Be like a pelican in your Ashtanga practice

The other day, Bobbie and I were on the beach and a pelican flew by, doing his/her pelican thing.

Hopefully you know it, because it’s awesome. Pelicans fly just above the water, skimming along, seemingly only flapping their wings when they need to lift clear of a breaking wave.

This weekend, we watched as a crow played in some wind above a building in our town. It looked lazy, almost, as it caught the updrafts and stayed so high with, again, the least effort possible.

In keeping with our recent “use your imagination” theme, I’d suggest perhaps adding this imagery to your practice:

Be like a bird in your practice. I think a pelican is the way to go, but you may have a bird preference.

By this, I simply mean: Use less effort. It’s a message you’ll hear from the senior teachers — they’ve all been there, done the fancy acrobatics, floated outrageously here, pushed up into handstand there. But the practice should be enough — if it isn’t, you’re probably doing something “wrong.”

A bird isn’t going to expend extra energy to get from here to there; after all, it might need it simply to survive the unexpected: an attack from a raptor, a boat barreling its way.

Are we so different, on or off the mat?

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

4 thoughts on “Be like a pelican in your Ashtanga practice”

  1. Wow, you guys are good! I just read this a couple of nights ago (from AJ Mohan’s book “Krishnamarcharya — His LIfe and Teachings” p.31-32:

    “When I did the warrior vinyasa, Krishnamacharya recommended that I bring into my mind a feeling like that of a bird….. [specifically in this case, Garudasana, the Eagle who bears the Divine Narayana on his back.] “Keep in mind that you are in service to the Divine. As you extend your arms and look down, bring the feeling that you are above the world and its various concerns but you are close to the Divine”… this I responded, “This is relevant to me, but what if a practitioner has no religious beliefs?

    Krishnamacharya replied, “Still the imagery is valuable. Instead of the Divine, bring the feeling that “I am without any fear or burden. I am not troubled by the future or the past, flying above worldly pleasures.”


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