Mysore myths #3: Ashtanga is hard

A week or so ago I almost got into a knock-down-drag-out argument (in public) with a friend over this myth. She’s currently training for a half marathon, and is known for readily volunteering for 100+km ultra races (both of which I would define as ‘hard’). From her perspective ‘ashtanga is hard’ and she, and others, keep trying to get me to agree with them. It won’t happen.

There is a consensus out there that ashtanga vinyasa yoga is hard. It might be the earnest clarification that the class you are about to waltz into is an ashtanga class. It could be the concerned look the teacher shoots your way when you walk in; a pained expression that conceals the incorrect assumption that you might not be ready for this. Or you might have heard it announced by a practicing ashtangi who perhaps needs a pat on the back and a thumbs up for getting on their mat today.

If practiced traditionally, ashtanga vinyasa is a set sequence of postures practiced six days a week (there are a few exceptions). Accepting a 1-2 hour daily practice is a commitment, but does it make ashtanga hard? Another observation is that the postures themselves are hard. In the traditional method, postures are practiced in sequence and as they become accessible to the practitioner. A new student would not dive into pincha mayurasana (see below) or nakrasana on the first day, but they would certainly be ready for these postures when they arrive at that point in their practice. The ashtanga series of postures are accessible to anyone willing to develop a consistent practice.

A daily practice and challenging postures don’t make something hard. I have witnessed beginners to ashtanga, to yoga, walk into a class, complete an entire primary series, and walk out again none the worse for wear. I have worked with students as they develop their practice, and I have maintained my own practice through the years, and I can tell you: ashtanga vinyasa yoga is not hard. It is the mind that makes something hard. It is the mind that says doing something six days a week is impossible. It is the mind that insists you will never get into that posture. It is the mind that tells you that repeating the same sequence every day is boring, boring, boring! What would you be able to do if your mind wasn’t so busy telling you something was hard? Instead of blaming the practice, or the style of yoga, gain control of that rogue element in your mind that has duped you into believing you can’t do it. [Helpful Hint: a consistent yoga practice assists in gaining mind control.]

I sometimes tease beginner students that they have chosen one of the most challenging forms of yoga practice. But I never doubt that the ashtanga vinyasa sequences, schedule, or lifestyle is not accessible to anyone who seeks it out.

And here’s Kino, proving it’s not hard.