5 Reasons Steph Loves Ashtanga Yoga
1. Strength Building
I have the genetics for flexibility, which makes Yoga a dream job. Except that flexible people get injured in Yoga three times more than non-flexies. We apparently go too far into the stretch, injuring the tissues around our joints. Yup, I see it all the time. But lucky me, I “found” a style of Yoga early in my Yoga career that complemented my flexibility and built the much needed strength around my joints called Ashtanga Yoga. It was in Santa Barbara, CA in 1992, in John’s danky basement with space heaters. I would later drive to Encinitas to study with Tim, and it was also a danky basement with space heaters. These were definitely the low-budget days of Yoga! But the benefits of strength building Yoga practice are beyond protecting flexibility. I am building bone density, I am comfortable in my strong body (long periods of sitting or gardening for example don’t “kill” me), and I am a strong woman. Not just muscular, but strong in spirit, and in Yoga. Body-mind-spirit are all connected.
I had been practicing Yoga for several years before I found this style of Yoga, and besides the incredible strength it required (which humbled me to my very core), I was blown away by breathing deeply. At least it felt like this was the first time in my life that I ever even noticed deep breathing and how it made me feel. It was incredible. I am talking one of the top 5 moments of my entire life! Somehow, I awakened to the realization, while doing the traditional closing seated pranayama (Ujjayi- throaty breathing), that the breath wasn’t just “air in, air out.” It was energy, and I could literally feel it beyond my lungs, filling up my body. I could feel where the energy was stagnant or depleted and could use the Ujjayi to help heal and re-inspire that area. Oh yes, life transforming, like a million times more exciting than downward facing dog!
For me, I like intensity and excitement. Not only is this practice intense and exciting (incredibly hard and challenging postures!) but the environment is intense and exciting. At least “back in the day” in those basements. I was told by John and Tim that they were trying to recreate the heat they found in Mysore, India, the birthplace of this practice. I loved it. As most of us Yogi-heat-seekers realize, the detoxification happening is definitely not just physical toxins but emotional, spiritual, and psychological as well. That heat combined with the practice itself can really transform things (cells, muscles, bones, thoughts, emotions, etc).
4. “Practice, Practice, All is Coming.”
This was the mantra of the founder, Pattabhis Jois. He wasn’t very fluent in English, but he sure chose his words succinctly! His verbatim teaching matches my own personal philosophy of life, which is highly influenced by Zen. About the same year I “found” Ashtanga Yoga, I also discovered Zen meditation. The main messages are so parallel: It’s not about the goal. It’s about the journey and every single thing we do and think along the way. So wake up. Keep practicing. Every moment.
5. Amazing Lineage
This particular style of Yoga has one of the most amazing lineages of dedicated practitioners. It starts before Pattabhis Jois with Krishnamacharya, but then quickly finds many American devotees: Bryan Kest, David Swenson, Tim Miller, Kino MacGregor, to name a few. And ALL of these fabulous and kind people were influenced by one main American: David Williams. He is from Greenboro, NC and often comes to visit family and friends, and – being super blessed – I am one of his friends! This crew of devoted, old-school ashtangis are the best. I feel honored to call them my friends. And David will be at Asheville Yoga Center Sept 3 – 6, so if you want to try what Steph has used to sustain herself for almost 30 years, please come! All levels welcome. Register here.