If you’re the kind of yogi who loves to be challenged physically and emotionally and craves to grow on a spiritual level, Ashtanga yoga might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
I’ve definitely had a love hate relationship with the practice, and I’m kind of feeling ready to go back for more…
When I first moved to Sydney, Australia (14 years ago) I was frustrated at how much trouble I had finding any Vinyasa yoga classes.
And then I discovered Ashtanga. I immediately started with the Mysore-style classes and fell in love.
Side Note: In case you’re not in the know, Mysore classes run a little differently than a “normal” yoga class. Basically, you’re all practicing at the same time but you’re each doing your own practice (depending on what level you’re at) at your own pace. The teachers walk around and support you in your practice as opposed to “leading” the class.
Anyway, somewhere between being put in a standing backbend where I literally walked my hands up to my hamstrings and crashing out of a bound posture resulting in 6 stitches on my chin, I fell out of love with Ashtanga yoga.
That said, these days as I watch some of the more “high profile” Ashtangis and their amazing commitment to their practices, I’m starting to feel almost inspired to try it again. And, after reading a recent article from Hanna Bier via Elephant Journal about why people hate Ashtanga yoga, I’m thinking I just might be masochistic enough to actually do it ;-).
In her article Bier shares:
Well, the thing with Ashtanga yoga is that it is not only physically demanding, but it also screws with your mind. There is a set sequence every Ashtangi has to follow, which results in years and years of the same sequence of postures every day. Let me tell you, it is both maddening as well as completely infuriating to be doing the exact same thing over and over and over again without seemingly advancing one little bit.
This, however is the exact purpose behind the repetitiveness of Ashtanga yoga. You are supposed to lose yourself in wherever you are in the sequence. Practice non-attachment to the outcome and quality of your practice.
Since this is a place of complete honesty, I have to confess that sometimes my inner Viking gets the best of me and I could punch my teachers in the face when they tell me that it’s all about steadiness and ease while there’s gallons of sweat pouring across my face, and my deepest and darkest emotions are being released in the never ending sequence of hip openers.
While in other styles of yoga I could just violently yank my body into the next pose and go on with my practice, Ashtanga yoga forces me to marinate in my current challenge until I find sweetness and mental clarity.