There are some people out there who vehemently oppose Ashtanga, it’s method and postures. They often suggest the poses are “too hard” for the average Yogi. Many of them suggest that Ashtanga by nature is Rajasic or “over-stimulating”, and is therefore not an appropriate practice for everyone.
Now, I have an obvious bias. Here I am, writing this blog, practicing daily (or most days #momlife), and preaching Ashtanga to anyone who will listen.
I disagree with the naysayers not because I’m some blind devotee, or Ashtanga Evangelist or anything – but because this method works. I’ve witnessed the transformation in myself, and in others, and it pains me when I see people give up the practice, or not give it a chance at all.
Here’s the thing, Ashtanga, in and of itself, isn’t really anything.
The system and method of Ashtanga is empty of any inherent quality. It’s not easy, or hard, or rajasic in nature, or over-stimulating – it’s just a mirror.
Let’s break this down.
First of all, “hard” is relative. What’s hard for me is perhaps “easy” to David or Jelena, or other seasoned practitioners. And what’s hard for someone who is just beginning may feel “easy” to me.
The metric of what we consider “easy” is constantly shifting in this practice. When you commit to a daily Sadhana, you get to watch how the metric shifts. It’s kind of cool.
Secondly, Ashtanga isn’t inherently “rajasic” or over-stimulating either – It actually just mirrors the qualities you bring to it.
Think about your own practice. You don’t show up the same each day, do you? I know I sure don’t.
Some days I show up, super Sattvic connected to my breath, super present, and I feel like a Yoga Goddess flowing through my practice with ease.
Other days I show up heavy, tired, lethargic, or Tamasic, feeling like a bag of bricks. My body feels stiff, and I move slowly and reluctantly as each vinyasa feels like I’m trying to pull myself out of quicksand.
And yup, some days I’m Rajasic, super intense, really dramatic throughout my practice and trying way too hard.
So what changed?
Did Ashtanga wake up and decide it was going to make things difficult?
Nope. I changed. And you change too.
“Asanas are screens that reveal the impermanent nature of our thoughts and feelings.” – DR
The circumstances in your life have you show up differently each day. Maybe something traumatic happens and you can’t stop the negative stream of thoughts from entering your mind. Maybe something awesome happens and you feel lighter, happier, and stilling those vrittis comes easier. Or maybe you’re stuck on a difficult pose that brings up deep feelings of inadequacy, which leads you down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts and emotions.
I’m not saying it’s easy to come up against these things, I’m just saying it has nothing to do with Ashtanga, and everything to do with you.
Ashtanga always has, and always will be the relentless mirror that shows you all the parts of you that you try to hide away from off the mat. And sometimes, it can be hard to face that reality day in and day out.
And if you’ve decided Ashtanga isn’t for you, of course, that’s your right. But that’s about you— not about Ashtanga.
I hope you enjoyed this article!
If you try this out let us know how it goes! You can either comment below or share with us on Instagram @ashtangatoronto. We’d love to hear how it’s helped your practice.
And if you’re in the Toronto area, or will be soon, take a look at our schedule and upcoming workshops to see if you can join us!
You are so right. I started practicing hatha yoga at the age of 57 and Ashtanga at the age of 65. I am now 70 and the changes that have happened in my body since I started Mysore have been incredible. The difficulty is completely up to me. I love pacing my practice with my breath not according to the pace if a vinyasa or hatha teacher. I love knowing what is next in the sequence and guiding myself into the asana. I love hands on assists from experienced Ashtangis. I plan to continue to learn and grow!
Just love the way you describe, could not say it better myself! Good job, looking forward for your next blog<3
Thanks so much ! I am grateful for my practice. Ashtanga is mirror. I learn myself and accept that things are impermanent. Things changes. People changed. I changed. There is day I feel great and focus. And someday, I feel stiffness, pains and struggles. Ashtanga is allow me to accept myself not perfect. Humble. And Honored!
Thank you – agreed and a few thoughts. If you are writing only in terms of asana, this is the second article and one post I’ve seen in the last year addressing negative talk or info re: Ashtanga. It seems to me that only when scientific studies get better, and they are getting better, will people possibly have a valid argument with respect to Ashtanga asanas.
I’m not writing anything you don’t know, but what I’m learning everyday is that Ashtanga is so much more than simply poses, related transition, etc.
If the measure is solely on the physical benefits then I suspect many will push themselves too far, without listening to their teacher who is also a seasoned practitioner, and get injured plus all that negative stuff. Unfortunately, we live in an era where instant results are of paramount importance for too many people. This is easy for me to say as I am an older man and am not go anywhere fast yet this is somewhat ironic, as there are times I think being older is actually a bonus.
The mirror is there for our benefit, so … ‘Practice and all is coming’ … for me, the “all” means becoming the best person for who you are.
I also tend to give up after a certain time. I don’t have the patience to follow it so regularly and wait for long to see the results. I think I should pursue it. Any recommendations?
Nice Article. Thanks for sharing
This is a great explanation! Lately I have been having a lot of negative thoughts towards the Ashtanga sequence, e.g. that it is too stimulating, inaccessible and too difficult for my tight hips etc. I suppose instead of blaming the practice itself, I need to question why I am believing these thoughts. Ashtanga is a lot more than just asanas, and I need to remind myself of the importance of the mindset, internal struggle and awareness, as well as the purpose of the practice as a whole, rather than individual poses.