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?