One of my favorite practices of the year takes place at the summer Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor retreat held inside a beautiful decommissioned church called the Stone Arch in Saline, Mich. (Here’s a peek inside last year’s retreat.) At today’s retreat, about 50 practitioners from three countries and at least five states started out the morning with a Mysore practice. The 35 or so who had snagged a spot for the sold-out retreat itself stayed for a delicious lunch (we all know good food is important to yogis) and a multi-faceted day spent discussing, and playing with, listening — as discussed in this snippet from the official retreat description:
This retreat, and the sensitizing exercises of the next six weeks, are about raw listening. Close listening. Naked listening. Minimalist listening. A sort of receptivity that not only (1) sets the stage for consciousness to fall into a restful state, but is also (2) completely OK with the fluctuations of the mind just as they are.
Classical yoga offers thousands of techniques to change our inner experience. This is good. But having a body means that fluctuations will arise. The same is true for having a mind. If you breathe, there will be vrittis.
So, in addition to having the tools to quiet or the mind, it is also good – and surprisingly enjoyable at times- to be able to step back and let experience be whatever it wants to be. No fix-its. No analysis. Just hanging out, consciously, with the mind as it is.
Minimalist listening of this sort is a big part of yoga. It is a kind of self-acceptance. And as the patterning of the mindbody’s blips and bump become clear, a door in consciousness opens to calm, curious self-appreciation. It brings on a John Cage sort of laughter… the kind doesn’t mean anything at all.
As with most of Angela Jamison’s workshops, it’s impossible to write a blog post that would do justice to the session’s subtleties and refreshing refracted perspectives on the eight limbs of the practice — so I won’t. (Sorry!)
I will, however, point you to some videos that were posted last month of a session Angela held for beginners to AY:A2. (I would have written about it sooner, but life has presented me with some challenges over the past few weeks.) Though designed for beginners, the clips touch on topics relevant to practitioners at any stage of development of the practice.
There’s the whole session and short clips segmented by topics:
- Here’s the session as one long view.
- Eight limbs and tristhana.
- Ashtanga as a natural movement practice.
- Ujjayi pranayama versus breathing with sound.
- House Recommendations.
- Communicable diseases in the Mysore room.
- Finally, here’s a playlist of all the videos.
Each session comes with an overview, so check out the “about” tab for that.
What I highly recommend, though, is leaving this space and heading over to Grimmly’s blog, where he posted an excellent overview of the videos — which he aptly called bootlegs — and links to relevant posts and other interesting notes. The post includes his review of the AY:A2 House Recommendations book designed by Laura Shaw Feit of Small Blue Pearls, on which the House Recommendations segment is based. If you haven’t already taken advantage of the free download of the 24-page book, I suggest you go do that, stat. I took the option of buying a copy for $3.84, since I prefer the antiquated method of reading things in hard copy.
Even better yet — as I always recommend with good teachers — find a way to travel to study with Angela in person. 😉
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