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. 😉

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YogaGrow creator Sondra Bloxam featured in Origin Magazine!

YogaGrow creator Sondra Bloxam featured in Origin Magazine!

The 12th issue of Origin Magazine brings together 20 powerful women leaders, over 100 yogis changing the world, the top vegetarian athletes, and more! This is by far my favorite publication, ever! Fusing together art, culture, conscious lifestyle, and the movers and shakers of our time, Origin Magazine serves as the world megaphone of advocacy and awareness from the ground up.

So much gratitude for Origin editor, Maranda Pleasant, who gave me the space to share what I believe is important in this life.

To be among women that I admire so deeply is incredibly empowering! This connection of women leaders holds such abundance and great spirit.

Simon Park: A Yogi Leader with the Spirit of a Musician

Simon and IAfter Studying with Simon Park at his Liquid Flow Intensive at Yoga Pearl in Portland, OR this March we sat down to talk music, nature, inspiration, and old school teachings..

Sondra: Aside from your teachers what would you say inspires you in your practice?

Simon: I like to think that I am influenced by an open field; artists, sometimes athletes, but mostly creative artists. I think my heart is close to the spirit of a musician, improvisation, innovation, bringing something unique to the table but also connection to your personal expression and state of flow. I try to bring all of that into the field of yoga and try to keep my mind open, its good to be influenced by a not just a certain discipline.

Sondra: So what music?

Simon: Ahh, I grew up in Philly, and Philly is kind of known for a certain sound; soul and funk back in the day, hip-hop. Some people actually still claim that hip-hop came from Philly and not New York so that is that kind of the funky side. Philly is also a very eclectic multicultural place with influence from all over. I grew up playing a little jazz, I love jazz, I love the freestyle aspect of jazz. recently I have gotten into a lot of minimalist piano music. There is an artist in part named Ludovico Einaudi an Italian composer, he is extremely creative with so much feel to it. Even though it’s one person it creates a whole soundscape of ideas.

Sondra: So you’ve started this world tour- putting all of your energy out there!

Simon: Yea you know two years ago I took off on a sizable trip and I had just read Keith Richards autobiography, he was like my hero. The Stones the way they toured were like my role models. I actually bought a 1972 original tour poster from the Stones’ North American tour and it was my inspiration.

At this point I just keep rolling, it has now just become a way of life; which for the stones they were touring from 64-66 nonstop.

Sondra: What do you think is the most vulnerable part of all of that?

Simon: Oh the breakdown happens. There’s always those moments when you don’t know what you are doing or why you are doing it and you don’t know where home is, your so far away from home. That does happen, it’s inevitable. But I think that it’s part of the experience, which is the challenge, I like challenges. I think you grow stronger at the end and if you are being challenged it’s to find your purpose. You really have to search for it from within.

Sondra: When you have those moments of breakdown down, what keeps it all together?

Simon: Just practice, and connection to people, Also just keeping my mind to the task at hand and being present. One step at a time.

Sondra: What makes you feel fully alive?

Simon: I love practicing in nature; maybe an amazing beach or high up in the mountains, on a river on the rocks, sometimes on a ledge, to put all that practice into actually play. I don’t balance on ledges much anymore, it was a little selfish. Sometimes practicing in nature makes so much sense that going inside almost doesn’t make sense anymore. The little setting that we close ourselves to what we call our practice, it just seems so limiting. The practice is worldwide and vast and can be in an open space.

Sondra: Is there anything about traveling that you like most?

Simon: Definitely the people. I feel extremely fortunate to have this kind of collective. I feel like I’m visiting friends all the time.

Sondra: What are your favorite sayings?

Simon: Jimmy Hendrix said “The earth is my home.”

It’s not a quote but I loved Keith Richards’ devotion to his band mates and his devotion to his art form above all even amongst his addictions. That work ethic and those principals literally carried up all through those crazy years. It’s a good example because there are those times where I’m traveling and teaching, traveling and teaching and it’s just nonstop. You have to have something that keeps you going. I don’t know if you could call Keith Richards a role model but for touring he’s a good one!’

