Zen Ashtanga Yoga – Ain’t no shtick!
What’s this guy hawking?
It’d be very easy to see a post on Instagram about some crazy ass English guy banging on about the power of combing Ashtanga Yoga and Zen Meditation and be like totally cynical about it. But wait up y’all – I kid you not but this system is rocket fuel – I know coz I am that crazy assed English dude and I’ve been practicing this method for nearly 10 years.
The Matt Ryan reinvention part 1
Let’s go back a few years – ok let’s go back 20 years to my first ever trip to Mysore South India to study Ashtanga Yoga at its source. It’d taken a pretty serious anxiety disorder called depersonalisation (hell on earth I kid you not) to get me on the yoga path – I’d been a DJ playing house music (all night long) and chemically enhancing living life like a bat! Good Times turned into that hell on Earth mentioned above and a friend suggested Ashtanga Yoga to dig me out the deep hole I was in. Within a few months of starting Ashtanga I’d hung up the headphones and jetted off to Mysore to totally immerse myself and to try cleanse my chemical body.
I stayed for 2 months and although not completely cured – I’d felt enough of a change to instinctively know this was going to be a big part of my life. This disciplined yoga method built upon a regular daily practice gave me a firm foundation of a very strong flexible body- and a chink of light in the darkness my mind had been stuck in.
The Matt Ryan reinvention part 2
Personally for me, I found the Ashtanga path to missing something , some component that I could never put my finger on. I’d read the scriptures associated with the practice including the Yoga Sutras and to be pretty frank they never really did anything for me – I pretended to my Ashtanga mates* that I thought the Sutras were well dope man ,but the the reality was I just found them too dense and having no relevance to the physical practice they were allegedly part of.
It was around 10 years ago when I purchased something from Amazon when their very annoying ‘bought this book , well you might like this one’ section popped up with various related titles including (what has become arguably one of the most important books of my life) Hardcore Zen by Brad Warner. So I bought it – I liked the title and the front cover even more.Never judge a book by it’s cover as the saying goes – well if I paid any credence to that saying I’d still be jumping around the mat feeling slightly empty. This book did make sense to me – it had a relevance that any of the Yoga stuff never did. It was part biographical and part Zen instruction manual. The Zen method is basically built upon a daily practice of zazen (which means seated meditation) I jumped in , well I sat down! In Zazen you sit and look at the wall for maybe 30 minutes a day and well that’s pretty much it – no counting breaths no reciting mantras , plenty of the mind complaining telling me to get up. And there’s the rub , you get a sense of the insanity of the what the mind does to you like 99% of the time without you noticing . Blah blah blah complain complain complain – it’s like the most boring movie ever made stuck on repeat all going on inside your head. So I know what you’re thinking – why the hell would anyone want to do that ever never mind every day – well try it for a month and get back to me – better still drop me a line and I’ll teach you.
I started off keeping the Ashtanga and Zazen practices separate but then one day circumstance dictated I needed to practice them together – well one after another otherwise I wouldn’t have had time that day to do both. On the first time I did this , I practiced Ashtanga first , then Zazen straight after, but I found because of the energy the Ashtanga practice uses I just needed to lie down not stare at walls – so I switched them around and boom! Zen Ashtanga Yoga (ZAY) was created right there and then in my front room. Practicing both together makes me feel alive physically and mentally – I don’t shout at the kids ( well not as much) I don’t swear at my football (soccer) team when I watch them on the television – and more importantly I feel like I’m a much better person to be around – even my wife likes me after my ZAY practice.
So ZAY ain’t no shtick man – it’s the real deal – call me and I’ll teach you.
- Note to my Ashtanga mates – I’m sorry I lied about being down with the Sutras , I guess I need to practice a little more Satya ; )