Did you start practicing Ashtanga for one reason, and keep doing it for another?

I’ve admitted here before that a main reason I started Ashtanga — and probably, really, yoga (as in asana) more generally — was as a means to improve the quality of my surfing.

And then time passed.

Seven or so years later, I’m still doing Ashtanga (and, happily enough, still surfing — though more of the former, less of the latter).

And it’s not just to keep me in the water. The reasons I’ve still practicing must include:

  • The health benefits, which I’ve highlighted.
  • Some sort of spiritual fulfillment, or those trips to India were sort of silly.
  • To be honest (and she’s probably never heard me say it), it’s a shared experience for Bobbie and me.
  • Related to the health benefits, what I hope is a bit more of a even-keeled, able-to-handle-stress, calm and reflective state of mind.
  • The hope that one day I’ll actually touch my nose to my knee.

I suspect my experience of starting the practice for one reason and keeping going for another (or others) isn’t unusual. Anyone want to share what keeps them going, and what got them started. Did the practice have anything to do with the change? (I think the answer in my case is obvious.)

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

7 thoughts on “Did you start practicing Ashtanga for one reason, and keep doing it for another?”

  1. Steve- I started Ashtanga bc I saw a video of Patabhi Jois doing primary with six students (you know the one) and at that moment I knew I had to do it. (EGO) I learned it all in four months at home, and was amazed at the little problems (back, neck, female issues) that suddenly disappeared. I stopped getting angry (esp at my four kids). Things just didn’t phase me like they used to! So that’s why I kept on. The ego is going away and acceptance and gratitude have replaced it. I’ve now been practicing for 2 1/2 years, I’m 47 and feel better than I ever have.

  2. Oh indeed. Started because it made my knee pain go away, kept at it because it helped everything. Most of all focus, internal stuff.

  3. Oo, this is a good one!

    I started with non-ashtanga asana because the physical asana coupled with relaxation was the main driver. I have a background in dance and martial arts, so being flexible it was definitely a feeling that I was good at it and it made me feel better.

    I discovered and stuck with ashtanga because of the focus and the breath. It was hard and the concentration required was like a laser pointer and it was a whole new world.

    Now, sticking with ashtanga there’s an added mental dimension. Precisely because it confronts me with all those dark corners, I know that if I were to return to some vinyasa-flow style it would be for the fun and I’d actually be avoiding the legwork that eventually would pop up (elsewhere?) needing attention. It’s like, this is it, this is how you evolve beyond reactionary patterns (into non-self, etc. etc.).

  4. I started for health reasons. Practice keeps me healthy and mentally calm. There are also the mental dimensions. With practice, I learn a lot about the internal workings of my mind. The ways I respond to things on the mat do say a lot about how I respond to situations in real life.

  5. Started 9 years ago at 51 to improve my balance as I age. Went to the ashtanga studio because it was 2 blocks away. Still going at it. As long as I keep learning something new everyday on the mat….I will keep going.

  6. They started offering yoga classes at the gym in the Uni campus I was working at. I’d recently gone through the breakup of a very long-term relationship and needed something to distract me from the pain, so reluctantly agreed to go with some of my work colleagues. (I had no interest in yoga, as I thought!) By good fortune, the classes were Ashtanga. I was captivated, and 15 years later I still am!

  7. Went to a couple of vague yoga classes at a gym on a discount deal but I was indifferent. I was a single mother struggling to support my children and feeling alone and anxious. One night a substitute teacher turned up and taught a class I now know was the sun salutes and standings plus finishing poses. I felt like a lightning bolt had hit me. I was 45 at the time. I asked her what kind of yoga she was teaching and she told me ashtanga. She had learned it in Mysore and she taught it in a church hall to a few people. She told me that the Indian teacher of this system was coming to hold a workshop in a few months and it would be a wonderful opportunity to practice directly with him. Of course I had no idea at that moment what an incredible opportunity was about to come my way. I went to the church hall because the classes were cheap. There were about 10 of us. I felt stiff and old but I loved the practice. In fact I felt reverent about it and I wished that I could go to Mysore, but that was impossible. Then Guruji arrived to take a week-long workshop at a big yoga studio. I hid down the back intimidated by all the incredible beautiful accomplished people but when we reached the marichyasanas which my rock-like shoulders resisted, I saw to my embarrassment that Mr Jois was making his way through the crowd directly to me. I wanted to cry, ‘No, no, please leave me alone. I’m not really good enough to do this practice. I’m old and overweight and not worthy. I’m very sorry to be making such a mess of it.’ But he bent down, took my arm and bound me. Then did the same with B and C. The strength of his touch was extraordinary and something deep inside me responded to it. Every single morning for that whole week he gave me those adjustments and Saraswati got to work on me in the back bends. Every morning I drove back home to make my kids breakfast and get them off to high school with tears streaming down my face. I knew something extraordinary had happened but I couldn’t articulate it. I felt I had been given a gift even though I wasn’t sure what the gift was but I should honour it by sticking with the practice. 15 years later I still do.

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