WHAT I LEARNED IN FOUR WEEKS ASHTANGA YOGA[social_warfare]
I played around with the thought of starting an Ashtanga Mysore practice for a while. I love all different kinds of yoga and the freedom of Vinyasa yoga too much to see myself as an exclusive student of Ashtanga yoga, but I always admired the dedication and discipline of serious Ashtanga yogis. Something that I’m definitely missing in my self practice – way too often I listen to a little voice inside my head telling me to take it easy… That’s not possible with Ashtanga yoga. You practice six times a week and it’s the same sequence every day, no shortcuts, #yogaeverydamnday for real. Exactly what I need to push my self practice to another level and develop more strength and discipline. Read on to see what I learned in four weeks Ashtanga yoga.
What is Ashtanga Yoga?
In case you’ve never heard about Ashtanga yoga: it’s a very traditional form of yogi based on the teachings of Patthabi Jois from India. The Ashtanga system consists of six series. Only when the student masters a series does he start with the next. As a beginner you start with the primary series, which consists of sun salutations to warm up, 18 standing poses, 35 seated poses and a finishing sequence of 16 poses including relaxing in corpse pose – shavasana – at the end. In Mysore classes every student practices the sequence in his own breath rhythm, while the teacher walks around and assists and adjusts the students.
The Yoga Retreat on Koh Phangan
I found the wonderful Yoga Retreat where they teach Ashtanga Mysore in the traditional style on Koh Phangan in South Thailand. I’ve been practicing here for 4 weeks now and this is how it went so far:
1st week – this is hard!
Wow, I’m tired. I’m definitely noticing that I didn’t practice yoga much in the last weeks. It feels good to move and sweat again. And I’m sweating! Also partly due to the tropical climate I’m dripping on my mat like a broken water bottle. I keep looking left and right to check what pose comes next and manage to make it through to boat pose – Navasana. I’m feeling tired but in a good way and I’m sleeping like a baby.
2nd week – I’m getting into a routine
I’m getting more routine and don’t have to look at the other yogis so much anymore to check what’s next. What I find fascinating about Ashtanga yoga is, that every day is different. Through the repetition of the same sequence day after day I gain new insights into my practice. Poses that are easy one day are impossible the next day and the other way around. One day I am focused and concentrated and the next day my monkey mind is all over the place. My energy level is going up and down too, one day I feel great and the next day really tired and weak.
I’m practicing Bhuja Pidasana. I don’t get my chin to the floor yet but the head. Towards the end I add the rest of the primary series. In Supta Kurmasana I manage to bind my fingers behind my back for the first time.
3rd week – highs and lows
It’s slowly getting better. Tuesday I don’t feel good and skip practice, this results in a bad mood that lasts the whole day. But from the next day on I feel much better and stronger, I practice the whole primary series and the vinyasas get easier too.
Until now I never really cared about being able to do certain poses, but now I develop a little bit of ambition. I start to understand how Ashtanga yoga can become addictive.
4th week – an additional juice detox brings me to my edge
I did a juice detox for a few days next to my Mysore practice. This was incredible hard but I felt amazing afterwards. I’m proud of my achievement and at the Led Ashtanga class on the weekend I felt like it’s all coming together – mind, body, spirit. It was amazing! I also learned to go a lot deeper in some poses this week.
After 4 weeks of Mysore Ashtanga yoga I’m definitely stronger and more flexible. I also lost a little bit of weight. Due to the daily repetition of the same poses I feel that I gained awareness for my body and mind, and I appreciate the meditative aspect of the practice. I don’t think I will ever be a pure Ashtanga student, but I definitely want to keep up Mysore Ashtanga in my yoga practice.
If you would like to start Ashtanga Mysore, I recommend a visit to The Yoga Retreat in Koh Phangan. You can join just the yoga classes or book a package including accommodation.
It’s a great little community of yogis from all over the world and I feel honored that I could be a part of it for a short time. If you have questions about the Yoga Retreat or about Koh Phangan get in touch, I would love to hear from you!