Thursday 21 November 2013

The Legend of Ashtanga Yoga

It's taken me a little me a while to settle in to Bali, or Ubud, life. The pace is a lot different to Mysore, in fact, everything is different. I've refrained from writing any posts until now as I wanted to let the experience soak in, to make sure I wasn't jumping to any conclusions based on the fact I'm missing Mysore. I'm sure many people love Ubud life. They must do as I have met many people who have packed up and moved here permanently. This makes Ubud a thriving expat community as well as a huge spiritual community. However, I never thought I'd say it but I don't love Ubud. Don't get me wrong the local people are beautiful and friendly and the place is beautiful, or would have been if it hadn't been overrun by tourists and commercialism. "Yoga tourism' is massive, but it is not what I am looking for. I might as well be in a big American city like Chicago, complete with traffic congestion, pollution and 4 Ralph Laurens. Nevertheless, the village is thriving on it and the people have embraced it, offering a whole range of eco-tourist activities, massage and holistic therapies and the best healthy, organic food I've ever tasted!!

But what about the yoga?! I practiced at Ashtanga Yoga Bali for the first 3 days with Prem and Radha Carlisi. The class was pretty small to begin with, but as it got nearer the conference more people arrived, so there was around 25 students, however there was always someone giving you attention as they also have an apprentice, Siri, teaching.  Prem and Radha's style of teaching is very alignment focussed, bringing me back to the teaching of the BWY. Wide stances in order to 'square' the hips for example, emphasis on knee above ankle and shoulder above wrist, good reminders of safe practice. However, this was hard to take, given my teachings over the past two months in Mysore, where the focus is bringing everything into the midline, heels in line type of thing. It also brought home the importance of practicing consistently with one teacher, over a long period of time, without disruption, something I will talk more about later. However, I did take away some gems from their teaching, in particular correct alignment when going up into urdhva dhanurasana, which has deepened my backbend and taken away a niggling shoulder pain. 

Kati, Me and Danny Paradise - what a human being!


The conference, which I have been waiting for for over 10 months!! What an event! We were joined by David Williams, Danny Paradise, Prem and Radha, Mark and Joanne Darby, Manju Jois, Annie Pace and Eagle from Ashtanga Yoga Kauii. We had a Mysore practice in the morning, followed by a talk by one of the teachers after lunch each day, and 3 panel discussions over the course of the week, where the teachers answered many of our questions. During the morning's practice, the teachers were there to stop and assist you, giving you alignment techniques and tips. Given there were about 100 people in the room, the tips we received were mainly thoughtful and considered at the same time as letting us enjoy our practice. However, it soon became apparent who I would consider practicing again with, go to their workshops... David William's story 'The legend of Ashtanga Yoga' was a particular favourite, hearing how the teachings of Pattabhi Jois came to be known in the west, straight from the horse's mouth is invaluable as a student of ashtanga, in my opinion. And whilst I have never met or practiced with Danny Paradise, his presence and beauty as a human being was one of the most powerful energies in the room. Below are just some of the gems from the teacher's talks and panel discussions.

David Williams: "More pain will not lead to less pain"
"Any intelligent person who sees the practice will know it make their life better"
"The more you practice yoga, the less employable you become"
"Doing just hatha yoga - You'll get older before you get well!"
"Choose the endorphin method or the adrenalin method" - Endorphin being the preferred
"Stretching creates scar tissue - it blocks the body's potential"
"It's not happening to you, it's happening for you"

Kati, Me and David 'the legend' Williams!

Annie Pace: "It's just 'AFLO' (Another Friggin' Learning Opportunity)
"Boys will be boys, men will be boys, and women will be princesses!"
"You don't want a cheerleader leading the class - the lineage is the key" (When asked about teaching yoga)
"If everyone in the world did Surya Namaskar A every day and ate a 51% sattvic diet, the world would be a better place!" (There was one more thing, but I cannot remember it - please let me know if you wrote it down!)
"Always allow the student experience the essence of the practice"
"Ashtanga yoga is not the only practice which can give you a glimpse of spiritual liberation"
"Truth, simplicity and love" - (When asked what are the 3 most important things in life)

Danny Paradise: "You are living the manifestations of your life intentions" 
"You start to practice yoga whenever you are really desperate or if you are really intelligent" 
"Students say yoga practice takes to much time, no! Yoga creates time as you will become more efficient in your daily life"
"Modern communications are magical systems - use them intelligently, embrace them and the evolution"
"You are the god, the creator, the destroyer, the preserver" (When asked how to bring god into to the practice)
"Don't listen to yogananda!"
"Ashtanga is an exposition of consciousness"
"Yogis are freedom thinkers, dream makers, witnesses, initiating radical change"
"Meditation - ask and you will receive, manifest your dreams, become a dream maker"
"Fear - step right into it"
"Petition to the light - taking complete responsibility for your situation and ask for guidance to find peace" - A Hawaiian tradition
"Try the bowl of stones" - Another Hawaiian tradition
"Look for the practice to be a healing force - add on postures from 2nd or 3rd series if they work for you, it's not a fixed practice"
"Find your rhythm, there's no need to get up at 3am to practice"
"Count your blessings, have compassion, find an art you love, stay positive"

Prem: "Plug into the inner net, not the internet!"
"When you are lost you have to ASK for help, that's grace"
"Life is not linear, despite what your head tries to tell you"

Kati, Me and the Darby's! Sweeeet! 

Darbys: "Stretching is bad, extension is good!"
"Go back where it began - inside"
"Truth and contentment - give yourself over to god and be thankful for everything you have"
"Question everything - try to experience everything for yourself, don't just trust what others tell you"

Manju: "Ashtanga is based on maths and geometry, angles, these are our foundations and our architecture"
"Chanting is good for the memory"
"Chanting has the same benefits as asana, if you don't feel like practicing asana, just chant, don't feel guilty!"
"Drishti is the most important, having a focal point" "Nasargai is most important drishti"
"Vinyasa and bandha have always been there (in asana practice), it's just that Guruji really emphasised it"
"Saturdays are taken as a rest day, do oil bath. This practice is not just for yogis, its an ayurvedic practice"
"Utthita Hasta Padangustasana - is an L shape (geometry) as you bend forward keep the angle as 90 degree"
"Supta Kurmasana - no leg behind head, ankles crossed in front of head"
"Smile x 5!"

Eagle: "Love god with all your heart"
"Practice non-violence"
"Help someone - always be in service"
"Remain humble"
"Have gratitude and appreciation for your life"

The crew!

These are just a few snippets from the conference, there were so many more I've hardly grazed the surface, so much more teaching and sharing from this bunch of yogis. I am full of gratitude for being able to be here, to have been here, for this meeting of minds, some of the legends of ashtanga yoga, as David Williams puts it!! Biglove to all who shared the experience with me. Aloha!


  1. Great Post Michelle, was hoping you'd post on the conference. Small font though, I'm not getting any younger here. "Manju smailex5" : )

    1. Updated the font just for you Grim!! Yes, I'd like to write more on it when I get a chance :)

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Nice post!! Yoga is extremely effective in Increasing Flexibility, Increasing lubrication of the joints, ligaments and Massaging of ALL Organs of the Body. yoga and its cleansing practices have proven to be extremely effective for various disorders. Thanks.

    Yoga Bali


  4. I love, love Yoga!!! I have been trying to get back into it and going 2-3 times a week! I love doing yoga with music RAV Vast