Tag Archives: Ashtanga

Lineage of yoga created by K. Pattabhi Jois, requires mastery of series of postures

Yoga teachers as rising rock stars

Photo: yoga class at Thrive Yoga
A wide-legged forward fold or Prasarita Padottanasana led by Suan Bowen

Each morning at Thrive Yoga‘s yoga teacher training (YTT)  participants join a 90-minute yoga practice led by the owner Susan Bowen or two other teachers, Sarah Wimsatt or Krista Block. Except for a few yin session that Susan gave as a change of pace, the classes have tested my yoga:  I’ve come out of the practice dripping in sweat, buzzing from the intense rinse cycle that my brain has been put through and feeling as if I had had an out-of-body experience. Just when I think I can’t go any deeper, I am led into new territory.

The physical practice is the number one reason I decided on YTT — I wanted to renew my hatha practice, increase my stamina, strength and flexibility, deepen my understanding of fundamentals and get back into my yoga groove that I lost when my parents died two and a half years ago. Continue reading Yoga teachers as rising rock stars

The appeal of an Ashtanga practice

Ashtanga practitioners have more options than you might think:

Washington Post Express Never Out Of Practice: Mysore yoga classes help students advance at just the right pace – “First-timers get personal training in a few postures, starting with five rounds of sun salutations, and that may be all they do. As they return to class and master that section, the instructor adds on. Advanced students can complete the beginning of the series, but at some point, even people who can hook their legs around their necks need an assist, a modification or a pep talk.”

A few months ago, I pointed to another article about Ashtanga and Mysore practice in the DC area.

Thanks to Donavan Wilson for tipping me off about this article since I am “out of pocket” (meaning “away,” it’s journalism jargon, if I remember correctly.)

Congressional record spotlights Ashtanga practice — What?

In a real media milestone in Washington, DC, yoga has made it on to the pages of one of the mainstays of congressional politics, Roll Call, (I can’t say that this is the first time that Roll Call has done a yoga story; see the listing below):

Roll Call Around the Hill: The Yoga of Rules: Mysore Yoga Expands in D.C. “Mysore yoga is an individual practice within a group setting. Students do a set of poses in a prescribed order with a specified stopping point, as determined by the instructor. The poses, called ‘asanas,’ are divided into six series; most students stay within the first two series, called primary and intermediate. Students new to Mysore (even those with an established yoga practice) are given a short set of poses to do before they are sent home with instructions to come back the next day. And the following day. And the day after that.”

This was a feature-length article requiring three web pages. It did not cover Ashtanga yoga just as the latest fad on the Hill (Mysore practice is anything but faddish, as my friend Donavan Wilson can testify to.). It went to the trouble of explaining why Mysore practice is different from the garden-variety vinyasa or hatha class. The story mentioned five studios offering the Mysore practice so it’s not just a favor for a friend. I did not even know there were six places offering Mysore. Rebecca Gale, the reporter, quotes leading Ashtanga teachers in DC (Peg MulqueenKeith Moore, Jen Rene, Tova Steiner and David Ingalls).

Of course, when I did a search for “yoga” in the Roll Call archive, I found 61 articles, some of which probably only use the term in passing or as a metaphor. But I did find some substantial stories that showed that Roll Call has not ignored the topic. Just another sign that yoga is seaping into the US mainstream culture. I should also clarify that the online version of a publication may different substantially from the print edition:

I should also note the Washington yoga did make a major splash with the Obama II Inauguration, as sampled by Yoga Dork and probably a lot of other places.

I saw this story by chance. It shook me out of my lunch time langor and made me blog about it. When the stars align, I have to celebrate it.

Another DC yoga studio bites the dust

My friend and dedicated Ashtangi Donavan Wilson sent me a message today:

David Ingalls is shutting down AYC (Ashtanga Yoga Center, for those not in the know). The doors close on May 31. The studio space near American University is too expensive. Keith Moore (long-time AYC teacher) found another location. The new location is unofficially in the MacArthur Boulevard area (DC). The tentative new name is the Ashtanga Yoga Studio. Moore has not signed a lease. However, the odds pretty good to solidify this new location. All of this (new space and location) is up in the air. AYC closing is not.

What a bummer! And to think, I have not had a chance to take a class there — though I do have until the end of May. What did in AYC was what made it a convenient place to practice yoga — it was right next to the American University/Tenlyetown Metro station, right across from WholeFood. You could fit in a Mysore class before picking up a bagel and heading to work. But economically, the rent got too high at that prime location. Let’s hope that all the instructors and students find an appropriate space for their practice.

I should also underscore that the AYC website distinguished itself for exquisite photography of yogis and yoginis absorbed in their practice. As someone who has dabbled in that dark art, I know how difficult it is to capture the instance, but when you do, it’s magic.

Postscript: I should also note that DC is not the only place where yoga studios can become unviable commercially: In New York City, Om Yoga will shut down at the end of June because the lease was not renewed. Om Yoga was founded and run by Cyndi Lee, a high-profile yoga instructor and pioneer in fusing yoga with Buddhism. The owner of the building did not want a ygoa studio on the premises.

A yoga addict proves she was feeding her ego

New York Times A Yoga Devotee Finds a New Guru in a Personal Trainer starts out with a confession that said far more than a simple statement of fact.

I was an addict of ashtanga yoga for a decade. It made me strong. It made me feel superior to people who went to the gym. What it did not make me was skinny.

Ashtanga yoga is essentially the mother of vinyasa, the sweaty kind — a set series of daily poses you do abetted by a teacher “adjusting” you by, say, sitting on your back. There’s no music and little talking. It is widely believed to have been created for adolescent boys and tends to attract former drug addicts and Type A personalities; I’m the latter

The author, Deborah Schoeneman, then chronicles her journey through the yoga world in New York City and Los Angeles and her gradually shift of other exercise methods. And how she was able to get the flab out of her arms and fit in a size 6, in between name dropping (“Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna”). She cuts her yoga down to one session a week for “meditation, stretching and community.” She ended the artilce saying:

I left her that day feeling the way yoga is supposed to make you feel: enlightened. If not particularly lighter.

Come again?  Schoeneman misrepresents yoga in so many ways, it’s no wonder Hindu purists are worried about what America is doing to yoga. For that matter, I am worried about what the New York Times’s agenda is with this kind of message. After all, it was published in the Fashion and Style section.

Giving American yoga a bad name

USAToday Western influence turns yoga on its head in Mumbai: The veteran writer Gail Sheehy writes about how American yoga is feeding back into Indian culture and subverting the traditional discipline, but she gets something wrong:

Power yoga, an aerobic deviation, was launched in 1995 by an American woman, Beryl Bender Birch. It ignores the original concept of yoga, which was to be done in silence so the mind can develop awareness of the body.

Photo: Beryl Bender Birch signs a book after class
Continue reading Giving American yoga a bad name

First quarter 2011 yoga events

Some big names are coming to the DC area in the first three months of 2011. For more details (schedule, costs, requirements), go to the website of the hosting yoga studio. I don’t mean to downplay other workshops and events that are taking place during the first quarter, but when high-profile instructors pass through the DC area, it’s worthwhile to spotlight them. You will notice that March 10-14 is shaping up to be week-long overdose of quality yoga. I will update this list as more information becomes available.

January

  • StudioDC Yoga Center: The Pursuit of Happy Hips: Theory and Vinyasa (3 hours) and Superflow Surf Yoga : A transformative + unique movement practice (2 Hours) with Eoin Finn,  Saturday, January 22

February

March

Although I was not planning to mention events beyond March, I wanted to highlight two events: StudioDC Yoga Center – Forrest Yoga Master Classes with Ana Forest, May 18-19 and Willow Street Yoga – Yoga of Fulfillment: Yoga & the Path of Destiny with Rod Stryker, April 9-13, which is an yoga immersion course.

Kino MacGregor: Passion on the Mat – Part IV

Final installment of Donavan Wilson’s interview with Kino MacGregor. Photos are provided from Kino MacGregor’s website. Contact Donavan at dwilson95 AT gmail_com.

The American Yoga Scene

Photo: portrait of Kino MacGregor with resting student in background
Kino MacGregor headshot

“I loved how many people are doing yoga today,” commented Kino as she offered her perspective on the direction of American yoga. “I think it’s great. What is really inspiring is how dedicated people are, not only in the U.S. but all over the world and how many people are getting turned on to it. The most inspirational thing about the American Yoga community is its embrace of yoga as lifestyle,” she said. “Also, what else that is exciting is the generation of children born into Yoga families and who have the exposure to a lifestyle committed to inner peace at an early age.” Continue reading Kino MacGregor: Passion on the Mat – Part IV

Getting back on the track

I missed vinyasa class tonight because of a heavy workload and a boss who’s traveling tomorrow. When I got home, I had a choice: either watch the Trudie Styler DVD to write the review or go running. I choose running. I put in nearly two miles at a slow trod.

I used to run a lot until my knee injury and surgery. A few weeks ago, at the gym working on the stationary bike and elliptical trainer, I felt an impulse and jumped on the treadmill just to see what it was like, maybe just a quick walking pace. I did not feel anything bad. I stepped up the speed. At the end of 15 minutes, I was trotting along without any pain or complications. The following day, I felt no adverse consequences. I started jogging again, gingerly, at the gym and at a high school track near my house, first with a mile, then, adding a quarter of a mile gradually, until I am up to two miles now.

When I was recovering from my surgery, I focused on getting back to yoga because the discipline had a ripple effect throughout my life. I ruled out running because I did not want to overstress my knees. But running had never been the cause of my injury: it was actually yoga, an over-aggressive moment when I put too much weight over my bent knee.

What pushed me back to running was my yoga practice: I’ve been doing one or two sessions a week of hatha yoga with Marylou McNamara at Thrive. She’s trained as a Anusara teacher so she works a lot on alignment — long, repeated holds of fairly simple poses (lunge, Warrior I, II, III). I feel that I am able to access key muscles in my shoulders, back, core, and hips for the first time, and her instruction helps me focus on those areas. But a hatha class does not get much into aerobic conditioning, and I’ve noticed in the vinyasa classes that I’ve been getting winded. If I was going to continue going hatha yoga classes, I needed to add some aerobic exercise, either at the gym, the yoga studio or elsewhere.

So that’s why I started running again. My short-term goal is to get ready for the Brian Kest weekend workshop at Thrive coming up on October 23-25. He teaches an Ashtanga, power yoga style that’s going to test my limits over four two-hour sessions. I knew I had to step up conditioning.