This yoga is pretty much the antithesis to Ashtanga

No, I’m not talking about Iyengar. Not even paddleboard yoga.

I’m talking 3-D Yoga.

And you’re saying, “Whatcha talkin’ about?”

Honestly, I have no idea. And, no, that hasn’t stopped me before. But here’s what I saw in a Hello! magazine (I think it’s right there with Yoga Journal as an authentic resource) piece. I wouldn’t be sharing it except one line really jumped out at me:

3-D Tips to improve your practice

• Don’t practice the same postures over and over again. The body gets used to them and imbalances are created which weaken the muscles’ ability to ‘spring’ back

• Instead of holding a pose, move the body in and out of it so you are working with and against gravity, momentum and ground reaction

• Change the position of the feet and arms. The joints and muscles will experience different degrees of rotation and motion.

It was the first bullet point that caught my eye. I’ll admit that Bobbie and I at times struggle with the repetitive nature of Ashtanga; it’s among the top complaints about the practice. (Probably the top one? All the chaturangas, which ultimately amounts to the same thing. Complaint No. 2? All the forward folds in the Primary.) But, I assume like many of you, the repetition is also Ashtanga’s most compelling feature. The sameness is a strength, as it allows you to explore your body and your breath (and a bunch of other, inner things) instead of exploring a new pose or a new sequence or a new teacher playlist.

The sameness is what helps you progress inward through all the Koshas.

And so I’m struck by this 3-D Yoga, the name of which is so clearly a marketing gimmick, right? But here’s a bit more on it:

This modern style is the brainchild of instructors Vicky Holmstock and Simon Whithall, and – as the name suggests – provides the kind of practice that jumps out of the exercise studio and deep into your physical wellbeing.

“With 3-D, postures aren’t just a case of stretch and hold. They are based on the biomechanics of how the body naturally moves and responds in its environment” Vicky explains.

“Our yogis push their poses through three planes of motion – forward and back, side to side and rotating all at the same time. What we really want is to train and keep the body and mind as elasticas possible so that both reach their full potential.

A typical sequence might be to take a traditional posture or sun salutation and constantly change the hand and foot position within the 3-D planes of motion explained above. Each tweak would work different muscles, giving more of an all-round workout with quicker results.”

I’m not going to throw down judgment on this based on one quick mag piece. I’m working on my judgmental nature, after all. I just note that what this yoga is suggesting is bad is what’s central to Ashtanga.

OK. So that was a bit of an empty yogic calorie information. Not to worry, because there’s also this to pass on:

Yoga may help stroke survivors improve balance

July 26, 2012

Study Highlights:

  • Group yoga can help patients’ balance improve long after a stroke.
  • Yoga for chronic stroke patients appears to be cost effective and might help them become more active.
EMBARGOED UNTIL 3PM CT/4PM ET, Thursday, July 26, 2012DALLAS, July 26, 2012 — Group yoga can improve balance in stroke survivors who no longer receive rehabilitative care, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.In a small pilot study, researchers tested the potential benefits of yoga among chronic stroke survivors — those whose stroke occurred more than six months earlier.“For people with chronic stroke, something like yoga in a group environment is cost effective and appears to improve motor function and balance,” said Arlene Schmid, Ph.D., O.T.R., lead researcher and a rehabilitation research scientist at Roudebush Veterans Administration-Medical Center and Indiana University, Department of Occupational Therapy in Indianapolis, Ind.The study’s 47 participants, about three-quarters of them male veterans, were divided into three groups: twice-weekly group yoga for eight weeks; a “yoga-plus” group, which met twice weekly and had a relaxation recording to use at least three times a week; and a usual medical care group that did no rehabilitation.The yoga classes, taught by a registered yoga therapist, included modified yoga postures, relaxation, and meditation. Classes grew more challenging each week.Compared with patients in the usual-care group, those who completed yoga or yoga-plus significantly improved their balance.

The piece goes on, but that’s the gist, and more to add to the every-expanding catalog of research that yoga (meaning both asana and internal focus/meditation) is good for you.

So get that Ashtanga app, right?

