Practice Notes

A Body of Practice, the Practice of a Body:
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga at Atlanta Yoga
(Elizabeth Rogers)

 

At Atlanta Yoga, our approach to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is multifaceted. We maintain a disciplined focus on the practice as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois while seeking to refine the practice through an articulation of our experience in and with it. In other words, we approach practice as an art, as the working of a living art. The yield of this work is ourselves: a singular formation of body and of mind.

 

A Body of Practice: When we begin a practice such as Ashtanga Yoga we step into an historical stream at a particular point, our point. This step lands us in the flow of a very complex body of knowledge and inserts us into a lineage by way of which this knowledge is both transmitted and furthered. This is what I refer to as a body of practice. The lineage particular to the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga (itself imbedded in a larger body of knowledge and practice) is that of advaita vedanta, or non-dual experience/awareness. Threads of this school of practice and philosophy can be seen running through Buddhism, Hinduism, and traces of it can be found in western contemplative traditions.

 

The Practice of a Body: When we step into the historical body of a practice, we step into it as an individual. We begin to practice the teachings and techniques that constitute the body of the practice. Along the way something happens, a sort of interiorisation of the practice, or a subjectification of one or more of the transmitted elements of the practice. I like to refer to this point, always noticed after-the-fact, as the ‘taking up of the practice’ by the individual. In some ways, this is the real beginning the practice of a body, one body, a particular body… yours. By referring to this as a practice of a body, I am referencing the particular, but also the very obvious fact that this practice uses the body as an entry point into practice. In this particular tradition, we begin by practicing by learning and repeatedly moving through a set series of postures or asana (this may be the primary series as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi jois, or it may be a particularized or therapeutic loop designed for you for the instructor). There are no doubt any number of reasons for the use of a set series of asana as opposed to a constantly changing one. However, there are several reasons that have made themselves obvious to me time and again, both in my own practice and in those I have seen develop over the years I have been teaching. The first, and most necessary of these reasons for using a set series of poses is that it almost immediately begins to lead to the development and sustaining of a certain steadiness. Pantanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, emphasizes the need to develop steadiness. As a form, a set series is, well, steady. It provides us a point of reference to which we can hold steady, a point to which we return in order to refine. (Steadiness is not to be confused with rigidity, with forcing, nor yet with mindless or compulsive repetition). This steadiness and continued practice, together carve out a space wherein themoments of interiorisation of the practice I referenced above might occur. Another reason I see for utilizing a set series of postures is that it more quickly facilitates a reorientation to the image and thus to the ego, but that is a bit beyond the scope of this introduction.

 

There are several ‘teaching methodologies’ currently in use. These are led classes, Mysore classes, and individual sessions. Each of these methods underscores different aspects of the practice. It has been our experience that it is best to approach the practice by way of all three methods, a point which we are happy to discuss with you.

 

Beginners: We look forward to working with you as you develop a practice. This is a beautiful practice! It is also far from easy. Like anything complex and beautiful, a practice takes desire, time, discipline, and patience to construct. In a word, work.

 

It is difficult to ‘walk off the street’, so to speak, and into an ashtanga yoga class. Your first class can be quite a shocking encounter in many ways! For this reason, please contact us if you are interested in beginning this practice so that we can help you navigate the new terrain.

 

A brief overview:We offer several levels of led classes. In general, you will want to start one-on-one or in a level one class (or ideally, both!). Once you have memorized the opening sequences we encourage taking Mysore class in addition to level 1 and/or level 1/2 led classes. We periodically offer beginners’ series courses. These courses serve as a systematic introduction to the practice and can be quite helpful to take initially or at some point in the first year of your practice.

 

Those with some experience: It is very helpful for us if you contact us before coming to the studio the first time. It gives us a chance to listen to your experience thus far and to direct you to the best classes for you. Time and time again we see that those who enter mindfully and with some direction from those of us to teach at Atlanta Yoga have much better initial experiences with what is often quite new terrain.

 

Please contact us for more information or with queries.

 

Please note: It is generally more expedient if you can initially contact us by e-mail. We can then set up a time to speak on the phone if this is preferred.


More coming soon…