Jane O'Loughlin Guest Blog
My yoga journey started 15 years ago. Ashtanga (led classes) was what I practiced for maybe 5 years, but I got bored, I needed variety. As different styles and studios emerged, I tried them out, played the field. I did a 200-hour teacher training in 2008 and taught vinyasa and flow classes in various places. I loved sharing yoga with others, and wanted to teach ashtanga since that’s where I felt most grounded. When an opportunity came about in 2011, I eagerly took it on.
While I still played the field, I also continued to attend led ashtanga classes and ashtanga workshops. I tried mysore classes off and on but couldn’t get to them consistently. I think I liked the idea of “being an ashtangi” more than the reality. In reality, I was still enjoying the variety; I was a committed uncommitted yogi. Have mat will travel. Two summers ago I attended a week-long ashtanga workshop and decided it was time to go steady with ashtanga. I understood that not committing to one style wasn’t serving me. Mari D and jump-throughs were miles away, and I really wasn’t making progress in the asanas. I wasn’t making progress because I was avoiding, skipping over things, enjoying the creativity of others’ sequences but not addressing what I knew I needed to work on. So more than variety, I wanted quality, and ultimately better yoga.
The mat is a mirror. When I’m on my mat, I let myself see what I see. The first thing I see is myself, my life. My predispositions and reactions, likes and dislikes, fears and limitations, possibilities and courage, joys and hopes. They’re all right there to observe and explore. Yoga isn’t my workout and it’s not my religion – I go to the gym and I have religious faith – but yoga connects me to both in definite and substantial ways. I understand more about my body and spirit and their health (or unhealth) through my yoga practice.
Thoughts come and go during my practice. Sometimes instead of simply observing breath and bandhas I’m thinking about them, analyzing them (hello, overthinker?). Sometimes I’m thinking about the likelihood of crashing into the person next to me. Sometimes I’m focused on alignment and anatomy: can mula bandha be stronger and are my hips squared. Sometimes in Sun B [ekam inhale] I think I’m not going to make it through the whole practice [dve exhale], why did I come? Just get through this salute [trini inhale] and then chatvari jump back, exhale and I keep going, one breath at a time.
Last summer during another week-long workshop I realized how critical a yoga community is for me. Home practice was never the same as my individual practice in a group, mysore or not. At home it’s too easy to rationalize a shorter practice and get off the mat. The presence and energy of others in the same space, helping me to hold my own space, led me to mysore at YOHI, evening mysore during the week and Sunday morning mysore with Taylor before the ashtanga class I taught. Then because I needed evenings free, I dipped my toe into getting up before the crack of dawn for morning mysore during the week, and lo and behold it didn’t kill me. This I tried the week before Taylor left YOHI to open AYC. I was already hooked on Taylor and could move to AYC for Sunday, but weekday logistics were not in AYC’s favor.
AYC is not convenient for me. It’s 20 miles from home, and 8 miles back to work. YOHI is about a mile from where I work, really much more convenient. But after a couple of months splitting time across teachers, it was time to get up even earlier, drive even farther and accept a commute that looked like a swinging pendulum, and commit to one place, one teacher. So again, I made a change and it didn’t kill me. It felt like I was losing my grip on stories I’ve told myself about things I could and could not do. Huh.
Taylor is a gifted teacher. His yoga is real, honest and believable. Like life, it’s not all love and light and pretty, feel-good sayings, but it’s work, gritty and messy and imperfect. Solid and still lighthearted. There’s room to be human with encouragement to try to do better, and try again. I stumble to articulate why I’m drawn to him as a teacher and I can only approximate it by saying he’s a “grab your life with both hands and hold on tight because life is a crazy ride but it’s your crazy ride!” kind of teacher. Yeah, maybe something like that.
So I practice at AYC because of Taylor and because of ashtanga yoga. I’m a traditionalist. I like the ashtanga tradition and being part of the shala. Being connected to generations who have lived before me and to AY communities all around the world makes me feel united with them and bigger than myself. I like knowing I have a place and that I belong. Thanks for having me.