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.

Pregnant Women Can and Do Practice Ashtanga – Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto

This idea that women should stop their practice when they become pregnant is pervasive… It’s also complete BS.

The excitement of being pregnant quickly became fear as the list of “all the things you can’t-do because you’re pregnant” began to get really, really long. According to a family doctor, I went to see, this list also included my daily Ashtanga practice. Fearful that continuing my practice would result in another miscarriage, I stopped.

I remember the first day I met with my midwife. When I told her I had stopped practicing yoga on the advice of a doctor, she did a full-on facepalm. She was mortified for me that an actual medical professional had suggested that I stop doing yoga. I had a normal, low-risk pregnancy, and let’s be real, it’s not like I was suggesting I go skydiving, take up football, or UFC fighting. I was talking about doing YOGA. Which is, in reality, perhaps one of the most appropriate forms of physical activity to do while pregnant.

Sadly this idea that I and every other pregnant woman should stop our practice when we become pregnant is pervasive. It’s exacerbated by the culture of fear that exists around pregnancy and birth. It’s perpetuated by unsolicited advice from family, friends, and random people on the street. Who are all total experts on pregnancy by the way. It’s also complete BS.

Normal, healthy pregnant women can, and DO practice ashtanga!

Yes, the culture of fear and uncertainty around pregnancy (especially in the first trimester) exists. But that fear doesn’t need to run the show.

It seems like there are so many “rules” about being pregnant. So many conflicting opinions and idea’s about how women ought to experience their pregnancy. Right from the list of foods you should stay away from, to the types of physical activity you shouldn’t be doing. It’s exhausting, and hard to decipher what’s fact from fiction, especially when it’s your first pregnancy.

The reality is, that no one other than your direct prenatal care provider, and yourself are equipped to tell you what to do throughout your pregnancy. No one else truly understands how you’re feeling on a day to day basis, or are fully and completely aware of any risk factors unique to your pregnancy. Yes, the culture of fear and uncertainty around pregnancy (especially in the first trimester) exists. But that fear doesn’t need to run the show.

To all my mama’s to be out there, who are feeling stuck, fearful and unsure about your practice – we’ve got you covered.

Here are a few things that helped me practice throughout my pregnancy:

1. Understand that practicing Ashtanga in your 1st trimester is NOT going to increase your risk for a miscarriage

According to midwife Safire Naranjo, practicing Ashtanga in the first trimester will NOT put you at increased risk for miscarrying.

I think this is one of the biggest reasons women abstain from practice during their first trimester – the fear of miscarriage. The fear is very real, and as someone who has experienced a miscarriage, I can tell you it was one of the biggest reasons I was afraid to practice ashtanga during the first part of my pregnancy. The unfortunate reality is that miscarriages are common. They happen. However, according to midwife Safire Naranjo, practicing Ashtanga in the first trimester will NOT put you at increased risk for miscarrying. If a pregnancy is going to be viable, no yoga practice is going to suddenly provoke it. Similarly, if a miscarriage is going to happen (typically as a result of a chromosomal abnormality), not practicing ashtanga isn’t going to stop it.

If you are finding yourself overwhelmed by pregnancy fear and anxiety, that’s ok. My best advice is to honor those feelings. Allow them to be there, and acknowledge that they are normal, human emotions. You are going through a major transition, and those feelings are completely valid. This practice actually helped me to cope with, and observe my anxiety around pregnancy from a place of equanimity. Try doing a slow, modified practice if it makes you feel better. If you’re finding that your feelings are worsening as you move through the vinyasa, try just doing a seated meditation practice. For me, the practice of showing up each day, and noticing my breath, my body, and feelings were so important.

2. Trust yourself, your teacher & your prenatal care provider

There was something incredibly empowering about having autonomy over my practice, and my body, given all the changes I was going through.

I remember the day I showed up for practice, pregnant, and ready to get back into things. I asked David what I should, and shouldn’t do and he said, “Do whatever you want.” I was taken aback, but as I began to go through my practice, I began to discover what I could and could not do. There was something incredibly empowering about having autonomy over my practice, and my body, given all the changes I was going through.

We hold so much wisdom in our bodies. Far more than we can possibly fathom. And pregnancy is a beautiful time to tap into that wisdom. So often as women we allow fear to cloud our intuitive nature. We listen to the horror stories told by other women and allow those stories to shape our experience. The best advice I was given throughout this pregnancy was from my midwife, “if it feels good, DO IT!” Trust that your body will tell you if something isn’t right, and when it does, back off. Your teacher can give you some suggestions such as having your feet wider in sun salutations, and forward folds, but you are the only one who knows how each pose feels in your body.

3. Show up each day and honor your body

My edge has shifted dramatically from my pre-pregnancy body, and learning to be ok with that has been more challenging than any advanced posture I can think of.

