Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga – a practice that I love! ❤

There are many kind of yogasana being practiced all around the globe. I have tried quite a few styles and fell in love with Ashtanga eventually. I felt so connected to the practice compared to other practices available out there. So, why may you ask that I connect more with Ashtanga style? First, I think as many other Ashtangis out there believe, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a great system, a wholistic system that combine the beauty of physical exercise with the spiritual side of our being. Through the practice, we will begin to experience the intimate connections of our physical being to our inner voices and our spirituality. Ashtanga Yoga practice might look challenging at first, but truly it is designed for everyone from the beginner to advanced yogi.

In the next few minutes, reading through this article, you will realize the beauty of this practice even more.

Ashtanga is not like any other typical vinyasa flow classes out there with teacher guiding every next few poses you go into. Ashtanga is a practice with a set of postures that will be the same for each class. The routine of this class is what teaches you to be discipline. The routine is what allows you to enter the meditative state during the practice. Instead of having to focus on the outside of what will be the next pose, you can focus on bringing your attention inward with your breath.

There are a few Series when we practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga from the Primary Series, Intermediate Series, and then lastly the 4 stages of Advanced Series.

The Ashtanga Primary Series: Yoga Chikitsa, Yoga for Health or Yoga Therapy.

The basic, the most common practice available to beginners up to advanced level yogis. The Primary Series is a practice that is grounding and supposed to make you feel like coming home to yourself. You can see that most Vinyasa Flows out there consist of asanas deriving from the Primary Series.

For beginner, usually you will begin learning Half Primary and as you build upon the Half Primary, the teacher will add more poses to assist you completing the Full Primary Series. The asanas in Primary Series are so smartly designed to build upon each other as you progress through the practice. You basically need the asana before every next asana to be able to help you flow with ease through the whole series.

This Primary Series is designed to purify and tone the body, as well as to bring the focus to the mind. As you detox during the process, you may begin to notice that you may not like the things that’s in your mind and what you discover about yourself. That’s why the teachers will usually tell you that the Primary Series is probably one of the most basic, easier to learn compared to the next few series, but simultaneously the hardest as well because this is the beginning of discovering your inner truth, your inner journey.

Primary Series.jpg

The Ashtanga Intermediate Series: Nadi Shodhana, The Nerve Purifier

Only when you completed and are fully comfortable with Primary Series that you can proceed to the next series, the Intermediate Series. This series focus more on the cleansing of the nervous system, and cover a lot more backbends and headstand variations. The backbends consist of asanas that will help to preserve the spine and the suppleness of the back. Our nervous system runs through our spine, and the second series helps open the subtle channels so that ‘Prana’ (life-force energy) may flow freely through these channels, thus allowing the detoxification of the nervous system.

The Intermediate Series starts out the same as Primary Series from Surya Namaskar A to the end of standing postures, and ends with the same closing postures. The difference comes in the middle part, which is the sitting sequences for Primary Series, it will be modified in the Intermediate Series.

The gatekeeper to the Intermediate Series is Pasasana (noose pose), a balancing twist that looks easy but extremely challenging pose to get into (TRUST ME, NO JOKE!). Pasasana is an ego check that ensure you to hang your ego before proceeding as it will challenge you to get a reason to practice other than collecting asana trophies. Ultimately, your teacher will be the one that knows best when you are ready to begin the Intermediate Series.

Intermediate Series.png

The Ashtanga Advanced Series: Sthita Bhaga, Centering of Strength

I have yet to even experience this series, but as what I discovered, this Advanced Series is definitely one that needs six-day-a-week practice and be proficient in the Intermediate Series to begin. This series will definitely need the guidance from an authorized teacher. All I can say from what I read, the lesson from the Advanced Series is that we need to go through the burning of our ego & pride to be able to go through this series.

Third Series

Teaching Styles of Ashtanga Tradition

There are 2 styles to receive the teaching of this amazing practice: the led class or the Mysore style class.

The Mysore style is great for the fact that you can learn to follow your own breath and move into meditative state during your own practice. In this practice, you will come in and do your practice at your own pace. The linkage of breath to movement is the core of this practice. This style is best to develop your self-discipline, self-reliability, and self-accountability. The teacher will be around in the class to assist and offer advice or to adjust your alignment.

The led class is great for new beginner to start learning the sequence and having the teacher to help motivate you. This style will get everyone to breath and move together to help you bond with other fellow yogis in the class.

Summary

Ashtanga is a definite choice of my practice because I know it is a life-long practice. It is going to always be something that I can learn from not just on the mat, but also to help me develop myself going through this life. The inner journey of practicing Ashtanga is a big challenge to me even after 2 years of practice. #practiceandalliscoming 🙂

I have always admired many Ashtangis out there as it is the most basic, traditional form of yoga practice that requires a lot of discipline and determination to carry through. I pray that the impossible will be possible to me one day soon enough. Enjoy this amazing The Impossible video by my favorite teacher, Laruga. ❤

 

5 Reasons NOT to do Yoga

“There are hundreds path up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” – Hindu Proverbs.

