• ashtanga_geek

THE GREAT LETTING GO OF 2020



Openness and realism in our modern yoga community: how this year forced us to sit with discomfort, how we turned inwards for refuge and learnt to trust our own hearts as the yoga really sank deep. How we released known patterns, ingrained habits, expectations and even questioned the meaning of Tradition. How I believe this has altered our attitude towards ourselves and others, lightened us up and changed How and Why we practise.


  • EMBRACING CHANGE

  • NON- TRADITIONAL MODERN STUDENTS

  • DEEPER SPIRITUAL CONNECTION, THE WORLD UNITED AS YOGA ALWAYS WANTED US TO

  • ACCEPTANCE AND LETTING IT ALL GO

  • LEARNING NOT TO TAKE IT ALL SO SERIOUSLY, YES EVEN ASHTANGIS!

  • TRADITION, LINEAGE AND THE GREAT SACRIFICE AT THE SOURCE

  • ADAPTING TRADITION TO THE MODERN DEVOTEE

  • LET’S BE REALISTIC

  • HATS OFF TO OUR TEACHERS

  • ASHTANGA VINYASA SPIN- OFFS AND SUPPLEMENTS

  • AWAY FROM ASANA IS A GOOD THING!

  • MY OWN ACCEPTANCE AT LAST, BEING AN ASHTANGA BLACK SHEEP


As we come to the end of the year and the beginning of a new one I thought it would be a good time to offer up some positive reflections of this unforgettable year full of the unexpected. There is reason to feel inspired and uplifted, there are always diamonds in the ruff if you are trained to see them, but then again I am always an optimist.


We all know too well that this year teachers have had to think on their feet and be resourceful to continue the great work and I believe there have been many unexpectedly positive outcomes! We took the practise out of the hands of the yoga industry, the studios, the financial and media market, and dare I say ‘lineage’ and kinda made it our own didn’t we? Yoga became more meaningful! Dare I say we are now thinking more independently and creatively about How and Why we practise? Maybe now the practise is being used more constructively and healthily towards How and Who we teach? Teachers have had to diversify to survive, and have reached many new students thanks to the power of the internet and dare I say, the pandemic, for isolating many people at home. In the Ashtanga Vinyasa (AV) community we see some of our greatest teachers teaching alternative practises such as Vinyasa and Restorative as well offering classes and workshops for All Levels and Mixed Series and even Mysore classes in the afternoon and evenings! The community even seems to have grown a sense of humour and learnt how to laugh! In truth, we have all lightened the load we carry to be able to simply carry it! And we are not so damn serious about there anymore. Then there was the period where ‘Tradition’ was a scorching hot topic that all got us re-evaluating and questioning, as the spiritual process ought to. It seems we are giving ourselves permission to bend and not break not only in our postures, but in the wider sense of the practise teaching method. The community seems positively less austere and set in it’s ways and more open than ever to gentle evolution of the practise to fit our modern world and it’s new types of non- traditional students. Many are now moving away from the high standards set by the AV source without shame or fear and offering what could be called ‘rule breaking’ modern teachings. More about tradition later.



EMBRACING CHANGE


Teachers adapted well to new teaching formats and kept up the game, some showed great generosity and kindness and made globally accessible offerings for free or donations, opening up the teachings to those that could previously not afford it or those suffering loss of income, many of those are teachers like myself. As wonderful as this is, more wonderful are the offerings themselves! Innovative, creative, and diverse, as well as being inclusive and welcoming to all levels and types of practitioners! What most pleases me is that teachers seem to have noticed that this pandemic has been an opportunistic time to introduce many new people to yoga; there was a global wave of potential new students building as many people were stuck at home, bored, looking for fulfillment or exercise. And on the flip side many existing shala students may have found that they in fact needed the teacher less than they thought as they transitioned into a home practise. Teaching methods seem to have adapted in order to share this authentic practise in a less constructed or let us say less ‘traditional’ way (Traditional - I mean according to the AV lineage). Dare I say it seems we are casting off our blinkers and opening our eyes? Yoga itself is universal, and so maybe too the method of the AV practise, but executing the physical practise to the book is certainly not, nor ever will be. Are we acknowledging and accepting that non traditional methods of teaching AV also hold value? As do the non traditional students.



