ASHTANGA as a PHYSICAL PRACTICE
I went to my first Ashtanga class in July of 2012. At that moment I never knew how far the practice would take, how many doors would open or how challenging it would be. Ashtanga Yoga is an 8-limbed system that tones not just the body; the mind and spirit become whole as well. (It is important to note that only 1 of these 8 limbs deals with physical posture)... I admit it sounds silly to imagine this freedom or unity coming from sweating and contorting on the floor day after day. While the physical practice helps, the actual freedom comes from the commitment to goodness and love, starting within you. Only then will the rest of the practice succeed.
All I remember about the asana in that first class was the sun salutations and vinyasas. I was thinking to myself, “Is this all we are going to do for 90 minutes? I’m exhausted!” I felt clumsy and out of breath. Everyone around me floated with ease from front to back and left to right. I walked out drenched in sweat and my whole body buzzing with some sort high (that was just a huge amount of prana). The next day my hamstrings were screaming with new awareness and my whole body felt lighter than ever. The physical practice was calling me back and I wanted to go, I just didn’t know why.
While I noticed the changes in my body right away, I didn’t realize how profound they would become. First I noticed my snowboarding becoming more balanced and my muscles becoming more toned. People asked me if I had lost weight (which I couldn’t answer because I have never and will never own a scale), but I guess my form just changed shape. Muscle developed, my skin was brighter, I started drinking enough water and sleeping more. It wasn’t until maybe 2 years into my practice I noticed my stamina and endurance. Hiking mountains was still challenging but I could easily regulate my breath and body temperature. Swimming across the reservoir was no problem, when before I used to question my ability to swim back. My heart and lungs feel so great, full and strong.
Finally, 4.5 years later I am still trying new things to challenge my body and mind. Learning to surf and kitesurf I fully expected my body to be wrecked. After my first surf lesson I had that buzzing feeling when I finally sat down out of the water, prana again! I just spent two weeks paddle boarding, surfing and kiting without injury or severe soreness all thanks to Ashtanga Yoga. Physically I am in the best shape of my life and have been ever since I started this practice. While my body and asanas go through phases the movement is always towards love, which makes me happy, which makes me healthy. The shining in my eyes doesn’t come from trying to put my leg behind my head, no, that would be ridiculous. It comes from the understanding that we are all capable, strong and united. That if even a little bit of light shines out of my soul it has the opportunity to reach another.
I could not stand on my hands when I started to practice, nor could I achieve a full split. I’ve wanted to give up on postures 1,000 times, pushed it too far, cursed, fallen, cried, laughed and done it all over again. The beauty is in the practice. Respect the practice, it is there waiting for you whenever you need it, it is your best friend.