This yoga practice that I’ve learned from my friend and teacher Mark Whitwell—who learned it from his teacher TKV Desikachar, who learned it from his father T Krishnamacharya, who learned it from his teacher Ramamohan Brahmachari, who learned it from his teacher, and on and on until we get to Shiva himself (or so the story goes)—is the best. I know I’m not supposed to say it—that there are “many paths leading to the same source”, yada yada yada—but hear me out.
“The breath is central to Yoga, because the breath is central to Life, and Yoga is about Life." — Krishnamacharya
Krishnamacharya taught a method of linking the movement of your body to the movement of your breath through intense concentration that creates a profound link between the mind and body. This linking (or “Yoga”) enables you to be completely immersed in the movement of Life itself. He would say, “The breath is central to Yoga, because the breath is central to Life, and Yoga is about Life”. This method of practicing yoga asana is the best way I’ve found to take care of myself and cultivate the necessary qualities so that I can care for others. And believe me, I’ve tried it all.
Through this uniquely breath-centered asana practice I’m able to connect to my innate naturalness even in the midst of the wholly unnatural environment of a North American city. This feeling of naturalness comes about when we actively participate in our breath (the very source of our life!) and move our bodies in a way that balances strength and receptivity, steadiness and softness, internal awareness with external awareness.
When you are doing a practice that involves every part of your body moving (and not moving) in every possible way—flexing, extending, rotating, spiralling, crouching, stretching, jumping, stillness—you can’t help but feel more connected to your innate animalness. During a practice where I’m really in the groove—when there is no distinguishing between the breath movement and body movement, no separation between my mind and body—I think, "this is how it must feel to be a jaguar", lying in wait in the shadows of the forest, completely at ease but intimately aware of their surroundings and ready to spring into action at any time given the slightest provocation.
Like my teacher Mark says, “Yoga makes you feel better, and feel better”.
This intimate participation in the breath and body movement develops a deep sensitivity to your own condition which then naturally leads to greater sensitivity to the condition of others. This is the compassion that the Buddhist teachers speak about. Like my teacher Mark says, “Yoga makes you feel better, and feel better”.
The vinyasa method that Krishnamacharya developed effectively gets me there, just about every time—to that place where Yoga, "union", happens. Union with my naturalness, my present condition, union with other people and animals, union with Life.
When I don’t get there, I know that it’s because I’ve failed the practice in some way. That I’ve somehow not fully given myself to it, for whatever reason—maybe I slept in and the outside world is awake and I’m feeling the pull to get out there, to get to it. Maybe I had an extra glass of wine the night before and my headache is distracting me, or maybe I foolishly checked into Facebook before I started practice and a comment someone made on my post is nagging at me.
The practice is perfect, and I know that I’m not. The practice itself shows this to me!
The practice is perfect, and I know that I’m not. The practice itself shows this to me! It shows me where I need to improve, where I need more discipline, where I need less discipline, where I need more steadiness, and where I need more softness.
This is why my Yoga is the best—because it’s a very effective mirror but it’s also a window through which I can see a way of being in the world, a way that is in complete accordance with nature, with the flow of Life. When I can see it, I can be it. It gives me a worthy goal to pursue while giving me the feeling of everything being perfect, just as it is. I know it sounds a little contradictory, but that’s kinda like Life—it’s completely perfect and utterly fucked up all at the same time. Just like me.
*Of course, this title is meant to be provocative, but I wanted to illustrate the point that my practice is merely the best for me, largely because it’s so darn personal. My practice is mine, and that’s why it works. Your practice might look different than mine, but if it works for you—if it gets you to that deeply personal intimate place where Yoga happens—then it’s the best for you.