NON- TRADITIONAL MODERN STUDENTS


The wider picture of students who practise AV across the globe is that many do not fit into the traditional ‘box’, and maybe never will, but they do count, We Are One community. What exactly is an ‘ashtangi’ anyway? I hate to be labelled this way lately! We as humans just love to make order out of chaos and categories, believing that we are calmer when things make sense, and fit into boxes. I don;t need to tell you that this isn’t how nature works, it is beautiful chaos. (If you have ever tried to study and understand the yoga history you will see too that its sources provide another beautiful example!) As a self- taught home practitioner I count myself as one of these ugly ducklings, and this opening up and welcoming spirit, this FRESHNESS within the community this year has given me faith and courage to continue, I feel less judgement, comparison and expectation floating around. I should point out shyly that, before, I have to say my faith in the practise method’s place in the modern world was becoming unstable and questioning. I was reading Krishnamacharya and Desikachar telling me that yoga is for all, yoga is for individuals, yoga is healing, and then on the other hand reading strict methods, warnings and rules in the hatha yoga texts. Ram Dass uses a phrase in his book ‘Paths to God, Living the Bhagavad Gita’ that says 'or something that happens through your reading disconfirms some cherished belief system', and that hit the nail on the head. Truth is all year I have been doing my practise as best I could and reading heaps of scriptures, and at the same time wrestling to fit this to the mixed bag of modern day western yoga students who come to my classes! In my case, I had in fact never questioned the words ‘traditional practise’, but of course as the times change, tradition inevitable gets changed as well, just like the surface of rock slowly succumbs to the flow of the passing water.





DEEPER SPIRITUAL CONNECTION, THE WORLD UNITED AS YOGA ALWAYS WANTED US TO


It is odd that although separated from our built in practise rituals, times, places, and teachers the community seems stronger. Practise may have suffered or changed but the real Yoga within the method has taken deep roots in many of us, with so much time to contemplate, question and understand ourselves. I feel like my whole soul got churned up and this led to great truth making realisations and in turn fed into blogs and IGTV’S, where before I would have been posting pictures of asanas practise. Many shala practitioners were forced into finding their own way, having to practising alone at home. As a home practitioner who has always aspired to be shala practitioner I can safely say now that I am glad I chose this route. It is incredibly tough to self- motivate, self- practise and self- study and even harder still to self- moderate all of this. True spiritual work we know can only be done by each of us on the inside individually meeting, knowing and in fact, breaking ourselves. eI think this year we all just had to get on our mat however often we could and do what we could, this year was not a time to augment self judgement, have high hopes or goals on or off the mat. As i said initially the load we carry had to be lightened just so that we could carry it. Our self- care grew and our self- judgement faded, and knowing that we were all, as a global community in this together meant that we bonded. We finally saw that in others what we see in our -selves, this is what yoga wants us to understand, that we are not different at all, this is the core teaching! If we all knew this the World would be kinder to each other and to our planet. Mooji wrote this year how it is a time of great awakening and we should use this time to get back to our true nature, which is not fear and division, but love and unity.


‘Your true nature is not lost, it is not somewhere else in a divine vault away from you, it is right here in the core of your heart. Nature is offering us an opportunity to go within. Mostly our energies go outward, and they have to go ‘heartward’. You will fall in love with what you discover, it is the most fundamental discovery in the human kingdom’- Mooji

Also this year I have had far more meaningful conversations and connections to other teachers, I have received some really beautiful newsletters from which I felt a lot of support, kindness and strength (special thanks to Eddie Stern and Peg Mulqueen).


‘Over and over I am reminded that beauty and light are never far from my reach… Turns out, I quite like a quieter, simpler way of living, I wish it didn’t take a pandemic for me to realise and embrace… There’s a real connectivity when we embrace a slower, more attuned way of life ' -Peg Mulqueen


ACCEPTANCE AND LETTING IT ALL GO


Whilst we were doing our best to keep ourselves sane and healthy this year I believe that as a community we have softened up! We learned that it is ok to accept a lighter load, to feel failure, disappointment, grief or longing, nobody could fix our situation. We were forced to sit with it, and the only way through is ACCEPTANCE. Not knowing that which will happen is a tough one, or not having a timescale, I think we all truly learnt to surrender to living in the present moment this year, we had no choice. Perhaps we found solace in laying low, working quietly, contemplation and meditation; we cultivated pure inner strength. Globally even, I think many were forced into doing yoga unknowingly, sitting with themselves in discomfort, drowing in, or trying to escape the deep contemplation of the human soul. Did we also finally learn to detach a little from all the rigidity and rules laid down for us by other people in other times? Perhaps some of us hit the practise hard as a form of escape, of tapas, of transcendent release, it may have given us that source of fulfilment and purpose, or simply a place to feel ok, safe, and in control. It is very hard to sit with not controlling, which is how I teach the meaning of letting go, it is in essence not wanting, not clinging, not needing….. In the texts of course they tell us that eventually we will not even cling to the breath, body or mind, but arrive to total unsupported unmani, or Samadhi.


