Why I hate my Ashtanga practice

In response to a post a week ago, Laura — whose small blue pearls blog you should check out if you don’t — joked back at my insistence that I don’t like my Ashtanga practice:

then I would argue that in fact you DO enjoy your practice—you enjoy not enjoying it ;) I kid you. But not entirely.

I immediately appreciated the irony of the statement, and I nearly answered with something amounting to, “You got me.”

But then I made one of the biggest mistakes one can make: I started thinking.

And the more I thought about it, the more I’ve determined that I don’t even enjoy not enjoying my Ashtanga practice. I really just don’t like it.

Me, post practice in Tulum at Tim Miller's teacher training. Not fun. Maybe necessary.
Me, post practice in Tulum at Tim Miller’s teacher training. Not fun. Maybe necessary.

I wish I did. Really. It would make standing at the front of the mat a lot easier.

Before going further, I want to pause for one second: I’ll admit that the title of this piece is a bit troll-ish, but at the same time it effectively captures my intent here. (“Why I don’t like my Ashtanga practice” doesn’t have the same ring.) However, I’m not trying to be intentionally provocative, and I’ll try to avoid retreading old topics. It is just: I really don’t get why people would like Ashtanga. It is one of the two or three mysteries to the practice that fundamentally baffle me. The best I can come up with is they either are masochists or they aren’t doing it “correctly” (i.e. they aren’t pushing themselves physically to places that make them go, “Ergh,” the places that ignite tapas).

Or every time they get to that place of calm and centeredness. Perhaps my real problem is that I haven’t gotten there — although if I hadn’t had at least a taste once, maybe twice, I’d assume I’d have given up entirely.

So I’m thinking through this mystery.

There are all the superficial reasons not to like the practice, but they don’t amount to much. I’ll list them quickly just to get them out of the way: getting up early; going to bed early; refraining from enjoyable things — food, drink, etc.; that there are better ways to get a workout; the stinky rugs.

More substantial are reasons like:

  • The discomfort. We’ve had enough arguments here about pain vs. discomfort in Ashtanga. I’ll set aside the whole question of whether Ashtanga should be “at ease.” It isn’t for me, and even if I’ll grant that every second isn’t painful, most of the seconds are at least uncomfortable. And, this may identify me as a wuss, I don’t like that reaching for my toe isn’t pleasant, that it’s full of discomfort. I’m not saying this is the worst thing in the world, but I can’t imagine describing it as something I like doing.
  • Being reminded of my limitations, physical and otherwise. In many ways, it is connected to the above. And, again, it just is something I don’t look forward to doing. There’s nothing “fun” about it. Fun is going to see Kick Ass 2.
  • Facing fears and challenges. In some circles, I think, this is central to the Ashtanga practice. (“Why fearing?” Guruji would ask, after all.) But, to hit the point home overly hard perhaps, it isn’t fun.
  • Reorienting. While facing fears, for some, may be the core of Ashtanga, for me it is the process of reorientation, the reworking from the inside out. (Sometimes there can be the cessations of the fluctuations of the mind involved.) Change. And if change were fun, there wouldn’t be an entire institution around managing it.

Nothing about Ashtanga, as far as I can tell, is fun. There’s nothing to like.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these — and others, I’m sure — may be important things to face or, dare I say it, overcome. But facing something and liking it are two different things, two things that remain mutually exclusive in my head. (I’m reminded of Arjuna’s reluctance to head into battle. He was faced with something he fundamentally didn’t like, to say the least.)

I suppose a decent analogy is going to the dentist. If you like that, there’s something a little off about you. But the alternative — The Big Book of British Smiles? — is worse. And, remember: I’ve already said that the only thing worse is not practicing.

But fun? No. Necessary? Sure. I’ll grant that. I’d understand someone saying, “I needed to practice today.” Or: “I can’t live without my practice.”

Even: “It’s my Dharma.” (See Arjuna again.)

But love it? No way. I can only hate it for all the things it is.

Final thought: I feel I should point out that I’m sure I would have given up the practice were it not for the terrific, fierce, kind and patient teachers I’ve been fortunate to cross mats with: Tim Miller at the top of the list, Maria Zavala, as well. Leigha Nicole. The Confluence teachers, including Eddie Stern — in part for introducing us to Robert Moses and Namarupa and our yatra. They’ve allowed me to have this relationship to the practice.

