“Remember, it is the patterns of Prana and the thoughts that ride upon them that are of interest. The mindful, meditative step-by-counterstep process of intelligent vinyasa is the actual practice. The achievement games that the mind constructs are to be observed by an unbiased intelligence,” Richard Freeman & Mary Taylor in their new release, The Art of Vinyasa.
When Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is seen largely as an acrobatic pose-vanquishing crusade, it strongly resembles the overblown ego-mania we are seeing with Trump & Co. all over the world. It’s all about accumulating poses and teachings, trampling whatever stands in the way (often our own bodies), and rushing towards death with all-too-little awareness of ourselves and those around us. Meanwhile, teachers take full license to insist that others do with their bodies whatever the prevailing rulebook prescribes, without holding themselves accountable for the consequences or consulting their own intelligence to determine a skillful course of action that could be truly beneficial. We lose track of the subtleties of relationship that make life meaningful, and sacrifice the sacred in the present moment running after the cheap and very temporary thrill of a shiny new bind or trick. We mistake suffering for pleasure and impermanence for permanence, which according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is the very definition of ignorance.
Over the past 10 years of my study with Richard & Mary, they have begun to interrupt my strongly-engrained ego habit by dropping me in to the endlessly fascinating universe within. Rather than yelling “mula bandha” and cranking me deeper into some contortion, they describe what I might focus on and eventually become awestruck by for a very different kind of depth. Their assists gently call attention to where more energy might be able to flow, or encourage me to breathe, relax, laugh and let go. For our whole lives, society rewards our outward successes, which we then equate with our self-worth and identity. We can hardly even imagine why we would try anymore if this pressure of our own inadequacy were to be suspended, which is why teachers who prey on this are so popular, always implying in various ways that we need to be stronger, or more flexible or steadfast… We feel we get our money’s worth when we’re belittled and get what we’re used to, somebody judging us on what we can do and how well we do it. Paradoxically it is precisely at the moment when there is some small relief from the hell of our own self-improvement compulsion that we can act without the slightest care about the result and savor whatever is arising. Richard & Mary convey a sense of peace that touches us in that tender spot where we know we are not just ok, but utterly beyond any conception. This powerful truth builds the kind of legitimate self-confidence that allows us to be of service to others rather than breeding the self-conceit that causes us to miss out not only on the best parts of our practice but on life itself. In these times, more than ever, it is up to us to devote our practice time to developing our best Selves, fully capable and willing to help others do the same.