‘Reasons to love Ashtanga yoga’

I’m probably not a good one to comment on these, although I can agree with this assessment from this piece in the Times of India (although it may have originated at the Huffington Post India): “Ashtanga is not a practice for the faint-hearted.”

It goes on to list not quite a handful of reasons “to love this practice.” Here they are; click this link for the full explanation of them:

Dedication. Strength. Letting Go. Mirror Effect.

Kudos to the piece for getting this part right: “consisting of six series, and each series contains its own sequence of asanas.” You may recall that can be easy to mess up.

Posted by Steve

Apparently someone broke his thigh in Marichyasana B

Here’s a story that could get the “yoga can hurt you” drumbeat going again.

According to the uniquely unreliable Mail in the UK, a guy practicing in a Mysore room tried to do Marichyasana B and broke his thigh:

A man suffered a painful break to his thigh bone while carrying out a yoga pose.

The 39-year-old man, who remains unidentified, had been practising yoga for two years, and had recently begun exploring Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga.


In the emergency department, doctors found the man’s lower limb was shorter than usual and had rotated due to the injury.

X-rays showed he had a fracture in his ‘femoral shaft’, the long, straight part of the thigh bone.

Doctors said they believed this is the first documented case of a healthy person developing such a fracture while following a yoga stance. 

Here’s a link to the report on this that is the impetus for the Mail story. (Warning: X-rays that may make you think twice about doing Marichy B.) What strikes me is the description of this as a “low-energy” break. The report also concludes in part with this: “Yoga-related injuries are becoming more commonplace.”

(And note, we’ve now “broken” our taking Moon days off from posting twice today.)

Posted by Steve

What’s the big deal about quitting Ashtanga?

During the past few months, I’ve seen — but, I’ll admit, not read — a couple handful of posts, from something as big and mainstreamish as Huffington Post to individual blogs, all about quitting Ashtanga.

Judging by the titles and the first line or so (which is about what I see in a Google alert of via Facebook), they are anguished, soul-wrenching accounts of giving up Ashtanga or having Ashtanga, seemingly, give up on the writer.

What’s the deal, I ask.

I know the easiest answer here is: Read them for yourself, dude. And a fair point. But I like to spend my time reading things I think will be productive, and for me these aching accounts aren’t that. I think my discrimination about such things is pretty consistent here.

Perhaps some of you have read them and find something… I don’t know, is it uplifting or affirming? Is it a certain schadenfreude? Do we all really agonize so much about our Ashtanga practices?

And if so, why exactly?

Posted by Steve

Mysore a top yoga school in India plus eight places to make an asana of yourself

A couple of lighter things to get your through the weekend.

First up, KPJAYI makes this list of the top five yoga schools in India:

Ashtanga Institute is located in Mysore and is run by the descendants of Guru Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, who has been teaching yoga since the 1930’s. The yoga institute offers intensiveAshtanga yoga classes throughout the year. The institute emphasises on vinyasa as the central component of Ashtanga yoga. Vinyasa is breathing and moving while performing the asanas. One needs to apply at least two months in advance as this is a much sought after yoga institute. The institute does not provide any accommodation although there are many nearby.

But I actually like a line from its description of an (the?) Iyengar school in Pune: “The renowned yoga centre attracts several students from all over the world, but it could be difficult to get a place in the institute as it is always full.” Wow, several students! Sounds crowded.

The second piece is from the LA Times: Eight “cool” places to do yoga. For instance:

OK, forget all the names of yoga poses you’ve learned. At the Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe in the heart of the French capital, guests receive a deck of cards with yoga poses based on Parisian landmarks.

The downward dog becomes the pyramids of the Louvre; the cobra pose, the gargoyles of Notre Dame. And of course the Eiffel Tower is the tree pose. You can do the self-guided workout anywhere in the city or in your room.

But there’s also this:

The Montage Laguna Beach adds a spiritual and healing component to its 2015 Mind and Body offerings. On Sept. 19-20, participants may take a two-hour yoga class and then receive 60-minute spa treatment and lunch at the Spa Montage.

