Satsang in Boston with Robert Moses

Our Ashtanga community gathered for a Satsang with Robert Moses in early December. We enjoyed Kate’s homemade chai and cookies and fruits provided by all who gathered. Robert spoke to us on the subject of Darshan and Drishti and more, and then performed a pooja for Saraswati, among others. Photos by Cara Brostrom.

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New Ashtanga Yoga and Mysore classes coming to Boston

We are so happy to congratulate our Boston Ashtanga yoga teacher on her new faculty position with Down Under Yoga. Kate will be the director of the Ashtanga Program at their new studio, opening soon at 1054 Beacon Street. We hope you’ll join us at the new location for morning Mysore practice with Kate, offered 5 days a week, with a Led Primary series on Sunday mornings. Mysore classes are slated to begin on September 16th. Stay tuned to the Down Under Yoga website for more details on class registration.

Kate O'Donnell

photo by Cara Brostrom

Kate O’Donnell began yoga by accident in South India at age 20. Ten extended trips to India and 15 years studying the wisdom traditions of the sub-continent support Kate’s understanding of Ayurveda and Yoga. After years of dedication to the Ashtanga system, Kate has experienced great benefit from this practice, and was authorized by her teacher Sharath Jois to teach the Primary and Intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga. She is working through advanced series in her annual trips to the K Patthabi Jois Ashtanga Institute in India.

Kate offers this tradition at Down Under Yoga in the “Mysore Style”, as Ashtanga Yoga is taught in the city of its origins. Kate’s morning classes are appropriate for all levels from total beginners to advanced, encouraging a self-reliant and therapeutic yoga practice. Students can expect individual attention, hands-on assists, and learn the Ashtanga sequence daily, at their own pace, always progressing. Thursday night “led” class, Kate teaches a simpler portion of the primary series, focusing on the “vinyasa”, rhythmic breath and movement system that makes the body flow. Kate has been teaching Ashtanga yoga in Boston for 8 years, and often turns down travel offers in order to remain present for her local community and personal practice. Kate is always grateful to the Jois family for their teachings, Nancy Gilgoff on Maui, and the therapeutic works of Eddie Modestini and Nicki Doane.

The study and practice of Ayurveda, India’s ancient healing system, is an integral part of Kate’s yoga teaching and lifestyle. Kate believes how we take care of the body, mind, and senses is central to enjoying balance and evolution in life and yoga. Her personal healing with a doctor in India led to a love for Ayurveda and inspired her to pursue studies at the Kripalu School of Ayurveda. As a Certified Ayurvedic Consultant and Yoga Specialist, Kate teaches diet and lifestyle workshops and seasonal cleansing programs at Down Under Yoga, as well as retreats abroad. Her teaching aims to help others come closer to their true nature. Illuminating self-knowledge through Ayurveda, Yoga, and Community keeps Kate inspired. www.ayurvedaboston.com

 

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Intro to Mysore-style Yoga Practice

Hello Boston, we have an introduction to Mysore workshop coming up. This is a great way to get your feet wet and start off with a one month commitment to Mysore practice! Also a great way to get in the groove again if you’ve been out of practice for awhile.

Uth Pluthi - mysore style ashtanga yoga - photography by Cara Brostrom

 

Introduction to Mysore with Kate O’Donnell

New date! Saturday, April 27 | 8 AM – 9:30 AM | Karma South End

Please note this workshop has been postponed by one week due to current events unfolding in the city of Boston. It has been rescheduled from its original date of April 20th, to April 27th.

Traditionally, the practice of Ashtanga Yoga is learned from one teacher, in increments, over the course of time. As one posture is mastered, the next is offered. “Mysore style” refers to the way the practice was taught in the Indian city of its origins, Mysore. In this style, students move and breath at their own pace, and the teacher has the ability to observe and adjust students individually. This workshop is meant to teach you the sun salutations and finishing postures, as well as introduce the philosophy behind this method of yoga practice. My hope is to provide an opportunity for you to explore the tradition, and to help you feel comfortable in your own practice so you may begin attending daily morning classes and learning the sequence. Class is appropriate for absolute beginners, as well as students of other styles. All ages are welcome.

