First Time at Assisted Self-Practice Ashtanga Yoga
Questions & Answers
An assisted self-practice Ashtanga Yoga class is the traditional way of learning Ashtanga Yoga. You may also see this style of class called ‘Mysore-style’, after the city of Mysore in India where Ashtanga Yoga has been taught since the 1930s. I believe that the self-practice approach is one of the most profound ways to build a life-long and safe yoga practice, however it is a process that takes time and requires patience.
When you first walk into an assisted self-practice class it may seem chaotic and intimidating. There might be someone doing a headstand, next to someone sitting on the floor doing a forward bend, next to someone struggling to balance on her arms, next to someone writing in a notebook! Everyone seems to know what to do. If you stay a while and watch closely, you will start to notice a pattern emerging. Everyone is on a path, following a precise choreography learnt by heart. Compared to other yoga classes, you may also notice the silence. Occasionally the teacher will whisper something to a student, but the dominant sound is the collective breath and movement of the people practicing. The teacher will be moving swiftly from student to student, giving assistance as appropriate.
The class is not ‘led’ as a whole. All instruction is one-on-one within the group class setting and students practice what they have been taught at their own pace. The teacher assists each student individually, through physical adjustments and verbal instruction, helping students with what they are working on and teaching students the next part of their practice when they are ready. Each student builds up their own individual yoga practice according to their needs and ability. Newer and beginner students tend to have a shorter practice than more experienced students but over time, as you gain in strength, stamina, flexibility and concentration, you will soon be one of the experienced students.
When should I arrive?
The studio opens at 7am on Sunday mornings and you can arrive at any time from 7am onwards. On your first day I suggest you arrive anytime between 7am and 7:30am however there are no specific start times. People arrive when works for them, and leave when they have finished their practice. It’s as simple as that!
How long will I be at the studio?
Your first practice will last about 1hr 15 min. An experienced student may take around 1hr 30 min for their practice but it can vary. Days when you’re full of energy you may want to practice for longer, and days when you’re not you may want to take a shorter practice.
What should I wear?
There isn’t anything special you need to wear as long as it is comfortable and you can move freely. A typical example would be to wear whatever you may wear to the gym or to go jogging. Please leave your shoes in the studio entryway. Be prepared to sweat a little as the breathing and moving of the practice tends to warm you up a bit.
What will I do in my first class?
When you come into the studio I’ll greet you, show you where to put your mat, and help you settle in. You will learn the first parts of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series. This is the initial sequence of movements and yoga postures in Ashtanga Yoga. You’ll have plenty of time to practice things, with a teacher assisting and on your own, you can ask questions, and as you remember parts and get comfortable with the practice we can add in more movements, more postures and techniques.
Isn’t Ashtanga Yoga just for strong, fit, young and flexible people? Isn’t Ashtanga Yoga too hard for me?
Ashtanga Yoga can be practiced by anyone, regardless of limitations. If you can breathe, you can practice Ashtanga Yoga. Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, the most well known teacher of Ashtanga Yoga, once said:
“Anyone can practice. Young man can practice. Old man can practice. Very old man can practice. Man who is sick, he can practice. Man who doesn’t have strength can practice. Except lazy people; lazy people can’t practice Ashtanga Yoga.”
How many different or complex yoga postures you can ‘do’, how ‘good’ you are at each pose, or what you look like while you practice has no importance. What is important is the intention you bring to your practice and the effort you put into your practice.
Ashtanga Yoga is challenging: physically, mentally and emotionally. Everyone encounters parts of the practice they find difficult, but your practice will grow as you grow, it changes as you change. The beauty of the Ashtanga Yoga method is how it helps you to explore and overcome your limitations.
Do I need to bring a yoga mat?
No, you don’t need to bring a yoga mat. The studio has mats you can hire for £1 per class. But if you have one, feel free to bring it.
Where are the classes held?
The classes are at Whitespace Yoga and Wellbeing Studio. The address is 5 St Pauls Court, Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes MK11 1LJ. The studio website is http://www.whitespacestudio.co.uk/ and telephone number is 01908 566610.
Is there parking?
Yes. There is free parking at the rear of the studio, off Fegans Court, or on the High Street.
How much does it cost?
A class costs between £7.50 and £12 depending on how you pay. Whitespace has a number of options so that you get the best value for you depending on how frequently you use the studio. The drop-in price is £12 for the self-practice class, but if you plan to come regularly then you can buy class passes meaning each self-practice costs less. Class passes can be used on any drop-in class at Whitespace, not just the Ashtanga Yoga classes. Whitespace also offers ‘unlimited’ monthly or annual passes giving even greater savings if you go frequently. If you would like to talk through what’s best for you, please ask their friendly front-desk staff when you visit, or call 01908 566610.
Mysore self-practice is the traditional way of practising ashtanga yoga, and offers a highly personalised approach without the cost of a private lessonGeraldine Beirne
The beautiful thing about Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga is that anyone can do it