How did Ashtanga Yoga come into your life?
I found Ashtanga yoga after a period of spiritual investigation. I had many questions and became familiar with the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga before discovering the healing benefits of asana practice. What initially drew me in is how ultimately the path taken is initiated by practice. Through practice we experience glimpses of what yoga or union is to one day be immersed in it. Understanding comes by putting ourselves into the fire so to speak and allowing inner transformation to take place. It’s about one’s actions, not just knowing.
Was there a moment (s) that led you to decide that this would be your daily yoga practice?
It was pretty instantaneous. I felt a recognition right away when I started. When told it was a 6 day a week practice I had a strong feeling it was the very least I could do because of how vast the topic of yoga felt. In many ways I’m a all or nothing type of person, and I was all in from the point I realized this was the embarkment of a journey. From previous experience I knew the only way to go deeper into anything was through practice and repetition. So the commitment was natural.
The Ashtanga begins in the physical and extends to the mental, emotional and spiritual. Can you describe, according to your experience as a practitioner and teacher, the transformative process that is this practice?
The beautiful thing about Ashtanga yoga is that it sheds light on every aspect of our being. More than physical we become mentally and emotionally cleansed, hopefully no longer dictated by the musing of the mind. The most impactful revelation for me in the practice was the simple separation of not being identified with my own thoughts. That I was more than what I had perviously realized. It was like coming home, but within myself. To feel a sense of inner peace and renewal was huge for me. Over time the practice has continued to unfold in ways that have been unexpected and has cultivated into a sādhāna or devotional practice, whereas in the beginning simply made me feel good and more connected. It is hard work and not always comfortable but the most worthwhile thing I have ever done. I think many can attest to the fact that the practice is a blessing as well as a challenge, which forces us to rise up and meet ourselves both in the light and the dark. As I continue on and share the practice with others there is no greater blessing than to bear witness to this inner transformation in the students the practice touches. It is a unfolding that is unique and purposeful to each individual. I have seen it time and time again and reaffirms what I have felt within.
What is your biggest inspiration to keep practicing?
As simple as feeling an intimate connection to God.
As an Ashtanga Yoga teacher what advice would you give to a beginner practitioner?
To not allow obstacles and/or limitations that arise in the practice to discourage you. Often it is our very limitations that become our greatest strengths. Nothing ever stays the same and that’s the beauty of it.
And what would you say to those who are more experienced?
To never loose a beginner’s mind. To come to the mat open for the experience no matter what may present itself, no matter how uncomfortable or how joyous. To experience each breath and each movement with new eyes.
Does your personal practice influence the way you teach? How so?
Most definitely my personal practice influences how I teach. I’m not sure if there is any other way. I think the important part of teaching is doing whatever it is you ask of your students. How is it possible to expect students to practice regularly if I am not doing such myself? Leading by example is important. On the other hand, I have recognized that immersing myself into the practice of yoga is rather easy versus many of my students who are balancing numerous things. I have students who have demanding jobs, multiple children, physical limitations, and/or other stressors all at once. Whereas, I acknowledge not only is it easier for me to carve out time to practice daily, I teach it, have time for study, have made multiple trips to Mysore, India and don’t have children of my own. My goal is to do my best to create a space for people to integrate the practice into their lives in anyway they can. Acceptance for where every individual is in their development is very important in how I facilitate a space for learning the practice. Understanding that has helped to nourish many of the students I have come into contact with. For some, the hour and a half they have in the Mysore room is the only time they have to themselves. Creating a space that nurtures one to integrate the practice is of utmost importance in how I teach and interrelate to my students. In addition, my dedication to my own practice correlates to the students. I’m dedicated to them. I am in service to them. I don’t see myself more elevated in anyway. I respect and continuously learn from them, expressing how we are in this together. The bigger lesson being how the role of student and teacher are ultimately, one.
In a world that lives for the outside, Ashtanga Yoga brings us back to our inside, can you describe in one word, what you feel when you practice?