Cost: $75, includes Mysore practice free for one month! Payment may be made at class, cash or check only.

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My Experience as The Teacher

My journey here in Glasgow is almost at an end.  Being the surrogate leader these past few months has taught me a lot. I came here without expectations, and started with what I knew. In the beginning, it was natural to approach the Mysore room like a 2-hour assisting stint with chanting half way through. Over time, however, I learned to inhabit the presence of a teacher. Being the teacher is more than just moving bodies around. You have to know how to approach a student, when to push them harder than they think they can go and when to back off. You have to trust not only the practice and the students, but also yourself. The first part is easy. As a student who studies under excellent teachers, my trust in the practice has already been fostered. Plus, the practice benefits from a long history and large sample of beneficiaries, and when treated with respect, it is not hard to see it’s efficacy.

A few months of keeping a watchful eye on the students…

Trusting the students also came pretty easily. The main thing I needed to know was that no one was going to hurt themselves. This was very straightforward with the Mysore groups (both morning and evening); each of the handful of regulars has been practicing for years, and ambition remained absent from the room. Sure, there were a few sporadic instances of asana-lust, but overall everyone clearly knew their own boundaries, and I was impressed with the lack of goal-orientation in all of the practitioners. Although everyone was very receptive to being challenged, I feel like the students in Glasgow have embodied the rule of 80% effort in practice. Try, but don’t try so hard that you can’t come back and try again tomorrow. It has been a very grounded room to move through.

Teaching my Tuesday night beginners course has had a very different feeling. It was extremely exciting to take the reigns and introduce Ashtanga to total newbies, but it certainly took more time before I could trust the students not to hurt themselves. In the beginning, there was confusion, exhaustion, distraction and even a bit of resistance to instruction  Still, by introducing the asana slowly and keeping the focus on the breathing, I’ve seen a shift of awareness run through the room.  It has been incredible to see how much progress can be made in such little time, and to witness the love of the practice grow.  Each week the students leave smiling, proud of what they didn’t even realize they could do.

Back bending – all of my struggling pays off for me AND the students!

In the end, it was getting to work with the students day in-day out that made me believe in myself as a teacher. At first, I worried that I wasn’t doing or saying enough; that I wasn’t going to be helpful to anyone. But as I became better at bringing to my teaching the focused attention I try to cultivate during practice, the egoistic mind-chatter began to die down. It’s not really about me, after all. I learned to watch more and do less, to bypass hesitation and trust my own judgement. I have found that I am most confident when helping with things with which I have struggled the most. Which, of course, is what everyone always says, right? That hardships can often provide our most useful insights.

I have loved exploring the role of the teacher these past few months, and will genuinely miss the students and connections I have made here. However, I now more fully appreciate that in order to evolve as a teacher, I must go home to my own practice. Although my practice has been consistent, there is no substitute to the watchful eyes of an experienced teacher, the feeling of practicing with a dedicated community, and the freedom to focus on learning that being a student affords.

Practicing alone, much like in Glasgow. Soon back to the busy room so filled with breathing.

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yoga is not mechanical: teaching Ashtanga

Scot Hendricks is our visiting teacher this winter in Boston, while Kate O’Donnell is in Mysore, India.

While regular “teacher-hopping” is not recommended for those practicing ashtanga yoga, it can be very beneficial to the students when a guest teacher comes for a few months.

There are no 200-hour ashtanga yoga teacher training programs; what makes a teacher is a long and devoted relationship to their teacher, an inquisitive and sustained practice, and a healthy appetite for self-study.

It is this method of ‘training’ which makes each teacher a unique conduit for a yoga practice which from the outset can seem formulaic and mechanical, when in fact there is much subtle knowledge to be found.

With a little guidance, of course.

As Scot has been getting to know each of us so well over the past few weeks, I asked him to share a bit more about his own background and approach to teaching Ashtanga Yoga. His response is below.

Om.

Cara

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 What is your approach to teaching Ashtanga yoga?

