There’s a trend in Austin that is worrying me. Recently, weekend ashtanga classes have been disappearing off studio schedules. While I can’t make any weekday classes unless I happen to have an odd holiday off, ashtanga classes are still hard to find. I know the teachers aren’t disappearing; so then it makes me wonder, where did all the ashtangis go?
The ashtanga practice is far from dead. It seems every time another celebrity is identified as a yogi, ashtanga is mentioned as their practice of choice. Madonna does it. Gwyneth Paltrow, Parker Posey, and Sting all practice it.
Ashtanga is the original vinyasa class – the old school version. Movement. Breath. Drishti. No hip playlist in the background. No breathy zen-like instruction from the teacher. Inhale, arms up. Exhale, fold forward. Inhale, look up. Exhale, chaturanga. Even ashtangis who practice 3rd series come back to primary. Ashtanga creates such a solid foundation for a vinyasa practice.
So it makes sense that many vinyasa classes and “power yoga” classes are derived from ashtanga and borrow postures from each of the series as the level of classes gets progressively more difficult. This is great for us ashtangis to feel comfortable going to pretty much any vinyasa class. We’ve seen and practiced versions of many of the postures.
But does this mean ashtangis are pushing the primary series aside to explore new flows, postures, and sequences? Does doing the same set of postures in the same order become stale and boring? (Should I be asking the same of Bikram followers?) And if this is the case and demand for ashtanga classes (led or mysore) dwindles, what do you do when you want to get back to your roots?
Sometimes, I liken the ashtanga primary series to practicing scales and arpeggios. At the start of each of my piano lessons, I went through a round of scales in a different key. There is nothing new or exciting about them, but they created a foundation for everything and anything I would face with a new piece of music. Even though running my fingers along the keyboard in this manner was getting back to basics, it was still challenging. No matter what I practiced in between or however much time I took off between playing, I felt an obligation to ground myself in those notes.
And that’s what ashtanga primary is for me.
With as large of a yoga community that Austin has, I’m saddened by the apparent disappearance of ashtanga. I imagine there are many of us out there who are looking to “come home” and ground ourselves in a regular primary series practice (and dabble in 2nd and 3rd series).
I miss the people I saw week in and week out. I’ve met so many lovely ashtangis who ranged from: 15-year-olds, 70-year-olds, moms either pregnant or postpartum, men with tight hamstrings, 20-somethings looking to stay fit, 30-somethings dealing with health issues, 40-somethings wanting to get in shape, 50-somethings in the best shape of their lives…
I hope there is a resurgence and enough interest/demand for more classes. (I hope they are on the weekends for us 9-5 office workers.) I hope to see and make more ashtangi friends.
In the mean time, I’ll be doing primary series at home when I can get some quiet time and space. And when I do venture out for a class, I think I’ll start doing a special handshake or wink to let others know we’re still out there. It’ll be like Fight Club, except underground ashtanga club… Sir.