Corrie: Ashtanga challenges you and it doesn't let you off the hook. I found my first Ashtanga class after practicing yoga for years. I had a pretty strong and dedicated practice for a thirty-something mom… or so I thought. My first Ashtanga teacher challenged me to try harder when I thought I was already trying really hard. With this extra push, I discovered that there was so much more in me than I realized. I could *still* get stronger and more flexible. Plus, I learned I had it in me to truly dedicate myself to a consistent practice. Believe me, I thought all of that was for "other" people.
Ashtanga's method of working through poses in a set order forces you to work through your weak spots in a consistent and structured way. You don't skip poses just because they are hard for you or they don't feel good that day. Backbends were never my strong suit. Ashtanga challenges you to confront your weak spots head on. By working on backbends consistently, day by day, they got better. And they felt better, too.
This combination of bringing a deeper dedication to my practice and not shying away from the difficult parts has been paradigm shifting. Like a metaphor for life. Things are not always easy, but there are more possibilities than we know. Keep at it because we're capable of more than we think we are.
Kelsey: Why Ashtanga? Hmmm... I love so many things about Ashtanga, I love the rhythm, the system, the flow, the challenge, the people, the commitment. But I think the true reason I keep coming back to it is that it's my foundation, my home. I started with Ashtanga (albeit a rogue form) and I have gone on to study and teach a few other styles of yoga, but Ashtanga continues to inform the way that I teach and practice and truly, the way that I live. Ashtanga is an incredible practice; it's not the only thing I do, and it's not right for everyone (though every body can do it if they want to), but I have seen it do amazing things for individuals. It's about finding this beautiful balance between pushing yourself to do hard things (both physically and mentally) and finding softness and healing. And I really believe the two are entwined; kind of like going through the refiner's fire-and everyone experiences it differently! Which is pretty remarkable considering it's always the same.
For me, I found strength and then later healing, and currently it feels like home. I walked into my first Ashtanga class (incidentally my first yoga class) without the ability to hold myself up in chaturanga. And as I developed strength, I found a sense of personal empowerment that later made a world of difference after a traumatic experience. The mental part comes at different times for different people, but I have memories of myself in difficult postures, Urdhva Danurasana is coming to mind, and thinking "I am going to die, I can't do another one" and my teacher saying "inhale, up" and somehow, I went up. There is something really profound about doing something you didn't think you could.
From a pure physical yoga perspective, the alignment and energetics of the poses and sequences makes so much sense that I still use it as a basic template for all other yoga I teach (including gentle classes!). I don't know if there is anything magical or mystical to it (though it can feel like that sometimes), but I don't think it matters... it's an amazing practice and I feel so fortunate to be able to share it with others.