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 sequences of physical postures. In this practice of breath-synchronized movement, every…
The following article is an expansion of a number of philosophical discourses that I make in workshops and courses. I have also included supporting information on specific master teachers relevant to the different forms of Yoga philosophy that I am discussing. My purpose is to encourage students to follow these links, and as inspiration strikes to put these subtle aspects of Yoga into practice
Karma yoga, or selfless service, is one of the paths of yoga and is the yoga of action. It is performing every action, both on and off the mat, in totality, with complete presence, authenticity and love, without any expectation to receive anything in return. It is a powerful way to transform ourselves, to break out of the cycle of likes and dislikes: the cycle of attachment that leads to suffering.
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, circular motions of the female.
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 the tradition.
I am often asked why I don’t lead the traditional opening and closing mantras in my Ashtanga Led and Mysore style classes.When I read the above quote from Indian classical vocalist Bombay Jayashri, I was reminded of some of the reasons for this.This quote from a musician reminded me of my yoga practice because Indian classical music and Ashtanga vinyasa yoga share some common features: An Indian Classical raga has strict structural rules that need to be followed by the performer, just as there is a strict vinyasa count and sequence to be followed in the Ashtanga system. In both practices surrender to this structure is essential to access some of the aspects of self-encountering.
Here are my suggestions for the top ten books recommended for newbie Yoga teachers. I’d be very interested to hear other people’s suggestions and ideas…
‘Heart of Yoga’ Desikachar – very beautiful classic intro to yoga. ‘Teaching people not poses’ Jay Fields – great tips on how to find your voice as a teacher.
To start with words from a song by Katy Perry: “lost my discretion…caught my attention” (‘I kissed a girl’). This article is an attempt to make sense of our relationships within the yoga world (particularly that of teacher/student). It proposes specific ways of dealing with some of the difficulties that arise within these relationships. And it is significantly inspired by what has been happening with John Friend and Anusara.