Ashtanga Yoga is a method of yoga which, when practised correctly, has the potential to bring about optimum health in body and mind. Ashtanga Yoga is a flowing, breath-focused yoga practice that is appropriate for all body types, backgrounds and ages. Please read through the following information and email the teacher Caroline on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any more questions before you come to class.
‘Ashtanga’ links together two Sanskrit words: ‘asta’ (eight) and ‘anga’ (limb). This is an eight-limbed system of yoga practice where just one limb is yoga asana or yoga postures. The other limbs are the yamas and niyamas (ethical guidelines), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration, or one-pointed attention), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (variously translated as bliss, union, complete absorption or ‘one-ness’). The first four limbs must be firmly rooted through correct practice before the final four evolve spontaneously within the practitioner.
There are six series of yoga asanas in Ashtanga Yoga, increasing in difficulty. Everyone begins by learning the primary series or ‘yoga chikitsa’ which translates as yoga therapy. One by one, each pose in primary series is taught to the student. We always wait until the asana is understood and integrated properly before learning the next. In this way, the body and mind adjust and become stronger before the postures increase in difficulty. This protects you against injury and ensures a yoga practice that will last a lifetime.
Primary series helps re-align the body inside and out. The yoga practitioner becomes strong, flexible and healthy. Completing the primary series can take anything from a few months to a few years. Patience and consistency are key.
The intermediate series of asanas works on the nervous system. A student begins to learn intermediate once primary series is completed and – importantly – fully integrated into your life. The advanced series work on further levels of strength and stability.
What to expect:
On entering the Ashtanga Bristol yoga shala you will notice that students of all abilities practise alongside one another. There is no separate class for ‘beginners’ or ‘advanced’ students. Similarly, there is no instructor at the front calling out the movements, as is often the norm in Western yoga classes.
Every student you see at our shala has been taught how to do each and every pose one-on-one with their teacher. Each day they arrive at a time to suit their schedule, roll out their mat and begin to practice the movements they have been taught. The teacher (and possibly assistant, if the room is busy) moves around the room teaching each student individually: providing help, adjustments and new asanas as necessary.
The idea of this can seem daunting if you are new. Some assume they must ‘know what they are doing’ before arriving. This could not be further from the truth! When you come and experience this style of learning and teaching for yourself you will realise how beneficial it is to learn yoga in this setting.
The Mysore room is the safest place to learn yoga precisely because the teacher is focused on each student as an individual. You will learn the sequence of yoga poses at a rate that is right for you, to ensure safe and steady progress over time. You will receive personalised, individual attention and teaching every single time you come to class.
What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Yoga is not designed to be taught in a large group along the lines of an exercise class. It is a tradition passed down from teacher to student in person. There is no better way to learn yoga than one-on-one with a teacher who has been taught in exactly the same way.
On your first day:
- You will be welcomed by Caroline or Vanessa
- We will ask you to fill in a short registration form
- You will spend a few minutes observing the room to get a feel for the practice, teaching and structure of the class
- We will teach you the very first part of the Primary series. We will stay with you until you feel comfortable doing the movements. You will finish with some calming seated poses and a short rest
- The next day you will come in and practice the movements we taught you on the previous day. When you are ready, we will add on the next section. Slowly, your yoga practice will grow.
The yoga practice you learn at our shala can be done anytime and anywhere. You will not be reliant on a class situation for the rest of your life.
Benefits of practicing Ashtanga Yoga
The benefits of a regular Ashtanga yoga practice are too numerous to mention. With a regular, consistent Ashtanga Yoga practice you can expect to experience:
- Increased strength (in particular core strength)
- Increased flexibility
- Improved levels of concentration
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved sleep quality
- Weight loss
- Improved posture
- Relieved back, knee and joint pain
- Improved digestion
- Increased energy
- Help managing anxiety and depression
- An increased sense of positive well-being
Cornerstones of Ashtanga Yoga:
- Asana means yoga postures. You will learn the poses in the best way for you, over time, one-on-one with your teacher.
- The importance of correct breathing cannot be over-emphasised. The entire Ashtanga Yoga practice is built upon a steady and deep inhale / exhale pattern, with every movement designated a breath. As you begin to synchronise your movement with the breath your stamina, strength and flexibility will improve.
- Dristhi means gaze point. Along with each asana you will be taught where to look. Maintaining a steady gaze through your practice, rather than looking around the room or watching other practitioners can be difficult for some students. The more concentration you can being to the drishti, along with the deep and steady breathing, the more quickly you will feel the positive effects of Ashtanga Yoga within your body and mind. Dristhi keeps the mind focused on one point. By getting on your mat each morning you will re-discover the ability to stay focused and clear-headed throughout your day.
How often should you practice Ashtanga yoga
Ashtanga Yoga works best as a 5-6 day a week practice, taking one rest day (ideally on the same day) each week. We also rest on moondays (see upcoming dates here) and women are encouraged to rest during the first three days of menstruation (‘ladies holiday’). This commitment can seem daunting – often beginners to Ashtanga view yoga as a once-a-week ‘exercise’ class – but we encourage you to come with an open mind and commit for just one month in order to really let the practice do it’s work. Practising once or twice a week does have benefits, but to some extent it will always feel like an uphill battle. It is in your best interests to attend regularly!
As a new student you have two options:
- You can join us for regular morning practice on the beginners monthly unlimited pass. This is undoubtedly the best way to learn Ashtanga Yoga. Within this month we would like to see you a minimum of two or three times each week in order for the practice to work the best it can for you and for us to be able to teach you to the best of our ability. The price for the month is just £8o which at four or five times per week attendance is an extremely competitive cost-per-class.
- if this feels too daunting you can drop-in for a single class (please pre-book by emailing Caroline) and decide afterwards whether or not to sign up for the month. This single class costs £15, which is more than the average drop-in class because you will be assigned your own teacher. It’s a lot less than the going rate for a private yoga class, which is essentially what you will receive! If you do decide to join up you can ‘upgrade’ this single class to the beginners month.
This yoga practice works on all levels of the body and mind. As you learn yoga we need to be able to see you regularly and check how well it is integrating. Once you make the commitment to a regular practice the benefits that begin to reflect in your daily life will speak for themselves. You can read some ‘student stories’ here to find out how ordinary people make this practice work in their lives and the benefits it brings.
If you wish to begin studying Ashtanga Yoga with us please email email@example.com to organise a suitable date and time to begin.