Saturday 21st and 28th July, 2012
(9.00 am to 12.00 noon)
Who is the course for?
Those who are new to traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga or those would like a refresher to the practice.
What will the course cover?
The course will run over two Saturday mornings and will cover the
fundamentals of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga - the key principles behind the practice. including:-
Once you have been introduced to the fundamentals, you’ll be able to attend Sunday mornings regularly and as you progress, your teacher can add new postures in the sequence to your own practice.
As you learn the sequence rather than thinking ‘what is coming next’,
Ashtanga yoga becomes like a moving meditation – body, breath and awareness in your now.
The course fee is £50. (This price includes both Saturday mornings). Both mornings will need to be attended in succession.
Numbers on the course and booking
There will be 10 spaces on the course. To reserve/book your space contact Deena Mann on 07985 481 716 firstname.lastname@example.org Course fees to be paid in advance of attending to ensure your space.
Ashtanga Yoga: Questions and Answers
Tracey, the founder of the lovely The Yoga Barn in Keston asked me to write a blog about Asthanga yoga. I’m going to do this by sharing some of the questions I’ve been asked about Ashtanga over the last year.
How does Ashtanga differ from a regular Hatha yoga class?
Ashtanga yoga is a form of Hatha yoga. It is a dynamic form of hatha, where we flow from posture to posture with the breath, jumps and lifts. Each movement has a counted vinyasa (movement with the breath). Ashtanga yoga has a set sequence of postures.
Traditionally, Ashtanga yoga is taught as a self practice where the student carries out their practice at their own pace. The teacher giving adjustments and advice on an individual basis in a group setting.
This has evolved over the years and as well as self practice, there are also led classes. In a led class, the teacher guides a group of students together by each breath and each movement to a count.
If Ashtanga is following a set series then is an ashtanga class exactly the same each time (if so why?) or does it change?
The sequence is the same. This is the ‘constant’ of the practice. The beauty of this system is that although it is the same sequence, each time you practice it will feel different; your experience will never be exactly the same. It allows you to explore, self study and examine yourself. A journey that is constantly changing, unfolding and transforming as we become even more aware.
My impression (and brief experience) of Ashtanga yoga is that it is all rather fast and furious and not really for me. Am I mistaken in thinking this?
In a led type class it can seem fast if you are used to a slower type of yoga. There are many techniques that can be learnt to allow the transitions in Ashtanga to flow with more ease so that although we are moving we can feel more comfortable with the pace. One of the keys to the practice is to be in the moment, so with each breath and each movement – like a moving meditation. This can make the experience feel slower.
If you find a led class too fast, it is worth exploring a self practice class. As you are taught the postures and then you move at your own pace.
Is Ashtanga yoga suitable for beginners?
Yes it definitely can be for beginners.
I would recommend either a self practice class where all levels of experience are welcome. In a self practice class you have individual attention. So you learn the sequence of postures from the beginning.
In a led class I would recommend some experience of yoga postures, however, the teacher should offer modifications and ways to lighten where required.
It is always best to speak with the teacher in advance to see if the class would be suitable.
What is the significance of the opening and closing chants?
The opening chant is about giving thanks to our teachers for passing on yoga and in particular Patanjali, the Sage who was said to give us the Yoga Sutras - the 8-fold path or system to Self realisation. Hatha yoga being part of the 8-fold path. The closing chant is about asking or sending positive energy outwards. Giving hope that those who lead, do so with compassion and love.
When we include the chant at the beginning and the end of a class it helps to give a traditional feel and brings the group together – encouraging all to the now. Chanting helps to raise energy levels and can be very uplifting. It is not compulsory to join in, simply by listening; you’ll receive the positive benefits of sound.
What bandhas should we have on when we practice and how important is it to maintain them during the practice?
Bandhas can be described as energy awareness’s with physical locations. In yoga awareness of ourselves starts with our body so we can connect to our bandhas on a physical level to begin with.
We encourage our lower bandhas to be maintained throughout our Ashtanga practice. Uddiyana Bandha is the feeling of drawing the lower abdominal muscles a little in and up, and Mula Bandha, the pelvic floor area drawing in and up (any where from the front of the pelvic floor to the anus). When we draw both bandhas in and up I often liken the feeling of when you try on a tight pair of trousers and you draw in and up to get the zip done up.
Both bandhas work in harmony to give us a connection to internal strength and a feeling of being grounded and light. They are the key to our practice and on a physical level help to protect our lower backs, give us foundation, balance, space and help to create internal heat.
It is essential to maintain them and this does take practice. The more we practice, the easier this becomes. To begin with both are easier to feel towards the end of the out breath. After time, we can also begin to feel them on an in breath. This means that the lower abdominal area is still and we find that we are breathing in a thoracic way. The rib cage expands deeply on an in breath, as we breathe out the bandhas draw in and up, on the next in breath we keep the bandhas on to feel an expansion in the ribcage again. And so this continues throughout our practice.
Two of my teachers, Bob Insley and John Scott both talk of their first Asthanga teacher, Derek Island who when asked how long should the bandhas be held, would answer by saying “for life!”.
In addition to the lower bandhas, we also encourage a shadow of Jalandhara bandha. This is the top bandha, where the chest comes to meet the chin. Throughout the practice we encourage a lift in the upper chest, a length through the front of the body and a slight feeling of the chin tucking in. In some of the postures we find this deepens, for example, in down dog, as we press into our hands we can experience length through the front of the body and as we tuck our chin in to gaze at the navel dhristi we are connected to Jalandhara bandha.
So the bandhas are an integral part of our practice, they help to deepen our awareness physically and more.
What can I do if I have short arms and want to ‘jump through’ and ‘jump back’?
‘Jump throughs’ are the transition from Adho Muka Svanasana (Down dog) to Dandasana and then ‘jump backs’ from Dandasana to Chataranga. Body shapes, sizes, lengths, etc can be an advantage or make things less than easy sometimes. Long arms can seem like an advantage and can certainly help to reach hands to the floor to give a good foundation to lift. If arms are shorter then hands can be placed closer to the feet in down dog and forward of the hips in Dandasana. The practitioner is encouraged to ‘bud’ which means tucking under, rounding using bandhas. I’ve experienced students with shorter arms jump through and back with grace this way. There is also the option of using blocks under each hand to help practice foundation and lift. As breath, bandha and foundation awareness deepens, the lifts and jumps become lighter and more possible for all limb sizes and body shapes.
If a student has longer arms, often they have longer legs and vice versa, shorter arms, shorter legs. Postures that require a hamstring stretch are often easy with shorter legs. So all body shapes have their different challenges. We can see them as opportunities to get to know the body even more.
Meeting challenges in our yoga practice and working with these gives us strength in body and mind. This will in turn help us to meet challenges in every day life!
The most important thing in our practice is that the mind is present. The more we practice, this naturally happens and how much we can do or can’t do will not seem so important. Joy will come from the practice itself.
If you have any questions about Asthanga yoga please email me email@example.com and I’ll do my best to answer them.
I teach a regular Asthanga Self Practice class with Lee at The Yoga Barn Sunday mornings: 9.00 to 10.30 a.m. All levels welcome and Ashtanga Yoga at the Yoga Barn on a Wednesday evening 8pm to 9:30pm.