Ashtanga Yoga which means 8 Limbed in Sanskrit is a style of Yoga popularized by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. The practice is taught in Mysore, India now by Sri Pattabhi Jois's son, and is an amazing practice. Originally it was my dream to be an "Ashtangi", the intensity of the practice and power always peaked my interest. However, it never happened, and I just would be wide eyed with admiration for the Ashtanga Yogis that I came across on my journey.
Last night, my amazing friend/yoga student/Karate Sensei, Joseph, invited me to take an Ashtanga class at Reebok Sports Club. Joseph is currently doing the ZOGA YOGA 200 HR Teacher Training, and as part of his training he is taking regular classes. His receptivity to instruction is amazing, and his desire to learn is inspirational.
Reebok houses a lovely "Mind-Body Studio" and amazing Instructors. I used to take classes there regularly when I worked there, but never an Ashtanga class. I asked Joseph is there a lot of "jump backs?" (jumping back to Chutturunga), as I knew this was the flow of Ashtanga, and he said "no" the teacher holds the poses a lot. I said "are you sure?", as I was totally confused, and decided perhaps this is the "watered-down-American version" of Ashtanga, as this was not the description of Ashtanga I ever knew. Since I broke my toe earlier this year, I am laying low on the "jump backs", so I was excited to participate in class.
We enter the lovely space with natural light from wall to wall windows and lay out our mats. Joseph and I are joined by our friend Sensei Oscar. This was the first time I took class with all three of them. The teacher, Evan Perry walks into class. I turn to Joseph and say that I recognize him, and he explains how Evan is the father of a child that used to come to the PreK where we both taught. WOW, small world. Evan begins with a lovely chant, and into Surya Namaskar.....with "Jump Backs". I smile to myself, as I realize this is a serious Ashtanga class I am now in. With the traditional Ashtanga Cues, Evan leads us into a brilliant class. His adjustments were fantastic. He supported me in my forward fold as he noticed I had trouble with one side to balance, and also contorted me deeply into poses & binds that I don't usually do. Joseph calls it the "pretzel class"....it is. Evan concluded class with a wonderful chant, and before we got up from Savasana he was out the door with his back pack on.
The power of ancient techniques & tradition resonate in the Ashtanga practice. I love the emphasis on the breath as connection to the movements and the use of Bandhas, as those are keys to the practice. Thank you Evan for providing an amazing class, thank you Sensei Joseph and Sensei Oscar for sharing in the awesome vibration. All three of us left the class floating!
Picture: Me (Ambria), Sensei Joseph, and Sensei Oscar