Practicing while being pregnant has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. And not because my body is filled with relaxin, and I’m able to pretzel myself into advanced asanas. Quite the opposite actually. It’s been more about noticing how I feel in each pose and honoring those feelings in each posture. My edge has shifted dramatically from my pre-pregnancy body, and learning to be ok with that has been more challenging than any advanced posture I can think of. This practice is about much more than twisting yourself into advanced asana, and pregnancy has really helped to highlight that.

Some days I show up on my mat, and I totally rock my whole practice. Press up into a headstand. Do all my backbends. I feel like a million dollars. Other days I don’t feel so great. Those are the days, that for me, are the most important. I notice how I feel, and I let my body be my guide. Some days, I may just do sun salutations. Others I’ll get through all of standing. Sometimes, I just do a seated meditation in the Mysore room, surrounded by the energy of all the other practitioners. I’ve come to learn that showing up is far more important than what your practice actually looks like.

4. It’s ok not to practice if it doesn’t feel right

It doesn’t make you any less of a woman, or practitioner because you physically can’t-do the practice anymore.

On the flip side, you don’t need to be an ashtanga hero. This practice isn’t going anywhere. If it doesn’t feel right in your body to practice – that’s ok too. Many women have uncomfortable symptoms like constant nausea, heartburn, dizziness, or feel generally unwell for much of their pregnancy. If that’s the case for you, it’s absolutely ok to back off. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman, or practitioner because you physically can’t-do the practice anymore. If you’re still wanting to do some form of practice, I would suggest seated or walking meditation.

Despite what some people say, it is completely OK to practice ashtanga while you’re pregnant. If you show up, tap into the wisdom your body, and dwell deeply in each moment on your mat, it may just be one of the most beautiful things you do during your pregnancy.

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Yoga Will Not Keep Bad Things From Happening – Ashtanga Yoga Project

Yoga is not an inoculation against bad things. It is the science of learning how to deal with bad things when they happen. If you are lucky, you start to view “bad” things as just events and you don’t label them at all.

On my last post, someone commented and asked, “how can you hurt yourself when you are practicing Ahimsa?” Easy. Most people don’t wake up in the morning and say. “I feel like hurting myself today. I really want to get in a car accident, maybe get a cold, catch my husband in bed with his co-worker, rip my hamstring, and have to bail my son out of jail.” Just because you follow all the traffic rules, eat a healthy diet, treat your husband like a king, practice perfect alignment and love your kids does not mean that none of the above is not going to happen.

I caught a cold a few weeks ago and a co worker said half jokingly, “I thought ashtangis were impervious to illness?” I wish.

As far as yoga injuries, science has proven that you can be injured or sick and have no symptoms or pain and that you can have pain and no injuries or sickness. Look it up on Google. You can get on your mat and everything feels awesome…until it doesn’t. You can hurt yourself and there is no warning before it happens. No tenderness, no tightness, no feeling of coming up against a barrier;nothing. That is how I hurt my hamstring. There was no warning. I felt awesome…until I didn’t. I have seen instances where a person didn’t even know they were injured until many hours after their yoga practice.

People, who practice yoga, are still human. No one is getting out of here alive or unscathed. The yogis knew that. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are full of warnings about obstacles and taking wrong turns on the path. There is only one state of Samadhi, out of 7 or 8 possible states (depends on who is counting), where you are done with being a living walking disaster. Even in that state, “bad” things can still happen to you because you still have karmas in motion that you have to see through. Practicing yoga does not guarantee that you will not be an asshole. Samskaras, mental conditioning, are extraordinarily powerful and can knock even the most accomplished yogi into temporary unconsciousness.

Even if you become “enlightened” and treat everyone kindly, there are going to be people who hate your guts and do everything in their power to destroy you. MLK, Jesus and Gandhi were teachers of peace but they were all killed. A Black man in Alabama, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, was shot down by cops in a mall while he was trying to save a woman’s life.

Just because you love everyone and do good in the world does not mean that only good is coming to you. If that is what you heard, its bullshit. Go look at the last paragraph again. Whether you like him or not, Pattabhi Jois did have this one thing right, “breath free and all is coming”. ALL IS COMING. Not just what you want. Not just what you like. Not just good stuff. All of it. Yoga gives us the tools to deal with whatever shows up. Sure, our actions do affect what shows up. If you treat someone with compassion, they are less likely to want to kill you. If you do well at work, you are less likely to get fired. If you treat your body well, you are less likely to get hurt. However, none of these are guarantees.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says that, if you practice Ahimsa, you can be around wild animals and no harm will come to you. It also, says, “pain, that has not yet come, should be avoided.” It also talks about things going wrong. So to me it is saying, “do no harm, but don’t be stupid either. ” “If you don’t hurt people, they probably won’t hurt you but don’t’ be stupid either.” “Take precautions but sometimes shit happens.”

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.

 


* About Jessica

* Upcoming Events & Workshops

* Apprenticeship Program

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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.