Ashtanga Yoga With Antonella
Ashtanga, yoga, Sharath


Where did we get this idea that your yoga practice has to be fun? That if you're not leaving the room with a big grin that it's somehow not a "good" practice or class?

My teacher, Sharath, says you should enjoy your practice; but finding joy in something, and needing it to be "fun" are very different things, in my mind.

One puts the onus of your happiness on you: you choose to find pleasure in an activity no matter what it may be. While the other makes it about the practice being a source of entertainment for you. One feeds the soul, while the other feeds our endless drive for distraction.

Now, we know I'M no fun. I'm strict and disciplined. I practice and teach Ashtanga, for God's sake! I believe that yoga is about more than twisting yourself into poses, or looking cool while in brand name spandex.

I make my students work where they're supposed to (gasp!) rather than letting them make excuses or do things that might end up injuring them in the long run. I ask them to be introspective, to dig deep into themselves, even if it's not comfortable.

Maybe that's a function of having teachers that always made me give my all. Maybe it's a function of believing that there's more to Yoga, with a capital "Y" than making you feel good. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good, don’t get me wrong, but is that our ultimate goal?

My yoga practice nourishes me. It supported and strengthened me when I went through a very difficult and somewhat public break-up and subsequent divorce. It provided me with a sense of stability and determination when I had to leave the studio and community I'd helped build. It teaches me life lessons every day, and in the process I have literally left blood, sweat, and tears on my mat.

Most of the time, I would hardly categorize these things as "fun".

Through it all though, however, my yoga practice was there. Like an old friend who knows you better than you'd like sometimes. This friend will tell you what you need to hear, not what you WANT to hear; but they will also open their arms and embrace you when you're down.

That doesn't mean I don't laugh, and play, and LOVE my practice. I do, every day. But it's up to me to find that sense of levity; to notice the endless waves of emotion and distraction that would pull me down . I choose how I view my life, day in and day out.

In making these conscious choices I've also selected a particular style of practice. Do I think my practice is the ONLY way to do yoga, meditate, or achieve enlightenment? No.

I advocate for this style because I've lived it, tested it out on MY body for 9 years. I know it's worked for me (as well as countless others), so I believe it'll work for you too. But...if you follow a style, then you have to do it right. "Do or do not, there is no try", to quote the great Yoda.

Not many people know that my Great Aunt was a devout Kriya yogi. She followed the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and was a member of the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF). She was my first yoga teacher. With her I learned to do shoulder-stand and talked about karma. With her I went to the SRF's headquarters in Encinitas when I was 12.

My aunt was a brilliant light, a true yogi at a time when it wasn't popular or lucrative. She lived the precepts of yoga, was a vegetarian, helped those in need, and gave yoga and meditation classes in her office (in the 70's!). She believed that yoga was about enlightenment, self-realization, reconnecting with a higher consciousness, or however else you'd like to phrase it.

What she didn't believe was that yoga was about getting buff triceps, or picking up girls/guys. She didn't believe yoga was the same as dancing, running, knitting or underwater basket-weaving. Though all of these things can have meditative qualities, you can't turn any mindless activity into yoga just because you say so or because it helps you “tune out”.

Yoga is about choice, every day. It's done CONSCIOUSLY, that's part of the difficulty. The meaning of Buddha is " the awakened one" and what's another way of saying awake? Conscious.

Enlightenment begins by us waking up. We must do away with the distractions that we need to entertain us, that keep us in the slumber of maya.

I don't want my yoga to entertain me, I want my yoga to transform me, from the inside out. if I want entertainment I can go to a movie.