Tradition : learning from the ancient teachings
For us at Live and Breathe Yoga, tradition (another one of our core values) is all about respect for the lineage of wisdom passed down to us from our teachers and from their teachers before. We love to learn from those who have gone before us and respect the teachings enough to allow them to guide us to live a happier, healthier and more peaceful life.
Of course, traditions change over the years and ashtanga yoga is always evolving, however it is not about the dogma of following the rules just because they are there, but taking the knowledge gained from those before and using it to help us on our way.
At Live and Breathe Yoga we foster tradition by:
- Dedicating ourselves to uphold the classical tradition of yoga through our own practice and share our experience and passion with others
- Further our studies at the home of ashtanga yoga, KPJ Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore India
- Using Sanskrit terminology in our classes
- Working with the recommended vinyasa as a guide for our teachings, however allowing for individual modifications as and when we need to
- Hosting international ashtanga yoga teachers at Live and Breathe Yoga – Mark Robberds, Santina Giardina-Chard, Dani Ceccerelli, David Keil, Matthew Sweeney are just a few of the wonderful teachers who have shared their knowledge with us
- Reciting the opening and closing mantras and chant the sound Om in classes
- Referencing yogic philosophy to infuse our asana practice with a deeper level of meaning
When I decided to write about tradition I was hoping that I would be excitingly telling you all that I had been accepted back to study at the KPJAYI (the source of ashtanga yoga in Mysore, India) However here I sit, 15 days after lodging my application, still waiting to hear the news. Patience has never been something I have much of and as time ticks along, the more times I check my inbox.
The process is so very different to the first time Harry and I applied way back in 2007.All we had to do was write a letter explaining who we were and when we wanted to come to the institute and study. We sent it off in the post (can you believe it!) and without having to wait for a reply we could just turn up at the time we said we would and that was that.
When we arrived at the shala, to register, the late Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) was sitting in his office and his grandson, Sharath Jois was doing all the paperwork. Sharath came into the reception area where we were waiting. There was no-one else there, just us.
He asked “Did you send letter?” and we replied “Yes” with stupid nervous grins. He asked “When did you send it?” And we replied “Three months ago“ And he looked at us, nodded and gestured to follow him into the office where we would pay our money, be given our student pass and start time. Sitting there in the office with Guruji and Sharath, was quite surreal but I will never forget it. Once we were all sorted he gave us our passes and said “See you tomorrow’. That was it!
Looking back, at the time I thought that was stressful! Ha! Now it’s like trying to get tickets to a really popular festival or concert. There are so many more students eager to learn from Sharath and study at the Shala in Mysore, that it is now an online application process with no guarantee of getting a space. With literally hundreds of people trying to get a few of the spaces it’s down to the universe as to whether it’s your time. Prepping all the documents in advance, setting four different alarms to be awake for midnight India time, dealing with website crashes and internet delays and this is just the beginning.
Why is it important to me to go back when I’ve already been twice before? There is just something so magical about practicing in the shala – to be in the presence of Sharath and Saraswati (and Guruji on my first visit) has been so special to me that they are experiences I hold very dear and ones that I daydream about often.
To have felt the wisdom that has been passed down from Krishnamacharya to Pattabhi Jois to Sharath and to Saraswati is like tapping into the past when life was so much simpler and connected and learning directly from the masters is an experience I am eternally grateful for.
Check out this trailer of the Mysore magic film made a few years ago to get a glimpse into where I’m headed. Mysore Magic film
So now I wait…I am hoping that by the time I post this blog, that I will know one way or another. Fingers crossed….
Fast forward another 6 days after I wrote the above and guess what? I got in!
I am still in a huge state of shock that I keep checking the email to be sure it’s for me! I’ve been accepted to study with Sharath for the month of November. I have a lot of mixed emotions as it feels like sh!t just got really real and undertaking the bravest thing of my life…taking Elsie with me!
I’ve been to India a few times on my own so I’m ok with that side of things. But this time, having Elsie with me for the journey I’m starting to think that I might be mad taking a toddler to India! The thing is though, I want to live my life to the fullest I can, and part of that is going to Mysore to further my studies on an ongoing basis. I want to show Elsie how to go after what she wants and be a good role model for her to live her life with courage and spirit. It’s going to be a real adventure for us both and I am beyond grateful (and super scared) to be going back.
This month’s theme is tradition and at the studio we will be focusing on the tristana (three foundations) method of the ashtanga yoga practice. Tristana comprises of breath (deep breathing with sound), asana (posture and bandha) and drishti (gazing point.) We’ll also be referencing some of the fundamental yogic principles for living called the yamas, and niyamas during class too. So get ready to deepen your practice to a more subtle level beyond just the shapes our bodies are making.
Here are a few more ways you can deepen your practice:
Observe the moral codes
The yamas and niyamas are the ethical guidelines from the ancient text the Yoga Sutras of Patjanjali and are the first two of the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga. They form the foundation of the spiritual practice of yoga. The five yamas ask us to avoid violence, lying, stealing, wasting energy, and possessiveness while the five niyamas ask us to embrace cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self study and to surrender to something greater than ourselves.
