The Honesty of Ashtanga Yoga
I have always been a skeptical person. I don’t do mystical, supernatural stuff. My feet are firmly planted here on the physical, observable Earth. I need the answers to my questions to feel rooted in measurable truth.
This, I felt, made me somewhat of an outcast in the yoga community when I was first exploring the practice. I knew I loved the physical work of yoga, but everyone around me was talking about aligning chakras, healing energies, and balancing auras. Nothing felt real. To be honest, it all sounded like complete bullshit. And, I had a sneaking suspicion no one else knew what they were saying either, but they thought they were supposed to say it. This is the language of yoga, right?
Yoga was treated like a quick fix when one needed to feel “aligned” or “balanced.” The practice was approached as though the asanas themselves were magic, and a one-off performance on the mat held life-changing power. Feeling sad? Open your heart with Camel! Feeling agitated? Calm your energy with Child’s Pose! This actually does work; postures are effective in shifting our superficial emotional state. But someone unaware of the deeper elements of yoga could confuse “feeling good” with the true purpose of the practice. They might think the work ends there with the quick fix.
Enter Ashtanga yoga.
As I transitioned out of the yoga world at large into the smaller, structured world of Ashtanga yoga, I fell in love with the brutal honesty of it. Ashtanga teachers weren’t telling me to “follow my bliss” or “melt my heart” to reach some psuedo-enlightenment. They didn’t treat the practice like a magic elixir. They told me to tend to my practice for my whole life and there would be some small benefit. Whoa! The integrity of that statement alone proved this was the yoga for no-fluff types like me. Ashtanga was going to tell me the truth even when it might push my ego-driven, insecure self away.
There is a precise methodology to this practice--take practice daily, look here, breathe like this, squeeze these muscles. It doesn't allow for much embellishment or ad-libbing by well-intententioned but clueless yoga teachers. There is no meaningless New Age terminology creating a veneer of feel-good spirituality. Just the raw, honest truth of sincere, disciplined practice.
Ashtanga says there are no shortcuts. The answers to our most burning questions don't lie in aligning chakras or planets. You must simply humble yourself and work your ass off. It's not supposed to make you feel good; it's supposed to cut beneath those superficial waves of emotions to reach the deeper ocean of the true self. This, Ashtanga says, is where true peace resides.
Finally, some truth I could sink my teeth into. My skeptic's mind was satisfied. I didn't have to care whether or not Mercury was in retrograde and I didn't have to believe in horoscopes. I could just get on my mat each day and practice with a time-tested methodology. And then, after years of overcoming obstacles and devoting myself to learning the lessons they reveal to me, I would begin to feel the chaos and clutter of my mind become still.
No bullshit. Just the hard, beautiful, potent truth of yoga practice and of life--there is no way out but through. To quote Britney: You better work, bitch.
Till next week,