Social Media and the Wickedness of Minds

By on Dec 6, 2015 in The Unruly Ascetic

Despite the fact that it makes me social media awkward, I am so grateful that I didn’t grow up with Facebook and Instagram and internet blogging. For some people social media is fun.  I guess they like the opportunity to share and the feedback they get from it. For me, it’s stressful: What if people don’t like me? What if I don’t look as good as everyone else? What if someone doesn’t get my sense of humor? WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE ME!? easier just not to ask too loudly what people think.   I am beginning to realize that NOT asking what other people think is really old-fashioned. I am also realizing that not being overly concerned with what other people are doing is the old lady in me too.   People write a lot about the dangers of social media and how it creates body image problems, FOMO, and general unrealistic standards for life. There is a lot of blame thrown around for how...

Privilege and Good Intentions

By on Nov 12, 2015 in The Unruly Ascetic

It is really easy to see the worst in someone. It is much easier to see the worst in someone we don’t know, rather than in ourselves. Maybe this is why we offer each other so much advice. I read (or hear) the perspective of the folks who feel alienated by the American Yoga machine and I sympathize with their plight.  Yoga as it is presented in American culture can be super intimidating.  Whether it is the advanced asana that we see on instagram or the svelt, fair, perfectly manicured practitioner herself. The sheer abundance of pretty, white yoginis who can make some impression shapes can get overwhelming. I have never really been one of these ‘hey look at me!’ types, not as far as an abundance of photos and beauty product/lifestyle promotions go (snarky blogs and stand-up comedy antics are another story). I have some fear over becoming GOOPy Gwenyth and losing perspective on the...

Managing Pain (and other bossy ideas)

By on Oct 21, 2015 in The Unruly Ascetic

“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” ― Bob Dylan We get a lot of criticism, as a community, for the ‘no pain no gain’ attitude that is encouraged by the Ashtanga practice.  I have had my share of pain, soreness and stiffness as well as genuine injury. It can be difficult to know how to cater the practice to pain and injury and the ups and downs of this past practice year have given me a lot to think about. Sometimes the body is sick.  Sometimes we have pain or discomfort because the body is not functioning properly, whether it is a simple cold or an autoimmune joint condition.  I have seen many people trying to power through illness as if it should not have any effect on their practice.  I have had 2 serious illnesses in the last year, each lasting about a month. In both circumstances it felt necessary to scale back to (half) primary, some days as little as...

Correct Method?

By on Aug 26, 2015 in The Unruly Ascetic

For anyone who hasn’t checked out Ashtanga Dispatch this week, here’s a repeat for you… Hey, you know what people like to argue about?  The different ways Ashtanga teachers progress students through asana. The world is full of opinions and blanket judgements on what is “correct method.” I figured I’d throw my rooster into the fight. I have read (and been told) that some old-guard teachers will allow their students to determine for themselves how far they should practice.  If students want new postures, they can do new postures. This is an extremely mature and generous technique. It takes for granted that students have enough sense to know when they should scale back the work they’re asking their body and mind to do (or at least that the practice will communicate it to them and they will be tuned in enough to listen). As a student with very little sense (and having met...

Is your Teacher more advanced than you?

By on Jul 31, 2015 in The Unruly Ascetic

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” – Karl A Menninger   A fellow practitioner asked me this morning if I felt that a teacher needed to be more advanced than their students.  This is a complex question and without more specifics about the situation that provoked the query, I gave her a simple answer: Yes. The answer of ‘Yes, you need to be more advanced than your students’ is every bit as complex as the question itself, and while I may not be able to speak directly to my friend’s question, I can go on at length about my answer… Teaching Yoga is a really difficult job, not least because we are incredibly eager to share our own experience, often before our awareness of it is refined enough to be worth sharing.  This is NOT to say that our experience is not valid or worth sharing when still in beginning stages, but more to say that our awareness of...