An Ashtanga Yoga Puppy

A few, very precious, very delicate tears, falling upon cheekbones, palms to heart, staring into the mirror with absolute gratefulness for what Ashtanga Yoga has done to me, I completely absolutely cried.

Let’s rewind. Please.

On 26 April, exactly seven months and three days ago, I set to discover a traditional, classic, non-chaotic, old-school Indian form of yoga as set forth by Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar, based upon what I had read in my long-time-owned “Light on Yoga,” something I’d never read despite having it stationed on my bookshelf for years. And what I read on that April day intrigued me. Seeking a quiet, non-flashy yoga life, completely the polar opposite of what I’d known to that point, I found amazing, impressive yoga demonstrations by Mr. Iyengar on YouTube dating back to the early twentieth century, and I therefore declared myself as an Iyengar student! As a yoga school girl! Hooray!

But on the next day, on 27 April, when searching YouTube for something divine about Mr. Iyengar to follow like an exercise video, I somehow stumbled upon an Intermediate Series Ashtanga Yoga demonstration by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and not knowing Harry from Jack (all Indian men looked and sounded the same to me!), I thought, “Yay! Iyengar Yoga!” So I tried it. And 15 minutes into the class, immediately after the standing postures, I sat on the floor with my mouth wide open, brow wrinkled, asking, “Seriously? They want me to do what? To put what, where? To sit in lotus? To put my leg behind my head? To jump through my arms over and over again? To do THAT in lotus? WTF?”

I could not keep up.

I did about half of the demonstration, never returning to this particular class, rather exploring Ashtanga Yoga from the very beginning using other resources such as YogaGlo, YouTube (again) and YogaVibes. I’ve since come to learn about this amazing Indian man named Sri K. Pattabhi Jois who systematised Ashtanga Yoga for the modern world. And oh, did the little Ashtanga Yoga world love him so! He was the master. And he earned it. I have come to know Jodi Blumstein and Lino Miele, both students of Pattabhi Jois, as my Yoga Gurus from afar. I have also come to know that one of the students in the Pattabhi Jois video of 1989 which I could NOT do on 27 April was the amazing TIM MILLER, the man whose workshop I once attended in 2010 which, let me tell you, makes me feel so spiritually close to Pattabhi Jois because in that class by Mr. Miller, I was completely mesmerised and cried. Here I was with Mr. Miller, back then, when all I knew was jazzy snazzy burn mucho calories yoga and never put 2 and 2 together about this amazing system that he’d come to Pittsburgh to teach for a few hours (until now, and it equals 4). I’m the girl in the pigtails with a criss-crossed grey coloured yoga top. And Mr. Miller is standing in the room’s centre with white tank top.

Here’s another image from his workshop. Mr. Miller is stationed in room centre helping a student to open her heart. I’m in the backbend, second from the bottom left, with a puffed up chest and ribs. You can see my then yoga ego in this backbend. And here was Mr. Miller in that 1989 demonstration with Pattabhi Jois. So for the past seven months, I’ve built the blocks. I worked beginner stuff with Ms. Blumstein on YogaGlo. And then I found Mr. Miele’s Full Vinyasa Full Primary, doing only half of the Primary Series for many months, only in the past month adding the second half of the Primary. And here and there, normally on weekends and on a random one day of the week, I’ll work a Second Series modified or Third Series modified with Ms. Blumstein.

It is like during the past seven months, I’ve learnt words. Like a baby. Or, let’s please use the dog analogy. I was an Ashtanga Yoga Puppy. I learnt to sit. To stand. To roll over. To eat. To sleep. To shut up. And by learning these things, I learnt to control my breath and my ego. Naturally. I mean, come on, my dog could be Queen Bee simply because she’s so gorgeous and wonderful and competitive, but she doesn’t permit that ego, something which is present in every body, to emerge. For the past seven months, I was an Ashtanga Yoga Puppy. And then last night, something spectacular happened. Suddenly, what I’d planned with Jodi Blumstein on YogaGlo wasn’t available. So I went to YouTube. And I found that amazing demonstration that I tried on my first day. The weird one that didn’t make any sense to me. The one that sounded foreign to my Ashtanga Yoga puppy ears. “Hey, I remember this,” I thought. And last night? I could do it. I didn’t even need to watch it because I knew the Sanskrit names. I knew the voice. I knew the breath. I knew the language. I felt the love coming from the directions of Pattabhi Jois. I knew my fellow students. It was like I belonged.

It was as though, overnight, I changed from a puppy to a dog. Isn’t it funny how it just happens? One day you’re house training and cleaning a room of down feathers, and the next day you’re walking regally with this very well behaved dog? That’s how I can best describe my Ashtanga Yoga transformation. It has advanced. Unplanned. But progressively so much that one day, specifically last night, I looked back and asked, “Wow! When did that happen?” If you’ve ever raised a puppy, you will understand this! And it has just occurred to me that in Finding My Yoga, I sought a few things: 1.) to learn. With Ashtanga Yoga, I will learn every single day forevermore. 2.) friendship. I have made very amazing Ashtanga Yoga friends, even a dazzling yoga sister!, with this new lifestyle. 3.) something to one day teach. I am not yet teaching Ashtanga Yoga because I feel that I must invest more time, and furthermore I would LOVE to be certified in Mysore. This will take time. But, I do incorporate pieces of Ashtanga Yoga into my sessions of contemporary flow with students. Furthermore, I think that in order to learn Ashtanga Yoga, one must dedicate six days per week to the practice; and my students do not have that time to offer, at this point. Maybe some glorious day! 4.) I sought something for which I could be passionate, something hard, and something lovely. Ashtanga Yoga satisfies each of these factors.

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