Ashtanga Yoga FAQs
What is Ashtanga Yoga? It is a practice that has been handed down for many generations (and arguably, for thousands of years) that originated in India. It’s named after Patanjali’s “Ashtanga” or “8-Limbed” yoga, but in reality, it is a breath-based movement system that is meant to purify the body physically and energetically, elevate the spirit, and calm the mind.
Who is it for? Anyone, really. A lot of people might look at it as crazy, gymnastics-type yoga and run in the other direction. But it is for all bodies, all genders, all types of humans–with the caveat that you have to commit to it, and give it some time, for it to work its magic.
What if I’m new to the Ashtanga practice? There are a few ways to learn the Ashtanga method at Sattva:
Come to any Mysore class, and start to learn the sequence, little by little, from the teacher. Be prepared to breathe and do a little of the practice your first time, a little more your second time, and so on and so forth. Aim to come to Sattva twice per week as you are learning, and more as you continue to learn. Commit for at least a month of practice before you make your mind up about whether it’s right for you.
Come to an Ashtanga Foundations class, offered approximately twice yearly, at Sattva. This format involves weekly immersive workshops just for beginners, and also encourages you to attend 2 Mysore classes per week, to start to integrate the practice into your daily life.
Schedule a private lesson with Megan, and work out a plan for you to come to Mysore classes.
How often should I practice? When you’re first starting out with Ashtanga, aim for 3 practices per week. As you start to grow in and commit to the practice, carve out time for 4, 5, and even 6 days per week of practice. For the record: “practice” can mean your whole practice, or it can just mean Surya Namaskaras (sun salutations) and your seated postures at the end. (Some amount of the practice is better than none, regardless of what the mind tells you.) But just one practice per week, or more sporadic practice, isn’t good for the body or the nervous system. That’s why all students are encouraged to at least take Surya Namaskaras 3-6 days/week, regardless of how often they practice at Sattva.
How often should I come to Sattva for practice? Every day, if you like! Aim for no fewer than 2-3 Ashtanga practices per week at Sattva. The more you practice in person with your teacher, the stronger and more integrated your practice becomes. Self-practice is a great part of why Ashtanga is so wonderful–it becomes your practice and you don’t necessarily “need” a teacher to tell you what to do. But the mind can send us on a journey of laziness, idleness, or bad habits in practice if we’re left to our own devices, so it’s better to root out those tendencies by practicing in the presence of teachers and other students. Also, for the record, you will get as much out of breathing with and learning from other students in the room as you will from having personal instruction.
What if I’m having a rough time with life? Death, loss, family stress? Practice anyway. Life is full of ups and downs, lefts and rights, happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow. We practice through all of them. It might mean that your practice looks and feels different, or doesn’t involve as many postures, or involves tears and crying. But we remain steady by observing and breathing through all of it.
What if I’m menstruating? For those that menstruate, take time off during your period. There is a downward flow of energy, and a grounding of the body, that happens naturally during that time. Respect, honor, and love it. And then move again when it feels right for you to move.
What if I’m ill? General rule of thumb: practice Ashtanga when you’re sick, UNLESS you have a fever (in which case, rest until the fever subsides). Again, your “practice” may be just Surya Namaskaras and the last three seated postures. HOWEVER, if you are contagious (with covid-19 or any other spreadable illness), please do not come into Sattva to practice. Follow CDC protocols, which generally require you to isolate if you have symptoms like a sore throat, fever, shortness of breath, etc. Use common sense: If you wouldn’t see your 90-year-old grandmother, you probably shouldn’t breathe heavily around other people (who also have 90-year-old grandmothers).
What if I'm injured? Ask Megan, but generally, the practice can be adapted for most injuries. An exception would be if you have medical orders NOT to do physical activity. The mind tells you that you can't practice when you're injured, since it won't look or feel exactly the same as it did pre-injury. But that's just the mind. As long as you have direction & guidance on how to modify the practice safely for your injury, you are good to go, and practicing while injured can teach you SO MUCH about the practice of yoga.
How should I eat/drink to support my Ashtanga practice? What you eat is up to you–the body tends to like clean, whole, healthy foods and will tell you so the longer you practice–but WHEN you eat is really important. Try to have very little, if any, food in your belly before practice. If you’re practicing first thing in the morning, try no food or maybe a small piece of fruit. If you’re practicing later in the day, shoot for at least 3 hours between your last meal and your practice. Drink LOTS of water before and after practice, but do not drink any water during your practice. Come to practice hydrated (again, not too much in your belly), and hydrate after, but allow your practice to be a moving meditation without water breaks. The fire of your breath and your movement will increase, and so will your concentration.
What if I’m pregnant? Congratulations! If you already have an established Ashtanga practice, and you become pregnant, talk to Megan as early as you can in your pregnancy. If you aren’t an established Ashtangi, pregnancy is NOT the time to start this practice, so wait until you are past your “fourth trimester” to begin.