I don’t usually post about my yoga practice because it’s a private thing for me. I rarely post photos of myself doing asanas because I feel that it’s no one else business which poses I am working on. Plus, because I feel that my yoga practice is a sacred thing, I don’t need to be bragging about it all over the internet. My students know me, and anyone who comes to my classes knows that I am dedicated to the Ashtanga Lineage and they know that I practice what I preach.
But there are many students of mine who want to know what it’s like to practice with Sharath, the grandson of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois and the one who brought Ashtanga yoga to the West. He also founded the Ashtanga Yoga Research Insitute in Mysore, India where I travel to for months at a time to study and practice Ashtanga yoga. In 2014, Sharath blessed me with Authorization to teach Ashtanga Yoga to students as he taught it to me, and as his grandfather taught it to him. There are many teachers worldwide with this authorization, and it takes many years of dedication to the Ashtanga practice and many trips to India to be eligible to receive it.
Whenever I can, I travel to practice with Sharath. I’ve been to New York, India and on this trip a week each in Copenhagen and Stockholm. It was a grind, and the practice more intense than I practice at home. Although the two weeks consisted of primary series only in a group led class, I was beat. My usual practice consists of primary series plus many second series poses added on after. So I thought that doing just primary series for two weeks would be a breeze, no drop backs, no intense back bends, arm balances or series of leg behind the head poses. Boy was I wrong.
Primary series, 12 days in a row, with one day break, in a led class almost brought me to a breaking point. There’s no time to move slowly into the postures, there’s no time to take during vinyasas, and every pose you feel like you succeed at seems inadequate. Every jump back and jump through I felt I could do better, but felt I was not strong enough to keep up with every one in the practice. Navasana (boat pose) seems to go on for eternity. Sirsasana (head stands) are held for what seems the entire morning, as I felt my shoulders collapsing under me as we held half bend for a long time. The final pose utplutih (lifting up in lotus posture) is the looooooongest count of ten breaths you could ever imagine. Every day I failed to hold myself up for the entire 10 breaths, until today, the last day.
My hamstrings are so sore that I limped back the 6-8 blocks to my apartment after class this morning. My shoulders and neck feel as bad as my hamstrings. But overall, I feel happy. Happy that I was able to be with my teacher. Happy that I am privileged enough to travel to Europe and take the two weeks to see the world as I follow my passion. Fortunate that I have reliable and excellent teachers to cover for me while I am gone. Grateful that I have been given the life to experience such things.
So if you are on this path of yoga, know that physically it will not always be easy. Mentally it will be challenging. Spiritually it will have you question everything you thought you knew. Going down this path has you question your convictions and your beliefs. It will change who you are and who you thought you were. If you do it right, it will bring you to a breaking point, only to let you know that you can be better, you can do better, you are capable of great things that you never even considered possible. It’s the road less traveled. It’s the path of most resistance. It’s the journey inside yourself, where all the answers are found. So keep going. Don’t stop.
As Sharath left this morning after class he said, “Keep practicing, don’t stop.”
~Photo courtesy of Yogashala Stockholm