Today, I taught my first introductory Ashtanga workshop here in Fargo-Moorhead, at the first yoga festival in this area. It was a great success, at least as far as I was concerned.
Ten people attended the workshop. I started by giving a mini speech about what Ashtanga is about, including a couple of minutes dedicated to debunking the myth that Ashtanga is only for fit and flexible people. We then had some fun (well, at least I did) chanting the opening invocation: At first, people were a little self-conscious about mouthing something in Sanskrit whose meaning they do not know. But I encouraged them with a line from Kino: "Don't worry, be crappy!" It worked, and everybody went along with doing the opening chant as best they could. (Thanks, Kino!) I think doing the opening chant really got the class off to a powerful yet meditative rhythm: Following the opening chant, we did the Suryas and the entire standing sequence, and then the first two postures of primary. I ended the class with a modified finishing sequence, and a shortened version of the closing invocation (only chanting "Lokaha Samasthaha Sukhino Bhavanthu").
But to me, the greatest part of the class was being able to give everybody who came a copy of Claudia's book, 21 Things to Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice. As most of you already know, this is a really wonderful book in which Claudia does a really great job of explaining the many aspects of this practice, in a way that is totally accessible to a complete beginner.
But in order for me to really convey the significance of this, I need to relate a little back-story here. About a month ago, when I learnt that I have been scheduled to teach at this festival, I came up with the idea of inviting Claudia out here to Fargo-Moorhead to promote her book and speak about the Ashtanga practice in general. I broached this idea to the festival organizers, and they were really excited about this, and were very eager to have Claudia here to speak at the festival. I was also very excited, not least because it was Claudia who originally turned me on to blogging: After I moved to Fargo-Moorhead last year, I felt quite alone in my Ashtanga practice, as there is no Ashtanga shala here. This, along with my SI joint injury, caused me to turn to the internet for support and community. After a couple of google searches, one of the first things I stumbled upon was Claudia's blog. I soon found myself reading and commenting on many of her posts. Eventually, I decided: Since I have so much to say about the practice, why not start my own blog? And so I did: I started this blog last October. And before I knew it, I was posting something almost everyday.
So I was really excited about being able to finally meet in person the person who introduced me to the blogosphere. However, as most of you already know, Claudia came down with Lyme disease, and had to cancel her trip here at the last minute. Needless to say, I was quite bummed out (as was she), but I think this is for the best: Lyme disease is not something to mess with, and one needs all the rest and medical attention one can get if one is to effectively work with and eventually recover from this condition. Despite this, however, I really feel that Claudia did much to contribute to the success of our yoga festival here. She very generously sent over 60 copies of her book to the festival, and I could tell that everybody who received a copy today was really excited (I mean, when was the last time you got a book about yoga for free just for attending a class?); I can really sense that some lives are seriously being changed as a result of coming into contact with this book...
Now this is probably pretty obvious to you by now, but I'm going to say this anyway: I owe much to Claudia. If I had not stumbled upon her blog, my practice (and probably my life in general) would have been a much more lonely path. And I would have just been content with doing my own practice in my own little practice room: It probably would not have occurred to me to summon the courage/thickness of skin to try to teach Ashtanga, as unqualified as I am (actually, it still remains to be seen whether this yoga teaching charlatan's re-emergence into the yoga teaching world is a good thing or a bad thing; but we'll leave this for another post :-)).
And of course, if I hadn't stumbled upon her blog, you wouldn't even be reading this now. Not that this matters, necessarily: I'm sure you would have found better things to do with your time anyway than to waste a perfectly beautiful fall afternoon reading the rantings of a Chinese Ashtangi living in the upper-midwest :-)
But I see that I'm starting to go off on one of my totally useless digressions. So I'll sign off here. Once again, thank you for everything, Claudia. Please get well soon. I'm praying that you will soon find the appropriate healing modality that works best for you, and kick this Lyme thing seriously in the ass.
Lokaha Samasthaha Sukhino Bhavanthu.