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What are you thankful for this year?

November 25, 2014

We’ll get a little ahead of the curve and ask the question of the week: What are you thankful for this year? It can be Ashtanga-related, but doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t even have to be yoga-related, really. Although that probably would help.

One answer might be: Not getting caught up in online debates about others quitting or not quitting Ashtanga.

And in keeping with the theme, here’s a whole bushel of vegetarian recipes for Thursday. Plus a piece about the militant vegetarianism in Mumbai.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga in the evening

November 24, 2014

A bit more than a year ago, Bobbie wrote a post she titled, simply, Ashtanga P.M. A key takeaway:

In the evening, I am done with the day. I have nothing else to distract me or detain me. This is what I have come for, and all that remains. My joints are more open, my muscles less stiff, and whatever else I may have done that day—like drive, or sit for hours; or fretting over some of the day’s drama—I can now work out and release.

This, for me, is when the mind is most quiet, most calm, and the practice can come with my complete attention. The Sun now is on the other side of the Earth, and while I wait for it to return, in the morning, in the Spring, I practice.

This fall — since the time change, really — our schedules have colluded so that, for the first time since I’ve been practicing Ashtanga, I’m joining her for evening practices.

Typically, she’s partway through by the time I make it home from work, giving our duo practice room the tiniest of Mysore feels.

But I suppose not much else is “traditional” about it. Still, here’s what I’ve found over a month or so of evening practicing:

  • The central thing it, not surprisingly, the difference between practicing while facing the day vs. when the day’s winding down. In the excerpt above, Bobbie described it as a lack of distraction. My experience is that my practice, at least, is much more reflective. Dare I even say: meditative. The practice becomes part of the slowing down, of the letting the day go instead of the ramp up to what’s ahead. I’m able to reflect — when those reflections intrude — on what I’ve accomplished rather than worry about what’s to come. (I think reflection intrudes a lot less than worry.) It might be like the difference between the moment preparing for a difficult pose — kapo is a favorite to cite, right? — and the moment just after moving out of it. The evening Ashtanga practice seems to be more the latter than the former.
  • The approach can be quite different. There certainly is a great relief and even exhilaration with having practice done by 7 a.m. or so and knowing the rest of the day is for living. But the evening practice has nothing after it (beyond maybe fixing dinner) for which one needs to save reserves. If you want, and if you are able, you can bust out the big practice without worrying about falling asleep during that long, sure-to-be-boring meeting. (A little like the benefit and pleasure of a yoga retreat.)
  • As Bobbie wrote, the body, joints and muscles are certainly looser. And I’d describe, for myself, that the above reflective state means the mind is looser, too. It seems easier to find the tristana of the practice.
  • You do have to think about practice all day — what you’re eating and when, notably. But it’s really not too much different than being mindful of eating too late or too heavy if you will be on your mat by 6 a.m. But there is a matter of managing energy; I feel like I need to have a little peak as practice starts.
  • The tough thing is when the day really intrudes on practice. A late, unexpected meeting or call that pushes the end of the work day back 30 minutes or an hour can foul up the start of practice (see managing energy above). For me, though, there are enough mornings when I have to be heading to work by 7 or 7:30 a.m. that this probably all balances out — there are equal numbers of mornings and evenings that might only allow for sun salutes and the trio of finishing poses. Evening may even prove more conducive to getting practice in.
  • And, finally, probably the most important thing: Coffee. It’s easy to suck down a cup right after you wake and charge the body with prana. It’s harder to balance a surge of energy against the desire to, you know, get to sleep before midnight. So the coffee drinking is finished hours earlier, and I may be having to call on my own reserves. We may also need to explore the benefits of a nice glass of whiskey following savasana.

Those are a few thoughts, at least.

Posted by Steve

New: ‘Guruji’ — Tribute piece to Pattabhi Jois

November 23, 2014

Here’s something to check out, maybe after your practice tomorrow morning. (More on P.M. Ashtanga coming soon.)

It’s a new upload, apparently from a concert this past week. You can upload the song and other pieces via links at the YouTube site.

Posted by Steve

How do you motivate yourself to practice, and other questions of David Robson

November 22, 2014

Going a little video heavy, but this looks like a new, nicely package — and succinct at about eight minutes — video of Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto’s David Robson:

Posted by Steve

Friday asana aid: Upward dog

November 21, 2014

At least one new video to share with you on this fundamental part of the Ashtanga practice: Upward dog.

Here goes, with one just up from DG:

And now a few more:


One focused on beginners:

And finally, because: dogs:

Posted by Steve

Let’s crowdsource: Collecting Ashtanga shala videos

November 20, 2014
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Here’s a call out to you: Do you know of video showing off the inner workings — aka practice — at any Ashtanga shalas?

I’ve had a few private messages seconding the idea of trying to collect any and all videos. We’ve posted a few over the years here. I think we have, and this is not exhaustive, the following: Ashtanga Yoga Center; Ashtanga Yoga in Melbourne; AYNY (via the NY Times); Copenhagen; Pacific Ashtanga; Paris; and (I always get confused) Victoria or Vancouver. (I’m actually having trouble finding it, so I may be mistaken.

And so I thought we’d try to crowdsource and get as definitive a list together as possible. It might make for an ugly looking post — a bunch of videos — but it might be kind of nice, as well.

So, do feel free (and encouraged) to post links in the comments — or via Facebook, too.

Posted by Steve

Deciding if the atman or non-atman wins, with Richard Freeman

November 19, 2014
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Noon Colorado time today (so maybe 30 or so minutes from when this posts), registration opens up for Richard Freeman’s week-long “Advanced Intensive” in June — and not at the Yoga Workshop, but in Santa Fe.

Bringing together yoga and Buddhism, it sounds… pretty mind-blowing:

Join Richard and Mary along with their dear friend and beloved teacher, Joan Halifax, at this remarkable residential retreat at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Though yoga and Buddhism have evolved into two distinct disciplines, they stem from common roots and their teachings remain some of the most accessible and profound. In this 5-day intensive we will explore differences and complementary concepts within these two classical systems as reflected in asana practice, as well as through study and chanting of traditional texts.

Historically yoga and Buddhism have opposed, stolen from and have even learned from each other. On the surface they seem to be based on conflicting axioms. Buddhists say that there is no self or atman. Hindu yogis say that the Self or atman is all that there is. Who’s right? By looking at the foundational teachings of early Buddhism, juxtaposed with the early Samkhya and Vedanta of the Upanisads, we will see if the atman or non-atman wins. Then we will consider Advaita Vedanta and the Middle Path of Mahayana Buddhism to see just how much these schools have helped each other to evolve.

Check out more information at the link above, including the prices. Exact dates are June 3-7, 2015.

This is a subject I was recently pondering. So, this is truly tempting.

Posted by Steve