Is it time to try some other yoga again?

I promise this is not one of those “I’m quitting Ashtanga” posts.

But I’m feeling the growing, nagging compulsion that maybe I would be better off adding in other yogas to my practice.

Via elephant journal

I know this feeling is blossoming because I’ve been practicing at home for a month. But it isn’t because the home practice is going poorly. (Or I’d have another great headline: “How practicing at home ruined Ashtanga for me!”) It is going pretty well, aside from the fact that the time constraints that have me home also often limit the practice. But if the goal of yoga is focus — the quieting of the mind — then I’d have to say (despite the irony of judging this) that practicing at home has been going better.

The asana practice isn’t as deep, though. But the mental — emotional? — practice is. I’m sure all the Rolfing is playing into that.

What’s really behind this compulsion are several recent conversations — including with Thad and Frances, the latter of LilaBlog — about yoga in general. It’s clear to me that, despite all the pain and agony of Ashtanga, the familiarity of the practice is a bit of a security blanket now. I’m sure I’ve written this before, but I find safety in knowing what’s coming next. I know when and how and where to modify. No surprises. No Warrior IIIs seemingly out of no where. Zero poses cribbed from Second or even Third Series. I still can’t do it, but I know what I can’t do.

As someone who claims yoga should hurt, such a retreat to a refuge is more than a bit of a cop-out.

Plus there’s another factor: I judge the hell out of those other forms of yoga / asana. They often don’t seem to have the intelligent design of Ashtanga and, frankly, the yoga teachers themselves sometime are lacking a certain gravitas.

(Thad and I have had some online and offline discussions about judging. I think he’s written in comments here or in his own pieces on elephant journal — so I’m not crossing any lines in repackaging his thoughts — that there’s nothing to yoga that says you can’t be judgmental. In fact, if you consider how close judgement and discernment are in meaning, we may actually be seeking a judgmental position — just one that doesn’t bring with it all the pejoratives normally associated with the word.)

But, by judging these yogas — and now I do mean it in the pejorative way — and refusing to try them, what am I missing? I’m not putting myself into new, tapasya-filled experiences — both physically (the unexpected asanas) and mentally (getting past my knee-jerk and negative “judging”) — and I’m limiting my own world. (Bobbie just quoted from our “other guru,” William Blake, about the wrongness of closing up our world.)

The question them becomes: Should I be eating from the yoga buffet? (Also maybe a catchier headline.)

It’s timely because, while my schedule is still making it difficult to commit to an Ashtanga shala daily (oh, by the way, not getting up at 5 a.m. … not breaking my heart, I’ll admit it), there may be some freedom ahead that would allow me to “hit” an occasional flow/power/kundalini/Bikram/Anusara… OK, let’s not get crazy now.

But you get my drift. Maybe things are aligning in a way that’s trying to tell me: Break out of your Ashtanga shell.

Now, could someone please talk me out of this idea?

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

51 thoughts on “Is it time to try some other yoga again?”

  1. You should do it. Ashtanga wont break up with you if you stray a bit. I’ve noticed this recurring theme of you just dying to break out of the Ashtanga regimen. The one breath practice, the shortened practice, etc. you obviously feel constrained and/ or bored with it, so go do some other stuff. I bet you’ll return to your ashtanga practice with a newfound appreciation. Got a corepower studio near you? I recommend that. It’s fun, challenging and leaves you feeling great, and you’ll get insight to what modern american “vinyasa” is these days.

    1. I would hate to go “on the record” saying I’m bored. I know I’m not competent enough, enlightened enough or “anything” enough to question the practice. It is probably a result of being so limited by my stiffness. There isn’t much room for advancement.

      And I’m clearly not able to find the improvement via dristi, bandhas or breath. Although I should.

      That’s actually something for me to think about; thanks for prompting the thinking.

      S

      1. Hey, i love Ashtanga but have practiced the most at a neated vinyasa studio. Who cares? I love it. I dont think it has to be an either/or scenario.

  2. Steve in my opinion you should take a few bites at the yoga smorgasbord. My guess is you have already acquired a taste for Ashtanga and that will always be your favorite meal but you need to take at least a little bite of others. Reason 1. Just for the knowledge of it! I’m in live with Ashtanga I’d course but find its very important to just “experience” ALL yoga. When you do share with us all please! I think I know where you’ll stand:) LOVIN YOUR BLOG:)

  3. Don’t do it (think a mile wide and a foot deep – not correct! Dig the well in one place.)

    Persevere. (You’re experiencing doubt – samshaya! One of the obstacles. Just realizing your mind throws these obstacles before you helps you pass through them.)

    Trust the practice. It’s brilliant and proven to be effective for most humans. Do the best you can, but don’t beat yourself up if home practice is not as “good” as in the shala. It’s still sadhana.

    Keep up the good bodywork. It helps. That, plus epsom salt bath, castor oil bath, dry brushing, daily sesame oil abhyanga, oil on your body at night in the tight/scarred/dodgy places.

