The Ashtanga Yoga program at Castle Hill Fitness is back! But what is the Ashtanga Yoga system, and what distinguishes it from other yoga styles? In this article, Ashtanga Mysore instructor at Castle Hill Fitness, Juan Anguiano, answers a few questions, explaining the history of the system and his teaching philosophy.
Ashtanga is a system of yoga that was taught by the late Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois at his Institute in Mysore, India. It consists of sun salutations followed by a specific sequence of poses; the Primary Series is the first sequence and best known. The story goes that T. Krishnamacharya and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois discovered a manuscript written on palm leaves in a library in Calcutta. From this text, the vinyasa method was described in detail and the system was passed on to Jois who was instructed to teach it.
The goal of Ashtanga practice can be purely for the physical benefits, or as more of a self-reflective tool.
Mystore-style is the traditional method of teaching Ashtanga. Students practice together in the same room, at their own pace, with one-on-one guidance from the teacher as needed.
Not at all! Students who start with little to no experience are the best candidates for Mysore-style practice because they are like sponges that easily absorb the instructions with fresh ears. Experienced Yoga students will be more familiar with the poses, but should be open to new instructions and ways of doing things from time to time.
Students should be able to commit to at least three practices per week. If new students can’t come into the studio that often, at least a commitment of three times a week for the first two weeks should be made. This is to work with the instructor to build a foundation. From there, students can come in once or twice a week and continue on their own at home to keep the sequence fresh, sustain strength and flexibility, and not develop faulty movement patterns.
Typically, a new student will first have a conversation with the instructor about their physical history, yoga experience, and goals. Practice will begin with learning the first sun salutation, with the intent of learning the basics of coordinating movement and breath together.
The instructor will focus on helping students learn the routine a little bit at a time, so students may recall it and do most of it independently. The instructor will keep watch and assist as needed, but will interrupt as little as possible.
At the end, students should leave wanting to come back and learn more! Practice shouldn’t be so difficult that it’s depleting. If that’s the case, the instructor will work with the student on figuring out what needs adjusting.
Pattabhi Jois said “Yoga is for everyone! The sick man, the healthy man. The only person who can’t do it is the lazy person.”
Ashtanga Yoga can be practiced by anyone with a pulse! A good instructor will be able to provide modifications or alternate work for the poses to accommodate different needs without losing sight of the intent of the original pose.
Mysore is commonly viewed as being “too hard”. What most see, either online or by peeking into a class, is often people doing advanced poses. What isn’t seen is what that person looked like on day one, or all the daily work and instruction that went into getting them to those advanced poses. Everything in the system IS possible with practice.
Mysore-style yoga engages students in a self-paced, individualized practice in a group setting. This class format allows for each student to move at their own pace and to receive adjustments from the teacher. Beginners are welcome! Learn more about joining the program here.