Christina has been an Ashtanga devotee for years. Drawn to it’s disciplined and rigorous nature, she is a self-proclaimed “Ashtangi at heart”. Now a co-founder of Mala Yoga, Christina uses many elements of this practice in her unique classes. To gain a deeper understanding of the Ashtanga method, Christina will be teaching a workshop on October 22nd for those who would like to learn more.
We recently asked Christina what Ashtanga really is, what makes it different from other forms of yoga, and why it’s something we shouldn’t be scared of.
How did you get interested in this particular style of yoga? What makes Ashtanga different?
It’s all a bit blurry in terms of chronology, but I discovered Ashtanga pretty early on in my practice of asana, sometime around 1994/1995. I think the first place I really learnt it was in the UK, and then I found Derek Ireland and Eddie Stern. And my practice started in earnest.
Before my thoughts on what makes this form different, I’d like to say that the introduction of Asthanga and Bikram yoga in the 1970’s in the States, created the foundation for what we see today in the world of Modern Yoga. These two forms peaked enough interest in yoga to bring it out from the alternative/weird/New Age realm, to mainstream consciousness.
What makes this practice different to other forms of modern yoga:
1) the sequence of postures are always done in the same order;
2) there are 6 series to learn (most of us stay in the primary series for many years) and you can only add a pose in a series when you have mastered all the previous ones, and move into the next series when you have mastered the previous one;
3) the poses are linked by a vinyasa;
4) ujjayii breath, drishti (where you gaze) and the 3 bandhas are integral to every pose and every vinyasa.
And just in case you were wondering, Mysore style practice is how Ashtanga was traditionally taught by Gurujii (Sri K Pattabhi Jois), where students learn the series by heart and practice what they know at their own pace, with a teacher offering assists when necessary. “Led” classes are where the teacher calls out the name of the pose and counts the breath in each pose.
Who can benefit from this workshop?
Anyone who has been curious about Ashtanga but hasn’t known where to go to learn more about it.
Anyone who has an interest in the origins of the modern yoga practice.
Can you give examples of some concrete tools and techniques I’ll learn in this workshop?
We’ll go through the primary series – including modifications/variations on some of the more challenging postures. We’ll discuss the importance of ujjayi breath, dristhi and bandhas, and put them into practice. We’ll break down the “vinyasa” (jump back/jump forward) sequence to make it more accessible.
What’s the most important “nugget” you’ve learned from practicing this style of yoga?
This practice has taught me discipline and commitment to daily practice. It has taught me the power of breath and meditation, as it really does become a meditation in motion.
It has always forced me to look at how much ego and insecurity can manifest on the mat – and to work with those obstacles compassionately and with patience.
What’s the biggest misconception about Ashtanga yoga?
That’s it “too hard”! It’s not the practice that’s too hard – it just requires a high level of commitment and discipline.