    Lastly, be patient, and don’t be too hard on yourself. This is just a phase!

    1. I’m in my “Tweens,” aren’t I? 🙂

      As I noted above, I realize I shouldn’t question Ashtanga (or be bored). I like to think I’m trying to expand my horizon; maybe I’m just running from the difficulty of Ashtanga, huh?

      Crud. Yet. More. To. Think. About.

      1. I just saw this status posted on a yogini friend’s timeline (Kendra Myers is her name) and it made me think of you:

        “advice for myself: sit with the discomfort, the messiness, the unknown, the vulnerability. stop trying to do anything about it. look it in the face with a soft gaze, and just sit with it.”

        Food for thought. Or non-thought, depending on your perspective.

        ….btw, I had a feeling you just wanted an excuse to post that silly/creepy pic of our friend JF again. I must be honest and say that it makes me want to giggle and gag simultaneously. (How is that possible?!) 🙂

  4. Krishnamacharya always stressed the fact that there is not the one right yoga practice for everyone, that the practice needs to be adapted to every individual student. He seems to have taught Iyengar and Jois in totally different ways, leading to two very distinct styles of yoga. I wonder what he would have thought about the mass phenomenon yoga is today. I sometimes think there is some comfort in following a set series rather than developing a unique, personal practice. But then, who has constant access to a very good teacher and mentor to be able to do this?

    1. Those lucky people down near Tim, for some.

      But here’s another good point — the different yogas as promulgated by Krishnamacharya’s two big students.

      It’s these moments when one wants to throw up the hands and either a. sit on the couch with Ben & Jerry’s or 2. grab the Muscle Milk and just throw a bunch of weights around until you’re ripped. 🙂

  5. Please. Anything but Bikram or Anusura. I’ve been stuck in the same pose in primary for 6 years but when I do jivamukti or flow classes I can go around that pothole & explore other asanas I wouldn’t normally get to practice. I know it’s not following tradition but what are rules if you can’t break them every now & then?

  6. Yes, you definitely should giva other hathayoga styles a try. After four years of rigorous ashtanga practice (up to third) I’ve felt I needed some change and new perspective. I’ve managed to take few workshops with great teachers like Shandor Remete, Simon Borg and Sonna Farhi. I’ve changed practice. And suddenly I’ve discovered I’m more relaxed, my body got softer and more flexible (especially doing remete’s prelude forms). I’ve focused on my tight quads and after few months I’ve discovered most of backbends that I’ve been struggling with became fairly easy. There’s a lot of good teachers outside ashtanga vinyasa lineage having lots to say. Try them and see what works best for you. Be well.

  7. Do it. I combine my Ashtanga practice with regular Kundalini Yoga classes, because it’s so totaly different and so much fun. I think these both go perfect together, because Ashtanga is more the straightforward, bodily yoga (although we all now the emotional benefits) and Kundalini is more energetic and in-your-face-spiritual.So I’d vote for Kundalini…be warned though: it may seem very, very weird at first, but the actual experience is really amazing!

      1. I agree with Kim!
        Kundalini is sooo amazingly powerful and uplifting. It takes you out of your physical body and into the more subtle bodies. On some level it is the very opposite of Ashtanga, and yet I love practicing both these traditions. They work together. I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my connection with both these practices, but I’m still formulating the best way to relate this….but anyways, give it a shot Steve! We went to the most beautiful class with Tej at Golden Bridge last night. If you are going to try Kundalini, make sure you go to a legit (and ideally senior) teacher first, so you know you are getting the real thing.
        Blessings!
        Frances

  8. I think it doesn’t matter whether you do or not, I think what matters is identifying your reasons for wanting to stray. If you are at a point where you want to explore, and expand your knowledge, and bring new awareness and points of view to your ashtanga practice, then I would say go for it. If you are grumpy with ashtanga because it’s not giving you what you want right now then turn that into tapas and explore it. I think your true yoga is definitely ashtanga, and you wouldn’t be digging a new well, just drinking from someone else’s tap for a while before picking up your spade again.

    Good luck either way!

    1. This is great advice, Diane. Thank you! And, the tapas – the heat and purification – happens because of the friction that arises between what we (think) we want and what we’re given, what we have to work with.

    2. That is great advice. I have real “work” to do, but I did take this focused feeling (and the thoughts I’d read last night) into practice this morning. Y’all know I hate “here’s how my practice went” posts, so I’ll try to succinctly sum it up in a comment in a little bit.

      Y’all are being super helpful, and I appreciate everyone who took the time to comment.

  9. to be more serious, what is driving the wondering? the sutras say that wondering
    is one of the non useful states. I doubt that changing asana tradition is going to be satisfying. we get to a certain age and
    we know practice is no about getting to
    Third Swries but becoming a person. try
    another yoga: pranayama. meditation practice

  10. I think a great in-between answer/solution is to try Matthew Sweeney’s Vinyasa Krama sequences. They are meant to complement the Ashtanga system, and I believe they are drawn from Srivatasa Ramaswami’s teachings? So in other words they are part of Krishnamacharya’s body of teaching, and maybe they reflect the more individualized approach to Krishnamacharya’s yoga (as interpreted by Ramaswami and Sweeney)

    Sometimes it is nice to do the softer Moon sequence, it is almost like eating dessert. I have not tried the other sequences yet but plan to integrate them into my weekly Ashtanga practice. I find it helps a lot with remembering not to have such a “pushing” or “gripping” or “pulling” practice.

