I have alway dipped in and out of ashtanga, but somehow never managed to connect with the practice long term. I remember working with one of my original teachers in India and telling him that I wanted to travel to Mysore to practise the ashtanga series. He told me I wasn’t ready for the practice and should focus on hatha and Iyengar. Of course I ignored his wise words and embarked on my journey into the Mysore ashtanga world. I remember experiencing such a difference in this world from the hatha world I had been exposed to. The practice was more intense, the people attracted to this style were stronger, with bigger energies.
I spent time with a wonderful school but after I left Mysore I found it difficult to maintain the self practice. From there I dipped in and out of ashtanga classes and workshops, enjoying the short bursts it gave me but finding it hard to carry the sequence further.
Last year I found myself being drawn into the iyengar teachings and what I experienced was a wonderful insight into the anatomy of the yoga asanas, how to protect my body, to move in and out of each asana with full awareness on a physical level.
The Iyengar style became such a strong influence on my practice and when I began to blend it with vinyasa I was able to understand how to flow from posture to posture with awareness on alignment. It changed my practice and of course my teaching style.
I now find myself in Central America, hungry for inspiration and new teachings. Unexpectedly I have found myself delving back into ashtanga … I always felt it was in the past for me but somehow it continues to find me.
One month into my daily practice I had a wonderful experience. I took my place at the front of the class, peering out of the window at the beautiful clear Caribbean. I began my ujjayi breath. It flowed very naturally and I began my practice. From samasthiti (standing pose) I inhaled my arms above my head and exhaled all the way to my mat. I began to flow through my sun salutation like a dance, moving with my breath, seeing only the water ahead, hearing only my inhales and exhales.
I felt every movement my body made and, as always, I pulled my iyenagar influences into my practice, feeling the alignment as I flowed. That day my body felt light and open. Something changed in that particular practice, like my body had surrendered into the sequence and I began to understand the primary series. I remember the words of the instructor … “as you move from asana to asana allow your breath to lead you. One breath as you flow.”
In that practice the sequence was no longer a set of postures I had to push my body through in 90 minutes. It became a beautiful dance that I was able to flow through. Everything came together – the breath, the body, the bandhas and the mind all became one as I made my fluid movements through the vinyasa.
I understand now that ashtanga is not just a strong physical practice but it is a focus of the mind, breath and movement. It is a meditation in motion that I am slowly beginning to unravel within every practice.
About the author
|When she isn’t studying yoga in India or exploring the world, Emma Malarkey teaches at Azul Yoga & Pilates Retreat always bringing back new inspiration for the team and guests. Her wide ranging yoga experience means her personal practice and teaching style incorporates many different styles, including traditional hatha, tantra, Mysore ashtanga, sivananda, iyengar, vinyasa, and more modern forms such as yin yoga and Bikram.