by Laura Josephy
For as long as I can remember, I have appreciated the human body as a form of art. First through competitive gymnastics and now through the practice of yoga: the kinesthetic has always been my primary medium. The rich palate that the body in space provides is a ritual that guides my attention inward to the subtle realm where sensation, thought, and emotion intersect. Like a book I want to read repeatedly, the idiosyncrasies of the body tell the story of its unique character and wisdom.
I stumbled into my first led Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series class in 2002. I was discouraged by the discovery that students of this method follow a set sequence of postures. My mind settled by a few years of exploring other styles, I returned to Ashtanga in 2005 with a deeper appreciation for the nuances of an established daily practice. I replaced the monotony I initially assumed, with a respect for impermanence. The beauty of memorizing a sequence slowly over time is that the degree of attention that would otherwise be occupied with creating or following a novel sequence, can now be turned toward the internal experience of each pose. The body and breath flowing in tandem, the practice becomes a moving meditation on the somatic experience that plumbs the depths of consciousness and reveals the clear and alert presence at the center of Being.
If human nature plays to its strengths, then Ashtanga Yoga appeals to its blind spots. Sooner or later, the reality of abiding by a set sequence is that all students discover the edge of their physical or mental comfort zone. This seat of friction is an opportunity for awareness and an invitation to do things differently; to respond and not react. Yoga, after all, is a mindfulness training practice intended to illuminate our patterns and free us from deep-rooted conditioning. The yoga mat is a microcosm where the student can explore and experiment with their adjoined physical, mental, and emotional habits within the relatively controlled environment of the studio. How do I react when faced with fear or the challenge of something new? Where do I resist what is? How can I release unnecessary effort? These questions become lessons, which we can applied to the macrocosm of everyday life where the practice of yoga truly begins.
My creative collaboration with Shelley Zentner was born of the intention to bring my experience of the Ashtanga Primary Series to life. When envisioning the Tahoe Yoga Shala’s teacher training manual, it was essential that the energy and anatomy of each pose be represented by images that were educational and inspiring. The combination of the raw and unfinished, with the highly refined and precise styles present in Shelley’s illustrations, draws the eye to focus on the primary action of each pose while simultaneously allowing room for personal expression.
Ashtanga Yoga is a living tradition in that it continues to evolve through first-hand experience. With each original illustration, Shelley depicts the way my body has come to inhabit each pose after many years of consistent practice. It is one, but certainly not the only way, to approach these physical forms. Therein lies the paradox; if in our pursuit of an idealized form we become rigid in our application of technique, it can become yet another external distraction that clouds awareness. It is my sincere hope that these images will usher yoga students into their personal experience of the practice. Though a visual guide is a necessary tool of learning, it is no substitute for the knowledge imparted through direct perception. We may use symbols and language as direction, but once there, the true nectar is found in being in the moment as it unfolds.
Sunday, November 3rd from 5 - 7pm
Join us in celebration of the continued collaboration between the Tahoe Yoga Shala and local artist, Shelley Zentner. The Shala and Shelley have teamed up to create instructional fine art drawings of the Ashtanga Primary Series. Each drawing is a study of the poses that comprise the Primary Series and were used as visual guidance in the Shala’s Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Training Manual. Every drawing is an original, one-off artwork, created with charcoal on Stonehenge Archival paper. Admission free. Light refreshments served.
All original drawings will be for sale. Custom prints, the Teacher Training Manual and special edition Full Primary Series charts will also be available for purchase. A percentage of the profits will be donated to local causes and charities to which we feel connected. Advance reservations of specific poses can be made by contacting Shelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.