I’ve been thinking a lot about “power” and yoga practice lately, so this was a very timely thing to stumble across. Frequently—well, honestly, mostly all of the time—lately I feel the distinct lack of power during my practice. I am still so new to Ashtanga that many of the physical movements are difficult and humbling. I always thought I was really strong because of my years of bodybuilding but ohhhh no, I was so wrong. Ashtanga makes me feel weak as a newborn and stiff as a broomstick. I also feel the lack of spiritual and emotional power during practice. Ashtanga hammers home that concept of powerlessness that I am so familiar with because of my time spent in recovery. The number of breakdowns and breakthroughs that I’ve experienced on and off the mat since starting Ashtanga is frankly a wee bit freaking overwhelming. But that’s a topic for a whole separate post…
Origin magazine comes through again for me with a really great interview with Beryl Bender Birch, author of Power Yoga.
This was the second yoga book I ever owned–the first being the classic Richard Hittleman book. Actually, I might have bought this and Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar at the same time, come to think of it. At the time, I didn’t know anything about Ashtanga or much about yoga at all (and I still don’t, ha ha). I also had a VHS copy of Power Yoga and all I can remember was that it brutally kicked my ass.
Power Yoga was one of those “aspirational” yoga books that I kept around for a long time without any hope of ever actually *doing* that kind of practice. I even hopefully purchased a companion copy of Beyond Power Yoga—without laughing!
Honestly, I can’t say that lately I have much hope of doing that kind of practice either. It’s 2012, I’m 42, and this stuff kicked my ass brutally when I was 30 and hadn’t had three surgeries and multiple car accidents. Never mind the emotional and spiritual skeletons in my Psychic Closet that I’ve accumulated. Guess it’s a good thing that I’m a stubborn cuss, then.
Some of my favorite bits and pieces of the interview:
“Ever since I wrote “Beyond Power Yoga,” one of my campaigns has been to make sure people understand that yoga is not synonymous with asana. I try to teach people the meaning of practice, abhyasa. Practice means making an effort to keep your mind steady. Yoga is about learning to pay attention. That’s what drives transformation. You don’t have to try to transform or be all spiritual, you just have to do the practice. You become more conscious, more aware, you get a little more tuned in to what’s going on in the world, become more compassionate, more joyful. You have more loving kindness—it works!
I always ask people why are you here for this weekend or this training? Why do you want to do this? This isn’t easy. This is a friggin discipline. You could be out partying with your friends. And it gets them thinking about why do I want to do this? Eventually they get around to, you know, I want to be happy, and my stuff isn’t making me happy the way I thought it was going to. I thought I was my name, I thought I was my job, my relationship. You slowly realize that all of those things change.”
I was out last night with one of my friends on the Strip here in Vegas and these lines kept running through my head. Looking around the casino at all of the people partying and on vacation was interesting and fun, but boy I was really glad to get home and go to bed! People were also, ironically, not having fun at all. Everyone at the event was angry and tense because of the long lines and the wait. Now I remembered why I usually go out during the day on the weekends with friends and stay home at night and relax. I’ve been totally corrupted by my early morning Ashtanga practice!
Another good bit on the athleticism and spirituality of Ashtanga:
“I am just so fascinated by the methodology. I always tell people, I can’t teach you yoga. Nobody can teach you yoga. I can’t teach you to teach yoga. All I can do is teach you a set of instructions and if you follow these instructions, hopefully it will lead you to the experience of yoga. And the experience of yoga is unspeakable. It’s the experience of samadhi. It’s the experience of connectedness, of oneness, boundlessness, merging with God consciousness…even if it’s just for an instant. Patanjali really looked at asana as practice for meditation. It’s what gets you started.
I remember people saying to me, oh, you do that jock yoga, that athletic yoga. What about the more spiritual kind? I would say, uh, this is the more spiritual kind. They’d say, you know, the more meditative kind. I’d say this is the meditative kind, what else did you want to know? It’s funny how people felt that because it was athletic, it couldn’t be spiritual. Separation of mind and body, that’s been around since the Greeks.”
Check it out here at: