Frequently asked questions about Ashtanga Yoga and Mysore Practice
There are many questions about Ashtanga Yoga
If you have other questions about Ashtanga not mentioned here then please Contact Jade.
Is Ashtanga Yoga Power Yoga?
This is a letter from Sri.K. Pattabhi Jois (the guru of Ashtanga Yoga) to Yoga Journal, Nov. 1995.
“I was disappointed to find that so many novice students have taken Ashtanga yoga and have turned it into a circus for their own fame and profit (Power Yoga, Jan/Feb 1995).
The title “Power Yoga” itself degrades the depth, purpose and method of the yoga system that I received from my guru, Sri. T. Krishnamacharya. Power is the property of God. It is not something to be collected for one’s ego.
Partial yoga methods out of line with their internal purpose can build up the “six enemies” (desire, anger, greed, illusion, infatuation and envy) around the heart.
The full ashtanga system practiced with devotion leads to freedom within one’s heart.
The Yoga Sutra II.28 confirms this “Yogaanganusthanat asuddiksaye jnanadiptih avivekakhyateh”, which means “practicing all the aspects of yoga destroys the impurities so that the light of knowledge and discrimination shines”.
It is unfortunate that students who have not yet matured in their own practice have changed the method and have cut out the essence of an ancient lineage to accommodate their own limitations.”
“The Ashtanga yoga system should never be confused with “power yoga” or any whimsical creation which goes against the tradition of the many types of yoga shastras (scriptures).
It would be a shame to lose the precious jewel of liberation in the mud of ignorant body building”
K. Pattabhi Jois,
Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute,
Mysore, South India
Do You Have To Be Strong/Fit/Young/Flexible To Practice Ashtanga Yoga?
Once again Sri.K. Pattabhi Jois said it best:
“Anyone can practice. Young man can practice. Old man can practice.
Very old man can practice. Man who is sick, he can practice. Man who doesn’t have strength can practice. Except lazy people; lazy people can’t practice ashtanga yoga.”
Sometimes the way Ashtanga Yoga is taught (in the form of group led classes) can put people off and lead them to believe that Ashtanga Yoga is not for them, but when taught well all students, regardless of limitations, can benefit from this practice. Fundamentally this practice is a breathing practice.
So, if you can breath you can practice!
Is Ashtanga Yoga Hard
Well, it isn’t easy that’s for sure… but nothing really worthwhile is ever easy!
“Challenging” would be a better term to use rather than “hard”.
Ashtanga is a progressive series where new poses are offered to the student as the student becomes ready. Everyone is practices at there level of ease and difficulty.
All students encounter postures that are challenging, such is the nature of the system.
The limitations we inevitably encounter in our body are actually a mirror of the personal limitations and mental blocks that stop us being experiencing real freedom and personal contentment. As we move past these physical blocks (through practice) the Self unravels and becomes separated from the ego (what we think we are and are not).
Each student’s practice is completely individualized, unlike the typical pre-packaged 90-minute yoga class, an Ashtanga yoga practice grows with you as you grow.
Does Ashtanga Yoga Injure People?
First of all, you are always at risk for injury. Whether you’re a runner, biker, mountain climber, yogi, or just out walking your dog!
The difference here is that if you were walking down the street and tripped over a curb, you would not blame the curb for your sprained ankle. Yet a yoga student gets hurt, and immediately blames the practice.
Ashtanga yoga does not injure people – but the way people practice Ashtanga yoga can. The sequence is set up to give you the strength and flexibility for the next. The method requires you resolve one posture in your body before you get the next one. That way you approach new poses with a sufficient foundation of strength, balance or flexibility. This gentle progression is embodied in the Mysore Style teaching method.
During the first months practice, you will be bringing up and encountering all the imbalances in your body. So you may experience some pain or discomfort. The practice is designed to awaken deep sensations in the body, but not all pain is injury.
“What often happens to those who practice Ashtanga for the first time is that, after a month or so of regular practice, they begin to feel bodily pains they had never previously felt. Often, they believe they have hurt themselves through yoga and will either quit or practice less frequently … often the practitioner has simply begun to awaken hurts or weaknesses that have always been present, but not aware of.” (Larry Shultz, It’s Yoga)
Is Yoga a Religon?
There are many myths about Yoga, for instance, Yoga being a religion. Yoga is NOT a religion.
It is more of a set of techniques for us to find spirituality. In fact, Yoga is being practiced by a lot of people from different religions like Christians, Jewish, Buddhists, and Muslims.
Would Yoga Be Considered Fitness?
Another misconception is that Yoga is an exercise, a way for us to keep fit.
This is one of the most widespread misconceptions. Beyond its obvious physical aspect, Yoga is first and, foremost a spiritual act with the primary goal of uniting the body, mind, and emotions. It is partly true, but if you think that Yoga is just an exercise then you are greatly mistaken and are missing the bigger picture. Yoga develops the body since a weak one is a hindrance to spiritual growth. It does not simply focus on the physical but on the mental and spiritual aspects as well*
What About Meditation?
There is a general misunderstanding that in Meditation, your mind has to go blank. It not recommended to do so.
In Meditation, students bring the activities of the mind into focus resulting in a ‘quiet’ mind. By designing physical poses (Asanas) and breathing techniques (Pranayama) that develop awareness of our body, Yoga helps us focus and relieves us from our everyday stress.