In November 2015, I was fortunate to attend a weekend of Ashtanga Yoga workshops with John Scott in Oxford, organised by Ian Macdonald (who has been organising Ashtanga Yoga workshops in Oxford for over 25 years). I did teacher training with John in 2012–13 but first met John in 2009, the first time he taught at Stillpoint Yoga London.
On Friday evening and Sunday morning John led a counted Primary Series practice. When John guides a led practice class he holds the group with a clarity of focus that is amazing. For me, it really lets the simplicity of the Ashtanga Yoga method shine through and creates a space for the group to practice together with one breath, one body, one thought.
On Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon there was technique work including counting the vinyasa movements in the Primary Series, with the group counting the vinyasa together out loud, practicing counting twelve breaths, looking at the movement and anatomical patterns in some of the primary and intermediate series asana, breath work and chanting, and plenty of philosophy and stories from John’s time with Pattabhi Jois.
Stillpoint Yoga London has created a short film from footage of the Ashtanga Yoga led practice held on 3 January 2015, which captures the essence of the community there. Community and relationship is at the heart of Stillpoint Yoga London. Co-founder Ozge Karabiyik, who sadly died on 2 January 2012, raised thousands of pounds for charity and each year the Stillpoint Yoga London community has come together in this light to remember her and celebrate her life.
The Sanskrit word स्मृति (smṛti) means remembrance or memory.
The Ashtanga Yoga practice is a practice of memory.
It is held in our hearts.
Each year Whitespace Studio in Milton Keynes celebrates its birthday, and in November 2014 this was a charity YogaThon with 108 sun salutations followed by a party, charity auction, treatments, and lots of food! The event was in aid of Yoga Gives Back and celebrated the fourth anniversary of the studio opening.
A few people asked me afterwards about the significance of ‘108’. There is really no one specific answer. The number 108 is considered sacred by several Eastern religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. On a japa mala, or set of mantra counting beads, there are generally 108 beads or some fraction of 108 to help keep count of the repetition of a mantra. There are 108 Upanishads, 108 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet (counting masculine and femine forms), and 108 Vishnu temples mentioned in the works of the Tamil Azhvars. Maybe one day someone will list 108 reasons 108 is significant!
The full gallery of the event is on Facebook…
An increasingly important part of my personal practice, and my teaching, is the thought of what brings you to that moment. Every tiny decision in your life echoes through to the present. I know within my life that, with hindsight, how often a seemingly small choice I made years ago has had an impact that will last my entire life, and in turn has changed how I relate to others. How every other person you come into relation with has an impact on you. If we were all just tiny atoms, how all the forces of gravity and electromagnetism work to attract and repel, and how nothing happens in isolation.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
So at the start of an Ashtanga Yoga practice, we bring our hands together in front of our hearts, we feel the relationship between them, we feel the equal and opposite reaction of one hand pressing on the other, we feel the chain of events, of people, of relationships, of thoughts and actions, of actions and reactions, that have brought us to this point. And we give thanks for them all.
September 2014 saw me visit BAYoga Studio in Berkhamsted for the first time for a weekend of assisted Mysore-style morning practice sessions and afternoon workshops with Lucy Crawford.
It was a warm weekend, the last real flush of summer, and I felt very at ease with my practice. Lucy’s adjustments and teaching are always very specific and that was just what I needed. In the afternoon workshops we explored foundations in asana practice, in various different forms.
On 4 January 2014, Stillpoint Yoga London joined with John Scott, Lucy Crawford and 101 practitioners, friends and family to remember Ozge Karabiyik, co-founder of Stillpoint Yoga London, who died in January 2012. The day raised over £3,000 for The Chartwell Cancer Trust.
You can read more about the day in the SYL website posting ‘Beginning By Remembering – The SYL Charity Class 2014‘.
The day was doubly special for me as someone from the self-practice group at Whitespace Studio was also able to make it to the practice. Four generations of paramparā.