The Yoga Post
I've been doing yoga for about five years now. My very first yoga class was a Bikram class and looking back on that I'm not sure what I was thinking. Bikram is a California-esque version of hatha yoga (which is a lot of holding poses or what seems like forever) and is pretty much the opposite of what I now look for in my current practice. I get bored pretty easily so I like constant movement and flow in my yoga practice as well as a non-torture-chamber-like room temperature.
I heard about Ashtanga from a few people and was intrigued. They had all warned it was a much more rigorous form of yoga. I'm not one to shy away from a physical challenge so I signed up for led=Ashtanga class downtown. I got there 20 minutes early and lay my mat down in the middle of the class, off to the side, my 'safe' place where I can follow the person in front of me and get lost in the crowd. But as the class started I realized there was different set up than what I'm used to. Everyone faced the middle of the class, the instructor didn't ask if there were any beginners, everyone looked serious, intense, not ready to tolerate a 'beginner'. I was nervous. Should I tell the instructor I had never done ashtanga? I don't speak a lick of Sanskrit? I'm not sure I'm physically able to do this? I'm really really scared, help me????
I faked my way through the class. As people were doing what seemed like advanced acrobatics, I kept a steady pace a few breaths behind everyone, tried to breathe and tried to maintain my sense of humor. And to the instructor's credit, she did too. She helped me with many adjustments and maneuvering and created a calm and supportive atmosphere. I could barely make it through the class but by the end I knew I was hooked. I wanted to learn the sequence and what 'shabta' meant and I wanted to be absorbed into that meditative state without worry of what comes next.
I went home and did a youtube search and found a great retro video of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (the revered ashtanga guru ) leading the primary series. There's a bunch of western students in the video who all have insane bodies and 80's style lycra outfits. Jois instructs in Sanskrit and it is tranquil and meditative while being intense at the same time. It's everything I hoped for in a yoga class right in my own living room! I'm hoping to really focus on Ashtanga once I get to India.