014 – December

Yoga Teachers Training India December 2014

Yoga Teacher’s Training & Self Development Immersion in India, in December 2014 – Testimonial

“The YTT course meant the world to me. I am blessed to have had the honor to be a part of the Hatha Yoga Tradition taught by Prasad. I know now the importance and broad dimension of yoga, a medicine for the soul, a life journey of knowledge, wisdom and experience. I have learned and experienced the real importance of breathing, I have acquired awareness of my self- limiting believes, self-sabotage, fears and restless mind, but most importantly I have learned how to overcome my self- imposed limitations with patience, love and compassion. Life has definitely gained a new meaning for me and I was born again by receiving the blessings of the Hatha Yoga tradition along with my Sanskrit name, Sanjeevani – The giver of life. I am living now with purpose as a yoga teacher. With trust, resilience and devotion to stay in the path, transform myself and inspire others.”

– Natalia Blanchet (Sanjeevani), Brazil

Transformational Power of Yoga

 

“Looking at the way Yoga has been embraced by the world in the last decade or so, one can safely say that Yoga has arrived. Modern world has definitely realized the benefits of Yoga. Yoga is here and here to stay.”

Article in Prana Magazine (Denmark) - click to view larger version.

(Click the image to view a larger version)

The following is a translation of the article published in Yoga Magazine of Denmark in December 2014.

Looking at the way Yoga has been embraced by the world in the last decade or so, one can safely say that Yoga has arrived. Modern world has definitely realized the benefits of Yoga. Yoga is here and here to stay. But, when we think of Yoga, immediately an image of a bendy person doing some sort of a body contortion comes to our mind. Modern world has been presented the idea of Yoga as physical exercise. Is Yoga only about stretching muscles and moving into seemingly elastic body manipulations? In this article, let us try to understand Yoga as something more than just a “class” and open ourselves to the deeper understanding of the holistic, life transforming benefits of Yoga.

Traditionally, Yoga is understood as “Moksha Shastra” or the science of liberation. Moksha commonly means “liberation”, but one needs to understand Moksha in its deeper sense. Moksha, is not any mundane liberation but is the fundamental liberation from our erroneous perceptions of ourselves. In its original sense, Yoga is the science of total mind-body transformation that releases us from the limiting perception and experience of ourselves and the world. It would not be wrong to call Yoga the philosophy and technique of correcting our own understanding and experience of ourselves.

But, is there a need for such liberation? I mean, ask yourself, how many times have we decided to do something only to be stopped by self-doubt. How many times have we vouched to be calm only to be disturbed by a wave of anger that seemingly comes out of nowhere. How many times have we suffered under bouts of repeated self-denial, guilt, regret and “poor me” syndrome. These issues have an effect on our body, posture, breath, relationships and life in turn. Yoga is a holistic science that includes all aspects of our life. Practicing Yoga in its entirety and not just as postures eases the pressures of the physical-mental (psycho-somatic) ups and downs generating a lasting sense of peace.

The Rishis or the spiritual scientists of ancient India realized that we humans do not really live with total efficiency and effectiveness. Our day to day life is compromised by limiting psycho-somatic tendencies that restrict our thoughts and actions. Once these limiting factors are transformed and eventually over powered we can live as something very profound and peaceful that we all are. This “something very profound” is known as the True Self (Atman/Shiva in philosophical sense). Simply put, the True Self can be understood as our human potential operating in an unrestricted, optimized, peaceful and loving manner. Liberation from limiting psycho-somatic tendencies that restricts our optimum potential is known as Moksha and the set of practices that help us in facilitating the liberation is called Yoga.

Thus, Yoga is much wider than a mere practice of physical contortions (asana). It is a way of living consciously, working on our limitations and allowing life to unfold the optimum potential within us all. Yoga is not just about physical exercise or a class but it is living a life of conscious transformation. Let us look at some ways in which we can consciously practice Yoga in its holistic sense and make Yoga a self-transformation process.

The process of Yoga: The objective of Yoga is to refine the body-mind complex. Since between mind and body the variable of body is grosser, more physical, we start the transformation process with the body. Yoga essentially believes that mind and body are two sides of the same coin. The body is gross of mind and mind is the subtle of the body. Whatever effects the mind will have its effect on the body and vice versa. This is why we start the transformation process via the body as it is more accessible of the two. The physical posture (asana) practice is just one part of the Yoga process.

Why do we do asana in Yoga: Traditional Yoga schools did not look at asana as flexibility training but as a method of generating self-awareness and energy alignment. Deepening of self-awareness is facilitated by making the asana practice more conscious and mindful. Such conscious, inward focus is cultivated by focusing the awareness on body sensations, breath, emotional sensitivity and through visualizations. A mindful asana practice generates self-awareness and mental stillness, bringing the mind and its movements under observation and a fairly conscious grasp. This is when the deeper work of refining the mind and emotions can start. Thus, a gentle, mindful asana practice can, over a period of time, generate increased self-awareness and slow down the restless mind which is usually responsible for stress, exhaustions and a number of mind-body ailments. A life lived with self-awareness makes the practitioner feel more alive, participative and integrated in the process of life.

