Refreshing Ashtanga

Next time you have a down moment, I’d encourage you to absentmindedly scour through the Yoga Workshop website.

When I do, I invariably discover something I hadn’t noticed before. Over the weekend, it was this gem from the Lineage page:

A fundamental aim of the teaching at the Yoga Workshop is to keep an open mind as we continually refresh the linage of Ashtanga Vinyasa system by making it applicable to the immediate condition of our bodies, minds and cultures.

We encourage students to read and ask questions about original ancient texts that have been influential in this lineage. Students are also encouraged to contemplate and question the ever changing context and landscape of yoga, both within their own practice (self reflection) and within the broader context of yoga as it evolves in the 21st century. We encourage the juxtaposing of our tradition with other traditions and lineages to challenge, to critique and to refine both ourselves and others.

As part of this we offer classes not only on asana, but also on meditation, pranayama and philosophy.

I recognize this struck me because I struggle with the efficacy of a combo of different traditions, philosophies and/or lines of inquiry. It can seem a little too “cafeteria spirituality.” My bias, I know.

I also wonder what is the drive to find something beyond Ashtanga — should it be enough? Vipassana meditation is one “addition” to Ashtanga you see a lot, for instance. What’s missing that has people looking toward that type of quieting or stilling of the mind?

At the same time, my own lines of thinking are, I think, eclectic. But there’s a marked difference between thinkings about politics, for instance, and morality or, even more to the point, religion/faith.

Or is there? Thus the struggle. And thus the thinking more about the value of juxtaposition of tradition. Because I always find myself returning to one William Blake quote — with most of his writings, well-outfitted in irony: “I must Create a System. or be enslav’d by another Mans.”

Anyone have lots about adding other elements to whatever one might consider “my practice?” Did you find a useful companion to Ashtanga? What hole did it seem to fill? And how, perhaps, did it improve your Ashtanga/asana practice?

Posted by Steve