Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can I really recommend Ashtanga yoga?

Lately a friend asked me to recommend a yoga class to her colleague. Till now I have not answered, because I really wondered if I can recommend Ashtanga yoga? Ashtanga yoga is the yoga I like most. Wouldn't it be too demanding that newcomers feel overwhelmed, I wonder?
Wouldn't it be so that this person would run away with the opinion: Ashtanga yoga is awful, because it's too much at once?

I tended to recommend something with music, as music is almost uplifting: Jimamukti yoga.
I tended to recommend something soft: Sivananda yoga.
Perhaps even Anasura yoga would be a good start, because it is taught in a most beatiful yoga studio here.
I wouldn't mention Bikram yoga. I injured my neck the first time I did it. The heat (sauna like room) didn't allow me to feel my body and my limits. The teacher pushed and pushed like in a military camp. I cannot recommend such a style.

How can I be so convinced about Ashtanga yoga, but recommend something else?

Before our last led class last time we discussed this topic and I must agree:
Ashtanga yoga seems to be so demanding because we usually learn it in led classes. We have to practice all the asanas at once, if we have done anything with our body or not.
But Ashtanga yoga is supposed to be learned in Mysore classes, step by step, asana by asana. I wondered if it isn't a bit boring to do only the surya namaskara A and B and one or two poses perhaps? It won't last 1 hour in addition. But it seems not to be boring. I asked newcomers and I saw how they sweated and how they  reached their limits. Surya namaskaras are also not a piece of cake. I still have to improve them after 8 years of practicing.
It needn't to be how it is often here in the Western world: People are stopped when not able to do an asana almost perfectly. In India in THE shala I saw that yogis progressed rather fast. Every week new poses were shown, if a pose was mastered or not. But this also means that there is a progression, and not how it is in a led class, that every demanding pose has to be practiced on the first day already.

Can I recommend Ashtanga yoga after this discussion? I think it's important to know the expectations. Nice to see that there is something for everybody on the market. :)

Time to start my own practice. It will be second series. I'll start with the CD by Sharath, it's an easy start.

The picture reflects my mood: dark, dark, dark. At least I made the picture as small as possible. Hahahaha.


TokyoLotus said...

Seven years ago, I remember disliking yoga because I thought it was too painful on my tight body---and holding downward dog was awful since I didn't have any arm muscles! At the time, yoga was only a thing I forced myself to do in order to stretch my body---I had no spiritual attachment nor inner connection. Of course, I'm super happy that I stuck with it or I would have never eventually found Ashtanga and had my life change for the better. On one hand, I would recommend Hatha to your friend because your friend can get a good stretch in a slow class and learn about breathing. But personally, I didn't start completely enjoying the benefits of yoga until I did Ashtanga---Ashtanga is truly the form of yoga that makes you realize your own potential. Every time you go deeper than before, every time you can do a pose you couldn't before is an exciting accomplishment! Who knows, maybe if your friend tried an Ashtanga class, your friend will be inspired by the strength and flexibility of the instructor and students that it will be an encouragement.

Ursula said...

Thank you for your comment.

It's how I feel and think.

Anonymous said...

Ashtanga yoga found me, I did not find it.. It was the only yoga class beyond beginnger level that I could find in my community three plus years ago. Yes, in the beginning it was so demanding (led class)and overwhelming BUT it became easier and now my body craves it. I personally love the routine of knowing what pose is next, and the beauty of routine is I can do it anywhere I travel. Also, at 56 years, I believe it is possible for anyone to begin at any age. Most people believe yoga is glorified stretching so Ashtanga can be a bit of a shock!

Ursula said...

Thank you very much for your comment Debb.
What always makes me smile is that we, who are no more so bloody young, love this challenging practice.
It's true. It's one thing I love: I know what to do and how to practice. Ashtanga yoga is somehting for independant people. Our interpretation here is that this is why Ashtanga yoga is not so popular in Germany. People like to be led.

Kimberley Kelley DeZutel said...

I enjoyed your blog post. My first class ever was Ashtanga (second series). It's a class that I wouldn't recommend for someone new to yoga. However, it was the right one for me. I think that any other style (at the time) may have bored me. I now love many styles, but Ashtanga will always be my first love and it's something that I need to do at least once a week. I love exploring other styles but I agree with the prior comment. In Ashtanga we realize our potential and see how we progress. I also enjoy the flow and the series. It is truly my meditation in motion.
As for your friend, I would recommend a style that fits her personality. Maybe a power, vinyassa, or anusara class?

Ursula said...

To start with second series is really a challenge.

Ashtanga yoga has so many aspects other styles do not have. One is the breath. And the breath makes the difference.....

Quentin said...

The first ashtanga yoga class I went to was really a Power Yoga class, but the studio called it Ashtanga. I went there as a progressing beginner. I liked the sweating and the flow of the Sun Salutations (however there was no flow from one asana to another using the vinyasa and breath, but it was not Ashtanga yoga, yet similar, or maybe the hatha yoga teacher's version of it. Several years later, I went to Kripalu and had the great fortune of attending an Ashtanga Yoga Mala gathering by David Williams, David Swenson, and Danny Paradise. There was something much more appealing about this as the mula bandha, breathing with stomach in and still, and focus was more fully explained. And the sequence was not changed from how P Jois taught. The second day included Mysore class and I was hooked. I had discovered the real yoga! This was it. I could learn this sequence and not depend upon a yoga studio. My personality must have favored this yoga and I could learn and advance at home from what I learned there.
I do highly recommend Ashtanga to beginners, especially if the teacher uses options from the Practice Manual by David Swenson. After a few weeks, it is an awesome experience witnessing the beginner advance to the final version of a challenging pose, or floating thru the SS's, and jumping back and thru for each asana in the series.

Ursula said...

Oh, it's so nice to read, how we are all so passionate Ashtangis

Quentin you surprise me. You have also practiced with Danny Paradise. He is my favourite Ashtangi.......

Happy practices.

Shanna said...

Pattabhi Jois said that anyone can do Ashtanga except lazy people. I would have to also ad people who are dominated by their egos. To learn Ashtanga, one has to surrender to the process and a lot of people are not willing to do that. I would figure out what the person is looking for and make my recommendation based on that.


Ursula said...

Ashtanga yoga makes modest, for sure....:)

Quentin said...

Yes, it was Danny Paradise that Madonna came to for learning Ashtanga Yoga. Danny Paradise is a world traveler and has very interesting stories, especially when talking about running naked in the jungle....He likes to add Warrior III to the SS's.

Ursula said...

Yep, I attended 2 workshops so far offered by him. I hope he will visit Munich again one day. He is really entertaining and a great yogi.

Krishna said...

If a person is a complete beginner to Yoga and has never been involved in any form of fitness practice then I would recommend that person to try first a gentle hatha yoga class for a few weeks/months and later shift to a more intense routine like ashtanga / flow vinyasa and see what they like best out of the two .

Ursula said...

It's surely easier to recommend a yoga style if one knows the person. The one who wants to start is a colleague of a friend, and I don't know her. This makes it difficult. There are surely different approaches to yoga in general.