7 Reasons Why Ashtanga Yoga Is Not Hard

When I first started practicing Ashtanga Yoga I would switch between Darby’s primary series DVD and Freeman’s intermediate series. Monday for Darby’s, Tuesday for Freeman.  I had never done ashtanga before, so I thought I could breeze through the different series.  Was I deluded? Completely!

When I see James (a complete beginner) come out of one of the led classes expressionless other than using enough muscle to say: “brutal”, then it looks hard.  Let’s also point out that He, just like me, has been bitten by the “wanting to do it all at once” bug.  It is in the air.

Then I wondered: who, initially, among us follows the system exactly as intended and with a good teacher?

I am one of those people who wants everything fast, or at least I did. But I did not know that when I began, I wanted those advacned poses like pincha mayurasana and the flip flops, I wanted to be Boodiba on class three. Hey I even had an Excel chart!

Frank puts it nicely when he says in the comments to yesterday’s post that “it requires getting over the idea that it will be boring”.  Wow, I actually never had this problem, it was never boring to me, but I can relate to how the repetition can be unsettling.

Back in Mysore earlier this year James asked repeatedly whether the exercising of the same group of muscles would not be an issue.  But as I see it, the deeper we go, no matter how long in a plateau of poses, there is always a new pose at the end of the tunnel, and a new group of muscles.  There is also the going deeper within the poses we already have. The thing with 6 series is that there is really no end. It is infinite.

Grimmly brought up that perhaps all this business of the practice is like giving birth, one of those things that you forget and romanticize. Point taken, It is hard isn’t it?

The issue of the teacher is important. Nobel mentions how he finally came to find a good teacher, and although he only sees her when on tour it is a key part of his practice.  Yes, finding a good teacher that will go along, respect our limitations, and work with our mental fluctuations is critical! Not everyone is that lucky.

Yogicory is a mom with three boys at home, God bless her!, she says that Ashtanga’s discipline is a huge part of her life, the discipline, which mirrors her life, sometimes good practice sometimes not so good.

I will confess to one part that I found very hard in the beginning, it was the moment when you are practicing and the instant before you start to sweat.  I hated that moment, I did not like getting wet and dirty, I did not like to feel the burn.  And THAT is actually the purification part.  I had a resistance to the cleansing.  Funny.

So, these are my gatherings about what the hard parts in Ashtanga Yoga are:

  1. The boredom factor
  2. The pushing to go faster because we all want to be good on day one, OK maybe not you, but I did (although not any more)
  3. The sweating. Who likes to sweat?
  4. The enormous commitment.  Guruji would say you practice over a long time meaning 30 years? 40 years?
  5. Having the stamina to remain with the practice until it becomes a discipline that grounds us
  6. Keeping motivated. Especially if we do not have a good teacher nearby/cannot make it to Mysore
  7. Before starting the practice: dealing with the “perception” that it is hard
  8. Finding a good teacher that will help us find our edge and slow our mental fanatical desire to go further.  Also, avoiding a teacher that could hurt us.
Finding a good teacher is difficult, whether in person or online, or through workshops, coming across the right soul, that is hard indeed.  But can you see how all the other points in the list reside in the mind of the beholder?

It is not easy, but it is not hard.

Body is not stiff, mind is.  K.P.Jois
Pictures in this post link to their source.

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20 Responses to 7 Reasons Why Ashtanga Yoga Is Not Hard

  1. Jen April 20, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    I keep reminding myself to learn like a little kid as I develop my practice. &quot;Look at all these people around me, they can walk no problem, they can even RUN and I can&#39;t even take one step!&quot; But they don&#39;t decide it&#39;s too hard and move onto something else… they just keep trying to put one foot in front of the other and trust that all is coming.<br /><br />I love your

  2. Claudia April 20, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    Hi Jen, that is a very nice metaphore, loved it! good thing to keep in mind.. yes. Welcome back from India by the way, and thanks for your comment 🙂

  3. Claudia April 20, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    By the way…. in your honor will attempt to meditate twice today, I am so grateful for all those talks we had in Mysore over the daily hour sitting…

  4. Megan Walker April 20, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Great post! Interesting that you hated that moment right before you start to sweat. I had the same experience when I first started practicing yoga. It wasn&#39;t Ashtanga at the time, but nonetheless, that moment right before the sweat broke through was always really intense, like right before a rainstorm when the atmospheric pressure is super low so the internal pressure feels high. <br /><

  5. Claudia April 20, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Thanks Mega, relieved to hear I am not the only one on the sweating, or rather the pre-sweating moment. I agree with you on it being different every day but there are lots of people who do find the repetition a bit, well, repetitive… guess it adds spice to life… thanks for your comment.