And in the end I know I’m very fortunate to be able to whine about something as insignificant/significant as my asana practice.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

63 thoughts on “Why I hate my Ashtanga practice”

  1. I love this post. Much the same way your earlier posts about pain helped me accept that it is just part and parcel of the practice (and therefore I can quit worrying/obsessing about every little ache and wondering what it might mean), many days I don’t like the practice at all. I’ll dread it and look for excuses not to do it but find I follow through out of sheer commitment. Sure, there are other days where I find enjoyable moments or small achievements, and I enjoy the satisfaction when I’m done. But I don’t always like it. And I feel better knowing I’m not alone in that!

  2. I don’t know, but being in relative discomfort for 90+ minutes, with sweat pouring off your body and into your eyes and contorting your body into strange positions, all while trying to maintain focused breath/gaze/bandha….well, no, it doesn’t sound like the average idea of “Fun” (as in entertainment.) I guess I didn’t think it was very fun for many years, either, Steve. Yet it held my attention and interest during the difficult beginning years, and continues to surprise and delight me as I become mature in my practice. It’s held my attention – and love – far longer than most relationships I’ve had, almost as long as my marriage (and it would definitely survive my marriage if that ended, LOL, so I think I’m definitely in an LTR with Ashtanga!)

    I persevered and got through the “better and worse” of my Ashtanga relationship. And in doing so, maybe, just maybe, my idea of “fun” has changed. For some reason, even though the sweating and effort is still there, the discomfort has become….comfortable, sukha. The effort has become more steady, too, not so difficult. I still wouldn’t call Ashtanga fun, exactly – like any relationship, it has it’s good times and bad times – but when I think how there have been times when I wasn’t able to do it at all, well, that was definitely NOT fun in comparison.

    1. I suppose one of aspects of the “love” of Ashtanga being a mystery to me is pretty well captured by your comments, Michelle. You say it’s held your love, but then admit it isn’t fun. But that NOT doing it is worse. I am right there with you. So here’s the mystery: Why do people feel the need to say they “love” it when I don’t think it is very lovable by any definition? And I wonder how this seeming need to embrace or speak so positively of the practice affects how Ashtanga works on us. In other words: Would it work differently if we just said, “Man I hate it, but I have to do it.” Ala Arjuna on the battlefield?

      (And, yes, a quick answer might be me — which would be it works poorly!) 🙂


      1. I couldn’t do asana for almost two years and was in such chronic pain that every movement was terrible (a long story, described here: http://www.florenceyoga.com/1/post/2013/03/why-you-should-remove-an-iud-if-you-have-one-in-ladies.html )

        But, the practice came back. Things turned around in the last 5 years, to the point that I can practice with steady comfort once more…a great gift. Kind of like falling in love all over again with someone you thought you’d never see again. Even more pleasant discovering things the second time around, but also, familiar and comfortable, too.

    2. You know what else I hate? WordPress. I just lost a pretty lengthy response to you, Michelle. And it isn’t the first time.

      What I wrote boiled down to: You capture one part of this “mystery” I talk about. There seems to be an insistence on spinning the practice positively. Why? And what might it be like / affect us if we didn’t approach it with rose-colored glasses? (My first response was soooo much better.)

      I did note that I might be the example of what it would be like in that instance, and obviously the answer is: Horrible. 🙂


      1. In answer to your question, why the pollyanna-ish “I love Ashtanga” gushing we sometimes read? Hmmmmm…..wishful thinking, perhaps? As in,

        “If I keep saying I love it, then I will keep doing it, even though it hurts and it’s hard and I if I’m being totally honest, I really don’t like it…”

        Beginners mind. These folks are still feeling the endorphins from their first classes! (I kid.)

        Still, I do think you can “love” something and be dedicated and loyal to it, even if it bothers the crap out of you at times. Like being a Red Sox fan – you can love the team, but they can also break your heart, exasperate you, too, depending on the year or decade you root for them.

  3. A wise person told me that I should try to look at obstacles and limitations with curiosity and interest just as I would with things that are enjoyable or interesting. This advice has really helped me take a lot of struggle out of my practice, and trust me, there has been struggle.

  4. A wise person once told me that I should be curious and interested in my limitations and obstacles in the same way I approach subjects that fascinate me. The advice helped me to take a lot of the struggle out of my practice and life.

      1. This may take us way off topic, but I’ll admit to having some trouble with RM. I need to read him again, I know. I have a difficult time expressing what my disagreement is… I think it has something to do with my perspective on ours being a constitutive world — it runs a bit afoul of dualistic and non-dualistic world views.


      2. “Hence an aspirant by the grace of his Guru and constant practice of yoga, can someday realize, before casting off his mortal coil, the Indweller that is of the nature of supreme peace and eternal bliss, and the cause of the creation, sustenance, and destruction of the universe. Otherwise, an aspirant will be unable to see anything in this world but turmoil.” ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Yoga Mala p.5 and 6

        Maybe you just have to let go of your perspective and open yourself up to all possibilities and do a different practice once in a while, mix it up, make it fun, or maybe if you keep pushing you’ll have some kind of breakthrough or breakdown? Maybe it’s best to just listen to the Guru and practice and not think.

  5. I guess you’re saying liking or loving to practice is not the point – the point is that it is hard, work that pays great dividends. ?

    Certainly. And yet — it it’s not rewarding in the here and now, then you’re spending time doing something unpleasant on some vague ideas about philosophy and psychology. I like it, love it. I’m happy to get to the mysore room, to see the community, to practice with other serious practitioners and to my practice getting more internal, my body getting stronger, my breath getting finer. … In the here and now. I’m excited about the challenge, even as I crash into the pain of kapotasana with scoliosis. breathing through it, extending and opening more everyday. That is exciting and enlivening to me.

    Tim mentioned to me that you are “very stiff man,” so I understand that it is difficult. Still that raises the question of how you are practicing and why you are practicing. All the practice really is a way to get to breath, to consciousness, so it isn’t really necessary to come crashing into tight hamstrings or arthritic back every time you practice. The work is to practice through the diversions that draw you back into old patterns: ‘Distraction, pain, extra weight, spacey-ness, sudden bouts of lethargy, depression all serve to dampen the energy that goes into play in an asana. – See more at: http://davidgarrigues.com/articleprogressplateau.html#sthash.oyfoVBgG.dpuf

    1. Wow. I think Tim’s upgraded me from “very, very stiff man.”

      I hear (read?) your other points. It is hard, I suppose, to get detached from the hamstrings, etc. and then focus just on the breath. (I guess I could say, did you see the “Just one breath” post — I know that’s where I should be.


      1. To be honest, a key reason I practice is that I feel like shit when I don’t work my body in that way, and that I do feel grounded, “breathed,” exhausted in a good way, etc. I shied away from saying this at first , but f you are really feeling beat up by it, perhaps you have come to the inflection point where you either practice ashtanga in a really kind-to-yourself-way (I’m saying you can work very hard and never touch your toes [bandhas!]) or you embrace a different regime that doesn’t beat you up.

      2. I don’t feel any more beat up than usual — certainly not as much as earlier on as I started practicing. And I’m definitely not of the “be overly kind to yourself” perspective — I like that this is the “yoga of no” even if I don’t like it, itself. To talk in circles.

        Again: Worse is not practicing.


    1. As evidence, I’d like to first include the picture with this post. 🙂

      More seriously, I’m not sure I do. Hamstrings (despite Richard’s solid note above) hurt; shoulders hurt. The physical side of things is hard for me to ignore. I’m certainly not fat and happy!


  6. To be honest I think…. ok this might not something an Ashtangi would say, but I’m going to say it anyway: if your practice isn’t fun to you (not even a little bit), maybe you really should consider other options. I think a lot of people get caught up in the “I’m stronger than my obstacles. I’m a hardcore Ashtangi”-trap, because they’re ambitious. And this way they practice for years and years, but they don’t enjoy it….

    And I think that’s a mistake. All the people who have practiced for a really long time have,at their core, a deep love for the practice and enjoy it. Of course there are hardships and days/weeks when you don’t want to, but in my experience, there’s always a childlike fun to it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it.

    So… I don’t know, I always think it’s alarming when someone says he doesn’t have fun at all with it. Ashtanga is not the only way and despite what many strict, ego driven Ashtangis say: it doesn’t make you weak if you quit.

    1. Bobbie wrote about DG’s thought that one needs a “love of asana” — but that is to do Third. https://theconfluencecountdown.com/2013/02/01/love-of-asana/

      I talked about the title/headline of this piece, and at some time last night I thought that maybe a better title would have been: Why I hate my Ashtanga practice, and why that’s OK.

      I don’t hate that I hate it (to harken back to Laura’s comment). It’s something I have to do (I think), and I’m fine with that — and I don’t think in a hardcore Ashtangi way. It’s working better than anything else has.

      But I’ll never have a childlike fun to it — I can’t imagine that. But I wonder if the people who do were out doing summersaults and climbing tress when they were kids while I was busy reading. That’s more fun to me.

      Having said all that, I guess where we may have a bit of disagreement is that I’m not sure this type of practice should be fun — that implies to me that it is a bit too easy, too welcoming. I emphasize the tapas/tapasya — not necessarily injury but difficulty. (Think Ravana sitting for thousands of years to get his powers and nearly cutting off his last head.)

      Maybe that makes me hardcore after all?


      1. Hardcore?

        Steve wrote: ” I’m definitely not of the “be overly kind to yourself” perspective — I like that this is the “yoga of no” even if I don’t like it, itself.”

        And: “I’m not sure this type of practice should be fun — that implies to me that it is a bit too easy, too welcoming. I emphasize the tapas/tapasya — not necessarily injury but difficulty.”

        And: “Nothing about Ashtanga, as far as I can tell, is fun. There’s nothing to like.”

        So, yes – I think there is something missing. There is “like” around being able to be comfortable is Janu C, or Mari C, “accomplishment” in progressing at jump backs or throughs, “satisfaction” in balancing in upavista or suptakona, etc., feeling “strong” in lifting up in navasana, and eventually, after a long time, “expansion/openness” in urdhva danurasana. Finally there is “peace” in anjali mudra. And through the whole thing the “fun” of sweat, intensity, internal vision, etc. The discipline (the so-called no-ness) is actually invigorating, pleasing, supportive. …

        And if you have no idea what I’m talking about and this is all outside of your experience, then yeah … the practice is not Good unto itself, it’s only good if you can make something profound out of it. Otherwise, no use.

      2. Steve wrote: ‘Doesn’t not having any idea what you’re talking about just mean I need to keep practicing?’

        Maybe not in the same way? What I found helpful was to think of the asanas and the vinyasas and the practice itself first with scientific curiosity. I’m supposed to be able to rotate my body this way (in Mari D, for ex.) and it doesn’t go. Interesting. Why not? Stand more into feet, internally rotate arm more, suck in uddiyana more … what effects? THEN — OK, that’s all she wrote for today; tomorrow another day.

        And THEN … perhaps with a sense of devotion. This is not for me, it’s for … God/Guruji/the universe/the community…. No need for injury, just serve up what you can.

        As Brad points out, your very, very stiff body is not you. There’s a Psychology Today article – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201109/yoga-changing-the-brains-stressful-habits – that makes the excellent point:

        “yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful. It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.”

        In other words, correct method is: chase after being calm in the discomfort. And because you access discomfort so easily, you have a great opportunity for great neurobiological benefit!

        Don’t you love it?

      3. Oh, come on! We all know we’re supposed to practice exactly the same exact same way every time!!

        (Ducks and runs.)

        And, actually, I am running out — to real world work meetings. But, again, as I just commented to Michelle: One of my points is: Why isn’t it OK not to love it? I’m not sure, for instance, I’m “doing it wrong,” although I’ve acknowledged that I’m not getting some of the benefits from correct method simply because I can’t, say, do Marichy C.

        And, yes, it all really is supposed to be at a more fundamental level. Wait? Is fun in there somewhere?


      4. Wait, what does it mean, can’t do Mari C? You can’t make the bind, you mean? Who gives a fuck? You can probably put your elbow at your bent knee and use the leverage to get rotation in your spine? You can deepen ujjayi breath there? Access mula banda and uddiyana (I don’t see how you can avoid that)? Look over your shoulder with dristi? Slow your breath and have comfort in your “seat”?

