In December, as the year was wrapping up, I tasted the Ashtanga practice for the first time.
The first practice was over two hours. It was tough. I left exhilarated. My teacher gave me a chart of the Primary series, which today I recognise as one of those gifts that could go to the thrash or have a profound impact on you forever.
Throughout practice, she said repeatedly: The first act of devotion is to remember the postures. I did not think much of it, but it stuck with me.
In the month that followed, I included parts of Ashtanga primary series in my self-practice. And thus started the self-discovery of the Ashtanga journey hundreds of thousands have threaded before me.
There were days where I referred endlessly to the postures card, had to break constantly from practice to look up how to get into a posture, battled much confusion about transitions.
There were days my body showed me how simply doing the work daily is a thing of wonder.
There were days my body reminded me it shows when you lapse.
There was the day I realised I had committed to memory the standing sequence - wow!
The first time I held Marichyasana D and then the days after where I struggled.
The days I recognised how each posture was carefully curated in sequence. A systematic process that is experiential.
There were days I was excited to start and more often, days where I did not want to begin. Those were the days I promised myself just 5 Surya Namaskara A and 3 Surya Namaskara B. Upon the completion of the Salutations, it did not matter whether it then led to my full practice or transitioned to a gentle Yin or flow of my own, for I had showed up.
There were days I let life take precedence over practice and soon I was feeling scattered and the tinges of loss and sadness. Loss of what? Loss of peace, loss of the beauty and promise of showing up, loss of devotion to the practice, which is to myself.
Devotion is a beautiful word that I had never given much thought at all until it was delivered into my consciousness by my teacher. And then I was able to put into words, that I had been on the receiving end of devotion, especially in the past 12 months and have now settled enough into myself to start a practice of devotion too.
To be devoted, to be committed, disciplined, loyal, to stand for something, to show up when it gets hard, and it will get hard.
Yesterday I went for class after the break over the festive period. My teacher told a fellow practitioner: When you put in the work, it is visible. You may not be able to do a posture yet, but it's always so clear when the work has been done.
I had only seen her three times in practice and thought she would have forgotten where we left off. Instead, midway, she came to me: Have you been memorising and practising at home? Yes? Good. The first devotion to the practice is remembering.
Everything in life eventually balances out. Ashtanga is available to all - who will put in the work every day? Love, joy, happiness, abundance, truth, clarity - it is available to everyone too.
I have chosen to devote myself to my beloved, to my practice (the physical manifestation of what's inside my self). Over and over again I will learn and relearn and continue to devote myself to the simple and endless act of devotion.
Let 2019 be a year of devotion for us all.