As part of the series, Diana Christinson leads what’s called the Manomaya kosha (one of five koshas of yoga). The session costs $329 per person (not including hotel room).

An Ashtanga teacher gets in the mix.

Posted by Steve

Friday asana aid: Ushtrasana

It gets harder and harder to find poses we haven’t yet featured on a Friday. I can report that the frontier of Third Series seems pretty untraveled, at least as far as online instruction goes.

But I found a Second Series pose; maybe not a tough one. But that just means you ought to be able to explore the full expression of the pose: Ushtrasana.

Here’s the Internet’s favorite:

And, I know you’ll be surprised, this familiar face has a video:

(She actually has a few on this pose.)

This might be the second most popular:

Finally one of a different “tradition”:

And here’s a bonus bit of news: The YogaWorks empire grows:

Back Bay Yoga Studio on Boylston Street – renamed to YogaWorks Back Bay – and Sweat and Soul Yoga on Commonwealth Avenue – now YogaWorks Allston – have been acquired by YogaWorks for an undisclosed amount, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based chain said Wednesday.

Founded in 1987 and now known for its Teacher Training program, YogaWorks has 40 YogaWorks studios in Southern and Northern California, New York, and Boston. All locations are owned by Boston-based Great Hill Partners, which bought YogaWorks in 2014 for $45 million from Highland Capital Partners, according to theWall Street Journal.

It may be time for Rebel Alliance Yoga to rise — imagine the tie-ins toward year’s end.

Posted by Steve

Yoga, the world and the fact of futility

By now, you’ve seen the photo of Aylan Kurdi, and you’ve probably heard the stories of all the refugees trying to make their way to Europe.

It is in the face of such news that stretching myself into asana positions and, even more so, thinking that does any good beyond lowering my blood pressure, always strikes me as both absolutely ridiculous and ultimately self-serving and naive. I invariably think about the words of German philosopher Theodor Adorno: “To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.”

To paraphrase it: “To practice yoga as refugees walk their way into Europe is barbaric.”

I’d been thinking of this for much of the past week. And I suspected we’d touched on this topic before. I was right. Back in December 2012, days before we left for our first trip to India, Bobbie wrote this (the bold was originally a block quote):

It can be difficult to believe, in the face of horror, that creativity can go on—that anything can go on. The images from Connecticut shock the soul. And seeing them over and over, with no chance for catharsis, can be emotionally exhausting.

Comfort came from Robert Moses, in a message to the readers of Namarupa. I thought I’d pass it along to you. He wrote:

Hearing troubling news on a daily or almost hourly basis these days is indeed unsettling. Yet there is always hope. There is always the glimpse of love no matter how clouded things may appear to be.

Robert suggests—prompted by a message from Ammachi—chanting what we recognize as the closing prayer of the practice. It’s ancient prayer from the Rg Veda, known much more widely as the “Mangala Mantra.” It’s a reminder that there is, of course, solace in the practice itself.

svasti prajabhyam paripalayantham nyayeana margena mahim maheesah
gobrahmanebhya shubamsthu nityam lokah samastha sukhino bhavanthu
om santih santih santih

Unlike Bobbie, who found solace in that (as you’ll see if you take a look back at her post), perhaps I’m a tougher case. I’m more likely to feel the futility of one person, two people, 2,000 or 2 million practicing yoga and expecting to wake to a brighter, more perfect world.

I also realize the opposite — better to say the contrary — is worse. But it does not make getting to Samasthiti much easier.

Posted by Steve

It’s OK to research some poses

As promised, video is coming out from the Third Series training via Ashtanga Yoga Hong Kong. Here Tim Miller talks about research poses:

The description is nice, too:

Answering a student question about how much Research is acceptable, the answer also serves as preparation for the “awkward transition’ in Third Series that happens between the first half of the series, which is all the Leg-behind-the-head extreme forwards bends and Arm-balances, and the latter half of deep Back-bends. In other words; from Viranchasana B to Viparita Dandasana. As usual with Tim, there are some laughs along the way…

The laughs help with the research.

Posted by Steve