This morning while teaching at Ashtanga Yoga School in Philadelphia, I was scurrying around assisting students with gushing enthusiasm.
Covered in sweat and smiling from ear to ear, nothing brings me greater joy than helping people understand their bodies, feel good in their practices and accept themselves.
Since the practice of Ashtanga yoga has been a wonderful friend to me, it feels perfect to be sharing my love for it with others.
I respect the lineage and have nourished my practice with dedication and love. In return, it’s provided me with an abundance of gifts for which I am deeply grateful. One of my favorite tidbits to share is how to grow and nourish your practice as you would a friendship.
This is one of the gifts that the practice can give you—friendship with fellow practitioners, the practice itself and, most importantly, yourself.
Friends bring so much to our lives. They fill us with energy, make us laugh, pick us up when we’re down and, the good ones at least, keep us grounded and honest with ourselves.
Ashtanga definitely does all of this, in addition to providing a common language for us to connect with others and the world around us.
When we meet friends and teachers, either on the road, or at home, we are automatically linked through our common thread of practice, our respect for Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Guruji, our feelings for Mysore, for the mystery of the unknown in our lives and for the serendipity that we share on this path towards personal growth and happiness.
Christine introduced me to additional healing hatha practices, ayurveda and a holistic approach that sees the practice as a small fire which needs to be fed in a safe way so that it doesn’t get out of control.
In a couple of weeks, I am heading out on a summer long European adventure to dance tango in Lisbon, work with Dena Kingsberg in the Portugese Algarve and teach in Scotland. And while I will meet friends, families and new faces along the way, my practice will be my most constant traveling companion.
With all this play, travel and teaching, it is the practice that will keep me healthy.
I will do my practice sometimes surrounded by friends and other times alone. My practice will keep me company and never let me down. Often when I am traveling, twenty minutes to an hour of practice is all I will get. This time will feed my practice, nourish me and keep me feeling healthy inside and out.
The practice doesn’t judge you, and is always there for you. I have met many a practitioner who have asked for assurance that their practices were okay, or if they are doing it “right.”
My answer is always the same, “Does it ‘feel’ right and good?” If your answer is yes, then the method is right and the practice is good.
Enjoy and relish your practice. Treat your practice like a dear friend by giving it the attention and kindness it deserves. And while you’re at it, allow this tenderness to instruct your relationship with yourself.
Being hard on yourself, or placing too much emphasis on the practice such that you neglect friends, family, partners and service to others are all examples of how the practice can actually damage what you are working so hard to achieve, i.e., being the fullest version of you possible.
By making genuine and practical time for your practice, you will be able to do your practice day in and day out and cultivate a sense of trust between you and it. And in this way, your practice will serve you and your highest good just like your best friend.
Sarah Durney has been studying and practicing Ashtanga yoga since 2000. She has studied with Randa Chehab, Nancy Gilgoff, Christine Hoar and David Garrigues; she has also studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute with R. Sharath and Pattabhi Jois. Sarah is committed and dedicated to practicing and teaching Mysore style of ashtanga practice because she believes the practice keeps one vital and healthy, strong and compassionate.
She has previously lived in Boise Idaho, where she owned and operated Ashtanga Yoga Boise. Sarah currently teaches at the Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia with Certified teacher, David Garrigues. When Sarah is not on her mat, she enjoys Argentine tango dancing, rock climbing and skiing. For more information visit her blog.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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