starting the exploration of ashtanga I took up reading about it a lot. i still am. fascinating read as well. books and internet. other ashtangis’ blogs and thoughts. reading about 8 limbs, tradition, teachers, classes…. some of the things i came across did not quite agree with me or was a bit on the edge but I chose not to dwell on it and to only take out the good stuff. getting into it with the positive mind.
but then today I read this grimmly’s post and all these thoughts came out. So I had to write them down. apologies if the thoughts are all over the place – i was writing on my mobile on the way home – on the underground typing vigorously 🙂
I did not dare writing or registering these doubts and musings before in risk of making them tangible (and my blog not being read anymore by the 5 kind people who do 🙂 – thank you all for reading this).
as a little background info on me – being brought up without any religious influence i am quite open minded and not very easily getting into worshipping either deities or real people. as much as some of the latter are brilliant individuals, they are people after all and not perfect.
i have to admit, i started ashtanga because it was an intense physical practice – most people do – if they say otherwise i don’t think they are being very truthful. there is something about human beings that pushes us when we have a goal ahead of us – the constant personal competitions with ourselves. and the challenge of the physical aspect of ashtanga and bettering ourselves day-in-day-out gives us a carrot to chase after.
me personally… i do it for the need of ‘me’ hour, my time off, my thoughts on my body and breathing, my time switching off. ashtanga is more engaging than other types of yoga and i love that it requires complete concentration – keeping my thoughts off the work, worries and other boring mundane things. i have to admit, my final goal is not seeking for samadhi – well not at least in its full interpretation as mentioned in yoga mala. i want a time-out on a daily basis and that is perfectly fine with me. that’s what I take from ashtanga. the struggle with my body’s capabilities on that mat, makes me realise over and over again of the limitations we are born with and accepting myself as i am. the physical aspect can be translated into our lives – we learn how to be patient, work every day to better ourselves – towards others and ourselves, we learn how to live in the now and drop the luggage we are dragging with us from our past and stop craving for the future. ‘now’ is the mantra.
in my short ashtanga life i have seen a few different personalities – as norman calls them (me probably being one of them). i have seen teachers who were very aggressive, the ones that are very kind, friendly, helpful and trusting, teachers having classes being way too big for him/ her to be able to handle it (making sure people are doing it correctly etc), people grunting in classes while being pushed into the pose, practitioners letting teachers to push too far, most of the ashtangis admitting they are always in pain and struggling through some kind of injury, teachers without people skills whatsoever etc. or even people accepting to pay for classes where they are told in advance they might not be allowed to do them fully and might be asked to stop at certain point? surely, it would be better not to allow practitioners to join if they can’t do it or allow them to participate even if they are not perfect at it. after all, ashtanga is not about your asanas looking perfect. or i thought it wasn’t?! they could also do workshops instead of led classes so everyone can participate up to their abilities and leave inspired with some knowledge soaked up from a great teacher. also, while reading different books and texts, i came across some sentences and thoughts that were just not yogic in a first place – unfortunately, i can’t remember what and where. i admit, some of it scared me a bit ;-( some of it i found hard to digest.
so… to wrap this up and in answer to norman asking ‘is yoga transformative?’ my humble opinion is that I believe Ashtanga can be transformative – more metta than kleshas. at least i hope it is as i have set myself for a loooong journey. i think ashtanga is like life – it is what you take out of it. just remember not to take it too literally and too seriously!
i have a feeling all the above is mixed up and i could write so much more but this will do for now. a sequel might happen. you never know…. 😉
p.s. i thought it quite a coincidence (Claudia!) to realize after reading grimmly’s post that Norman in question is actually the teacher i had my very first ashtanga class with 😉 6 degrees of separation!!!
p.p.s. norman’s website here