I was in a hot and heavy serious Vinyasa relationship last year when I stumbled into my first Ashtanga class in Washington D.C.
It was at a Vinyasa studio, and the Ashtanga sequence was cleverly disguised by the teacher as “Rocket Yoga.”
Before the class was over, I had a sense it would be more than an innocent flirtation. There was something different and special in that class that I wasn’t getting in my Vinyasa practice.
Yes, it was the teacher and yes, it was the practice.
I blindly followed the teacher and the practice to an early morning Mysore class. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I can vividly recall folding, twisting, sweating, desperately trying to remember what pose came next when a voice deep inside seductively whispered, “This is the self-focused discipline you need in your life.”
What? No way! I was in a serious relationship with Vinyasa! I didn’t have time to mess around with Ashtanga…certainly not a Mysore practice!
For years, I’ve mostly practiced with my eyes closed, my attention focused deeply inward, calling it a way to seek, but in reality, a way to escape—escape my busy life, my busy mind, and leave my fears in the dark.
Then, Ashtanga happened.
Simply put, it worked for me. Discipline and focus—mainstays of the Ashtanga practice—are principles I’ve been seeking to build in all aspects of my life. Cultivating it on my mat became an entry point, a way in to these qualities I want to cultivate, and a way out of habits that hold me back.
Unadorned asana—the same postures with the same focal points in the same order everyday. Each Ashtanga pose has a prescribed drishti (focal point). The drishti is meant to serve as a tool keep the mind focused.
When my eyes were closed, that was not an option.
As a beginner, I can never remember which drishti is “right,” so I almost always stare at the tip of my nose. As my Ashtanga practice has deepened and become more regular, I’ve become fascinated by the tip of my nose.
It’s always there, constantly in my scope of vision, but somehow in normal day-to-day life I rarely see it. When I stand on my mat to start my Ashtanga practice, one of the first things that happens is I see the tip of my nose.
I feel love: love for myself, love for my physical body, love for my practice.
With my eyes open, I’m ready to focus, even as my crap unfolds in front of me.
Each day, I have the choice to push past distractions of life and my fear of growth to get myself onto my mat to lead myself through the Primary Series. When I do, whoa, what I find there is amazing. With my eyes open I can see my busy and wandering mind bow in submission as my body exhausts itself, pushing beyond the limitations it once thought real.
I no longer live in D.C. and there is no Rocket Yoga here in Haiti to lure or cajole me into practicing the Asthanga method. There doesn’t have to be.
This is no longer an affair—this is love.
Right there—at the tip of my nose.
Lizandra Vidal is a yoga teacher and healthy lifestyle consultant living in Port Au Prince, Haiti. Her mission in life is to share the magic of mindfulness, yoga and healthy living with as many people as she can. She teaches at Haiti’s first yoga studio Project Zen and does healthy life consultations through Find Your Zen Now.
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Ed: K.Macku/Kate Bartolotta