My approach to teaching Astanga yoga involves finding the work each individual needs to do in their own practice, and assisting to direct their attention to what might be getting in the way of their experience of yoga.

I tend not to focus on getting people into a pose, i.e. just helping them bind their hands, or bend or twist more. When working on a specific pose, I feel that what we are looking at is not just the pose itself, but how it confronts the student with something that relates to the entire practice. Often this approach requires letting go of what we think the finished pose is supposed to look like — “getting off the time line” — and taking a greater interest in the process.

This might start with listening to the quality of the breath, or clarifying the vinyasa sequence, pressing into the root to feel a more stable, balanced expression of the pose. There are many ways we work, all basically aimed to bring more attention to how it actually feels to be in the asana. If we can get into it deep enough, the practice reveals what to do – “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah.”

So I’d say my approach is to assist people to become more involved in doing the practice, in a way that will let them have a clearer experience of what yoga is. It’s what I feel Pattabhi means by “do your practice, and all is coming.”

Progress is not in getting people to be able to do more “advanced” poses, but in being able to go deeper into the poses they are already familiar with. At the same time, attempting more advanced poses is a great way to bring back an appreciation for the poses which we practice daily. It helps us gain a new perspective. See what we may have missed, or have been avoiding. One of my often quoted teachings from Tim Miller, “avoidance is not the answer.”

Over the years as I travel around and teach lots of new students in various places, I’ve noticed that as I watch people doing surya-namaskar I get a pretty good picture of what the rest of their practice will look like. It’s all there right from the beginning. That’s why I never get bored teaching fundamentals. What is amazing to me about the Ashtanga system is that after more than 20 years I still enjoy it.

Krishnamacharya said it best, “yoga is not mechanical.”

 

Scot Hendricks has been a student of yoga for more than 25 years.

He began the practice of Asthanga Yoga with Chuck Miller in 1991 at YogaWorks, in Santa Monica California.

He continues to practice under the guidance of Tim Miller in Encinitas CA, and Rolf Naujokat in Goa India. Scot has spent many years in Thailand, India, and Japan deepening his experience of the body-mind-spirit through the practices of Yoga, Vipassana Meditation, Thai Massage, Dance and Aikido.

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Readiness, Comfort and Squidgy Energy

Checking in again from Glasgow! I’m home from teaching Led Primary at the Movement Studio, and thinking of the all of the Boston Ashtangis who will be Ekam-Inhaling soon enough.  Last week I met two native Ashtangis, Sue and Hugh. They are Neuroscientist who I got in contact with through Kate before leaving Boston. Like most of the locals I’ve met so far, they are warm, friendly and eager to help me “get on” in Glasgow.

The Movement Studio, pre-Led Primary

I went to a hilariously fun dinner last weekend with them and a large group of about 30. After drinks were served, some chuckles circulated about my accent (especially when I pronounced “GlasGOW” instead of the local softer version, “Glasgohh”).  We followed the night of boozy joviality with the less jovial Les Miserables

Not where I saw Les Mis, but an equally charming theatre I visited the night before. If you get a chance to see ‘Smashed’ you should.

I accompanied the scientists to my first-ever evening Mysore class this past Monday. My body was very different in the evening hours; more pliable, less predictable and challenging to moderate energetically. I felt a bit awkward  when I got to Tittibhasana B and my rear was happily beaming at the room behind me. Then, I figured, oh well, my Drishti is on the bum, so I guess we are at least all looking together.

The next morning stiffness overtook every limb and tendon. Of course, teaching Mysore 5 times a week is taking it’s toll. As is biking around the city. Part of my morning commute is biking up a 45 degree hill and I curse it daily. It’s the new Green Line part of my commute, i.e., the section which requires calmness-inducing breath. As I finish my ride, gliding down the downward sloping portion of the hill, I think of the nature of challenges, and how if we just keep going, eventually they get easier.

The next challenge ahead is planning my Beginner’s Course. It’s goal is to ready total yoga newbies for a Mysore practice. Showing up is, of course, the key.

