How I Became an Ashtanga Student (Part Two)

by Elizabeth Carroll
Current Teacher Training Student

I find that the teaching style in Ashtanga and my own learning style are a terrific fit!

The way in which Ashtanga yoga is usually practiced – called Mysore style – allows each student to go at their own pace and according to their own abilities. In class, the Ashtanga teacher gives one-on-one attention and hands-on adjustments throughout the practice – all tailored specifically to that particular individual. Modifications of poses are encouraged for students who are injured, or have not yet built up sufficient strength or flexibility to do the pose in its fullest expression. The teacher only gives a subsequent “asana” (pose) when the student is actually ready.

As for me, I enjoy the individualized instruction and feedback from the teacher, as well as the bit-by-bit learning pace. I liken it to the way I paint. I work at it and work at it until I get it “just so,” and when I get there, it feels so gratifying.

Here’s another reason that I am well-suited for Ashtanga yoga. Since Ashtanga is a set sequence of poses meant to be memorized via repetition, I can do the practice in a class setting with a teacher and students, or self-practice in my home. Both have their benefits, depending on my schedule and my own desires.

It may seem that the repetition of Ashtanga – practicing the same set of poses every day, repeating vinyasa after vinyasa – might seem like it could get old. On the contrary! In my experience, it makes it exciting because it allows you to see visible progress. Once I began attending classes regularly, I quickly saw my body change and I was able to get into poses I had previously thought were impossible. I get excited about adding new poses and perfecting my current ones.

Advanced practitioners have told me that the Primary Series becomes more interesting as you move to the Second and Third Series because the higher-level poses illuminate what you’ve learned in the Primary Series. I can’t wait to get there and share their experience as, day by day, I deepen in my Ashtanga yoga practice.  


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