(I'm a bit more active than the adorable Theodore... I promise you!)
My local YogaWorks, which I joined in January of last year (see my Welcome! post for more details), offers a range of classes including Vinyasa Flow, Yoga Blend, Iyengar, Restorative, and SculptWorks. When I was new to the studio, I tried them all but found none of them turned on my firery pitta personality like the Vinyasa Flow classes. I wanted to be challenged and it wasn't long before I'd progressed through the beginning levels and into the more advanced classes.
OF NOTE: I wrote earlier that my exercise routine had dwindled down to nothing and that was true. Yet in my 20's, I was a certified aerobics instructor and personal trainer. I taught everything from step to cycling to hi/lo to sculpt to stretch to kick-boxing. I truly believe that the body awareness I had already cultivated in those earlier exploits carried over into my yoga practice and allowed me a certain degree of freedom in the asanas. Still, however, my strength was depleted and that continues to take time to rebuild.
So back to the story. There I was, happily learning about yoga and practicing Vinyasa Flow. As I also mentioned in my Welcome! post, I was hungry for more knowledge. I bought a lot of books and started reading a lot of yoga blogs. Many of the blogs I stumbled upon mentioned this thing called Ashtanga and so I bought a few more books and a video on that topic as well - David Swenson's among them.
I tried to follow along with David's video, pausing to check each pose against my various books. Ashtanga was HARD. Oh my gosh, I hated it! HATED. I put the books and video away and decided it wasn't for me.
Yet Ashtanga continued to permeate my consciousness. Real, everyday people were doing it. I know because I read their blogs. One of my very early obsessions was Megan Walker's "Damn Good Yoga". She broke it down and made it seem approachable. Ashtanga tugged at my heart strings and kept calling me back.
I tried to get through any semblance of Primary a few more times. At most, I did parts. I still didn't like it but my "hate" began to soften somewhat. Ashtanga had crept into my soul and refused to let go. I filled my spare time with trying to learn more and more about this crazy practice.
Then, in the fall of last year, I had the opportunity to travel to London to spend a weekend with Kino MacGregor at TriYoga in SoHo. I only wanted to take her arm balancing and backbending workshops because as far as I was concerned, I had no business doing a Led Primary or a Mysore Style class (which were also being offered). When I inquired about the workshops though, I was told that the only remaining spots left were those set aside as a package - for the entire weekend.
I expressed my fears and wrote honestly about my experience thusfar with Ashtanga. I had never even gotten completely through the video, for Pete's sake! Yet the response from TriYoga could not have been more welcoming and supportive. One of the women there had worked with Kino before and said that as long as I was willing to learn, I had as much right as anyone else to be there and that Kino would happily accommodate any level of practitioner. I even wrote to Kino herself to ask her opinion and one of her assistants replied in a similar vein.
So off I went to London. I was scared but determined to be open to the experience. The very first time I ever did the Primary Series straight through as it was intended was in Kino's Led class on Saturday morning. Sunday was Mysore Style and even though I used my cheat sheet (invaluable, by the way, for newbies!) I got through it. I came home and signed up for a series of workshops with David Swenson the next month. (He happened to be visiting LA at the time.)
After David's class one afternoon, I patiently waited to ask him about something I was really struggling with. You see, I knew from all of my research that Ashtanga was something one did to the exclusion of any other style of yoga. Six days per week with a break on moon days and lady's holiday. Early morning was preferable. But I didn't have access to an Ashtanga teacher nearby and in my heart I didn't want to abandon the organic nature of my beloved Vinyasa Flow classes either. Could I do both? Would that be allowed? Would I be a "bad" Ashtangi? Or perhaps not even worthy of that label at all?
I asked David about all of this and with his warm smile and gentle eyes he said, "You need to do whatever makes you happy." Wise words. He advised me not to worry about what I should be doing and just practice in the way that fit best with my life and my desires.
WOW. What a relief! One of the most senior Ashtanga teachers in the world had just given me permission to practice as I saw fit. This gift was a turning point for me. I had been carrying so much guilt and it was a tremendous release to just allow myself to be open to my own needs.
Both Kino and David were fantastic teachers and I cherish the time I had with each of them. After those experiences, I began to realize the importance of seeking out a teacher in Los Angeles. I asked several of my instructors at YogaWorks for recommendations and finally determined I could get to a class mid-day at another studio about an hour from my house. (LA traffic necessitated the mid-day approach.) And so I began practicing MySore Style Ashtanga Yoga on a weekly basis.
Today my weekly practice looks more or less like this:
- Sunday - Ashtanga Led Primary
- Monday - Vinyasa Flow
- Tuesday - Ashtanga Mysore Style
- Wednesday - Vinyasa Flow
- Thursday - Vinyasa Flow
- Friday - Home Practice (mixed)
- Saturday - REST