Amidst a friendly lunch with my friend Alex a few weeks ago, we got to talking about practice. I’ve known Alex for about two years. She and I met during a yoga teacher training and have been embarking on our own individual yoga journeys, joyously sharing with each other the lessons and awareness we come across in class. This lunch, however, took on a different tone.
I have been practicing yoga for 10 years and have experienced over and over again the grace that yoga offers. My practice has stood beside me through many trials, tribulations and exalted states, always providing me with a grounding energy and a compassionate glimpse into myself. On the mat, I use the postures as a tool to observe how I navigate the world and am gifted with the opportunity to constantly refine my behaviors and intentions in a safe and supportive environment. In my “yoga lab”, I am the scientist and the experiment, gloriously playing back and forth from one role to the next until there is no distinction between us.
As the years went on, I vacillated between many different styles of yoga, always searching for something new to transport me into the beginner’s mind. Challenging my edge physically expanded my consciousness, and as I began to study yoga ethics and philosophy, a deeper dimension of the practice revealed itself to me in amazing and mysterious ways.
Recently, the road has led me to the Ashtanga system of yoga, and this new leg of my journey was the topic of conversation during lunch that day. I couldn’t help but go on and on about how much this practice embodies so much of what yoga means to me. A set sequence of postures is practiced at an individual pace under the close guidance of a teacher, and the practice, like the breath gets deeper as the student begins to open up. New postures are added one at a time when appropriate for each individual body, to ensure safety and efficiency in strength and flexibility.
What I love about the practice the most, even more than the physical transformation, is the subtle way in which the person transforms. The discipline required to confront the same thing everyday, yet allow yourself to be open to experience it differently is deceptively challenging. In class, it is common to see a teacher manipulating students’ limbs in a certain way, allowing them to experience the full expression of a posture. It is sometimes shocking as the student is pulled and pressed in different directions, however, it is the perfect diagram of what this thing we do called yoga offers. An opportunity to be pulled apart and come back again, to find stillness amidst the chaos, to find strength in the weakness…and ultimately to find ourselves.
I hope to see Alex in class soon:)
Practice Mysore Ashtanga at Sangha M-F, 3:30pm – 5:30pm