Practicing Ashtanga Vinyasa

I have been inspired to practice and encouraged to practice differently these days.   It’s been hard to change old habits and to come to the practice with a new set of eyes.  To take what I thought was good enough for myself and to expand into new depths of the practice.  I started to understand that these self imposed limitations may be just that – self imposed.  Could I go deeper, could I get through the discomfort and sometimes pain have been attached to? Was I able to see the light at the other side of whatever I was working on?

This yoga practice, the Ashtanga yoga method is a wonderful tool that we have to work towards letting go and controlling the mind and to healing. The breath being the guide and this method of having one prescribed movement with each breath.  I thought about what the description of vinyasa is and what we say when we refer to Ashtanga as a vinyasa system of moving with the breath.  The key point that one may ask is; What is the harm in taking an extra breath here and there? What about taking our time getting into poses and even getting out of them? We are still moving and breathing.  For me, it gave me an opportunity to dwell and to think and to do something besides what I set out to do . . . YOGA.   I understood that every time my hand went down to the floor to touch habitually, every time I looked down or I did something else like touch my hair and clothes, that I was just using delay tactics.  I was stalling.  I always thought that I respected the vinyasa of the Ashtanga method . . . the primary series at least. I may have respected it but I wasn’t doing it.

I have been working on actually doing it for a few months now with a teacher.  She is a rock and is instilling in me techniques that I am able to incorporate into practice and translate.  She doesn’t see or believe in my limitations and only shares in the possibilities.  In actuality they are only my self imposed limitations and her strength and “apana” is catchy.  The firmness is catchy and after years into this practice I am amazed at the power of the practice to heal.  It has been a challenge for me.  I knew it was doable and instead of being disappointed in myself because I could not do it, I kept trying.  I have to keep reminding myself to let go of judgements and expectations and my thinking.    The prescription is the practice.  Today I had FUN.

It is a continual ebb and flow just like your days at the home, office or studio.  Enjoy the ride!


Sill working on utthita trikonasana

Photo Credit:  Christine Løve Hewitt/Mysore 2014


Merry Christmas from Mysore

Life if simple here in India. I am in a small town in Gokulam just outside the big city of Mysore, which isn’t so big, but there is a lot of activity there. I often go downtown by rickshaw for the adventure. Gokulam is sort of protected but it’s authentic as small towns come. I can get everything I need for the apartment from cleaning supplies to fresh fruit and flowers just a short walk away. You buy what you need. They ask if the bananas are for today or tomorrow just to be sure that they are just right. I love the chocolate man and the coconut stand and of course my favorite place to stop for nuts or juice is the little stand around the corner from the Shala called Guru & Sons. Sometimes they have fresh nut butters and even banana bread.

Practice at the Shala under Sharath’s watchful eye is focused. I feel like I am rebuilding my practice and finding it refreshing to see it change. I have to watch the breath as the Shala gets hot and you can heat up fairly quickly. By the time I am at the seated asanas, sweat is strong and even throughout my body. It feels good to get to the floor. It’s also a good time to reconnect and collect yourself, breathing freely with no movement, almost feeling effortless, connecting to those allusive bandhas. I’m enjoying all of the practices here and as usual we learn something new every time we come to the mat.

The day before the New Moon, Sharath made a comment that I was stiff and we can blame in on the moon. He knows I’m not one of the bendy people and I’m able to be amused at his comments. Today I felt more open for sure and he says to the assistant, “Have her catch.” He knows I’m not catching so it’s amusing when I am asked which side first. “He’s kidding”, I say and I try harder this time to deepen the backbend, which means; walk, walk, walk, the hands to the feet. It’s fun and after three weeks I feel more confident to keep trying.

I’m happy practicing here and I get the feeling that the people coming here become your big extended family after a while. After practice, I look forward to chanting sessions with Laksmisa and other classes. Breakfast spots are fun to connect and chat with other westerners. It can be as quiet or busy as you want it to be. Lunch is the main meal and you can tell by the practice the next day if you ate well the day before.

