The Con­ver­sa­tion

YJ’s cover model pon­ders Ash­tanga Yoga, mod­ern-day vinyasa, and how to nav­i­gate the com­mer­cial yoga craze.

Yoga Journal - - Contents -

I started prac­tic­ing vinyasa yoga as a teenager.

The style at that time, in the early to mid-90s, was a vig­or­ous, breath-ori­ented form of vinyasa. Most classes var­ied in their ap­proach and of­fered a wide range of asana. You never knew what was com­ing. I had a teacher back then who told me that yoga prac­tice is a work­shop for our lives; since we don’t know what’s com­ing next in life, we shouldn’t know what’s com­ing next in our prac­tice.

I later stud­ied with as many dif­fer­ent teach­ers from as many dif­fer­ent tra­di­tions as I could.

I wanted to learn ev­ery­thing and then find ways to in­cor­po­rate those lessons into my own teach­ing. Twelve years into my prac­tice, I landed on Ash­tanga Yoga. By the time I got there, I had all of this amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­en­tial in­for­ma­tion from which I could draw. I al­ready had a rel­a­tively open and strong body, and I had be­gun cul­ti­vat­ing a re­la­tion­ship to my breath. The funny part was that my ini­tial re­sis­tance to em­brac­ing Ash­tanga was due to the idea of a set se­quence. And yet, what I dis­cov­ered—

al­most im­me­di­ately—was that you can do the ex­act same prac­tice ev­ery day, and yet it seems to­tally dif­fer­ent and new; it’s some­how both fa­mil­iar and un­fa­mil­iar. I re­al­ized that’s ac­tu­ally more like daily life than free-form vinyasa. Ev­ery day I wake up, shower, prac­tice, eat, work, care for my fam­ily, sleep, etc. Most days are the same on pa­per, but at the same time, each one is brand new and com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

My prac­tice de­ter­mined my life tra­jec­tory.

I started teach­ing be­fore I grad­u­ated col­lege. I’ve never had any other ca­reer, and I’ve never needed to sup­ple­ment this ca­reer with any other work. When I told my par­ents, in 1998, that I was go­ing to be a yoga teacher, my fa­ther said, “I think that’s a bad idea; yoga has al­ready peaked.” Twenty years later, we’re still laugh­ing about that con­ver­sa­tion.

In the age of cor­po­rate ev­ery­thing,

when profit is more im­por­tant than prod­uct, we must all be wary. I tell my stu­dents that now, more than ever, it has fallen on them (the seek­ers) to work hard to make sure they un­der­stand the in­ten­tion and the true mes­sage of yoga. Yoga is a com­plete sys­tem, and when prac­ticed sin­cerely, with­out in­ter­rup­tion, over a long pe­riod of time, the re­sult is an im­proved qual­ity of life. If prac­tices, such as pranayama or the study of yo­gic phi­los­o­phy, are re­moved from the bal­anced whole, it can lead to a state of im­bal­ance rather than peace.

When I told my par­ents, in 1998, that I was go­ing to be a yoga teacher, my fa­ther said, “I think that’s a bad idea; yoga has al­ready peaked.” Twenty years later, we’re still laugh­ing about that con­ver­sa­tion.

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