this one’s coming at ya from vacation…
a road trip through park city, yellowstone, bozeman.
where the deer and the antelope play.
as i left yellowstone, the land of Old Faithful, i pulled out an old faithful of my own from my over-packed book bag (the one affectionately known as my “activity bag,” like i’m five or something… )
anyway, the old faithful that was calling to me was, “Yoga Mala,” by Pattahbi Jois, the teacher responsible for bringing Ashtanga yoga to the US in the 70’s. now, i believe all yoga is good yoga, but i will say that the one style or system of yoga that is my old faithful is a traditional Ashtanga practice. i find the familiar sequence, connected by vinyasa (moving with breath, like we do at Session) soothing, comforting, grounding, energizing… life-changing.
here are a few things that Jois and my Ashtanga teachers have drilled into my head over the years…the underlying reminders that keep me coming back to yoga over and over:
practice and all is coming.
no matter the question, this is the answer. can’t get your foot behind your head? practice. can’t decide whether to change jobs? practice. kids driving you mad? practice. craving sugar? practice. every day. in some way. the way to all of the off-the-mat-goodness that DOES come with yoga, whether you’re striving for that or not, is the physical practice. reading about it, wearing the garb and taking pictures of it don’t cut it. ya gotta do it. a lot. with heart.
Yoga Mala says it a lot more eloquently here:
“there are many types of malas… Jois’s mala is a garland of yoga, in which each vinyasa is like a sacred bead to be counted and focused on, and each asana is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. just as japamala adorns the neck and a pushpamala (garland of flowers) adorns the gods, so too does this garland of yoga, when diligently practiced, adorn our entire being with peace, health, radiance, and ultimately, self-knowledge.”
sun salutations save lives.
Jois says, when one practices Surya Namaskara (aka sun salutes.. demonstrated here, absolutely beautifully by Seane Corn) with intention, mindful of gaze, breath and bandhas, before asanas, they will receive whatever they desire.
hhhmm… they will receive whatever they desire.
he says a lot more than this, but that one stuck 😉 if all you do is get on your mat and do sun salutes, with even, steady breath and focus, life will shift. illness will be cured. even the mental kind.
(that is how they used yoga back then. in fact, when asked if he received a teaching certificate of any kind after training for 25 years with this teacher, he said, “yes and his test was very difficult: Krishnamacharya gave me one sick man and said, Fix him!”)
there is no end to this.
as one pose is mastered, another is given. the purpose of each one is to prepare you for the next, so you lose attachment to getting anywhere specific real fast. or i did, anyway. i’m not that bendy.
this “practice” has made me a lot more patient and accepting of long, complicated journeys and learning processes… like divorce, moving, leaving jobs, learning piano, navigating relationship, finding my voice, following curiosity, trying new ways, finding my own.
it takes lifetimes to be drawn to yoga.
now, there’s no way of knowing this for sure, of course. i just like the idea of it. it explains why some of us feel so pulled toward it…and some aren’t. it doesn’t make us special, it’s just that maybe we’re being led. maybe our body needs it. maybe our life depends on it.
i think this is why it’s so hard to get friends and family to jump on the yoga wagon when we know it is exactly what they need to cure whatever ails them… it’s just not their thing. yet.
even Pattahbi Jois, born and raised in India, yoga’s motherland mind you, felt compelled to hide his desire to do yoga from his family. at 12 years old, he left the house early in the morning to study yoga with his teacher, before school.
once officially dubbed a young man in Brahmin terms, he left home, with only two rupees in his pocket, without telling his family where he was going. he was off to study sanskrit and yoga in Mysore, India and was afraid his family would not let him go. he knew this was his life’s work. he had to go. (btw, he wrote his father after three years to tell him where he was… all turned out well.)
so, even he had to fight resistance to do yoga!
thankfully, he did keep practicing and all did come to him.
he now rests peacefully, proud of his life’s work,
watching all yogis from above,
gently nudging us whenever we’re pulled away,
gently whispering, “practice and all is coming.”
which is exactly what i did this morning,
after a few days away, i got on my mat.
in my pajamas. and practiced.
and boy, do i feel better.
i hope this inspires you to find your old faithful.
whatever makes you feel your best.
fingers crossed it’s yoga 🙂