A Very Personal Practice – Why I Am Grateful For Ashtanga Yoga (#4)

The silence that happens in a personal practice, in a Mysore room, where each practitioner goes through the series they may be at (first, second, third) in silence, and the teacher adjusts each one individually meeting them where they are, is precious.

It is something to be experienced at least once.

Centred Yoga Mysore Room – Silence

There is magic in the promise of the quiet time ahead, for 1.5/2 hours, in the commitment to being present with the body, finding where it hurts, noticing the places where we stop (for example before three back bends in a row because we are scared). In that space we learn about our mental processes, we learn about not just how we do our asana practice but how we conduct our lives. 

This personal dedication to being with our own bodies is our final teacher.  They say we don’t really learn something until we have thought it, until we have let it run through our nervous system enough times that we understand it and have verbalized it for others to understand.

This is the beauty of self-practice. We learn by doing, no directions involved. Rather we experiment in our inner lab, we play with the only instrument we have to access the divine behind everything.

To give you an example, this is how my understanding of a seemingly simple pose like Tadasana evolved:

Pattabhi Jois in Tadasana
Mountain pose

In the first couple of years of practice Tadasana was, for me, an embarrassing pose.  I did not like how my inner thighs touched while other beautiful yogis had space between them, and in my mind, looked ‘better than me’.  This is not a reflection of the pose but of my mental state at the time. It was not a good one, it was leading to eating disorders.

Eventually through visiting many teachers, taking many more silent classes, and practicing on my own, I came to understand how the balance on the four corners of the feet was of tremendous importance not only to how I would balance throughout the rest of the practice, which was a revelation in itself, but also throughout the rest of the day.

Noticing that, Samastitihi (Tadasana) became a more important pose, and not any longer one that I dismissed as if it was just a painful thing to ‘get over and done with as quickly as possible’.

B.K.S. in Tadasana

These days my understanding of Tadasana is deeper, I am in complete awe at seeing the prana and apana  (upward and downward forces) within he body at play as I balance in the four corners of the feet, engage the quads, tighten the perineum (mula bandha), lift up my sternum, pull my belly in and up (uddyana bandha), lift the chin up, look peacefully along the sides of my nose, relax the muscles of the  shoulders and face, find  balance, chest buoyant.

Then there is the deep play of the lower body gathering energy from what seems to be the center of the earth and flowing upwards while the head levels the cosmic energy and brings it downward.  Both meeting in the center of my solar plexus.  I feel the energy moving. I feel the breath beginning to warm my body. I feel concentration happening.

There is SO MUCH within this very first, seemingly non-important pose, that I find myself in gratitude that I can practice it. I wonder what practitioners who have done it even longer than me discover.

And so, over long periods of time of repeating the poses, of directing the will to go within, of observing how the body changes with the day, the temperature, the emotions, the fluctuations of our mind, we learn about ourselves.

And if we are lucky we might at some point be able to navigate our deep fall into a state of silence without waking up any of the talking monsters that live in our minds, and experience a state of “at-one-ment”. We just might.


6 Responses to A Very Personal Practice – Why I Am Grateful For Ashtanga Yoga (#4)

  1. Hannah December 19, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    Thanks for this wonderful perspective on going deeper into the poses and really finding the edge of even those ones that we think are just "there."

  2. Claudia December 19, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Hannah, yes it is funny how the mind tricks us into thinking some poses are more important and others just there, you are welcome, glady to hear from you.

  3. xuuya December 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    You have beautifully put the Magic of Mysore into words – thank you for that. There is this great silence, but I love that it&#39;s not an empty silence… there&#39;s a hum to the room. The out-of-sync ujjayi coming from everyone in the room often has a hypnotic effect on me. <br /><br />I&#39;m living in a city with only one Ashtanga studio, and I have recently decided to stop practicing there

  4. lilasvb December 20, 2011 at 12:01 am #

    i really love to follow you

  5. nobodhi December 20, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    Claudia, your experience of Tadasana/Samastitihi is that of a true yogi, absolute presence and reverence.

  6. Claudia December 20, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Xuuya, good point, yes the hum of the room… Sorry to hear about your studio experience, glad this helped somehow… I appreciate your kind words :-)<br /><br />Lilasvb thank you 🙂 Mysore soon ha?<br /><br />Nobodhi thanks