One thing I think about a lot, both for my own practice and for the practices of my students, is how to really make sure the practice is as sustainable as it can be. Sustainability is one of the hardest and most important things in Ashtanga. And when we look closely, the things that keep a practice sustainable are also the things that strengthen and deepen it.
For me personally, the past year has been a big lesson in sustainability. With one injury after another, I have watched a lot of poses I worked very hard for disappear. I constantly remind myself that yoga is an internal practice, and there are still many ways I can practice.
Here are some of my thoughts on sustainability.
Dedicate One Day a Week to Primary. A piece of practical advice for keeping a practice sustainable is to dedicate one day a week exclusively to Primary Series. This helps to keep your practice sustainable for a number of reasons. To begin with, it’s a great way to keep yourself returning to the...
For the last year and a half or so, I’ve been feeling weighed down by the constant news about abuses of power - in the world, in spiritual practice communities generally, and in yoga specifically. Realizing the scale of how often students find themselves feeling pressured or abused by their teachers has been truly heartbreaking.
For me it’s been like a slow-boiling pot. In the last few years, the revelations within the yoga world, coupled with our country’s leadership, have been almost too much to bear. It feels like we have reached (or are nearing) a tipping point, and it’s past time to push back, shift how things are done, and try to create healthier environments. We are in the midst of an extreme situation in the Ashtanga community, broadly speaking, but what does this look like in our own lives? For me, it’s a generalized anger and a very deep drive to do a better job as a teacher in our community.
There’s a culture of silence in Ashtanga...
It's hard to believe the summer solstice is upon us. We’re also getting to the point in the season when all the changes in our routines are starting to settle in. Among countless other things, kids are out of school, summer trips are planned, and the sun is in the sky well into the evening. Which is just to say that our day-to-day lives and routines all get kind of out of whack in the summertime. But the quality of our lives (and the quality of our practices!) is deeply tied to our routines, and these changes can present unique challenges to our yoga journeys.
With good habits anything is possible. I often tell students that all they have to do for a good practice is unroll their mats and stand in samasthihi. That counts. If more happens? Awesome. If not? You’re still in the routine of your practice, and that is one of the very most important things. Having good habits isn’t about being perfect at those habits - it’s about letting yourself sacrifice your old...
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about what it really means to hold space for others. I think about how my understanding of that concept has evolved over my years as a teacher, and how glad I am for that evolution.
As I watch what Tim has done every day for decades, and continues to do, I have such a great appreciation and admiration for it. While I’m moving away from thinking in terms of the word “guru,” I continue to learn from Tim every day.
We talk a lot about holding space in the Mysore community. I believe that cultivating the capacity to hold space is the single most important thing we do as teachers - more than the adjustments, more than the teaching, even. Without being able to hold space, we lose the opportunity to truly meet others where they’re at in their practice and growth, and we miss the chance to see how we can be most genuinely helpful as we spend some time with them on their journey.
As a teacher, the idea of holding space...
This is a very special guest post from my good friend, Sandy. I think Sandy is completely incredible – not only does she balance an Ashtanga practice with a full-time job, husband, two busy teenagers, and four dogs, but she has continued to do so after enduring a breast cancer diagnosis. On top of that, she’s managed to find some balance in the midst of it all. I think Sandy’s experience is an inspiration for all of us – not only women, not only people who’ve faced devastating illnesses and injuries, not even only yogis; all of us. We can come back from anything, and we can come back stronger – sometimes life just presents us a new definition of strength.
In June of 2016, I traveled to New York with friends to practice with Sharath – the current holder of the Ashtanga lineage. It’s hard to describe the experience of coming together with fellow practitioners from around the world, moving and breathing as one, while Sharath...
We can all lose our mojo sometimes. Whatever the cause, sometimes we just find that we’ve gotten out of our rhythm, we’ve lost our stride. But fear not, because we are in control of our lives and in control of finding our own ways back into positive habits and helpful attitudes.
It is possible to avoid low back pain in backbends, but it does require strength through to back side of the body.
* use a block to keep the legs engaged
* isometrically contract the hamstrings
* activate gluteus medius
* make space for shoulders
* breathe into the chest
Does this work for you? Let me know!
Want to learn more about backbends? Try my free email video course - 4 videos delivered to your inbox with tutorials on developing a stronger backbend. Get it here!
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These aren’t just the five stages of grief - they’re also the five stages of practicing through a yoga injury. Depending on the injury, it can feel like the same thing sometimes.
If you practice yoga for any length of time, it’s likely that you’ll have an injury sooner or later. Regardless of whether the injury occurred during your asana practice, the recovery period can be frustrating, scary, slow, and a range of other experiences and emotions. Ultimately, though, your practice can support your recovery if you modify appropriately, and the ability to adapt and maintain your practice through challenges and hard times is one of the most important mental disciplines in (and benefits of!) Ashtanga.
The factors underlying injury can be incredibly complex, and they vary from person to person. Ashtanga yoga is not inherently dangerous, but it’s also not 100% safe. It’s a physical activity that...