Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ashtanga Yoga

I figured since I mentioned my daily Ashtanga habit, I better expound on that a bit.
It was back around 2000 that Madonna brought this athletic style of yoga to the forefront. Naturally, anything Madonna is doing physically, I have an interest in. She is the grand mama jama of unbelievably athletic, sinewy bodies.
I started researching yoga in general, as this former total gym rat who couldn't touch her toes had never even considered a mat as a piece of exercise equipment.
I bought several DVD's and books on Ashtanga yoga.
Some great ones to start with are:
Yoga Mala by Sri K Patthabi Jois (This is the Ashtanga "bible" by the recently deceased "father" of Ashtanga who brought it to the West)
Ashtanga Yoga A Practice Manual by David Swenson
Melanie Fawer's Mysore Ashtanga Yoga DVD
I started learning the Primary Series on my own and haven't stopped since.
Ashtanga is a set series of poses divided into six series. (If you click on and expand the image above you can see the postures.) The primary series keeps most students occupied for quite a while.
Ashtanga is traditionally practiced six days a week Sunday - Friday with days off on Full and New moons and during the first one to three days of a woman's menstrual cycle.
It is traditionally imparted to the student pose by pose by an authorized or certified teacher in "Mysore" style class. A few notes about this:

1. Authorized and Certified teachers do not pay for a teacher training and then walk away with a certificate. They must travel to Mysore, India to the Ashtanga Yoga Reasearch Institute at least three times to study under the Jois family and be given the authorization or certification.

2. You can find authorized/certified teachers listed here:

3. "Mysore" style class consists of students practicing the Ashtanga yoga series of postures that they have been given on their own - there is no teacher leading class. Instead, the teacher goes student to student assisting and adjusting.

4. If you cannot learn from an authorized/certified teacher - learn from books and
videos and if you decide to stick with it, eventually seek out a teacher.
My day cannot truly begin until I've done my Ashtanga yoga. The breathing, the systematic repetition of postures and the physical challenge have kept me challenged for over eight years. I am still working on 1/2 primary series - up to boat pose and then the finishing sequence. Even though I repeat the same series of poses, I find something new each day.
My wonderful teacher - PJ Heffernan ( told me this:
"The key is do a little something everyday 5 or 6 days a week but don't push too hard. Only push hard like once or twice a week. Sometimes my practice is light, sometimes its heavy. Sometimes it hurts sometimes it feels better than good sex. Most of the time I feel tired and lazy in the morning ,but no matter what I am going through, sadness, pain, injury, anger, frustration or contentment.......I practice. That is what it's all about. Exercise daily control and influence over yourself. Do this for 5 years and you will be a new human without many vulnerabilities and most definitely without much fear. This practice ultimately is about destroying your fear and making you clear."

Wow, right?
Post your questions or email me on how to get started in this wonderful style of yoga.

(photo from:

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