But control makes us humans feel relaxed! There is predictability in the AV practise in 2020 whereas off the mat there may be none. Others may have strayed away from the well trodden practise path, or the affirmed and enticing practise route laid out before us, we may have had to take up other mantles instead that were more important day to day than our own personal self- oriented spiritual progression.


On the mat this year I believe that we learned to trust ourselves to use the practise more personally, that is wisely, safely and healthily, from what I see out there yogis are making the practise useful, understanding the energetic effects of postures better and also alternative practises and implementing them as needed. I have seen so many restorative, yin, meditation, prayer and chanting offerings this year! We had to learn to trust our own intuition as the teachers were not right there beside us, the shalas closed their doors and the whole normal routine may have let go of us!


In this process we learnt to take more responsibility for ourselves, and we learnt to be kind to ourselves, rather than just doing what we think we ought to do according to what we know, have seen, or been led to believe, which is quite a lot when you look at the AV practise; there is definitely a presumed path structure and lots of dos and don’ts. Remember thought is mind and intuition is heart and yoga itself (State not practise) cannot be reached by knowledge or physical practise alone, you gotta go much deeper than that and depth only comes when you let go of the surface.


‘What often happens is that we strip away this and that, and instead grab onto that and this. It is too uncomfortable to have nothing to cling to,and so we substitute a new set of attachments for the old ones… and we start to cling to spiritual leaders and forms. Uh- Oh, It’s all gotta go. Everything must go’ -Ram Dass

Let’s face it, if I had set myself the mammoth task of my full practise each day it simply realistically would not have happened, so instead of thinking about what I thought I should do, or which pose I should reach I learnt (after some time) to just get on the mat and see what happened. Some practise is better than no practise, and actually the higher practice of Meditation is better than the mechanical practise ( check the scriptures).


‘The whole point (of yoga) is to learn about our attachments, and the spiritual evolution is a steady, slow process towards non- attachment’ -Kate O’ Donnel

Ahimsa, non - harming is the first advice we are given, we all know how easy it is to walk this knife- edge, most of all with ourselves, and more so with a tapas- based practise that is in fact designed to make us LET GO of our individual will and trust the spirit. Ahimsa and AV have a very precarious relationship right? Personalising our practise to be kind to ourselves and nurture our mental health is a form of ahimsa but it is also a form of SACRIFICE right? A yogi must swallow his or her pride, expectations, fear of breaking the rules, fear of feeling not good enough etc to perform this sacrifice! And here we have another form of acceptance and letting go. I believe this is the way to get that SUSTAINABLE HEALTHY PRACTISE that we all really wish for. If you adapted I salute you! And remember if you lost the path, AV is only one of many methods of practise of Hatha Yoga, and Hatha Yoga is only one path of many Yogas, but ALL YOGAS LEAD TO THE GREAT AWAKENING, THE GREAT UNION, THE SAMADHI OF RAJA YOGA.





LEARNING NOT TO TAKE IT ALL SO SERIOUSLY, YES EVEN ASHTANGIS!



What do you do when things go unbelievably badly? Do you curse and scream and stamp your feet? I know I used to! But with yoga wisdom, and age of course, we come to be less affected by it all, and if we really truly understand the laws of nature, that is IMPERMANENCE we may simply laugh! With us all finally learning what it means to REALLY LET GO it seems to me that the yoga community has lightened up, we are not so serious out there! With less to cling to we are less susceptible to the changes of those things we clinged to, does that make sense? We became more centred in that which doesn;t change and that makes us happy! The Bhagavad Gita says that through yoga Arjuna can become UNSHAKEABLE if he learns equanimity through yoga. My students learnt about the yogis philosophy of Purusha, Prakriti and the Gunas this year, and even if in the West with this unsteady view of God, i think believing in some thing or some force greater than ourselves really helps us to give up so much burden, self importance and responsibility. This is how we become lighter, happier and more peaceful, this is why the great yogis, gurus and the buddha are always smiling! They learnt to see this truth! Didn’t Pattabhi Jois used to point to a door and say ‘God is there’? If you believe God is everywhere and everything then Who are you at all! Why are you so important!? (I apologise if this all seems a bit out there, I have been reading many scriptures this year!)


