Seven Reasons To Love Ashtanga Yoga
First, let me say that choosing a style of yoga is a personal decision. There is no right or wrong answer. If you feel your yoga practice is having a positive effect on your life and helping you become a more peaceful, thoughtful person, then you’ve made a fine choice. So, while I prefer Ashtanga and know it is right for me, that may not be the case for you. And that's okay.
But if you’re looking for something new, or are simply curious about Ashtanga yoga, here are a few of the common reasons people love the practice:
1) Structure. Ashtanga has six pre-set asana sequences, so practice is pretty much the same everyday, only changing when you're ready to progress to the next posture or series. Instead of finding it boring or monotonous to practice the same postures everyday, many people appreciate structure and systemization and believe there is immense physical and spiritual benefit in repetition. Practitioners feel they can focus more on their breath and the subtle experiences of the body because they are not having to follow a teacher’s voice or design their own sequence. Additionally, Ashtangis are asked to practice daily, instead of whenever is convenient. Therefore, your practice becomes a daily ritual of self care, deepening its effects.
2) Autonomy. Because Ashtanga yoga is never improvisational, students find it easier to practice without a teacher present. A memorized practice can be done at home if you don’t have a local class or while traveling if you are unable to make it to class. Ashtanga is also known for its “Mysore style” classes. Students convene to practice together, but they move through their prescribed practice at their own pace while a teacher looks on and assists when necessary. Students get the benefit of a group practice, with all its energy and sense of community, while also enjoying a personalized sequence and never having to keep up with, or be slowed down by, the group.
3) Tradition. Ashtanga yoga is perhaps the closest thing we have to classical yoga. It has been altered very little since it was first introduced to the west decades ago by its founders Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his teacher T. Krishnamacharya. This practice has stood the test of time and is practiced across the globe. Students are put at ease by the fact that they are not the guinea pigs of a self-appointed guru, but are instead taking part in a time-honored traditional yoga practice.
4) Spirituality. There is a strong emphasis on the non-physical components in Ashtanga yoga. Most Ashtanga instructors are well versed in yoga philosophy and lovingly guide their students to continually deepen their practice by learning about and observing the other limbs of yoga. Students are not pressured into becoming more spiritual. Instead, the practice simply takes hold, and they are genuinely inspired and motivated to make heartfelt adjustments to the parts of their lives that are not serving them.
5) Accommodating. Because Ashtanga is traditionally taught one-on-one in a Mysore style class, people of all abilities, backgrounds, ages, and sizes are able to practice. Most yoga classes closely resemble a one size fits all group fitness class. Teachers call out poses set to fast paced music with very little individualized instruction. This is why yoga gets a reputation for being exclusive to the strong and flexible. Having a teacher work with you one-on-one in a low pressure format makes the practice accessible to those who might otherwise be excluded.
6) Challenge. When practiced without modifications, the sequences of Ashtanga yoga are some of the most challenging available. Beginners start out slowly, building strength, stamina, and flexibility. Then, once a base level of conditioning is present, the intensity builds and can be quite challenging. The philosophy is that life is hard, so practice should also be hard. This helps us learn to stay calm and centered amidst stress and turmoil. Additionally, for most humans, the ever present ego is the source of many of our troubles. The Ashtanga method whittles down the ego and replaces it with humility and compassion. People find that the intensity of the Ashtanga practice greatly improves their coping skills in daily life.
7) Community. It is common to hear Ashtangis say that the best part of their practice is the friendships they've made. The Ashtanga community is at once tight knit and diverse. People from all over the world are doing the same postures, so the practice becomes a kind of universal language. If you are blessed with a local Ashtanga community, you have the opportunity to practice daily along side the same group of practitioners, forming a bond that often feels deeper than the ones you might develop in a drop-in yoga class. Additionally, there are dozens of highly trained Ashtanga teachers that travel the globe doing weekend workshops, so there are frequent opportunities to connect with others who share a love of the practice.
What about you? What brought you to your preferred style yoga? Why do you love it? I’d enjoy hearing your feedback!
With love and devotion,