Planning this class has made me think a lot about the concept of “readiness” and I’ve come to conclude that a what people really want to feel is “comfortable.” In Boston, people bravely stumble into morning Mysore, observe for a day, and if they show up again (and again and again) – to me, they are ready. But, the Mysore room, with it’s booming breath, focused gazes and advanced asanas is well…an intimidating site. For beginner’s I will explain the breathing, break down the poses, offer variations, and attempt to demystify that far-out yoga gaze. Hopefully, after 6 weeks the yoga will convince people they are ready. If not, maybe they will at least be more comfortable with the idea.

Maybe some squidgy energy will help people feel “ready”?

In the meantime, I’ll no doubt continue with oddly timed practices and dinner with scientists. I’m off to Edinburgh this afternoon to pop in on fellow teacher Karen and her new space. I’ll be sure to say hello for all of the A4Lifers back in Boston!

Missing everyone in the States – !

Cyndi, in Glasgohh.

 

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Settling into Glasgow Life…

Hello All!

Welp, it’s been one week since I landed here in Glasgow, Scotland. Flying across the pond last week was quite the endeavor because I had come down with that pesky flu everyone was getting. But alas, I arrived.

A shot of Queen Margaret Drive, just off the street where I live.

I am staying in a very cozy apartment nestled in the West End of the city. Everything I need is practically at my fingertips: grocery, cash machine, pharmacy, coffee shop; I already feel very much at home. The weather has been gray and drizzly, although markedly warmer than my usual Januarys in Boston. I’ve taken advantage of the few sunny days by wandering slowly through some of the many free (and gloriously green) parks, drifting away into my own thoughts and marveling at the beauty that nature never fails to unfold.

Strolling through the nearby Botanics Garden on a sunny day

When not exploring the local digs, I have been doing what I came here to do in the first place: teach Ashtanga yoga! I’m on for Mysore Tuesday – Friday, with a few Beginner Style classes mixed in during the week. The students are a dedicated bunch, each practicing with an internal focus and without pretense. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming to my arrival, although most have commented that I must be crazy to spend the winter alone in a country I’ve never been to before! I remind them I am coming over from Boston (not exactly a Warm Winter Wonderland itself) and that ‘alone’ and ‘foreign’ were small prices to pay given that I was offered that chance to do what I hope becomes a cornerstone of my future.

Yes, running my own Mysore room is a dream. And thus far, this experience has given me the perfect chance to really find out what this task entails. It’s up early, open the studio, lay out the sign in sheets and turn on the heater. Not too intensive of a process, expect for the EVIL outward facing “porch doors” that literally take 10 minutes of finagling to open in the morning. I was warned on day one, “there is no trick to the doors, just keep pulling and lifting and turning and twisting until they open. One day they won’t open. You might break the door. Good Luck!”

So far, I haven’t broken anything. I’ve readied the room without incident and begin my practice. If I am lucky, I get 40 minutes before the students arrive. If it was a particularly tricky day with the door, 20. I do what I can and finish up this first round once a few students have filtered in and I can hear their breathing behind me. Then it’s up and observe. Move, push, squish, twist. All the usual adjustments apply. It’s surprising how much you can help everyone when there are only 5 bodies to focus on. I’m looking forward to spending weeks with these students, getting to know their schedules and attitudes, their rough spots and breakthroughs.

Once the room is quiet again, and there is only Savasana surrounding me, I once more start my own moving. I miss the community of people to move and breathe around me, the warmth they generate, and the adjustments I get, but there is a peacefulness in practicing alone. I have found that especially after teaching, I feel grateful to have enough time in my day to practice at all, so I try to make the most of it. My backends are stiff, Supta Vajrasana is suffering, and for all of my good intentions, I am STILL looking at the clock towards the end. I really try to practice without attachment to goals, but if I did have a goal it would be to stop looking at that damn clock! Thankfully, everyday is another chance to practice, a chance to try.

I’m already looking forward to reflecting back on this experience, to see what I have learned, and what changes. As for now, I feel fortunate to have been given this opportunity, to have taken it, and to have a few weeks alone to live simply, get to know new people and places, and possibly, finally, to get enough sleep every day.

So far, so good.

