I live in a place where the passage of time is easily measured with the changing of seasons. It’s fall in Vermont, yet every single day we are getting closer and closer to winter. Just yesterday the fall foliage was vibrant with reds, oranges, and yellows, making the surrounding mountains look as though they were on fire. The rain and wind crept in overnight and this morning the majority of the leaves had fallen. While walking our dogs, we even saw a few snow covered cars from nearby high elevation towns. Everything changes.
The practice of Ashtanga yoga never changes. However, the students of this method change constantly when dedicated. Sometimes these changes are small and imperceptible. Other times the change is drastic and life altering.
The physical changes are usually the easiest to notice. Weak, shaky arms become strong and stable. Tight hamstrings resistant to being stretched start to loosen and lengthen, allowing a student to touch the floor or grab their toes in a forward fold. A bent leg Navasana slowly but surely begins to straighten as core muscles learn to engage. Breaths become deeper and more steady. In the beginning, it is often the physical changes that stir up excitement within a student and inspire them to develop a regular, consistent practice.
Then the mental shifts start to happen. A noisy, chaotic brain filled with relentless chatter learns to embrace quiet. To start, these moments of silence are fleeting and become more regular with dedication to the method. Thought patterns and habits are recognized. Feelings of calm and contentment begin to become regular occurrences. With time, these mental shifts will permeate daily living and not just the yoga practice. The excitement that began within the physical body of Ashtanga yoga slowly transitions itself to the mind.
All the while, spirituality grows. Faith in ancient wisdom takes hold. We learn how to take responsibility for our practice. We learn how to take responsibility for our lives. The notion that all is connected becomes the mantra that plays in the background of daily living. The physical and mental gifts of yoga combine to create a belief in something that is far bigger than ourselves, but is entirely within ourselves at the same time.
Like fall becomes winter, everything changes. Even you. Even me. That’s Ashtanga yoga. That’s life.