Ashtanga Dispatch is a global and inclusive community, bringing together teachers and students devoted to the practice of Ashtanga yoga, all eight of those limbs. Ashtanga Dispatch shares that love of the practice through an audio podcast, in a print magazine, through many articles and offering events and workshop… all available from the website www.ashtangadispatch.com. And there are even t-shirts! Ashtanga Dispatch is dedicated to spreading the message that this yoga is for every body and everyone is welcome.
I’ve mentioned the podcast in class, especially the interviews below with my teachers. All the episodes are well worth listening to and cover a wide range of topics with many of the most respected Ashtanga Yoga teachers.
Ashtanga Dispatch has also published two beautiful magazine editions, collecting amazing photography with great articles. I’ve left a copy of both editions in the reception at Whitespace Yoga & Wellbeing Studio. Please feel free to take a look. If you would like your own copy, you can order from www.ashtangadispatch.com.
The Sanskrit word परम्परा (paramparā) is often literally translated as ‘tradition’, ‘lineage’ or ‘an uninterrupted row or series’. In the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, paramparā encompasses the relationship from teacher to student, the transmission of knowledge based on direct and practical experience, the teacher and student forming the links in the chain of instruction that has been passed down for thousands of years.
Lu Duong is an Ashtanga practitioner living in Arlington, Virginia, USA. He was inspired by Guy Donahaye and Eddie Stern’s book, Guruji, and the personal stories in that book from many Ashtanga practitioners who had studied with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Not wanting the stories to end, Lu started the Ashtanga Parampara project, to simply record our teachers’ voices and their experiences with this practice. There are hundreds of Ashtanga Yoga teachers across the world and Lu’s goal is to provide an archive of their voice.
Mission: Ashtanga Parampara is a collection of interviews with authorized/certified practitioners and teachers of Ashtanga yoga as taught by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (KPJAYI). This platform seeks to archive the background and history of teachers that have been blessed by Pattabhi Jois or his grandson, R. Sharath Jois, to teach and spread the Ashtanga method. This effort is born out of sincere gratitude and devotion to the practice and seeks to illustrate and highlight the wide diversity of dedicated teachers across the world.
You can read these interviews online at http://www.ashtangaparampara.org/. Seven of the interviews have also been collected into a beautiful printed version. I’ve left a copy in the reception at Whitespace Yoga & Wellbeing Studio. Please feel free to read.
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.
Names and numbers are important. The Sanskrit word ‘Ashtanga’ refers to the eight limbs or components of yoga described in The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. John Scott tells of Pattabhi Jois calling Ashtanga Yoga a ‘counted method’, and even the name ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ has a number in it!
The fourth limb is given as prāṇāyāma, which can be translated as the practice of breathing exercises. The building blocks of pranayama are puraka (inhalation), rechaka (exhalation) and kumbhaka (breath retention). John Scott teaches a pranayama technique of twelve exhalation-inhalation breaths and uses a counting technique based on the fingers of one hand, which is also described by T.K.V. Desikachar in his book The Heart of Yoga. The four fingers of a hand contain twelve bones, and the thumb can trace a spiral round from the base of the index finger to count each breath.
Counting, breathing, moving. The union of body, and breath, and mind into a single focus. Continuing this focus of the senses for a single full breath of unbroken concentration lasting twelve seconds. Repeating for twelve breaths, taking us to the edge of meditation. Then perhaps repeating this twelve times over, leading into total, perfect absorption. Stillness. Equanimity. All this bringing together the limbs of Ashtanga Yoga into a practice we can do anywhere.
In our November ‘Monthly Primary Series’ class at Whitespace Yoga & Wellbeing Studio, we practiced counting twelve breaths and looked at how this mindfulness can be carried into our practice.
The next ‘Monthly Primary Series’ class is on Saturday 12 December and there is regular Ashtanga self-practice and led-practice every Sunday.
At times, the discipline of a yoga practice can be a struggle. It’s easy to forget this in a world of rainbow-coloured unicorns and perfect handstands on Instagram. If a yoga practice is indeed ‘practicing for life’, practicing skills on the mat that we can take off the mat, then a yoga practice should at times be a struggle, it should require effort, it should be hard. How that struggle manifests itself for any individual will be different, we all have our own demons, but building a sustainable yoga practice gives the personal space in which to identify and confront those demons.
In our October ‘Monthly Primary Series’ class at Whitespace Yoga & Wellbeing Studio, we looked at sūtra 1.12 of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras. This line begins a group of five sūtras that introduce the ‘how’ of a yoga practice. Two elements are identified: abhyāsa and vairāgya.
The Sanskrit word ‘abhyāsa’ is often translated to English as ‘practice’, and challenges us to cultivate a consistent practice over our entire life. An individual personal practice. One of persistent effort in our actions, our speech, our thoughts. A practice that leads to stillness, stability, tranquility, equanimity. One that builds positive patterns in our life, in good times and in bad, in times of struggle and in times of ease. Never give up.
This practice works together with ‘vairāgya’, meaning ‘non-attachment’. Letting go of aversions and fears, understanding the need to practice without attachment to the outcome. Seeing the negative patterns in our life, both the conscious and unconscious ones. Always let go.
We all have patterns in our lives, some we see clearly and others are deeply buried. Our unconscious mind, our automatic associations, attitudes and beliefs, influence what we perceive as conscious, rational decisions. These deep biases are the lenses through which our perceptions our filtered. The ‘IAT’ Implicit Association Tests developed by Harvard University measure attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable acknowledge conciously, such as biases on age, race, and gender.
The balance between practice and non-attachment given in sūtra 1.12 is sharply focused in an Ashtanga Yoga ‘led’ class, in which all the movements, the vinyasas, are counted out loud and everyone practicing follows along together. The effort of these classes is high, it’s easy to get too caught-up in the energy of the group, to lose ourselves in the practice and at the same time we’re challenged to let go of our own pace, let go of attachment to achieving a particular posture, a specific form. Find the balance.
The next ‘Monthly Primary Series’ class is on Saturday 14 November and there is regular Ashtanga self-practice and led-practice every Sunday.