Healthy Holiday Tips for Ashtangi’s – Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto

T’is the season for Holiday get-togethers, tons of delicious food, and possibly staying at your in-laws for an extended period of time.

The holidays can be challenging for us Ashtangis. Our daily practice routine may be altered. We might find ourselves indulging in more treats than usual and feeling heavy and bloated. And staying with your family for a week may at times feel more challenging than kapotasana!

But fear not, this week we’re going to give you some simple tips to keep you feeling great this Holiday season!

When it comes to practice, think consistency over quantity.

Rather than feeling the pressure to do your entire practice, every single day (especially if you’re away from your Shala), just try and show up on your mat each day. Get on your mat, see what happens, and see what you have time for. Maybe it’s sun salutations, maybe it’s the entire thing.

Notice any attachment to your practice. Notice if any discomfort arises on a day that you don’t get to practice as a result of family commitments.

The Holidays are really a time for family, so give yourself a break, and spend some time with them! The Ashtanga Police won’t come after you.

Actually, just to be safe, contact the Ashtanga Police Department in your community to determine the protocol, and to avoid any missing Ashtangi reports. 

When it comes to food, be mindful, set yourself up for success but cut yourself some slack!

As the sole vegan in a family of meat eaters, I am no stranger to bringing my own food to our Holiday dinners. Over the years I’ve learned that it’s much easier than expecting other people to accommodate my needs. I personally love cooking and getting creative around the holidays. I also like knowing exactly what goes into my food because I’m a wee bit of a health foodie, and a typical type-a Ashtangi.

If figuring out what to make for Holiday dinners is something you struggle with, here are some delicious vegan holiday recipes to help you out!

Now vegan, or not, the holidays are a time of sweets, treats, and tons of food. And honestly, you can bring your own food, and eat as healthy as possible, but really there’s no need to deprive yourself! Yup, you heard me. Pay attention to your body, honor what it wants, and eat the damn cake! …or pie.

If you’re feeling bloated over the Holidays, try sipping some “CFC” tea throughout the day.

Take 1 tsp each of whole cumin, fennel and coriander, and bring them to a boil in about 2 cups of water. Strain the seeds, and pour the tea into a mug. Sip this throughout the day, or after a big meal to help with digestion and bloating!

When it comes to family, this is what you’ve been practicing for people! Practice patience!

Ram Dass once said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”

The Holiday season is the time of year when many of us go spend a bit of time with our parents or in-laws, and sometimes it can feel overwhelming.

Listen, there is nothing inherently wrong with our families, it’s just different than what we’re used to. Often times we’re running on a different schedule, in a different environment, with a different routine. And this can be overwhelming in the best of circumstances.

So if you’re finding yourself frustrated with family this holiday season, do what you do when your practice gets difficult – breathe.

Another thing that will make you feel better, is making this super delicious home-made vegan eggnog recipe!

It comes together with a few ingredients, and can be spiced or spiked to your liking!

Vegan Holiday Nogg Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

Here’s how you’ll make it:

It’s really hard guys so follow these steps carefully…

Did you get that? I know, it’s a lot. But if you have any questions just write them in the comments 😉

Alright, I hope you enjoyed these holiday tips, and have a very merry Holiday season!

Ashtanga Yoga Project

“In the pursuit of happiness you have tried all sorts of things-sex, drugs and hundreds of other things-and you know that such things cannot make you happy for long. But still you continue to run into the external world, trying to learn that art of health and happiness from that teacher, from this guru, from that swami. But let me tell you that unless you find the teacher within, these teachers and preachers in the external world cannot make you happy. You must learn to light your own lamp. An external object can simply show you the way, but ultimately, you have to walk the path by yourself.”- Swami Rama, At the Eleventh Hour by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

This quote is from a speech that Swami Rama gave after hosting a yoga conference with a lot of teachers all saying contradictory things. In order for a yogi to have a consistent practice, they have to stop chasing light and learn how to light their own selves up.

If we want to sustain a practice through controversy, sickness, health, loss of a teacher, loss of faith, loss of a yoga studio, injury, lose of a lineage, we have to be willing to walk the path alone.  Swami Rama goes on to explain that this only happens when we are clear about why we are practicing and willing to sit in honest contemplation of our own thoughts. This is important. Many people want to be their own guru but they are not clear about the purpose of practice and they are unwilling to take an honest hard look at their own thoughts and behaviors. They are unwilling to take responsibility of their part in creating their reality. Being our own gurus does not mean that we become our own yoga asana choreographers. “I am going to pull the anatomy from this lineage, the flow from this teacher and the handstands from this dude. Tada, I am my own guru.” The “gu” is darkness/ignorance and the “ru” is the dispeller of it. It goes way deeper than how we put a sequence together.

All of this is rooted in the kleshas presented in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2: 1-9. Patanjali starts out by saying that we have to accept that there will be some pain or burning in our yoga journey and that this pain/burning is needed for purification. This is why I love Patanjali. He tells it like it is and is honest right from the start. Throughout the sutras he says, to avoid pain when possible but that it won’t be possible all the time. In this practice, we are going to come up against some mental and physical barriers that we are going to have to use tapas or burning to get through.  Patanjali tells us right away to get ready for it. It is coming.

In Sutra 1:30, Patanjali tells us that we are going to have illness, lack of interest in our practice, doubt and indecision, negligence, laziness, desire for sensual pleasures that take us away from the purpose of yoga, wrong understanding, backwards movement in our practice and an inability to maintain our practice. In sutra 1:33, he tells us that we are going to come across wicked people and how to handle them.

Patanjali says everything possible to get the point across that the path of yoga is not a walk in the park! If we are going to make it through all of this, we have to know why we are practicing. We have to know why we are choosing to live by the tenets of yoga and to be on this path. After we know why, then we can start the process of working with our kleshas and contemplation. We have to admit that we suffer from the klesha of avidya or ignorance of who we truly are.  Then we start to contemplate our deep rooted tendencies, the other 4 kleshas of egoism, running towards what we think will take away our pain, not facing what we feel will cause us pain, and fear of death.

Being our own gurus means that we are willing to sit with pain and discomfort by ourselves. We don’t bury it. We don’t hide it. We don’t glorify it with a story of “I am this way because of this.” It means we are willing to deal with the feeling of loneliness that comes up when you walk the path alone.  It means we are willing to be misunderstood and to misunderstand. It is the conscious process of sitting with our inner voice in a deep and purposeful way.

My New Year Wishes For the Yoga World – Ashtanga Yoga Project

Forgiveness:  Jack Kornfield can say it better than me.

“Like the practice of compassion, forgiveness does not ignore the truth of our suffering.  Forgiveness is not weak. It demands courage and integrity. Yet only forgiveness and love can bring about the peace we long for. As the Indian sage Meher Baba explains, “True love is not for the faint-hearted.”

