I tell myself that I am not a dogmatic yogi. At the same time, I can only practice yoga based on the studies and practice I’ve done up to now. So it is inevitable that the tastes and flavors of the systems of yoga that I have practiced come through in what I do currently. I have learned from others who have passed what they have learned to me (so cool). I love that there are aspects of what I do that transmits this learning of yoga that came before me, and will go beyond me. I am filled with awe when I think this way. This is the reality of the experience for me.
When I saw that Yogaview was offering an Ashtanga Yoga Week with Petri Raisanen I was intrigued. I cleared my schedule of early morning classes and private lessons to participate in a week of morning Mysore yoga practice. I just felt the need to do this for myself. And I thought that practicing with this teacher from Finland would be interesting. Before he became a full-time Ashtanga teacher he worked as a traditional Finnish folk healer, and his healing intent shown in his teaching style.
Several years ago, when I regularly practiced according to the Mysore style practice, I mostly felt that the adjustments were trying to get me somewhere—and this most likely reflects my own intent in the practice at the time. But I tended to feel a little over-stretched from the practice, psychologically and physically. At the same time I experienced benefit, also. My yoga practice at this time had a momentum that carried me to a new place.
In Petri’s teaching verbal instruction was sparse, but his physical adjustments and presence spoke volumes. His eyes are magical (they just are), and he carries a joyful vibe that’s infectious. When a student was getting something he would exclaim, “YES!” I love that.
I experienced an especially spirit-nourishing moment in Supta Kurmasana. In the past this always felt like a stressful pose, and my teachers did their best to pull and arrange my body parts into it. And just-so-you-know, my feet were not behind my head and my hands touched, but were not clasped, so it was a modified pose. However, I had a moment in my version of the pose on that morning where I felt totally contented and relaxed, positively joyful to be right where I was with my arms and legs beautifully braided around my experience of myself, safe in the center. I wanted to stay there, but also felt a pull toward completing the practice, so I moved on eventually.
When I walked in on that first day of practice I was a bit afraid because I was coming back to a practice I had not done in some time. I stood at the front of my mat for a while just getting a grip, and Petri welcomed me and said, “You know Sun Salutations, right?” And yes I did, and more than that also. Before I knew what happened I was loving it. …such a great experience.
I remember thinking during the week that anybody who dismisses or talks poorly about another system of yoga simply has not done enough of it. I have had incredible experiences in Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, and Kripalu (Heck, I got a lot out of Richard Hittleman's Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan, back in the day…). So what gives? It makes me wonder about the mentality of yogis who want to structure their experience in an exclusive way. Why must my yoga be better than your yoga? To really grow as human beings, and be better yogis maybe we need to try one anothers yoga.