STRENGTH AND GRACE - A COLLECTION OF ESSAYS BY WOMEN ASHTANGA YOGA TEACHERS
Ekaminhale is excited to announce the upcoming publication : Strength and Grace
Featuring essays by:
Kino MacGregor, Harmony Lichty, Louise Ellis, Krista Shirley, Fiona Stang, Lisa Schrempp, Magnolia Zuniga, Pamela Luther, Zoe Ward, Laruga Glaser and Lori Brungard
Over the coming weeks we'll be releasing excerpts from the upcoming book which will be available for free download on a TBD date. It will also be available in hardcopy form priced at the cost of the printing. This project was made possible by the volunteer work of the Alicia Beale and Derick Yu (Project Coordinators), Clint Griffiths and all the teachers involved.
In this excerpt from the book Authorized Level II Teacher Fiona Stang shares how learning yoga from Guruji went far beyond the physical and into something much more challenging.
Guruji asked Fiona "Why Fearing?"
This is was her response.......
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Smelling Jasmine Flowers and Pushing Buttons, In Memory of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois
"He was not teaching me alignment or where to put my foot or my hand or how to create the “perfect” posture. This was not his aim. His goal was to teach me yoga on the highest level, as if he was holding a mirror in front of me to remind of my ingrained tendencies so I could embrace them and move beyond." - Fiona Stang
I sat on the concrete steps peering in through a small window at the 12 practitioners in the room. It’s March, 1999, and I am at the Ashtanga Yoga Nilayam in Mysore, India. The sound of free breathing in the room is one vivid memory. Another memory is Guruji pushing himself offhis stool in the corner and shuffling over to a student. The other clear memory, his voice. Sometimes there was a commanding strong tone, sometimes a grunt and other times a sweet voice followed by a chuckle. At that time, I never knew how influential this man was to be in my life.
On the first week of practice I arrived on my mat at backbends and he commanded me to “WALK!” “WALK!” (What did he mean by walk?) Walk where is all I could think... and, are you crazy?? Doing the opposite of “walk walk” I stood up quickly with a disappearing, exasperated breath and fast beating heart. “WHY FEARING?” he bellowed. This was the beginning of my relationship with Guruji and perhaps, as I look back, the words that are presented to me day in and out as I arrive on my mat and when I reach obstacles in life. This question might just be the reason why I returned to Mysore countless times to learn “yoga.”
Fear was not a new pattern for me. Fear had been interwoven in my life for many years before starting yoga. When I started yoga, I stayed away from inverted postures. I decided that I would not do shoulderstand – the posture seemed too scary for me. And then one day, I just did shoulderstand. And then it was headstand – same story, too scary. And then one day, after several heart palpitations, encouragement and guidance from my husband Julian, I did headstand. These were postures that some people never thought twice about, but for me, they were frightening and invoked a sense of old rooted fear.
This yoga is about “free breathing” and entering into the place in your practice that ignites an emotion that is potentially holding you back from your true nature which is eternal peace. - Fiona Stang
Guruji continued to call me on my fear during my many trips to Mysore. In fact, I think that is why I made that long journey to India over and over again. Guruji would always pick an opportunity to stand right next to my mat, arms crossed watching with a verbal "hmmm" comment as I floated up into forearm stand, Pincha Mayurasana, Karandavasana and Mayurasana, three precarious arm balancing postures. He was not teaching me alignment or where to put my foot or my hand or how to create the “perfect” posture. This was not his aim. His goal was to teach me yoga on the highest level, as if he was holding a mirror in front of me to remind of my ingrained tendencies so I could embrace them and move beyond. He was reaching deep into my innermost self and asking me to embrace yoga. Guruji would stand there and invite me to be fearful in the midst of his presence so I could see how unnecessary these self imposed limitations are. And his skill at reaching in and delving into that fear was powerful and effective.
Eventually I learned to still my mind as he stood at my mat, just watching, and little by little the fear abated. The “yoga” Guruji taught me is far beyond the placement of a hand or foot, the alignment of an ankle and shin and thigh, the rotation of this or that. This yoga is about “free breathing” and entering into the place in your practice that ignites an emotion that is potentially holding you back from your true nature which is eternal peace. For me the “something holding me back” at that time, was fear. But this “something” can be anything. It can be anger, happiness, sadness, ego.... the list is endless........
To be continued........
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FIONA STANG first journeyed to Mysore in 1999 where she met her teacher Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois and his grandson, Sharath Rangaswamy. Fiona continued to study with Guruji to receive his teachings of devotion, grace, faith, compassion, patience, and yoga. In 2000, Fiona was authorized to teach by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, and in July 2009, she was in the first group of 40 students worldwide to receive Level 2 Authorization. She is blessed by KPJAYI to teach the Primary and Intermediate Series of Ashtanga Yoga. Fiona is the owner and Director at Ashtanga Yoga Vancouver, a Mysore studio located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Fiona is grateful for the community of teachers at AYV that support her practice and keep her teachings fresh and innovative. Without Guruji, none of this would be possible. Thank you Guruji.