Ancestral Ashtanga - Replacing what's been missing in Yoga.
"Only as far as the masters of the world have called in nature to their aid, can they reach the height of magnificence."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ancestral Ashtanga, Mountain Mysore or Primal practice......
Names that came to me to describe the path that revealed itself through my own experiences and obstacles in yoga. (clintyoga.com seemed a little self centered)
It's what I learned from going 100% into practicing Ashtanga Yoga (19 years).
This included travelling to Mysore India and moving my way up the hierarchy of postures to the spot where I got Authorization Level 2, finished Led Second and was catching from Sharath.
Here’s the pic from Agathe Padovani for Sonima in New York to prove it.
Im not saying this to brag or get Instagram followers.
Im saying it to show you that I did whatever it took to figure out how to get there.
In Iron John, the Book About Men, he refers to this discipline as bucket work.
Picking one thing and sticking with it. Its when you don't change the series to accommodate your ego but accept the rules and learn from them.
I did the work, overcame the obstacles and got the results to show it.,
This only part of the story.
Secretly or at least not on social media or blog posts I was observing and learning teachings that contradicted much of what I was being told by the yoga community.
So my own internal struggle began.
Be a “good yogi” or “trust thyself”.
Two very different paths.
Before I get into my unique path I want to be clear that Im not discrediting what I learned or experienced from my teachers Fiona and Sharath.
I am forever grateful to them and the Ashtanga community and it was from their support I am able to write what I am about to.
So don't read this as dismissing the Ashtanga system.
It is my foundation. Im not throwing it away. Im expanding on it.
The Wild Man
The wild man is the part of my body and psyche that craves nature.
He wants to sit on the ground, feel the sun on his skin, lift heavy weights, cook on a fire, watch the sunrise and sunset barefoot, chop wood, swim in lakes and rivers then fall into deep sleep from being physically exhausted and outdoors all day.
The wild man wants to physically work.
He isn’t concerned with comfort and safety but with tasting life.
What Alan Watts referred to as the real business of living.
When I first started Ashtanga Yoga the practice began to awaken parts of my body that were slowly dying from the comforts of the modern world.
Moving , breathing and sweating at 5:30 am in silence was primal and nourishing.
The postures started the process of the inward journey by first turning on the outermost circles.
Its something I didn’t see as a beginner. I thought yoga was all about stretching and flexibility but I discovered it was about circles and how to make them smaller so I could awaken the base of the spine. The beneath father.
Since I didn’t understand this I intitally took the wrong path and got lost.
Instead of getting stronger I started to get weaker, lose muscle, trash my libido, create injuries and increase stress.
When these results began to appear is when I started to question my own assumptions.
A defining moment was when I watched the documentary Man on a Wire.
In it the main character Karl says -
“ always follow natures laws and not necessarily man’s”
So how do I learn nature’s laws?
It's quite simple.
The best way is direct experience. Immersing myself in nature and paying attention.
The second best way is to learn from people who did the same but to a degree that is next to impossible now.
In my case it wasn't the people of Mysore India but the First Nations of Jasper National Park.
My mountain to die on is not Chamundi. It’s this one.
When I started to learn from this mountain the power of yoga really began to yield results.
At first I thought living this remote area away from the cities and teachers would be a disadvantage when learning yoga but then it turned out to be the opposite.
A Mountain Habitat
“Life is outside….and we duck behind a panel wrote Henry David Thoreau in his Journal. “
I modified this for 2022 - to “and we stare into a phone”
On my trips to Mysore I would practice so hard and at such a demanding physical level that I needed the entire day to just recover and get any type of energy back.
The city was hot, loud and busy that I didn’t; even want to go outside after 10 AM.
I remember I would go to the park after practice to ground myself. I needed nature but there wasn’t much around.
When I got back to Canada and to my home one day an insight occurred to me.
Where I grew up and lived was very similar to where Krishnamacharya first learned yoga.
The bottom of this mountain ……..
Much of western yoga has been focused on what we do in practice which is no doubt important.
What has been missed is the effect of where we practice and what we do after it. .
What students do after practice in Mysore or any city looks nothing like what Krishnamacharya's teacher did after his practice.
The habitat is completely different.
So what did they do after practice if they were living in the mountains?
I have some idea because when I remove technology from my own habitat then the answers start to appear.
In order to just survive I need to
- Walk over uneven ground in footwear from natural materials that keep you grounded
- Carry things over uneven ground
- Get food and water
- Chopping wood and building fires to pepare food and water
- Laying in the sun
- Talking with people face to face and building relationships
- Cold dips in the lake
These are just some of the activities any human would have to do just by living in the mountains.
This idea sent me down the path of discovering how I could bring back in more of what was there just because technology wasn’t.
I started to look at everything through this lens.
Here's an example of everyone's favourite topic. Sleep.
A Modern Yogi Cave
When designing Habitat, the practice space plus the guest rooms some of the things I did to keep nature in and block out tech pollution are:
You may not be able to hear, see or taste it but your cells can feel it. Our new norm is an over electrified habitat that is not the same as our ancestors.
The Habitat building and rooms are all No EMF or dirty electricity.
They have ethernet connections and no wifi so to connect to the internet is optional.
Each room has a switch to completely shut off all power to it. All the wiring is shielded. The result is as close to sleeping in nature without sleeping outside.
After ensuring the room was EMF free I took it one step further
Obasan Organic Beds - As the foundation for your rest, our mattresses are entirely organic. Handmade by Obasan in Ottawa, Canada, using certified GOTS* and GOLS** organic cotton, rubber and wool sourced through extensive world travel, Habitat's mattresses are a centerpiece of our guest experience. With no metal springs, these beds are a continuation of our mission to provide an EMF-free environment, so you can experience a grounding back to nature.
Grounded beds - All the beds have dedicated grounding connection to the earth which has an electrical charge that puts your body into a parasympathetic state which promotes healing and deep sleep. Ive partnered with Earthing.com and use their grounding pads.
Organic Cotton Sheets and Bedding - Fall into sleep with our GOTS certified linens were chosen to extend the sensation of being cocooned in nature.
Primal water is missing contaminants like chlorine but also something you probably have never heard of called Deuterium. Our water comes right from the mountain we sit on and is filtered with UV light plus is low in deuterium. To learn more about the negative effects of excessive deuterium click here.
Add in red light and keep out blue light at the wrong time of day plus flicker. If we are going to use unnatural light sources we want to mimic natural sources as much as possible to maintain our circadian rhythm. I used full spectrum light bulbs with no flicker in all the rooms and have red lights available plus the option of using the fire place at our nature spa.
Join the Journey
This is just a small portion of some of the things I’ve done and am continuing to do . I'll be sharing them all to my email list which you can sign up for here.
It will focus on how we can bring more nature into our lives and yoga practice.
Topics such as
1. Why silence in the yoga room is essential for results
2. Why regaining primal hips before learning the seated postures will help you avoid injuries
3. The forgotten Sun Salutations and the Secret Book.
4. Why men need yoga more than ever.
5. Why rest after practice is a bad idea.
To receive emails on these topics and how you can come learn from me sign up below.