Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a demanding yet incredibly rewarding form of yoga that is traditionally practiced six days a week and comes from Mysore in South India. There are six series of set postures that students gradually move through, with each series becoming increasingly more challenging and requiring a greater degree of focus, concentration, flexibility and strength. Regardless of which series one is on, or one’s level of flexibility of strength, the breath is the most fundamental aspect to the practice and brings with it the most benefits to body and mind. It is one of the only forms of yoga that advocates the ‘Self Practice’ or ‘Mysore Style’ of practice which is where students are not led through their respective sequence simultaneously with other students by a teacher but instead, flow through a memorised set of postures according to their own breath, their own injuries or difficulties, and their own energy for that particular day. As such, this form of practice becomes one where the thinking mind dissolves into the background and the breath and flow of the postures can move into the foreground. It is also unique in that there is a large focus on physical adjustments of students by teachers to help set patterns into students’ bodies and support them to get deeper into the postures.
As Ashtanga yoga involves a set series of postures practiced many times a week, a regular practice begins a systematic opening of the body, revealing fault lines and asymmetrical patterns that can be worked on directly or indirectly. With the highlighting of these areas of ‘stuckness’ often come psychological or emotional blocks, each intertwined with the other. Over time, openings in the body are reflected in the mind and vice versa, thus a holistic form of healing begins to occur.
I am particularly interested in looking at health through the lens of ancient practices (particularly Eastern & South American), practices that don’t separate body and mind, and that see the internal state of our being what determinines the flow of prana (or energy) within us. When there are internal blockages that disturb the flow of prana, illness and disease arise. When these blockages are cleared or opened, energy can flow more freely, leading to our beings functioning in more efficient and healthy ways. The way we are is a reflection of our nervous system and our nervous system is a reflection of how we experience the world around us. If the nervous system is fresh and rested, the body will be healthy and the mind alert. The removal of blockages – physical, emotional and beyond – allows for prana to flow more easily, bringing about strength and positivity, and improved health and energy.