Reformation of an Ashtanga Zealot

In this article I describe my history with Ashtanga Yoga, how my approach changed over the decades, some of the problems that I encountered,  their solution and how this has influenced my teaching.

How I came to Ashtanga:

Initially I was only interested in the meditation and philosophy aspects of yoga and practiced and studied those for many years. I came to asana only once I realized that the vitality of my body had peaked. I tried out various yogas such as Satyananda and Iyengar but found them either not intense enough or too static.

Meanwhile when travelling through India I heard that somebody was teaching Ashtanga Yoga, the apparently original yoga of Patanjali. I travelled to Mysore and interviewed the then teacher and meanwhile deceased K Pattabhi Jois, who confirmed that this was in fact the Patanjali yoga.

Encouraged by this confirmation I set to work with great zeal, although initially surprised by just how much effort and vigor I had to invest into the practice. For many years I practiced asana for three or more hours per day. For quite a while I even did two asana practices per day.

 

How I succeeded with Ashtanga:

After I accepted just how much energy I had to put into it my body changed radically and quickly. I then hit it big time with Ashtanga. To this day and this is decades afterwards I have to credit Ashtanga with giving me a body that is capable of sitting in Padmasana and Siddhasana for seemingly endless sessions of pranayama and yogic meditation. But let’s not get ahead in our story.

Boosted by physical prowess I turned into an Ashtanga zealot, with a strong fundamentalist tinge. To get my teacher authorization in India I had worked for many years very hard and tenaciously to complete the Intermediate Series of asanas. After I had achieved that goal I intended to enforce that standard by whatever means necessary.

For this reason for a long time I only accepted apprentices that either had completed or were on the way to completing the Intermediate Series of asanas. I had lengthy discussions with my co-trainer and wife Monica (also an authorized teacher in this method) about this issue. She argued that physical proficiency should not be the only measure to assess readiness to become a teacher whereas my line of argument was to uphold the standard.

 

First doubts: What makes a good teacher?

While for many years I did not accept any apprentices that didn’t fit those criteria, I nevertheless started to critically assess whether there was any link between physical proficiency and ability to master challenging postures on one hand and the ability to teach yoga with its many aspects on the other.

In the end I had to admit that there was very little connection. Most of my physically promising students did not go on to become great teachers. On the other hand there were many students at whom due to their physical limitations I initially sneered at, who went on to become excellent teachers. This is comparable to many other arts in life where the great trainers are not necessary the ones that are gifted in a particular discipline.

To be gifted can mean that you do not have to enquire deeply into what’s necessary to succeed since you can just do what’s required. On the other hand if you are not gifted this can provoke a deep inquiry into what needs to be done to succeed. This in turn can lead to the capacity to convey that to other students who are also not gifted. That vast majority of our students will not be of the gifted variety. As teachers we need to learn to cater to those.

The only area of teaching where it comes in handy to be an advanced asana practitioner is when you are teaching advanced postures. Looking back over decades of yoga experience this, however, takes less than 0.1% of my entire teaching activity, in other words it is a negligible part of the whole bandwidth of yoga teaching.

I critically examined my trainees to find out what made some great teachers and others not and found that apart from immersion in all limbs of yoga (and not just asana) what played a role was continued theoretical study of the subject, the ability to communicate and finally and most importantly a feeling of self-love and self- acceptance in which atmosphere the student can heal and experience the same.

This final and most important aspect of yoga teaching can be learned through spiritual practice (i.e. practice of the higher limbs) but it cannot be gained simply through asana.

On the contrary I found cases in which a great, strong and powerful asana practice was actually driven by self-loathing and the need for self-punishment. Some practitioners force themselves to attain such a coveted practice simply because they found themselves unworthy of love, that is the opposite of self-acceptance. To heal such practitioners it would be necessary to instill into them that they are okay as they are.

But what is being sold to them instead is the myth that they will be accepted as okay once they have achieved prowess in asana.

