This probably won’t come as a huge surprise to those who know me but I absolutely adore the Ashtanga system. For me, it is a transformative practice that invigorates, energises and strengthens both your body and mind. But perhaps the best thing about it is that, once you’ve learned it, it’s yours forever and you can take it with you wherever you go.
The Ashtanga sequence follows a set pattern:
- ten sun salutations (five x A, five x B)
- the standing sequence
- seated postures (six sequences in total starting with the primary series)
- and then the cooling inversions of the finishing sequence
Once learned and practiced regularly, the familiarity of the sequence means that over time your practice becomes more like a moving meditation; you know what is coming next so you can really turn inward, be present and enjoy a deeper connection with your breath. It also means that you become very aware of your own body and how it feels different each time you come to your mat. Not only will this help you to cultivate a safe practice but it also means that you will notice the bumps in the road (and there are likely to be many!) You know, those postures that you may have a fear of or issues with (Navasana?! Marichyasana D?!) and you can begin to learn how to use your breath to help you face each asana with a sense of calm and composure.
Perhaps the greatest gift of the Ashtanga system however, is that it is a practice that, once learned, can become your own, something you can use all of or just elements of, whenever you want to do yoga away from a class environment.
You can do a couple of sun salutations on your balcony or at the beach on holiday this summer to give yourself a little headspace. You might choose to use the finishing sequence at the end of a stressful day to help you unwind. Maybe, over time, you can start to develop the traditional six-day a week practice. The opportunities offered by this rounded, grounding, challenging system are, in my opinion, vast. I am eternally grateful for the lessons I have learnt and the lessons it continues to teach me and feel so lucky to have the chance to share this wonderful practice with my students.
Helen’s Ashtanga Beginners Course is open to all students – those who are brand new to the practice or those with a regular practice who want to deepen their understanding further. It starts Saturday 22nd April and runs for four weeks.