Amy Nobles Dolan teaches yoga in Wayne Pennsylvania and writes a blog at Yoga With Spirit. She exemplifies the addage that you’ll know you’re ready to teach when students come to you, and her expansive sense of generosity and gratitude, grounded in experience, wisdom and knowledge illuminate her writing. She’s an Ashtanga Yogi who brings an embracing perspective to both her choice of tradition and her teaching. On her website bio, she affirms, “…yoga works for everyone.” Here’s her reflection on why Ashtanga works for her. Thank You, Amy!
ps: also check her out at the YogaJournal website featured blog!
Not too long ago my husband and I took our three kids to Baskin Robbins. When I ordered (as I often do) Rocky Road, my youngest daughter, Sally, asked me why I chose that flavor. Hmm. I actually can’t think of a single reason not to order Rocky Road! But trying to explain to my daughter why this flavor beat out the other thirty left me tongue-tied. Where to start? The creamy chocolate ice cream? The delicate swirl of marshmallow cream? The chocolate covered nuts that add a perfect textural balance? I had no idea there were so many reasons I love this flavor! Not wanting my scrumptious scoop to melt while I crafted my response, I bailed out of the question with a wholly unsatisfying “Because I like it,” leaving her to make her own choice without my input.
Shortly after this incident, a curious student asked me why I had chosen ashtanga yoga over all the other types of yoga out there. Perhaps because yoga is a lot more important to me than Rocky Road ice cream, the retort “Because I like it” felt even more like a cop-out than it did in the ice cream parlor. And, perhaps because yoga doesn’t melt, I was more willing to take the time to put my thoughts into words. I’d love to be able to say that I stood in front of the ice-cream-case of yoga and selected ashtanga for myself. But I can’t. It was pure providence that led me to my first ashtanga yoga class – which was also my very first yoga class. Had I turned up in another kind of class, the practice may not have “stuck.” And I shudder to imagine my life without this sustaining daily practice. You see, throughout the years, ashtanga yoga has always been a perfect match for me.
In the beginning, I was searching for a way to regain my body after years of sharing it with babies. I craved the physical. I needed the endorphin high of a good work-out to carry me through the grueling day ahead filled with diapers, bottles, heavy car-seats and temper tantrums. I yearned to look good again. Heck, I yearned to simply feel good. Ask and ye shall receive. Ashtanga yoga fulfilled all these desires and then some. The challenging asanas toned and strengthened my body. The vigorous, at times speedy, flow steadily increased my stamina and endurance. The stronger and fitter I became, the better I felt. My regular ashtanga yoga practice had completely revamped my physical body.
Time passed (as it does) and I changed (as we do). My babies got bigger and the challenges that filled my days changed. The demands I faced were no longer as physical. I needed the wherewithal to focus on thirteen things at once – imagine three simultaneous requests for help with math homework while cooking dinner, folding a load of laundry and developing a marketing plan for my new yoga studio! I needed the self-awareness to understand that my short temper had more to do with an over-abundance of volunteer commitments than with my husband and children. I needed the prescience to see past the scowling face and rude demeanor to sense that something had happened at school to upset my child.
Again, ashtanga yoga met my needs. The ashtanga series requires high levels of concentration and focus. As my abilities to focus on one thing at a time and to stay present in the current moment developed, I found myself better able to deal with the multiple demands for my attention one at a time. As I was learning to be curious and aware of myself – my feelings, my fears, my reactions, my ego – on my mat, I became more tuned into what was behind my feelings off my mat. This awareness also resulted in a heightened sensitivity to the feelings and needs of the people in my life. My regular (now daily) practice of ashtanga yoga was transforming my relationships – with myself, with my family and with my friends.
With time, discipline and dedication, my practice continued to deepen. My times on my mat became more inwardly focused. As I became stronger and more flexible, I began to be able to relax into the postures. The more comfortable I was in the asanas, the less mental energy was required of me to stay in them. I could now sink below thoughts of alignment and balance into the quiet of moving meditation. As my physical practice matured, I began to work more diligently with my breath. Ashtanga’s ujjayi breathing became a point of meditation for me, taking me even deeper into a meditative state. And, as meditation became more natural for me, my rests in savasana at the end of my practices became richer and more rewarding. Day after day while I practiced, I drew closer to the divine spark of life and love that is at my core. Day after day, I recognized that same spark in the people I met after I rolled up my mat and moved on into my day. My daily practice of ashtanga yoga was transforming and expanding my spirituality.
Why do I choose ashtanga yoga? Like with Rocky Road ice cream, I can’t think of a single reason not to! Why do I choose ashtanga yoga? Like Rocky Road ice cream, I choose it because I like it! Why do I choose ashtanga yoga? As I said before, I shudder to imagine my life without it. Physically, mentally and spiritually, the practice is transformative — and as wholly satisfying as a scoop of ice cream. Just as Rocky Road ice cream is the perfect flavor for me, ashtanga yoga is the perfect yoga for me. What about you? What do you choose?