I have been practicing Ashtanga Yoga consistently for over six years and now my life is nearly all centered on yoga. Before I started practicing yoga, I was a tired and achy middle aged man with a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 27. But, after I started practicing, my aches and pains slowly went away, my weight naturally went down, and I felt more energetic.
Yoga initially was torturous to me as I was extremely stiff. When I saw how easily others can fold back and forth in class, not only was I a bit jealous, I began to wonder if something was wrong with my body. There were many times that I wanted to give up out of frustration, but luckily I have encountered many wonderful teachers who have told me that yoga is not a competition and that I shouldn’t compare myself to others. They said it should be done to a point that is still comfortable, as mentioned in Yoga Sutra (II.46): “Postures should be steady and comfortable.” Everyone has a different physical condition, so there shouldn’t be any “standard pose”. Following their guidance, I learned to engage my core doing yoga and maintain the quality of my breath. After awhile, my forward bends, twists and back bends all saw great improvement. I remember Russell used to say, “You just need to improve 1 mm”, which sounded laughable when you first hear it. How can 1mm be considered an improvement? But, if you think about it, 1mm a day is 3cm a month and in a year your improvement can be over 30 cm. So, that has been the principle for my practice; a little bit of progress each day, but as long as I continue consistently, one day I will get there.
Why did I pick Ashtanga Yoga? Because I discovered that its sequence may not seem that systematic at first sight, but hidden within are a lot of Western anatomical and physiological knowledge. Each pose prepares you for the next as a thread. Some people think that Ashtanga Yoga is too focused on Asana and neglects other aspects of yoga practice. Regarding this issue, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois has said: “practice, practice, practice, and all is coming.” I myself and many senior practitioners have experienced this – if practiced consistently, Ashtanga Yoga not only changes your body, it also transforms your mind and spirit. One’s behavior naturally conforms to the guidelines of Yamas and Niyamas, the quality of the breath improves and senses slowly draws in (Pratyahara), the mind becomes focused (Dharana) and every day, the practice is felt like meditation in motion (Dhyana). There is more than one path to Samadhi, but I’m sure Ashtanga Yoga is definitely one of them.
I’m very grateful that at SPACE YOGA, I have the opportunity to study under Sally, Russell, Gladys, Axel, Adarsh and Ethan. With their encouragement, I also started going to Mysore every year to study with the master teacher, R. Sharath Jois. Being in India, with the opportunity to exchange views with other practitioners from all over the world made me appreciate and understand even more that beneath this ancient tradition of yoga, it is actually full of modern scientific wisdom. And the depth of this is immeasurable! All we have to do is keep on practicing and the rewards of yoga will naturally happen.