I’m noticing different things about myself. When I feel lonely or tired or sad, I know it will pass. One day I heard a dog crying and looked to see where he was in the small cage under the stairs of a house. Then I saw a woman with a baby begging and I keep seeing puppies looking for their mother everywhere. I love the cows and want to feed them. I love the dogs and want to give them some love. The goats make me smile. I close my eyes and wait for these feelings that get stirred up in me to pass.   I’m not sure I could do this if not for the practice.   The practice makes us sensitive and the practice also teaches us that you don’t have to be stuck in any emotion too long.

I try to stay in the present and breathe and feel and be grateful.   Tomorrow I will practice at the Shala on Christmas Day and remember the times hitting the slopes or waking up to waffles and ice cream, dedicating my practice to my three sons.  Maybe I’ll find some waffles!  Merry Christmas from Mysore!  – Deb


Tomorrow You Do

I got a new pose today but I didn’t do it today. I get to do it tomorrow. You have to be patient here and just practice. No expectations and do what is required. Hopefully he’s watching. He is watching. Nothing goes on in that Shala without him noticing. If he didn’t see you do a particular asana that you have been working on, you may have to do it again so he can. It’s a beautiful thing how the connection is made to Sharath for everyone.

Today I came up from the backbend and there he was right in front of me. I’m stalling as I have to drop back and he stays right there and says, “Go.” I proceed like he’s not even there and I come up continuing in my normal fashion. Finally he says Pashasana tomorrow. It is likely that he knows I am waiting for this day. This is not just any pose but the first pose of the Intermediate Series in Ashtanga yoga.  This gateway pose that I have been secretly longing to do here in Mysore.  Every time you have those desires that come up you have to try to settle and practice yoga.

I’ve struggled and had to figure out how to get there doing what is required. I see people struggle in the practice. I know where they have been and understand the journey that it takes. For me it took time and commitment to it. Kino calls it a project and these projects are supposed to turn into progress. She also helped me to pick one of two projects and leave it at that. The good news is that we want to be encouraged to come to the mat, we want to make it so that we enjoy the practice and we want to make it so that is just challenging enough.

I had not felt so challenged here in Mysore doing the primary series, even though I know that I can always work on something. Always. Primary normally feels like coming home but this past week I have had enough. I caught myself having desires, expectations and was becoming impatient. As one would expect, this turned into disappointment.   However, grateful to this journey and to yoga, I managed to let it go, to continue to smile, forging ahead. I managed to continue to come back to practicing yoga. C-Ray says that you can’t control your thoughts but you do control your thinking. This relates to the understanding that we have a choice as to how we are going to react in any situation.   What happens on my mat and in the Shala is no different to situations in our lives. The tools are there for us.

Tomorrow I continue to do the Primary Series and I get to move into Intermediate! I have to admit I am very excited about this.   It’s perfect timing actually and now I get to “think”of something else beside Pashasana!

Yoga Rocks Summer 2011 081

Picture from a Yoga Rocks retreat in Greece in 2011

Led Ashtanga in Mysore

I looked at the clock after lunch today and it was 2:22.  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I smile inside and out when I see that.  Nothing crazy, just that things are going in a positive direction for me . . . today.    Then I quickly looked up and met a cow in the road who wanted me to pet her head all day.   But alas I was on my way to Sanscrit Class. It’s been good day and even though I can’t get the vowels right in Sanscrit, I’m not judging.

Today was led and although my apartment is around the corner and I could get over to the Shala in 2 minutes, I feel late.  You are not supposed to be too early and you can’t be late.  Then of course there is Shala time and the clock in the apartment is set to that which is helpful. I arrive at the gate minutes before the second wave of people and the steps are full, so I take a seat on the ground next to the bottom step. I feel pretty lucky when I see everyone coming up behind me. People will enter to the right and left of me and I will be right in the middle, which sort of means I will get squeezed out.  I know the drill as you have to keep moving and work your way up without a sound and no stopping.  No pushing as that would not be yogic.  There is nothing yogic about getting your spot for led class, as you are out for yourself and you only worry about yourself it seems.  I’m pretty friendly and let a woman know she should move those mats over and get in or someone else will.  There is literally 1/2 inch between mats so for anyone talking about not having enough room to practice at AYM, we have luxury right now.

