What Does it really Mean to Be an Ashtangi?

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A post shared by Beth Stuart (@bethstuartyoga) on

I am an ashtangi.

I don’t really like any personal labels but this is what I am. I do Ashtanga yoga everyday—my whole life revolves around it. But what does it mean to “be an ashtangi“?

Ashtanga yoga holds the key to rediscovering ourselves. In time, this practice helps us in our everyday lives. We quickly understand that we can’t control everything in our lives. The ways we react to challenges and handle situations begin to change.

To be an ashtangi means to be an outsider, a kind of a rebel. Ashtanga yoga takes us out of the mainstream. By being an ashtangi, we start having an alternative and mindful way of living. It is not just about Lululemon pants, not even chanting or meditating for peace, not quitting your job to become a yoga teacher, or saving bees or whales or the planet Earth itself.

Ashtangis are those who stay in the world, doing the same thing as before: working hard, having drinks, raising children. The deeper we dive into the practice, the more questions we dissolve. Ashtangis simply see that nothing has an intrinsic meaning. Not even the practice itself.

To be an ashtangi means to go against the status quo of what we think we should look like, or should do with our lives. We rebel against the accepted norms and against what our families may have expected us to do with ourselves and our careers. Our daily practice gives us the ability to stay true to our own path.

Our daily yoga practice develops a detached awareness and the mind is strengthened over time. We begin to understand and accept that our thoughts can create our own reality, but that realization does not mean anything either. We notice that it is easy to fall back into the habit of projection into the future with anxiety, which can lead us to depression.

By continuing going to the mat and breathing five breaths in each pose and bringing our attention to the present moment, we start to notice the present. And while breathing in a difficult pose there is freedom to be just what we are. The present moment is not different than our own self. We cut the limiting beliefs about ourselves that hold us back from achieving our dreams, because we come to realize that we are nothing of what we think we are.

That is the connection to the self that we often forget, but yoga can be a direct line back to that union. The word yoga means union. Our self becomes our best friend.

We can feel lonely and reflect our needs to our partner, kids, or lover. But in coming home to our self through yoga, we realize each and every time that we are indeed free and enough as we are.

We can become confident in our solitude. This epiphany, the fact that all we’ve really got in this world is ourselves, can give us knowledge on how to handle our relationships and be a better partner.

To be an ashtangi is to have shiny eyes that are smiling on mundane life. That freedom is a gift of Ashtanga yoga to us. Our good fortune may have happened by luck or chance but the shiny eyes make the abundance of opportunities.

We are not obsessed with what we do not have, what we have not accomplished, and how we will not be happy nor complete nor fulfilled until we meet our “soul mate.”

We stop comparing ourselves to the status, success, fame, or celebrity of others, and instead, we enjoy peaceful knowledge of our own self. And we continue to practice Ashtanga yoga.

author: Zee Mark

Image: @bethstuartyoga / Instagram

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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The Elephant Ecosystem

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Zee Mark

Zee Mark is a 53-year-old, divorced, semi-normal person with average intelligence. He is an Ashtanga yoga practitioner from Toronto, Canada. He writes about awakening, yoga, and everyday life. Connect with Zee on his blog.

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