Posted by Steve

Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

13 thoughts on “This yoga is pretty much the antithesis to Ashtanga”

  1. A student asked one of my Ashtanga teachers what the point of repetition was, and her response was: “The practice doesn’t change so that we might.” That message always inspired me. (Thanks as always.)

  2. Oh Steve…I applaud you for not jumping to judgement. However, I do not share this burden and so I am only to happy to jump in with both feet. And I will do so with the classic opening…WTF?!

    Seriously, what are these people thinking? What tradition or lineage could they possibly have found such peculiar information in? Let me answer my own question with the obvious…none.

    This is just one more example of the egoistic commercial based epidemic now facing yoga practitioners throughout the world. Personally, I don’t worry about yoga because it has survived much worse, but it’s a shame for those people who are seeking real freedom and self-realization and become duped by these fly-by-night speculative creations completely and utterly unfounded on tradition.

  3. When I read those 3D yoga bullet points, I had the same (WTF) reaction too. However……I thought a bit about it and I can actually see where they are coming from in a way, but it really depends on what you want to achieve with your yoga. In weight training circles, we are often advised not to keep to the same training sequence for too long as the body gets used to what you’re doing. Due to this adaptation, your muscles and strength develop initially, then you hit a plateau. So you have to keep the body guessing if you want to continue developing and avoid the plateau. With regards to moving in and out of stretches, this may be akin to dynamic stretching (as opposed to static stretching) which does tend to get good results if you want to improve flexibility (though not for all muscle groups) – in a way, this is what we are doing in surya namaskars. As for changing the foot and hand positions, as long as you can keep some sort of alignment, I can see how that might develop a rounded kind of flexibility. Although we don’t tend to do things in this way in Ashtanga, I think we eventually get there working through the different postures and series with their different emphases on stretching in different ways. There is a catch, though, with all the mixing and matching of poses and that is your body may find it really hard to progress enough to do the poses just beyond your ability as the nervous system never gets a chance to adapt the way it would in Ashtanga practicing every day to get say Mari D or Supta Kurmasana.
    So if your practice is purely for the physical benefits, maybe there is something in it. But it doesn’t really strike me as yoga at all (much less Ashtanga)……..just a form of physical exercise using yoga postures; there doesn’t seem to be any other dimension to it. Besides, Ashtanga (and some other established forms of yoga) does have one really important thing in its favour and that is that it has produced tangible results for quite a while now and you don’t really tend to see lots of practitioners walking about with imbalanced muscles which don’t spring back etc, right?……….3D yoga has yet to prove itself……….

  4. Bullet point one – no repetition of postures! I’m not sure that is possible over a week of practice – even if you are not doing Astanga… I mean there are some postures which are the starting point of many others. How about Savasana – got to get me Savasana : )

  5. Hi Steve
    Thank you for your comments on 3D yoga and our ‘marketing gimmick’ name.

    Any mindful practice that brings a sense of calm, clarity and peacefulness to its practitioners is great by me, be it yoga, tai chi, meditation or running. I would never suggest that any yoga is bad. Your statement that ‘the sameness is what helps you progress inward through all the Koshas’ might be right for some people, but can we take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to enlightenment? Wouldn’t it be boring if all our paths were the same?

    In 3D yoga, as with many other traditional schools, the eight limbs of yoga are the foundation of our practice. Our goal, just as yours, is to progress inwards through the Koshas, only for us the experience of the manomaya kosha (the mental body) is not necessarily experienced through the sameness, or stillness, of a posture.

    Yes, our approach to the physical practice is different to that described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Taking a bio-mechanical perspective on the human body, so we are talking only about the annamaya kosha (the physical body ) convinced me that there are better ways of doing some postures to gain the most strength and controlled flexibility in the time we have available for our physical practice, and to maintain our muscular and skeletal system in the best health.

    In the Sutras asana is described as steady, stable and motionless, although arguably this refers to meditation postures. I agree that by not holding the postures we are perhaps not experiencing the same degree of stillness. However a strong, healthy body will serve better in relaxation and meditation practice, which is the place where many of us strive to reach our final kosha atman, and experience self-realisation, peace and bliss.

