‘What should you expect when you come to the mat for an Ashtanga practice?’

With the big news in the blogging world right now being the Friday end of one of the original blogs — Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish — I thought I’d go a bit old-school and link over to a couple of other blogs, like they did in the old days.

The old days being 2006 or so.

(If you want, you can search for “blogging is dead” to get the latest take on what is arguably the only new medium created by the Internet.)

As our updated Mission statement says, focusing on what other blogs are saying is something we let others (in many cases via social media) handle. We’re more interested in trying to unearth something you won’t find otherwise — or won’t have pushed into your social media feed.

These two pieces, perhaps, fall somewhere in between. Up first is an overview look at Ashtanga from The Yoga House, which gives you a from-the-outside view (or, at least, a view geared toward those on the outside):

There isn’t quite a more disciplined yoga practice than that of Ashtanga Yoga. There is very often a cloud of mystery around the meditative practice that might make some uneasy at the site of its listing on a studio’s schedule. To most it seems more physically demanding and rigid than other yoga practices. And the truth is, well, it can be, but in reality Ashtanga yoga is the very foundation for all styles of hatha yoga. Based on a systematic series of asanas, or postures, the Ashtanga format and postures are the building blocks for the different yoga practices that each of us know and love.


To help keep our focus on our inner development and not the external, there is the deliberate incorporation of what student of Pattabhi Jois, David Swenson, calls “The Internal World,” which consists of breath, locks, flow and gaze, or prana, bandha, vinyasa and drishti, to guide us through this moving meditation. The sound of the breath is your mantra, the rhythm that keeps a single pointed focus for the mind. The locks and bandhas assimilate the prana or life force and help feed the subtle body and balance the gross nervous system.

It strikes me as a pretty fair representation.

The second treads on territory I’ve heard Tim Miller discuss a lot: merging karma and Ashtanga yoga, with a root for the discussion in the Gita. It’s via It’s Yoga Nicaragua:

Ashtanga yoga asana practice is unique in its daily return to a set, familiar sequence of postures. The sequence is prescribed rather than chosen, a series of actions the devoted practitioner performs as a daily discipline. There is an implicit surrender in the adherence to this practice, an unspoken contract between the tradition and the practitioner in which the practitioner agrees to give up their right to choose. The very nature of this practice, then, lends itself to the cultivation of karma yoga.

Mindset, however, remains key. While the practice can be used to learn surrender, it can also be used to invite the opposite effect. To move through the postures every day with an attitude of achievement or performance is to take a step backward, away from the yoga of action. It’s not easy, however, for a daily practitioner to last long without stumbling upon the necessity of detachment. In a lifelong practice, the body is bound to experience changes. The physical practice will fluctuate. Postures will come and go, difficulties will arise where there was once ease, and contentment will replace discomfort. Every day on the mat is different. To remain attached to one result is an exercise in futility.

The physical practice, then, becomes one of acceptance.

From there it goes off the mat, as you might expect.

And I’ll finish up a tristana of sorts by pointing you toward Christianity Today’s fairly lengthy thought piece on the whole notion of not wearing yoga pants. It at least doesn’t treat the whole thing as a farce. Or maybe I should say: Why doesn’t it treat the whole thing as a farce?

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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