Self-led practice is very important when practicing Ashtanga, but it can also be extremely intimidating. With Marie Belle’s warmth, kindness, and one-on-one guidance, she makes her students feel comfortable, while challenged to reach their full potential. Students rave that Marie Belle’s easy-going and encouraging attitude inspires them to try new poses they had not tried before, giving them confidence and an easy-going attitude towards their practice.
“I practice so that I reside in a calm, awake, and balanced state of being,” Marie Belle explains, “The self-led aspect of Ashtanga encourages me to manually put myself in meditation. Although yoga practice does not influence what happens to me, I am aware that when I do practice, I am in a harmonic and poised state which influences how consciously I respond to what life offers me.”
This healing element of yoga was particularly important for Marie Belle after she experienced the emotional toll of the Virginia Tech shootings. “When my practice stabilized, the emotional ups and downs that followed the shootings at Virginia Tech became gentler,” she explains, “I have realized that a heavy practice brings about a light spirit and our ability to heal is greater than anyone has permitted us to believe.” Through her practice and teaching, Marie Belle found healing peace.
The way Marie Belle teaches and practices Ashtanga is empowering. “This practice is ultimately about the sincere and committed maximization of our potential and self-actualization,” she says. Ashtanga is taught in a sequenced form, through the art of awareness, focused strength, acceptance and of being aware of the breath and body. The format of Marie Belle’s self-guided Ashtanga practice always remains the same; one always begins with sun salutations, concludes with lotus and rest, and various postures and movements gradually fill the space between these two ends. For each movement, there is a breath. Students learn the sequence by heart and eventually learn how to breathe into meditative movement. The purpose of connecting the breath with movement is to purify and internally cleanse the system, as Marie Belle explains. Students learn to place their attention on posture, breath, and gaze. These three dimensions of the practice, referred to as Tristhana, cover the three levels of purification: the body, nervous system, and mind. They are always practiced in conjunction with the other.
So what is next for this teacher, yogi, and Doctor in Psychology? Marie Belle will be travelling to Mysore, India (the source of Ashtanga) in December to delve more deeply into the roots of Ashtanga yoga for a month of intensive training with Sharath Jois, a worldwide-recognized expert on Ashtanga Yoga. If you are interested in joining Marie Belle’s open practice, join her on H street every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.