What Ashtanga Means to Me

My journey in Ashtanga Yoga really only started about 18 months ago when I decided to leave my full time job as a lecturer and become a 'travelling yogi'.

Somehow Mysore, and the legacy of Pattabhi Jois and Ashtanga Yoga were calling me to go and study in Mysore, at the source of the style, with the direct lineage of this yoga style. This is now held with the Jois family, Sharath and his mother Saraswathi, at the KPJAYI (Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute).

 

I felt like I needed to study here to get a deeper understanding of the practice, not just the asana (physical practice) but the spirituality and fusion of body WITH the mind. The connection of the Eight Limbs of yoga I had touched on in my Yoga Teacher Training.

Coming to yoga from a dance background, where everything was about the aesthetics, this interested me and I wanted to delve further. 

In a interview with LA Yoga magazine Sharath Jois commented:

‘Nowadays, it [YOGA]has become more physical, like how to do handstand. There is no spirituality in that. It’s just physical, how to bend your body and how to align your body, but classical yoga is about how to bring the discipline to your body and your mind, and how that discipline leads you towards spirituality. That is called yama and niyama. These are very important limbs in yoga practice. Not many people are putting attention to these. They are putting attention only to the physical aspect of yoga….there is no breathing, no vinyasa, no gazing. All these things, what we call tristana, are very important to our asana practice’

It was in Mysore last year, that I stopped taking yoga selfies for my Instagram and Facebook pages…and I started a real study of yoga. This line from Sharath’s interview resonated the most within me:

classical yoga is about how to bring the discipline to your body and your mind

 

Practicing with Sharath Jois is an amazing experience both spiritually and physically. 

Practicing with Sharath Jois is an amazing experience both spiritually and physically. 

Coming on the to the mat, day after day, working on the basics, learning so much about your body, how it works in every single asana, from Samasthiti to Shavasana, and how the mind works alongside it. You can and then take what you have learnt from that off the mat into your life, and the lives of others you interact with.  

Getting on my mat to practice six days a week helps develop the kind of mental, spiritual and devotional determination I feel I need to make progress along my internal path of yoga. Incorporating all eight limbs of yoga, not just the asana. I am then able to bring this knowledge to my students, and help them develop their own practice. 

For me, that’s yoga. That’s 'union',  that’s bringing together the body and mind.  As I took my understanding and practice deeper I cared less about the aesthetics of the posture and focused on the journey of getting in and out of the postures, how it made my body feel, rather than look.

For me I felt that the spirituality was about connecting with my most inner self, and in the process I learnt, and am still learning a lot about myself.

Let’s all stop trying to be the ‘perfect’ yogi from the outside and start trying to use the practice to change ourselves for the better? Sure, you can achieve this with ALL styles of Yoga, however that is what ASHTANGA means to me.

The light in me, honours the light in you.

Claire YatesComment