Ashtanga: A Letter to the Universe & my Self

This is a rumination dedicated to my journey in Ashtanga and an appreciation of thanks for all, this year.

Dear Universe and to my Self,

Until today, I had never thought of writing about my relatively short Ashtanga journey. To be honest, it has only been a total of 8 months (with two separate months of irregular practice due to travel) since I started and committed to Ashtanga, although it had always felt like I have practised it since eons ago. My quiet contemplations were mostly kept within the vast space of my mind with occasional verbal outbursts of amazement and varied facial expressions but going for Mysore at a shala in New York recently gave me a really warm, safe and insightful experience that I wanted to give my contemplations external shape and share it with any soul who chances upon it like a booster of any sort that it may.

Ashtanga has always been challenging for me in its own right; little about the physical postures though they do bog me but dealing with the deeper inner themes that come up. I have known it before I went for my first led class in March, but I just went anyway, without much thought. Do you remember, it was just in Feb this year during a silent moment of a day – two months after facing and finishing up a big internal challenge that came up, that suddenly an answer and realisation came, “oh damn, yoga it is, and Ashtanga it must be, whatever it is.”. I didn’t know what it was; I was simply going for typical yoga classes in nature with a wonderful teacher once a week then, but I had heard of it. I signed up for my class immediately that day after an hour of intuitive searching for a teacher who may guide me.

It was never about the aesthetics though, in Ashtanga – if I am able to perfect the postures physically is a great side benefit, and hardly about how easy or difficult it is for me to slip into some postures because I was born with my kind of body with my certain lengthy arms and muscular thighs.

In the beginning, I tried my best to stay in those uncomfortable tight positions and wanted to study and understand the physical nuances and concepts like a typical good student so I may adjust my body to fit the defined ‘ideal’ posture. Over time, a gradual realisation seeped in to the subconscious influence this practice had on me; I began to slowly tune in to my body, move and adjust accordingly to my state then and there that definitely does not look like the perfect ideal 99% of the time. The postures started to suit me, not the other way round! When this happened, the expectations of the standard ‘ideal’ fell off. There was no ideal to begin with; they were all just any one man’s interpretations of how it worked for them. In the process, the effort I really put in to ‘try’, became exhausting, so I had to let it go umpteen times. It was a smack in the head that there was no need to ‘try’ – you just do it. That brainless right? Yeah it just is! And when I met my nemesis (oh gosh, I’m sure you already know every yogi has at least one posture he/she strongly dislikes), I reallllllyyyyy wanted to skip that posture altogether, but facing up to it, the way I have approached all the other neutral postures like they had always been my friends have helped greatly, doing it without reacting to my nonsensical thoughts and sitting in that strong uncomfortableness (not extreme pain – this no-brainer would call for me to stop) for a few breaths and moments make me see Life in a very different way. It’s like come out feeling fresh after a shower, emerging from that posture, calling for breath, for Life and with a renewed perspective, feeling physically lighter and upping my thresholds on all aspects. Every day’s practice was similar but never the same.

Practising Ashtanga regularly with my daily sadhana (kriya and Reiki practice) is an enormous commitment to my own journey and has visibly shifted the way I live out my life, accelerating growth in waves (three spiritual practices in a day, imagine; I’m basically asking for it 😂) and more aware of my body and my state than ever before. A prominent awareness to my evolving nourishment needs proved to be the basic consideration of my day. Large amounts of meat and overcooked-food intake can and has made me feel unwell (not sick, I’m minding my words). Feeling the dense energies of the animal and its nature and food integrating into my energy system whenever I consume more than usual and becoming a part of me was extremely unpleasant. I remember my body started feeling disagreeable middle of this year and so heavy to the point that I had to increase my intake of fresh food and plants. However, I am not debating on any reason for the energies being dense; I just feel it as so, and it is so for me – many assumptions are laid and facts seen around the world that include the animals being killed in fear versus being sacrificed in appreciation to be laid on the table as food or simply the way they are being prepared; whether the blood is let out during the preparation process or not. But I know you have brought it before me and it is real.

It is not what we now may term as ‘trendy’ to sustain on mostly or just fresh produce, but the way most people in practice have altered their diets is because the food they consume, no longer supports their body for the lifestyle they lead, and ignoring it may translate to racking up even more challenges to deal with physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, steering us off our path. Though in our modern society, it is understandably tough for most of us to maintain a customised diet like that without making appropriate financial and social considerations. So, I acted and act with moderation. Sometimes taste really gets the better of me anyway!

I am grateful for the people and teachers whom I have crossed paths with, at the appropriate time and space; the teachers who share the details for sequential learning and the teachers who show through actions and the way they are. Every one has something I can learn from. I met wonderful people and teachers across the world who showed me and supported my key understandings of how my and our complex bodies and minds work – the body is a vehicle to the beyond. You have also been an amazing teacher, bringing me to to places across time and space and having me go deeper and deeper inwards – without knowing, there is no understanding, without experiences, there is no realisation and without the necessary realisation, there will never be transcendence.

When the shoe fits, the foot is gone. Ultimately and eventually, we will start living without effort, because everything moves on its own.

Thank you, for bringing me to these wondrous spiritual practices that I commit myself to every day.

With love,
Shin ❤


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