I was new to the yoga world when I first stepped foot into an Ashtanga Class. It was a Led primary class. (Led class means, that the teacher calls out the postures and vinyasas in counted movements, that link the postures with the breath.) The group moves and breaths in sync.
I must confess that I didn’t really have feelings either way about this style of yoga. I remember thinking that it was a physically demanding class, that had a ZILLION Chaturanga Dandasana's in it! (What crazy person puts themselves through this?!) The teacher was friendly and made me feel welcome, as did all the students in the room.
It wasn't until I went to an Ashtanga Mysore class that I experienced a true epiphany on what Yoga truly is (or had the potential to be, if I was able to become disciplined like all the practitioners around me.) I was in awe of everybody's beautiful poses, harmonious breathwork and most of all their strict dedication to the practice!
I instantly felt as if I was given a magic love potion and I understood right then and there that this wasn’t just merely a style of Yoga. This was a brilliantly, methodically thought out system that not only could change my body but also my spirit.
Ashtanga Vinyasa was created by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Krishnamacharya. Ashtanga literally translates to 8 limbs and is a set series of postures. There is a total of 6 series throughout the entire system. In the traditional practice of Ashtanga, called Mysore (named after the city in India that it originated from), each student practices the set sequence one-on-one within a group setting. The student works at their own pace with the assistance of their teacher in the room.
I have a ton of reasons why I love this practice, here’s my top 5:
1.) IT'S QUIET: This reason really shocked me at first because I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE music!!! All kinds and preferably loud! After walking into the Mysore room, I was instantly drawn to the quiet. I could not only be comfortable in the silence, but I had an appreciation for it. Hearing everybody’s breathwork and paying attention to my own became a beautiful rhythmic sound that not only enhanced my practice but it also allowed me to experience more of a meditative, tranquil state. A state that I could never get in with a Justin Bieber song blasting in the background. (No offence to the Biebs :D)
2.) IT'S REPETITIVE: Ok, I’m well aware that I probably lost some of you on this one! I get it repeating the same sequence day in and day out can get mundane! BUT no two days on your mat are ever the same. Your body and mind differ from day to day, so it does end up being a different experience! Somedays I rock Padangusthasana and others I'm falling out of it a hundred times! I love the structure of the practice. I believe (as many do) that there is an immense physical and spiritual benefit in repetition. By knowing my asanas (poses) ahead of time, I can completely immerse myself into my breathwork and drishti (gaze), I can focus on my alignment, and since poses are held for 5 breaths, I can fully experience the posture and give it the full value that it deserves. Plus, there’s something to be said for muscle memory - by repeating the sequence I get to see/feel the progression that takes place!!!
3.) IT'S A PERFECT SEQUENCE: Pattabhi Jois and Krishnamacharya spent years wanting to develop the perfect yoga sequence and they accomplished it!! By synchronizing breath to movement your body produces an internal heat designed to purify the body. There was a great amount of thought that went in to each pose and its placement. Every pose builds on then next. As you deepen your practice and get stronger, you are met with more challenging poses. This is a lifelong practice, one that will always present challenges and give you room for improvement. While it builds not only strength and self-esteem it also very quickly teaches you the art of humility.
4.) COMMUNITY: When you have the opportunity to practice daily alongside the same group of practitioners you quickly form a bond that you don't typically experience in a drop-in class. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We cheer each other on and support each other. It's a fun safe environment. You also tend to form a strong bond with your teacher. They know your practice inside an out and always have your best interest at heart. I truly feel blessed to be able to call all of my fellow Ashtangis, my friends!
5.) IT'S FOR EVERYONE: Yes, Really!!! There seems to be a common misconception out there that Ashtanga is for gifted yogis and not for the "common man." (How do you think these gifted yogis got their start?) This is my personal practice and I can guarantee you, that I'm nowhere near being a gifted yogi! (Those magnificent creatures that your thinking of, are an Urban Legend) and if they do exist it's because they showed up every day on their mat for years! I love when they're in the room. Instead of being intimidated by them, I'm inspired by them. They show me what I have the potential to be like If I have a disciplined practice. By practicing Mysore, you will receive the benefit from getting one-on-one guidance from the teacher. They are there to help you grow in your practice with a gradual step-by-step approach, respecting each and every student’s own pace. You don't have to be at any level to show up and practice. They will meet you where you already are, and you will instantly be accepted and know that where you currently are, is good enough!
At Ignite Yoga, we believe that yoga is for everyone–For people of all ages and all walks of life.