This intense "gymnastics" style of yoga can be quite intimidating to beginners. It is recommended you practice five or six days per week for one to two hours, depending on your skill set.
Sound crazy? I'm not done yet! You might dedicate hours, days, months and even years to your Ashtanga practice and still be stuck in the same series, doing the same set of asanas, until you are ready to advance to the next level. This is why I use the hashtag, #Yogaeverydamnday.
So why would anyone actually want do something like this? I call it a bittersweet practice — kind of like dark chocolate. It's bitter, but it's still sweet. You love it, you want it, and you are absolutely addicted to it.
Here are four reasons why Ashtanga yoga is a great practice:
1. Great physical strength and flexibility
Starting from the primary series, you will be doing a minimum of 60 asanas which does not include a vinyasa flow before each asana. Each asana is held for about five breaths, focusing on Ujjayi breathing and Drishti gaze, while engaging the Mula Bandha lock. This practice creates tremendous strength, flexibility and power.
2. Practicing patience
This practice will really test your patience. Imagine doing the same asanas for sometimes four years or more, until you get them right! I have made some great progress, but things do get old quickly. Ashtanga teaches you to be more patient and kind to yourself —just like in other aspects of life, you'll learn that you will get certain things when you are ready.
3. Ego crusher
Everyone seems to walk into their first few Ashtanga classes with a chip on their shoulder. We have all experienced times when our ego gets in the way. Ashtanga consists of intense postures — like Kapotasana (pictured), where you literally bend your body in half to form a semicircle.
Now some of us our luckier than others and are gifted with flexible hips, but for the rest of us (like me!) it takes years to go so far as touch your toes.
You will learn from Ashtanga that you are not the master of everything and that in fact, you never will be.
Again just like life, it is all about practice, practice, practice. There is no master. There is no perfection. It's just practice.
4. Self-confidence building
Eventually, you will truly believe in yourself. You'll realize it's OK if and when you fall, because it's not the end all. You will learn that great strength and even art comes from continued practice.
At the end of the day, all you have is YOU and the greatest gift you have is a healthy mind and body.
Photos courtesy of the author