        How the hell is that not “correct method”?

        If you think it is not, then yes, I suggest you are doing it “wrong.” And of course it’s never the same practice every time – that would be so boring. What I love is that there is all this internal discovery within the same external framework.

        My answer to your ultimate question – Right, It’s not OK (or at least I dont see how its sustainable) to hate it.

  7. The good is never easy and the easy never good. Being in the mysore practice room every morning is the most exciting part of my day. I didn’t come to the practice looking for fun, but sure there are parts of the practice that I find sheer fun (dropbacks). Other parts fill me with fear and uncertainty (sirasasana). I suppose if I wanted fun I would have taken up surfboard yoga. Practice reflects life; it doesn’t promise you anything. And to love your practice is not the same as always finding it fun. To love something/someone is a wearing process of investment that can devour you and yet also enlivens and expands your understanding of what is possible. Its not the endpoints or how we feel after that is the most important but the sense of being within the vital present. I don’t know but that always feel pretty fun to me.

    1. You’re pulling at a slightly different crack or thread, which is great: Love doesn’t have to equal fun. But I still don’t see how someone can love the actual practice, itself — I go back to the dentist analogy.

      But the effects of the practice? That’s something else, I think. We can love the calmness that the practice brings. We can — as Andy implies above — love feeling better after. We even can love the tight abs.

      Of course, there’s also the whole notion we need to not be attached… just to confuse things more.

      Perhaps (and keep in mind I’m on my first cup of coffee and about to practice) I’m reacting to a feeling that saying “I love my practice” devalues both love and the practice? At least in the way I often hear it, ala my saying, “I love coffee.” Or: “I love cronuts.”

      Again, for me and my experience, saying “I love my practice” doesn’t express the relationship at all. And my experience is such that I’m not able to make the imaginative leap to understanding how someone could. (And I think I’m usually pretty good at doing that…)

      So I’m just trying to see if I can discover why people say this, to me, craz-ee thing.

      Note: I’ve never had a cronut. 🙂


      1. “Perhaps …I’m reacting to a feeling that saying “I love my practice” devalues both love and the practice?”

        I think you just nailed it there and also provoked a further interesting line of enquiry. I understand much better where you are coming from now 🙂 .

        I guess the devaluation comes about when the practice becomes a thing or an object? And the love for a thing or object is always somewhat less valuable than an unselfish universal sense of love? So perhaps it is a case that the practice cannot be loved simply because it is not able to be loved – not because it is not lovable – but because it is not meant to be loved.

        This is just philosophising!

        I have no idea what a cronut is (I am British) 🙂

      2. From the site of the guy who came up with it:

        What is a Cronut™?
        Described by many as a half croissant, half doughnut — this pastry hybrid by Chef Dominique Ansel is taking the world by storm. After its launch on May 10, 2013, Cronut™ fans spanned the world from Berlin to Singapore, making it the most viral dessert item to date.

        Please eat Cronuts™ immediately as they have a short shelf life. And if you do cut, please use a serrated knife, so as not to crush the layers. Never refrigerate these treats as the humidity from the refrigerator will cause them to go stale and soggy. Since Cronuts™ are filled with cream, we do not recommend serving them warm.

        The Makings of a Cronut™…
        Taking 2 months and more than 10 recipes, Chef Dominique Ansel’s creation is not to be mistaken as simply croissant dough that has been fried. Made with a laminated dough which has been likened to a croissant (but uses a proprietary recipe), the Cronut™ is first proofed and then fried in grapeseed oil at a specific temperature. Once cooked, each Cronut™ is flavored in three ways: 1. rolled in sugar; 2. filled with cream; and 3. topped with glaze. Cronuts™ are made fresh daily, and completely done in house. The entire process takes up to 3 days.

        On the love aspect: I’m amazed I managed a coherent thought that early. Thanks for the comments — I’m honestly interested in figuring out why people “love” their practice (and maybe tweaking them to think about whether that’s the right way to think about it).