 

More doubts: It’s not your practice it’s your genetic make-up.

Looking back over a life that has been predominantly spent with yoga I have to say that contemporary Ashtanga places too much emphasis on the body and asana. I probably have seen tens of thousands of students and the outcome of this observation is that the most important contributor to your ability to perform fancy postures is not how much you practice, or how many years you practice or how intensely or how devotedly. I consider all of this a modern myth. The number one denominator is simple your genetic make-up, whether you got the right parents, the right shape of joints and bones, length of ligaments and muscle tension. Yes, you can alter things to a certain extent but if I see a new student entering the room I usually can tell within an hour how far they will make it in asana practice. To pretend that everybody if they just practiced enough could master all these postures is fooling them and creating a thirst within them that can probably never be quenched.

 

How I changed:

In the meantime I had two bad accidents, which meant that for quite a while I had to walk with the help of a stick. During that time I had to significantly modify my own practice. I asked myself what would my yoga be if my body was left, for example, quadriplegic. What would I do if I could not be an Ashtanga zealot anymore? Hang myself by means of my twisted yoga mat? Or was there more? What was this yoga about if we take the capable body away?

I realized that I needed to access an inner state that was not impinged on by the body whatsoever. I took all of the excess energy that I suddenly could not expend on athletic pursuit and threw it at studying yogic texts, Sanskrit, pranayama, kriyas and meditation. The transformative experience was so deep that I almost regretted that when my body eventually healed after years of yoga therapy, I could go back to advanced asana practice.

This experience also fundamentally changed my attitude to my students. To this day my old students tell me that they were all frightened of me when I walked into the shala, that there was something ferocious and imposing in my attitude. Today some of my students instead call me Papa Yogi Bear. I think that says it all. From zealot to Papa Yogi Bear.

The most important thing I understood is that it is not that the students are there for the yoga but that the yoga is there for the students. That means that if the practice does not serve the current needs of the student it must be adapted until it does. This is a maxim that was pointed out by Shri T Krishnamacharya but is lost in much of today’s competitive Ashtanga culture.

The goal of yoga is spiritual liberation. Through the many phases of human history yoga has changed over and over again to bring this goal in manifold ways to humanity. What was important was that this goal was reached and not through which form of practice it was reached.

 

How I teach now?

I hear that some people now call Ashtanga ‘the box’, indicating that it consists of a very narrow set of rules. I don’t think that people should be forced into a box that narrow. To be honest I don’t care much about the form of the box. What I care about is what it does to people. From looking at the many students that came to me I can discern four groups of people, let me call them the total ashtanga yogis, temporary adapters, permanent adapters and complete modifiers.

The first group is the one that fits into the box neatly. Somehow they have the right genetic make-up and with some work, they’ll be able to stick both legs behind their head, perform backward summersaults and stand on one hand, all what is to a great extent expected of a good Ashtanga practitioner. But these are actually the smallest group and they take the least amount of work. I simply just keep throwing more postures at them and explain once or twice how to do them and they’ll learn it.

The second group of students is much larger than the first. While they can stick to the rigid Ashtanga sequences most of the time, at times they have to modify their practice to address preexisting issues in their bodies that have surfaced. If you have for example serious knee or shoulder problems, it is unlikely that you heal them without modifying your practice. I belong to this group and by modifying whenever necessary and in what way necessary I can still practice most of the time straight Ashtanga after 25 years. It takes a fair bit of skill to teach this group.

The third group is even larger. They are students who will never be able to do a straight Ashtanga practice and will need some element of modification straight from the beginning and will need to stay with it. For example I have seen many students, often a bit older, that arrive with such stiff, hard, calcified hip joints that even ten or twenty years of practice including adjustments (yes, seen it) will bring only a slight improvement. If one is not prepared to think outside to box and enforces a presumably God or Rishi-given order of the postures these students can come to harm. One thing that I learned in over 35 years of yoga is that the Divine is infinite intelligence. I can positively guarantee you that he/she/it would never do or anything that would put the student in harms way, because harmlessness (ahimsa) is the number one rule of yoga and yoga is a creation of the Divine (Yoga Sutra I.26).

