The Practice of Flight


Ashtanga has this gravity defying reputation. All over social media there’s a plethora of photos and videos of ashtanga practitioners displaying incredible aerodynamic feats, floating/levitating in and out of postures. All around there are workshops that focus on these technical aspects, of jumping forward and back, of engaging bandha to the point of slowing down time, of achieving this lightness of the body that mimics flight. And why not, it’s fun and looks amazing, and moreover it builds a particular awareness in the body.

I remember in my earlier years of practice, I loved it, I loved the feeling of height, and flight, that moment of suspension as I moved my body forward on the mat, before landing. I remember a fellow student once compared me to a grasshopper. And, if I remember correctly, I rather liked the comparison.

I’m not much of a “flyer” anymore. I’d probably still enjoy it, but over the years of studying with Sharath Jois in Mysore, India, that among other bits and pieces have dropped off the program.

I think for some strong practitioners this comes quite naturally. What I realized, however, for me, it did not. A lot of extra energy went into that one particular inhale, the effort was disproportionate, and practice is about an evenness of breath and effort. And extra effort in jumps, meant extra work for shoulders and arms which then resulted in tighter albeit stronger muscles.

Letting go of it, and for sure attachment was there, was just as much a part of me growing as a practitioner as it might be for someone else who chooses to develop these abilities.

Over recent years, practice has been more about streamlining, taking out the extra flourishes, those dramatic flares, which– when they are effectations–are simply distractions from the meditative flow of sadhana. It’s been about efficient use of mind and body (at 40, I am more concerned with being able to have a healthy and sustainable practice).

With a practice like ashtanga yoga, I think there is more than one way to fly. There’s the kind of flight that’s physical and really stunning to see. Then there’s another kind, and this is the one I find myself more and more impressed with, the practice that glides with such ease it barely registers. These belong to the super heroes in disguise practicing quietly beside you in the shala, so subtle until that one sliver of a moment you note with much surprise that they are doing something quite extraordinary. Likelihood is that there are even more practically invisible yogis who are totally going unnoticed, soaring above us all.

Whatever our mode of flight (I think different ways suit different people), ashtanga simply inspires us to take off to greater heights–and to greater heights we must go, no matter what that looks like.

Advertisements

Inner Dance in Osaka

Ashtanga is usually the force that moves me around to different places, I sometimes forget that I’ve shared inner dance as well in most places I’ve been to. And that this little known healing modality from the Philippines has made its own impression along the way. So I was happily surprised to be asked if I had any plans for it again here in Osaka. Why not, I figured, even on the fly, 2-3 folks would make for a good morning. 

I remember feeling uncertain when I first offered ID in Japan; the culture here can be reserved, I wasn’t sure if trance dance states would translate. 

Truth is it’s incredibly easy to facilitate the healing modality here, there isn’t much resistance, surrender comes naturally to many participants. 

I think it says a lot about the the heart and soul of the Japanese. Structure and form is important to this culture, we mistake this for left-brain pragmatism, which it also is. But if we look at the shrines, the old temple grounds, the intricate gardens, cuisine–all designed to touch essence. I think that’s what makes inner dance accessible here, there is a door, it is already open. 

Inner dance is a moving meditation, healing modality, way of personal inquiry–or none of these things. Sometimes, I think I don’t really know anything about it other than it works. There will be one more inner dance in November, if you’re in Osaka and are interested to join, message me at kaz.castillo@gmail.com.