I end up on the stage, in a spot where I will have to be careful not to fall.  Any mis step will have me toppling into the room.  Just so you are not in suspense, I don’t fall, remain very steady and keep my dristhi at my nose (very intently) in Chakransana or the backward roll as I seriously could roll off the stage.  Dristhi is so very important and I feel very connected to the elements of my practice keeping me steady.  Today’s practice felt like coming home with Sharath directly in front of me in his chair.  He stays there mostly, but gets up during the seated asanas to makes sure everyone is wrapping and this is where he has to tell some people to stop.  In the headstand, Sharath loves to say “don’t fall” and I say to myself no kidding I have to stay with it here.  My legs shake in Ardha Sirsasana, but i don’t fall.

It was a really nice practice and I’m loving primary again. There is always something to polish in the primary series and it’s fun because these days it does keeps changing for me. I’m riding the energy of this place. Sharath took my legs to cross in Supta Kurmasana and I probably should have sat up but still not sure of the protocol.  We have led again tomorrow as it is the first day of the week.  There is more people now as the first week of registration is done.  I’ll be early tomorrow!

My first week was fun.  I got right into the swing of things with practice, my apartment and touring.  I’m meeting fun people, stopping for coconuts and trying never to be in too much of a hurry most times except when we all shuffle into the Shala for Led Ashtanga

There's a cow in the road, always!

There’s a cow in the road, always!


The Monkey Mind

I tried, I really did try to keep focused and practice today. I had a nice spot in the middle of the room and as I started to practice I noticed my mind wandering. I continued to bring it back to my breath and then I remembered to use the drishti, but my drishti keep going. I was not steady today. I even had weird thoughts like I wonder if he would notice if I stopped after Navasana? What if I just rolled up my mat right now? Then I had this conversation in my head that Sharath and I would have. So you see crazy monkey mind? I figured stopping at Navasanna was not an option for me anyway. It probably would only be to get his attention. Maybe that’s what students do? “Hey _______ , I’m going to stop after Navasana . . .” and the conversation continues just so the student can get to talk to the teacher. Could be?

I decided to continue to try to focus.   I remember that the breath could help and although in the asana I could stop and focus and breathe, it was in the transitions that my mind took over. Supta was done properly (which means it felt just right) and then there I am hanging out in Bakasana. So there I am with my “Bakasana looking good” . . . BUT you don’t hold it there! Again I’m thinking jump back or no, step or go.   I’m hanging out for a breath or two or three too long . . . thinking. Long enough to get noticed. It’s important to be efficient here. I take time in backbends, too much time, so the rest has to be efficient. I’m trying.

So the mind continues to try and take over the practice and getting to backbends, I get to meet Sharath. My breath is not that great at this point. I do my three drop backs and he jumps off the stage. I’m sensing a system as assistants are mulling around. It’s actually in the timing maybe. He’s easy on me today and I do the walk, walk, walk with my hands and they don’t go too far toward my feet until I’m up.   It’s fun. I’m excited to keep doing the work and I’m up for that. I have heard that before in things I have set out to do. “Are you are up for that?” The mind has to help get you here and the breath will lead you to the tools to bring you to yoga.

Tomorrow is Led. I am not overly excited it’s led for the possibility of not getting a spot or better yet being in some far off corner, which may not even be in the main Shala. Therefore, with no expectations I will take what I get. I will take action, however, and try to get in just like everyone else.  When I face challenges, I’ll just remember to breathe before I take each action and smile when I gently move a mat or two to make a space for my mat.

Happy Moon Day!

Don't take my picture!

Don’t take my picture!