This leads me to the fourth and last group of students. For this group the practice must be individually custom built since as they have such ailments and difficulties that even a slightly but permanently modified Ashtanga practice is not suitable. Typical examples are elderly people with arthritis that have difficulties doing vinyasas, or upward and downward dog.

So there are at least four categories of students or four boxes that we have to fit students in and not just one. Of course the separations of the boxes are not made of boards but are fluid and we need to watch out for new categories and new approaches that become necessary.

 

More problems and the solutions:

Another issue is the fact that a lot of long-term Ashtanga yogis develop problems. There are quite a few areas but to look at all of them would make this article unwieldy. Let’s just look at three of them, knee issues, shoulder problems and flexion dominance.

If you look at the Primary Series you can see that it was originally developed for students who had already reasonably open hips. This is due to the fact that in India in the old days people didn’t use table and chairs but lived sitting on the floor. If you sit cross-legged on the floor from an early age on, your hips will never stiffen and you will be able to do complex postures such as Marichyasana B or Garbha Pindasana without harming your knees. I found that dealing with Western students is as necessary to introduce postures such as Baddha Konasana first and only once hip joints had opened would I insert the more difficult postures to arrive at the original sequence.

Another issue is that there is not enough pulling in the Ashtanga practice and people end up with underdeveloped shoulder stabilizers. I call this a front/back imbalance, meaning the pectoralis group becomes overdeveloped and the rhomboids and lower trapezius underdeveloped. This can easily be countered by some simple therapeutic exercises but a lot of orthodox teachers refuse to integrate them into their classes because they don’t want to contradict the myth that simply repeating the same practice without questioning would fix all problems. Remember the old adage, “The definition of madness is to repeat the same actions and to expect a different result.”

Yet another important subject is what to do with a student that has practiced the primary series for a few years and due to stiff hips or other limitations has absolutely no chance of ever moving on to the Intermediate Series with its important backbends. The orthodox view is to leave the student in Primary Series forever. I have noticed that this often does not work.

If a student practices Primary over and over again for years their body will eventually become flexion dominant since the Primary Series contains nothing but forward bends. This means that in the body of the student a strong imbalance develops. We can easily counteract this by allowing the student to include a few or in some cases more than a few (intermediate) backbends to balance the acquired flexion dominance. However in orthodox Ashtanga this is seen as going against the sacrosanct order of the postures. What’s more important, the dogma or the well-being of the student? Unfortunately I have seen many students switch styles because teachers were inflexible in their minds.

 

And the bottom line and heart of the problem:

My most important point, however, is that the spiritual aspects of Ashtanga are today not emphasized enough. I am trying through my books to open people more to this side of this magnificent practice and although the response was overwhelmingly positive I also encountered people who stamped their feet on the floor and yelled, ‘This is only a physical practice and it will remain that way’. I kid you not.

Although the term Ashtanga implies that it is a spiritual pursuit, many teachers only give some vague references to attention, breathing, bandhas and sweating and just do it and you will see.

Strangely enough if you study the yogic scriptures they don’t mention this narrative but clearly say that asana is only practiced so that you can spend extensive periods in Padmasana and Siddhasana practicing kumbhaka (breath retention), then an intricate school of yogic meditations and then finally the eight samadhis. But why are so few people doing it?

 

But not all is lost and why and how after 25 years I still practice Ashtanga daily.

I still think that Ashtanga is miraculous but only if you use the prowess and energy generated in your asana practice to then spend invest it into the higher limbs. And it is not that difficult either (if you have the right information) but you need to make a beginning.

I think it is exactly through this refusal to move on to the higher limbs that much of todays Ashtanga has earned its reputation of leading to physical problems. Because students are not led on to the higher limbs they are desperately trying to wring out of their body something that is not to be found in the body.

