Desert Ashtanga

After putting the finishing touches on my website this week, I realized that the NOTHING FOUND message on my blogpage was pretty unappealing. So now is as good of a time as any to get started. It’s been almost 8 months since I (figuratively) closed the doors for the winter after my very first season running Surf and Soul Yoga. Right now I’ll fill you in on what I’ve been doing since then and then in a later blog post, I’ll tell you what’s to come this upcoming summer season!

After last year’s successful first summer back in Fenwick, my partner Steven and I packed up and headed back to California where we first met when I lived there back in 2011. He grew up in Palm Desert (just next to Palm Springs) so we decided that was as good a place as any to spend the winter. Many Canadian “Snowbirds” spend their winters in the Coachella Valley, so we decided we could give it a try, too. It was going to be the furthest I had ever lived from the ocean, so I was pretty apprehensive about that. Also, for some reason, the term “desert” sounded really intimidating to me, so I wasn’t totally convinced I would like it there.

I had intended to teach yoga during the winter and I had my resume ready when we arrived. However for some reason I just kept dragging my feet on taking it anywhere. I ultimately sought a job at a local health and wellness store, with the intention of learning more about the nutritional side of wellness to supplement my yoga practice. After a day of working there, I found there was a connection between the store and the owner of the Ashtanga yoga studio across the street. Eileen was one of the most warm and knowledgeable people I have ever met and she has created the most welcoming studio I have ever had the pleasure of practicing in. I had never attempted Ashtanga before (aside from the one time that I “accidentally” walked into an Ashtanga studio in Xela, Guatemala and assured the teacher that I was familiar with the Primary series, before quickly finding out that I was very much so not-familiar with the Primary series, and the teacher proceeded to kick my non-Ashtanga butt for 1.5 hours), but something about Eileen and her studio made me want to give it a try. I ended up spending the entire winter practicing and learning rather than teaching and in retrospect I am 130% okay with it.

I went to a beginner’s class at 7 am and immediately fell in love with the style. Its very traditional, regimented approach was unlike anything I had ever been drawn to before. Some consider it to be the most difficult style of yoga. Ashtanga is unlike other forms of yoga in that the practitioner completes the same series of postures every day, and builds upon the practice with a few new poses every week or so. On top of it, we were practicing Mysore style, which means that you may be practicing with ten other yogis in the shala, but no one is practicing the same pose at the same time. It can be intimidating because you might walk in as a beginner and have someone practicing second or even third series postures right next to you. For me, it was motivating. My competitive nature really pushed me to want to learn more and more poses whenever I could. Mysore is a self-directed practice, completed under the supervision of a teacher. Traditionally Ashtanga is practiced first thing in the morning, too, so this was the first time in my life that I routinely completed my practice before 9 am.

The result was deeply grounding, as was my entire time spent in the desert. I really got to know my body in each of the postures and the progress that I made (both in the postures themselves, and throughout the entire Primary series) was astounding to me. I managed to complete the Primary series by the time I left in May (7 months later) and I am happy to have that practice to bring with me back to Delaware. According to the tradition, I am not able to teach Ashtanga (yet!) but I have a lot of ideas about how to the incorporate Ashtanga ideals into my beach classes.

More importantly than anything, I found a great community of people in the desert. Like, seriously, some of my favorite people on the planet. For the first time in my life, I really felt like I belonged somewhere and that was huge. But alas, the winter came to an end and it routinely became 105 degrees out there so I got my temperature-sensitive booty out of there and Steven and I drove back  to Delaware with our life’s belongings in the back of the car. Now I’m back! and ready to share what I’ve learned with the east coast kids. Hope to see you soon!


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