The Evolution of a Yoga Revolution: A Short Tale of Yoga.

I began yoga on a study abroad program in India in 1998. A Flemish guy in crazy shorts pointed out that when I laid in Savasana, it was completely crooked. I was shocked and vowed to practice more yoga. It seemed every practitioner I met throughout that trip was into Ashtanga. I returned home with a copy of the primary series, battered from the pack. My attention span began at 30-45 minutes. I found it incredibly difficult not to eat breakfast right away and would spend much of my practice planning the meal. Soon enough, I would bolt for the kitchen. I remember a chilly, cramped bedroom, shoulder stands by the boxspring, an inkling of sweat forming on my pants, and steaming bowls of oats.

Eventually I heard of a man teaching Ashtanga in the town where my parents lived, where I spent my breaks during college. I dropped into class, so nervous (what was I going to do here and who were these people?) I saw people doing poses in there like I had never imagined. The sound of the breath was deafening, one pregnant woman with her legs behind her head farted loudly and no one batted an eye. I was lead through the entire primary series that morning by Robert Moses, who would turn out be an important teacher in the coming years, presently the co-founder of Namarupa Magazine (link to : www.namarupa.org) with Eddie Stern of Ashtanga NY. After knowing Robert for two years, one morning he raised an eyebrow and divulged, “I used to be a swami, you know. Twenty-five years.” He smiled awkwardly as though this were cause for embarrassment. With Robert’s guidance and pure acts of will, my attention span grew so I could finish the whole primary series in my college room a few times a week.

A year and a half after the first trip to India, I was preparing to graduate college. I had a sense this was the time to choose a path and commit to something. I remember the first time I told a friend: I choose yoga. When I heard myself say it, I knew it was true. I bought a 6-month ticket to India alone, one of the scariest things I had ever done. Terror would grip me in the night days before leaving. “I am not that fear,” I would repeat until sleep.

The trip was meant to be a grand journey into the authentic path of teaching yoga. Learn from the source and come back and teach! What I learned on that trip was of the many variations of yoga, the many degrees of authenticity, of teachings and teachers, and how far, how incredibly far, I had to go to make any sense of it all. I continued practicing ashtanga with Karen Haberman, a 10 year student of Pattabhi Jois, although on this trip it seemed everyone I met was in disagreement with Jois and the Ashtanga system. This discouragment gave me what I call an ashtanga crisis. I notice those of us drawn to this particular path of yoga tend to cling to the asana practice and lose our marbles when we don’t have the form to guide us daily. So much of it is a body trip, as well an addiction to the sense of meaning which a regular practice can create for those seeking a tangible spiritual practice. The thought that this basket I had put all my eggs in could be somehow incorrect terrified me. It wasn’t until I broke a collarbone 3 years later that I began to engage with my attachment to asana…

Just back from 5 months living in Encintas and studying with Tim Miller where he was gracious enough to teach me the second half of Intermediate after doing the first half for a year and half. My body changed so much during that time in CA. Rest was probably in order, and life delivered me 8 weeks out with a broken collarbone. I did sling-yoga. It was very challenging for me to sit still. I cried on my mat a lot that first month. My friend Kimberly Dahlman (owner of Yoga East in Portsmouth, NH) gave me some pranayama exercises to do, alternate nostril breathing with specific retentions. I really resented doing it because it wasn't asana. But, as I couldn't do anything else, I kept it up, sitting and breathing for 30 minutes every day. I still attribute the healing of the break in perfect form to the breath work. After three months of practice, I started to notice things happen- strange sensations throughout my rib cage. I could only describe it as a feeling of 'race cars driving all around inside my chest'. I remember Kimberly saying my breath was better than it had ever been.

I came back with a bang after taking off the sling. Pattabhi Jois and family were teaching two weeks in NYC. I went and did two weeks. I remember freezing in a huge building with about a hundred others, and doing pranayama in the afternoons after walking all over the city and cooking dosa. I still hadn't found a teacher that could help me with Intermediate and I was over winter anyhow. I wanted the tropical vibe of India without the parasites, of which I had had many those first two trips. Govinda Kai mentioned a place where if you didn't like the weather, you could drive an hour. That same week, Kimberly told me of her teacher Nancy Gilgoff on Maui. I bought a ticket with my last 500 bucks.

I tracked Nancy down in the dressing room in NYC where Kimberly told me she would be practicing with Guruji. I said I was coming to Maui to study with her and maybe she could give me a lead on finding a place to stay. 'Well,' she said, 'you could stay on my porch for a place to land.' I was so excited. I took my little backpack and landed at her house on Maui while she was still on the road. She had no idea but rats had overtaken the daybed on the porch. We undertook the project and made it a decent spot with a bug net I closed around the daybed, which would forever smell like rat piss. I consolidated the video collection and organized my tiny pile of belongings on a musty shelf. They started calling me the porch urchin because I just wouldn't move out. I stayed three months there until a room in the house opened up.

Maui was the greatest gift. The Hare Krishna community across the street chanted in the mornings at the same time I did my pranayama every day. I picked flowers in the yard for my altar. It was Konas all winter long, a drought year, which was fine by me as I got around by hitchhiking. I wore a hole through my flip-flops that first year. Back and forth from NH to Mysore to Maui 5 years. A short stint starting an Ashtanga program in Truckee, CA at Tahoe Yoga. I began working with Eddie Modestini and Nicki Doane as well, in the hopes of gaining some skills to help make the Ashtanga practice I loved so much accessible to people who didn't have young and easy bodies. I began learning this and so much more from them.

The Ashtanga practice still has the capacity to change me in new and fascinating ways. So much of it these days has to do with containing the energy that rises from the practice, to remain engaged with culture as we know it, do my work in the world- all the while to continue my exploration of the deeper worlds available to human consciousness. It truly is a window into a mysterious reality, which requires a lot of discipline, trust, and balance from the practitioner in daily life. This is as true for the student practicing primary series as it is for those moving beyond. The progression of the practice is all relative to what our responsibilities as householders are.

The yoga gives me the tools to see my small self moving in the world from the vantage point of the Self. The more I practice, the more I remember that it's all Yoga when the challenges come. I am so thankful for it and infinitely blessed to be able to share it.