This year's practice includes the 2nd series of AtmaVikasa yoga, a series that Acharya developed consisting of 30 postures. The overall sequence contains 2 versions of the sun saluations, standing postures, sitting postures with various combinations of the lotus including kukutasana and parvatasana. The closing sequence also involves an intermediate series of the lotus in shoulderstand and headstand.

Throughout my classes with Yogacharya I have been given many comments, suggestions and commands. After my first class I was not able to complete the full sequence within the 2 hour slot. I had some concerns about how to sequence the postures (re: what to leave in, what to leave out). The next class, however, Yogacharya told me, "Pick 2 postures. These will be the ones you practice for the rest of the time here."

It's amazing to reflect on the array of attitudes that grew inside my mind from such a simple statement. This year would involve no elite back bends and coming out of class drenched in sweat; having given it my all! I wondered if I would become bored. I also wondered if I could manage holding postures for 20 minutes; maybe longer if required. I did not feel deprived by his recommendation (re: in the sense that doing less would also equal to receiving less). Even if you have your doubts, however, following the lead of the teacher is a lesson that gets repeated if you want to learn. I have learned this lesson every year from Yogacharya.

Right now, my own practice has done a full circle. I began in 2000 only learning the sun salutations (a series of 11 postures) for 1 hour. One year I spent the first 2 weeks only practising conditioning exercises. What hell that was for me and my ego. I already had done the primary series of Ashtanga under Pattabi Jois and knew a few advanced asanas. This really felt like moving backward and not forward. I felt extreme resistance to the simple wrist, neck and leg exercises. However, I was really surprised when I found that these concentrated exercises were more difficult than some of the advanced postures I had learned.

Over the years with Yogacharya, the individual asanas (postures) were gradually and slowly added. Slowly is a key word. In the years that followed the routine got more demanding and the sequence changed as my practice evolved. To date, I feel I have "maxed" out my body potential. There is a inner need to learn something deeper beyond asana practice....which as far as I can tell can become more like ass-anna practice!

Below is a brief description of the some of these classes thus far:

September 21

Today one of the pictures in the shala (school) fell down during shavasana (resting). I was the only one startled by it and looked over to see if it had fallen on the woman beside me. She was, however, completely oblivious; resting peacefully in the corpse pose.

After the prayer Aharya told me, “See you have some fear...”
"True." I said. "I thought it was falling on someone."
He smiled brightly and said, "When something falls down it is related to bad karma. And even if it falls on you then it’s okay.....Even if a bomb was beside you, its’ still okay. Let it come. Death is fantastic."

Today's lesson: You can not escape Death. Embrace, welcome and relax with it.

September 15

While holding the forward bend lotus posture (ardha baddha padma-pashchimottanasana), I came out earlier from the left side. Yogacharya told me to hold each of the postures the same length. This particular morning I was only aware of the severe pain travelling up my right leg.

"Watch the breath and not your body. Observe the nature of the pain," he said as if I should have known this already.

Ahhhh, to know is one thing...but to practice is quite another. And come to think of it I was telling myself this while in the position....

September 10

It is easy to zone-out and to see how the mind can become very complacent after holding the same posture for 10 mintues. It is also easy to see how conditioned the mind is to activity, sweating, working hard....and labelling this as yoga. What is yoga then? What is yoga-asana?

During this practice Yogacharya told me not to go for the final position. "Don’t even bother. Concentrate on the process. Concentrate on the breath. Watch your thoughts, feel your body and then you might get an idea of what yogasana is."

He walked away.

September 3

For 2 hours I practiced the sun saluations (simple yoga postures) and 2 rounds. This process teaches a lot about patience, the process, becoming mindful of the breath, feeling the body and watching both the mind and the body. Initially I wondered if I would get bored. Surprisingly enough boredom is the last thing which has visited me. How the mind wanders, the lack of awareness of the breath, how it’s easy or rather a habit to move the body and not think of the breath, how it’s a habit to want to get to the final position....are many of the observations I have made. Of course, I could say I was always learning this indirectly. However, holding postures for no more than 5 breaths will not break down your mental wanderings. One of the most interesting aspects to this process is watching how the mind when doing something it feels it knows and understand is automatically assuming many things. It's an interesting experiment to approach the sequence on the basis as Yogacharya said, "You don't know anything. You only think you know."


humblejiva said...

Dear Heather,

How lovely to be able to read of some of your experiences as a student. Thanks for this - it is a wonderful way to keep learning from you.


The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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