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Over twenty years ago I walked into my first Ashtanga yoga class, a fairly stressed-out, exhausted, toxic, and depressed individual. An hour and a half later, I walked out, feeling relaxed, energized, happy, and cleansed from the inside out. Ever since that first class I've been fascinated by this transformative power of the practice, what I call the alchemy of Ashtanga yoga.
The word alchemy evokes an image of a medieval conjurer murmuring incantations over a boiling cauldron, attempting to turn lead into gold. In a broader sense, alchemy refers to the process of transmuting one thing into another through the kindling of a vital transformative energy, known as Mercurius in the alchemical tradition. Turning lead into gold is a metaphor for the liberation of spirit from matter, which is the primary goal of both alchemy and yoga.
Nataraja, the King of Dancers, beautifully symbolizes the alchemy of Ashtanga yoga. Natarajas dance activates dormant vital energy (kundalini shakti) and becomes an act of both creation, symbolized by the upper right hand holding a drum, and...

posted: 6 years 11 months ago
posted: 6/11/12
Encinitas holds the distinction of being the American birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga. David Williams began teaching here in the early seventies and sponsored Pattabhi Jois and his son Manju to come here for the first time in 1975. Brad Ramsey and Gary Lopedota, two of David's students, opened their own yoga shala, called the Ashtanga Yoga Nilayam, after David moved to Maui. This is when I first entered the picture, in January of 1978. The Ashtanga Yoga Nilayam was right down the street from my house on La Veta Avenue in what was once St. Andrews Episcopal Church. There was no electricity,...

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