    I will happily expand on the technical side of 3D yoga and explain its principles if you want me to, but this post doesn’t seem the place to do it.

    Please if ever you have an opportunity to try a 3D yoga class give it a go. You might enjoy it, but if you don’t and Ashtanga is working for you then that is wonderful too.

    Just to respond to a couple of the comments

    Claudia ‘Bullet point one – no repetition of postures’. It doesn’t say that, not repeating the same postures time and time again is not the same as never repeating the same posture.

    TG “The practice doesn’t change so that we might.” That is a wonderful quote thank you for sharing it. If the repetition in a sequence serves you then that is great.

    Thaddeus and Michelle – I am not sure what to say so I thought this might be apt.
    ‘Ahimsa – not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever. More than just lack of violence as adapted in yoga. It means kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things. Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a considerate attitude and do no harm.’

    Obsidian – thank you for your more considered approach. Yes of course 3D yoga has yet to prove itself as it’s a new concept. I hope in thousands of years , as understanding of the body advances, that practitioners will have taken their asana to yet another level whilst still paying homage to the traditional foundation of yoga.

    Thank you everybody for all your different view points.

    1. Ahhh. Ahimsa.

      The default go-to yama, selectively appealed to by those disconnected from the history and tradition of yoga to avoid addressing how and why the need exists for the creation of “new and improved” methods of “yoga,” not to mention where in the world the authority stems to think that we know better than 5000 years of teachings passed on by self-realized souls.

      But, seriously, if we are going to play the “ahimsa” game, I would add that calling your creation “yoga,” given that it has not been passed down through parampara causes more harm to the tradition of yoga than my pointing it out.

      Yoga is about controlling the mind in order to realize the true self; being “nice” isn’t always part of that.

    2. As Dharma Mittra says, there is a lesson to be learnt from each teacher, (even ones that aren’t aligned with your practice). Hold back the judgement and try a class. You may learn a thing or two. Who teaches humility these days?

      1. Well Nick, I’m not really arguing against a difference in practice here. At the end of the day, I honestly don’t care what, who or how one gets his/her boat floated on the cosmic ocean. I am actually quite liberal in this regard.

        What I find offensive, and it’s interesting that you mention humility, is the never-ending lack of humility inherent in the constant desire to “improve” yoga by placing oneself at the center as the creator/originator of yet another system of yoga, all the while ignoring the very epistemology upon which yoga is based. I know this is very anti-new agey of me and oh so anti-postmodern, but I guess I’m just kind of a traditional guy.

        Humility, as I’m sure you know, is spoken about quite a bit in the historical yoga texts and actually something that I’ve written on ( In particular in the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krsna lists humility as the cornerstone of knowledge. And in commentary, one finds humility described as “not seeking honor/acknowledgement” from others.

        All too often, those who are seeking to fix what ain’t broke, are simply looking to make a name for themselves. So, yes, indeed…who does teach humility these days?

  6. Yoga to me is the ability to enhance your ‘body, mind and spirit’ not only during the activity but to enhance your life after. In my experience the mind and spirit application of Yoga is fantastic and almost unrivaled. However I do struggle to understand how many of the traditional techniques relate to how we move in our everyday lives. It is this aspect we attempt to address in 3D Yoga. We by no means know it all, we are humble, we respect others and we are just trying to help our students.
    Our knowledge of human function assists us in creating movements that enhance the lives of the people we teach. Tradition is important but it does not mean traditional movements are always right for each individual. Maybe if we try to understand how each bone, each joint and each muscle moves in 3-dimensional space we might end up creating different movements than those that are traditional.
    If you understand how your body and the bodies’ of your students move and react to gravity, ground reaction force and momentum then you may also question some traditional techniques. If you don’t yet understand, then it may be a good time to learn before commenting on concepts that you don’t yet know anything about. If you know exactly how the mid-tarsal joint moves in the downward dog or how the L5 vertebrae moves 3-dimensionally during the warrior pose then please feel free to comment.
    Our goal with 3D Yoga is purely to “continue to learn and develop and provide a platform to enhance the lives of others.”
    I wish you all the best and thank you for taking an interest in 3D Yoga.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s