Holy Ashtanga, Batman!

I am in Edmonton this week marking Diploma exams, and I’m staying downtown near the yoga studio where I am doing my training, so I decided to take a class last night.  My choices were Ashtanga Level 1 or Pre-natal Yoga.  As much as I would LOVE to be a mommy soon, there is no bun in the proverbial oven, so I went with Ashtanga.

Now you might think that since I am training to be a yoga teacher that I would know all about Ashtanga yoga, but if you thought that, you would be wrong.  I am a beginner.  A beginner who wants to learn much, much more, and then share that learning with others.  I have only ever taken gentle “flow yoga” type classes, and done some very basic videos.  I know that there are different types of yoga classes, and I know that Bikram is “hot yoga” and that it’s actually pretty dangerous.  In terms of Ashtanga, though, all I really know knew before last night is that it requires strength and follows a set sequence of poses.  But it is so much more than that.

Ashtanga yoga is incredible.  I really don’t know how else to describe it.  Let me clarify by saying that I do not mean that I was incredible doing Ashtanga yoga – in fact the opposite is entirely true.  I had very little idea what I was doing, and I am entirely confident that I looked like a bumbling fool, but I followed along as best I could, and tried everything I was allowed to (there was one pose that Rene – the instructor – advised I watch instead of try because I am a beginner).

This is what Ashtanga yoga can look like:

I tried this pose, and succeeded at it for about 1/10th of a second before crashing into my yoga mat and nearly smashing my nose into my face!

I didn’t see anyone attempt the pose on the right;
I’m betting it’s one of the higher levels!
I challenge anyone who says you can’t get a real workout from yoga to try Ashtanga.  I was sweating up a storm, and I can’t believe the strength it took just to attempt some of the beginner poses.  Actually being able to get into and hold some of the poses must take an amazing amount of strength and flexibility.  I am quite sore today, particularly in my triceps.
I will definitely try Ashtanga again, and I wish that there was a class in my community so I could attend regularly.  A really nice guy from my teacher training course, who also happened to be at the class last night, and who also happens to be REALLY adept at Ashtanga, offered to email me some info about videos – thanks Terry!  Maybe I can find a good one to buy so I can practice at home.  I’d love to get strong enough to actually do some of the poses I tried last night!
I’ll leave you with one last picture:
This man is obviously very strong from practicing, PLUS he’s pretty hot.  Maybe if you take an Ashtanga yoga class somewhere you will get to meet him! 🙂
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4 thoughts on “Holy Ashtanga, Batman!

  1. Ohmigosh! I love Ashtanga yoga! I started taking a class in December and thought I would never even be able to attempt some of the awesome things that Ashtanga enthusiasts can do, but I’ve keep trying and I am getting better and better every day. Keep it up!

  2. I only did astanga for the first 6 years of yoga so knew no better. Since then there hasn’t been a class near to me (apparently a lot of teachers don’t like to officially call their class ‘astanga’ if they haven’t been to/studied in mysore (which gives its name to the astanga self-practice classes available at many gyms early morning). Most gyms prefer ‘dynamic’ as a title for their classes, though as you get into astanga more you’ll notice some teachers do just teach astanga with some postures cut out (because with an average 60 min class there just isn’t time for all the poses), even if they’re not advertising their class as astanga.

    I can do crow (top pic) and titivasana (bottom one) – it comes with time. It’s all about upper body strength and great for defined shoulders. I’m 90% of the way on the forearm balance (sometimes I can, sometimes not; guess it depends on how strong and centred I’m feeling on the day). The challenge and achievement can be an amazing feeling, especially for someone like me who was never a dancer, gymnast etc at school. No, I never was cheerleader material and it takes all my yoga perspective not to be irrational when a 21 year old turns up who can do everything in their first class (even handstands) and then admits they were a gymast at school.

    Warning though, I did break my nose once in yoga (and I’ve had muscles ripped when a teacher sat on my back). Yes, yoga can cause you injury so best to be careful.

    I have a 10 class for $50 deal at a new yoga studio that is about 40 mins cycle from me and 30 mins from where I work. i was planning on going to astanga today but made excuses because I said I couldn’t spend 2 hours travelling when I should be home studying…. Next week I’ll aim to go (well, that’s the plan).

    Do try jivamukti and anusara yoga too as they can both be dynamic. I wonder how you’ll find they compare….

    • Thanks for the great tips! I will certainly try out anusara when I get the chance; the nearest city with yoga variety is almost 2 hours away, so my opportunities don’t come all that often. Unfortunately I am relegated to local gentle flow classes (which are still very good!) in the local library, and practicing along with videos. Any yoga is better than none, though!

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