Is Ashtanga Yoga (Astanga) For You?

Yoga has become more and more popular over the years as it has made its way into health and fitness centers across the world. Include the pantheon of dedicated yoga centers to the mix and you begin to see just what an integral aspect of society it has really become. One form of yoga that is a bit more athletic is called “Ashtanga Yoga”, sometimes written as “Astanga”. It has been and is still being offered in a variety of guises and forms today. If you have ever attended a “Power Yoga” class, it was likely to have essentially been an Ashtanga class.

When we speak of Ashtanga, it is important to note that we are speaking of the style being taught and propagated by Sri K. Patthabi Jois of India, who is still likely teaching it today. The more traditional concept of Ashtanga is as a general path of yoga consisting of eight aspects. There has been some confusion between the two due to naming conventions, although one does essentially integrate the other. Regardless, if you are taking an Ashtanga or Power Yoga class then it is likely the type taught by Mr Jois. It has been popularized extensively over the years by various popular media personalities, including such icons as Madonna.

The reasons for its popularity are likely, in part, to its athleticism and flowing style. To do another less fluid style and then to do Ashtanga makes one wonder why all yoga practices aren’t structured as fluidly as Ashtanga is. It is truly graceful and efficient, which leads to a healthy and enjoyable practice. It can be athletically challenging, if not prepared, and it is likely advisable to take some introductory yoga classes prior to diving into a full series of Ashtanga. If, however, you are fairly physically fit then you may want to just go for it and get started with Ashtanga right away.

In either case, you should enjoy whichever class you start with and remember that the journey is the destination. There is no rush and there certainly should be no feeling of competition whatsoever. Due to the somewhat rigorous nature of this particular yoga style, athleticism and feelings of competitiveness have actually been issues that occasionally hinder or distract beginning students. This is obviously to be expected when studying such an ancient tradition in a fitness club setting. Regardless, students generally get beyond this and go much deeper into the practice reaping its true rewards which far surpass basic aerobics.

Once ready to begin Ashtanga, it is recommended that you pick up a “sticky mat”. This is a rubber mat that essentially enhances your ability to maintain various postures you will encounter in the class. In India the students of Mr. Jois actually use carpets, but this will likely be much less convenient and will likely be somewhat cumbersome.

Now that you have an introduction to the basics and a shiny new sticky mat, you are ready to jump in a most literal way into Ashtanga yoga training!