I recently published on Instagram that I am no longer practicing “the unkind kind” of Ashtanga yoga. A friend asked for me to explain further on what this meant exactly, on what specifically changed in my practice. I want to share that with you.
Here is my initial posting:
“Yoga is a philosophy of life which also has the potential to create a vibrantly healthy body and mind.” – Lino Miele, Astanga Yoga, second edition. ♥️ This statement is sooooooooo true. The last time that Gwendolyn underwent an operation was October 2015, just 5 months after my finding of Ashtanga yoga. Mind you, I had been practicing a general powerful vinyasa flow since 2009, but for those current 5 months, it was pure Ashtanga. The unkind kind. The kind that left my body so broken that after Gwendolyn’s surgery, the stress in my outside life + the stressful practice on the mat created a scenario where my ribs felt broken, tumbling down to a (maybe) broken ankle as I could not so much as walk Gwendolyn to the little grass patch come Thanksgiving in November!! Oi!! 😱 so why mention this now? Because now, in retrospect, I see that the manner in which I respond off of the mat is direct reflection of how I practice on the mat. I am calm and cool and disciplined and rational and scientific. Yes I am emotional and have heart but it is the direct response of rational thoughts in my brain. And Gwendolyn receives better care from me as a result of it. Don’t worry. I’m still a cardio nut on the @pelotoncycle bike, and that is what permits me to be graceful on the yoga mat. And therefore off. Moral of the story is that as Lino says, yoga has a “POTENTIAL to create a vibrantly healthy body and mind.” Divine health from yoga work IS NOT GUARANTEED. It requires work. SMART WORK. And right now my yoga bestie sister @cece.carson is working thru her own injury. Healthfully. I am so proud of her!! 😍”
My gorgeous friend @elleoyoga herein posed her question,
“You no longer practice the unkind kind of Ashtanga? What things have you changed in your practice? I ask because I also adjusted my Ashtanga practice in many ways for many reasons. I also feel I’m no longer an Ashtangi because of all the changes, even thought my heart is always directed by it. It took me a while to make peace with it all. Like you I use running to release all kinds of cardio madness even though it is also a very spiritual experience in a different way than yoga.”
The answer which I provided,
“Beautiful!!!!! You are so beautiful. ♥️ I have sat here for 30 minutes at the end of my vigorous day, typing my reply to you in formal blog format, regarding how I no longer practice the unkind kind of Ashtanga, but it is shit. So I will tell you in just a few words: I do not label myself. This is how I can practice the kind version of Ashtanga. I am not a vegan (rather an independent eater). I am not an Ashtangi (rather a girl who does 30 mins max, sometimes 60 with @jodi_blumstein on @yogaglo). I am not a label except for the most basic element of HUMAN. This holds me accountable to just one thing. At the highest quality. I have met my Friday deadline by 19 minutes. Love you to the 🌚 and back. ♥️”
Yes, that is the simplest answer, and it is the purest, most raw version of it. I am a human. Sure, I could dazzle up my Instagram bio to include, “yoga practitioner, peloton cyclist, DOG MOMMY, etcetera…,” but it holds me accountable and restricted and with a perfectionist personality like mine, that yields combustion. As Samantha Jones of the divine Sex and the City says, “I don’t believe in the Republican party or the Democratic party. I just believe in parties.” Yes, so so so so true!! I am the same. I get a lot of heat for not “being a feminist” given my experience with eating disorders and given my actual sex of lady. Well, first of all, my eating disorder had nothing to do with being female. It rather had everything to do with food being my poison mixed together with a strong desire to be thin = COMBUSTION!! I love that many of my dearest friends call themselves feminists, but to me, each human is equal and deserves equal rights, and I can only be a cheerleader for the human race because I have no time to fight for anything more. I throw my all into fighting for humans. And that is why I write this blog. Because it’s gonna help someone out there, someway, somehow! Also I do it to document my dog’s cute pictures and adventures. DUH. :)
I also could begin to cite specifics on the little things that I do regarding practicing of kind versus unkind Ashtanga. For instance, I now practice savasana. For instance, I now permit myself to deviate from the full vinyasa full primary series. For instance, I am now okay with a slower practice. With just 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there. It is quality over quantity, and that has transformed my body and brain into this happy little yoga machine. It is no longer angry Ashtanga. It is love so hard Ashtanga!!
My friend @sirisyoga added on my comments, “Indeed food for thought! I believe many practitioners have experienced that working too hard, wanting too much too fast actually brings you further away from what you are really trying to achieve. I know I have – an injury as result. Hurry slowly, working in tune with your breath and being relaxed brings so much more – both on and off the mat. Love you Nicole! Nose kiss for both you and Gwendolyn!❤❤❤”
I love her food for thought expression. With regard to Siri’s “hurry slowly” statement, I want to offer a story from my grandfather. In a race from Pacentro to Rome, who gets there first? The horse or the donkey? And the answer is the donkey. Because the horse will travel too quickly, injuring its leg, requiring rest. Thus it takes the horse two weeks of travel, but it takes the donkey just three days to achieve its goal.
There’s something to be said about wise grandfathers. And teachers. And kind Ashtanga.
How has your practice evolved?