A visit to real life…

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.


6 Responses to A visit to real life…

  1. Anonymous says:

    In the great scheme of things the asanas don’t mean shit, we invest too much in them emotionally and become very attached to them.

  2. Yoga Chickie says:

    SO….how come Ashtanga teachers only teach Asana?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have asked that myself especially when those words have come from the mouths of teachers who’s practices are jaw dropping.

    Of course when these words are said by teachers who then stop us from trying out other asanas in the series, well!! Maybe we are doing the ‘wrong’ yoga or have the ‘wrong’ teacher.

    Ego makes us want the nice juicy postures, but it’s to feed that alone.

    Nevertheless, we have to ‘own’ our yoga and maybe if the asanas we do concentrate on breath, drishti, correct alignment and health – it is good enough?

    As long as we ask ourselves why we do the yoga and we’re happy with the answers, to hell with what others think, then that should be good enough.

  4. yamayoga says:

    There are SOME ashtanga teachers out there that do teach more than asna, but you have to look for them… and those are the teachers with a much more realistic and non-judgemental view of a students progresses ie. allowing them to progress to intermediate, even though the backbends are still a bit wooly; getting them to do Kapo even though laghu is not yet “mastered” (ahem, I’m one of those people!!). My teacher, thankfully is one of such teachers. He has been certified by guruji, and teaches the ashtanga method, 5 x per week. 1x per week he leads a much more playful expolrative class that is simply wonderful. Furthermore he teaches pranayama, even to those just begining asana. (not the type of pranayama that the teach at ayri, but from another well respected source).
    BTW I loved YTTP in Marks place, thanks for your review, and I’ll definately go the next time I’m in NY..

  5. Yoga Chickie says:

    Well, I know who you’re talking about, and I have done workshops with him twice, and he is refreshingly different, that is for sure…as well as the teacher of Val Schneiderman, who also does not seek to make students feel disabled, but to enable them. On the other hand, I have heard that he, like all humans, can be fallible, and that he has had the occasional ego-mash-up with a student here or there…but that is the exception for him, as far as my understanding goes…

  6. Anonymous says:

    [how come Ashtanga teachers only teach Asana?]

    Little late, but….

    Teachers give you the tools (asana, sequence, drishti, safety issues wrt alignment, etc.) and YOU turn it into practice. They can’t teach you that, they can just show you the motions and then everybody discovers it when they put it together. Does that make sense?

    For eg I practice a very limited sequence of asanas etc. but I practice, which (somewhat) stills the fluctuations of my mind and all that hoo haa. Though I still have that irritating ‘ashtanga rules’ type reaction when talking to Bikram Hot Yogatrons.



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