When I started blogging nobody was really posting videos, YouTube was still pretty new, there were a couple of Videos on there, a clip from Lino's
The main reason I started the blog was to put up videos of working on/towards jumping back, videos that were less than perfect but perhaps signposts along the way. Lino's was awe inspiring but ultimately unhelpful. I wanted to catch on video my very first jump back and through, I thought that might help others to see the missing piece.
As it happens we all start on the jigsaw at a different place, my final piece might not be yours.
So I started posting videos, lots of them, working towards this, working towards that and all in black and white to cut down on the flesh-tone so as not to put you off your breakfast.
Around this time Tara Stiles started posting some videos with that perfect healthy looking skin of hers and a light, infectious 'hey lets do some yoga... anywhere'. It was appealing it took off, led to more and more videos, a studio of her own, books, DVDs.......
I know Kino occasionally looked at my blog, well at least once. I imagined she had seen my god awful videos of trying to get into asana and then looked at Tara Stiles, looked at my videos again and thought why not and started putting up some videos of her own. That same infectious, light "lets do (but this time) Ashtanga".
If Tara had that healthy natural look, Kino had primary colours. She also had good technique and quick, snappy explanations of how to get into an asana
The most popular from two years ago has over 19 million views.
You can go to Kino youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/kinoyoga and check out which are her most popular, how those receiving several million hits drove up the profile of Ashtanga. I'd tended to think it was Madonna who raised Ashtanga's profile others argue it was Kino, they may be right.
My theory continues that as Kino's videos took off so did her workshops, she started doing workshops EVERYWHERE, other Ashtanga teachers saw what Kino was doing and started posting their own videos, tutorials, and offering more and more workshops internationally.
I remember when a workshop seemed unusual, mostly students used to stick with their own teacher and there was discussion after discussion in the blogosphere about whether workshops were a good idea, if the new postures a certified teacher gave you on a workshop meant you could keep them in your own shala with your regular authorised teacher.
According to archived Ashtang.com pages...
I thought perhaps I was partly to blame but as it happens, it wasn't me, wasn't Kino either.
So around the same number of teachers offering workshops and a similar number of workshops offered from when I started the blog eight years ago as now.
Phew, not my fault, nothing to do with me.
Some teachers of course do a lot though, Arjuna, Manju, Kino, David Garrigues they probably account for around a quarter of all those offered.
But of course there are also all the workshops that aren't listed on Ashtanga.com and the retreats and the teacher trainings
It seems more likely that the increase in workshops is related to the jump in the number of Authorised teachers in the same period see this post Ashtanga Authorisation 1990-Present
So I didn't break Ashtanga but why am I suggesting that it's broken in the first place, and that it's workshops that broke it.
I've been to a few workshops myself, a fascinating Intensive with Richard Freeman, a weekend with John Scott, two TT's with Manju and another workshop with Norman Sjoman. All interesting, I learned a lot I'm sure.
.....and then pretty much forgot everything within a week and just got on with my practice. Perhaps some of what I picked up became internalised fed into the ongoing research on the mat but honestly I'm not convinced, A little more body awareness from Richard perhaps, a lighter attitude to my practice from Manju, I don't teach so have no need of the adjustments I learned from him.
But really.... what are we doing?
In the beginning there was a spreading of the practice ( I hope that was the intention behind my own on Krishnamacharya and Vinyasa Krama), if those early teachers hadn't gone out from their shalas and studios and spread the word through their workshop I'd never have heard about Ashtanga, I owe my practice to them and those early books and videos, many of us do.
But at what point did the workshop become less about the students and more about the person giving it, promoting a name. Workshops have become a norm, we've become convinced we NEED to attend them. We don't of course, a few are interesting perhaps, I'd love to go to Chuck Miller's workshop on Samastithi but mostly I'll pass, we can probably do without them.
All these workshops, all these youtube videos, Instagram and now something called Periscope, the fancy videos in pretty locations, muscles and bronzed skin and cinematic music.... is it just me but does anyone else miss those videos of David Swenson and Richard Freeman with their vests tucked in their pants. There seems to be a lot of reenforcing of self in the ashtanga community, carving out ones niche in the Ashtanga world.
Isn't it all a distraction.
All this money we spend on workshops and trainings and retreats we don't need any of it surely.
We know what the practice is, stand at the top of our mat, focus our attention,
and so on and so on.....
And we can actually do without the ekam and dve also, the count was only there to draw attention to the relationship between the breath and movement, it was never something we needed to worship as sacrosanct. All it did was show the minimum number of movements from standing to the posture and back again to standing.
All we have to do is move through our practice on the breath, keep bringing our attention back to whatever drishti we're employing, let the breath take care of our alignment and do our best with each asana without getting hung up on them too much.
Go as far as is comfortable in the time we have, eventually more asana will become available to our bodies, we don't need fancy tricks, we just need to listen to our practice.
And then do it again tomorrow and then the next day and the next....
...rather than look for shortcuts that probably lead us away from our practice instead of deeper into it.
We really don't need to think about it that much or (note to self) write 2000 posts about it.
I came across a workshop video recently It was standard fare and I could have chosen most any other workshop video but as I was watching the teacher I was thinking, what are you doing, leave everyone alone, was anything you did in this video really necessary, perhaps in the whole workshop?
It's not just workshops but in Mysore rooms generally, most of the time, why is the teacher even there (NB: Home practitioner perspective). Turn on the heating, open up the room and come back in a couple of hours to close up and just allow everyone to get on with their practice.
or just take a seat and hold the room.
OK, perhaps the beginners need a little help in the beginning but really not so much.
This for me is the main justification for going to Manju wherever he's teaching, some of the senior teachers (elders I've heard them referred to recently) or to Sharath in Mysore, an antidote to some of the fixations of Ashtanga in the West, not for parampara, not for lineage but just a reminder that it's really only about getting on with our practice. If Sharath didn't exist we may have had to invent him.
How do shala teachers feel about all the workshops, do they consider them a distraction from day to day practice?
And it's circular of course, we do our demonstrations, either live or in videos and photos and impress people such that they come to the practice. But then they want to do what they saw in the video, in the photo, they're in a rush not seeing the years of practice that lay behind it. They want the next asana, the fancy advanced one and shortcuts to get it and we go ahead and offer it to them and then the next and the next perhaps hoping that at some point along the way they will find something a little deeper.
There's a story about a man who comes to a monk and asks if it's true that if he attains enlightenment through meditation he'll get to make love to a thousand celestial virgins, the monk smiles enigmatically. So the man becomes a student and sits and every few months he asks again about the virgins and the monk continues to smile, and then it becomes years before he asks again until eventually he no longer asks and the monk, still smiling.
(Note: Happy to take this photo down if anybody in ti doesn't want it on here).
M. and I practice together now. I gave her David Swenson's short form to work on in the beginning, mentioned a couple of things regarding safe practice, a couple of hints here and there occasionally, otherwise I just leave her to find her practice just as I did and get on with my own.
This practice isn't rocket science, it's painting by numbers.
If you want to understand it better, do research there on the mat, explore the breath in different asana, there's no need to attend a conference, all we need to know about the practice is right here on our mat in our breath in our attention and in how we step out into the world for the first hour or two after practice.
We don't need a blog, home shala teacher,Youtube, Instagram, periscope, Celebrity teacher...
or Sharath to tell us that, we just need to listen to our practice.
Manju probably says enough,
"Enjoy your practice"
Pattabhi Jois said it best of all
Mostly we all (certainly myself included) probably just need to keep out the way of everyone else's practice and stop convincing ourselves we are helping anyone, we're a distraction, a circus sideshow.