Practising Ashtanga at Stillpoint Yoga London
By Scott Johnson
“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap” – Ani Difranco
I truly love this work. I genuinely feel a deep sense of gratitude whenever I hear the squeak of the door each morning, meaning that someone else has come in to share a piece of themselves with us at SYL. I try to catch everyone before they start here. A wink, a smile, a gentle ‘good morning’ or a shared quiet laugh in the recognition that we find ourselves here again, another morning, on this gentle path to nowhere. Together.
As an Ashtanga yoga Mysore self practice shala, we support seasoned and experienced practitioners, are consistently introducing new people to the Ashtanga yoga practice, and assisting those who have a yoga practice but who maybe don’t have the confidence yet to be able to stand in a room and know what to do. That is what we do here at SYL. We support. We nurture. We encourage.
When you walk into a self practice yoga room for the first time it can bring up a lot of personal stuff that relates to how you feel you are seen. To stand in a room full of people and not know what to do can feel incredibly vulnerable. It’s from this place where we meet you as teachers. As teachers we are really just here to share. We have created as safe and neutral a space as possible from which to be able to share our love of a yoga practice, one that we have found to have had a great impact in our own lives. Sharing of ourselves is to help people nurture a way of looking and appreciating their own lives, perhaps in a similar way to how we have nurtured our own.
So the person who is standing there unable to move because of vulnerability is given support and a way to move through the breathing and physical practice of Ashtanga yoga. They are held and supported over the first few days as they get used to remembering the practice for themselves and then, as this new way of integration of body and mind takes hold, they are nurtured into looking after themselves in a way that supports their own development.
Those of us who have a long term practice all began in that room at some other time and in some other place. We began vulnerable, but with support we moved through that initial vulnerability to find something deeper. Vulnerability still occurs but yoga practice nurtures a way to be able to meet it with more depth and wisdom.
So why do we continue practising?
Yoga practice can easily become its own narrative concerned with clinging to our ideas about ourselves. What begins to move the conditions is that how I cling to practice allows me to see how I cling in life. Behind yoga practice lies the lessening or the falling away of a story and narrative that we have about ourselves.
As teachers we are so interested in how this aspect of a yoga practice unfolds. How a practice moves through someone, we feel, is perhaps a more delicate offering than how a practice can look. In Ashtanga yoga we can become overly concerned with form and its edges, precision and performance. Development of a mindful practice works to reinforce new directions so existing patterns can begin to be released. This shift in awareness then can be the cornerstone of our daily lives.
Our yoga community develops from the relationships we have with each other. By people coming and sharing their lives, they contribute to the community by just being here. Every single person who comes to practice supports and makes the community whole. In the yoga room everyone is breathing for everyone else. There is no dogma, just support for each other.
Stillpoint Yoga London is a space where people can actually find space. What I mean is space not only where people can come and practice but where people are allowed to seek it in their own lives and the lives of others. Stillpoint is an idea born from the minds of two people (myself and Ozge Karabiyik). The idea that through sharing, continuity and consistency we create a feeling, a sense and now a community of people coming to practice together. A space where both teachers and practitioners overlap.
Many people have said to me, particularly after they have just finished practising, that there is such a lovely energy in the SYL Mysore room. I say to each one not to forget that they are a personal part of the ongoing process, development and lineage of a simple yet life changing practice that not only benefits them but the world.
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