States of Mind

It happened on my third trip to Mysore. I had developed a very clear idea of who I was based on what my body could do. I had reached a milestone in my physical practice, the full split into Second Series, and an identity had evolved from that.

Once in Mysore, Sharath crushed my sense of self-importance in a matter of weeks. 

Sharath is a yoga master, in the sense that he masters the art of yoga. As such, he can see through people, get into their minds and teach from there. In my case, he chose to ignore my presence for almost the entire trip. Initially, I thought the reason was the large amount of students practicing in the shala. After some time, I started to believe it was intentional. Of course, I was held back in my gymnastic quest

Throughout those two months I experienced a wide range of emotions, from initial fake acceptance to confusion, anger, hatred, frustration, self-doubt, even lack of self-worth. It was rather remarkable to see how attached I was to my physical practice, to the idea of performing, and to external approval. 

I was creating a lot of suffering for myself. Until one day, exhausted, something shifted inside. I gave up my chase and wholeheartedly decided to savour every moment in Mysore under Sharath's guidance, to be open to the experience and to the insights that would come from it. We could say I surrendered :)

A few days later, Sharath came up to my mat and gave me five postures in one go. 

This episode marked a before and an after not only in my yoga practice but in my life. I was confronted with some of my delusions, with my misconceptions around my value as a yoga practitioner and as a person.

Thanks to this trip, I was compelled to understand the practice of Ashtanga yoga as something that runs beyond the asana and into the depths of the mind and the soul. This realisation inspired me to teach based not only on body skill and ability, but on states of mind.

As such, I do invest time in observing the student before jumping right in. When a student comes through the door, I approach him or her differently based on the body, mind and emotional state. For example, someone more fearful might need a bit more encouragement, someone reluctant a little push. Someone very driven might need some direction to channel the energy and someone prone to distraction less outer disturbance.

Also, I try not to color the experience of the student with my mental or emotional baggage. It is my intention to remain a clear channel for the practice to unfold for each person how it may. My needs and expectations, my ideas, whoever I think I am, are not relevant. The tapas, the fire of the practice, is. The inner work that we do, is. The wisdom that sets in, is.

Otherwise, not yoga, just bending :)

In upcoming entries we will discuss

  • Diet: ashtanga practitioner and nutrition lover Hilde Boyum will share some ideas to get appropriate nourishment to support our practice and our life

  • Yoga technique

  • General musings

Stay tuned x