Finding Grounding During Difficult Times: Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga Opening Mantra I bow to the lotus feet of the Gurus The awakening happiness of one’s own Self revealed Beyond better, acting like the Jungle physician, Pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara.
Taking the form of a man to the shoulders, Holding a conch, a discus, and a sword, One thousand heads white, To Pantanjali, I salute.
Finding Roots During Difficult Times: Ashtanga Yoga Things are currently very hard. The emotional rollercoaster is big. COVID-19 creeps in closer daily, and it is bringing with it things we are unfamiliar with –copious amounts of uncertainty, changes to our lives and practices, an absence of social connections and the lack of hugs from loved ones. It is at times like these that one might find solace in simpler things, head back to our roots, and seek stability while all else seems to be shifting. This is exactly what yoga Instructor, Tracy Riggs, has been doing.
Start at the Beginning – Healing Suffering In 1400 CE, a seemingly preposterous statement was made. The statement was that a way to be out of the cycle of suffering had been found. This was written by Swami Swatmarama in his text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika. As insane as this sounds, Swatmarama elaborated that the way to leave the cycle of suffering was through the practice of yoga poses combined with breathing practices along with a concentration on a single point.
As I write this now, our Earth is in a state of collective suffering. COVID-19 is limiting our work, our daily lives, and the health of so many people. Before we jump too far, I am not implying that yoga could heal COVID-19 by mentioning the above, no. What I am proposing is that those of us who are well and who feel the weight of the suffering of those with this virus, who sense the desperation of those who lost and are losing loved ones, who have lost jobs, and who are just fucking scared – that we can help collectively ease the suffering of those around us.
How? By implementing a mindful movement practice with breathwork. For me, I saw this by heading to my mat and practicing the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series. So far, it has provided an outlet for my cycle of suffering during this time.
The Middle – The Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga The practice of Ashtanga Yoga began for me, quite accidentally. I had moved to Knoxville, TN, and was trying out yoga studios when I fell into a class led by Allison Bradley. Allison had a peaceful presence and taught an Ashtanga influenced sequence I became familiar with. Soon, I was joining her on my mat in what was called the Primary Series. Allison was my first Ashtanga Yoga teacher. About the same time, my cousin challenged me to several yoga challenges on Instagram, when I fell upon Kino MacGregor, and was then pulled into daily practice and even deeper into Ashtanga Yoga. The practice of Ashtanga was meditative and had roots in ancient yogic practices. Admiring the mystics of old, I was intrigued and started finding videos, books, and began to step on my mat daily in the sacred ritual of the Primary Series.
The Primary Series in Ashtanga is a methodical practice of the same yogic sequence each day. As a beginner to the practice, it is said that one must move sequentially in the practice, receiving the next post from a trained instructor. I did not come to the practice this way, but instead, used a printed sheet of poses to guide my individual practice, eventually memorizing the entire sequence. The poses start with sun salutations, move to a standing practice, then a seated practice, an uber bendy section, followed by the closing sequence. Through the study of Ashtanga, I have been fortunate enough in the past to study with Eddie Stern, Sharath Jois, and Tim Miller. These instructors have all been instrumental in my practice and continue to bring me back to the mat in this form. Just this morning, I awoke, and joined Eddie Stern as he led a chanting session on Instagram called Ganapati Japa. This transported me back to my deep yoga roots.
The Ashtanga practice is done without music and completed first thing upon waking. The practice is based upon movements connected to breath (vinyasa) as well as deep breathing work (ujjayi breathing is practiced throughout the entirety of the series) while taking the gaze (drishti) to various points on the body and the chakras throughout the series. When taken together the poses, breathwork, and mindfulness lead one to truly experiencing a freedom and peace unlike nonother. It is truly as if one can feel the final liberation from the cycle of suffering enter into one’s own life.
The End – Or a Rebirth of an Ashtanga Practice The timing of Eddie Stern’s chant this morning could not have been more perfect. As I find myself sitting in day eighteen of social distancing and quarantine, I am riding an emotional rollercoaster. Yesterday I woke with hope at a new day, new week, new possibilities. Today, I woke and ran from any texts, phone calls, and emails directly to my mat. I videotaped a beginner’s primary sequence, and breathed, and worked on my gaze. This led to an ease of my cycle of suffering. I have recorded what I did this morning in a video, and it is quite the beginner’s journey! Life is like that, though, isn’t it? We can start anew at any time. A famous quote by the Buddha says, “Every morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” I implore you during this time in our world to be a part of the solution to end the cycle of suffering within yourself, and thereby your energetic shift can lead to the healing of our world.
Movement, Mindfulness, and Breath in Our Lives Now more than ever, the connection between our actions and the world is seen. When we lead lives that are peaceful, aided by a movement, mindfulness, and breath practice, then we are able to contribute to the overall healing of our Earth. We founded Rigazzi Mobile Wellness on the core foundations of movement, mindfulness, and breath work. These three things alone, as suggested by ancient yogis are a pathway to creating peace in our world. We have at this time, a series of yoga videos, meditations, and breath practices on our YouTube channel free of charge. If you are looking for more, we have additional videos created by our instructors that we can share with you weekly. We simply request a donation at this time to go towards our instructors efforts. You can sign up on our website for the subscription service…and start your journey to be a part of ending the cycle of suffering.
Ashtanga Closing Mantra May all be well with mankind. May the leaders of the earth protect it in every way by keeping to the right path. May there be goodness for those who know the earth to be sacred. May all the worlds be happy.