What we are really looking for is spiritual ecstasy and let me even call it some form of divine revelation, meaning the ultimate proof that we are indeed worthy of love. No human being will ever stop short of that ultimate confirmation, if we look for it in the strangest places, and we will go on and on until we reach it and in the meantime make a mess of our lives and the world in which we live.

If you get stuck with asana you will so desperately look for this ecstasy in your body that you will turn it inside out and in the process undo the body. But ecstasy is spiritual not physical. The mere name ecstasy implies this coming from the Greek ‘ekstasis’ – to be outside of the body.

You have to go beyond the body to harvest the many fruits of yoga. It was T Krishnamacharya who said that benefits of yoga can only be derived to the extent to which the respective limbs are practiced, i.e. asana will only give physical benefits and if you want more, more limbs have to be practiced.

I still consider Ashtanga yoga the ideal tool to transform the body into the vehicle on the road to spiritual liberation. But I teach it with a different twist: I tell my students to start with pranayama and yogic meditation as early as possible because too many students get bogged down in the quagmire of the body. To prevent that, I tell them to develop a dedicated pranayama practice to prepare for the Intermediate Series. I consider Intermediate too powerful to be unleashed onto a body not prepared by pranayama, even if such pranayama practice would be simple at the beginning.

I then tell my students to practice chakra and Kundalini meditation as a preparation for advanced asana practice. This creates the necessary distance to ones body and to ones achievements and prevents identification. In sutra I.12 Patanjali says that in order to still the mind, practice needs to be accompanied by disidentification.

Try it out and you will see that this desperate edge, sometimes even turning into auto-aggression, that one sees in some modern yogis, completely disappears. This inner peace and self-acceptance we look for cannot be found in asana but it is easily found in yogic pranayama and yogic meditation.

Asana is only the way to prepare the body. If we manage to restore this original purpose of asana then Ashtanga Yoga will return to what it once was, a path to spiritual freedom based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.

 

 

 

 

About Gregor Maehle

Gregor Maehle started his yogic practices over 38 years ago. For almost two decades he yearly travelled to India where he studied with various yogic and tantric masters. Gregor spent 14 months in Mysore, India, and in 1997 was authorized to teach Ashtanga Yoga by K. Pattabhi Jois. Since then he has branched out into research of the anatomical alignment of postures and the higher limbs of Yoga. He obtained his anatomical knowledge through a Health Practitioner degree and has also studied History, Philosophy and Comparative Religion.

Gregor lived many years as a recluse, studying Sanskrit, yogic scripture and practising yogic techniques. He has published a series of textbooks on all major aspects of yoga. His mission is to re-integrate ashtanga vinyasa practice into the larger framework of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga in the spirit of T. Krishnamacharya. He offers trainings, retreats and workshops worldwide.

Posted in Anatomy/Rehabilitation, Asana, Ashtanga Yoga, Teaching.

15 Comments

  1. Hello Gregor,

    thank you for the honest, personal article. It makes me think again about my practice today.

    Now I practice asana. I practice asana because I feel that at the stage of my life I’m now, I need it most. I’m sure there will be time when I will have time for meditation and pranayama, but for now I stick to the asana. I hear everywhere in yoga world that today yoga is not yoga but only physical practice. Well, I need this physical practice right now and it nearly makes me feel guilty so I have tried other physical practices but I didn’t find in them what I found in asana.
    My best yoga practice was when I was pregnant. My meditation, pranayma, studying, focus, everything was clear and spiritual and I felt it so deeply. My labor was spiritual practice too and thanks to yoga I felt prepared.
    However now I don’t have time and practicing yoga takes time. I need to choose – and now I need strong body and my mind is tired from waking up so many times during the night. Asanas are giving me the energy I need and fix my spine from carrying the baby
    I practice ahimsa. When the older one is screaming and all I want is scream too….. and there are so many others situation when I feel on the edge … Children are great yoga teachers. It’s easy to meditate somewhere in the cave but in the end of the day it’s all about the relations we have with others.
    I remember in one of your book you said first you have to do the service for the society and than you can practice yoga. That’s what I feel am doing right now.

