The first time I practiced with Iain Grysak was on February 2017. I attended the immersion Ashtanga Pranayama Course.
I was reading his articles since 2015. The first article I read was Reflections on Mysore 6 Weeks. I become instantly hooked to his writing.
2016 is the year I really jumped into the Ashtanga Yoga Method. I practiced with Ramesh from BNS Iyengar, John Scott, Sarawasthi and Sharat on the same year. It was easy for me as I was living in Srirangnapatna at that time.
On June 2016 I met Marie and David, students of Iain. They both told me: “In Ubud there is one Ashtangi, his name is Iain and you should go and practice with him”.
On November 2016 while waiting on the bench facing the main shala entry for Sharat Conference I saw Iain outside of the crowed patiently waiting while others people where ready to kill to be first entering into the main shala.
Exactly the day before I was on his website wondering should I register for his immersion course. And then he was there right in front of me. I took it as a sign.
So here it is, “my” interview with Iain Grysak.
Enjoy the reading!
The discipline of the Ashtanga Yoga practice really helps me to manage OCD issues. Why does this particular practice “heal” the body and the human being?
The Ashtanga practice is a powerful tool. Like any powerful tool, it can be used for good or for harm. It truly depends on how we use it. It would be wrong to expect that simply by performing these sequences of asana and breathing, that we will automatically obtain healthy or healing results.
The asana and breathing sequences must also be practiced with the right intention and awareness.
I feel that if we are using the practice as a vehicle for bringing about improved relationship and clearer communication between the conscious mind and the feeling body, then we are going to obtain good results in the long term.
Much of our lack of wellness in the modern world – both on the individual level and the planetary level – has its origins in the disconnection between the moment to moment awareness of the conscious mind and the experiential reality of the feeling body.
We have become lost in the world of disembodied human abstraction and our actions and decisions increasingly ignore the felt reality of our biological human organism as well as that of the planetary organism.
If we practice with the intention of allowing ourselves to engage with the experience of the feeling body, we soon encounter many of our habitual patterns of reaction within the feeling body. Everything we are is actually contained within this quality of embodied feeling.
If we can simply give space for these aspects of who and what we are to express themselves in the practice – without diving in and deepening them, nor running away from and avoiding them – then we open up the possibility of authentic and sustainable personal transformation.
This is not an easy process, but those who practice this as a long term process will almost certainly experience positive self-transformation and healing.
Unfortunately, it can also happen that we use the practice as a destructive tool. This happens when we use the practice as a way to deepen or strengthen our habitual patterns of reaction.
When the practice brings up these aspects of ourselves, we can fall into the habitual grooves of reaction while we are practicing. One who practices in this way as a long term process can become a dangerous person, and the many public cases of teachers who have abused their students are examples of this.
While practicing sometimes we are “winning” one posture and after a couple of months of regular practice we are “loosing” it. Have you ever experienced it?
This is a natural aspect of the long term dynamics of the restructuring process of the practice.
Our beings are held in a stable, but malleable state of balance. This applies to all levels of our being – physical, emotional, energetic, psychological, etc. The postures and sequences of the practice are daily inputs which shift and change the tensions patterns which hold us in this stable state. As we continue to practice long term, the effect of the inputs of the practice on the tension patters of our being percolate deeper and deeper and the very structure of our being changes.
If we make a “breakthrough” and attain a bind, or some form of completion in a difficult posture, this represents the culmination of a shifting in the internal tension patters.
For some time we might continue to be able to perform this action in our practice, but eventually the system shifts again, possibly due to accommodating another form of movement we are working on, or perhaps just due to a phase in the process of deeper integration.
Then, we can lose the ability to perform that action. This is usually a temporary phase. It can last anywhere from a day to a year or more. In nearly all cases, the ability to perform this action will eventually come back with regular long term practice.
It is important to understand that there is no permanence inside. Practice should give us an experiential understanding of this phenomena of constant internal change and flux. We can then cultivate less attachment to certain internal states which we might judge as being favourable.
Every moment there are so many influences which our being is responding to and shifting to accommodate. We are stable, yet we are also fluid and constantly changing.
Learning to accept this dynamic of eternal flux and shift with grace and stability is one of the deeper lessons we should glean from long term practice.
I have written more about this in the following article: http://spaciousyoga.com/a-systems-thinking-perspective-on-the-resolution-of-pain-in-ashtanga-yoga-practice/
Is it the normal assimilation process of the Method?
Yes, as explained in my explanation above.
How much time it will take to get mastery over the Drishti?
Drishti is an aspect of focus and concentration. It also has important physiological effects, but the ability to maintain the gaze in one place represents the ability to stay focussed.
I like to say that the main dristhi is the breath.
When I am practicing, I don’t place much important on external gazing points. I tend to “watch” my breath as continuously as possible.
This means being with the phenomenological experience of the breath moving inside. This also connects back to my answer to your first question where I said the main goal of practice should be to improve the relationship between the conscious mind and the feeling body.
When we are able to stay focused and absorbed in the phenomenological experience of the feeling body (and breath) as we move through the practice, then drishti is automatically engaged. In its true essence, drishti is an internal gazing practice.
As for “mastery”, concentration will wax and wane like everything else.
Our goal should be to remain as absorbed as possible in the phenomenological experience of body and breath, but we should also expect that this will never be perfect.
Concentration is as impermanent a phenomena as everything else that we experience. Nonetheless, over time and with regularity of practice, we should see a gradual improvement in the ability to attend to what we are experiencing inside at the feeling based level.
Is real Uddiyana and Jalandhara Bandha happening in Asanas (means without any Kumbhakas)
Bandha is simply a state of balanced alignment around the major joints and lock of the body.
If proper alignment and breathing are in place, then bandha will be there. Bandha represents the most balanced state that our being can exist in at any given moment. If we are practicing well, all of the bandhas will be engaged to some degree.
The specific intentional locks that occur in khumbaka pranayama are slightly different, and should not be engaged in the asana practice.
Do you think that it is easy to follow the “parampara” when in Mysore there are more than 200 students to practice for one teacher?
Sharath’s instructions to each individual in Mysore are very clear.
He has the ability to understand each student’s strengths and weaknesses within a very short period of time and he then works with each individual accordingly.
If one trusts Sharath and applies his instructions, one can make a lot of progress in the practice under Sharath’s guidance.
My practice deepens immensely when I practice with him in Mysore.
I think problems for others arise when they bring their own expectations for what they hope to experience there, and because of that they fail to surrender to learning what it is that Sharath can teach them.
At what time is your morning practice and are you still practicing the Primary Series?
I practice from 2:30 – 4:30 am when I am teaching, which is most of the year. I always do primary series on Friday mornings or whatever the last day of the practice week is.
I also sometimes practice primary series on the day before travelling, and possibly for several days after travelling if it has been disruptive to my state of balance.
Other times that I practice primary include times where I am going through deeper restructuring and need to pull back to stabilize myself, or in the rare cases where I become very sick or fatigued.
For example, I climbed a 6500 m mountain in Nepal in December of last year. It was extremely difficult and even traumatic to my being, especially on summit day when I suffered from altitude sickness, but pushed on to reach the summit.
Due to various factors, I was not able to practice asana at all for the second half of the expedition. When I returned home to Bali, I became very sick with pneumonia, which also prevented me from practicing asana for about a week. When I finally was able to start practice again, I felt very weak, and so did primary series only for several weeks, until I felt strong enough to start other series again.
Is there any series in the Ashtanga Yoga Practice that have been harder, longer to learn for You?
All of the series are difficult, if we learn them properly!
The aspects of the practice that we most need to develop are often the most difficult things to learn. There have been many things that were difficult for me to learn.
There is no one who learns everything about this practice easily and quickly.
People who say they learned primary, or any other series quickly often have a very weak practice which is full of holes. Full integration of any series takes time. For everyone.
From time to time are you still practicing Iyengar Yoga?
No. In my opinion, the two systems are not compatible and should not be practiced together.
They give very different types of inputs to the being and the internal intelligence would be very confused by attempting to integrate both types of inputs. It is best to choose one system or the other and practice it diligently.
There are valuable things that I learned from practicing Iyengar yoga which are still with me and which inform the way that I practice Ashtanga, but as far as using the Iyengar method of practice, no, I don’t.
What is the advice you will give to someone who want to start Ashtanga Yoga? Is there any proper diet that suits better the practice?
I consider diet to be a practice in itself.
For me, all practices – yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, meditation, diet, etc – are just different methods to improve the relationship between the conscious mind and the feeling body.
I do intend to write a longer article about my experiences and views on diet. I personally follow a vegan diet based on nutrient dense, whole foods. My dietary choices have been a gradual exploration and evolution which continues to this day.
I think the most important thing I can say about diet is that it is important to base one’s choices in food consumption on the authentic needs of the feeling body.
We can only truly feel the needs of the feeling body when the conscious mind learns how to communicate with it.
For most of us in the modern world, this is a long term process.
Exposing oneself to different dietary philosophies and systems is a very good thing to do. It is helpful to understand the claims of each system and to try out those things that make some sense to us.
But, then the real test is to feel the response of the feeling body to trying out different ways of eating. The body understands what is and isn’t good for it.
As long as we give ultimate authority to the feeling body and NOT to an external dietary dogma, we will learn how to make better and better dietary choices. I generally recommend against making drastic dietary changes in a short period of time.
Even if one’s dietary habits are not the healthiest or most efficient ways of eating, they do become a source of stability once we have adapted to them. Too much change too quickly is like pulling the carpet out from underneath someone’s feet.
It usually results in shock and a painful experience. Diet is no exception to this rule. I definitely encourage experimentation with different dietary choices, but to implement them gradually and to pay attention to the response of the feeling body with each dietary shift. We can then to make further decisions based on the feedback of the feeling body to each small change.
Iain is teaching all year long in Bali, Ubud at the Seeds of Life. He also write beautiful articles. Visit his website for more information : Spacious Yoga