Monday, January 7, 2013


I lingered at LAX for many hours on Christmas Eve. Inspired by Nassim Nicholas Taleb's The Bed of Procrustes, I wrote a bunch of Ashtanga-related aphorisms.

According to Taleb, "a good maxim should 1) surprise you, 2) be true, and 3) be symmetric (one assertion, one negation) or rhythmic."

Strength: first series builds it, second expresses it, third makes it redundant.

Practicing a certain way "because it's how my teacher does it" is the same as eating the menu.

Be wary of the teacher who hits on his students. Also be wary of the teacher who does not.

To become overly fascinated with the asana series is to become obsessed with the pill capsule or the syringe, or better yet, the ice-cream scoop or the chocolate wrapper.

If you want to turn someone on to Ashtanga Yoga, show her first series. If you want to turn her off, second. (After Taleb.)

A Mysore ashtanga teacher should prize consistency, humor, and flatulence. 

When looking for a teacher, avoid the bureaucrat, the technician, and the acolyte. Better the poet, the artist, the dancer. (After Brooks).

Nowhere does Patanjali mention embracing poverty, yet Ashtanga teachers act as if it's the ninth limb.

Talking about "your practice" is the only sin worse than not practicing.

Symptoms of a Guru Problem: when the Guru is the only person you're more afraid of contradicting than yourself.

The right question to ask the Guru is the one that makes you the most afraid.

If you fear conversation with your Teacher, he is not your Teacher.

Patanjali suggests to avoid future suffering; he was talking about lunch with Ashtangis — back pain, asana talk, Mysore gossip.

Avoid the yogini who tells you she is a yogini.

A Mysore teacher can be a friend or a teacher. Choose both, or neither, never just one.