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One of the characteristics I love about ashtanga…

…which is very similar to what I’ve loved about sharing my yoga practice online—is the ability to be understood by people no matter where in the world you go. No matter what language you speak; what you do to make a living; how old you are; where you come from.

My boyfriend and I were staying in Lisbon for the month, but I didn’t speak any Portuguese. I looked up the nearest ashtanga teacher to the Príncipe Real neighborhood where our apartment was and messaged her through Instagram to ask if I could still come to a Mysore class. “Of course, I was welcome,” she responded, “here was the location and the time.”

I may not have spoken the language, but I understood everyone who came into that room, and they understood me. The teacher watched me and then knew how to help me. She could see where I was struggling, and where I needed to be nudged further.

“Don’t let the thighs separate from the arms as you lower down into supta kurmasana—that lets the energy escape and makes the pose harder.” She was right, and I no longer let the energy escape there. “Why aren’t you going into bakasana before jumping back?” I didn’t really have an answer, so from that point on I always did. Now, I hold bakasana with relative ease.

During one of these mysore classes, she kept repeating a word in Portuguese that I didn’t know. After class, there was fortunately another student who didn’t speak any Portuguese who asked what the word meant. The word was “padrões”–or “patterns.” Our teacher said she kept repeating it because it was the most important word. “Burn the patterns,” she said. That’s what we’re doing every time we come here. Burning our patterns. The ones we’ve learned and the ones we’ve inherited. The ones that we repeat and the ones that keep us stuck.

She could have just said to “let go of” or “release” old patterns so that we may make room for new ones. But for whatever reason, the way she phrased it appealed to me so much more. I don’t want to just let go of the patterns that aren’t doing me any good. I want to burn them.

If any of you find yourselves in Lisbon wanting to practice ashtanga, the teacher’s name is Isa Guitana, and, as of the time of this writing, she teaches in Lisbon and Cascais.

Marla Tortorice