I started yoga as a means of exercise. A way to elongate and tone my body. Attending class gave me the perfect opportunity to update my Facebook status: “Amazing yoga session today! Namaste peeps!” I would go to class once in a blue moon, flow with the motions and then leave, with not much enthusiasm or dedication. I had no intent of embracing the essence of both the physical and spiritual practice of yoga. I had no idea of the magic it held.
It was but three months ago that I stepped into my first proper Shala in Phuket and was introduced to Ashtanga Yoga. As a runner, I had hamstrings that were ridiculously tight, my heels were nowhere close to touching the ground in downward dog, and I lived off the thrill of hours of impact training through the jungle trails. It is safe to say that my first Ashtanga practice was insanely tough and very humbling.
It was in that first session that I knew there was something more. I felt I would be hooked one day. And sure enough, the hook is getting stronger with each practice. I am beginning to find a very genuine love for it. I know I have a long long way to go. I have just touched on the surface of Ashtanga. But the thrill in knowing how much practice and growth is ahead of me in both the physical and spiritual realm is very moving.
I have been doing a lot of reading lately around Ashtanga and the Mysore practice wherein it is recommended you practice six days a week following your own breath and movement rather than the guidance of a teacher. In this way, having memorized the sequence, you are able to transfer your practice to a subconscious level and focus internally, which is ultimately the essence of yoga.
As daunting as practicing six times a week may sound, one must make the shift from a fitness oriented approach (which was my approach in the past) to a devotional one. By making this transition, your dedication to the internal connection is key and the physical adaptations occur in unison.
The dedication required in a six-day practice is high and one will be witness on a daily basis to the pain and perseverance in each posture. Through understanding and accepting the mental state that is necessary to work through the uncomfortable, a dedicated practitioner shines light on his or her own purification. The Sanskrit word “Tapas” which translates to heat, is understood as the acceptance of pain that leads to purification and healing.
With daily practice, one accelerates the healing and purification and it becomes one with their every day lives.
This is what I strive for. I am still very new to the practice and know it will take time and progression to practicing six days a week. However my first step has been transitioning my approach from fitness based to a devotional one. This shift is inspiring and I very much look forward to how my practice develops further from this point.