Falling in love with Ashtanga Yoga
I remembered attending my first Vinyasa yoga class more than six years ago, purely coincidental as I arrived early at the gym for my Bodycombat class. Not knowing what to expect and simply following the cues of the teacher and copying the actions of my neighbours, I managed to survive the class. That one class was a big eye-opener for me. I learned that yoga is not what most people think it is; one can actually perspire in a yoga class. For a self-professed cardio junkie, Vinyasa yoga was perfect for me. I would continue to do that class for a year before work commitments and change of class schedule caused me to stop going to the gym and yoga altogether.
It wasn’t again in February 2014 that I started yoga again. After a trying period which saw me down in the pits, I tore myself away from the depths of my misery and decided to type in “vinyasa yoga” into the YouTube search box one evening. That evening practice would repeat itself everyday and unexpectedly my journey into yoga was reignited again. I haven’t stopped since then.
When I signed up for the yoga teacher training, I was expecting to learn, simply put, what yoga is. And after going through more than half of the training so far, I have learnt that and more. In fact, what is more surprising for me is that after the more I learn and read up about Ashtanga yoga, the more I practice the Primary Series, the more attached I have grown to it.
For me, the allure of Ashtanga yoga lies in its heritage and its system. A tradition that dates back to the early 20th century and adapted by K. Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, amongst other gurus, it is a holistic system that comprises eight limbs or steps that provide guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they advocate attention towards one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature. Ultimately, I think it teaches me the greatest trait of all – patience. “(Do your) practice and all is coming” as Sri K Pattabi Jois would say. Living in a modern society where instant gratification is the norm, I’ve come to appreciate and savor the journey. If I can’t meditate today, it’s okay. If I can’t do an asana today, it’s okay. There is no rush and no competition; just patience and dedication.
The physical practice itself is a great example of patience and dedication. Everyone new to Ashtanga yoga starts from the primary series, and slowly gains strength and flexibility through the sequence of poses. After constant practice for a year or two, one may then graduate to the intermediate series where more challenging poses await. Some may find the fixed sequences boring and repetitive but for me, I love the focus and rigidity of it and look forward to the day I can ‘graduate’ from the primary series.
Yoga is not a physical exercise regime. It is a spiritual and personal lifestyle. I am grateful that yoga found me again. Looking ahead, I hope that I would have the chance to introduce Ashtanga yoga to more people and to continue embracing Ashtanga yoga as an integral part of my life.