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Teacher of September 2009 - Rachel Tsai

The beauty of meeting the self

“Why do you practice Ashtanga?”
“Why do you want to do the same postures and sequence everyday?”
“What is the point of Mysore style practice?”

These are the questions I get asked, after being an Ashtangi, for more than 6 years first as a practitioner now as a teacher. More often than not, words do not quite form without a few moments of silence as well as a smile.

Hatha Yoga is an integral part of the system of Tantra, the ultimate alchemical and transformative practice of the mind. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois, our beloved guru, embodies just that. It is much more of a mind practice than a physical practice. As we step onto the mat each morning at or before dawn, we begin a journey into the inner core.

Everyday we weave a garland with our breaths as the thread, and the expression of the asanas as the beads. And never will two garlands be identical.

On a physical level, there is great intelligence in the sequence of Ashtanga system. Primary series is known as Yoga Chikitsa, the detoxification therapy. The intermediate series is called Nadi Shodhana, nerve purification. One only experiences the effects through practice, day after day, over a long period of time. There is no other way to taste the fruit of the practice. No shortcut. No magic.

The mind wavers and the body changes. With the sequence and postures fixed, we can observe the unravelling of the mind. Subtly and gradually we begin to see how our reality, our perceptions and perspectives represented by our thoughts and feelings are basically the fluctuations of the mind whose nature is to desire and to react.

Over time we start to uncover that which is still and peaceful in the midst of all the movements of our body and mind – the witnessing seer, the inner self.

The mat is the physical boundary, but there is no frontier in the territory of the soul. If we practice with our heart, we will come face to face with the inner self, in the form of peace and lasting joy.

May we all journey well.


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