“Is Ashtanga Yoga Hard?” I am asked this question often and it’s asked a most common internet search. Well, as always, it depends on what we mean by hard. For, all styles of yoga are simply a tool to build awareness in the end. The question then, is how we approach this tool in order to achieve the ends in which it is intended. We can make it hard for ourselves, but it doesn’t have to be.
In other words, if we relate to anything too over literally, assuming it is the thing itself to be the focus, then we will find ourselves in trouble. At this point ashtanga may be hard. For, the system involves an idealised sequence, in order to act as a blueprint or template for our efforts. If we take it that we have to do this ideal sequence perfectly, then we may clearly say, yes, it is seriously hard.
But, this is to take the method in the wrong way. For, it presents an ideal as a source of inspiration and encouragement. It is a source of obvious motivation towards working with our inherent desire to see our progress at what we are doing. This is quite natural. Imagine if the sequence was aimed much lower, that we could immediately do it. Well, the same awareness might be possible, but we would quickly lose interest. We need to be challenged, but the challenge ought always to suit us.
Keep Going Forward
Indeed, we need something to keep pulling us forward. In fact, the very point is that we are not meant to be able to immediately do it. Rather, it’s a process; a gradual building of our efforts in strength and determination. It would be ridiculous to assume that we required a level of health and fitness to use the very tool that is used to achieve a level of health and fitness.
In which case, we arrive to ashtanga as we are; inflexible, perhaps, out of shape, maybe; injured, or even older than we might like to have started yoga. However, none of these things are important in the grand scheme of yoga. Instead, we do yoga for the very reason of combatting these issues. Of course if we expect, or are expected, to perform the whole ashtanga routine perfectly, then we may certainly insist that this type of yoga is not for us. But, this is not and should not, be the case.
Rather, we practice, and, quite obviously, get better at practice and resolve our difficulties as we go on. This is a natural approach to health as any authentic system and tradition of yoga would suggest. Then, ashtanga yoga ois nly hard if we don’t want to practice. It doesn’t require any pre-existent level, only our consistency towards practice. The true hard thing about ashtanga must be revealed; that the traditional ashtanga style is self-practice.
Mysore is Unique
This is the unique thing about this type of yoga. Its’ generally not led from the front. As we have mentioned, we have the blueprints, the guide sheets there as our ideal. We practice along, in a classroom setting, doing the best we can. Slowly we start to make headway, but, its in effect the easiest physical-style, for we take it at our own pace. The only hard thing is we must exert a little more personal discipline than needed in a guided-class.
Still, we have the support of everyone practicing alongside us in the class, and, most importantly, in this scenario, we can go at our own pace. We build-up our practice gradually, in stages. Indeed, we may modify the practice to make our progress with it at our particular level and as we see fit and are able to.
Indeed, because of the self-practice model, we can take yoga, that is always a generalisation and adapt it to our demands, make it specific to suit us our needs; make it our own. For this reason, there is no person who is too old, too injured, too unfit, or too inflexible; there are only different ways and speeds of working with what we turn up with. As we suggested at the beginning, yoga is a tool for self-awareness motivated by our natural wish to progress towards goals, basically feel better about ourselves. This is all we need to begin.
Anyone Can do Ashtanga
Therefore, anyone can do ashtanga as long as they have the desire to make progress, along with, at least the wish to concentrate, or, at least attempt to. Along these lines, there is only one yoga, that of linking mind and body through the vehicle, the bridge of the breath. Perhaps, I am biased, but this is personified in the ashtanga style beautifully, for it gives the individual all the personally adapted tools in order to do this.
There is no benchmark of literal ability, instead, only standards of technique. In Ashtanga yoga this is something called vinyasa. It involves the constant attempt to link the breath and physical movement together as one. Which, indeed, is incredibly hard. But, then again, all true yoga, operating within this remit is, which is what keeps us coming back.
As regards the actual postures on the other hand, these only be as hard as we need in order that they grab all our focus and attention on what we are really engaged in (a meditation on awareness). So, it is only ever needs to be as hard as we need it to be. It is us who decide how much effort we need to put into the postures in order that they challenge us to the degree they procure our focus and concentration.
If The Wish and Desire Are There
Outside of this, all we require is, to some extent, a wish to concentrate, and a belief in the benefit of this. When this is realised this as our desire, ashtanga will take us by the hand and guide us step by step as we are found able and willing. Which, indeed, will be hard, but, this won’t be as to the postures in the way we think. This is just the struggle to commit to any practice, which itself, indeed, is the fundamental practice.