“We have all betrayed and hurt others, just as we have knowingly or unknowingly been harmed by them. It is inevitable in this human realm. Sometimes our betrayals are small, sometimes terrible. Extending and receiving forgiveness is essential for redemption from our past. To forgive does not mean we condone the misdeeds of another. We can dedicate ourselves to make sure they never happen again. But without forgiveness the world can never be released from the sorrows of the past. Someone quipped, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” Forgiveness is a way to move on.”

“In Buddhist psychology, forgiveness is not presented as a moral commandment; thou shalt forgive. It is understood as a way to end suffering, to bring dignity and harmony to our life. Forgiveness is fundamentally for our own sake, for our own mental health. It is a way to let go of the pain we carry. This is illustrated by the story of two ex-prisoners of war who meet after many years. When the first one asks, “Have you forgiven your captors yet?” the second man answers, “No, never.” “Well then,” the first man replies, “they still have you in prison.”

“We may still be suffering terribly from the past while those who betrayed us are on vacation. It is painful to hate. Without forgiveness we continue to perpetuate the illusion that hate can heal our pain and the pain of others. In forgiveness we let go and find relief in our heart.”

“Forgiveness sees wisely. It willingly acknowledges what is unjust, harmful, and wrong. It bravely recognizes the sufferings of the past, and understands the conditions that brought them about. There is a strength to forgiveness. When we forgive we can also say, “Never again will I allow these things to happen.” We may resolve to never again permit such harm to come to ourselves or another.”

“Finding a way to extend forgiveness to ourselves is one of our most essential tasks. Just as others have been caught in suffering, so have we. If we look honestly at our life, we can see the sorrows and pain that have led to our own wrongdoing. In this we can finally extend forgiveness to ourselves; we can hold the pain we have caused in compassion. Without such mercy, we will live our own life in exile.”

“For most people, the work of forgiveness is a process. Practicing forgiveness, we may go through stages of grief, rage, sorrow, fear and confusion.  As we let ourself feel the pain we still hold, forgiveness comes as a relief, a release for our heart in the end.  Forgiveness acknowledges that no matter how much we may have suffered, we will not put another human being out of our heart.”- From The Practice of Forgiveness by Jack Kornfield

Love: What most people see as love is really just intense attachment. The biggest sign that, what you see as love is just attachment, is that you need the person to act a certain way in order for your love to be sustained. Some people say love is a verb but that gets us into a place where we need certain actions to feel love and to receive love. This can also lead us to mistake certain actions such as affection and gifts as pure love when really we are just being manipulated. True love is not dependent on any behavior, cannot be given and cannot be taken away. It just is. It is a pure way of being.

Like the sun gives light to anything in its path, love is all inclusive. Like the sun, pure love shines on good and bad people. Even when we go into the shade or indoors, the sun and love is still there. We don’t get the full brunt of it but it is still warming up the house and providing light. Love carries us even when we are not directly in its path. The sun does not need us to acknowledge it or to give it anything. It shines. Pure love works in the same way.

 Compassion:  Compassion does not mean feeling sorry for people. Compassion is seeking to understand someone’s situation and shining our love on them unconditionally. Compassion allows us to understand why someone is the way they are. In most situations, if we would have had the same upbringing and the same series of events happen in our lives, we would have turned out the same.

When we say, “I would never do that.” We are right because we are looking at the situation through our upbringing and our own experiences. However, the other person did not have that same upbringing and those same experiences. What were their experiences and how did they lead them to the place they are today? One thing different in someone’s life can lead them down a trajectory that you could not fathom for yourself but makes sense for them.

An Understanding that yoga teachers are humanThis does not mean that you don’t hold teachers accountable for their actions. It means that everyone can fall . Even Yogis. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is full of warnings about powerful yogis falling. Even yogis, who have found samadhi, or the ability to connect with the soul in a direct way, are susceptible to darkness and harmful acts and behavior.

A bad deed does not negate everything else the teacher did or mean that all their information is wrong. Look at your own life. Have you ever did something wrong? Should people write you off forever because of that one act? Have you ever told a lie? Has everything else that has come out of your mouth since that lie been a lie?

Martin Luther King Jr allegedly cheated on his wife. That does not negate his part in the Civil Rights Movement. Without him, Black people would not be where they are today. Gandhi allegedly was a racist. This does not negate his work in getting independence for Indian people. Your teacher can turn out to be a complete asshole but it does not mean that her information on meditation was not accurate. Take what works. Give credit where credit is due and leave the rest.

A teacher is not forever. We choose a teacher because we resonate with what they are putting down in the moment. You learn from them for as long as it makes sense. The student is supposed to outgrow the teacher. They are supposed to get to a point where they no longer need the teacher. If you no longer resonate with them or approve of their actions, you leave the teacher. Point. Blank. Period.

An understanding that shame does not work.   Trying to make people feel shame about their actions, their short shorts, their handstands, their grandfather’s actions, their sexual abuse or about supporting a certain teacher, does not work. Either the person hunkers down and stands firm, they withdraw even further from you and what you are wanting them to do or they become totally dis-empowered.

If you feel that the yoga world needs to change, the worst thing you can do is try to shame people into action. It has the opposite effect. They are dis-empowered and they have no idea what to do. They are just lost in indecision. They are left suffering and miserable and feeling like they are idiots who don’t have the ability to make good choices.

Another result of trying to shame people is that they run the other way. No one likes the feeling of being shamed for what they think and feel. No one wants to be told their experiances are not vailid. They are going to want nothing to do with you.

If you want to see action in the world, you have to empower people. You respect their thoughts, experiences and decisions. You find a common goal that is for the common good. You work together on that.

Throwing people under the bus does not work. This is not the same as stating facts and speaking your truth. We all know the difference between someone speaking what they feel is their truth or when someone is trying to crush your soul. Soul crushing does not work. There has never been a time in my life where someone threw me under the bus and I said, “you know what. You are right.” I was too busy trying to get from underneath the bus, to get air back into my lungs, to get up from the ground and not be crushed. I was fighting for my life. Maybe it was my ego’s life, but I was fighting for it nonetheless.

Instead, find that place of love and speak your truth out of love for yourself and the world. When you love someone, they need to know how they made you feel. They need to know when they are not in the right. They need to incur the consequences of their actions because it is what they need to grow and what you and others need to be safe. It is the same way a parent teaches a child they love through grounding them or taking away privileges. The parent is not looking to crush the child’s soul or to shame them. They want their child to be a responsible citizen and to avoid hardships so they make sure the child pays the appropriate price. They are not trying to destroy the child’s happiness, dis-empower them or put out their light.

You also have to love yourself enough to heal and find your way out of darkness.

An Understanding that Injuries happen. Yep. I said it. Perfect alignment principles and a magical teacher who reads minds and knows how to touch students perfectly every single time does not exist. There are so many things going on with our bodies at any given time that it is impossible to predict with 100% accuracy how something is going to effect your body.

