Some people dabble with the practice, coming and going, to-and fro, while to others the practice is all about getting poses with a grabby, anxious kind of energy.
And then you meet the folk who simply do the practice for good health and to quiet their otherwise incessantly busy minds – minds that are like a television you can never shut down.
Eventually and inevitably, these people come to label the ashtanga vinyasa practice as boring, routine and mundane. The honeymoon is over; it’s time to find another yoga practice, as one would find another lover – one that is more interesting and exciting.
So, rather than entering into the deeper, more meaningful relationship – a relationship that sees one penetrate a deep layer of consciousness – these people find boredom becomes an obstacle to spiritual growth.
All spiritual traditions say the same thing: if you have the courage to persevere and dedicate yourself to the practice with integrity, you receive the fruits of the transformative power of the practice.
It is through the regular practice of ashtanga vinyasa yoga that we meet our demons – our fear, confusion, anger and ambition – and they too become regular and persistent visitors in our meditation practice. And yet the practices teach us to stay open in our stuck places and to release these mind-made obstacles by expanding our awareness and acknowledging, with compassion, what is present – the root cause of these inner struggles
How does this practice initiate processes that bring us to view struggle as liberation and find us seeking the mat as a place of refuge where we become our own salvation?
Could it be that boredom is – as many spiritual traditions say – an important maturing phase of the journey inward?
We all find inspiration in the promises of dedicating one’s self to a spiritual path. I mean, who doesn’t want to drop one’s mind into a deep state of presence and to discover an inner knowingness of the true Self?
And while I found it difficult at first, I can now say, with good faith, that I do have momentary experiences of my inner world filling with ease. Even in the most chaotic times in my life I can access a deep and anchoring sense of faith.
Essentially this is a practice in attentional training – training the mind to be still and to stay anchored in the present moment. The tools are the ujjayi breath, mula bandha, uddyana bandha, the drishtie (gaze point) and the essential quality of the vinyasa flow.
It was in 2002 that our teacher, Sri K Pattahbi Jois, began to teach a weekly led counted primary series class in the new shala in Gokulum. Of course we experienced this very fine method of teaching during his two visits to our yoga shala (the Yoga Acadmey in Auckland NZ) in 1999 and 2001 and again when Sharath, his grandson, did a solo tour in 2007.
It was the standard method of teaching that was used on tour in that period of time.
For me, this was the closest I had ever come to experiencing meditation in movement and I liken it to having my mind drop into a state of deep presence in which I experience a sense of the sacred.
This experience of my own divinity also came to me in a super-charged way on three separate occasions when Guruji adjusted me. My heart opened and I felt inner peace.
Guruji was adamant that it was important to let your direct experience of your own divinity light the path through your brightest and darkest moments alike.
He himself had many struggles in life as well as many fruitful and sweet experiences. He conveys in the DVD Gurui that yoga was his guiding light; without yoga he would’ve have been lost in the sea of sorrow.
So what exactly is the counted method? In Guruji’s own book Yoga Mala, referring to the practice as a mala, or garland of postures, he says every posture has a ‘state’ and every state or ‘asana’ has a specific number of counted vinyasa to enter and exit, all choreographed to the breath. The vinyasa are like beads, choreographed breath/body movements, all to be counted and meditated on.
This wonderful teaching method is an invaluable tool for all students who are seekers. It can be viewed as a mantra that provides focus and mindfulness for their own personal practice
The student rote learns a script, learning the count, in Sanskrit language. This shows respect for the traditional roots of ashtanga and is also a fantastic way to engage in attentional training.
For me, it is still a challenge to harness focus and maintain the Sanskrit count when my mind wanders! But when I do, I experience a profound unity inside and out!
If you would like to join us and three others (each retreat is limited to four students) at our 23 July 2016 Yoga Retreat (Stillwaters Yoga retreat, dedicated to Sri K Pattabhi Jois on Kawau Island NZ) to begin the process of learning how to use this method, please go to our website for more details: