Sunday, March 21, 2010


Today was my last chance for home practice this week - starting tomorrow, I’m practising at the Shala. I’m a bit nervous and uncertain about it. Nervous, because up to this point, my Astanga practice has been a one-woman, solo show. And uncertain because I won’t be the one ‘calling the shots’ on my practice, the teachers will.

I know a handful of my readers are non-ashtangis. You may want to visit this page which gives a decent overview of the Mysore approach to Astanga practice.

In a nutshell: a Mysore style class is a self-practice at a yoga studio (called a ’Shala’) in the company of other students and with the assistance (usually hands-on adjustments) of qualified teachers. Students move through a series of poses, usually starting with the sun salutations and additional poses are offered by the teacher over time, as the student progresses.

I’m somewhat of an ‘Astangi Rebel’. Rather than learning the series incrementally in a Shala, I taught myself from books and DVDs. From the beginning, I practised the entire Primary Series all at once. I used modifications and props (blocks, straps) in poses that were not yet accessible to me (something that would rarely be allowed in a Shala). I also spent a lot of time laying on my back thinking: “Man, this is HARD!”

Because I’m a yoga teacher in my professional life, this approach to the practice wasn’t such a leap for me. I already knew all the postures from other styles of yoga, and I had taken many studio-taught Astanga style classes. Someone who is brand-new to yoga would be wise NOT to follow my example. It’s important to work with a teacher in the beginning, because many aspects of the practice are best conveyed through physical adjustments and observation by a teacher.

That said, I remain a HUGE supporter of home practice. Very few of us have the time or money for daily led yoga classes or Mysore sessions. Yoga is most beneficial when it’s practised every day and by practising at home, you take ownership of your own experience of yoga. This process can be powerful and life-changing. I treasure my hours spent at home on the mat.

So you can understand why I’m feeling a little bit sad about uprooting my home practice, getting up in the wee hours to travel to a Shala where I don’t know the teachers or the other students. I’ll be the new kid in class. The one who learned her practice from a DVD. *gulp*

This week, I’ve been listening to Sharath’s CD, reviewing the Vinyasa counts for each posture and jotting them down in my yoga notebook. It really helps. I know all the poses, but I wasn’t sure about the counts. My practice flows more smoothly when I know the counts.

In preparation for my Shala week, I woke up very early and did a self-led practice. I did the full Primary Series with the first five Intermediate postures, three backbends and the finishing poses. It took me exactly 90 minutes from Surya Namaskara A to Savasana. Not bad!

When I practised self-led on Thursday, I fumbled around a bit, almost forgetting poses. Not today. Everything flowed very smoothly. I had a good, sweaty practice, binding everything that binds and doing lift-ups (without the blocks) for each vinyasa.

Tomorrow, I hit the road!


Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed with David Newman’s recording of the Hanuman Chalisa, ‘Leap of Faith’. I heard David perform at the Yoga Show last year and jotted down his name in my notebook, but didn’t investigate further until recently. I bought his Kirtan album ‘Lotus Feet’ and liked it so much, I sprung for ‘Leap of Faith’ on a whim. This recording of the Chalisa is so lovely: melodic, rhythmic and repetitive in a really good way. It’s been on repeat play since I bought it.

On my way home from teaching in the west end today, I stopped to return a DVD and decided to wander down to my favourite India shop. Oddly enough, we have a really great little Indian import place right here in the neighbourhood (most of them are clustered in Little India in the east end).

The Ganesha-in-the-window I had been jonesing over was gone. Sold! *heartbreak* He was too big and expensive anyway. But I wandered into the store to see if they had anything new and spotted a beautiful brass Hanuman. Often, the detailing on these little statues is very shabby, but this one was fantastic. The shopkeeper and I had some fun haggling over the price.

Hanuman has now joined my spiritual posse, sharing the altar with Shiva and the small plastic travel Ganesh (who’s filling in while I look for a nicer brass statue).

And finally, it’s time for...
The Internet Asks: Interesting Searches in My Access Stats

(The searches are in bold, my responses below)

who is the travelling ashtangi
Oh, that would be Skippetty! Four countries in five weeks and now she’s temporarily settled in Amsterdam, which is so full of awesome that I’m jealous! (and in Amsterdam, Mysore practice starts at 6 p.m. instead of 6 a.m. Decadent!)

how do you know you are an intermediate ashtangi
1) your practices get really long
2) you’re suddenly doing a LOT of backbending
3) then exhaustion sets in *snore*

right nutrition for ashtangis


Christine said...

Enjoy the Mysore classes..I'm jealous that you're close to a shala! ...but even in a Mysore room, it's still your practice and you're still ultimately "calling the shots". A good Mysore teacher will guide you not pressure you! :)
Looking forward to reading about your experiences!

Claudia said...

I admire you for the courage and surrendering of letting go of home practice and going for Mysore!, will be very interesting to follow your journey.

Skippetty said...

Wooo! Shout out! THANK YOU! We are in opposite boats. I now have to struggle with a mostly home-practice (IT SUCKS!) while you get to go to a shala (LUCKY YOU!)

I'm trying to be less spoilt now without a regular teacher. Some how it was easier to wake up at 4.50am to get to the shala and start practice at 5.45am everyday when I had a teacher than it is to wake up an hour later for home practice now. Go figure. I'm lazy and need a teacher's eagle-eye to give me a kick up my bum!