"Not having more students than I can fully perceive and support".
Lu Dong's Ashtanga Parampara (http://www.ashtangaparampara.org/) is still my favourite Ashtanga interview platform, find a quiet half hour in your day to settle down with this one and/or book mark and come back to masticate over each Q and A one at a time.
It's worth the price of admission (although there isn't one) alone for Angela on Ashtanga and seated Meditation
LU: "Elaborating on consciousness. If a student has spent any time with you, it becomes clear how highly you value a sitting/meditation practice. Can you share your experience with meditation? Why is it complementary to the Ashtanga method"?
Angela: "The way that my teachers teach the asana is like this: gentle-gentle and gradual as a physical practice; and relentless as an attentional practice. Being in the body, moving and breathing without interruption, bandha, driste, and actually making all of this about the quality of awareness and not any outward achievement… holy cow, this requires a lot of consciousness. Sometimes the meditation is a letting go, and sometimes one has to really work it. I don’t pretend that every ashtangi actually practices meditation on the mat, but many do. They get it.
Someone who gets it in this sense, she already has a meditation practice. And in addition to this, some feel a strong internal call to meditate while sitting down. The technique for that might be a little different from tristhana, and it might develop varying skills and take a person to slightly different places. Different but same. Personally, it’s true that since 2000 I have been feeling a strong call to sit. Daily. Sometimes for days or a week without interruption. Moving practice; sitting practice; same. It’s just practice.
I don’t suggest that students do sitting practice. Pattabhi Jois joked about sitting being “mad attention,” maybe because he saw people who pushed themselves to sit go crazy. Bad trips definitely happen. So we work against the idea that sitting is important. That said, for me personally sitting is space to dwell in my spirit, something I may have longed for especially badly because I began adult life by rejecting god, and then spent my 20s honing my rational mind to a sharp point. Sittng has also quickened my learning in the areas of equanimity, love and intuition. It feels natural, like something I have been doing since before I was born.
If someone is feeling an inner call to sit down to either watch the mind or let it become still, this is not an urge to repress. We are repressed enough already. It may be helpful to find like minds".
But perhaps my favourite is another brilliant AYA2 idea the 'mobile Shala' ( note the bracketed 'not workshop').
"AY:A2 has a “mobile shala” - a group of people who have learned traditionally and practice at home. They visit from from 1 week to 3 months per year. They are on the monthly mailing list, can drop in even if we’re full, and are invited to the shala’s internal events. This supports their self practice for the rest of the year in Nebraska, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, wherever. The mobile shala is a reflection of how it works at the mothership in India. It’s the essence of Mysore style: to alternate periods of focused, residential (not workshop) study with periods of uninterrupted practice."
Tempted to sign up myself.
Or perhaps this bit on how her teaching has evolved.
"Lately it feels like listening is a big skill for the teaching practice. Giving close attention to the students. Not having more students than I can fully perceive and support. Maintaining a quiet life, and safe spaces, where listening and understanding can happen. And then also listening to my teachers whispering in my ears: meditating on the true teachers, embedding the life-streams of those who have gone before deep into my consciousness. When students need information, I hope to perceive them accurately enough to meet them where they are at, learn from them, and then give them space to go beyond me".
I could happily quote more but better you settle down with a cappuccino or tasty beverage of your choice and read it in all in context.
"I had my Level 3 students (students self-select into- 1- just asana, - 2- asana + memorizing posture names and learning internal practice ash"
I just asked Angela if she'd mind expanding on it.
'Glad you asked about the self-selecting idea. However, that's not what I use at the shala but the way that I organize the ashtanga course I teach in the dance department at the University of Michigan. It's a regular course, with a grade but the grade is based 100% on participation - with quite a bit of participation required.
That class is divided into the three tracks, and students self-select into one of them. I set it up that way because there were 4 students who wanted to learn a lot of history and method (the others less so it seems).
This was the first semester I added that third track. Anyway, at the end of the semester one of those students made this really interesting comment about parampara - that because they had self-selected into the study group it set up a situation where there could be parampara in a public school context. In the other levels of the class I'm not really talking about relationships and the history of different teachers... but that small group of students who did ended up deepening a personal practice and a strong connection to the tradition in that context, even though it's a university setting where I observe strong professional boundaries and don't assume most students are interested in more than learning some asanas and learning how to shift gears with their nervous systems".
More on presenting practice in a university setting
Angea and I go way back, she was commenting on this blog pretty much from the beginning and no doubt helped put the word around, though a shala Ashtangi herself she was encouraging and supporting of my fledging home practice. One final quite from Lu's interview made me smile
"I’m not suggesting here the sort of “mutual appreciation society” that we are often tempted to create in communities. Robert Augustus Masters defines the M.A.S. as an implicit agreement that ‘I won’t call you on your stuff if you won’t call me on mine.’ The mutual appreciation thing comes from anxiety, not love. It’s dissociative, flattering, and afraid of the dark. But keeping it real is part of love."
Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor workshop for beginners - Angela Jamison
Jumping back in Ashtanga with short arms, Angela Jamison and AYA2
AYA2 (Ashtanga) House recommendations....for the Home Ashtangi
Link to the full 'House Recommendations'
I must ask Lu how he approaches these interviews, one to one in person, skype, back and forth through email....
UPDATE: The first seven interviews have now been turned into a magazine, free to read online and download as pdf but also available as a print edition.