Yoga afterall is a grand discovery of that which we all had within already- unbound peace and joy. The process of yoga is often attempted to be described in words, we hear how yoga unfolds, or uncovers, or lets the light in. The word Guru as well as the title of many yoga texts also suggest this journey from darkness to light. Of course, once ‘enlightened’ we still care about the outside world, but losing our attachments to impermanent things and recognising change for, well, change we are freer to enjoy the process and not take it all so damn seriously!



'And then his soul was a lamp who's light was steady, for it burns in a shelter where no winds come'- Upanisads

So on a simpler plain, when you stop caring so much about the performance or outcome of your practise then it turns into a much nicer ride! Ashtangis are famous for their serious approaches to practise, we adhere to rules and tradition, sacrifices in our social and dietary habits, the correct count and perhaps fear to break the mould or even smile on the mat let alone have a personality out there! I once read that it takes an ashtanga practitioner two years to learn to smile!!!!! I am myself guilty of this, my mum has always told me to take things less seriously, to lighten up, Well i finally did! I had to, because if not, my own mind demons and failed expectations would have eaten me alive! I hope you have enjoyed as much as I have the amazing tutorial tips given to us by David Robson and Jelena Vesic! My favourite was when not only did they ramp up the humour by swapping roles but they also swapped clothes! And a HUGE thank you to Michael Baidoo aka Instagrammer @bay_jitsu for those hilarious reels that had my crying with laughter! I am also seeing more diversity in the social media postings, more failed attempts, less glorification of asanas, more smiles, more emotion, and even bum wiggling and tears from my dear friend ( Thank you Vale!) So yea, we need to focus and concentrate to learn, but when it doesn’t go to plan, and even when goes better than the plan, stay light- hearted!






TRADITION, LINEAGE AND THE GREAT SACRIFICE AT THE SOURCE


The word ‘tradition’ has been buzzing around a lot lately through social media and the newsletters I receive, and I want to touch it just a little, because with all this ‘letting go’ we have to be careful with this. We all seem to have a different idea of its definition, or don’t really understand what it actually means, and yet the word is somehow always attractive and meaningful to us- it suggests the real thing. But it also has this connotation of something that doesn’t change right? That something traditional does not evolve or adapt; and we all know that the nature of physical reality is indeed this cycle of change. I think we can agree that Tradition and Evolution are a mighty pair of opposites, and so are Religion and Science ( Thank you Mark Robberds for that inspiring Instagram post!) We all know the term ‘bend to not break’ and this is what we seem to have done as a community and I am proud. We all seem to be reassessing what we do and how, we are tailoring our practise, we are finding our own personal and unique way with it, yet still honouring the tradition and the source of this knowledge.


What is the source? Is it Krishnamacharya? Pattabhi Jois? Sharath? Is it Hatha Yoga? Is it pre -modern Hatha Yoga? Or simply Yoga?! So many sources!!!! Let’s just take it back a hundred years or so...


‘Krishnamacharya told Ramaswami that the ‘dynamic sequencing’ of yoga postures was ‘the method of practise for youngsters’, especially for groups, and suggests that this may have been the origin of the vinyasa style of yoga taken up by another of Krishnamacharya’s pupils Pattabhi Jois’

‘According to Sharath and Pattabhi Jois one must master poses before being given permission to attempt others that follow, however Manjus Jois disagrees…. In the 21st century a new generation of AV yoga teachers have adopted Sharath’s rules, teaching in a linear style without variations. Practise takes place in a strict Mysore environment under the guidance of a Sharath approved teacher. How- To videos and workshops, detailed alignment instructions and strength- building exercises are not part of the method, neither for the practitioner or the teacher. However, most teachers who claim to have been taught by Sharath teach the above methods, exercises and postures’
- (both) Mark Singleton, Wikipedia




Nowadays many great AV teachers have been removed from the official approved teacher list for doing just this, but have chosen to sacrifice this status to be able to offer a more insightful, informative and safe teaching approach. Many of these beloved caring and passionate teachers have developed their own trademark styles and personalities and have unique areas of focus, which I think is REALLY USEFUL as no single living guru on this earth can have as total knowledge and experience of all areas of the vast teachings of yoga! Perhaps once these new- age teachers were judged by members in the community, or seen as outcasts, but I myself have never felt any negativity towards teachers such as Ty Landrum, John Scott and David Garrigues, (who have thousands of loyal ‘fans’ worldwide, even though studying with these teachers will not grant you a ticket to study with Sharath in Mysore.


