Now that I am no longer a beginner teacher (officially stated by Mr. Miller himself) and practitioner as I am well into my twelfth year of uninterrupted, daily ashtanga yoga practice, I watch with a warm heart when the newer practitioners come through. The eagerness and the excitement is invigorating to me. The desire to get it all down and all right, right now! I smile inside as I know this place very well…
If we are truly engaged in yoga as Patanjali instructs us to do, “Abhyasa-vairagyabhyam Tan-nirodhah,” which roughly translates to “consistent practice over time will stop the mind from fluctuating,” then it is beneficial to make a long-term commitment to this path. The results take many years to ripen. It is a lifelong process, so you might as well strap your seat belt on, settle in, and get ready for what can sometimes be a rough ride!
The key, to me, is the commitment to maintain a strong yoga practice, no matter what. The way you practice most certainly will change through time. You must adapt with lifestyle changes, injuries, the aging process, and the fluctuations of your needs. You must stay on your path! It is crucial!
When I am offered the wonderful experience of being part of a newer practitioner’s process, there is so much I would say, but I do not, because they will only learn through experience. Yoga is experiential knowledge, and this is why the teachers and practitioners who have stood by their commitment long term have so much to offer.
Being in Tim Miller’s Ashtanga community for the past decade or so has brought me the great blessing of being surrounded by many of these dedicated practitioners and teachers. Tim’s community in Encinitas along with Nancy Gilgoff’s in Maui are among the oldest and most established communities in the world other than Mysore. I have met practitioners who look upon me as a young practitioner, and I am eager to learn. To put it in perspective, I realize how early on in my development I still am.
This is my chance to speak about what I see and have experienced thus far…
Through the years, there are many ups and downs. Phases of things come and go and come again. The key is to remain aware and observant if you can.
Time has a way of mellowing you out. At some point, your practice is just a part of you. It never leaves. You don’t think about it as much. It just is.
Just like any other long-term commitment, there are good times and bad times. There are times you just want to give up. There are times you doubt yourself and what you want to do with your time and energy. There are also times of ecstatic joy and opening. I refer to these as “Disco Inferno.” I coined this because when I am so happy I can barely stand it (there have been long phases of this!), I feel I am walking down the road dancing to “Disco Inferno (Lol!).” Yes, there are those too! There are times of great resistance and other times of ease and lightness. Know this and try not to be attached. The “good” times are not necessarily better for your growth than the “bad” times or the times that are really challenging. There will even be times when your faith in what you are doing is tested.
This is where the strength and power of your commitment will come into play. Commitment is what brings fulfillment. Commitment is a beautiful thing.
You may feel at times you are broken or that you cannot take another step. This is not the time to stop moving. Slow down perhaps, yes, but don’t stop. You might be really close to what you are looking for. When you come out of these times that bring great trial you will often find the commitment has paid off. It will strengthen everything. Maybe you were growing complacent, rebelling against your own discipline, avoiding something that needs to be looked at, or struggling internally. You are reminded again of what is real. You are reminded again of who you really are, and you may return with an even deeper understanding of yourself. Sometimes you have to leave home to appreciate it again.
Guruji’s teaching is so simple. So simple, you might miss it…”Practice, practice, all is coming.” Tim has often repeated this to his students. He says, “What is it that is coming?” He reminds us that what is coming is not just the fun stuff, it also brings a lot of the weird and complicated stuff also. As yogis, we are here to undo the chains that bind us to this world, to the enslavement of our mind, and to our suffering. This is all part of the process. You must utilize the sticky stuff too.
In conclusion, commitment is worth it! It will take you beyond. Hang in there through the times of ease equally as you do to the times of great challenge. Always be kind to yourself. Moderation is the answer!
Even Rumi, the great Sufi poet, who was not an Ashtanga Yoga practitioner as we are today, believed in this and said it most eloquently…
“Submit to a daily practice. Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door. Keep knocking and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who’s there.”
On that note, I am hosting a very special workshop in September for David Garrigues who is one of those rare teachers who have really stuck to the path of yoga for many, many years. David has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga for 25 years and teaching for 18 years. This is the fifth year he will be in the Outer Banks. It is a week long Mysore Intensive with an amazing group of yogis. It is a deep and enriching experience. There are only a few spots left, so contact me if you would like to register – www.ashtangayogaobx.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Owner, Director, Teacher – Ashtanga Yoga Center, Outer Banks, NC