August 17, 2014

I Was An Ashtangi Show-Off. ~ Nathan Thompson

Ashtangi Show Off

Let’s face it, Ashtanga Yoga is full of some very cool moves; the jumpbacks, the jump-into-this asana and the weightless floating through your arms.

I love those moves.

They were the reason I was attracted to practice in the first place (well, that and the mild obsession with Ashtanga Youtube star, Kino MacGregor).

Now, I can do a few of Ashtanga’s sexier moves. It’s illuminated an interesting aspect about the ego.

You see, I really want people to see me do them. If I’ve spent two years trying to do a forearm stand then I should damn well be allowed to, say, bust it out on the beach in the hope of attracting some babes.

Over a year ago, it was a teacher who first suggested making the practice private.

He must have seen ego swimming in my sinews.

He understood that using the yoga practice to show-off is to waste its potential. Sticking to yoga’s spiritual purposes, he taught, allows us to gain more than just the ephemeral mastery of a handstand.

The other day I was reading an article about a yoga teacher who took ayahuasca (a shamanic psychedelic drug) and during his eight hour trip he met a mother spirit guide who revealed to him that his practice was all ego. She showed him how puffed up it made him.

What he thought was spiritual was full of pride.

It hit home because there is pride in my practice too. I work damn hard at it, which is fine, but there is a competitive urge that makes its presence felt every time I’m in class (although, 90% of the time I practice at home).

Beneath the heat and sweat, pride’s cold seduction is there whenever I lift my body and whirl backwards into chataranga (plank pose) in a room full of other yogis, imagining they notice and care what I do.

So, I went online and removed the few [COMP] (check out my pose) posts I made on reddit’s /r/yoga forum, the youtube video of me doing Marichyasana D and the pictures I had on my phone that I would use to impress friends and family.

I’ve decided to challenge myself to keep my practice as personal as possible and show it to no one apart from my teachers.

I’m almost trembling with dissonance because it goes against everything I was taught. Our society likes to celebrate achievement and this was instilled in me from the moment my wobbly finger paintings were pinned up on the fridge.

The idea of devoting to a practice and keeping it private makes little sense in the world of commerce and competition. But keeping it between me, my mat and the teacher illuminates the inner journey of yoga.

Like all art, doing it for its own sake creates a purity of intent that has the potential to transform the practice into something sacred.

It’s difficult though.

Sometimes I can’t help but bust out crow pose in the park and look like a giant comma. But for a natural show-off learning to keep the practice private has helped the light of awareness illuminate that which is competitive, haughty and in need of validation.

And awareness, as my teacher is fond of saying, is the first step towards letting go.

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Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s Own

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Nathan Thompson