October 2010 – Ashtanga around the world

Ashtanga around the world

Nice to be home 🙂 But it is so fun connecting with the Ashtangis all over the world. There are pockets of ashtanga communities all over the world, traveling and finding theses communities is very grounding and connecting. And since our practice is spoken in Sanskrit there is no language barrier in class 🙂 I encourage you if you get to travel outside of the states especially to find an ashtanga studio, it is fun.

And you know, we are all facing the same joys and challenges with this practice. Feeling the joy of a healthy body and calmer mind but also dealing with the same struggles of daily practice (while trying to keep a job–you know ashtanga yoga makes you totally unemployable . . .), and learning how to move our bodies and ebb and flow with our breath in an intelligent way. Its like little support groups wherever you go! This is such a wonderful practice.

Daily practice . . .
And speaking of daily practice, that is a message I like to get across. Daily practice is important and makes a big difference. This practice is so much easier if you do it every day–and it does not have to be hours everyday, a home practice can be as short as Sun Salutes and finishing lotus flowers, even that little bit will keep you connected to your breathing and bandhas and bring about health to your body and mind. And that is how this practice is most effective; combining it with coming to classes to learn more and get assists, and practice at home where you have a lot of self discovery–and home practice really brings your practice into your heart. Don’t get me wrong though, if you have the time to come to daily classes at our shala–great! 😉 but if you don’t, home practices be them short or full are very beneficial as well.

Some tips to developing a home practice:
1. set it in your routine–just like taking a shower! It is best if you can do home practice in the morning–only because if you do it a-er work sometimes you are just too tired or other “things” come up that pull you away from it. But no matter if it is morning time or before bed or a-er work, set it in your schedule as a daily habit.

2.Create the space. Make a pleasant space that you can (if possible) leave your mat out in. Put some om symbols around the space or other pleasantries that make the space enjoyable to you. Make it an inviting space.

3.Just go to it. Even if you don’t feel like practicing, go and sit on your mat!

My message . . .
And even though you all hear my message when I am here, you don’t always hear it all together, so want to make sure you guys here who I am lucky to have come and let me teach to frequently know what I am out there spreading:

First of all, ashtanga yoga works from the inside out — its what you can’t see that is most important


  • most important –energizes body and calms mind
  • bookend your movements with your breath
  • keep your breath between the postures
  • allow your breath to be slower in some poses and shorter in others, but keep the inhales and
    exhales the same length

Bandhas and core connections

  • no over extending (hard on low back and hips) –Iyengar vs. Ashtanga alignment
  • sloppy yoga = more yoga into your yoga. Less mind stuff! Through repetition you will learn the best form for you, get into the pose and let the energy of the pose straighten you out.
  • connecting fingers to toes and head to knees to connect energy circuits in the body and to help you with your bandhas (bandhas connect your upper and lower body!)
  • Bandhas are also good for our immune system by moving our lymph

Consistent practice

  • sadhana – that which you can do
  • short home practices are OK and will help you stay connected to your yoga
  • ashtanga yoga stays challenging until you do it every day –and its not that hard–you get moon days off (2 each month) and if you are a premenopausal women you also get menstruation days off . . .
  • if you practice 1-2x per week you will experience better health and you will feel better
  • if you practice 3-4x per week you will improve your fitness, connect with the lightness of the practice and feel ease in your movements
  • practice 5-6x per week and you will transform your life!

Trust the framework

  • repetition . . . it does not entertain, it teaches
  • honor the order of poses–they are put in order for specific reason; they work through our body in a systematic method–from the muscular skeletal system, to the organs, to the lymph system, to the chakras and energy systems, to the nervous system, to the endocrine system . . .
  • The order is intelligently designed, in addition to working through the body systematically, one pose either prepares you for the next or counter balances the previous.
  • trust the method but use it as a framework – many of us have to individualize poses, this is good, learn how to modify a pose to suit you but don’t skip it!

And the rest of my message . . . Ashtanga Yoga is so misunderstood!
It is not about the physicality of the practice! The masculine energy of this practice is so o-en out of balance and lacking the feminine aspect. The feminine aspect is receptive, be receptive to the postures and allow them to effect you. You do this by relaxing in the postures–if you push and pull too much in the postures you are creating more tension in your body. Yoga is to release tension in your body. You can work in the sun salutes and vinyasas, relax into the poses and just breathe! In this practice:
–Sun salutes warm up the body
–standing poses stretch the musculoskeletal system preparing us for seated poses
–seated poses are about the inner work–detoxifying the organs and nervous system. Seated poses are not about physicality!

We use our heel as a tool in this practice, the heel carries heat and it is therapeutic, we press our heel into our abdomen while forward bending to wring out a specific organ, for example the lotus and half lotus positions are aiming our heel for our liver and spleen, or in some poses (marichyasanas) we are aiming for our ascending colon and descending colon–this is why we do right leg first in full lotus (so the heels press on our liver and spleen, le- leg first is of no benefit) and in the marichyasana series le- leg goes into lotus first so as to press into our ascending colon and then descending colon . . .

And in some poses we want to stretch our chin to our shin to deepen the detoxifying process by pulling our heel in deeper to the abdomen, and in other poses we put our head to our knee and breathe deeply making our body a mudra (a mudra is a seal that moves energy in our body) helping to move energy in our spine. So we are working between moving energy in our body and moving matter!

It is our nature to let our ego get involved in our practice so we have to constantly be aware and bring our focus back to our moving and breathing. The beauty of this system is when you learn how to move in rhythm with your breath, and keep that focus, you will feel the difference of how good it feels and how light and effortless the practice feels.

EFFORTLESS is the key to this practice. It seems as if this practice requires much effort, but if you learn to connect with moving and breathing your practice becomes effortless. Then you get the benefits of the internal cleansing, the release of tension from our bodies, and improved health and fitness effortlessly!

INTERNAL CLEANSING . . . the improved fitness and health, and stress relief is only a by-product (side effect!) of the practice, the real benefit is the removal of disease from the body by the internal cleansing that occurs when you put your heel in your gut and forward bend while moving and breathing. When you get too attached to “getting a pose” or getting a bind, remember the purpose of the posture is not about that, it is about internally cleansing your body and removing disease and toxins. So it is more important to forward bend with your heel in your gut than to “get a bind”. And if your hip or knee will not allow your heel to get into your gut–no worries about that either the moving and breathing and forward bending all help to detoxify our body so doing the practice even if you can’t do lotus will still help to keep you free of disease.

ON JUMPS AND LIGHTNESS, remember not to get too wrapped up in “floating” or jumping. They are nice and help to make your practice fluid (and there are benefits to the jumps), but trying for them too early in your practice is frustrating. With consistent practice over many years the lightness comes, LET IT COME TO YOU, do not push to get it. You won’t get a gold star from Mysore for jumping through . . .

Do not mistake the method for the goal
The ultimate “goal” of a yoga practice is a higher quality of living. There are many methods for this, and the method of Ashtanga Yoga is sound one. However, if you are worrying about getting a pose you are not improving your quality of life.

The magic is not in the pose, or in how you do the pose, or in whether or not you practice Ashtanga, Iyengar, or Sivananda. The magic is in you, in you day a-er day, week a-er week, returning to your practice. That is the magic.

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