The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Saturday, July 25, 2009

An Afternoon of Ashtanga

As any serious practitioner will know, ashtanga is a demanding and unforgiving practice. Leave the mat for too long - and that means a week - and you can forget about a homecoming party when you return. No sir! Astanga will make you work your limbs off to make up for lost time. So you can imagine how much I dreaded getting back on the mat when I realised it has been nearly two months since I last practiced. Ashtanga, that is. Since returning to Gary's classes, my practice is made up of hatha, vinyasa and yin yoga.

Then three weeks ago, I received an email from two separate friends about an ashtanga workshop by a Malaysian student of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois. Li Ling studied in Mysore and England for fifteen years and would be in Bangsar for a three-hour workshop. Would I be interested? Still bouyant from my last workshop, I said yes.
And that's how I wound up in Yoga2Health on a hot Saturday afternoon.

Li Ling turned out to be a slight woman with an air of calmness about her. I liked her instantly. The workshop began with an introduction to ashtanga and then progressed to Surya Namaskar A. Of the ten of us, only three were ashtanga virgins but impressively kept pace with the rest of us. After a couple of rounds, we moved on to Surya Namaskar B.

Li Ling demonstrated variations for the beginners and told the rest of us to take our practice a little deeper by lenghtening our inhalations and exhalations, as focusing on our bandhas. That was when I realised what I had very conveniently been leaving out of my practice - the holding of bandhas. And with that, my entire practice changed. I fumbled between breath and bandhas as I moved through the sequence. When I held the uddiyana bandha, my breath automatically shorted. When I focused on lenghtening it, the bandhas instantly dissolved. It was hard!

The rest of the three hours alternated between progressing in the primary series and taking a break with theory and philosophy. By the time savasana rolled around, we couldn't lie down fast enough.

Later, we gathered round for Auntie Van's legendary ginger tea and vegetarian sushi and sandwiches. Everyone agreed that the workshop was nothing short of fantastic and by the time we dispersed, we had convinced Li Ling to teach regular classes at Y2H.

In those three short hours, I remembered why I was addicted to ashtanga last year. Once again, I immersed myself in the quiet power of the practice and emerged completely refreshed. And it felt very, very good.

My body hurts today. But I'm relishing this ache. It's ashtanga's way of throwing me a homecoming party.


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