It’s true, and its almost hard to talk about but I have a love-hate relationship with my Ashtanga yoga practice. Although I have been practicing for years, I still struggle with the practice, the rigidity, the structure, the form, and the injuries. You see, as a creative person, I like to express myself in my teaching and my practice. I like to explore new poses and connect with different parts of my body. But something always brings me back regardless of my struggles.
Ashtanga yoga was brought to me by one of my first teachers, Clayton Horton, a devotee of Sri K. Pattabi Jois. I was introduced to yoga at a gym, practiced Bikram yoga for a few years and then became hooked on Ashtanga. I loved it. I would wake up every morning at 5:30 am to meet with my teacher in his San Francisco Yoga Studio, Greenpath.
There was something methodical about our time together. His Mysore style class didn’t start till later in the morning, so it was usually just the two of us practicing together. It was solitary, cleansing and challenging. At my peak, I was practicing 5 days a week and made my way half-way through the second series which means I was still practicing the full primary and the first half of the second series. That’s a huge time investment – usually a minimum of 2 hours – yet I was committed and I loved it. Then something shifted and my body made me stop – I started getting severe sciatic pain when I would practice. I tried to ignore it but it wouldn’t go away or budge. I was so bummed – more like pissed. This practice that I invested many years in was no longer serving me or my body!!
I finally got to a point where I had to give it up for a few years. In this time, I made my way to a more creative form of yoga. Although my teaching style is based on the athleticism and structure of an Ashtanga practice, I loved the freedom and creativity of incorporating all different types of asana or poses into a class, whether I was practicing on my own or leading a group class. Yet, I keep coming back….
Today, I came to my mat and felt a strong urge to practice the primary series. I am not sure why I get the urge (it happens about once a week) but I think it’s my internal guide sending me a signal that I need this. My nerves need cleansing, I need the structure to slow down my mind and my soul needs this fundamental routine.
I have come to a peaceful place with my Ashtanga Practice. Currently, I have been keeping up with a primary series practice about once-a-week and I have found peace with that. In April, I started teaching an Ashtanga Class to a fantastic group of yogis at the Tribeca Equinox and it is so inspiring to watch all of them grow in their practice.
And of course I would love to hear your comments below.