Sondra: Yes! Within the community of band mates.

Simon: Yea for sure. My teacher Shiva Rea, I’ve known her for 18 years. She is still my teacher. People say: “You could kind of go out on your own and teach”. I do a little of that but I think people these days are too quick to search for the lifelong connect with people. It’s more of a convenient connection for time, and then they just move on. I like the old school, lifelong teacher-student relationship. I have band mates, it’s Shiva and her crew,. Some of her assistants I am lifelong friends with, those are my band mates. I still work within Shiva’s umbrella of training’s and workshops with everyone.

Sondra: Was there a calling or moment where it was like: That’s my teacher!

Simon: She was my teacher from day 1. Literally I walked into yoga class and there she was. I signed up for a class at UCLA and she was the teacher. After a few classes and a few months with her when I realized she was my teacher I thought I would never have another teacher again. I felt like what’s the point? I had found the best teacher possible in the world, we fit perfect right from the beginning. I didn’t connect to the yoga right away- it was really difficult and challenging, I was really disorientated. But as a teacher there was nobody else. Eventually I did find other teachers, moved away and lived in different places.

But I remember practicing with Shiva years ago, watching her practice and thinking- I just couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t world famous? I could see this very special quality in her being; the way she approached the practice, it was an aura you could just see it. It was very special.

Sondra: You’re offering 3-day long Prana Flow training’s as a part of your World Tour. Is that a precursor to training’s with Shiva or your spin on Prana Flow?

Simon: Ah that’s a good question. Her system is an open Vinyasa system where you can incorporate your previous experience from other styles. She herself was a student of many styles; Ashtanga, Iyengar and some more esoteric teachers like Shandor Remete that teaches shadow yoga. She was able to incorporate it within Krishnamacharya’s original teachings which was the first real Vinyasa teacher.

As a mentor, she encourages open exploration for those that teach under her. There is a clear methodology, practiced for over 25 years. Shiva is quite an academic she loves to clarify her thesis and present it. There are four primary modules that make up a 200 hour training. There are advanced modules hat you can put toward the 500 hours training At some point my goals is to do a 200 hour training somewhere.

Sondra: Portland…?

Simon: Portland, maybe Surf Beach in Nicaragua.

Sondra: Within this extended family of friends that you meet, how can people come to study with you more?

Simon: I am like: Catch me if you can! I don’t think it’s by design but it has always just been my personality. I remember Shiva saying after workshop; “see ya down the road”. In ten plus years of traveling, I’ve sent out one email. I want people to find me. It’s kind of that old school. I heard this story about these sadhus in the cave, these yogi masters in a cave and students would go up and tried to study with them. Once the sadhus saw that people were coming they would start to throw furniture out the door and throw rocks at them; it’s like what are you doing here? Make it challenging. Because I float around and my publicity isn’t highly organized I’m hard to find. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and you would think at some point you would get a localized following but they are just everywhere. We will meet up when we meet up.

Sondra: What would be your advice on what to work on after a Prana Flow intensive?

Simon: Constant practice. We are exposed to enough information to be able to practice it. We tend to sell ourselves short with how much we know already, so just putting that into practice is the biggest thing. Self practice is really rewarding I think. Develop a regular self practice, just a little desire, a little passion. That goes a long way.

As Simon said he is rather elusive, buuuut if you want catch up with him on his tour check out his event’s throughout the rest of the year at his Liquid Flow Yoga website.

Following the Wave of Inspiration

Cape Lookout, Oregon Coast

Today I gave a judo-chop to all reservations and manifested YogaGrow!  The Portland Yoga community, and my time spent immersed within the culture that is yoga has inspired me to connect with others and build relationships that support Yoga growth.

I am setting my intention to harness the love, creativity, and inspiration that comes with yoga, through event planning and community outreach by YogaGrow.

Join me in this exciting journey to build the capacity of yoga happenings to impact and improve the lives of others!

Love & Light,

Sondra