Ashtanga’s Biggest Problem*

June 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

Are the Ashtangis.

You know, the ones who say that “Ashtanga is the Ferrari of yoga”. Who proudly wear the badges of injuries and joint dislocations as necessary collateral in the pursuit of asana advancement. Who draw and maintain a strict boundary between “Us” – the ones who change diets, lives and sleeping patterns in the name of samadhi – and “Them”, those who are not committed enough to change their lives for a 6-day practice.

They view the world through the narrow lens of asana, judging the worth of others by their ability (or lack of) to put their legs behind the head while balancing on their hands.

They don’t understand that the goal of the practice is to enhance our life off the mat, but instead insist that it’s the other way around.

They talk about asana all. the. time.

I could go on, but I won’t. Lest you think that I’m turning into a variant of a yoga hipster keen on dissing everything that’s wrong with the world – I’m not. I’m just trying to be real about the illusions around the practice and the stories we tell ourselves about this identity of being an “Ashtangi”. Those traits I listed above? I see them in myself, particularly in the first year of practice when I was swept up with the intensity of it all, and was plotting my way to Second Series nine months in.

How fabulously shallow it is. And how contrary it runs to the eight limbs of this lineage that we’re supposedly working towards by contorting ourselves into a ridiculous amount of poses on a sticky mat.

I’m currently in the midst of a 10-day workshop with Chuck Miller and if you’ve practiced with him in the past couple of years, you’ll understand why I’m writing this post right now. His views on yoga, the Ashtanga practice and how its a privilege and tool for change in our lives (and by extension, the world) is an inspiring and much-needed cleanse of the mind and its illusions that accumulate through our conditioned existence. Mind-blowing.

“If you want to see a miracle, look into the mirror.”   ~Chuck Miller

*Substitute “Ashtanga” with your social group of choice: Christianity, Iyengar, the Tea Party, Politicians….
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§ 2 Responses to Ashtanga’s Biggest Problem*

  • mariavlong says:

    Grimmly posted a video not too long ago where Chuck Miller was teaching at a place called Babylonyoga (not sure where that is). I was astonished by his detailed instructions, so infused with gentle kindness. I made the mistake of not attending a workshop while he was in NYC this past spring. Fortunately one of the shala teachers attended and shared her notes. During that one he said that your biggest obstacle in asana practice is your greatest asset and your most dedicated teacher. Therefore you should approach that pose with the utmost gratitude and respect. (I might be paraphrasing ). Great post D.

    • D says:

      Yes! I saw that video too, the studio’s in Vancouver. He gives very detailed instructions, which is overwhelming at first, but the good thing is that he repeats a lot of them throughout the workshop.

      What I love is that he’s grounded in Ashtanga yoga but is also influenced by Iyengar’s focus on alignment and uses Zen’s big-picture approach to the practice, spirituality, life, etc, to tie it all together. Lots of good quotes, and the one you shared about obstacles is 110% Chuck. He talks alot about learning to be a beginner, having a beginner’s mind (Shunryu Suzuki’s influence). I have so many thoughts and impressions from the week (I’m doing the teacher trainings as well) but they’re percolating and it will take time to translate into a proper post. Stay tuned 😉

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