Philosophy

Articles involved with Philosophy

  • Becoming Animal: Using Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Meditation as Embodiment Practices for the Cultivation of Organic Intelligence A practitioner in my Mysore program recently asked me: “If one side of a posture is more open than the other, and I feel like I can keep going deeper in the more open side, should I hold back to try to even it out with the less open side?” My response drew from what I feel is one of the most beautiful aspects of the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice. What follows ...
  • Starting Third Series (Again) – Reflections on an 11 year relationship. I first began to practice the third series of the Ashtanga Vinyasa system in early 2005, shortly after relocating to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory of Northern Canada. I had learned the primary and intermediate series from Mark Darby in Montreal the year before, and following a period of travel and then settling in a very remote and isolated corner of the world, I was far away from anyone who ...
  • Where is the feminine in yoga? Yoga has become the ultimate female activity, with 80 per cent of practitioners from the ‘fairer’ sex 1 . On the surface, the synchronised movements, bodyweight balances, and attention on breath seem more feminine than masculine, but a closer look shows it is anything but. The angular forms, linear movements, and mechanical instruction stem from male created systems serving to their energy, with scant attention paid to the fluid, rolling, ...
  • You Stop There, Part II – Reflections on my second trip in Mysore with Sharath Jois I recently completed my second three month trip practicing with Sharath Jois at the KPJAYI in Mysore. Last year I wrote two blog posts about my first trip, “A New Chapter” and “You Stop There”. These articles expressed my perspective of the experience of starting over as a beginner with Sharath, after having had a daily Ashtanga practice for 12 years, having completed the 4th series with my previous teacher Rolf ...
  • Holistic Asana Practice An Article for Asana Teachers What does it mean to be holistic in terms of practicing (or teaching) Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga? Holistic means whole, or even part of a whole, and implies completion, integration and oneness. Holistic characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole Part One In order to be physically holistic we need to look at the whole body. Does the ...
  • This Body Titles can be tricky, especially in this society of speed, sound-bites and stimulants. Other options included ‘What happened in the summer holidays’ and ‘My appendix, the NHS, sangha and sustainability’. It began on the first Saturday of August. A busy day with many commitments. In the afternoon I was feeling a bit unwell – nothing too serious. I mused to myself that perhaps it was too much cake and too many ...
  • Mula Bandha and Float Backs Part 1: The Three Bandha The word Bandha can be defined variously as “lock”, “blockage” and “doorway”. Mula Bandha is the lower lock, meaning “root” or “earth”. There are a few definitions that I like regarding MB, so I wanted to start by sharing some of those. Wikipedia Mūla Bandha is the principal, key and primary Bandha of the Yogic traditions. Mūla Bandha is endemic to all safe, grounded workings of body-mind disciplines. This ...
  • Why I don’t Chant, Part 2: Tradition and Self Authority Last week I published an article titled “Why I don’t Chant”, in which I explained some of the reasons that I don’t use the Ashtanga opening and closing mantras in my classes or in my personal practice. As expected, I received mixed feedback on the article. Some people expressed that it resonated with them deeply, while others felt that by omitting the chant I was failing to do proper justice to ...
  • Why I don’t chant I don’t think I love God more than I love music. Why would a European sitting there, who doesn’t know the difference between Krishna and Rama, listen to this music for two hours? Why are instrumental concerts so popular? Do we know if the performer is playing a kriti in Kannada or Telugu, or if that kriti is talking about this lord or that deity? Our music is not about ...
  • Thoughts on Deepening an Authentic Yoga Practice Authentic yoga practice is an exploration in relationship. One who is practicing yoga as sadhana (rather than yoga as entertainment) has a relationship with their teacher, a relationship with the practice method or tradition, and most importantly a relationship with the self. Ultimately, the real work of yoga is to deepen and strengthen these relationships. A solid and stable relationship with the teacher and with the tradition of practice are essential ...
  • You Stop There: Lessons from Sharath Jois and Reflections on the Mysore Method I recently returned from my first three month trip to practice with Sharath Jois in Mysore. I am not a newcomer to the Ashtanga system – I completed the 4th series with my previous teacher Rolf Naujokat earlier in 2014, and have maintained a daily Ashtanga practice for nearly 12 years. I knew that when I went to Mysore for the first time, none of this would matter. When I went ...
  • Reformation of an Ashtanga Zealot In this article I describe my history with Ashtanga Yoga, how my approach changed over the decades, some of the problems that I encountered, their solution and how this has influenced my teaching. How I came to Ashtanga: Initially I was only interested in the meditation and philosophy aspects of yoga and practiced and studied those for many years. I came to asana only once I realized that the vitality of my ...
  • Broken Gods, Breaking Hearts: Pedestals, Boundaries, Pitfalls By Norman Blair I would like to dedicate this to all teachers and students who have crossed my path. Thank you for your advice and your effort, your encouragement and your sustenance. I hope this article is helpful in our growth towards honesty, compassion and openness. STARTING WITH A SONG To start with words from a song by Katy Perry: “lost my discretion…caught my attention” (‘I kissed a girl’). This article is an ...
