Random thoughts from Sunday at the Confluence

A final wrap-up of our thought-by-thought impression of the Ashtanga Yoga Conflence. More on some specifics to come, trust us. Sunday’s theme was: “Well, we’ve already blown your mind, so what’s a little more mind-blowing going to hurt?”

Sunday Mysore:

Bobbie: The practice room and the Boardroom (where the first wave went to do closing)–everyone savoring every minute. The assistants working the floor, doing awesome work.

Steve: It really didn’t matter where you were. You got touched. I heard a lot of people saying that every teacher had touched them at some point during the weekend.

Bobbie: Teaching going on. I can hear David’s voice, instructing a student. He spots me in supta vajrasana, then lifts me up and through my first-ever jump back from that pose.

Steve: It’s true. I saw it with my own eyes. My big “first-ever” would come on Monday. (Stay tuned.)

Bobbie: Sweet, sweet shavasana, sun streaming in the windows. Nobody wants it to end.

Onto the talk on the Sutras:

Bobbie: Proof of “No coffee, no prana.” The session on the Eight Limbs begins with Carol bringing all the teachers large cups of coffee. “This panel sponsored by Starbucks,” says David.

Steve: Tim describes the Yamas and Niyamas as guiding our behavior as social beings and says they are quite simple “in principle.” Essentially based on the law of karma.

Bobbie: Connections among the limbs coming fast and furious. Richard links satya with the things Nancy has said about ahimsa. Eddie links asteya with pratyahara, It just keeps coming. Tim links aparigraha with asteya. They weave webs in the air.

Steve: Nancy on ahimsa: “It’s a big subject.” Henrietta was her first teacher in this. Henrietta the lobster her father brought home, live, for a fancy dinner when she was about 11, I think it was. She still remembers the lobster’s name. (Which she gave her, obviously!) You shouldn’t cause harm in speech, or even thought — where it all starts. Also: Don’t be violent to yourself. “In our yoga practice, we can be violent and abusive to ourselves.” So don’t be so “self-competitive.” “If you’re beating yourself up, that isn’t yoga. Period.” I think about how this reflects on my thinking of yoga as tapasya.

Bobbie: Richard makes a parallel between satyam and epistemology; David links bramacharya with ethics, santosha with death. Steve draws a little picture of himself with his brain blowing out the top of his head.

Steve: You missed another reason for the mind-blowing. He also tied things into Kant’s categorical imperative. I was not told there would be such heavy philosophy. But there was. For instance, what’s kept Richard from expressing a religious choice: that he doesn’t know “for absolute certainty… in my heart of hearts or my mind of minds.” And he asks this question: How would you know if you were omniscient?

Bobbie: All the way though their discussion of the Yamas and Niyamas, of the “other” limbs, tons of jokes. I get so focused I lose all track of time, laughing all the while.

Steve: Yes, thank goodness for all the jokes. Because there also was this, from Richard: “Honesty allows the mind to fully manifest itself as it is so you can see through the whole charade.”

Bobbie: Richard asking Tim–with the exact tone of a little kid who knows a secret–“Can I tell them? Because it’s really cool!”

Bobbie: Eddie’s explanation of the three ash stripes on Guruji’s forehead is delivered in hushed tones, rapid fire and articulate. It’s not a mark of a Shivite, but is much more specific: Vishnu and Shiva are equally divine. It’s a mark of peace made between followers of each.

Steve: Eddie also attached astaya to the theft of ideas, concepts, other people’s ideas, and that as yoga teachers, everyone is just standing on the accumulated knowledge they have received. There’s no ownership. Oh, and David talked brahmacharya without once mentioning sex. Eddie noted this. David also had a wonderful take on siddhis, those super powers we all want. They are tests, and what are they really good for? There’s a point where they become dangerous — power corrupts, right? “It’s easy to abuse power, it’s rare when people don’t.”

Final session: They went long earlier in the day, so they must finish the final Niyamas and then move on to “practicing yoga in the West.”

Bobbie: This compact bit of logic from Richard: When you view all things through the lens of samadhi, you achieve enlightenment, THEREFORE KEEP PRACTICING.

Steve: It was great fun to watch the other four teachers repeat the sutras after Tim said it — his usual call and response way of teaching. A point from Tim: “The asana practice is a great training ground for life.”

Bobbie: Nancy answering a question about why we do the practice: “It makes me happy.”

Steve: Eddie says he stopped looking for enlightenment after seeking it earlier in life. “I stopped looking for enlightenment of even really thinking about it” after practicing with Guruji.

Bobbie: David answering a question about enlightenment, “I’d just like to say I am enlightened. And if you’d like to be enlightened, too, buy my DVD.” It’s a perfect example of the way David uses humor. He follows quickly with, “Answers are overrated.”

Steve: Nancy and Tim both had wonderful things to say about bhakti. Nancy talked about learning to move the energy the same way in chanting or seated as you do in asana. Tim also got the biggest laugh of the Confluence, but it just won’t translate here. David joked after about how it would be what everyone remembered. And Eddie wanted us to spread this word: It’s a myth that Ashtanga was designed for adolescent boys. More on that. But I repeat: It’s a myth!

Bobbie: Eddie throwing fake little brother punches at Tim.

Steve: Eddie also had a great takedown of the New York Times reporter who’s written the book on yoga and injuries and, now, also how yoga started as a Tantric sex cult. “As if that’s a bad thing,” Eddie says. Game, set, match.

Bobbie: Tim and Eddie both choked up at the end of the panels. It feels like saying goodbye at the end of a family reunion. I’ll miss them. And you guys, too!

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

6 thoughts on “Random thoughts from Sunday at the Confluence”

  1. Thanks for coming over to say hi Steve. I am so glad you and Bobbie wrote in this format. It is a pleasure to read. I missed the 3 to 5 PM conference so thanks for the excellent recap. Let the countdown resume!

  2. Thank you for providing such a great summary! I think we (Ashtanga Yoga Gainesville) were sitting behind you guys during the last panel discussion, but we lost you as the group scattered afterwards. AYC- what an amazing experience!

  3. Thanks so much to both of you for writing about the confluence and giving a taste of the experience to those of us who weren’t able to go. I’m hoping the AYC part deux happens when I’m not in Mysore!

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