Who can practice Ashtanga Yoga
Everybody can practice Ashtanga Yoga! According to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois everybody from 12 years and up can benefit from yoga – only lazy people don’t realise the advantages (according to his book Yoga Mala)… However, it is only natural to adapt the practice according to ability and age. Ashtanga yoga asks softness to be strong and tightness to bend.
While you are younger it is beneficial to strengthen the muscles and increase the flexibility by gradually more advanced and intense asana practice (postures). Middle-aged people benefit particularly from yoga’s ability to keep you healthy and free of stress, and pranayama (breath work) can very well complement a softer asana practice – the intensity should depend on the level of experience. Those that have practiced Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga for a long time can continue a relatively intense asana practice. For older people it is only natural that the spiritual dimension of yoga becomes more important so that meditation and pranayama practices increase and asana practice decreases.
There are people from 10 and 80 years of age coming to classes – all practice yoga with great enthusiasm and commitment. It is most important to listen to yourself and your body and respect its peculiarity and limitations. Then age is no barrier. In addition, patience and regularity in practice is important – it is better to practice a little most days than to do ‘it all’ rarely!
Advice about Practicing Yoga
- bring your own mat (or borrow one of mine)
- be barefooted to practice yoga
- your clothes should enable you to stretch but not be too loose
- remove loose jewellery
- bring a small towel ( be prepared to sweat)
- best to avoid any meals less than 3 hours before yoga. Something light is fine until half an hour before.
- drink as little as possible during yoga, and best not at all. So make sure to drink plenty beforehand.
- After yoga, it is best to wait 15 minutes to drink, and 30 minutes to eat, just to allow the body to calm down again.
- Women can also take “ladies holidays” when menstruating. As a minimum it is recommended to practice lightly on the first day of menstruation but naturally it is individual what you feel like doing (or not doing) during this period. It is also recommended to omit inverted postures during menstruation (e.g. shoulder and head stands).
- Yoga is great for pregnant women as both postures and breathing techniques can ease discomfort during pregnancy and make the birth easier. However, there are some precautions to take. Pregnant women that have never practiced Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga before should not take up that practice while expecting the baby. Instead it is recommended to attend yoga classes especially for pregnant women. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practitioners that become pregnant should rest in the first trimester but can then continue to practice in the second and third trimester. The general rule is to not add new postures to the practice while pregnant and modify or omit some postures as the baby grows.
The most simple and the only really important advice is to listen to yourself and your body and to respect its limitations. It is not easy in the beginning but gradually yoga will increase your sensitivity and awareness.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is not a competitive practice! It is best to be content with what you do here and now and let strength and flexibility develop with time from within.
All yoga is a process. Be patient and compassionate with yourself and try to focus on the journey. Whatever it takes and wherever it takes you!
The first guiding principle of yoga is non-harming. This starts with loving kindness to yourself, at all times…. enjoy your yoga!