Ashtanga · Philosophy · Psychology · Restorative · Teacher Training · Yoga

Ashtanga and Restorative Yoga: Surrendering and Dealing with Control

– Notebooks out

– Raise your hand before you speak

– Please, don’t use that type of language

– Stay after class I need to talk to you about what you just did.

The past decade my identity has been strongly shaped by my career as a teacher. As a high school teacher, I had not quite reflected on the strong control I have over my students, which has carried over in my daily relationships with friends and family.

The past two weeks of yoga teacher training at One Down Dog have involved immense introspection and learning. The first thing you learn in training is the rich philosophy of yoga, while developing daily habits and looking deeply into the behavior patterns already present in your life. Of course, it’s impossible to learn thousands of years of tradition in two weeks, but it is has been a deeper inspection of the practice and not necessarily the fancy poses I am also guilty of posting on Instagram weekly.


As a result of this training, I began a 5 a.m. meditation and breathing practice every day, which has been extremely challenging and not because of the wake up time. Sitting silently or chanting a mantra repeatedly has been an avenue of emotions and feelings surfacing. One main thing that has been revealed is my difficulty of surrendering to what is (the present), and the control that I have over my mind and my relationships, which prevents me from doing the act itself and with great unease, to let go.

Ellina packs her invisible mat
Ellina packs her invisible mat
Ellina splits  Photos by: Chris Stevens                            Follow him on IG
Photos by: Chris Stevens                                  Follow him on Instagram

Brianna Welke and Ellina Kim are two of my teachers who have brought me to this realization during this process. These two individuals have divergent yoga practices, but having both of their insights and practicing with them, I have worked on bringing in a better balance in my practice and life. Each have indirectly demonstrated to me how difficult it has been for me to surrender a huge part of myself that makes me, me-to someone else!

Brianna Back Bends
Photos By: Sarit Z. Rogers
Bird of Paradise Beauty
Bird of Paradise Beauty

Recently, I came across a quote that said:

Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.

Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.

Why is it so difficult to let go of what we are familiar with? Why don’t we put enough trust in what our future holds, without the unnecessary worries and thoughts about it? Why is it that we have such a meager view of what is to come, when it is equally possible to have a positive view of what will? The main theme that comes up for me is our struggle to just let go and surrender.

So as part of changing and creating habits, I took a huge leap and began practicing Ashtanga yoga.  After a twelve-year vinyasa practice, getting into a new style of yoga has made me surrender a lot of what I knew and was “good at”. I have come to a point in my practice where I am able to move through some of the movements and balancing postures with great ease. This in itself demonstrates my established control over my body and the balance I maintain. I am finally toppling again and unable to get into full posture. This makes me frustrated

The practice of Ashtanga has placed me in the role of a beginner who is heavily reliant on the teacher. Ashtanga is a “method of yoga [which] involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.”

Ellina’s class at the studio, which meets Monday and Wednesday at 6pm, as a self led Ashtanga class and Friday at 6pm as a led class, is precisely what I needed (see detailed descriptions below).Ellina's LED Ellina's SelfLedThere comes a point where during the self led practice I am left helpless and cannot continue without Ellina’s guidance. So, I have to step in front of my mat and wait until she approaches me and reminds me of my next sequence. At any point in Ashtanga if the teacher realizes that you are done for the day, then you are done for the day. Equally so, if she decides that you need to repeat a particular sequence a few more times, then you repeat. This is where I found the importance of including a restorative practice with Brianna, where relaxation and letting go happens in a more nurturing and blissful manner.

Breanna Restorative

By shutting the mind and going through a few sequences carefully guided by the instructor, the mind and body are safely taken in and out of that hour, leaving one refreshed, relaxed and able to bring more clarity into my next day and the week to come.

Ultimately, these uncomfortable realizations are somewhat difficult, but enlightening. There came a moment last week on my mat with Ellina that I was overcome with extreme happiness, followed by a closing sequence which brought me to tears. It was that moment of realization where I let go, surrendered and was no longer in control. For once, someone else besides me was the teacher and I was the student. It had been forever where I had felt this zeal to learn. I never thought I would say this, but it was so great to surrender control of my breath, my mind, and my practice.

2 thoughts on “Ashtanga and Restorative Yoga: Surrendering and Dealing with Control

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