Finding Freedom Through Crazy Yoga Poses

This was originally posted here. I put it on the APP because it ties in with, “The Myth of the Unattainable Yoga Pose”

I absolutely love it when I come across a pose I can’t do. I always have. Difficult poses represent freedom.  Even though I have no rhythm and have never taken lessons, I am a dancer at heart. I love the idea of being able to move my body any way I want with no restrictions. I have also learned that freedom is also at the end of everything difficult in my life because it brings about the absence of fear. Once you go through something difficult and you come out triumphant, that situation no longer scares you. A life without fear is the only way to be free.

For most people, freedom only comes through  their own deaths because it is the ultimate in letting go of resistance. I want to be jivamukta, which is someone who is free while alive.

That is why I fell in love with Ashtanga. My first  real yoga class was a full Primary Series Led class and I had no clue what I was doing and that excited me! It is possible that I will never master Ashtanga and that is so fricking awesome.

It wasn’t until I started teaching  that I realized that I was the exception and not the norm. When I started teaching Ashtanga, the feedback from those who didn’t come back was always along the lines of “that practice is not attainable for me or my body type”. When I came across this in Vinyasa or Power Yoga, it was even more disheartening.

At one studio, where I taught, I was told, that when I attended classes people were intimidated by me and why did I feel the need to do “all that stuff”?At another studio, a student told me that my hip openers were “vulgar”. I was pretty much told in a passive aggressive sort of way, that I needed to dumb down my practice so others would be comfortable.

I came up against this phenomenon again when I wrote, The Myth of the Unattainable Yoga Pose.  An article that I thought would inspire people and make them feel like the sky was the limit, was quickly hyped up to be a treatise on injury, death and destruction.

For a brief second, I was angry that it was misinterpreted. That was quickly overtaken by sadness.  My thoughts at the time were, “why do people want to believe so much in their own limitations that they will fight to keep them in place?” The same people who would tell their own children that you can do and be anything that you want, will turn around and place limitations on themselves. It all came down to fear.

Then I knew that I had to give up that story as well. It was none of my business why some people got so angry over that article. I know how I felt about it and why I wrote it. The article was very clear. I said what i wanted to say. It is not my business to worry about why someone may not like the way I practice, I know why I practice and that is what is important.

The saying is, “when the student is ready, the teacher will come”. It it not my job to bring people over to “my” side. My job is to be who I am so strongly, to let my light shine so brightly, to raise my energy so high that those who vibrate to it will find it and feel at home. Freedom is not something I can give to someone, it is something they must want themselves.


Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

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