Skip to main content

In this blog post, we break down the most important 5 reasons to start and sustain an Ashtanga practice.

In this article: 

  1. Win the morning, win the day
  2. Mastery is only reached through repetition
  3. Balance of static and dynamic
  4. CommUnity
  5. Autonomy and Challenge

 

Ashtanga is a system of yoga that was brought to the modern world by yogi Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. There are several series included within an Ashtanga practice, starting with the primary series and increasing in difficulty as you progress through the series.

It is a fast-paced, physically challenging practice with a set sequence of asanas, offered in most studios both guided and Mysore-style (where a student is able to move at their own pace, assessed by senior instructors.

1. Win the morning, win the day

Ashtangis tend to be (or at least soon become) early risers. There is an unparalleled level of satisfaction that comes from completing the primary series, particularly before most of your friends are even awake

The early bird gets the worm. The Yogi who, by 8 am, has completed a 90-minute practice can breeze through the rest of the day. The qualities cultivated in the practice such as strength, steadiness, and flexibility (in body and mind) are carried through the rest of the day

“But I am so stiff in the morning! Is Ashtanga for me?” Aren’t we all stiff? 

Friendly reminder, Yoga is more than physical poses. Practicing early is great for the mind, though practicing later may feel better for the body. A deeper pose doesn’t necessarily equate to a more rewarding practice. 

Morning for the mind. Afternoon for the body. 

downward facing dog during yoga teacher training

2. Mastery is reached only through repetition

A second reason to start and sustain an Ashtanga practice:

Variation might just be the spice of life but you can’t live off spices alone. Where is the (impossible) met? We need substance. Consistency, not variety.  

6 days a week. 52 weeks a year you do the same sequence. To some, this sounds monotonous, even torturous. Interestingly, despite following the exact same sequence, no two practices ever feel the same, familiar yes, but always different

The practice provides a constant in an otherwise chaotic world. It doesn’t succumb to fleeting trends in the Yoga world. It is dependable and reliable. When everything else in your life is changing around you, the practice remains the same.  

 

Novelty is undeniably exciting. Our brain is primed to notice “new” things. Social media programs us to constantly be on the lookout for the next thing. Remember, curiosity killed the cat but it was satisfaction that brought it back. The key to satisfaction is depth, which can only be achieved through repetition. 

Spices can’t satiate you. They can (momentarily) entertain your taste buds but they can’t sustain you. An Ashtanga Practice is the substance of your Yoga practice. You can explore other flavors (aka styles of Yoga) with the comfort that your body already has what it needs. 

There is nothing worse than choosing what to eat when you are hungry. Instead of chasing fad diets (aka Yoga styles) stay consistent. Your body will thank you. 

Don’t starve your body of what it needs. Feed it something substantial. Feed it with an Ashtanga practice. Anything extra is a bonus. 

You might also like to read about: 9 yoga styles explained in detail 

yoga teacher training in evia island greece

3. Balance of static and dynamic

Ashtanga is a time-tested sequence. Exactly how much time is up for debate but it has certainly been around longer than other modern styles of Yoga. It strikes the balance between movement and stillness, Yang and Yin, dynamic and static. 

Sun Salutations as the warm-up

Straight out of the gate the practice begins with the Surya Namaskar, salutations to the sun. The student moves in a dynamic fashion, one-movement-one-breath. As the same suggests this serves to build heat in the body and set the cadence for the rest of the practice. 

5 sun salutation A’s, the Yogic equivalent of a burpee, is how the practice starts. Each salutation consists of 14 breaths. We take 9 movements while the body moves, and 5 breaths when the body is remaining still in downward facing dog. 

Standing postures or otherwise called Fundamental Postures

The dynamic salutations are followed by the standing series, a combination of poses, each held for 5 breaths. This is fast enough to keep the heat but long enough to experience the details and benefits of the pose. Some modern vinyasa classes are so quick that by the time you have even noticed that your knee is out of alignment you are already three poses behind. 

Seated Postures (they depend on the series)

After the standing poses come the seated series, poses that focus on twisting the spine, opening the hips, and lengthening the posterior (back) side of the body. 

The Finishing Sequence (same in every series)

The practice ends with inversions, which are held longer than the usual five breaths, to elicit a calming and grounding state in preparation for savasana, the final rest. 

Some would argue that the primary series (the first of six) is disproportionately focused on forward folding, formally known as hip and spinal flexion. 

In our 200-hour yoga teacher training, we use the Ashtanga Yoga method so that students can deepen their practice, learn how to self-practice, and stop depending on other studios/yoga teachers and expensive memberships.

You might also like: How to choose the right Yoga Training for you

Students during the 300hour Advanced Yoga Teacher Training in Europe, Greece

4. CommUnity

Ashtanga is a global practice. The sequences are practiced in the same way EVERYWHERE. 

There is a sense of camaraderie that I haven't experienced in any other style of Yoga. Comparable to the energy of marathon runners, though they are all moving at different speeds, they are working toward the same goal. 

Different members of an orchestra. Moving together. 

On a local scale, you build a community with those you practice alongside. Though you may be at different levels. Students may offer advice and encouragement since they too have been there. 

The Ashtanga practice becomes less about the teacher. In a vinyasa class, you come and follow the instructions of the teacher since the sequence can be literally anything

Synchronized. Since people move through the practice. Mysore-style (the birthplace of Ashtanga) is the self-practice under the guidance of an experienced teacher who moves around the room, giving you individualized assistance. Rather than teaching to average. 

Connection - mind, body breath. Simplicity. Tristana.

Uncover 9 things you must know before booking a yoga teacher training that meets your needs and doesn't waste your time and money.

 

I'm ready to find out

5. Autonomy and Challenge

Autonomy:

Progress is addictive. You come between X hours. You know what you are working on, and your teacher will also know. Advancement. 6 days a week. 

Challenge:

The body needs repetition but the mind craves variety. The brain is literally programmed to be on the lookout for new information. In modern life this manifests as the following fashion, hunting for new restaurants and exotic locations. Ashtanga avoids trends. The sequence does not change based on whichever hashtag yoga pose is trending. 

In the first 3-6 months of an Ashtanga practice, the students skill level rockets. Much like a relationship, the first 6-months are golden. However, after this, as is the case with most things, progress slows. Things start to feel ‘samey’. At this point, many students give up, and relationships end. But anyone who has pushed through the plateau knows what is on the other side is worth it. 

Every time you practice, though the sequence is the same, challenge yourself to spot something different. Pay more attention to a particular component. It could be the breath, the Drishti (looking place), trying to find more ease or more strength. Notice the nuance. 

Leave a Reply