Having recently returned from teaching live in-person at Omega Institute, I am re-inspired and re-invigorated with the power and potency of the Ashaya Method to transform people’s lives from one of limitation to one of freedom, lightness, and happiness. This yoga works!
The weekend was focused on Tantra Yoga and Meditation through the Five Elements. I was reminded of the powerful application of the Five Elements to the physical body through asana and the particular details of alignment in the Ashaya Method.
When I teach online, most everyone understands the instruction, but not everyone can achieve optimal alignment because we all have habitual patterns of limitation. When I’m able to see my students live in person and make verbal suggestions for alignment, then if the student isn’t quite able to align their body into the optimal position, I can offer a hands-on assist.
I had forgotten how amazing and transformative this is. Every single person in the group shifted their body to release the limiting patterns and feel the wide-open space and freedom that comes with good alignment. Ashaya is nuanced and subtle to such a degree that it’s not always possible to make the shift without some tactile guidance.
I was overjoyed to see how the students’ alignment improved throughout the weekend becoming stronger, steadier, more open, flexible, and balanced. By the last session, their ability to express their beauty and light from the inside out was remarkable. Everyone became a shining star!
What is it about Ashaya that’s different from other forms of yoga?
Reflecting on this question was a very helpful exercise and I’d like to share my insights with you.
I identified four main pillars of distinction.
Integration of Body, Mind, and Heart
Detailed Alignment that is Medically/Metaphysically Sound and Therapeutic
Uplifting, Life-affirming, and Empowering Tantric Philosophy
Supportive Community of the Heart with an Emphasis on Dedicated, Regular Practice.
1. INTEGRATION OF BODY, MIND, AND HEART –
BODY: Ashaya is much more than a physical fitness workout. Ashaya addresses the whole person – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and seeks to bring about ease, harmony, clarity, and flow among all the parts. The body is seen as the continuation and expression of spirit in condensed form. Therefore, the body is sacred and is treated with the utmost respect and love.
Ashaya is physically demanding because this is the way to build strength and endurance.
More times than not, students can do more than they think they can. In Ashaya you’re always encouraged to listen to your body and back off when needed so that you don’t overdo it. However, holding the bar high is a way to continually challenge the body to reach higher toward its full potential.
We also need to develop balance and flexibility. Remember in Ashaya, we “hug in” in order to stretch. We contract the muscles which protects the joints and supports a balanced and even stretch in the middle of the muscle, rather than at the ends in the tendons near the joints. Muscles are designed to stretch. Tendons not so much. They have a limited range of stretch and will tear.
MIND: True happiness in life doesn’t depend on the body alone. It requires balance and harmony of the whole person. Happiness is sourced in stillness. It’s what’s left over when YOU are out of the way, when the thinking mind vanishes. We need to learn how to manage our thoughts and release what no longer serves us.
In Ashaya, we learn how to manage our mind and emotions. We learn that we have a choice about what to focus on. Through regular practice of mantra meditation and being present in the body during asana practice, we train the mind to come back to the present moment again and again and open to what is without resistance.
EMOTIONS: Ashaya teaches us how to shift from victim consciousness to victory consciousness. We learn through emotional agility how to become the masters of our emotions, by moving in and out of them, rather than being the victims of them and being stuck in them. We learn how to surf the waves of our feelings with deep awareness, self-acceptance, and compassion. We release the shields we put up in front of our hearts for protection against hurt that ultimately separate us from self and others. We soften and become vulnerable, which is sourced in courage, to be our authentic self. We learn how to let go of the veils and tap into the higher power of grace that always has our back.
We come to know deep in our bones, that everything in life is for our awakening.
SPIRIT/HEART: The heart is where the home is. It’s the place in the middle. It’s the safe and sacred place, the abode, where deep healing and wisdom flow. Deep in the heart is where we open to a bigger energy and realize that we are connected to all beings and that our true nature is joy. It’s in the space that we recognize that life really does have our back.
2. DETAILED ALIGNMENT THAT IS MEDICALLY/METAPHYSICALLY SOUND AND THERAPEUTIC –
The Ashaya method is unique in that it connects the alignment details to the Five Elements (earth, water, fire, air, and sky) that are forged in the stars. We literally come from stardust. We are all star-babies! But as soon as we’re born, we develop cosmic amnesia. We forget who we are and where we come from. The Five Elements correspond to The Four Essentials™ of alignment – OPEN, ENGAGE, ALIGN, AND EXPAND.
The Four Essentials™, the blueprint of alignment behind every pose, work with the anatomical principles of the body that have been scientifically and medically proven to promote the prevention and healing of injuries. Ashaya is therapeutic and can be practiced by anyone, regardless of physical ability, with the right modifications and sensitivity. In addition, Ashaya is one of the best methods to increase longevity and for growing old gracefully.
3. UPLIFTING, LIFE-AFFIRMING, AND EMPOWERING TANTRIC PHILOSOPHY –
Most yoga methods do not promote a spiritual philosophy. Or if they do, it’s often antiquated and dualistic, where the worldview consists of two things – spirit and matter, and spirit is superior. In this view the body is seen as inferior, dull, and in the way of spiritual evolution.
The philosophy that underlies Ashaya is Nondual in that it sees everything in the material world as an expression of spirit embodied. Everything is interwoven with threads of bliss. We are the crystallization of the divine’s desire to know itself and as such we are the co-participators with grace. Our individual self, or the ego, is not an obstacle to evolution, but the gift of embodiment. Life is not seen as a problem. Therefore, there are no problems to solve. You might ask, “Then why are we here?” We are here for the sheer delight and play of it.
We’re here to awaken to the experience we’re having and learn how to savor it.
The bottom line of the Tantric philosophy behind Ashaya is that we are already divine, already free, even with our imperfections and flaws. In Ashaya, we learn how to bring perfect acceptance to our perfect imperfections and see that we live in a perfectly unfinished universe of becoming. We learn how to honor ourselves and our life as a sacred blessing.
No other method of yoga weaves these esoteric Tantric teachings into the body through physical actions the way Ashaya does. This practice not only heals the body but also opens the heart and illumines the mind.
4. SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY OF THE HEART WITH AN EMPHASIS ON DEDICATED, REGULAR PRACTICE –
SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY - Ashaya is committed to creating open-hearted communities of unconditional love and safety where everyone feels seen, heard, and loved. Practice within a supportive community creates the environment necessary for the transformation of the heart. We allow ourselves and each other to show up as we are, in our most vulnerable selves, and be held unconditionally by the community. Healing comes when we’re able to feel our feelings and let go knowing that even in our wounded self, or our less evolved self, we are still loved. This type of community is rare and establishes a potent healing environment of empowerment.
DEDICATED PRACTICE - In addition to being part of a loving and accepting community, Ashaya emphasizes dedicated and regular practice. Deep transformation takes time. It’s not a quick fix. To come back to the mat day after day, month after month, and year after year is how we craft a life of purity, vitality, fulfillment, meaningfulness, and deep spiritual growth.
I’ve been practicing consistently every day for over 43 years! To this day, I consciously choose to prioritize my practice as my commitment to love myself, to love my students, and to love life. Practice is what reminds me to be grateful for the beauty and miracle of this one precious life that we each have. My deepest desire is to share this depth of joy with you!
Todd and the Ashaya Yoga Team
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