15 Years Ashtanga Yoga

Urdhva Danurasana

So, December will be my 15-year anniversary of practicing Ashtanga.  Wow.  I think my first class with Richard Freeman was in December of 2005.  Grateful that transpired.

I can’t say it’s been 6 days a week for 15 years.  I admire anyone who can do that.  But for instance, there was about one year recently when I took 4-6 classes of martial arts and kickboxing a week.  I only practiced ashtanga 2 or 3 times a week, but I felt really good and balanced in my body.  Can’t say I did that for 15 years either though. I’m no Bruce Lee.

And I’m no Kino either.  But I know how to be in great practice environments for concentrated amounts of time.  No, I’ve never been to Mysore. But I love Portugal and practicing intensely there when I can, with my teachers there.

For seven of those years (2012-2019), I was off social media.  I went on many many Zen retreats, meditating long amounts of time in stillness.  In those retreats I’d practice asana zero days a week.  Or maybe 20 minutes a day.  And you’ll never see evidence of those retreats, because there are no pictures.  I took zero pictures of my yoga practice in those seven years.  And I think zero pictures before that.  I took this #urdhva selfie on a 10-second timer.  I admit I still fumble with yoga selfies… Just because I practiced yoga so long without the thought of a camera.

After 15 years and just a few changes here and there, I still love ashtanga.  It feels a little confusing at times.  But when I reflect on its strength for me as an internal arts practice, I still see so much potential.

As I reflect, I think for me ashtanga is primarily an internal practice, an inwardly directed practice.  I love that that quality can always be there for me, whether or not I’m catching my heels in kapotasana or finishing the 3rd or 4th series as some others with long careers have.  Whether or not I’m tan and buff at the beach or pale and alone in a solo home practice on a cold gray snowy Ithaca morning.

I hope when I’m practicing at 101, the day before I die, I’ll be breathing in and out and mindful that the breath is sacred.

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Shayna Grajo