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Concrete Jungle – Awesome Clip

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This clip is so awesome.

Question Answered – Practice, Addiction & Obsession

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I wonder if there is any relation between a 6-day practice and addiction (if the practice can somehow turn into another way of purging the body for the people with eating disorders, or another addiction for those with addictive personalities)… What do you think? I’d love to hear some comment on this. I love my practice (5 days a week) but I do not want to turn it into an obsession or addiction, or a way to prove something, either to myself or to anyone else…

Thank you for your question.

I can’t speak from personal experience about how the practice can be useful to those who are overcoming or coping with addiction. However, there are several very qualified teachers who can.

I would recommend visiting the Ashtanga Parampara website and perusing the interviews. You could then reach out to specific teachers/practitioners who have had this experience. They might be happy to share with you.

What I can say, though, is that it is almost impossible to simply stop a bad or unwanted habit. The same goes for negative or unwanted thoughts and emotions as well.

What we can do, however, is replace negative thoughts, emotions, habits and behaviours with positive and productive ones. In the practice of doing something more positive, we can slowly reduce and mitigate the effects of the negative until we ultimately replace existing predispositions, patterns and samskaras. It takes a lot of effort and diligence to make this kind of change.

Ashtanga yoga practice is such a useful tool because it is a practical, nuts-and-bolts means of examining and reconditioning ourselves. Looked at in a particular light, ashtanga yoga is a new habit creation laboratory where we seek to forge a better version of ourselves.

This may be one reason that those with past addictions have found the practice beneficial.

That said, yoga practice exists in our imperfect world. Despite all of the positive benefits that can accrue to those of us who practice, and despite the best intentions, under certain circumstances, it can be just another arena where our egos assert themselves and our predispositions and other crap can run wild.

Every method of practice is imperfect and has its blind spot. Ashtanga yoga’s blind spot is the tendency for many to get lost trying to perfect and master asanas.

How then do we prevent yoga practice from devolving into an activity that causes obsessive or addictive behaviour?

First, we need to make sure we have a good teacher who understands that the practice is just the means or vehicle for us to create more balance, peace and equanimity in our lives. One’s yoga practice is primarily a tool for mindfullness, self-analysis and self-awareness. A bad teacher who emphasizes the performance of asanas as the ends in and of themselves will not be doing his/her students any good whatsoever.

A good teacher will help a student cultivate a greater self-awareness using the asanas and teach in a manner where the other limbs of ashtanga yoga can be experienced using the asanas.

Each of us must also remain vigilant and aware of why we are practicing and what we get from practice beyond performing asanas. If you are worried about not wanting daily practice to turn into an obsession or addiction, or a way to prove something, don’t lose the forest for the trees. This understanding is ultimately a difficult practice in and of itself. Think of positive ways that yoga practice helps you that would still be there if you never perfected or learned another asana. Perspective is the most important thing.

I have already written about The Obsessing Ashtangi, which looks at the problem of students overworking in a desire to perfect asanas and advance. It may lend some insight as well.

Thanks again. Hope this helps some.

Namaste, Paul

Lady’s Holiday and Ashtanga Yoga Practice

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Lady’s holiday refers to the convention of women taking rest during the first three days of the menstrual cycle. However, I have it on good authority from my wife, Rachelle, that it is no “holiday” at all.

Guruji and Sharath have always encouraged women not to practice while on their periods, and to take “lady’s holiday”.

It recently came to my attention that an ashtanga yoga teacher here in Toronto has been pressuring female students to practice while on lady’s holiday and making them feel guilty or bad about themselves if they took rest.

I vehemently disagree with this behaviour. It makes me very angry to learn that an authorized teacher is spouting such garbage that contradicts what Guruji and Sharath have always taught.

There is a very eloquent answer to why women should take rest during their periods at http://joisyoga.com/practice/ladys-holiday/. I’ve also included it below. The italics are mine.

“It is recommended that women take three days of rest – often referred to as “ladies’ holiday” – during their menstrual period for several reasons. The purpose of the menstrual cycle is to prepare the body for pregnancy; when conception does not occur, the thickened lining of the uterus is shed through menstruation.

“One reason to take rest during the menstrual period is that the downward and eliminating flow during this time may be counteracted by inversions such as sarvangasana and sirsasana.

“A second, more subtle, reason is that engaging mula bandha may be more difficult and/or may counteract this downward flow. Without engagement of the bandhas, vigorous practice can be physically unsafe.

“A third, more general, reason is that excessive activity can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle or the cessation of menstruation (amenorrhea).

“Menstruation may therefore serve as a convenient time to rest as the body begins the next cycle. Though taking rest is recommended, it remains an individual choice. As the external and internal practice changes over time, the physical and spiritual importance of taking rest for a particular woman may change as well. If a woman decides to observe ladies’ holiday, she is still very much practicing yoga during this time, as yoga is far more than just asana.”

Any women who have experienced regular menstrual cramps can testify that engaging bandahs would seem an obvious common-sense bad idea during one’s period.

It is a woman’s individual choice whether she wants to observe lady’s holiday. However, I always encouraged female students to take lady’s holiday regardless of their menstrual symptoms. Even in a scenario in which individual women may not have strong symptoms of fatigue or cramps, I still have suggested rest as a way of practicing non-attachment. In rare cases when a student came to class while on her period, while I wouldn’t send the student home, I would encouraged going very easy, not engaging bandhas, not doing invesions. I would let her do what she could without pushing deeper, etc.

So, if there are any women in Toronto who have been feeling that practicing during their periods is counter-intuitive, physically exhausting and/or making their menstrual symptoms of cramping, etc. worse, you need to listen to your bodies and take rest.

There is not now nor has there ever been any prescription in Ashtanga Yoga practice for women to practice during the first three days of their cycles.

Hope this helps. Just trying to do my part to encourage sane practice in Toronto.

Maroon Bells Sunset

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Good Lookin’ Dog – Be Like That

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One final video from The Piston in Toronto on October 20th.

We’ll be playing The Horseshoe on December 15th at 9:50 pm. More info here.

Good Lookin’ Dog – Fast Runner

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Another video clip from our gig at The Piston.

Hope to see you December 15th at the Horseshoe. We’ll be going on around 9:50 pm.

Good Lookin’ Dog – Nice

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Here’s a video clip from our recent gig at The Piston in Toronto.

We’ll be playing again in December at Nu Music Night at the Horseshoe.

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