}); });

Choosing Ashtanga
Kate O'Donnell

Paths diverged a handful of times in my first decade of studying yoga. I had opportunities to enter the world of Yoga Journal conferences, high-end studios in majestic places, and my photo on the cover of this or that. Every time it came up, I chose ashtanga, and gave a silent prayer for my future self who seemed destined to remain a broke unknown, devoted to an obscure method.

As a practitioner, I kept choosing ashtanga because nothing else felt right. It was the first yoga method I experienced as a traveler in India, and from then on anything else just didn’t’ get me excited. Ashtanga got me excited! There was all my crap - in my face - for an hour and a half, clear as day! And a little bit disgusting, the Ego was. My commitment to getting to know this aspect of “myself,” and to transcend it is what kept me practicing. I hitchhiked to drop-in classes when there was no ashtanga class anywhere, and the music, the changing sequences, seemed to somehow get between me and the inner work I had set out to do. Any of our students will tell you: it is the heart that keeps you coming. A pure love of the practice, paired with a thirst for evolution; it’s undeniable.

As a teacher, I kept choosing ashtanga because of the Mysore method of teaching. The opportunity to work with students one-on-one, as the group bolsters each other practicing together, yet individually, allows me to feel like I can really help people. Observing them closely, I come to know how the practice moves in them, and where they need to go. I can take my time, or bust some chops, depending what any individual needs to learn at this time. Upon entering the room, each student makes a commitment to studying the self, and to being seen. The breath is always at the forefront, and distractions are at a minimum. Each student has signed up for this specific way of learning yoga, there is no one-time drop-in, no wandering in unaware. The method of teaching and practicing is specific: a practice of breath, movement, and mental focus moves towards the goal of self-transformation. My teachers taught me by example, and I trust the method works. I feel very lucky.