I have been practicing Ashtanga Yoga for about ten years and teaching it for four. The practice for me is a moving meditation and I achieve this meditative aspect through repetition and a very tangible, physical approach to yoga. Repeating the Sun Salutations and the standing sequence followed by seated postures and the finishing sequence has a certain predictability that I find very soothing and comforting. My fascination with the Ashtanga practice lies in the opportunity to keep investigating the postures. Over the years they become more familiar but I can practice them again and again and still find deeper aspects to explore. The challenge for me is to develop a graceful and smooth movement sequence synchronised with effortless breathing.
The Ashtanga practice gives me a frame work and the discipline to keep going. I’m not naturally disposed to be self-motivated so the set sequence makes it easier to stay on the mat. After committing to a full Ashtanga practice in self-practice classes (without skipping postures!), I found my confidence increase both on and off the mat. Being faced with some of the more extreme primary series postures had me avoid the full practice for a long time. I needed the sequence to confront me with what I found difficult and to not cop out every time I hit an obstacle. I absolutely love the practice now. It motivates me to keep challenging myself in so many aspects of my life.
I feel that by doing the same sequences and postures almost daily, I get to know my body, my reactions and my emotional state of being on a much deeper level. When I tune in to the practice and very subtle sensations in my body I can feel slight changes. A tight hamstring muscle might be softening; maintaining focus in a balance might have become easier; or perhaps the inhale in my back bends feels less restricted. The practice is never the same. The posture that feels great and easy one day might be an uphill struggle the next. In this way the repetitious practice becomes a barometer for my state of mind and can be a tool to balance my energy and mood. This is the beauty of the Ashtanga Yoga sequence.
Xmas Yoga Intensive:
With time to deepen the practice and look at more details of the sequence, me and my partner Alan O’leary will run Ashtanga Yoga workshops on the 27 and 28 December 2012 at Yoga Kula Leeds. See workshop page for more details.
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