Ross Stambaugh ~ Yogis Helping Yogis

I am pleased to introduce you to Ross Stambaugh in this podcast titled Yogis Helping Yogis. 

Visit Ross on his Instagram site here @ashtanga.yoga.ross
Find him on his website ashtangahub.com

Ross is a 20+ year veteran of Ashtanga Yoga, and is an authorized teacher who learned directly under the teachings of Saraswati Jois in Mysore, India. When he is not traveling internationally for workshops, he welcomes the opportunity to help all levels of dedicated yoga practitioners. He makes annual trips to India to continue his studies and has assisted Saraswati on multiple occasions. Ross seeks to preserve the traditional Ashtanga method by maintaining a daily practice, and has extensive knowledge in the areas of pranayama, philosophy (yoga sutras), and certainly asana.

You can listen to the full episode for free here.

Watch the podcast episode on YouTube Here.

Todd McLaughlin

Today I bring to you a special guest, Ross Stambaugh. His website is http://www.ashtangahub.com. You gotta go check him out on Instagram. He does a great job on his IG page. It’s at @Ashtanga.Yoga.Ross. I also want to give a shout out to Waleah Norton at Red Earth Yoga Center in Oklahoma, check her out as well at http://www.redearthyogacenter.com. She introduced me to Ross and both of them had a chance to practice in India together and she got me so pumped to speak with him. And she said you gotta bring this guy on your podcast. He’s great! I had a really nice conversation with him. I hope that you enjoy this. So on that note. Let me go ahead and push play for you here. 

I’m so excited to have the opportunity to speak today with Ross Stambaugh. Ross, how are you doing?

Ross Stambaugh

Fantastic. Thanks for asking.

TM

I’m so happy that you’re here. I received rave reviews from our mutual friend Waleah who owns Red Earth Yoga Center in Oklahoma. She mentioned that you have visited her there. Is that true? You went and taught some yoga workshops there?

RS

Actually, I taught my first official Ashtanga Yoga workshop with there. I met her in Mysore, India. And it’s kind of a funny story. She posted a picture of her standing in front of her apartment, and I knew exactly where it was. So I knocked on her door. And she answers, “Who is it?” And I said, Hey, you know, my name is Ross. We’ve talked to each other on, you know, I think at the time was on Facebook. She kind of looks out and she didn’t want to open the door. So she’s like, how do you know who I am? And then I said, Well, I put things together and I figured I would just come by and say hello. Yes. So but eventually, over the course of the next two months, we became fast friends. And she invited me to her studio and we we did a lot of yoga.

TM

That’s awesome. I know she’s a really great person. So I appreciate the introduction. Thank you Waleah. 

Ross, I noticed that your website is ashtangahub.com. So anyone listening I’ll put the links in the description below. So it’s gonna be really easy to find Ross and also you’re on Instagram. Your handle is @Ashtanga.yoga.Ross, which will also be down below. And I love your Instagram posts. Since I’ve gotten a chance to follow you. You do a great job with your posts. It seems like you’re having fun doing it, which is an art form in and of itself. And then in the process of going to your website and learning about you. You are an ashtanga yoga practitioner and teacher and you’ve studied in Mysore with Saraswati Jois, is that correct?

RS

That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, um, about I think 2014 I took my first trip to Mysore and I’m a school teacher. So I had the summers off, and that’s when Saraswati Jois the daughter of Pattabhi Jois teachers out of her shala. I went there a couple of times for a couple of years. Several years actually, and just fell in love with the city. Fell in love with the temples. Fell in love with philosophy and of course, of course yoga.

TM

Righ! Mysore is an amazing city. What are some of the favorite things to do when there? Apart from the yoga?

RS

Yeah, I think, I think everyone, if they want to have a quintessential Indian experience, you have to get on a scooter. And you have to get lost in the city. And you have to try to navigate your way around the cows and the people in the temples and just get immersed in a culture that’s so very different from our Western eyes and ears and senses and everything.

TM

Nice. I agree. I did. No, actually, I did not rent a motorbike in India. I was a little timid of that. I’ve rented motorbikes in Thailand and in Indonesia. But when I was in India, I really just stuck with the rickshaw. And so that’s a bold move to get on a motorbike there. I applaud that courage.

RS

Oh, thanks. Yeah. 

TM

Have you ever had any close encounters there?