        I wonder if fewer Ashtanga practitioners say they “love” their practice than other asana forms. I have reason to think the answer is yes (it’s hard!) and no (it’s so hard you only do it if you “love” it). Again, I’m a bit baffled by the latter perspective. 🙂


  8. I like this post, and reading these discussions! I think just the heat from this one conversation is what makes Ashtanga so different! It’s a practice full of passion with its intense ups and downs, which can be extremely different than our “daily” lives. Maybe that is what we all love to come to? I sit at a desk all day at my job, and then head to my practice immediately afterwards and it’s the complete opposite of what I was doing all day. Some practices are great, and some have almost brought me to tears with discomfort/frustrations, but I still continue to go, every day. I love the practice, largely due to it’s ability to put me in some of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in (and having to deal with explaining to your teacher why you copped out on half the practice today because “my butt feels like two iron balls that won’t relax, which makes kapotasana feel like crap (verbatem, what I told my teacher yesterday). He just laughed and nodded and continued to assist others and I finished my practice, still glad I went. That’s been one of my biggest struggles with the practice, is listening to my body and getting over that guilt trip of the days where I really Don’t feel like doing my entire practice, and not feeling the need to have to explain myself to my teacher in fear of his disappointment… anyways, good writing, I look forward to reading your posts while sitting at my desk at work every day!

    1. Just make sure you sit up straight. 🙂

      I wonder if what you’ve said here follows the possible line of thinking that there’s love of the practice (baffling to me) and love of what it does (i.e. “its ability to put me in some of the most uncomfortable situations”), although maybe the two can’t be unwound.

      A separate line of thought, maybe, is: Why do we love the uncomfortable situations and all the nasty stuff the practice brings up? Is it just because we have our eye on the prize? Are we enjoying the journey? (I don’t know, of course!)


  9. today 8 am i was finishing my relax after practice with Matthew Vollmer and i see the other students starting their practice and i say “ohhh poor people! they just start the sufering!” hahaha i’m lucky, now i’m finishing my breakfast… thanks!

  10. Take a posture like garba pindasana. I first attempted it 10 years ago. I think it is a “fun” posture. How often in life do you get to try and slide your arms through your legs and rock and roll around your mat? It still makes me crack up Another one that seems like “fun” is nakrasana. I’m not so far along in Intermediate series but watching others execute it makes me want to burst out laughing even though I am suppose to be focusing or whatever. However one might feel about their practice, there are certainly some lighter moments to it.

    Thanks for another great post. I admire how you are able to blog on topics that feel true to you even if they may not be popular things to bring up!

    1. It is the lightness, the irony, the humor of the practice that is one reason I’m able to stick with it. Tim, for one, brings a lot of that to his teaching. It is probably Ashtanga’s lack of seriousness, even though it has the rep for being so strict, that attracts me.


      1. Trying to see things from your side – I’ve loved practicing in the past but I change bit by bit every day from Ashtanga and life in general. I don’t know what to expect from my practice the next day. Technically, I can’t say I will love my practice because I don’t know what it will bring. But, that is different from saying I hate my practice altogether. But then, I might hate it tomorrow. Who knows?

      2. Why do I like my practice? It’s nothing I can personally explain. I wish I had a better explanation but I simply don’t. I like practicing because I like practicing.

  11. I have lost understanding as to why you practice at all. So many of the posts on this blog are lamenting, complaining, hating Ashtanga.

    Why don’t you modify? Don’t do it every day. So what if you would no longer be doing Ashtanga in Nancy Gilgoff’s eyes? Nothin wrong with a couple days a week if it spares you some misery.

    1. Wouldn’t a modified practice be more like doing it in Nancy’s eyes? That’s been my experience with her.

      I’m curious, though, about the idea that if I hate or lament Ashtanga I should quit — which might be pushing your thinking a bit further than it’s intended. But that’s part of the equation I’m thinking about: Do we all have to say we love the practice? It seems to have become a requirement of yoga in the West, or whatever the “yoga culture” is.

      And the best I can answer as to why I practice at all is what I wrote: The alternative is worse.


  12. Andy, my guess is that a lot of folks would be less stiff if they practiced for as much time as they spent thinking/writing/complaining about practice.

    I see the old, heavy, stiff students roll out of their Intro class beaming, and every week it reminds me that enjoying your practice or not has very little to do with what asanas you can or cannot accomplish.

