My colleague Diane Bruni opened the first What Are We Actually Doing in Asana?event on 5/29 with a personal story of injury, confusion, recovery, and innovation.
Diane taught the very first ashtanga class in Toronto over twenty years ago, and has been a fixture of the yoga scene here ever since. I first walked into her now-famous now-ex-studio in 2005. I saw her name outside, on a rain-soaked poster, next to a class called “Ashtanga Level 2”. I unrolled a borrowed mat in a packed and steamy room.
I was struck not only by her creative intensity, but by the way in which the entire two-and-a-half hours was an immersive ritual of pulsing breath. Nothing was static, no movement was overly-defined. Nobody seemed to know what was coming next, and yet it all seemed to make primal sense. I don’t think I ever heard her use the words “pose” or “posture.” Every instruction pointed towards values like “grace, fluidity, circularity and resilience,” as she recently told Priya Thomas.
Quivering in a pool of blissful/shocked sweat in the dressing room afterwards, I said to a guy covered in mantra tattoos, “So is this ashtanga yoga? I thought that there was a fixed way of doing things.” The guy snapped out his wet towel, folded it neatly, and smiled. “That’s Diane. She knows the ashtanga sequences like no one else. She’s studied with the masters. But now she’s doing her own thing. She knows that yoga means change.”
Nearly five years later, Diane’s creativity — and her love for the ashtanga method — would be severely challenged by a catastrophic injury. Sports medicine doctors eventually told her that ripping four muscles clear off her hip bone while doing a simple wide-angled forward fold had resulted from tissue distention patterns, overuse, and dysfunctional glutes. These were all direct results of the practice to which she had committed fifteen years of her life, and in which she’d become a renowned expert.