It’s been a tough year for Ashtanga.
2017 ended with the realization that Pattabhi Jois abused his position of power and sexually assaulted numerous female students over many years. Naturally, this has a ripple effect throughout the community leaving numerous students doubting the lineage.
What makes matters worse is a lack of acknowledgement from senior teachers and Sharath Jois at KPJAYI itself. This lack of acknowledgement is damaging to the victims themselves, but also detrimental to the global Ashtanga community. I realize I cannot possibly have all the pieces of the puzzle to know what might inhibit any one person from speaking - I was not there, so who am I to say? I’ll hold back judgment and continue to respect the senior teachers for paving the way for the new generation of yogis.
There have been other smaller incidents as well — one of which being Sharath Jois’s removal of several senior teachers from the official list of those approved by the...
As if life isn’t hectic enough – here comes the holiday hoopla. Extended family, holiday shopping, holiday parties, drinking, brunches and lunches, baking, cooking and decorating. You are going to need your practice more than ever over the next month – but how do you maintain your practice when the holidays are getting the best of you? Here are my tips for keeping your practice alive during the season of merrymaking.
Give yourself a break! Practice compassion with yourself this holiday season. If you’ve been indulging in too much food and spirits, let your binds go. If you are feeling jacked up from the holiday stress, don’t push your backbends. Now is the time of year to focus on showing up – you can fine tune all the details in the new year. So send yourself heaps of love. Don’t judge your practice – remember if you practiced, it was good – it’s really that simple.
Do your best to stick with the morning...
Modern Ashtanga tradition holds that students should only have one teacher. In my experience this has been a generally accepted rule and even a bit of a taboo subject.
Ashtanga culture emphasizes the student-teacher relationship The Sanskrit word paramparā, which denotes a lineage between student and teacher, is widely understood amongst practitioners. Who you practice with has become a badge of honor.
I asked Richard Freeman about this on a recent retreat and he pointed out to me that the very first words of the opening mantra, “vande gurunam” denotes plurality that is more than one guru. It loosely translate to “I bow to the two lotus feet of the Gurus,” suggesting that historically multiple gurus were common.
The word lineage denotes a narrow line, but true cultural heritage looks more like a family tree with many branches. If we look down the line, we might only see one teacher, but behind that teacher stands many others.
For the majority of my Ashtanga...
So do I practice every single day? What if I don’t feel well?
This is actually such a common question that I wrote an entire blog on it, called When to Practice and When to Rest. And there are plenty of times when you should rest — like if you have a fever or an acute injury. But there are also plenty of times when you’ll probably feel like resting but should actually still practice, like when you are sore or tired.
Do you do anything other than yoga for exercise? (Or some variation of this.)
I always tell students to do what they love. Whether that’s climbing, surfing, riding, hiking, playing football, or staying out late dancing and drinking – by all means, do it. But just remember, like with anything in life, there are tradeoffs and what you do off the mat will have its effects on your practice. It’s important to remember this, and to be realistic about it. Pursuing other athletic endeavors might make you feel tight in certain places, or...
Here’s the truth: Starting an Ashtanga practice is hard. Yoga is often misrepresented as being all happy feelings and pretty asanas, or my personal favorite “relaxing.” But the fact is that getting serious about your practice is a challenging endeavor. The thing is, though, that that’s the case with starting anything new. It makes us feel awkward and frustrated and challenged. Starting something new is a struggle.
A big part of an Ashtanga practice is learning to honor the struggle.
Unfortunately, the struggle is a hard sell. Yoga is sold as a feel-good, relaxing experience, when the truth is that a daily Ashtanga practice will make you work. There will be a lot of difficult steps along the way and there will probably be days that you don’t want to practice.
The benefits of an Ashtanga practice, though, far outweigh the struggles that they grow from. If you engage wholeheartedly, your practice will change you – first it will change your...
Today marks the beginning of my third month in Encinitas. And, so far (as I should perhaps have expected somehow, although it’s naturally impossible to expect this) nothing has gone as I planned. I realize now, though, that perhaps I’m not the one doing the planning.
When I announced to my community that I would be taking a sabbatical and leaving DC to study with Tim Miller for a year, I told them to keep doing their practice. We all need to remember that practicing because of an attachment to a teacher is a dead end. In fact, to practice for any reason other than a love for the practice is a dead end. Practicing because you love a teacher is like looking for something you’ll never find - teachers can give us a false sense of permanency, especially considering how formative a good teacher can be, but one of the most crucial things this practice teaches us every day is that nothing is permanent.
I certainly didn’t think that I would get here and be...
Janu Sirsasana C is one of the most challenging poses of Primary Series. It's very confusing and scary to new students. This video talks about some techniques for approaching this pose.
Remember for this one, its the hip joint and the ankle that rotate - not your knee. Your knee is open about 75 degrees to the side - and there should be no pressure on your knee. It should all originate from the HIP JOINT - but people with tight hips tent to recruit flexibility from the knee here. Additionally, it is one of the deepest flexions of the knee in primary series.
I use a bench or windowsill to teach this pose to new students. This helps the student understand what the foot and hip are doing in the pose - because when the student is standing its much easier to open the hips. It also gives the student a lot more space to work with.
Want to learn more about opening your hips? Check out my online course Be Hippy!
Students frequently ask me about practicing while pregnant. I've had lots of students practice their entire pregnancy and others who weren't quite up to it. I think the key is to do what feels right for you - and continually reevaluate what that is.
However, since I have never been pregnant I thought I should ask the expert. So here is Christina Flemming. Pregnant Ashtangi and Mid-Wife, who knows what she is talking about.
I hope this is helpful.
Watch the video for more talk on the subject.
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A student recently told me she was feeling burned out and wondered why we practice 5-6 days a week in the Ashtanga system.
In a nutshell, I think the answer is transformation. But I’ll give you some of the details.
When we practice 6 days a week we get the opportunity to learn faster. By repeating asanas and vinyasas on a daily basis we are able to memorize more quickly — both in our minds and our bodies. When you practice 6 days a week it can help prevent injury because your body becomes more accustomed to the movement and you become more aware of what your body can and cannot tolerate — which of course lends itself to progress in the poses.
Your body will acclimate to the practice more quickly if you practice consistently. Your flexibility and strength increase at a faster rate with a daily practice. Its easier to adopt a daily routine that you can stick to. You’ll find going to bed early and waking up early enough to practice easier when you do it...
I had the big honor of assisting Tim in his Mysore room last week last week. Luckily, I've had plenty of time to think about how I believe assistants should serve in the Mysore after working with my own assistants for many years. So, I thought I would share some of my personal guidelines for assisting while it was fresh on my mind. These are some lessons that I’ve taught to my own assistants, as well as what I let guide me while assisting Tim.
First off, I tried to teach like I’ve learned from Tim. He always influences me, of course, but I do think it’s especially important to honor his teachings when I am teaching in his room. So I don’t go into his Mysore room and teach like anyone else. I just do my best to emulate Tim’s style and philosophy while still bringing myself.
I made sure to introduce myself to as many students as I could. I always ask students' names and try my hardest to remember them - I think this is important when working with...