Ashtanga Yoga With Antonella
Ashtanga, yoga, mysore, practice


Alice. If she had known what was waiting for her, do you think she would have followed that rabbit?

At some point most yoga practitioners come to this place; I have, you probably have too. The decision you can’t avoid: to change, knowing that in this choice you’re leaping into the abyss not being able to tell if there will be a soft landing or an endless drop. Or keeping to what you’ve always known, staying blissfully unaware and missing what could have been.

In the years since I started practicing yoga, my life has changed so dramatically that the old me wouldn’t recognize the new one. I am so grateful for all of the changes and experiences, which have led me to a life and vocation that I would have never imagined. But it wasn’t easy. To be honest, the changes in my life haven’t always been pain free or welcomed with open arms. There haven’t always been soft landings, sometimes I hit the ground, hard. Yet here I am, alive to tell the tale; and, I think, the better for having experienced those times which make me appreciate my current life even more.

Change is inherent in growth and evolution. The physical changes one undergoes in a yoga practice are readily noticeable, we feel our bodies ache, shift, release and strengthen. The mental and emotional upheaval, however, is harder to grasp, and usually much harder to deal with. Sometimes we don’t even fully realize the changes are happening until we’re smack dab in the middle of a whole life restructuring.

In yoga there is the concept of “tapas” which is sometimes translated as pain for purification. Guruji (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) is supposed to have said that with the Ashtanga practice we burn off impurities like the fire melts and purifies gold. I have heard his grandson, Sharath, use the same analogy. This purification process though can feel more like self flagellation than a slow burning away of physical and mental blockages. How many habits and relationships that no longer serve us are sacrificed at the altar of our practice?

This is where I think yoga differs from any other “discipline” or physical activity. In connecting to something that challenges you day in and day out, that takes you to a mental, emotional, and physical edge, where you have to observe your breath, your sensations, and emotions you start to experience the world in a different way. You start stripping away the layers of self delusion and seeing the patterns you’ve created in your life. Whether it’s dead-end job after dead-end job, “frenemy” type relationships, or unhealthy eating habits, things are cast in a new light.

Suddenly these patterns that we’ve developed over years (or lifetimes) rise to the surface like the impurities being separated from the gold, and you have to deal with them. In other words you become AWARE and with the tools you have established in your yoga practice, you develop the internal strength and courage to take steps to remove them. You start making the connection that maybe these things aren’t really “you” maybe they’re not really necessary. Maybe you do them out of habit or inertia but not because they serve a purpose any longer.

Or not. There is always the option of staying exactly where you are, of not growing, not changing, because the prospect of the unknown is too scary; because you would rather not believe that change needs to happen. Then you’re stuck in an endless loop, reliving the same scenario over and over, trying to convince yourself that somehow it’s different. How was it that Einstein defined insanity? Oh, yeah.

I’ve been in this position, hanging on white-knuckled to my habits going “nooooo”. And whenever I’ve resisted this intuitive drive that told me to let go, it has always come back to haunt me.

When the voice tells you it’s time to change, listen to it. Or, better said: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

Which choice would you make?