Breath is the key: According to yoga scriptures, mind and breath are closely linked. It is said that the mind rides on the horse of breath. When the mind is relaxed, the breath is balanced and effortless. When the mind is agitated, the breath is imbalanced and effortful. Modern life, with its stress and speed has resulted in a hyperactive, buzzing mind. This hyperactive mind keeps us in an excitatory state which leads to a fast, shallow and confused respiratory rhythm. Such respiratory rhythm in turn leads to an agitated mind. This is how the cycle goes on, unnoticed for our whole life.

The technique of breath modulation is called Pranayama and is very useful to calm down the mind. Pranayama has not caught up with the modern Yoga enthusiasts as much as asana. Yet, one cannot rule out its importance. In fact a regular practice of Pranayama has shown to generate a sense of wellbeing, cultivate deep relaxation and increase lung capacity. But the most important benefit of Pranayama is that it makes us more aware of ourselves. It literally creates more space between two moments and allows us to consciously exercise the “choice” that we all have and that every moment encloses within itself. Pranayama practice in Yoga is a slow, gentle practice that makes us more conscious of our breathing which is otherwise usually automatic. When a person is conscious of the breath and is able to modulate it in the right time, the automatic, impulsive thoughts can be reined in. In times of conflict, when the mind and speech fires like a machine gun, one, single conscious breath can create space and give us the moment to choose our action carefully. When choice is exercised in such a way, escalation of conflicts and worries can be avoided. Sometimes all you need to create peace in life is conscious awareness and one relaxed breath. Gradually every single breath, taken consciously, calms down the mind and promotes a reflective life rather than a reactive life.

Relaxation: Yoga practices like Shavasana, Pranayama, Yoga Nidra and Meditation can provide innumerable relaxation benefits. Modern society needs to learn to relax. It is with a sense of urgency that we all ought to understand our mind-body system’s vital need for relaxation. Relaxation, not in the sense of getting enough sleep or resting on a sofa, rather, relaxation emerging from a deep knowing that there is no hurry, there is no need to prove anything to anyone and that it will all be fine eventually. Many of us complain of tiredness, exhaustion and mental fatigue compromising our efficiency. Unless we take the time to relax, our lives will continue to be driven by pursuits that lead to nothing but increased nervous exhaustion. One of the best ways of relaxing is a general slowing down of activities through the day. Unless we slow down, we are too caught up in life’s pace to even know where we are going. Slowing down give us the chance to pause, reflect, prioritize and channel our energies towards the desired goals. Involving more relaxation methodologies in the Yoga practice can create lasting peace of mind that can allow us to reflect on our life and take appropriate steps to slow down life’s pace, enjoy the moment and cherish small joys of life.

Faith and Patience: Last but not the least, each one of us who has been preoccupied with the external world has to one day sit up and take notice of the inner voice. This inner voice is nothing but a deeper, innate instinct of self-refinement (transformation). It is that impulse which is programmed to set us free. Listening to the inner voice will drive us safely and clearly towards self-refinement. Self-refinement happens through patiently experimenting with methods of Yoga and experiencing life consciously and totally. Experimenting means exploring new possibilities and to explore new possibilities we need to be fearless, fearless enough to objectively examine our self and to ascertain what to let go off and what to hold on to. One cannot expect the benefits of Yoga if one is not ready to invest in dedicated and diligent Sadhana (self-practice). Process of Yoga is not merely a pursuit of fitness but a process of enlivening a steady state of peace and contentment. This process of self-transformation is gradual and many a times challenging. But with patience, determination and trust we all can reach the peak of peace and true potential that Yoga promises.

Workshops in 2014

‘Stability in Body and Life’ Workshop – Thailand (September, 2014)

Stability in Body and Life Workshop - Thailand (September, 2014)


‘Stability in Body and Life’ Workshop – Hongkong (October, 2014)

Stability in Body and Life Workshop - Hongkong (October, 2014)


Yoga Workshops – Belgium (2014)

Yoga Workshops - Belgium (2014)


Yoga Retreat – Pondicherry (February 2014)

Yoga Retreat - Pondicherry (February 2014)


Yoga Workshop – Ingolstadt (May 2014)

Yoga Workshop - Ingolstadt (May 2014)


Yoga Workshop – Vienna (May 2014)

Yoga Workshop - Vienna (May 2014)


Yoga Workshop for Families – Munich (May 2014)

Yoga Workshop for Families - Munich (May 2014)


Yoga Nidra Intensive Retreat – Grund, Austria (June 2014)

Yoga Nidra Retreat - Austria (June 2014)


Inner Awareness Retreat – Orgerus, France (June 2014)

Inner Awareness Retreat - Orgerus, France (June 2014)


Yoga Workshop on Stability – Holland (June 2014)

Yoga Workshop on Stability - Holland (June 2014)


Yoga Workshop – Tabor (July 2014)

Yoga Workshop - Tabor (July 2014)


Yoga Retreat – Liberec (July 2014)

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Gathering with Past YTT Students – Lithuania (July 2014)

Gathering with Past YTT Students - Lithuania (July 2014)