The Ashtanga Talking Points Memo

When I first heard about The Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, the idea instantly resonated with me. Now that I’m all locked in and registered, I have time to reflect. Why does it seem so appealing?

Jörgen’s shala here in LA has a strong sense of community. So does Diana’s shala in Dana Point. And Tim’s in Carlsbad, of course. I think I’m so excited about the Confluence because of sheer size. A giant shala. Sometimes, being an Ashtangi can feel isolating.

Have you ever tried to describe what you do? “So you do yoga. Isn’t that, like, stretching to music?” Perhaps they confuse it with Bikram Choudhury’s method: “Is that the one with the really hot room?” Or maybe they’ve heard of Ashtanga by its fearful rep: “Oh man. You do Ashtanga?” a colleague of mine once said, “Aren’t you guys like the Marines of yoga?”

No disrespect!

I had to think about that one—my father was a Marine. The Latin motto, “Semper fidelius” (“Always faithful,” frequently shortened to a barked, “Semper Fi!”) seemed right. My father used to wake up at 4:30 every morning. “First ones in, last ones out,” he used to say. That also seemed to fit—one of my teachers used to paraphrase the Army tag line: “We do more before 10 a.m. than most people do their whole lives.” Do you remember when you first started Ashtanga, and all those surya namaskars and chaturangas felt like boot camp?

Sometimes I use this. It’s a convenient phrase to counteract the “stretching to music” image. But it’s totally wrong, of course (too militaristic; although Tim has on occasion “yelled” at me, he was usually laughing at the time). It seems to me what we need are some “talking points” as we tell our friends and family about our upcoming Confluence. What do you think of these?

• There are twenty yoga classes’ worth of poses in one Ashtanga class. That’s a 20/1 ratio. It’s very economical.

• I do not fear Sanskrit. I speak Sanskrit. Here, I’ll prove it: tirangamukhaikapadapaschimottanasana.

• No breathing without movement. Think about that for a second.

• Do you know where your mulabandha is? Well, I do. At all times.

• For everything I do, I know exactly where to look.

• We call it “practice.” There are lots of things that I can’t do. I’m cool with that.

• I wring out my liver every morning. Except Saturdays.

• We do a warm up, then we practice, then we do some more poses, then we rest.

Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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