Highly educated people hurting people, on accident, is the third leading cause of death. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. I used to work in the medical industry placing doctors for locums tenens, which is when a doctor agrees to temporarily help a hospital that is short staffed. Part of that process is credentialing or checking a doctors background. Finding a doctor with any kind of time under their belt, who hadn’t accidentally hurt someone, was almost impossible. It was so impossible that it was not a criterion for a locums doctor. A doctor could still be placed even after having malpractice. All doctors have malpractice insurance because it is going to happen. It is a reality.

But yet, we somehow feel that yoga teachers are magical creatures who will not make mistakes.

If we sleep funny, our necks hurt but yet we are never supposed to feel anything in our yoga practice. Just today, I had an old student write me saying that they herniated 3 disks turning over in bed. I have hurt myself…in bed. But yet for some reason, we are supposed to do yoga and never hurt ourselves. I know people who do no strong physical activity who have had both their hips replaced.

Shit happens. This does not mean we don’t educate ourselves and make smart decisions. We still pick the best doctor and yoga teacher that money can buy. We hold doctors and teachers accountable while still acknowledging their humanness. We take the proper steps, within reason, to keep it from happening again. We take care of our bodies to the best of our abilities but to expect to never ever feel anything or to never have anything happen is a fairy tale.

To get over the glorification of the physical body. There is a component of Saucha/cleanliness, one of the observances of a yogi, that is rarely discussed in the yoga world. The practice of Saucha is supposed to result in a growing disinterest in the physical body beyond what is needed for its upkeep. Through taking care of the physical body, the yogi realizes that the body is a transitory part of nature that is always in flux and they put their awareness on the ever present energy of the universe that cannot be destroyed, God, or the soul.

The physical body is the house for this energy or soul. We take care of the house because a comfortable, inviting, cozy clean house makes us feel good. When our house is in order, it frees us up to focus on other things in our lives. However, when someone is afraid of leaving their house, we call them agoraphobic. When someone is obsessed with the upkeep of their house to the point of ignoring other parts of their life, we say they have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. When someone judges someone based on whether they have a nice house or not, we might call that person superficial.

These are all seen as negative things and all of these are rampant in the yoga world. People are obsessed with their bodies, afraid of the death of the body (a klesha or impediment to yoga per the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), and pick their teachers based on how their bodies look.

To understand that all change begins with you. Whatever you want to see in the yoga world, you have to either seek out people who do that and support them or you have to create it yourself. It blows my mind when people come to me bemoaning what is wrong with the yoga world, but continue to actively support what they don’t want to see. They line up for workshops with the very teacher they feel exploits women. They continuously go to the yoga “workout” class, sign up for the handstand workshop and skip the meditation classes all while talking about how they miss the spiritual side of yoga. They continue to choose half naked yoga girl and sexy yoga dude as their teacher and to come do workshops at their studio and to work for them and do interviews with all while talking about how yoga needs to represent all bodies. They talk down on teacher trainings while still doing them or having them at their studio.

You have to allow yourself to be inconvenienced for change to happen. You have to go out of your way to support what you want to see until it becomes the norm and is then easily accessible. I do not like getting up early in the morning. I have been doing it for almost 4 years and I still don’t like it. However, in my community, Ashtanga tends to do better early in the morning. Because I love the practice and the students, I allow myself to be inconvenienced until our program grows to a point where it can support later hours.

I purposely unfollowed many big names on Instagram and followed smaller people. Because of Instagram’s algorithims, the big named people were coming up in my feed all the time and the people who needed the extra support and push were being buried.

I share other people’s work, that I want to see more of, on Ashtanga Yoga Project’s Facebook page. I saw a shortage of yoga teachers talking about the other 7 limbs of yoga so I started a weekly Yoga Sutra class at my local studio and a blog that focuses on the non physical side of yoga. I share pictures of my practice so that there is a representation of a Black female, with an average sized body, doing yoga. I practice through personal hardship and injury so that students see that yoga is not just for the able but also for the willing.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

The Importance of Community in Spiritual Awakening – Ashtanga Yoga Project

Community, if we allow it AND we do the work, can wake us up. They trigger us. I am not saying that you should surround yourself with people that trigger you and that you should stick around in all the situations in which you are triggered. If you choose to leave the situation, don’t leave the work behind. Triggers show us where there is work to be done. One of my teacher friends says, “when it is hysterical, it is historical.” When something causes our emotions to go sky high and out of control, there is something in our history that needs our love, attention and eventually our forgiveness.

A community of awakening is a community of connection. They don’t want to go out and get shit faced. They want to sit down, look you in the eye, and have a meaningful conversation. Get rid of anyone you cannot hang out with without gossiping, getting drunk or high or having sex with. Get rid of people that you cannot be silent with and that don’t want to hang out with you in the light of day.

A community of awakening is not looking for you to agree with them. They respect your views and they listen. Many people will step to you under the disguise of wanting to have an amicable discourse but they really want to convince you to think, believe and live like them. People who give you conditional love, that is based on your responding the way they want, will not help you awaken.

Get rid of anyone you have to edit yourself around. This does not mean that you should not use non harmful , loving and true speech, but you should be free to be who you are completely.

If you want to awaken, don’t look for people to enable you. Look for people who will call you out. People who will ask you why you have not been on your yoga mat. People who will not ignore the fact that you have started drinking and smoking again after expressing the desire to quit. People who will not allow you to talk to them any kind of way and that will make you own up to your out of control emotions. Look for people who don’t agree with everything that comes out of your mouth. Look for those who challenge you to do better and to be better.

When your community presents an opportunity to be better, to rise up, to respond differently, to look at what is triggering you, take that opportunity. Look it dead in the face and use it to awaken. Don’t run. Don’t shut them down. Don’t bury these emotions. Wake up to them, fully and completely. Grow.

Diversity in Yoga: The Follow Up – Ashtanga Yoga Project

My mind was blown yesterday by the amazing conversations this post prompted. I got phone calls, e-mails, DM’s and not to mention all the conversations on Instagram and Facebook. If you are interested in the conversations on Facebook, including a response from Mark Robberds, one of the conference presenters, go here. 

Also, feel free to look me up on Instagram, wellness_yogini, to see the conversations there and the InstaStory.

One of the conference organizers reached out to me as well. Apologies were given and so were explanations. I won’t put any of that here because it defeats the purpose which was to bring awareness to the lack of representation of people of color in the world of yoga. I know that is going to bother some of yall because people like public apologies and shaming in these internet streets but I am not about that. I will say that they were sorry, embarrassed, and never meant any harm. They explained that they just wanted to bring their friends together after the tumultuous year that many had in the Ashtanga world and that the explanation of the workshop could have been clearer and the title too. The organizer was super sweet and there is nothing but love from me to them.

Here is the thing. We have to start somewhere. When I say “we” I am not talking about just the organizer, I am talking about the yoga community as a whole. Saying you understand is not enough.