(My personal thoughts are that Jois turned to the dynamic vinyasa sequence method for the wave of Westerners that came to practise because he saw that we lacked faith, discipline and mental and spiritual strength, and on the other hand carried too much self importance and ego. I believe that he knew the challenge of the Tapas element and the excitement and skill required to do the practise would get our busy minds enraptured and break our thick skins, or egos to let the spiritual path then unfold. Also, of course practically speaking, a memorised sequence is a sure way of getting a great many students to practise independently in a room together. He was not interested in teaching specific detailed techniques or perfect asanas, again his dharma was to get us to understand the state of yoga, the devotion, the ‘letting- go’.)


And so it is ironic is it not that we bend our bodys to keep them supple so they do not break, and yet the tradition itself does not bend. Or does it? This is a great discussion we could have but I would like to be brief and say that I believe some things do change at a much slower rate and I believe from what i have heard and read that indeed there are changes being made at the ‘top’. I am sure sticky mats and designer clothing were frowned upon back then but now they are the norm, over time changes become accepted and then normal and the fear we had of change, or the clinging to how things always are, dissipates. ( If you have ever studied the evolution of Hatha Yoga you will see it has many disciplines and practises and belief systems entwined into it, it has been changing the whole time!) However much resistance we create now, or however much we cling to what we know, I assure you it will change eventually, better to go with the flow. What does not change is the destination of yoga.


And so I ask you whatever your opinions are about the source and it’s attitude to the teaching method, let us remember that those at the top do indeed have the greatest responsibility to uphold the highest standards and ideals for us to be inspired by at least. Actually just yesterday I saw that Sharath is promoting beginners classes on his website and social media and encouraging partners and family members of his students to also come to practise, he has also lightened and opened up the practise space at Mysore by moving the Shala to a new location (and new name) and is known for changing the pace of the practise since his grandfather’s time.


Let me say clearly here that I do firmly believe in the Source as necessary to uphold the detailed method which is traditionally passed on orally, but that it is not a sustainable method for all practitioners. Perhaps this year as AV practitioners evolved and modified their known practise or tried new things that they came to accept and respect other lineages and practises as also valid and useful. I used to have this elitist attitude, believing that AV was THE ONLY WAY, but now I take much from elsewhere and it actually compliments my practise. I am not saying that all teachers and classes are useful or even quality but if you are open minded, curious and discerning I hope you come to discover the same.


‘Tradition is a living and evolving collection of wisdom. And it is up to each generation, each individual to adopt in accordance with what is natural and fits best...Which is something we seem to forget in Ashtanga...We often misuse the word tradition, confusing rules of an institution as part of our ritual. But that’s not actually it at all. For obedience is not the same thing as devotion. And there is nothing natural in adhering to someone else’s set of standards… Only in adapting do we find greater meaning. Only then do we find purpose. Only then does exercise become prayer’ -Peg Mulqueen, Ashtanga Dispatch Newsletter


Another phrase being thrown about is the ‘ashtangi robots’, we gotta be careful that we don’t strip away our personality and ego completely out there! Or punish those who do still have an essence of personality, individuality or a smile in their practise! Ram Dass in his book talks of how traditional or religious rituals and ceremonies have become austere, rigid, mechanical, like ‘the life has gone out of them’. He says many traditions get overthrown, but maybe instead what is needed is 'not to throw them away, but to awaken them'.


