hello hello! i’ve been dancing along this wild ride of life. i’ve played single mom for almost a month now….brett out of town mondays thru fridays, only home on the weekends. yoweee! but, he’s back now for the time being. so, cheers!
provocative blog title eh? sometimes, all i need is a good title to pop into my head and the whole blog post comes together. i love when that happens.
last week, i was asked to sub a yoga class – no big deal, i sub often. this class was on monday night at the studio i normally teach at on mondays. so, subbing would simply involve staying after my class and teaching the class that follows mine. i was somewhat reluctant to say yes to subbing because brett was out of town that night and i don’t want to leave my kids home alone (under the watchful eye of their big sister, isabel) for too too long. but, a neighbor friend agreed to hang out with my girls for a few hours; and i said yes to the subbing opportunity. i’m glad i did.
i was nervous to be subbing this particular class. this class is usually taught by a woman i consider to be my teacher here in town. as an instructor, she is beloved by many and she strikes an appropriate (for me) balance between being and doing. she’s very inspiring and i always leave her classes feeling like i know she wants me to succeed. yet…..i was nervous because this class is conducted differently than nearly 100% of all other yoga classes in the state of indiana!
i instructed an ashtanga mysore style class for the first time ever and i loved it!
for those of you who don’t know what i’m talking about, read on. if you are already in the know, skip this paragraph 🙂
ashtanga yoga began to be taught in india in 1948 by a man named k. pattabhi jois. this particular style of practice crossed the big oceans and landed in the united states in the 1970s – ashtanga can now be found in most countries throughout the world. the ashtanga practice consists of 6 series of pre-determined pose sequences. each practice has 4 elements: an opening sequence, one of the six series (usually the first series, or primary series), a backbending sequence and a finishing or closing sequence. up until very recently, the only ashtanga practice offered in indiana was a guided practice – meaning that the instructor guides the tempo of the class and everyone moves through the poses on pace and together. these types of classes are very fun and very beneficial – this is the type of ashtanga practice that i am most familiar with. yet….as all living things do – our indy ashtanga community has been evolving. and, because of the dedication and passion of a few of our most gifted instructors and practitioners, we now have opportunities to practice ashtanga here in indy yoga studios in the traditional or mysore style. mysore ashtanga is named after the city (mysore :)) in india where it originates. mysore is a yoga instructor supervised self-practice, meaning each student moves through the sequences at his or her own pace and level. so, you might walk into a mysore class and some students have already begun their practice. you lay down your mat, and begin yours. the instructor circulates around the room and answers questions a student might have, or offers modifications on a particular pose or poses and gives individual verbal cues or physical hands-on adjustments to assist a student in her or his practice. each student will take savasana or final relaxation when they have reached the end of their practice; and the class ends in the same organic way that it began – students filter in and out – though there are formal opening and closing sung or chanted prayers to begin and end the session.
learning the ashtanga practice in a mysore style can benefit students on many levels – ideally, each student is taught as an individual at a pace that is practical for his or her life situations (like age and health). practicing ashtanga means that you are striving to memorize the sequences – committing the practice to heart, so that there is rarely any doubt about what pose comes next. in this way, the practice becomes your own. a student gains independence (what should be the main goal of every teacher….or parent) and confidence in their spiritual practice.
monday night, i had four students in the mysore room. they were all experienced yogis – they knew their practice. this gave each of us in the room, great freedom and understanding. i had seen the practices of each of these students, so i knew what to expect. two of the students moved at a similar style and pace with each other – one of the other students was ahead in the sequence the other was behind (not particularly in terms of ability, but in terms of timing).
i know the sequences fairly well. i am not a strict ashtangi who only practices ashtanga and practices it six days a week. i do the ashtanga practice when i feel like i need a kick in the pants. i do ashtanga because i love the beautiful poses and the thoroughness of the sequences. i do ashtanga because i like the community it attracts. i do not do ashtanga when i am menstruating. i do not do ashtanga early in the morning. and i do not do only ashtanga because i have pitta dosha (ayruveda) and i think that excess heat and vigor is not particularly beneficial for my constitution. but, sometimes, for me, an ashtanga practice is the best thing in the entire world.
so, i loved this teaching experience because it was so different from how i usually conduct a class. and this differentness was intoxicating. i (like all of us) have habits and routines – a consistency in the way we do things, how we conduct ourselves. within the mysore setting, as an instructor with a group of students who knew the practice, i was free. i didn’t have to plan sequences. i didn’t have to regulate the tempo. i didn’t have to cue breaths or ease transitions. it was all already laid out for us. we just did it.
with only 4 students in a big room, i could see each student from different angles. i could help them make adjustments to their poses. i could admire them, which i did often. their practices were very inspiring and i was dying to lay down my mat next to them and flow – but, i restrained myself and poured all my love, wisdom and attention into helping them have a great practice. i cannot emphasize enough how free i felt within the constraints of a practice that is pre-defined, ritualized and memorized. it was glorious.
so, as our time was winding down on monday night, one woman finished her practice and took savasana before everyone else. i gave her some gentle massage to her feet and hands during the relaxation – when her savasana was over, she thanked me and left. the three remaining students and i closed the class together after their savasanas. i didn’t know the words to the entire traditional closing prayer – so, we sang together the line that i did remember:
meaning: may all the worlds be happy and comfortable.
thanks to carol for the opportunity to sub. thanks for reading, and i hope to see you on the mat soon. blessings!!!