Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic practice, which helps to build strength, flexibility, grace and an inner calm. But it can take a while before you begin to experience any of these benefits, here are some tips to get you started on your journey and help you achieve the maximum benefits from this ancient style of yoga.
1. I’m only a beginner. Everyone in the room with you was a beginner at one time, even the person in the corner balancing on their head. They all had to work hard and dedicated time and energy to get to where they are today, so they understand how you feel. In fact, the probably respect you for taking the first steps on this amazing yoga journey. The best way to overcome the beginner’s fear is to look for a class dedicated to beginners or to attend a Mysore style class. Both of these will break down the postures for you and give you a chance to learn at your own pace, in a supported environment.
2. People will stare at me. I can assure you that everyone else in the room is so busy working on their own practice that they will probably not even notice what you’re doing. This is key to a successful Ashtanga practice, remain focussed on yourself and ignore distractions.
3. I’m not flexible or strong enough to do all these advanced poses. Ashtanga is a great combination of strength and flexibility, but these poses can only be entered properly when the breath is used and the mind is focussed on the movement. Each person in the room practicing with you will be stopped at a certain pose which they are currently working on. In the Ashtanga method, poses are ‘gifted’ by the teacher after the previous posture has been mastered sufficiently well. This means that everyone is working at their own level and within their own limitations. Achieving these poses can take years of dedicated practice or days, depending on a variety of different factors, because each person is different and each body will react differently to the poses.
4. It’s the same thing all the time. The beauty of the Ashtanga method is that you practice the same postures, in the same order each day. This allows you to focus on the breath and the yoga flow becomes a moving meditation. With regular practice, you will begin to notice progress as your body becomes more flexible and you enter poses with more ease.
5. Progress, not perfection. Within the Ashtanga practice, it’s important to remember that we are working through a series of poses, with the goal being to create space in the body and prepare it for future yoga postures. You will feel the changes in your body before you begin to see an improvement in your strength and flexibility. It’s worth keeping at it and remembering that this is a journey, and there is no deadline to reach a certain pose.
Ashtanga is a practice steeped in tradition and has many devoted practitioners all across the world. This type of yoga is a great place for beginners to start, as it allows you to systematically build your knowledge of yoga postures and the sequence they are practiced in. Very quickly you will become familiar with the routine and be able to complete your own practice at home. This will allow you to fit a bit of yoga into your daily life, and that is what will help you to maintain a calm and relaxed mind while building a strong and flexible body.á