According to the Ashtanga yoga tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, practitioners are “supposed” to practice asana six days a week. Jois, also known as “Guruji” designated Saturday as the day of rest, since Saturday corresponds with bath day in India. There are also a few “get-out-of-jail-free” days, including Full and New Moon and, if you are lucky enough to be a fertile woman, the first three days of your menstrual cycle. So this Ashtanga yoga thing requires a relatively high level of commitment. Along the way, you may endure a great deal of discomfort on both the physical and emotional level. It’s easy to doubt your efforts when onlookers may see your practice as a self-indulgent, masochistic, tripped out version of aerobics. In order to relieve your doubts, I believe that it is extremely important to regularly evaluate the intention behind your hard work.
When I was seventeen, I was fortunate to attend my very first Ashtanga yoga class. There’s only one way for me to summarize this experience: I really just couldn’t believe it.
Your reasons for practising yoga will evolve over time. Everyone comes to yoga for different reasons and during different circumstances. The first time I did yoga was from a video by Ali McGraw that my mother had given me. At the time, I was a chronic exercise addict and I couldn’t get through the day without physically torturing myself as much as possible. My mother really wanted me to relax, but she knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop moving. The yoga movie was set in a bright white desert, where clouds hung low to the ground. Ali McGraw demonstrated sun salutations and some basic sequences of yoga postures as a man with a soothing voice talked me through it. When I got to the end, the man told me to lie down and let go of everything I didn’t need until all that was left was love. This seemed like a pleasant concept, but a little hokey and not very realistic. I quickly returned to my extensive and neurotic cardiovascular routine.
My second yoga video was by Rodney Yee. Strength for beginners. Besides having a compellingly chiselled body, Rodney could go upside down. I found this fascinating and exciting, but I was so terrified of falling or dying or worse, that it was nearly five years before I would even attempt inversions. Still, that interest and excitement stayed with me. Even though I only practiced a few times a year, I was beginning to believe that yoga might in fact be a worthwhile endeavour.
When I was seventeen, I was fortunate to attend my very first Ashtanga yoga class. There’s only one way for me to summarize this experience: I really just couldn’t believe it. Although it would be another few years before I would incorporate a daily practice into my schedule, I absolutely knew that Ashtanga was my yoga of choice.