    If somebody want’s to practice only asanas that’s fine, maybe this person need it now and maybe one day on the appropriate time for him, he opens the door and see how deep and wide yoga can be.
    I’m leaving my door half open for now and it’s enough for me. Right now.

    Namaste

    • Hi Ewa,

      Sorry in the delay to my reply. It’s very interesting that you say that “My best yoga practice was when I was pregnant. and that you felt so deeply.” From the pranic point of view there is then actually two of you and during pregnancy yogis hold that the apana vayu is turned up and turns down only just before delivery. Makes complete sense what you say.
      You are right: On that occasion I had quoted sage Vasishta who said in Vasishta Samhita, “Yoga can succeed only in conjunction with fulfilling ones duty towards society.” Of those duties the most important are the ones towards ones children.
      It is my belief (and I can’t deliver to you at this point much hard scientific evidence) that yogi mothers caring for their young children are held in the state of yoga by Divine grace. I belief that you are doing exactly the right thing. It would not be right to float in samadhi sitting in Padmasana right under the ceiling while at the same time your neglected children would run amok next door.
      Whatever energy is left over after you have attended to your kids, you can then put into yoga (and well whatever else is necessary in life …).
      I also think that the only person that has a right to judge into what aspects of yoga you then invest this left-over energy is you yourself. Also in this regard I have complete trust that your motherly intuition will come up with the right answer.
      So rest assured you are doing exactly the right thing.

      All the best
      Gregor

  2. Hi Gregor,
    Thanks for this great post. I have been using your books for years now (started ashtanga 4 years ago) and they have been instrumental to understand the practice in depth. I’ve developed lately in a whim a bunion (hallus valgus) and this was kind of traumatic , having to face irreversible change + forced to stop /slow significantly the practice. I ve been wondering what would be my life without ashtanga ..and am now trying to find a way to adapt the practice without worsening the condition (Plus have flat feet)
    I found very contradictory info on the net and from doctors : from keep it all the same to stop all jumping down/ rolling on toes/ chaturanga..
    Would you be kind enough to share your insights on ashtanga and bunion? Thanks in advance for your feedback!
    Namaste

  3. Hi Gregor,

    Thank you so much for the article. Very useful info that made me be re-assured to continue with the Ashtanga practice.

    Having arrived at Ashtanga recently, after the years of practicing other styles, and having succesfully unfolding into the understanding of the unity of all existing yoga styles & seeing no separation, Ashtanga is like a new continent to discover, fall in love and be further liberated…

    Practicing Ashtanga made me take a higher level of presence & responsibility in my practice…

    Namaste,
    Lana

  4. For a long time I thought I was the only person who thought this way, and I felt very alone … So I am very grateful for your article and the fact that it has made me feel accompanied on the true path of yoga…Namaste from Patagonia…

  5. Thank you for having the courage and discernment to speak the truth from your experience in ashtanga practice. So you are speaking the truth that our individual body structure is the major determinant of success in achieving yoga poses.
    I have much to add to this discussion and I hope that you appreciate what I have to say.
    As you say, the struggle to perform asana in practices like ashtanga is definitely leading to some serious injuries and I feel that it is the pose templates themselves that are the problem. What is the outcome one will have from practicing poses that go beyond natural anatomical function? This is a question I have asked for years after my own injuries in ashtanga.
    “Anityasuciduhkhanatmasu nityasucisukhatmakhyatiravidya” (What at one time feels good or appears to be of help can turn out to be a problem; what we consider to be useful may in time prove to be harmful.) —

    There are some of us who question the wisdom of stretching the spine, sacrum and hip joints in many yoga poses as the ligaments loosen. In the yoga world, I have watched as ligament laxity ( especially for women who are naturally more flexible) leads to joint destabilizations, pain, and sometimes hip surgeries. And what a shame since as you say, most people are not even practicing yoga in its deepest sense. How can achieving difficult yoga asana bring one closer to god or enlightenment?
    We could keep it simple by living consciously and doing only what is kind and necessary.
    In order for yoga asana to evolve safely, we must use critical thinking, discernment, awareness and simple bio-mechanical common sense.

