Ashtanga Is the New Black
By: Katherine Galligan, Owner, Yoga Chikitsa, RYT500 & Ayurvedic Counselor
A few days a week, a friend and I get together to do our Ashtanga practice. Not too long ago she looked at me and asked, “Why aren’t more people here? Hasn’t everyone figured out yet that Ashtanga is the best thing ever?”
Oh, my friend is absolutely brilliant! She declared it with so much sincerity, it was priceless. And I couldn’t agree with her more. I love Ashtanga, and we are in it for the long haul. It started with some mild flirting, then we started dating, and now I feel like I’m married to Ashtanga. The weird thing is, I want everyone to sample my husband because as my friend says IT’S THE BEST THING EVER!
Ashtanga yoga is a pre-set sequence of postures grouped into six series developed by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Whether you’re in Richardson, Texas or Buenos Aires, the sequence is the same everywhere. We practice the Primary Series at Yoga Chikitsa, which includes a warm-up, standing and seated poses, and a series of inversions. The breath is the most important part; Ashtanga teachers actually count them.
Now, in some circles Ashtanga gets a slightly bad wrap, but I’m here to dispel the myths.
Myth #1: It’s not for beginners.
OK…your first Ashtanga class may seem intimidating, particularly a “led” class, where the teacher calls each pose at a steady clip. Don’t feel the need to keep up! We all start somewhere. It is extremely important to know your capabilities and limitations and practice accordingly. At Yoga Chikitsa we especially welcome beginners and take time to explain the poses.
Katherine’s retort: if I may share a quote by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois himself: “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 yoga.”
Myth #2: It’s for 14-year old boys
I’ve heard this numerous times but understand this claim may have stemmed simply from the demographic at the institute in Mysore, India, where Ashtanga was formalized. It’s also been implied certain poses aren’t accessible to women as structural differences in female anatomy preclude us from mastering this style of yoga. I’m here to tell you the number of female students in our classes at least equal if not surpass the number of men, and the width of our hips has not interfered.
Katherine’s retort: 14-year old boys, my ass.
Myth #3: Ashtanga is bad for Vata dosha.
Speaking personally as an Ayurvedic counselor with a vata constitution, I consider it an antidote to excessive vata. More than half of the poses of the Primary Series are seated; practicing Ashtanga is actually grounding. The anxious vata types tend to find comfort in the predictability of the fixed sequence and its quality of a moving meditation. I actually believe Ashtanga to be tri-doshic, meaning good for all types.
Katherine’s retort: False. Kiss me in the ashtanga.
Ashtanga is special. It does require dedication and takes practice to gain proficiency, but I promise, if you’re the marrying kind, this is the yoga for you. So if I haven’t sold you yet, here’s a few more reasons to persuade you:
- It gives way to a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
- The lessons are beautiful. Brace yourself for a few in humility.
- It builds personal discipline, something a lot of us need.
- It teaches patience.
- Your body will become strong and flexible.
- If you struggle with addiction, this might become your new drug.
- It’s never too late to start an Ashtanga practice.
- Ashtanga is the new black, and it is the best thing ever!
After one class, you’ll want to try another, which will lead to the next, and to the next, and soon you’ll sittin’ in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g….
Katherine Galligan is the Owner of Yoga Chikitsa, RYT500 & Ayurvedic Counselor. You can reach her at 214-282-4566. Yoga Chikitsa is located at 328 W Campbell Road in Richardson.