Waleah and I had a few. Yeah, she jumped on the bike. And, of course, she was holding her camera up, and I was waving and a bus I came like within a whisker of each other. Oh, yeah I did. My last trip. I was with my mom. And it was the last day and I was running her around Mysore. And I slipped on some gravel, and I  busted up my elbow. Long story short, I’m in the emergency room in there, and in front of us. I don’t know what happened. Or there’s a group of people there waiting. And like India, you know, money talks sometimes. And and I’m like, wow, I have a I have a flight to catch in like three hours. They won’t let me on the airplane. Because I needed to get some stitches. And so in my pocket, I had all my rupees left. So I had, I don’t know, maybe $20 and rupees. And I take it on my pocket. And I kind of wave it to the, to the nurse up there. And with that they they waved me in and I got the stitches. And I think I think it was maybe $40 or $60 US dollars in the end. Right and then out the door and I got on my flight.

TM

Yeah, amazing. That journey from Bangalore to Mysore is incredible. What city were you flying out of?

RS

I was flying out of Bangalore. So it’s a four hour drive from Mysore to Bangalore. So we have to jump in a taxi and then get that taxi to the airport.

TM

That’s an amazing trip, isn’t it? I remember the first time my wife and I went to Mysore in 2004. And when we got to Bangalore and walked out the doors and there was it seemed like at least 100 people all wanting to help us out. And that was our first like overwhelming, like, oh my gosh, what are we doing unique experience. That is amazing.

RS

You’re right. That’s what makes it so fun to go there. 

TM

I’m really curious, how did how did it evolve that you were able to invite your mom and your mom being willing to say yes to go to India?  How did that happen?

RS

Well, I would spend time there. So like I said I was school teaching and I had a few months off. And my mom just recently retired. And she’s always been, you know, a very quiet mom. But she’s always had a little adventure side to her. And she said, “Well, you know, can I come and see what you do you?” You talked about yoga, you practice yoga, you’re always talking, you know, you’re always doing yoga. Can I come and see what you do? And I said, Yeah, sure. So she jumped on an airplane and she hung out with me for almost three weeks. It was a great experience. 

TM

That’s so cool. What a great opportunity. Yeah, that’s amazing. When was last time you were in India, have you been there since 2019 or 2020?

RS

No, my last trip was 2018 at the end of the summer. And then of course COVID started to build. So I’ve missed out the last two seasons. Yeah, three seasons almost. And so but I’m hoping to return this coming July.

TM

Cool. Yeah. Nice. And I noticed that you said you’re a school teacher but you you teach art to the school kids.

RS

Yeah. I’m a middle school art teacher. I’ve been doing that for 22 years. Because this is 23rd.

TM

Wow, that’s really cool. Have you been an artist your whole life? Is that something that you were involved in when you were in middle school age and then progressed to wanting to go to school for it and now teach?

RS

Yeah, it was sort of the only thing I could get out of school with, I would, you know, I would take all the classes and in Junior High and in high school, and of course, college, I was a fine arts major for two years. I focused on like, traditional painting. I didn’t really have the aptitude for it, you know, I was okay. But I wasn’t. I was in a group of people that were better than okay. You know, they were they were really driven. And I noticed right away, I simply didn’t have that level of talent. But both my parents were teachers, and my sister’s a teacher, and all my cousins are teachers. So it just felt like, a thing to do. I enjoyed traveling, and I recognize that a teacher’s schedule would allow me to do that. So yeah, I’ve been a teacher. And I’ve been really enjoying it.

TM

That’s cool. You know, on that note, I have a daughter who’s in fourth grade. And as I was studying up and getting ready for this opportunity to speak with you, I heard her in the background. She had a substitute teacher, and she said, “All he did was look at his phone all day, he didn’t teach us anything.” And I gotta crack up. When I was in school, we didn’t have cell phones back in the old days, and, and I just thought, I just kind of cracked me up to think about a substitute, just like staring at his or her phone for the whole session. “All right, kids, just do what you want.” I’m guessing, though, that you take a really proactive role in the education process, can you share a story or two about what it’s like being a teacher and working with middle school aged kids?