  • No Magic to Protect You in “Wild Thing”, And No Magical Way in Which Yoga Changes the World /// Plus We Heart Be Scofield By Matthew Remski Nugget: The claim that Wild Thing can be done safely might involve the same wishful/magical thinking as the claim that yoga and meditation will automatically “shift consciousness”, whether individually, communally, or “vibrationally”. Both claims seem to depend upon overlooking concrete material conditions in favour of nurturing faith in vague metaphysical principles. Concrete material conditions demand specific learning objectives. If yogis want to be smart on the biomechanics front, ...
  • Update 3: What Are We Actually Doing In Yoga Asana /// “Wild Thing” Pose: Impossible, Injurious, Poignant By Matthew Remski Certum est quia impossibile est. — Tertullian I’m closing in on fifty interviews for this project, and it’s getting richer every week. I’ve spoken to a trauma survivor who has been repeatedly triggered in asana classes by both invasive touch and psychological insensitivity. I’ve spoken to a medical doctor (as well as 30-year practitioner and teacher) who remembers the moment when he actively suppressed his critical thinking medical-mind so that ...
  • The Box – Being Inside Looking Outside: An Ashtanga Story By Norman Blair I would like to present this piece in the spirit of compassion, co-operation and communication. My thanks to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sharat Jois and all teachers who have developed this practice and helped me along this path. The purpose of writing is to encourage debate and dialogue amongst practitioners. Some of what is written might be controversial but this is not a rocking of the boat simply ...
  • Is This Spiritual? By Melanie Cooper “Spiritual” is a concept or term often bandied around in yoga circles. It can be confusing to anyone – but especially a new student. We go along to a yoga class in our local gym thinking it’d be good to stretch our muscles after our workout. Then suddenly we learn it’s supposed to be “spiritual”. What does that mean? Is this some kind of cult? What’s going to ...
  • Achievement Unlocked By Susan Su Today Iain was given the last asana of the Ashtanga fourth series by his teacher, Rolf Naujokat. For all the non-yoga people out there, “finishing fourth” is an enormous achievement, beyond reach for 99.99% of humans and maybe 100% of Canadian ex-tree-planters/backcountry hikers/science nerds. I’ve spent many months carefully studying Iain’s success formula, and it basically boils down to this: STEP 1 – Work hard STEP 2 – Don’t give ...
  • The Evolution of Ashtanga Yoga Part II Yoga and Tradition By Matthew Sweeney Although Yoga, meditation and self inquiry are gaining popularity worldwide, these are still relatively new concepts for many people. How we define these concepts and the clarity with which we pursue them is of great interest to me. I am using the following definitions to shine a light on how adherence to a tradition can either help or hinder your practice of Yoga. It might be ...
  • The Mistaken Expectation of Joy in Yoga By Tim Feldmann Our yoga practice can give rise to difficult emotions, causing unnecessary confusion in our lives. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras offer a surprising context to help us understand this phenonoma. It seems there is a growing frustration in our contemporary yoga community as the popularity of this ancient Indian practice reaches new frontiers in our part of the world. Recently I have had several students approach me with a particular ...
  • My “Time-On” Sabbatical, or Where the Heck I’ve Been These Past 10 Months Aren’t you done relaxing yet?” a well-intentioned entrepreneur friend once asked me. I was startled. For an overachiever plowing through life, taking time to be with myself and not have anything important to do was the most un-relaxing thing I could imagine. In fact, it was excruciating. Last fall, I left my position running business operations at a web startup in Austin to spend what I thought would be four months with myself, ...
  • Meditations on Embodied Practice By Christine Lee Introduction The last thing I expected was for one of my yoga teachers to sound a Socratic note. After a six hour session, he made a disconcerting remark: “I hope this workshop has raised more questions than provided answers. I hope it has made you realize how lost you really are.” This comment came after a grueling week-long workshop in the traditional practice of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, which entails memorizing ...
  • Ashtanga Yoga 70 years or 2000? A Side Thread to Matthew Sweeney’s Article ‘The Evolution of Ashtanga Yoga’ In Matthew Sweeney’s article The Evolution of Ashtanga Yoga that we posted here a few weeks ago, he writes the following: “Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a relatively new system, despite some opinions to the contrary. Apart from the obvious fact that the sequences have been changed by Pattabhi Jois over the years (usually for the better in my opinion) most would ...
  • The So-Called Tradition of Ashtanga By Chad Herst I have noticed that as the Mysore-style Ashtanga method becomes more popular over the years, the individual connection between teacher and student is disintegrating. The practice, which was originally designed to be individualized, has become increasingly supplanted by a one-size-fits-all approach. This is a natural outgrowth as more and more people both learn and are touched by the method. The unfortunate thing is that it misses the point of ...
  • The Evolution of Ashtanga Yoga By Matthew Sweeney Ashtanga Yoga is a wonderful practice for the body and mind. It is an evolving practice that is changing and growing to suit people of all ages and abilities. At least that is its potential. The tradition and its changing nature can be a difficult thing to reconcile. This problem exists for all traditions, so understanding some of the principles at work is important. In most Ashtanga classes we ...

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