Sunday morning at 9:00 we have our most important class of the week. It’s critical to what we do because of it’s possible connection to Teacher Training. Anyone can come into this class to get a sense of how we do things when it comes to not just active yoga, but what we call a “sensitizing” yoga style. Anyone interested in our teacher training may find it especially informative on all levels. There is one issue. The style of hatha yoga that we now refer to as “Sequenced Yang Yoga” has gone by a certain name. We no longer use that name out of political solidarity. It’s complicated. Suffice it to say, WYC has nothing to do with the “Ashtanga community.” We have no connection to the person who popularized it and do not honor his memory, and that’s why it’s now called Sequenced Yang Yoga, Or SYY, on our schedule.
So, is the class right for you? It’s possible. Even beginners who are active and adventurous can come in and give it a try. Just know that SYY can be challenging on all levels, and lots of long-time practitioners attend. The good news is that SYY shows us not only how to do the poses in the most yogic ways there are, but also teaches us how to instruct them ourselves. Really, no style comes close to SYY when it comes to experiencing and sharing the “energetic” methodologies involved in serious yoga practice. We do yogic breathing the whole session, but at the same time we connect yogic ideas to the practice. That way we develop understanding as well as strength and flexibility. You can read all the SYY guidelines on the Daily Open Session link.
FACTS ABOUT WYC-SYY SESSIONS:
WYC SYY sessions utilize the same pose sequencing that is now popular around the world. So you can watch videos of it online. We have our own videos and soon they will be embedded on this website. Until then, please keep in mind our way of doing Ashtanga is different. Primarily, we have fun. At the same time, because SYY was originally more of a teaching-tool than a control-oriented practice, we emphasize an experience of yoga that we refer to as “teacher-level.” Really, it’s a light-hearted rekindling of an emphasis on doing yoga as a way of sharing it with friends. All of the first American Ashtanga students became great, world class teachers for a reason. They were a fun-loving group of close friends. Having practiced with all of them, WYC Director, Scott Miller, can attest to how fun-loving they were. Individuals like Richard Freeman, Maty Ezraty, Tim Miller, and David Swenson became great teachers as a result of community support. They altered the course of yoga on this planet, and at WYC, we don’t just “practice, practice.” We “teach, teach.” All of us become teachers and that helps us not fall into the problems that also occurred in the Ashtanga world. There was too much guru-worship. It sank the ship eventually.
Anyway, we believe that to do yoga is to teach yoga. We believe that to do yoga is to share yoga. We have to share it in order to know what it is, and through the sharing of what we love, we experience yoga physically, physically, emotionally, mentally, soulfully, and spiritually. That’s teacher-level yoga, and some beginners–even some first time people–have as much actual conscious connection to soul and spirit as any instructor. The only really important advantage that instructors have is their knowledge of yogic-breathing. So we share that and help everyone else learn how to share it. Then, whether or not they do formal teacher training, all WYC students are teachers too.
WYC SYY GUIDELINES:
If anything feels wrong, don’t do it. Respectfully speak up about anything that isn’t working for you. Stay with your experience of what we call “the energetic pleasure of the practice” as long as it working and let it be your guide to the extent that feels right. Notice what feels-good and let that feeling spread and affect you. If things go well, the rest will follow. We believe in the old adage about taking serious things lightly and light things seriously. Have fun with with this serious yoga practice, and while the pose work is happening, also be involved in the humorous teacher-level yogic discourse.
Learn SYY’s set sequences (what’s called “The Primary Series) over time. Let the learning happen gradually. You can come on Sundays to do the practice in the “led” way, but it’s okay to only come during the week and not know the sequence for a long time. Don’t worry about it. After you learn the poses from the instructor first, you can use the pose-sequence sheet supplied in this folder. Eventually, you won’t need the sheet. It makes a significant difference to be able to do the sequence in a flowing, natural way without hesitation or thought. Once that’s possible, you won’t be thinking about it. You’ll just be having energetic fun.
The instructor may be able to help you progress according to your physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, soulful, and spiritual ability. It all counts. SYY affects all those things, and it can be de-stabilizing on any of those levels. Yogically speaking, that’s a good thing, but it’s important to communicate with your teacher. It will help him or her determine how to help you practice. And remember that the advanced poses are not just physically challenging. They happen on all levels, and patience is a key. There’s never anything wrong with going slow and steady, and in any case, you will be discouraged from aggressive practice. You will be encouraged to have fun and feel energetic pleasure. SYY is meant to sensitize you in relation to a full and whole experience of your life-force. Everything we do in SYY should relate to that idea.