To be healthy, there are many pathways. There are not one particular workout or diet that will be the sole way of reaching that ultimatum. You may listen to others’ opinions and try them on your own to see which suits you better. Disclaimer: I wouldn’t be able to tell you what diet works best and what workout styles will work to make you lose weight.  I will only be talking from my own experience and that doesn’t guarantee to work for everyone. 🙂

In today’s entry, I will  be talking about my opinion on Yoga as my choice of healthy living. Yoga of course is not for everyone. There are some legitimate reasons on why you might want to reconsider taking up yoga as your daily practices. Below are the reasons you should consider to avoid pain and suffering of dwelling into yoga:

1. It will ruin your foodie experience

Stop eating 01When you are regularly on your mat practicing, you will start to notice what the food you eat will do to your body. To the point that you actually may want to give up those oh-so-yummylicious, but oh-so-stomachace-inducing kind of food. For those foodie like me, life is a struggle when you know the harm those food will cause and you just gotta stay away. Simple as that.

2. It will force you be an early bird

Sleep early 01

You will start to realize that practicing yoga in the morning is more beneficial compared to the late hours, forcing you to sleep early so that you could be an early bird to start doing yoga. Late-night partying will probably be really numbered. It is always a torture to wake up so damn early to sweat it out when your body is still crying for some peaceful sleeping time.

3. You will have boring, no drama-mama life

gossip 01If you love to be in a drama kinda life, you should really skip yoga. Yoga will cause you to desire a more peaceful life. You will likely be just a good listener and try to shy away from the dramas. You will be a peaceful, simple and boring friend to be with. You will also stop wanting to judge people and rather be in a positive, looking-for-good in other people kind of mannerism that the drama community will not appreciate. Basically, you will be the odd one out. Will that be ok for you?

4. It will totally ruin your wardrobe collection

yoga pants closetWhere’s all your nice things? You used to have so many fancy stuff in your closets. What happened now? Over 100 pairs of yoga pants and clothes?

5. It will change your body, mind and soul

mirror selfThe softer your body becomes, the softer your heart becomes. The stronger your body becomes, the stronger your opinions and beliefs become. The strengthening yet softer physicality of yours due to yoga will dig up and open up the deepest self of you. Yoga is so steep in its tradition and spirituality that it will inevitably makes you discover your dark places in life and be more emotional. If you are not ready to face your feelings and subconscious mind, run away from the sight, sound, and smell of yoga.

The mat is generally the mirror of your life. The more you are on your mat, the more you will discover a lot of your current stage of your life. How do you deal with problems? How grateful are you with what you have? How resilient are you with challenges? And so on and so forth. Many things will surface when you are consistently showing yourself on the mat. Are you ready for the consequences and take responsibility of your current habits in life? If you are satisfied with your life now and not looking for a change, I think you might want to reconsider yoga.

Hopefully you can get the gist of this post. There are of course still yogis and yoginis out there who are still staying up late, drinking, smoking, swearing, being impatience, being judgmental, and being a foodie – they just tend to be more mindful about it.

Overall, it is true that yoga can change a lot of aspects of your life, but you are still the driver of your life and it’s up to you to choose. You always have a choice to take in what’s good for yourself. Only you know yourself better. Happy yoga-ing or not! 😉

Common Misconceptions about Yoga

“Yoga is not for me! I am not flexible.”

“I need to move around lots and lift weights enough to feel that I worked out.”

“I need to sweat more.”

“Yoga is boring and slow.”

“I am so fat, I can’t do yoga.”

“I am so old, my bones will break.”

Oh yeah, you hear that most of the time. And yes, to me, I heard it most of the time when I asked them why not join me to yoga or let me teach them. The idea that we yogis and yoginis spend our time daily standing on our heads, chanting, meditating, and eating only greens still run rampant through society around the globe. Surprise not surprise?! 😀 Yoga has been around for decades, but it has only start to gain its popularity as “lifestyle” in the recent years. Among the plethora of wild assumptions out there, I put some into my list and hope it could help clear out some of the misconceptions.

  1. Yoga is just “STRETCHING”

Yes, yoga is just stretching, says who? NO WAY! Well, I don’t blame anyone who thinks that way because I did think that way before. In the beginning I often go for yoga class only after my cardio, kickboxing workout. Felt so good after the yoga class because of all the stretching poses we did in the class. See! I used yoga for my stretching session. I wasn’t interested in yoga at all, EVER back then.

Well, not at least until Oct 2014 when I didn’t even know why I decided to give yoga another shots into my “have-to-master” list. Sometimes in life we just have to go spontaneous right?! So, yeah, I went over to a yoga studio and signed a 3-year membership to get me started. Lots of money spent and thought, I have to be COMMITTED (don’t want to waste money basically). I said to myself, NOW or NEVER! I attended my very first few Vinyasa/Ashtanga classes and I changed my mind that it was “just stretching.”  I found the classes that I attended were mostly very challenging, sometimes leaving me to question why did I even think of doing this again. I was struggling with most of the poses and felt lousy at times, but I kept feeling this addiction that I need to keep coming back again and again. My subconscious mind (at least I think so) seems to love yoga at that point of time.

