Some Truth About Ashtanga Yoga

By: Jessica Lynne Trese (Moore)

Sometimes Ashtanga Yoga can get a bad reputation in the yoga community. It’s called the ‘fitness yoga’ and all the students are closed-minded because they practice the same ‘routine’ everyday. And Ashtangis are known for being a little over the top with our adherence to ‘the rules of Ashtanga.’

Is Ashtanga Yoga ‘fitness yoga?’

No, not the way most people think of fitness routines. Our asana practice (postures) is meant to heat up the body, to cleanse, purify and enliven the physical body from the inside out.

A more fitting description would be ‘body healing yoga’ because we find balance, ease and health throughout the physical body from the physical asana practice.

Are we closed-minded because we practice the same ‘routine’ everyday?

Not even close! We open our minds, and hearts up to the subtle nuances of in-depth study. Ashtanga Yoga is used as a tool to turn inward and by taking the same ‘route’ inward each day we can start to notice the more subtle changes in the body. We can start to notice the more subtle changes in our hearts.

Taking a different route inward everyday you can miss the subtle changes in YOU!

Are we over the top in following ‘the rules of Ashtanga’?

Not really. Yes, there are some rules/guidelines that we stick to. Ashtanga Yoga is a tool for Self-transformation, and the rules/guidelines show us how to use this tool.

Simply by surrendering to the ‘rules’ of Ashtanga Yoga our transformation begins. The ‘rules’ show us what to do and when we let the mind surrender to this method, it can finally rest and stop trying to control every single thing. Then we can start to truly experience the present moment; the moment is no longer colored by the mind’s wish to have it be something else.  Presence and stillness can reside within the mind.

All those who practice the Ashtanga Yoga method for a long time, without break and with devotion have experienced the way the practice allows the light in our hearts to shine. Illuminating the present moment with acceptance, peace, gratitude and joy.

And the most amazing part of this practice is the Ashtanga Yoga Community. Our community spans the globe, and no matter how far one of us travels, if we find another Ashtanga student, we will have found a piece of our heart. Even if we don’t speak the same language, we can speak to each other through the language of our practice. A global community of people, each one dedicated to working on being the best version of their own Self as possible.

 


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The Real Shit – Ashtanga Yoga Project

Guest Author: Aude Moatti

I am disappointed with the Ashtanga community. Which is hard to admit.

Struggle is polished by a fake glow of expensive leggings and post-practice diet talk. An image of non-suffering, of, “ it’s all behind me now. “

 Seriously.

And what was it like when it wasn’t? Why aren’t you telling me? Did it just all happen in one night? Of course not. Then how long? What helped?

I want answers.

I’m 23, recovering from eating disorders, severe insomnia, paralyzing anxiety and, on top of that, I smoke.

Soon I will have had three years of practice. Former rock-climber, now in the circus, I am hyperflexible and in good physical shape. Asana is not a problem for me. I completed primary after two years and do dropbacks on my own. I even catch my calves now. I know it’s uncommon. For me it’s easy. For me, asana is pretty easy.

What isn’t easy is the crap in my head that I still cannot manage and no one seems to be willing to help. I don’t know if the solution is to carry on trying harder to control myself or just give in to the waves. I know that when you are drowning, resisting the currents makes you more likely to die.

What happens when you have a bad 48 hours? When you just get caught in the rip current of darkness? When you don’t know whether you should resist or give in? When deeply rooted patterns send you spiraling into a whirlwind of self-judgment and self-loathing?

I’m a Gemini built on paradox. I love my dark side. I call it, “the punk me”. Where is the punk side of the Ashtanga community?  All I see is an obsession with presenting a false sense of perfection and purity. This makes me feel like my punk/dark side is not compatible with the practice of Ashtanga.

But what if it is?

How does this perfect path make me, and I’m sure plenty of others, feel somehow like we are unworthy of it?

This can’t be true.

Yoga is for everyone.

I am worthy of Ashtanga. If you are currently facing the darkness, you are worthy too.  

When I look online, I feel alone in my struggles. And by struggles, I don’t mean “Oh, I can’t bind in Marichyasana D. Please help me.”  Or, “I’m soooo tired. Is it okay to just do Sun Salutations?” By struggles I mean, spending a whole day in bed watching TV, eating chocolate, and scrolling through Instagram because I am so overwhelmed by my thoughts that I have to hide until the darkness recedes. My practice in those times, if I am lucky, is three sun salutations, and a one-minute savasana.

Sometimes, my life isn’t a mess. But regularly, I happen to fall back into those patterns when I know the goal is to be transcending them. This is when the judging starts. This is when I start looking online for people who “just can’t”.

I know those people exist but don’t speak up. Will you?

What if the goal is to befriend our dark side instead of denying its existence or just trying to control it?

This is why I want you all to tell me about the real SHIT. I know I am not the only one going through this. I can’t be. WHERE ARE YOU ALL?

Can we have a community with people who are honest with themselves? In the end, we all want the truth, right? The truth of impermanence. I know my patterns won’t go on forever. I know in a couple of days I will feel awesome again. I know in a couple of years I will handle my thoughts a lot better. Today things are better than two years ago. Things are changing, nothing lasts, this is the only thing I know. It has been a while since I stopped looking only for wellbeing and started facing the dark messy part of me.

Is there anyone else trying to come out of this constant judging, of hiding the bad and exhibiting the good only? Can we share the real SHIT too? Instead of just videos of success, show me when you fall, tell me why you fell, how you felt and how you got back on your feet. Who helped you and why?

Let’s just stop pretending our darkness doesn’t exist. I am tired of the fake Instagram filtered, curated profiles that many in the community are trying to pass off as real. I know it’s not real. I’ve been to Mysore. I practice in a shala with an authorized teacher. I can see through the superficial physicality that many in the Ashtanga community are trying to pass off as yoga. I cannot and will not hide behind my able body. No matter how many people congratulate me on my back bendings, I want to shake their hand and say, “ thanks, but you know this whole week I stayed up extremely late eating refined sugar and rolling cigarettes because there are things in life I still find difficult, and those deep backbends are not helping .” Knowing that I can befriend this dark side, will. Because every time I just give in and shake my darker twin’s hand, we make peace. I get a break from that stupid voice in my head telling me I am a bad person and unworthy of being in the Ashtanga community.

We need to talk about the darkside.  Because if we don’t, it will scare away the very people who need this practice.  They don’t want to be a part of a fancy pants, goodie goodie community of problem-less mannequins. They do not want to be part of a community that expects you to magically be all love and light.  A community that feels like you shouldn’t be angry or feel depressed. It’s extremely hard to extract this misconception from people’s minds because EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE says the opposite.

So tell me about the real shit in your life, please 🙂

Hi, I’m Aude, little french (aspiring) clown with a lot of hair. Born and raised in Paris, studied in London at the Central Saint Martin’s School of Arts in the Fine Arts section, then had a pretty nomad lifestyle. Now, I mainly write poetry but also draw, make collages, and sometimes, bind books. Currently based in Paris (again) working on several projects within a company in the giant puppet field.
As flexible in my life as I am in my body, but also as unstable, to each his or her own challenges 😉
Mail: aude.moatti@gmail.com
You can also contact me on instagram: anomalipstick (or Aude Moatti).

I only read love letters because my heart is like a sponge.