Oct 27, 2014

Why I Stopped Practicing Ashtanga Yoga

This post first appeared on Yogannina.


I have been out of the Yoga loop for a good six months now. Before I left my studio and mat, I was an avid and dedicated practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga: I had a regular, six day a week practice, had completed 150 hours of Yoga teacher training as well as a massage and injury prevention certificate, was an assistant teacher and wrote a popular enough Yoga blog. I was a vegetarian at first, then a vegan, and in the middle of developing an interest in macrobiotic cuisine. I was part of a dedicated community and a student of a well-known teacher. I even found myself a Yoga teaching husband. I thought that whatever would happen, I would do Yoga.

And then, weirdly, happiness happened. And by happiness, I mean the kind of contentment that will let you rest and relax. Calmness and ease unfolded, and I started seeing my daily practice in a different light. Here are some of my thoughts:

Ashtanga Yoga is a relationship outside of your relationship

It has become my conviction that anyone who practices Ashtanga religiously, and by that I mean six days a week, all year, every year, is missing something vital in their personal life. These people - and I know I was one of them for a long time - are looking for something they will not find on their Manduka mats. Ever.

Exercising on more than four days a week is unhealthy

Studies like this one show that exercising on six days a week for a prolonged period of time is actually detrimental to your health. Every health professional, coach and personal trainer on the face of the earth would agree. No wonder Ashtangis look skinny and tired and hurt themselves all the time.

There is no wisdom in practicing through injuries

No wisdom at all. When you are injured, you need to rest, and probably anti-inflammatories. Surely you can stretch your legs while dealing with a wrist injury, but you should definitely not put any weight on your hands. Again, any health professional would agree. You only have one right knee, one left shoulder, one set of lower back vertebrae. There is a reason why doctors suggest you should rest. There is also mass intelligence. If Ashtanga really had all the answers, everyone on the face of the earth would be doing it. Guaranteed. You are the only expert on your condition, and if something hurts, you are telling yourself to hold off.

Ashtangarexia is alive and happening

The definition of addiction, as I have recently learned during one of Emory University’s online lectures on coursera, is: “A repeated behavior with a negative impact (causing distress of some sort or health problems, for example), where you are unable to stop, require an increased frequency or dosage, and display symptoms of withdrawal avoidance.”

Now, I don’t know about you guys, but after a certain point in my practice, I could check off all of these indicators. I had lower back problems, the pressure to maintain my daily practice caused distress, but I wasn’t able to stop, either, because I was too afraid of taking a day off and losing all the ‘progress’ I had made. The fact that my practice had turned me a into an ascetic hermit without a real social life wasn’t even something I worried about at the time. With hindsight, however, some of what you say and do as an Ashtangi really is a bit cuckoo. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves: You can’t balance your chakras by chanting mantras in a language you don’t speak. Eating garlic when you’re healthy doesn’t make you a bad person. Be kind to yourself. Don’t fall into the rabbit hole of Ashtanga obsession, only to never be seen again.  

If you know you have an issue Yoga cannot solve, seek help

Very maybe, you are trying to work through some intense trauma. Perhaps your upbringing was terrible, or maybe you suffer from an eating disorder nobody knows of. Yoga can have amazing positive effects on our mental health, but there are certain situations in life that point you towards professional help. Both you and your teacher need to admit that while Supta Kurmasana might release day-to-day stress, it’s not at all an adequate treatment for PTSD. Neither are shopping sprees at lululemon.

Authorization equals a frequent flyer reward

This is a line my husband came up with, and he is so right. These days, it seems, what you have to do to get recognized as a teacher is go to Mysore often enough (read: pay enough money), and someone will bestow upon you the reward in form of authorization. This is irrespective, of course, of your level of experience or teaching skills. On average, if I’m not mistaken, authorization will be granted after four or five trips of several months each, at a monthly cost of €400 or so. There are so many students going through the shala these days, that Sharath himself can’t keep track anymore. I have heard of people who were offered authorization twice. Not for free, of course, the authorization itself comes at a price. Later, there’s the added cost of certification, and psssst, it’s expensive. While I understand that everyone needs to make money, a hierarchical fee scheme seems pretty… unyogic.

The tradition isn’t evolving, it’s arbitrary

Sunday as the new Saturday? Changes in the sequence just so that the student traffic in Mysore can be handled more efficiently? Come on! No problem with making changes to your own organization, but why does the whole world need to follow? If you are serious about your Yoga, you will not brag about what pose you’re on, how many trips to Mysore you have taken in the past, how many you will be taking in the future, or how many people came to take your class on any given day. On that same note:

Teaching Yoga isn’t a profession - it’s a side job

I have been warned about this, and I will do my duty and warn you: Do. Not. Quit. Your. Occupation. For. An. Unlikely. Career. In. Yoga. Don’t do it! Yoga is like blogging. It is something that is best enjoyed in small, fun doses on the side. Unless you will be moving to a town where there is not a single Yoga teacher within a radius of at least 50 kilometers, do not open a Yoga studio. You will be losing all your money, and you will be left with no perspective after 35. Do yourself a favor and trust me on this one.


So - do I miss my practice? Sure, sometimes I do. What I miss about it most are its superficial aspects, though: being strong and flexible, looking fit. These days, I prefer to take my dog on forest walks and go for runs. I enjoy the fresh air, and that I get to make my own schedule. When I will return to the mat, it will be on my own terms, in my own time.


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Other articles you might be interested in:

Notes on Mysore Rooms, Mindfulness, Feminism and Sex
Why Kino MacGregor's Choice of Clothing isn't Feminist, but a Feminist issue


100 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. This could have been me writing your words almost exactly. Helps to know I'm not alone in this perspective on "traditional" ashtanga.

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    1. Thanks, Adrian, that's very nice of you to say.

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  2. Been there done that. Right now my big question is do I get an L3-4 fusion to try to ameliorate the 6 years of chronic, non-stop (every minute!) low back pain brought on by going through 1st, 2nd and 3rd series over 11 years. And no, I am not kidding, I wish I were.

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    1. I'm really sorry to hear that. Good luck with making the right decision, it must be so hard to wrap your head around that!

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    2. Thanks Annina, its been a big adjustment. I taught mysore 6 days a week for 2 years from 05 to 06 when I was asked by a well known AV pioneer and certified teacher to teach as he was leaving town. I practiced and taught with attention to alignment a la Iyengar as I had learned this method from him and his wife. Still my body got mangled as did many others. There are some people who should not be doing the extreme range of motion gymnastic/contortionistic repetitive postures and will suffer permanent damage. Currently we just don't know how to identify those that will have this unfortunate and needless outcome.

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    3. Thank you for sharing this invaluable information Doylinski.

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  3. For sure, to practice ashtanga hoping for happiness within the samsara real is pure spiritual materialism, and it is not going to take anybody anywhere, or at least, it is going to take a lot longer. But practicing with humility, with concentration, watching the mind, resting in the awareness, with integration of that awareness in your daily life, with love for others, with surrender and gratitude, the whole ashtanga picture, that could have taken you very very far. I am sorry contentment and the amazing feeling of letting go did not enter your experience while practicing, but I can assure you it is possible in this lifetime, with regards, J

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    1. Hi J, thanks for your comment. Who said that contentment and the amazing feeling of letting didn't go enter my experience of Ashtanga, though?

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  4. this: "It has become my conviction that anyone who practices Ashtanga religiously, and by that I mean six days a week, all year, every year, is missing something vital in their personal life. These people - and I know I was one of them for a long time - are looking for something they will not find on their Manduka mats. Ever."

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    1. I'm afraid I'll have to disagree. Actually, it is the contrary. If anything, Ashtanga has taught me that there is more contentment and happiness beyond your mat.

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  5. When I said practicing I meant in your mat and beyond your mat. If practice is limited to the mat is not complete.

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  6. :), you see, everything is a matter of perspective, at the end eveybody will agree sooner or later ;). Enjoy your walks and your dog, very nice indeed too. J

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  7. From fully into it to I can't have it - this is soo typical! Did you ever took the time to practice actual yoga, to use it as a tool to understand who you are and were you are at? Your words show you never actually got a glance of it. It feels like you were expecting a miracle just by following the recipe, like a solution to pollution. You did it all, 6 days a week, the days you are supposed to, like as if it made a difference, the vegan raw lettuce organic diet, etc. What about yourself, did you ever consider who you are, where you came from and what does this all "tradition" + random concepts stated by a load of people in their writings, workshops, etc + a load of gossip around ashtanga yoga that have become mainstream knowledge, actually mean to you, wherever you are from? You are not Mr Jois who came from a small village, I am pretty sure you are not Indian, you weren't born immersed in the culture so is silly to expect this tradition to be fully applicable to you, to actually understand a little of it, to try to embrace you need to use a couple more than two brain cells. Be who you are and if there is something about yoga you like, take it by the hand and walk with it, don't assume is a limousine that will take you to heaven and this method was dropped in this world tailor made to you. You are obviously dealing with Ashtangarexia and looking for the Authorisation, yoga practice is about self development, doesn't have anything to do with a career or a final solution to all problems. If you came to Mysore you obviously didn't hear anything Sharath ever said. I bet you didn't get the Authorisation either otherwise you would have been a happy bunny by now :) Maybe Sharath saw this confusion in you in the mist of 200 other people, maybe he is not that stupid at all. You clearly did not get what tradition means, and you are talking about a yoga practice as religion sometimes and then you quickly turn it into a career. Didn't you get is neither of the two. Next time you get into something, use more than two brain cells, it might save you 6 years and the hassle of making a blog post complaining about it. This is typical human behaviour, ones gets into something blindly and then comes out of it angry and throwing the responsibility elsewhere. Next time, take responsibility for your own actions, try, slowly. See if it works for you. If it doesn't, just step out and understand that whatever there is in this world might not fit everyone, or perhaps use more than two brain cells while doing it and balance it to your own self.

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    1. And you think that insulting someone by asking them to "use more than two brain cells" three times in one comment and otherwise consistently offending them proves your yogic quality? If you speak for Ashtanga, I'm glad that I'm out!

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    2. Paqui Bay, you just got owned by Annina. Also, when you say, 'maybe Sharath saw this confusion in you in the mist of 200 people.' I think the word you're looking for is 'midst.'
      Mist- the word you used, means small droplets of water suspended in air.
      Midst- the word you wanted to use, but couldn't summon the brain power to identify, means in the middle of something.
      Next time someone writes something about ashtanga that gets you really, really upset and so mad you can't think straight. Stop, take a deep breath, use the three or four brain cells you've got, and try (just try) to write something with reasoned, thoughtful arguments, because it makes you look like an idiot when you write things like 'use more than two brain cells' when you clearly aren't.

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  8. Just wanted to take a moment to express how much I appreciate this post. Well written and honest. I think there is a big shift happening and the power craze is wearing off. It takes courage to speak out against the conventions and I wish to commend you for standing on your own ground. Cheers.

    http://www.jbrownyoga.com/blog/2013/06/when-yoga-empowers

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  9. Love this too. Thanks for writing. I love my vinyasa slow practice and moving as I breath. My practice is a pleasure not a ritual and I am free :)

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    1. Thank you! And that is exactly how it's supposed to be! :)

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  10. Wow, lots of rumours, gossip and misinformation about Mysore, Sharath and authorisation. Not only rumours, but also sweeping generalisations about others who practice.

    If you want to stop practicing ashtanga, stop by all means, or practice something else - nobody's forcing anyone to practice or to go to Mysore; do whatever you want and be happy with your choice - but is it necessary to write nonsense about the practice and Sharath and Mysore and authorised teachers? If you feel the practice was not right for you, and moved on, good for you! But that does not mean there is something inherently wrong about the practice. Do what you want, practice what you want, but I sincerely wish people would stop spreading complete nonsense about Sharath and how he teaches and why he authorises and why things are done in a certain way in Mysore. (For example,Sharath is taking Sundays off now so that he can be more involved in his kids' school, school functions etc - but he has specifically said that's his personal choice for family reasons and authorised students can choose to keep Saturday off or do whatever they wish. Nobody has to follow the same schedule. There's no new "rule" or whatever people are trying to make it to be.)

    Find your own way, your own happiness, but I'm sure it's possible to do that without judging others' choice to practice, or the practice itself. If one truly understands ashtanga yoga, one would also apply yama and niyama in both the asana practice and in their daily lives, and their attitudes to others.

    Nobody knows what happens in a teacher-student -relationship except the teacher and the student. Nobody knows why Sharath authorises or does not authorise someone, or why he gives postures to someone but holds someone else back. Nobody can judge someone else's relationship with a teacher. Practice, don't practice - up to you, but perhaps there is no need to judge others who keep practicing. Your path is your own, let others walk theirs.

    All the best,
    Satu Susanna Rommi
    authorized ashtanga teacher

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    1. Hi Satu, I will give you that it wasn't Sharath forcing the new schedule onto the shala I was practicing at, but the head teacher following his example in the name of "tradition". I will also have to say, though, that the animosity some people who like to publicly call themselves Yogis have sent my way is disturbing. Why are my views "nonsense", just because you don't share them? The examples I give were either first hand experiences by myself or told to me by people who spent many years in Mysore, some of them practicing under Guruji, next to Sharath. All I say is that Sharath is just a person, like the rest of us. He likes his Audi and his Cricket, and that is ok. I'm sure he's alright, and that he couldn't care less about my article. The question remains: Why do you? Is my experience of traditional Ashtanga any less true or valuable than yours? I don't think so.

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  11. Hi! Sharath doesn't need me to defend him :) and you are 100% entitled to your views and feelings. Your experience is your own, and I can't see where in my comment I called your experience nonsense. I am commenting on the rumours, and on the judgements towards us who practice 6 days a week: that something is lacking in my personal life and that so many of us look tired and thin. Or that authorisation is like a frequent flyer scheme. How is that helpful to anyone? Do you really know anything about anyone else's personal life?

    A persistent rumour is that the practice changed because of the number of students in the shala. Interestingly I have not heard this from Guruji or Sharath in the 30+ months I have spent in the shala. Sharath talked just recently about how there is now more emphasis on backbending (dropbacks before starting 2nd) because students who went through the series fast developed a lot of strength and great arm balances, but had trouble or pain in backbending because not enough time was spent on opening the back; there has to be a balance between strength and flexibility and then there is also less risk of injury. Just one example. So the changes have not been arbitrary, they are a result of Guruji & Sharath teaching thousands of students over decades and learning from students, and being humble and flexible enough to make changes in how they teach.Unfortunately there is a lot of rumour, gossip and bitterness about, some of it coming from students who have not been to Mysore for 10-15+ years but make statements about "how Sharath teaches".

    Nobody knows what anyone else is going through in their practice or what sacrifices they make to travel to Mysore. How can anyone judge whether someone else should or should not be authorised? Maybe instead of making judgements about other students' practices or authorisation or certification, we all (myself included) could try to practice joy and be happy when someone gets authorised. Yoga sutras 1:33 suggests practicing friendliness/love towards those who are happy, compassion towards those who are suffering, goodwill towards those we see as virtuous and indifference/acceptance towards those we see as evil/bad/non-virtuous.

    Like I said, all the best! Got to fly (literally!)

    Satu

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    1. Hi Satu, just to remind you very quickly about where you dropped the word 'nonsense': "(...) but is it necessary to write nonsense about the practice and Sharath and Mysore and authorised teachers?"

      When I say "arbitrary" changes, I am referring to adjusted schedules because of personal obligations, as well as changes made to running the organization out of the necessity of accommodating many people - your example of the earlier backbends fits my argument perfectly (thanks!). Obviously, I am writing a blog post and choosing my words in a way that will polarize. I'm a writer who lives off clicks, just like Kino makes money off foot fetishists. I am not judging "who should or should not be authorised"; I have just come across quite a few people who have been, and needless to say, they aren't all inherently amazing teachers. What I'm saying is: If my own business grew from handing out authorizations, nothing in my right mind would keep me from doing that. And when I say that many Ashtangis look tired and thin, I mostly refer to the very hard working people at the various shalas I have visited around the world, not so much the selfie-taking Mysore crowd - most of the attention seeking people do look pretty relaxed after months of doing nothing much but drinking coconut water and - as my husband puts it - taking advantage of an emerging economy. Have a safe trip!

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  12. Hey there, I loved your post. There is so much that I resonate with. Thank you for your fearless honesty. If you have a minute, check out my latest essay on the sustainability of modern yoga practice at www.movingintoyoga.net I think you may find it interesting!

    Be well,
    Sati

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  13. Oliver, thanks for the correction, I meant midst. For what I gather she never stepped into Mysore so this mist or midst thing is not even relevant. I don't mind looking like an idiot, as far as life taught me we are all fools :) thanks for reminding me of this.

    Annina, I am not a yogi and I am no representative of Ashtanga, I just found the post ridiculous. In any case Ashtanga is not a football team or a political party people join and follow. Is about One and its practice, and I see people finding beauty in it, independent of whatever authorised politics are around it. And yes, I meant to say "don't be stupid" (when I mention to use more than 2 cells). You are talking about things you don't understand and have not experienced in a way that you sound like you have an immense deep knowledge. You clearly don't.

    So your head teacher changed the day off and you got upset and gave up on the whole thing? Brilliant, that is funny! Why don't you talk about him/her and the studio you are at (that you know personally) and stop gossiping about popular people you never meet and places you never been. This is Gossip!!

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  14. "So your head teacher changed the day off and you got upset and gave up on the whole thing? Brilliant, that is funny!" If you read the rest of my article with the same careless attention, then I'm not surprised you're confused by it. In the first sentence I say: "I have been out of the Yoga loop for a good six months now." This means that I stopped practicing in spring, many months before the schedule was changed in late summer. Furthermore, according to your definition, the news are gossip, too. This is what's actually funny: Welcome to the dark ages, where dissenting voices are silenced and technoloy is condemned. Just don't forget to never practice on a roof!

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  15. nonsense seems a fair comment on ur writing. for example u say... Exercising on more than four days a week is unhealthy
    Studies like this one show that exercising on six days a week for a prolonged period of time is actually detrimental to your health. Every health professional, coach and personal trainer on the face of the earth would agree. No wonder Ashtangis look skinny and tired and hurt themselves all the time.
    u offer no evidence for any statements made but but write in a tone that suggests its just true. this is meaningless and so is nonsense...ur whole article is in this tone and so is nonsense. I mean u say " EVERY health professional, coach and personal trainer on the face of the earth would agree" this is just complete nonsense

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    1. Well, I have trained in preventive healthcare, like I said. What kind of specialist are you? What is your evidence that my statement is nonsense? You might want to elaborate?

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    2. You need to provide citation for claims like that. Links to peer-reviewed academic studies. Which you won't find, because the claims are totally nonsense.

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    3. Did you click on the link of the study that I provided?

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    4. The link you just added? Yes, actually. It was a single study, completely misinterpreted by a random blogger. Try again.

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    5. God, you are rude! The link was in my post all along. Until you show me contrary evidence, I won't waste another minute of my life following your anonymous orders. Who do you think you are?

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    6. I am god, according to you. You are wrong, you have no evidence to support your ridiculous claims, and the burden of proof is on you, not me. Learn some science, then go fuck yourself, you ignorant bitch.

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    7. Stay ignorant, Oliver Dawson-Clark.

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  16. Dear ,
    to me it seems like you have a problem with " abhyasa vairagya" of simply with balance in general!?
    What about a middle path between pushing and giving it all up? Isn't Yoga about this?
    And yes, there is made a lot of Money in the name of Yoga these days, but you should not blame Yoga or ashtanga Yoga for that. There is made a lot of money with other things to. If you want to run away from these things you will be running for the rest of your life!
    Don't get me wrong, I respect your decision, but please red to take responsibility for yourself! do not blame yoga, ashtanga Yoga, yogateachers or anything or anybody else on this planet!
    Thanks !

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    1. Hi Lisa, here's a reminder of why it's important to think critically every now and then: http://girlsblogtoo.blogspot.ca/2014/11/why-it-is-important-to-think-critically.html

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    1. Jose, with all due respect: I am not blaming anyone, I am just giving reasons for making a personal choice. I'm not sure what your personal choices are informed by, e.g. insulting someone you happen to disagree with on the Internet? I didn't make out an actual question in Lisa's post. If you would like me to answer her rhetorical question regarding balance in life - that is exactly what I am talking about! I have left an imbalanced Yoga obsession for a healthier approach, and I am very happy for it. At no point in time do I say that anyone else should stop practicing, too. And the reason why the study title is "suggests" instead of "shows" is that the study didn't test Ashtanga Yoga specifically, but aerobic exercise and strength training. The Confluence Countdown, an Ashtanga megaphone, applied the study to Ashtanga and came up with that post title. The actual title of the study is "Combined aerobic and strength training and energy expenditure in older women". Regarding your idea of "my trip to Mysore": that never happened - but I'm glad your story of my imaginary life entertained you. My practice time used to add up to around 9 hours every week, plus assisting other teachers (before I quit, between 3 and 9 hours per week), so yeah, I was averaging a good 20 hours at the shala every week, including changing and social time. Again, I am not telling anyone to leave Ashtanga Yoga behind. You might have noticed that the title of the post is "Why I Stopped" and not "Why I think You Should Stop". But headlessly insulting people is always so much easier than just letting everyone do as they please, right?

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    2. Oh, great, and now you deleted your original comment. Awesome.

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    3. Annina, i don`t think Lisa has nothing against thinking critically, she does not say anything about it on her post, certainly does´t ask you to share another one of your educative post in response. She is making a point, You are not taking responsibility for your decisions and the approach to yoga you decided to follow, instead you are putting all the blames for your yoga misery on the system and on other ashtanga practitioners ... anything to say about that? When you gave up your social life, who forced you to do that? Who forced you to go to Mysore (and take advantage of an emerging economy)? who forced you to become vegan? Who forced you to hurt yourself? Did Ashtanga Yoga came to you and put a gun on your head? Why do i have a social life, a successful yoga studio with quite a few others a lot less far than 50 km away, a 6 days a week practice (somedays painful, some days really nice) and i also enjoy fresh air and walks in the mountains? Really, WHO forced you to make all those decisions? Even if you had like, the worst teacher ever, if he / she was totally rigid, fanatic or a yoga taliban, where was your own common sense, where was your personality? Are you saying you where fooled into doing all this things? Why did you gave up things that where important to you? What where you expecting to get in return? Why did you take a Teacher training? What did go wrong?....... Are you seriously trying to make people believe you are a victim here? i mean, REALLY? Please, can you honestly awnser me to this questions? Thank you

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    4. how exactly did i insult you on my preview comment? sorry, i thought about what i wrote and decided to point on another direction, but still, can you clarify how did i insult you? Thank you

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    5. Hi Jose, I don't know where you (and Julia?) get the idea that I'm blaming anyone or saying that I was forced to make the choices I made. I really don't see that anywhere in my post.

      What I found insulting from your old post:

      - "(...) there are much more noblest ways to deal with that than writing a post that is manipulative, gives information that is not true and is full of arrogance and moral superiority."

      - (...) "great post... for a laugh."

      - "(...) i feel no respect for someone who is capable of writing something like this, blaming the world for her own decisions, not only you are completely irresponsible but you also are quite clumsy"

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  18. Well, let me clarify. When you write something saying it PROVES something and at the end, it only suggest a possibility, i call that manipulation. I think me and mostly everyone, but i definitely do. When you say " Changes in the sequence just so that the student traffic in Mysore can be handled more efficiently? Come on! No problem with making changes to your own organization, but why does the whole world need to follow?" you are saying something that is not true. Simple as that. And yes, i still believe your post is full of arrogance and moral superiority, just to give you some examples of it: "Ashtanga Yoga is a relationship outside of your relationship" This is not you sharing your experience, this is you defining ashtanga yoga by your own experience. I find that arrogant. "o yourself a favor and trust me on this one" well, if that´s not arrogant.... what is it? (and if that´s not telling people what´s better to do, what is it?) how about "These people - and I know I was one of them for a long time - are looking for something they will not find on their Manduka mats. Ever. " Well, you really sound to me like you are talking for your throne, up there.... but maybe that´s just my reading. Yes, i find your post funny, cause it sounds a bit funny to believe someone would give up all you say you did, went out of social life, (20 hours a week it´s just one day, don´t know what you where doing the rest of the time). And i find it funny because, as i said, i find it very manipulative. And i don´t think sharing my feelings about it is insulting you, but if it is, i´m very sorry you felt that way. And again, the fact that you cutter of the sentence on the word Clumsy shows the tendency i believe to see to manipulate. Yes, i think it´s clumsy the way you write as if you where giving advise and trying to share you experience to help other people, when to me there´s another intention behind. If you don´t blame ashtanga yoga, when Adrian tells you it´s good to see he is not alone on his perspective of traditional ashtanga, you would´t say thank you, you would say hey, listen, this has been my experience and the decisions i made, i´m not blaming you ashtanga yoga so don´t get confused. But you don´t, cause i believe you do. Or at least, you were a bit Clumsy at your writing as more than one person got that impression out of it, don´t you think. My impression of your trip to Mysore comes only to prove that you have never been there, something that isn´t clear on your writing, "not so much the selfie-taking mysore crowd" is a funny way to not say if you´ve ever been there or not. you could say "but never to Mysore, but you choose to say not so much", and so then you feel free to talk about what the Mysore crowd do. But again, you speak very firmly about things you just don´t know. And that, my friend, is giving information that is not true, whatever you wanna admit it or not. To say "not so much the selfie-taking Mysore crowd - most of the attention seeking people do look pretty relaxed after months of doing nothing much but drinking coconut water", i have to, first, try to clarify the fact that you´ve never been there and then, i have to assume you are just so determined to be right that again, you are capable of speaking like that when you have never been in the place. Same when you say Sharath does´t keep track. Again you are giving information that is not true, since you´ve never been there and if you are writing such a statement, i think the less you could do is being responsible and not share things you haven´t seen on your own eyes.

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  19. Yet, i say you give information that is not true and you feel insulted. I say you are being irresponsible and you feel insulted. Anyway.... in Spain we have an expression, literally translated would be something like "throw the stone and hide the hand", i don`t know if you guys have the same one. This is what i feel you are doing now. As i told you on my previous post there are much more noblest ways to deal with this than mocking people who go to mysore, give fake information, manipulate and try to get away with it.

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    1. I'm just going to let your comments speak for themselves here. Just one last thing - if you laugh at me for "going to Mysore", but also for not going - what should I do? Whether I would have gone to Mysore or not, it wouldn't have changed my perception of what I saw and heard elsewhere in the world (and on the Internet).

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    2. Sure, be my guest and please, keep your (not) responses as well.

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  20. [Part 1]

    Jose, you accuse Annina of a lot of things, but don't back up any of those accusations with proof.

    What are you so afraid of? I know certified teachers who practiced with Patthabi Jois for many years, who talked about how he and Sharath began streamlining the practice to accommodate more students visiting. They spoke about it very matter-of-factly. Are they being disrespectful to the tradition for saying this? Why is it such a sin for Annina to point out that people falling back on the word 'tradition' to explain things is questionable? It is arbitrary, and there's nothing wrong with that. It doesn't make what you do any less valuable, it just means it's not as shiny and precious as people would like it to be.

    And flipping out because someone says something you don't like is about as mature as a kid throwing a temper-tantrum because they don't get the candy they want.
    You are losing your shit, telling Annina she doesn't know what she's talking about, lying to people, etc. etc. And for what? Because she took responsibility for her life and said, 'Ashtanga is not for me?' What is it with you people? You think that just because yoga works for you and your life, that it's some terrible offense when someone questions it? At no point do you offer counter-arguments to what she said. You just dismiss everything she says as being uninformed and malicious. Take responsibility for your own life and accept that other people might think that traditional ashtanga yoga is kind of fanatical. You know how Sharath says that Pattabhi Jois' yoga is the only yoga that is scientific because of the focus on the breath? That doesn't make any sense, because all Yoga focuses on the breath. That is arbitrary. Here is a quote: 'good science allows for a difference of opinion. Without that, it's simply the will of one man. And that is, by definition, the basis of a cult.'

    Why is she not allowed to voice her opinion? Why is she not allowed to question traditional ashtanga yoga? Why is she not allowed to report what she's seen and been told by people who have been to Mysore? Is someone who writes about history not allowed to do so, because they weren't there? Come on. This notion that she is unqualified to say some of the things she said, just because she wasn't there, is nonsense. Just like it's nonsense for you to suggest that she's not taking responsibility for her choices, based on one blog post.

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    1. You know, if someone who practices ashtanga and goes to Mysore had written a similar post about any other tradition or practice, or about people who do not practice, imagine the backlash. We who go to Mysore are often said to be narrow-minded, judgemental, critical etc (which is probably true, we're no better or worse than anyone else!) and now even fanatical, but lately the most judgemental blog posts, comments and articles have come from those who do not practice ashtanga or who do not go to Mysore, towards those who do practice and do go to Mysore.

      I'm not talking about only this blog here. For some reason it seems to be generally ok to throw any kind of accusations and judgements towards us who go to Mysore (even though we're a bunch of diverse people with our own peculiar personalities, not a single homogenous group) and when every now and then someone has enough of the crap that gets thrown at us and tries to point out that some things are not really true, we get labeled narrow-minded and defensive and get even more crap thrown at us. On several occasions I have been in Mysore, having a quiet meal with friends, and someone whom I've never met before and who practices in one of the 50+ yoga schools in Mysore, sits down uninvited and starts to shout about everything that is wrong with ashtanga and Sharath and KPJAYI, and how his own practice is better and more spiritual. And I'm like, "do I know you?" Happens to my friends too. I have been to a workshop where the teacher, who had never been to Mysore or practiced with Sharath, spent a significant part of the workshop time slagging off Sharath. Where does all this hate come from and what is its purpose?

      I (and it seems it's the same with most of my friends who keep returning to Mysore and who practice and teach 6 days a week) just want to do the practice, travel to Mysore to practice with our teacher, teach the practice, and that's it. If you (anyone) want to come to my Mysore class, I will do my best to pass on some of what I have learned from Mysore. That's all. If you want to learn, great. If you want to learn something else or from someone else, great and none of my business. I don't understand why my practicing 6 days a week and having love and devotion to my teacher should hurt anyone or attract judgements on my personal life ("It has become my conviction that anyone who practices Ashtanga religiously, and by that I mean six days a week, all year, every year, is missing something vital in their personal life.") I'm not asking anyone to be like me.Do your thing, let others do theirs.

      Expressing opinions, sharing one's own experiences etc is great, constructive criticism is great, discussion and disagreeing can bring growth, but I feel I also have a right to correct some misunderstandings & misinformation about the practice in Mysore. I've spent 30+ months in the shala over the last ten years - of course my experience is subjective but I think maybe I'm slightly more qualified to talk about what it's like in the shala than someone who has NEVER stepped inside that shala.

      Choose your path, choose your teacher, be happy with your choice - tell your story but don't judge other's paths - that, to me, would be taking responsibility of your life.

      Satu

      Delete
    2. So, if I'm reading this correctly, you take issue with the statement 'it has become my conviction that... vital in their personal life.' That's not a judgement, that's a strongly worded opinion and nothing more. She hasn't attacked one person (though she has been attacked by numerous people for stating her opinion). She argues that traditional ashtanga is not a sacred pursuit, that Sharath is a normal person and that doing asana is not going to solve all your problems. Look, I'm not saying it's crazy to go visit a guy in India every year, so you can exercise six days a week and see your friends, and study a dead language that has absolutely no practical application, I'm just saying that maybe it's not as sacred as some people say it is. Scientologists think that what they believe is the truth. Other people disagree.

      Also, I'm sorry, but Annina doesn't single people who go to Mysore out for special criticism. You've created this scenario in which you're being attacked, because someone doesn't think that traditional ashtanga is all it's purported to be. I'm afraid that misses the point of Annina's post. And acting like you're on some crusade to stand up for yourself and other ashtangis in the face of 'crap' being thrown at you is a strange choice of words. This is Annina's blog. You guys are taking time out of your lives to come on here, to tell her that she's attacking you and judging you and then you all hide behind the line that she should 'take responsibility for her life,' as if that somehow absolves you from what you're really doing: Telling her to keep quiet. What 'misinformation' and 'misunderstandings' are you referring to? You don't back up your declarations with any examples, you just fall back on this notion that Annina's judging you and lying and not taking responsibility and so forth. And while you have been to Mysore, many times, you're not 'slightly more qualified' to talk about what other teachers and practitioners have experienced in Mysore.

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    3. (Part 2)
      I think that by saying she's judging people you're hoping to diminish the validity of her arguments on the grounds that they are mean-spirited and self-serving. I also think that you're trying to label people like myself and her as hateful and hostile, because you're comparing us to that person from the restaurant in Mysore and the teacher who's workshop you wish you hadn't attended, because you want to believe that our opinions must have some malicious intent, rather than simply being the product of careful consideration and deliberate thought. By the way, you do realize that your story about the person in the restaurant who interrupts your quiet meal sounds not unlike writing a blog entitled 'Why I stopped practicing ashtanga' and then having furious ashtangis post comments like, 'take responsibility for your life!' and 'why are you blaming the system?' and 'use more than two brain cells!' The stuff about being a bunch of diverse people doesn't add anything to your point, the people who live on planet earth are diverse with peculiar personalities, and are not a single homogenous group. Welcome to reality. I'm not labeling you as anything, I'm pointing out the fact that people like you don't think perspectives that are contrary to your own are anything more than judgements and accusations. Satu, I'm not on your facebook page, your blog, or your yoga website, or outside your studio, or shala telling people what you do is wrong.

      "Choose your path, choose your teacher, be happy with your choice - tell your story but don't judge other's paths - that, to me, would be taking responsibility of your life."
      Alright, so, even though you give her permission to find her own path, and her own happiness, you're doing so with the caveat that she do it in a way that doesn't challenge your ideology. She hasn't called for the shala to be closed down, she's not telling people to stop practicing. She hasn't blamed anyone for tricking her into thinking ashtanga is something that it's not. Your definition of 'taking responsibility of your life' doesn't make sense. She's not assigning agency to anyone else for any of her decisions, or for where she is in her life. So, when you say 'Tell your story... but don't judge other's paths' it sounds like what you're really saying is: 'tell your story, but don't think for yourself, because I disagree with you and that means that you're not taking responsibility for your life.'

      Delete
  21. [Part 2]

    And what's with that Spanish expression? How is she throwing the stone and hiding the hand? She's posting this on her blog page. With her name attached to it. With a comments section so clowns like you can accuse her of not taking responsibility for her life and spreading lies.

    So, from what I've read in your comments, you think that Annina: writes clumsily; does not take responsibility for her own life; lies about things to manipulate people; reports things that she didn't see with her own eyes; blames the system for her yoga choices, and I'm very bored just thinking about all of this.

    The only thing you said about yourself is that you have a yoga studio and you like practicing and walking in the fresh air. The rest is just insulting, telling her to shut her mouth. What's all that tosh about dismissing her 20 hrs a week spent on practice and teaching? If you are as serious a practitioner as you claim to be, you would know that a lot more goes into a daily practice and teaching schedule than the time spent in the practice room... namely, eating properly, resting properly, studying both for the sake of practice and teaching, travel, and so on. And she taught people. She gave back. And you're belittling her for that. Why?

    Saying that ashtanga is a 'relationship outside of your relationship' is, when you think about it, true. It's a relationship with your practice. Notice, she qualifies the statement with the six-day-a-week, religious practice. If doing something six days per week, religiously, all year round doesn't qualify as a relationship, I don't know what does.

    You use the word 'victim' in a question you ask her. Where do you get the impression that she's behaving like a victim? How can you take yourself seriously when you ask her if she expects people to feel sympathy for her? What sympathy is she asking for? How does she say she's been victimized? You seem to equate her having an opinion on traditional ashtanga, based on personal experience, and conversations with other practitioners as being some sort of cry for help where she makes everything ashtanga out to be the bad guy and is therefore seeking moral and emotional compensation. I don't know how you draw those conclusions, but you're probably just trying to make her defensive.

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    1. Oliver, to be honest, after the cross of messages with your wife yesterday, i feel like i was not very clever on the way i expressed myself and on making my points, and your post helped me to confirm that (or part of that), so at the end, i was the clumsy one! I guess the most honest thing i can say to you is that i honestly believe your wife addresses some issues that are interesting to discuss and reflect about , but to me her tone and way to express them are manipulative, not accurate and i honestly believe there´s an intention behind, and not a good or noble one.. And when i feel someone is intentionally being unfair, it
      makes me mad. Still, obviously that´s my perception over written words that many times can be read with one tone or another, and my main problem with the post is it´s tone, and also some of the opinion expressed on the replies, like what she says yogis who go to Mysore do when they are there, which is not true in every case and therefore, it seems quite unfair to me. But you know what? I can´t help feel as i do when i read it, can't help perceiving what i do, and i used the same freedom of expression she is so right to have. Now, if by the way i expressed my opinions i´ve been unfair or insulting i honestly apologize for it. (obviously Annina is reading this so i´m writing to her too) Only she knows her intentions, only she knows if she is being honest or manipulative, if behind her words there is resentment, bitterness or total honesty, generosity and willing to just share her opinions. So if i misread her post and jumped into conclusions which were wrong, again sorry about it. And if i didn´t, it´s all said before. thanks for the tone of your post, which i believe it has a true intention to open reflection and express your point of view.

      Delete
    2. Hi Jose, thank you for the apology, I'll happily accept it. I can promise you that there is no evil intention behind my post - it was a post I wrote for my 955 followers over at Yogannina, most of whom had followed my Yoga story for a couple of years, and I wanted to explain to them why I wasn't posting anything much about Yoga anymore. I cross-posted it on here, because I thought it can be transferred to literally anything: running, fitness, ... Any lifestyle that, albeit started with good intentions, is taking over your life in a not-so-good way. You might have seen the link I posted below, an article written by Paul who says pretty much the same thing, only in a different tone of voice. You might be able to relate to him more. Have a good day, Jose, and even though we don't agree on everything, I appreciate you speaking your mind here.

      Delete
  22. Here's another very interesting article to consider: http://paulmitchellgold.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/balancing-practice-and-life/ This is pretty much exactly what I'm talking about, just phrased from someone on the inside. Thanks, Paul!

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  23. Dear Annina,

    I found your blog to be quite interesting. I have noticed many of the same things. I am wondering if you mind me asking.... have you been to Mysore? I was not clear on that based on your writing. It seems from what I have heard that the yoga Sharath teaches is a far, faraway version from what a number of authorized and certified teachers appear to be pushing. I do believe that it is extraordinarily difficult to be a true Ashtangi in a world removed from Indian culture, with so many other things pulling us in other directions. Guruji did not even share the same language as his western students, which of course is a HUGE impediment. To me, it is a very Indian practice built on specifically Indian philosophy. Do you think that perhaps your experience has not been soured because of Ashtanga itself, but because asana is now viewed as "Ashtanga" in the marketed and simplified world of asana in the modern sense? It is only one of the limbs. I have met some of the greatest people in my life in the Ashtanga community and also some of the most troubled and confused (I once had the owner of a shala tell me "The more authorized a teacher is, the crazier they are"). But.... I think anything that draws both extremes of personality is bound to have something very complex underlying it in the grand scheme of things. Ashtanga may not be for you, but it could also be because your expectations are being affected by things that are not really truly a part of "Ashtanga Yoga" in its essence.

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    1. One more thing to add.... in all my life and travels I have to say, a Mysore room is one of the most beautiful places to me. All those people focused on their breath and no embarrassment about sweat or how you have to look. It is really a glimpse at something REAL for me.

      Delete
    2. Hi KBird, thanks for your comments. No, I have not been to Mysore, but studied with both teachers from the old and new days. I agree on the difference in teaching styles that you mention. Personally, I think I was more comfortable with it when I practiced a more Guruji-influenced style. I don't think that the problem was my Ashtanga practice per se, I think that my problem was that the deeper I got into it, the more devotion was expected to "proceed" in the tradition (like, for example, the next "natural" thing to do would have been going to Mysore), and I just felt like it was taking over my life in a way that I never signed up for. Of course, I made all the choices up to that point, but it was more and more often that I remembered my early years of practice, where I was happy whenever I unrolled my mat, and practice was something I would look forward to five days a week. Somehow I lost that feeling with a "mandatory" six day practice. My Yoga didn't feel like my own anymore. It stopped being fun and started hurting. I don't think that that's what it's supposed to be at all, so I stopped. But, like I said, I miss it every now and then and might get back to it at some point.

      Delete
  24. This is interesting... After reading your blog, I have wondered, who exactly is your “audience” here. I googled Annina to find you are a digital media specialist... Generally people that write controversial blogs do so to make money in some way, in this case it appears to be to attract traffic to your site... so you can make money through your business.

    Who did you think your audience out there would be?

    I am hoping it is not the person that has a back injury, is over weight, stressed, has a history of depression or anxiety, that may walk into my yoga studio one day and find relief for these symptoms like I have seen many other students do in my time. It seems a shame to impose Western methodologies to ancient systems and practices like yoga, and make assumptions about what works for the human body. I myself have healed many ailments, physical, mental and emotional through yoga.

    I am hoping it is not one of the many yoga studio owners, that don’t earn that much money because they feel like they are contributing something positive to the world around them, and that in some way this might contribute to the world as a whole. Through improved happiness within themselves and better relationships with those that live in the world around them, and that this might reduce a future with war, violence and other atrocities that we endure as humans. You are right, no one should go into owning a yoga studio for the money, it comes from a desire beyond financial to make a difference in others, to share something that could make life easier for others.

    I guess you are connecting with all the other people out there that have been left angry and damaged in some way from some experience of ashtanga yoga. Moving forward, is this the kind of connections you want to attract, connecting with others pain, or would this be better forming connections in happiness? (I highly recommend the Caroline Myss book “Why people don’t heal and how they can”)

    To me this reads as you lashing out at your former teacher. For whatever reason, you have either not moved past something that has happened between you and your teacher, and you are angry at them, and have taken it out on Ashtanga. Instead of taking your yoga off your manduka mat and resolving these issues directly with this person, this has now become like a poison to the yoga community out there, creating all kinds of tensions between beliefs.

    Sad for you that you didn’t find what you were looking for, or that it no longer gave you something that you needed.

    Nobody is perfect, we are all etching a way in this world for ourselves doing things that bring us happiness. Its a shame you had to take down other ashtangis out there that believe in this method and are dedicated to helping others benefit from this method so that they may also find some happiness.

    Good luck with your digital media business. I am sure this blog will secure you a great position with Google!

    ps. If you have taken the time to read this, I hope you are reading the message and not critiquing the grammar.

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    1. Hi Sandy, like I said above to Jose: "(...) I can promise you that there is no evil intention behind my post - it was a post I wrote for my 955 followers over at Yogannina, most of whom had followed my Yoga story for a couple of years, and I wanted to explain to them why I wasn't posting anything much about Yoga anymore. I cross-posted it on here, because I thought it can be transferred to literally anything: running, fitness, ... Any lifestyle that, albeit started with good intentions, is taking over your life in a not-so-good way. You might have seen the link I posted [above], an article written by Paul who says pretty much the same thing, only in a different tone of voice. You might be able to relate to him more."

      Delete
  25. So, I'm not trying to knock down anything you said about your own experiences. But. I think you provoked such strong responses because of two broad declarative judgments you make right at the top. Specifically, the "missing something vital in their personal life" comment. I mean, what's true for you isn't true for everyone. And who knows the motivations and lives of each of the thousands of people in this world who practice this kind of yoga? You? No. Me? Hardly. Anyone? No. I'm sure there are ashtangis with incredibly fulfilled lives, ashtangis with screwed-up lives, and people who NEVER do yoga who are missing all sorts of vital personal stuff. I just think that comment got things started on the wrong foot, and probably raised a lot of hackles of people who felt you were saying their yoga practice was symptomatic of some gaping hole in their lives.

    Also, I question your declaration that exercising more than four times a week is "unhealthy." The study you were referencing did not conclude that it was physically deleterious to exercise six times a week, but that doing so didn't confer any advantages in this group. The people studied mostly complained it was just taking too much of their time, not that it was wearing down their bodies. I also wonder about the universality of the sample group. The people tested were "sedentary women ages 60 to 74" and so they may have different experiences, bodies, compared with athletes, regular yoga practitioners, people training for marathons, etc.

    To further muddy the waters, there is some guidance from the American Heart Association recommending exercise FIVE times a week. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp

    My point is, by all means, exercise and practice yoga however many times a day, week or month you want to. It's your body, your practice. But I don't think you can defend a declaration that it's universally unhealthy to work out more than four times a week.

    That said, I think your personal experiences are really valuable and should give pause to teachers whose shalas tilt toward militancy or practitioners who are falling into that rabbit hole. I mean, here in the States, I usually go three times a week and practice first or second depending on how I feel. My teachers never stress me out about how often I come, never give an adjustment that I don't want, never harangue me about going to India or eating vegetarian or anything. Because, to hell with all that pressure, exterior or interior. This is a nice way to find some strength and flexibility and calm, to do fun shapes, get out of bed in the morning and start your day on a good foot.

    I'm glad you're happier now and strolling through the woods.

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    1. Hi Patrick, I'm sure lots of people from all walks of life are missing vital things in their life, which is exactly why I don't understand why people are getting so upset. All I'm saying is that if you do, you will not find in on the mat. You're kind of proving my point, too, in that you seem to be a pretty balanced character who isn't into Ashtanga religiously. And the working out, sure, half an hour on six days a week is probably good. It all depends on what kind of exercise exactly you do. My husband, for example, works out five days a week. I think that the kind of exercise an advanced (!) Ashtanga practice presents, i.e. six days a week of vigourous 90mins exercise - and this is all I'm referring to here - actually *is* unhealthy. I've seen enough people with chronic injury from that, and, like I say, I'm a trained prevention specialist and massage therapist who knows how to make personal training plans for people - they must always include at least two rest days per week. The environment you practice in sounds lovely and relaxed, and your approach to it healthy. And, like I said many times before, I didn't entitle the post "Why YOU Should Stop", but "Why I Stopped".

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  26. "I'm a writer who lives off clicks, just like Kino makes money off foot fetishists."

    Ha! You're getting the attention you wanted. Genius. Nice cheap shot at Kino. Now everything makes sense. ;)

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  27. If I read your blog correctly neither you nor your husband have been to the AYRI/KPJAYI to practice with Sharath which makes your negative comments about the experience somewhat perplexing. I invite you to read the following blog from a Canadian who (despite an initial aversion to Ashtanga and the AYRI in 2000) has finally returned there...
    http://spaciousyoga.com/new-chapter-reflections-mysore-6-weeks/

    Doug

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    1. Hi Doug, thanks for the link. Which "negative comments about the experience" are you referring to, though? Like I said in another comment above: "I am not judging "who should or should not be authorised"; I have just come across quite a few people who have been, and needless to say, they aren't all inherently amazing teachers. What I'm saying is: If my own business grew from handing out authorizations, nothing in my right mind would keep me from doing that." I don't mind that Sharath is making money off his business at all. I think that that's what people do. It is just not what in my mind would be a "yogic", free, open education system. It is astonishing that the vast majority of 'publications', if you want to call them that, we see from Mysore (and I don't mean from KPJAYI itself) are selfies or paid-for photogrpahs of Westerners in artistic poses and expensive - or, alternatively, Indian-inspired - gear. If Yoga is all about quiet self-reflection, why are so many people so upset about my post? Most of these people don't even fall into the category I'm talking about in the first paragraph; I'm sure not even everyone who goes to KPJAYI actually has an all year, every year morning practice. And you know what? That's totally ok. I really don't care about how other people practice. I just gave a bunch of personal thoughts and reasons regarding my own practice, for everyone to take or leave.

      Regarding the article you posted - certainly an interesting read. I'm almost sure, though, that this is because of Iain's attitude: "I am also an established and respected Ashtanga teacher. Whether I get authorized and certified or not has no bearing on the opinion of the many students who have practiced with me as their teacher over the past decade." Personally, I think this is the most important part of it, but I'm happy for him that he has a good a experience in Mysore.

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  28. You have nothing positive to say about Sharath or the experience of practice in Mysore and that section of your biased post comes of as snide baseless opinion. Have you thought to compare the cost of equivalent Indian Government sanctioned Diplomas comprable to the ones issued by the KPJAYI? Try looking at costs for Intermediate and Advanced Iyengar Certifications and Krishnamacharia Yoga Mandiram.

    As for Yoga being exercise I think you and your husband may really need to rethink your approach to Asana. But I don't hold you at fault for this. It's my experience that people who have never done competitive sport or exercise seem to get seduced into Asana as exercise. Those who have done sport are drawn to the more subtle aspects of Asana for example breathing and relaxing (not stretching).


    Rickson Gracie - CHOKE(1999) Kundalini Yoga - Bre…: http://youtu.be/vnhT0T6Nhy4

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    1. Doug, don't you have yamas or niyamas to be tending to? Anything other than trying to persuade people who don't think Ashtanga is special that it is, in fact, special? Also, I played competitive sports for over ten years, so that section of your 'biased' comment 'comes off as snide, baseless opinion.'
      'But I don't hold you at fault for this.' What are you on about with the costs of each certification? Aren't you just proving Annina's point that Sharath's running a business? Way to go. And can you really call breathing and relaxing the 'subtle' aspects of asana when there are hundreds and hundreds of books on the subjects of breathing and relaxation through asana? 'I think you may need to rethink your approach' to debate.

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  29. Doug, no, I have not thought about saying anything about Iyengar Certifications and Krishnamacharia Yoga Mandiram, because I actually wouldn't know what I'd be talking about. Again, I have no issue with Sharath charging for his services at all. I have issues with a bunch of incongruencies between what is practiced and what is preached, for example by people like you. How can you talk about Ashtanga as a way of character improvement when you still address total strangers in the hostile manner that you do? Why does it matter why I'm drawn to Ashtanga or not? I, too, have played competitive sports as a teenager, and just like you are talking about your experience in that regard, I am talking about mine - on my blog, which you are free to read or disregard as you please.

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  31. > Doug, don't you have yamas or niyamas to be tending to?
    I’m trying but I just can’t resist being baited by internet trolls.

    > Anything other than trying to persuade people who don't
    > think Ashtanga is special that it is, in fact, special?
    When and where did I say Ashtanga is special, I think nothing of the sort. Don’t put words in my mouth!

    > Also, I played competitive sports for over ten years, so that
    > section of your 'biased' comment 'comes off as snide, baseless
    > opinion.'
    Well I seem to have touched a nerve there!! Nontheless You may have a point. But if that’s the case how can you see Asana as “exercise”? Purest scientific definitions aside “exercise” modifies and changes while “Asana” restores and heals.

    > What are you on about with the costs of each certification?
    > Aren't you just proving Annina's point that Sharath's running
    > a business? Way to go.
    Uhh Duh! Yes!! And the point is that if you are going to engage in “Critical thinking” at least be fair and compare like with like. To put it in black and white look at how much it costs to be considered a teacher in the major lineages of Krishnamacharia Yoga ( KPJAYI Ashtanga, KYM Vini Yoga, BNS Iyengar Ashtanga, IYM Iyengar and Srivatsa Ramaswami’s Vinyasa Krama).

    > And can you really call breathing and relaxing the 'subtle' aspects
    > of asana when there are hundreds and hundreds of books on the
    > subjects of breathing and relaxation through asana?
    There are hundreds and hundreds of books on Calculus. Does that diminish the subtlety of substitution rules for integration?

    > 'I think you may need to rethink your approach' to debate.
    This is hardly a debate.


    > Doug, no, I have not thought about saying anything about Iyengar
    > Certifications and Krishnamacharia Yoga Mandiram, because I actually
    > wouldn't know what I'd be talking
    That’s strange. So (despite not being Authorised) you think you know what you are talking about (and freely comment) the costs of Teacher Authorisation and Certification by the KPJAYI (which are not published) but won’t comment about the Krishnamacharia Yoga Mandirams programs costs which are? Try pulling the other one. (http://www.kym.org/international_yoga.html)

    > I have issues with a bunch of incongruencies between what is practiced
    > and what is preached, for example by people like you. How can you talk
    > about Ashtanga as a way of character improvement when you still
    > address total strangers in the hostile manner that you do?
    Errm. First I have never claimed Ashtanga was a way of character improvement nor did I ever hold myself up to be a poster-boy of such. I just object to your rubbishing my Teacher (without ever really having studied with him yourselves).


    > Why does it matter why I'm drawn to Ashtanga or not?
    It doesn’t but … Dude … You’re the one that decided to put your one-sided opinions online!! If you’re going to suggest anyone who continues a practice of Ashtanga is defective (despite the hundreds of thousands of happy daily practitioners worldwide and happy Ashtanga families) you should really expect a little heat!! Maybe if you’d posted a more balanced (and well researched) piece you wouldn’t be getting so flamed!! As far as hostility goes given my past excursions in internet discussions on Yoga (see Yuku Ashtanga Forums) I was positively being congenial to you!!


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  32. Alright, Doug. You got me. I'm on my way to the travel agent. I'm buying a ticket to Mysore. I'm going to study with Sharath. I'm not going to do exercise, even though asana is, by definition, exercise. Right now, I'm approaching my mid-thirties, but with a little help from asana, I should be in my late twenties by the time I get home. And if I'm not, I'm going write a post called 'Why Did Doug Lie To Me?'

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  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  34. OK. So ... I don't think Ashtanga is a Universal Panacea. Anyone can do it but it's not for everybody. I love classical Guitar but can't stand Classical Violin. I have friends who are committed Iyengar and Bikram practitioners and yes I do attend their classes. I have good friends who go to Mysore and study with Teachers other than Sharath. It's all good. I have no desire to preach Ashtanga. Just that it's the path I've chosen and I'm happy with it - I started aged 37 am now aged 50 and feel 35 :-). If it's not for you that's all good - but don't tar and feather me as a loser simply because I love guitar and you like violin. By all means if you don't like Guitar feel free to say so but please be fair and point out that literally hundreds of thousands of others do and maybe even solicit their opinions as to why their happy. I don't know if Ashtanga would work out for you if you went to Mysore - I know plenty of people for whom it hasn't. But I can honestly say I personally don't know anyone who has met Sharath (and whether or not they've stuck with Ashtanga) *not* said he's a lovely person. That's not to say they're not out there. It's just that personally I've never met them. Looking forward to reading that blog post!!

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  35. I'm not taring and feathering anyone! And, again, I'm sure Sharath is a nice person. My opinion is far from one-sided. You could take a closer look at my post and find links to other posts on Ashtanga I published on GCB and Yogannina in the past, which reflect the positives I used to see in it (and in some cases still see). I would also like to point out that I'm not generally "getting flamed" at all. Most of the feedback I have received has been positive, in fact; be it in the form of Facebook Likes or private messages from people that are too afraid to speak their mind publicly. Which, I think, speaks volumes of the prevalent Ashtanga Yoga community culture and is clear evidence of its incapacity as such. Lastly, if asana is, as you say, calming the mind and not "only" exercise, as per its definition - how is an Ashtanga practice not at the same time character improvement?

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  36. > Lastly, if asana is, as you say, calming the mind and not "only"
    > exercise, as per its definition - how is an Ashtanga practice not
    > at the same time character improvement?

    You raise a couple of interesting enquiries here, each probably worth an entire series of Blog Posts in its own right.

    > if asana is, as you say, calming the mind and not "only"
    > exercise, as per its definition

    Context is everything - or should that be intent? Any movement can be exercise. I’d suggest the difference is in execution and intent. In this discussion exercise is that which has a specific goal of improving physical ability. The goal of Asana is more closely linked with the breath and movement of Prana through the energetic body. With Patanjali Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga is Patanjali yoga!!) the goal of Asana is the facilitation of the movement of Prana – “Sthira Sukham Asana”. Thus the goal of Paschimottanasana is not stretching the hamstrings as much as possible to improve forward bending flexibility but using comfortable lengthening of hamstrings together with engaging moola and uddiyana bandhas while breathing deeply and relaxing to allow the nervous system to let go. In the method taught by the KPAJYI Breath and Asana are intertwined in Tristhana, breath being the initiator of Asana.

    Pavel Kolar through his DNS system has done amazing work in showing the primeval link between breath, the nervous system and movement.

    > how is an Ashtanga practice not at the same time character
    > improvement?

    Would you not agree that Yoga is an ontological pursuit, a means for developing the ability to perceive reality with clarity (Patanjali 1.2)? To me “character” suggests a phenomenon grounded in the notion of a personal self (or “mind”). Patanjali states that “mind” or self is defined by 5 activities that impede experience of the state of Yoga “vrttayah pancatayah klista aklistah vrttayah” (http://www.swamij.com/yoga-sutras-10511.htm).

    More broadly speaking Yoga is one of the 6 Darshan Philosophies that hold “self” as illusory. Despite their varying approaches the common goal of these 6 is not to “improve” the “self” (how can you improve the non-existent?) but to *reveal* the SELF. (“The Integrity of the Yoga Darsana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga” By Ian Whicher).

    Consequently I see character improvement actually being at odds with Yoga. To improve character or the self implies holding onto it impeding perception of the SELF. I’d also propose that it is perfectly valid to be perceived as irascible and unpersonable yet still be a Yogi (I once asked Manju Jois if he had practiced with Krishnamacharia and he laughed and replied “Why would I want to practice with that cruel man?”).

    Lastly I would argue the Yamas and Niyamas are not self-help crutches to make me a more congenial person but rather techniques to help me as a Yoga practitioner from becoming overly disturbed by the buffeting of the vagaries of day to day life. Practicing Yama and Niyama may help people better relate to me (and vice-versa) but that is a side-effect not the goal - in much the same way as practicing Asana may have the side-effects of making me more athletic and more flexible but that is not the goal.

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  37. There are quite a few highly respected teachers who say there is no progress to make, that all is the illusion, that we are already fully awake, already enlightened, and that we just have to stop struggling, practicing and searching. What we seek is what we already are, and it's only our searching that blinds us to that truth.

    If that is the case then billions of people already follow such path. They never did any spiritual practice at all. They live their life fully unconscious that there is such a thing as spirituality and yoga. They laugh and cry, work, make babies, watch tv, follow sports, enjoy life, suffer pains etc.. until they die.

    But you are not one of those people. You will be back... you will again practice 6 days a week. Take a rest, enjoy your life. And welcome back :-)

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    1. That is what teachers say, but that can only be appreciated and understood when a person is at a particular stage of spiritual development that millions of people never even reach. And there is nothing wrong with that! And on some level we can all appreciate the sentiment. But if one is serious about making development within certain spiritual systems there is a big of a paradox, because while YES we are all as you characterize us, indeed there is something to attain and to bypass that is a form of spiritual laziness. It doesn't necessitate "struggle" or "going into effort", so to speak, but well, there is work to be done at the same time as there is no work to be done!

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  38. Quite interesting and useful article. Thanks for sharing.
    http://www.aparyoga.org

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  39. Thanks Annina, great insight and a warning for those facinated by ashtanga yoga practice as to what may happen in the long run :)

    I too have started practising ashtanga "religiously" after discovering it not too long ago... I am from Mauritius, the ashtangi fever hasn't been hit here as yet :)

    For me it was initially attractive because I am in circus arts and this form of yoga on a physical level seems like a great complete daily workout routine for resistance, strength and flexibility compressed in less than 2hrs.

    But what I also unexpectedly found nice was all the drishti and breath practice. I've always been distracted easily and feel I never actually used to breath well. I found that this practice really grounded me so much and gave me more awareness of myself inside. Fortunately giving me the sensitivity to feel what is the limit of bliss and injury!

    But sometimes the compulsiveness of wanting to finish the full practice with full vinyasas take over and endorphin release masks all the excess strain!

    And yes! I too totally disagree with: Pain? thats agni! the purifying fire! how to get over pain? more ashtanga!

    Anyhow, thank you :)

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  40. Hello Annina,

    Thanks for putting your experience with Ashtanga practice on here. As someone who's practicing Ashtanga yoga I have many times wondered about the "practice" and how far to go with it and is it really "yoga" or a “yoga style” more geared to Tattooed up former athletes, dancers and gymnasts looking for a the next big trend of physical activity with cool “eastern mysticism” bells and whistle added to it, e.g chants, vegan diets? I left the practice due to these doubts and how far would I need to go to live the yoga life. I recently came back to the practice although with a very different approach way more gentle and less ego driven more Hatha/Ashtanga yoga  where certain days I’ll only practice to Navasana and hold posture for allot longer as well as use Kumbhaka (breath retention) in certain postures. I believe “Ashtanga” or Yoga practice here in the west has lost some of its true essence and for the obvious reason that it has been modified to fit the lifestyle of the westerner mentality and here lies part of the problem.

    If you look at the original ashtanga practiced by the first “western” students that went to study with Jois it’s not as rigorous and Jois added postures “only” and “only” when he thought a student was ready for it, and here lies the importance of having a real good teacher or guru. T. Krishnamacharya the father of modern Ashtanga yoga and Jois’s guru was a deeply spiritual man and would not advocate students doing postures that they were not ready for or depending on a student’s body or physical condition he would prescribe a very different set of asanas for different students. The problem in the west is that allot of people although they have certification most are in no way qualified to teach ashtanga yoga it as it should be especially a very physical practice like ashtanga. This is why B.K.S Iyengar who also learned from T. Krishnamacharya his brother in-law took a more gentle approach to the style by using props such as blocks and straps, since he knew that most western people or bodies are not ready for such a strenuous practice. By default due to western societies programing for competition or emphasises on it, the mentality of western students is that of “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! Me Want More Postures!” basically an “ego” driven response to practice and allot of these types don’t last due to injuries.

    If one looks at Hatha Yoga Pradipika it lists just 15 asanas! and it says that’s all you really need, and if you read the techniques to applying these asanas it’s a very gentle practice. If after yoga asanas you feel tired and drained then you are not doing yoga. One should feel energized after practice not burnt out.
    “Indications of Success in the Practice of Hatha Yoga When the body becomes lean, the face glows with joy, the inner heart sound manifests, the eyes are clear, the body is healthy, the mind is under control, and the appetite increases, then one should know that the spiritual energies are purified and success in Hatha Yoga is approaching.”….

    We must realize that ultimately yoga is a spiritual practice or journey if one can’t accept this practice for what it is, that is, a truly spiritual practice then it’s not yoga and just a physical practice in the end . True yoga practice will not injure you. Be gentle with yoga practice, take it slow, enjoy it and smile while doing asanas! because if you are not enjoying it and feel worse during or after than one should stop right away because yoga should be restorative and Not destructive to the body and our true self.

    I believe that everything happens for a reason and it’s not accident you found yoga in your life be it positive or a negative experience. I mean we don’t all have to become yogi’s living in a cave out in the Himalaya’s but we should nonetheless strive towards that Samadhi state, if not in this lifetime at least it can prepare us for the next one or the next 10! Lol 

    Peace and long life to you!

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    1. Hi Nick,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree with what you say, very reason stricken.

      All the best to you,
      Annina

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  41. Woa, health professionals!!
    Who are these guys? Some omniscient, other worldly, healers?
    Where can i find them and their wisdom please (sans some mumbo jumbo touting p-values and correlations)?

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  42. None really teaches yoga with a course of 150 hours...it looks like you have missed exactly the essence of yoga, which is by no way physical. Sorry to say that but calling ashtanga or any other yoga "exercise" only highlights how little you know/knew about yoga.

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  43. I'm a twelve year Jiu Jitsu practitioner at the Alliance academy in Atlanta Ga and have coupled yoga with my studies for about five years now, having connected with yoga more deeply for about the past year. I love the Ashtanga practice and my instructor teaches great alignment and it's been very healing for my body. This article was sad to read. I have spent many many many many thousands of hours training jujitsu and just have a bit of cauliflower ear and some crooked fingers. I owe much of my body's health to my yoga practice because BJJ beats you up pretty well if you train full time and compete at high levels. But even within my jujitsu practice I made decisions on days to train lighter and not go as hard and not push myself to the max and take time off to rest when needed. If I had trained hard twice a day every day I would have burned out after a couple of years. This article sounds like a very personalised outlook based off of pushing oneself way too far. If there are days I'm a little tighter or sore in some areas I don't fold as far or maybe I won't bind that day etc etc I respect what my body tells me in that moment and that is the whole point that my yoga teachers have instilled in their teachings. I'm 39 years old now and I have no back problems and am so much more flexible and I love the practice. I am only doing three classes a week but hopefully my studio will add two more because I would love to do five. Sorry to hear about your personal experience and hope you can reapproach the practice in a different light. (I also quit jujitsu for three years and returned and my training and mindset is so much different than when I first started. My yoga practice is credited for this just FYI đŸ™đŸŒđŸ˜Š.) Hope you find your path

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    1. My prayer hand emojis never showed. Excuse all the little question marks. Those were prayer hands. God bless

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    2. Thank you for sharing your story. Like I said, moderation is key and I think that a three day a week practice is ideal. Enjoy!

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    3. Actually you said a little bit more than merely "moderation is key". Three days a week might be right for you at this time, and it is vital that a person figure out what is the right amount indeed and adhere to that. but that doesn't mean another person with a different mindset, physicality or relationship with preventing injury and burnout might be able to enjoy even something absolutely nutso like 7 days a week of morning and evening asana practice without injury! It's possible. It's been done.

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  44. I commend you for writing your article. As a yoga practitioner for over 30 years, 10 of which I mainly practiced Ashtanga, your insights are spot on. But, it will fall on deaf ears to those in the Ashtanga Cult, because most only learn the hard way which is through injury. A prior post pointed out that Ashtanga in the West has been intensified, and in fact, it was originally only meant for young athletic boys. It is a very strenuous practice that will eventually cause injury. If one reads the biography of Krishnamacharya by AG Mohan, it states that yoga should be taught one on one according to the needs of the student. As one ages, the asana practice should evolve as well and you should practice more pranayama and meditation. He specifically states that group teaching is not good and the majority of yoga that is taught now is in groups. There are asanas that some students should not ever do. If one studies Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, it too states that the asana practice should be tailored to your dosha. But what is ironic is that Pitta types are drawn to Ashtanga which is the opposite of the type of asana practice they should be practicing. Yoga has become a catch phrase for getting in shape and less of a spiritual practice. That is evident by the emphasis that is placed on asana vs. meditation. Great teachers such as Doug Keller, Gary Kraftsow, Stan Hafner, James Bailey and many more would concur with your assessment. That being said, we have to accept everyone for where they are!

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    1. This is a person's opinion. I have a different opinion. That doesn't mean I'm a dumb dumb. Ok? Even K. was just a person, and plenty of people disagree with plenty of his teachings! So what?
      I don't agree with your implication (last sentence) that people who practice the ashtanga style of yoga are at an inferior or lesser place on their journey than the supposed wizened souls that have made realizations like yours (ie that "everyone" who disagrees with the sentiments in this article are part of an ashtanga "cult" and are doomed to injury.) A person could have 1000 years of yoga experience and have lived in India for 9999 of those years and it wouldn't mean their opinion is divine truth.

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  45. Thank you for this thoughtful comment, jmbar. All the best to you!

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  46. I disagree with every single point in this post, except for the rest point. When severely injured, one should rest. Other than that, claiming that Ashtanga Yoga is controlling is another way of saying that you're a weak individual. But that is my perspective, and I am glad that you have found what you cite to be peace.

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  47. I have been thinking about this article. I do understand what you're saying and I don't doubt that the system doesn't work for everybody. In fact I have been practicing other styles of yoga for 13 years, but in truth I have made the decision to start practicing ashtanga at an official ashtanga studio, and I'm feeling very much at peace with and excited about this decision. I don't think it's necessary to go to India, receive certification/authorization or whatever, in fact I teach hatha yoga and have no intention of teaching in more of an ashtanga style for the most part, I would just like to make it my own personal practice. I have gone through periods where yoga has been somewhat detrimental to my physicality and my social life. I have certainly worked through injuries. But the most important thing I have to say about all of this is that I am so grateful that there are so many choices available to us, so many styles of yoga out there, and I know that what is right for me is not going to be right for another person, and also that what was once right for me might not be right for me now, or in the future. The criticism of different styles of yoga I have encountered since I entered the yoga community, so to speak (started teacher training, involved myself in the community, started reading articles, etc) hurts my heart. I don't think it's right. And also, I think that any style of yoga has the potential to facilitate as much injury as it does healing, and we must take personal responsibility for our own journeys. In other words, I think anyone who has had a bad experience with a system has got to be honest with themselves and the community at large, because most of what I've read here could apply to any system of yoga. how can we say one is "bad" or "better than the other" if even one person is having their lives enriched by being involved in it ??

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  48. Your journal entry is... interesting to say the least. My first impression is that you are bitter, but now I am not so certain. First impressions can be wrong.

    A few of my thoughts:
    1) I see nothing wrong with a six day a week practice. Though I am not there myself currently, I have had one at one point in time. I also used to practice six days a week for three hours a day when I used to do martial arts. I do not view either of these activities as a relationship, but as something that I wanted to do. I too am a yoga teacher and I am currently teaching two days a week. This is something that I enjoy doing and I am happy to give up my time. It seems that you did not enjoy this however, but you can't tell others that they will not find what they are looking for or are missing something from their life because you do not, in fact, know what they are looking for.

    2) I cannot read the article you posted, but I could find a number of articles with varied numbers (3-5, it doesn't matter, etc.). The point is, ALL professionals do not agree on the number of days and time that is ideal.

    3) I agree that there is no wisdom in injuring an injured area. With that said, I have practiced both yoga and martial arts while injured. It is up to the individual to be wise enough to know what their limitations are. There are plenty of things you can do in primary series if you have an injured wrist. You will modify your sun a & b and obviously no jump back's. If you have an injured knee, there are modifications you can do for the poses as well, some may need to be skipped, but most can be done. Very rarely will a practice need to be skipped altogether. If you are quite tired, but still want to practice, there is always pranayama or you can break the series and focus on a given area (no one says you HAVE to do a series- focus on your hips, back, etc)

    4) Ashtangarexia: I'm sorry you experienced this, but you cannot make it seem as if all yogis will have this. It is a broad generalization at best.

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  49. 5) You are correct here- yoga cannot solve certain personal problems. Sometimes outside help is needed. With that said, I think it should be made clear that yoga shouldn't be sold as a cure to depression or eating disorders, nor have I heard it sold as such. Sure, people have found happiness on the mat and work through troubles on the mat, but that is something else altogether. A personal journey is something that each must walk alone and cannot be sold as an item off a shelf to someone coming through the door to cure an ailment of any kind.

    6) Authorization- of course it takes several trips to India to become authorized. Would you want someone to get it in one trip? Everyone who goes must start over with the primary series so Sharath can gauge where they are. Then they progress as he sees fit. Would you want a doctor who shows up to med school for one year? This isn't to say that someone proficient in ashtanga who isn't authorized can't teach yoga or that they aren't a good teacher. This just means they don't have the stamp of approval from Sharath. If that doesn't matter to you, then okay. It is like buying an AKC dog, versus not. If that doesn't matter to you, then don't cough up the extra cash. It doesn't mean the dog is any less lovable. It only matters if you plan on showing or breeding the dog. If you want to study from an authorized teacher because you feel that lineage is important to you, then it is important. If that lineage isn't important, then it isn't. Am I making sense? A piece of paper only holds as much weight as you choose to give it.

    7) Evolution- As many people as they receive annually, it is expected that they will need to modify their program accordingly. As for the "outside world", no one said we need to follow Sharath. My shala is open 7 days a week. It is up to the student to decide what their day(s) of rest is/are. As many people as they receive annually, it is expected that they will need to modify their program accordingly.

    8) You are correct, making a full time yoga career can be tough, but I know people who do it. The concern is burn out by running around all the time. Yoga is competitive with all the studios/shalas around and the market can be flooded.

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    yoga teacher training in goa

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