As I step into my teacher”™s shala for an Ashtanga session, I leave the day”™s worries behind. The space is quiet, empty and peaceful. Very few of us practice Ashtanga on a daily basis, which means there is little to no chatter while we wait for our teacher to come. When I first began Ashtanga practice, the silence was deafening. I wasn”™t comfortable being left in my own thoughts. But now, I have come to crave these moments of silence. It offers a sense of peace that is so difficult to find in my daily hectic life.
As my teacher walks in the room, the slow chatter among us students quietens. I come to the front of my mat, ready to begin my practice. Collectively, we chant the opening prayer, offering our gratitude to the generations of teachers and students who have enabled us to practice today. Once this is done, we begin our practice individually, at our own pace.
Ashtanga yoga follows a set series of postures, where the student synchronizes her breath with each posture. It is intense, challenging and at times, intimidating. But when practiced right, it is calming to the mind and detoxifies the muscles and organs. It is rewarding.
In the early days of my practice, I stumbled through the first series. I found myself already huffing and puffing, even though I was only halfway through. By the end of the series, I had very little energy left. The first few weeks were so challenging in fact, that I almost wanted to give up my practice. There were no modifications in Ashtanga. No easy options. My teacher had said that the first three months would be the most challenging. And then it gets better. Not easier. Just better.
Fortunately, it did get better (not easier though!) and I found myself enjoying Ashtanga more and more. At each practice, my teacher would gently correct our postures, ensuring that we get the best out of the sequence. I slowly found my rhythm and saw great improvements in my poses. Each practice took me almost two hours. An extremely good workout!
At the end of our practice, my teacher leads the class again in a closing chant, offering a prayer for all mankind. As I roll up my mat and make my way out, I felt energized and empowered. My mind is at ease. Ashtanga, like all yoga, isn”™t just good for the body. It also feeds the soul.