The teacher will be adjusting your breathing and poses accordingly. He or she will help you increase your energetic sensitivity through a combination of life-force techniques (collectively referred to as pranayama). The specific breathing technique we do with SYY is called Ujjayi. It’s a respiratory throat engagement that allows the practitioner to draw in and extend out an “ebb of the ocean” sounding breath. Along with Ujjayi breathing, the life-force techniques include energy binding holds (called bandhas), and eye gazes (called drishtis).
You’ll be taught how to engage your leg muscles especially when the teacher applies physical pressure. There will be some discomfort. Speak up if it hurts. Also, the instructor is helping a lot of people in class (some of whom are doing risky poses) and you may have to wait for help. While you wait, you should continue to breathe well, staying with your yogic breath. Be patient. It’s okay to ask for help, but be mindful about the timing of your request and understand that the teacher is trying to help everyone on lots of levels. He or she will be open to discussing all aspects of yogic life, but discussions may have to be conducted after class. Please respect the fact that as loose, and fun-loving as WYC’s session structures are, it’s a vulnerable space. Feelings run deep in SYY, and they run very deep in WYC’s style SYY classes. You can see if that works for you or not.
Take a long final resting pose (Savasana) so the energetic effects of practice can settle deeply.
Come regularly. It’s okay to practice SYY as little as once a week, but it works way better to come more often. That may seem challenging, but you’ll be amazed how quickly things change. Again, just have fun and see if it makes sense eventually for you to come to class at least three times a week. And a short practice is better than none. Come, have fun, and when things get heavy—as they will at some point—let the instructor know. It’s all part of our common journey together. Again, the higher practices of yoga are done in relation to transpersonal unifications.
MORE ON “TEACHER-LEVEL” SYY:
The person who popularized Ashtanga never taught separate teacher training programs. The style of practice still created the greatest teachers because in and of itself, SYY is a kind of teacher training program. At WYC, we just make sure that it works for everyone, including students who are completely new to practicing yoga. It’s easy. The sequence repetition helps new students understand what they’re doing, and also helps teachers in training apprehend instructional points.
And it only makes sense for everyone practicing yoga to learn the Sanskrit pose and concept names. The memorization is not just for identification purposes, but also for spiritual knowledge. For example, the word “Ashtanga” means “eight-limbs.” That tells us there are eight yogic practices. The first two are behavioral practices called the Yamas and Niyamas. You can read about them on a separate page. In class, you’ll learn how to practice them “energetically.” That means it involves energy experiencing. You will also be taught how to do the Pose Practice (Asana) in connection with energy experiencing.
You will also be taught how to practice not just in relation to yourself, but in relation to others. That’s important whether or not you have any interest in being a yoga instructor because the higher limbs of Ashtanga Yoga require increasing amounts of “transpersonal” awareness and no one gets there without making yogic progress through the most difficult part of our being. The internal dialogue we hear in our head all the time is generally negative. Our ego structure is gripped. We help those parts of us out and our personal-level concerns ease up on us, making room for transpersonal experiencing (also known as spirituality).
So we believe that to do really yoga you must become a teacher. You don’t have to become a yoga instructor but you must become a teacher, at least to yourself. That’s what we pray for, and to help things work on a teacher-level understanding of prayerfulness itself, we do the Ashtanga chant (recorded on the WYC CD you now own) with the idea of it connecting us to the energy of Prayer Itself. It’s much less religious, and more scientific that way. We have no problem with religion, but it’s impossible to good at religiosity if you can’t even be good at science. With our chant, then, we’re not praying to God, we’re praying for the energy of Prayer Itself to fall into our experience and the Sanskrit word for Fallen Prayer is Patanajali. Most Ashtanga people think of Patanjali as a god or a man, but we don’t. Patanjali is an Indian name, but at WYC, we look at it as a concept—a beautiful energetic concept.
You can learn the chant from listening to the CD. The words are “Om. Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde, Sandarshita Svatma Sukava Bodhe, Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane, Samsara Halahala Mohashantyai, Abahu Purushakaram, Shankhacakrasi Dharinam, Sahasra Sirasam Svetam, Pranamami Patanjalim. Om.”
The chant is done every Sunday at the beginning of the 9:00 class. Once you know the chant by heart, during the week, you can recite it silently to yourself at the start of practice. We also do a closing chant. The chanting is part of how SYY practitioners create strong communal connections. We chant in all kinds of ways that support a more authentic yoga way of living based on diverse beliefs and freedom of mind. Ashtanga is not owned by anyone. The style name was not copyrighted. Although some Ashtanga teachers hold to set ideas of how the practice is “supposed” to be taught, Ashtanga continues to evolve, and the origin of Ashtanga practice is more mystically phenomenal than has been publically reported and commonly understood. Even so, it’s SYY to us now.
We hope to see you in class on a regular basis, but in any case, you can receive SYY community emails about our regular get-togethers and kirtans (yoga music concerts).