Saucha – means purity or cleanliness and is the first of the niyamas listed in the yoga sutras. Quite practically, saucha refers to both outer and inner cleanliness. Outer cleanliness is to keep our bodies clean, our environment de-cluttered and organised. Be considerate of your fellow yogi’s on the mat next to you and try to shower before you practice, wear clean clothes and clean your mat weekly.
Inner cleanliness is to have healthy functioning internal organs and clarity of our thoughts. Postures and breathwork are essential for purifying the inner body. It is noted to rub the sweat back into the skin (but only if we are doing to work to cleanse on the inside otherwise the sweat can be toxic and should not to be rubbed back into the skin). This also refers to what food and drinks we consume. Reducing caffeine, sugar, processed foods and powdered supplements. Instead, drink filtered water, and eat real, whole, and simple foods. Use chemical free beauty and cleaning products.
Tapas means discipline through effort and creates heat – when we practice ashtanga yoga we heat the body from the inside out using our breath and the vinyasa method. This way we have more control over how much heat we generate as we all have different constitutions according to Ayurveda and so need to adjust accordingly for optimal health. By heating the body internally, we cleanse it. We direct our energy towards pursuits of doing good and contributing positively to society. The heat helps us to burn through the obstacles of life. Paying attention to what we eat, our posture, our breath and our thoughts are all part of using discipline or tapas to eventually find peace.
I’ve heard the way to happiness is to practice contentment. By acknowledging where we are at right now, we can accept that our past is in the past and that our future has not even happened yet. One of the ways I try to practice contentment is when I am working on a difficult yoga posture. I acknowledge the effort I have put in up until that point and what I still need to do in the future but then just sit with where I am at right now and accept it. This very useful technique, of practicing contentment with what is, has helped me dealing with anxiety off the mat as well. Just taking everything one breath at a time can change even the toughest of days.
Creating a new habit, especially if it’s something to improve our health can be difficult. The benefits are obvious to us however the ability to keep up the habit of regular yoga practice, or eating well, or anything else somehow can fall by the wayside when life gets in the way. If we create a ritual around the new habit it can help to embed it into our life and therefore have more chance of it sticking.
Rituals are habits that fulfill a deeply felt need and connect us to the present. In other words we are creating our own traditions through the development of our own rituals. Some rituals you may like to add to your life:
- Before you leap out of bed in the morning, take a deep breath and recite a positive affirmation. I always say to myself ‘Today is going to be a good day”
- Create a self care ritual before have a shower… Tongue scraping, dry body brushing and oil pulling are all part of my morning ritual.
- Ritualise your stuff – only buy things you need, buy good quality and then take care of those things.
- Learn the names of people you see often – the barista, the postman, the grocer, the person on the yoga mat next to you
- Do one thing at a time. For me this is the definition of true peace – to only have one thing on my mind at any one time is pure bliss. When you eat your food, just eat your food, when you practice yoga, just practice yoga, when you speak to someone just speak to them.
- Call your parents/family/kids every Sunday
Spring is the best time of year to de-clutter your life and simplify your world. Think about how you can spring clean not only your house, but your lifestyle too. Simplify your schedule, your social media interaction, your food, your relationships and your budget. The more stuff you have the more you have to worry about so get rid of anything that you don’t absolutely love and start living a simply beautiful life. Only say yes to things that light you up and only hang out with people who treat you well and make you happy.
Deepen your yoga practice
- chant the opening and closing mantras to enhance your experience
- memorise the ashtanga yoga postures sequence (primary series, intermediate etc)
- know the posture names and what they mean
- practice Mysore style… We are so lucky to have Dani Cecerelli in our neck of the woods. Here is an article she has written for Ashtanga yoga Melbourne recentlty about why the mysore class is so transformative
A book on yoga…here are a few of my faves….
- Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Fahri
- Living your Yoga by Judith Lasater
- Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
- Yoga Mala by Pattabhi Jois
- Light on Life by BKS Iyengar
When we take a moment before we practice to dedicate our practice to someone who needs some extra love support and energy it can have so much more meaning. Use the metta meditation below for guidance on what you can send to that person you are dedicating to. It can be anyone – your children, your partner, your friends and family. Or it could be someone who you don’t get along with so well too. Whoever it is, hold them in your thoughts and recite the following:
May you be happy, May you be healthy,
May you always feel loved and supported,
May you continue to learn and grow.
- Greet the teacher when you come in
- Enter quietly – don’t flap out your mat
- Don’t wear strong perfume or smoke just before
- Don’t step on other peoples mats
- Don’t wear shoes in the studio
- When relaxation feet away from teacher
- Don’t drink water during practice
- Thank the teacher at the end of class
- For more go here
Book into our chanting class
When studying at KPJAYI in Mysore there is also compulsory chanting class which I absolutely love and cant wait to go to again. I’ve decided to run an evening chanting workshop where we can get together and practice the opening and closing ashtanga mantras – going over the meaning and the significance of each. We will also practice a few shanti or peace mantras to chant together. Sometimes fear of singing out of tune can prevent people from joining in when chanting is happening before and after class. The thing is no-one can chant badly! This is for everyone who is looking to deepen their yoga practice and feel comfortable chanting in class in the future – suitable for all levels.