Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Therapeutics

Recently my friend and colleague Karen Kirkness, founder of Meadowlark Yoga Edinburgh, asked me how I felt about the use of therapeutics in the Mysore room. This might involve research postures, or props, and general deviations from the vinyasa aspect of the system in times of injury or blockage. Here is what I replied.

The thing I'm thinking abt recently is how the magic Ashtanga can reveal to us is present in the vinyasa not in the asana. It is the unifying principle of the practice, rather than its composite parts that enlightens us. For the western mind it's so easy to fixate on the obvious, tangible form of an asana- and this is where alignment cues, while necessary for health and safety at times, tend to take center stage in the mind. When too many months or years go by without a focus on the unifying principles of Ashtanga (Trishtana and vinyasa) and the individual's BELIEF that such unification can be present in ones practice DESPITE pain and injury [which are omnipresent actually]--students may lose touch with this mystical aspect of Yoga. It is important to note that this unification of which I speak is experienced in the mind, and the body is only its vehicle.

The word vinyasa was originally used to describe the specific placement of an action in the larger manifestation of a ritual. Therefore, the concept of vinyasa, as I use the word, does not necessarily refer to jump-back jump-through, but implies instead the larger picture of self-transformation and the steady evolution of our practice as an attribute of a Life lived in touch with mystery, magic, and the depths of human experience.

OM