On practicing Ashtanga alone, in prison
One of the most wonderful things about having this blog is the connections it has enabled us to have with people throughout the country and the world.
Eddie Stern introduced us, and I’m sure others, to Robbie last year. Robbie teaches Ashtanga to prisoners at the Richmond City Jail. He has written a bit more about it as well as shared new letters from one of the prisoners he taught, who now is continuing his Ashtanga journey on his own.
That’s pretty incredible on its own. Even more incredible (this is becoming an incredible-filled post) are the letters that Bryan Shull sends to Robbie.
I urge you to check his post out, and to encourage you, here are just two quick excerpts. First, Robbie on why he teaches in the jail:
On Monday afternoon, about 15 minutes into my practice at the Abner Clay Park gazebo in Jackson Ward, I peripherally noticed a guy coming toward me, who stopped and leaned against the gazebo upright pole. He began talking softly, “Man, when I used to do yoga I felt better than I ever did! But that was a year and a half ago.” From downward dog I asked, “Oh, yeah — where’d you practice yoga?” He replied, “In the City Jail — wait! — Rob! It’s Sylvester!” I finished my sun salutation and we greeted warmly.
Robbie continues from there, and it is very worth the time.
I’m sure, though, that Robbie would want me to be pointing you in the direction of Bryan’s writing. Here’s just a taste:
As Valentines Day approaches I find myself in a last minute rush to finish my mailings & trying to balance my practise & reck time with Church & meetings. I found myself letting the same foolish thoughts I had at Christmas return, Should I take a few days off, then double back with an extra dose of devotion? Then I started thinking about my teacher preaching every day at least 10 sun salutations, My dad’s old song about not ever borrowing money to get out of debt & that’s when it hit me … How hard it was to catch back up from Christmas & how silly it would be to go through that again! So I shifted my thinking a bit to what it should always be, putting my recovery, spiritual practices/Yoga first and then let everything else in my life fall into place.
One of the few things I’ve learned in this life is that everything is relative. Your perspective on or reaction to an issue depends on where you are and from where you’re looking at it. I mean that in both an internal (my experiences versus yours) and external (where I life and when versus where you live and when) way.
One of the manifestations of this is that we really and truly — and honestly — can be upset about something minor and feel like it is a big, big deal. I think it is OK that we cut ourselves a bit of slack for feeling that way — as long as we come to realize its proper place in the scheme of things. (Note: This does not apply to my daily commute, which is the worst thing ever.)
When my alarm goes off at 5 a.m. so I can get up and practice and it feels like the worst thing in the world, for a second, it is. But I have to get my bearing — see the web of experiences and preconditions, which Richard Freeman writes about in “The Mirror of Yoga” — and see things as they truly are. And realize what is important and what isn’t. Understand what’s not something worth being upset about versus what is.
Stories like Bryan’s are reminders of this. And they also are reminders of the boundless wonder we are capable of, if we do clear away the doors of perception.
Posted by Steve