Sometimes on the labyrinthine web of the worldwide web you stumble across a gem, an unexpected article or an interview with someone that is inspiring and thought-provoking, and that somehow articulates the things you believe and feel in in a way that leaves you wishing you’d been able to put those ideas across in just as succinct a way. This happened to me yesterday with this video interview of a teacher I’d never heard of before: Iain Grysak.
There was something wonderfully humbling about hearing a man who has completed fourth series talk about his experiences along the way, hearing him talk about sometimes still finding the primary series a struggle, and hearing him talk about the practice in way that was so personal and not informed by the dogma that can often accompany it. This most probably as a result of having been self taught for a significant period which led to him developing something that was a leaned much more towards intuition rather than prescription.
The things that particularly stood out for me were his framing of the Ashtanga system as a ‘structurally transformative practice’ which is something I’ve written about here a fair amount and is something I am seeing and feeling and understanding more and more myself. I loved his description of it as being ‘DIY Rolfing’! Again, totally agree.
I also really liked hearing that he doesn’t pay a huge amount of attention to drishti (the focus or gazing point for the eyes in each pose) in either his practice or his teaching, and that his drishti throughout his practice is a deep internal focus on the breath, which mirrors my approach. There was a distinct lack of judgment and somehow even a quiet bravery in saying this as I believe that drishti and ‘tristana’ (the combination of breath, bandha and drishti) is often seen as being the Holy Trinity of the practice and without this, one is simply not practicing Ashtanga.
As someone now moving through third series and wondering a little more than usual – “why am I doing this exactly?”, it was interesting to hear his take on the practice, which echoed something David Keil said to me previously: the poses are there to challenge the breath. Iain talks about one of the points of progressing through the series and learning increasingly complex poses as being to put yourself in compromised positions to see if you can find the vertical axis of the breath and see if you can stay connected to it.
In a world that seems to encourage disconnection from ourselves through media and technology particularly, that increases the likelihood of dissocation as a result of the sheer amount of overwhelming information we are bombarded with on a daily basis, I see yoga as being an exercise in connection. And staying connected. Whatever series you’re on or form you practice.