My Ashtanga Yoga journey began in late 1999 when my wife, Jean, wanted me to look for better "lifestyle options." We signed up for an Introduction to Ashtanga class in a studio tucked away in Kitsilano, a "hippie" area of Vancouver. At the time it did not seem like I was learning much—only how to "hold my pee" and breathe through the nose with a strange sound while moving through sun salutations. Somehow I kept coming back.
I often wondered how those who are steeped in Ashtanga Yoga had learnt to sustain a regular practice that demands much of its practitioners on all levels—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Although I am aware of the different physical dynamics that women face, I know I will never understand the uncomfortable sensation during "Ladies' Holiday" or the pangs of giving birth. It was a gift to have witnessed Fiona Stang, my teacher, as she maintained her steadfast approach to practicing through the early stages of pregnancy, then into motherhood. Amidst significant changes to both her body and life, she still regularly arrived in the shala before dawn. She teaches me by way of example that the practice can help us weather the ebbs and flows of life.
When Clint first mentioned this project, I realized that I shared with Alicia the vision of connecting the Ashtanga community through the unique voices of the women whose enduring patience and unwavering devotion are evident in every page of this book.
I wish to thank Alicia for initiating this project and having the confidence in passing it on to Clint and myself. When I embarked on this journey I could not have possibly anticipated the complex and layered tasks along the way. My deepest gratitude to the Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver crew—Tina Jeng, Susan Marino, and Francesca Stahl for keeping up with the demands of proofreading; Natalia Correa for designing a profound cover; and Clint for instilling trust and reaffirming the need for this book. I am grateful to all the Ashtanga teachers who have honestly shared their knowledge and intensely personal stories. Lastly, I wish to thank Jean for her support, understanding, and extraordinary patience on the numerous times when I was solely focused on this project.
I hope that these essays will resonate with practitioners of Ashtanga Yoga, male or female, beginner or advanced. And if in any way the writings have inspired or benefited you, then it would have made the contribution of everyone involved worthwhile.