I was thinking about my first really impactful Ashtanga Yoga teacher, David Ingalls this week. He had that old (and familiar) Physical Education (PE) Coach vibes– like, you could totally imagine him with a whistle. He was appropriately brusque, and never failed to (good naturedly) remind me of how young I was. At all of 26 or 27, I felt much older. David Ingalls was there to assure me that I was not. In fact, he called me “Rocket Boy” quite a bit. I really enjoyed working with David.
I really benefited from his candor. It helped me feel like I was well prepared when I decided to take my practice further. It also stung a little at times. One line that stuck out — he would refer to my excitement around practice and continued education “Youthful Enthusiasm.”
As I write this, I’m just now 40, and I suppose I see what he means. I wonder how old David was then? Today, I’d like to share an example of how having a teacher who is honest and direct can be a valuable ally in one’s continued development– and how maybe we can keep a bit of youthful enthusiasm into our antiquity!
Parallels Between a Novice Photographer and an Ashtanga Yoga Beginner
So here we go– the parallels between two seemingly disparate paths: the voyage of a novice photographer and the journey of a new Ashtanga Yoga student. 📸🧘♂️
Imagine Alex, our enthusiastic novice photographer, who dives into the world of photography with a heart full of excitement and a camera bag full of top-tier gear. Alex believes that the high-end equipment will instantly translate to professional-quality photographs. However, the journey unfolds differently, revealing a myriad of lessons that are surprisingly relevant to our yoga practice.
🔄 The Feedback Loop of Overconfidence
Alex’s initial photographs receive applause from friends and family, creating a feedback loop where praise reinforces overconfidence and neglect towards deeper learning. Similarly, as new Ashtanga Yoga practitioners, we might nail a few poses and bask in the compliments, allowing them to overshadow the profound depth and complexity of the practice. The applause, while heartwarming, might inadvertently steer us away from the essence of yoga, which is a continuous journey of self-discovery and learning.
🌱 The Seed of Realization and Adaptation
A turning point arrives for Alex upon receiving professional critique, revealing the vast ocean of unknowns in photography. This moment of realization, while initially jarring, becomes a seed that sprouts into genuine learning and improvement. In our yoga journey, constructive feedback, be it from a teacher or our own body, acts as a catalyst, nudging us to adapt, reorient, and delve deeper into the practice with humility and curiosity.
🌟 The Spiritual and Physical Symbiosis
Alex’s journey underscores the symbiosis between the physical (mastering the camera) and the mental (understanding the art). In Ashtanga Yoga, the asanas (physical postures) and the spiritual components (like breathwork and meditation) are intertwined. One cannot truly progress without embracing both. The physical practice enhances our mental clarity, while our spiritual development enriches our physical practice.
🛤️ The Path of Continuous Learning
Alex learns that photography isn’t merely about clicking the shutter but understanding light, composition, and bringing a unique perspective to every shot. Similarly, Ashtanga isn’t just about striking a pose. It’s about the breath, the drishti (gaze), and integrating the practice into our daily lives, navigating through the poses and what they bring up with grace and mindfulness.
🤝 Community, Support, and Shared Growth
Alex’s story also highlights the importance of community and shared learning. Joining a photography club opened avenues for growth, feedback, and shared passion. In our Ashtanga community, the support we extend and receive, the shared experiences, and the collective energy in the shala (yoga studio) enrich our individual and collective practices.
🌈 The Rainbow After the Rain
While the professional critique was a moment of reckoning for Alex, it was also the gateway to authentic growth, exploration, and the creation of truly impactful art. Similarly, the challenges we face in our yoga practice, be it a difficult pose or a mental block, become gateways to deeper self-understanding, resilience, and eventually, a more harmonious practice.
Wrapping Up the Journey 🎀
Both Alex’s photography journey and our Ashtanga practice underscore a beautiful truth: Mastery is a continuous journey of learning, unlearning, and relearning. It’s about embracing the highs, navigating the lows, and cherishing every step along the way with a heart full of gratitude and eyes soaked in curiosity.
So, dear yogis, let’s tread our path with gentle smiles, open hearts, and a spirit that embraces every twist and turn with grace and love. 🌸🍃