“Like an addict’s moment of clarity, the pandemic presents a singular occasion to break the chains of denial that imprison us. A moment to objectively examine that which no longer serves us. The behaviors that repeatedly lead us astray. An economic system that demands constant growth at the cost of the collective good. A political system that preys on fear to divide. A conglomerated food apparatus that foments disease. A pharmaceutical complex that relies upon that disease to create dependency. And ultimately a collective obsession with ego, power, money, and material consumption that is rapidly eroding our biosphere, degrading our integrity — and separating us from others, ourselves and our innate divinity.”
Oddly enough today, I drew the “niyamas” card from my A Yogic Path deck by Sahara Rose* I didn’t intend to post about niyamas today, but I take the card as a sign!
This post is part of a series exploring how the eight limbs of yoga manifest in a yoga practice. See Part I here.
Limb 2: Niyama (observances)
In an asana practice, a yogi strives for purity in mind and body. This relates to cleanliness, both physically and being of a “clean” mind. Simplicity is also valued. In a world where the yoga industry generates millions of dollars a year, a yogi can buy the “latest and greatest” in terms of gear and clothing. A yogi resists overabundance. The asana practice also benefits when a yogi studies the sacred texts and recognizes the supreme being that has power over the world and its inhabitants. The yoga mat is a place for introspection and reflection, and that also plays a role in a yogi’s life off the mat.
* I am loving this deck. It’s the first deck I’ve ever bought. The cards are definitely choosing me!
We held a Mysore class* at SunMoon studio for the first time in years last Thursday and guess what? Ten people showed up!! This is in Mankato! A Mysore class in Minneapolis might draw about 20 people on a good day, and Minneapolis is waaaay bigger than Mankato! Thanks go to Mona and Mel for building an Ashtanga community in Mankato since about 2003 — many of us who were around in those early years are still here, and still practicing.
I wanted to write a few posts that explain the benefits of a Mysore practice at a studio. I can think of community, assistance, and accountability. Today I will focus on community.
Think of those things you do both in isolation but also as part of a community. The first things that come to my mind are church and writing.
Most church-goers will go to church for an hour a week (maybe more during the Advent and Lent seasons). But that’s not the only time they are being spiritual. They pray silently at home and may have a devotional practice upon waking or before going to bed.
Writers have to write on their own. That’s the nature of the craft. But that work needs to be shared with trusted people — hence, the writing group. It’s a place to share work but also a place to share the ups and downs of the writing life.
Ashtangis have a Mysore practice at home, but when it’s possible it’s important to come together with other Ashtangis, just as spiritual people come together and writers come together.
A community allows you to share a space with like-minded people. The energy of a practice grows exponentially with others. You can find inspiration. You can ask someone about Marichyasana D or sirsasana and get ideas for how to obtain the asana.
A community provides a sense of belonging. Many studies show that being part of a community can improve mental health. Just look at the suggestions in this article. A Mysore practice fulfills about five points on the list! Be part of a community while at the same time making time for yourself, destressing, finding a purpose, and staying positive.
The Ashtangis who left practice last Thursday all had smiles on their faces. I received many comments of gratitude. But I am just holding the space for them. We are a thirsty Ashtanga community in Mankato, and this first Mysore class after many years is just the beginning!
Upcoming posts: the benefits of a Mysore class for receiving assistance, and holding yourself accountable.
* Mysore-style Ashtanga is done on your own. You should have a familiarity with the practice and have started to memorize the sequence before attending a Mysore class. It is called Mysore because that was the home of K. Pattabhi Jois, who popularized Ashtanga beyond India in the latter half of the 20th century.
I live 80 miles from a shala that offers Mysore-style Ashtanga. That distance doesn’t make it practical for me to practice at a shala regularly. Instead, I have to be committed to a home practice (a woman I met at the workshop let me know about the Ashtanga Home Practitioners network on Facebook — that’s already been so helpful!).
But in July I started teaching a class on Monday evenings at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. So I started to think…I could stay overnight on Mondays and go to Lynn Thomasberg’s Mysore class at One Yoga on Tuesday mornings.
So for four weeks, that’s what I did. I was a little nervous the first day with my limited Mysore experience and being in a new space. But I clearly remember the moment during that practice when the endorphins released and I felt buoyant, energized, and happy. That feeling continued throughout the day.
I finished my last Mysore class yesterday and I was a little sad even before it began, knowing it would be my last one for a while. I will miss the addictive positive energy that comes from a challenging class. I’m already trying to figure out ways to make this work during the school year 🙂
(The fifth Mysore class I did was during the Angela Jamison workshop. That week I had done three Ashtanga classes — a first for me!).
Every time I take an Ashtanga class or attend a workshop, I’m newly inspired in my home practice. Thanks to all the practice I did in July, I have a plan for my daily sessions (prior to this I did whatever I felt called to do in the morning, but that was a little too fluid). I created a calendar in which I do something different each day. For now it looks like this:
Today is Guru Purnima, the day in the Hindu culture to honor our teachers.
Teachers come in many different forms. They may have a formal role as a teacher, or they may present themselves as a teacher simply in the way they guide you.
In the opening chant in Ashtanga, we reference the sage Patanjali. I was told that the opening chant is a way to honor the teachers of Ashtanga who have come before us and who have passed down the practice.
In the spirit of Guru Purnima, I recognize the teachers who have shown me the Ashtanga path:
Maria, my first Ashtanga teacher. I showed up to Ashtanga at SunMoon back in 2002 or 2003 without any idea of what it was. I instantly felt welcomed by Maria and the community of Ashtangis.
Mona, owner of SunMoon who had the wisdom to bring Ashtanga to Mankato. She has lovingly supported this practice in Mankato for nearly two decades.
Mel, the teacher with whom I practiced the longest. She was encouraging both physically and mentally. She could spot resistance in the body and knew that the practitioner had to work on more than the physical before the asana could open.
David Rogers. I only practiced Mysore with him last summer a few times, but I so appreciated his knowledge and style of teaching. He was the one to help me break some of the bad habits I had developed over the years, lol 🙂
Angela Jamison. I met Angela in 2018 at a workshop held at Ashtanga Yoga Minneapolis. I was hungry for knowledge, having just dedicated myself to a regular Ashtanga practice. I will never forget Angela’s entrance into my life right when I needed it. I just spent another weekend with her and will see her any chance I get.
David Swenson. David has been a teacher to me for years, albeit only in book form. His practice manual has been my Ashtanga bible for years. It was an honor to take a weekend workshop with him last September.
Lynn Thomasberg. I first met Lynn in March at an assist workshop at OneYoga. I felt comfortable with her and learned that she and Mel were friends, so of course I liked her right away! I have agreed to do an Ashtanga teaching apprentice program with her this fall and I just started to take Mysore classes with her this summer.
If you are a woman, when you last went out with girlfriends, did you talk about your weight? Your bodies? Your diets?
Do men get together and criticize their physical appearance?
It’s time to start loving ourselves. Your body is amazing. Look at everything it allows you to do each day. Your body isn’t the reason why people love you. People love your intellect, your humor, your compassion.
I know one thing: If I never work on it, I’ll never be able to do it.
I attended a “flying and floating” workshop on Saturday at Good Vibrations Yoga in Hopkins, Minnesota, with Sara Mandel. I’ve been working on my jump-throughs and jump-backs and I had a lot of fun experimenting with those movements on Saturday.
It strikes me that many of us think, “Will I ever _________?”
In other parts of my life, at different times, my questions have been:
Will I ever publish a book?
Will I ever run a marathon?
Will I ever be able to swim almost a mile in an Olympic-distance triathlon?
Will I ever be able to do sirsasana (headstand)?
The answers to those questions have all been yes. Because I worked at each one, sometimes for years. Through each process I have learned more about patience and trust.
How do you fill in that blank? What are you doing to make that answer “Yes!”?