For some, Ashtanga just ain’t all that (aka that NY Times story you’re hearing about)

I suspect this piece will make the rounds of the Ashtanga world. It’s in the New York Times, and, if I may be so bold, the basic idea is: “personal training worked better than Ashtanga.”

What really catches my eye is that the piece mentions the newest teacher / adjuster at our shala, Omkar 108, and I’m pretty sure the author, when she practices, comes there. (If I’m right, say “hi”, he says, as if she will read this post.)

It also features Eddie Stern prominently. And it’s the Stern I feel like those who have never practiced with him (I included) imagine: spoken of in hushed tones, New York’s version of Guruji. All that.

Of course, from folks I know who do know Stern, there’s much more (i.e., human, nice, great teacher) to him.

Here’s just a little taste of the piece, by Deborah Schoeneman:

I WAS an addict of ashtanga yoga for a decade. It made me strong. It made me feel superior to people who went to the gym. What it did not make me was skinny.


Manhattan’s version of Jois is Eddie Stern of SoHo, whose studio is a modest, brightly painted loft above the restaurant L’Orange Bleue — an enchanted urban oasis with lots of fresh flowers even in the dead of winter.

It took me only a few months on the yoga studio circuit to figure out that all my favorite teachers (plus Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna) practiced with Eddie, whose name was always uttered in hushed, reverent tones.


Within two months of personal training, I lost five pounds and dropped down to around a size 6. I had more time because my yoga practice was about 90 minutes, and it takes only 45 minutes of cardio a few days a week to get results. Everything felt firmer and better.

I started lying to my L.A. yoga teacher, Loren Russo, who’d been a roommate in Mysore. I told her I was really busy with work instead of admitting to my intense, sweaty sessions with Alyma. Confused, Loren observed that I looked better than ever.

The author’s experience hardly could be more precisely 180 degrees from mine, as I’ve written about once or twice. I got stronger just doing Ashtanga; I’m getting close to what I weighed when I was running 50 or so miles per week. But I’m much stronger than I was then, when I had little upper body strength. (I also was about 12 years younger then, which seems relevant.)

If I had to make a guess, I’m tempted to say this could be related to something Tim Miller talks about — perhaps only as encouragement to me. He says that you can get flexibility with strength (pulling yourself into the poses, holding them, stretching, in other words) but you can’t get strength from flexibility (in contrast, you just plop into the pose and you’re there).

But who knows. Each to his own, right? No judgments… didn’t I suggest that earlier?

Oh, and for the record: Loren is a great adjuster.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

10 thoughts on “For some, Ashtanga just ain’t all that (aka that NY Times story you’re hearing about)”

  1. hi to all theconfluencecountdown.comers this is my frst post and thought i would say a big hello to yous –
    speak soon
    garry m

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