“Yoga is just stretching” misconception is not that all wrong indeed with the many different styles and lineages of yoga widely available from the sweaty cardio sessions (e.g.: Vinyasa, Ashtanga) to physical therapy sessions (e.g.: Yin Yoga). The different styles of yoga can act as a restorative, meditative, or even muscle strengthener depending on what you choose to practice. While it is also true that with yoga you can improve your flexibility, the practice also could be of benefit in terms of your breath awareness, body mindfulness, and mental clarity. This is why we always say that Yoga means UNION. Union of the body, mind, and soul.

Tree of Asanas
Tree of Asanas

2. Yoga is MERELY an exercise

The joining of the physical, mind and soul is not just it. It is also on how well we could relate the external factors of our world to our own internal world and vice versa. When it comes to yoga, most people will immediately think about “stretching”, moving the body through flows of basic movements, and performing a set of postures. What many people failed to realize is the fact that yoga is a way of life. What? What way of life you may be asking. 2000 years ago, Yoga Sutra was put together by Patanjali to assist the students to understand better the core of yoga. It consists of the eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice throughout centuries.

In brief, the eight-limbs of yoga are:

    1. Yama:  Universal morality
    2. Niyama:  Personal observances
    3. Asanas:  Body postures
    4. Pranayama:  Breathing exercises, and control of prana (breath)
    5. Pratyahara:  Control of the senses
    6. Dharana:  Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
    7. Dhyana:  Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
    8. Samadhi:  Union with the Divine
8 Limbs of Yoga
8 Limbs of Yoga

We will not go into details today in this post about those eight-limbs (maybe some day I will write about them). I just wanted to point out the part where most people known yoga for today, which is the third limb in our yoga sutra, we, practitioners called asanas. Sure, flowing from one postures to another in asanas could be physically challenging and exerting, trying to find the perfect alignments and catching the breath (especially in hot yoga). Thus, with that in mind, yoga could definitely pose as a form of exercise. Bear in mind, that yoga, though, is a way of life. The way of life in terms practicing the eight-limbs, speaking truthfully, practicing self-discipline, living simply, controlling the senses and emotions. This could be achieved through practising asanas, meditation, and pranayama. With this in mind, you will be reminded constantly to be mindful of how you react to certain things in life, be it positive or negative. You will take notice more on your quality of relationships not just with people, but with yourself, the environment, and your divine/spiritual self.

Honestly, the point for which I mentioned about yoga as a way of life is what drives me to keep practicing yoga and keep sharing this philosophy to many people around me. For those who knows me, I used to be someone with a lot of anger and negativity in me, but after practicing yoga over a year, I realize that I feel more peaceful with myself. Of course I wouldn’t say that I am now totally zen or positive all the time, but that’s the beauty of life, I get to experience getting emotional and be mindful of it, challenging myself to be better over time. Without challenges, life would be boring isn’t it? 🙂 We don’t need to resist or change what others think about us.  Always remember that in life, you have to accept yourself, love yourself, and be able to live with the consequences of being YOU. Others’ opinions don’t matter if you don’t love yourself that way. This life is yours and you are the one who has to walk the path, not that other people who think you should do this, do that, and judge you. You are not living other people’s life, you are living yours. Become the priority in your life. Yoga is your life and not merely an exercise to sweat it out.

3. Yoga helps to LOSE WEIGHTS much faster

Please……. for beginners to yoga, can I just tell you not to be disappointed? Nothing instant ever sustained for a long period of time. In yoga postures, a lot of them are to help strengthen your muscles and detox you by a sweating a little bit maybe or more depending on what lineage of yoga styles you practice. Get the fact right that it’s not the weights on the weighing scale that matters. You need to take a look at your muscle vs. fats amount in your body. Fats don’t burn other fats because they’re one family. Muscles help burn fats because muscles hate fats and they’re certainly not the same kind of species. 😀

Fats vs muscles
Fats Vs. Muscles

And please boys and girls, don’t keep saying that you need to lose weight although you’re already super skinny. The most important thing is to get you toned and healthy, not to be skinnier to the bone. Many people came up to me and ask me whether they can really lose weights through yoga. Hmmm…. can I tell you please stop asking? lol. Joking. Actually you can lose weights through yoga if and only if you really do practice self-control over food and discipline yourself through morning rituals of exercising the body. Trust me, you keep eating the same amount and type of food you’re currently consuming, yoga asanas can’t help. If you are already thin and think you need to lose more weights, please please please practice being grateful and in love with your healthy body in comparison to those obese or overweight people who wants to be like you. Yes, I will say if you wanna exercise your mind and help you go through life to be more grateful, welcome to yoga. 🙂 The secret of losing weight or I rather I like to call it as keeping fit, is self-gratitude, self-control over food/diets and self-discipline over daily exercise.

No matter what kind of misconceptions you have about yoga, all I can say is yoga will be good for you. 🙂 When you begin to understand yoga more in depth, you will love it because if you don’t, you won’t love your life. Yoga is a way of life. From ashtanga, vinyasa, yin to kundalini yoga, there must some styles that you will love. Commit yourself and find styles that suit you. As a way of life, yoga will help you through paths of self-discovery journey and hopefully you will love yourself even more along the trip! ❤