  13. I have followed this post (and the pain post) with great interest, due to the varied and passionate points of view expressed. Shortly after catching up on the 52 comments last night, I read the following quote on education from Angela Duckworth in Paul Tough’s book “How Children Succeed:” “learning is hard. True, learning is fun, exhilarating, and gratifying-but it is also often daunting, exhausting, and sometimes discouraging…” Change the word “learning” to “Ashtanga” and it adequately sums up my feelings towards the practice. I try to focus on the “fun, exhilarating, and gratifying” parts, but the first 2-3 years of practice, I certainly at times found myself frequently caught up in the “discouraging” parts. The simple successes have allowed me to find joy in refinement and care less about the advancement. I will be in primary series purgatory for probably the duration of my years practicing, but I think that might be okay.

  14. hey…sorry to hear you’re in feeling stuck. A word of encouragement: it’s better to dislike something than to be indifferent. As if being indifferent to ashtanga is even possible! But really, hate or dislike is the flip side to love. Or, in the words of Hugh MacLeod “love is just a euphemism for “love-hate”.

  15. I haven’t read all the comments carefully, but, scanning them, I did see at least one person point out that for many of us it IS fun. The first time i took a led class I floated around for 2 days afterwards feeling amazing. I love the way it makes me feel– and not just afterwards. And really I’m old, and I’m too busy to practice enough to make a lot of progress (ok, some), and I’m not so proficient. (pathetic, some might say) But I love it. And as someone else said, I look forward to going to the shala, entering a sacred space of love and attention and focus and shared work, seeing my friends, getting the energy, finding subtle new little ways to move with my teacher’s guidance, finding my breath, transcending. I have postures I hate, but overall it’s fun. So if it’s not fun for you? Maybe that’s wrong. Find what works, I guess would be my advice. in the practice or elsewhere.

    Besides being fun, practicing makes me feel connected to something true in myself and my life, and that feels good too.

    But I’m a certain kind of geek. Lots of weird things are fun to me.

  16. To clarify, it’s not ALWAYS fun. There are bad days where I can’t get past myself or I’m just too rushed or distracted to let go and surrender to it (including the active work of it) in the way that makes it fun. and there are parts of every practice that I dislike. But the fun is there, I know it.

  17. From Gregor Maehle’s primary series book:

    Paranjalils definition of asana as ease automatically eliminates pain. The widespread tendency in modern yoga to practice poses in such a way that they hurt leads to being preoccupied with the body. This is by definition not yoga asana

  18. Haven’t read all the posts either but….I hate ashtanga and love ashtanga for many reasons.


    Teachers who are narcissistic and, ego driven, especially young teachers who have just returned from India, and talk incessantly about themselves;.

    Teachers just back from India who talk in fake Indian accents;

    Teachers who say “this is what the pose is supposed to look like” regardless of the student;

    Teachers who say ” this is how it is done in Mysore now”, which contradicts everything else you’ve been told;

    Teachers who insist that the back must be perfectly flat because that is the way Iyengar looked.


    Ignoring all of the above, you can do it yourself without a teacher.

    Most ashtanga senior teachers are wonderful. Tim Miller, and his disciples are relaxed, easy going, and non-dogmatic. Tim says that he teaches students, not poses.

    The Ashtanga series is absolutely the best mind/body system of exercise and mindfulness ever.

  19. First off, what comes to mind is David Williams comments on pain: “If it feels like you been drug by a truck, you’re doing it wrong.” & “If something hurts you, eventually you WILL quit doing it. To stay with it, stop doing what hurts you.” (Both of these are as close to verbatim as I can recall.)

    I get hating pain. Having a messed up spine sucks. For another example, in a former existence, I ran the 880. That, is a solid, “I HATE running that event” hate. And the dentist, yeah. “Hating” one’s practice though, is something different. If this is daily, not occasional or limited to some pose or aspect, I would suggest some serious modifications to find that “seeing God part.” Would it seem right to say: “I LOVE prayer!” Practice is essentially a prayer for a lot of practitioners, so maybe that’s what they are trying to say.

    People (non-ashtangis) do ask, “Why do that?” Best answer for me is stolen from David Swenson: “Because my life is better when I do.”

    That said, you have Tim to talk to, right? Tim is the man.

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