Now, this isn’t going to be easy but I need to talk to you. I have something important to tell you. You’d better sit down for this one.
The thing is, I’m leaving. In fact, I’ve already left. It isn’t you, it’s me. I just don’t feel the same about you anymore. I’m sorry Ashtanga, but after 6 years of commitment, dedication and devotion, it’s time to call it a day.
There. I said it. I’ve quit. I’ve let go of my practice. Completely. It was a slow, gradual process, but I can now finally admit that I no longer practice Ashtanga Yoga. And, to be honest, it’s such a relief!
So, what happened? Well, following my last blog post How Mysore Made Me Softer, I started to question everything about my practice. Why am I doing this? What’s the point? Why am I making myself get up at the crack of dawn, restricting what and when I eat and what I can do in the evenings? Sometimes I just want to stay up late watching TV (shock!), sometimes I’d like a glass of wine during the week (horror!) and sometimes I’d like to be able to say yes when a friend invites me out beyond 9pm (surely not!). I felt like I was depriving myself of the things I wanted to do, putting restrictions on my life and feeling guilty if I didn’t stick to them. And for what?
I felt like I’d lost touch with my practice. Lost the essence of yoga. Lost touch with myself. I didn’t know what I was doing or why. I was simply going through the motions of the practice I knew so well, forcing myself to do it each day and telling myself this was what I needed to do. Practice, practice and all is coming. Keep believing. Keep the faith. But I felt unsettled. In all areas of my life.
So I tried a new class. What?! I’ve been averse to trying other yoga classes for a long time now. I’ve had Ashtanga blinkers firmly in place ever since I started practising 6 years ago. Why would I want to try another type of yoga when I’ve found my ultimate style?
I tried a gentle Hatha class, which was the complete antithesis of Ashtanga. I found it deeply healing and restorative, but most of all, connected. I felt deeply aware of and in the presence of my own body. Something I hadn’t felt for a long time with Ashtanga. The movements were gentle, and slow, and meditative. I could really concentrate on what my body was doing, how it was moving and how it felt. And I felt so much more in touch with the essence of yoga than I had for a long time.
I feel like I’m going through an exploratory stage. I feel like trying other styles of yoga, different classes and teachers, to find one that resonates with me, just as Ashtanga did when I first discovered it. In the same way as modern-day careers are not the single-track job-for-a-lifetime commitments they were for our grandparents, maybe styles of yoga aren’t set in stone either. Maybe as our bodies, minds and lifestyles change over the years, so do our needs within our yoga practice. Maybe Ashtanga isn’t what I need in my life right now. And if it isn’t, that doesn’t mean it never will be again.
I’ve experienced moments of grief already and I’m sure there’s more of that to come. The other morning I was chanting some of the Shanti Mantras, which I’d learned by heart, and found myself stumbling over some of the words towards the end. A wave of grief rose up from within me as I realised I’ll quickly forget these chants if I don’t practice them. Just as I’ll quickly lose a lot of the asana practice that felt so familiar for so long. In fact I’m sure I can already do far less than I could 2 months ago.
That’s ok though. I don’t want to end my relationship with yoga for good. What I’d like is to become more intuitive in whatever practice I find. And have a more open attitude to the wonderful, healing practice and philosophy that is yoga. At least this way I know I’ll be practising because I want to. Because my mind and body feel like practising. And not just because I think I should. Ultimately, at the end of the day, just going through the motions is not how I want to experience my yoga practice, or my life.
So, for now it’s au revoir Ashtanga. Not farewell though – I’d never say never. It’s been an amazing journey and you’ve taught me so much, for which I’ll always be grateful. But right now I need to call it a day and move on with my life. I hope you can understand. And I hope you can forgive me. Thank you.