Friday Five: Five Signs You Might Be An Ashtangi

So begins what I hope will become a regular feature on this blog: Friday Five. Why five? Well, that much should be clear by the end of the post. Throughout this post, I will refer to Mysore-style Ashtanga practice. Check out the link below for more information.

Five Signs You Might Be an Ashtanga Yogi:

1) Cheerful, Excessively Early Riser? Probably an Ashtangi…Oh, yes, like everyone else, you glare menacingly at your alarm clock as it goes off at 5:00 AM, and curse loudly saying things like “BLAAAARRRGGG” and “WHAT?” and other more profane indignant utterances. Then you get up, pull on yoga clothes, and head to the shala. Where, it should be noted, there are already about fifteen other people, and it’s only 5:30.

2) Even-Keeled Temperament? Probably an Ashtangi…There will be kind of amazing mornings when, even though you worked sixteen hours the day before, had half a glass of wine and slept only four hours, your practice is AWESOME. Like, fluid, easy vinyasa, and uttitha hasta that looks like the cover of Yoga Journal. Conversely, there will be days when you ate only wheat grass and went to bed at 7 PM, and your practice will suck.

Sometimes you will do a really excellent version of a pose (binding in Marichyasana D! On your own!) and have a mental party. You are so awesome, this practice is magical, the world is so lovely. Well, until breath # 5. Or, it will be Led Class, and you will hear the teacher say “take legs over head, sarvangasana (shoulderstand)”, and your huffing, puffing inner Dorothy Parker will think: “What fresh hell is this?”

If you are an Ashtangi, you will not freak out. You will shake your head, laugh at yourself or have a quiet grumble to a yoga buddy, and then you will realize: It’s just the practice. It just is. Does this mean we don’t celebrate when we achieve good things in our practice, or off the mat? Heavens no. Which brings me to…

3) Supportive Person with Lots of Kind Friends? Probably an Ashtangi...Let me stress here that there are LOTS of kind people in my life who have never practiced Ashtanga and never will. But this practice is FREAKIN’ HARD. So Ashtanga people will celebrate with you. They will say things like: “Wow, your backbends looked so great today.” They will put balloons near your mat when you have a milestone birthday. They will be happy when you rock your Phd defence. And they will also comfort you when there are tough times, on and off the mat. They will rush to you if you fall out of headstand. They will ask about your ill family member. Because, getting up at an insane hour to do a spiritual practice from India six days a week builds community as few other things do.

4) Obsessed with the number 5 ? Probably an Ashtangi…In Ashtanga, we take five breaths in every pose of the practice. By now, every magazine has written a story about mindfulness. Everyone knows that taking a deep breath and pausing allows you to handle stress much better than panic attacks and ranting (with apologies here to the colleagues with whom I still sometime panic and rant :/ ) But, the real secret to remaining calm in the face of dangerous workplace rumours, snarled traffic, and conversations with cellphone providers, is…you guessed it. To take FIVE breaths. Need to figure out IKEA instructions? Take 5 breaths. Trying to explain homework to your seven-year-old while packing the next day’s lunch? Take 5 breaths. Can’t find a good title to your blog post? The answer is!

It works. Really.

5) Healthy routines? Probably an Ashtangi…Do you find yourself inexplicably eating more greens? Contemplating vegetarianism? Going to bed earlier. You’re probably a yogi. There will come a time in your practice when you become aware that your dinner effects your morning practice. So, you will eat fruit for dessert, and a small piece of chocolate, because…well, you’d like to bind in Marichyasana D again. Of course, yoga is about balance, so there are some days when you will see a cinnamon bun, think about pasasana, and have the pastry anyway. But the point is, now you’re thinking about your choices.

This post is for my teachers, Svitlana Nalywayko and Christine Felstead of Breathe Yoga Studio in Toronto, and their assistant Halyna. Many pranams also go to Sheldon Shannon and Laurie Campbell, my first Mysore teachers, as well as JP Tamblyn-Sabo and Susan Richardson.

Check it out: Breathe Yoga Studio 🙂 Happy weekend!

3 thoughts on “Friday Five: Five Signs You Might Be An Ashtangi

  1. Wow – I am humbled by your reflections. You perspective is so insightful, communicated in such a an intelligent, humorous and mindful way! It is great sharing this yoga experience with you.

  2. My dear Andrea, This is the funniest, most insightful account I have ever read about an ashtangi’s personal journey. It will certainly resonate with all of us ashtangis. One could only have such insights after being incredibly dedicated to the practice and having worked through all stuff that arises with the practice. keep writing my dear, we want more ! Congratulations….and thank you. Svitlana

  3. So beautiful. I will encourage those around me to read this. It explains so clearly our journey. I love being on this journey with you.

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