Before pushing off, I will leave you with this very Scottish image I found during a visit to the Kelvingrove Museum earlier in the week. Answers the age old question, “What DO they wear under those kilts?”

Answer: Nothing!

Categories: glasgow, winter practice | 2 Comments

Upcoming Ashtanga Yoga Workshops

FREE MYSORE? WHAT!?

Yes. We are this excited about Kate O’Donnell’s upcoming Ashtanga yoga workshops.

(Yes, one month of Mysore practice is included free with the Intro class.)

And no,

you don’t have to be able to do this to attend.

(But yes, you may be inspired to put in the months or years of daily yoga practice that kurmasana requires.)

Check it out!

 

Introduction to Mysore

Saturday Nov 3 | 12:30-2 | Karma South End

Traditionally, the practice of Ashtanga Yoga is learned from one teacher, in increments, over the course of time. As one posture is mastered, the next is offered. “Mysore style” refers to the way the practice was taught in the Indian city of its origins, Mysore. In this style, students move and breath at their own pace, and the teacher has the ability to observe and adjust students individually. This workshop is meant to teach you the sun salutations and finishing postures, as well as introduce the philosophy behind this method of yoga practice.  My hope is to provide an opportunity for you to explore the tradition, and to help you feel comfortable in your own practice so you may begin attending daily morning classes and learning the sequence.  Class is appropriate for absolute beginners, as well as students of other styles. All ages are welcome.

Cost: $75, includes Mysore practice free for the month of November!  Payment can be made at class, cash or check only.

 

Afternoon Ashtanga Immersion and Adjustment Clinic

Sunday Nov 4 | 12:30-3:30 | Karma South End

Cost:  $40 payable at the door, cash or check only

 We will take this afternoon to learn about the movements of Prana and the importance of how we use the Jnanendriyas (sense organs) and Karmendriyas (organs of action) during practice. We will be practicing preparatory pranayams, and adjusting each other’s postures as vehicles for gaining more sensitivity to the subtle aspects of yoga practice.  This workshop will be accessible to all styles and levels of student.

 

 

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inside the mysore room

Here’s a sneak peek into our Mysore room.

If you’ve never been to a Mysore style Ashtanga yoga class, it may be a bit confusing at first glance. The traditional system is one of self-practice. Yes, we have a class, and we all come together in the yoga room, but everyone here is doing the ashtanga yoga series on their own, with their own breath, at their own pace, from memory, with modifications tailored to their own bodies and a teacher (or two) moving about the room offering one on one guidance and assistance.

Its certainly not the only way to practice yoga, but it does cultivate a deeply personal relationship to yoga in a very special way.

These are our yoga students. They have full time jobs, go to school, raise families, are beginners or have done this for 10 years. They ride on trains or bikes or hitch rides from their spouses to come to the studio early mornings and practice this beautiful/challenging/messy yoga side by side.

I thank them for letting me take off my student and teacher hats and be photographer for the morning.

If you’d like to join us in this practice we are in Boston’s South End every morning (except Saturdays and Moon Days). Read more about Mysore Ashtanga yoga on our What Is Mysore page.

Eka Pada Sirsasana - mysore style ashtanga yoga - photography by Cara Brostrom

All photos are copyright Cara Brostrom Photography for Ashtanga 4 Life.

 

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Gokulam life in photos

A huge part of practicing Ashtanga yoga in Mysore, India is centered around the locals and yoga tourists who live in Gokulam. Mysore is a fairly large city, and Gokulam is the section of it where the Sri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga institute is located. From the coffee & chocolate man, to the sweet shop, cows, rickshaws and coconuts, here’s what you can expect to see if you travel to Mysore to practice ashtanga yoga. These are just a few of the Gokulam photos I took. There are many more photos from the trip to India over on my photography blog. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments, and Cyndi and I will do our best to explain what you are seeing!

-Cara

 

KPJAYI Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institutecoconutsindia rickshawthe coffee and chocolate man

Wondering how you can get yourself a copy of one of these photos? You can find them over in the Ashtanga4Life etsy shop. Enjoy!

 

Categories: india, photos | 7 Comments