The ashtanga system is known for its succinctness. The practice itself strips things down to the most basic of units, the precision of movement, the inhale and exhale, and beyond, well…something…call it stillness, or peace, or some manifestation of the divine. It is simply there, these hidden alleyways, and there is no need to seek it. The moment that we do, we end up on a diverging road and we are lost.
It is so simple and yet so ridiculously hard to focus our seeking hearts and minds, to commit to meeting ourselves on the mat without judgement, to do our wholehearted effort without any desire for external gain, and yet in those rare moments when these acts align, we simply melt down, ease into such secret sacred places, which we ultimately realize are neither narrow nor hidden.
My time here in San Francisco working in Mysore SF with Magnolia Zuniga–an incredible guide in this practice–has been about self-study as much as teaching. The more I study the ashtanga system, the more I see how the practice when reduced to it’s purest condensed form is incredibly expansive. And while most of us who maintain a daily practice, of course, know this experientially already, to see it in minute detail, well, it is incredible. I find myself just “geeking out” on it.
There is so much to distract us, in our lives, and yes, even in our yoga practice. “Yoga, the industry,” the crazy unwieldy presence that it is becoming, is in itself massively distracting. Return to the basics. Come to your mat and breathe. Reduce it, allow it to reduce you. And breathe at the incredible space that is.
PHOTO: One such physical hidden alleyway in Sausalito, Marin County, California. When I was passing this little passage, over a month ago, I could not help but photograph it, feeling that practice felt like that–for me, at that precise moment. This scene must have some iconic feel to it–whilst writing this article, I searched “alleyways” in Google, only to find pop up immediately a photo of this exact alley on Wikipedia. How funny and small the world is, how it all boils down to the same places.