Friday, January 7, 2011

Ashtanga Teachings

It's snowing outside, here in NYC! I haven't seen it snow this hard before, and I keep staring out at the window in amazement! Anyhow, here are some Ashtanga illustrations that I saw online. They're very cute. I like the pasasana one in particular.

I learned a lot from regular Ashtanga practice over the course of last semester. Ashtanga is like a mirror. It allows you to observe yourself and see yourself as you are. But that's only if you dare to do so. As one of my fellow work-study students at the studio remarked, "There's so much ego in that room!" It's easy to look at one's neighbor and compare practices, when in actuality, who gets a medal for completing Primary Series, starting Intermediate Series, or reaching Advanced Series?

Ashtanga taught me to turn my gaze inward, and see myself. It taught me to listen to my own body, mind, and spirit. There are real consequences when I don't, as I'm experiencing now. I realized that I let so many people push me beyond my capacity all these years. I allowed that to happen by not listening to my own voice and not standing up for myself. I became a disciplined automaton, taking on discipline and achievement for its own sake, rather than as a means to an end, sacrificing my sense of happiness.

On January 22, it will be three years since I took my first Ashtanga yoga class in PE at UC Berkeley. Yoga, in general, has changed my life more than anything else, and has given me hope that change - make that change leading to freedom - is possible. I write this now as I decide consciously to step away from Ashtanga practice for a while. I realize that I may have overindulged in this practice over the course of last semester, but that in itself has taught me something. I'm not closing the door on returning to this practice in the future, but for now, I need to do something gentler, something slower, something that doesn't feed into my rigid disciplinarian tendencies. I realize that no one method of yoga is THE method. There are right seasons for each and every practice. Part of practicing yoga is to know which is for when.

I'll close this post with one quote that I learned through Ashtanga practice: "Why fear?"

Courage, and the willingness to try and risk. Vande gurunam!

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