Monday, October 10, 2011


Most initiations are about the devolution of responsibility. At the same time, initiations often double as a long and confused moment of shared truths. Essentially, what the adults, elders, or senior members of the group share with the initiates is the knowledge they possess, and then they admit to a terrible secret, the secret of the “tribe”—that beyond the knowledge the initiates have just been given there is no special knowledge.

—Anna Simons, The Company They Keep

 There is no specific "initiation" as such when one begins the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa, though I consider learning the Primary Series an initiation of sorts.

This is markedly different from almost other Yogic as well as other, larger institutions and cultures; the quote above is taken from Simons' book about U.S. Special Forces culture, for example.

With regards to Ashtanga Vinyasa, upon completion of First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth Series, or the Pranayama sequence, there is no "special knowledge" that is transmitted.

(I think here of Tokyo Ashtanga teacher Barry Silver's blog handle: "Nothing Special.")

The "knowledge possessed" by the "Guru" (who has since passed) was the techniques of the breath, gaze, internal focus points — and the practice of discipline!

So then the "secret" of the Ashtanga Vinyasa tribe is that there is no secret.

There is no "special knowledge" contained in, inherent to, and separate from the series themselves — beyond the very intention, attention, and consistency (discipline) that we bring to this practice.

Are most initiations about a "devolution of responsibility"?
Do you feel there is an "initiation" to the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice?
What are the pluses, minuses, neutrals to thinking of surrender/submission to a system as a "devolution"?
Is initiation a surrender/submission? 
Might we consider initiation an empowerment and invitation?

Sunday, October 2, 2011


‎I saw a great quote the other day on Facebook from Sarah Wells, a teacher at the Eugene School of Yoga:
"The yogi should ignore the personality of his/her yoga teacher, thus focusing on the lineage and practice." — Narasimhan
In Mysore, India, Professor M. Narasimhan used to teach the philosophy portion of Dr. Jayashree's Yoga Sutra chant class.

This really echoes Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat, as quoted in The Yoga Body:

The orthodox pandit is not in the least concerned to restore an ancient state of affairs...
If he were to point out the ... differences between the ... text and his own epoch, he would have to reveal his own share of innovation and his individuality...
He prefers to keep this latter hidden...
For him, the important thing is to present the whole of his knowledge — which contains both the ancient heritage and his new vision — as an organized totality.
(Filliozat 1992 : 92, translation by Singleton, The Yoga Body.)
 As Narashimhan observes, if we can side-step or look beyond (look through?) our teacher's personality, we're able to receive the entirety, the totality, the sum of her knowledge — which contains both "ancient heritage" as well as her "new vision."

Often, though, the richest transmission seems to arise from the frisson of realization that there's a seam, a gap, however small, between a teacher's personality and practice and their very own lineage.

If only because then we have to hold onto the seeming paradox ourselves without "solving" it.