5 things I think you will have to explore if you're going to dive deep into Ashtanga Yoga…

The past week and a bit I have been back on the mat at a much more agreeable hour for me (6am)
Karen Breneman is back in the house with full shakti power…
…following her trip to India(ahhhhh) and the US she has picked up some fine gems of inspirational techniques and now…
Chakra Bandhasana (pictured above, demonstarted by Sharath Rangaswamy) is not optional – it  is expected of wee yogi.
… and I say in the most convincing voice as I can muster… “de nada!”

For me... back bending 'comes easy' but when it comes easy, you have to wonder - will it *always* be this easy - what's the point in all this, and how long is this easy access ecstasy going to last for...?

This is what lead me to write this post.
Not that I find *it all* easy (… see picture of me above).
I don’t.
But this practice is physically asking a lot of us all – no matter who you are, Ashtanga yoga takes you to your personal edge (mentally, physically, emotionally) and asks you:
“Are you *sure* you *really* want to do this? Because if you do, you’re going to have to change something – and this practice will change your life forever.”
In my opinion this ‘life changing’ does not just happens as a side effect, but because it is not optional to keep doing unkind things to your mind and body off the mat… Ashtanga yoga stops this in it’s tracks… there is no question, these habits will be mirrored on the mat and you will *have* to make a change or you will literally break.
(… or you’ll just give up and say: “This Ashtanga yoga just is not for me”)
Clearly, I have been thinking about this for a few days and quite frankly cannot *not* write about what is coming up…

So, here goes:
5 things I think you will have to explore if you’re going to dive into Ashtanga…

“Ten years, twenty years, your whole life long you practice. ”
-Shri K Pattabhi Jois

1. Sleep – When we sleep, we digest. We digest our food and we digest our days experiences. Whatever you have taken in during the day is processed. If you are having trouble remembering the sequence or perhaps you simply can’t digest last nights dinner in time for practice, allow sleep to do it’s work, tomorrow might be different. Chronic sleep deprivation may also cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite. What’s more, ‘Tiredness Kills!’ – I am sure we all heard this phrase in road accident campaigns? So – imagine what you could do to yourself in a full power asana practice with little sleep! Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall into a ‘false awakeness’, these lapses may cause falls and mistakes, errors, mishaps, and accidents. Sleep loss can also result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. This is certainly not the attitude for your yoga practice! Your body will not love you back if you hate on it for 90 minutes every morning! I did some research and learned serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat. Sleep is our time to heal. We ‘shut down’ so the body can do what it is designed to do. The fact is, sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. So, all that said, if you’re diving deep in to Ashtanga Yoga 6 days per week, you may well find yourself buying a set of earplugs, making your excuses to leave a little earlier than the rest, canceling late dinners, skipping the late night showing of X, Y, Z movie and perhaps seeking out a mate who does the same! 😉

2. Eat – Our food is our fuel but it is also what sometimes holds us back. A good analogy I use a lot would be this one…
When you eat mashed potato how do you feel? Like a mashed potato!
When you eat a big salad of greens and sprouts how do you feel? Like a sprout!
Think of your body like a racing car, I know most race car drivers choose the finest oils for their engine… can we do the same for our transport system?
Similarly; So, you want to ‘float’ your way through your yoga practice? Time to think about what’s going to facilitate that process. Easier said than done. Food is one of the most addictive things on earth and pretty much all of our life revolves around it. This subject is *huge* but if you’re in this practice for life, no matter what there will come a time where your body will show a sign of some kind that it needs a fuel reveiw.

3. Drink – Fluids are *so* important. Remember it doesn’t have to be water you drink – it could be coconut water, fresh juices & herbal teas that help replenish your levels… Water makes up more than two thirds of human body weight, and without water, we would die in a few days. The human brain is made up of 95% water, blood is 82% and lungs 90%. A mere 2% drop in our body’s water supply can trigger signs of dehydration: fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on smaller print, such as a computer screen. (Are you having trouble reading this? Drink up!). Water is important to the mechanics of the human body. The body cannot work without it, just as a car cannot run without gas and oil. In fact, all the cell and organ functions that make up our entire anatomy and physiology depend on water for their functioning. Not only is this all so important but also the quality of what you are drinking. Water is not always just water – things are added or perhaps left behind as it goes through the cycles of cleaning, raining, re-cycling. Perhaps it is time to explore what the quality of your water is. In fact – I feel a whole other blog about that coming on…

  • Water serves as a lubricant
  • Water forms the base for saliva
  • Water forms the fluids that surround the joints.
  • Water regulates the body temperature.
  • Water aids digestion, by moving food through the intestinal tract and thereby eliminating waste it is the best detox agent.

4. Think – Simply put, this yoga stuff is going to make you think.
As one of my teachers and dear friends Jill Manning would say –
“… yoga is about spacing in, not spacing out”
… *So* true, and you will, dive deeper and deeper, this is a never ending adventure!
But what is *most* important is that you nurture the thoughts that serve you, don’t dwell on the stuff that doesn’t.
I know what I mean but these folks put it way better than I ever will…

A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.
— Mahatma Gandhi

A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life.
— James Allen

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.
— Buddha

All that you accomplish or fail to accomplish with your life is the direct result of your thoughts.
— James Allen

All truly wise thoughts have been thoughts already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.
— Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.
— Buddha

5. Cleansing – Number 5 is one of my specialities! I started cleansing this body way back when I was still in college and I haven’t ignored this part since…
This process is also never ending – at least while we are here in this body anyway!
So, have a think. Is it time to clean the engine? A good way to tell is to reflect upon your practice, whatever that may be and wherever it is right now… Are things not really happening? Are you ‘STUCK’?
Sometimes, we just don’t realise we are feeling rubbish until we come out the other side of a cleanse feeling brand new!
It is your birthright to feel that good *everyday* but you have to take full responsibility and don’t wait a day longer.
Ashtanga yoga is naturally detoxifying, but sometimes the body needs a little help.
If you are not gaining benefits form your practice or perhaps it is just not feeling right and your confused what to try next, have a think about giving your body a wee helping hand.
The body *is* designed to heal but we need to allow it to…
Cleanse the colon – colonics, enemas and lighter eating/juicing will help.
Eat well.
Give your digestion a rest.
Reflect on points 1-4 again, all of which will contribute to number 5.

To conclude I look back over these 5 points and can think of countless students/friends who could do with investigating *at least* one of  these.

Overall – The word ‘lifestyle’ comes to mind.

This practice *is* intense – or as intense as you allow it to be.
Bending the spine for example, this way and that even just a little, is going to ask for some serious TLC before during and after the experience…
In fact all body parts will need this TLC at some point… and all mind parts!
No stone will be left unturned – if you choose to go all the way in.
So we will not always do exact alignment, perfect posture, lazy days happen, carelessness may happen.
We are not always in the perfect mind state either!
See your body as a divine container for the wonderful fruits of this practice.
Reflect on the realistic longevity of your practice as it is right now and if your life could do with a little tweaking.
Write the points down and ask yourself in response to each pont:
“… what can I do tomorrow better than I did today for my engine, my divine container?!”
And finally, why are we doing this in the first place? Only you know the answer to that. But if you have a point make sure you can follow through for the long term… Otherwise, what is the point?!
Have fun!
Enjoy your practice!
Celebrate this life, this body, this mind!
Big Love, Big Peace
from wee yogi ♥


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