Saturday 16 January 2010

My First Ashtanga Yoga Session

Ashtanga yoga is a system of yoga transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures — a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.

I had my first Ashtanga Yoga session this morning at the 99Sudbury Sport, Fitness and Social Club, where I am a member. In the fall, I had started to take Hatha Yoga on Sunday mornings at 99Sudbury which was led by Kaya, an excellent and helpful instructor. The Sunday classes were cancelled for the new year and I hoped this could replace it, although I didn't know what the difference would be.

It was hard. I'll admit it that I find yoga in general very hard to do. My body has never been very flexible and fencing has tightened up all the muscles in my hips, glutes and left leg. I also have a rotator cuff injury which affects my ability to hold some of the positions for very long. The main reason I started yoga was to make my body more flexible and balanced. I find it also helps my shoulder.

The moves in today's class were the same as I did in Hatha. The difference is the Ashtanga is a much more active yoga. Whereas in Hatha we held positions for minutes at a time, Ashtanga is more aggressive, where we will hold a position for 30 seconds, then always returning to Downward Facing Dog (pictured).

My favorite position is savasana. It's at the end of the session where we lay back and take a 5 minute nap!

I was tired and sweaty after, signs of a good workout, but the body felt good, vibrant and stretched out. I spoke to Ella, our instructor, a little afterwards, who did explain the Ashtanga is a more dynamic form of yoga. She explained some of it in yoga-speak, which at that time went way over my head, but I came away knowing that the class would always be at this pace.

I also told her that I would be back next week.

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