Been Here Before

I’m  glad that I’ve been here before.  When you have been somewhere before there is a level of fear that just goes away, disappears and it’s like you’ve never been fearful before.   I mean when you get to India and you don’t have the right address of where you are staying, you could start to panic.  Picture this, you’ve traveled for days, you ate so you aren’t hungry but you’re tired, not only are you tired, but you LOOK tired and just want to unpack but since you have the wrong address you . . . have a coconut.

Good thing I paused and had a coconut as I saw a friend come out of the Shala.  There are  lots of people coming out after practice but I call out his name and we chat. I tell him my story (at this point I just figured my driver was not all there and that I had a good address) He helps with internet access.  Long story short, I was around the corner from where I needed to be.   It’s a combination of not being fearful, having some trust in some people (Mahesh watched my bags – I took the rupees out), and being able to pause and stay in the moment.  To pause, to think and to breathe.

I spent some time settling in after this, which also means to pause.  Lots of things are different so you have to take your time, think and figure things out from light switches to locks to heating the water for the shower which seemed pretty important to me.  Communication is not always easy but everyone smiles and somehow you start to understand each other with gestures.  They are speaking their language and you are speaking your own, in sometimes a louder tone than normal, like they may understand you better.

The registration was uneventful which is good.  Sharath is busy with a big line forming and I’m glad he sees me here, takes my fee and gives me my start times.  I’ve been here before so I’ve got everything ready.  Checked my list and checked it twice.  I’ve been here before and it’s all pretty familiar.

Led class is at 6 am and now “Shala Time” is 15 minutes before the actual time (last time it was 20 but I can handle this).    I’ve never been able to figure out how to get into the room before the rush so of course there is no obvious spot.  So I pause, but not too long, and because I know the drill, I know that there is very little space between mats during the led class.   I see these mats in a row with some luxury space around them and make a move to “create” a space for my mat.  It would have been done anyway and I got a nice spot near the alter on the far side of the Shala.  So for now I avoided the changing room and the stage but I’ve got a few weeks left.  Once my arms went up for the first sun salutation, I had a sense of ease around the practice that’s been missing.  I held the counts and focused on breathing.  It was fun!

Today for practice you get called into the room and there is absolutely no reason to worry, everyone will get to practice.  I feel pretty relaxed about this BUT you can’t choose a spot, it’s chosen for you as people finish you become the “One More”.    So I’m the one more and he doesn’t ask for my card and I get to start my practice.  My only wish is that I feel good and that I continue to work on having some ease with the practice.   The pause I felt in the practice was in between the breaths and this makes practice just delightful.  I keep going and keep breathing and I take my time and get to the end feeling grateful. Grateful that I am able to move with ease, that I can hear my breath and that my breath is giving new energy and life to my practice . . . just for today.

My apt in Mysore-2nd floor

My apt in Mysore-2nd floor

Thanksgiving & Practice

I’m happy that Thanksgiving gives me an opportunity to stop and be reminded to be thankful.   I can say that I am grateful and thankful, but to tell you the truth sometimes it’s just not the first thing you think about when things may not be going your way or, I’ll just say it, as expected.   It’s a process of letting go of the outcome and how you think it’s supposed to be. I’ve been taking action these days, preparing for positive things and setting the stage. That action that I’ve been taking feels like it’s got this cool ripple effect and it’s bringing about change and something very powerful.

I’m really impressed on how the practice is working in the lives of many people that have been coming to AYM. The beauty of fellowship and caring that I have seen and felt among the practitioners of all levels is impressive especially this week being Thanksgiving and holiday time.   Many of the practitioners seem to be in it together. They don’t know each other deeply . . . yet . . . but they are in it together. When you call it fellowship I sort of think that it’s so much more than that. The oneness that is experienced in the room of people breathing and practicing is more than fellowship. Each person feels a sense of gratitude for coming to the practice. They want to be there, they want to practice and they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. I’m so grateful to have these students come and share their energy with others. I believe it’s that energy that is lifting some people up. We don’t know what is going on in each others lives for the most part but whatever each is doing, I am thankful that this practice has an enabling effect, has a grounding effect, gives confidence and has the ability to radiate out something powerful to ourselves and back out to each other and in our relationships.

It’s funny when you have love to share, you see more and more clearly, the love, compassion and kindness everywhere around you. What a great mirror!

P.S.  By the way I’m thankful for my three beautiful grown sons, my family-immediate and extended, my friends both old and new (meaning old in length of time, not age :)), my dogs who show me unconditional love and love me the most, my path that has led me to share the practice, my teachers C-Ray and Timji for some most recent discoveries and for this time getting to learn from Sharath and you know the list just goes on and on right now.


Anniversary of my birth

I feel loved today and for that I am so thankful and very blessed.  I have to say that I don’t have many expectations these days on the anniversary of my birth however today I was very happy, genuinely happy as to the direction of my life.  I get up pretty early and it’s a regular schedule but for some reason there is a spring in my step and I feel peaceful. I go to meet the vegetable delivery guy, Bob, and he blurts out “Happy Birthday”.  I’m a little stunned but I like it.   It’s a fun and easy exchange to start me on my day.

The studio is gearing up as always with Hillary setting the stage.  She rocks the intermediate series like no other and continues to try new things.  I enjoy watching her progress as well being inspired by her practice. She sets the pace every morning for sure.   The students at AYM totally inspire and amaze me.   After the chant they all blurt out a round of Happy Birthday!  Crazy but fun.  Ganesh is wearing a party hat and there is a sign on the board with the word LOVE in it and there are cards, gift bags and a new coffee mug.  And it’s just 6 am!

Every smile and exchange that I had today was so pleasant. I think when you are happy, open and receiving people feel it and something taps into them to make them feel good as well.  The yoga brings us all together in the rooms but seriously this is not an easy practice.  There are physical demands, mental demands and then there are those judgements you just have to leave at the door.   The self doubt, the comparisons and the questioning.  Oh yeah and don’t forget about FEAR.

Today was different and I felt different.  At I mentioned before, I felt peaceful but it was more of feeling at ease.  Learning not to rush, not to have the continual worry mind chatter and to stay in the present was the key for me today.   As I look back on the two sessions that I taught and the exchanges throughout the day I felt present.  As a teacher there are a lot of demands in the room.  Even if some of them are self imposed by yours truly they are there and this can cause stress.  But today I practiced yoga and for that I am grateful.  It was honest and there was a “union” or a coming together that I noticed in my actions and my mind and when I needed to, I paused.

I continue to trust that I am exactly were I am supposed to be and that everything happens for a reason.  The faith for some reason just keeps getting stronger and I finally feel wiser today.  Who knows about tomorrow but every day I step on the mat I step there with new eyes so that I can learn something new about the essence of myself.   Trying to let go, to drop the rope and to breathe.  I encourage people to do the same.

So we have heard the saying, ‘the Universe is testing me” and I guess I use this a lot.  Zach wrote on his card, “The Universe may be testing you but I think you are going to pass with flying colors”.  I am proud of the people around me, from my boys, my family – mom, dad, step mom, sis .  . . , to my students, my special apprentice, my old friends and new friends to the random people I come into contact with.  Thank you all for the beautiful thoughts, birthday posts, text messages, calls, birthday cards and sweet gifts.  The gift of your presence was all I needed and I got so much more.  Feeling overwhelmed but for the first time not crazy emotional and taking it all it as I need to.  I feel well FED for a wonderful year ahead.

Namaste all!




The Hump

There is a little personal stumbling block in the Intermediate series and it just so happens that todays training session started with it.  It is a series of poses were a lot of people come up against a lot of challenges.  I have been doing this pose for a very long time and although I make progress I quickly digress and then I’m back to feeling like it will never happen and physically not feeling so great which makes it difficult to persevere.  This in Tim’s words is something like not practicing with the appropriate amount of effort.  Too much the wrong way causes pain in the physical body. For me it sort of is going back to down dog.  Anyway not to get specific as it’s not that important.  The best part is that my attitude is changing.

