One of the (many) things I took away from Gabriel is an understanding of (okay, and new adoration of/love for/enthrallment with) the practice of Ashtanga. I knew very little about it beforehand. And by that I mean, I had heard the word “Ashtanga” and understood that it was a style of Hatha Yoga… (Two cheers for context clues!) Upon receiving this new knowledge, I realized that Ashtanga is very well suited to my personality. In fact, I’ve only been working on the first half of the Primary Series (and using David Swenson’s DVD “Ashtanga: The Practice” as recommended by Gabriel), but as I do it each day, I am certain it is “home” in my Hatha Yoga heart. For one thing, it suits the part of me that desires a really physical practice. I find for myself that I have an easier time getting in touch with my subtle body, staying present and focused, as well as finding silence at the end of practice when my physical body is offered a greater challenge. It suits the part of me that likes to have clear-cut goals, something to work towards always. It provides a yard stick for progress, set backs, etc etc. I can notice changes in my body and mind daily. If something is easier today, harder today, tighter or more open, I can see this and I can fine tune my senses and become aware of what may be going on that is triggering these changes (be them in my body or my mind). Honestly, I have done my practice every day for almost a week now and not one day, one practice has been the same. It’s also perfectly suited for my home practice because the series doesn’t change and so I can stay out of my head and with my intention and meditation instead of pausing to consider what to do next.
Furthermore, I am in love with the history and lineage of this practice. The importance of the student-teacher relationship and then the continued emphasis on private practice both bewilder me. It’s like the perfect combination of “I, as the teacher, will give you these tools, yet you, as the student, must take responsibilty for your practice and discover how to lead yourself to divinity without my continued guidance.”
Am I getting the gist of this correctly, Ashtangis? Please… correct me if I have anything wrong about the practice. I am so very new to it but I am trying to read as much as I can to understand the principles of the discipline to the best of my abilities. I hesitate to use the word “religious” to describe my idea of the practice but our language is failing to provide me with a word carrying a better conotation… It’s not so much a religious practice but I guess the word I’m thinking of is closer to “devoted.” It is such a devoted practice and despite it being a physical challenge, that, for me at least, is not where the devotion lies. I have such a deep respect for Ashtanga, for the path that it lays down ahead of me. It’s like the next great adventure, involving a world of discovery inside and outside of myself.
And the more I am looking into Ashtanga, reading about it and things, it seems that a lot of teachers practice Ashtanga for their private practice. I knew it was a widely popular style (despite only just really learning about it myself) but I guess I had no idea how many people practice it at home. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of “classes available at studios” (and here in Evansville, IN…. well that just isn’t anything that we’ve got going on…). It seems to me the more I look at it, the more I am seeing Ashtanga as “the tie that binds,” which gives me even more to be in awe over. There’s something about knowing that so many of us do it privately that makes me feel it is even more devotional and connecting than I ever could have imagined.
At the end of it, I feel blessed to have been introduced to such a wonderful practice. I had the sense that I was wandering around the world of Hatha Yoga, knowing in my heart of hearts this is where I belong yet not all the way sure where I fit in, but Ashtanga has suddenly given me a foundation. I have found it easier to teach my classes (and to get off my mat as a teacher!!) this past week. I am able to give more attention to my students and focus on their practice during classes. I feel like I am more self-empowered and capable of leading. It’s like they have trusted me all along as a teacher but now I am so very assured (by myself) that there is reason to trust.
This is only the beginning of my Ashtanga Adventure, I can feel it. I am very excited to continue, learn more and go deeper in this new world.