Last night I went to a party, and apparently, whenever I am in a room with people, inevitably, the conversation meanders to yoga at some point. Not surprisingly, given that the party was in Westchester, where there are exactly zero Asthanga shalas, no one had a clue what Ashtanga is.
Try explaining Ashtanga to people who don’t practice it. Try explaining Mysore style to people who have practiced only led classes of any kind. Try explaining the notion of being “given” poses. Try explaining the linear progression of Ashtanga from Primary to Intermediate to the Advanced Series. Try explaining that there is no “talk” and no “breathing work”. Try explaining that there is no “camel pose” until after you’re able to put your legs over your head and clasp your hands behind your back. Try explaining that there is no “shoulder stand” until after you’re able to do “Marichyasana D” (what the hell is that to someone who doesn’t practice Ashtanga?). No crow pose until you can bend over backwards and, at a minimum, touch your toes with your fingertips. No backbends except full wheel until you can twist and wrap your arms around your legs while in a deep squat.
“That doesn’t seem fun.”
“But you paid for class, so why are you not allowed to do things?”
“But the poses you’re talking about in Primary Series are way more advanced than anything I do in Level II/III class…”
Try explaining why you do it then. And you hear yourself sounding really snobby. And kind of…ego driven. And perhaps even…competitive?
But the thing is, not one of these people who you’re talking to at this party gives a rat’s ass that you can put your legs over your head and clasp your hands behind your back. Or that you were “given” up to the one-leg-behind-the head pose that you see Madonna doing in some movie stills of that movie that no one saw, where she played a yoga teacher.
In the world outside of the shala, the standards are different. None of this shit matters. Sometimes it’s really quite refreshing to take a dip in that pool.