October 9, 2013

Are You in the Ashtanga Cult? ~ Elaine Oyang

To be an avid Ashtanga practitioner is like being part of a cult.

We wake up before the roosters crow, stick to the six days a week practice, we chant, we bow to Sri K Pattabhi Jois as our Guruji, and we think it’s a crime to practice on Moon Days. By seven, eight, or nine in the morning we would have finished a couple hours of this ritual, where each step needs to be performed in a specific order.

Without noticing it, Ashtanga yoga has seeped its juices into our lives, slowly and silently changing the way we eat, socialize, sleep, and poop (yes, you read that right).

Check off the list below. If you have more than half of them checked, then congratulations, you have officially become part of the Ashtanga cult!

1. You are addicted to it. You talk about it any chance you get with your friends (both the “normal” friends and your “yoga” friends), your mom and dad, your spouse, your dog, your cat, your fish, and strangers. You daydream and dream about the day you’ll be able to lift from sitting into a handstand. You get a certain high after your practice, and you simply just can’t get enough of it.

2. You think about your bandhas. A lot. When standing in line, at the BART station, or in the elevator, I sometimes subconsciously engage my bandhas. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to practice more of your pubococcygeus (PC) muscles, perhaps burn a couple additional calories, and it gives you a better posture. As Guruji recommended, use your bandhas for everything you do in your daily activities, including eating, walking, drinking, sitting, etc.

 3. You don’t mind routine. In fact, you cherish it. It throws you off if one day you step onto your mat for practice at 7 a.m. instead of your regular 6am. Perhaps you, like me, prefers to live a more routined, unspontaneous lifestyle, or that the practice is the only routined and predictable thing in your life.

4. You eat dinner religiously before 6 p.m. And it most likely looks like a pile of raw and lightly cooked greens with a little fat and protein. It might also look more like a snack or appetizer than a dinner to any other “normal” person.

5. You have high pain-tolerance. You know, the old “no pain, no gain” saying is kind of true for Ashtanga. Or, as Sharath likes to say, “new asana, new pain.”  Rarely will you meet a devoted Ashtangi who hasn’t gone through some sort of pain, injury, and the like. Yet, as long as you’re not near crippled, you continue your practice. Modify and adapt.

6. You can easily dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween. You’ve mastered the ujjayi breath, and you have your staple black tank top and black yoga pants. All you need now is a bad-ass looking mask/helmet and boots, a black cape, and yogi life saber.

7. Waking up at 7 a.m. is considered “sleeping in.” Check the Facebook statuses of your Ashtangi friends. I guarantee each of them have at least commented on how nice it was to sleep in on a Saturday until 6:30 a.m. or 7 a.m.

8. You follow Moon Days religiously. Again, back to the cult idea. If you don’t follow them, you will be in trouble with the Ashtanga police, and bad omen will come get you.

9. You feel restless if you go two days without practice. Refer to point number one.

10. You drool when you watch Sharath, or Kino (besides the fact that she’s a gorgeous blonde), or Richard Freeman, or any other senior teachers on YouTube. While “normal” people share the latest adorable kitty videos, we share videos of people smiling and talking and putting their legs behind their heads all at the same time like they are merely sipping on a cup of coffee.

 11. You’ve had something with your hamstring attachments, or your SI joints, or your knees, or your wrists, or your shoulders, or your lower back, from Ashtanga practice. Deep forward bends, strong hip openings, caturangas, extreme back bends, and a somewhat inflated ego (or, unfortunately, sometimes a teaching lacking in knowledge and awareness) can come to these results.

 12. You live in the Ashtanga bubble. It’s hard to acquaint yourselves with other teachers or yogis from other styles. No offense, but you think some of the other styles of yoga are a total fluff, or you can’t get over the fact that they have Party Rock Anthem pumping in their classes. And what’s that? See your heart blossom towards the infinite sky? No thanks.

13. You care about how you look. Admit it, you came into this cult initially because you wanted to put your legs behind your head, and because you admired that strong, supple, perfectly sculpted body of that woman in front you, and who was also practicing Advanced A series.

14. You don’t do dinner parties anymore. The horror of eating past 7 p.m. and not being able to hit the haystack by 9 p.m. has made you become somewhat antisocial. Breakfast or lunch dates sound more like your type of thing.

15. Visiting Mysore, India is on your bucket list. Self-explanatory.

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Ed: Dana Gornall

Photo Credit: Flickr


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