The Moving Meditation of Ashtanga Yoga
Yoga is meditation.
It’s about being present to whatever is going on in your body, in your mind, in your emotions, in your heart, in the world…..
I currently teach two group classes at Yoga Mala in Bloomington: Ashtanga Primary Series (modified) at 6pm on Tuesdays, and Ashtanga Basics (modified & more introductory) at 5pm on Fridays.
The Ashtanga primary series is a set, flowing sequence of poses, beginning with several sun salutations, and followed by many standing postures. These help us build a grounded, resilient foundation.
Seated postures then bring us down to the earth, to the floor. The seated sequence in the primary series is organized around forward-bending, and may help us to release the past.
We continue to unfold with backbending and inversions (legs-above-head). Now, we’ll have moved the body in all directions. Things will slow down on the physical level as we sit quietly in meditation, and practice subtle breathwork (pranayama).
We end the 90-minute session with savasana, a reclined, restful pose. We can absorb the practice, and re-ground ourselves.
All poses can be modified to suit an individual’s current needs. Remember, this is all about being present & not about forcing a body into a particular shape (despite what we may see in pictures or other bodies). Often, letting go of the need to look like your naturally flexible or gymnastically-talented neighbor on the next mat is part of the wisdom practice of yoga. This is not a competitive sport. This is learning to feel, hear, and experience what’s going on within your system in the moment.
The practice is propelled by the breath, always grounded in the breath, or pranic life-force. We practice with awareness, and so develop our awareness.
We learn to soften as we strengthen, to unite sun and moon, male and female, yin and yang, ha and tha (as in hatha yoga), deepening into our truest selves bit by bit.
Here’s one thing I love about the Ashtanga sequences: we revisit the same poses, in the same order, time after time. They become like dear old friends: long-term relationships. We are able to sink ever more deeply into the subtleties of the body/mind/spirit via the asana practice—we know what poses are coming, and this flow becomes meditative.
Really, this is all that we are up to: meditation. A big, whole body, feel-good, nourishing, awakening meditation.