There is often a point in many yogis’ journeys when the desire to live deeper, the need for something substantive is no longer satisfied by their standing practice. In Los Angeles this longing is rarely met by a pilgrimage to the Ganges. More often it is addressed with a trek to a new studio or a class with a new teacher. Among the prolific collection of hip and happening yoga studios peppered across the southland, the hammering of new gear, upgraded passes and fusion classes can get loud and heavy. But a silent drive to Silverlake, minutes after the dawn, can quiet this cacophony. Just east of Hollywood’s neon glare, rests Ashtanga Yoga LA.
This oasis of serenity offers traditional Mysore-style yoga classes to students of all levels searching for a deeper, more traditional practice. Based on ashtanga yoga as taught in Mysore, South India, this long-established method of yoga is a scientific system that will internally cleanse the body as it aligns the bones and hones the nervous system.
Mysore ashtanga is taught on an individual basis, allowing practitioners to explore the practice at their own pace, addressing their own needs. Doors open at 6 am and throughout the next few hours, students quietly step onto the warm floor, unroll their mats and begin their practice. Concentrating on the primary series, a student will maintain this repetition until the instructor, well-versed in all his students’ levels and potentials, will quietly guide him or her to the next stage of practice. This might take minutes, or it might take days. Ashtanga yoga is for the student who is dedicated to yoga from the base of its foundation.
If you’ve ever considered a power yoga class as the next level of your practice, rest assured that most power yoga classes are based on the ashtanga approach, being vinyasa-based and geared toward maintaining inner heat and keeping students on their edge.
James Butkevich, founder of Ashtanga Yoga LA, translates his studies in India to his instruction in Los Angeles. Ashtanga, also known as eight-limbed yoga, rests on three principle pillars: ujjayi breathing, drishti (point of concentration) and asanas (yogic poses).
The breathing technique performed in-hand with the vinyasas (repeated actions) is known as ujjayi breathing and is elemental to ashtanga yoga. Synchronizing the breath with movements heats the blood and cleanses it for free circulation. Your ujjayi breath is your instructor. Your drishti and asanas are equal in importance and supplementary to one another. With a focused and relaxed point of concentration, the mind comes under control and allows the body to follow suit.
To the untrained eye, an ashtanga class might resemble chaos as students perform different poses at different times, speeds and levels of expression. A closer look will dismantle the illusion, as the rhythm in breath grows more apparent, weaving each student with another. Ashtanga is traditionally practiced six days a week, suggesting rest on Saturdays and moon days. This practice will instill discipline and dedication as it links breath and understanding, encouraging acceptance of limitations and realizing potential.
Ashtanga Yoga LA is now offering led primary asthanga classes three days a week to introduce new yogis to the primary series. With kindness and patience, these instructors guide the development of each student’s practice.
At Ashtanga Yoga LA the individual is the student, the teacher and the practice itself. As the body unravels and reveals all its secret power and restraints, you will not leave the studio hungry or dry. No need to set goals of mastering a headstand or placing your feet behind your head, with ashtanga your heart will guide your goals.