Many people were like, “why don’t you put together a conference?” You guys, I had to raise money to take a one and a half hour plane ride to go see Sharath in Miami. I do not have the money to organize a conference of that magnitude. I can either further my education or just further yours. I cannot put the money down on a space. I cannot take a loss if people don’t show up. I was a part of a local Yoga and Diversity discussion here in Charlotte, that was organized by someone else. That I can do. But finding some exotic location that people will like to vacation to while doing yoga, I cannot do it. Because, we all know, that if I have this in Nowhere USA, no one is showing up, just like no one barely showed up when I spoke here in Charlotte. If someone wants to front the cost of one, send me an e-mail.  

I write this blog for free. That I can afford to do. It is funny. People often are like, “she did that to get traffic to her blog”. Ummm..there are no ads on my blog. I don’t get paid for clicks. Traffic only helps if you like what I write, share it and call me to do a workshop. I don’t write for that, clearly, because I have not booked any workshops from this blog. I have only done workshops for people who know me personally or word of mouth. I sell a few books and T-shirts but not enough to pay any of my bills except for maybe Netflix. I digress.

So what can broke people do? What can people who currently teach yoga, run conferences, write blogs, or do broadcasts via podcasts, or your own yoga platform do?

Start with your everyday life. Start with what you already do. You planning a conference? Find qualified people to speak who can bring diversity to the event. Own a yoga studio? Look for diverse teachers. Write a blog, run a podcast or have a yoga channel? Look for diverse people to interview and feature. Broke person who just loves practicing yoga? Follow and interact with a diverse group of people on social media and in your home studio. Share their stuff and invite them to your gatherings.

Continue this conversation. Continue to question your thoughts and judgments. Continue to listen with an open mind. And most of all, we all have to get okay with being uncomfortable and get out the habit of shutting down the conversation. I hope you all continue to speak on this. Peace.

5 Reasons to Try Mysore Style Ashtanga – Ashtanga Yoga Centre Toronto

I have to admit that the idea of doing a Mysore style practice was really intimidating before I started. I had so much fear. Fear that I wouldn’t remember the sequence, that people would judge me, or that I wouldn’t be good enough. But once I finally got the courage to step into the room, I never looked back.

What is Mysore style?

Named after the city where it originated, Mysore is the traditional method in which Ashtanga Yoga is taught. Students progressively move through the Ashtanga series at their pace in a group setting, under the guidance of a teacher.

While working at AYCT, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of new students who are interested in starting an Ashtanga practice. One of the most common things I hear from new students is that they’re scared to try Mysore, and would much rather stick to doing the beginner led classes we offer. While that’s totally fine, there’s nothing I love more than encouraging people to discover the magic of Mysore for themselves. I know first hand the transformative effect that the Mysore room has on people. That’s why in this weeks blog were giving you 5 reasons to step out of fear, and into the Mysore room.

1. You learn at your pace

One of the best things about a Mysore style practice is that you start at your own pace. When a teacher or assistant begins to teach you the sequence, you only ever go as far as you can. Especially at the beginning, you add on poses slowly to ensure you can remember them, and you don’t go past any pose that you can’t do. The practice is designed to bring you to your edge – not someone else’s.

2. Self-practice is convenient

In a Mysore style practice, there isn’t a set “start” or “end” time. If you practice at AYCT we have a really big Mysore window throughout the day! That means you can show up whenever works best for you. If for some reason you can’t make it during those times, fear not, you know exactly what to do so you can practice at home. Self-practice hours are flexible (even if you aren’t).

3. You get one on one support when you need it

In a traditional Mysore style practice, there is one teacher in the room and at least one assistant. Their job is to ensure every student is doing the poses in the correct order and with the proper alignment. Often times students will be faced with a pose that is challenging yet attainable with support. The teacher and/or assistant will come around and help you get into the pose safely and effectively if possible.

4. It allows you to be with yourself

Self-practice means there are much fewer distractions. No teacher calling out the poses or enlightening you with some Rumi quote that seems fitting for the class. It’s just you, your breath, and your mat. In my personal experience, this has forced me to be with myself in a way that has been both extremely difficult, yet so profound. I have faced many physical and emotional challenges while on my mat, but each time I come away a little stronger.

5. The community is amazing

There is something so special about the Ashtanga community. I could probably write a whole post on it – maybe I will – but I’ll keep in short and sweet for now. If you already practice, then you know what I’m talking about. In Ashtanga, the 6-day-a-week practice commitment means you typically see the same people every day. You begin to form bonds; maybe even lasting friendships. But what really binds this community are not the casual conversations in the change room or even the friendships that are forged at each studio. Rather, it is because every day in the space of the practice room you confront yourself and your limitations together. In the space of that room, I always feel like the practitioners around me are rooting for me. I feel them supporting me in my practice, even though we may be doing completely different poses – even if we have never spoken a word.

The idea of Mysore can definitely be intimidating. It certainly was for me at first. However, once you get past the initial discomfort, the Mysore Magic begins to emerge and just like I did, you’ll never look back! If you’re in the Toronto area, come check us out! We are home to the largest Mysore program outside of India, and we’d love to see you.

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Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Obsession with the Body – Ashtanga Yoga Project

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:40: Once you purify yourself (Saucha), you are no longer compulsively interested in your body or compulsively compelled towards the bodies of others.

P.S. I had to pull out my word by word translation for this one! A word used in many commentaries is “disgust” but it is too strong a word for what is being conveyed. Disgust would be aversion and the Yoga Sutras warns Yogis not to practice aversion.

Defining the Sutra

Once we purify or bodies, minds and hearts, the Yogi is no longer obsessed with his body or the bodies of others.

Modern Day Application 

This is a big one in the Yoga world. For many, Yoga is a workout to get the body looking a certain way.  On Instagram, Facebook, Social Media and, maybe even in your local studio, those who fit the modern commercial standard of beauty get the most attention.

Yoga is actually supposed to move us away from that thinking.

Before I continue, taking care of your body is a beautiful thing. Having fun with your body is a wonderful thing. Finding beauty in the human form is wonderful.

It comes down to attachment.

Unless you are in a certain state of Samadhi or dead, there will always be some string of awareness connecting you to your body and you will take care of it on some level .  Again, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your body.

Are you defining your self worth and the self worth of others by the body?

Does your  whole day go down the toilet when you have a pimple or your hair doesn’t look the way you want?

Do you feel shame about your weight or body?

Do you feel revulsion towards your body or to other bodies?

Do you feel that someone is less than because of their body?

Do you pick your yoga teachers by their bodies without knowing what is in their hearts or minds?

All these things are very subtle. You would probably have to be an enlightened master to not have some propensity to judge someone’s character by how they look on the outside or have ideas of what is outwardly “appropriate”.  It is wired into us by our environment and very difficult to overcome.  These environmental factors are deep within and we subconsciously make judgments about others and ourselves based on the external.

