Richard Freeman + Mary Taylor
Written by perhaps two of the foremost master teachers of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Tradition, as well as, co-founders of the Yoga Workshop in Boulder, CO, Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor offer a comprehensive manual for the Ashtanga Yoga practice in their new title, Art of Vinyasa. Though this certainly is a text that any Ashtanga student will want to add to their collection, it also offers an inspirational and fresh approach to this tradition that truly delighted the Vinyasa yogi in us.
In this text, there is the “exploring of the idea of yoga as an art form and as an interlacing of opposites – a vinyasa…”This exploration offers students to embark upon a journey that teaches them not only traditional elements of the Ashtanga Lineage, including: Breath, Bandha, and Drishti, but it asks them to dive deeper into the subtle and often times contradictory aspects of each embracing a more profound experience. This is truly the path of yin/yang, feminine/ masculine, and sukkha/ dukkha, which allows students to explore opposing energies and elements in order to find harmony and balance in between. They note, “the vinyasa process is to allow the arising of oppositional forces, contexts, and perspectives, and at just the right moment… to consciously introduce the balancing counterstep to harmonize the field.”
What a refreshing philosophy when so much of Western Yoga today is focused on solely developing the active yang forms of the practice through intense asana, and has somehow forgotten about the other limbs. Seemingly many classes leave students out-of-balance as we minimize the grounding, meditation, and devotional aspects of the practices in lieu of more sweat and cardio. Of course, as Freeman and Taylor go onto introduce their thoughts, they remind us that progress in the practice requires students’ focus on the internal path of yoga.
“This book is designed to shed light on establishing an internally rooted yoga practice that can last a lifetime. It also looks deeply at asana practice as an external expression of the internal forms that give a profound and direct experience to the awakening of body and mind through the practice.”
Some of the tools that are given include:
Breath: Truly feeling the subtle components of both the inhale and exhale
Where does it emanate?
How does it feel?
What parts of us does it touch?
What qualities does it possess?
Drishti: Understanding that where the eyes go the mind follows
Noticing how we can bring about a specific quality of mind
Utilizing specific “gaze points” for each pose/ Freeman and Taylor focus on 8 specific points utilized in the Ashtanga practice
Bandha: Cultivating locks to contain energy/ prana and stabilize poses
3 are introduced including Mulabandha, Jalandhara, and Uddiyana, which Freeman and Taylor believe: “serve as internal gazing points; they are seed-points of clear attention from which integrated movement, thought, emotion, and Prana unfold all around.”
Mudra: Use of the hands to trigger specific qualities in the mind
We are encouraged to “invite our mudras to appear” so that they happen organically as an unfolding
Subtle Anatomy: Essentially use of visualization that brings about a deeper aspect to the external practice and journey
13 Subtle forms are introduced and with each the opportunity to find a harmony between internal and external expression in each posture, allowing the student to experience greater alignment and purpose
The manual also offers a thorough explanation and guide to the most popular poses that comprise the Ashtanga Series, but does so again in a unique way that groups the poses according to their primary focus. Thus, the student is invited to explore standing poses, forward bends, backbends, twists, balancing poses, and finishing poses all in a way that builds upon each other but also gives the opportunity to understand what makes these poses so similar. All in all, we couldn’t be more thrilled to have this book in our collection and appreciate the sincere work the authors have done to touch beginning to advanced practitioners.
“Yoga is a living art. It is a means of moving, breathing, thinking, expanding and contracting, evolving and interacting within the complex, ever-changing landscape of the world within and around us.”
Betcha didn’t expect to get that from your 60 min Vinyasa class!