Ashtanga Relativity

E=MC2. The mass of our practice is definitely relative to its energy. (Yes, I know that scientific metaphor falls apart somewhere—probably in that we don’t really practice at the speed of light).

I’m thinking long-term now. I’m thinking “lifelong practice,” a phrase oft repeated, but rarely considered.

It’s certainly true that Steve and I have some excellent role models for a lifelong practice: Tim Miller, Diana Christinson, Nancy Gilgoff, Eddie Stern.

But let’s face it. These are yoga teachers. Shala owners. Professionals.

I’m an amateur. A dabbler. A dilettante compared to them.

What’s it going to take for an amateur to fully commit to a lifelong practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga? I mean, really commit.

One of the most difficult decisions we made, I think, was to start a home practice. We did the math, and we figured long-term, the amount we were paying our local shala would buy us an extra room in our house, one dedicated just to practice. The thinking was that we’d be much more likely to keep practicing—long term—if it were logistically easier to do so. So we made that happen.

Even that level—just making space—is tough. I have a few friends that you might call private clients. They have jobs like writer, real estate agent, general contractor. It wouldn’t matter how many rooms they had dedicated to yoga. They just don’t have enough time. And that’s not even factoring in kids. Of which, they have quite a few.

I run a writing course at UC Irvine. I have students and staff who demand my time and attention.

I’m starting to stress myself out just thinking about it.

Which brings me to my point. I think when we begin the practice of Ashtanga, we catch on pretty quickly that “improvement” is directly related to the amount of time we devote to the practice. And in the beginning, there’s no doubt that’s very true. The day you finally commit to six days a week at a shala is the day your practice really takes off. And that can cause a huge amount of pressure on just about everything in our lives, this looming sense that we could make it all happen if we just put in more time and energy.

But I’m looking back down the years of my practice, and looking forward from where I now stand. I’ve come to realize that “commitment” does not equal (as in “the same as”) “time.”

Steve and I have been practicing at home somewhere around two years now. We’ve learned stuff. While we have nobody to adjust us other than each other, pacing has become the key to happiness. From that lesson, I think I’ve learned what “lifelong practice” means.

It means that there are some days when the series is a shining beacon of peace. A refuge. Sanctuary in an insane world.

There are other days when Ashtanga is a total pain in the ass. A chore. Insanity in your otherwise sane day.

And on every other day, it’s everything in between.

All these observations are floating around the internet lately (which has also revealed the somewhat short attention spans of readers who can’t make it to the last line of an essay), and nothing new to you, no doubt.

But I encourage you to see each practice as a moment (and as such, momentary), not a task–a continuum running through not against the other moments in your life. And to see that what happens now won’t be the same as tomorrow, and it will always be there tomorrow, as will you.

In other words: It’s all relative.

Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Ashtanga Relativity”

  1. “I’m an amateur. A dabbler. A dilettante compared to them.” this is a fantasy a mind projection because in yoga all are one. There is no them or us, better or worse. “Yoga happens on the indside.” ~Nancy Gilgoff The minute there is any seperatness or grasping for something we are not practicing yoga

  2. I have not been to a mysore class or led for that matter- in several years, and not regularly since I had children. But I have not stopped practicing. It’s been self practice daily, wherever I find myself, for about 10 years, and the 10+ years before that in a group setting. And indeed, I saved enough money for my own little studio at home.
    Self practice is where it is at… Achieving poses is no longer a goal in any way for me. I just do my practice. Sure I haven’t progressed as quickly physically, but the yoga in yoga comes so much easier alone. Yearly workshops with awesome teachers around the world are my way of staying connected with the Ashtanga and yoga world and keep me from settling into a plateau. You are only an amateur if you are not taking it seriously, in all its joys and trials, indeed only if you are not actually DOING the practice.

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