Close your eyes and picture a Yoga teacher. Like don’t think about it. Quickly.

Close your eyes and picture a happy person. Quickly.

Close your eyes and picture a smart person. Now an evil person.

Notice the color of these people. The size. The weight. I bet you there is a common theme and I bet you it is a stereotype, a fantasy of what you would like to see or based on past experiences.

This is how “successful” con artists, thieves and abusers do their jobs. They know what their victim sees when they close their eyes and they give them that.

This verse, from the Yoga Sutras, is often used to talk about sexual attachment or compulsions. Yogis do not see sex as bad but as an appropriate action for certain stages of life.  Saucha/cleanliness gives  the ability to let go of  sexual compulsions that get in the way of the Yogi maintaining his sadhana or yoga practice.  For instance, a Yogi or a Yoga teacher who becomes physically aroused when assisting students is lacking in Saucha of the mind.  A Yoga teacher who takes advantage of their students for the sake of sexual pleasure is also lacking in Saucha. Someone who cannot control their sexual urges also falls in this category.

Yoga Sutra 2:40 says that, once the Yogi is established in Saucha, they are no longer  obsessed with their body or with the bodies of others.  They are no longer controlled my sexual urges.

Why This is Important

Saucha is a Niyama and one of the observances of all Yogis. The Yamas and Niyamas are meant to make Yoga practice easier and more effective.  The purpose of Yoga, according to Patanali, is to cessate our painful vritts or thoughts that block us from seeing truth.  If we are obsessed with our bodies, we may forget this purpose and focus our mat time only on our bodies and health. We may use our energy on bodily beautification instead of on mental clarification.  We may use our time in sexual pursuit instead of Self pursuit. We may buy into the idea that we are our bodies and forget that the body goes but the energy inside is eternal.

32 Suggestions: How to Start an Ashtanga Yoga Practice –

1- Do Your Practice All Is Coming

Know that Ashtanga is a life-time process not a “get rich quick” thing.  Far from it, so it is good to take it one thing at the time. And that includes this post, you might want to print it and read it over days if not months.

After asana practice with Sharath on
his recent NYC tour

“Asana” is the practice of the poses of yoga. Start that practice, get on the mat, do what you can, get used to it. It might be only two or three times a week in the beginning. That is fine, most of us started that way and it takes a lot to commit to a daily routine.

I find that the daily practice (as in getting on the mat 6x-week) “happens” as we begin to notice the benefits of the practice and prefer them over our own old routines. We notice that we “feel better” on the days we practice and “not so good” on the days we do not and start to re-arranging our lives so that practice can take place. So do not worry, get on the mat, let all the rest come.

There is no need to push and get hurt, it is important to put the practice in front of the desire to rush, or “get” anywhere. After all there is no progress in being injured.

2.- Focus on the Asana Practice At First

At least in the beginning.   “The practice starts with asana because it is a strong body that will focus our mind and end the delusions“, said Sharath Jois -I’m paraphrasing- in a recent NYC conference, that is why the emphasis is completely on surrendering to, and achieving a daily pose -asana- practice.

The two branches that come before “asana”, yama and niyama(or the observances of private and public actions)  are difficult to master. So in the beginning you just think of “being ethical” as in telling the truth, not stealing, becoming a good person.  A strong body and clear mind are needed to discriminate to an extent in which we might be able to reach these limbs of yoga, and be of good use to society.  We start with asana practice, and to pay attention to our daily actions, all comes.

3.- It’s a BREATHING Practice

Make the breath the “first priority”, slow down and even take extras if you have to, just make sure to breathe deeply.  When you think you are breathing deeply, think deeper.

What happens is that we contract the glottis so that the air is inhaled and exhaled in a much more controlled and slow way, there is also a sound associated with it -think Darth Vader of Star Wars-.

I was just talking to someone who just started practicing and was reminded of how in the beginning it is OK to add extra breaths, and aim to get the “flow” of the sequence right.  Meaning, for example: on the very first sun salutation, inhaling with ujjayi breathing as we raise the arms up and look up, then exhaling as we fold down and place the hands on the floor.  Which brings me to the “hands on the floor”, they may not quite go there at the start, and it is OK to give them time, but never push or force.

4.- Learn The Primary Series At Your Own Pace, Slow Is Good

Warrior pose in the standing sequence
has a lot more into it than meets the eye
and is fun. Explore and enjoy!

The Primary Series is called Yoga Teraphy -Chikitsa- for this reason, because it slowly sends air to parts of our body where it never reached before, it tones the body, and makes use of muscles we had no idea we had.

Uttita Hasta, good to learn that name
pronto!

When I first started practicing a studio in the area offered “Half-Primary Led Classes“, if you can find these, and the teacher “clicks with you”, then you are in luck, as these are short versions, not too daunting -usually going to Navasana-, and even then you may need to stop before the twists (Marichasanas).  That is OK, you would learn the count.


5.- Bandhas

If you ever find the bandhas let me know... Said Richard Freeman (who’s been practicing for 50 years)

Bandhas are internal locks and the most important one is the mulabandha or root chakra lock.  This is done by contracting the area of the perineum SLIGHTLY.

Bandhas are used to prevent leaks of energy.  When we lock the root portion of the body we ensure that the base of our energy is active and connected.  There is a second Bandha called “Uddyana badha” in the area of the navel.  The idea is that once the energy is harnessed from the root it is sent upwards.

I would not worry too much about bandhas other than to keep remembering whenever possible to engage the root bandha, to “tighten the perineum”

5.- Dhristi

Krishnamachrya used to walk looking
down all the time to not get distracted,
I have yet to learn that skill.

Is the focus point, and each pose has one, either we look at the hand or the left or the right or the nose (alongside the nose) etc.  Your teacher will point to you which way to look.  Do not worry too much in the beginning, just be aware of it.  Slowly it will all come together like the pieces of a puzzle, and over years of practice.

6.- Tristasana

Eventually, with a lot of practice it all comes together and the poses, the breathing and the drishti  happen. That is Tristasana which means all three aspects are coming together, then a meditative state is induced even as we practice asana.  It could take years for this to happen.

When someone asked Sharath how come “bandha” was not included in Tristasana he repeated what Pattabhi Jois said, that bandha should be “on” or “engaged” all day long.

7.- Getting Comfortable with Sweating

If the breathing is done correctly, then the sweating will break pretty soon unless you are practicing in a very cold area of the planet.  If you do not sweat at all then it is likely you are not breathing and pushing yourself towards your “edge” in every asana and vinyasa (movements and breathings done to get into and out of each asana).  If you are sweating too much you may be over-exerting, which brings me to…

8.-  The Issue of Finding A Good Teacher

This might be the most challenging part of having your practice stick.  An experienced teacher has done his or her practice for many years and hence knows not only the counts, the proper breathing, the right alignment, but also the energetics of the pose.