    I always remind my students who study YogAlign with me to practice naturally aligned posture as the most important asana. If an asana does not support your spine in good posture, it is quite possibly working to pull your body out of alignment, and what is the benefit of doing it? The body is a continuum and bending forward and pulling on the parts like the hamstrings will not change the big postural picture. Humans age going forward from stress and chair sitting. Forward bends are speeding that up for many.

    Three simple tests to determine whether a yoga pose serves natural function and the human design:

    1. It should allow the spine to maintain its natural curves. ( example: forward bends with straight knees reverse the spine curves)
    2. It should not restrict the ability to do deep, rib-cage breathing. ( many yoga twisting poses create compression to the torso similar to stuffing your body into a cage)
    3. It should have a real-life correlation to functional joint movement. ( feet behind the head?)
    4. There are no straight lines in nature and that includes human design. Backs and spines are not flat. To be safe, stop trying to force the natural curves in the body into linear or right angled positions.

    Yogis need to take off the avidyas (blinders) and consider the long-range effects of yoga poses on the human body. Is the pose or position going to lead to a favorable outcome adding value to our lives and supporting the ancient wisdom of the yoga sutras?

    • Hello Michaelle,
      Thanks for your comment and sorry about the delay in replying. My view is that it is not the postures themselves but the way how they are taught and practiced. Much of this view is derived from the fact that I practice yoga since 35 years and Ashtanga daily since more than 25 and apart from one time where I was seriously injured by being janked into a posture by a teacher I never had any problems. On this particular occasion a crystallisation process was set in motion in my mind and I henceforth accepted my limitations and also distrusted all those who tried to limit my spirituality (i.e. you have to practice so and so many postures before you practice pranayama or meditation).
      This change in my attitude made my asana practice quite relaxed. I didn’t care anymore how many asanas I would conquer since my spiritual thirst was quenched by the higher limbs. Nevertheless I continue to feel that my asana practice supports my pranayama practice and if I had not put that much energy into my asana practice I doubt whether I would have succeeded so smoothly in pranayama and Kundalini meditation.
      It is my view that it is safe to practice formal yogic asanas as long as
      a. accepts ones limitations and does not practice from ambition and competition, that means don’t just tackle the next series just because it is there
      b. takes up pranayama and meditation practice as soon as possible and doesn’t invest all of ones energy into asana
      c.modifies asanas that are not suitable for ones body
      d. modifies certain postures during phases when the body has special requirements
      I do realize for example that leg-behind-head postures are not suitable for all (although working towards them within certain safe parameters is, there are for example a few good warm-ups that can be done by most). However, in my case they vastly improved my body and prepared it for a lot of work that I do today. I similar effect however could be achieved by other techniques such as certain kriyas.
      What I am therefore critical off is not the asanas as such but this asana-fundamentalism and obsession that has captured the modern yoga world.
      Your differing view on this point, however, I can appreciate. I think in modern yoga culture we cannot anymore rely on one person (some almightily guru) knowing everything. Nobody has a monopoly on truth and it is usually those that think so are in the greatest need of learning to listen to others.
      I think also in yoga differing views need to be expressed, discussed and if possible consensus achieved through consultation.
      In this spirit I hope this finds you well
      Gregor

  6. Thank you for sharing your truths and experience in practicing and teaching ashtanga yoga. Doing yoga poses will not make us more spiritual or any closer to enlightenment. We must live a conscious compassionate life doing only what is kind or necessary and it is more how we think and act than how we perform yoga poses.
    There are many problems with yoga asana which you have touched upon but there is a lot more to the picture and as the injuries mount up, it is important that we all actually practice the wisdom put forth in the yoga sutras.

