The Beginner Ashtangi Mind

yoga1“Enjoy the feeling of not knowing how to do something; there will come a time when you miss that feeling.” My teacher said this to me in mysore one morning as a few students and I went back and forth about the concept of ”experience”. I found these words of wisdom a bit hard to accept when I was stuck on a plateau of Marichasana B for weeks. And yet, when I advanced to the next pose I immediately felt that this was a necessary process; through the focused repetition of the series I had developed a greater appreciation of the practice for teaching me actual presence, real patience.  Understanding this new concept of time in practice, or what the ego knows of it, has been one of the many revelations.

I have been practicing Ashtanga for the last 6 months of my 4 year journey with yoga. I began taking mysore classes in an effort to develop a more consistent daily practice. I had never even heard of this method and then Ganesha showed up and uncovered the path; information about Ashtanga kept showing up all around me. I developed this bounding curiosity, seeing yogis leaving mysore classes at my local studio- grounded/uplifted in a way I hadn’t seen before. So I started asking around and got the impression that it was a bit intense. Yogis that didn’t practice Ashtanga were intimidated by it, and yogis that did had this “get shit done” demeanor about their practice. I was equally nervous and interested.

I began mysore practice feeling as though I wasn’t a beginner, and there I was, pouring sweat 3 rounds into my Sun B’s. There was a definite moment where I literally didn’t know what was happening to me. Turns out I had quiet an attachment to external things in class; my water bottle and sweat towel, my favorite distractions! After a bit of healthy hesitation I came to understand that all I needed was that which the practice was offering me; awareness of breath, posture, gaze.  It was as if I was starting all over again. I wanted to do backbends and inversions and all these other forms that I knew I was capable of- but instead I let go of the old paradigm ways, and let primary series gradually take hold.

The roots of Ashtanga draw me in more than anything else now. The lineage of this form feels so much like a path that I have been on for some time. The more texts that I read, the more workshops I attend, the craving for knowledge grows.  My renewed sense of studentship is abundant. I recognize now how the evolution of practice greatly depends on one’s ability to tap into pure dedication.

One of the many inspirational things that Sri K. Pattabhi Jois has said brings me to my current state of beginners mind:

”Yoga is, what you don’t see. The powerful movements of ashtanga are only the exterior surface of an internal spiritual journey. Behind the strength of the body, is an energy, which is spiritual and which keeps us alive. To achieve access to the spirituality, you must first understand the physical. This body is our temple and in this temple is Atman – God.”

After years of only physical practice, I am now gaining access to spirituality as well. This is a great deal in part to the Ashtanga tradition. The evolutions of the limbs of yoga within practice continue to amaze my heart. I hope to always hold a sense of beginner’s mind, even when I am breezing through 4th series with grace and ease. 😉