Much time has past since my last post – an entire year, in fact! During that time I launched a new food business with my partner, and continued teaching the Mysore program at the Life Centre in Notting Hill. Needless to say, life has been extremely busy! Presently, I am back in Boulder, Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, for the first time in seventeen years. It was here that I attended my first Hatha yoga class in the mid-90’s while studying at university. Now I’ve returned to attend a one-month teacher’s intensive yoga workshop with Richard Freeman and his partner, Mary Taylor. The seventeen years in-between have been filled with many experiences and yoga practice, and I am excited to be back where the seed was planted.
Now I get to spend a month in Boulder slowing down from my hectic life in London. It is a moment to reflect and deepen my practice. I have been teaching the Mysore program at the Life Centre for two years now. It has been challenging to maintain this routine while building up our new business. My own practice this past year in London has been more of a ‘maintenance’ practice, keeping me going amidst the demands of my everyday life. This ebb and flow, is typical of the ashtanga practice where one sometimes moves forward, learning new asanas, challenging oneself or at other times, when life becomes very demanding, one may simply continue with the sequence and postures they already know. Of course, new things can be discovered each day, even in a posture one has been performing over a decade.
I feel blessed to be here with Richard and Mary. They are incredibly generous human beings as well as teachers. They have a profound knowledge of yoga from decades of practice. Their approach is undogmatic which is refreshing with a fixed-sequence practice like Ashtanga. Newer practitioners of Ashtanga can often become obsessed with performing an asana precisely ‘as it should be’. They want to know exactly how a position is done (‘where does my foot go? should my chin touch my leg?, etc’). But Richard and Mary do not say, “the asana is done LIKE THIS”. Instead they give direction and actions with which to work. One is forever moving into a particular posture; there is no real ending to a pose, but an infinite unfolding into the posture. This keeps one’s body and mind active and engaged. Each posture has a primary and secondary action, and one works with these actions constantly when performing an asana. The ideal posture cultivates both Prana (upward-flowing energy) and Apana (downward-moving energy), so that the pose expands and grounds infinitely. And this feels really fantastic!
We are also spending time studying philosophical texts such as the Upanishads. The Upanishads are a collection of philosophical Hindu texts which reveal truths about the nature of ultimate reality (brahman) and human salvation (moksha). Recently focusing on the Kena Upanishad, Richard told is that if we have read it, and understood it, then we have not grasped it’s meaning.
That is an example of the paradox inherent in studying such texts. The term Agya (not to know) is explained in the Kena Upanishad. It is similar to the idea of coming to the mat with a beginner’s mind. That is to be open to what will arise during one’s practice, allowing the new to come forth, allowing for a more joyful experience. Pratibodha, or a ‘continual waking up’ is also explained. This refers to the idea of not becoming complacent or stuck in one’s yoga practice (or life for that matter) and to constantly awaken to that which is unfolding in the present moment. The opportunity is there for discovery with each day’s practice, as the dialogue between prana and apana unfolds on the mat.
With three more weeks of the intensive to go, there is sure to be much more unfolding. Check back soon
and till then…
enjoy your practice!
Richard will be in London in mid-September and if you haven’t had the opportunity to study with him before (or even if you have) you should grab the chance! You can access more info and the booking page here: