Jade Lizzie

Sharing the yoga love

Tag: Ashtanga

Exhale Festival – a weekend of hardcore yoga

Black and Light YogaI’ve been lucky enough to be volunteering at Suryalila Retreat Centre during the Exhale Festival. Although I was working the whole weekend, my perpetual fear of missing out meant I tried to squeeze in as much yoga as was physically possible. Not the most yogic attitude, I know. I’ll work on that for next time…

My day on Saturday began (after a quick round of dishwashing) with two hours of Rocket Club Yoga with Marcus. Ashtanga enthusiast that I am, I loved this Vinyasa class, and all of its intense sequences, deep stretches and brilliant assists. It reminded me of something an Ashtanga teacher told me – she doesn’t believe in “hot yoga” because when you are practising yoga vigorously, you create the heat from within anyway. This two hours definitely proved that point. I finished the class feeling hot, sweaty and invigorated.

Next came my fastest ever round of dishwashing and chicken duties to allow me to get to an Inversions 101 Cyber Yoga Workshop with Lamonte. If you haven’t come across Cyber Yoga before, check out Lamonte’s website here. It makes me hurt just looking at his Instagram feed. But as well as being an awe-inspiring performer, Lamonte also turned out to be a great teacher. He catered for every level in his class, from those who were practising lifting up into their first Crow pose, to those who were working on one-armed handstands. He encouraged us to take baby steps into the postures, telling us that only way to achieve “total body control” is through dedication and consistent practice. He should know. Although I opted out of the one-armed handstands (no one likes a show off…) I did discover that I can do tripod headstands, something I previously assumed I couldn’t because I’d never tried. Another yoga life lesson there for me…

I spent the next part of my day working in the Shakti Boutique at Suryalila, before dashing off to Envision Yoga with Vidya. I think I need to devote a whole blog in itself to Envision Yoga, a practice which includes Kundalini yoga, mantras and NLP. We created our own mantras for each of our chakras, and repeated them to ourselves while doing yoga, before shouting them at our partners. Even the thought of it made me want to hide behind the nearest pile of bolsters and not come out. But the session took me beyond my scepticism and left me feeling better than I have in a long time.

My uninhibited energy buzz from Envision Yoga was put to great use in the final yoga session of the day – Black and Light Yoga. For this our beautiful Om Dome was transformed into a UV light spectacle. Daubed in neon face paint, we began our session with yoga, before rolling up our mats and breaking into a rave. Forget dancing like no one was watching, we danced like everyone was watching, and loved it. Then, all danced out, we came back to our mats for a final yoga sequence, ending on a euphoric yoga-fuelled high.

That night I discovered the true meaning of falling asleep before my head hit the pillow, and was still up before 8am the following morning for the next Vinyasa class. The whole festival was an incredible, enlightening and exhausting experience. If I ever do it again, and I hope I will, I definitely need to learn to pace myself…

3 ways Ashtanga yoga proved me wrong

ShouderstandsUp until last year, I’d had very limited experience of Ashtanga yoga – I’d been to one class and had watched a few Youtube clips. I was not a fan. However, over the last few months, Ashtanga yoga has somehow seeped into my life, and I’ve worked my way up to a six-day per week Primary Series practice. One of the best things has been in the number of ways this daily practice has proved me wrong! These are 3 of my misconceptions…

  1. In Ashtanga, you need to perform advanced asanas perfectly

My first Ashtanga class felt competitive and almost aggressive.  I really wanted to like it, and to like it I thought I had to be “good” at it. I was so attached to the idea of achieving the perfect asana that when I couldn’t, I got frustrated. I looked around the class and saw others flowing through their vinyasas and seemingly effortlessly moving into postures I found painful just to watch. I wondered how the hell I was doing so badly, and strangely enough, I found an excuse not to go back the next week!

I now realise that the competitiveness and desire for perfection came from me. No one in that class told me that I had to perform each pose fully, perfectly, or even attempt it at all if it was beyond my capabilities. The aggressive attitude was fuelled not by the teacher or the style of yoga, but my own ego. I wasn’t willing to allow myself to be a beginner. Once I let go of the desire to do it “well” and just focused on the process of moving towards each asana, I found it to be a very different experience.

  1. Ashtanga hurts

Two years ago, doing a workout programme called Insanity (not an ironic name, as it turned out!), I injured my lower back, which caused chronic pain. Lots of nerve irritation and muscles in spasm did not go well with trying to force myself into the forward bends of the Primary Series during that first Ashtanga class, and I spent most of the class and the week after it in agony.

I realise now that the increased pain was not caused by Ashtanga but by my approach to it. I was trying to push through and ignore painful sensations. So when I tried it again, I went back to basics. I carefully, taught myself the asanas one at a time and valued the correct alignment more than going deeply into postures. In the process I learnt about my body – what worsened the back pain and what helped. I tried to lengthen, rather than bend into forward folds. I learnt the importance of strengthening and engaging my core, and found that hip openers greatly relieved the tightness in my lower back. I am still learning, but my pain is significantly reduced, despite the fact I am doing more physical activity than ever.

  1. Ashtanga is boring

When I first realised that Ashtangis do the same sequence of postures every time they practise, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I crave variety and change, and the thought of doing the same thing every single day seemed mind-numbingly dull. Even once I decided to give Ashtanga another try, I wasn’t keen on repeating it every day. I wanted to avoid those asanas that didn’t feel good and spend more time playing with the ones I could do.

But what I experimented with was just noticing those thoughts, and then continuing with my practice anyway. I found physical and mental strength in the discipline of not following my thought patterns into altered behaviour. And I began to tune into the subtle differences in my experience and the sensations of the asanas each day. When I did this, my practice became anything but monotonous. Every session is unique, and following the same series of asanas allows me to be more sensitive to the differences I feel in my body.

I’m just at the beginning of my journey with Ashtanga, and it’s already proved me wrong on many counts. I think this is a good thing, because it means I must be learning!  It’s not the only style of yoga I enjoy, but it has become the “bread and butter” of my self-practice.

Has anyone else had a change of heart about Ashtanga? Do you love it or hate it? Please comment and let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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