    “Anityasuciduhkhanatmasu nityasucisukhatmakhyatiravidya” (What at one time feels good or appears to be of help can turn out to be a problem; what we consider to be useful may in time prove to be harmful.) — From Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
    In order for yoga to evolve and be safe for all, we must use critical thinking, discernment, awareness and simple bio-mechanical common sense.

    I always remind my students to practice naturally aligned posture as the most important asana. If an asana does not support your spine in good posture, it is quite possibly working to pull your body out of alignment, and what is the benefit of doing it?

    Three simple tests to determine whether a pose serves the human design:

    1. It should allow the spine to maintain its natural curves. ( impossible in a straight leg forward bend)
    2. It should not restrict the ability to do deep, rib-cage breathing. ( many twist poses actually compress our organs and breathing functions)
    3. It should have a real-life correlation to functional joint movement. ( plow, shoulderstand, and many other poses are quite risky and one can live just fine without doing them)

    Yogis need to take off the avidyas (blinders) and consider the long-range effects of yoga poses on the human body. Is the pose or position going to lead to a favorable outcome adding value to our lives and supporting the ancient wisdom of the yoga sutras?

  7. Hello Gregor, thank you so much for these lovely master pieces. Your books have been a great help in not just improving my practice but to go deeper in my spiritual studies. My passion for Sanskrit and ayurveda seems to be flowing from some where deep within. Will be great to have some insights on kundalini and chakra meditation. Wish I could come for your Bali immersion 300 hrs but sometimes life loves to throw restrictions ha ha. Good day and Namaste!

    Sheeba

  8. It is fascinating to not how the Mysore style vinyasa system of asanas came to be called “Ashtanga Yoga” in modern studios.

    The unfortunate consequence is that many genetic freaks who can do the advanced series end up regarded as “advanced ashtangis”, which is only unfair to them.

    Ashtanga practice, as Grigor points out, is more general system of practice (not restricted to a particular style of physical exercise). Strictly speaking you can just have a daily swimming practice and not do any of the asanas and still practice Ashtanga yoga. It is a question of how you approach your practice and how the practice approaches the rest of your life.

    If all the studios overnight call their Ashtanga classes as just Mysore style Vinyasa, may be it could help 🙂

    I would curious to know how Gregor’s opinion of the history of Yogasutra and Ashtanga practice as is known will change after David Gordon White’s account of the history of Yoga Sutra. The chapter on TK is an amusing read.

  9. Thank you for taking the time to write such a beautiful, honest article. I am sure it resonates deeply with most of us. I hope we’ll all be lucky enough to learn from someone like you one day.
    All the best,
    Dunia

  10. Thank you for your insights, which really resonated with me on so many levels. I would be very interested to know what asanas you might recommend to improve shoulder joint stability to strengthen rhomboids and traps. My physio has given me some exercises but I would rather incorporate asana into my practice (instinctively I feel a few of the early 2nd series backbends?) I have been practising Astanga for 12 years and now am 59. I trust that while strength may deteriorate, physical prowess will be replaced by intelligent awareness! Your wisdom is much appreciated.
    Jennie

    • Hi Jennie,

      I think you are better off to do therapeutic exercises which are not asana. The problem with asanas is that they use your whole body weight (or most of it) and if you load up so much weight your overdeveloped front muscles (pectorals major and minor) will automatically take over and subdue your shoulder stabilisers. In order to fix that problem you need to isolate the rhomboids and traps and use them without using the pecs. The best way to do that is to use thera bands and, while sitting in Dandasana,sling them around your feet and make scapular rows. Do not bend your arms at all but only pull the shoulder blades together and down.

      You will find more on the subject in this post:
      http://www.chintamaniyoga.com/asana/deal-common-shoulder-injuries/

      Greetings
      Gregor

Ask a Question or Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *