Some time has past and things have settled down from the intense yoga course I attended. A week of excitement, being terrified, sweating, sore muscles, strength, laughter, community and early mornings.
Whilst most people in Stockholm slow down, go on holiday, sleep in late and go to the beach with a good book, I decided to do the complete opposite. Work all summer and instead of going to Sicily to dance tango, I decided to fulfil a dream coming true and practice with Sharath.
Since that first time I got introduced to Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga in Shanghai early 2014, I’ve been intrigued with this practice that just feels so much like home. From the huge fancy gym places where Mysore style practice would take place in Shanghai with bendy Asians and state of the art facilities, to tiny hot Shalas without windows or air in Bangkok, Koh Phangan, and Bali, not to mention the mosquitos.
I’ve for sure had my share of different places, being open, trusting new teachers and see where this would take me. One comfort of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is that it makes you feel like home wherever you go in the world, a littlebit like a milonga for dancing tango. You have a community, you know the poses, it’s early, you do your thing and it’s one of the things I know that instantly brings me to the present moment and gratitude for living, just breathing.
I’ve thought for myself for the past 5 years that one day, I’ll go to Mysore and practice at the source. Well that hasn’t happened yet, I haven’t yet given up this dream but it just happened to be that our dear guru Sharath Jois, the grandson of the father of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga happened to come to Stockholm for his European tour, how lucky I am! So I decided it was meant to be.
After 2 years of Ashtanga break and being back to Mysore for 4 months, I decided it was time to put the stamina in place. So for 6 consecutive days, it was all about waking up at 4:30 and power through the full primary series.
The power of the masses
What an amazing feeling to gather with 170 other yogis and yoginis, breathing at the same time, moving at the same time, like we were a stream of fish in the sea breathing through life in the present moment. Every day brought new challenges into my day. The first day I remember I was terrified. I could hardly sleep the day before, what if I wasn’t ready? Day 3 I could certainly feel I was alive… I find it as much as it is a physical practice (which you need to be prepared for), it is at least as much of a mental practice. On day 2 or 3, I remember I couldn’t really see the end and though that I won’t be able to make it through. But it isn’t really that you can’t leave in the middle, no you stay for the whole thing and it’s just to breathe and trust your body that you can do it.
Of course there were certain poses I humbly skipped and Sharaths ever so slow counting made me think that I really need to slow down in my own practice. But I think that’s the thing, we all have our own things to work on so any comparison is useless.
On day 4 something happened and I started to feel stronger. Day 5 I felt like an invisible powerful Tarsan like man or Jane perhaps in the female form. Knowing that I could do it, even pushing up a little harder in those Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dogs). The rest of that week did mean having some naps in the daytime, going to bed early, eating very consciously and renouncing any summer social activity that included alcohol. Knowing ones boundaries and perhaps not make life harder for you than necessary.
Practicing with Sharath is a big thing in the yoga world. It somehow had been something so abstract and then suddenly became look so real. The first day my heart almost stopped when he came towards me to help me bind in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana. A pose I’ve never been able to bind on the one side. Somehow with some magical eyes he saw that it was perhaps possible and then as of magic my hand touched my foot. It might seem silly but every Ashtangi out there know what I’m talking about.
For the first 3 days he came back to me to help with my struggle poses (Marichyasana B & C) and when yoga mudra. Or perhaps I should call them my new power or blessed poses. I feel blessed indeed.
The best part of the course was afterwards when the yogis all met together to have a beautiful vegan breakfast in old couches. Talking about life, yoga, meditation, travels, deep talks, laughter, chia puddings and such nice energy. I do believe mornings are the most beautiful in the day, you somehow feel so satisfied already at 9 am and then the whole day is still ahead of you.
What I have learned
There is something with his energy that is calm, humble and pure. With a majestic presence he walked around in the room, one word makes the whole hord of people move at the same time and it’s incredible what focus he manages to create in the space.
- Count slowly, every inhale and exhale counts
- Keep the inner flow, every pose is as important
- Integrity, every pose should be done with the fullest intention
- Be humble, every day is different with a new angle
- We are in it for the long run, life is long
- We can do anything, the body is much stronger than you think, just believe in yourself on and off the mat
- Practice practice and all is coming
We can learn so much from this practice. What I’ve started with lately is not only using yoga for physical and mental benefits. But also using yoga as a tool to become aware of the energy in the body and how it moves. For me, it all starts with yoga, then the rest in life and throughout my day will follow. I do believe it can truly transform people’s lives.