RS

Ah, well, you have to be proactive, or else they’ll just eat you alive. They you know, I have such a spectrum of abilities and such a spectrum of maturity. And you have to be able to figure out how to engage each and every one. And, you know, sometimes there’s success, and often times, there’s trial and error, and we certainly fall in to the error of things. So I think that’s a great kind of segue into yoga, you know, recognizing when the external circumstances are not in your control, and you have to rely on a little bit of faith, and rely on a little bit of skill and a little bit of, of the unknown to get through the day. And hopefully, you have something left to give to children. To give to people that are not oftentimes willing to accept the struggle of learning. 

TM

Right? 

RS

Whenever we grow, especially in yoga, whenever we grow, we have to be okay with the struggle, which is certainly hard. Hard to do. Yes.

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We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends

Day 10 – No Shave Yoga Event – #yogabeardsunite – We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends  
The vibe in the shala was incredible today. The pranayama circle actually grew in size since last week. The sustained focus required to move through the routine definitely enhances awareness and is a great way to prepare for an asana practice. I think I also am still feeling the positive effects of practicing with David Miliotis here this last weekend. One way or another everybody decided to come to the studio today which made for an amazing, busy and sweaty practice session. I was so excited when Greg Nardi showed up for one more practice here before his journey to Mysore, India next week. When he finished his routine he asked me if I needed his help which totally made my day. What a treat to have him teach here unexpectedly! I think the students were stoked as well to get some great attention and adjustments from him. We were able to wrap it all up at the end with the group chanting and singing the Hanuman Chalisa. Sometimes during the summer things slow down and I will sing it on Tuesdays with just one or two other students in the room. Today brought me tremendous inspiration to have the support and enthusiasm from such a positive group.

  
Today is Day 10 of our No Shave Yoga Event. We are a third of the way through the month and we are also a third of the way toward achieving our fundraising goal as a team this month. Thank you to everyone who has donated thus far. With your help we are moving closer to achieving our goal to raise funds for those who are in need and help raise awareness of the positive benefits yoga can have within the community. Please help us achieve our goal by donating to our team page at https://www.no-shave.org/team/yogabeardsunite. When you post on social media please tag us to show your support and share your story to help us in our endeavor. Together we can make a difference! @adampolhemusyoga @brianmilleryoga @davidmiliotis @gregnardi @juankgalan @nativeyoga @willduprey

Mysore, Kirtan and Friends

Today is one of those days that I can’t help but share my excitement about. I set the alarm for 4am and made my way from home to the shala for an early morning practice. Upon returning to Florida several weeks ago from the 3rd series training with Tim out in Encinitas I have been feeling so inspired. Tim and the attendant trainees infused me with a sense of total of verve that that has motivated me to experiment with parts of 3rd I had not yet before. There is something about the series that is so completely physically challenging and yet altogether invigorating. Also, It is really fun to experiment when I am on my own or just a few friends practicing nearby knowing that there is no judgement based on performance capabilities.   
I was winding things down with the shoulder stand sequence and while balled up in Pindasana (a shoulder stand with the legs in lotus folded down against the chest and the arms wrapped around so that we mimic the fetus in the head down position) our good friend and student Carole came in for a surprise visit. She hit a couple of the wrong switches and the whole room lit up with fluorescent lighting and we had a good laugh at the grand entry. Carole started practicing with us 9 years ago here and we would both get to the shala very early in the morning and practice together regularly since then. She has moved up the D.C. area and I have missed her energy so much. It is really great to develop a friendship through repeated years of practicing silently next to someone. You really get to know the person and you develop a bond that goes beyond words. It felt like my morning started off with the right combination of positive vibes to help me find that zest that comes with stoked practice.

I suppose some momentum was created and to top it off Greg Nardi came to practice Mysore this morning with us which was just such a nice treat. Greg is getting ready to offer some workshops this Friday and Saturday here at Native Yoga Center. When we scheduled this event Greg had the idea of combining forces and offering a Kirtan. We both agreed and then realized that some practice would be a good idea before hand. 🙂 One thing that really inspires the Mysore room is the combined enthusiasm of the practitioners that show up. The teacher just gives a little assistance but really the practice and the sweat that comes from the practice is the real “bread and butter” so to speak. I thoroughly love the Ashtanga routines and all the elements of the “limbs” that make it up.
  
Greg and I had a chance to iron out which songs to sing and and get some practice in before this weekend. Enclosed is a short video from our practice session today. If you are in the South Florida area we hope you can make it. Greg enjoys teaching a well rounded approach to Ashtanga Yoga and his insights will encourage you.

