I recently had the pleasure of practicing with authorized Ashtanga teacher David Keil, and the most profound thing he said was , "It is not all or nothing". Whenever I mention my love affair with Ashtanga, the following statements start to roll from people's mouths:
I cannot practice Ashtanga because I cannot do:
- Jump Backs
- Jump Throuhs
I cannot practice Ashtanga because:
- I have short arms
- I have tight hips
- That is for flexible people
- I don't have the correct body type
- I don't know the sequence
- It is only for advanced practitioners
Because they have created a story around one issue, the baby gets thrown out with the bath water.
Even during his workshop, I overheard people saying, "I would practice Ashtanga if the teachers in Charlotte would break it down this way." These same people skipped all of the practices and only came for the afternoon skills workshops. Again... all or nothing.
The myth is that Ashtanga yoga is a rigid system but the reality is that it is highly customizable. While the sequences and the poses therein or set, there is room to customize each pose to fit an individual's body and needs. The myth originates in the proliferation of led or guided Ashtanga classes in the West. Traditional led classes were never meant for newbies. Mysore style, where a student is taught the sequence pose by pose, is the primary way of practice and is where newbies should start.
Ashtantaga is a Vinyasa system that links poses with breath in a way that is more precise then the average Vinyasa class. A led class is all about learning how to move on the breath using Ashtanga's traditional counting system. If the instructor constantly stops to break down poses and give instruction, the rhythm of vinyasa is lost. Unlike many vinyasa systems such as Baptiste Power Yoga where the poses are fairly simple and need very little explanation, Ashtanga is not. Even non-traditional teachers give very little instruction because it would just be too confusing to the students. Also, if a student needs that much instruction, it is possible that they should not be performing the full version of the pose anyway. So many students who are unaware of Mysore style practice, leave class feeling like, since they cannot do the poses, they shouldn't do Ashtanga. All or nothing.
What do you do if your yoga studio only has a Led class or if Led is what fits your schedule? Listen to the teachers cues and do not go any further into poses that you don't feel comfortable with. Talk to the teacher after class about ways to make the poses accessible to you. Even better, schedule a private with the instructor and go over specific poses so you know what to do during the Led practice.
PS: Customizable does not mean changing the poses, leaving the poses out or modifying to the point that they are unrecognizable. Please consult with an Ashtanga teacher that you trust to figure out what would work the best for you.
PSS: If after reading this article you are still falling back on the excuses mentioned above, you should check in with your ego.
Bonus: "I don't know the sequence." Of course you don't know the sequence. The teacher is there to teach it to you!!!!! Please, put that excuse to rest.
Video of th Day