    1. Matthew Sweeney is awesome. I wholeheartedly agree. The karma sequences in his books – especially the chandra series – are a great alternative when fundamental Ashtanga just gets you down or just plain hurts; and they are within the Krishnamacharya tradition, too. I have done them when injured – they are sweet, therapeutic and sensible – but, not all that easy, either.

  11. I’m in the Do It crowd. For me, visiting other styles of yoga is an experience similar to traveling: I taste new flavors, I gain perspective, I practice humility, I learn a lesson or two, and then I’m happy to get back to my normal routine where I can absorb what I want and let go of the rest. But also like traveling, if you aren’t willing to leave your ego and judgement behind, then you may as well stay home.

    Thanks for the post!

  12. OK, that work took longer than I expected. Here’s the quick “report”:

    I realized (mainly via y’alls responses) that I clearly am feeling impatient and looking ahead during practice. So this morning I committed to being more — it kind of gags me even to say it this way — “in the moment.” Russ, our Rolfer, has me thinking of being more receptive, and trying to be that way during practice was pretty successful, if one wants to measure things (and I do!) by the quality of the breath.

    Pretty much night and day. Breathing was much more consistent throughout the full primary.

    So, a “successful” practice.

    I may as a result just be at a point where I’m thinking of trying other yogas just so I can speak intelligently about them when I bash them. 🙂

    1. touche steve, touche.
      regarding JF, i would like to say just don’t practice with a teacher who sleeps with their students…but that would make me a hypocrite too given the track records of some of my favorite ashtanga senior teachers….oh darn…passing judgement always comes back to bite you, doesn’t it.

  13. I’m feeling a somewhat different perspective. Although someone posted earlier that you need to examine what your reasons are for wanting to explore other styles of yoga, I think you also need to look at the converse…….why you don’t want to try other styles. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel there is some element of that in play! Otherwise, why ask for opinions (permission?) when you could just go ahead, and say ‘Hey, guys, guess what…….I tried Anusara yesterday and I think I’m gonna continue for a while!’ Is there an element of fear that if you were to step out for a while and try something different and find it ‘unworthy’, then you would return to Ashtanga having made no progress or even having regressed? Or even worse (or better, depending on your perspective) you could actually find you enjoy another style so much that you never want to come back. Then you would have to admit that you’d wasted all this time on Ashtanga!! …….which you could then proceed to bash!!! Hehe!

    1. A few thoughts in response:

      1. I supposed I threw this idea out there because I knew a few of our more regular commenters (Michelle and Diane, certainly) might have some thoughts, judging by past comments. And because it seems like an issue that regularly bubbles up in conversation (online and off) among Ashtangis. As I noted, Frances and Thad and Bobbie and I had such a conversation last week.

      2. Not wanting to try other styles probably results from, in many ways, Ashtanga’s being easier and safer now. The “intense physicality” of it, which you always read about, isn’t a major hurdle for me. But flexibility remains one of the big challenges. It seems like adding more “unknown” would challenge me more — and I can’t suddenly prove inconsistent and not want the challenge (tapas).

      3. I’m pretty sure I’ve had enough exposure to other asanas to know I wouldn’t be tempted away. (Bobbie’s recent post on sequencing gets to that — Ashtanga does strike me as “smart” in its approach to the gross and subtle bodies.) But I do have more experience with Ashtanga now — how might that change my reactions to other yoga (both positively and negatively toward them)?

      4. It would be hard for me to make less progress! 🙂

  14. The yoga you practice is a personal decision. For me, when I started practicing 11+ years ago, I felt lucky to learn from different teachers who taught different styles (1 of which was Ashtanga). There are a ton of poses I love that do not appear in the Primary Series, and I get bored doing the same thing over and over again (plus many of the seated poses do not agree with my creaky knees). I have found that (as a whole), the most knowledgeable teachers out there are usually rooted in Ashtanga (with a few notable exceptions – I’m lucky enough to study with a senior Iyengar-trained teacher who now teaches her own method; and Yoga Tune Up has been great from an anatomical perspective). I think you should do what makes you happy – but my practice has benefited greatly from exploring many different styles (and the additional focus on alignment can be helpful when you make your way back to Ashtanga).

  15. STEVE, IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU NEED TO LENGTHEN YOUR MUSCLES rather than build them up. the intensity of ashtanga might be keeping you too tight and dry. you should try a slower form of yoga where your body relaxes a bit more and you have a bit more repose in each asana. plus, I’m assuming you’re in your late 40s early 50s? something slower might be th trick to get length and softness to your muscles, then return to ashtanga with renewed vigor…

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