'They may be singing wonderful.songs about resurrecting and rebirth, but nothing's happening. The ceremony and the ritual came out of living spirit, but that's gotten lost in the shuffle, and what's left behind is the mechanical stuff'

-Ram Dass



ADAPTING TRADITION TO THE MODERN DEVOTEE

LET’S BE REALISTIC


Truth is these days that many of us have not come to the practise through the traditional route, many learn the sequence in a led class or are self- taught. Thank you to Nathan for shedding light and value on this topic lately in his interesting discussion with Harmony Slater, ( It is called the Finding Harmony Podcast , episode- Rogue Yogi: Escaping Samsara’ ) it made me feel a whole lot better! So many people these days learn whole chunks of the Sequence or indeed the whole Series from books, videos or led classes and we cannot dismiss them as being not worthy or real ashtangis anymore. Before social media enabled us to share our experiences with a wider audience the casual practitioner, the self practitioner or the home practitioner didn’t really seem to hold a place, but now i feel we are all more respectful and open to how others practise. And then there are many more modern students who may not only practise AV, or practise infrequently, or take led classes at studios and never discover the self- practise. Are these considered devoted or serious students either? Are they ‘ashtangis’? It is so easy to judge. But there is still much that can be gained from the practise of AV even for these more casual attendees and we must continue to welcome them as we have this year! We all know you gotta start somewhere! And for some only a little yoga is needed to do a lot of work!


‘Sometimes, in other activities, one has to wait until the end to experience the benefits of the action. This is not so in yogabhyasa. There are benefits at every stage of the practice. From practising only asana, one gains strength of the body; from the practice of only the yama, one develops compassion towards all living beings; from practising only pranayama, it is possible to achieve long life and good health.’ -Krishnamacharya, Yoga Makaranda



Taylor Hunt spoke today about how AV is definitely NOT for everyone, however much we praise or love or idealise it. This is a hard pill for many die- hard ashtangis to swallow! These modern students may never have the strength or stamina to reach more of the sequence or the benefits of poses that may appear later, does this mean that they should not do them? I do greatly believe in beginners learning the fundamentals in the AV Standing Sequence it teaches body awareness, it’s a safe progression with common sense and repetition, it is slow and steady and teaches correct breathing, but I also feel that if we blindly, or ‘doggedly’ do the same thing day in day out we imbalance our bodies. And so I, like many, have come to realise that we ought to be wise and supplement the practise, and not feel bad or criminal about it!


‘So your practice should be whatever you can sustain over a long time, rather than pushing the boundaries and burning out. Your practise should add to you life, not subtract from it’ -Taylor Hunt, Instagram


HATS OFF TO OUR TEACHERS

ASHTANGA VINYASA SPIN- OFFS AND SUPPLEMENTS


Most AV authorised and certified teachers now offer workshops to examine technique, provide ‘research poses’ or build strength, which is certainly not part of the original teaching method set out by the lineage. This is opening up the teaching to many new students and those who come from other disciplines, and AV teachers are commonly teaching other styles of yoga! Maybe it was just an adapt to survive mentality to get student numbers up, as mysore ashtangis drifted into the realms of home practise, who knows? Ashtangis are stuck in their ways, naturally, as we humans like to do that which we know, yea, sure, the sequence never feels the same but it is in fact the same!!!! It is totally predictable. Are we ‘ashtangis’ finally getting a bit unstuck, non- attached and open minded? I think that we are and this is healthy evolution!


Sometimes in yoga nowadays, and especially in AV it feels like we belong to clubs, or support certain teams, or reach certain levels, which leads to elitism, hierarchy and judgement which is not desirable at all. We somehow rank the people with the advanced practise highly when we all know that someone with a more simple practise could have such a higher understanding of yoga itself. It can only be a good thing that teachers stick their necks out to open more people, in more ways to the teaching methods. It is not of course desirable to bow down completely to the needs of the student and leave the traditional method behind, as Ram Dass also says of awakening tradition- ‘ We must be careful we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater’, but we MUST acknowledge that yoga is for all who come.


Here I will mention a few of the teachers offering new or non- traditional AV teachings:


Eddie Stern offers a ‘Kriyas, Bandhas and Mudras’ Class amongst shorter classes, Yoga Therapy and classes that provide a mix of Primary and Intermediate, today I saw there is a very ‘modern’ class which is Primary plus mid section of Intermediate! Here is a teacher who confessed in his latest newsletter that before the pandemic he was starting to doubt the way yoga , and primarily asanas were taught day in day out, what was the purpose of it all? Was it useful? And through the online format actually found his purpose and meaning as a teacher again.


