Ashtanga Ass-kicking

Those of you who know me already know that I am a yoga “mutt” – I mix and match styles in the ongoing yoga experiment that is my teaching style. I also practice this way, but am most consistent with Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga. I’m just a girl that’s gotta move. But things have changed soooo much in the last ten years, and it makes me smile to think about the intensity I brought to my mat in the beginning, when it was hard to disconnect from the achievement side of things. Ashtanga, my yoga roots, kind of cultivates this approach – what pose did you get to today? did you do all the jumpbacks? can you do full primary? blah blah blah. I’m certainly no disciplined Ashtangi – and quite honestly, really never was, even when I might have thought I was. But, I still consider this practice the foundation of my personal one, and what has enabled me to be strong, supple and grounded in so many ways. Sooo, where am I headed with this? I’ve been really bad about my Ashtanga practice lately. Like, it’s been non-existent. And I recently recognized the gap not doing it has left. I need this practice. It always feels like coming home, even if I get my butt kicked when I get there.

Which is exactly what happened yesterday – I had this energy that was just calling out to be directed into the intermediate series: bigtime backbends, pincha mayurasana and scorpion, strong stuff. I got my ass kicked. But it felt really, really good. And as can happen when I practice Ashtanga on my own, I imagine the Ashtanga police calling me on every thing I don’t do by the book. Like when I was adding in lots of breath work (pretty much just in order to catch it again), playing around with pose variations, etc. Then suddenly I heard another voice that said: This is MY practice – back off! And that felt good too.

My point being, we all need to be challenged sometimes, but we also possess a deep inner knowing about what we truly need. It’s a moving target, and yoga becomes the tool with which to find that balance. The more you do it, the more you’ll know what works best for you. Me, I’ve resolved to get my Ashtanga on (however non-traditional it may be) at least twice a week. Check out this picture circa 2004 of my Ashtanga teacher helping me put both legs behind my head – Ouch. Don’t think I’ll be doing that again, though.