In Mysore at the AYRI Guruji held conference every Sunday afternoon as a form of lecture and discussion for all his students. Now that he has passed the torch to his grandson, Sharath, the next generation of Ashtanga Yoga has fulfilled the role of Guru-to-be amazingly well. He did his first conference yesterday and his wisdom, energy, and light were shining for all to see. I was hugely impressed with what he had to say.
He began by addressing the rumor that Ashtanga Yoga is not spiritual and based on asana (poses) only. Anyone who is drawn to this practice knows that nothing could be further from the truth. He made clear that if you are using your breath and your drishti (focus) you are not only practicing poses and pranayama (breath control), but you will attain a deep state of concentration and ultimately, meditation. Sharath also reminded us that having jobs and families is a huge responsibility, which is all the more reason to enter that state of concentration on a daily basis. This way whether you are doing your Yoga practice, changing diapers, or cleaning the house you will ALWAYS be in that state of presence and peace. Ashtanga Yoga uses asana to purify the body and mind first, because once that occurs it makes the other 7 limbs of yoga easier to understand and practice. In my own life I find this to be true. If you had preached the Yamas and Niyamas to me when my body and mind were impure and ruled by ego I would not have understood the goal. Granted, I am still a work in progress (aren't we all), but asana was certainly my gateway into Yoga as a whole.
Sharath also emphasized the importance of studying the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Yoga Sutra, The Bhagavad Gita, and other spiritual text so we can better understand the GOALS of Yoga and therefore make our efforts on the path more fruitful. In his own words, "Spend less time at coconut stand and more time reading"!
Needless to say, the lineage of Ashtanga Yoga is alive and well and possibly stronger than ever. The longer I follow this path the more faith I have in it as a complete practice. Most importantly, it has taught me to take the initiative and teach myself.