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Death or Rebirth? My Ashtanga break- up

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

I finally got my comeuppance.

I finally saw the light.

I finally saw what I was doing to myself.

This year my life has been changing direction. They say your life changes dramatically every seven years, and I turned thirty five this April. 2018 has been a wild mix of study, travel, rapid learning curves, networking, hectic schedules, self motivation and learning new skills. When life is a struggle, you don't need practise to be a struggle too. It must be joyful.

As much as I prioritised practise, I failed over and over to make it happen. I worked late or I didn't have space where I was staying, I was physically tired from carrying plates up stairs all night or I couldn't afford to take classes. I punished myself bitterly until finally one morning I sat in the cold with a cup of tea and my yoga mat at Euston Station, having missed the Mysore Class again because of rush hour, my midnight finish at work and a million other reasons that were filling my head. I won't lie, self doubt reigned amongst them. I am not a cryer but I do call my sister for comfort. I still wouldn't admit defeat, which is dumb or brave, I don't know! I searched on my phone for another class and found that Tim Cummins who is a wonderful teacher I have a lot of admiration for, was teaching a Level 1 class at Triyoga at 9am. As I left that class I felt a wave of relief, I knew that I had to give myself a break.

Breathe again. Come back to where it all started. Come clean.

Lately I keep reading and hearing that Ashtanga isn't this, it's not what you think, it's not done like that, that the teachings are being misinterpreted. I am confused and have begun questioning my practise, my faith, if what i was doing was right, or if what I wasn't doing was really wrong? I am so full of doubt and questions that for the last two months I have stopped practising Ashtanga. I am taking a break, I need space. This is what is happening in this space...

I may have distanced myself from the personal practise but I am still listening attentively and curiously ... Manjus Jois came to Stillpoint Yoga and had a warm chat with us one evening, and what most stuck with me was him saying with a smile that the most important thing of all is to 'enjoy your practise'. I attended a discussion entitled 'Fear, Focus, Forgiveness and Fulfillment' by David Swenson at Triyoga, and he told us that students learn best where there is fun and love in the environment, and if there is fear we have to learn to function within it and fully believe in what we are doing. His attitude towards the practise is so light hearted! I know he has been there, done that, long before us, but his funny tales soothed our struggles. Adam Keen is another teacher that is forever writing words that get under my skin, contradicting many understandings I have, or thought I had of the practise. The teacher who has influenced me up until now has been David Garrigues, his passion and biting integrity as a teacher compelled me to examine his every word, to turn over every stone and look in every nook and cranny, which perhaps fuelled my passion into a serious obsession even more?

I had to step away to be able to see clearly. I had become so obsessed by Ashtanga that it had filtered into every aspect of my life. I felt suffocated. I needed to breathe. I was also angry with myself. Up until now I believed so strongly in the method, it was my everything, my lover, my healer, my teacher... could it be that it was also my controller? This realisation hit me hard. Ashtanga makes you feel so good! Or did it make my ego feel good? I was part of the club! I was fitter and stronger! I was discovering myself and that is empowering!

Or was I tired and deprived of the world? My world had shrunk down to accommodate yoga. Yes my body, mind and awareness were opening, but my connections to friends had dwindled, my social life did not even exist, I didn't party, I didn't shop, I didn't drink, I was so frugal and non wasteful that I didn't even permit myself a tube ride or a cappuccino out and about, I had to live a little! I had to work out a balance! I am still in the process but I am much calmer now, and so thankful to my friends for putting up with me.

And so I have started to allow myself small liberties and boy what a release! I am so much happier already. Is this another lesson that Ashtanga has for me? Is it highlighting that I am a control freak? Too passionate? I do tend to throw myself in 1000% when i find a new interest, and once I have finally made a decision I don't look back, or sideways, no matter how hard it gets, and this continues to lead me to crash or burn out. The Aries in me keeps me bashing on blindly until I succeed, or fail. 'Go on then, do it your way, ruin it!' was an Aries meme I saw the other day that got me laughing with truth! My own mother is always telling me not to take things so seriously! And here we go again! I took it all too seriously again, I need to lighten up!

Right now I attend classes and workshops and lectures of other styles, which is so enlightening! And also a relief to be guided instead of relying on my own will power through a self practice at home. Backbends are sooooo exhilirating after so much Primary Series!!! And my body is opening in new directions! I have laughed quietly to myself when teachers instruct postures such as Krounchasana, Dhanurasana or Ardha Matsyendrasana in a non- ashtanga class as up until now they have been forbidden! It is remarkable to discover that my body is softer and more willing! Anna Ashby's classes for teachers have been a godsend.

I hang out with friends again, just for fun, have a laugh! have a glass of wine, take a day off, date, nourish myself, rest my bones, meditate, sleep well, eat well, stay warm, even watch tv !!!! I have moved house and settled, changed job and settled, slowly I recalibrate, get to know myself again to come back stronger and more balanced, for I will come back. I will be an Ashtangi for life, just on my own terms.

I feel that perhaps I am going through a rebirth. For two years I have only practised Ashtanga, I dove deeper and deeper into asana theory, philosophy, podcasts, workshops, blogs, books, webpages, youtube much so that I lost the spark, the magic, I had tried too hard to understand and dissect it all. The spark vanished, it does not belong to the mind, but the spirit. It was not mine to be had, only felt. I still love this magical practise, and the beauty and power of it cannot be found elsewhere, but this love has become sour. Ashtanga, when I return you will be a part of my life, but you will not take over. This time I will have a teacher by my side, I will not face you alone. For you bring out not only the light in me but also the darkness.

I have felt this blog coming on for a while, and in my mind I was hesitant about writing it down, but I was encouraged by reading the articles below..

Thank you for reading,

I hope you find joy in your practise,



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