Ashtanga Yoga: My Journey from a Beginner to a Dedicated Practitioner
Yoga has been an important part of my life for years, and when I discovered Ashtanga Yoga, I knew I had found my true practice. The fixed sequence of postures and the opportunity to progress through the levels appealed to me. I was eager to dive deeper into this transformative practice. In this blog post, I will share my personal experiences as a beginner Ashtanga Yoga practitioner and how this practice has transformed my life.
My first experience of Ashtanga Yoga was in Ashtanga Yoga Bali Research Center, Ubud for four weeks in 2022. I had always been curious about this practice, and I wanted to learn from a master practitioner. So I found a private shala in a forest near the rice padi area in Ubud that offered Mysore-style classes, and I signed up for a month-long immersion.
I had tried various styles, but none of them felt quite right. It wasn't until I discovered Ashtanga Yoga that I felt truly at home on my mat. The fixed sequence of postures appealed to me, as it allowed me to focus on my breath and my body without the distraction of figuring out what pose came next. I also appreciated the structure and discipline that this practice offered, which gave me a sense of purpose and direction.
I found it challenging and intimidating when I first started practicing Ashtanga Yoga. The postures were challenging, and the pace was fast. However, I quickly realized that this was part of the appeal of this practice. The challenge pushed me to my physical and mental limits and helped me grow and evolve as a practitioner.
The first week of my immersion was the most challenging. I struggled to keep up with the pace of the class, and I found the postures to be incredibly difficult. However, my teacher, Radha, was very supportive and encouraged me to keep going. She reminded me that this practice was a journey and would take time and dedication to see progress.
As the weeks went on, I started to see the progress that I was making. My body became stronger and more flexible, and I could move through the sequence with greater ease. I also noticed a change in my mental state. I was more focused and centered and felt a sense of calm and clarity that I had never experienced before.
Ashtanga Yoga has six levels, or series, each building on the previous one. As a beginner, I started with the Primary series, which is the foundation of this practice. The Primary series consists of 72 postures, and it can take several years of dedicated practice to master. However, once you have completed the Primary series, you can move on to the Intermediate series.
The Intermediate series, also known as the Second series, builds on the foundation of the Primary series and introduces new postures, including backbends and arm balances. It requires even more strength, flexibility, and focus than the Primary series, but it is also incredibly rewarding. The Intermediate series is divided into four parts, each with its own set of postures.
Beyond the Intermediate series, there are four Advanced series, each with its own unique set of postures. These series are not taught in a group setting and are only taught one-on-one by a teacher. The Advanced series require a high level of skill and dedication, and they are not for everyone. However, for those who are committed to the practice and have the necessary skills, the Advanced series can be a deeply transformative experience.
In addition to the six series, Astanga Yoga also includes pranayama, or breath control, as an essential part of the practice. Pranayama is a powerful tool for cultivating mindfulness and for connecting with the body and the breath. It can help to calm the mind and to prepare the body for meditation.
A year has passed since I started Ashtanga yoga; I am still trying to complete the Primary series. Each posture is a journey, and I must work hard to develop the strength, flexibility, and focus required to move through the sequence. However, with each passing day, I can see the progress that I am making, and it is incredibly motivating.
The Transformational Power of Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga has transformed my life in ways I could have never imagined. It has helped me to connect with my body and my breath and to find a sense of calm and clarity in my mind. It has also taught me the value of discipline, patience, and perseverance.
As a beginner, I was drawn to the structure and discipline of Ashtanga Yoga. Still, I had yet to learn how transformative it would be. The daily practice has helped me to develop a deeper connection with myself and to cultivate a sense of inner peace and resilience that has carried over into all aspects of my life.
Ashtanga Yoga has also taught me the value of patience and perseverance. It has shown me that progress is not linear and that there will be setbacks and challenges along the way. However, with dedication and commitment, overcoming these obstacles and achieving our goals is possible.
Finally, Ashtanga Yoga has taught me the importance of being present in the moment. In our fast-paced and busy lives, it is easy getting caught up in the past or the future is easy. However, on the mat, we are forced to be present with our breath and our body. This presence and mindfulness have helped me to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the present moment and to live my life more fully.
In conclusion, Ashtanga Yoga has been a transformative practice for me physically and mentally. It has challenged me, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and helped me grow and evolve as a practitioner and person. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from a master practitioner from Ashtanga Yoga Bali Research Center in Ubud and I am excited to see where this practice will take me in the future.
Suggestions for Further Reading:
"The Power of Ashtanga Yoga" by Kino MacGregor
"Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual" by David Swenson
"Yoga Mala" by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois