Practitioners of the ashtanga yoga are accustomed to working on their “given” poses until their teacher feels they are ready to add the next pose. A lot goes into this assessment. It’s more than just a mastery of the poses they’ve already been practicing daily. It’s an assessment of dedication, concentration, prior injuries, and overall endurance – among other things. Depending on the next pose, the practitioner may be eager to move on OR they may be hesitant. It is not unusual to be stuck on trying to master a given pose for many years.
It is also not unusual to be stuck on the fact that you haven’t been given the next pose.
While you may fear that you may pass on before being given poses later in the sequence you are working on, one may ask, “Why does it matter?” If you die without ever getting to practice the 7 handstands at the end of intermediate series (aka “the 7 deadlies”), people won’t think any less of you. In fact, they may be less likely to think of you as that crazy lady who used to put her legs behind her neck and do a bunch of funny headstands.
“Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive, and do not be attached to inaction” – Krishna
I look at this majestic tree and wonder how long it took to grow so big. It’s hard to imagine that it was once a seedling struggling to break through the earth. Now, it just is. As I played in front of it, I watched as hikers passed by without much notice of it. Even to the shade it offered on this hot day seemed commonplace.
I got to thinking — and invite you to do the same:
Think back to a time you were young and you did something small which gained a lot of attention. Maybe you drew a picture, tied your shoe, or urinated in the toilet for the first time. It wasn’t as huge of an accomplishment when you think back, but really IT WAS.
“I miss that sensation of a small achievement feeling like a really big deal”. – Gavin DeGraw
As adults, when we set our sights on learning something new, we often forget to celebrate the successes along the way to the end goal. Maybe we have decided that we want to learn the primary series from the Ashtanga Yoga tradition. But each time we step on our mat, we forget what comes next and feel a bit lost. And it’s all too easy to get frustrated with ourselves. I’ve been there.
I even let it keep me from joining the Mysore room because I didn’t know the practice well enough. Yet, that’s where the learning happens. Instead of reaching out to get help, I got down on myself for not being able to do it right. Thank God, I kept trying… and eventually got brave enough to join the room. Once inside, I got kudos for just showing up. Seriously. All I had to do was get there.
I say “all” I had to do but, believe me, I recognize that that is often the hardest part. Even while practicing at home, carving out the time to step onto your mat for practice sometimes takes a tremendous effort. An, YES, even in a pandemic. In fact, maybe even more so. Some newer students of mine recently shared that it is harder to practice virtually in mysore than in a led yoga class (both with video on). At first, I didn’t appreciate the difference. The fact that in a led class, the students are all watching the teacher is the key to this feeling of vulnerability. It takes some time to realize that often, mysore practitioners do not ever look at the computer during their practice. They just listen for the cues and take comfort in the community that breathes along with them.
YOU need to celebrate your successes (big AND small):
Since nobody but the teacher is watching you practice, it is more important than ever to take note of your steps towards the bigger goals. If you grab your big toe instead of your knee in your variation of Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, that is worth celebrating. If your fingertips touch while trying to catch/bind in Marichyasana C, that is fantastic! Even falling on your face while trying to land your Bakasana B is big. No, it’s HUGE! It means that you generated enough courage to try.
Don’t let these little signs of progress go by unnoticed. Consider keeping a practice journal and write it all down (the good, the bad, and the ugly moments). One day, you’ll be frustrated in yourself while attempting to clasp your wrist in Marichyasana D and may not even remember the first day you were able to catch your fingers in that same pose.
No matter where you are in your yogic journey, there is someone out there who is still mustering the courage to enter the room (virtually or in person). Like the magnificent tree in the photo above, they may look to you for a welcoming smile or encouraging wave. If you can remember when you were in their position, it will be easier to show them the way to enjoy the sweet little moments of joy in the practice – for they matter just as much, if not more, than the bigger successes that come and go.
I did a thing. My fellow yoga, mediation, mobility, and qigong teachers did a thing. We created a library of 400+ videos supporting the health and well-being of others. It is free to members of Breathe Together Yoga and available by subscription to EVERYONE. You should check it out.
Have you ever seen “Mysore” listed on the class schedule of your yoga studio and wondered what it was? Maybe you peaked into the Mysore class (back when we were able to attend in person classes), noticed that everyone seemed to be doing their own thing, and wondered what was happening.
Guess what? I am a teaching a course in January 2021 that will answer all of these questions and more.
Whether you have been practicing yoga for a while, or have no yoga experience at all, this 4-week course will lay out the fundamentals of the practice. It will provide you with a step-by-step guide to learn Mysore Style Ashtanga Vinyasa (Ashtanga Yoga) which can open a whole new world of yoga experiences including practicing Led Primary Series with Ashtanga teachers and practitioners all around the world. Many of these teachers are now accessible right from home given the push to go virtual during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic is over, you can find a Mysore program near your home, or where you are vacationing, and fit right in. The sequence, chants, and general guidelines are the same where ever you go. After the 4 week course has ended, you can practice on your own or virtually with us at BTY.
In case you were wondering, “Mysore Style” refers to the traditional way Ashtanga Yoga is taught in Mysore, India. It is not named for how you feel, as my Big Sis thought. This type of practice encourages the practitioner to follow the rhythm of his/her breath. In addition to strengthening the practitioner’s individual practice, this style of yoga also helps students gain ownership and understanding of their personal journey with yoga.
The objective of the course is to instruct the students through the various aspects of Ashtanga Yoga, including posture, breathing, and dristhi, which create the basis for practice as a moving meditation. Students will start by learning the elements of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) forms A and B. These sequences are the foundation of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and establish the basic form and flow of the greater series of postures. Building on this foundation, students will be introduced to the standing, some seated, as well as the finishing postures. Yoga practitioners aim to create a conscious synchronization of breath and movement, to enter a meditative state while practicing Ashtanga Yoga. During each session, students will be led through the postures and then they will be asked to perform the postures on their own.
It is recommended that students join the Mysore and Led Ashtanga classes available at Breathe Together Yoga. These classes are included in the price of this introductory course from January 11th – 31st, 2021.
To find out more and/or sign up: CLICK HERE , leave a comment, or email me.
Your yoga mat is often described as a place to work through the “stuff” that you are processing in your every day life. In the 10 years that I have been practicing, I have known this to be true. Sometimes, stuff that you may have been overlooking gets revealed to you during your practice. In my experience, when this occurs, it’s generally not the happy stuff that makes itself known.
The thing is, life just gets messy.
Well, sometimes it does. When it does get messy, you have a couple of choices: You can stop everything and run around picking up the messes, or you can let it be for a bit and carry on.
The funny thing is, neat and tidy doesn’t always work out. Similarly, sometimes things come out beautifully in spite of the mess.