September 2014, Los Angeles, USA: "Sharath's World Tour."
The teachings continue to be passed on. In September 2014, I saw the lineage being passed on to yet another generation: this time, through Sharath's teachings to my son, Ambrose. My son is an avid ski racer and in May 2014, ski season closed. His body was tight from sixty-five plus days of skiing. Genetically, Ambrose takes after his dad, "Mr. Marichyasana D." Ambrose holds a certain tension in his hips that I have only seen in a few individuals over the course of many years. I remember watching Ambrose sit on the floor cross-legged, knees pointing to the ceiling. I had suggested that if he wanted to keep racing, he probably needed to work on keeping his body toned and balanced between strength and flexibility. That spring Ambrose, nine years old, started Mysore classes at my studio, Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver. Through the graceful teachings of Natalia Correa, Ambrose was on his path doing surya namaskara A, B, and standing postures. He eventually made his way into the marichyasana's. Ambrose is a boy that likes repetition, so Ashtanga Yoga suits his personality well. It was amazing to see how regular practice helped Ambrose's body balance so quickly. His hips opened dramatically from the first time he sat cross-legged, and his investigation into the mental aspects of Yoga was kindled.
Some powerful seeds were planted in September 2014 when Shararth travelled to Los Angeles. It felt like a perfect time to introduce Ambrose to a week of led classes. Meanwhile, as a mom of two, I found myself in a whole new era of physical movement. Ambrose's sixty days of skiing meant that I had also skied fifty days that year. And that took a toll on my body as well. My body had seen many transformations over the course of my Yoga journey.
For years BC (before children), I had delved into Ashtanga Yoga, Yoga philosophy, Sanskrit, and chanting. My life was built around Yoga on all levels. PC (post children), my daily practice remained. That was a given. There were the early sleep lacking years when the kids were babies when my practice was drawn out over the course of a few hours to accommodate nursing and play and motherly duties. Regardless, practice was my tether, my gift to myself. I was able to have a daily practice (or almost daily as every mom knows that there are "sick" days, needy days and days when the practice of Yoga is being with your children). The dedication remained. Sometimes the form looked different. The early years were rigorous in terms of sleep deprivation and being a mom of two under the age of two.
Now that my children are more independent and well past the baby age, I have entered into the physically rigorous years with my kids. Last summer, I found myself running six kilometres on mountain trails so Ambrose could join in one of his favorite trail running races (Julian had strained his calf muscle the day before so I became the designated runner). I had not run for at least fifteen years, but I was the runner. I must say that I enjoyed the sound of feet thumping over bumpy trails surrounded by cascading mountains, crystal clear glacier lakes and blues skies. Connecting with nature felt like Yoga. Running mountains, hiking mountains, skiing down mountains, playing tennis (another activity I had not done for twenty-five years), are now activities that bond us as a family. My daily Yoga practice is a foundation that supports this activity and has been incredibly helpful as I use my muscles in new and different ways. And the dedication to the mat continues during this new phase of my life. Some days the "form" may look different--hours running around a tennis court, trying to keep up with Ambrose and Viveka on the slopes, or doing too many handstand drop-over's on the grass with my daughter do have an effect on my body. And on those days, Yoga is not only mind control, but also physical therapy! But these outings and activities are family moments that I cherish deeply. So I show up—I practice, and that itself is such a gift. Stiff or flexible, weak or strong, I cannot say I have ever regretted a practice. But when I showed up to visit Sharath my body was definitely coming from an active summer with kids.
"Many years back, Guruji told me, 'you teach a little of what you know.' So when I show up in wee hours of the Vancouver mornings, I show up to share some of what Guruji gave me."
At the time of Sharath's Los Angeles trip, my knees had been acting up all summer, so half lotus was not happening easily. Despite that, Sharath's trip to Los Angeles bonded Ambrose and I with one more thing we can do together—practice Yoga. Day One, Los Angeles, early morning, I was practicing next to my ten-year-old son on one side and yogini Brittany Morgan from Vancouver on the other. What a special moment that we were all sharing. The class arrived at ardha baddha padma paschimottansasna, a posture that I had been modifying for the past couple of months. I slowly started moving into half lotus. There was no pain and half lotus was there. After eight weeks of challenging knees, the pain had miraculously gone on day one with Sharath in Los Angeles. Can I call it Mysore Energy? I was not even in Mysore, but I think that at times when Mysore, India feels far away it can be very close when one's teacher appears. My knee pain vanished after that trip. I always laugh as these scenarios used to happen when I would arrive in Mysore. Things would magically open and come together.
For Ambrose, the seeds of a week of counted led classes were powerful. In the past year, Ambrose has used his Yoga practice to prepare for ski races. The asana keeps his body more mobile. The repetition taught him breath and mind control. On the week before a race, Ambrose visualizes the upcoming race at the end of his practice before taking rest. Before races, he uses his free breathing to calm himself.
It all comes back to the breath that has been passed down from teacher to willing student. From Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, through Sharath Jois, to myself, and to my family, the lineage continues. Jasmine flowers still scent the air in India. We show up as we have been taught to show up, as Guruji and Sharath show up for us. We take practice and all is coming. For that I am eternally grateful.
- Fiona Stang, 2015