  6. Nobel April 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Great post, Claudia. Yes, I think a lot of frustration with Ashtanga arises from that desire that many people have to want to be &quot;perfect&quot; on Day One. <br /><br />I like that Kapotasana adjustment that Krishnamacharya is giving in that picture. How come I never got that adjustment? Maybe he&#39;s the only person authorized to give it? Ah… what am I missing by not going to Mysore? 🙂

  7. Frank April 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    I should say that I think it&#39;s tougher to find the practice boring once you&#39;ve been doing it for a certain period of time (will will vary from person to person). The issue is that people think it will be boring before they even try it. Get them to come in for a month or 3, and they will see that it&#39;s not boring. The real hurdle is getting people in the door in the first place–and

  8. Frank April 20, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    Nobel, I know you go to Kino. Have you practiced with her husband Tim? I went to him a couple of weeks ago, and while he did not stand on me in Kapo, he gave me a pretty wild adjustment into a deeper version that I don&#39;t think is really part of the standard practice but is way cool (basically bending the legs from Kapo B so the feet go onto the head and then past it). I was like, &quot;

  9. Yyogini April 20, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    I love your summary Claudia! When I heard about the system of Ashtanga (before I&#39;ve seen or tried a class) I thought it sounded like the most boring practice ever. You never actually know until you try it. <br /><br />What Megan said sounds like my friend who doesn&#39;t sweat easily. I don&#39;t have a pre-sweating moment. When the teacher tells us to put our hands together in front of our

  10. Claudia April 20, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Thank you Nobel, now, unlike you I am not yet sure I would ever want that adjustment… hee hee, but I am sure I will change my mind!<br /><br />Frank, that is true, it is in the repetition that we eventually find that it is not boring, good point… I also appreciate the tip you gave Nobel, I hope to practice with Kino and Tim at some point.<br /><br />Yyogini, really? at the prayer time

  11. savasanaaddict April 20, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    I struggle with #2 and #5 all the time, just came out of the #1 phase and now working through #6, partly because I&#39;m searching for #8. Ashtanga is like a never-ending jigsaw puzzle, there&#39;s always something new to work on, whether an asana or our frame of mind. In that sense, it is hard, but also very rewarding. <br /><br />Another great list!

  12. Nobel April 20, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    Frank, I got an adjustment from Tim in Prasarita Padottanasana B or C at a workshop a couple of years ago. At that time, I was still new to Ashtanga and was doing primary only, so I did not get any further adjustments from him. And that was the only time I have ever been in a workshop with him. That kapo B adjustment sounds really exhilarating. I&#39;ve heard many good things about Tim. Hopefully

  13. Nobel April 20, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    Claudia: Actually, I&#39;m not sure I would really want somebody standing on my chest either, come to think of it 🙂

  14. Claudia April 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Savasanaddict, I love your going through the list and describing your process, very honest of you! I agree on the rewarding part and the puzzle, yes, good analogy. There is always something new, something interesting, something to undergo… something to surrender to. <br /><br />Nobel, ha ha, yeah, unless of course it was T.K. himself… in which case who would say no?

  15. yoginicory April 21, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    Hmm. I must confess that the reason why I did Ashtanga then and now has changed. Before, it was just another thing to do. Hence, boredom sat in without proper guidance. Now, it&#39;s a painkiller for my problems with scoliosis. Relief is always sweet. <br /><br />And that is enough to change perception. It&#39;s like a woman who&#39;s undergoing contractions. If you don&#39;t understand how the

  16. yoginicory April 21, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    i mean it&#39;s not all about getting it right. it&#39;s about the journey getting there 😛

  17. Claudia April 21, 2011 at 6:41 am #

    Yes Yoginicory you bring up a good point, once you understand the why then it becomes more clear. Very much so, I feel that way too.

  18. Frank April 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Frank April 21, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    So, I&#39;m going to stand by my statement that Asthanga is in fact hard–really hard. It is designed to take you to your limit and asks you to walk what seems the edge of the possible. Now, I suppose you don&#39;t have to approach it that way; you could back off, of course. But by design, Ashtanga is designed to challenge you progressively. And, honestly, if Ashtanga weren&#39;t hard, I wouldn&#

  20. Claudia April 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Frank, point taken, glad to hear you are standing by your statement and I see your point.<br /><br />I like the way you say it is not &quot;advanced&quot; and that access to Mysore should be for everyone. If anything this leaves me wondering more… I am never one of those people to try to preach, I just talk about my own walk, and about the incredible blessings this practice has brought to my