Thoughts on practice
by Chuck Miller
I am not certain when I “started” practicing yoga. As I look back on it, I see I was always interested, even at a very young age. I slept cross legged at the age of 7 or 8, sat in Padmasana in my school chair in 4th grade, age 9 – 10. I played with sitting still and quieting my thoughts with my best friend at the age of 12-14. Went to a talk about Transcendental Meditation (TM) in the fall of 1971 (age 17) and that feels like when the real committed practices began. I found “Light on Yoga” by BKS Iyengar in 1974 and met Sri K Pattabhi Jois in September of 1980. He was my first yoga teacher in the flesh, that I can remember. I studied with him intensively for over 18 years and continued intermittently until his death May 18th, 2009, at the age of 94.
Many other teachers have influenced me over the years and continue to do so to this day… I feel the desire to always be a student, sometime to have the responsibility to share my experiences and ‘teach.’
I hope it helps people.
I ‘hold lightly’ the thought they we can all learn from each other, that in fact we are all in this journey together. We share the same planet, the same water, the same air, the same desires for peace and happiness. And that this idea, is central in the teachings and practice of yoga. “Namaste/Namaskara” reflects this. “Ahimsa” is the first principal of the philosophy! If we go deeply enough into that ahimsa (the Beginning!), Samadhi (the last) will evolve spontaneously.
Practices are great tools, primarily tools for Observation. They present us with an otherwise difficult to perceive view of ourselves. Who we are and how we relate to the world around us and to each other. They help to alter how we “Sit within Ourselves.” That is what the word “Asana” refers to!
As we ‘expand our consciousness of Self” we naturally change our behavior! It is an organic process, once begun it develops a life of its own!
Ashtanga Yoga is a Great Practice, not the only Great Practice, rather one of Many! I like to share this practice in as Authentic a way as I possibly can. Not “authoritative!” I hold the idea close that the real authority needs to be brought back inside where it belongs and become “Authentic” (Natural!) again!
Relying on the “Traditional Teachings” I learned from my teachers, with Gratitude, a deep reverence and connection to the lineage.
And I must include my personal experiences, readings from ancient and modern texts as well as feed back for students and friends!
The idea that the Truth lies within resonates with me. That the techniques we practice are superficial to the core, essential teachings. That the closer into the “Core” we can explore, and experience, the closer and closer we get to the Universal Truths. I think this idea is spoken of, written about in all Great Teachings and Practices. Practices and Techniques are many. Ideas, and Beliefs are many… Truth is One.
This idea… Ashtanga Yoga, if it is “Authentic,” will help us in this!
Can we meet each other in the place where we are all the Same? And then support each other in our ‘unique and common’ journeys, without prejudice, bias, or judgment?
I feel the answer is “Yes, we can!”
Starts with Samasthitihi. The word Sama is the first utterance! And the most important focal point, the directive, of the practice!
To unravel ourselves from the distorted views, ideas, beliefs that keep us from seeing the Sameness, the Oneness, the Internal Harmony of the Universal, and Individual! That they are One! This is Yoga, and also Ashtanga Yoga! Be “Abide in our True Natural State!” Simple and Profound! To Be YourSelf!
Vinyasa is a key concept in this practice. We need to explore and thus better understand the true meaning of these great words.
“Vinyasa is the Breathing System” Pattabhi would say. The breath and movement become non-separate! Sama. (It always points back to Sama!)
The Breath we practice is called Sama-Vrtti-Ujjayi-Prana-Ayama! Not as a sitting down pranayama practice but as a description of the quality of the breath. Equal waves, being controlled into a state of freedom, lifted up through the core, creating an uplifting within the strength of the container. A “Free Breath!”
Vinyasa is also the method, the linking together of the ‘separate’ BreathMovements (One word!). This defines the path we follow. So, Vinyasa is a path and it is a method of walking the path! It gets more and more profound the deeper we go into it!
And, I like to use a modified description of “Trishtana,” three pillars, or Principals of Practice. They can be thought of as “Anchors” for the mind, to keep us heading in the correct direction! I call these “BreathRootsCore.” Again, the uniting of all three into One!
This will be our exploration. Using the precise sequence of BreathMovements as taught Traditionally, AND, not rushing to “Get it done!” Rather, “unpacking” the sequence, looking deeper into it to experience it in a more intelligent way. To honor the Philosophical roots of the Practice and to experience Philosophy and Practice as One thing!
“I don’t care how far you go, nor how fast you go! That you understand the direction and quality of effort is more important!”
It will start slower, it must! We cannot look deeply inside if we continue to run in the same grooves. We need to step out of the regular, habituated patterns of practice in order to evolve (love is in there, in that word!) and go deeper into the Essential Truths!
Come On! Give it a try! See if you are willing to Be A Beginner!
LovePeace! Why not!