Friday, September 25th he is offering a workshops titled:
Forward bends, Hips, and Knees 5:30pm – 7:30pm Paschimattanasana, or west stretching pose, describes forward bending as a means of opening the subtle channels on the posterior surface of the body.  In this workshop, we will look at the three symmetrical forward bends, or paschimattanasana poses in the beginning of primary series to help us understand the fundamentals of hip and spinal flexion.  We will then build on this foundation to look at asymmetrical forward bends and what they teach us about proper use of the hips and knees so that we can safely move towards advanced forward bending asanas.

Kirtan and Mantra with Greg Nardi and Todd McLaughlin 7:30pm – 8:30pm

On Saturday, September 26th he will offer two workshops:

Backbends 12:00pm – 2:30pm Explore the fine art of backbending.  We will work through a progressively challenging series of backbends that will educate you about the finer points of spinal extension.  Learn how to distribute energy through the entire body during your backbends to avoid overloading the lower back. If you are challenged by the process of deepening your backbends, or are just beginning to explore advanced backbending, this workshop is not to be missed.

Yoga Beyond Asana 4:00pm – 6:30pm This workshop will explore concepts from the Upanishads that shape the eastern worldview.  This paradigm is the contextual framework out of which yoga is born.  As a modern yoga practitioner, you will be able to fit contemporary yoga practice into an ancient wisdom tradition.  We will explore yogic theories and concepts such as conditioned living, the causes of suffering, the means of liberation, and the purpose of life.  Come with an open mind, and you will leave inspired.

All details and registration are available at www.nativeyogacenter.com

Mystery versus Mastery

Mystery versus Mastery  
A couple of really great questions were asked during the training today. One of them was, “Is it possible to master a yoga pose?” The question arises because we are striving to achieve a certain form with our bodies that is often measured against someone else’s ability. There are certain criteria points that are looked for to ascertain if one is able to progress to the next stage or posture in the Ashtanga sequences. 

  
Take for example the pose Eka Pada Bakasana. This is one of the most challenging of the arm balance poses in the 3rd series to enter into “correctly.” You balance on your hands while resting one knee in the same side armpit and simultaneously lift the opposite leg high above behind creating a counterbalance effect that requires significant strength but more importantly alert proprioceptive awareness. What makes it really challenging is the entry into the pose is from a tripod headstand. So one element of the question regarding this pose is how high does that back leg knee to go in order to be considered a “complete pose?” The evolution of the question turned to “Is it possible to create a perfect pose?” 

  
Tim’s response was, “Perfectionism is a curse.” He also said, “Mastery is a pretty highfalutin thing!” Plenty of giggles were heard after that comment. He continued by stating, “I think it is more about mystery, not mastery.” This was the perfect statement for me to hear today. I really love this. The definition of mystery is something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. As opposed to mastery which is control or superiority over someone or something. Naturally mastery might seem more appealing because it implies that we are in control and the nature of the mind is to desire permanence in all of our endeavors. Whereas mystery leaves the door open for interpretation which encourages self inquiry to determine ones own experience of what perfect is. This potentially could be a crux in the development of our own yoga practice. I believe that it is positive to have an ideal to strive for initially to encourage us to move beyond our own habit patterns. In the end though it is necessary for us to really probe mystery and or even to surrender to it.

  
Another question that I enjoyed was, “Is there a connection between physical posture alignment and ‘getting our head straight?’” Tim’s response to this was, “I hope so!” There was laughter all around to that one. He also said, “Typically the personality of the person comes through in the way that they practice.” This might seem obvious but I still found it quite profound. This is where having a teacher can be so beneficial because if the teacher can see this and offer “adjustments” to help transform the practitioners imbalance, one can truly “realign” both physically and mentally. 

  
Tim had mentioned a book by Chogyam Trungpa called “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.” In it he mentioned how the author describes that there is this phenomenon when we begin to achieve spiritual wisdom that we feel quite enlightened and liberated. Yet because our old habits run deep we then start to build our own samskaras, or “habit patterns,” into our practice and then often become deceived that we have truly evolved. What once seemed like freedom actually becomes a cage. So what is the answer then? Tim’s reply was, “Don’t be a perfectionist!” This is definitely something to think about.