I’ve been a dedicated ashtangi for a little more than a year and a half. At first, my practice was less than traditional. To be fair, it wasn’t all my fault. Our Mysore program had two different teachers with very different styles, so there wasn’t as much consistency as there is in most Mysore rooms.
So I was a bad lady who refused to take moon days or ladies holiday off. I’d try out funky transitions (like handstands between Navasanas and Eka Pada Bakasana after Vira II) and I would giggle and chat during Mysore. Then, one of the two teachers completely took over the Mysore room after some unfortunate events ended the other instructor’s tenure at the studio where I practice. She put an end to all the extraneous stuff during practice. No more talking, no more “fun” transitions. She also explained ladies holiday and moon days to me in a way that made sense, and made me want to honor my body’s cycle and the rhythms of the exterior world.
Since then, my practice has deepened exponentially. It’s steadier, more meaningful, and brings up the exact type of “stuff” that I need to work on. For example, I have major issues when it comes to comparing myself to others. I’m competitive and want to be at the top. Having to watch other practitioners, some who haven’t been practicing for as long as I have, receive new poses before I do is humbling. It reminds me that this practice isn’t about the asana. It’s about doing it every day to the best of my ability. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many poses I practiced in the morning. Whether or not I was a decent human being throughout the day is more important, and that’s easier to do once I’ve had my ego disciplined by practice.
My practice has also become easier–if you can call Primary Series “easy.” I still drip sweat like one of those twirly sprinklers kids run through on summer afternoons, but I’m not exhausted when I lie down after Utplutih. When practice starts to become hard, surprise! There’s usually a moon day coming up so my body can take rest. My practice is less of an activity and more of a routine. It’s part of my life in the same way that eating, sleeping, and bathing are.
So thank you, Amanda Markland, for traditionalizing my practice. And thank you, Guruji, for creating the sequence in the first place and letting us white-skinned westerners in on it.
There’s Amanda, being her awesome self in Tittibhasana. Click here to go to her website and view her teaching schedule.