Life lessons learned from Ashtanga Yoga

I took an Ashtanga workshop this past weekend, to refresh my yoga roots (Jivamukti and Ashtanga were my first yoga loves. More on where I came from and where I’m at now with Ashtanga here). It was a wonderful reminder of some of the life lessons I’ve learned from this practice. I may be a casual Ashtangi these days, but these are lessons that affect my well-being on a daily basis, and for which I am grateful.

  • Breathe, baby, breathe. In my Ashtanga heyday (I dug up a picture from those days, of me in padangustasana), I cultivated ujjayi breath and imitated Darth Vadar with the best of them. Although I did my best to maintain that breath focus throughout practice, I probably never got more points for consistency as I did during childbirth. Breath focus is a big part of what got me through 30+ hours of unmedicated labor…not to mention innumerable other episodes of physical and mental challenges. I’m a believer that breath can get you through almost anything.
  • “You can get hurt doing Ashtanga” – but you certainly don’t have to. The benefits outweigh the risk. And you can also get hurt sitting on your ass all day, when your muscles are too weak to support your skeleton. And as with anything else, a good teacher is essential to help you recognize and respect the difference between discomfort and pain. So don’t buy into that myth, because…
  • Ashtanga yoga is for almost everyone. As Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga put it: anyone can practice, except for lazy people. There are plenty of people who practice Ashtanga that will never do the full primary series. The sequence is so beautifully designed that even if you only do parts of it, it will make you stronger than you ever imagined. So if you haven’t already, I highly recommend trying an intro class.
More Ashtanga fun: Rocket Girl Peg did a great job debunking Ashtanga myths here, check it out. Namaste.