Finding a Teacher

Peg Mulqueen in Laguvajrasana
Colored pencil on paper


Angela Jamison from Ann Arbor, Michigan wrote a post that you might read if you’ve ever wondered about how your perception of your body affects your practice.  Don’t just read it once though, it takes a few flyovers to figure out what she’s talking about.

Which begs the question, have I really figured out what she’s talking about?  Not many people can successfully write about the energetic transformations inherent in the practice of Ashtanga yoga, but she does so with precision and courage.

Sometimes I think she’s a little angry.  That’s cool, I don’t mind my teachers occasionally pulling an outraged Jesus in the Temple with the moneylenders kind of maneuver.  David Garrigues can be like that too.

It took a long time to find a teacher.  There were teachers along the way, of course.  But I kept reading about Mysore, India and the traditional style  of teaching Ashtanga.  A few experiences with it kindled a hunger in me that wouldn’t leave.  I suppose some people have affairs in middle age, but I found yoga instead.  New Year’s Eve weekend doing a 2nd series workshop with DG almost 2 years ago now was a key turning point.

Backing up, I learned Ashtanga from Sue Pentland in a led class format.  She learned from David Swenson first and later from Kino MacGregor.  I found a wonderful teacher in New Hampshire, Robert Moses, and I still think he has the best Marichyasana C assist ever.  That man can just twist you around- I had no idea I could twist that far.  Robert learned Ashtanga from Norman Allen and I think from Eddie Stern, and I would have stayed with him but he’s far away on these New Hamphsire backroads and his schedule is limited.  If you are ever in the Peterborough, NH area you should look him up.

Then we, my practice partner and I, for by now I had a yoga buddy, found Randy Aromando.  She found him first but she’s nice and she shared.  So we drove to Belmont for the first time last January.

For the first time I understand what other ashtanga bloggers before me have written about, or not written about, this topic.  It’s not that Randy ever says “Though shalt not write about thy practice,” but I now have a disinclination to write about the details of such a relationship, other than with very broad strokes.

I will say this though.  I practiced first for a long time with him before he gave me any second series poses.  This was a good thing, because although I had begun 2nd on my own, with some successes and failures, I had not “cooked” first series enough yet to really be able to absorb second.  So I waited, sometimes patiently and sometimes not so patiently, for what seemed like a long time.  I didn’t ask either, but people were practiing second around me and I knew that sooner or later, if I waited (and worked hard), it would come.

Then there came this place of not caring so much.  First series itself is amazing.   The exploration and learning available in the primary series is infinite as far as I can tell.  I see now that I’ve only scratched the surface.  There is this breathy place I’ve found in the standing series, in which the breath initiates the movement and each inhale lasts the full entry into the pose and everything just flows… If you had told me ten years ago that I would find immeasurable joy in practicing the same sequence of poses over and over again, I would not have believed.  It is a practice, a moving meditation, and you can spend decades refining your sun salutations.

One day you hear the words “Jump through, pasasana.”  And you’re pretty sure they’re meant for someone else except that your teacher is standing right next to you.  And that there is the problem with 2nd, you no sooner get through the mari D hurdle, and there it is, Ganesh’s noose just waiting for you to put your head through the loop.  Sigh.  It’s a good thing that my teacher is patient.