Teaching Ashtanga,  Uncategorized,  Videos,  Yoga Philosophy,  Yoga Sutras

Yoga: The Cure for Phantom Life Syndrome

When students get stuck on a pose, I often use a camera to record them and play it back. Sometimes we think we are doing something and we are not.  We practice yoga through the veil of our own samskaras. Samskaras are pathways that, we take so often, that they become second nature to us.  If we have always felt or been told that we were lacking, flexible, weak or strong, our perception of what is actually going on can be skewed. Injuries can also skew our perception. Sometimes, what we perceive in our bodies, is not really what is happening. An extreme example of this is Phantom Limb Syndrome. Phantom Limb Syndrome is when amputees have pain or sensation in their amputated, non existent body parts. This is just how strong our mental pathways can be.

I record my entire practice at least once a week. Every single week, I can see how my perception is flawed.  In some ways, it is freeing because I now know what I need to work on.  In other ways, it is daunting because I realize that it is going to be tough to change something that I have so little awareness of.  This is the deep work of the yogic path. Bringing full complete awareness to everything we do. It is much easier to say, “I can’t do this because of my genetics. Yes, I am doing everything correct but this pose is not for me. This is just the way I am. ”  Sometimes these statements are true. But what if they are not? To be brave enough to question our assumptions is what the yoga path is asking of us.

If we had a camera following us around 24/7, I think we would be appalled at the times in our lives where we felt we were kind, that we did a good job, that we managed the situation properly, and it was the complete opposite. We would be floored by how flawed our perception of our day to day life really is. I doubt that anyone, even if they had the ability to, would want every moment of their lives recorded.  We can figure it out another way.

The Yoga Sutras tells us that, when our life is grounded in truth, our lives become subservient to our will.  We no longer feel that our lives are spinning out of control.  Feelings of being overwhelmed and disempowered are signs that our actions are not in line with our truth. These feelings serve as our camera. A signal that we need to get real about what is going on in our lives. When we live in truth, our lives unfold through grace a.k.a being in the flow. We have this feeling that things are working out for our good.  Instead of us doing, the universe is working through us and we are being done. It feels as if everything in our lives, the good and the bad, happens to keep us awake and aware.  We feel connected.

When we do asana from a place of truth, we also feel flow, grace and a since of being connected to our bodies. We invite in the truth of where we are in our practice. We don’t run away from the truth of our bodies and we accept how these imbalances show up on the mat. We work with them from an honest place of non judgement and nonviolence. We don’t effort to have someone else’s practice or body. We work with what is being presented to us. Being “stuck” is a place of possibility. It means there is something else to explore.



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@shannasmallyoga.com.

One Comment