In the driving seat

octopus_in_carI learned to drive in a manual car, and I remember when the synchronisation of changing gear, steering, and keeping track of what’s going on around the car seemed like an impossible challenge. Did I have to become an octopus — and one with eyes in the back of its head — in order to do this? Magically, at some point, it fell into place and then suddenly there was acres of time to carry out these sequences. And send a text message home at the same time. Just kidding! 😉

Āsana practice is starting to feel a little like this. I have more time and — on a really good day — I have more space. The dimensions of my practice are shifting and expanding. It’s no longer so hard to keep track of where my limbs are, and there’s (a bit) less desire to be anywhere in particular in a pose, as long as I consciously know where I am.

We talked after class yesterday about different ways of entering a pose or working within a pose. My teacher suggested that in aṣṭāṅga practice, poses are often taught from their furthest or deepest extent and then filled in from there. My teacher’s practice is, in contrast, to establish a good basis and then gradually let the pose come over time.

Taking Trikoṇāsana as an example, he often has us entering from the top, as it were, lifting out of Vira 2 into straight legs and then taking that forward into a light Trikoṇāsana that could then deepen over time. In aṣṭāṅga it’s apparently more often taught from the furthest place, taking hold of the toes with the lower hand and then expanding upwards to fill out the pose.

So I find myself unexpectedly at a stage in my yoga practice where I can start to appreciate such differences. There’s more time and space. I can explore them myself at home and see what happens in each āsana, what I learn from a different entry point about the structure of the pose and how my body works. And then what effect it has on my mind to practice like this, where the movement within each āsana is dictated by the final destination point rather than advancing from where I naturally am.

Had I come to yoga at a different point in my life, this would have been my way I’m sure. Reach, reach as far as you can, every single time. But today I’m immensely grateful to have a teacher who encourages intelligent, individual exploration.  In class over and over I receive the message of consistent but gentle effort. No grand gestures. No need for extremes. A demand for nothing more than patience and truth. Just that! Hard, hard, hard. For me some small torture, tugging gently at my innate tendency to overdo, overachieve, overcommit. Unravelling this lifelong habit.

So now I learn a different way. To ebb and flow with my breath, letting an inner truth carry me where it will. Or not. Where am I today, that’s always the question.

I must accept that I am not in control. I am not in the driving seat here.

abhyasa and vairagya.JPGOf course it’s always back to this sūtra (1.12):

abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṃ tan nirodhaḥ

[These thought patterns (vrittis)] are mastered (nirodhah, regulated, coordinated, controlled, stilled, quieted) through practice (abhyasa) and non-attachment (vairagya).


Octopus image source:

7 thoughts on “In the driving seat

Add yours

    1. Thanks for the encouragement on handwriting! I’m following your lead and going for some daily practice on this – it is so great for familiarity with the sutras as well as good for my handwriting and sanskrit learning! Multi tasking at its best 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Your script is so beautiful!!! Bravo, babycrow!
    Re. the Ashtanga practice – Richard Freeman does not teach it as your teacher outlines. He is my main teacher’s teacher, and I also enlist lots of props when I teach my Ashtanga class. Trikonasana is a good example – because taking the big toe with the index and middle finger creates more of a forward bend than a side bend for most mere mortals. I too approach it “from the top down” – it will deepen naturally with time. And as Anodea Judith (chakra yoga) said in a recent teacher training that I followed, yoga is NOT about how deep one goes in a pose but about HOW MUCH AWARENESS one brings to the process.
    I suggest that folks interested in another approach to the Ashtanga vinyasa tradition check out the Yoga Workshop in Boulder Colorado, and Richard Freeman’s two books – The Mirror of Yoga and The Art of Vinyasa: Awakening Body and Mind through the Practice of Ashtanga Yoga The Art of Vinyasa: Awakening Body and Mind through the Practice of Ashtanga Yoga.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks k8. I think my teacher (and he’s not the only one I’ve heard say this) was simply lamenting the number of injured ashtangis he sees. RF and his students might not teach it this way (and clearly you know this better than I do) but the impression is that there are some teachers in the tradition who are less compassionate. You know I’m a big fan of RF — from a distance! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s amazing what can happen when we relinquish control, and accept it even when it might not come natural! Also that handwriting of yours is absolutely gorgeous!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. you’re too kind, Martie! practicing helps. But my english script is simply awful, so calligraphy just isn’t my strongpoint! Nor is relinquishing control — so practice there too!

      I’m starting to see that perfectionism is a recipe for unhappiness 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with

Up ↑

anonymous sadhaka

An Iyengar Yoga blog

Mimm Patterson

Yoga, Coaching & Craft

Phoenix Matarazzo

My life, in my words...


becoming a centenarian


a life worth living

Josephine Corcoran

never knowingly without a pen

Random Musings

A little bit of this, and a little piece of that!

Anthony Wilson

Lifesaving Poems


For whatever lights you up.

Beginner's Mind

Introduction to mindfulness, based in Huddersfield


Tales from the inner and outer world

Views from the Podium

A Blog. A Book. A Yoga Community.

Peregrine's Progress

Books, Cinema, Food, Photography, Theatre and Travel

Brooklyn Mellows

Coffee, Kirtan, Comics, Counterculture

Radical Yoga

with Colin Hall

The everyday vegetarian UK

Recipes, reviews and musings of a vegetarian in meat fuelled world


prose and poetry


Turning left up the road less travelled..

%d bloggers like this: