Find out how Yoga Blogger The Global Yogi AKA Michelle Taffe did when she committed to 30 straight days of yoga at the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Melbourne. Michelle tells of her ups and downs in her blog ‘30 Days of Ashtanga Yoga: What happens during a month of showing up on the mat every day’ which we reproduce here with Michelle’s permission.
30 Days of Ashtanga Yoga: What happens during a month of showing up on the mat every day
After a month characterised by some heavy anxiety along the lines of: what I am doing with my life, what is going on, why I am in debt, why am I single, etc. etc., essentially, fighting with ‘what is’ and focusing on the negative, I realised I needed to take some drastic action to get back on track.
The external conditions and circumstances of our life are a pretty accurate reflection of our internal reality. If we focus on lack, and shine the light on what we don’t have (in whatever area of life) then this lack and not-having-ness will increase. And if we change our focus to gratitude and to what we do have, then abundance in all areas of our life will increase. The only thing we can really manage is our response to life, our attitude to what happens to us: essentially, our mind.
Change your mind by changing your thought patterns and beliefs, and by transforming and transmuting anxiety into creative energy, your external life will start to change accordingly.
Getting into your body via your yoga practice is a great way to generate energy for changing the mind to a more positive focus.
So I decided to sign up for a month of yoga at the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Melbourne in Fitzroy. I organised to do a work exchange with the studio so that financially I would not be further stretched than I already was. And I decided I would go pretty much every day, with perhaps a day off each week on Sunday. I would practice the primary series in the Mysore sessions each morning along with all the other yogis up early each day to practice before going about the business of their day.
Logistically, this was also quite a commitment to make, because the studio is over the other side of the city from where I live. So this meant that at 6.30 or 7am I would be out on the tram stop waiting to get on the first of two trams, or a tram and a train and a tram over to the studio. The journey would take me an hour. But rather than being annoyed by such a long transit time, I took the journey as my meditation hour each day before yoga.
I have had a fairly regular daily home practice for years now, but there is something about the community, about practicing side by side with others, that is very comforting and reassuring. Humans are social animals, and we do need each other’s society, each other’s love and support, even those of us like me who like to spend quite a bit of time alone.
As the Buddha said about the triple gem: you need the Buddha (the teacher), the Dharma (the teachings) and the Sangha (the community).
The first days of practice the early morning autumn sun streamed in the windows as I rolled out my mat next to someone who was already halfway through their sequence. The thing about the Mysore style of practicing is that even though everyone is at different place in their practice – you are connected through the sequence. It feels very much like a tribe; an extended yoga family.
As I was going through my practice the first few days, I would be wondering which posture came next, and Greg would wander over and gently let me know. What I noticed in these moments was that I might be inwardly speaking to myself in an unkind way (oh my, you are STILL getting mixed up with what comes next) but Greg was always kind. This in itself was a teaching. Be kind – don’t berate yourself. It’s not called a ‘practice’ for nothing. There is no destination, so be kind. Always be kind.
The first week was difficult. Some mornings, things went well, I remembered the sequence, and it felt good. I got to Savasana (corpse pose) and felt very light and invigorated, and I could just melt into the relaxation. Other days, as soon as I got on the mat my mind would be complaining: “Ahhhh, get me outta here! I don’t want to do this stupid stuff!” and my body would hurt. I would feel so heavy that I could hardly move my limbs let alone get into any of the Marichasana poses.
But I kept going. Another part of me whispered in my ear softly: keep going, you are doing well.
During the second week Greg could see I was struggling and would come over with a friendly smile and ask: ‘How are you going today’ to which I would either just grimace or say what was obvious: ‘sore and tired’. I started feeling a lot of anger coming up. Going through the transitions, something inside me (was I possessed and yoga was the exorcism?) was just angry, angry, angry. It silently screamed “Please, just GET ME OUTTA HERE NOW ALREADY”. I would acknowledge the voice, and if Greg was coming round I would even acknowledge it to him “hmm, angry feelings are coming up today” to which he would respond with a wry smile and an encouraging, ‘OK, keep going’. But when I finished and wrapped up in a double blanket (one underneath and one on top) for Savansana, I felt good. Even if the whole practice had been a struggle, I had done it, and this was my reward.
Breath out. Relaxxxxxxxxxx. And then of course chai was waiting for me.
At the studio they brew fresh chai from the raw ingredients (tea, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamon, black pepper and loads of fresh ginger amongst other secret ingredients) every morning. There is a big pot on the stove, simmering away, waiting for the thirsty yogis to dip the big scooper in after practice and fill up cup after cup (it’s $1 a cup so I generally go a few rounds). The beautiful thing about this studio also is that there is a big wooden table in the kitchen where at least twenty people can sit and drink their chai together. This is so different to so many of the other yoga studios out there where people finish their practice and run out the door with out some much as a Namaste, thank you very much and have a nice day!
One day as I was coming out of practice into the kitchen I saw the jaw drop on one of my friends who had just seen the sign: ‘no chai today, the pot broke yesterday and we need to buy a new one’. Her face was a picture of devastation.
‘I invited my Dad to come in after practice today to have a chai with me’ she sighed with a look of wistful sadness in her eyes.
Yes, I said, I know how you feel. The chai is a highlight of the morning, and often I would spend an hour or two drinking it after practice while reading some of the coffee table yoga books (one a biography of yoga master and teacher of Pattabhi Jois, Krishnamacharya).
By the third week I started to feel more grounded and less emotional on the mat. There was an underlying feeling of stability and happiness at being there and the angry feelings had significantly lessened. I wrote this at the start of my third week, on Day 9
“Feeling strong happiness arising today. Feeling inner satisfaction and inner joy. Sitting here in the sun, feeling its warmth and receiving all the healing in its rays.”
With the instruction from Greg and Tracy, I was also starting to feel different in the postures. I felt a greater opening in my hips in the standing series and I was starting to feel the same in some of the more challenging seated Marichasanas.
I was also starting to feel really a part of this early morning yoga society – a group of passionate souls bonded by their shared love of this transformative practice and their dedication to show up daily to do it. Mostly the practice room is silent, the only sounds being the deep in and out breaths of the vinyasas (the movement from one posture to the next).
By the last week I started to experience some quite profound shifts in my energy body.
For a long time I have felt a marked difference in the energy level on the right and the left sides of my body, with the right (masculine side) feeling much stronger and more stable than the left (feminine side). I started really feeling the whole left side of my body waking up and re-aligning. I started feeling much more energy moving through it. It was like a whole new body was emerging from within the one I currently had.
Like a snake shedding its skin, I was shedding my old energy body to grow into a new one. At the same time lots of things were happening in my external world. I was offered two jobs, I was enjoying playing flute at a regular kirtan group and making lots of new friends there, and I felt a generalised wave of positivity and hope that started to really change my base level of contentment with life. Ah, the magic of yoga.
And even more than that I feel – it’s the magic of showing up. The magic of making a commitment to yourself to show up on the mat every day naturally flows into all the different areas of your life, so that you are showing up in every part of it, and those parts naturally start showing up for you.
About The Global Yogi
The Global Yogi Michelle Taffe blogs about finding inner peace, self love and self realisation and surrender through meditation and yoga.
Michelle says she believes that Self-Love is the core of all yoga and meditation practice, and it is a lifelong journey that needs to be nourished each day.
Michelle regularly writes for her blog and runs courses to help people learn how to love themselves so they may live a life aligned with their souls, full of purpose, vision and action.