Ashtanga Vinyasa works with opposing forces of breath, and invites these forces to align. When the breath aligns, the experience of the body opens up, exposing an infinite nexus of sensation. The practice is to be present with sensation, allowing it to move through the open expanse of our awareness, only to dissolve again back into the emptiness from which it arose. Through this practice, we give ourselves space, and we allow our minds to breath. Our thoughts and feelings begin to expand and contract in a blissful flow of consciousness. As we steep ourselves in the flow, our sense of ourselves begins to dissolve, and we melt into the quiet exhilaration of coming undone.
In this course, we learn the internal techniques that bring this process alive—tracing internal currents of breath, balancing subtle patterns of sensation, and settling ever more fully into the postures themselves. With these techniques, we rediscover the brilliance and depth of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
To join this course, no special proficiency at Ashtanga is expected, and people with injuries and other physical limitations are absolutely welcome. Beginners will be guided each morning of the first week through the opening sequence and closing sequence, so that everyone has ample opportunity to learn.
Morning Mysore practice will be held Sunday through Thursday, from 7:00-9:00 AM, followed by an optional session of Pranayama, which will last around 45 minutes. Friday mornings will be Guided Primary. On Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, from 4:00-6:00 PM we will have a series of workshops on technique and philosophy, finishing with some sweet chanting.
Sunday Surya Namaskar
Monday Mula Bandha
Wednesday Coiling the Serpent’s Tail
Thursday Philosophy: Tasting the Poison
Sunday Opening the Lotus Flower
Wednesday Exploring the Pelvic Basin
Thursday Philosophy: The Feminine Sublime
Surya Namaskar means Salutation to the Sun. In the context of yoga, the Sun is not only the celestial body that gives us warmth and daylight, but the radiant center of the human body, where our vital forces converge. These forces propel our bodily processes and illumine our minds from within. In Surya Namaskar, we are propitiating to these forces, and inviting them to rise through the central axis of the body, burn away our delusions and give us insight. In this session, we explore the internal movement of Surya Namaskar, so we can undertake the practice with more depth and vibrancy.
Mula Bandha (Standing Postures)
In Hatha Yoga, there is a spontaneous gathering and rising of prana, or subtle breath, through the central axis of the body. The practice of Mula Bandha retraces that internal movement of prana with the raw material of sensation. In this session, we learn to create the Mula Bandha pattern with posture, attention, and subtle engagements of the lower belly and pelvic floor, and we practice applying these techniques to the standing postures.
Coiling the Serpent’s Tail
The action of coiling the spine is perhaps the first purposive movement that we make in our lives. It awakens apana, the dissolving force that removes excess from the body and mind. In this session, we explore coiling as a primitive pattern of movement, and we learn how that pattern can imbue our asana practice with a stronger ground of psychophysical support. In particularly, we explore the coiling pattern as an integral component of folding, twisting, putting the legs behind the head, and building toward the dynamic vinyasa of jumping through and back. Through these explorations, we awaken the organic undulations of the internal breath through the spine.
Tasting the Poison
Yoga practice is said to be the antidote for halahala, the poison of conditioned existence. When the practice starts to work, the poison comes to the surface, and darkens the waters of our minds. This experience can be troubling, and pose serious obstacles to practice. In this workshop, which is an exploration of yoga philosophy and mythology (and involves no formal practice as such) we discuss the process of meeting these experiences with compassion, and turning the poison into insight.
Opening the Lotus Flower
The lotus posture, padmasana, is the crowning jewel of the Primary Series, and variations of the posture blooms throughout the Ashtanga system. This posture recapitulates the mula bandha pattern, by circulating the downward current of apana back into toward the root, encouraging it to rise upward through the middle path of the body. As a symbol of vibrant life, rising out of the darkness of the primordial waters, this posture should be approached with deep reverence. This session explains how to support the gradual opening of the lotus flower, and how to keep its petals from wilting.
The practice of backbending is about making ourselves vulnerable, and finding the internal support to handle that vulnerability with grace and surrender. For when we backbend with internal support, we create opportunities for profound psychical release. In this session, we learn to work intelligently with the breath (and with the associated movements of the psoas and diaphragm) to create a long and supple spine that can reach gracefully into these difficult and exhilarating forms.
Exploring the Pelvic Basin
According to Hatha anatomy, the pelvis is the concentration of the earth and water elements in the body. And we can experience the pelvis as an area of profound density, or as a wellspring from which our creative forces flow. In this session, we explore some different ways of inviting the subtle breath to move through the pelvis, and to release the density that gathers there, so that we can reconnect, on the level of immediate experience, to deeper stores of vitality. This session will involve a slow but deep asana practice, together with subtle body visualizations, and a restorative closing sequence.
Philosophy: The Feminine Sublime
In Tantric philosophy, the feminine principle is the principle of creation. She is excessive and effulgent, and she can overwhelm us when she overflows. Making space for the unfolding of the feminine principle is the very essence of the contemplative practice that know as Hatha Yoga. In this talk, we explore the nature of the feminine, and the possibility of relating to the feminine through a creative retelling of the Myth of Sati, “She Who Is"