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 for the sake of provocation. If I see an elephant in the room it needs to be said – even if that elephant is Ganesh. This is a heartfelt attempt towards understanding this tradition and the possibilities for transformation.
“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 happen to me?
For years I have religiously observed moon days, which means I don’t practice asana on full or new moon. The yogic explanation is that the full moon corresponds to the top of the inhalation when the upward energy of prana is at it’s greatest. So around the full moon we can feel high, energised, emotional and ungrounded. The new moon corresponds to the bottom of the exhalation when the force of apana is greatest so we feel calm and grounded and low energy.
A friend within the Ashtanga community recently reached out to me because she has been struggling to find a way into her practice such that it supports her fatigue and depression. She wrote, “I have had chronic fatigue for many years, and used to find my practice helpful with my energy levels, but lately, I’ve been struggling with the intensity of the practice.” Often the instruction students receive is, “Keep practicing. It will change.”
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 useful to note how you personally respond to these definitions and to recognise any conditioning you may have about them.
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 question about the presence of strong negative emotions in their practice and their lives.
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 agree that Prof. T. Krishnamacharya (K.P. Jois teacher) invented the system during his years at the Mysore Yoga Palace – and was influenced by the Western Gymnastic tradition, no less.
The first article in this series asked the question “How does my body move?” Before we could examine this question in any depth we took the time to review the Taoist ideas of Yin and Yang. We are now going to return to the original question or rather the question most relevant to Hatha Yoga practitioners: “Why does my body not move the way I want it to?” To answer this question we will look at our joints. There are…
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 begin with both the breath and with vinyasa, the movements in…
Exercise is now common place in our culture. So common in fact that it might shock people to remember that people who ran marathons in the first part of the 20th Century were considered of questionable sanity. In the 1950s and 1960s it was common for athletes to be cautioned against lifting weights as such practice would diminish their physical skills by making them “muscle bound” and “slow”.