Collective Yoga

March 11, 2018 Opinion, Philosophy

I had this wonderful thought coming out of Savasana at yesterday’s morning Mysore practice. It was more of a sensation than a formal thought. It was a physical realization that this experiment we call St. Louis Ashtanga Yoga (SLAY) is actually a collective, a cooperative, something new in the world of modern posture yoga I believe (at least new to me).

We could not have planned this tribe if we wanted to. We evolved from a rather odd chain of events that landed us together for reasons we’re still trying to figure out. But like most tribes it was accidental, born out of necessity… or maybe it wasn’t an accident at all.

SLAY has guest teachers for workshops but we’re mostly agnostic. We have taught each other by practicing together regularly, with devotion, for a long time now. There is a kind of subtle energy and knowledge transfer that naturally takes place that I’ve not experienced attending other kinds of yoga classes. It’s as if we are no longer moving as individuals but as a single practitioner with a singular purpose. We each see the potential in ourselves through each other’s actions. Consequently, our individual skills have noticeably improved, injuries have diminished, and our self-awareness has deepened.

Granted, most of us had an established practice beforehand but that should not dissuade newcomers. There’s always somebody there to assist. I remember my first Mysore practice in 2014 at a Manju Jois workshop in Chicago and it was a hoot. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I can laugh about it now but at the time… hoo boy. But I kept coming back.

There is something exuberant about being disoriented, being in free-fall, letting go of the ego, and realizing that everybody else in the room, from the most advanced practitioner to the beginner, is struggling in their own way and it’s not a performance. By just being in a state of action for the sake of action, connecting to the breath, unattached to outcome, we are contributing to a collective energy. That is yoga. That was my epiphany.

Bhagavad Gita 4.18-4.23

He who can see action in the midst of inaction,
and inaction in the midst of action,
is wise and can act in the spirit of yoga

With no desire for success
no anxiety about failure,
indifferent to results, he burns up his actions in the fire of wisdom

Surrendering all thoughts of outcome
Unperturbed, self-reliant
he does nothing at all even when fully engaged in actions

There is nothing that he expects nothing that he fears.
Serene, free from possessions untainted
acting with the body alone

Content with whatever happens
unattached to pleasure or pain, success or failure,
he acts and is never bound by his actions

When a man has let go of attachments
when his mind is rooted in wisdom,
everything he does is worship
and his actions all melt away