If you are lucky enough to have studios in your area visit them and ask them for a “trial membership”. Make sure the ashtanga teacher will be in the room on those days (as many teachers travel quite a bit, visit Mysore etc).  See what your gut feeling is about the teacher, can you trust him? Does she talk to you?

If you can find a teacher that clicks with you, then consider yourself blessed, and try to stick to it.  Pretty soon you may find yourself wanting to go to Mysore, that is a great idea!, for more on that see the last 5 points.

Many people cannot practice alone, but some can, so if you cannot find a teacher there are still some other ways to get started.

List of authorized and certified ashtanga teachers from around the world: here.  It takes a while for new teachers to appear in the list, so check the listings of your local ashtanga studios.

It is not critical that a teacher be certified or authorized wither.  There are lots of teachers that follow Manju Jois -son of P.Jois- tradition and receive a different authorization so they many not be listed there, but still be very good teachers.

The resources below are directed towards those without access to a good teacher OR those who would like to build a little bit of a practice and sweat before hitting the studio. I know this might be the case as this was my case, I did not start attending led classes until I thought I knew half of the primary series.

9.- Keeping A Sense Of Humor

It is vital to keep a good sense of humor about the whole thing.  Yes, that deserves a whole point on itself, that is how important it is.

10.- Read This

21 Things I wish someone told me before I started practicing Ashtanga Yoga.Read it for a laugh, for some info, for inspiration.  Also this post contains some useful pointers like “shower before and after”, “studio etiquette”, what to do in “ladies holidays” etc.

11.- Shower Before Getting On The Mat If You Can

Especially as you begin the practice, the purification will start releasing some toxins you did not even know you had inside.  You may smell in a way you are not used to, especially if you did not shower before.  Also, showering relaxes the body and prepares it for practice.  Pattabhi Jois said that it is important to shower afterwards too.

12.- Quotes That Keep Me Going

11.- Shower Before Getting On The Mat If You Can

Especially as you begin the practice, the purification will start releasing some toxins you did not even know you had inside.  You may smell in a way you are not used to, especially if you did not shower before.  Also, showering relaxes the body and prepares it for practice.  Pattabhi Jois said that it is important to shower afterwards too.

12.- Quotes That Keep Me Going

13.- Learning the Chants

SUGGESTIONS TO START THE PRACTICE WITH

14.- Richard Freeman

Ashtanga Yoga Introduction, and also of course, The Primary Series.  Richard has been practicing yoga for over 40 years, and his principal teacher was Pattabhi Jois.  I have used his DVD on the Primary Series.  He mostly goes through the count and explains a few things here and there.  It is useful.

“Turning ON the lights of the pose
in Prasaritta Padotanassana A”

For example, on Prasarita Padotanasana A he says “turn on the lights of the pose” and I always remember that metaphor when I get into the pose.

15.- Kino MacGregor

Introduction to Ashtanga:   The good thing about this DVD is that it includes a talk on breathing (by Tim Feldmann) and one on the philosophy side (by Greg Nardi). And then of course there is Kino and Greg going through primary with modifications up to Janu A.  See my review here.

16.- Mark Darby

Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series DVD. This DVD means a lot to me because it is the one I started practicing to.  If you speak French, this is the one to get, as you can have it play in English or An Francaise… oui.

Specifically I like that Mark does the primary series at a very “advanced leve”, you know? like he can hold his leg really straight an up in Uttita Hasta Padangustasana, while Nicole (the assistant teacher who speaks French) does the “modifications”.

Here is a video where on 0:52 you can see me try to get that leg high and straight, but it is not quite as good as Darby’s , guess I need about 20 years more of practice! 😉

On those early days of my own practice, I remember how relieved I was when the DVD  got to the laying down.  It is quite a long practice, but remember to do it up until where you can.  It does get easier with time!

More:

Just for fun:  DVDs to admire and kind of have your jaw drop

17.- On Anatomy

David Keil Yoga DVDs on Anatomy.  I have not seen these DVDs yet, but have them on order and will be reviewing them soon.

You can hear my PODCAST WITH HIM here as well, where he talks of his brand new great book

Books To Read

Why so many?  Different books speak to different people and personalities.  It might be a good idea to get one or two and see how they feel.  I wrote a tiny bit about each one I know about.  For example, I have yet to read the Lino Miele one, which I have on order, so I have not even read some of them… remember this is to be investigated over a long period of time.

18.- Yoga Mala

It’s is the only book written by  Sri K.Pattabhi Jois – Get it here

Yoga Mala means “A garland of Yoga”.

This from the publisher: … He outlines the ethical principles and philosophy underlying the discipline, explains important terms and concepts, and guides the reader through Asntahga’s Sun Salutations and the subsequent primary sequence of forty two asanas, or poses, precisely describing how to execute each position and what benefits each provides…”

19.- Read the Book: Guruji: A Portrait Of Sri K Pattabhi Jois Through The Eyes Of His Students

I love the stories that Saraswatti -his daughter- tells, for example when she remembers how the Guru would do demonstrations and he would go into kurmasana while he stood up on top of her for an hour!  not to be tried at home but definitelly a good read.

I also enjoyed the part when a student asked him why he would not teach him “meditation” and Guruji replied: “mad-attention”.  Can certainly identify.

20.- Gregor Maehle

A great book on the primary series, get it here.  And LISTEN TO MY PODCAST WITH HIM

It not only contains the primary series with lovely images, full descriptions and anatomy discussions, it also talks to us about being careful and preventing injuries.

The critical thing about this book is that it also introduces the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which are not discussed at lenght on this pose as we are focusing on “starting with asana”, but that eventually get to be on the radar of any practitioner.

Mahele has done his homework and read many of the sacred texts, he has a gift for bringing it all together in a frank, easy to understand way.

21.- David Swenson

Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series with large photos and lots of modifications. It is a favorite of mine.

He also has a laminated card, which I used when I began to remember the poses.

A great resource.

This is the first book I got, and I am hoping he will come on my podcast soon.

A great resource, get it here.

23.- Lino Miele

24.- Freeman The Mirror Of Yoga

If you are new to yoga this may seem a bit of a “deep” book… but if you’ve mastered a couple of Sanskrit terms and you are getting comfy with the terminology it is a great read.

has this great resource in booklet form.  I love how you can see all the pictures of all the series -to fourth-.  It inspires me just to look at, and it is also a great detailed map of the vinyasas.

You can only get his stuff from his site YogaTemple (worth visiting) – Also check my interview with him

26.- Articles

about Ashtanga Yoga abound and you can always follow me on Twitter, read the blog roll on the blog and also see other articles at ashtanga yoga dot com here.

27.- Namarupa

is a privately published magazine run by Eddie Stern -a senior teacher and certified student-, a very interesting read with great pictures.

28.- Read James Experience: “Brutal” he says

The first time James came with me he was almost a complete beginner. He had been practicing Ashtanga for only about 6 months, and felt a little out of sorts, so he wrote the post: I have been completely humiliated by yoga.

That post is very indicative of how one might feel on a first trip being a beginner, it is also funny and we can all relate, no matter what level.  As a matter of fact an advanced yogi who is about to start attending the led intermediate classes once told me she felt exactly like James, and that she would be writing a post on that.  So there! you get these feelings at every level.

29.- As Usual He Gets Humiliated Again… Pretty Funny Post

James also attended Sharath on tour in NYC with me and felt humiliated by yoga, again! -that title is a link, click on it to read- Here is that post if you need more laughs

30.- How To Travel to India Safe

Tips to travel safe  for when you finally book that plane ticket to Bangalore (or Mysore… who knows? they just opened an airport). Click on the title to see the article.

31.- What to Pack When You Are Going to Mysore?

Packing List.  Click on the title to see the article.

32.- A Free Guide To Mysore

Guide to MysoreClick on the title to see the free guide and article.

Bonus: Here are 7 reasons why Ashtanga yoga is really not that hard… but rather the “hardness” is in the mind of the beholder.

By all means, if you do start a practice or have more questions, write to me.  You know I love hearing about it!

MORE:

The many subtle flavours of Ashtanga yoga

The Summer At Stillpoint 2017 season, which ended last week, has been a bit of a momentous one. When I began SYL back in 2009 with Ozge Karabiyik never did I think we would have a summer like this one. We have played host to, connected with and talked to the largest number of highly experienced Ashtanga yoga teachers we’ve ever had here at SYL, with practitioners coming from all over the world.

In May, Kia Naddermier and Greg Nardi came and taught with me for our annual Spring Gathering. In June, Anthony ‘Prem’ Carlisi taught his first UK workshop with us in 8 years, then surprised students when he dropped in to help me for our regular morning Mysore class. David Keil came and taught his annual SYL 7 day Mysore and workshop marathon. Then in August we teamed Manju Jois and John Scott for a stellar 5 day immersion into the teachings of K Pattabhi Jois. Danny Paradise popped in to say hi too. Manju also stayed to teach an intermediate series teaching intensive. We finally finished last week with Philippa Asher teaching a 2 week Mysore intensive. During this time I tried my best to uphold the real work SYL does: meeting the daily regular students who are the bedrock of SYL and make it what it is.

Connecting with others

Never did I think we could hold such a strong line- up, based on the foundations of our work as a morning Mysore shala. Yet here we are… because I am fascinated and passionate about every aspect of the Ashtanga yoga practice. There is nothing more enjoyable than connecting with teachers and people who inspire me, and then connecting those people with others. The SYL daily Mysore practice evolved from Ozge Karabiyik and myself being deeply moved by our work with John Scott and Lucy Crawford. The SYL Summer At Stillpoint workshop season grew from my inviting teachers I felt could add value to our community.

Sharing the practice through different filters

So this summer, with so many highly experienced teachers coming, there were lots of conversations over coffee and food, looking at how we as a wider Ashtanga yoga community are sharing this practice today.

All the teachers who passed through our doors this summer show humble allegiance to the method of Ashtanga yoga that Sri K Pattabhi Jois developed with his teacher Krishnamacharya. They share it through the filter of their own time spent with Jois. Of course, there are discrepancies between a lot of these teachers. These are based on their own personal filter of how they experienced the practice and learned from Guruji, taking into consideration the timeframe they were there. One worked with Jois as a father/son family relationship before westerners had even stepped foot in Guruji’s home in Gokulam (Manju | 1960s/1970s). Some had been in Mysore with maximum 8 people in Jois’ room (Prem, John Scott |1970s/80s/90s) and some had been in the bigger shala as it moved to Lakshmipuram from Gokulam in 2002 (Greg Nardi, David Keil, Philippa Asher, Kia Naddermier | 1990s/2000 onwards).

One method, one practice

We at Stillpoint have our lineage connected back to Guruji through our teacher John Scott. Even though I met Jois only a handful of times, I hold his teachings and lineage, and the ongoing teachings of Sharath Rangaswamy, with such love and admiration as through the years we have seen how our work at SYL has affected the students who come through our doors. Yet I teach through my teacher’s filter, sharing the practice I discovered through John Scott’s study with Jois. But we also connect with many, many people who have been affected by different aspects of many different Ashtanga yoga teachers.

When it comes to sharing the method, who is exactly right? Are we sharing it in a way that is preserving the exact method? Or are we sharing it in a way that preserves the tradition but blends the method to the individual? I think this is where we find the differences at the moment in Ashtanga yoga and I feel they can all be held and respected. Many different people come to SYL from many different teachers. We meet them all and ask, “How can we help?” A John Scott student, a Hamish Hendry student, a Nancy Gilgoff student, a Radha Warrell student. So many students from so many different places. So many different ways to learn, so many rich teachers. Yet one method. One practice…

We can only teach from our continued learning and research from the people who come and teach with us and, more importantly, those who practise with us. It is good to remember that every one of the students who comes and places a mat in our space is teaching us how to teach, to begin again in sharing this method anew.

I feel a wider conversation needs to be had. With so many different filters how are we teaching/sharing? What are we preserving? Are all the individual methods valid, even though they may differ over the years to what is being taught exactly now? They have affected so many people in profound ways, and continue to move people and change their lives. This must be acknowledged …

Keeping tradition alive

Ashtanga yoga has such a rich tradition and history. It is one of the pre-eminent yoga practices that defines yoga culture, a base to much of the vinyasa yoga that is practised today. Sri K Pattabhi Jois lit the touchpaper from his little shala in Gokulam, Mysore that has ignited innumerable people worldwide. As more people are practising Ashtanga yoga now than ever, how do we keep this practice true? Do we adhere to the call of Mysore? Or do we look toward the many different blends that came from those who worked with Jois? I think it’s both.

Last month I watched Manju Jois and John Scott, 2 of the tradition’s most highly respected teachers, work a Mysore room together at SYL. They had never taught together before, and they teach the same practice in a completely different way. Yet the week ended with a rich coming together of respect, admiration and love between them, both holding and respecting the other’s way of sharing. Both holding and respecting the method they individually learnt from their father and their teacher…

Random Ashtanga Stuff That Has Been Driving Me Up The Wall – Ashtanga Yoga Project

I have been reading and hearing some stuff that I just want to speak to. You may not care but it will be cathartic for me. If you agree or not, comment. I may or may not answer but it will be cathartic for you as well, lol.

The myth of Ashtanga and extreme dogmatism. I don’t know. Maybe I am special. Maybe I am insane. You guys, whenever I read an article about how Ashtanga is dogmatic and the sequence can’t be changed for people’s unique bodies and circumstances, I am always a little taken aback.  I have never had this experience and I have never seen it in any shala or Ashtanga program. Not even with Sharath in Mysore.

I have been practicing Ashtanga for about 17 years. I have traveled and visited other programs. I have had teachers from other programs come to my town.  Every Mysore room I have ever visited has people doing different variations of poses.  I even saw this in Mysore. Yes, I have seen teachers challenge what a student feels is the limit for their body.  Sometimes, inaccurately. I have also seen students challenge what they feel is the limit for their body. Sometimes, inaccurately.  However, I have never seen any teacher that tries to fit all students within the boundaries of the “full version” of Ashtanga poses. Never. Ever. Like. Ever.

I am not saying these types of teachers don’t exist. There are always people in any group, job, church, family, and school that are doing the most. For sure. If you have been unfortunate enough to practice with one of these people, God bless you.

Faulty logic. Yall. This one drives me crazy. Like, jumping to conclusions and not logically thinking things through. For instance, someone made a statement about repetitive movements being bad. Okay, seriously though, our whole entire lives consist of repetitive movements. Walking, talking, cooking, typing, sitting, driving, breathing…all repetitive movements.

In an article entitled, Are Some Movements Inherently Bad, anatomy teacher Jenni Rawlings states,

“The second main issue with the “bad movement” approach is that it is based on a model that views the body as similar to a car, or a machine. In this model, if we move or align our body in sub-optimal ways over time, certain body parts will wear out before others due to the accumulation of microdamage. Just like a car’s tires might wear out unevenly and need premature replacing if they aren’t aligned properly, our body’s joints (think knees, hips, spinal joints) can wear out if we move or align them poorly.

This idea makes great intuitive sense, but there is an important distinction between cars and human bodies that is missing from this perspective. Unlike a car or a machine, whose parts do mechanically wear out with time, our body consists of living, biological tissues which are constantly turning over and remodeling according to the demands they experience. For example, we all know that if we load our muscles and connective tissues with a weight-training program at the gym, they will respond by becoming stronger in order to handle these loads. Another way of saying this is that the tissues of our body adapt to the stresses placed on them (also known as Davis’ Law).”- 

Yes, our bodies don’t last forever and will break down. Aging is inevitable.  You can’t stop it. Even if you move your body differently every day, or try to because, again, repetitive movement is a part of human existence, your body is going to slow down and change, as it ages.  Also, yes, there are some movements that are bad for some people. For sure. However, that is all highly individual.

That is just one of the instances of faulty logic. Like it is totally rampant. People making up stories about teachers and yoga based on a few conclusions that can be blown apart with a few hours of research. Like, not even expensive research. I am talking about Google, a few phone calls and possibly an e-mail. And what kills me is that this faulty information, when said by someone popular, spreads like wildfire. Like, people don’t question it. I do, but like I have seen it passed around as if God wrote it on the wall himself.

People asking total strangers for advice on their injuries and ailments.  I used to be really active in Ashtanga groups on FB but I just can’t anymore. Like, seriously, it seems like 80% of the posts are people asking for help about their injuries and ailments and accepting advice from any random person who answers.  Like, I have seen Ashtanga teachers with anatomy training and decades of experience get ignored in favor of advice from some random dude who watches YouTube videos and has never had a teacher. Yes, random dude can be correct but like, really? It has just gotten out of hand.

Trying stuff on and selling it like it is gospel. I was talking to a friend recently and she just nailed this on the head. She said that she has seen so many traveling teachers teaching stuff they have been messing around with and that sounds cool without really having tested it over time and with many different bodies.  I recently went to a workshop where a teacher saw a picture of Krishnamacharya doing a particular pose and decided that all poses should be done that way. It took me 15 minutes of doing research to find pictures of Krishnamacharya doing the pose another way and also writings, from Krishnamacharya, that talked about multiple ways to do a pose.

I have been teaching yoga for 10 years and the anatomy rules have changed more times then I can count. Ashtanga is not known for its huge focus on anatomy. When I first started practicing Ashtanga, my teacher taught that we should approximate the poses and that, through approximation,  we would figure out how to do the pose for our bodies. I had no injuries during that period. Zero. Zilch.  You just figured it out.  I had my first injury when I practiced with an anatomy expert who told me that I was doing a pose wrong. That is the first time I ever felt pain in Ashtanga.

I digress. There are so many people out there who have been experimenting with something for a short period of time and teaching it like it is gospel. People making up rules based on their injuries and selling it like it is gospel. People making up rules based on their own unique abilities and selling it like it is gospel.

Ashtanga as a cult. I was in a cult. Ashtanga ain’t one. No one is being forced to do anything. No one is isolated. Food is not being rationed out and limited. You can leave when you want. You don’t all have to dress the same. The leader doesn’t control who you have sex with. Your kids are not separated from you. Communication is not limited. TV’s are not snatched. Resources are not being allotted to the chosen ones.  Food is not being hoarded in a secret location. Young women are not being chosen as wives. Like, trust me, not a cult.

Yoga is not bullshit.  America is full of prisons and bad people. Every day, there is a program called, “the news” that talks about all the horrible people that live in our hometowns.  Do we say “America is bullshit!” No, because, there are plenty of people in America who are totally fricking awesome. We know that the prisons and the news is only a small percentage of the people that live here. If you live in America, you know that most of the people you come across are completely chill and have no desire to maim or hurt someone.  For that same reason, “Yoga is not bullshit”. Yep, there are a few people in the yoga community, some super popular and famous, doing crazy things. That, however, does not prove that all yoga is bullshit.

The science of yoga is also not bullshit. It is sound and has been changing lives for the better for thousands of years.

Saying teachers should not be chosen for how they look and their popularity but yet choosing teachers by how they look and their popularity. When everybody got all mad about Sharath taking people off the KPJAYI list, everybody and their mama was saying how the list meant nothing and how teachers should be chosen based on their knowledge.  People talked about gurus and how they should not be put on a pedestal. People talk about instayogis and how they should not be worshipped.  However,  those same people continue to put those same few teachers on a pedestal.  Like, the same people are being interviewed. The same people are being asked to teach at people’s studios and to do workshops and to speak on yoga panels.

Like, good for them. I am not knocking these people’s popularity. They can’t help they are popular and they should take advantage of every minute of it. Many of them worked their asses off. I am not even saying they don’t deserve it.  I am just saying like literally like the same handful of teachers are still being talked about and shopped around the world…by the same people who said that they were opposed to it.  Like, the same pretty people with rock star physical practices.  Like seriously. Just be okay with it. Stop acting like you don’t support what is going on when you are totally supporting what is going on. Stop acting like you are not impressed by handstands and abs when you will drop $300 on a workshop with these people when they get anywhere close to your state. Like just be honest with yourself.

Like, I have seen people dog out the Jois family this year and then turn around and go to Mysore or apply for it.  Like, just get real with yourself. I have seen people, who swore against Gurus, get googly eyed and tongue-tied in the presence of or while interviewing a pretty person who does videos on the internet. Be real with yourself.