My good FB buddy Lisa Hill is an ashtanga teacher(who is awol from her excellent blog) maintains the feed of Ashtanga Yoga Chicago over at Facebook with consistent and up to date Ashtanga news, teachings, and opinions. She recently posted this on the group feed and asked to start a dialogue/conversation. Here is my very personal opinion. Opinion, not ruling,or law, or edict. If you are a teacher, who no longer will practice or offer Mysore style & guided classes, please do provide a PSA to your students letting them know you quit Ashtanga. If you have are famous on youtube, snapchat, Instagram, and twitter for your asana demonstrations, instructional videos, or beautiful photos and have a ton of followers, do announce as well, because someone is going to ask where did you go? The rest of us? No matter how how heartfelt our blogging or our practice was and for how many years, and how bad the injuries, or how many awful Ashtangis you know, we should follow this sage advice offered by Peg Mulqueen on her feed not long ago:
Oh, but you say, what about an abusive teacher or a studio that runs away with your money, or, or uh, I dunno. I’ll listen and thank you for the tip. but don’t blame it on Ashtanga, Ashtanga is not a person, or a disease, or an act of nature. it is a portion of your day where you sweat, breathe and try not to screw yourself.
Or rather thanks to the people who use the internet for good. More specifically, thanks to yogis who use the internet for good. Here are a few things that made a huge difference to my practice and therefore my days which is really the reason to have such a thing as a practice.
I know someone told me the reason for having a lit candle in the room during practice, but I forget who and I forget why. None the less, Having one in front of you and focusing your attention on the flame, distracts you from the throbbing in your thumb which you almost sliced the top off cleaning the husband’s junk drawer where he kept an exacto knife. Who knew, throbbing thumb leads to a very meditative practice because you decided to focus your drishti on the flame of a candle. Tip: if you have long hair, please set such candle farther from your mat than you’d think. So thanks to the person who explained about fire in the room even if I forgot.
I forgot how long it has been since I get a regular good night’s sleep for many more than just one reason. One of those reasons though is noise. My beloved acquired the behavior of snoring loudly in the recent past, I live by route 106 which means every truck that comes into town has to pass by my bedroom window, and my house, which is 144 years old shakes every time the Dunkin Doughnuts truck or the Pain Quotidien truck chugs up the hill to replenish the treats. Well, I mentioned to the snoring exacto knife owner that Claudia Azula Altucher kept singing the praises of those horribly expensive Bose noise cancelling headphones, and I might succumb out of desperation after reading that lack of sleep keeps you obese and obesity gives you cancer. I just got them delivered to my front door because I do not know anybody more generous that the exacto knife owner. You actually have to be careful around him when saying something is pretty, or nice. He just gets it for you. Thankfully he is not a good listener or we would be broke broke broke. SO thank you Claudia and Ray.
Finally, Thank you to all the people that take the time to share what they are learning when they go on retreat or to a workshop/training. I know you are tired after a full day, so when for example Peg Mulqueen from Ashtanga Dispatch shares a clip of David Robson teaching Transitions (jumpback-jumpthroughs) on facebook, you suddenly realize how many weird ticks, complications, and obstacles you have tacked on to “your” method, and immediately try it his way and swhoosh! Off you go. Thanks Peg/Ashtanga Dispatch.
Needless to say that I certainly do not recommend this. After a cocktail with one friend, three glasses of white plus one of rose, appetizers, a cheese plate, along with dessert with another friend, followed by a hamburger and a shake to go from Shake Shack at 10 PM (because there was no line! There never is no line!!) I just finished a smooth free of discomfort practice. Go figure. Not that I have to come up with reasons, but I am finding out that an Ashtanga practice is most sustainable when there is nothing to demonstrate, prove, accomplish. In other words when you subtract the feeling of obligation and instead curiously wonder if it can happen while a burger and a salted caramel shake sit undigested in your stomach. Sometimes the answer is yes. Maybe only this one time the answer is yes. All I know is that you have to get up and find out. I read two posts earlier this week. One discussed how it was advisable to find your edge again in the part of the practice that is now smooth and committed to muscle memory so you can refine and sort of wake up the beginners mind I suppose. That pushed everyone of my buttons. I was like, are you kidding me?? those few minutes of the standing and seated poses I can do easily is what I count on to sustain me through the other 90 minutes of I wonder what’s going to happen!! The other post talked about the rough patches that you encounter along the trajectory of your practice and how not to get discouraged or end up walking away. It basically said that you had to freely give and offer your efforts day in and day out until you no longer care if there is a reward or a secret power to discover. You practice generosity with your efforts, the way you practice generosity with your time, with your money or with your patience in many other areas of your life. You give and do not stand around waiting for the lollipop.