Many people have asked me why I practice Ashtanga yoga. Whilst I have deep respect for all styles of yoga (Hatha yoga in particular) Ashtanga has taught me many life changing lessons and I want to share three of those lessons with you today.
Lesson 1: Discipline is key
In Ashtanga, we practice the same sequence six mornings a week until given permission (traditionally) from a qualified instructor to progress to the next series. There are six series in Ashtanga yoga and each series is carefully designed to develop the right amount of balance, strength and flexibility within your body that will prepare you for a progression to the next. With this understanding of the sequences, I fully respect that I need to maintain a consistent practice in order to progress. The discipline is in the commitment to the physical practice regardless of how tired, bored or sore I am; the ritual of getting up every morning at 3.30am (I need to do this as I am teaching at 6.00am) and; most importantly, the discipline of my mind to maintain the (at times monotonous) unchanging sequence.
Lesson 2: My practice has the power to develop deep self-awareness
I continually working on the same sequence I have come to notice some deeper, subtler changes in both my body and mind. I have noticed how little niggles shift daily, how my balance is effected by my thoughts, how my breath strengthens and relieves pain in my back. Before practicing yoga, and with a very irregular practice years ago, these subtleties remained hidden. And whilst I’m mindful I have barely scratched the surface in terms of deepening my self-awareness, I do feel that I’m now heading in the right direction!
Lesson 3: Just the slightest shift in perfection will determine my day
Let’s get something clear here – I am not overjoyed when my alarm goes off at 3.30am. I’m no different to anyone else when it comes to the dread of pulling myself from my cozy bed and onto my cold mat in the living room. But what I have learned over the years is my mind will dictate my practice every morning. Without a structured practice, I would often find myself lying on my mat not doing a whole lot. Whilst I may feel tired, if I tell myself I will have a strong practice that day, then I shall. If I give in to lazy thoughts, then that is exactly how I will feel on my mat. And because Ashtanga is repetitive, I always know the difference between a focused and intentional practice, and a lazy, ‘go-through-the-motions’ practice.
How I choose to think in the morning – strong and focused or lazy and weak is exactly what I bring into the rest of my day. Whilst I’m only human and I too give into the lazy thinking, I’ve definitely recognized the power of my mind to change the direction of my practice, and my entire day, with just the slightest shift in perception.
So there you have it – three key lessons the practice of Ashtanga yoga has taught me. I lead Ashtanga classes five mornings a week at the studio to help others who are also committed to a regular practice and I welcome anyone who is keen to try. Whilst it may seem a little intimidating at first, given time, it could totally transform your life in the same way it has mine.
Sending warm hugs,