Ashtanga? What is this class about? Am I supposed to do split before I can attend this class? Or do I need to be able to do those advance poses where my feet can reach the back of my head?
Of course not! The first time that I came across this word “Ashtanga , it was a class type available in a yoga studio where I started yoga. I thought this must be an advance class with such a traditional name, ASHTANGA.
Indeed, it is a traditional practice of yoga and it was said to be transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). Particular emphasis is the linking of the postures with the breath, maintaining mental focus, and using the core to build internal heat and give the body support and strength
If one practices Ashtanga, we know that the sequence starts with a few sets of Sun Salutations before moving on to all the various poses. The sun salutations are a form of warm ups to start the practice. Before I started practicing yoga, I hardly do any workouts or go for a run. The other beginner yoga classes that I always attend were of a slower pace and manageable. Curious to try something different, I finally attended my first Ashtanga class. My first reaction was just a big “WOW!” it was such a challenging practice! I wondered to myself why there are so many chaturangas?! Backed then, I was still struggling with Chaturanga Dandasana and was really overwhelmed by all the sun salutations. All I could do was just knee-chest chin down, a variation for Chaturanga and I have got no stamina. The warm-ups sequence is already draining me. Nevertheless, the one thing that keeps me moving is the amazing Ujjayi breathing. I remembered that the teacher has never stopped reminding us to breathe with every movement and focus on the breath. Naturally, the practice does not seem so tough after all when the breathing calms the body. Not all styles of yoga focus on breath, movement, and drishti (or gaze) the way Ashtanga yoga does. I then believe these three magic ingredients when combined, bring mental focus and a connection with the body through which the practice becomes centered.
It is because of the unique practice of breaths with movements that did not stop me from going. I became stronger too with consistent practices. One example asana would be Chaturanga, when I manage do the full pose only after less than 2 months into practice! I do not practice daily previously so this big improvement is something that I have surprised myself knowing how weak my strength and stamina are. So fellow yogis, always practice on and not give up, some day and somehow, your body will surprise yourself!
I do agree that practicing yoga do help us to get stronger and toned body and also flexibility. The other physical benefits also consist of making the body free of disease. I used to get sick every other month with really weak immune system. This year, I have felt a drastic difference when I know I have not been falling sick and has not visit GP for a long time!
Ashtanga is like moving meditations with one breathe one movement that helps to calm our mind and focus on our body and remind us to be in present. In YTT, we are advised to practice daily and if possible to practice in the morning before work. I felt the immediate benefits going to work feeling refresh and alert. That would hardly happen to me in the past where morning coffee is a must which might not even help me to stay awake.
I will continue to explore and discover more on this beautiful practice, it will be a journey to discover the benefits for our own body, mind and soul.
Priscilla Wang – Sep’17 YTT