Today I assisted, practiced and then had the training.  If it sounds like a long day, it is, and physically I did not think I could do another thing let alone a stumbling block asana.  As we got closer to the end of the session with about an hour left I was sure we would not be doing another asana.  Well I was hoping . . . however I was mistaken.  In part of these hump poses in the intermediate series is something I have always struggled with and I never felt like I could move or make any progress.  So a few people did a demo, we learned the proper vinyasa count and then he always asks for someone who may have challenges to come up and demonstrate.  Keep in mind that everyone who gets up really does not look like they have much of an issue or any trouble at all to me.   In any event I could learn something or help someone else so I am going to take that chance and go up to the front.  Well I do it and get some feedback and move a little.  I do it again with an instruction from Tim, move a little more.  It was pretty bad and I have a lot of work but I learned something.

What I am learning is that we have to struggle to get to the other side.  For some it will take longer than others.  Even though I have been at this for a while there are other things that change and then some things stay the same be mostly the good things get better if you let it especially when you can approach things with a new set of eyes or feelers.  I started to sort of give up and but with these new sensations and a new attitude I am looking forward to approaching it all on the mat tomorrow.  Besides at the end of the session one of my fellow trainees thought that my approach was “cute”.   Not a compliment but as Tim says when we go up to the front to demo, “We take one for the team”.  Onwards . . .



When we started to talk about the heart chakra I knew I may get emotional.   I was pretty sure it was going to get deep, intense and powerful.   At this point with the practice I am open and ready and want to keep going deeper so come what may I’m listening.  I came here to get direct knowledge from Tim Miller who every days comes to spend the day with us from 6 am to pretty much 6 pm and if he is teaching a class after our normal session then it’s till 7 or 7:30 pm.  He puts in the hours with us and is showing a lot of love to us all.  He’s so amazing at this and it all comes so natural to him.  He temperament is calm, loving, patient and he is full of the knowledge and he shares stories with us openly holding nothing back it seems.

Tim enjoys discussing Vedic astrology with us and since Friday is linked with the planet Venus it is a day of Bhakti and Devotion.  By now we know what this means as the harmonium is situated to be used so we are going to get to do some chanting together.    The heart chakra is called the Anahata chakra and this means unstruck wheel.  I looked this up to see if I could find a good translation of this and found it in a yoga journal article as follows, “unstruck or unhurt.  Its name implies that deep beneath our personal stories of brokenness and the pain in our heart, wholeness, boundless love , and a wellspring of compassion reside.”

We had just come through a good hour going over kapotasana so we have all been tapping into this center.  It was like we were so ripe for the discussion when we returned from a break.  We all tried to open he heart.   As we went on to discuss the heart charka as an energy body Tim said that although we would like to open the heart it cannot be done by force.   So how does one open the heart?  We all sat thinking and said things like grace, gratitude, devotion and compassion is what we are looking to cultivate deeply.   Gratitude helps to develop grace and gratitude cultivates devotion.  The chant we do everyday puts us in reminder of that.

Tim’s life must have gone in a whole new direction the day he found the practice or the practice found him.   When he talks about Pattabhi Jois, his eyes are bright and full of love and full of gratitude.    It’s amazing and beautiful to experience.  He talks about the first days when his teachers in California told him that Guruji was coming for three months to teach that first time 1975.  When I experience Tim’s teaching I fell like he is the embodiment of Guruji and the closest I can come to the source.  What struck the heart chakra today was when Tim spoke of Guruji and how it was possible to do what he did for so long.   He spoke of how he loved to teach the students and how teaching was what he lived for.   It was when he could no longer teach that he could not last much longer in his body and passed.   As Tim said, it’s that divine love and devotion that is the ojas (vigor or fluid of life) and the long burning fuel for the practice.   Guruji’s devotion was the long burning fuel for teachning.

Tim & Deb Friday 1st week