‘Teaching yoga became a necessity again for a world in chaos, and not a luxury or add- on to a ‘wellness lifestyle’. To be able to connect with people all over the world everyday and provide steadiness in difficult circumstances woke up in me again the importance of daily practise as a grounding mechanism in a painful world’ -Eddie Stern



Stacey at Ashtanga Yoga Raleigh has been offering Matthew Sweeney’s ‘Moon Sequence’ as a complementary practise and this month even has a very avante- garde ‘Ashtanga Improv’ class, said to be light- hearted exploration of the AV practise with an eye to ‘mixing it up a bit’ She writes ‘ I know, this may feel uncomfortable for some of you die- hard ashtangis but let’s step out of our comfort zones’ !


Harmony Slater is offering Flow, Shoulder and Heart Opening, Modified Primary and Gentle Backbends.


Ty Landrum has been teaching a ‘Short and Sweet’ class which I found to be an intelligent and careful Vinyasa with his signature meditative and sensual style. He has now offered ‘in support of this wearied world’ a whole six week course created to make the practise accessible to those who need it, especially those in lockdown. He emphasises that it will be suitable to all with plenty of variations and free if needed!


David Garrigues boldly offered a whole workshop on Kapotasana! Followed by another focussing purely on the Second Half of Second Series which he made suitable for ALL LEVELS. I see now he is combining his passion for the Hindu mythology with relevance to the practise of the Primary Series, (what a legend!)





AWAY FROM ASANA IS A GOOD THING!


There are more workshops than ever available to us, and teachers now appear to be teaching a far wider spectrum of yoga than asana! I see countless workshops and lectures providing the knowledge and guidance of the yoga scriptures and tools for spiritual strength, clarity and meditation which is truly uplifting! Maybe there was more demand after students looked to deepen their knowledge of more than asana, with so much time on their hands? (I know us yoga teachers did!) I really enjoyed this year too the growing connection between the yoga scholar and the yoga practitioner; I see many of our AV community studying, sharing and enveloping the hatha yoga source texts. Especially exciting was the findings of the amazing five year study of pre modern hatha yoga by The Hatha Yoga Project headed by James Mallinson, which was a huge eye- opener and not only answered many questions we may have had but also through cans of worms at our ideas about the authenticity of our practise!!!!!. And of course a huge benefit of online remote learning has meant that we didn;t have to miss out on teachings if we had other commitments or were in the wrong country! Thanks to these crossovers the modern yoga practitioner has a more open mind about yoga practise as a whole! We learn again that our way, certainly is not the only way, and that nothing can be truly ‘set in stone’.



MY OWN ACCEPTANCE AT LAST, BEING AN ASHTANGA BLACK SHEEP


I didn’t always have this relaxed and carefree practise attitude or understanding of yoga, and so this article stems from thoughts and feelings of mine that have been embedded in my psyche for years. I am grateful that I have come to terms with accepting my own self judgements and negative thought cycles this year. Of course you guessed it, they haven’t gone anywhere, I just learnt to care less about them as they became less important! I guess this article culminates all of that and follows many other blogs I have poured out this year. I admit I have aspired to be the perfect ‘ashtangi’ for so long, and yet now I begrudge being labelled in that way, I don’t have to aspire to be better, or like anyone else. Interestingly enough this acceptance of myself this year also coincided with a few events thanks to Covid. Much of the world was forced to spend time alone, or at home and I spent a lot of time in isolation, meditating, contemplating, studying scriptures and going deeper and deeper into the yoga, and then it CLICKED! IT SHONE! I processed it and knew I had to adventure back into the world again, when I did I met the love of my life! At this time I had started giving myself the deep backbends and leg- behind- the head postures of the Second Series.( I know EMOTIONAL RIGHT!) MY HEART WAS OPEN LIKE NEVER BEFORE. I actually finally understood what the overused words of ‘love’ and ‘heart’ mean. To feel the heart is to feel free, fearless and open! (none of that cheesy stuff you hear that never resonated with me.) As I did the new shapes in my body I filled my head with the sweet yet potent words from the Upanisads, the Bhagavad Gita and it all went POW! Yoga seemed to shine forth! I never doubt the quality of my practise anymore. Physical practise actually seems less necessary now, I allow myself to break the rules, I work with my body in a healthy way, I experience other teachers and their teachings, it all just feels very wholesome and natural and FREE!


It’s like as my heart softened and unfolded my hard mind backed off and let go. Or is it the other way around?! I leave you with this last yogic Catch 22, and also a Poem written by Krishnamcharya,



‘Where is the conflict when the truth is known,
Where is the disease when the mind is clear,
Where is death when the breath is controlled,
Therefore, surrender to Yoga’



Thank you for reading,


Leanne.


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