The Unruly Ascetic

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Posted by on 9:47 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Here I am in Mysore and the birds are chirpin’ for some blog posts.  Everyone is dying to know all of the secret information Sharath confers on us during these elite and occult daily conferences.  As it turns out, he doesn’t want us spouting knowledge on the internets (who knew!?) so I’ll spare you the details.  Long story short: teach because you want to learn and be nice about it. In other news, I’ve been thinking and dialoguing (with authorized future Gurus as well as mama-shala acolytes who are admirably mature and dedicated despite the...

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Open Letter to the open ear.

Posted by on 1:44 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

You shouldn’t be hot headed unless you want to rock the boat. Mixing metaphors (or whatever), sue me. I have a friend who really inspires me in how chill he is.  I don’t mean he’s lazy or unmotivated.  He is an impressively successful artist and works his tattooed tail off.  He’s just steady by nature. When problems arise he keeps a level head and handles challenges reasonably and responsibly.  He’s not one to rock the boat and I respect anyone who can be diplomatic and altruistic enough to think that way. Some people are earth shakers. ...

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Podcasting with Peg

Posted by on 11:11 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Who likes listening to the sound of their own voice? I think I am one of only a few people who actually prefers my recorded voice to the one I hear between my ears. This podcast was really fun to record, mostly because Peg encourages me to ramble on until I get to my point and also to says what I think, no matter how undiplomatic or controversial. I can’t say whether I’m reasonable or outrageous. I always feel like I say obvious things and am a bit surprised and confused by the responses. Generally people have been very sweet and...

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What makes a model student?

Posted by on 1:16 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Someone asked me a while back what makes a model student.  I provided an answer that got lost in the ether. I remember thinking that since it didn’t show up in the publication it was requested for, I must have been to harsh or dictatorial.  I can be unintentionally difficult or abrasive at times and assumed that was the case with this piece. The topic came up again recently and I was interested in touching base with the answer I gave a few months ago and I think it must have fallen through the cracks because I didn’t cringe and...

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Fear is the mind-killer.

Posted by on 11:12 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

“The only this we have to fear is fear itself.” -FDR Why is it that so many women are drawn to Ashtanga these days?  As a practice that has been historically and/or critically linked to the youthful masculine, why is that women are moving into the upper echelon of teachers and practitioners at a much steeper rate than men? Feminism? Women’s lib? The straightforward stubbornness that women can do everything men can do and sheer determination to prove it? Maybe we can make the gender-balance assertion for the general population, but...

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Privilege and Good Intentions

Posted by on 11:16 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

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...

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Correct Method?

Posted by on 5:50 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

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...

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You know what I think, this is what I feeeeel.

Posted by on 5:20 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I think sometimes I share my convictions without doing a great job of sharing how I got there.  I can explain to you why something about the practice is fair by the standards I’ve been given, but I don’t always include why I believe in it. I see that my belief can be off-putting.  Let me explain. I really want people to be happy and kind.  I am a firm believer in the phrase “you don’t have to be wrong for me to be right.” I love seeing people do whatever brings them happiness.  Doing my practice brings me so much happiness that it has...

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Wild Speculation

Posted by on 10:03 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Holy Lord Ganesha, the times are a changin’. Today someones noticed that the KPJAYI has posted a new requirement for practicing with Sharath:  You must have at least tried to study with someone who is in his lineage. Gasp. The horror.  So many people won’t be able to go now!  It’s the official policy that you can’t learn from youtube. How can he say that? That someone who tries each morning on their own, despite not having a teacher, is not ready to come to Mysore?!  So many prospective exotic Indian adventures thwarted. I am being sarcastic,...

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Brothers know best.

Posted by on 11:46 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

My brother has been practicing Ashtanga for a few months now.  Mostly behind my back, but lately he’s been coming to my class, willfully refusing my advice and getting distracted by badass ladies. It’s fun. He’s pretty cool: 25, super fit, into rock climbing and slack lining, building skateboards, riding his bike, and drinking craft beer.  He’s smart and nice and generally a good sport. He asked me during practice today if we can cater his practice to suit his interests and goals for his body.  He is concerned that he will be expected to put...

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Posted by on 6:24 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Well apparently Yoshimi did not protect me from the evil natured robots (any Flaming Lips fans out there?). Obviously they attacked my awesome blog because I have so many righteous followers. But they have been smited by the glorious and powerful Jimmy Crow. Long story short, I know the blog got hacked. Thanks for all the heads up and sorry for the crushing disappointment that I am sure you felt when you realized that it was not the insightful and inspiring, totally grammatically correct writing that you usually get emailed about. I’ll...

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Long hair, don’t care.

Posted by on 8:51 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Practicing Yoga is like getting a haircut… There’s no right way to get a haircut.  It is based on preference, intention, and need.  The client  is working with a very specific amount and type of hair.  The stylist has a specific set of tools and skills.  Some people like short hair and some barbers like using trimmers.  Student and teacher (oops! client and stylist) work together out of logic and trust. If I want a military haircut I can get a decent one from most barbers around, but I’ll do best to go the barber who does the most of...

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Smooth Sailing

Posted by on 7:31 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

One of my all time favorite analogies comes from Sharath (surprise, surprise).  He says that Yoga is like the ocean (off to a good start, who doesn’t like the ocean?).  If we sail on the ocean and experience it from above, meaning intellectual study that does not include a true practice, we can only see a few feet below the surface. We can only make inferences about what happens below.  We can not know how the ocean feels, or tastes, or looks in all its glory from the deck of a ship. The only real way to know the ocean is to jump in. I love...

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It’s just like riding a bike.

Posted by on 10:15 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Dropping back is like riding a bike (but not because you never forget how to). Students frequently ask why they should try to stand up and drop back before doing the backbends of the Intermediate series when those postures seem so much more approachable.  I have a very long answer and about fear and trust and big picture ideas that includes the bicycle analogy (which falls flat on some Russians I know who never bothered with bike, what with all the snow, so I already know it’s not universal). When I learned how to ride a bicycle I took a...

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Analogies, an introduction.

Posted by on 12:37 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I’ve found myself thinking in analogies lately.  I know this is the result of doing a lot of teaching and trying to come up with understandable ways to explain something unfamiliar… but do analogies work for everyone or just for a certain type of person, like me? Ian the Giant says emphatically, YES.  Analogies are universal and the foundation of human communication.  Words are tiny analogies (a stretch in terms of the literal linguistics, but I get what he’s putting down). I like how his brain works, but I’m talking...

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Conference Notes

Posted by on 8:13 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I may have tricked you with that title… these aren’t conference notes the way you probably expected. I almost asked a question in conference yesterday. If you have spent much time with me in Mysore you have probably heard my stand up routine entitled “Don’t Ask Questions in Conference.”  It gets the standard laughs and usually leaves a couple eavesdroppers calling me a bitch (but that’s a story for another day). But I really want to ask Sharath something and I want everyone to hear what he says. The world is changing, and fast....

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Posted by on 3:56 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

During the interludes between my first few trips to Mysore I would wax poetic to friends and fellow practitioners about the beauty of the experience.  Not the collecting of postures or the ‘energy’ of the shala or the magic of practicing at the source, but of the community.  I loved and longed for the friendships from Mysore: the delving, languid conversations about life and practice over breakfast or chai, the kindred spirits and isolated closeness that comes with practicing here.  I was eager to return and feel the support and shared...

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No complete beginners…

Posted by on 2:38 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I was recently involved in a retreat that advertised ‘All levels of Mysore welcome. No complete beginners to Ashtanga.’ The obvious discussion ensued… What makes someone a “complete beginner” to Ashtanga?   There are a lot of ways to pose and answer the ‘beginner’ question.  How does one determine their level of advancement in the practice?  Is it by postures earned?  By trips to Mysore?  By the number of classes attended?  Is it based on how stressed or calm we are when we walk into a Mysore room? Yes and No; all of these...

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Art and Science

Posted by on 12:19 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I found myself in a coffee shop this morning (as I do many mornings) talking to some kids about Yoga. I don’t mean children. I mean kids, young minds and bodies who are fresh to the practice of Yoga in general. Just the interested, motivated types to have recently completed Vinyasa teacher trainings. I like people and chatting in general, so I frequently find myself getting into a particular discussion. It inevitably follows with well intentioned Ashtanga curious Vinyasa kids: the push-pull of Ashtanga verses Vinyasa in the minds of new...

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I like writing.

Posted by on 4:00 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

It is a chore, but it is a gratifying one. I like having my thoughts clearly organized and presented in a tangible, visible, (potentially) audible way. I find a sense of peaceful serenity when I am able to write out my thoughts on a topic and know that I am being honest with myself. This is therapeutic in many ways.  Striving for honesty with the reader allows (forces) me to confront my own hypocrisies and admit them to someone.  I think that this is part of why some people (woohoo!) like to read my writing. Because I try to admit, genuinely,...

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Taking a picture…

Posted by on 7:32 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

…does not make you an asshole.  But judging someone for it does. Are any of you a part of one of those internet/facebook “discussion” groups where the mediator brings up controversial subject and says “what do you think?” only to have the discussion (and I use that word with a raised eyebrow) over run with people being insane internet bullies? When we think of internet bullying most of us think of a gawky teenager who’s classmates make memes of them or ethnic, social, and religious minorities being trolled by anonymous assholes who...

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Wait up, slow your roll.

Posted by on 5:31 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

Cheating in Bakasana!? Oh dear lord, don’t ever imply to the greater world of the internets that people cheat in asana.  You will be vilified as vain and arrogant… and no one will actually read your article, they will just rage against the photo/caption. In the latest Kino-gate YJ (such a well rounded, open hearted publication… ) published an article by the inspiring Ms. MacGregor on the ‘cheat’ verses ‘challenge’ version of Bakasana. And the online yoga community spit their extra hot organic soy chai latte all over their macbook pro… and...

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Why I Quit Ashtanga Yoga

Posted by on 2:31 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I quit Ashtanga for so many reasons. It’s really hard. It’s inconvenient and makes me socially awkward. It causes me to suffer and experience failure perpetually. Ashtanga is so hard. I mean, physically. Hard. I’ve gotten reasonably good at the basics of it and it’s still hard. It never really gets easier, I just keep upping my expectations (or my teachers keep upping their expectations). It’s exhausting. Kapotasana was so hard the other day that I quit. I thought about Dwi Pada and Nakrasana and the utter ridiculousness of tic tocs and it...

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mind vs body

Posted by on 8:17 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

What do we need to be able to do a pose? I’m not talking about the deeper sense of knowing and being and awareness that can result from the practice of Yogāsana. I mean, what is required in the physical body and the conscious mind to make it happen? That is what I have been interested in lately.  The difference between understanding an asana with the physical body and understanding with the mind. Sometimes my mind understands what is expected from the body… theoretically, intellectually.  I can conceptualize the necessary joint...

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the Yoga is working…

Posted by on 7:49 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

I’ve discussed my motivations for going to Mysore… to eat dosa and make friends! and to deepen and further my practice of Ashtanga Yoga. But then I wonder, why do I want to deepen and further my practice of Ashtanga Yoga? The answer is obvious (to me). because deep down, I’m a jerk. left to my own devices I am a living, breathing over-reaction. I can’t help it (well, not on my own). I am easily overwhelmed. I worry about pointless things. I get my feelings hurt easily.  and the practice of Ashtanga Yoga gives me...

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one day on the wagon

Posted by on 2:18 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments

a friend told me today that sobriety is synonymous with honesty (I don’t know if this is linguistically accurate, I didn’t investigate).He told me, in reference to his struggle with a physical addiction, that “if you are not spiritually honest you are not sober.” another friend, in another conversation told me that I’m bored “and you’re creating interest in your life.” Now (without trivializing the very real struggles of a physical addiction) I am wondering if I am an addict. I am addicted to...

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Be afraid

Posted by on 11:17 pm in The Unruly Ascetic | 0 comments


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Posted by on 10:28 am in The Unruly Ascetic | 13 comments

This system is inherently catered to the individual while being one-size-fits-all, because in the end, we are all the same. I practice ashtanga yoga in Mysore, at the main shala.  Sharath is my teacher.   I have the honor of assisting  him and working with 80 or so of the lovely aspiring yogis who come to the shala each morning. I have the privilege of attending conference and laughing at Sharath’s little jokes about fear and pain and opening.   Many of us who have dedicated our lives, or at the very least our mornings, to this practice...

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